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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

St. John XXIII

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Lacking Foresight

We see today great danger of war between Ukraine and Russia. Yet, none of this conflict was unforseeable. It is intoxicating to get caught up in the thrills of demonstrations which end up overthrowing a government. Yet, the sleeping bear next door was bound to wake up and have something to say. Irresponsible leaders have now left Ukraine in a far worse position than ever, with its territory being torn apart more and more as time passes. I guess it was too much to ask for realistic foresight. Mobs do not have foresight, and no one stepped forward to provide it.

(Image under Creative Commons License at link)

Friday, April 18, 2014

This Is It--The Rest Is A Footnote

Whitehead famously noted that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato. All Christian theology (including its extensions, such as canon law) is a footnote to what Francis is enacting here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Holy Thursday Preemptive Strike

Holy Thursday is April 17th. In the event Pope Francis should decide to wash the feet of one or more women, as he did last year, here is your link to the analysis I propose--which is, namely, that the Pope as Supreme Legislator can include women and in fact, has, in my view, confirmed and approved of what has been customary in many dioceses.


Holy Thursday Tempest in a Teapot.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Christianity Is Culturally Different From Islam and even Judaism

And that difference has had profound effects in shaping Western culture and, by extension, the rest of the globe which is so influenced (and rightly not dominated) by Western culture.

We see this difference in the history of art, especially in Late Antiquity and in the classical revival we call the Renaissance.

While in Judaism and Islam, the commandment against graven images meant that the classical Greek and Roman heritage in art, especially in sculpture, was rejected, in Christianity, as early as the fourth century A.D., we see Christ himself depicted in a classical statue, in the pose of an ancient philosopher (see image below).

The incarnation--the conviction that the deity became flesh--made Christianity and the realism and naturalism of classical sculpture congenial to each other.

The result, in my opinion, is a Western tradition in which individual freedom, dignity, and self-fulfillment are central. The West was the vehicle for this fusion, but the results are for everyone sharing in the same human nature. Every human being of whatever continent shares in this common heritage, if he or she dares to claim it.

(Image under fair use doctrine and/or public domain)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Isaac Asimov in 1988 on Lifelong Learning

learning (Photo credit: Anne Davis 773)
 "If you have a system of education using computers, then anyone, any age, can learn by himself, can continue to be interested. If you enjoy learning, there's no reason why you should stop at a given age. People don't stop things they enjoy doing just because they reach a certain age. They don't stop playing tennis just because they've turned forty. They don't stop with sex just because they've turned forty. They keep it up as long as they can if they enjoy it, and learning will be the same thing. The trouble with learning is that most people don't enjoy it because of the circumstances. Make it possible for them to enjoy learning, and they'll keep it up."

--Isaac Asimov (1988) (see source link below).

This prescient statement from 1988 points to the explosion of online learning (whether for a degree or for a certificate or just for the intrinsic reward). The statement also confirms the value of the concept of "community education" in which our school facilities are made available for the entire community of whatever age to learn whatever an individual finds of interest, from Latin to painting.
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thoughts from Lucretius (circa 99 to 55 B.C.)

I like these from the De Rerum Natura (Concerning the Nature of Things) by the Roman poet and Epicurean Lucretius, a contemporary of Cicero and Julius Caesar (all quotes are from the Loeb edition):

1. Speaking of credibility: "Thus it is more useful to scrutinize a man in danger or peril, and to discern in adversity what manner of man he is: for only then are the words of truth drawn from the very heart, the mask is torn off, the reality remains" (Book 3.55-58);

2. Speaking of the frenetic search for entertainment: "[E]ach man tries to flee from himself" (Book 3.1068).

I think of No. 1 on credibility especially when we see people caught doing what is unethical and refusing to own up. I think of No. 2 on freneticism when we see so many erratic individuals with a lot of strong opinions, emotions, and judgments and no maturity.

(Image of the book De Rerum Natura in public domain)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Theory of Prestigious Mediocrity

In the proverbial rat race for tokens of prestige, academia looms large. An honor or degree that is considered prestigious is highly valued, even if the recipient ends up not doing much of anything worthwhile with it.

I am sure many of you could share some anecdotes on this theme. Here are mine:

1. The Phi Beta Kappa graduates who are strikingly imbecillic and mediocre;

2. The holders of advanced research degrees lacking any trace of intellectual intuition even in their fields of specialty.

Often, we are surprised at the level of mediocrity of those holding such honors and degrees. Well, experience teaches us not to be surprised. The theory of prestigious mediocrity explains why.

Any large group will have a large number of mediocrities.

Most honors and degrees are widely distributed or distributed to a number of persons too large to escape mediocrity.

Hence, mediocrity is inevitable.

What are the practical consequences to this reality?

1. Be very skeptical of judging by credentials alone whether as a consumer or simply as an observer. A lawyer who advertises his Phi Beta Kappa key may be an utter dolt. The holder of a degree, even an advanced degree, from a prestigious institution may be a complete dimwit.

2. As we devalue credentialism, we can focus more on personal character and talent

3. As we focus more on character and talent, we end up finding and rewarding quality as opposed to mediocrity.

Many common sense persons recognize and follow the above, but the truth is too often kept under wraps. There is a vast, informal conspiracy of silence to keep the deception under wraps. Too many mediocrities want to benefit and want their children to benefit from our superstitions about prestige.

(Image in public domain)