Archive for March, 2012

Fate (Stoicism LS 55,62)

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

On the Nature of Fate

             The nature of free-will, the ability to make our own choices is typically defined like this: if you had the ability to do other than you did, you have free will. I sit on a chair, at a table, typing this out; I had the ability to not be here typing this. I freely chose to do so. Or did I? It at least felt like I chose it, I mean there are social causes around where I am sitting doing this. For instance, I wouldn’t be here if Gwendolyn wasn’t at school. I wouldn’t be typing this idea out if I wasn’t in school taking a class on Stoicism, etc.

            These are mere causes which lead to choices. Causes precede their effects, that much is a rule of logic. I don’t have to be here out of some aspect of necessity, only that of convenience. The chain of causes gives me the choice but it does not force me here. Looking backward it may seem that all of our choices were connected. I wouldn’t be where I am, if every choice in my history wasn’t decided as it was my exact token situation at this moment in time wouldn’t be the same. Yet looking back it seems as though everything were decided, as if there is such a thing as fate.

            “The Stoics [describe fate as] a sequence of causes, that is, an inescapable ordering and inter-connexion;[1]” it is this inter-connexion that gives us the impression of a fatalistic universe that one cannot escape. It’s also important to note the nature of cause according the Stoics. Causes, for them, are always corporeal for indeed everything in the Stoic outlook does. If we remember that the Stoics also subscribe to a mechanistic, “designed” universe, we can say that a notion of determinism becomes a necessary feature of their universe.

            The Stoic outlook on existence runs like this: they have the divine, that which they call “god.” This divine creates the substantial universe, for it too is substantial (for the Stoics all things are substantial). As the divine causes the universe to come to be it sets in motion the laws of physics. These laws are causal in nature, once the ball is rolling down the hill it has to continue down the hill until a different force acts upon it. All things that are, are subject to the laws of physics.

            This is fate. We should be careful to distinguish two types of fate, “fate” is not the fate of superstition, but that of physics, the everlasting cause of all things.[2] Given that these laws are unbreakable nothing that happens can happen outside of them. The causes which give rise to effects in turn cause new effects to happen, and on and on, thus binding everything in a divine unity.[3]It is this unity which gives us the hard determinism of the Stoic universe.

            While it may seem a bitter pill to swallow this determinism is the logical consequence of the designed universe. Nothing can escape the design of the world, “they too (Zeno and Chrysippus) affirmed that everything is fated…[4]

            The choices we make, while seemingly made by us are matters of fate. We may feel that we make them but we could not have done otherwise.

[1] Aetius LS 55 J

[2] Cicero On Divination, LS 55 L

[3] Alexander LS 55 N

[4] Hipploytus Refutation of all Heresies LS 62 A

Categories: Uncategorized

The Metareview of the “The Second Sex”

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been awhile since i have done a book review, and it will continue to be awhile because this isn’t a book review. It’s a review of three reviews of the new translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s landmark “The Second Sex.” This was one of the stranger things i had to write, and for most people this will be too long to read but here it goes anyway:

Sex, Translated

            Between the three reviews of the new translation of “The Second Sex” they can agree on one thing: the new edition is superior to the Parshley translation in the effect that it is a complete version. The reviews all note that Parshley’s translation leaves roughly 15 percent of the French original on the cutting room floor. To be fair though, they all note that the cuts were made at the behest of the publisher and were not Parshley’s decision. The BMC translation is a literal translation of the entire book. It is universally acknowledged that this is a distinct advantage.

It is unfortunate that this seems, in the eye of Moi—at least—to be the only advantage. Toril Moi’s review is easily the most devastating. Moi herself, was a critic of the original translation writing that a new translation was needed to correct the errors in the Parshley. To understand the need for a new translation we must ask ourselves, “is the original translation that bad?”

From the start the original book was a bit controversial. As Moi points out, “The Vatican put the book on the Index (which might be considered a badge of honor for some); Albert Camus accused her of having made the French male look ridiculous;[1]” given the Catholicism of France and the intellectual weight of Camus the book is going to have a bit of an uphill climb to begin with. None of those charges seemed to stick with the public, the book was a surprise best seller.

The original book was incorrectly seen as a sex manual, a “New Kinsey report,” when the rights were purchased for an English translation. Parhsely, a zoologist, was hired to make the translation. If, the book was an intellectual Sex manual, or a new Kinsey Report, this decision would have made sense. However, “The Second Sex” was not either of these. That this fact was not picked up by the publisher until the translation was underway explains a good deal of the errors in translation (although the cuts are a different story). For instance as Sarah Glazer writes in “Lost in Translation:” “More damning, when Parshley encountered existentialist terms for existence — such as pour-soi, or ”being-for-itself” — vis-à-vis women’s lives, he often rendered them as woman’s ”true nature” or feminine ”essence,” notions that would have been anathema to Beauvoir, according to Moi. ”The idea of existentialism is ‘experience precedes essence.’ Existentialism means ‘You are what you do,’ ” she says.[2]

            The errors can be traced to the translator not being exercised in philosophy or existentialism, he had “never translated a book from French, and relied mainly on his undergraduate grasp of the language.[3]

            Of course, it is obvious that in translating a work from one language to another, a literal translation is going to have some difficulties. The rules of language, syntax, and grammar are different. When you add to those particular issues a subject that has its own terminology, that possesses unique uses of familiar words and phrases, we get the problems in the Parshley translation.

            The BMC translation was commissioned to rectify the issue of the editing and the issue of the translation. Beauvoir, herself, tried to distance her name from the original translation after the errors were pointed out to her. The publisher, Knopf (who ordered the cuts based on Beauvoir’s tendency to ramble in their opinion), ignored the request. To be fair to them, Beauvoir did ignore requests for consultation.[4]

            Can the BMC translation, though, rectify these issues? More importantly can it live up to the expectations of the people clamoring for a new edition? Short answer: no.

            The case in point it Toril Moi’s devastating criticism of the new edition. Moi takes issues with several points in the language and meaning of the BMC edition, that she claims are evidence of a problem endemic to the whole work. For instance, the French original is:

            “Ne commencez jamais le marriage par un viol”

Literally this translates as: “Never begin marriage by rape.”

BMC has this as: “Never begin marriage by a violation of the law.”

            While French law certainly outlaws rape, this is neither the meaning nor the spirit of the law. Somali activist, and former Netherlands Parliamentarian Member Hirsi Ali once referred to arranged marriage as organized rape. If we uphold her opinion on the matter, we can see de Beauvoir’s point, it’s not about the law it’s about consent. The woman’s assent to the marriage being important.

            There are other translation issues point out by all of the reviewers as being incorrect, in each case I have added the literal translation of the French according to Google:


French: C’est au sein du monde donné qu’il appartient à l’homme de faire triompher le règne de la liberté; pour remporter cette suprême victoire il est entre autres nécessaire que par delà leurs différenciations naturelles hommes et femmes affirment sans équivoque leur fraternité.


Literal: It is within the given world that belongs to man to overcome the reign of freedom; to win the supreme victory is especially necessary that beyond their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.


BMC: Within the given world, it is up to man to make the reign of freedom prevail; to carry off this supreme victory, men and women must, among other things and above and beyond their natural differentiations, affirm their brotherhood unequivocally.


“Normalement, elle peut toujours être prise par l’homme, tandis que lui ne peut la prendre que s’il est en état d’érection; sauf en cas d’une révolte aussi profonde que le vaginisme qui scelle la femme plus sûrement que l’hymen, le refus féminin peut être surmonté; encore le vaginisme laisse-t-il au mâle des moyens de s’assouvir sur un corps que sa force musculaire lui permet de réduire à merci.”


Literal: Normally, it can always be made by man, while he can not take it if it is in the flaccid state, except in case of a revolt as deep as vaginismus that seals the woman more surely than the hymen, female rejection can be overcome; vaginisums yet he leaves the male means to satisfy a body muscle strength enables him to reduce to mercy.”


BMC: “Ordinarily she can be taken at any time by man, while he can take her only when he is in the state of erection; feminine refusal can be overcome except in the case of a rejection as profound as vaginismus, sealing woman more securely than the hymen; still vaginismus leaves the male the means to relieve himself on a body that his muscular force permits him to reduce to his mercy.”


On a discussion of prostitution there is an indication of contextual issues:


French: faire de l’abbattage

Literal: to slaughter

BMC: to slaughter


Moi, in her review makes it clear that the context of the phrase is missing. “Faire de l’abbattage” in the context of prostitution means to get through customers quickly. While that can bring us an image of a slaughterhouse, that only works if we understand what the French words are: the metaphor becomes lost.

The source of the trouble is best explained by Nancy Bauer’s review, “the translators of the new version often sacrifice readability and clarity in favor of a highly unidiomatic word-by-word literalism that hampers the flow of Beauvoir’s prose and often obfuscates its meaning.[5]

            Not all is lost however in the new edition however. It does display some improvements on the old translation, for instance:

Parshley: “It follows that woman sees herself and makes her choices not in accordance with her true nature in itself but as man defines her.”

BMC: “It follows that woman knows and chooses herself not as she exists for herself but as man defines her.”


            Translation issues aside what is the main issue that those like Moi have with this. I reject the assertion in the comments of Moi’s review that she is merely expressing sour grapes. Even if the Ad Hominem were the case, Moi’s issue is that this edition is the scholarly edition that she desired. True, an annotated issue might come in at over a thousand pages, but an academic edition has a different purpose than a trade edition that is currently being offered, thus it ought to be not only more linguistically accurate but also, and more importantly, philosophically accurate.

            No translation, of any work of sufficient size, is going to satisfy everyone especially those like Moi who hold Beauvoir’s work in such high regard. What is important though is that the meaning carries through. In this respect neither edition is as su

[1] Moi, Toril: “The Adulteress Wife”

[2] Glazer, Sarah: “Lost in Translation”

[3] Romano, Carlin: “The Second ‘Second Sex”

[4] Glazer

[5] Bauer, Nancy; “The Second Sex”

Categories: philosophy

The Truth (New Moon Ch. 23)

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

So this one is again a week late, and I don’t have the excuse of having lost the book either. No, this to week’s post (actually last week’s) is hard to write. It’s hard because in writing these posts I try and say something interesting each update. Whether the section was extremely good or extremely bad, it doesn’t matter that actually makes the posts easier. The worse, for me to read, usually means the better for me to write. And there are two kinds of bad: there is the bad that is bad writing (choppy dialogue, sentence fragments, etc.) and there’s bad story telling (plot holes, contradictions, unbelievable events, etc.). This section is almost exclusively dialogue, which is promising when you consider that Meyer hasn’t shown any adeptness at writing dialogue. Sure, the nerds will all claim that she is horrible at everything but I have one thing to say to them:

Fuck you. I’ve read these damn books, and I know you’re wrong.

Meyer has what I call, “the Lucas/Whedon Conundrum.” This is when a person is pretty decent at setting up a big picture type story but then when it comes to populating it with characters who have to talk to each other things begin to fall apart. At least Michael Bay doesn’t think he’s creating art, unlike Lucas and Whedon. I guess I should prove this conundrum. Lucas is responsible for the universe of Star Wars and yet seems the need to throw in a muppet every once in awhile. He can wrangle incredible actors and then give them shit characters. Whedon gave us Alien: Resurrection. Bitch all you want and tell me that the final creature wasn’t his idea and I still won’t care, because that movie is a shot by shot remake of the Poseidon Adventure set in space with monsters. Nothing new or original in it.

Meyer’s got the same problem. Sure her universe isn’t as interesting as Lucas’ epic space battle, or Whedon’s hellmouths, but she’s got some potential here. It’s when the characters have to live in this world that becomes the problem, especially when it is essentially our world only with fantasy creatures. Bella’s reactions aren’t realistic for discovering and fraternizing with vampires and werewolves. What’s worse is that she isn’t even realistic as a normal person. And all of that is painfully realized in this chapter. That’s not even mentioning the return of Edward.

This chapter is titled the Truth, as if there were going to be some big reveal. Some fact that we don’t already know, or a twist that would explain everything. Let’s say Edward explains that he’s been working with Jacob all along to trap Victoria, it would be corny but it would at least be honest. Yet nothing in this chapter is anything like a reveal. All we are told is that Eddie left because he wanted Bella to live a normal happy human life. While he was gone he was learning to become a tracker (more on that in a little bit) but he sucked at it, so he left. Then the thing happened with Alice’s prophecy and we’re caught up. We also learn that Edward is going to committ suicide when Bella dies of old age in the future.Then the chapter ends with Bella and Edward confessing their love and that Bella wants to be a vampire.

Does any of that, aside from the suicide thing, sound like–ahem–SHIT WE ALREADY DIDN’T KNOW? No? That’s because the entire chapter is a recap of the fucking book. Remember three chapters ago when Bella rescued Edward (even though Alice would have been the smarter decision given her speed), and he didn’t believe it? Yeah, when Bella wakes up from sleeping they have the exact same conversation where one of them doesn’t believe they are alive. They even make the comment about how death isn’t so bad if the other one is there. The only difference is that the roles are reversed. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be clever or we are just at the point where shit needs to get wrapped up. It sucks in either case.

As I said earlier there are only two points of interest here and lets go with the suicide thing first. Edward claims that he won’t live in a world without Bella. Yeah that’s the type of boyfriend the young girls ought to pine for, the emotionally manipulative ones. He flat out tells her that he’ll stick around until she dies of old age and then he’ll kill himself shortly after. She views this as romantic, but I don’t. It’s bullshit. Why? For two reasons and both are plot based. One is that the Volturri are going to come for Bella. They said so, Alice predicted it (even though her powers shouldn’t work on Bella), Bella isn’t dying of old age. Secondly, Edward comments that the Italians count the years like days, so what stops him from doing so. Yeah seventy years is a lot to Bella, but to Edward it’s nothing. And after she goes, he’s free to move on to another high school girl.

Secondly is Edward’s chosen other profession–that of Tracker. If we remember from last novel, James was a Tracker. This meant that he was able to hunt down and find Bella’s mother’s house with little to no knowledge of her beforehand. In fact, the Cullens were scared of her, and going back to that book there Edward yells at Alice, “he’s a tracker Alice, did you see that? he’s a tracker!”

Alright being a tracker is something you can see, but Edward is just going to do it? Is there a medal or something on his chest, a patch? Edward, as it turns out is pretty bad at it. Which is actually the highlight of the chapter, because finally there is something that this paragon of virtue and ability can’t do. It’s almost like character development. Almost. Because he is bad at it.

This is hard for me to write, but this is the one thing he should excel at. He has all of the senses of Wolverine, the speed of Quicksilver (I am not, nor ever was a DC guy), and the telepathy of Professor X. Yet in following Victorie he somehow ends up in Brazil. Victoria it should be noted has been travelling on foot and has spent a significant amount of time in this book in and around Forks. If he ever caught her scent, it should be impossible for him to lose it unless one of two things happened: either he didn’t care enough, or she was bitten by James Madrox of X-Factor. Given the latter’s impossibility only the former is left. Seriously, he ended up in Brazil. Of course if he wanted to protect Bella so badly he might have stuck around to deal with Laurent, but he let those shiftless werewolves do that didn’t he.

No, this chapter makes no sense. And like someone who is going to argue that the moon landing was faked, reason and coherency have no place. It would have been better if “The Truth” was in the asking of the question, “so why didn’t you just call me?” It really wouldn’t matter who asked the question or who answered it, as long as it was out there.

Categories: Uncategorized

Stoic Theology LS 54

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

According to Diogenes, god is an animal, rational, immortal; perfect in happiness, not admitting of any evil, provident towards the world, and importantly is not an anthropomorphic identity that is common to the mythology of the Greek world. The names given to god, “Zeus,” “Hera,” “Athena,” etc. are not gods per se but are mere reflections of the various attributes of god.[1] The lack of personality points to a conception that god’s power is in divine reason, as god itself is the world’s commanding faculty, with “god” being the world itself and the common nature of all things. We can compare this basic sketch of gods characteristics with Aristotle who also rejects the mythological gods for one of a different sort. In Metaphysics he remarks, “We say therefore that God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous and eternal belong to God; for this is God.[2]” Aristotle, in agreement with the Stoics also claims that “Our forefathers in the most remote ages have handed down to their posterity, a tradition, in the form of myth, that these bodies are gods (the heavenly spheres, planets and stars) and the divine encloses the whole of nature. The rest of the tradition has been added later in mythical form with a view to the persuasion of the multitude and to its legal and utilitarian expediency.[3]

            The importance of Aristotle’s “legal and utilitarian expediency” is not lost on Cicero. We must remember that “De Natura Deorum” is a debate between the three dominant schools of Rome: Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Cicero’s own Academic school. While they disagree on the nature of the gods (hence the title) there is an awareness of the danger in concluding there is nothing of a divine nature which could possibly cause the “trust and social bond between men and the uniquely pre-eminent virtue of justice will disappear.[4]

            While the Epicurean vision of a universe without gods goes first it is Balbuos who responds with the Stoic argument. He quickly offers four reasons to believe in the gods, predicated on the assumption that “the main point is agreed among all men of all races. For all have it inborn and virtually engraved in their minds that there are gods.” He admits that the opinions may differ on particulars but “that they exist no one denies.[5]” While an argument ad populum is troubling ground to build a proof from, the Stoic argument also relies on an inborn idea of the existence of the divine. It seems that even Balbus knows that these aren’t sufficient and moves towards the empirical proofs:

I)                   The existence of divination seems to prove that there must be some kind of order and divinity to the universe.

a.       Objection: This is another ad populum argument, further, even Cicero himself doubts the accuracy of divination saying that its truth entails that “if the entrails foretell an increase in my fortune and they do so in accordance with some law of nature, then, in the first place, there is some relationship between them and the universe, and in the second place, my financial gain is regulated by the laws of nature.[6]

II)                Magnitude of benefits: The Romans enjoy a numerous amount of natural benefits from agriculture, weather, and climate.[7]

a.       Objection: This implies that these natural benefits are given to them because they worship correctly, neglecting the possibility that the Romans settled there because of the climate. It’s a chicken/egg argument.

III)             Power of Natural Events: Occurrences of nature are of such a power that they must occur under the direction of a more powerful force. i.e. lightening must be governed by something like a god for who else could do it.[8]

a.       Objection: Notes a lack of scientific understanding, and is an appeal to ignorance. It further presupposes that the events are not random. That a storm which sinks a ship is somehow the fault of the ship’s operators or divine will, not bad fortune.

IV)             Design argument: this last one is actually a popular argument still accepted and debated over. The Stoic argument is that as the universe operates according to a system of laws, no one would suppose that the laws are randomly generated and that the mechanistic operation of nature and the planets was not designed. It must therefore have a designer.[9]

a.       At LS 54 L, Cicero continues on with a discussion of Archimedes’ armillary sphere, and how even a British or Scythian would understand that it had to have a creator. He continues on that the sphere is a copy of the universe and that if there are no gods, then being a product of reason it is superior to the universe. [10]

b.      Objection: the Epicurean will ask some questions about why the design was made and such but it’s not a sufficient objection.[11]

V)                Sextus Empiricus argues that because men honor the gods the gods must exist.[12] Again it’s another ad populum argument.

VI)             Argument of Grade (related to the design argument but not contingent upon it): there are things in the world greater than man which could not have been created by them. What was created must be lesser than the creator, therefore the gods exist.[13]

a.       Objection: Another presupposition that it must have been gods that exist. The argument could easily prove that giants exist to create mountains.

VII)          Argument of Rationality: These two proofs (LS 45 F and G) are based on the underlying concept that what is rational is superior to the irrational.

a.       Zeno: claims the universe must be rational because it is the greatest thing, that rationality gives it divinity.[14]

                                                                          i.      Objection: does it work for poetical and non-poetical?

1.      Counter: no. Zeno’s sentiment refers to the absolutely superior. Further that “poetical” is an adjective, “rational” is a state of being.

b.      Zeno II: Rational cannot come from non-rational no more than musical cannot come from non-musical.[15]

                                                                          i.      \the gods exist Ú the universe is rational (which from the Stoic standpoint is essentially the same thing)

In Cicero’s treatise, Balbus argues second, responding to the Epicurean representative, Vellus. Briefly the Epicurean view is one that could be considered quasi-Deist. At the most they accept that a god or god-like being did exist at one point as a creative force (although some of the Epicurean thinkers deny even this)[16] but they hold no interest or cause any intervention in the world now. The Stoic argument that the created world needs a creator is likened by Vellus to be that of a poorly written tragedy in which a “Deus ex machine” is needed to resolve the plot hole,[17] while his school needs no such explanation: it just imply is.

Balbus counters the Epicurean/Democritean atomic view of being an accidentally created world, “does it not deserve amazement on my part that there should be anyone who can persuade himself that certain solid and indivisible bodies travel through the force of their own weight and that by an accidental combination of those bodies a world of the utmost splendor and beauty is created?[18]” Balbus’ argument is to assert the undesirable position of accepting a random and indifferent universe created by chance as the Epicurean school wishes to assert. This isn’t exactly a reductio ad absurdum argument but it’s close enough, in fact it’s still an argument used today. 

            If the Stoic argument is valid, then all of the universe takes place within the will of the divine. That implies that ay event which occurs happens within the scope of the divine. This leads to a debate regarding the existence of evil, perhaps being one of the early recordings of the “theodicy” question. How can a benevolent, powerful god, allow evil and misfortune to take place. Gellius offers an interesting take on the question by positing a Heraclitean/Taoist unity of opposite argument: that without the bad the good could not be defined.[19]

            By accepting the divine plan as being the source of the bad of the world, the Stoics are in fact endorsing a position that assumes responsibility for every action that happens in the world, “anything happens in the whole and in any of its parts it happens in accordance with universal nature and its reasons in unhindered sequence, because neither is there anything which could interfere with its government from outside for is there any way for any of the parts to enter any process or state except in accordance with universal nature.[20]” Nothing can operate against the divine or against nature, for how could that even be possible?

            This brings us to the notion of fate versus providence in the world. There are two conflicting schools of thought on this concept. Either providence and fate are one in the same, providence being the will of the divine, and as a series of causes it is called “fate.” The other option is that the very dictates of providence comes about by fate thus not everything that comes about by fate is a dictate of providence. In this regard it might be considered to be splitting hairs but are we willing to say that the life of a flower is dictated by providence and not just the mechanic causes of the universe?

[1] LS 54 A

[2] 1072b27-30

[3] 1074b1-6

[4] Cicero, De Natura Deorum 1.4

[5] LS 54 C

[6] Cicero, De Divinatione 2.14

[7] LS 54 C (3)

[8] LS 54 C (4)

[9] LS 54 C (5)

[10] LS 54 L

[11] LS 54 C (6)

[12] LS 54 D

[13] LS 54 E

[14] LS 54 F

[15] LS 54 G

[16] Vellus argues at De Natura Deorum I.45 for the assumed existence of the gods, but then later denies they have any role in the conduct of the world. He also questions at I.21 why the gods created the world, what took them so long in doing so, and argues in fact for the eternity of the world.

[17] NG I.53

[18] LS 54 M

[19] LS 54 Q

[20] LS 54 T

Categories: Uncategorized

Sex–now that I have your attention….

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

With all the recent talk about birth control and contraception with regard to healthcare, I thought I might offer a counter argument to those who think that the healthcare law somehow transgresses the rights of the Christian super majority in this country. I’m not going to explain how contraception works, or even discuss Limbaugh’s insipid comments on the subject. If you think that a person who uses contraception is a slut by virtue alone of using the contraception, we have nothing to discuss because YOU don’t understand how things work.

I also don’t want to get into the not-trivial-but-still-uncorrected problem of people claiming that our taxes are going to pay for birth control. This post is not going to be about that–although it bears mentioning that it’s private insurance companies that will be paying for birth control and not tax dollars, that was the whole problem a few years ago. No public option was passed, no socialized medicine–do these people think they lost that argument?

Anyway my problem with the whole issue is that if it weren’t about sex everyone would universally think that this whole fight is ludicrous. Yet because it’s about sex everything changes. Now a whole bunch of people that normally wouldn’t offer an opinion think that they need to weigh in.

Stripped of the particular details involved, the Christian argument (I’m not picking on them, it’s their argument: I haven’t heard any other religion or organization objecting) is that because they object to contraception they should get a special exception to the law so that their health insurance plan (Blue Cross right?) doesn’t have to pay for it. Essentially they want a conceintous objector status applied to them.

This despite the fact that many Catholic institutions already pay for health care that covers contraception for their employeess, such as Georgetown University, they now have an objection. I haven’t heard any opinions from the healthcare industry, but I’m sure they don’t have a strong opinion either way. On the one hand, they already cover the stuff so that doens’t matter. On the other hand, if they can not cover it but still charge the same then they make more profit, or they can adjust their premiums to reflect reduced cost which is a minor adjustment they have to make. While my views on religion are well known I have a different problem with this debate than the usual: stop imposing your values on the rest of us.

My problem is that I don’t want to have to research the moral philosophies of any employer that I apply to in order to determine if the health coverage is going to be sufficient. I assume that the general public doesn’t either, nor do they want to be unpleasantly surprised when they go for a doctor’s visit and get stuck with the bill because their organization objects to the treatment they are seeking.

There are a number of scenarios that we can come up with that the Catholic Church must in fact, endorse, if it is to remain consistent in its opposition to this bill* (I object to a good number of the positions of the Catholic Chruch but I will say this: they are entirely consistent in both their methodology and application of their morality).

Let’s say for instance, a person “John” gets a job as a printer for “The Watchtower,” the magazine of the Jehova’s Witnesses. After working passed the trial period he is on his way to work one morning and is involved in a pretty serious car accident. In order to save his life the paramedics give him a blood transfusion. Several months later he receives a bill for the transfusion, having discovered that due to a rather strict (and curious) reading of Leviticus, Genesis, and Acts; Jehova’s Witnesses have moral objections to blood transfusion. Given the moral objection clause being proposed, this would then mean that they do not have to pay for the transfusion. One could counter that this proposed scenario is a special case given the emergency nature. Obviously in order to save a life the transfusion would be permitted. If you make that exception, then you have to make the exception that insurance companies would have to pay for an abortion in a woman that has heart condition that would not allow her to carry a pregnancy to term. In both cases we have a life threatening situation that runs afoul of the morality of the employer.

Again though, these are life threatening situations that are rare, so they may not actually apply to what would be considered normal medical care. Due to the emergency state there may be allowed exceptions. Normal care, which contraception is considered needs a different example. If “John’s” employer though, is run by the church of the Christian Scientists we can easily slip normal care into the discussion. The Christian Scientist sect of Christianity is opposed to all medical treatment.

Members of this organization believe that as God is good nothing he created can be considered evil. Since sickness is an evil it cannot be considered a part of creation and thus isn’t real but rather a reflection of a deluded self through only which prayer can heal. Their entire doctrine is metaphysically shakey but without getting into a discussion of theology the issue at debate is whether their health insurance plan can be forced to cover normal medical treatment such as yearly physicals, flu shots, or anti-biotics given their moral opposition. In order to remain consistent, those that support the contraception exception would have to agree that the Christian Scientist  does not have to cover employee’s health care, or their plan will cover a cell phone that can only dial a prayer line.

Making the claim that these two organizations do not the have the right to exclude medical treatment they are morally opposed to but the Catholic Church is still allowed to refrain from covering contraception is arbitrary at best. What I ask is are we prepared to allow differing organizations to exclude medical practices that they are morally opposed to given the above two situations? It seems to me that the only way out of the argument is to either affirm it or give up the objection altogether. The issue isn’t so clear when sex isn’t involved. 

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Exodus (The New Moon Walkthrough Ch. 22)

March 7, 2012 Leave a comment

We’re back…unfortunately.

Recapping from last week’s summary: Bella, Alice, and Edward are walking out of the castle de vampire in the town of Volterra. Well not really, they’re walking out of the inner sanctum and back in to the real world where the building they were in transforms from the gray rock of a dungeon and into an ornate Renaissance mansion (or bank, or church, it’s never really explained what kind of building this is supposed to be). No matter what it is they have to wait in the lobby until the sun goes down. The receptionist is there which elicits some awkwardness for some reason. It’s kind of strange to me that there isn’t a special room that they can wait in, but given the fact that reflected light seems to have no effect on the sparkling I guess it really doesn’t matter. I don’t know, but after a few hours it just seems like they would have been better off in the dungeon, for reasons that will be clear in a few pages.

How is Bella? We’ll she’s hysterical. Although it’s unclear why she is so. One might say that she’s freaking out for having escaped so close her own death, but…that doesn’t work given her history in this novel and the last. Sure she was freaked out when she thought the wolves were going to eat her in the woods, but one good night sleep (that she had no trouble getting) and it was all in the past. She also approached the existence of werewolves with the stoic demeanor of the average person finding a five dollar bill in a jacket. Now, she’s hysterical? Bella, please. Nope, the only reason she’s like this is so that Edward can hold and comfort her. Is there a term for a condition wherein a person gets weaker around another?

How bad is she? Well she keeps hearing a rumbling noise that she can’t pinpoint, “The ripping sound was the sobs coming from my chest.”

Unless a small insect-like creature is going to burst through her rib cage I don’t see how this is realistic. I have a three year old daughter and even at her utmost hysterics (because we won’t play Mario Kart) she has never made a “ripping sound” when sobbing. I get that Myer wants us to believe how dangerous the situation was, but I just can’t buy it. It’s utterly inconsistent with her character thus far, but more importantly it’s utterly inconsistent with the very idea of the character even though that idea is never communicated through the writing. I mean, it is but it isn’t. We now how Bella perceives herself, but that perception is not reflective of the reality of her.

After being calmed down with some chaste kisses on the forehead Bella notices the human receptionist. The existence of the woman confuses her because apparently humans hanging around with vampires is wrong despite the fact that she is literally doing the same thing right now in the lobby. Bella wants to know if the receptionist is aware of what was going on downstairs, Edward answers that she does, but she’s hoping that after a couple of years of working for them she will be turned. Pretty obvious if you ask me. Bella doesn’t think so:

How can she want that?’ I whispered more to myself than really looking for an answer.”

Really Bella!? Because every time the subject comes up you are practically on your knees asking for it. What should be holding her back? She knows their entire world, which, comparatively is more than you know. All Bella knows is the vampire life a bunch of vegan hipsters live in Washington. This receptionist though knows the entire hierarchy, all of the laws, who is in charge, and more importantly how they eat. Bella is rattled about the dining, but she forgets what Gianna, the receptionist, knows; the one’s downstairs eating up a group of sex crazed tourists: they’re the normal vampires.

Alice said it herself last book, the vampires are over evolved predators. They have specific bodily functions designed to capture and kill their prey–the attractiveness, the teeth, the speed, the strength, etc. If we buy into the myriad extra powers they have they are purposely designed to capture and kill humans. The Cullens are just the vegans of the vampire world–strange, annoying, pretentious, smug–the reason human beings have canine teeth is to rip meat. Now if the vegan wants to deny their nature and not eat meat, that’s their choice–but they have to recognize that it isn’t the normal choice. Just like a vampire who won’t eat humans.

Bella still being worried about the future looks to Alice for guidance, Alice replies that she will see Jasper in 24 hours. Bella is relieved, “Lucky Alice, she could trust her future.”

Actually no she can’t considering that she’s been wrong on important occasions. More importantly is that this is one of those lines that sounds clever when first read but upon repeated readings gets worse and worse, like “it is what it is.” Yeah that sounded good when I first heard it back in 1995 in “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” but now when someone says it to me it takes all the self restraint in the world for me not scream back, “OF COURSE IT IS! WHAT ELSE THE FUCK COULD IT BE!?*”

Gianna tells them that sun has set and they can leave now. For this Alice shoots her a dark look (get it?), but I don’t understand why. It would be like yelling at the jail guard who is checking you out of prison having your death sentence commuted. Sure you may not like the person but what happened to civility?

Then there is the escape from Volterra. I say escape, as the chapter is titled “Flight,” but it’s misnamed. Getting to Volterra was a matter of urgency, getting from…is not. For instance, Alice steals a car. Why? Can’t she just rent one? Or can they take a bus, or anything other than drawing attention to themselves. Why didn’t the Volturri give them a vehicle? They travel from Volterra to Florence, and then hop a plane from Florence to Rome, and then from Rome back to the states.

There’s an extra step in there: why didn’t they just fly out from Florence to the US? Sure, neither airport in Firenze is an international but since they flew in from the US and landed in Florence we’ve already decided that geography isn’t that important. How did they get tickets? They were in such a hurry that they had to steal the car, but they couldn’t have stolen a plane. My favorite part is that in order to make the international flight, they have to go through customs, but they arrive at the airport in a stolen car? I hope, just hope, they paid in cash as well.

The transition from Italy to the US, is over. The Cullen family is waiting for them at the airport and Rosalie has to apologize to Bella. Why? Who cares. She’s not an important character thus far, and the only reason we have for not liking her is that again, we’ve been told to not like her because she doesn’t like Bella. I’m over it.

There’s a weird conversation between Edward and Esme, in which Edward refers to her as “mom.” I bring it up because I wonder if we are supposed to forget that Esme really isn’t Edward’s mom, but rather the girl Carlisle tried to set Edward up with but it didn’t work out so Carlisle got her as a consolation prize. It was a nice touch in the last book that made Esme not Edward’s actual mother, but we must have consistency. They are just pretending to be a standard family but they aren’t that really.

Edward brings Bella home to Charlie, where he is not greeted with handcuffs or a hail of gunfire. Remember as far as Charlie knows his daughter just up and disappeared. She never called, she didn’t leave a note. She asked Jake to do so but he took off before Alice and Bella did, so that didn’t work out. Charlie is entirely justified in being angry, the only fault he has is that he’s not angry enough. he should be tossing Edward on the ground restraining himself only with thoughts of his pledge to uphold the law. Still, if my daughter was kidnapped and dragged to Italy (this would be a legitimate thought in his head) to meet her exboyfriend and a week later they returned with her unconscious, he’d find out what the barrel of my Glock tasted like. The better move would have been to have Carlisle drop her off and explain things, not the incendiary move they decide upon. These vampires never really think things through.

*Although being a Philosophy Grad Student, phrases like that actually come up in class (Metaphysics mostly) that don’t mean the same platitude. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish.

Indifferents (LS 58, 64)

March 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Stoicism is typically characterized by an indifference towards good and bad, misfortune and fortune, or virtue and vice. This is only partially true. What the truly stoic individual has regard for is virtue and rationality, they disdain vice and passion; what doesn’t matter to the stoic are those things that contribute or detract from neither. These are the indifferents. As Diogenes claims, “some existing things are good, others are bad, and others are neither of these.[1]

            While those indifferent are neither the vices or the virtues they are not a unified category. There are two kinds: one is the category of the “unconditional indifferent” these are those which contribute nothing to the virtue or vice of the person. The “conditional indifferent”  is that which upon the adherence to an object or action, activates neither impulse nor repulsion. Of the former these include, the numbers of hairs on the head, idly moving one’s fingers, etc. While for the latter we can say sickness and health.[2] The difference between them being their contribution toward virtue, while the number of hairs on a person’s head cannot contribute to virtue or reason a person’s health definitely does so.

            The non-contribution of to virtue and vice does not mean that we have no preference in the selection of the indifferents. We may prefer one over the other and this is a matter of preference based on what we like, however stoicism advises to not attach ourselves to it. Is the difference between a blue bag and a brown bag really worth inviting the vice of foolish action into our lives?[3] The question of health though seems different. Do the stoics really believe health/sickness to be something that we ought to be indifferent regarding?

            Yes. Despite the fact that sickness and health can affect the rationality of the person, it does not need to. Diogenes explains that anything that can be used well or badly is not something in which an intrinsic good can be judged. Because a person, who is sick, can act badly or act well, we cannot regard illness as bad.[4] Life, for the Stoic, is therefore is the pursuit of virtue, avoidance of vice, and the indifference toward everything else.[5]

            So far we have above labeled that which we should not regard as possessing any importance. The things we ought to regard then are virtue and vice, thus we need to define those. The Stoics advise that we look to our natures in order to determine these.

            Cicero through his Stoic mouthpiece, Cato explains, “We are left with the conclusion that the final good is a life in which one applies knowledge of those things that happen by nature, selecting those in accordance with nature and rejecting those contrary to nature, that is—a life in agreement and consistent with nature.[6]” It is the seeking of the natural aim of mankind that is virtue.

Yet this forces us into a contradiction, as we need to understand whether or not virtue is the goal or virtue is in the aiming toward that goal. There is some disagreement in this matter. On the one hand if it is in the seeking that the virtue is located in,[7] what are we seeking toward? On the other hand if there is an objective goal in seeking the virtue then we ought to be able to acutely define the concept of the goal.[8]

Plutarch’s argument is that it is ridiculous to argue that the seeking after the goal of virtue is the virtue independent of actually arriving at that goal.[9] That would be like aiming an arrow would be the pinnacle of archery but never shooting the arrow. While most of the exercise and discipline is in the holding steady of the bow, and the aim; whether or not the person himself knows internally they are a good archer requires that arrow to be released.

Indifference, being a mark of stoicism is important to the nature of the school and one of the features that distinguish it from the remaining three schools of antiquity. The important thing to remember is that indifference is reserved for those things that have no relation to virtue and vice.

[1] Diogenes Laertius LS 58A

[2] Ibid LS 58 B

[3] Stobaeus LS 58 E

[4] Diogenes Laertius LS 58 B

[5] Diogenes Laertius LS 58 G

[6] Cicero On Ends LS 64 E

[7] Plutarch On Common Conceptions LS 64 D

[8] Cicero On Ends LS 64 A

[9] Plutarch On Common Conceptions LS 64 C

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