Monthly Archives: February 2018

Stefan Molyneux’s Noble Failure Definitively Explained: Why Universally Preferable Behavior is not a System of Ethics

Scattered within Stefan Molyneux’s voluminous monologues and conversations are references to his “defense of secular ethics” which he has organized into a formal work he calls “Universally Preferable Behavior” (UPB). I have taken issue with UPB before on this blog, but my arguments have never fully satisfied me.  But neither has UPB ever fully satisfied me either.

The more I thought about it, something continued to feel off…specious, about his arguments, yet for all my articles, I still struggled to put my finger definitely on the problem. For a while I was content to let the issue go, satisfied that I had rebuffed enough of Stefan’s ethical system to at least cast a reasonable doubt as to its rational consistency.  Still, the more I listened to Stefan and the more he promoted UPB to the various viewers and listeners of his podcast and YouTube channel, I felt compelled to put the issue to rest once and for all.  Stefan seemed (and seems) so confident that UPB is the answer to the problem of secular ethics, and yet the more he talked, the more confident I became that there was something seriously wrong with it. His arguments sounded reasonable, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something crucial…that he was, as Sallah said to Indiana Jones, “digging in the wrong place”. So I put my nose to the grindstone, determined to root out the issue once and for all.

Here I go.

Stefan, a self-admitted atheist, argues, rightly, that atheistic philosophies inevitably boil down to hypocritical scientific determinism. He then also rightly points out that before atheistic philosophies can be considered fully legitimate, let alone provide any real value to humankind, they must address the problem of scientific determinism nullifying morality by removing will.  Because without will there is no moral choice.

Stefan attempts to correct this discrepancy by providing a “defense of secular ethics” through his own system, Universally Preferable Behavior (UPB).  He gives us, as he says, an ethical system “without God”.  Which is weird because what he really means is “without Authority”, because “God’s ethics” are the ethics of a supreme Authority which possesses the infinitely superior power to compel human behavior by force.  Interestingly, though, this ethic is adopted by ANYONE who concedes that the State is a legitimate means of organizing human behavior, as the State is such an authority.  Which naturally includes both those who hold secular beliefs and those who are religious, as anyone can see by merely perusing a cross section of the population of almost any nation on earth.

Stefan’s fundamental defense of his secular ethics is rooted in the following example: Stealing isn’t stealing if you WANT to be stolen from.  Stealing, he says, is not a mutual agreement.  Therefore, it cannot be preferred by all parties.  But, conversely, the voluntary exchange of property IS, and thus voluntary exchange of property IS a universally preferred ethic.  Of course, this argument also works if we substitute “theft” with fraud, murder, rape, etc., because “property” rationally includes one’s truth and one’s body, and this is how the example of theft can be extrapolated to apply to volition vs non-volition as the essence of ethics, which is implied by UPB. Stefan asserts that he’s successfully argued an ethic without God, because we can use pure human reason to prove that theft cannot be ethical because it cannot apply to all individuals at all times.  Corollary to this, voluntary exchange of property has simultaneously been proven to be ethical because it DOES apply to all individuals at all times.

But has Stefan really argued successfully for a UNIVERSAL ethic here?

No, he hasn’t. And here’s why:

Now, it is true that I cannot WANT you to take my property without permission because giving permission—which is implied by “wanting”—and not giving permission is a contradiction in terms.  The operative concept in Stef’s example is not really “theft”, then, but “permission”.

You see, the concept of theft inherently assumes the existence (reality) and legitimacy (morality) of private property.  The fact that I cannot WANT you to steal from me doesn’t have anything to do with theft, in particular, at all.  “Theft” is merely one of virtually any activity you could use in Stef’s example, because when I say that I cannot want you to steal from me I’m merely saying that I cannot give permission for a thing and NOT give permission for a thing at the same time.  I cannot both give you permisssion and not give you permission to mow my lawn, or to sell me a teapot, or to offer me a cookie, or to tell me your favorite color.  In other words, Stefan makes “theft” the primary issue and sews a whole Ethic out of it, when the primary issue is really the implied contradiction in “desired theft”—the inability to want and not want/to give permission and not give permission at the same time.  “I want you to take without permission that which can only be given with permission” is not a root of Ethics but merely a contradiction in terms. Period.

The very claim that “I want you to steal from me” implies that the speaker assumes that private property exists, and thus he must ALREADY accept it as legitimate.  You see, if I say that I think theft should be ethical I’ve already implicitly contradicted myself by legitimizing  private property through my very use—and thus corollary acceptance of its meaning—of the concept of “theft”.  Through the concept of theft I concede the existence and legitimacy of private property, thus OBVIOUSLY I cannot also claim that theft should be ethical.  That is, I’ve already conceded, by calling theft by its name, that it is UNETHICAL by tacitly admitting the existence of private property.  The contradiction of desired theft, is, as I stated above, the contradiction of “giving permission” whilst simultaneously “not giving permission”.  Desired theft is nothing more than the contradiction that says private property isn’t private.

There is nowhere else to take the idea of “desired theft” beyond the contradiction. The contradiction is its own end.  By definition contradictions are circular and thus nothing can be inferred.  You cannot formulate an entire ethical system from that which is meaningless. All you can do is simply point out its meaninglessness. The fact that theft cannot be universally preferred is not an ethical claim but merely the stating of the obvious fact that it is a contradiction in terms to say that both private property AND theft are moral.

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Not stealing can only be a universal ethic if we accept the existence and legitimacy of private property. But if we don’t, then the “universally preferable behavior” of not stealing is meaningless.  If I reject the existence and legitimacy of private property then there is no such thing as an ethic of “not stealing” because according to my philosophy there can be no such thing as stealing in the first place.

What Stefan is arguing is simply that private property exists and thus has legitimacy, and thus is ethical, and in HIS SPECIFIC philosophical context theft MUST be unethical and illegitimate in order to be rationally consistent TO the philosophy as a whole. Which is fine, but again, this point holds no relevance for those who reject private property. UPB is not a rebuttal of divine ethics, it is really an obvious and unremarkable commentary on his own personal ethical beliefs and implicitly appealing to a metaphysical premise he never explains.  Those who believe that God fundamentally owns everything and IS everything don’t believe in private property.  They don’t have any real frame of reference for theft, so they don’t care that it’s an ethical contradiction in Stef’s personal belief system. In other words, Stefan’s “universally preferred willful value exchange” cannot possibly be preferred by those who do not concede the existence of private property. And this is why universally preferable behavior is not in fact universally preferable. It’s only CONDITIONALLY preferable. It depends on your metaphysics.

Now, the problem isn’t that Stefan’s implicit claim that private property exists is necessarily false, the problem is that he extracts an ethic from a metaphysical assumption that must be accepted BEFORE the ethics can then be said to be universal.  That is, the problem is with the use of the term “universal” to describe an ethic that is only universal to people who concede the same metaphysical premises Stefan does. To call your ethics UNIVERSALLY preferable without first proving your metaphysics is to implicitly demand that people accept your metaphysics before you’ve actually proved them. This smacks of arrogance.

Further, it’s uneccesary and presumptuous AND contradictory to refer to your ethics, or anything about your philosophy at all for that matter, as universal. If your metaphysics are truly consistent then your ethics are true. Nothing else should be said. Period. I mean, Universally Preferable Ethics implies a Universally Preferable Reality,  because you don’t get ethics without metaphysics first. But Universally Preferable Reality is simply another contradiction in terms…on top of the arrogance. “Reality is Universal” is redundant, and thus the universal ethics stemming from this universal reality then are also redundant. So, if reality is universal (redundancy) and thus the ethics are universal (redundancy) then preference is impossible (contradiction). Any way you slice it, it doesn’t work.

To conclude: Stefan’s argument isn’t really that theft is unethical, but that private property EXISTS.  But “private property exists” is not an ethical claim, it’s a metaphysical one.  And believe me, “Universally Preferable Reality” is an entirely different ball of wax…not to mention an inherent contradiction. In summary, Stefan is digging in the wrong place. He’s thinks he’s rooting around in ethics when he is really in the land of metaphysics.

Metaphysically, though, I can tell you that Stefan is no closer to any sort of universal truth than he is to a universal ethic with UPB.  Because if he was, he would not be appealing to a contextual assertion about the nature of reality stated as a contradiction in terms in defense of an ethical system with a redundant title.

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Feeling Free is Not Freedom: The size of the cage doesn’t matter

It doesn’t matter how the State makes you feel, it only matters what the State MAKES you. There is no difference in terms of real, actual repression between the citizen of a free republic and the citizen of an autocracy.  Indeed, for the one who desires to be truly, rationally free, freedom is infinitely out of reach in both contexts.  I find it failed reason and false hope to suggest or assert that one is closer to freedom simply because he is in larger cage.

And further, a premise is a premise.  And by that I mean that if we presume that man, by his very nature, needs governing in order to act in ways that are efficacious to his prosperity—which means that absent governing he will not prosper, which means inevitably he shall die unless he is COMPELLED to moral behavior—then we are saying that man, by nature, cannot efficaciously exercise his own will.  Which means that he simply cannot be free…at all.  ALL his actions MUST only occur under the umbrella of legal governing Authority. His very existential, not to mention social, context must be FORCED upon him, and within these boundaries are all his choices confined, which limits and constrains them ENTIRELY to the will of the Authority.  The size of the cage is irrelevant.  A cage is a cage; and since the cage implies absolute ownership and control of what is inside, there can be no freedom whatsoever within its dimensions. Though the edge stretch to the the sun, one’s every step is utterly defined by its boundaries. And they aren’t boundaries of human identity, but of Authority.  There is a world of difference between not being able to flap your arms and fly to the moon because your natural identity as a human being precludes it, and because the Authority forbids it.  And there is a world of difference between flying to New York because your natural identity as a human being enables it, and because the Authority allows it.

Both the republic and the autocracy, by their very existence, concede the premise that man MUST be governed.  For to say that he need not necessarily be governed begs the question “Is government a better choice?” But by its nature government cannot understand such a question. Government, being Authority, and absolutely so, (as there is no efficacy to Legality, the root of all association under government, absent the force of the State) has no frame of reference for its own absence. Add to that the fact that the question, once government is given legitimacy by simply asking it, is entirely irrelevant.

Government and choice, you see, are mutually exclusive ideas. To entertain government at all, even as a mere abstraction, they would HAVE to be. From the frame of reference of government, if the individual possessed the ability to discern between good and evil and act accordingly (exercise choice), he wouldn’t NEED government in the first place. That is, the very existence of government implies that man needs it; and if man needs it then the question of whether or not it’s better for him is moot.

So, both the republic and the autocracy organize individuals according to the premise that individuals require governing. The mere aesthetic differences in how that premise is observed is of no value to freedom qua freedom (freedom that is ACTUAL, and rationally consistent).  For both approaches are specifically designed to affirm, not contradict, the premise.  Men MUST be ruled.  And if that is the primary epistemological and ethical root from which society is spawned then there is simply nowhere for freedom to exist.  Freedom qua freedom is an impossibility therein.  Freedom cannot give rise to what it is not; and Authority—the State—cannot recognize, let alone accommodate, that which denies its very existence. In other words, you don’t get freedom from government, and you don’t get government from freedom.

Reason, Not Physics: Why miracles are possible

Say we have a medical issue…an injury, for example. If we accept the Laws of Physics as the arbiter of what is possible or impossible, and accept that these laws are the determinative mechanisms which govern all of reality (which is implicit in the laws themselves), then we must concede that we can only correct our injury according to the same rules which caused it.

So far so good…ostensibly.

The problem, however, is that in such a case, while it may seem a perfectly natural, logical, and efficacious assumption—intuitive even—we cannot make an OBJECTIVE moral value judgement between the injury and its remediation. Since they are both created, caused, and manifest by the exact same determinative rules, which, due to their necessary corollary relationship are at root a singularity, the only value judgement which can be rendered is entirely subjective—arbitrary—and therefore fundamentally meaningless.  For it is not possible to claim that one manifestation of the absolute governing mechanisms which define and compose reality is better or worse than another. Different manifestations of natural law observed by the individual are, fundamentally, morally indistinguishable, and thus any value judgements are completely subjective.  And if value judgements are subjective, then any epistemological (meaning/definitions) judgements are irrelevant, because morality and truth are corollary…for if one cannot morally value distinctions, then the definitions of those distinctions are ultimately useless to the individual. And this being the case, no actual distinctions—like “injury” or “healing”—can really be said to exist at all.

To summarize: Once moral distinctions can no longer be made, because all events are products of the same absolute, determinative natural laws, then no distinctions of any kind can be made. And if no distinctions of any kind can be made, then nothing can be said to exist, because it has become impossible to tell the difference between what something is and what something is not.  Natural law, thus, is entirely inadquate as an apologetic for objective existence, and thus it cannot rationally be said to serve as the plumbline for determining what is truly possible or impossible.

You see, once the perspective of the individaul has been rendered moot by subordinating his powers of perception and conceptualization to the absolute determinative forces of natural law, then the very thing which gives natural law any meaning and relevance at all—the observer—is pointless. And without the observer, there is no one to claim that natural law is actually true, or actually exists in the first place.  Natural law, itself, serves no purpose, because it wrecks the observer, who is the ONLY reference—the only constant—by which natural law can be said to have meaning and thus have value.  Purpose, value, and meaning are not a function of natural law, they’re a function of the observer.  That means MAN.  And that means you and me.  And that means we are NOT products of natural law…because the observer cannot be a function of what he observes.  This is a contradiction in terms, and is objectively impossible.  An observer who is a function of what he is observing is by definition NOT OBSERVING.

The very fact that the laws of physics can be defined at all is proof that they are not the root of objective reality.  They are a tool that man, the individual, the observer, uses to organize the distinction(s) between himself qua himself, and his environment (which also includes his body…but man’s body is not himself qua himself, but is ultimately and rationally a part of his environment…but this is quite a complex subject and is best left to its own article). The very fact that man can and MUST make a moral distinction between injury and healing is proof that the laws of physics cannot be the true arbiter of reality and thus are not the arbiter of possibility and impossibility.

I submit then that only that which violates the identity of the individual (the self qua the self) is impossible.  And since identity is a matter of reason—where reason is defined as rational consistency…the non-contradictory combination of concepts (X cannot simultaneously be Y, for example)—we can generalize this assertion to say that a violation of reason is the only impossibility, because contradiction cannot be made rational; and what cannot be made rational cannot ACTUALLY be defined, which means it cannot actually  exist.

So…you want proof that miracles are possible?

I give you the apologetics of reason.

 

Ideals, Government, and a Perpetual State of War

I subimit that the presence of government presumes a state of war, either explicit or implicit.  The implicit state of war presumed by government is naturally the least obvious and the least intuitive.  Government, by its very foundational philosophical premises, cannot in any rationally consistent way limit its authority to force all which exists outside of it to be absolutely subordinate to the collective Ideal which it specifically and singularly exists to enforce. (There is no such thing as a government which does not assume that man is a collective AT HIS METAPHYSICAL ROOT.) Incidentally, “absolute subordination” is a redundancy.  There is no such thing as “limited subordination”.  To own a part of another is to own all of him, because man is metaphysically ONE, not a collection of parts.  His consciousness is singular; his existential frame of reference singular, and therefore him SELF, the very thing which makes any aspect of reason or reality relevant and meaningful, is likewise entirely singular.  Extrapolating logically, then, we can see that absolute subordination is really absolute sacrifice.  And sacrifice means death.  To attempt to own and control what is ONE, of itself and to itself, is to murder it.

Since the collective Ideal is in reality purely an abstraction, it, itself, can have no empirical, material maifestation.  This abstract nature makes the Ideal infinite, for abstractions have no boundaries which the Observer, man, can perceive.  In other words, the collective—the People, the Nation, the Culture, the Workers, the Poor, the Marginalized, even the Laws of Nature/Physics which GOVERN all things etc., etc.—exists purely in the minds of men.  It’s not a thing.  However, you will notice that collectivists, and apologists for the efficacy of government of all stripes, either explicitly or implicitly deny this.  Underlying all their arguments is this premise:  The Ideal has both transcendence (has an existence that cannot be directly observed because it is “beyond man”, so to speak), AND it has legitimate, completely objective, practical actuality, which is to say that it can be manifest in the material universe, which is to claim that it IS, itself, material.  That which can be synthesized with the material must possess an inherent property of materiality…or at the very least the essences of the Ideal and material reality are not mutually exclusive, which means, for all practical purposes the same thing.  So what they are saying is that the Ideal is and is not something which can be materially apprehended.  This is pure doublespeak…but as the underlying arguments are at root entirely contradictory, its the best that can be done.  Unfortunately, the best that can be done, rationally speaking, when tried in reality, makes for hell on earth.

So the Ideal, you see, is not merely an IDEA.  It is an actual, but INFINITE, thing, which is beyond the RATIONAL capabilities and perception of any individual…well, any individual who has not received special enlightenment from the great beyond, so to speak.  And this is the root contradiction which demands war.  The Authority cannot rationalize THE COLLECTIVE IDEAL to you or me because reason is a function of man, and therefore is utterly insufficient to discern truth, which belongs WHOLLY to the transcendent Ideal. Reason is of man; but Truth is of the Ideal.  And just like that, Truth becomes something which is no longer up for debate.  It is what it is, and any questions from men are merely proof that by his very nature man is incapable of understanding. Reason is of man, and therefore debates, questions, objections, discussion, suspicion, doubt are all irrelevant and forbidden. Truth lay ONLY in the absolute and absolutely perfect and infinite Ideal, removed from man’s cognitive and perceptual powers.

Of course it’s really the other way around…man is the arbiter of truth.  Specifically, reason (rational/conceptual consistency), a root property of man, is the plumb line.  But an ideologue cannot be debated by definition.  You obey an ideaologue or you die.  And since government is an Ideal, so very many people die.  The Holocaust was a government program, friends.  And it could only have EVER been a government program.  And the contradiction of an “EFFICACIOUS transcendent Ideal” is precisely why.

The ACTUAL subjectivity of ideals is not, by definition, tethered to the rational/objective world, and therefore the Collective Ideal always morphs into a sort of all-powerful, inexplicable, causal, and determinative force.  Its inability to be falsified by its very absolute, reasonless nature means that it becomes a sort of “infinite Truth”—truth which serves as its own reference (a logical fallacy)—which can never be disproven because it is beyond question…because it is beyond man.  No matter how high the bodies stack up, there is no truth but THE Truth, and therefore nothing changes until everyone is either dead or there is no more infrastructure left to transmit the power of the authority (government) to the masses.  Usually it’s a combination of both—dead bodies and impotent authority.

The infinite and transcendent nature of the Ideal means that it can literally take on whatever definition(s) the Authority chooses, up to and including blatant contradiction.  If the Authority says that there are five lights, then there are five lights.  The fact that you SEE four is irrelevant.  The truth is not up to you.  It’s outside of you.  The Authority…those men specifically enlightened (somehow) by the transcendent Ideal TELL you what you see, they don’t ask.

The Truth is OF the Ideal, and by extension its Authority (governement).  But the “outside” material world, especially the individual, must be subdued and sacrificed because this “Infinite Truth” isn’t actually infinite as long as there is an “outside” of it.  But by the same token there is no such thing as an “outside of” the Ideal precisely BECAUSE it is infinite. Of course this contradiction never causes governments to reconsider their assumptions, but instead becomes just the excuse needed to either openly or tacitly exert totalitarian control over everything and everyone.  The contradiction is not reconciled by better ideas, but “reconciled” by destroying all that government deems as an imposter to Truth…which is anything “outside” of it.  Which is everything NOT it.  My existence, and yours, you see, is illegitimate. Your very consciousness is a lie.  The lie which necessarily and unforgivably offends the Truth that is the Ideal.  The only solution to the affront of your individual existence and your awareness of your singular self is death, ultimately.  The goal then, of every enforcer of the Ideal—of every government—its to manifest its “legitimate” and “Infinite Truth” upon all, INFINITLY (absolutely…totally…totalitarianism).  Which can only happen when all the liars—all who by nature utter the pronoun “I”—are dead.  Individual consciousness is an aberration; an illusion; an alternate reality which is really a non-reality.  The Ideal will wake up; and the You of your consciousness will fade like a vague dream come morning.  At least that’s the plan.  Hint:  It never really happens.  But not for lack of trying, as is evidenced by SO MUCH WAR.

Which finally brings me to the initital point of this article.  ALL governements represent collectives. It doesn’t really matter the specific pedigree—racial, national, religious, cultural, economic, etc.. All collectives are Ideals.  All Ideals are absolute and transcendent because all Ideals are abstract.  All Ideals then are incompatible with anything outside of them, and by extension anything outside of the Authority (government),which exists to enforce the right of the Ideal to subdue all things as illegitimate, untrue, and irrelevant according to the infinity of ITS Truth.  No Ideal then can accept the right of anything outside itself—which means outside of the Authority—to EXIST.  Compromise then, if seen at all, is ALWAYS a feint; always a means to an end, and the end is ITSELF.  All governments then, being THE Authority of THE Ideal, have only one objective when all is said and done:

World domination.

Government, then, implies absolute control, and this implies war, whether overtly or through the ideological reprogramming of the “unenlightened masses”.  Whether or not world domination can ever be practically achieved by a given government is a separate issue.  The root philosophy points inevitably to total control.  Total rule.  Period.  All Ideals are infinite; and all Ideals then will infinitely seek to destroy whatever they deem not of themselves. And they will do this through the power of government, because government is the REAL Ideal. It’s what actually has the visceral power to destroy. Government is not a figment. It’s real. and so are its guns.

Finally, keep in mind that this article is not dealing with the morality of GOVERNORS, per se, but merely government’s philosophical premises and the natural, inevitable conclusions. The goal of my work here is to merely enlighten as to the natural consequences of ideas through a rational and academic explication of premises and conclusions, not to condemn rulers as evil men. Most rulers are just people, like you and I. They truly desire freedom. My job is to simply explain why freedom and government are not compatible.

Christian Appeals to Divine Determinism and Mystery are Nothing More Than Intellectual Laziness

I ran across this quote today by erstwhile Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia:

“God assumes from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and he has not been disappointed. If I have brought any message today it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

Hmm…

Okay, well…I’m just going to get right down to it.

Here’s the translation of this vapid nothingburger of pointless, gnostichristian, doublespeak:

A Christian tells me the world thinks him a fool.

My first question is: Are you?

Indeed, this question is really the first thing that should come to mind when accused of being a fool by WISE and SOPHISTICATED people.

Am I?

Because THAT? Is the surest way to know that you are not, in fact, a fool. As opposed to, say, clumsily lobbing forth some thinly-thinly veiled, narcissistic nonsense about how “the world” can’t begin to understand the depths of your inspired “truth” and the limitless degrees of your moral superiority (with humility, though!), and your poor, poor put-upon sensibilities as you sooooo selflessly strap on the shield of faith and give sooooo tirelessly to the thankless barbarian masses. Which is what usually happens when Christians are justifiably derided for their utterly senseless doctrine.

Friends, I have met many, MANY fools who call themselves Christians. I promise you, being “divinely gifted with the grace to perceive” and possessing the status of one of Christ’s “elect” is no inoculation against the ravages of rank stupidity and the inherent narcissism and mendacity of UNEARNED and UNFOUNDED moral virtue. Spend ten minutes discussing doctrine with the nearest available neo-Calvinist pastor and you will see exactly what I mean. I promise.

Here’s an idea we Christians might want to adopt: If the world calls us fools, let’s not shrug. Maybe…just maybe… we should try RATIONALLY explaining why we’re not.

But the unpleasant fact of course is that most Christians CAN’T. And this being the case, Scalia’s quote is simply another boring excuse to retreat into the narrow-minded shelter of baseless moral superiority and downright senseless ideological arrogance. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting, and it reminds me why I can’t darken the doorway of a church today without feeling the almost irresistible urge to cover my ears and collapse into the fetal position. My constitution simply cannot handle the abject presumption of so many rationally bankrupt, sub-par thinkers telling me that they have the right AND the OBLIGATION to hope and pray that the world adopt their folly…because GOD SAID SO!

????

Yes, Scalia’s quote is merely another example of the the long, ignoble Christian tradition of intellectual sloth.

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God telling us that “the world will call us fools” translates into “this is the way it MUST always be”. Trust me, I know the metaphysics of protestant orthodoxy like the back of my hand. Of course, this is precisely the conclusion you’d expect from the intellectually indolent.

This assertion is not a boon to courage! Far from it! It’s emotional bromide, nothing more! Designed to swaddle the the poooor misunderstood Christian in a warm snuggly and rock him back to sleep. A state, by the way, eminently suitable for those so ill-prepared to discuss grown up ideas in the real world.

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”The SMART people can’t inderstand you”, is a statement that, if intended as an encouragement to share our Christian beliefs, is the worst effing one I’ve ever heard. You see, once again the intellectually gifted—the diligent thinkers—the smart people—get the shaft. Sheesh…first the State trips over itself to tax the living hell out of their productivity, then the schools dumb down the curriculum to make the intellectually inferior feel equal, and now God’s chosen ones snub them as being divinely ordained idiots in disguise! I tell you they can’t catch a break.

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I understand that we as Christians cannot necessarily control what people think of us. But this doesn’t mean that we should be complacent about it. Particularly when being called fools says as much about our own intellectual failures as it does about the “world”. Believe me, the primary reason the world thinks us fools is that we spend more time appealing to and retreating into the rationally barren non sequitur of “God’s mystery/will/determinism” than we do actually explaining what we believe with rationally consistent apologetics.

When we Christians make the claim that God has ordained that the world will call us fools, they are asserting nothing more than yet another all-too-typical Christian excuse to avoid having to actually figure out just what the hell it is we really believe at the most fundamental of levels. Inevitably, whether explicitly or implicitly, we shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves “Oh well. They’re going to call us fools no matter what, because God said so [He didn’t], so what’s the point in engaging people in any real way?” And by “real” I mean at the level of ACTUAL ideas, not merely the usual fare of moral condemnation and self-serving, ego-stroking, doctrinal haranguing. We preach at them and let God sort out their salvation à la “divine election”.  (“Divine election” has been utterly misinterpreted as “divine salvific determinism”, which is merely the salvation of man according to God’s subjective whim, which is as stupid as it is false.) And when faced with our detractors’ legitimate criticism we blithely chalk it up to the fact that God simply hasn’t elected and enlightened them yet. Notice how a rational argument isn’t within a thousand miles of this tactic.

We Christians punt the truth into the cosmic abyss of God’s mystery and then cry foul at the world, wallowing in feigned innocence and the passive aggression of baseless self-pity, as if WE are ITS victims, when the reality is that it’s been the other way around for hundreds of years.

No, we need not worry that our spiritual witness is hindered by the fear of being called fools. It is hindered because deep down we know that we don’t really understand what we claim to believe. And our ignorance is embarrassingly revealed by even the most cursory and amateurish objections to the transparent (to everyone else) dogma which passes, shockingly, for reasoned orthodoxy. And that certainly DOES make one look foolish…for looking like a the fool is the natural consequence of preaching foolish ideas. Christians aren’t girding their loins against an onslaught of injustice directed at their evangelical mission by declaring that being called fools is a PERFUNCTORY aspect of sharing the faith. They are, rather, seeking shelter from the natural consequence of professing an ideology utterly steeped in rank intellectual error. Proclaiming the INEVITABILITY of insult because of God’s determinative will and the natural depravity of the vulgar masses is in reality nothing more than a palliative; and does little more than help Christians avoid the character-building ridicule which the sharing of dreadfully irrational ideas must naturally produce. And the church is clearly weaker for it.  The church’s rational impotence is so transparent that everyone not immersed in the dogma can see that it is the obvious root of the ever-widening popularity of authoritarian polity amongst church leadership. When “calling” and “truth”, though they be entirely bereft of reason, are emitted directly from the Divine, church leadership is GOING to be more about coercion than convincing. It’s a simple logical progression: Revealed truth is truth beyond question. Which is truth that is by definition fundamentally incompatible with discussion. Which renders man’s will—the exercise of one’s free CHOICE to believe what he wants—entirely irrelevant. And this makes obedience, not reason, man’s only real moral obligation.

Friends, this evil needs to end. Let’s stop making excuses and go out there and make an ARGUMENT for a change. And I mean a real one. If we cannot even do that, then we simply cannot know God. Period. And thus we have a duty to stop talking about Him. Speaking of a God you cannot know because your knowledge has become a bed of pure divine mystery and a bog of muddy, abstruse determinism is to make a liar out of both you and the Holy One. And THAT is a very, very foolish thing to do.

Why Metaphysics Cannot Get Away From Ability as Metaphysical Primary

Let’s use “chair” as an example for this explication of the metaphysics of Ability vs. Existence.

We don’t say that the chair IS existence, we say that the chair HAS existence.

But “having” implies action, which implies the ABILITY to act. In this case, the chair’s ability to have existence is the root WHY of itself. That is, existence is not why the chair HAS (action) existence, the chair’s ABILITY (to exist you could even say) is why the chair HAS (action) existence .

Now, I understand that the chair cannot have ability unless it IS, in fact, the chair. I get it, chair implies ability and ability implies chair…you don’t get ability without someTHING having it; and you don’t get an it without the ABILITY to BE . But that’s precisely my point. When dealing in metaphysics it is all about corollaries.  The trick is finding the REAL and rationally perfect corollary, not a contradiction masquerading as one.

What this shows us is that not only is the chair, itself (or specifically its ability), why it “has existence”, or why it is (being) the chair, but that the chair is entirely DISTINCT from existence. Meaning that “existence” is NOT a natural corollary to “chair” at all. The chair and existence, though they may have some conceptual relationship, are not in essence one and the same. Chair and the existence of the chair are not essential corollaries. The chair must be able to be the chair BEFORE it can possess existence…its singular (to itself qua itself) ABILITY TO BE the chair is why it is also ABLE TO HAVE existence. The CHAIR is; and the CHAIR has. Existence here really has nothing to do with it. Existence only enters the picture (at the epistemological level) AFTER the chair has already been made manifest by its ABILITY to be (its ability to be and its being are of course corollary, as I explained above). This seems quite a contradiction to the commonly understood notion of “existence”…that is, existence at the metaphysical level.

It is the chair and its ABILITY which are metaphysical corollaries, not the chair and its existence. Existence, however, we are told is supposed to be the metaphysical synonym for “chair”…the general primary of “existence” supposedly implying the specific ( in this case chair). But as I have explained it actually does not because we don’t say the chair IS existence, we say the chair HAS existence. Which again, contrary to existence, implies ABILITY at root…of the chair to act…to be…to have. Ability is the root essence which implies chair, not existence. Ability = action = a specific thing which acts.

The metaphysical corollary is like this: Ability implies chair (in this case), and chair implies Ability. “Chair has Ability and Ability has chair” is also a logical way to render it; chair does Ability and Ability does chair. Ability manifests chair, manifests ability. It’s a perfect corollary.

In summary:

We cannot say that the chair has existence WITHOUT IMPLYING ABILITY, thus undercutting existence as the metaphysical primary. However we CAN say that the chair has ability—is able to act as (be)—without implying existence. For “being” is an act, not an is. DOING/ACTION cannot be divorced from chair. AT ALL. Metaphysics is active, not passive. Ability, not existence, implies a PLURALITY of objects which all share the same exact, absolute root. Ability ALONE reconciles the paradox of a metaphysical singularity which not only allows for but NECESSITATES a rational, efficacious plurality.