By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dallas Sunday 7:30 A.M.

Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, Arts Distric...
Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, Arts District, Dallas, Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Dallas, Texas, on Sunday, at 7:30 a.m., I was at the Catholic Cathedral of Guadalupe. The church was packed with well-dressed, well-groomed families. Virtually everyone was Hispanic. The Mass was in Spanish.

The interior of the church was immaculate and gorgeous, dominated by the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe over the altar. At one point in his homily, the priest paused noticeably but diplomatically when a child was too noisy. Quickly, the child was whisked away by his parent. The homily continued.

After Mass, the crowds exited to the contiguous church hall next door to eat Mexican food. I also saw the same thing I had seen years ago at another Spanish Mass at another Catholic cathedral (in Grand Rapids, Michigan): vendors in carts selling sodas and other treats across the street from the church. It was a festive atmosphere. In the plaza, in front of the Dallas cathedral, various parish groups had set up tables to entice parishioners' participation in various causes.

The above is a snapshot of something great and good that is happening to the Catholic Church in America: a festive influence by people still struggling and not affluent enough to be jaded and cynical and distracted by petty, sectarian debates. Amen.

P.S. Dallas--in northern Texas--is about 42% Hispanic (see Dallas, Texas, link above).
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Juries: A Great Classical and Populist Legacy

The jury box in the Pershing County, Nevada, C...
The jury box in the Pershing County, Nevada, Courthouse. Unusually, this jury box is in the middle of the room. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yes, in ancient Greece and Rome, there were in effect juries to decide matters. (In fact, we see a jury near the end of one of Aeschylus' plays, the Eumenides.) I was reminded of this sublime legacy from the ancients the other day, as I ate lunch at a restaurant that was also serving lunch to a jury from the courthouse next door. Years ago, I published as a law student an article on the right to jury trial--in the Loyola (New Orleans) Law Review. As a much younger person, I deeply admired the right to jury trial and even quoted Aristotle's Politics to the effect that a group of minds making a decision is far better than one mind (see the last page of the article at the above Loyola Law Review link). (You will find the excerpt from Aristotle below.)

Today, I can restate and reaffirm that same view more bluntly: juries are a blessed institution because so many lawyers and judges are just too obtuse to come up with common sense decisions. The jury is a populist triumph that makes sense. You don't need a degree, you don't need to pass a bar exam, you don't need to be a narcissistic or megalomaniac elected politician to judge the guilt or innocence of someone: all you need is your citizenship and your good faith. That populist reality is refreshing in an age, as in all ages, of preening and obtuse lawyers and judges.

Aristotle, Politics, 3.11:

For the many, of whom each individual is but an ordinary person, when they meet together may very likely be better than the few good, if regarded not individually but collectively, just as a feast to which many contribute is better than a dinner provided out of a single purse. For each individual among the many has a share of virtue and prudence, and when they meet together, they become in a manner one man, who has many feet, and hands, and senses; that is a figure of their mind and disposition. Hence the many are better judges than a single man of music and poetry; for some understand one part, and some another, and among them they understand the whole. There is a similar combination of qualities in good men, who differ from any individual of the many, as the beautiful are said to differ from those who are not beautiful, and works of art from realities, because in them the scattered elements are combined, although, if taken separately, the eye of one person or some other feature in another person would be fairer than in the picture. 

Source link: Trans. by Benjamin Jowett (emphasis added).
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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is Life Without Suffering Even Possible?

Head Sketch Ball point pen
Head Sketch Ball point pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My answer is "no." Thus, it makes no sense to argue against the existence of an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God by protesting that such a God must have been obligated to create life without suffering. (Henceforth when I refer to the deity, the above description of God is the definition that I am using.)

To make such a protest is the equivalent of saying that such a God should have created four-sided triangles. If suffering is an inherent dimension of life (as the theory of biological evolution, by the way, seems to confirm), then it makes no sense to say that a deity should have created life without suffering. Following the approach of Wittgenstein and other philosophers of language, we would have to label as nonsensical the assertion that the deity must have been obligated to create life that--without its intrinsic dimension of suffering--would be no life at all.

Thus, the question of whether life is even possible without suffering is, in my view, a crucial and unignorable issue when discussing the traditional argument from evil against the existence of the deity.  In fact, there is a further confusion in the very name of the traditional argument: it is not the problem of evil that is the biggest philosophical challenge. Moral evil as a product of the free choices of humans is easier for a theist to address than the non-moral evil of tsunami's, earthquakes, leukemia, and tornadoes. Thus, we should rather refer to this traditional philosophical argument or problem as the "problem of suffering." Such clarity helps the discussion move forward without unnecessary confusion. And, as Ortega y Gasset observed, "clarity is the courtesy of the philosopher."  Let's be courteous!

So, think about it: does it make sense to reject the deity because life with suffering is present in us and around us? In my view, such an objection is nonsensical since suffering is an inherent part of our lives. Again, I go back to the four-sided triangle. An omnipotent God could not create a four-sided triangle because such an entity makes no sense based on our experience of the myriad triangular forms observed in our natural world.

Likewise, it makes no sense to claim that God could have created life without suffering if suffering of some form or another, to some degree or another, is intrinsic to life itself. Think, for example, of aging--all of us are aging, we are in a process that ultimately leads to a total physical and maybe even cognitive breakdown. Thus, the dimension of suffering is present throughout our lives. In addition, it makes no sense to object that suffering comes from our environment and is not intrinsic to our lives. We know of no form of life that can exist apart from its environment. Life includes the individual living organism and its environment or circumstance. There is no such thing as a living organism existing without its environment. As Ortega also famously noted, "I am I and my circumstance." The "I" never exists apart from some circumstance. Surely, biology also confirms the intrinsic necessity of an environment for any living organism.

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