What Natural Law Is Not

It appears that there is a great misconception about what natural law is, so let me try to clear this up. Natural law does not mean that whatever happens in “nature” is morally good. Such assertions equivocate on the term “nature.” Natural law has more to do with final causes. What is the purpose or proper function or said thing acts as the determiner of the proper use. Calling natural law anything less than this oversimplification is deceptive and a gross misrepresentation.

Politics and Equivocation: Or, Why Nothing Gets Done in Congress

I recevied an official petition (my very first, huzzah!) in the mail to reverse Roe v. Wade. On it is listed several premises which are supposed to support their conclusion. If it is supposed to be an argument, that would seem like a good place to start. However, the fourth premise is followed by a fifth premise (surprise!) that equivocates on an idea rather than a specific term. That probably means it’s not equivocation but something else (a term for which I cannot think of at the moment). Anyways. here are the fourth and fifth premises.

Whereas: In Roe, the Supreme Court admitted: “If…personhood [for the unborn] is established, the appelant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amdendment…” (Roe v. Wade [410 US 113 at 156-7]); and

Whereas: Science is clear that human life begins at conception when a new human being is formed;

Note to politicians: there is a difference between life and personhood! Either you don’t know how to make distinctions or your purposefully being deceptive. I hope it is the former (though, then you probably shouldn’t be in office).

Questions about Free Will

Most Christians (unless you teach at Fuller) will hold some sort of mind/body dualism. That is, the mind is not a physical object. If this is so, can one speak of the mind using physical-causal language? Is it right to think of the relations of ideas as one thinks of the relations of two objects interacting causally? Does a non-materialist view of the mind eliminate objections to free will (i.e., classical combatibalism expressed in similar ways by Christians such as Augustine, Calvin, and Edwards)?

Two Proposals on Free Will

Proposal 1: To avoid theological confusion and controversy, maybe the language of “free will” should be replaced with “morally responsible agency,” because isn’t that what most people are trying to say anyways?

Proposal 2: When speaking about the belief of “free will” in the Early Church, understand what they meant by free will in their own context because the concept has changed over time

A Tale of Two Archers

Here is an old poem from my undergrad days. Not the best, but it is one of my favorites.

A Tale of Two Archers
by Ryan Clevenger

One bright morning, with the rising of the sun
Great archers have gathered—a tourney begun!
Then at their stations, each archer made ready,
In order to win one needs arms steady.

Now, the bows bent back, such a sight to espy,
When loud signal horn blew, great arrows did fly!
Descending on targets—a bull’s eye, a miss!
(The winner awaited fair maidens kiss).

The tourney continued ‘til there were but two,
Given such worship for what knights are due.
But, lo! there arose, twixt them a dispute,
So enraged they were that no one would shoot.

The King then stood and did cry a command,
That each archer continue, least they be damned.
“But, Sire,” said one, “this other doth speak
That arrow ne’er hits the way that we think!”

“’Tis true,” said the other, “this is what I hold,
That reason would prove, if I dare be so bold,
To travel a length half way and half more,
—continue to listen, please, I implore—

“When the arrow doth travel straight through the air
It can only ever be half its way there.
Take a number and divide it by half,
Continue on so and you’ll start to laugh.

For then thou wilt see none e’er can reach zero
(Go right on and try to be thou the hero)
But as for me, I do now rest my case,
To think arrow hit be a fool’s mistake.”

To this the King did give a consenting sigh
“He is right, you know.  Oh, how foolish am I!
With knowledge so new, this tourney is done,
Go back to your homes, the winner is none.”

“Please wait, O, my King,” the first man was shouting,
“Give ear to my cause o’er this cynics doubting!
His reason is sound, and this is all right,
But what of faith and trust beyond mere sight?

I know what I see, though my senses may fail,
Therefore, I must but trust and let faith prevail.
Lo! reason is good, but not all the way,
For faith doth finish, what reason didst lay.”

The King then did pause and considered at length,
Of the living by faith, and not by ones strength.
Yet, the first man’s plea, though strong as it was,
Suffered not reasons calculable cause.

And again, with a sigh, the King did consent
What reason proved not, to the fire it went!
“I cannot allow what reason can’t see,
For in doing so a fool I would be.”

Tourney was over; the sun would retire,
But in the first man, there kindled a fire!
He spoke to fair maiden, “I will not miss.”
Then he delivered loves faithful first kiss.

The Wit of Socrates

I forgot how entertaining Plato’s dialogues are. Take, for instance, this short quote from Cratylus 399A.

Socrates (to Hermogenes): And you are right in having it; for just at this very moment I think I have had a clever thought, and if I am not careful, before the day is over I am likely to be wiser than I ought to be.

-Plato, Plato IV: Cratylus, Parmenides, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias, tr. by Harold North Fowler, LCL 167 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1939), 59.

I don’t know if the Loeb translation is the best (I got it mainly for the Greek), but I enjoyed the line nonetheless. Why can’t modern philosophers be this funny? 🙂