Sunday, September 30, 2007

Another Anti-capitalism Sunday

Luke xvi.

13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Last week we had one of Jesus's lessons in truth and logic. today we continue the chapter in Luke with Dives and Lazarus, the rich man and the poor man.

19 There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day.

20 And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores,
21 Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell.
23 And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom:
24 And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.

25 And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazareth evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented.
26 And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither.
27 And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house, for I have five brethren,
28 That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments.
29 And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them
from the dead, they will do penance.
31 And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.

Now, this tells and suggests so much in how the rich regard the poor and much else: Lazarus is in the limbo of the fathers (the bosom of Abraham), for Jesus has not, yet, harrowed hell and opened the gates of heaven. And from this limbo, now empty, hell proper was visible, and vice versa, but uncrossable. And for those who would not believe and heed the prophets, even Jesus they would not believe, if and when, he would rise from the dead.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Saint Jerome. c.1605. Rome.

Today is also St. Jerome's day. Every day is someone's. Now, St. Jerome was an ill-tempered, one eyed hermit, but he also translated Scripture into the vulgar tongue, so that it was further transmitted, to us. Still his Vulgate is the official standard. Many of the manuscripts he used are forever unavailable to us, and if God granted him discernment, it is to our benefit.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

the rich shall trade the poor as if sandals

4 Hear this, you that crush the poor, and make the needy of the land to fail,
5 Saying: When will the month be over, and we shall sell our wares: and the sabbath, and we shall open the corn: that we may lessen the measure, and increase the sicle, and may convey in deceitful balances,
6 That we may possess the needy for money, and the poor for a pair of shoes, and may sell the refuse of the corn?
7 The Lord hath sworn against the pride of Jacob: surely I will never forget all their works.-- DRC

Last Sunday's old testament reading was from the eighth chapter of Amos. I do not remember hearing a homily given for this reading. I can
remember people squirming in the past, when the lector read the passage well. It is appropriate for harvest season, the moon was full on the midweek next, but it is not politically correct to discomfort a capitalist people of moneyed desires and who vote republican. Still, there are some beautiful passages of social justice in scripture, and if men would heed there would be less need for prophets, but, today, prophets do not have a hearing in the forum, whereas, profits own the forum.

In continued coincidence as one thing ties into another, Martin Sheen (who has connections with the Catholic Worker And Dorothy Day) was on Prairie Home today and I had to miss a class on Dorothy Day as I was working on an elevator shaft on the night of the harvest moon. We hear too little about, and do too little to enact social justice. What a thought:
you that crush the poor, and ... possess ... the poor for a pair of shoes. The shameless, scheming and essentially ruthless rich, who game the system still.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time -- what you may have heard in church:
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done! --NAB
Some translations add a different flavor. What is the best word for calciamentis ? Earlier in Amos ii 6:
Thus saith the Lord: For three crimes of Israel, and for four I will not convert him: because he hath sold the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of shoes. -- DRC
Forward to Jesus as the just man sold for silver and one should see the gravity of the matter.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bruce speaks to America

This morning, at 8.50 a.m., on NBC, Bruce Springsteen eloquently and heartfully addressed America on the troubles that the country is bearing during this period of sedevacantism that began in 2001. Bruce then continued through the program performing a rousing mini concert, that was warmly received by the audience there present. One can only speculate why the group all wore black, and it seemed Bruce had several religious medals about his neck. Are we mourning in America for America?

Rarely has american broadcast television allowed the airing of uncensored truthful words this century:
This is a song called Livin' In the Future. But it's really about what's happening now. Right now. It's kind of about how the things we love about America, cheeseburgers, French fries, the Yankees battlin' Boston... the Bill of Rights [holds u we plan to do something about it, we plan to sing about it. I know it's early, but it's late. So come and join us.p microphone, urging crowd to cheer] ... v-twin motorcycles... Tim Russert's haircut, trans-fats and the Jersey Shore... we love those things the way womenfolk love Matt Lauer. But over the past six years we've had to add to the American picture: rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeas corpus, the neglect of that great city New Orleans and its people, an attack on the Constitution and the loss of our best men and women in a tragic war. This is a song about things that shouldn't happen here happening here. So right now we plan to do something about it, we plan to sing about it. I know it's early, but it's late. So come and join us.

Thank You Mister Springsteen !

p.s. Oct. 7, 2007 Springsteen was interviewed on 60 Minutes.

"It's unpatriotic at any given moment to sit back and let things pass that are damaging to some place that you love so dearly."

"There's a part of the singer going way back in American history that is of course the canary in the coal mine. When it gets dark, you're supposed to be singing. It's dark right now."

"I think we live in a time when what is true can be made to seem a lie."

"And what is lie can be made to seem true. And I think that the successful manipulation of those things have characterized several of our past elections. That level of hubris and arrogance has got us in the mess that we're in right now. And we're in a mess. But if we subvert, the best things that we're about in the name of protecting our freedoms, if we remove them, then who are we becoming, you know? Who are we, you know? The American idea is a beautiful idea. It needs to be preserved, served, protected and sung out. Sung out."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

to fear OSHA, wear that helmet

Last Tuesday at work, at the end of coffee break, there was read the safety talk page on OSHA. It was interesting, in the pitch of its paranoia; its projection of this fearsome and malevolent agency. I could count on one hand, the number of times I've seen OSHA on the job. Since the usurpation of the federal branch, I've not seen them this millennium.

We were told to delay and delay their entrance, to make sure they were accompanied by a company representative, to photograph what they photographed and so on... The response of my workmates was near comic, in regard, to the absurdity. Any attempt to regulate business is met with hysteria, the exercise of capitalism must be unfettered.

The last time I saw a government safety man, it was on the one of two worst job sites that I've been on. There were three rent a day scab outfits on the job. Only we, wireman (electricians), were union. They literally hired off the street. A kid, the day before asked for work, the next day he was operating a chop saw for the first time. His attire was gym shoes and sweatpants, but they gave him a plastic helmet, so everything was all right.

One entire wall of the building was removed. The roofers were boiling asphalt with total disregard to surroundings and passerbys. There were uncovered holes in the concrete on the second floor. There were gas tanks at the top of stairs unsecured. There was a partially ripped up computer floor, that on one occasion almost snapped my leg off... The one thing they did do, was to sweep. The ground was kept constantly clean, that was unusual and good. They hired someone to push broom. Another wireman and myself went about compelled to secure some degree of safety for the other stuff, generally one trade is only to take care of their own work. It is the laborers' (a distinct trade unto itself) job to remove debris and they usually defend their territory doggedly.

Someone called OHSA one day. I wondered, why all of a sudden all the scabs went out to the parking lot, while we were the only ones left in or on the building. We continued working, and since the foreman was out on another job again (something I've only seen in that shop), we talked to the government man. His response was that we could handle the matters ourselves without his involvement. The only thing he caused to happen, was that, he had caution tape put about the only plastic toilet facility (portable); this was fine with me, I, then, had the go ahead to drive to a fast food place and use its human facilities. It, the portapotty, was to be off limits until it was cleaned, to put it colorfully, some filthy miscreant shat in the pisser portion.

When supervision enforces safety, other than in car plants (UAW), nine plus times out of ten, the ONLY matter that is of concern is the mandatory wearing of hardhats. Customers and the usual non-construction work force on site will not be required to do so and they are oblivious to the work involved. Tourists, muckety mucks appraising the job, wear new white ones as a parade item.

There will be times your head will be in the ceiling, where you may not have enough room to turn your nose 45 degrees -- you must wear a hardhat. You are lying on your back -- you must wear a hardhat. It is 90°F and 90% humidity, sweat blinds your eyes, your hair is matted, rivulets stream down your face and back -- you must wear a hardhat. You are chancing heat stroke -- you must wear a hardhat. If not, you are kicked off the site. Zero tolerance, zero thought.

This is not OSHA tyranny, this is managerial idiocy. I've heard the general superintendent tell the foreman that he should be wearing a white hardhat, not the blue of his crew. I have had the contractor's booklet of rules state,that you must only where the hardhat issued. I have seen numbers placed on hardhats. I have seen different crews of the same contractor wearing different colors. Hardhats are primarily for identification! Secondarily they are a cover for management's a** to escape responsibility if something should occur. Yes, I realize there are circumstances where a hat is practical for personal safety, but in the great majority of my work -- they are not.

Hardhats are cheap, and provided by your direct employer and, therefore, costs the general management nothing. They then believe, that they need do nothing else, in regards to legitimate safety.

There is an OSHA approved cowboy shaped plastic hat. One should make the things look as ridiculous as possible. When I am coerced to don one, it sits on my head cocked to one side, even this disturbs management. False authority does not like to be mocked, e.g. bush junior. William Tell became a national hero because he didn't salute a hat. General Suvarov trounced and stomped on his hat before the tsarina. It has been said, "that no job that requires the wearing of a silly hat is worth having."
noto bene:
OSHA = United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration signed into existence on 29 December 1970.
correction: after a year and a half, I noticed I wrote OHSA throughout; lack of proofreading on my part, I was thinking Ohša, ohsha.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The welcoming public schools

English speaking America, outside of Maryland, was primarily founded on protestantism and often extreme forms and one of its characteristics is continual splintering. This is not so much freedom of thought but the creation of new despotisms. We must remember, that other than the favored sect, most others were forbidden in a particular colony. Massachusetts prescribing death for habitual papists (and it was carried out). Freedom of thought was only for those who had the same thoughts.

Arthur Schlesinger Sr. once said to Msgr. John Tracy Ellis,"I regard prejudice against your church [roman catholicism] as the deepest bias in the history of the American people." In 1837 the Unitarians (who splintered so far from their Congregationalist past that they were no longer Christian) had overcome the Congregationalists in Massachusetts for control of the legislature. State mandated public education began in Massachusetts in 1837. In New York City, the Public School Society, a corporation of protestant ministers, gained control of the common school fund in 1840. Prior to 1826 New York state payed for denominational schools. A common-core or non-sectarian christianity was going to be taught just when the poor and catholic Irish began to emigrate, public schools began. The mold was set. This common protestantism would hold until the disturbances of the 1960s and their fallout. A greater secular retreat from christian beliefs became a new guiding philosophy, but old religious prejudices were not lost. There is this overwhelming structure of school and state that demands allegiance and obeisance, it may change platform but it continues its methods. It is always modern, always current, always claiming to be liberating and progressive and always really oppressive.

Back to the 1840s, heavy Irish immigration began and would continue along with Germans. The American Party (the Know Nothings), previously the American Republican Party, arose as a nativist party. The Irish were reviled by the Yankees and public accommodation and education would belittle them and others who came after. Their catholicism especially disturbed. Protestant bibles alone were to be used and catholic views were to be decried and presented as wicked or worse. The reaction to these immigrants drove them to found their own schools for their salvation of dignity, so in these urban areas of immigration there is the alternative parochial school system which continues to today.

In New York City, Bishop John Hughes objected to the protestant public schools and attempted to get a share for catholic education, instead the Maclay Bill of 1842 forbid all religious instruction in public schools and made no money available for other schools..When the bill was passed, Hughes residence was attacked and catholic churches had to be guarded from mob violence. Such was the beginning of the parochial schools.

Certainly, irish born Hughes who knew, first hand, english anti-catholic rule, was familiar with the hedge schools. The penal laws in Ireland began in 1691, amongst other matters, they forbid catholic teaching and catholic teachers. So the irish began illegal hidden schools, which were the only catholic acceptable schools till 1832 in the old sod. Alternatives to the state were possible and in America they did not have to hide.

Still crouching 'neath the sheltering hedge,
Or stretched on mountain fern,
The teacher and his pupils met feloniously to learn.. -- John O'Hagan

Between 1880 and the start of WWI ten million immigrants came to America from Eastern Europe while Anglo-Saxons and Protestants were few, in addition there were Italians and Irish and Jews who also were not waspish. There were many northeastern states and regions of the middle west that had majority populations of foreign born or the children of foreign born. The taunt, “rum, romanism and rebellion” would be used and others.

Senator Morrill of Vermont (of land grant colleges) wanted to send them back. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (1895 Massachusetts) proposed a literacy test for immigrants. Congress had passed the Chinese exclusion Act of 1882 to protect the other coast. These objectionable peoples created a response of anti-immigrant organizations, such as The American Protective Association (1887) and the Immigration Restriction League. Educators such as Ellwood Cubberley described the newcomers as “largely illiterate, docile, lacking in initiative, and almost wholly without the Anglo-Saxon conceptions of righteousness, liberty, law, order, public decency and government.”

It was often said by many Americans “let’s load up the boats to send them back and then sink them at sea.” And this quip would still be uttered two generations later.

Daughters of the American Revolution and other groups sought out to Americanize them. Textbooks would tell them patriotic stories of this superlative land and civics classes and citizenship classes (this included the adults also) would indoctrinate them in being good citizens.

The Spanish American War (1898) further showed this braggadocio. Teddy Roosevelt would make the world fear and respect anglo-saxon americanism in his election win (1904). A Chicago newspaperman, Finley Peter Dunne, would write in 1898 in the words of his Mr. Dooley, “An Anglo-Saxon, Hinnissy, is a German that’s forgot who was his parents.”

Educators Terman and Thorndike could show how inferior these new immigrants really were by testing. Proper tracks could facilitate them. So, in looking at immigration in the period between 1840 and 1975 we can say immigrants were considered an unwelcome bother that needed to be solved to protect America and “americanizing” the newcomers was the remedial solution.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Evolutionists lighten up

Charles Darwin's, "Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", was published in 1859. Note the secondary title. There followed social darwinism in the english philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who maintained two kinds of knowledge: that of the individual and that of the race. The phrase “survival of the fittest”, is his. This in conjunction with the theories of individuals such as Count Gobineau and Margaret Sanger led to eugenics (a sort of animal husbandry for people), birth control, forced sterilizations, Planned Parenthood, euthanasia and mercy killings. Hitler believed in the superiority of the aryan race, especially the teutonic german. Anti-semitic laws based on american Jim Crow were enacted and so on.

Yet, people focus on Dayton, Tennessee’s Scopes Monkey trial of 1925 as the victory of the enlightened over the boobs. Was this a victory for free speech and academic freedom or a manipulation of chicanery and media show trial? The ACLU advertised to find someone to allow t
hem to challenge the recently passed Butler Act that forbid the teaching of evolution in Tennessee. A group of businessmen conspired with them to have a school coach challenge the law, so that local business could be drummed up. Scopes never actually remembered mentioning evolution, he was fined $100 and the law stood till 1967, but the public remembers the play and the movie, "Inherit the Wind" and that Clarence Darrow made William Jennings Bryan (the democrat nominee for president in 1896, 1900 & 1908) look like a fool. Bryan died within a few days.

The textbook used, "Hunters' Civic Biology", listed the races (often nations) in hierarchical order. The English race was the most superior and the lesser races descended down to ape level. Clearly all men were not equal. Science shows us the way.

Bryan's undelivered speech, that he was denied to read, at the trial, through a clever Darrow, was a plea for christian humanitarianism against scientific racism and biological determinism and moral nihilism (Nietzsche) and war. Bryan foresaw an individual who would do great harm to the world; were he to enact such a combined program. Bryan who, a generation earlier, advocated what would be, Roosevelt's New Deal, as a corrective to the capitalism of the republican party, now may have described the outline of a future monster -- Hitler.

The use of biology for other than that as a description of the living world is dangerous. Using an interpretation of science as a mandate to describe and govern human society is a formula for dystopia.

People can disagree with scientific theories. We have one camp that maintains their form of darwinism as absolute unquestionable truth and protests any objector with invective and complete disregard of respect, so did the Nazis with theirs. There is another camp that is threatened by any contradiction to their interpretation of their religious views. Some want to create science in their own image, but isn't science always to be tinkering with answers and questions?

There is no current chance for the extinction of the darwinists. Absurd, discredited, political ideas [e.g. gwbushjr and the fascist wing of his party] are often given sway in this society, but absolutist darwinian determinists must be totally free from perceived umbrage and questioning? Whose academic freedom and free speech is in danger? Many who can incorporate evolution into their beliefs see that some of the extreme darwinists are not truly interested in only advocating good science but advocating atheism through the back door. William Jennings Bryan saw the possibilities of the system and advocated a different course, he lost too often.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lauren Caitlin Upton

Lauren Caitlin Upton: South Carolina honor student

  • Q "Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the United States on a world map. Why do you think this is?"
  • A “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as, uh, South Africa, and uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us.”

I saw the repeating excerpt on television news. Immediately upon hearing the question, I thought, "what don't they watch the weather?" Then I saw young Miss Upton. Oh, she is cute! Then I began listening to her stilted non sequitars. She has to be thinking, why do they ask these questions? can't they just look and see I"m beautiful? isn't that enough? isn't that the reason I'm here?

Then I noticed her strange use of phrases: like such as, and the Iraq. "Like such as" may be being used as a verbal tick or a filler construction, often "like" alone is, but the "such as" seems an apparent attempt to sound academic. "The Iraq", geographical grammatical confusion, before one would say the Ukraine, the Gambia and perhaps the Lebanon. I think that form has gone out of favor, and she was probably born after that point in time and, I doubt that, she would be familiar with it.

From this limited exposure she speaks as well as most republican candidates, certainly Bush junior has had more verbal garble than that. But, then again, she is cute! It fascinates--a blonde moment meltdown. The audience and the presenter do not seem to react astonished or bemused. Part of her answer is formulaic prattle, the rest is certainly non-linear, but trying to be agreeably patriotic. The more I look at her,...who did win?... my, she is cute.

Eternal Verities in the Philosophy of Education

July 2002

In principio. Chaerephon, a friend of Socrates (c.470-399 b.C.) asked the Oracle at Delphi, “Is there a man wiser than Socrates?” No, there was not, and why so? The Oracle's message to all was — know thyself ! and Socrates knew there was much he did not know, therefore, he knew much. In Athens there were many paid teachers: Sophists, as Plato would call them. They played with language, debated the dialectic, declared knowledge and morality relativistic and power triumphant. Socrates showed them up with persistent questions and sought no gain. He was an irritant to them and to many of the powerful.

Some of this questioning began the Socratic maieutic (obstetrics), the dialogue that helped the student bring to term his innate thought. Ideas and knowledge were real and had meaning.

Socrates was found guilty for corrupting the youth and for impiety against the religious system. His immorality was judged as an enemy of the state, and through his trumpeting of contempt for his prosecutors and jury, he was sentenced to death.

Socrates had integrity, a love for reason, knowledge and wisdom and, presumably, had a concept of a higher or perhaps a unitary, omniscient god. His love of virtue was inherited by his student, Plato (428-347 b. C.). These virtues were real and their essences were the universals of forms. These forms (ideas) were what was truly true, truly real. Forms were the original source where men’s souls came and returned to. In Plato, absolutes were reality and the sensual world was a shadow of them in degrees of fullness. Justice was the unifying force of the world, and in The Republic, the perfect society had no written law, for the law of arete (virtue) was knowable to all. The harmony of men's souls with the universals were virtue. The supreme universal was that of the Good.

Aristotle (384-322 b.C.) was a student of Plato. He saw the physical world as being fully real. The study of science was a key to knowledge. A system of tight deductive logic through the reasoning of the syllogism (e.g. All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore, Socrates is mortal.) is the method of thought. There is a causality of action, of movement and there is ultimately a prime (first) mover.

The school of Stoics were concerned with ethical morality. The sole virtue was the good. Virtue was to live by reason and suppress all else.

Diogenes of Sinope (412?-323 b.C.) was the most noted of the Cynics, and believed virtue existed more in action than in theory and the good was not to be found in the petty or in vanity. His legend has him searching Athens in the daylight with his lamp, accompanied by his dog (caon = dog, cynic) looking for an honest man.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 b.C.) was one of many Roman jurists ending with the Justinian Code of the 6th century. “The people's good is the highest law”, is from his De Legibus. He states in his writings descriptions and instances of the natural law. In it we have this universal pre-existing standard, that Plato identified with Justice. The codification of man made law ought be this. Aequitas (Roman god of fair dealing) is the mythic personification of equity. Epikeia is Greek for equity.
  • Wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away, and is easily seen by them who love her, and is found by them that seek her. — Wisdom vi. 13.
  • That he should order the world according to equity and justice, and execute justice with an upright heart: — Wisdom ix. 14.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274) brought the theology of Christianity into synthesis with Aristotelian metaphysics. Thomas was a Dominican (an imbedded pun, domini cane = the Lord’s dog). Aquinas defined God as the Prime Mover, the Uncaused Cause, the source of existence and perfection and the designer of the universe in the quinque via. Aquinas defines in question 91 of the Summa that the law is in four parts: eternal, natural, human, divine. In Article 2, he states, “the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature's participation of the eternal law”. In Article 4 of Question 90 the Reply to Objection 1 is “the natural law is promulgated by the very fact that God instilled it into man’s mind as to be known by him naturally”. This is echoed in the Declaration of Independence, “the laws of nature and the laws of nature’s God ”.

Up to this point, we have progressed through 1700 years of human time and have seen certain ideas holding extreme value and that are universal and unchanging and are divinely deposited, let us call them — absolutes. From man to man and place to place their essential existence is self-evident and acknowledged, although their exact composition and relation are tweaked, so that, philosophical expositions are not identical. We have only given examples from the western civilization of our shared heritage, but there are similar strains existing from India, China and elsewhere that would further bolster the encyclopedic nature of this argument.

A common metaphysics and epistemology runs from the ancients, to the mediaeval scholastics and to our modern and current age, yes, this can fairly be called a perennial strain of thought. Aquinas, the dumb ox, the common, universal and angelic doctor can be considered the ne plus ultra, not only of the schoolmen, but of all thinkers. To quote Chesterton, “On a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther should be almost invisible.” He bears the standard against the anti-rationalists that came in the centuries after. In the Summa theologica, he goes beyond two million words and abandons this work after a supremely ecstatic mystical experience and explains to a fellow friar, “All my works seem like straw after what I have seen”, such was the immediacy of revealed personal experience, but the validity of the arguments stand. So much of what he wrote is the very warp and woof of the fabric of catholic philosophy, that people recognize it as truly Catholic, but do not attach it to St. Thomas. At the Sorbonne (University of Paris) he regularly engaged in public disputation on a particular question, or on any topic, or on any question. In an answer he would often include other positions, their objections, replies to objections in a string of premises, conclusions, syllogisms, and further tight reasoning to end with the conclusiveness of a geometric proof. Aquinas wrote poetry that is still vital, including limericks, but his philosophical writing is done in an exacting code in point by point canonical fashion, e.g. “the second part of the first part”, “first reply to the third objection”, and so on.

These maxims show up in the method of Maria Montessori (1870-1952): “Nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses”, often becomes her's, “from hands to mind.” The mind, “knows by composition and division”, from the general is drawn particulars and these are brought back to the general with greater understanding. The truth is distilled into simpler components where the mind understands that level of meaning and this knowledge is the base for further accretion, for nothing is learned from new information that is not attached to some previously known, this could only be accepted as faith or opinion — not reason.

The scholastic philosophy is wedded to the Catholic understanding of grace. In man’s fall, he was not fully corrupted as Montessori states, “in spite of the moral disorder brought about by original sin, there still remains in human nature a great potentiality for goodness.” In the New Testament we are often likened to children and their care is a serious stewardship:

  • But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depths of the sea. — Matthew xviii. 6.

The principle of subsidiarity is mentioned in the Philosopher’s (Aristotle) Politics, and in Thomas’ view, as well in Dr. Montessori’s, the family and the state are natural societies, but the primacy is to the family. The state is there to supply what the family cannot and not to abrogate or replace what the family does for itself. To draw this to today: educational vouchers would be a proper exercise of government in that the family’s legitimate desires are supported.

In the Summa (II-II, q. 10, a. 12) Thomas shows that a Christian state does not have the right to Christianize the children of Jewish parents, and further, other coercive measures are surely circumscribed by the natural law and the “use of right reason.” In this he is in the tradition of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) for a law that is not just is not a law but is tyranny. There is proper authority but not absolute authority. Aquinas, as does Dante (1265-1321) and Suarez (1548-1617), argues against the absolute state whether in an individual or a government. This is also seen in Albert Camus’ The Rebel (1951). The first word a man says is “No.” This is in direct contrast to Hobbes’ Leviathan (1654) which grants the state all.

These ethical virtues are moral absolutes and are the very characteristic of integrity, and as Socrates died for them so did Christ and the list of martyrs do not end, see Latin American headlines, today, that go unnoticed. Those of less than a generation ago which were given with a little more narrative in English America, were such as El Salvador’s: Oscar Romero, four American churchwomen, six Jesuits and many unknown poor in one small country that was an American client state. To stand for truth and justice is sometimes heroic beyond belief, education is to help us maintain our individual integrity vis-à-vis the society, government and the world, if so it becomes necessary. Remember Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all -- To thine own self be true.”

Other Thomistic principles include, man has a natural inclination to learn, one learns easier with joy than without joy, one can learn by discovery (inventio) unaided, he can also learn with a teacher (disciplina) and here the teacher is similar to a physician (they can both be called doctors, eh!). A teacher must believe in the value and interest of his subject as a doctor believes in health. (Gilbert Highet, The Art of Teaching). Knowledge exists in potency within the mind but does not become actualized until something acts upon the mind. Learning proceeds from the self-evident (per se nota) in particular circumstances (ad determinatas materias) to conclusions, which become new points of origin. “The human mind has a natural knowledge of being ... foundation of our knowledge of first principles.” (Contra Gentiles) There may be many intermediaries, but the ultimate teacher is God. Wisdom is the perfection of reason.

To summarize Thomistic thought, we use the motto, “verum, bonum, pulchrum” -- the true, the good, the beautiful. The true is always true. Nothing exists without taking some part in beauty and goodness in some degree, a thing is beautiful in proportion, integrity and splendor.

Twentieth century Thomists include: Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), Etienne Gilson (1884-1978), Joseph Pieper (1904-1997) [who wrote Leisure: The Basis of Culture (1948) which is a curative to the protestant work ethic, which has too much work and not enough ethic, and hearkens to the reflective and festive classical and catholic past], and Ralph McInernay b. 1929. The elegance of the argument still compels and continues to make converts.
Student's Prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas

Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent of being exact
in my explanations and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

God's own team

Notre Dame began their season against the rambling wrecks of Georgia Tech. The first play was initially a bad call against Notre Dame. A fumble was manufactured, but on video review it was clearly not. The ball was returned.

Football is a brutal game with many aficionados. Many view it with metaphors and lessons positive for life. Now bad calls often stand*, so justice is not a football principle. A good and fortunate team must be able to survive one or, even, two bad calls a game. Only success counts, not the manner, in which, it is gained. Football is not really a christian exemplar.

Notre Dame is God's own team, never-the-less. In big time football there are only two catholic teams: Boston College, S.J., and Notre Dame. While many who have only a passing interest in football do not recognize the former, they certainly know the latter.

Before Al Smith's loss ('28) and to Kennedy's win ('60), Notre Dame was the cause to root for. The athletic pursuits and heroics were followed by a catholic multitude in papers and on radio throughout the nation. Frank Leahy placed the crushing victory on practically all opponents and that sort of dominance, really, upset those who did not like mackerel snapping Notre Dame. That sort of play and that sort of reaction pleased the followers of God's own team to no end. A dear professor of history, Carl Gustavson, commented on that time period of Notre Dame's dominance, he wasn't pleased. I also remember a Hemingway story where a nun was listening to the radio. Many people remember the heyday, Oklahoma and Army knew their elevens.

I didn't recognize to the degree that anti-catholic bigotry existed, until I came to university and in what instances it freely ran. I was in a large common room watching a televised game (Notre Dame against Penn State, I believe) and heard a small barrage of stupid, spiteful, hateful and ridiculous racist (apparently having black players is one of the ignoble ways that Notre Dame cheats) statements against God's own team and the one true church. At those moments, there began for me, during any play where Notre Dame is not successful -- emotional pain. I want to see Notre Dame win every game, preferably easily, and the more this rankles the bigots, the better.
At this moment the rambling wrecks of Georgia Tech have engineered a crushing of Notre Dame at Notre Dame. On to Penn State for redemption.
*cf. presidential elections of 2000 & 2004