Thursday, October 28, 2010

Villains often espouse Compatibilism

Superman: Darseid. Kara leaves with me.

Darseid: She's free to leave. If that is what she desires.

So in the recent direct to DVD sequel to last year's Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Superman's cousin (Kara) is kidnapped by Darseid and taken to his terrible war planet: Apokolips. There he changes her. Those changes include evil destructive desires which she didn't previously have. But Darkseid thinks she is still free. But is she really? Her desires were changed agaisnt her will but now she is not capable of willing anything other than her new set of desires.

This seems to be a common theme among villains and supervillains, and its interesting that the same basic view of the will is espoused by Edwardian Calvinist theology. Its free as long as you desire to do what you're doing. That seems false. Kara seems as if she's trapped and not really guilty of the bad things she is about to do. And if that intuition seems correct then so much the worse for compatibilism. But God says: I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live. (Deut. 30:19)

So choose life and DC Universe DVDs. They're awesome. Not as awesome as life, but still pretty awesome.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chris Daly on Tropes Precis

This is a recent assignment I did for my metaphysics class. It is not very good. I did my best but my head was not in it. A precis is a concise essay summarizing a larger work. And for this assignment we also had to do a short critical section which is at the end.

Chris Daly claims that trope theorists deny the theory of universals claiming that all properties and relations are particulars which they call tropes. Therefore qualities such as being red are not shared identical relations between distinct substances. If three things are red there is a distinct red trope for each thing rather than a universal of redness that they all share. Trope theory is also distinct because it denies substances and allows only for the existence of tropes as a kind of particular.

The first argument is that trope theory is superior to universal theory because using universals and substances to explain properties and relations creates problems. For example: exactly how is a universal present in multiple places at the same time? The instantiation principle invoked by many universal theorists only makes the question more obscure because it’s not clear how they are instantiated. Trope theory is superior to universal theory because it only uses one type of entity.

The second argument is that trope theory has significant explanatory power. This is because everything can be described and understood in terms of tropes thus eliminating the need for universals and their problems. The third argument is that if every object can be explained as a trope bundle then Ockham’s razor cuts universal theory out.

Daly begins to evaluate trope theory by using Russell’s argument against theorists who denied universals but accepted resemblance. This is because different tropes that would be considered instantiating redness on a universal theory only stand in bare resemblance to each other. They don’t share redness between them but simply look alike. But this leads to an infinite regress because each resemblance itself can only be analyzed in terms of tropes. So there is no place where the analysis can stop in terms of tropes because the resemblance tropes will have resemblance tropes between each other and so we are faced with a vicious regress. This shows that it is necessary for resemblance to be a relation which is a separate entity from tropes.

Campbell and another philosopher Price have responded to Russell’s argument by accusing universal theory of falling prey to the same objection. Because all things that instantiate redness also have a similar shared quality of resembling in respect to red. But this new quality of resembling red will have three instantiations all of which resemble each other. Daly responds to this by claiming that Russell’s vicious regress does not occur here because there is no quality of resembling in respect to red. That is simply a brute fact not a property.
Campbell also responds to Russell’s argument by claiming that the regress is not vicious because the exact same term does not reoccur in each level of the regress but the analysis becomes increasingly abstract. Daly challenges this conclusion by showing that Campbell’s account actually represents the resemblance tropes as being exactly the same. So it is impossible for them to become more abstract as the regress goes on. Campbell’s reason for rejecting the regress as vicious is because each stage of the regress has no ontic additions only formal ones. The additions only come about through logical reflection. Daly thinks that this is exactly the problem and Campbell’s response has failed. Logical reflection forces us to accept the vicious regress. And Daly concludes that Russell’s argument stands against all the rebuttals.

Since trope theory concerns just particulars there is no need to explain a relationship to universals. But how tropes make up the trope bundles which form objects is a problem. Trope theory uses the compresence relation which means separate tropes occupying the same spatio-temporal location. But this relationship is problematic because the tropes and the compresence relation that form trope bundles could all exist independently. In order for a concrete object to be formed out of tropes they would have to be an instantiation of these two things which means that the instantiation objection holds for trope theory.

Campbell’s response is that the compresence relation could just be sharing the same place time coordinates. Daly thinks this response suffers from the same problem. Because nothing is holding the tropes and the time space coordinates together. They could all exist separately. The trope bundle and the space time coordinates need to instantiate the compresence relation in order to form the object in question. And since it still posits the instantiation relation it is no better than universal theory. Thus Daly concludes that Campbell’s defenses of trope theory are “blunted”.

I do not think that Daly’s criticism of trope theory via Russell’s metaphysical regress works. Campbell’s response is pretty much correct. There are no ontic additions throughout the regress and since tropes are a primitive they really can’t be analyzed any further. So the only way to do further metaphysical analysis is to continually use purely conceptual relation tropes. The argument is completely formal and has nothing to do with the actual ontology of the theory. In other words Daly is contriving an unnecessary paradox which is not a part of the ontology of tropes. It’s not as if now that he’s pointed out that you can only analyze the relations between relational tropes in terms of other conceptual tropes that the trope theorist is suddenly committed to a massive undergirding of relational tropes. So the question isn’t whether or not the regress is vicious or virtuous but whether there is a true regress at all.

Tropes are considered the primitive in this theory. And primitives on any theory are going to be unanalyzable. How does a Universal theorist fare any better? Campbell responded to this regress by showing that a similar regress plagues the universal theorist by positing the universal resembling in respect to red. Daly responded to that by claiming there simply was no quality of resembling in respect to red. It’s a contrived regress that doesn’t add new ontological information. So if he can bite the bullet and force the regress to stop there by claiming the resemblance is just a brute fact and not a property it seems the trope theorist can claim basically the same thing about the resemblance tropes in question. It just so happens that the resemblance tropes resemble each other. But that is just a brute fact. It doesn’t perform any new metaphysical function. No new information is added except that we have pointed out the obvious that things which are alike resemble each other.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The real problem with the recent Southern Baptist Yoga Controversy: Christian Confusion about the Body

So Mohler seems to have done it again. His name and controversy seem to go hand in hand. But this controversy is a little more telling of the general problems that are plagueing American Evangelicalism.

You see the problem isn't really yoga. Its not whether or not Dr. Moehler is right or not. The real problem is the one we all share as (pay close attention to these three designators) Western Christian Protestants.

I think the problem that is being displayed in this ridiculous current controversy is really just one problem: confusion about how God relates to our bodies. Moehler and his audience are both just as confused, and in some ways both just as wrong.

I'm 25, I just started doing graduate work like a month ago so I realize nothing I say here is even remotely important or authoritative. But I'm going to say it anyway. Mostly because I'm 25 and this is the internet (and like three people might read this in any case).

So here is the problem as I see it. First piece of evidence, the seventh article of the Southern Baptist Statement of Faith:

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.

The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12."

In many ways this is what is really causing all the trouble. You see this discussion is between Western Christian Protestants. Now we don't all agree on the Lord's Supper (there's been some pretty heated debate) but we all pretty much agree that what is stated above is physically and spiritually true of the elements we eat together. Everybody hashes it out differently but the same metaphysic lies behind all of the controversy. The fact is there is no view of the elements of the Lord's Supper within Protestantism (except for some Anglicans but they're mostly honorary protestants anyway, I mean they're just not angry enough about the Papacy) that thinks God's presence does anything in or with the elements. Lutherans believe the elements become surronded by the holy presence. Calvinists think grace is given directly to the believer in a kind of occasionalism (if you're ever eating a sandwich in church you better hope the Holy Spirit isn't being a little negligent that day). But most of us think that absolutely nothing happens at all. Its just a pure act of obedience. And it is surely that. Taking the Lord's Supper is odedience to God's will. But most protestants don't think that the elements themselves have become anything special. Why not?

Here's why not:

"Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables."

That last quote was given by Dr. Moehler in his most recent response to this controversy. Notice the two most important statements: 1) not see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine and 2) an external Word.

Lets look at Col. 2:12. This is one of the verses given in the Southern Baptist document cited above that supposedly proves the empty symbol Baptist account of Baptism. It says: having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (ESV).

Where is the symbol? I'm not a greek scholar at all (I have a big fat F and an incomplete to prove it) but the ESV is like the American Calvinist Vulgate. So I'm betting not only is it a pretty literal translation but its also pretty accurate (at least to their standards). And this translation doesn't even imply the doctrine stated above. What this one tiny verse says in and out of context is that the event which is baptism does the following: raises you with Christ through your faith. It also says that you were buried with Christ. In baptism. Could it be a mere symbol? Well yes, its not logically impossible. The author could have had that intent. But thats reading into this text, or rather restricting this text due to metaphysical presuppositions. The text actually says: IN WHICH. This is the reference to Baptism. In what? In Baptism through your faith you have been put to death with Christ and brought to new life in Christ. The action is clearly symbolic but symbols aren’t always empty, they often are a part of the reality they represent. Just like sex and marriage! Sex is symbolic of the reality of marriage and yet it is part of that reality, and so is the marriage ceremony. Something is actually taking place in both sex and the marriage act yet they are both symbolic of the reality as well. It is an act of unity, as well as part of the overall unity of marriage. Baptism and the Lord's Supper function in just this same way. Something like this was pretty much church dogma believed by most Christians prior to the reformation (and if you're going to work numbers still is unless you deny that the Latins and Greeks/Russians are Christians, but still less so in the Roman tradition since they believe that the symbol is pretty much completely removed and only the reality is left). Its a symbol of the reality and the symbol is part of that reality. In both a symbolic and an actual way. The water symbolizes death and cleansing while also contributing to this process in the Christian's life. Saying its a symbol isn’t a big deal. Sure, of course its a symbol. Its also real. The problem is showing how it is just a symbol, a mere symbol, or an empty symbol when the literal obvious reading seems to indicate that it is also reality. Just read the verse again. Then read the chapter. It becomes even more obvious within the context of Colossians 2.

Lets also look at 1 Corinthians 10.

Verse 16 says: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

And Verse 21 says: You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of
demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

These are two more verses cited within the Souther Baptist document to support their view. But here the view fairs even worse. Baptists have historically denied that the Lord's supper is a participation in the Body of Christ. But verse 16 just flatly denies that. It directly contradicts the historic baptist position. You have to beg the question with these texts in order to come to the conclusion that the sacrements are in fact not sacrements. The Bible just seems to say that they are reality, more than mere symbol.

And so we come to another quote by Dr. Moehler:

"Nevertheless, a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine."
Well the phsyical and the spiritual cannot be neatly dividely. They aren't supposed to be. Look Dr. Moebler is right that Yoga as a Yoga really is a Hindu religious practice. And he's right to object to that. Most of these Christians (as he admits) aren't really practicing Yoga. They're just using Yoga positions. Its like being a Unitarian. They talk about Jesus' resurrection but in reality as Dr. John Mark Reynolds likes to say they're thinking of something like spring. They're pagans or atheists using empty Christian Icons. And so are many of these "yoga" practitioners. They're using empty yoga techniques because they're helpful in the same way that Jesus' resurrection is simply beautiful whether its real or not. Each of them has divorced the symbol from the reality.

And so Moehler and his audience have the same problem. Divorcing the physical and the spiritual. And since Christians need a phsyical religion as well as an "external" word many of them are finding this physical need met in yoga. Is that right? No but not because streching and disicipline is wrong. Its wrong because the church has nothing to feed us physically. God never intended us to live in any mode of being other than the physical. We are physical. When my spirit leaves my body in death that is only a product of the fall and they're being reuniting by Christ in the eschaton is part of the consumation of all things to their proper place and order. Our bodies are so important to our faith that God actually took on human nature in order to accomplish our salvation and more fully unite himself to his creation. So by ignoring the phsyical in Christian worship and divorcing the spiritual and physical we protestants have almost literally castrated our own faith.

And so Dr. Moehler’s faith needs to become sacremental and physical. And the Yoga people can keep strectching but they need to realize that Yoga as originally intended is not Christ honoring. But neither is Football. They are both body honoring though, which is a good thing. And maybe those positions and techniques completely divorced from the participation in demons that was originally intended can be good. Pretty much all religions have something in them which makes people act more like the image bearers they truly are. But in the final sum your soul is more distorted. So the Yoga people need to be careful. They are doing something that has the potential to hurt them if they’re being uncritical. But so does the memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sigh No More

I love this song and these lyrics are so simple and beautiful.

"Serve God love me and mend
This is not the end
Lived unbruised we are friends
And I'm sorry
I'm sorry

Sigh no more, no more
One foot in sea, one on shore
My heart was never pure
And you know me
And you know me

And man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing
Oh man is a giddy thing

Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be"

-Mumford and Sons