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Thursday, October 21, 2004

How I spent D & D Day

Last Saturday was a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the making of Dungeons and Dragons, the flagship of fantasy roleplaying games. Our FLGS had all sorts of activities to honor the occasion, including a campaign tournament in the store manager's homebrewed campaign setting. Calling it "homebrewed', belies the excellent quality of the adventures. However. The campaign used D&D 3.5e rules.

The contest had two rounds and cost five dollars to enter. In the first round, the same one-shot adventure was conducted by five tables with five PCs and one DM each, using the same pre-generated characters at each table. After a four hour session, the DM had to decide on which player was the best role-player during the game (as well as an alternate choice). The five best players from each table (or their seconds if the first choice could not continue) would meet at one table with the team of DMs and the main DMM to do another final one-shot with a new set of characters. The best role-player from this round won the tournament and $70 worth of RPG swag from the store.

I thought it was a great opportunity to finally get a real taste of convention style roleplay with competent gamers, but I almost missed the whole thing. When I got to the store, it seemed like all the seats were full. Disappointed, I thought I would wait for one of the "baby" intro games that were running every couple of hours, just to get more experience with D20. Being a HackMaster devotee, I'm not too familiar with the system.

Providentially, one of the scheduled contestants was a no-show and one of my buddies on the store staff got me that person's seat. I managed to get the alternate's prize for that round and the primary couldn't stay to continue. So I got to be in the big final game. I didn't make the top three in the final round but I did get to go the distance. One of the reasons, that I didn't get into the winners circle is that before the final round was because the DMs required a D20 3.5 Rules Quiz, the results of which would be used if the final accounting was too close to call. As I said, I am not very familiar with the system -- I only got 3 out of 10 right. According to the DMs of both rounds, everyone played so well that it was really too close to call.

Everyone indeed played very well and the DMs had prepared some really fun adventures.. I realized that one of my weak areas was getting into character. It turns out, dear readers, that while I am a real ham in print, it is really hard for me just to produce character flavor on demand. I really have to be inspired to do it and I was pretty nervous at the time. So both my characters were rather recalcitrant and task-focused no matter what the character sheet said.

In the main event, all the PCs were men from mid-twenties to mid-forties, but two of us had to play female characters. My character was a gorgeous elven female rogue (thief for all you HM folks), not more than a century old which like a teenager for elves. It seemed like my character was the designated jailbait for the adventure but she was aligned NG and was given a full covering adventure uniform, which I appreciated (modest fellow that I am -- as a Christian, I'm the sort of guy that likes to go the beach and dress up women with my mind). The real spice to this character was that she was equipped with psionic powers that were to be kept a secret from the other players. To use them, I send to send the DM team instructions by secret notes, which proved to be tremendous fun for both me and the DMs, who scurried like excited squirrels around anything I sent their way. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed playing a thief and one with secret psionics. My next character will be a thief type female elf character, maybe a Bard to get the special goodie powers. Also, I enjoyed the D20 system itself a lot more than I thought. The rules set made the action proceed smoothly and didn't stick out much to interfere with play. Fortunately, the DMs did not feel absolutely bound to the rules but made accommodations to what they thought was creative roleplaying.

Tolkein wrote fantasy to be adapted to the great traditions of Scandinavian Mythoi that formed the culture of the ancient British. The head DM formed the last adventure to be adapted to Chris Carter's 'X-files'. All the characters were recruited by an official special investigations arm of the kingdom, including receiving special uniforms and badges. We were the kingdom's MIB (Munchkins in Black), whose purpose was to investigate strange phenomena. We were sent out on a case that involved investigating dissected livestock and strange crop circles. There was even a player character who kept insisting that we faced proof positive of "extraplanar" forces and who had the nickname "Spooky" and another player character who was a former constable and who was constantly raising skeptical questions about such creatures.

There were, to be honest, some real "Kodak moments" which are bound to give some moral pause. At one point, our team was trying to rescue a family trapped in a dungeon that was scheduled to by tortured for some purpose or another. While setting the mother and daughter free we were interrupted by screaming and the sudden appearance of a beautiful naked women from the room where the screaming was coming from. She was so striking, that every character had to make a saving throw to resist the magic of being charmed including the female characters. One of our comrades was seduced, and lost a level of experience being kissed by the creature. At this time, my character psionic projected a charm person effect that made the creature break off her seduction and turn to free the father who was being tortured on a rack. One free, the man and his family escaped and the naked woman displayed her true nature by unfolding her leather-like bat wings of a demon succubus (as I suspected). This lead to a melee with all the characters. My character tried to tumble into a sneak attack position and wound tangled up on the floor between the monster's legs. Fortunately for her, the demon focused all her energies on attacking the other characters in the room so that my elf remained undisturbed until her next initiative round. On my next turn then, my character jumped up with a dagger and performed a "C-section" on the creature (which I said in part to avoid peoples" imaginations from speculating on other even worse prospects). This turned out to be a decisive blow as I rolled a Nat 20 twice and maxxed my two allowed hit diced. This caused her to give up the fight and disappear. The DM bent the rules both in allowing the charm effect to work and not penalizing me from attacking from a prove position from the floor.

As I recall, I did the most logical thing I thought to do under the circumstances but there is no doubt the whole thing presents an image both titillating and disturbing, an image I had to concentrate hard to set aside during worship the next day. It seems to me that such moments are almost inevitable if a Christian plays with the average roleplayer. This remains controversial but not in the sense that I case think of any necessary defeaters for participating in general with roleplaying games. Another aspect though is that there were many other things I could think of doing on a Saturday that would have been far better than killing an afternoon in fantasy land, even though there was a lot of fun to be had in the trip.

One thing I did do was try to bring Jesus into the game with me, not in the sense of anything explicitly Christian, like telling a goblin about the "four spiritual laws", but just in the sense that I was being conscious of my identification with Christ and the trust in the real effect on the Holy Spirit in my life, my character, and my consciousness, hoping in trust that the fruit of the Spirit would be palpable to the other players through their characters' interactions with my character. I asked God before each game, almost spontaneously, to simply help me to play well, a prayer which He seemed to answer without magic.

Dungeons and Dragons day served to give a real paradigm experience of roleplaying games at their very best, which will be very useful grist for my further reflection about the hobby.

The Gnu

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Inky Pinky

Eightish libation

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Montpelier Champagnia's "Out and About"

Welcome again, my darlings, to my wonderful column. This week I have such a special treat for you, something that caught me completely by surprise. This week I was visiting only the dreariest little suburb and could not get along any further without stopping for some nourishment somewhere. But all I could find was an old greasy spoon diner on the downside of the theatre district -- oh you know I am never far from the great stage, my lovelies. Anyway, there I was at some place called Martinelli's Diner for a late bruncheon.

But I finally realized that the whole place was a spoof, a masterpiece of alternative dinner theatre. What first tipped me off was the brilliant over the top performances by what was putatively the waitstaff and management and the surrealness of the decorum. Every wall was dulling blue-gray paint job, like a Mexican hospital room, only splattered with brownish blotches. The counters had these terribly gauche clear plastic "crystal" vases, each with a paper rose that needed to replaced. Even though it was opened for breakfast, the aroma smelled perpetually of old fish. What a wonderful send up of lower bourgeois society!

Immediately, as entered the cafe, my ducks, my eardrums were trammalled by a blistering bickering two waitresses were lambasting each other with. The dialogue captured a torturous story of the fickleness and brutality of live lover/parasites who where bravely expelled from one woman's apartment, leaving her tragically with starving and intemperate children -- a story with tones of Tennessee Williams. Imagine; a story within the story of the cafe. I was totally caught off guard by the use of such an epic convention in what was apparently meant to be taken as a daily social setting.

Nor was I at all expecting the exotica smuggled into the menu as if standard fare. I finally settled on a dish (no doubt eastern European in origin but with an obvious modernist technique applied in the execution) called "biscuits & Gravy". Imagine, two huge wads of flour baked until brown, then torn open and centered in a huge plate, and then finally covered with a mixture of white sauce and broken up sausage links and patties doused with pig grease. Only a beatnik pill crazed Bohemian mind could have thought that would count as an adequate dining experience. It is just this deliberate refusal to inhibit the completion of an aesthetic concept which speaks to the existential ennui of modern society. No one could fail to be impressed with such culinary minimalism!

But the greatest highlight of all was the noirish centerpiece of the show! Just when things were getting slow in the plot and I was about to think this experience was going to fail my heightened expectations, some of the customers began to appear to get in an argument who were dressed in a regressive but titillating style of leather jackets and oilstained jeans. The timing of the drama was just perfect as the suspense crescendoed when one of them produced a revolver and began furiously pointing it at everybody and nobody. The other actors who were hired to play nondescript costumers nonetheless did a magnificent job creating a realistic ambiance of peril with outstanding realism -- no doubt they hire them from the fresh brilliant students at the Downtown University Theater Group. If this is there first staged appearance we can count on a new wave of great natural talent in the ensembles of the future.

They even penetrated the stage audience barrier. One of the talented toughs pointed the gun at me and growled "What the [deleted for prudes] are you smiling for, Liberace?" I tell you, sweetings, when you are looking down the barrel of such an prop so professional utilized, you feel the butterflies rippling up and down your inner thighs. I heard the hard metallic click of inevitable death when another character grabbed the arm of this own and pulled it up toward the ceiling. Kudos to the pyrotechnicians who pulled off such a magnificent job planting the charges in the ceiling to make the effect look so real.

I would love to tell you more, but as I had not expected that I would be in such an entertaining drama, I had to leave for as you know nature calls for all of us. During a particularly well choreographed action sequence involving most of the main characters and several extras arriving as policemen. I had to sneak away through the back as (of course!) the commodes were out of order. Still, it is a great reason to come back and see the show again.

Unfortunately, that will not be for awhile as driving by I noticed that Martineli's is closed indefinitely, no doubt refreshing the stage do get things ready for the spring theatre pilgrimage next year. But I so look forward to its opening show and I am sure I have enticed you darlings to see it with me. Until then, see you on Broadway.

"Inkity Pinkity"

Eye-glass history.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Thurvan and the Tomb of the Liche Lord

Thurvan, a dungeon delving dwarven adventurer, was raiding the Tomb of the Liche Lord which he has learned contains the singing sword of Shanana, worth all the treasury of the Crystal Kingdom. But the Liche Lord is king of the undead with terrible supernatural powers, including the power to absorb the lifeforce of any living creature and transform it into his undead mindslave forever, the power to see into the future, and the power to assume any size and shape and become like any object. What Thurvan could never determine was when the Liche Lord could be expected to be in or out of his keep, since he had not been seen or heard of in the country for centuries.

Bravely entering the black obsidian structure, Thurvan's torchlight reflects over and over again against the black glassy walls as he makes his way down the steps into the antichamber, shivering from the unnatural chill. As he enters the chamber, several skeletons stationed like sentries along each side wall light up like torches in a greenish fire, illuminating the room. In the center of the room is a mahogany pedestal. As Thurvan approached the pedestal (keeping a careful eye on the skeletons), he noticed an ancient parchment. The paper and ink were clearly ancient, written obviously generations ago during the reign of his father's father before the wars of the East, and so fragile that he dared not pick it up with his hands.

But as he looked at the ancient document, he was shocked to see that it was written in Hill Dwarven, the language he grew up speaking and that it seemed to be addressed to him. It read:

"Sir Thurvan Stoneblade, of the Hill Kingdoms beneath the cliffs of Katerwaller; I have seen your coming from the days long past into my keep for the sword of Shanana. You profess to seek the strength of your father's Kingdom but you also have your race's lust for treasure and precison weaponry. My life has been to long to simply dispatch theives without effort and I long for diversion and distraction and to test the mettle of nobles. Therefore, I have left you this note and guide to the Tomb. You seek the sword but there are other rooms filled with gold and precious gems but this is all a pittance compared to the value of the sword. The main treasure room where the sword is kept is in the last chamber of the Tomb. You must decide what rooms to visit and what treasure to take, but even now in my time I can see what you have decided. So this is my bargain; if you decide to visit only the main treasure room and take only the sword, then I have left the sword in its place in the main treasure room for you and you may take it and go. But if you decide to take any other treasure from any other room, you are welcome to it but you will not find the sword of Shanana in its place. And now, knowing which you have decided, I have thus left everything according to your decision and as I have promised, knowing that from my time until yours this tomb will never have been disturbed by another, including myself. Fare thee well, warrior. (signed in blood)THE LICHE LORD ABINIDAZ OF THE DEAD

Thurvan read the document several times to make sure he understood it and then leaned up to stroke the tangles out of his thick beard and mind. He thought, "No matter what I choose, it is already true that the sword is in its place or it is not. I might as well visit all the chambers and take whatever treasure I find for nothing I do will make the sword appear in the chamber if it is not there already, nor make the sword disappear if it is there." And so through with his plodding the eager dwarf developed a glint in his eye at the prospect of great treasure. Discovering an opening into rest of the tomb between the skeletons, just as the guide had indicated, he went into the depths of the tomb.

After several hours and not a little peril (for though no other person indeed disturbed it, the tomb had become the resting place of all kinds of restless spirits and dire creatures which grew possessive of what treasure were to be found and thus had protected their new lairs fiercely), the dwarf finally came to the last chamber of the tomb. He was only that much more treasure-hungry to find the sword since, as had been written in the parchment, the other gems and gold were paltry indeed in comparison to the object of his quest and only whetted his longing for it to a raging pitch. Opening the final door of the tomb, he was almost suprised and greatly relieved to see what it contained. For the room was a natural crystal formation of enormous size, with each crystal giving if a different colored but still very bright light. And in the middle of the room and inserted through a crystal slab was an enormous and spectacular sword. From the silver sheen of the blade, from its emerald encrusted grip, from the ancient Eastern runes, and from the eerie ringing that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere, Thurven had no doubt in his own mind that this was the Singing Sword of Shanana!

Question: Should Thurvan take the sword?


Some Slightly Ambitious Anselmianism

I wrote this after reading a collection of standard essys on the ontological argument.

The Argument:

(1) God is, by definition, the greatest conceivable being.
(2) Existing is a great making feature, that is, a being that has certain features plus the feature of existing is greater that a being with the same features but without the feature of existing.
(3) God has features but not the feature of existing. (assumed for reductio)
(4) We can conceive of a being, greater than God, such that it has the same features as God plus the feature of existing. (From 2,3)
(5) Therefore, there is a being greater than the greatest conceivable being. (From 1,4)
(6) Therefore, it is not the case that God has features but not the feature of existing. (From 1-5, reductio ad absurdum)
(7) Therefore, it is not the case that God has no features. (From 1,6)
(8.) Therefore, God has the feature of existing, that is, God exists. (From 6,7)

Objections and Replies:

(A) (2) is false. Existing cannot be a feature. Whenever we say of anything that it exists we are not saying anything further about what it is. Reply: There is no reason to think that existing can never be a feature. It is for all we know theoretically possible for something to posess existing as a feature of what it is, even though ordinarily most things do not posess exiting as a feature. Admittedly, to say that something posesses existence as a feature is to say that it necessarily exists.

(B) Even if something could posess existing as a feature, necessary existence is inadequate. It only leads us to conclude that either God exists or that God cannot exist. Reply: It is conceded that necessary existence is inadequate to conclude that God exists. We may suppose that not only is the posession of existing as a feature a great making property but that there is a further feature, call it "Feature E", that explains how God has existing as a feature. Since this is intuitively a great making feature also, God, the greatest conceivable being must have this feature too. And this feature explains why there is a God rather than not.

(C) Feature E, whatever it it, must be something like self-existence, and this is simply incoherent, like something bringing itself into being from non-being, which is impossible. Reply: It is conceded that self-existence is impossible and that Feature E is like self-existence, but it is not conceded that Feature E is self-existence. Like the concept of the infinite, we do not have a clear conception of what Feature E is, and we don't have a proper way of formulating it, but inconceivability and unformulablity are not guides to impossibility. But we can still see that it is a great making feature and that the greatest conceivable being must have it.

(D) No one can have a concept of Feature E. Reply: It is clear that many people are persistently and frequently involved in a form of life and a language game that presupposes having a concept of Feature E in virtue of worshipping God who must not only be seen as necessarily existing but also as possessing this further magnificient trait. Further, there is also the philosophical game based on the hypothesis of the principle of sufficient reason which poses that there is a reason that explains why there is everything that there is and not nothing, which reason also cannot properly be formulated and which must altimately come to rest on Feature E. So it seems that one can have a concept of Feature E.

(E) Without an account of Feature E, the whole argument is question-begging since we have nothing on the table to describe the necessary feature and can only assume it to be available. Further, without already having some positive idea of how such an analysis might go, you could never even know when you have discovered it. Reply: It is conceded that the defender of the argument owes the critic an analysis of Feature E and it is admitted that all that can be offered is a promissory note. However, if the greatest conceivable being exists, He may yet illumine our minds to see what analysis is required even while we have as yet no idea about how to procede to the answer. And in this as well as any other case, we will be better people if we risk assuming that analyses of concepts that we think we may have are available to be found than if we dispair of the possibility of knowing the answer.

(F) Given that response, the definition that God is the greatest conceivable being, and that no non-question-begging evidence is available for any philosophical position, there is no motivation for pursuing an analysis of Feature E since acceptance of belief in God is already sufficiently motivated through prudential grounds. Reply redux: It is conceded that no non-question-begging evidence is available, This is true also of this argument, since it tacitly assumes the debatable premise that conceivability is a test for possibility, so know conclusive public demonstration is possible, even if we had the analysis of Feature E available. Even so, it is at least suggested that having the concept of Feature E in mind makes a difference in the structure of plausibility for a person (or group or tradition or form of life). In particular, it makes the idea something could exist without Feature E being instantiated more implausible. Concepts are firmly grasped and transferable between conceptual reasoners as they are made explicit. Also, showing that a concept is explicable shows that the concept's effect in the plausibility structure is motivated independently of other psychological factors. I suggest that having the concept of Feature F firmly in mind makes theism objectively more plausible and naturalism less so. Since, ex hypothesi, if God exists, the pursuit of truth is important, and since there is no way to break up a stalemate between conflicting perspectives, but we still may provide a personal objective ground for a person to rationally prefer one perspective over another, we have an obligation to truth to pursue and work for the discovery of the analysis of Feature E.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Chess Newcomer Defeats supercomputer

Helsinki, From the Dissociated Press - A striking upset occurred in a special chess tourney here when relative newcomer, Iventen Bittitov, a low scoring new comer to professional chess with a ludicrously wealthy family that can pay to have special matches, defeated the superpowered computer IMSO Blue.

In the opening moves of the game, with only eight pieces left, Bittitov studied the computer's early castling move, picked up his remaining bishop, got up from his seat, smashed the unit to tiny pieces with an aluminum baseball bat, returned to his seat, placed the bishop in front of his opponent's queen, and said "Check".

Authorities have found the end game strategy controversial, but Bittitov indicated several precedents. At the court of Charlemagne, a hireling scholar of Alcuin recovered from a shrewd boxing-in strategy by moving his queen from his knight's three to his opponent's left eye. Similarly, at a feast celebrating the Peace of Westphalia, one of the Lords defeated a two piece checkmate strategy by the sheriff of the court grounds by summoning the royal executioner.

The judges found these citings moot but insisted that there was nothing against it in the official rules.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

R.C. Sproul: The Wittenburg Door interview

A great opportunity to discover Sproul's effectiveness as a teacher, will taking a few potshots at him. It includes his response to the question "Can a Semi-pelagian or Arminian be a Christian?" (He says yes and explains how.)

An excerpt:
SPROUL: I believe everything that I believe, and I believe that everything I believe is correct. Let's say, as Calvin said, that no theologian is ever more than 80 percent right. I'm certain that any theologian believes 100 percent of what they teach, and if they knew where their 20 percent was, they'd change it. I don't know where my errors are, or I'd correct them.
DOOR: And Calvin's 80-20 estimate could've been part of his 20-percent error.

Concerning my stand on RPGs

I am changing my stand on RPGs. Not from "for" to "against", but my argument for thinking that they are a potentially acceptible form of Christian entertainment. The may reason for mentioning this is that my previous views were useful to me at the time but with things vastly improving, it's necessary for me to grow out of them.

My main reason for sustaining an interest in role playing after such a long hiatus was because of the psychological benefit that I so desprately needed at the time. Basicly, my argument could be reduced to the claim that roleplaying was better than suicidal dispair -- a life of imaginary accomplishments which required efforts of creative imagination as well as a system of social validation was much to be preferred to a life of thinking that I was hard wired for failure. Role-playing was a natural mechanism for meeting some important personal needs and providing the simulacra of a sesne of acheivement and social recognition that would signal some of the same pleasure to a brain that basiclly canot tell the difference between "real" emotions and "fictional" emotions, and thus overcoming fatal depression. This was useful in overcoming the sense of existential failure of not completing my grad school goals. It had the saluatory value of keeping me from the edge.

But though valuable as an emergency salve, it cannot make a satisfactory sufficient diet, not that I expected it to. All though RPGs are better than depression and suicide they are not sufficient to make a vision of the good life. Real accomplishments are still far better than imaginary ones and a life without them is still almost like trying to be a pig satisfied when you at least could be frustrated at being a "Socrates wannabe". (The Wannabe's Wardrobe!)

My goal is just to make sure that RPGs are helping me fight my obsessions, not helping me feed them. But RPGs are inherently ambiguous. One can approach them activisticly or passivisticly. People tend to interact with RPGs either from the game design - game mechanic aspect in which a person excericises ones authorial and engineering potentials (or dramatic and tactical talents) or one is a vicarious consummer who lays bacl and lets things happen in order to have a vicarious experience. This is much like the film industry: on one side you have all the talent and effort going into making the movie and the next-to-no-effort at watching the movie. There are problems and virtues possible on both sides (for example, a movie goer might cultivate an accomplished sense of criticism and film insight rather than just soaking it in) but I think one has to be watchful if one is becoming too passively involved in RPGs as in anything else.

That's only the begining of criticism. Certainly, there still remains a lot to recommend RPGs as a good hobby. It's social and interactive, it requires imagination and narrative and dramatic skill development, it stimulates learning and research skills, it's fun and can even be transcendentally beautiful at times, it demands more of one's personal potential than other entertainments, etc. But this only means that it has the potential of being a good hobby. But life is certainly more than fictional roleplaying. Real life is more worthwhile than fictional life.

Just an addendum to my wish list: I wish there were more on the web regarding the psychological impact of RPGs and constructive uses and healthy approaches to them. Most such research seems mainly to justify the permisibility of RPgs, particularly against fundamentalists of various sorts. But role players need more than permission, we need some positive guidance beyond apologetics. What motivations are really appropriate to roleplaying and what motivations are not? One cannot simply say that having fun is suffcient because here just as in most areas we must distinguish between various sorts of pleasure. For example, we really don't want our fun to be by using other people as a mere means for our own gratification. In particular, I wish Christian or other religious apologists of RPGs would not just focus on hygenic factors of them relative to spititual growth. Can playing with RPGs be good or are they just okay? Hopefully, to ask is to receive.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Why aren't we going after the bastards?

Like anyone else, I balk at confessing that I have arbitrary prejudices to certain groups of people, even to myself. But I have to admit that there is one particular group that I cannot seem to help feeling self-justified in maintaining some animosity -- namely, bastards. Of course, I don't mean those poor unfortunate ones who have been abandoned by neglect or circumstance by their parents -- may God have mercy such as these.

No, but you know who I mean. I mean THE bastards. It is hard for me to understand why they don't go back to Bastardland where they came from. I have certain reasons for my difficulty in suspending my hostility toward a peculiar minority. One is that it is not quite clear to me that such really are in the minority. It seems hard to sneeze without my phlegm hitting a bastard. Another reason is that I feel pretty safe in thinking that bastardhood is a ground for the defeasability of certain human rights, as in "Why is this person not entitled to avoid eating my shorts? Because he is a bastard." I don't know -- it just seems to ring true, a priori, self-evident.

You know, if we had to declare war on an abstract party, we probably would have avoided many of the difficulties if we picked the right sort of group. Declaring war on Terrorists seems to have not been as universally disapproborious as one might have thought. What if Bush had declared war on the bastards? At least, he might have declared war on those bastards -- you know, the dirty, meally-mouthed, pencil-necked, bottom-feeding bastards. Would Congress have difficulty sponsering such a war? Wouldn't they, in fact, be demanding "Why are you letting those bastards get away?" if the president didn't declare war? There would be an impeachment hearing with a special investigator.

Would we have had any obstructive tensions between factions in the Middle East if we were going after bastards? You can imagine a joint Israeli-Palestinian initiative trying to coerce the United States to go after the bastards. "The nations of Islam and Israel unite in sponsering and supporting the American initiative against the bastards", would be the caption of a photo of Arafat and Sharon shaking hands. What about the debate attending the arguments for an activist, international policyby the US? Certainly, the United Nations and old Europe would not aquiese in a quietistic policy. "Don't you see that with great power comes great responsibility? The very fact that you have the military resources oblige you to take the initiative against the bastards", they would say in the UN Security Council. It seems that Bush could have manged the rhetoric more effectively.

It might seem that there are good objections against trying to deal with bastards as a catagory. For example, bastards seem to be acting on an individual basis and not part of any organized effort at bastardry. But given the great similarities of individual bastards qua being bastards, can we really be sure that they aren't organized? They seem to behave as if they were rogue cells. How do we know that there is not some sponsering franchise encouraging individuals and even small groups that to act independently? I am sure it would be hard to find an agency who wouldn't be sympathetic with erring on the side of caution.

Still, we ought to love our enemies. So perhaps war is too strong and we should settle for quarantines.

Sorry, for the absenteeism!

I have been having to mitigate severely to catch up on my IRL responsibilities. As soon as things abate, I'll be back.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

New Link

Welcome to Jeremy from Personal Knowledge. Thanks for linking to the Gnu.

It's a Better Country

Dear old friends:

One of my main reasons for going bloggo was because all of my old familyesque contacts from a better country were making the diaspora into the Bloggosphere and I didn't want to lose touch if the forum declined. I have updated my links with the blogs who felt left out. I apologize for that. I hope y'all will start visiting me here real soon then.

Also note: See my new Ligonier Microcon Blog, linked at the side.

Friday, March 12, 2004

The New Pollution

Post-modernists like to assert the death of modernity, that is the like to think that there has been some radical shift that has successfully unseated the reign of so-called foundationalist views of epistemology and science. The failure of modernity now permits an almost "anything goes" approach to culture and science.

I have never been so convinced. It seems to me that it is really modernity rather than any alternative that has its grip on the some of the most significant culture forming institutions of society. I still sense a hankering after positivism and utiltitarianism even is spite of self-defeating and other objections to it. The case for modernism may not be as strong as first thought, but there seems to be a basic conviction in the project of making it work with enough creative energy. Modernity is anything but dead and I think people just need to stop pretending. In fact, most versions of so-called post-modernism strike me as being in no way alternatives to modernity but rather presuppose it.

It does however, seem that there is a shift going on, not from extreme modernism to extreme relativism but rather a realization that we cannot afford to accept modernity. Modernity has taught us about the failure of dogmatism whether that is dogmatism about science or about relativism. Modernity has weakened its own authority. At the same time it has created situations that have forced us to take a stand and accept commitment to certain principles in spite of our lack of explicit justification for them. This has occurred in the rise of new technologies in medicine and publicly involved engineering and communications projects, like the space shuttle. This new causistry has lead to a renewal of the publicness of the moral point of view and a new culture of public policy. We see this is the emerging groups within both American Parties of a new centrism and the emergence of a new electorate that has no stomach for hardliners on either side -- recently exhibited in the election of Gov. Ahnold in California and in the preferred front runners of both parties for president. It seems to take the form of an endorsement of not resisting globalization but assuming more and more responsibility for how it develops.

This also seems to finally be effecting religion in our country, at least evangelicalism. In the early part of the 20th century, conservative evangelical philosophy of religion was most powerfully effected in all its forms by the waning influence of the previous idealism. This can be seen in Stuart Hackett's dependence on Kant and Brand Blanshard, Jonathan Gerstner's dependence of Jonathan Edwards, E.J. Carnell's dependence on the Brightman and the Boston Personalists, Cornelius Van Til's interaction with the whole idealist tradition, C.S. Lewis' dependence on Berkeley and the British Platonists, and even J. Montegomery's reliance on legal hermeneutics. One could summarize that evangelicalism kept the idealist spirit alive long after it was dead everywhere else. But gradually the work of recent Christian philsosophers working more or less in the tradition that displaced idealism have begun to filter into evangelical culture (Plantinga, Alston, Stump, Kretzmann, Zimmerman, Hacker, Basinger, etc.) and with them a chastened sensibility of what can and cannot be done in philosophy. Interestingly, idealism helped evangelicalism transcend the dogmatism of fundamentalism, and now Christian analytic philosophy is helping evangelicalism overcome the dogmatism of its idealism. Currently, this seems to be felt in some quarters as a crisis just as evangelicalism was a crisis for fundamentalism. It seems to impact our long held understanding of things. But it does not necessarily mean that we have given up our idealism entirely, only that we hold on to it as a tentative possibility.

The evangelical "change of voice" (less absolutists, more pluralistic, less foundational, more pragmatic) was bound to happen.. Evangelicals are in an experimental phase, trying on different fashions to see how the fit, being very careful to size each one. Some err by being hardliners of modernity or post-modernity but most are looking for something in between. The rationality of religion turns out to be similar to the causistry of the new applied ethics. The model for religious rationality is based on the analogy of technology as a form of experimentation on humans. The issue is to determine when affirmation of the faith is an instance of informed rational consent.

This new strand of evangelicalism is potentially convergent with the new cultural strand of social centrism. Both evangelicalism and public culture are becoming more "Lutheran" in that both the new church and the new social sensibility are more content to be in tension with science and the progress of knowledge and technology but resisting a radical dissolution into radically incommensurable sub-cultures. In short, there is no reason why the current temper of the evangelicalism is incompatible with the current temper of the world.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Political stuff: Republicans for Kerry

I am a neo-conservative (or Kantian-cum-"virtue theorist" -- more or less) who is not unalloyedly happy with the current administration but not happy with the alternative either. My co-beliigerent from the ABC forum has just made news with his "Republicans For Kerry" site which is very, very impressive and personally helpful. Besides politics seems to drive up the energy in the blogosphere. So I have attached for the election season some websites to percolate over. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

New On-line Personality survey: Which of Ten Randomly Chosen Objects are you most like?

Take the following strictly scientificly structured test:



A. I feel I am most like a tomato.
B. I feel I am most like a paper clip.
C. I feel I am most like a desk printer.
D. I feel I am most like a cloned sheep.
E. I feel I am most like a natural woman.
F. I feel I am most like a hanging chad.
G. I feel I am most like a spam sandwich.
H. I feel I am most like a pokemon card.
I. I feel I am most like a gobbet of meat.
J. I feel I am most like another tomato.


Step 1: Determine which answer you picked.
Step 2: Determine in your answer that which you feel you are most like.
Step 3: Put quote marks around the name of the object to make it into a label.
Step 4: This label is the label of your personality type. The key feature of that personality type is that someone of that type is apt to answer the above question the same way you did under the same circumstances.

POWERFUL TESTIMONY: "I never really understood myself until I took the Gnu's ultimate personality test. Thanks, Gnu!" -- Anonymous patient at Belvue

Some Gnu things to do.

I added some activites under "Big Fun" in the left column in case y'all get bored reading this stuff. Enjoy!

On Not Being Ashamed of The Gospel

I want to go on record as saying that I believe Mel Gibson not only did well, but also did good and did right when he made the "Passion of the Christ".

Me too, Mel!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

My life is a Japanese Cartoon

This weekend, I was visiting some friends who have a boy whose deeply into Yu-Gi-Oh. I have my own background with Yo-Go-Oh, namely, it's on when I get up on Saturday mornings and it was the only other decent anime program on besides Pokemon that I get on regular local TV without cable. (It's substantially better now with Heat Guy J on MTV2 and Astro Boy on tthe WB.) I had stopped collecting cards myself and this kid had some of the latest ones. I wanted him to feel connected with an adult on an activity he felt close to, so I agreed to play with him on a couple of conditions; we would play with his cards only and that we would construct our decks by random distribution. As you know, this cuts out an important element of strategy but if he designed a deck knowing all of his cards, it would lead to unequal decks. So we just divided his cards into two piles.

You have to understand, I already had it in mind that I was going lose to someone who knew the game and cards better than I did. In fact, we played this way before and I had lost to him a couple of times already. We negotiated about some of the rules -- what monsters needed a sacrifice to summon, and how many life points to start with. I was able to get some monsters out early and shave some life points off of him while at the same time protecting mine. I also played some cards to increase my life points later.

But then he put a stop to my attacks and I could not do anything for awhile as he was amassing powerful monsters on the field. He played "Swords of Revealing Light" which kept me hamstrung. I kept placing lamo monsters in defense mode to defend my life points and I didn't have any decent magic or trap cards to use. I used and placed what I could to clear space in my hand for new cards.

Finally, he was able to activate his coup de grais. He had enough monsters to sacrifice to summon his most powerful card -- "The Winged Dragon of Ra", one of the absurdly powerful Egyptian god cards -- whatever it's actual in-game powers are, I had take his word for them, since the card was in Japanese. I played my two life point cards and raised my life points by 2000, with hopes that I might survive one attack. He attacked and took out my defense card and I was wide open for davastation on his next turn. He was smiling, anticipating his glorious victory.

At the begining of my turn, I had cleared enough space to draw a substantial number of cards. What happened next was like a scene right out of the series.

KID: "There's nothing you can do to stop my Eygptian god card."

GNU:"Just wait and see! First, I play Blue Eyes White Dragon in attack mode."

KID: "Ha! It's attack will hardly scratch my Eygptian god card!"

GNU: "Not so fast! I also play this magic card which increases Blue Eyes attack to 4000."

KID: "That is still not going to save you."

GNU: "But the card also allows me to attack your life points directly!"

KID: "OH, NO! Still, I will be able to attack next turn."

GNU: "But I am still not finished. I also play this magic card."

KID: "But that card lowers your monster's attack to 3500."

GNU: "Yes. But it also lets me attack twice in one turn!"


GNU: "YES!! My Blue Eyes attacks your life points directly twice for 3500 points each attack. That's a total of 7000 points, more than enough to lower your life points to zero! YOU LOSE!! BWAHAHAHAHA! For Seto and Mokuba!!"

Afterwards, I felt embarrassed for such an immature display. But it was so much as ad hoc an ending as any on the show that I could barely believe it. And in my favor, for once.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

To: Dick Wolf, Re: Law & Order plot suggestion

The police homicide detectives respond to a call at an executive office of a large financial and investment company to find that a young executive has apparently been bludgeoned to death. Detectives arrive to find the executives body in his office cruelly distorted by the pounding and blood stains everywhere. Secretaries and others recall no significant traffic in the office except for one of the executives regular clients whom they identify to the police.

Later, the police trace the lead but receive no real information to go on from the client. They receive a call to return to the ME's lab. There they are startled to find out that the stains from the office are not from blood but from hydrulic fluid. Even more striking is the discovery that the victem is not dead after all. On the basis of pre-arranged instructions, specialists had arrived to reconstruct the young executive in full working order. The ME tells the police that examining the patient was like examining an extremely sophisticated clockworks coated with fluid in a vinyl polymere skin. It turns out that the young executive was always a Hobbesian automaton, mingling with society and prospering in a successful firm.

The executive reveals to the police that it was indeed that client who came into that office and beat him. But he did not scream or call out for help because he knew he was not truly in danger. The client and he were formally good friends as well as buisness partners for many years. They had just arranged a mutally profitable deal that was begining to pay a huge dividend when the client discovered that his close friend and associate was really an automaton. The client was very upset by this and felt terribly betrayed. His aggravation drove him to destroy him in a rage. The executive is willing to drop the charges for the sake of former friendship but he wants assurance that the client will still honor their deal contract. The client confirms the story but refuses to honor the contract and the case is processed through the DA's office.

The executive is suing the client for breach of contract. The client's defense is that there was no original contract since one of the ostensive parties was not a person and thus not in a position to form contracts. The court must decide the case on the merits of the client's argument. What does the court decide?

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Neither Evangelical nor Post-evangelical

In his weblog, Dr. Mohler reviews a book devoted to a new movement called Post-evangelicalism. A brief description is that traditional evangelicalism and its precursors is too hung un a modernistic and rationalistic paradigm that has led to its own undercutting in virtue of the general undercutting of the modern paradigm itself in terms of encouraging scepticism, relativism about morals and a self-destructive program of technological development without the grounds for caution. Pomo-evs embrace rather the post-modern reaction to modernity with it rejection of semantics, logical precision, formulation, and focus on technique and its embrace of pragmatics, metaphor, narrative, and focus on style. Read Al's blog for more details if you need to.

Of cvourse Mohler is concerned that the pomo-evs go so pomo that the ev drops away. But it is possible to agree that there is problems with traditional evangelicalism vis a vis its dependence on modernity. I agree that in reformed circles one finds a note of triumphalism that is inappropriate and with respect modernity, it takes the form of an inappropriate confidence in apologetics, not necessarily in the arena of thinking it will necessarily convince everyone but in the area of thinking that it should in the sense of proving its case. Critics refer to this as "blockbuster apologetics" and both classical and presuppositional styles often have this note in common. But rejecting this does not entail embracing the post modern movement. Post-modernism has a dubious confidence in the triumph of the rejection of modernity that is far from apparent or even justifiable. It also seems often that the pomo - spirit is more confident in modernism than moderrnists are the way it treats the scepticism of modernity as somehow being a settled truth with a capital T.

One important task in avoiding the impasse is to question the modernist/post-modernist framework as a guide to understanding the evangelical tradition and both Richard Muller and Paul Helseth are raising important questions here. (See Paul's linked article in the side bar.) But it is also necessary to look at the implausibility of the dilemma in terms of current thought. Its true that epistemological criticism has undermined any sense of a viable option. Rational/evidential approaches are unable to defend their starting points and while state or process approaches may be true we have no way of assuring ourselves that they are. But we have no assurance that they are not. So while skepticism might be true it is possible to imagine a world with epistemological features like ours but where our processes really do track with the truth.

With respect to theology, we don't want to say then that evidence for the truth of Christianity is in principle possible but we don't want to say that it is in principle impossible. It either is or it isn't. We may want to say that if it is possible, we may give a plausible account of how Christianity is evident. If not, we may give other grounds for holding that Christianity is true so that whether in principle evident or not, we have good reasons for holding that Christianity is true. Even if we cannot say absolutely what the case is, there may be appropriate contexts were we can simple say or affirm that Christianity is true and that may explain some of the situations in the Bible.

Stuart C. Hackett in his Reconstruction Of Christianity's Truth Claims, a classic work in apologetics in the evangelical tradition already anticipated this day in his discussion of Rationalistic theistism and Agnostic theism, when he pointed out to the followes of Aquinas on one side and the followers of Kant on the other that given how there work supported the over all case there was no need for them not to band together.

Optional IRL HackMaster Clerics Rule

This is unofficial HackMaster material. This optional clerics rule is suggested for those who want to notch up the realism in their campaign. During character creation, if a player decides to become a cleric in any Good aligned order that requires its clerics to be males and observe strict celibacy, the player must role a D20. If the roll comes up 20, the character must take the fault "Child Molester". There are no BP bonuses with taking this fault. The player may re-roll this roll at the cost of 2BPs.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Integration and Service in Scholarship

Having been pursuing the Reformed tradition of culture as well as theology, my head could not have fully escaped the triumphalism in the arguments of even the mildest defenders of NeoCalvinist thought. This was just a failure to grasp the paradoxical nature of the prospect of the intergration of faith with all of life.

In trying to take this seriously and follow through by pursuing a graduate education, I had to eventually come face to face with the fact that Christianity was neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for good scholarship, as Wolterstorf is clearly aware in his book "Reason Within the Bounds of Religion". This seemed to indicate the the academic value of Christian faith was zero or at most an INUS condition. It did prove that the academy could well get along without believers. Since my faith was not necessary what else did I have to offer the academy. Nothing much! And so I despaired of the value of my original sense of purpose and calling.

But Alvin Planinga reminds that as a matter of faith, the Christian must regard coherence with his Christian belief as, in some sense or another, being a necessary condition of good scholarship even as naturalism is often sureptitiously held to be a necessary condition. This leads to an apparent contradiction:

(C) Christianity is a necessary condition of good scholarship.
(~C) Christianity is not a necessary condition of good scholarship.

The answer to this is that (~C) is true as a matter of reason alone because reason can never vouchsafe to us the truth of the Christian faith. Certainly for any proposition p, if p is true, then its a good making feature of a hypothesis that in coheres with (or is consistent with or explains or is explained by or . . .) p. However accepting p as a good making feature of a hypothesis (and at least necessary as a condition of good scholarship) depends on the sorts of reasons given for holding that p. In the case of properly scholarly reasons in virtue of which the academy is an information producing enterprise, the acceptance of Christianity remains moot on the basis of scholarly evidence and thus cannot be accepted as playing the role of a good making feature of scholarship from the point of view of scholarship.

But this is not surprising since Christianity is accepted on the basis of faith in a credible testimony to a hopeful prospect. As such its motivation is not that of scholarship but of appropriate desire. Some will argue that as such the intergration of the information of any other field into Christianity can only produce theology and nothing else. Plantinga points out that even so the task of unifying all of our information still remains as an important task whether it be called theology or whatever. He is certainly right about this.

This admits that the value of the intergration of faith and learning is in a sense only catagorically appreciable by the genuien believer and not to the academy as a whole. The moral lesson in all of this is that we must simply be content with this. Christian 'scholarship' exists for the Christian community and is only potentially universal in the same way Christianity is potentially universal, that is people will only appreciate it in so far as they are moved by God to believe.

The realization of this makes me both hopeful and humble. From the point of view of faith the vision for the intergration of faith and learning remains a calling and intrinsicly valuable but it also means working in a situation hwere the rest of the acadmy can not assure itself of this and to whom the King must appear to be a Clown. So the truimph of intergration never peeps outside the shadow of the Cross.

Yet the intergration of faith and learning presupooses we have new information so to intergrate, so for the sake of God we believers must be productive and such productivity will not only be valuable to us but to others outside. Thus our devotion to Christ we improve the devotion to our work which will improve our work. And when our work is good, we can be of service to those outside the community as well as ourselves so that intergration and service feed into each other. We can make ourselves useful even without assuming the lead because of having the "wrong" beliefs.

So receiving all things into the Kingdom by means of scholarship is flip side of walking in the way of self-denial and cross bearing in the modern academy. One cannot help but think there is a parallel to all this in the Christian's political service as well.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Calvin's God in Plato's Cave

Based on Michael Horton's presentation of Calvin's natural theology, it seems that Calvin was no friend of Plato or philosophy. But looking at it from Plato's point of view, I come to an interesting conclusion.

One of the things that is true of the imprisoned victims in the cave in Plato's parable of the Cave is that not only are they chained so that they cannot see behind them to see the truth about things, they cannot even see each other. Their heads are forced in one direction only - The Wall. Of course this fits Plato's scheme. We do not even see each other in experience, only each others bodies which are just part of the epiphenominal visible world. (So if you say that you had a great time seeing me at the mall last weekend, I will know that you are a charletan who probably takes money for teaching virtue -- or an adjunct philosophy professor -- D'oh!) Now, once we are free and have been goaded to the truth and back to bring justice to the darkened state, we must communicate with our enslaved bretheren (and sisteren). They must communicate indirectly to each other by talking to certain shadows on the wall. When Crito talks to Cebes, he addresses the Cebes shadow. When Cebes listens to Crito, he only listens to the echo of Crito's voice as it reverberates near the Crito shadow. And so back as forth, Cebes responds to Crito. The same is true when Socrates returns to the cave and engages poor bound Cebes and Crito but he tries to convince then that he is not the Socrates shadow they think his voice is coming from.

If Horton is right about Calvin, I take it that on Calvin's view, the whole panoply of shadows is the God Shadow, that we are apt to see an image in experience or of all experience as if it spoke like God in some analogous sense to the body of a person speaking like it was that person. This is obviously not be some inference just as there is no inference involved in thinking that when you saw my body at the mall you saw me -- its just custom that leads you to think that (although custom in a strong sense that is the presupposition for culture). Consequently, it is only custom that makes us think that the natural enviroment is the handiwork of God (just what Hume said). But Calvin is like John Lennon, he thinks that the shadows on the wall are worth more than the pilgrimage outside of the cave, even though he is aware that such a trip has often been made.

So it seem that Calvin identifies the natural knowledge of God with just this pre-theoretical awareness of nature as I suspect that Paul does too in Romans chapter one. The knowledge of God from nature is not by means of inference but by direct association of one with the other. Calvin is also probably right that as far as the Scripture is concerned, waht's important about knowledge of God is the profitable use that can be made of it.

No doubt Socrates need not bother to convince God that He is not his Shadow. He already admits it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Don't praise the messenger.

I am having an important conversation inspired by this blog that I thank God for, concerning the Christian Faith. It reminds me that there is no merit in being the messenger. That is, just as the idea of shooting the messenger betrays a misplaced vindictiveness, so does praising the messenger display a misplaced gratitude. Of course a messenger can be timely, well prepared, etc. but the value of having a messenger is mainly intrumental. As the Bible makes clear, the messenger could be a prophet but could just as well be an enemy or even an animal. We are only dishonorable servants, we have only done our duty. The role is strikingly thin compared to the great stress we put on ourselves when we contemplate doing evangelism ordinarily.

Personally, I am glad things go that way. In sharing Christ, I would rather it be all him and none me, anyway.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Happy Valentine's Day weekend!

Dark is the Night, but how darker must it be before it would keep me from the summons of the fairest Isolde. Even the black ashed clouds of Hades' Inner Rings could not have stalled me.

I left my Lady's Chambers at the direction of my maiden's message left on a kerchief. This lead my me to the ruins of the chaple and the tombs of the olden princes in the deep forrests beyond the battlements. The frost seeped through the tunic below my armor but the chill could slow my pace. As I approached the ruins of the churchyard, I dsimounted and approached the great gray wall and iron gate. As I looked into the court, there was my Isolde, her dress glowing white in the fullness of the moon, surrounded by the graves of the heros. A sudden cautiousness I felt melted away in the gaze of the eyes of my beautiful beloved. In the forgetfulness of a dream, I was drawn into the yard as if on an Arabian carpet toward her cherry lips and alibaster skin, but was aroused from sleep by a coldness beyond the bitter breeze. But I could not be drawn away from my sweet until I was at last in front of her. My mention of her name "Isolde" was a magic chant that brought her arms around me and our ghosts intertwined in the warmth of her kiss.

But this green opium could not last when finally the flame of my heart could be drawn in no longer. I opened my eyes into hers only to see no mortal iris but only to pasty grey orbs filling the sockets. My balk broke the spell, her skin began to tranformk from creme silk into cold saphire as the features of her face tightened and shriveled. The black walls of the tombs began to glow with red runes and pentagrams and the wind brought with it the sound of distant pipes. The trap betrayed the succubus disclosed her true identity as her leathery wings appeared and her teeth sank into the blood of my throat. The dark witch laughed with a sound like collapsing windows and her cackling rose me to action. Ravenblade as much materialized in my hand and I gave the cry of my ancient ancestors as I thrust its silvered edge deep into her bossom, quenching it on the black bile that served for the night creature's blood, the sword's bright surface dulled immediately by its corrosive effects. My head split from the shreak of death so that a mindless numbness set over me in time to blunt the ripping of my flesh from the creature's stained nails as the thrust in between the plates of my chest armor. The beast turned to ash but not before her curse had taken me. My strengh began to melt away as the flesh of my feet and legs began to transmute to black glass.

I could not move as my body became cold. My head began to swoon from the stench of the monster's remains and the poison of her claws. The carol of the pipes became closer and transported my mind beyond the pure blackness of yard. I lifted my eyes to the stars and saw the planets allign as if I and they were right ajoined. I saw the moon swelled to fill the sky, turned to blood red, and written over with the strangest heiroglyphics and most dreadful blaspemies such that no serene spirit could be remain peace. As the piping drew near I could see the Great Spirit of the Forrest appear as he marched with his aweful head roved three hundred hand above the tree tops, his great barken hide unscathed by the large tree branches. His heavy face turned to me as he stopped his playing and the last of my sanity was darined out be his terrible face. He reached his hand toward me and I screamed as the obsidian finally closed over my face.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Objections to Natural Faith vs Supernatural Faith

(Note: "Classical Apologetics" refers to the attitude that our current approach to defending the faith should be continuous with typical approaches of the church in the past (patristic and medieval). More specifically, it refers to the scholastic realist strategy endorsed by R. C. Sproul as opposed to the presuppositional idealism of Cornelius Van Til.)

It is worth asking whether it is absolutely possible to show all our belief forming mechanisms as being unreliable. It does seem like that is impossible since we will always have to rely on some to refute the others. However, it is possible to criticize some of our belief forming mechanisms and no longer trust some of them. For example, we might have thought that since heads has not come up in a regular coin toss for a while, it is more likely to come up on the next toss. Such "intuitions" are quite pervasive and persistent even in trained thinkers. But a moments calculation will show us that such a belief is false and that in general our intutitions about likelyhood are unreliable.

A more serious possibility is that someone will come up with a better alternative to explain the reliability of our natural belief forming mechanisms than postulating God. For example, our most reliable belief forming mechanisms and those that have made genuine progress are those empirco-mathematical procedures associated with the develoment of science. Compared to things like intuition and religious experience -- or even eye-witness tsetimony that is used in courts of law -- the superiority of science is well evident. Consider how many jury verdicts are overturned by the development of DNA testing. One might conclude that we are more reasonable then in trusting science relative to our trust in our ordinary untrained powers and therefore our trust in science should be proportionately higher. Further we can for a great extent determine whether a scientific procedure is relaible where for all we know our other procedures may just get it right half the time -- not sufficient success track record to justify a faith in it as a reliable belief procedure.

Given the tie between natural science and interaction with the physical world, it is not so far fetched to suggest that science is connected withour survival as a species and contribute to our fitness and so the only thing that needs to account for our having successful scientific procedurres in natural selection. We don't need God to explain the success of natural science. The cultural uses of reason (art, ethics, religion, philosophy, political thought, whether tables and chairs exist, etc.), on the other hand, are notoriously fuzzy and we have no sense of any track record of their success or failure with them. Even if they get it right half the time that is not an evidently reliable record to warrant faith in them. It could be just a case of dumb luck so we don't need God to explain those either. The are just epiphenomenal, even though they contribute the most to what constitutes the human mind. So we do not need to postulate God to account for the proper proportion of faith we put in our natural processes. Evolution is sufficient.

This, by the way, is why I was careful to call the reliability is question an assumption that mechanisms are "typically" or "standardly" reliable, which I distinguish from a statistical notion of reliability. This is a much weaker and non-precise notion of just taking something to be reliable for all practical purposes in cases where we cannot be more precise but have no reason to doubt it either. Maybe cognative science will come in someday and give us a better account, maybe not. It is clear that the sort of belief mechanisms that lead us to postulate God must also include relying on the cultural belief forming mechanisms and not just science and relying on them in a more stipulative way than we need to do scientific cases. Further, it is also relying on what must be "single-shot" belief forming mechanisms that only work once (as must be the case in beliefs about events) where no track record is possible even in principle. Here Plantinga's "proper function" account where a belief is warranted iff the belief forming mechanism does what it is supposed to. Here we have to postulate God because in order to have normative the normative aspect we need a mechanism Designer who works in single case settins. It is clear that the natural faith that supports theism is much mush weaker and is more genuinely a "faith" when it comes to our cultural beliefs than with scientific beliefs. Here is the area I think that Classical Apologetics has been most unforthcoming.

As far as the normativity issue goes, it still remains that even on a natural faith account natural beliefs about God are inadequate to do anything more than make mankind culpable for not seeking after God. Humans cannot use natural theology to develop an adequate approach to God and this is due to the seperation between man and God after the fall. Only communion with God that God initiates will help. But this has always been part of the account and presups have been terrible at misrepresenting Classical Apologetics here. This weakness is intrinsic as well as extrinsic. I don't believe in God on the basis of my natural belief forming mechanisms. Natural theology does not contribute to my religious creed. Everything that I believe in God about religiously is based on testimony only. The status of my opinions based on "natural faith" is as different as the content of such opinions.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Natural Faith and Supernatural Faith

It seems to me that although we often speak of having to start with a redimentary credulity in putting faith in our belif forming faculties as being typically or standardly reliable, and even though we often defend the rationality of Christian faith by pointing out this fact (as in 'faith may be rational because we must start with faith in order to reason at all'), there are important dissimilarities between faith in God and faith in our natural faculties.

Consider two cases. One, suppose you are in virgin woods somewhere in whatever is left of the American wilderness. The area is relatively untouched by human hands and things are left to themselves. While walking through the woods, you see gorge over a stream with a fallen tree across it. Given your general assessment of trees, you think thatthe tree is strong enough to hold your weight and so you try to cross it. However, the tree collapses from the middle under your weight when you attempt this and you get seriously hurt.

Two, suppose you are in a well manicured national park on a hiking trail well marked out by forrest rangers and park authorities. As you walk the trail, staying well within the marked areas and not going off in the woods on your own, you come to a gorge. Across the gorge is a fallen tree which has been made into part of the trail, sanded and coated, by which you are meant to cross the gorge. But as you cross it, it breaks under your weight and you are seriously hurt.

The question is, how do you assign responsibility in the two cases. In the first case, you are putting faith in the tree that it can hold you up. It turns out in time that your faith was misplaced and you fell. But you don't hold the tree personally responsible for its failure to hold you up. You may hold yourself personally responsible for taking a chance on the tree, but such responsibility need not make your decision inappropriate if you knew what the risks were and willing to take them. However, in the second case you were as much as assured by the forrestry service that the tree was reliable and you were as much putting your faith in them rather than the tree per se. Your faith in the park was misplaced but now they are culpable for your being hurt and are appropriately held responsible.

I suggest that putting your faith in your natural faculties of belief formation is more like the first case than the second case, at least initially, or at least that it should be. Let's distinguish between two sorts of fideists, the natural fideist and the supernatural fideist. Both are fideists because the start with faith rather than reason. The supernatural fideist starts with God as a personal trustee for all your beliefs so that even in the case of natural belief forming processes you have to presuppose God in order to justify relying on them. If, later on, experience should lead you to conclude that these (or enough of these) mechanisms are not reliable, like tarot card reading or ESP, the sense of betrayal goes back to God as the trustee. God turns out to be the Evil Demon after all. The supernatural fideist presupposes absolutely that epistemology is like the national park case and balmes the Park Ranger when if and when things go wrong.

But the natural fideist starts with a basic faith in his mechanisms of belief as naturally adapted to nature and begins with wonder rather than doubt. Having begun in such a faith that his faculties are generally reliable, she may further conclude that the best account to explain (granting that the capactity to come up explanations is part of that natural belief forming apparatus) how we have reliable belief forming mechanisms is that God exists and has hard wired our mind to accomodate to nature. The natural fideists proceeds in a kind of natural Cartesian circle, starting with an assumption that our natural mental resources are generally reliable, conclude that God exists ans a necessary aspect of accounting for this, and then is reinforced in believing that his natural belief forming mechanisms are reliable based on the goodness of God.

The difference is that granting the epistemic possibility that experience will show the unreliability of our mechanisms after all, we no longer ultimately blame God for it since God was only introduced to make sense of our independent faith in the reliability of our belief forming mechanisms, that is we introduced God only to explain the assumption of general reliability which turned out to be false. That being the case, there was no occasion to believe in God after all. In the case of the natural fideist, the circularity is not vicious. It remains open to correction while also maintaining openness to the fruitful possibility of inquiry.

The intuition here is that it is less onerous to start with natural faith than with supernatural faith since in order to inquire into anything at all we need to start with faith in some sense. One might say that the whole enterprise of "being reasonable" is constituted by the observance of such a natural faith and that therefore we must regard the justification of the presuppositions of theism and Christianity as being "based on reason". I think that we have to think of the program of Classical Apologetics this way and thus resist the charge that such an apologetic sees theistic arguments as "blockbuster proofs".

Friday, February 06, 2004

Natural Theology as 'Mythology': A "Platonic" Argument

As you know, Grasshopper, Classical Apologetics as John Gerstner and Norman Geisler would have it, is a strategy that proceeds in two phases. Since historical evidences for Christianity are only evidence on the presupposition of Supernaturalistic Theism, the first phase is to defend such a theism philosophically, and then granting that the presupposition of theism is true or at least plausible, argue for Chrtistianity based on evidence from the testimony of historical sources. (We do not necessarily want to make too much of this. For example, William Lane Criag "made the mistake" of defending "classical apologetics" without this two step strategy since for him theistic proofs and historical evidences contribute on par with each other to support the Christian picture of things, but there is no serious difference between what he does and so-called classical apologetics).

The real weakness of this approach is the failure of natural theology to be compelling in virtue of being itself question-begging in the sense that natural theology's conclusions depend on premises which turn out to be just as controversal. This is because modern philosophy has lead to the loss of rational standards that are both adequate and seem plausibel to a sweeping enough population of thinkers. It has come to be the case that if any collective intellectual work is to be done, there has to be a prior willingness to accept the same standards no matter what one's personal consciously held beliefs are. But the weakness of this is that academic tribalism will resist the claim that therre own program is not "rationality itself" and that other programs based on different conventions are just as well off as their own.

Such dogmatism about one's own research program might benefit from a dose of humility, such as modeled by Plato's Socrates. In the Plato's middle dialogues, like the Meno, the Phaedo, and the Republic, Plato, through his characterization of Socrates, gives transcendental arguments to motivate a novel mythology of two worlds, eternal forms, immortal souls, and an epistemology of recollection in order to prevent Socratic philosophy from falling on its own pitard. But he is careful, as if mindful of the weaknesses of transendenat arguments and analogies, to hedge on making his myth a confession of dogma. He says things like "I won't swear my oath to it" and "It is either this or something like it" indicating that he won't stand on his mythology even when he thinks it is true. But he also says that he will gamble on it being true since it is only on the basis of some such plausible story that the tasks of pusuing virtue intellectually, practically, and by the "therapy of desire" are both analyticly more worthwhile and presuppose that such a possibility as the story articulates must be actual. It seems that Aristotle could be said to take such a concern about virtue and rationality more methodically to come up with a metaphysic that serves the same function but is less odd to the mind. Plato's myth then is still open to and invites criticism, is not held dogmaticly, but is held on the basis of a kind of descison calculation although not a precisie one. It is very similar to a kind of Pascalian Wager, including the afterlife story in the Phaedo.

Plato sets a good precedent for a way to reintroduce natural theology as rational mythology. In the Christian faith, a clear distinction is made between natural theology and revealed theology, whether the one making the disitinction approves of natural theology or not (Cp. Barth). But natural theology is humanities reconstruction of natural revelation, the aspect of God's creation which displays Him as its maker as art identifies its artist (including that there is an artist). Natural revelation is absolutely efficient in displaying God's otherwise invisible attributes but natural theology is limited by the ineffeiciency of finite and passionate humans and is therefore uncertain and inadequate in many ways. It is also defended with weak transcendental arguments and analogies.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

A Dilemma for Maithison's "Shape of Sola Scriptura" (reposted from ABC Forum).

This argument is based on the exposition of four different historical approaches discussed in Keith Mathison in his recent book "The Shape of Sola Scripture". One can find some discussion on this by clicking the post title.

(1) Tradition I is the authentic teaching of the Christian Faith of the first three centuries. [given]
(2) Tradition O is not the authentic teaching of the Christian Faith because it makes doctrinal judgement turn on the private subjectivity of the individual Christian and because it goes against Tradition I.
(3) Tradition II is not the authentic teaching of the Christian faith since it grants autonomy to some Church authority and because it goes against Tradition I. [(2) and (3) follow from the definitions of traditions O, I, II, and from their implications traced in your book.]
(4) Tradition I is not sufficient to secure one and only one version of the rule of faith since there is more than one church that holds Tradition I but which have different regula fide (i.e. branching - e.g. Lutheran and Dutch Reformed.) [An observation you grant.]
(5) If an individual believer picks one church over the other by appealing to the regula fide of that church and rejecting the other on the basis of that, then he is observing Tradition II.
(6) If an individual believe chooses a church by appealling to his own interpretation of Scripture, then he is observing Tradition O. [(5) and (6) same reason as attached to (3) above.]
(7) An individual believer has no other basis on which to decide between churches that hold to tradition I but have different regula fide. [There is no unmediated appeal to apostolic tradition in scripture unmediated without regula fide or individual conscience.]
(8 ) Authentic Christianity ("no salvation outside the church") requires the individual believer to join one church or another. [given and accepted by Reformers]
(9) Therefore, authentic Christianity requires an individual believer to observe either Tradition O or Tradition II. [From (6), (7), (8 ) by destructive dillemma.]
(10) Therefore, authentic Christianity requires an individual believer to go against Tradition I. [From (2),(3), and (9)]
(11) Therefore, authentic Christianity requires that the individual believer go against authentic Christianity. [From (10) and (1)]
(12) Therefore, authentic Christianity is pragmaticly incoherent, that is, unlivable. [From (11)] It is impossible to be a Christian.

This is an objection that the non-Christian observing the debate will make against Christianity from the evidence in Keith Mathison's book.

His reply would seem to go like this: IF either a regula fide or an individual conscience were perfect there would not be a problem with either Tradition O or Tradition II or even Tradition I. The dilemma stated above is only occasioned by sinfulness in all parties involved. If everything were ideal and everyone were righteous, there would be no dilemma at all (of course, if that were true then there would be no need for Christianity either). As a result of sin, the dilemma arises.

The decision faced by the individual believer above is that he or she cannot act further on authentic Christian Faith without being guilty of going against the same faith.

Clanbook Calvini from Theologian: The Dividing

"When darkness reigns and the daylight radiance fades away, we emerge and feast on the defeat of sin and death. Tho' the threat of the end of life haunts mortals even in their palorous sleep, we fear nothing for we are truly immortal and our clan is everlasting. Even in the midst of darkness and night we see what no mere mortal may see because we walk in a light supernatural. And though mere men are chained by the throngs of sin and seperation, we of the clan are set free of those fetters by the Wyrd that gives us the Power.

Be afraid, sinners. Be very afraid. "

Monday, February 02, 2004

The alignments of Krynn

Hickman and Weis's "Dragonlance saga" is a fantasy setting made from and in part for role playing. They do not take lightly the proposition that roleplaying games make a difference in character formation, so it is interesting to see their take on some RPG conventions from a Christian POV.

They have an interesting way of handling character alignment, trying to preserve the D&D alignment compass. The main problem with the compass is the view of morality it presents. The way DL interprets it, nuetral is the freedom to choose whether to have a good perspective or a bad perspective -- as if goodnesss or badness didn't presuppose a freedom to choose it and that there was some value in being free for its own sake. On this view, neutrality is the prior and superior alignment . The interpretation suggests a pluralistic view of ethics -- which is not bad, except that Good is a good and so is Evil, which seems incoherent.

I have toyed with the idea of making the paradigm alignment in a "Christian" RPG neutral rather than good myself because of the inadequacy of seeing Good in just the sort of way suggested by DragonLance. There really is a fact about the plurality of legitmate lifestyles that the usual system fails to take account of. But I also want to accept that it is possible thatthere is also a fact about what the best or right thingg to do is among the competing goods in a situation. Since this is a FANTASY setting, we should be free to speculate that there is some objective heiracrhy or other principle that helps us settle questions between competing goods. Following this would then be "Good".

Heard about those Nazi donuts?

They're like regular donuts, only cruller.

Mondo like candy!

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Towards a moral argument for Christian belief

(1) Believing in theism will give one encouragement to believe in the value of philosophy.

(2) Believing in theism is the only encouragement to believe in the value of philosophy.

(3) If one believes in theism and the value of philosophy, one should believe in a Christian interpretation of theism.

(4) It is better to believe in theism and believe in the value of philosophy than to not believe in the value of philosophy.

(5) Therefore, one should believe in a Christian interpretation of theism.

I can only give a sketch of how the argument works.

The inference of (5) from (1) - (4) is an instance of what some critical thinking professors call a "should argument" compounded with a lemma. A basic "should argument" looks like this:

(A) Doing X brings about Y.
(B) Doing X is the best way to bring about Y.
(C) Doing X and bringing about Y is better than not bringing about Y.
(D) Therefore, one should do Y.

Premise (A) indicates that the X is instrumental to Y. (B) asserts that that among such instrumental conditions (if any) X is the best instrument for Y. Finally, (C) asserts that the world is a better place in some sense with X and Y than without Y. If these conditions are satisfied, then we have good reason to do Y and a good reason to not allow Y not to be done.

The complication is in (3) which is introduced to support that case for (4). The argument for (3) is an instance of the form:

(A') One should conscientiously believe that p.
(B') One should conscientiously believe that p implies q
(C') If one should conscientiously believe that p and one should conscientiously believe that p implies q, then one should conscientiously believe that q.
(D') One should conscientiously believe that q.

The argument (A') - (D') formulates the point that "conscientious believing" is closed under implication. Clearly, "conscientious belief" is an attitude that accepts propositions as true and is subject to the conscious choice of the will. It is not belief understood as a natural state of the mind such that consisitancy is not appropriate to expect. The isea that intuitively supports (C') is that conscientious acceptance of propositions should be closed under implication as a corrallary of the norm that persons should seek to believe the truth whenever it's up to them.

The argument also takes for granted that "conscientious believing that p" is a kind of "doing X".

That's enough about the structure of the argument, now to turn to the truth of the premises.

I don't intend to be very precise about what theism means. For example, I am not concerned in this argument about whether some version of deism or pantheism might be true. But the concept of God is available through the classical proofs from Richard of St. Victor to Richard Swinburne.

Friday, January 30, 2004

The 'No Evidence' Objection: Another perspective.

Absolutely speaking, if no question begging evidence is allowed to count as genuine evidence for Christianity, then there is no evidence for Christianity and there in principle could be no evidence for it.. But since there could be no evidence for any position on this condition, Christianity is no worse off than any other view. Given the impossibity of providing evidence on this condition, we cannot be obliged to do so, since ought implies can.

But there is a religious aspect to the problem as well as an evidential one. It would be difficult to see the practical meaning of a religious faith if it did not make a practical difference in our lives whether we believed it or not, and if it did, this would be a kind of evidence for it to be true or verisimilitudenous. If Christianity did not make a difference there would be no motive to be one. This includes even the case if a religion only makes a practical difference only after death, since I think that skepticism is still an issue even if one were to have an afterlife experince. (Imagine: you could be standing in the heavenly throne room in the presence of glory and still wonder if reductive materialism is true.)

But perhaps the religious deminsion of making a practical difference, being a practical context, there is need to worry about the non-question-begging condition. The evidence for the truth of Christianity does not have to not be question-begging for practical purposes as long as a religious attitude toward life provides a context in which Christianity makes a discernable difference. It would not matter if philosophic objectivity is impossible for a Christian faith, if Christianity makes the best sense of experience within a religious perspective (not to be confused with the idea of having a religious experience).

It might be logically impossible even for an omnipotent God to provide evidence only on the condition that only the non-question begging condition be satisfied. But if the religious perspective is adopted it would be morally troubling if granting religious presuppositions there is no evident difference a particular religion makes. Of course, only those who really do surrendar to a religious perspective are in a position to se whether or not this is so.

However, this has to be contrasted with an approach to religion which, like Freudian analysis, is not open to criticism or falsification. The idea of a religious perspective has to be nuetral enough such that accepting a religious perspective does not entail an acceptance of Christianity no matter what. We may not able to specify in advance what evidencxe would lead someone to or away from Christianity but that such is the case is at least a possibility. I also think that the question "What counts as being part of a religious perspective?" is a valid question and can be answered by the comparitive phenomenology of religion.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

On the Intellect (A work in progress).

Both CS Lewis and Alvin Plantinga offer criticisms of naturalistic accounts of reason suggesting that metaphysical naturalism cannot be an adequate account of reason, knowledge, and/or justification. But there is an important difference in there approach.

Plantinga is not completely hostile to naturalism and even offers natural accounts for the formation of our beliefs. But he does argue that while natural mechanisms are adequate to serve as an explanation for how we believe, they are not adequate to account for the normativity of belief that even the naturalist sometimes wants when she insists that there is a way that belifs ought to be formed (e.g. by being based on adequate evidence). To account for the the required normativity, Plantinga first describes belif forming machines in terms of there function and then accounts for their normativity in terms of a design plan for that function. A belief formation machine works "right" if and only if it works according to plan, "the way its supposed to". Nature and normativity are this wedded together. But this solution requires a Designer, namely God. So if the the naturalist also wants to have an ethic of believing, you must be a theist. There are some replies to this argument, such as that evolution is held to sufficient to to explain proper function by means of natural selection, but leave that aside for now.

Lewis' idealism needs to do more since not even nature is available to serve in an adequate account of knowledge. Lewis distinguishes between two senses of "because"; the "because" of cause and effect "The ball flew because the bat hit it", and the "because" of consequent and ground "We know 320,572,034,576 is an even number because we know that it is divisible by two without remainder", or more simply, Lewis distinguishes between causes and reasons. According to the Lewis the naturalist must identify one sense with the other.

(X) Joe understands 8 to be an even number because Joe understands that it is divisible by two if and only if there is a brain state of Joe's which is the brain state "Thinking that 8 is an even number" which is physiologically caused by another brain state of Joe's which is the brain state "Thinking that 8 is divisible by two".

According to Lewis, however, (X) is NOT what we mean when we use "because" in the consequent/ground sense according to our own consciousness of the matter. Further, Lewis might also agree that attributing reasons to a mere physical system must only be metaphorical but that any metaphorical use of a term presupposes a legitmate non-metephorical use, but if there are no instances of reasoning there could be no possible non-metaphorical attribution of ground/consequent.

Lewis' point would apply as well to Plantinga as well as the naturalist. Not that Plantinga would mind necessarily since he is trying to work with constraints that naturalists accept and they would not accept Lewis' point. To them Lewis is commiting the "Superman" fallacy. (Lois Lane knows that Superman can fly. Lois Lane does not know that Clark Kent can fly. Therefore, Superman is not Clark Kent.) CS Lewis knows that determinig brain states is physically caused. CS Lewis does not know that determining thoughts is physically caused. Therefore, determining thoughts (reasoning) is not determining brain states (causality).
About relativism; there are four kinds.

(I don't mean that as an absolute fact. There are many complex ways that issues of relativity may enter into thought. This list is just suggestive of some interesting ones.)

There is harmless relatvism: that is there are many ways in whuch things are true or important relative to a position or perspective but in a way that is not epistemologically or otherwise problematic. For example I could be closer to a tree that we are both looking at than you and thus the tree looks bigger to me than it does to you. So you might say that the the tree looks taller relative to than it looks relative to you. But in this case, its relativity (of perspective) that explains the apparent discrepancy. In this case, relativism is the answer rather than the problem.

There is serious relativism: The problem here is the fact that all of our beliefs are according to one or another perspective. Human beings do not have beliefs at all except that they have them from some or another point of view. This leaves open the possibility that while it may appear to me that p is true but to you that p is false, there is no ultimate perspective which either one of us can entertain which will settle absolutely whether or not p is true independent of all perspectives. This is the problem of relativism. The next two kinds of relativism are responses to this problem.

There is hyper-relativism: The hyper-relativist argues that we underestimate the problem with serious relativism. It is not merely that each person or group has there own "truth" from their own perspective. The fact is that we pass through an indefinite number of perspectives every second of our experience. We are alternate perspective generating machines, each one of us at every moment has a radically distinct perspective on everything than they had the moment before. Further, if we could per impossible stop time and develop our perspective of the moment we would see that each perspective generates a completely alternative worldview with its own inner coherence. The serious relativist thinks that the problem involves the inability to select the truth from perhaps a "handful" of different world-class worldviews that are all equally credible. The hyper-relativist goes further and says that in fact there are a potentially infinite number of worldviews that we occupy moment by moment, just by occupying time, that are all ultimately incomensurable with each other so that the idea of choosing a worldview at all is radically absurd.

There is what I call soft relativism. This group points out that while the problem of serious relativism is important, it is not completely hopeless. The hyper-relativist position itself reduces to an absurdity since it implies that we really do not communicate even with ourselves much less each other and that seems evidently false. Further, some perspectives are clearly mistakes in that they are internally self-destructive. Further, also it seems evident from the phenomenology of culture and from descriptive metaphysaics that there is such a thing as the common perspective of the human species such that qua being a member one has at least some point of contact with other human beings that makes truth and communication possible.

So we can at least narrow the field to certain perspectives that hold up better than others. The further point that Polanyi, Newbigin, and MacIntyre are making in various ways is that these viable perspectives have longstanding histories and positive track records of coping and accomodating to cognative challenges which they have met with impressive success. (There are examples of perspectives that have survivied for thousands of years without any development at all because the society which holds them never faced any cognative threats -- one thinks of tribal amazonian cultures like in the movie "The Emerald Forrest" ("Funny, I don't remember the Edge of the World being this close to the village before.").) So surviving perspectives have been tested and continue to be teasted by encountering circumstances and being exposed to other world perspectives. So while not able to describe themselves as absolute truth, they arguably have a viable verisimilitude given their track record.

This is still a soft or mitigated relativism in that the situation remains that two solid perspectives may come up with competing verdicts about the truth of a judgement about something with a solution. But defenders point out that a completely perspectiveless view is not really possible or desirable. A "God's eye view" or a "View from Nowhere" can only see the world as utterly devoid of personal points of view and would only see the world as it would appear without activity, intentionality, purpose, representation, etc., a completely passive homogenious object (which is what you have with the ice block view of the universe). Subjectivity and relativity are an important and necessary aspect of philosophy and truth seeking, not just pure objectivity.

Where this may lead to Lewis's one great ethical tradition ("the Tao") is in the necessity of recognizing a common human nature and perspective which would also include the moral point of view.