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All wisdom begins in wonder, and this delight kindles a desire for truth that leads us on a quest for the really real -- the source of being itself. Hence, the philosophical impulse, albeit often manifested in atheistic and irreverent stumblings in the dark of human ignorance, begins and ultimately ends in theology -- communicating and communing with our origin and goal. We men are rational animals who seek to know. We are agents of truth who want correct answers to questions that we must ask. From the noblest objects of contemplation to the seemingly insignificant everyday trivialities of life, we attempt to unravel perplexing knots. Limited, blind, and distracted, we nevertheless struggle for wisdom. This is our lot, and it is also our glory.


The art of the common good

Tuesday, November 25, A.D. 2014

Ferguson: Microataxia

The protesters of the grand jury’s decision in Officer Darren Wilson’s case have a fondness for signs that read, “This is what democracy looks like!”

I completely agree.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, November 25, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, July 24, A.D. 2014

A Womyn’s Occasional Nods to Nature

A few months ago, Laura Wood showcased “A ‘Feminist’ Who Refuses to Hire Women” on The Thinking Housewife. I especially like Buck’s comment below the excerpt.

Human beings are so fascinating.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, July 24, Anno Domini 2014
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Monday, July 14, A.D. 2014

Ethical Conservativism

My friend Andrew recently sent me a link to Brian Patrick Mitchell’s “What Is ‘Ethical Conservatism’?” in The American Conservative, and I recommend it as a brief manifesto of good sense in an age of insanity. Besides the good deacon’s regrettable use of gender instead of sex, I find it remarkably unobjectionable. However, I did find the following passage a bit unclear:

The contradiction at the very heart of progressive ethics is undeniable: People must be “forced to be free,” as Rousseau candidly admits. Why? Because the prideful, passionate, progressive heart cannot admit that what it wants is wrong; it must therefore insist that what others want instead is wrong and identify itself with the Promethean lawgiver, “enlightened despot,” or “revolutionary vanguard,” in sympathy with “the People” but not benighted like “the masses,” capable of divining the “general will” of the former and compelled to force that will upon the latter. This follows, perversely, from the Rousseauean conceit that man is innocent of the evil he finds in the world, which originates outside of him and is only imposed upon him. As man is forced to be evil, so must he be forced to be free of it.

“As man is forced to be evil, so must he be forced to be free of it.” Does Mitchell mean that, as Rousseau’s ideas externalize evil, they thereby externalize all morality? As such, must the state direct human decisions? In short, are virture and vice politicized not only in the classical way—the ancients knew well how law and custom cultivate virtue or invite vice—but completely so that there is no individual moral reasoning at all? Or is it rather that after the original sin of man’s corruption by society, only an enlightened state can redeem lost souls, depraved as they are in a condition of complacent repression? I don’t know.

The rest of the essay is clear and reasonable. Kudos to a fellow Cincinnati(ish) native who labors in the devil’s fields (around the Potomac).

Posted by Joseph on Monday, July 14, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, May 15, A.D. 2014

Coulter Picks Lockett

Христос Возкресе! And happy feast of Saint Athanasius the Great!

In her last two weekly columns, Ann Coulter provides Clayton Lockett’s gruesome backstory and then marvels at the Left’s souciant concern for Lockett’s “botched” execution: “Lockett & Load” and “Death Penalty Opponents, Have I Got a Deal for You!” From the latter:

As described in last week’s column, The New York Times and other sanctimonious news outlets censored details about the crime that put Clayton Lockett on death row, the better to generate revulsion at his deserved execution. You might say they buried the facts alive. [J.A.: In the first article, we learn that Lockett buried one of his victims alive.]

For example, the Times neglected to mention anything about the raping that preceded the murdering, which seems odd for a newspaper so consumed with the “War on Women.” (At least Lockett never refused to pay for a woman’s birth control pills!)

The Times also dropped the part about Lockett’s dangerous behavior while incarcerated, such as ordering hits on the witnesses against him, his threats to kill prison guards, and the bounty of homemade weapons seized from him in prison—saw blades, sharpened wires, shivs and shanks. (Old Times motto: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” New Times motto: “Nobody Likes a Rat.”)

The newspaper also failed to report that Lockett had ended up in an adult prison by the age of 16 and then was convicted of four more felonies before committing the torture-murder of Stephanie Neiman that sent him to death row.

No, that information might distract from the Times’ florid descriptions of Lockett’s execution.

Bless their hearts, they gave it their all, but even the Times could not make Lockett’s “botched” execution sound particularly grisly. Here is the paper’s full, terrifying description:

“According to an eyewitness account by a reporter for The Tulsa World, Mr. Lockett tried to raise himself up, mumbled the word ‘man,’ and was in obvious pain. Officials hastily closed the blinds on the chamber and told reporters that the execution had been stopped because of a ‘vein failure.’ But at 7:06, the inmate was pronounced dead of a heart attack.”


Actually, I’m not that horrified. It sounds as if he suffered a bit, which is nice, and he’s dead, which was the objective of the whole enterprise.

You want horrifying? Imagine a 2-inch baby being chopped up with scissors. That can’t feel great.

Maybe they—and MSNBC’s similarly high-minded Rachel Maddow—should comfort themselves by thinking of Lockett’s execution as a very, very, very late-term abortion. You know, the kind that liberal darling Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours to keep legal.

Since Rachel and the Times are such big fans of partial-birth abortion, would they mind if we took a gigantic pair of scissors, jammed them in the back of Clayton Lockett’s head and let his brain slide out? Let’s get Kermit Gosnell working again!

Or how about giving the citizens of Oklahoma the right to choose an acid bath for condemned murderers? We’ll submerge people like Lockett in a tub filled with burning fluid until he’s mostly disintegrated and can be flushed down the toilet. (If it’s low-flow, flush twice.)

Or maybe an industrial vacuum designed to tear Lockett’s body apart.

Which reminds me: Would the Times ever give as detailed a description of an abortion as it does for the execution of a remorseless killer? The odds are pretty high that the baby isn’t even a rapist/murderer.

Opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with compassion. Liberals weeping for murderers have zero compassion for an innocent baby trying to escape an abortionist’s cranioclast. Their dead earnestness about monsters like Clayton Lockett is solely designed to demonstrate how virtuous they are.

Coulter treads close to Steve Sailer in her analysis of leftist opposition to the death penalty. I know that she reads Sailer as she links to him occasionally. I wonder if she also read Lawrence Auster’s site. Speaking of Auster, Coulter’s current topic reminds me of a thread from a couple of years ago in which I caused some dismay to Lydia McGrew and others for defending the subhuman characterization of men like Lockett. From “Feral blacks and the image of God”:

The discussion in “Feral blacks and the image of God” requires some useful metaphysical distinctions.

As Lydia McGrew notes, Christians affirm that all human beings are made in the image of God. However, we often fail to live up to the high calling that our nature demands. Church Fathers from Irenaeus of Lyon to Bonaventure distinguish between God’s image and God’s likeness in which we are made. The image is in our essence; we cannot lose that, just as we cannot become oak trees or bullfrogs. However, through sin, we lose the likeness, and thus the way that the divine image manifests itself becomes marred. Therefore, it is correct to call evil people subhuman or bestial if we mean that they are failing to live up to the fully human standard of a rational creature oriented toward the good. This is true of everyone to some extent and at certain times, but it is sadly holds for certain souls to an extreme degree most or all of the time.

Consider the wicked boys who tortured the Haitian mother and her son in Florida five years ago (I wrote about it here). Such boys are human beings in that they have a human nature; they do carry the image of God. However, they have been so fully perverted that it is sensible to say that they are less than human. They are like Dionysius’ demons or Tolkien’s orcs—so fully corrupted that they no longer appear to have the essence given to them by God—though they fundamentally do.

In the Nicomachean Ethics [typo in the original], Aristotle recognizes that repeated vicious actions slowly pervert one’s practical reason, and this process eventually leads to the complete destruction of one’s moral compass. Therefore, the vicious man is no longer fully human in that he has lost his ability to perceive the moral good. Of course, his essence remains human, but his actuality is not.

Such appears to irk certain folks for two main reasons. First, any suggestion that dehumanizes a member of Homo sapiens troubles them greatly. “First, they came for the men who raped and killed infants. Then, they came for the unrepentant matricidal maniacs. When will they come for me?!?!?!” That is a K-Y slippery slope, but Godwin’s Law is absolute. Second, the modern mind has difficulty in grasping “vertical” metaphysical distinctions, as the thread demonstrates.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, May 15, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, April 10, A.D. 2014

Desiccated Intellectual Life

Here are some links to posts about our sorry academic and general intellectual situation:

“College Students Demand Respect” on The Thinking Housewife with a guest article by Richard Cocks

“The Academy Then and Now” by Paul Gottfried at the the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy site (courtesy of Thomas F. Bertonneau)

“Arguing Over Argument in the Internet Age” by James Kalb in Crisis Magazine

If that was not enough doom and gloom for you, check out this enthusiastic support for constructivism: “Constructivist Learning and Teaching.”

Sigh. I stand by my belief that nominalism has been the chief specific cause of the West’s decay.

Rend your clothes and toss dust.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, April 10, Anno Domini 2014
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Wednesday, April 9, A.D. 2014

Abortion Celebration

A few weeks ago in “Worse than the Matrix,” I linked to a story about hospitals’ using fetal remains in energy saving furnaces. Last week, Drudge shared an article in The College Fix that covers a celebration of abortion at the University of Michigan: “University of Michigan Exhibit Celebrates Abortion as ‘Life-Sustaining Act.’” Read the post and look at the provided posters.

For commentary, I refer you to my post from two years ago: “Abortion as a Sacrament.” Aside from my attempt to understand “the culture of death” therein, I admit that the wicked have become more brazen and unhinged in all sorts of frightening but fascinating ways. For instance, college students have come to decorate university grounds with hanging plastic vaginae to celebrate their alternative to Saint Valentine’s Day. Homosexual activists parade with sacrilegious depictions of sacred persons and symbols. Naked women with body paint have invaded Christian temples and danced upon altars—a disturbing image of the West’s own abomination of desolation. It all seems rather demonic—as if our civilization has openly invited Satan and his minions to possess it. And it has.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, April 9, Anno Domini 2014
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Wednesday, April 2, A.D. 2014

Kalb on Subsidiarity

A few months ago, James Kalb published a short essay on The Catholic World Report about subsidiarity’s place in the modern world: “How Do We Advance Subsidiarity?” A selection:

. . . A basic problem is the difficulty of limiting the modern state and modern economic life. The state doesn’t want to be limited, because people who like to run things believe they know best. And technology has multiplied our ability to buy and sell whatever we need, and seems to hold out the prospect of absolute freedom through unlimited wealth.

For that reason money and the state pervade more and more aspects of social life today: fast food, day care, social welfare schemes, and electronic entertainment all substitute for family life, for example. The result is a political and social system based ever more totally on government bureaucracies and the market, with their relative power determined by relative institutional advantages and by shifting popular sentiment that both powers try to mold and manipulate with the aid of their allies and hangers-on.

The two working together are unlimited in their ambitions and demands, and they have no interest in subsidiarity. They believe they can do anything, and the growing exclusion of religious faith from public life means that the secular utilitarian ways of thinking that guide them function as a substitute religion. The result is that they feel called on to remake all human life in their own image, turning it into a system of maximum equal preference satisfaction consistent with the efficiency, coherence, and security of the social machine.

The only constituents ultimately taken seriously in that machine are the state and the individual. Church and family dissolve as independent institutions with their own principles of legitimacy. . . .

Such a system is at odds with subsidiarity, since the latter won’t exist unless non-state institutions have their own principles of legitimacy, and the system insists on extirpating such principles for the sake of its own coherence and dominance. . . .

Kalb has some thoughtful practical suggestions in the piece for those of us who find the contemporary situation repellant.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, April 2, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, March 27, A.D. 2014

Praxis contra Ideology

Below is a comment that I made earlier to Kristor’s Onward, Christian Bloggers Orthosphere post. The readers there are trading words over several issues, and I decided to respond to an objectionable comment:

If you want to talk about CS Lewis and fantasy stories than there’s always Charlton’s blog. Because you know, that is what traditionalism really needs another commentator on the Inklings.

Egads! I find Charlton’s commentary on Tolkien et alia very interesting. Do we really need to reduce ourselves to one thing needful? The inhuman Left is full of tedious bores who fanatically confuse the personal and the political, who won’t ever bury their bone du jour, and who bother everyone around them with their passing obsessions. For the love of the world, we need more folks to comment on the Inklings . . . as well as on patterns of seasonal duck migration, the spiritual benefits of tinkering on old machines, the best ways to incorporate spinach in baked goods, how to entertain jack russells, and so on. This is what we traditionalists claim as our “seamless garment.” Life and the world are unified—the cosmos and our participation in it are divine gifts, and we should comport ourselves appropriately and with gratitude.

I agree that our society is going to hell in a shoddy handbasket, but we cannot reduce our lives to that decay—or to the response to it. If we were really on a sinking ship (not metaphorical), then, of course, it would not be the time to talk of Dickinson or blueberries, but that is due to the allotted time and urgency. Our civilization is breaking beneath the waves, but man cannot live so single-mindedly for long without becoming monstrously imbalanced. Plan, strengthen yourself, manipulate the enemy, but do so as a man rather than an ideologue. And men eat, laugh, play, sing, read, and ponder. Act this and act that . . . this cult of doing is largely how we ended up in this mess. To quote Eliot’s Harcourt-Reilly:

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

Quite true—it is as if post-Christian society has perverted Paul’s redeeming the time with anxious busy-ness for some cause or other. Maybe, if we crossed a Yankee Presbyterian with a Zen Buddhist, we might get a balanced human being—geographically and temperamentally, we’d come up with a good Bavarian Catholic who works hard, loves his family, minds his manners, and enjoys beer and dancing on Saturdays.

How I love Bavaria.

Well, spring is reportedly on its way. At least, my crocuses are blooming, and I have the blue orchard mason bee houses hung around the yard awaiting their springtime occupants. If better weather is nigh for you, enjoy the outdoors—and the rest of March.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 27, Anno Domini 2014
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Wednesday, March 26, A.D. 2014

Worse than the Matrix

Last week, I read a disturbing story in The Telegraph about British hospitals’ using aborted fetal remains to heat the hospitals: “Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals.” Of course, this should not surprise us. The baby killers believe that the aborted fetus is not a human being but simply medical waste. While it might be unpleasant to think of liposuctioned fat from a plastic surgeon’s office getting roasted for energy efficiency, I doubt that this would offend many people. Why then should the burning of dead babies whose status has been relegated to unwanted tissue from their mothers’ bodies bother us? The horror lies in the fact that our society condones such killing rather than in other distasteful consequences of that fundamental dehumanization.

This story reminds me of Lawrence Auster, who surely would have had interesting commentary on the “dead island,” as he called Cool Britannia. The first anniversary of Auster’s death will be this coming Saturday, which is also a day reserved for the commemoration of the dead in the Orthodox Church. Αἰωνία αὐτοῦ ἡ μνήμη!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, March 26, Anno Domini 2014
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Wednesday, March 12, A.D. 2014

Even the Baptists?

Last month, my father sent me a link to a Fox News story about a Wisconsin Baptist college’s decision to drop its mascot and athletic teams name: “Christian college drops ‘Crusaders’ nickname in bow to ‘global society.’” From the article:

Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown and its Division III athletic teams have used the name since its founding in 1968. Matt Davis, the university’s executive vice president, said no complaints have been received by the school and stressed that it coincides with its name change from Maranatha Baptist College in December.

“But I also agree that times change and we understand that context changes,” Davis told “Our world has changed since 9/11 and we’ve become a more global society with the Internet. The heartbeat behind this was not political correctness, but expanded opportunities for our students.”

I responded to my father:

Spineless. As John O’Sullivan remarked, unless an organization is explicitly and intentionally traditional/conservative, it will eventually bow to the leftist Zeitgeist. Ditto for life and child-rearing. All succumbs to the spirit of the age if there isn’t a concentrated resistance.

Some folks may roll their eyes and dismiss such a change as trivial, but I think that it is symptomatic of a greater illness. Religious sects not explicitly anchored by a treasured and lived tradition will flesh out their necessarily limited creed, doctrine, or scripture by incorporating parts of the host society. In this, they are more like a virus than a higher organism—they parasitize the larger culture. When that greater society is generally healthy, then their enculturation is not so troublesome. However, as American society becomes more and more heathenish, casual “Christians” continue to transmogrify into creatures not recognizable as such. Men must on principle reject the follies of the age lest they become afflicted by them.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, March 12, Anno Domini 2014
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