The PoMoXian

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If we redescribe the world well enough, will we begin to change our behaviors?

Quotes and commentary on good reads.

September 18, 2014 at 1:09pm

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If Killing is the Same as Letting Die, then basic Marxism is Justified.

In my Bioethics class, we recently worked through James Rachels’ Active and Passive Euthanasia, in which it is argued that the 

  • act of killing and 
  • act of letting die

are morally indistinguishable (and so if we allow for passive euthanasia, we should allow for active euthanasia).

Killing = Letting Die

Among the lines of argumentation for this point is a thought experiment wherein we image two terrible people, Jones and Smith, who stand to receive a sizable inheritance if a child, the current heir, is to pass away.

Both Jones and Smith share the same motivations and outcomes but 

  • Jones actively drowns the child, making it look like an accident
  • Smith witnesses the child slipping, bumping her head, and falling face-down in a tub and does nothing (but could easily and quickly saved the heiress).

Rachels claims that his case demonstrates that the killing/letting die distinction of the case determines its moral outcome, but the motivations and outcomes.

Most of the students were strongly persuaded by this (as am I).

If Killing is the Same as Letting Die, then basic Marxism is Justified.

I asked the students what the implications were if killing were the same as letting die.  Restated, I pressed them to answer: 

  • What are the implications on a social level, if letting someone die is equal to killing them?

If we let people die by not ensuring that they have their basic needs met (however defined), then that must be the same as actively killing them.

And if it is morally wrong to actively kill the unproductive, then it follows that the notion that 

from each according to their ability (production)
to each acffcording to their needs

seems to be a necessary moral obligation.

December 4, 2013 at 2:31pm

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What is the Bible? →

A fantastic series by Bell.


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MICHAEL GUNGOR On The Problem With The Christian Music Industry →

December 3, 2013 at 9:44am

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"Christian Worldview as Bounded Inquiry

I’ve been reading Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism by Molly Worthen.  I’m only 20% of the way through it thus far, but it’s been a great read on the history of Evangelicalism with a focus on the various (conflicting) authorities the (thus far) early Evangelicals tried to honor and how they coped, remixed, and reacted to those various authorities.

The Cult of the Christian Worldview

Peter Enns, one of my scholarly heroes, has just finished the book and gives a discusison of Worthen’s conclusions. He quotes Worthen as saying:

Evangelicals are idealists, yes. They are also pragmatists. They talk so much of the “Christian worldview” because they believe in it–but also because it is a powerful rhetorical strategy. It curtails debate, justifies hardline politics, and discourages sympathetic voters from entertaining thoughts of moderation or compromise….

The anti-intellectual inclinations in evangelical culture stem not from wholehearted and confident obedience to scripture, or the assurance that God will eventually corral all nonbelievers, but from deep disagreements over what the Bible means, a sincere desire to uphold standards of modern reason alongside God’s word–and the defensive reflexes that outsiders’ skepticism provokes. The cult of the Christian worldview is one symptom of the effort by many evangelical leaders to fold competing sources of authority into one, to merge inference with assumptions. The evangelicals who adopt this soft presuppositionalism hope that it might prove to be a viable political currency, one that can buy cultural capital where proof texts and personal testimony fail.

These habits of mind have crippled evangelicals in their pursuit of what secular thinkers take to be the aims of intellectual life: the tasks of discovering new knowledge, creating original and provocative art, and puzzling out the path toward a more human civilization. When the neo-evangelicals set out to resuscitate the evangelical mind seventy years ago they shared these goals, but they also harbored another set of ambitions. The purpose of Christianity Today or the Evangelical Theological Society was not to unite conservative Protestants and earn secular intellectuals’ respect for the sake of unity and respect alone. Cultural influence was a means to an end: the ultimate end of converting the world–in heart, mind, and action–to Christ.

THAT gives voice, vocabulary, and explicitness to what I’ve seen, felt, thought, experienced wrestled with, etc. the last 20 years of my life.

Worldview as Metanarrative

At the same time, however, the naked notion of a Christian Worldview doesn’t seem implicitly problematic.  I have a worldview, a metanarrative that orients and infuses my world with meaning, as well as provides me with a set of “givens” with which I live, move, and find my being.

And this is a good thing, an inescapable thing.

Everything, everyone, operates within metanarratives. Our metanarrative is our coherence.

As a person who teaches world religions at the college level, a discussion of metanarratives and their giving of the givens, their coherence, and the problem of judging the merits of one metanarrative from inside a different metanarrative is one of the most helpful tools I have in teaching students how to understand and respect the other without demanding they us or us becoming them.

And thus I wrestled with the end of Worthen’s work.

Worldview as Bounded Inquiry

BUT, I don’t think that Worthen is using Worldview the same way that I, as a post-conservative post-evangelical anti-realist linguistic pragmatist uses the word.

Instead, Worthen is using “Christian Worldview” as a set of gatekeepers in Christian thought and inquiry, chief among which is Inerrancy.

The Public Transcript must be Sanitized

Instead of chasing after “truth” for truth’s sake, Christians have to operate within a bounded set of questions and answers.  If they find a question or an answer that is out of those bounds, a problem occurs.  

Somehow, someway, the public transcript must be sanitized, must be cleansed, or the whole fabric threatens to unravel. 

So, the questions, the answers, or the person must be expunged.

And that is what I think Worthen is talking about when she talks about the “Christian Worldview”.

And that is why our inquiry, the intellectual air we breathe, is so malformed, so toxic, so backwards, so… small.

And that is one of the reasons why I’m leaving Evangelicalism, at least for a time, to see what the air is like within other Christian camps.

October 15, 2013 at 8:48am

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According the The Oatmeal “this guy” was Bartolomé de las Casas, a 16th-century Spanish missionary perhaps best known for denouncing the Spanish treatment of American Indians and his call for the end of the Indian slave trade. Las Casas is also known for advocating the use of African slave labor to replace the lost work of the Indians. Like all historical figures, las Casas is a problematic character.

Recognizing this fact means acknowledging that the conquest and subsequent colonization of the Western Hemisphere were not a series of acts committed by bad people; they were, and are, indicative of a worldview of empire, ownership, and globalization that led to the destruction of many ways of life. It’s quite hard to find a figure who wasn’t somehow complicit.

October 13, 2013 at 10:15am

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As the sources of dignity and meaning of adulthood of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations—the daily toil of the shop floor, the making of a home and family—slip through their fingers, the young men and women I spoke with are working hard to remake dignity and meaning out of emotional self-management and willful psychic transformation.

— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 237-239. Kindle Edition

October 12, 2013 at 6:45pm

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Rather than turn to politics to address the obstacles standing in the way of a secure adult life, the majority of the men and women I interviewed crafted deeply personal coming of age stories, grounding their adult identities in recovering from their painful pasts—whether addictions, childhood abuse, family trauma, or abandonment—and forging an emancipated, transformed, and adult self (see Illouz 2007, 2008; Smith et al. 2011).

— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 234-237. Kindle Edition


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Adulthood is being dramatically reimagined along lines of work, family, relationships, intimacy, gender, trust, and dignity.

— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 207-208. Kindle Edition


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In emphasizing the sense of entitlement and freedom available to today’s middle-class young adults, much of the existing literature obscures the absence of choice that defines coming of age for working-class youth like Brandon and Diana.

— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 194-196. Kindle Edition

October 11, 2013 at 6:45pm

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my generation is slowly losing the stability hard-won by their grandparents and parents.

— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 44-44. Kindle Edition