Dorothy Day was a true political radical and a true religious orthodox, someone who sought to defend and protect the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. She endured the suffering of divorce and abortion, and underwent a dramatic conversion from communism to Catholicism. While her approach to aiding the weakest was transformed in light of her conversion, her dedication to justice and peace was unwavering throughout her life. It seems to me that her life and work are a true reflection of Catholic belief.
We no longer have recourse to the grand narratives—we can resort neither to the dialectic of Spirit nor even to the emancipation of humanity as a validation for postmodern scientific discourse. But as we have just seen, the little narrative [petit récit] remains the quintessential form of imaginative invention, most particularly in science. In addition, the principle of consensus as a criterion of validation seems to be inadequate.
- Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition
The Vatican is planning a special conference in 2009 to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking theory of evolution.
Next year's conference will be held in Rome and organised by Poupard's former office, the Pontifical Council for Culture as well as by the University of Notre Dame and six pontifical universities. The event, claim its organisers, is a milestone in the rapprochement between science and the Church. They say it is time for the Church to look at Evolution again, “from a broader perspective”, explaining “appropriate consideration is needed more than ever before.”
Professor Gennaro Auletta, who is head of the Science and Philosophy faculty at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the main conference organiser told Edward Pentin of Newsweek (Newsweek Blog): “We hope this will really be an example of how to hold an open discussion without overtones. We simply wish to dialogue between people whose mission is to understand a little more.”
Granted, I'm not dressed as classy as these eco-friendly celebs on the cover of the Vanity Fair "Green Issue," but I could pass for an eclectically colorfully henchman on The Venture Bros. Doc Hammer take note. Is it too late for Season 3?
Hey, you asked for it.
Much of the rhetoric used by pro-lifers to define those who defend abortion demonizes and alienates. Yet a staple of the pro-life cause—legal protections for the unborn—requires that the majority of Americans be persuaded to embrace an anti-abortion position and ultimately a pro-life philosophy. As long as there is a pro-choice movement in America, any and all political victories by the pro-life movement will be fleeting. It's high time to abandon the "culture war" metaphor, which leads us to think that ending abortion will result from defeating our opponents on the political battlefield. Defeating the pro-choice movement will maintain the war; persuading (and being persuaded by) its members will bring about the desired peace and respect for the unborn.
Pro-lifers have no choice but to engage pro-choice people in honest, open, and hospitable discussion. Hospitable language and open ears are absolute prerequisites for ending abortion. We may even discover that we have something to learn from those we are inclined to label enemies.
A classroom discussion of Herbert Marcuse and Leo Strauss, for example, does not (or at least should not) have the goal of determining whether the socialist or the conservative philosopher is right about how the body politic should be organized. Rather, the (academic) goal would be to describe the positions of the two theorists, compare them, note their place in the history of political thought, trace the influences that produced them and chart their own influence on subsequent thinkers in the tradition. And a discussion of this kind could be led and guided by an instructor of any political persuasion whatsoever, and it would make no difference given that the point of the exercise was not to decide a political question but to analyze it.Do you agree?
Kirk provides a way for conservatives to talk and live as conservatives. From early on, he was convinced that liberalism had exhausted itself because of what he called its lack of imagination. He was looking beyond liberalism into what would come after, in a time that had discarded both liberal rationality and the pre-modern tradition represented, for example, by Burke. This new age, which Kirk identified with postmodernism in an early essay, was still too inchoate to define. In 1980, he wrote that “We seem to be entering upon the Post-Modern Age ... and new thoughts and new sentiments and new modes of statecraft — or renewed thoughts, sentiments, modes — may take on flesh soon. The Post-Modern Age surely will be an epoch of big battalions and Napoleonic figures; possibly it may be also a time of renewed poetic imagination, and of the reflection of poetry in politics.” The way he did this — through narrative and imagination, primarily — provides I think a sharp contrast to most conservative controversialists, who are too focused on political controversies and electoral victory to take the long view that Kirk did.H/T: Tertium Quid
Kirk’s conservatism is “postmodern” in the sense that it was never modern, and therefore is not burdened as liberalism is with the weaknesses of the Enlightenment worldview. Kirk’s emphasis on imagination, his concern for the imagery a society creates of what it admires or condemns, his treatment of tradition and history as not objective but one in which we participate and can change, and his devotion to what Burke called the “little platoons” of society all have parallels in postmodern thought. Moreover, Kirk himself saw this. In 1982, he wrote in National Review, that “the Post-Modern imagination stands ready to be captured. And the seemingly novel ideas and sentiments and modes may turn out, after all, to be received truths and institutions, well known to surviving conservatives.” With liberalism moribund, it “may be the conservative imagination which is to guide the Post-Modern Age.”
This colleague asked why I couldn’t pack the dress shoes and socks in the backpack I already carry and wear tennis shoes and white socks on my bike ride to work. Of course I could do that, I replied, but that adds unnecessary weight to the backpack, and besides, I don't really care how I look. Perhaps I should have given her Bartleby’s reply and left it at that. Instead, I made my case.
You see, she argued from the premise that I gave drivers quite a strange sight while biking to work. I know from experience that this is not the case at all. Texas drivers are not attentive to their lane or even the whole road, let alone a psychotically dressed cyclist in their peripheral vision. The pedestrians with whom I share the sidewalk do tend to grin and chuckle, but I assume each of these people has just remembered a funny anecdote or joke told to them that morning.
Okay, when I said I didn’t care how I looked, I wasn’t being entirely accurate. I do care. I relish this attire.
I have dream, an ambitious goal for the immediate future. I want to make the cover of Frisco Style Magazine. Providentially, I bike right by the publisher’s office building, and no, it’s not a mile out of my way. I dream that one day soon the editor-in-chief will glance out his window, see me ride by on two wheels and in dazzling, esoteric fashion, and think, there’s a cover story.
Triumph. Photo shoot. Fame.
He wouldn’t mistake me for a high school student on route to school, despite my boyish good looks and ponytail: a high school kid would get beat up for looking like I do, and I’m presently bruise free. No, he’d know I’m some dude in his thirties embracing the pedals for fear of fuel costs. And he’d want that story.
It could happen. Yeah, and Clinton could placate her passion for power. And I could ease my overuse of alliteration.
These questions downloaded onto the screen before my mind’s eye while I read Terry Teachout’s reflection on how technological advancements, especially the internet, influenced his research and writing of biographies. Before I hit overkill on the techno-metaphors (too late!) and bring about the blue screen of death, I’d better switch over to Teachout’s own words. Some nuggets:
To be sure, microfilm and its successor technologies are (mostly) unmixed blessings, but any scholar can tell you that there's no substitute, emotionally speaking, for handling the thing itself, be it a scrapbook or a holograph manuscript. Though constant use has drained the word awesome of much of its meaning, I don't know any other way to describe what it feels like to turn the crumbling pages of the personal scrapbooks of the greatest of all jazz musicians
Still, it is the time-saving aspect of Web-based research that I suspect most biographers will regard as crucial to their professional lives. It took me ten years to write my Mencken book. That's a big chunk out of the life of a middle-aged man, big enough to make him think twice about going back to the well a second time. When I finished The Skeptic, I was sure that I'd never write another primary-source biography. But I did, and it took me just four years to write. That's a lot more manageable, even for a busy drama critic and part-time opera librettist.
In the dark land of France, the doors to the Dark Lord’s tower opened, and the undead minions of Jacques Derrida, dressed as riders in black, went forth into the Continental Realms in search of the One Text that had been lost to him. Meanwhile, high in the white tower of Ontological University, the philosophers of the Real World met for council to discuss what was to be done with the One Text, now in the possession of an unlikely hero: a philosophy student.
Mere Minutes before the council, Logician, the head of the university marked by his dyed comb-over, met privately in the halls with his old wizardly friend, Personalist.
“Personalist,” Logician spoke. “The Text of Derrida cannot stay in Ontology-U. It is pure evil, a construction made only to deconstruct and destroy Tradition and Truth. We have not the power to use it—for its usage would destroy our very souls—nor can we survive a fight against Derrida’s forces. And now, you tell me Caputo has betrayed us. Our list of allies grows thin.”
“His treachery is worse than you know,” Personalist responded. “He’s crossed deconstructionists with theists in the caverns of Syracuse; he’s breeding an army of postmodern pilgrims.”
Logician looked grim. “We analytic philosophers are leaving this Continental Realm. Who will you look to when we are gone? The Platonists? They hide in their caves and care nothing for the problems of others.”
Personalist responded: “It is in phenomenologists that we must trust.”
“Phenomenologists are weak,” Logician retorted. “It is because of phenomenologists that the Text survives. But this matter we will discuss in the council with the others. Come my old friend. Let us hasten.”
At the council sat Student, whose relative had discovered the lost Text. To his right and left sat Logician and Personalist respectively. Also in attendance were Thomist, Phenomenological Realist, Hermeneutist, Pragmatist, and an unknown guest called Other.
“Bring forth the Text!” Logician commanded.
Slowly, the lowly Student stood up and brought the Text before them, laying it upon the dean’s desk. “Here it is,” said Student, “the one Text to deconstruct them all.”
“So it is true!” exclaimed Pragmatist. “It is a gift! A gift to philosophers, indeed to all thinkers of good heart who know their limits. And it is a gift to the foes of our enemies! Let us use it against them.”
“No! You cannot use it. The only gifts of Derrida are the gifts of difference and death,” Personalist said. “The Text answers to Derrida alone; it must be destroyed!”
“On the contrary, Pragmatist,” said Thomist, “I answer that Personalist is right. The Text must be destroyed.”
“And I suppose you think you’re the one to do it!” Phenomenological Realist growled. “But I’ll be a stinking relativist before I see the Text in the hands of a Thomist. Never trust a Thomist!”
The council erupted in shouts and quarrels, with Logician calmly asking what each philosopher meant by “must,” but in the midst of the chaos, Student stood amidst the fray and said with fortitude: “I will take the Text to France, and there I will toss it back into the fires of Mount Doom from which it came.”
The confusion subsided, and Personalist bent to meet the young Student. “I will help you bear this burden, as long as it is yours to carry.” One by one, the others joined in, with Other finally agreeing to participate, but obviously hesitant of being reduced to the same. And so began the Fellowship of the Text.
To be continued…
Postmodernism radically proves the truth of Babel; because of it, Christians, far from rejecting its insights, should learn from the postmoderns and how they clarify the human situation and the difficulty we must face.Worth the full read. It's one of the best blog posts I've read.
What makes Pentecost special, what makes it one of the key elements of salvation history, is that the Holy Spirit, who once spoke impersonally through prophets, is now given to us in such a way that we know the Spirit as the Spirit of Unity and Love. We know the Spirit - not just as an impersonal force guiding human history - but as a person, as one of the Holy Trinity.
It is communion with the Spirit which allows us to overcome the difficulties of language, for it is that one Spirit, who is in all of us, who unites us and is capable of overcoming the barriers of sin.
It is in the Spirit, the Spirit of life that gives us true life, a life we experience as much as our self has been overcome, that we encounter the Word behind all words, the Truth behind all expressions of the truth.
From "Modern Education and the Classics" in T.S. Eliot Selected Essays, published 1932
Nevertheless, Obama has his pro-life Catholic supporters. I’m not of their number, but I don’t find them any less Catholic or pro-life for their support of Obama’s candidacy. Of his Catholic pro-life defenders, constitutional law scholar Douglas W. Kmiec has received a fair share of media attention. He hasn’t backed down since his March piece endorsement of Senator Obama for president. On May 3rd, he reaffirmed his endorsement.
Professor Kmiec, who served Presidents Reagan and Bush I as head of the Office of Legal Council, supports Obama not despite Obama’s abortion stance, but rather because he believes Obama would be better at decreasing abortions in these United States. I don’t know whether or not Kmiec is right about Obama in this. I remain skeptical. Nevertheless, his position is reasonable.
To be sure, Douglas Kmiec doesn’t think Obama is more likely than McCain to appoint strict-constructionist or pro-life judges. Whereas McCain may appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade, Obama is sure not to appoint such a judge. Rather, Kmiec sees his less than sufficient courses regarding abortion as follows:
(a) the continuation of an effort to appoint men and women to the Court who are thought willing to overturn Roe through divisive confirmation proceedings that undermine respect for law and understate the significance of non-abortion issues in a judicial candidate’s evaluation; orKmiec defends his choice of course thus:
(b) working with a new president who honestly concedes the abortion decision poses serious moral issues which he argues can only be fully and successfully resolved by the mother facing it with the primary obligation of the community seeing to it that she is as well informed as possible in the making of it.
If it’s a choice between giving a boost to the work of my fellow parishioners who week after week in thinly-funded, crisis pregnancy centers, open their minds and their hearts and often their homes to pregnant women (and Obama has spoken approvingly of faith-based efforts) and a Supreme Court Justice to be named later who may or may not toss the issue back to the states, I think I know which course is more effectively choosing life.In short, Kmiec doesn't hold up overturning that awful court decision as the primary, non-negotiable means aimed at bring an end to abortion. With that, at least, I agree.
My own thoughts on an Obama presidency are mixed. I like his politics of hospitality, which he projects without being wishy-washy or lukewarm about his principles and positions. I fancy his focus on personal responsibility. Unlike Professor Kmiec, however, I remain skeptical of what good Obama will bring to the unborn. I also smell the scent of imperialism in his foreign policy, a repugnant scent to this peacenik’s nose. His opposition to the Iraq War seemed to hinge on where we should focus our martial might, a might he wants to increase and position elsewhere around the globe. And, of course, he seeks the now tyrannical power of the presidency, which if not an evil inclination, is just downright nutty.
Jay Anderson of Pro Ecclesia and Feddie of Southern Appeal respond to Kmiec. Both take issue with the professor's insistence that Obama is not pro-abortion, and Jay chastises Kmiek for misrepresenting the McCain campaign and for the disingenuous way in which he's gone about endorsing Obama. To quote Jay:
"For the record, I am critical of Kmiec, not so much for endorsing Obama, as in the disingenuous way in which he's gone about it.
As I've stated before, I think it entirely reasonable for someone to come to the conclusion that there are "truly grave moral reasons" that would justify voting for a "pro-choice" candidate like Obama. I might disagree with that assessment, but I don't think it a necessarily unreasonable conclusion for one to reach.
Again, however, my problem with Kmiec lies not in a belief that his endorsement of Obama is inappropriate, but rather that Kmiec is being dishonest."
In response to Jay's response to this post (in the combox and on his blog), I've updated the first update to clarify Jay's position.
Hat tip also to the Anchoress for tipping us off too this story about a professor at Dartmouth College named Priya Venkatesan who threatened to sue her students, among others, for being “very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful,” among other things. What caught my eye, though, was the said professor’s background in postmodernism and narrative theory. In an interview with The Darthmouth Review, she said:
So when you ask “What is postmodernism?” People don’t really understand a lot of the things I’m working on, and when people don’t understand things, they kind of get into attack mode. Rather than try to understand it, they prefer to attack than try to understand it.Yeah, okay, I get that. But why teach the theories of Jean-François Lyotard in freshman composition? I’m into the postmodernism stuff—obviously—but in my ever-fluxing opinion, I don’t think the place for it is a freshman English class. Try a philosophy class aimed at students who have a foundation in the history of philosophical thought. Telling students fresh out of high school that "scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct" isn’t likely to hook their interest. More likely to offend their sensibilities, as Professor Venkatesan even admits, or close them off to the contributions of postmodern theories. (For the record, scientific facts correspond to natural reality and conform to social constructs).
Anyway, getting a full picture of a story like this from news articles or interviews is, well, problematic. Still, suing your students? That’s, um, not a little litigious. Oy.
"Since making these photographs publicly available, I have received reliable proof that several of these photos are actually of the 1923 Kanto earthquake. While I cannot speak for the entire collection, this evidence raises grave doubts about all of the photos and strongly suggests that the identification provided by the Hoover Archives is incorrect. "
About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place by a fellow bride of Christ because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.Read the rest here.
Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow sisters at Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote.
The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one but came to the precinct anyway.
While at a First Communion party for my nephew, the conversion turned toward the high gas prices and how my hopes to alleviate the burden of fuel costs disintegrated with the deterioration of my bike pedal. I mentioned my search for a functional vehicle, motivated only to make conversation, but I was rewarded with an offer for a free bike from friends of ours who live out in the country and who had no use for a bicycle bought some time ago but seldom ridden. Of course, being the keenly observant Sherlock, I deduced immediately that these friends were unaware of my recent adventures, and therefore, are not regular readers of my blog. Shame on them!
But I couldn’t be angry or frustrated that they felt their lives too busy to bother reading their friend’s blog; after all, they had just promised me a free bicycle. If anything, I just felt sorry for them. Obviously, they have a much too demanding schedule, what with children and stuff. Weeks go by for them without the wit and wisdom acquired simply by scanning these words of mine. Poor fools: their time is devoted to family, faith, fellowship, contributing to society, and ministering to the needy.
Monday marked my return to the road. Well, the sidewalk anyway. This new bicycle offers a much smother ride. The effort to pedal doesn’t leave me aching after three circular motions, the gears don’t make that funny grinding noise, and the seat is much, much more comfortable. New sights, sounds, and sensations awaited me yesterday as well. Sprinklers in the morning kept my legs cool while also creating the illusion that I urinated in my pants. The sight of me in the morning gives my co-workers so much to discuss. The stormy downpour on the ride home, however, ensured that no passerby would know if I had happened to soil myself.
I love the rain, even when I’m in the midst of it. Colleagues at work offered me a ride home. So too did my wife. I refused. No lightning, no problem. I sure wasn’t going to miss the blinding drops of rain splattering across my already scratched-up glasses, the chance to curse reckless drivers oblivious to the drenched cyclist waiting to cross the street, or the now heavily-leafed tree branches bent low with drink, ready to kiss my face with their slobbery goodness as I passed.
Methinks I’m akin to the dad from Calvin and Hobbes.
We adults—corrupted in our young days (and our perpetual adolescence) by digital adventures playing videogames—corrupt our offspring by sharing our pseudo-world experience with them, feeling no fear of a literal societal-induced dose of poison. This assuming we were fortunate enough to find and keep a mate in the real world. Hey, I put all my cards on the table before those death-do-us-part vows. Must have been—what's the word—unconditional love? I think she was also impressed by my charm, gorgeous raven locks, and knows-no-bounds humility. It takes a lot to compensate for a penchant for playing videogames; but whatever it takes, I've got it in loads! She never ran away screaming, even after I confirmed myself as a card-carrying nerd by played her orchestrated music from Final Fantasy.
Despite my cravings for slaying polymorphous monsters with grossly oversized swords, I don't play much anymore. This is partially due to my ever-creeping conscience telling me I should be doing something worthwhile like showering attention on my family, reading Melville, or spending money to stimulate the economy. Plus, quality playtime is pretty much reserved for times when my son has hit the hay for the evening, and by then I'm just too sleepy to sit and stare at cartoonish figures conjuring fireballs. When he's awake and I try to play, daddy gets lots of lessons in sharing, and I see this as a misappropriation of sharing lessons in the household. My son's the one who needs the sharing instruction, not me.
So what does my lovely wife do at the sight of our boy and me playing the Play-station 2? Roll her eyes? Admonish her husband? Remind me that the dishes need cleaning? Nope. She grabs the camera, takes this shot, and then, upon downloading the photo to our computer, remarks how alike the two of her boys look. We even stand the same way, our legs slightly bent out at the knee. Like father like son.