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Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 | 4 comments

Dangers in Designating “Monsters”

Dangers in Designating “Monsters”

We live in a world of monstrous acts; where teenage girls are kidnapped, shots are fired on university campuses, suffering is seen as a form of entertainment, young children are prey to adult perversions, and the list goes on. I myself, as much as anyone, want to be able to claim that these events are evil. But, I have also noticed a tendency both in myself and others when doling out judgment on the monstrous actions. We designate the monsters in our midst. And, this designation leads to significant dangers. First, a monster becomes something other than us. The term “monster” derives from the Latin monstrum, which points to something unnatural or mutated from its natural state. A monster is something we are not. It allows a separation between who WE are and who THEY, the monsters, are. There is in this a loss of the commonality of humanity, be it in the fact that we are the same species or more profoundly that we are, all of us, image bearers...

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Posted by on May 29, 2014 | 4 comments

I’m a White A** Cracker: A Case Study in Privilege

I’m a White A** Cracker: A Case Study in Privilege

(Please note that this post originally contained explicit reference to racist language which I have censored after a friend raised concerns about it. )  “So, what’s the deal with ‘cracker’ as an insult anyway? It just seems kind of silly.” My roommate asked me this question as he was driving me to the airport. I can’t remember how the subject came up. I couldn’t answer him as to the etymology of the word (here’s an NPR article if you’re curious), but it struck me that he was right – “cracker” just seemed sort of limp. It’s a racial slur directed against white people, but it didn’t really have any sting for me, or for my roommate, it just seemed goofy. It’s a striking contrast if you compare it to the force of the word “n*****” if I were black. This contrast is a painful illustration of the realities of racial privilege. Discussion of privilege, many of you will be aware, is common amongst minority pundits and quite frequently ignored, or...

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Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 | 0 comments

Can Promises Be Trusted?

Can Promises Be Trusted?

In the recent past or near future over half the contributors to this blog will have made some of the most important promises of their lives in the form of wedding vows. Wedding vows promise some big things. Not only are you promising to be on your best behavior, but you are committing your whole self to this fallible person across from you, as well as taking their self to be your own. You are making promises about things you cannot foresee or even, likely, fathom. You are also making these promises with the awareness that many before have reneged on these identical vows. To be honest, as I prepare to utter these vows myself, I wonder what the hell I’m getting myself into. Can promises and those making them be trusted? Can I mean what I say when I have no idea what the future holds? J.L. Austin, in his essay “Other Minds,” addresses my questions quite directly. In his discussion of human certitude and claims of knowledge,...

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Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 | 0 comments

In vino veritas

In vino veritas

This week, I had the delicious pleasure of re-watching Dr. Strangelove, and reading Roger Scruton’s I Drink Therefore I Am.   Scruton opens his book on philosophy and wine with the line “Throughout recorded history human beings have made life bearable by taking intoxicants.” He goes on to say: For if society is sometimes threatened by intoxicants, it is equally threatened by the lack of them.  Without their aid we see each other as we are, and no human society can be built on so frail a foundation.  The world is besieged by destructive illusions, and recent history has made us aware of them, so wary that we forget that illusions are sometimes beneficial.  Where would we be without the belief that human beings can face down disaster and swear undying love?  But such a belief persists only if renewed in imagination, and how can this occur if we have no escape route from the evidence?  The need for intoxicants is therefore deeply embedded in us, and all attempts...

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Posted by on Jun 18, 2013 | 10 comments

The Poet and the Philosopher: Enemies or Allies?

The Poet and the Philosopher: Enemies or Allies?

As The Sound of Music’s Maria Rainer once advised, “let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start”. In the tradition of Western philosophy, to which this blog pays obeisance, that beginning place is occupied by none other than the infamous, the illustrious, the (probably) sexist Plato. This Platonic primacy is true for sundry philosophical issues, not least the question of the nature and function of human language—a topic I have deigned to muse upon for approximately enough paragraphs to keep your rapt attention. While the case can (and likely has) been made that questions of the nature of language appear in all of Plato’s writings[1], his dialogues Cratylus and Gorgias address those themes explicitly which, had he had the opportunity to hashtag them, would’ve appeared with items like #howdowordsmeanthings, #onomatopoeiarules and #sophistryismynemesis. It is my contention that the arguments of these two dialogues, while they appear to be in direct opposition to each other, are actually consistent. In Cratylus, Socrates (Plato’s mouthpiece) argues that words...

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