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Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Basis of Christian Faith: Beyond Idolatry

I think perhaps the title of the film, Silence (2016) ought to have been “The last Priest” because the main character, Rodrigues, is the last remaining Roman Catholic priest in Japan. His inner struggle is the core of the narrative, and of the theological/ethical dilemma to be resolved. The movie is set in Japan in 1640-1641. A Buddhist inquisitor, Mokichi, is torturing and killing Christians, who must step on a stove carving of Jesus as proof of committing apostasy (i.e., renouncing their faith). Taking it as proof, Father Rodrigues torments over whether to apostasy in order to save the Japanese Christians whom Mokichi is having killed serially until the priest renounces his faith. I submit that the assumption of proof rests on dubious grounds, so Rodrigues is actually faced with a false dichotomy.

The full essay is at "Silence."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Ideological Word Games: The Modern Weapon of Choice?

When I was young, my dad would sometimes criticize me for engaging in “word games.” Perhaps I was already parsing words; my parents and maternal grandfather were all lawyers. My last name is Worden, after all. I was raised to pronounce the name, war-den, and only after decades did it occur to me that people might spell the name as Worden rather than Warden if I pronounced it as word-n. I was the first even in the extended family to use the alternative; as Nietzsche wrote, no philosopher is a man of his time. We tend to think outside the proverbial constrained “box” because we critique assumptions and arguments (i.e., critical thinking), including those of the “boxes” that society leaves unquestionably standing as part of the status quo—the tyranny of which has repelled philosophers wetted to the idea that no stone should be left unturned, even if a society deems some stones as sacrosanct. It can be dangerous even to question the solidity of those stones, especially if they formed out of ideological controversies wherein tussling instinctual urges contesting for societal dominance. In this too, I am drawing on Nietzsche, who even viewed the content of ideas as being instinctual urges. In being willing to subject societally cherished ideas to fundamentally unique and deep scrutiny, Friedrich Nietzsche is the last, at least as of my time living in an American desert, both academically and geographically, where plenty of Nietzsche’s “herd animals” freely roamed. They were particularly vulnerable to ideological word-games in unquestioningly accepting the words from the insurgent ideologies as valid.

The full essay is at "Ideological Word Games."

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

On the Social Psychology of Rising Credit-Card Debt: A Reflection of American Society?

It is perhaps too easy to point to economic reasons for an increase in debt within a society. The Wall Street Journal reported during the first quarter of 2020 that credit-card debt in the U.S. “rose to a record in the final quarter of 2019 as Americans spent aggressively amid a strong economy and job market, and the proportion of people seriously behind on their payments increased.”[1] The record $930 billion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, was “well above the previous peak seen before the 2008 financial crisis.”[2] After critiquing the economic explanation, I will suggest that a social-psychological mentality or attitude may be behind not only the rising debt, but also other disappointing manifestations in the contemporaneous American society more broadly speaking.

1. Yuka Hayashi, “Credit-Card Debt in U.S. Rises to Record $930 Billion,” The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2020.
2. Ibid.