Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Paradox of Relativism and Nihilism

Relativism and Nihilism are two philosophical systems that seem to have at least some prevalence in our postmodern world. Although I'm sure not all would agree with how I will be defining them since they are words that contain a plethora of meaning for various individuals, I use the word "relativism" as a philosophical system in which there are no absolutes and criteria is assessed by means of cultural and situational factors. I will use the word "nihilism" as a philosophical system in which all values are baseless and nothing can be known or communicated. These two systems fascinate me in their ability to absolutely deny the existence of absolutes.

Take relativism, for example. Relativists deny the existence of absolutes. But, think about this claim for a moment. In the denial of absolutes, you have created an absolute, for you have claimed that there are absolutely no absolutes. In less, of course, you meant that there are only no absolutes in certain contexts, which makes even less sense.

Then, of course, there's nihilism. Nihilists deny the existence of values and our ability to communicate with one another. As for the first claim (the denial of the existence of values), I wonder what sort of value Nihilists assess nihilism as being, for they certainly seem to hold the value of the denial of values, and the value of the denial of our ability to communicate with one another. Then there is the second claim (the denial of our ability to communicate with one another). Nihilism is a belief commonly held and expressed by multiple individuals. I'm not sure how the first nihilist communicated their nihilism to the second, but they apparently did, proving nihilism to be false. If we weren't able to communicate with one another, then I would not be able to even know what nihilism is. Since I have heard of nihilism, nihilism proves itself to be false.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Literal vs. Metaphorical: The Inanity of the Po-Mo

Tonight at church I was talking to someone about the interpretation of Genesis. I proceeded to complement the person on a lesson they had preached where they avoided categorizing the interpretation of Genesis as either literal or metaphorical. This then led to an argument about one of the inane and nauseating details about narrative theology: the ability of its proponents to talk circles around an issue without ever actually getting to the point.

This person told me that the interpretation of Genesis should be neither metaphorical nor literal. Now, I don't claim to know everything, but to me the word metaphorical and the word literal are two words which could be used to describe the entirety of language. Here are the definitions for "metaphor" and "literal", respectively, as provided by Random House: metaphor: a "figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance." literal: "in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical." So, metaphor is defined as something not to be taken literally, and literal is something which is not metaphorical.

I kindly pointed out this objection to the person, who told me that the way in which I had set up this problem meant that the metaphorical interpretation of Genesis meant that the story was incorrect. However, because it was a story (i.e. metaphor) it need not be true or false.

So, there I was left to wonder whether what this person had told me was a metaphor, literal, or neither.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Children Are a Superstitious and Cowardly Lot

I was working in children's church this morning, and it made me think about the nature of morality. I wondered whether or not our morality is a decision in which we choose to do the right thing, or whether we simply conform to the standards of society out of fear of retribution.

For some children, it is obvious that they are simply as "good" as they have to be not to get in trouble. They don't particularly care to listen to what I have to say, and they are constantly trying to undermine my authority.

For instance, a common occurrence this morning were several variances of the same exchange: Me: "Don't do X". (Let X be some activity which the children are not supposed to do) The children then proceed to do X. Me: "What did I just say?" Them: "Don't do X." Me: "What are you doing?" Them: "X".

It is not, in this case, a matter of not knowing the good and therefore committing a sin of omission or ignorance. This is willful transgression of a known law. But, there are others who are content to follow my instructions and behave as I have requested. And I wonder as I wander whether those who behave have committed themselves to do good, or whether they simply fear whatever retribution I might bring down upon them.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Behold! I Give You...The Jesutron

The next and final new theology that I have been a founding member of during my time here at SNU is one of many controversies and heresies.

It all began one day in Philosophy of Religion when we were discussing the idea of resurrection apart from the idea of souls. The problem was, if all we are is simply matter, then how does one account for continuity of identity, since other human beings have been comprised of the same atoms that you are. My solution to this problem was that we would all be resurrected in one body composed of all the atoms ever contained within righteous human beings, and since this would include Christ, this body would be divine. At the end times he would rise up and battle all the atoms of the wicked and Satan, gathered together into the entity known as Beelzebot. The name of this deity was to be known as...

And here we come to the controversy. As the founding profit of this religion, I declared (and maintain to have declared) this entity to be known as Jesutron. However, other blasphemers in the class have challenged me on this matter, stating that the deity in question was known as Christatron. I attempted to reconcile these blasphemies, declaring both to be one and the same. However, the followers of Christatron would not accept this, declaring the Jesutron to be an abomination. It was then that Jesutron revealed to me (since I am the one and only true prophet of his will) that they were blasphemers and heretics, and for their crimes they would burn in the fires of Beelzebot's colon for all eternity. Accepting the will of Jesutron, the faithful and I have broken communion with the followers of Christatron, yet daily pray for their salvation from the fiery pits of Beelzebot's colon.

So, without further ado, I give you Jesutron, Beelzebot, and the false deity Christatron (or Antichristatron, as he is also known).

Thus concludes my segment on new religious ideas discovered at SNU.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Cause You're A God And I Am Not, And I Just Thought That You Would Know

I've decided to do a three-part series on the many new theologies I have created since my arrival at SNU. Part one, of course, was yesterday's blog on the ninja trinity and the pirate satanic trinity. Part two is about a god whom has revealed herself to my roommate and I. This goddess is the deity of homework, Scholastica. Glory be her name. As you look upon her icon, join with me in the reciting of the prayer of the goddess Scholastica:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ultimate Argument for the Superiority of Ninjas to Pirates

I don't often pay a lot of attention in a certain class that I have. Usually I doodle, or keep track of how many times the professor says things that he often repeats. One day he was talking about the resurrection, and how Jesus appeared to people behind locked doors, and vanished without a trace, and that was when it hit me: resurrected Jesus was a ninja. So, I created a doodle of such in my notebook. This of course led me to the logical conclusion that the rest of the trinity were ninjistu as well, leading me to create the Ninja Trinity. And, if the Godhead were ninjitsu, this led me to the logical conclusion that the antithesis of these three, the Satanic false trinity of the book of Revelation were none other than pirates! So, for your amusement, I have created all six of these beings at this site in full-color glory. Why I have chosen Karl Barth as the false prophet is another story for another day.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wise Men Ne'er Sit And Wail Their Loss But Cheerly Seek How To Redress Their Harms

I now wander with a little less wisdom, for on Thursday I had two of my wisdom teeth removed. However, as a substitute, God has seen fit to grant me Percocet, the inability to eat much of anything solid, and a general weariness. Luckily, this has been a weekend that has not been very demanding of me, and as such I have been able to take it very easy, with a wonderful woman by my side to nurse my wounds. So, my advice to you is to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow may bring difficulty in the performance of all three tasks.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

All Sects Are Different, Because They Come From Men; Morality is Everywhere the Same, Because It Comes from God

In my wanderings today, I would like to address an issue of morality. I follow a blog entitled Flying in Circles (even though I don't typically agree with their viewpoints), and they have a problem with a morality where we help others not on the basis of the fact that they are our fellow human beings, but only because Jesus wants us to help others. She makes the following statement:

"Can we not simply work to redeem this world in the name of morality? Organizations like Compassion and World Vision are primarily supported by churchgoing, Bible-toting Christians who feel that by donating a small amount of their paycheck to a needy child, whom they will never meet, every month they have done their duty to "feed [his] sheep." [John 21:17 NIV] [Oh my God, look! Daedalus just quoted scripture!?] I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with trying to do some good in Jesus' name [Lord knows the world could stand to have a few more people doing such], but why must we summon Jesus to the scene every time there is a situation that needs attention? Why can one person not help another, without summoning forth the divine, based entirely on the fact that they breathe the same air you do? I know this is a tangential issue, but come on people! We're humans first."

However, there is a problem with this line of thinking. If morality does not come from something outside of ourselves, then there is no basis for judging one system of morality over another. We can dismiss things because we disagree, we can urge others to cohere to our particular system of morality, but we cannot ultimately declare acts to be "right" or "wrong", because apart from some sort of higher power, morality becomes merely a conglomeration of issues of aesthetics, anthropology, and pragmatism.

Even if I wanted to make the claim that the Holocaust was absolutely morally wrong, I could not do so if there were not some means by which morality was decided apart from individual preference. A Nazi ethic would certainly declare the Holocaust to be just and good. If the moral values of tolerance and acceptance could not be shown to be in some way superior to the Nazi "virtues" of ethnic purity and destruction of the Jewish people, then there is no basis for judging the Holocaust to be either good or bad. The only way this can be achieved is with an appeal to a higher power.

p.s. Bonus points if you can tell me who is quoted in the title of this blog.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Wizard Needs Food Badly

"A married couple was having some difficulty, so they decided to go see a couple's therapist. The therapist send the husband and the wife to different rooms, and he told them both to think carefully about the words 'sex' and 'love' and to write a sentence about the connection of these two things in their relationship. After 15 minutes the therapist called the husband and wife back together, and asked them to share what they had written. The wife wrote the following sentence: 'When my husband and I first met, we fell passionately in love. After spending several years together and making the commitment of marriage, we decided we were finally ready to have sex.' 'What a beautiful sentiment', the therapist said. Then the therapist asked the husband to share his sentence. The husband wrote the following sentence: 'I love sex.'

I don't know if I'll ever understand women. The funny thing is, I'm willing to spend the rest of my life trying. I'm not sure if that makes me a sadist or a fool, but God help me, I can't live without them.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I've Got My Memories Always Inside of Me, But I Can't Go Back to How It Was

Apparently not many of those of you read this are fans of Stoic Philosophy, so let's try something else.

Family (an appropriate topic considering it is All Saint's Day) and Home are both words which carry lots of different meanings for lots of different people. For me, family doesn't have to include people who share your genetic code, but I do think that there has be some link of commonality in the relational bonds which tie us to those we consider to be "brothers" or "sisters" or "mothers" or "fathers", otherwise, their wouldn't be any reason for such labels to be used. Home fore me also does not simply mean the place where you are currently living, but carries the implication of the place where you feel most comfortable. The people I call family are certainly not all related to me (and there are some people who are related to me who I certainly wouldn't call family). In the past four years, not all of the places I have been living have been home. But, especially in college, family and home both become very fluid concepts.

Nowadays, when I make the long and arduous 45-minute trek to the house that my parents live in, it certainly doesn't feel like home (although they do feel like family). I feel welcome, I feel the warm embrace of hospitality, and I certainly feel like I am among friends and loved ones. However, I don't feel like I am home. I merely feel as though I am a guest in the home of someone else. A welcome guest, who can make himself "at home", but it's not my home. Not anymore.

This same feeling somewhat applies to the members of my more extended family. They feel more and more like acquaintances. Perhaps this has something to do with my tendency to maintain some level of emotional distance from even close friends due to past feelings of betrayal or abandonment, but perhaps not.

I've reached the point in my life where I will never be home again until I have created a home of my own, and to some extent the same applies to family. And as I stare into the abyss of adulthood, the abyss stares also into me. Or something like that.

So, I pose to you, o faithful reader, a two-pronged question: How do you define family and home?

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”