Archives For Philosophy

Guest post by Greg Hutana.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video on the Top 30 things to have prepared in case the Government or Financial systems that we have grown up with should come to an abrupt end.

The first on the list was to have some cold hard cash on hand, if indeed this should happen, while cash is still legal tender. The second was a real surprise. I was dumb struck to find, that according to this commentator’s reasoning, the second was to be debt free.

The person went on to explain that in a crisis like this most people assume that they get a free pass on their debts. In fact this is not the case. Instead the wealthy and those in power, turn to the function of a debtor’s gaol in order to continue having control and influence over people’s lives.

Now is this a fact or not? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but it might be worth investigating some of the small print in your mortgage contracts or credit card contracts to find out.

I realised after my first wife took the houses and left me with nothing, that in fact God had been generous with me in a roundabout way. Overnight I became free of my mortgage. I still had to work for five more years in a cleaning business to payoff my other debt’s, but today I’m debt free.

The Bible talks about not being in debt. Some may just see it as a story or a parable and not all that valid for today, but I believe it’s there to help us not be slaves to this world and its system. It’s very much valid for us today.

The Scriptures and this conversation are not meant to make you feel like crap or condemn you because you might be in debt to your eye balls, but rather to potentially help you to make new decisions around debt and the accumulation of more debt in the future.

People often say to me, “but Greg I have a house I can sell, or my kids must have the best schooling and health, so in fact I am not in debt, but instead, I’m sowing into equity for my kids future.”

The problem with this is that when you lose your job, fall ill or the housing market collapses, the people who loaned you the money, won’t want your brick house, your kids wonderful teeth or good education as payment. They will want the cold hard cash that you owe them, or something else far worse. The equity you thought you had will vanish.

If this teaching stirs up something in you then please don’t let it be condemnation. Let it be rather be a call to action.

One of the main reasons the modern church is so powerless is because the people of faith are as broke as everyone else around them, so how can you sow into your neighbour’s situation when your own is so dire?

Every month I’m able to be generous for no other reason then I have surplus. I have overflow. Will I ever own a house again? Maybe not, especially when I keep giving the savings for a deposit away, but God is big enough and he is more than able.

I’m fortunate, my ex-wife has a knack for milking the worlds systems for all their worth. My kids will never go without. Even though I don’t agree with everything she does, I thank God for her and her wisdom in this area. She has no idea that God has been able to give me confidence to be generous because of her skills.

God is big enough to care for my girls future, pretty awesome ha. God bless you and keep you in the faith. May you find the strength to be generous and work from abundance in regard to your neighbour, on your journey towards being debt free.

‘Keep yourselves free of the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” So we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”‘ (Hebrews 13:5-6, ESV)

Greg is 47, and currently lives in New Zealand.

He is an elder at Beth Melek Jewish Community and a member of Maori Initiatives, helping indigenous people do better. Maori Initiatives runs a podcast, which can be listened and subscribed to via itunes.

He is the proud father of two daughters, and by his own admission is “a terrible example of Christ, who Christ still loves anyway!”

 

 


Image credit: Urfan Hasanov on Unsplash

Born out of conversations with a friend from the United States, I was given the opportunity to read a compilation of fragments and essays written by Simone Weil called: ‘Oppression and Liberty’.  The compilation flows in chronological order and presents some of Weil’s thoughts on anthropology, economics, politics, ideology and war.

Simone was a French intellectual. Like Jacques Ellul, whom she presumably never met, Weil worked in the French resistance and was well schooled in Marxism.  Among many others in the elite French communist circles of mid 20th Century, she was a contemporary of rebel and excommunicated member, Albert Camus.

Later in life, Weil matured back towards Roman Catholic Christianity, taking an interest in aestheticism and Catholic mysticism. Detaching herself from the French intellectual trends of her day, Weil also made a break with Marxism. Whilst remaining a fan of Karl Marx, Weil set alongside her criticism of [crony] capitalism, an intense critique of Marxism, detailing the threat posed by plutocrats and bureaucrats when they choose to entertain and ride the backs of both monsters.

Unpacking this threat is ‘Oppression & Liberty’s recurring theme. Weil makes it known that she is no fan of big business or big government. It’s more apparent in the latter than the former, but both big business and big government form big bureaucracy.  This creates a ‘bureaucratic caste’ and is dangerous because ‘all exclusive, uncontrolled power becomes oppressive in the hands of those who have the monopoly of it’ (p.15).

Readers wouldn’t have to look far to locate examples of where big business and big government corroborate to create big bureaucracy. Some corporate promotion and imposition of new cultural laws such as those posited by radical feminist ideology, punishment for disagreeing with any forced imposition or disloyalty to the LGBT flag and the questioning of the movement’s agenda; weapons factories, political groups, career politicians, Islamist shar’ia, some parts of the institutional Christian church, pharmaceutical, oil and power companies, information tech companies and, the education and military industrial complexes, all provide adequate proof.

From an historical point of view, it’s easy to see the beneficial relationship that developed between industrialists and “Captains of industry” with the rise of National Socialists in Germany, Europe and America throughout the 1930’s. As is shown by Thomas Doherty in his 2013 book ‘Hollywood and Hitler’, European and American corporations did their best not to upset the newly established status quo. It could be argued that this is one of contributing factors to why Winston Churchill was so highly criticised for speaking out against the ‘gathering storm’.

Additionally, the Soviet nonaggression pact with the Nazis also gives further credibility to Weil’s conclusions about how big government and big corporations create big bureaucracy. Stalin had imperialist ambitions. Hitler was a way to implement them. Hence the Soviet attack on Norway on the 30th November 1939, three months after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (23rd August 1939) between the Nazis and the Soviets was signed. This gave parts of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union and open commercial ties with the Nazis.

Weil is right then to say that the ‘bureaucratic machine, though composed of flesh, and well fed flesh at that is none the less as irresponsible and as soulless as are the machines made of iron and steel.’ (p.13)

The ‘bureaucratic machine excludes all judgement and all genius; it tends by its very structure, to concentrate all powers in itself. It therefore threatens the very existence of everything that still remains precious for us in the bourgeois regime […] Instead of a clash of contrary opinions, we end up with an “official opinion” from which no one would be able to deviate. The result is a State religion that stifles all individual values, that is to say all values’ (pp.15 & 16).

For Weil, bureaucrats, like [crony] capitalists, can become parasitic. They receive benefits by causing damage. The three main areas Bureaucrats operate in are ‘Trade Union bureaucracy, Industrial bureaucracy and State bureaucracy’ (p.16). The working-class only exist as pawns, even in the ‘hands of trade unions’ (p.26). The worker and the poor are putty in the hands of the revolutionists, who utilise the hope that revolution inspires, unaware that ‘fanning revolt to white heat, can serve the cause of fascist demagogy’ (p.21).

This last point then leads into her much larger criticism and separation of Karl Marx from Marxism, which is something I don’t have room here to delve into. Very briefly, Simone applies Marx’s critique of power structures, including Marxism, stating:

‘All power is unstable, there is never power, but only a race for power – the quest to outdo rivals and the quest to maintain’ (p.64). This is the black hole of greed, the ‘aimless merry-go round’ (p.65) which the lust for power drags humanity into.

Weil concludes that all monopolies (centralised power) to be a leading cause of oppression. This might surprise some, but her conclusion aligns with capitalist economists such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Hayek. All of whom, see and saw, monopoly and big government as a being a restriction on the free market.  There are of courses differences between them on this, however, the object of their concern is the same. For the latter group, monopolies are oppressive to the free market, for Weil monopolies are oppressive to people. Despite this difference, they are essentially saying the same thing because economics is about people. There is no free market without people, who are free to operate responsibly within it.

My only point of real disagreement with Weil in regards to this subject is her position on Nazism and Socialism. For Wiel Nazism was not socialism, and attempts to bring National Socialism into the Marxist framework are ‘vain’ (p.7).

This is contrary to the well defended conclusions of F.A Hayek, George Reisman, Jacques Ellul, Roger Scruton, and Richard Wurmbrand. All of whom present National Socialism and Communist Socialism as branches of Marxism.

Simone seems to have her own definition of what Socialism and National Socialism are.

‘The orientation of the Hitlerite masses, though violently anti-capitalist, is by no means socialist, any more so than the demagogic propaganda of the leaders; for the object is to place the national economy, not in the hands of the producers grouped into democratic organizations, but in the hands of the State apparatus.’ (p.7)

On these points, genuine capitalists would agree that the economy should be in the hands of producers grouped into democratic organizations.  Genuine capitalists understand that capitalism without compassion is not capitalism. Greed strangles the life out of the free market. This is one of the reasons, why, in the West, Frank Capra’s 1946 movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ remains the number one film of all time.

Not because people long for a socialist revolution, but because they understand that a market weighed down by monopolies, big government and big business is not free. It is instead chained to the aimless merry-go round of big bureaucracy where the bureaucratic caste do what they can to outdo each other and maintain power.

Oppression & Liberty’ was a surprise. It wasn’t something I planned on reading, but am thankful I had the chance to. Simone’s work isn’t easy to read. ‘Oppression & Liberty’ sometimes comes across as lofty and too complex, which is very much a reflection of her schooling in French intellectual circles. That, however, doesn’t subtract from Simone’s sincerity or the insights that this compilation of fragments and essays offers.


References:

Weil, S. 1955 Oppression & Liberty, 1958, 2001 Routledge Classics NY

Way back in 2013, I followed the idea of a friend on Facebook, who had out of interest, explored the Google automatic search suggestions (G.A.S.S). My search range included Bloggers, Christians, Schools, cats, dogs, gamers, Christianity, Google, diets, faith and TV Dinners. That post can be found here: Answers According To…

I figured it would be interesting to compare the 2013 search results with 2017. So yesterday, following the same procedure I chased down the same subjects, following the same search parameters.

The 2017 outcomes were as interesting as the 2013 outcomes. The only surprise difference being the results for “Christians are.” This time around either the Google mechanic blocked that search or the search just didn’t register. The suggested search outcome was blank. By contrast, when I typed in, ”Muslims are”, the phrase “true feminists” was highlighted.

According to G.A.S.S, Bloggers are:

2013:


Bloggers according to Google

2017:

There’s a noticeable difference here. Bloggers, according to G.A.S.S, are now different to journalists and are now just annoying, not stupid. So, what did G.A.S.S think about Google:

2013:

Google according to google2017:

So, Google is no longer evil, is still your friend,is no longer god, is still skynet (Terminator 2 reference), but Google is now the best and is apparently gay.

TV dinners remain pretty much the same. Clearly, Google is no friend to TV Dinners:

2013


TV Dinners are according to google

2017

Like Google, cats are no longer listed as evil, and are instead ”the best”. Cats are still better than dogs, remain jerks, and continue to be bizarrely listed as liquid (hmmm?).

2013

Cats are

2017

Dogs are no longer listed as being “the best people”. However, they are still talking, and are better than cats. Dogs are also now, “great”, “loyal” and “family”.

2013

Dogsare

2017

The automated search suggestions didn’t vary much, when it came to looking up “Faith is”. The difference now being the absence of the biblical quote, and “like a muscle”. The additions included “breaking out” and ”the confidence.”

2013

Faith is according to google

2017

From a theologian’s point of view, Google’s automated search suggestions are still on a winning track.  Even the inquiry for “Christianity is”, took a more balanced leap forward:

2013

Christianity is according to Google

2017

The search for “Christians are”, was the most surprising. As I noted at the start of this article, the section for 2017 yielded no response.

2013

google search

2017

For the most part, the 2017 “gamers are” search stayed very close to the 2013 inquiry. The only real change was that gamers are no longer “annoying”, they’re “awesome”.

2013


Gamers are

2017

Of all the G.A.S.S. subjects, my Schools inquiry was the most intriguing. Schools are still considered to be “prisons”, and “killers of creativity” and most appear to be “closed”. From which I take “closed” to mean closed-minded etc.

2013

Schools are according to google

2017

The final comparison had the most significant changes. As it turns out, “Diets are” no longer “bad”, “fattening”, “stupid” or “useless”. Every dietitian and their program is, by Google’s automated suggested search results, exonerated.

2013

Diets are according to google

2017

The technology still rocks. It’s also encouraging to see that the changes between 2013 and 2017 are mostly positive. This could be due to a better developed and dedication to having up to date accuracy from within the algorithms used to measure ranking.

The lesson still is “Caveat Emptor” (buyer beware). Philosophically, relying on Google’s search engine, or any silicon based search platform for all the answers doesn’t replace the role of good, hard research work.

We can take some facts and ideas of consensus from the internet, however, it’s important to remember the large number of people who do not have an online presence or an online voice. Nor do they wish to. Whilst one group may dominate online, that doesn’t mean that their dominance is reflected in reality.

The internet often magnifies – and quite regularly distorts – support for something, when it barely even registers on the radar of 9-5, or around “workplace water cooler conversations.”

As Paul & Marguerite Shuster wrote:

‘Test everything….’ (1. Thess.5:21, ESV)
 ‘those who Jesus confronted most directly were as likely to want to kill him as to follow him. He seemed to not have the slightest inclination to make hearing and following him pleasant and easy…Truthfulness, in other words, is not determined by customer satisfaction surveys’
(‘The truth and truthfulness’, 2008)

 


Sources:

Shuster, M. 2008 Truth and truthfulness in Performance in preaching Childers & Schmidt, Baker Academic

Sullivan, D. 2011 How Google Instant’s Autocomplete Suggestions Work, sourced 28th October 2013 from http://searchengineland.com/how-google-instant-autocomplete-suggestions-work-62592

 

Having been buried in the topics of theology, specifically Christian history and political theology. I haven’t yet had the chance to fully engage with a lot of conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton’s work.

I’m indebted to an internet friend for posting this video on his blog otherwise I’d have completely missed it. Scruton is interviewed for an hour and half by Dutch journalist, Wim Kayzer as part of a series called ‘Of Beauty and Consolation‘.

The whole interview is worth watching. Since it is quite lengthy, my purpose here will be to share some of the more stand out points.

What this interview serves to show, among other things, is that, unlike modern liberalism and its cult-like followers, conservatives (and they’re allies) cannot be truly pinned down. Sure, extremes exist and there is [slash] are basic, tried and true, propositions by which conservatives work.

Conservatives,however, and in a lot of ways, those aligned with them, cannot be placed into a neat little box, then pushed aside under a plethora of reckless labeling that often comes their way. The freedom of religion, speech and conscience allows for the freedom of thought and the challenge of ideas.

Of everything discussed, the content between 53:00-58:00 is, to me, among the most significant.

Here Scruton states:

“Hysteria dominates modern politics … I think it’s no accident that the loss of faith in our century [20th Cent.] immediately was accompanied by the rise of totalitarian government. Communism; Nazism; Fascism. All of which are atheistic creeds growing out of superstitions [& hysteria]; growing out of a loss of the God-head”

This is the high point from which the documentary takes flight. The interview, from this point, spreads out in a range of answers to questions about society, theology, politics, philosophy and marriage.

Overall the interview follows its own organic course. The only thing planned were the questions. Outside those, Scruton leads the conversation the entire time.

Other points worth mentioning include: His response in 1:03/49 is very Barthian, and second, Scruton’s statement that marriage was a “creative endeavor”:

“Marriage is a creative endeavor that lifts us out of the animal realm and inscribes us into the eternal”

Scruton is candid, having no issue with opening up about his battle with social anxiety and how learning to overcome it has informed his philosophy; his search for truth. This is also evidenced by his thoughts on where modern (post-Christian) society is at.

“The problem with the modern world, in my view, is that people no longer dwell on the earth. They move as nomads around it. In search of something they know not what, and never finding it. Moving from person to person, place to place.”

The pandemics of “panic”, meaninglessness and emptiness which now plague the world are largely driven by anxiety avoidance and a “lack of awareness about its own state of unhappiness – it is the panic of the isolated individual“.

“People are totally [lost] at sea without the religious sense/awareness of that which exists beyond ourselves;that God feeling. With the loss of moral equilibrium that is provided by the Divine, and their detachment from where this is made real, people become prey to superstition of the most appalling kind.”

The interview is centered on the human concepts of experience, beauty and consolation. The conversation which follows is casually worked out from there. Ending with a return to Scruton’s comments about meeting his wife during a hunting trip.

The topic of consolation is the centerpiece of most responses. One stand out part is the distinction he makes between fake consolation and authentic consolation.

“False consolation, like finding refuge in wine or alcohol, does not involve over-coming. Consolation comes from having confronted trouble and elicited  from the heart of trouble the resolution of it.”

This lengthy interview caught me by surprise. I was not expecting to hear anything about Scruton’s battle with anxiety, his troubled home life as a child or his views on modern politics. Another surprise was learning that Scruton was a musician.

As was pointed out to me, Scruton’s theology is ‘not as refined’ as some might like. His theology does slide away at some points. Scruton struggles to find the right words. To his credit, when this happens he moves to assert that he is not a theologian, and even though he is discussing theology, “he [therefore] can’t answer those questions with the same acuity”.

I wasn’t a fan of the tone given out by the interviewer, but given the differences between Europe and Australia. Perhaps this can be graciously put down to being a kind of cultural tone I’m not used to hearing. Nevertheless, I sat through the entire interview and devoured it.


(RL2017)

H/T: Kevin Davis, Of Beauty and Consolation  sourced 12th May 2017 from After Existentialism, Light.

Relgion and Science Peter HarrisonPeter Harrison, the director of Queensland University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, recent book, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion,’ counters the myth of a conflict between science and religion. Uncovering long hidden connections, Harrison concludes that the perceived conflict between science and religion involves a fabrication of historical facts. This work is best described as an in-depth treatise that locates the origins of the conflict myth, surveying concepts, categories, and the shifting definitions of religion and science.

Harrison states that when the information is more closely reviewed, any perceived hostile exchange is in fact contained within each respective sphere. Science was, and perhaps because of its very nature, is still in some ways at conflict within itself. For instance: the divide in the science community about “global warming”. Therefore an historical war between religion and science, or the Church and the Enlightened, as the popular assumption goes, did not exist.

Correcting the often used polemic against religion, Harrison invokes the Galileo controversy, arguing that any perception of a conflict between science and Christianity, at that time, ignores the differing and predominant scientific views of the day. This along with other similar examples that Harrison provides, gives clear evidence of a conflict myth that is being pushed forward by a ‘distortion of historical and conceptual contexts which are projected back over history.’ (p.172)

Harrison’s points are strong. Working his way up through Greek antiquity to modern liberalism, he shows that the conflict between science and Christianity was invented. This invented narrative maintains the perceived supremacy of science by painting religion, in particular Christianity, as the antagonist. Harrison suggests that this is not without agenda. Science is always in flux, for it to stay a unified boxed up entity, a crisis is needed. This crisis unites the populace, conscripting them in a stand against a perceived common enemy, hence the need for a conflict between science and religion.

‘The modern moral program is fed by an ersatz eschatology which points to environmental crisis, demanding repentance and contrition […]This is connected to there being a need for science to have a unifying narrative with some kind of moral or aesthetic vision to promote its relevance to the public’ (p.179)

As for progress and the progressive, those who invalidate Christianity tend to validate the science vs. religion conflict, deploying an easy to sell utilitarianism. As first espoused by Thomas Huxley and later Social Darwinism, science, it is claimed, is the only sure answer; the only certain way to manage vice, ensure freedom, progress, purpose, meaning and moral development. By way of selling a concentrated narrative of material solutions to the human condition, science and all that is squeezed into this modern narrow definition of it, is forced to dismiss its own origins. As a result it is cut off from its historical connection with philosophy and theology.

Harrison’s argument here flows well because of the way in which he unpacks the dialogue from the mid-19th Century up until now. This enables him to connect the presumed conflict between science and religion with evidence to support the conclusion, that this presumed conflict is built on a dubious distortion of context, concept and category. This includes the modern liberal fusion of science to progress and it’s all encompassing, go-it-alone, promise to bring about the general betterment of all humanity. Something Harrison suggests is in need of honest critique:

‘The generally considered neutrality of the public space of Modern Liberalism, where no single religious tradition is favoured, needs to be brought into question. This is because Modern liberalism [as opposed to classical liberalism] might be thought of more along the lines of a competing ideology or religion, asserting its own supremacy at the cost of other traditions.’ (p.190)

The problem, as Harrison outlines, is that progress implies the teleological. Meaning and purpose has to fit in somewhere because for progress to be progress it must have an end or a goal to move towards, otherwise it’s simply just change. Science has its own limitations and vices. That the modern progressive pushes to disallow room for taking the theological or philosophical seriously, means that the current concept of progress is without any real direction.

‘There is something inherently unstable in the modern understanding of progress. Progress had once been thought of as the movement of human beings toward certain given ends. But without at least an implicit teleology (which was precisely what the new natural philosophical approaches sought to dispense with) the notion of progress is difficult to sustain. Progress, in other words, is goal dependent; progress is toward some end. Without goals, progress is just change.’ (pp. 143-144)

Harrison moves through a chronology of historical facts,  identifying influential events and key historical players. Such as the significant role natural theology and natural philosophy played in the development of natural science from the early modern period. Starting with Aristotle, Harrison works his train of thought up through to Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and then John Locke. Stating that the conceptual context of natural theology for Augustine and Aquinas is vastly different to that of the natural theology of early modernity.

The redefining not just of the roles, but the concepts of natural philosophy and natural theology accompanied the newly created, one-size-fits-all categories of religion and science. The latter groupings were no longer aligned with the valuable theological virtues of religio and the ‘complimentary role’ (p.133) of the intellectual virtue of scientia. Faith seeking understanding was gradually replaced with the fabrication that faith is historically hostile to understanding.

In sum, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion’ is a well stated counterpoint to the long-held assumption that science and Christianity are inherently at odds. I am in agreement with Harrison’s conclusions. His overview of the changing concepts of religion and science, which encompassed the redefining of religio and scientia are a clear highlight. Another standout is in how Harrison illustrates the slow transformation and later dismissal of pre-enlightenment natural theology and natural philosophy for the new categories of science and religion.

Of importance is the light Harrison shines on the instability of the ‘modern moral program’ (p.179), which employs the perceived conflict between science and religion in order to sustain superiority. To do this modern liberalism, new atheism and even creation scientists focus on selling science, marketing the obvious benefits of science to suit a particular agenda. Rather than taking up an ancient fight against religion, they instead create a conflict where historically one did not exist.

For new atheism and modern liberalism this is achieved through perpetuating confusion about categories, concepts and definition. Through a fabricated narrative and distortion of historical events the supposed superiority of modern liberal constructs is bolstered. The aim to control what is labelled religion and what is labelled science, a success. Controlling the role of science to demonise, and undermine the legitimate and historical role of theology and philosophy.

The value of ‘The Territories of Science and Religion’  is that Harrison counters this. While maintaining that clear boundaries exist between natural science, and the science of theology and philosophy, Harrison opens up an in depth enquiry into the conflict myth. In turn encouraging a review of popular assumptions about a perceived conflict because historically, it was in fact a complimentary relationship, dominated by civility and discourse, not vitriol and conflict.


Source:

Harrison, P. 2015 The Territories of Science And Religion, The University of Chicago Press, Kindle Ed.

Related post:

Despite Popular Opinion The Historical Conflict Between Christianity & Science Is a Myth