Choosing what to believe

I came across the following, which seemed pertinent to a recent comment thread discussion that I had with Andrew on Irresistible (Dis)grace, regarding whether and to what extent we can choose what to believe:

[I]t’s impossible to argue rationally that people can’t know reality, because any such argument would be self-defeating; it would depend on known truths and would therefore presuppose the proposition it’s trying to disprove. On the other hand, it’s also impossible to argue rationally that we can know reality, because any such argument would be circular; it would depend on known truths and therefore presuppose its conclusion. So there’s nothing for it but to make a choice—either you believe that you can know reality, or not.

leirbag75, “The Myriad Colors Phantom World Fallacy”, Prime Matter blog, May 3, 2018.

I think people who think we can’t know reality generally have some other agenda, some reason why it benefits them psychically or emotionally to believe that. For the vast majority, such an idea never occurs to them.

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Song of the Day

Beethoven? Scottish folk songs? Who knew?

Dim, dim is my eye,
As the dew-drop once clear,
Pale, pale is my cheek,
Ever wet with the tear
And heavily heaves
This soft breast, once so gay,
For William, my true love,
My William away!

Sad, sad was the hour,
When he bade me adieu,
While he hung on my bosom,
And vow’d to be true;
My heart it seem’d bursting
On that fatal day,
When the fast less’ning sail
Bore my William away.

For honour my William
Braved danger and toil,
And he fought and he fell
With the Lord of the Nile.
To die for his country
In glory’s bright day,
My valiant sweet William
Count never dismay.

Lament him, ye fair,
And lament him, ye brave,
Though unshrouded he lies,
And the sea is his grave;
For the kind and true hearted,
The gallant and gay,
Lament, for my William’s
For ever away!

Random quotes

I’m reading Fr. George Rutler, He Spoke to Us: Discerning God in People and Events, a book of essays which I’m enjoying very much. From the essay titled “Why We Need Lent”:

Fasting is meant to teach humility: If I cannot do without a few sandwiches, I should speak with reserve about being a soldier of Christ.

From “The Awkwardness of Advent”:

Our culture is enduring a severe test of itself. If Christ does not
govern minds and hearts, mere humans will volunteer to do it, and they
will do it badly. When the Judges of Israel could think about their
own existence only with reference to how other people existed apart
from divine regiment, they wanted a human king. Samuel warned them:
“He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards
and give them to his servants. . . . He will take the tenth of your
flocks,and you shall be his slaves” (I Sam. 8:14, 17). These days, he
will take a lot more than 10 percent.

And one from Chesterton:

Cobbett said about Cranmer that the very thought that such a being had
walked the earth on two legs was enough to make the reeling brain
doubt the existence of God; but that peace and faith flow back again
into the soul when we remember that he was burned alive.

G.K. Chesterton, William Cobbett (1910).

 

The imperfect will be done away with

Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be destroyed. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away the things of a child. We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I have been known. So there abide faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.  (1 Cor. 13:8-13.)

This is another one of those passages that I have read a hundred times, but this past Sunday during Mass its meaning struck me in a new way. What I had never noticed before, was that the reading is a series of contrasts between the perfect and the imperfect (with “perfect” having the connotation of “complete” or “fulfilled”):

When I was a child, I spoke, felt, thought as a child (imperfect); now that I have grown up, I have put away the things of a child (perfect).

We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner (imperfect); but then face to face (perfect).

Now I know in part (imperfect), but then I shall know even as I am known (perfect) (since God knows us perfectly).

We all know about faith, hope, and love, and how the greatest of these is love. But why is it the greatest? Because love is perfect, whereas faith and hope are imperfect. “[W]hen that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with.”

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part” illustrates the imperfection of faith and hope: They are both forms of partial knowledge: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) It’s what we have when we can’t see the object of faith directly; we know “as through a mirror, in an obscure manner.” Charity is the real deal, right here and now, and will remain so even in eternity; whereas faith and hope will have lost their usefulness.

This is a teaching about love, but it’s also a teaching about eternity, the afterlife, heaven, which will be a state of perfection, again, in the sense of completeness. What we wonder about, hope and strive for, will no longer be matter for hoping and striving since it will all be fulfilled. Everything imperfect will be done away with, including the virtues of faith and hope; but if even faith and hope will be useless, what will be the point of worrying and working and striving?

Thus, heaven will not be a state of striving to achieve, but a state of rest; not a state of imperfection, but a state of perfection; with nothing yet to be achieved, but all things fulfilled.

(This last point is further to my post “Does Mormonism offer more (after death) than mainstream Christianity?“)

So run that you may obtain

Brethren, know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty; I so fight, not as one beating the air: but I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all in Moses were baptized; in the cloud and in the sea; and all did eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the same spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ). But with the most of them God was not well pleased.

Epistle for Septuagesima Sunday, 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 10:1-5; quoted from The Roman Missal (Fr. Lasance).

I have heard this reading a hundred times but its meaning finally became clear to me today at Mass. In short, St. Paul is saying that although we’re all members of Christ’s Church, that’s not enough. All of the Israelites walked through the Red Sea when it parted, nevertheless most of them were not pleasing to God. They were grumblers and complainers and turned to idolatry at the first opportunity. Most of us Catholics do not please God. We need to be not merely “in the race,” but run as if to win it. Not merely be in the Church, but be among the few in the Church with whom God is well pleased.

And how do we run as if to win the race? By chastising our bodies and bringing them into submission, just as an athlete disciplines his body by training hard and restricting his diet.

Modern, First World problems

From a commercial I’ve seen many times on TV lately:

[A young woman in a job interview, with regard to her problem-solving skills:] “I got through high school without a car, a phone, or a computer.”

I too got through high school without any of those things. In all likelihood, the grey-haired man interviewing her also lacked a phone and a computer in high school. The same could be said of virtually everyone born in the United States before 1970 or so (not even mentioning those from countries less fortunate).