Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Most Amazing Quote

I just came across the most amazing quote. I was reading a news article and after the article there were several reader comments. I found one that was an absolute gem.

"Voting to eliminate Constitutional Rights is ILLEGAL."

I also noticed that the user name of the person that posted this comment was "stupidityshouldhurt". Another comment in response to that comment said it all "you have to be in a lot of pain".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Incomplete Definitions and Logical Fallacies

Recently I was reading some commentary on same-sex marriage and was intrigued by some of the comments made in defense of it (look in the comments in the link). The comments started out, "[Marriage] is neither an essential unit of civilization nor is its ‘main purpose’ to have children." So if this is the case then there must be another purpose to it, which is the "main purpose". Later on someone else made the statement, "Marriage, in this country at least, is a legally recognized union of two people committing to each other, to live together as a couple: shared home, shared hopes, shared finances, same aspirations, dreams, and goals. It is a commitment to be there for the other, through thick and thin, good and bad." And still later we have, "Anytime people join together, combine efforts of survival and work for common goals, they are healthier and more productive. They save more, spend more and accomplish more. It IS in society’s best interest that people pair up. Other than that, marriage holds no value to any community outside the value to the persons involved."

So let us look at these arguments in defense of same-sex marriage and find out what their logical argument is in defense of same-sex marriage. While others may have other arguments in defense of same-sex marriage these three statements are a fairly good summary of the basis of all arguments for same-sex marriage. While the argument for equal protection and freedom to act for one's self may require a separate analysis, those two arguments ultimately rest on these arguments.

First they make the argument that children are not the ‘main purpose’ of marriage. So if having children are not the main purpose then what is? The answer is very simply, marriage is a relation between two people, a relation where each partner cares for and has the interest of the other at heart. Marriage as such can also be considered an advantageous socioeconomic relation in which two people may enter to achieve a desirable economic and social outcome. Considering this definition of marriage it seems like a workable definition because it has suitable "good" and "desirable" qualities relevant to our culture such as: personal thrift and industry, compassion and selflessness, altruism and fiscal, social and moral responsibility. With this impressive list of desirable qualities it is hard to argue against marriage as an institution and as one person concluded "It IS in society’s best interest that people pair up." For the sake of this current inquiry I will call these feelings of commitment and selfless altruism philo. (While these things are definitely related to the Greek notion of philia they may not be the same thing but for this present argument it will be easier to refer to these things as philo).

The natural conclusion is that if any two people have these qualities, or philo, in their relationship then surely it would be a travesty and a miscarriage of justice to not allow them the right to express and live up to their commitment. Because philo is such a desirable thing the obvious conclusion that those presenting this argument wish us to draw is that we should not deny any two people the right to express their philo.

Herein lies the logical fallacies of their argument. First they claim that children, and having children are not the ‘main purpose’ of marriage. This immediately leads to the question, then what is? To which they respond, "Philo". Thus their argument is that the ‘main purpose’ of marriage is so that two people can have and express philo. This logical fallacy is known as the fallacy of division. While philo is (or at lead should be) a component of marriage, having philo is not marriage. If this were true then anyone could marry anyone and thus there is no need to even have the definition of "marriage". This conclusion is a classic case of a suppressed correlative in which the definition is modified to the point that it no longer useful. Thus if we define marriage as consisting solely of a basis of philo between two people then we run into the problem of not having an "edge" or "end" to the definition of marriage, and marriage is of no effect and useless.

The problem here is not that philo should not be a component of marriage, but that it is not the only component of marriage. One major distinction that separates relations of philo, or friendship, from the marriage relation is the ability to conceive, have and raise children. Thus making children the essential difference between relations of philo and relations of marriage. It would seem that having children really is the ‘main purpose’ of marriage.

An instant objection that would be raised by proponents of same-sex marriage is that homosexual couples, through modern techniques (or even not so modern techniques) or adoption, can have and raise children, thus making them a "family" where the "parents" should have the right to be married. The problem here lies not in the relative merits and/or abilities of the pair in raising the children, but again in a logical fallacy, resulting from an incomplete definition.

Because a lot of the groundwork has already been laid I will not reestablish it for this argument. The logical fallacy here is one of equivocation. If we look at the original definitions of what constitutes marriage given above, we see that they include or are equated with philo and at no point is eros, or romantic love (meaning specifically, sexual relations), mentioned or included in the definition of marriage. According to their arguments, including the arguments regarding the adoption or raising of children by same-sex couples, the necessary and sufficient conditions for having and raising children is the presence of philo, which according to their argument is equated with marriage. Even though they are correct in saying that those raising children need philo they immediately preform the fallacy of equivocation by equating philo (and even philia) with eros. They reason that because eros is a type of love and (at least in English) philo is also a type of love, then they must be the same thing. Again this way of thinking and this conclusion immediately leads to a fallacy of a suppressed correlative, because if philo and eros are the same thing then either we must have sexual relations with everyone we are friends with (that is we share a form of philo with) or we can only have philo with those we also share eros with.

In effect, they argue that their eros must be accepted solely because they also share philo. In other words, they argue that their homosexuality, and all the acts that they preform, must be acceptable simply because they have made a philo type commitment to another person. On this basis I can think of a good argument for accepting organized crime (as long as it is kept in the family, by marriage). Thus the true problem is not that two people have philo and wish to attempt to raise children (after all we let priests and nuns do that, and they usually do pretty well) but that in addition to their laying claim to philo, they wish to equate it with eros, and herein lies the problem, and why we cannot agree.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who Do You Really Support?

I recently read a news article about a Swedish Leftist who several years ago voiced his support for Pol Pot, who was the prime minister of Cambodia from 1975-1979. Apparently when he voiced his support for Pol Pot he was unaware of the atrocities being committed by the Khmer Rouge regime at the time. Now years later he expressed his regret for ever giving his support for such a man and such an organization. As this man said "I was at that time a member of a friendship association which was a remnant of the anti-Vietnam/Cambodia War movement in Sweden, which was very strong in the Western world....Of course we didn't want to believe that the liberators had become oppressors." In other words he gave his support for the government and the dictator because he viewed them as supporting the same ideals and type of government that he supported.

When the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia and over threw the "oppressive" government and "liberated" the people, this man and others voiced their approval of what was done, but it was only later they found out what was actually happening and who they were really supporting. So the lesson to be learned from this to think about who you really support.

My sister once told me about an experience she had when she was working on her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She told me about how some people she knew approached her as asked if she would like to support an international environmental group through a donation or by getting a subscription to their magazine. She looked over their literature and magazine to get a sense of the organization and when she did this she found that the organization supported and actively endorsed and worked for several things that she very much did not agree with. She said that even though their selling point was protecting the environment, which can be a noble and worthwhile endeavor, their methods and ultimate purpose were questionable, or down right immoral.

Many times there is a movement or ideology that many different groups of people will join and participate in but some of those supporting it are doing it for not so honorable reasons. One movement that has been gaining some news coverage lately is the opposition to Proposition 8 in California, even after it was passed. While some people who oppose Prop 8 may have legitimate concerns, others view it as an opportunity to attack a specific religion or religion in general. They are in effect using it as an excuse to oppress and attempt to disenfranchise those who have religious beliefs. So there may be some who think there cause is honorable and good, but they do not want to believe that "liberators" are about to become oppressors.

Herein is the Great Lie

Many people consider the recent movement to legalize same-sex marriage consider homosexuality to be something that is unavoidable for some people, and should be viewed as common and just as acceptable as heterosexual relations. All this comes from the idea that just because we have an inclination to do something then we must do it, and it is inevitable that we will do it.

I recently read the transcript of an interview regarding the LDS Church's stance on same-gender attraction and one quote I found particularly interesting was, "One of the great sophistries of our age, I think, is that merely because one has an inclination to do something, that therefore acting in accordance with that inclination is inevitable." (Elder Wickman)

The reason why same-sex marriage is even an issue is because normal heterosexual relations outside of marriage are already considered to be acceptable. If this first were not considered acceptable then the other would not even have been considered as a serious issue of consideration. Those who have attempted to affect and direct society first taught us that these things were normal and that we have urges that not only should we give into them, but that it is inevitable that we give in to our urges and desires. Once that idea had been established in our collective forma de ser (way of being) then the other question, that of homosexuality was raised. Given the forgone conclusion of the former idea, the latter conclusion seemed natural.

The only reason why some people think, "I don't see why that is a problem, it's not that different and in some ways better than what 'normal' people do." is because they are so deep inside the Greatest Lie and Sophistry of our time that they cannot see it clearly for what it is. These people may realize that if homosexual relations are truly wrong then all other sexual relations outside of marriage are also wrong, but because that idea was banished years ago from our society they see no problem with allowing the next logical step. They see it as a logical progression from allowing one thing, to allowing another and finally all things. Unfortunately there is an inevitable end to all of this and it is precisely this end they wish to ignore, for it was because of this natural conclusion that these things were not allowed in the first place.

They deny that allowing these things (not just homosexuality, but also relations outside of marriage) will lead to a fracturing of society and will destroy the foundation, or that which perpetuates, our society. But those who actively preach this doctrine do not wish to promote the consequences, they only want to promote the idea that these things are inevitable, or that there is only one natural way of progression, and this is it. Herein is the Great Lie of our time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Civil Rights Movement: The Modern Pied Piper

In the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin the piper comes to the town of Hamelin and offers to rid the town of plague of rats. He does so by playing a magical pipe or flute that makes all the rats follow him. When the towns people fail to pay him for his services he then plays his pipe and leads the children of the town away into a cave where they are never heard of again.

In our modern society we also have a Pied Piper that has played his pipe and is playing it again. In the 60's and 70's the Civil Rights movement promised to rid our country of a plague of injustice that had been infecting our society. They played their pipe, beat their drum, rang their bell, and lead the country to reject the injustice and racism that demeaned human dignity. At the time the citizens cheered and welcomed the change. They celebrated, declared national holidays and taught the children in the schools that a great victory had been won, because of the music of the Pied Piper.

Now the Pied Piper has returned and while the melody is familiar the tune and beat are different. This time the tune is not about race or brazen discrimination, it is about marriage and family. But the proponents of this music say, "Is not this tune sweet and good? Was not the last tune a boon to our society? Why would you reject this new song to sing?" So they rejoice and celebrate this new tune to which they wish the citizens to dance, but like the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin this new tune is different enough to lead those that follow it to destruction. Those that follow the new tune want to see it as the same as before and in an effort to show this they use the same language that was used before. They make the same accusations but this time there are not the "rats" and the "plague" that there were before. This time the accusations are against what should be most dear to us. And if we let it go it will end with the same devastating result.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Leyenda De Los Soles

This comes from an Aztec poem called the Legend of the Suns. It is about Quetzalcóatl and how mankind was made on the Earth. The version I have is in Spanish so the English translation is my own. If you think that there is a better translation from Spanish to English let me know.

Luego deliberaron los dioses, dijeron: --¿Quién habrá de morar?
>Then the gods deliberated [took counsel], saying: -- Who shall dwell therein?
Consolidóse el cielo, se consolidó la Señora Tierra,
>Be comforted oh heavens, [and] the Mother Earth was comforted,
¿quién habrá de morar en ella, oh dioses?
>who shall dwell in her, oh gods?
Todos ellos se preocuparon.
>they all wondered.
Pero ya va Quetzalcóatl, lega al reino de la Muerte,
>But then went Quetzalcóatl, [and] came to the kingdom of the Dead,
al lado del Señor y de la Señora del Reino de la Muerte.
>to the side [presence] of the Lord and Lady of the Kingdom of the Dead.
Al momento les dijo: --He aquí por lo que he venido.
>And he said to them: --Behold for what I have come.
Huesos preciosos tu guardas: yo he venido a tomarlos.
>Precious bones that you guard: I have come to take them.
Pero le dice el Rey de los Muertos: --¿Qué vas a hacer, Quetzalcóatl?
>But the King of the Dead said unto him: --What shall you do, Quetzalcóatl?
Y éste de nuevo le responde: --Preocupados están los dioses
>And Quetzalcóatl responded: --The gods are preoccupied
de quién ha de habitar la tierra.
>with who shall dwell on the Earth.
El Señor del Reino de la Muerte dice: --Bien está,
>The Lord of the Kingdom of the Dead said: --Very well,
tañe mi trompeta de caracol y cuatro veces llévalos en torno
>sound my trumpet made of a conch and four times carry them around
de mi redondo asiento de esmeraldas.
>my round throne of emeralds.
Pero como el caracol no tiene asa, llama luego a los gusanos.
>But as the conch does not have a handle, call therefore the worms.
Ellos le hicieron muchos agujeros por donde al instante
>They made for him many holes where suddenly
entraron los avispones y las abejas nocturnas.
>there went in the wasps and bees of the night.
Una vez más dice el Señor del Reino de la Muerte:
>Once again the Lord of the Kingdom of the Dead said:
--¡Bien está, toma los huesos! –pero dice a sus vasallos
>--Very well, take the bones! –but he said to his subjects
los muertos. --¡Decidle aún, oh dioses, que ha de venir a dejarlos!
>the dead. –Say unto the gods, that they must come to return them!
Pero Quetzalcóatl responde: --¡No, para siempre los tomo!
>But Quetzalcóatl responded: --No! I will take them forever!
Pero su ynahual le dijo: --Diles: ¡Los vendré a dejar!
>But his ynahual said to him: --Tell them: I will return them!
Y Quetzalcóatl va a decirles, y a gritos les dice:
>And Quetzalcóatl goes to say to them, and yells to them:
--¡He de venir a dejarlos! –Ya con esto subir puede,
>--I have come to return them! –With this you can rise,
ya toma huesos preciosos. En un sitio hay huesos de varón,
>and take the precious bones. In one site there are bones of men,
en otro sitio, huesos de mujer. Los coge, los hace fardo
>in another, bones of women. He collects them, and with them makes a tower
y luego los lleva consigo.
>and then carries them with him.
Pero otra vez dice el Señor de los Muertos
>But again says the Lord of the Dead
a sus vasallos: --¡Dioses, de veras se los lleva, los huesos preciosos!
>to his subjects: --Oh Gods, verily he does carry them away, the precious bones!
Venid y ponedle un hoyo. Ellos vinieron a ponerlo.
>Come and dig for him a pit. They came and dug for him a pit.
En el hoyo cayó, azotó en tierra consigo,
>In the pit he fell, and smote the earth,
lo espantaron las codornices, cayó como un muerto
>scaring the cultures, and fell as if he were dead
y con ello desparramó por tierra los huesos preciosos,
>and with that the precious bones were scattered over the Earth,
los mordisquearon, los picotearon las codornices.
>[and] the vultures gnawed and pecked them.
Mas pronto se recuperó Quetzalcóatl.
>But Quetzalcóatl quickly recovered.
Llora por lo sucedido y dice a su ynahual:
>Crying for what had happened and saying to his ynahual:
--Doble mío, ¿cómo será esto? – Y el doble dice:
>--Oh my Double, How will this be? –And the double says:
--¿Cómo será?
>--How will it be?
¡Pues cierto, se echó a perder, pero que sea como fuera!
>Of truth, you went to loose, but let that be as it was!
Y luego ya los recogió, uno a uno los levantó,
>And then he gather them [the bones], one by one raised them up,
y con ellos hizo un fardo, y los llevó a Tamoachán.
>And with them made a tower, and carried them to Tamoachán.
Y cuando a Tamoachán llegó, ya los remuele Quizastki,
>And when he came to Tamoachán, Quizastki took them and ground them [to powder]
en un lebrillo precioso echa los huesos molidos
>[and] cast the ground bones in a precious brick
y sobre ellos su sangre sacada del miembro viril
>and over them, his sacred blood from the living flesh
echa Quetzalcóatl, y luego todos los dioses hacen penitencia
>cast Quetzalcóatl, and then all the gods made obescience
y por eso dijeron pronto: “Nacieron los merecidos de los dioses,
>and for that they said: “Born are the just [deserving] of the gods,
pues por nosotros hicieron penitencia meritoria.”
>for for us they did worthy penance.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Historical Parallels

Many people have already noted the parallels between the election of Barack Obama and the election of John F. Kennedy. To briefly sum up the parallels: both are young (for a president), both had a lot of support from younger voters, both are/were viewed very favorably by the international community upon election, both talked about and advocated change. Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected president even when people said that an Irish Catholic would never be elected president. Obama is the first black man to be elected president even when people said that a black man would never be elected president. In both cases Kennedy did not let his religion be the defining factor in his campaign, and Obama did not let race be the deciding factor in his. This is to say, in both cases each candidate never tried to fight against or even downplay their biggest respective possible liabilities. These are the standard parallels that the media are observing but let's look at other parallels that the media are definitely overlooking. Let's look at context.

Kennedy: Elected in 1960 (becomes president in 1961). This was 15 years after the end of World War II, and with it the end of the nationalistic era which came from the Age of Empires that had dominated world history for hundreds of years previously. While the Cold War had been building for a while, it was reaching its height and during his presidency would have some of its most dramatic events. It was a time of rapid social change and where a new medium of communication (TV) played an integral part in the election.

Obama: Elected in 2008 (becomes president in 2009). This was 18 years (17-19 depending on who you ask) after the end of the Cold War, which was created in the aftermath of WWII. The War on Terror had been going on for sometime and had already had a number of dramatic events. But like Kennedy in the Cold War, Obama is also at a key turning point. Obama was also elected in a time of rapid social change and a new medium of communication (The Internet) played an integral part in the election.

So with these parallels and with the assumption that history repeats itself, let's try to see what may be in store for us and for Obama. After JFK was elected the Cold War lasted another 30 years. Because the War on Terror and religious extremism is unlikely to go away anytime soon we can probably expect it to last another 20-30 years, in some form or another, and at the end there will be a drastic change in the world much like the one at the end of the Cold War or WWII. It is possible that the next few years could see similar social upheaval to that was seen in the 1960's.

So now that we have seen the parallels let us consider the key differences that Obama faces. The country and the world is on the verge of a global depression on the scale of the Great Depression. The United States is at the end of a long war in Iraq (hopefully) as opposed to the beginning of a long war in Vietnam. Kennedy was elected president in a bi-polar world dominated by two superpowers. Obama was elected in a time when the world was shifting from a uni-polar world to a multi-polar world, dominated by several different powers. So there are many key differences that differentiate the era in which Kennedy became president from the era in which Obama will be president.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Hopefully there will be some more differences (or less) and hopefully something will be done to shorten the time until the next world changing event. In any event we will watch and do our best.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Advice from a Philosopher

I know a philosopher who once told me, "Philosophy is like a disease. Once you catch it you just have to work it out and when you are done you can stop doing philosophy and get on with your life. But as long as you insist on doing philosophy something is wrong with you."

I must say I agree with him. I once caught the "philosophy bug" and I had to work my way through it by asking and answering all my questions, but when I was done I had answered my questions and that was it. I no longer had to do philosophy. Doing philosophy is like having cancer. You will either beat it and be stronger because of it, or it will kill you.

When my philosopher friend made that statement someone asked him, "Then why do you do philosophy." To which he replied, "Apparently something is still wrong with me and I was unable to work out all the problems and questions I have." So according to him, and I would have to agree from personal experience, as long as there is some drive to DO philosophy and to constantly question (your) existence then there is something wrong with your thinking, but fortunately it is possible to work your way through it, because by asking the questions it will reveal what is wrong with your thinking. Just beware of staying in the condition that Russell described, the perpetual philosophical state where the philosopher will always be asking questions and never coming to a knowledge of the truth. Also beware the completeness of the Early Wittgenstein and the incompleteness of the Late Wittgenstein.