Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Inklings graves


From my recent 'pilgrimage' to Inklings sites in Oxford

JRR Tolkien:

Jack and Warnie Lewis:

Charles Williams:

Hugo Dyson:

Asking questions


Q: Is asking questions good or bad?

A: Neither: it depends on the reason for asking.

Are we questioning from belief, or from skepticism?


But in mainstream public discourse nowadays, most question-asking is skeptical, and it is bad - because it is motivated by pride.

The skeptical self is unquestioned: to question is to hold others to account.


Modern skeptical questioning has become a lifestyle - people get locked-into a stance of going through the world, assuming their own rightness, holding to account other people and different ideas; and this state may persist for decades, for their whole lives...

And it is all-but impossible to escape-from or eradicate this state, once fully-established.

A habit of skepticism applied to the non-self becomes the structuring principle of life.

This is the supreme, invincible arrogance of modernity.


As C.S Lewis pointed-out, modern skeptical atheism is incorrigable precisely because it put God in the dock and judges God by the standard of modern man - naturally, intrinsically, inevitably then God will be and is found deficient: He fails to provide satisfactory answers on interrogation.


I can perceive that the skeptical and questioning stance is a reaction to the amount of nonsense and dishonesty in the world; but it is the wrong answer.

What we should do about nonsense and dishonesty is ignore them (or, if possible, detect, denounce and suppress them) - but not question them!

Why should we be concerned by the answers of idiots and liars?


The proper motivation for questioning is not from skepticism but from belief.

The essence of proper questioning happens when we question authorities that we trust, to discover more concerning that which we believe.

Ideally we should question only those whom we trust; otherwise the answers are more likely to harm than help us.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

What is Christian forgiveness?


Forgiveness is close to the core of Christianity, to forgive is mandatory - the implication is that we will be forgiven in the same manner and to the same extent that we ourselves forgive - yet I have found it very difficult to understand the concept.


What happens when we forgive?

In normal terms forgiveness seems much like forgetting, 'not thinking about' something - but that can't be correct in a heavenly perspective, because everything is 'remembered'.

Nor is forgiveness a matter of ignoring sin, or of making oneself believe that there is no difference between good and evil, or that what seemed bad was actually good (as when people always put the most optimistic and well-intentioned construction on events, regardless of the reality).


But I feel closer to understanding forgiveness having read the first four chapters of Charles Williams He Came Down From Heaven.

I have tried to read this book many times, but this time it 'clicked' and the book strikes me as without doubt one of the most profound theological writings I have encountered - almost alongside Pascal.

In essence, and as far as I understand it, to forgive is to put events into the ultimate and heavenly perspective when even the most deliberate evil is is seen as unable wholly to escape from Good, and will become an occasion for good.

The necessity to forgive is then, perhaps, an order not to despair; an injunction to be aware that God created all things, and makes them happen; that evil can destroy but Good is primary.

At root, the injunction to forgive is a statement of the nature of reality.


Note added: Conversely, failure to forgive - i.e. persistence of resentment, or grudge - is implicitly acceptance of the primacy of evil, the dominance of the demonic. It is denial of Christian Love as the ultimate principle. It is therefore the denial of reality.


Monday, 29 August 2011

English honesty


I suspect that the main evil of the past several decades in England has been the erosion of truth, of honesty, as a value.

The process has been very rapid and very obvious in England; the change has been enormous; and it is one which shocks me deeply.

Public discourse in England, discourse within the state bureaucracy, within any large organization, is now routinely and pervasively and deliberately dishonest - in private as well as in public.


This is not a matter of Machiavellian officials being candid with each other behind the scenes and manipulating the masses; rather it is a matter of officials lying all the time, to each other as much as to the public, and lying to themselves about even this.

Modern English organizations are not even trying to be honest, they are not even pretending to be honest.


Yet a mere forty, even thirty, years ago the opposite was the case - most English organizations and communications were boringly, almost ridiculously, concerned with literal accuracy, with understatement, with not-exaggerating.

It was, indeed, a defining national trait.


The change has been led from the top, by the UK government, by public administration, by bosses and executives; the rot of dishonesty began in the head and spread downwards.


Let me be clear: I am not complaining about specific lies, but of making no attempt whatsoever to be truthful.

Because truth is a habit, or it is nothing.

Once the habit of truth has been lost, public truth is lost and cannot be found by individuals. Truth becomes a private affair.

And this is the state of affairs.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

'Injustice' versus dishonesty - focus on the lesser sin


When I was working in the National Health Service as a part-time bureaucrat - the Leftist concept of 'justice' was one of the staples of discourse - it came up in conversation, in documentation, in small routine meetings, in large focused conferences.

To fight injustice was the whole self-asserted raison de etre of the NHS bureaucracy. That was what justified our existence. Other professionals might do actual work, provide actual services - but we bureaucrats pursued justice. 


What was justice? Well, in one sense it was a vague term of extremely wide, virtually unconstrained applicability; but in another sense it was used to refer to precise statistical inequalities in what were presumed to be desirable attributes - such as life expectancy, rates of illness, usage of health services (using health services was sometimes regarded as a bad thing, when it was termed 'need' for services; sometimes regarded as a good thing, when it was termed having 'access' to services).

Which specific statistic of 'injustice' was focused upon was chosen on socio-political grounds, in a very obvious, naive kind of way - but the motivations for such choices were protected by the taboo on mentioning hate facts such as innate differences; or by the taboo on 'victim blaming'. It was clear that certain favoured groups (the groups around which sub-bureaucracies had been organized) could only be analyzed in terms of being victims of injustice. Contradictions were simply ignored.


The social atmosphere was such that criticism of the analysis or methods of 'fighting injustice' was interpreted personally - the critic being at best an apologist for injustice and potentially an evil promoter of injustice (probably in the pay of some business interest or covertly working for some fascist organization).

If or when anyone insisted on presenting analysis or criticism of the forbidden type it was simply un-recorded by the bureaucratic machinery - while on the contrary, congenial analysis was built-into the discourse (for example being included in all minutes and internal memos, by becoming a recurrent agenda item).


(In fact, at that time in the early 1990s, we had a new word for injustice - inequity - which (being even-less understandable and precise than 'injustice') was more readily shaped to our bureaucratic purposes.)


The concept of 'injustice' trumped all other considerations, including the improvement of health. Indeed, health ought not to be improved unless by doing so injustice was diminished.

And it was even acceptable to advocate reducing the health of 'privileged' groups if this might more-or-less-plausibly be associated with a diminution in statistical inequality.

'Injustice' was therefore simultaneously dominating, all-inclusive of discourse, all applicable with respect to subject matter - yet applied very selectively, on grounds which themselves were not justified, using data and statistical analysis which was false yet uncriticizable.


The centrality of 'justice' to moral discourse is a Leftist tactic of long standing.

It is a clear example of the replacement of a greater sin by a lesser sin; because the lesser sin of injustice is mostly a sub-set of the greater sin of dishonesty - which is a breach of the transcendental Good of Truth.

(Most of the traditional examples of injustice are offences against truth - stealing, swindling etc.)


By installing Injustice as the ultimate sin, the Health Authority (as a part of the Left) was able to ignore Truth; was able to be dishonest in pursuit of 'justice'.

Indeed, truthfulness - the pursuit of truth, telling of truth - was not only ignored, but prohibited.

The bureaucracy was indeed openly dishonest, it was proud of its dishonesty. Dishonesty in the fight against injustice was regarded as evidence of moral seriousness.

So, here was a clear instance of moral inversion, typical of Leftism: a self-consciously and self-celebrating moral organization predicated on the elaboration and promotion of primary sin - the sin against Truth.


Normal (blogging) service resumed...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Blogging and Commenting suspended for August


I will not (I don't think) be blogging for the rest of August; and also (after a couple of days from now, when I will continue to look at them) I will not be moderating comments - which means that any comments submitted from a couple of days time probably will not appear.

I will continue to use e-mails, however; and e-mail is the best way to contact me, as required. 

Thanks very much to the regular commenters on this blog, you are credited as a group in my forthcoming book Thought Prison: the fundamental nature of political correctness - which is published on 17 October 2011, and is now being advertised on Amazon and similar places. 

See you again in September - I hope.



Some snippets of Thought Prison on a new blog:


The Psalms and C.S. Lewis - Lewis nods?


When I became a Christian I was soon very confused indeed about the central place of the c. 150 Psalms in worship.

Why on earth should these apparently pre-Christian, ancient Jewish, poems or songs take-up such a very large amount of Christian worship?


Why, indeed, did Psalms apparently constitute almost the whole of Christian worship in ancient times?

(Especially before there were any Christian scriptures, but even much later. Some of the most devout and spiritually advanced Saints seemed barely to read the New Testament: knowing the basic Gospel story plus praying the Psalms seemed to be almost their whole devotional life.).


Why did some ancient monks sing them eight times a day, some modern monks four times a day, and even ordinary Anglicans twice a day?

Why are priests supposed to read the Psalms once a month, why are monks supposed to chant all of the Psalter every week for their whole lives?

Why did so many people in the past learn the Psalms by heart?


The first thing I did was to read C.S Lewis's Reflections on the Psalms.

Lewis, in this book, is at his most Protestant and least Catholic - and he firmly regards the Psalms as a record of ancient Jewish hymns by diverse hands, to be interpreted in their historical context; and at most providing reminders and correctives of specifically Christian ideals. 

He did indeed alert me to many good things about the psalms - but the answers he gave did not even begin to explain why, much less to justify, the psalms should have taken up so much time and effort from Christians for at least three-quarters of the span of Christianity.

Even if everything positive which Lewis has to say about the Psalms was absolutely correct and that to the fullest degree - then the implication is that surely (if that is all there is to them) Christians could find something better to focus upon - something actually Christian?


The answer, I later discovered, is that traditionally Christians have regarded the Psalms as (in essence) a part of the New Testament, being uttered by and about Christ.

This is, of course, the original Orthodox and Catholic way of reading the Psalms, and the way which persisted over many, many centuries.

In a nutshell, the Psalms were always regarded as prophetic utterances; divinely inspired among the ancient Jews but revealing their true meaning only after the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. 


Lewis swiftly disposes of this in a chapter on Second Meanings, and seems to conclude that this effect is only apparent; mostly merely a reminder of what happened some hundreds of years after the Psalms were composed.

Thus I have come to regard Lewis's book on the Psalms - for all its good nuggets - as perhaps his only fundamentally mistaken book - the only one in which he reasons like a modern Biblical scholar instead of forming a bridge to pre-modern wisdom.

Yet Lewis's actual practice was wiser than his understanding - he prayed the Psalms, frequently; he knew them by heart.

In sum, Lewis actually did, 'despite' all the reasons he gives which imply that it is not worth doing this, learn, read and speak the Psalms through - many, many times - for his whole adult life. 

And there is a lesson in that.


Saturday, 6 August 2011

Tolkien and the nature of evil: Morgoth versus Sauron


J.R.R.Tolkien, written c. 1958, edited and published by Christopher Tolkien in Morgoth's Ring, Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

The full excerpts from Tolkien are at:

From which shorter pieces are here shown in italics:


To gain domination over Arda, Morgoth had let most of his being pass into the physical constituents of the Earth – hence all things that were born on Earth and live on and by it, beasts or plants or incarnate spirits, were liable to be ‘stained’.

Morgoth at the time of the War of the Jewels had become permanently ‘incarnate’: for this reason he was afraid, and waged the war almost entirely by means of devices, or of subordinates and dominated creatures.

The time of Melkor’s greatest power, therefore, was in the physical beginnings of the World; a vast demiurgic lust for power and the achievement of his own will and designs, on a great scale.  (…)


Arda = The Earth. This suggests that 'the devil' (i.e. Morgoth/ Melkor) did his work mostly at the beginning of time, via 'original sin' (the 'staining' of almost all things) - but is now and consequently a much diminished being - doing his evil work via subordinates such as demons (= fallen angels) such as Sauron and (probably) Saruman.

 * ‘Morgoth’, when Melkor was confronted by the existence of other inhabitants of Arda, with other wills and intelligences, he was enraged by the mere fact of their existence, and his only notion of dealing with them was by physical force, or the fear of it. His sole ultimate object was their destruction. 
Elves, and still more Men, he despised because of their ‘weakness’: that is their lack of physical force, or power over ‘matter’; but he was also afraid of them. He was aware, at any rate originally when still capable of rational thought, that he could not ‘annihilate’them: that is, destroy their being; but their physical ‘life’, and incarnate form became increasingly to his mind the only thing that was worth considering.

Or he became so far advanced in Lying that he lied even to himself, and pretended that he could destroy them and rid Arda of them altogether. Hence his endeavor always to break wills and subordinate them to or absorb them into his own will and being, before destroying their bodies. This was sheer nihilism, and negation its one ultimate object:

Morgoth would no doubt, if he had been victorious, have ultimately destroyed even his own ‘creatures’, such as the Orcs, when they had served his sole purpose in using them: the destruction of Elves and Men. (…)

Melkor could do nothing with Arda, which was not from his own mind and was interwoven with the work and thoughts of others: even left alone he could only have gone raging on till all was leveled again into a formless chaos. And yet even so he would have been defeated, because it would still have ‘existed’, independent of his own mind, and a world in potential.

Note - Melkor could not, of course, ‘annihilate’ anything of matter, he could only ruin or destroy or corrupt the forms given to matter by other minds in their subcreative activities.


This is the nature of ultimate evil as nihilism, as destruction - the urge to leave 'nothing' behind - or, since this is impossible, chaos. 

Tolkien does not say so, but the logical implication is that if Morgoth actually succeeded in reducing the whole world except for himself to formless chaos; then he would inevitably have turned destruction upon himself - as being the only remaining example of God's creative power. 

He would have 'committed suicide' - in so far as this was possible for an immortal - Morgoth would have destroyed himself to the point where he had no power remaining to destroy anything more.


Sauron had never reached this stage of nihilistic madness. He did not object to the existence of the world, so long as he could do what he liked with it. 

He still had the relics of positive purposes, that descended from the good of the nature in which he began: it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall, and of his relapse) that he loved order and co-ordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction.

Sauron had, in fact, been very like Saruman, and so still understood him quickly and could guess what he would be likely to think and do, even without the aid of the palantíri or of spies; whereas Gandalf eluded and puzzled him.

Note – [Sauron’s] capability of corrupting other minds, and even engaging their service, was a residue from the fact that his original desire for ‘order’ had really envisaged the good estate (especially physical well-being) of his ‘subjects’.


Morgoth [by contrast with Sauron] had no ‘plan’: unless destruction and reduction to nil of a world in which he had only a share can be called a ‘plan’.


Tolkien is drawing a contrast between primary evil which is nihilistic; and secondary evil which seeks power; primary evil has no plan, secondary evil schemes and strategizes to impose their will upon everything - justified as being for the good of everything. 


But this is, of course, a simplification of the situation. Sauron had not served Morgoth, even in his last stages, without becoming infected by his lust for destruction, and his hatred of God (which must end in nihilism).


Tolkien is saying that what begins with strategic plans for power, to impose order, will inevitably end with destruction for destruction's sake.

Secondary evil, as it advances, will be drawn to partake of the nature of primary evil: nihilism.


Melkor incarnated himself (as Morgoth) permanently. He did this so as to control the hroa, the flesh or physical matter, of Arda. He attempted to identify himself with it. A vaster, and more perilous, procedure, though of similar sort to the operation of Sauron with the Rings. 

Thus, outside the Blessed Realm, all matter was likely to have a Melkor ingredient, and those who had bodies, nourished by the hora of Arda, had as it were a tendency, small or great, towards Melkor: they were none of them wholly free of him in their incarnate form, and their bodies had an effect upon their spirits.

But in this way Morgoth lost (or exchanged, or transmuted) the greater part of his original angelic powers, of mind and spirit, while gaining a terrible grip upon the physical world. For this reason he had to be fought, mainly by physical force, and enormous material ruin was a probable consequence of any direct combat with him, victorious or otherwise.


Sauron's, relatively smaller, power was concentrated; Morgoth's vast power was disseminated. The whole of Middle-earth was Morgoth's Ring, though temporarily his attention was mainly upon the North-west. Unless swiftly successful, War against him might well end in reducing all Middle-earth to chaos, possibly even all Arda.

...the dilemma of the Valar was this: Arda could only be liberated [from Morgoth] by a physical battle; but a probable result of such a battle was the irretrievable ruin of Arda. 

Moreover, the final eradication of Sauron (as a power directing evil) was achievable by the destruction of the Ring. 

No such eradication of Morgoth was possible, since this required the complete disintegration of the matter of Arda.


Tolkien is here referring, it seems, to the reason why God cannot eradicate evil from a fallen incarnate world - because this would entail the destruction of 'everything' - since 'everything' had been stained by 'original sin'. Tolkien is also - indirectly - elucidating the necessity for Jesus Christ as the answer to this problem of a tainted world; the need for a new world, populated by new Men - a perfected world and Mankind which retains their identity, but cleansed of sin. 


Morgoth though locally triumphant had neglected most of Middle-earth during the war; and by it he had in fact been weakened: in power and prestige (he had lost and failed to recover one of the Silmarils), and above all in mind. 

He had become absorbed in kingship, and though a tyrant of ogre-size and monstrous power, this was a vast fall even from his former wickedness of hate, and his terrible nihilism. 

He had fallen to like being a tyrant-king with conquered slaves, and vast obedient armies.


Tolkien here seems to be referring to the weakening of power and prestige of the demiurgic evil Melkor, of a fallen 'god' - no less, (lower case god - a god not The God) to the state of petulance and petty vengefulness of Morgoth at the end of the First Age - still enormously large and strong and imposing, but a shrunken, blackened, maimed thing compared with his past glory. 

Perhaps Tolkien was also alluding here to the decline of the glorious and shining supreme angel Lucifer to the modern depictions of a goat-like incarnate 'devil'?


Throughout this I kept drawing parallels with the trajectory of evil through stages of increasingly advanced nihilism, as described by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose in his book 'Nihilism'

and therefore about the trajectory of Leftism from its earlier (e.g. Marxist/ Sauron) aspirations for totalitarian power, to its current (political correctness/ Morgoth) state of irrational nihilistic destruction - culminating in destruction-turned-upon itself - i.e. 'suicide'. 


Friday, 5 August 2011

Galley Slaves


One of the most recent forms of European slavery were galley slaves.

I was not aware of this until I read the essay by C.S Lewis's brother Warnie (Warren Hamilton Lewis) in Essays Presented to Charles Williams (which was the original publication of Tolkien's essay/ lecture On Fairy Stories). The essay was later included in Warnie's delightful book The Splendid Century: life in the France of Louis XIV.

Galley slavery was one of the most extreme and brutal forms of slavery - using men as motors until they died.

Warnie explains how expediency (?necessity) drove the French Monarchy into doing this in response - mostly - to the terrible problem of North African piracy in the Mediterranean. In effect, France used slaves (mostly convicts, but also Huguenots) to prevent its own subjects being captured and enslaved.

Barbary pirates could not be defeated by sailing ships, and apparently volunteer oarsmen were tried and were unforthcoming, or found wanting.

A similar dilemma was faced in the West Indies where African slaves were used in agriculture. When slavery was abolished in the British Empire the plantation owners could no longer survive economically and were compelled to introduce indentured labourers from India (a system rather like military service: these were contractually time-limited slaves who were freed after a certain number of years. After which they often went on to adopt middle class jobs.)


The point is that - for a given population and a given task - some things are possible with slaves that are not possible without them. Hence there is an intrinsic tendency for slavery to return except if it is continually and actively suppressed; as has been obvious around the world over the past several decades.

Once the will to eliminate slavery at any cost had dissipated, and once that the wish to eliminate slavery was no longer backed-up by overwhelming force (i.e. the British Empire collapsed or was dismantled) - then naturally the institution of slavery returned wherever it was expedient (i.e. in agriculture based, pre-industrial societies).

Instead of eliminating slavery, the Western powers now support it (albeit indirectly). So obviously there is a lot more of it.


Vengefulness and literature - e.g. Saul Bellow


One of the dismaying facts about literature, which emerges from studying it, is the extent to which it seems motivated - and is certainly permeated - by vengefulness.

In other words quite a lot of art appears to be motivated by the desire for revenge.

For example, the novels of Saul Bellow seem to be exceptionally motivated by the desire to get-back-at various real life persons. In terms of quality, I would regard Bellow as having one of the finest prose styles of the 20th century - quite intoxicating. But the human motivations driving his books seem exceptionally negative and petty.

As I understand it, the desire for revenge is the opposite of forgiveness, and is therefore completely prohibited - and it does not make any difference to this prohibition whether the vengefulness is open or covert: writing a revenge-motivated Roman a Clef (in which you dissect and demolish disguised versions of ex-wives, nasty bosses and unstrustworthy friends) is prohibited.

The prohibition is especially necessary because it is so enjoyable to indulge in this kind of covert revenge - and at the same time it is completely deniable when done well.

I know. I've done it, and not once. As sins go, it was deliciously enjoyable and (in worldly terms) consequence free to 'get back at' people who had (as I felt) betrayed, oppressed or simply annoyed me. Had I the genius of Bellow and the magnitude of his readership  it would no doubt have been vastly more pleasurable.

Which is precisely why vengefulness is so utterly corrupting - and why I cannot get through a Bellow novel these days.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Christianity and Politics - Trailing my coat before distributists/ distributism...


In my posting yesterday (on Christianity and Slavery)

I included the following sentence:

"all attempts to link Christianity with specific economics are mistaken".

This was me trailing a coat before (i.e. seeking to provoke a reaction from) distributists, some of whom have been known to read the blog.

While I personally am quite strongly drawn to distributist ideas, as a look at my bookshelves would make clear, and I am aware that they are part of Roman Catholic teaching - in some strands, at least - I think the Chesterbellocian link to Christianity is mistaken.

I also think that a distributist economic system is semi-modern (neither ancient nor modern - in-between), hence a transitional state for human society, hence non-viable in the ong term.

Am I wrong?


Artistic geniuses of the soul-drainingly ugly


For more than a century now the bulk of talented artists, writers and creatives in general have been providing us with first rate soul-poison.

The reflection was forced upon me for the ten-thousandth time by browsing through a book of Mervyn Peake's illustrations. On the one hand they were superb drawings, on the other hand each and every one of them drained my vitality and filled me with despair.


In this respect, Peake is simply representative of most of the best workers in the arts for a long time.

And, like the others, the despair induced by Peake's work is not a means to some greater end, it leads us down into an abyss and leaves us there...

Peake's universe portrayed in the Gormenghast novel (depicted in words and visually, with tremendous skill and flair) is that good characters are weak and self-deceiving fools, while strong characters are selfish, sadistic nihilists - live is purposeless, meaningless and each of us is alone in it.

And this is the same for most of the most admired works in literature, drama, movies and representative art generally.


Look around you!

Never in history has so much human ability, hard work and creativity been devoted to convincing people that ability, hard work and creativity are futile.

Never has so much moralizing zeal been devoted to the destruction of morality.

Never has so much bold, uncompromizing realism been devoted to depicting the meaninglessness of truth.

Never has so much aesthetic judgment been devoted to the annihiliation of beauty.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Christianity and slavery


Is Christianity anti-slavery?

It was, of course, Christians that originated the abolition movement. Specifically in England - first Quakers, then evangelical Anglicans. Without Christianity (and the British Empire), slavery would still be accepted and widespread.

Yet, of course, since abolition did not arise until around 1800, so, for a reactionary the question answers itself: Christianity is not intrinsically against slavery.


Slavery was an almost universal feature of settled societies, and until around 1800 in England nobody argued that slavery was intrinsically unjest (although nobody wanted to be a slave themselves, as an ideal; although it might be the best available option in some situations). There were, however, plenty of religious arguments that slaves ought to be well treated, if possible.

Of course, slavery is a conitinuum, which makes it hard to discuss and possible to deny. At one extreme lies the irreversible ownership of humans and the ability of the slave owner to do anything whatsover to the slave with no social sanction of any sort. On the way to that are forms of reversible slavery (buying or winning freedom), time-limited slavery (indenture, military conscription), or partial slavery (serfdom).

Certainly there is a wide range of how well slaves have been treated - in the Northern Americas slaves had families and the slave population grew while in the Southern Americas they were (at least initially) worked to death and needed continual replacement from Africa. There is little evidence left of the vast numbers of white slaves taken to the Middle East.

Secular regimes have slavery. Communism reintroduced slavery on a massive scale, but secretly and under other names and justifications; which meant that the slaves could be (and were) as harshly treated as any in world history. National Socialism also reintroduced slavery.


But Christianity as such has little to say about slavery, or indeed any other political or economic arrangements. Most people in most societies through history have been extremely poor, worked long hours and were semi-starving for 'Malthusian' reasons; under such circumstances when there is not enough, clearly Christianity cannot insist on any minimum standard of living or comfort for slaves - or, indeed, for anyone else.

(Hence, all attempts to link Christianity with specific economics are mistaken.)

Christianity (I think this is fair to say) is intrinsically in favour of 'decent' treatment for slaves: slaves ought to be treated as people having immortal souls and free will (and not as animals), and with decent treatment conceptualized such that slaves are able satisfactorily to practice their religion - to be a good Christian in accordance with how that is conceptualized.

Therefore Christian treatment of slaves is more about Time than Conditions: sufficient time must be be available for slaves (like everyone else) to engage in prayer, to participate in Church services and sacraments, the reading of scripture, festivals, fasts, feasts, pilgrimages - or whatever is deemed necessary to be a Christian.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Natural selection and me


From May 1994, I added evolutionary theory to psychiatry as my main spontaneous, inner-driven scientific interest.

I have published one evolutionary theory related to aging:

And some others relating to psychiatry, two of the best of which are:

Currently I am enjoying working on a book chapter on the evolution of the 'systemizing' trait in relation to Simon Baron Cohen's Empathizing-Systemizing; Female-Male brain ideas (he is an editor of the planned book).

I have also written on the selection process itself (see Appendix):

So it is clear that I get considerable satisfaction from reasoning within the paradigm of Natural Selection.


My attitude is that I regard Natural Selection as potentially but not necessarily the truth, and not the whole truth - because in applying natural selection I am assuming (while I am actually engaged in the reasoning process) that Natural Selection can provide the correct answers and that the assumptions of natural selection are indeed applicable to the situation at hand - which may or may not be correct, but the correctness of which is outwith the system that is the theory of natural selection.


Having partly synthesized, partly discovered and partly created these theories; what then is their status?

Certainly my natural tendency is to assume that they are first true and secondly relevant. It is easy to get carried away with this!

But on reflection I am sometimes aware of a pluralism of alternative explanations for phenomena.

For example, after my explanation of the malaise theory as an explanation of depressed mood -

- I formally modified this by adding another four types of depression, causes of depressed mood:


And the method by which one might distinguish these was very 'pragmatic' - essentially the trial and error, pragmatic approach of looking at signs and symptoms and introspecting about inner sensations before-and-after trying various treatments - to see if they seemed to work.

In the end, I think this always ought to happen in relation to science - whether theoretical science or experimental science: the bottom line validation is and ought-to-be individual human judgment.

If or when human judgment is not possible, then science has not been validated; yet of course human judgment is fallible - so the validation of science can never be any better than individual human judgment.

(And if - as often - this is not one's own individual judgment, then it is or ought to be the individual judgment of someone whom one judges to have better judgment than oneself in this domain - or, the judgment of an individual whose judgment is vouched for by another individual whose judgment one judges to be better - and so on!).


At the bottom of all this is necessarily trust - and trust is a voluntary act that depends on judment of the motivation of others.

And what is the necessary motivation that ought to be rewarded by trust?

The motivation to seek The Good - i.e. a transcendentally-orientated motivation to seek Truth, Beauty and Virtue in Unity.

The corollary of this is that when people are not seeking the Good, there can be no grounds for trust in the judgment of these people; therefore no valid knowledge - including no science.


(Dishonesty is a pervasive state, dishonesty permeates like a metallic alloy, it is not added like chrome trim bolted-onto steel. Thus it is seldom possible to tease-out truth from the communications of a person who is not even trying to be honest. It is not worth attempting. It is a hazardous enterprise at many levels. People who are pervasively dishonest must be understood as a vet diagnoses, not as a doctor diagnoses.)


A world without people motivated to seek the Good - a nihilistic world - is a world where there can be no real science.

And in such a world, evolutionary theorizing is merely a Glass Bead Game - a sophisticated distraction for intellectuals.

(So I hope there are at least some people motivated to seek the Good, or else I have been and still am wasting my time - albeit pleasantly.)


Monday, 1 August 2011

Bruce Charlton Sacked and the nature of Google fame


Looking at the prompts on Google searches, and leaving aside the contamination from a famous Golf Course designer with the same name, my distinctive fame rests on either being sacked from the editorship of Medical Hypotheses, or from having a Blog.

But the ranking of results in Google is done by humans, not by algorithms, and the rankings are rather strange.

Typing Bruce Charlton produces an immediate prompt of the words 1. Newcastle (1 380 000 results), 2. Sacked (912 000) and 3. Wiki (1 400 000).

Why is sacked second when it has fewer results than Wiki, I wonder - and what the heck does 'Wiki' mean in this context?

Then typing Bruce Charlton and simply adding a space gives a slightly different ranking of prompts - why?: 1. Newcastle (1 380 000), 2. Blog (2 070 000), and 3. Sacked (912 000).

I cannot understand why adding a space should change the prompts, I cannot understand why Blog only appears after adding a space, and I cannot understand why Newcastle should appear above Blog.

Considering that some human being did this, I just don't get the underlying rationale - it is not algorithmic, it is not based on distinctiveness, it is not random - what is it?.


Discerning mixed-Evil from mixed-Good


This is the really tough proposition in the world today.

Of course the line between Good and Evil runs through every human heart (Solzhenitsyn) - but it used to be possible to identify Good and Bad institutions in terms of their aims and the preponderance of their activities; and to support the basically-Good against the essentially-Evil.

Either we aren't very good at this now, or else things are more mixed up plus there is less good; there are fewer people who are even trying to live by the Good. It has become acceptable to attack and subvert the Good in pursuit of the 'Better'.

(i.e. What we have  is inevitably imperfect; and this is used as a reason to attack what we have - even or especially those Good aspects of what we have - because to do otherwise would be, 'complacently', to accept evil.)


OK but what should we do?

My feeling is that each should seek to discern what is essentially evil, what is pursuing evil as its basic activity - and we should fight it, or if not fight then try not to support it, or if not able to withdraw support then at least cooperate minimally (slowly, inefficiently, ineffectively) with it.

(i.e. Pursue a transcendental and moral version of the Good Soldier Svejk strategy - while continually looking around for counter-Good to which support might be granted. This strategy can be combined with a greater humility - since it entails being regarded as a simpleton and fool).

Finding positive things to support is the most difficult, since it is (surely) better to do nothing than to aid that which has (like everything) good aspects but is essentially evil.

(This is pretty much what is meant by the Antichrist - that which masquerades under a guise of some Christ-like attributes - but which is essentially subversive of Christ: things like communism and political correctness, or anti-Christian Christian-heresies.)


The conclusion, as I see it, is that this is - ought to be - a period of mystical activity, of prayer and humility, and not much of direct action.

(This conclusion has many other reasons as well as this one: I feel sure that it is correct. Our activities should be directed at sanctity. When heart, head and body [roughly soul, intellect and instinct] are severed apparently without much chance of re-unification, then we need to enhance the heart; and not the head or the body. When the heart is re-built, then - but only then - can the head and body return.)