All posts by Jaskologist

Augustine on My Little Pony

My Little Pony teaches us that friendship is magic. But is it? Is it really? Let us turn to Augustine to find out. (Spoilers: No)

I was miserable, and miserable too is everyone whose mind is chained by friendship with mortal things, and is torn apart by their loss, and then becomes aware of the misery that it was in even before it lost them. …… Look upon my heart, O my God, look deep within it. See, O my hope, who cleanse me from the uncleanness of such affections, who draw my eyes to yourself and pull my feet free from the snare, see that this is indeed what I remember. I was amazed that other mortals went on living when he was dead whom I had loved as though he would never die, and still more amazed that I could go on living myself when he was dead – I, who had been like another self to him. It was well said that a friend is half one’s own soul. I felt that my soul and his had been but one soul in two bodies, and I shrank from life with loathing because I could not bear to be only half alive; and perhaps I was so afraid of death because I did not want the whole of him to die, whom I had love so dearly.

Friendship is not magic! It chains us to things that will not last, and leaves us torn when they inevitably pass away. Make sure to tell your daughter this constantly when she’s watching her cartoons.

The one true sexual choice

Reblog!

The left is quite willing to criticize people’s sexual choices. A fairly large segment of the left criticize people who chose to engage in prostitution, particularly if they are the clients, and perversely I think more critical of unofficial prostitution (e.g. sex in exchange for fancy dinner) than straight-up cash exchanges. Sex in an environment of power inequality is clearly objectionable to the left, as is any expressed or perceived obligation to sex even if voluntarily entered into. Much of the left will criticize anyone who abstains from sex for religious reasons. Sex to cement an exclusive marriage that will endure even when one partner would prefer to end it, traditionally the only acceptable purpose for sex in most cultures, is clearly criticized across the left.

I think it more accurate to say that, rather than being unwilling to criticize people’s sexual choices, the left now criticizes every sexual choice but one: Sex for immediate, mutual, short-term pleasure. Sex within a long-term relationship is acceptable, but only if immediately pleasurable to both parties and only if the relationship would exist without the sex. And anybody who doesn’t have sex for immediate mutual short-term pleasure, is criticized either as a prude or as a neckbearded loser so undesirable that nobody would be pleased to have sex with them.

Parochialism

I recently had occasion to attend a service at a Mennonite church. Now, Mennonites can range from practically Amish to standard evangelical. These were by most appearances practically Amish; the congregation was dressed in home-made Amish-style clothing and there were no instruments during worship (although the words to the song were projected from a Macbook). Clearly, an insular group, unfamiliar with other ways of life.

The first part of the service was about efforts to rehabilitate ISIS sex slaves. The second part was a talk by Brother Yun, a major figure in the Chinese house church movement.

Virtues and Values

Reblog!

I’m gonna get a little Sapir-Worfy here.
I think something went terribly wrong when we as a society stopped talking about virtues and started talking about values.
Just… think about the words themselves. Value. what does it mean to value something? to passively regard it as a good thing.
I value good screenwriting. I value good wine. I value my time.
But virtue is different. virtue is a character trait. Virtue is a guideline for actions.
With Value, it’s enough to believe something.
With Virtue, you have to do something.

Too cool for school

On another occasion when Euthydemus was present, Socrates noticed that he was withdrawing from the group and taking care not to seem impressed by Socrates’ wisdom. “Gentlemen,” he said, “it is easy to see from the way in which our friend Euthydemus spends his time that, when he is old enough, he won’t refrain from advising the State on any political issue that comes up. And it seems to me that by carefully avoiding the appearance of learning anything from anybody, he has provided himself with a splendid preface to his public speeches. Evidently, when he begins to speak, he will introduce what he has to say like this: ‘Gentlemen of Athens, I have never learned anything from anybody, nor have I sought the company of any person whose abilities in speech and action I have heard of. Nor have I troubled to acquire a teacher from among those who understand these matters. On the contrary, I have consistently avoided not only learning anything from anybody, but even giving the impression of doing so. However, I shall offer you whatever advice occurs to me of its own accord.”

Such an introduction would be appropriate for candidates applying for a public medical post. They could suitably begin their speech in this way: ‘Gentlemen of Athens, I have never learned medicine from anyone, nor have I tried to secure any doctor as a teacher. I have consistently avoided not only learning anything from medical men, but even giving the impression of having learned this art. However, I ask you to give me this medical post. I shall try to learn by experimenting on you.'”

-Xenophon’s Memorabilia

What religion is not

If I could hammer one thing into Rationalist’s heads it would be this: religions are not primarily concerned with explaining natural phenomena. It’s rarely even a secondary concern. Christianity isn’t, Islam isn’t, Buddhism isn’t, Hinduism isn’t, Judaism isn’t, and most of the rest that I’ve looked at aren’t either.

You may have a distorted view because Creation/Evolution debates have been elevated to The Most Important Thing in your particular bubbles, but even that revolves around a small handful of Bible chapters. You won’t find discussions of natural phenomenon in any of the Pauline epistles, or the Gospels for that matter. Psalms and Proverbs aren’t concerned with the interactions/existence of atoms. Religions want to answer, “what is wrong with the world, and what are we to do about it?” (Everyone agrees that all is not right in the world.)

Yes, overlap does occur, because no sphere of knowledge is fully distinct from all the others. That is why you get the evolution/creationism debate, and that is also why the physicists of the day needed Lemaitre to school them about the origin of the universe. Similarly, when Rationalists wonder whether we live in a simulation, they are simultaneously reinventing the Buddhist idea that this is all an illusion, and reasserting faith in a Creator God.

This is for all the lonely people

Ripped from the comments:

Hundreds of fellow species of insects, birds, even a handful of primates. But at our level, only us. We want a companion species, something or some entity to be our equal, our make. If the Neanderthals or the Denisovans had survived as separate human species, and there were two or three of us humans on the planet, I think matters would be different.

As it stands, I think we want intellectual children and AI is that hope: like us, but different, so we’re no longer alone in a world full of non-human animals. It’s the same impulse that makes people treat their pets as children, as blood members of their family, and unironically refer to themselves as “mommy and daddy” to a dog or a cat that is their “baby”.

I think we’re even worse off than that. We’re definitely lonely, but it’s because we’re in denial about the potential companions that already exist.

What if the Neanderthals had survived to the present? Since they’re able to interbreed with humans, aren’t they really just another race? What difference would it make to have Neanderthals in addition to whites, blacks, Asians, etc? We already don’t know how to deal with having all these races which are visibly different (and here I’m only speaking to the skin-level, nevermind any deeper differences). How much worse would we be if Elves showed up who were our superiors in every measurable way?

The truly alien minds are in our own homes: men and women. We are quite different, sometimes in large and sometimes subtle ways, and we cannot do without the other. Currently, we respond to this with denial, to the point where it took me years of living with a woman to unlearn the idea that we were just different skins slapped on the same basic mind template.

So yeah, we’re lonely, in the same way that Burke and Wills were starving; we’re misusing the resources that are there to fit the need. The trouble is that our current conception of “equal” does not allow room for “different,” so we just deny difference entirely. After all, in any reductionist materialistic view, a different thing is not equal. The Pauline view of equality as “valuable, yet different, parts of one body” is much more workable.

A babied toy dog is a clear case of parental instinct gone haywire because it has no baby to lavish its attention on. Encourage everybody to delay marriage and treat women as men-with-boobs, and it is any surprise that the craving for interaction with someone truly other manifests in more unusual ways?

A meritocracy, if you can keep it

Our society is a meritocracy, yes (with merit mostly measured by IQ). But I’ve started to think that we don’t reward merit/IQ so much as we punish its absence.

Many social institutions were built up to simulate the effects of IQ, binding marriage being one of them. In destroying the ability to legally make a life-long commitment, we eliminated the ability for most of those in the lower class to get the benefits of a life-long marriage. Those will now accrue only to those who are able to maintain the composure not to hit the self-destruct switch for every moment in their entire lives.

This is, in effect, the removal of safety nets. Now, your ability to succeed is driven far more strongly by innate qualities than before. If you lack those, you once could have fallen back on the other institutions built to catch you. Now you just fall.

Picture a rock wall. There are some people who can free-climb all the way to the top. Many more could do so with the help of some ropes, but the free-climbers have cut all of those. If they ran a study, they would find that ability to reach the top really is driven entirely by climbing ability. Tying a rope around your waste is found to have no effect (and nobody realizes that in the old days, ropes had the other end attached to the mountain). So at the top of the cliff, you have a lot of free-climbers strutting about, congratulating themselves on how evolved they are to not use ropes, as their fellow climbers splatter on the canyon floor below.

Private Law

Today, I flew on an airplane. As is dictated by the rituals, I prepared to unpack all my computers, remove my shoes, empty all drinks, let them take naked pictures of me, and just generally have my travel made much less pleasant.

But not this time. This time somebody else purchased our tickets for us using their frequent flier miles. This time we got to go to some special security line where they all but waved us through. I didn’t unpack anything, remove any articles of clothing, I carried a whole 8 ounces of milk right in, and I only had to pass through an old-fashioned metal detector. It was exactly as things had been before 9/11.

I always knew that the politicians who assure us of the necessity of these measures would never in their lives have to endure them. I didn’t realize that the whole upper echelon of society got to opt out. If somebody lets you sidestep a security measure in exchange for money, they don’t actually believe in that measure. They’re just keeping out the riff-raff.

The word “privilege” is derived from the phrase “private law,” specifically referring to laws passed for the benefit of a single person. With the TSA, laws were passed that do little other than harass people who are not rich enough, and then everybody at the top exempted themselves from it. I like the old corruption better.