Thursday, March 31, 2022

Hart’s post-Christian pantheism

Well, kids, it’s that time again.  David Bentley Hart’s new book You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature is now out.  So is my review, “David Bentley Hart’s Post-Christian Pantheism,” which you can read at Public Discourse.  As you will see, the title of my essay is not invective, but pretty much just a straightforward description of what’s in the book.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Unjust war and false masculinity

I commend to you three excellent articles by traditionalist Catholic scholars on the grave injustice of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: historian Roberto de Mattei’s “Russia's War and the Message of Fatima”; philosopher John Lamont’s “Putin’s Attack on Ukraine”; and theologian Pater Edmund Waldstein’s “The War in Ukraine in the Light of Just War Principles.”  There is a reason why I emphasize that the injustice is grave, as I have in my earlier commentary on the war.  Few among those who have expressed sympathy with the Russian side in the conflict have claimed that the invasion meets just war criteria (unsurprisingly, since it manifestly does not).  They have tended instead to emphasize Putin’s purported virtues and the vices of Zelensky and his Western supporters – as if these somehow balance out the destruction of cities and the deaths of thousands of human beings.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Conspiracy theories, spontaneous order, and the hermeneutics of suspicion

Nobody denies that conspiracies occur.  They happen every time two or more people collude in order to secure some malign end.  When people criticize “conspiracy theories,” it is a particular kind of conspiracy that they find implausible.  I’ve written several times before about some of the marks of conspiracy theories of this dubious kind.  They tend to be grounded in “narrative thinking” rather than a rigorous and dispassionate consideration of the merits and deficiencies of all alternative possible explanations.  They tend to violate Ockham’s razor, posit conspiracies that are too vast and complicated to be psychologically and sociologically feasible, and reflect naiveté about the way modern bureaucracies function.  The vastness of the posited conspiracy often has implications for the reliability of news media and other sources of information that make the theory epistemically self-defeating and unfalsifiable.  (For simplicity’s sake, from here on out I’ll use the expression “conspiracy theories” to refer, specifically, to theories having vices like these – acknowledging, again, that there are conspiracies of a more plausible kind, and thus conspiracy theories of a more plausible kind.)

Monday, March 14, 2022

Chomsky’s “propaganda model” of mass media

A common mistake people make when evaluating a theory is to fail to keep in mind the distinction between the theory itself, its application to particular cases, and the auxiliary assumptions an advocate of the theory makes when developing that application.  People will often reject a theory because they find some particular application problematic, where if they thought about the matter more carefully they would see that the problem is only with that application and/or with the auxiliary assumptions, and not with the theory itself. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Just war theory and the Russo-Ukrainian war

One of the striking features of the catastrophe in Ukraine is how unambiguously the principles of just war doctrine seem to apply.  On the one hand, Russia’s invasion cannot be justified given the criteria of just war theory.  On the other hand, NATO military action against Russia cannot be justified either.  Here are the criteria for just military action as set out in section 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.  The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

End quote.  I submit that Russia’s invasion clearly fails to meet the first, second, and fourth criteria, and NATO military action against Russia would clearly fail to meet the second, third, and fourth criteria.