Friday, March 26, 2010

They Did What?

"So they just passed a health care plan written by a committee whose chairman says he didn't understand it, passed by a Congress that exempts themselves from it, signed by a president who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese . . . and better yet it is to be financed by a country that's broke?" (from an anonymous Facebook poster)

Nobody could make this stuff up. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why Good Philosophers Are Needed

In The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, C. S. Lewis wrote,

Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason,
because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

I spent the morning today attending three classes taught by (son) Daniel at Midlands Technical College, a multi-campus college in Columbia, SC. He has taught a heavy load there the last three years while pursuing his Ph.D in philosophy at the University of South Carolina (now in dissertation stage).

In 12 years of undergrad and graduate school, I managed to avoid all but two philosophy courses (I didn't "get" philosophy, I say to my shame), both at an introductory level. I confess to not having had a good practical sense for the need and place of "philosophy" outside the ivory towers of academia. But the Lewis quote above, cited by Dr. Normal Geisler in a class I attended at my church recently, was a light-bulb moment for me. And my perspective was greatly expanded from sitting in on Daniel's three classes this morning (nearly 4.5 hours of instruction).

The first class was Introduction to Logic—like math without numbers. It was all Greek to me, but I was immediately impressed with the need for the mind to be trained to think in logical progressions. Computer programmers think this way, as do ethicists when navigating the foggy terrain of either/or landscapes. In truth, all of us think logically (sometimes), but at a first-grade level compared to the rigor of what is possible. Learning to test and prove arguments logically is like learning a foreign language, yet once the language is learned I have a feeling (and Daniel attests) it opens a door into a dynamic reality that casts a different light on the hardest questions of human existence.

In the Logic classroom:


The second class was Introduction to Philosophy, today's discussion being an analysis of two contemporary and opposing points of view on personal and property rights from the perspective of the individual and society. More than once in this lecture I saw places where the previous hour's lecture on logic could be used to test theories:


The third class was Contemporary Moral Problems, today's topic being euthanasia (next class: capital punishment). Again, two opposing viewpoints from the writings of two contemporary philosophers examining the relationship between intent and result in actions, using euthanasia as the platform:


This lecture involved an interesting presentation of Thomas Aquinas' "Doctrine of Double Effect"—the relationship between results (harm) that are intended versus results that are foreseen (collateral harm) but not intended. Aquinas' doctrine forms the basis of the modern "just war" theory of warfare, debated extensively in the post-911 days prior to the U.S.'s invasion of Iraq. I recall the debate re: "just war" from those days, but this was a clear outline of the basis of the argument. (Note: point three is a guard against "the ends justifying the means," not a support for it -- in case you happen to read that closely.)


These three classes in succession were helpful for me as they progressed from logic to theory to practical life-and-death issues. That order reflected the random choice of the college scheduler, but I found in the three a helpful way to see how the seeming abstract world of philosophy ultimately has its outworking in real-life issues. Often, people in high places responsible for making weighty decisions that effect a nation's populace don't have the training to apply philosophical reasoning to problems, so they rely on "philosophers" and the academy to shed light in dark corners. Having sat through these classes today, I wish I could go back and redeem my largely profligate college years and invest my mind in more rigorous pursuits than were required as, e.g., the social chairman of my college fraternity. 'Yo boy.


All parents are happy when their children find callings at which they are fruitful and by which they make meaningful contributions. I wish I lived close enough (and/or their various venues allowed) to spend a half day with Daniel's brothers and sisters as they hammer out their own futures: Stephen and his company in California, David in library science in Philly, Lizzie as a retail manager in Connecticut, and Anna as an aspiring banker at Wells-Fargo in Charlotte.

Pretty Girls

Since I missed my granddaughters' recent ballet performance of Peter Pan, I went down on Wednesday to go to ballet practice with them (Ellen's class was taught by Mom, Jennifer, who is one of the teachers at the ballet company). Before ballet, we sat out on the deck in the beautiful sun and soaked up some vitamin D while the girls ate their veggie-soup lunch and still-warm fresh bread:

Arianna working on "Earth Balancing" some of Mom's fresh bread (gotta love the hat):



Ellie with her usual smiling face:



This is called being a blessed grandpa:



There were so many moms standing in front of the viewing window for Arianna's class that I couldn't elbow in to get a picture. But here is Ellen and the pretzelesque Jen, still as limber as she was in high school (taken through a wire-reinforced glass partition, so a little fuzzy):




(See the next post [above] for some pics of Daniel taken on the same visit.)

Monday, March 22, 2010



With the echoes of Pelosi's gavel still reverberating in the House chamber, Republican attorneys general in 11 states have warned that lawsuits will be filed to prevent the federal government from interfering with (usurping) states rights in response to Obamacare. Ten of the 11 states plan to band together in a collective lawsuit on behalf of their states: Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington. And other states may join, as many others are contemplating similar resistance, some having already passed protective legislation. Predictably, my tax-hungry, go-along state of North Carolina has shown no such courage.

We fought a revolution to put King George in his place, and it appears another is needed to push the federalés back across the Potomac. This is a movement well worth supporting. Read the rest of the exciting details here, and do what you can to lend a hand.

By the way—these states are basing their actions on a clear reading of the 10th amendment to the Constitution concerning states rights. (The Constitution gives the federal government no express right to run healthcare or to mandate [force] citizens to purchase it!)

Welcome to Amerika

The question I have had about Obamacare from the beginning is this—and I ask it again this morning:

What is there in this plan that incentivizes any American
to take greater personal responsibility for his or her own health?

As far as I can tell, nothing.

With regard to incentives, this new era in America reminds me of what Soviet workers used to say during the heyday of the Soviet Union: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." In other words, "Why bother?"

Nature by Numbers

Beautiful video on the numerical balances in nature. Not being a mathematician, I'm sure I missed some of the depth of this (I did recognize the golden ratio/mean early on, 1.61xxx). Beautiful, nonetheless: (Thanks to Ken Boa for the link.)