The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:
- Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
- Share interesting links
- Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
- Ask questions
- Put forward a position for more general discussion
- Tell us about yourself and your interests
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- Use as a bulletin board
Over to you!
Earlier open mic threads: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.
I posted this in the last open mike thread – anyone have any particular thoughts on Israel Finkelstein’s work on ancient Israel, his minimalism etc? Or on the archaeological status of ancient Israel (eg claims that the Cannanite warfare never happened)?
I am not an expert in this area, but, from what I have read, Finkelstein seems to be exaggerating things, at least when it comes to David and Solomon. The United Monarchy seems to have existed and to have been fairly substantial and wealthy.
Interestingly, there seems to be shift in archaeology back towards the possibility of a larger Exodus. I don’t know enough to make a judgment.
I’m working off memory, but K.A. Kitchen and a few others disagree with Finkelstein’s chronology of the layers, that it’s not possible to compress them into the short time needed for his theory. I think Finkelstein requires that cities be destroyed and rebuilt fairly quickly, which Kitchen finds implausible.
Minimalism is not popular (though, neither is purely traditional views on biblical archaeology). The leading archaeologist William Dever has written extensively against minimalism, though he is an agnostic himself. Books I have read by Isserlin, King, and Borowski on ancient Israel don’t buy minimalism, and take a moderate approach with the Bible. Ian William Provan and two others published an extensive traditional textbook ‘A Biblical History of Israel’ in 2003. I haven’t read it, but it’s a more recent defense of taking the Bible seriously in archaeology.
For example, the only three Canaanite cities said to be burned in Joshua are Ai, Jericho, and Hazor. Hazor has a destruction layer that fits the biblical timeframe well (even has decapitated idols). Ai and Jericho destruction layers don’t seem to fit, but there is not a lot of evidence that biblical Ai is the same as the site we call Ai, and Jericho has a lot of erosion on the site, making it possible that the evidence was washed away.
Finkelstein, it should be noted, isn’t a full on minimalist, like the Copenhagen people.
Provan et al’s book on Israel is great – conservative, but great. I really like their approach of ‘text —–> archaeology’. The same with Kitchen – though, again, conservative, his big book on the Old Testament is just a goldmine of information. His short sections on the camels/Abraham issue that pops up every now and then is one of the best antidotes to the minimalism/deconstructionism so popular nowadays in print.
I actually think this will have a very significant impact on relations between men and women. No, robots will most certainly not replace real life sexual relationships, because, as mentioned, sex isn’t the only reason people, even men, enter such relationships.
1. There are a significant number of men’s men who just don’t like women. I don’t mean that they are necessarily hostile towards women, but that they just don’t really “get” women and don’t particularly like interacting with them on an intimate level. They may like having sex with women, but the relationship part of the relationship is a chore, not a delight.
2. Even among those who, on the whole, enjoy loving relationships with women, love is often only one thing among many that they want. Many men, who would prefer a real relationship, all else being equal, would still choose to just have sex with a highly attractive robot if the attractiveness differential between that and what they can get in real life is stark enough.
3. A non-trivial number of women are actually pretty toxic, and the relationship part of the relationship with them is a net negative. These will be avoided.
4. Men, in general, will be quicker to leave relationships they don’t like, because the prospect of complete sexual starvation will no longer be a realistic threat.
This will also be asymetrical. Women do genuinely need a personal bond with their sexual partners, even for short term relationships. Sexbots will not be an acceptable substitute for real men.
Women, particularly secular women, are soon going to be in for a world of hurt. The power differential between men and women is going to shift radically, as the cost of walking away from real life women is about to get a whole lot less. The erosion of women’s bargaining power will be catastrophic.
We can see what this would be like by looking at what happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Or other times when the sex differential shifted in favour of (the remaining) men.
Derek Rishmawy’s posts kick ass.
Blatant self-promotion ahead – this blog post may interest some folks here:
‘Another question that’s best perhaps phrased in the form of an answer: God is not found at the limit of human life but at the center. This is a huge theme in Bonhoeffer, especially his Ethics and Letters and Papers From Prison. Instead of attempting to identify an existential crisis or God-shaped hole, which may or may not be there or may or may not be viewed as significant, the Christian should simply act in the world. It is in the real world, in the concrete actions of the Christian in the real world, in the center of our existence, not in the deep dark existential moments, where God is. When God is found in the gaps, even deep existential gaps, He disappears when they close.’
No need for trigger warnings about self-promotion here! Self-promotion is one of the purposes of the open mic thread.
What’s anyone think of Reformed epistemology (properly basic beliefs, Plantinga, etc)?
P. Enns responds to Andrew Wilson’s critique of his newest book:
He really seems to think that it’s impossible that someone could just not be convinced by his ‘arguments’.
We’ve recorded a Mere Fidelity in response to this. For now, take a look at my comment beneath the post and Brian Mattson’s post on the supposed Passover contradiction.
Also, it’s the seeming contradictions that are important spurs for deep reflection.
Indeed. That is one of the points that we make in the podcast.
Progressives say they are shocked by the violence in the OT and would never support such things but they support revolutionary violence in modern times.
I have been thinking that sexual morality is a really, really big deal. Modern thought thinks it’s no big deal but it seems to me to very fundamental to the spirit.
I would be interested in discussion about the idea of evil spirits. Satan’s personhood, or the activity of demons an nature. Alvin Plantinga has said things about demons being a possible cause of natural disasters, and Jesus seemed to be casting out demons that caused natural diseases – mental illness, seizures, mute. I wonder too how modern science and medicine fits into this.
If I’m thinking of what you’re thinking of (which is ‘God, Freedom and Evil’), Plantinga wasn’t so much arguing for the reality of demonic influences so much as showing that such influences weren’t logically contradictory. It’s been a minute since I read that book though, so I could be wrong.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking that what was identified as demonic activity in Jesus’ time is simply regular diseases – but that shouldn’t be seen as a reductionist position (ie, ‘it’s really just’ natural illness). While actual demonic activity may be less prevalent than was thought 2000 years ago, I do see things such as mental illness etc as being potentially used by Satan, though I don’t at all see the enemy behind every bad thing that happens.
I haven’t read Plantinga on this. Another philosopher friend introduced the idea to me one time.
One thing that is worth noticing is how few cases of demon possession there are in the Old Testament. We should beware, I think, of treating the situation described in the gospels as if it were depicting some normal level of demonic activity.
Would that mean that there happened to be a demon epidemic in first century Israel/Mediterranean? Exorcism isn’t unusual, as there were other Jews doing it at the time, according to Acts and I think some other Jewish sources. But I wonder if this relates to spirit possession in general. I’ve mentioned before about a spirit ‘daimon’ and how it may not be bad to Greco-Roman minds (Socrates, Brutus), but maybe Jews would assume any pagan spirit as evil?
I think that there probably was. Much as an evil spirit plagued Saul after David’s anointing and David brought relief, so Israel was plagued by evil spirits and the anointed Christ brought relief. Athanasius and other early Church theologians speak of the oracles falling silent and the shrines of the idols being abandoned as the gospel spreads. I think that we see a similar thing in many pioneer missionary situations, with far more overt forms of confrontation with the demonic realm and a much greater frequency of the miraculous. Once the gospel has swept through a society, demonic activity doesn’t occur at anything like the same level.
I was thinking about meta-ethics today, specifically, non-cognitivism/expressivism.
‘Non-Cognitivism is the meta-ethical view (or family of views) that moral utterances lack truth-value (i.e. they are neither true nor false) and do not assert propositions. Therefore, if moral statements cannot be true, and if one cannot know something that is not true, Non-Cognitivism implies that moral knowledge is impossible, and moral truths are not the kind of truths that can be known.’
My own rough take on it thus far: http://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/short-ramble-on-meta-ethics/
Trinity House Institute has changed its name to The Theopolis Institute. Check the new site here: http://theopolisinstitute.com
I will be writing pieces for it in the near future.
What was your dissertation topic?
The Red Sea Crossing and Christian Baptism: A Study in Liturgy and Typology.
Sounds fascinating. I’ve wondered how far the river / baptism connection goes, e.g., is the city of God river in Psalm 24 (and less obviously in Ps 1) notionally tied in with the Red Sea crossing, and baptism in the Jordan (and of course the Rev 22, Ezekiel 42 stuff has to come in also).
I know you often post pieces that you disagree with, so I presume the Martin Saunders piece was in your Delicious because of its total and utter cluelessness.
There are many good reasons to be kind, but that it will slow, halt or turn around the secularization process is not one of them.
Yes, your suspicion is quite correct. I’ve started writing a response to it, which I will probably post tomorrow.
Only after your post on the Aqedah that I keep waiting for?
I have just about finished J. Budziszewski’s The Meaning of Sex. Very good in some ways. Has it influenced you much? The ideas on sex and gender seem very similar to yours. However, it was only published in 2012.
I didn’t like the New Natural Law perspective, where he denies that purposes in the natural law sense are in any sense personal. Neither did I like the denial that natural law is religious. I think that is nonsense. Natural law, by definition, doesn’t rely on special revelation, but it is religious through and through.
No, it hasn’t influenced me very much. I only finished reading it on the 20 August. While there is some influence on my articulation of my argument in my recent posts on gender, which were written around the same time, the substance of my position was there for a long time previously and can be seen in various things that I have written before I read Budziszewski. Budziszewski is the nearest thing that I know of to an accessible or popular level treatment of the subject that I can almost wholeheartedly recommend.
And, yes, I am with you regarding natural law.
So, what books have influenced your take on sexual differences and, in particular, your views on how male and female symbolize different things? You’ve mentioned Roger Scruton, Oliver O’Donovan, and John Paul II as being important influences for your views of sex and sex differences. But I myself haven’t found anything like what you are saying in their books, though admittedly I only have a partial familiarity with their works on the subject. I.e. I’ve only started Scruton, read a couple of O’Donovan’s (RaMO, Begotten or Made) and a short summary book of JPII’s Theology of the Body.
A couple criticisms:
1. He does not adequately distinguish between his categories of romantic love and enchantment (what most people would call infatuation).
2. His talk of how all women are potential mothers does not deal well with women who have always been sterile. Not saying there aren’t answers here, just that he doesn’t really articulate them.
2. There were some annoying word choices. He talks about a “nice” person to love, marry and have children with, which really grated on me. And he also talks a lot about the “girl next door” type, which implies a particular (and, frankly, aesthetically lesser) kind of look, rather than simply being in opposition to trampiness. Are the glamourous and sophisticated, decidedly non-“girl next door” attributes, simply to be lumped in with crude sexualization?
Also, I should note that Budziszewski does ditch the New Natural Law rhetoric at the end and does say that natural law points to God.
My views on these matters were provoked by engaging with and reflecting upon several sources. However, none of those sources really expresses the position that I do. The significance of men and women symbolizing different things actually arose from theological reflection upon Genesis 1-3 (for which James Jordan is particularly helpful) and 1 Corinthians 11. I was trying to think about how to express the teaching of these passages in a more contemporary idiom and that is the language that I thought best captured it. People like Scruton (with his notion of gender as moral kinds) and Lacan (his discussion of the name of the father, etc.) were helpful interlocutors along the way, enabling me to get a better purchase on the position that I wanted to articulate.
I did complete James Jordan’s Through New Eyes. Tremendous book. I think this will change how I read the Bible more than anything I’ve ever read, and I already thought I was attentive to symbol and metaphor. On the other hand, I immediately “got” what he was saying. His readings did not seem stretched or perplexing to me.
I now have Leithart’s A House for My Name.
I am pleased that you found that. I was hoping that you would. I am clearly a huge fan of his work.
You might also enjoy reading Leithart’s Deep Exegesis at some point.
I thought that the Ross Douthat article and the Philip Jenkins article he based it on were real blockbusters. Cults should be flourishing in the West now that respectable Christianity has fallen from its dominant perch. But they’re not.
But the main things is the downfall of modern paganism. Pagan religions are not burdened in the West with reputations for being exclusive, or morally demanding, or judgmental, or unkind to gays, or involved in culture wars. Paganism also requires very little effort and may be said in many ways to be the natural religion of fallen man. It seems to bubble up spontaneously most places and seems to require almost no indoctrination to pass on. If you don’t have a native pagan tradition to follow, you can pretty much make one up from scratch without too much loss. See Gerald Gardner. Yet, older pagans are now complaining about how their young people are drifting away, just like older Christians.
So, there must just be something about living in the modern world that dulls our sense of the spiritual. It’s not failures of catechesis, it’s not being unkind to gays, it’s not the culture wars, it’s the way we live now, it’s our practices.
Regarding the last paragraph: Borgmann’s Power Failure is very interesting.
Great video from Edward Feser on the proof of God’s existence from motion (change).
This great bloggingheads between Paul Bloom and Tamar Szabo Gendler has greatly influenced me. Belief is what you explicitly affirm, while alief is how some other part of your mind/body reacts. For example, you stand on a glass floor above the grand canyon. You do so because you explicitly believe the thick glass will hold you up, but some part of you reacts as if you are unsupported by anything and about to fall.
Liberals and secularist still implicitly believe (alieve) a whole bunch of implicit chunks of religious and traditional thought patterns. Indeed it is hard to live in the world without positing that things have meaning and purpose. But they can never seem to put those things together in a coherent way.
However, when they are artists, they often fall back on those implicit chunks of traditional thought to create their stories and images, as explored in this blog post.
Then there are cases like Thomas Nagel, where he has figured out the arguments for teleology, but hasn’t been able to cross over the line into theism. Because something in him rebels against the idea. It doesn’t feel right. This is why it often so hard to convince someone even if you have good arguments starting from premises they agree with.
I’ve myself recently resolved a lot of my intellectual doubts about God’s existence (reading David Bentley Hart did it, though the ground was prepared by Ed Feser, Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis), but I still often have trouble living like I believe God exists. We human seem to be able to relapse into a sort of purely animal existence fairly easily, especially in the modern world.
RE: Sarah Bessey’s initial response to the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, where he said he was fired for having rough consensual sex.*
It is refreshing that realizes that symbolic action can be immoral, that there can be offenses against spiritual realities, such as symbols and meanings. It is good to hear a progressive acknowledge that some things can be a sin even if the parties consent to and enjoy them.
However, one cannot but notice that she is still really only exercised by symbols of harm. But if only symbols that point to harm are a problem, then the real standard is still harm, and all the arguments about how this is consensual and the person allegedly harmed actually enjoyed it all are back on. Utilitarianism still rules.
So, we need to accept that symbolic action may be wrong even when it does not point to harm (or unfairness, the other liberal moral foundation). But this would open the door to saying it is wrong, for example, for certain kinds of people to enter into certain symbolic roles even if they are perfectly capable of performing the day to day functions that go along with them.
There are further problems. If symbols have a reality of their own, then the faith is bound up with its symbols. And the symbols actually found in, say, scripture are highly gendered and essentialist. This means that egalitarians are locked into an Enlightenment hermeunetic where those metaphors and symbols have to be merely illustrative of propositional content. Even if you manage to find some way of saying that these images in scripture are just illustrative while others are an integral part of the faith (hard to do), if the faith is in the symbols then, frankly, it is still positively evil to introduce such imagery as is found in scripture into scripture. That sort of thing is inevitably going to get incorporated into the faith. So, again, I think progressives are locked into the Englightenment view of imagery and symbolism.
*It now appears that not everything he did was consensual.
I found it amusing that some BDSM people came out after the scandal and were talking about how Ghomeshi was such a terrible person for failing to beat the shit out of his sex partners according to the “rules.”
I imagine breaking the rules is part of the fun for people who are into this sort of thing.
Very interesting post.
Hers, mine, or both?
Oh good, BDSM is now something we get to dialogue/conversate about.
I’ve been following your thread about comments on blog posts and I prefer to comment here rather than on Twitter – and not just because this is quite a lengthy comment!
I think I know what you mean about these comments that are filled with ‘feels’. If you mean what I think you mean, I’ve probably been on the receiving-end of such responses from a member of my family on enough occasions to last me several lifetimes.This person will remain nameless – for now.
No matter how gently I suggest a different perspective to this person by saying, for instance, ‘Oh, I read that a bit differently..’ or, ‘Oh my impression of that is a bit different…’, it is to no avail. For instance, on one occasion, his angry response was, ‘I’m 83!’ I came to learn that this response from him contained a whole complex of attitudes including:’I’m 83 and I know better than you do…’ and ‘I’m 83 and I’m older than you and I’m entitled to special consideration…’. What I have given here is a relatively mild example. The general message from him is:’No debate!’ So my options are to attempt to persevere with my bit of ‘contrary evidence’ and wait for more fireworks, or to remain silent, thereby lying by omission, or to try to level and say that I don’t think the conversation is going anywhere.
On Twitter I’ve tried to suggest different perspectives to some people, but I am nowhere near as persevering as you are. I often remain silent, but am then aware of lying by omission. I’ve often felt sorely tempted to subtweet but have so far resisted the temptation. I resist sarcasm – I used to be one very sarky person, but I seem to be growing out of that!
I like to think that some people who respond with comments filled with ‘feels’ might actually want to have some sort of discussion/debate, but that would entail trying to understand the point of what the other person is saying and sometimes I see little evidence of that.
I remember a colleague who dealt (rather well, I thought!) with me when I went ‘off the deep end’ about something. He said, without a hint of sarcasm, ‘Oh, is that what you think? Oh that’s interesting.’ The trouble is, we don’t have the benefit of tone of voice and facial expression on Twitter, so, as a tweet, that might well come over as sarcastic.
I realise that I haven’t come up with any solutions.I’m still trying to come to terms with the problem – and there certainly is one!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I will probably be raising some of these issues within a forthcoming post.
I’m actually sympathetic to “I feel” arguments. Rationality can externalize, and cut us off from deep reflection and from life itself. Our connection with the world is through “feeling”. Though the communication of that pre-conscious contact with the world, to self and to others, needs discipline, we are, offline often thrown into circumstances that we navigate by touch–by feel–and without explicit conscious reflection. But we either don’t have to communicate about it with others, or can communicate about it subtly through body-language, or through small words to intimate friends. But online we need to engage as if we were navigating rationally, giving arguments, and without gesture, even as we see our loved ones engaging with things that feel bad, as if they were good.
Feelings are incredibly important. Our emotional faculties are essential to deep and truthful engagement with the world and each other. However, as in the case of our rational faculties, without appropriate discipline, honing, training, and the like, they can be incredibly dangerous. The problem that we face is that so much of the ’emotion’ encountered online speaks with a sense of natural entitlement, as if it were beyond challenge or question.
Thank you for your reply. I look forward to your forthcoming post. As you and mnpeterson said, feelings connect us with the world and enable us to have ‘a deep and truthful engagement with the world and each other’. I think of feelings, especially joy, sorrow, fear and anger, as part of our God-given ‘radar’. I am painfully aware that an overload of severe trauma can result in PTSD, as described so compassionately by Malcolm Guite in the poem about a war veteran which he posted today. However, tweets/ blog comments are not really an appropriate medium for expressing and responding to an outpouring of overwhelming feelings and I think there’s a good case for ‘counting up to ten’ before posting!
Re: your final sentence in your most recent post here, Alastair, – sometimes I wonder if we live in ‘an age of entitlement’!
RE: Egg freezing article
I’m coming to the conclusion that “unmarriageable men” is a bit of a weasel word. Why are these men unmarriageable? The implication is that men are immature and unsuitable for marriage, and it is all their fault.
There are however some alternative hypotheses:
1. Many of the men out there are perfectly good husband material, but women don’t find them sexually attractive enough. Women like to marry up in attractiveness as much as possible and without the need for a provider, many men aren’t attractive enough to meet the higher attractiveness requirements from financially independant women. This is especially true of high status career women, who don’t have many men above them who are potential mates.
2. The lowering in value of the provider role has encouraged men to become either players (the only way young women will have sex with them) or dropouts (if you can’t get sex and/or love through being a player or a provider/husband, why bother with anything). Unfortunately, these life trajectories are hard to change, so men end up being immature, one way or another, at the same time when women are ready to settle down later in life.
The dearth of marriageable men may be the inevitable result of encouraging women to be financially independant and to sleep with whoever takes their fancy.
I agree that it is unhelpful and misleading to put the blame upon the difficulty that many women have finding marriageable men entirely at the door of men. Often this seems to play into a tendency on both the right and left side of the aisle to present men as if they were the only persons with genuine agency in dysfunctional situations, while women are entirely victims (notice the way that the ‘deadbeat dad’ figure is popular across the spectrum). It is also related to the way in which women are often presumed to be virtuous, while men are the vicious ones, who must be tamed, by bringing them into line with women’s expectations.
One thing that commonly seems to be missed is the fact that the expectations that society and women have for women’s lives have the result of devaluing marriage for men. Some of the things that I am thinking of here:
1. Our society is increasingly built around individuals and their self-fulfilment and bonds of commitment are considerably weaker. This place a greater onus upon individuals to be self-sufficient, which encourages women in particular to prioritize the independence offered by their own careers. Government and the current shape of the economy are pushing women into the workforce. Within such a society, marriage will be about individual fulfillment.
2. With a greater emphasis upon education, career, and self-fulfillment, marriage will increasingly be given only the tail end of women’s optimal child-bearing years and families will have fewer and fewer children, as they have to be fitted around women’s individual career aspirations. As children are one of the primary goods of marriage and one of the principal benefits that it offers to men, this weakens the appeal of marriage considerably. Smaller families also lead to the weight of parental expectations being borne by fewer children, with daughters increasingly being expected to pursue forms of individual self-realization, to live up to their parents’ aspirations, intensifying the first dynamic.
3. Marriage is increasingly cast as a matter of women’s hedonic self-fulfillment, something that they are entitled to as a means of realizing their individual dreams. However, people can fail to appreciate that men might not be interested in a form of marriage in which the notion of women’s giving and accepting limitations on their autonomy for the sake of the union is being largely written out, a form of marriage which is framed in terms of women ‘having it all’. When women are wanting to devote the bulk of their child-bearing years to other activities, want to retain their autonomy and independence, have high expectations of sexual self-fulfilment, treat divorce as an open option, value personal career over child-rearing and the creation of a home, and are less likely to acknowledge a man’s rights with regard to their children, is it any surprise that men will opt out of marriage and the pursuit of its attendant virtues? The role of the husband and father within such a marriage of female individual self-fulfilment is fairly marginal and denigrated
4. Men continue to have a strong financial responsibility to their children, but much less of a legally and culturally honoured role in their lives. Where marriage doesn’t provide for a strong paternal claim and there are much fewer children anyway, men will be less invested. They can get much of what marriage now offers from less committed relationships. At least when such a relationship fails there won’t be the same costly divorce.
If women want more marriageable men, making marriage a desirable and rewarding prospect is absolutely necessary. Sacrificial husbands are far more likely to be found in a culture in which women are prepared to sacrifice many elements of our culture’s ‘having it all’ dream of female autonomy, making marriage something in which men really have a standard of sacrifice to live up to. Of course, that last statement could be reversed to make the same point about men looking for marriageable women.
RE: Leithart on gifts
Contra Leithart, gifts are not always intended to recognize the worthy. Often times they are intended to show off the status of the one giving the gift, particularly his ability to be indifferent to material considerations, especially in regard to the receiver of the gift.
Leithart is summarizing John Barclay’s position, not his own. I think that the point needs to be qualified (for instance, we should recognize the existence of symbolic violence in gift-giving, as discussed by Pierre Bourdieu and others), but has merit. Leithart’s own recent book, Gratitude provides a much fuller and more nuanced picture of his own understanding of gift, within which Barclay’s point could be given a properly qualified place.
Be careful with attributing things from Leithart’s blog to him. He uses the blog to take notes on his reading. So they’re his reading notes, but he may be summarizing something that he doesn’t fully agree with. (If he strongly disagrees, he’ll usually tag it with his disagreement.)
Rachel Held Evans urges people to vote against an amendmant that would allow Tennessee to
Apparently, she prefers the current absolute abortion on demand regime to the mere possibility that Tennessee might enact restrictions she doesn’t like.
Keep in mind that all the amendment does is allow the legislature to regulate abortion as it sees fit (subject to Roe v. Wade, obviously). It does not mandate it.
This is not the act of someone who is pro-life.
The Man Who Was first introduced me to the work of Malcolm Guite. Some of you might appreciate the recording of his poetry reading this evening, which I attended earlier.
Wonderful that you attended 🙂
A while back you recommended some books of Rowan Williams’ to me: Arius, On Christian Theology, In the Public Square, Dostoevsky, the Narnia book. I haven’t read any of those yet, but I have done some reading in Williams and wanted to report back. First of all, I read The Wound of Knowledge and can definitely recommend it. I can also report that a close friend of mine, Jason, recommended it to me, and he was right. It is also Malcolm Guite’s favourite book by Williams. So, you should definitely pick it up, if you get the chance. On the other hand, I cannot really recommend Williams’ introduction to Christianity, Tokens of Trust, which has a few good points about classical theism, which you can probably get elsewhere, and otherwise just kind of rambles. I must also dissuade you from reading Grace and Necessity: Reflections on Art and Love, which is, as far as I’m concerned, utterly vacuous.
I was also thinking of reading his book on the resurrection. Have you read that? What did you think of it?
I have to say, I’m more and more unimpressed with James K.A. Smith’s philosophical ideas the more time I spend reading them as well as his criticisms of other views. I say this for the following reasons (and I’m interested in what anyone thinks of this):
He seems to think that the idea of contingency is a death-blow to realism – but I suspect this stems from how he takes realism. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t seem to think of realism in any terms other than Wittgensteins ‘Tractatus’ or a naive correspondance-theory, where truth = a strict 1/1 representation. Other than Wittgenstein, though, I’m not aware of anyone who has ever really held that view (maybe the positivists). Sure, there’s problems with thinking of truth/mind/etc in terms of representation (the British empiricists were real big on the ‘way of ideas’ where the mind is a passive mirror, so they’re kind of the ancestors of the positivists), but realism about meaning/truth is defined by the *in*-ability of signs to represent the things they represent, not how closely they can be matched.
I’ve also yet to see him really interact with any of the positions he criticizes: he invokes ‘cartesian-ism’ every other word in ‘Imagining the Kingdom’ without once quoting Descartes. His whole project seems to be built on rejecting a crude kind of cartesian dualism in which we are seen as purely ‘rational’ animals, cold, thinking, knowing machines who simply passively reflect reality – but anyone familiar with the positions he’s so adamant to reject knows that those are caricatures, plain and simple. Rational animal does not, for example, mean that man is a logic-chopping, knowing, thinking thing in the sense that Smith describes in ‘Imagining the Kingdom’.
I basically see the typical pragmatist moves, I guess: once the position has been defined, they can’t be critiqued, because they can always accuse the other guy of begging the question. But as I see it, the whole program seems to be built on the rather trivial truth that we cannot describe the world except by means of language. Obviously, this is true. But the conclusions of Smith and pragmatism don’t follow.
Of course, a lot of his project really seems to hinge on whether or not one accepts his whole schtick of Merlau-Ponty/Heidegger/’construing the world’ blah blah blah. I’m very far from convinced of all that, though.
Smith is great in the Desiring the Kingdom. His other work seems to me rather mediocre.
Fredrick DeBoer does not like Adam Kotsko.
I strongly recommend DeBoer’s blog. He is a very smart secular liberal. (Do you know how smart you have to be as a liberal to not sound like an idiot?)
I do not like Kotsko most of the time. That said, I very much enjoy reading and disagreeing with him, much as I enjoy reading and disagreeing with commenters on Metafilter.
Hilarious post on how many women men think are attractive vs. how many men women think are attractive.
The graphs, the graphs.
I have been reading quite a bit in Freddie DeBoer’s blog, and he is very sensitive about online abuse and harrassment of women. Strange thing is, he also recounts, in quite vivid detail, the abuse that has been directed at himself. The level of nastiness directed at him has been quite extreme. I cannot actually see how all the things thrown at him are, in any way, worse than what his female equivalents have been subject too. Studies too tend to show that online abuse directed at men is, objectively considered, just as bad as that directed at women. Men too are much more likely to suffer violent acts by other men than women.
So, why do people seem to think that online (and other) abuse of women is worse? Perhaps harassment and abuse of women are worse, but, if we’re going to take this tack, it cannot be because the behaviour towards them is nastier in itself. It has to be because women are more vulnerable to that sort of thing. They are less suited for combat, physical, intellectual or otherwise. A friend of mine, Ray Sawhill, wrote this about the movie industry:
As for women screenwriters, I’ve got a small anecdote. I was talking once to Robert McKee, the screenwriting guru [portrayed in Adaptation by Bryan Cox], and asked him roughly the same question. He said that in his experience, women are often better writers than men — more intuitive, more empathetic, less ego-rattled. They’re better at creating living characters and charged situations. What happens, though, is that they then encounter the business. And it’s a rough, awful thing, full of jerks. And women are simply more likely than men to give it up in the face of such hideousness. “I’ve gone to the trouble of creating something I love, and this is how I get treated?” — that’s how they’re prone to react, according to McKee. So they bail out of the business. Maybe guys’ lack of sensitivity, and maybe their jerk egos — maybe both these things cripple them creatively a bit. But maybe they also help them (drive them?) to persist and survive the business and production challenges.
I have come to the conclusion that men are just built to take more abuse. We more easily blow it off. You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you c***sucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?
But, of course, this means the ‘damsel in distress’ idea, the notion that women need to be protected from men is back on. So, feminist men are forever riding to the rescue of females on the net, and elsewhere. I don’t decry this, but it is rather shocking that these women who are all for independance can’t seem to stand up for themselves, and are always calling in ‘men with guns’ to protect them.
On a related note, I’ve often wondered if things are so bad for women, why don’t they create parrallel institutions for themselves, or go into careers that are not all that tied to institutions. If the existing institutions are so bad, so sexist, go off and create your own. There are no laws against such things, not even really any social taboos. Nobody is stopping women from creating their own businesses, publishing houses, churches etc. How many egalitarian church plants are there? How many women go into careers like sales, where reward is completely performance based? It’s always within some gigantic bureaucracy that you find these kinds of people.
I’d also note that men, if they want a girlfriend, have to get used to a lot of rejection, sometimes harsh rejection.
According to my PC, the Glengarry Glen Ross video is not available in the UK
I’ve read various posts and research suggesting that men and women are just as likely to experience online abuse. I’m not persuaded, though, and, when I’ve looked closer at the arguments being made, they have seemed less convincing than they might do at first glance.
That said, in many contexts I don’t think that misogyny is quite as straightforwardly the underlying issue as many might presume. Rather, women are being subjected to the sort of rough interactions that men often use with each other (for instance, see this piece on ‘mansplaining’). Often there is a collision of different styles of interaction, with ugly effects. What is often characterized as attempts to root out misogyny is often rather the attempt to pathologize and remove the dynamics characteristic of many forms of male sociality and, through a heavy-handed legalism, impose a more sanitized female form instead. These attempts can face a brutal backlash from some men who feel that they are being robbed of places that they once could feel at home in by a schoolmarm attitude.
Typically we only hear one side of these stories. I remain persuaded that the women in such situations generally have a stronger case. However, I think that there are significant countervailing matters of justice that are expressed in the concerns of the men, concerns that often go unaddressed. The simplistic way that feminism can frame these issues is misleading. Men of all types need to have contexts where they can enjoy homosociality and it isn’t fair just to close these down. Nor should such men, such groups, and their dynamics simply be pathologized. A lot of unedifying gendered abuse can be thrown in men’s direction in these situations, with little awareness that it is being done (just think of the characterization of the typical young male gamer).
Often the same people who would despise, ridicule, and pathologize a certain type of men and their sociality then complain when those men won’t welcome outsiders with open arms. For instance, I have heard many people mock stereotypical Wikipedia editors (a overwhelmingly male group) and their obsessive, aggressive, and oppositional dynamic over the years. However, when Wikipedia becomes the world’s primary encyclopaedia, suddenly they are complaining that it isn’t welcoming to women. The same thing often happens in STEM and gaming contexts.
People can fail to recognize that men’s rougher, less affirming, more hierarchical, less inclusive, and more competitive modes of interaction are not necessarily pathological at all. In fact, they are modes of interaction within which most of the edifice of civilization has been forged. If people would treat men in these situations with a little more dignity and go to a greater attempt to avoid pathologizing them they might find those men more prepared to reciprocate.
Men of all types need to have contexts where they can enjoy homosociality and it isn’t fair just to close these down.
But, of course, even these more informal settings often turn into centres of economic and cultural power, as your Wikipedia example shows.
Indeed. That is one of the things that makes all of this far more complicated. As I have argued in the past, power is not a naturally occurring substance, but is a dynamic created through certain modes of social interactions. And the modes of social interactions from which more overt forms of power most effectively arises are more typically found in male groups.
Hi ‘The Man Who Was’,
I have just re-read your post above and felt so inspired by your quote from your friend, Robert McKee that I’ve decided to look through my archive boxes for newspaper and magazine articles I had published as a free-lance writer back in the eighties! Your friend, RM, spoke about women screen-writers, but what he said also applies to my brief adventure with free-lance writing. He said ‘the business… is a rough, awful, thing, full of jerks.And women are more likely to give it up than men in the face of such hideousness.’
The first put-down I got wasn’t all that bad, really, and I had mixed feelings about it. I had an article published in ‘SHE’ magazine, which Denis Norden described in a review at the back of the magazine as a piece of ‘feminist flak’! I was amused ( and a bit flattered!) that Denis Norden had chosen to review my piece,and his review was very witty in true Denis Norden style, but I also felt some chagrin that he didn’t treat my piece a bit more seriously.
What took me more my storm was the response to an article of mine published in the ‘Sunday Times’ about the threat of a third world war during the Afghanistan crisis in the early 80’s. The Times posted all the responses to me and for ten days they were all negative.Some were hostile and some were vitriolic.Gradually, positive responses filtered through, including some really helpful ones from Emergency Planning Officers around the country, and I passed these on to our local MP, at his request.
It seemed to me then ( and it seems to me now on Twitter, at times) that many people are quick to criticize and slow to affirm.
‘I have come to the conclusion that men are built to take more abuse’ [than women].
I certainly found it hard to take back in the eighties, but now I feel inspired to give free-lance writing another try – I’ll see if I can think of the vitriol as ‘par for the course’.
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Just come across this thread. I’m glad to see that I’m being read, but I had better mention that I am not a “new natural law” thinker, as one of your contributors supposes; nor do I “deny that purposes in the natural law sense are in any sense personal,” or “deny that natural law is religious.” Quite the contrary. The following items at my own website should clear things up:
And especially the eight part “Nature Illuminated” series beginning at
Thanks for commenting and for clarifying your position.
Thank you for your work too. I have greatly enjoyed reading your books and website and have recommended them to a number of others.
Many thanks! I hadn’t discovered your blog until today, but will keep track of it.
As the commenter referenced, I appreciate the clarification. The Prof. Bud. may at times rhetorically bracket religion to engage the non-religious, but religion is always near at hand in his thought. Apologies for my misreading.
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