Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Windows, same as the Old Windows

I recently got a new Acer laptop that came with Windows 7 installed. I usually use Linux, but I kept Windows installed for the sake of Netflix movies. All went well, until yesterday Windows committed suicide. It failed to boot itself, and then, in the process of the system recovery, trashed the bootloader and made the whole system unusable.

I promptly re-installed Ubuntu Linux using the entire disk, wiping out Windows. Good riddance!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mind Blowing fact:

Jackie Earle Haley, the actor who played Rorshach in Watchmen, also played Little League hero Kelly in The Bad News Bears.

Don't Push The Red Button!

If I tell you not to push the red button, what do you immediately want to do? Right.

Now, if the President tells you not to listen to talk radio or to a certain news organization, what do you want to do? What, in fact, in a free democracy should you do? Right

Friday, October 09, 2009

Vergil in honor of the President

. . . tum pietāte gravem ac meritīs sī forte virum quem
cōnspexēre, silent arrēctīsque auribus adstant,
--ille regit dictīs animōs et pectora mulcet. . .

Perhaps this is the hope? But if I recall correctly, the man to whom the words probably refer gained the Pax Romana through strength, not through words.

Nobel Peace Prize?

The president has received it. I eagerly await being awarded full tenure, on similar standards.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

On Willful Misunderstanding, by David Bentley Hart

I came across this quote from Hart, an orthodox theologian you should read, in "The Hidden and the Manifest: Metaphysics after Nicea" in the wonderful Orthodox Readings of Augustine, St. Vladimir's seminary press:

In any modern engagement between Christian East and Christian West, we begin from the long history of an often militant refusal--on both sides--of intellectual reconciliation. . . . All too often, moreover, this incomprehension takes the depressing form of a simple and a deplorable failure of imagination: an inability to appreciate that, in order to understand another intellectual tradition, rooted in a different primary language, it is not enough to translate its terms into one's own dialect and then proceed to interpret them according to the rules of one's one tradition. And the consequence of this is that, as often as not, "ecumenism" between East and West consists in little more than a relentless syncope of category errors: the drearily predictable alarm and indignation with which traditional Thomists find that Gregory Palamas, transposed into Thomas' Latin, is not a Thomis; the deep and slightly macabre delight with which earnest Palamites discover that Thomas, read through Palamite lenses, proves to be no Palamite.

I have encountered this willful misunderstanding myself, where shallow thinkers focus on a term extracted from a tradition, misinterpret it, or interpret it on purpose in the worst light, and then reject the tradition from which it comes as a heresy. This is not to say that genuine differences don't exist between East and West, or between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians, but in wading through the polemics, one often finds that most of the differences are in approach. It's like New York pizza versus Chicago style: both are pizza, but approached differently, the one emphasizing the goodness of sauce and cheese, the other focusing on the crust.

Anyway, go read David Bentley Hart. It's a rollercoaster of erudition.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Meaning of Essence in Aquinas

In Palamite debates with the Roman Church, much is made over Aquinas' statement that the true goal of human life is to see the essence of God. They argue, according to their tradition, that no-one ever sees the essence of God, but rather only his uncreated energies. This looks like a clear difference between churches, but is it?

The word for "essence" in Latin is essentia. The word for "essence" in Greek is ousia. Really, then, Aquinas says that one sees the essentia of God, but Palamas says that one does not see the ousia of God. Perhaps they don't mean the same thing.

I came across a very succinct definition of essentia in I.28.2 ST: "Everything which is not the divine essence is a creature."^[omnis res quae non est divina essentia, est creatura.] So, if St. Gregory Palamas teaches that the ousia is uncreated as well as the energeia, then both would count as the essentia of God according to Aquinas' terminology. There is a way they can both be right: To see the uncreated energies of God is to see the essentia of God.

It's a matter of language, then, not doctrine.

Incidentally, one can find the Summa Theologica as an audiobook on the wonderful