Author Archives: Dmitry Chernikov

Flourishing As Individualistic and Agent-Relative

In evaluating John Gray's "dismissal of perfectionism," R&D get everything right.

To use my own terms, intrapersonal virtues are (1) cognitivist, (2) (2nd-order) desire-driven, (3) externalist.

Thus, "courage is a virtue and an important human good" is truth-apt and in fact true. At the same time, there is no inherent necessary connection from realizing this truth to being motivated to cultivate courage. Everyone determines for himself which virtues to focus on and how to combine self-making with pursuit of narrow happiness. Regarding the former, R&D point out that "a person with a career in the military might require greater emphasis on the virtue of courage than would be the case for a civilian." (173) Regarding the latter, perhaps excessive concern with courage would interfere with my personal pleasure of doing philosophy, and I may need to ease up on my martial training. R&D's view "accepts emphasis and unequal weighting as central to its very identity." (179)

Gray claims that good lives considered as bundles of virtues are incommensurable. Au contraire, they are 100% commensurable, not only between themselves but even between ends belonging to narrow happiness. They become so in the process of choice:

Choosing determines all human decisions. In making his choice man chooses not only between various material things and services. All human values are offered for option.

All ends and all means, both material and ideal issues, the sublime and the base, the noble and the ignoble, are ranged in a single row and subjected to a decision which picks out one thing and sets aside another.

Nothing that men aim at or want to avoid remains outside of this arrangement into a unique scale of gradation and preference. (HA, 3)

Remember that both virtue and narrow happiness are desire-driven, so Mises' quote applies to these levels. Nature is duty-driven, and Mises took his theory too far. Nevertheless, one becomes who he wants to be and "flourishes" in the manner as per his own choice.

Innate qualities matter, too: e.g., St. Thomas writes that "by reason of a disposition in the body, some are disposed either well or ill to certain virtues... In this way one man has a natural aptitude for science, another for fortitude, another for temperance..." (ST, II-I, 63, 1)

R&D also correctly note that human beings are not omnipotent, and many ways of flourishing are simply closed to them by their inborn traits and external circumstances. A hideously ugly or miserably poor person's options in life are not pretty. Neither are a person's in locked up in prison. To reuse a quote below, "the foremost social means of making man more human is to fight poverty. Wisdom and science and the arts thrive better in a world of affluence than among needy peoples." (HA, 155)

R&D's insistence that flourishing must be "self-directed" is now also clearer. Perhaps they mean the following: suppose Smith is a doctor, but he was forced to learn the skills and to practice medicine under penalty of death for disobedience. Can we call Smith flourishing or happy? I doubt it very much. It is really silly to deny that "the absence of choice diminishes the value of human relations or the displays of excellence in technical skills, physical ability, spirit and enterprise, leadership, scholarship, creativity, or imaginativeness." (181) Presumably, we are talking about humans who acquire and use these "technical skills," etc. for their own fun and profit, not about robots. A calculator can crunch numbers way faster than I can, but I scarcely would praise it for its moral perfection.

I would demur though regarding R&D's elevation of practical wisdom to the chief and master of all virtues. If by practical wisdom we mean prudence, then all that prudence does is churns out means to arbitrarily chosen narrow-happiness ends. On the level of virtue, prudence is replaced with justice in the metaphorical sense -- as integrity; and remember that wisdom for nature, justice for virtue, and prudence for narrow happiness are human powers of judging. They therefore share a property, but their jobs are very different.

Prayers, Cont.

We can see, by the way, Jesus' attitude toward miracles. He performs them solely in order to authenticate his claims and lay open the nature of Himself and His mission.

But, when disappointed with humans and clearly exasperated, He says: "An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet." (Mt 12:39)

"Enough miracles," Jesus goes on; "Jonah's and Solomon's wisdom was sufficient to convert many; if all I've done still has not convinced you, then you've dug your own grave."

How Prayers Are Granted

We must admit that God the Father has not fully rested from His mission of creating the world but still occasionally performs miracles. Now a miracle is not a way to grant a prayer, not a way to help a human being achieve any end; not a form of grace; its entire purpose is to be sign that the Father's power is His, now and forever. There are, after all, humans so stupid or corrupt that they fail to acknowledge even the existence of the Creator (let alone the Trinity, angels, everlasting life within the communion of saints, and so on) who in His mercy, has delivered some people from atheism through miracles.

However, prayers are uttered every day by billions of the faithful. If the Father granted prayers, then it seems that He would have to constantly intervene into His own creation and alter the normal functioning of objects in it according to the laws that the Father Himself had instituted. At the very least, He'd have to use His power to mix His first causation among secondary causes; thus, one would marvel to observe an axe floating down the river; but this would be due to the Father's exercise of power keeping it from sinking.

If a woman is driving on a parking lot and for some reason praying that she finds a parking space, then either the Father would have to scratch her brain sneakily to cause her to drive in the right direction, or He's have to rend the earth beneath the nearest car that would devour the car into the abyss, at which point the tear would be refilled, and the woman would be able to park there. Either would be a miracle.

This, however, would be completely unfitting, because it would mean that nature is extremely inadequate and must be constantly prodded and zapped and coerced by the Father to work half-decently or even not to fall apart entirely. But if the Father wanted the woman to find that parking space, why didn't He create a world where this would happen naturally? A brain can get "scratched" through a variety of natural causes; earthquakes occur regularly; why didn't God make nature better?

Is it the Son who grants prayers then? But surely, prayers were granted long before the Incarnation. In addition, I do not see the specific means of fulfilling prayers that are unique to the Son.

We do, however, have a person whose MO is perfectly suited to granting prayers, and that's the Holy Spirit. This is because grace, unlike a miracle, does not coerce or harm or counteract nature but uplifts it. William Dembski, who is undoubtedly a genius and one of my teachers, has proposed a theory of how grace acts on the physical level. Again, a situation where nature was determined to do X, and God forced it to do Y instead, would be a miracle. But, Dembski argues, perhaps deep down on the quantum level there exists true randomness. In that case, nature is not determined either to X or to Y; so, normally the outcome is randomly generated. An act of God that determines intelligently what would otherwise be determined randomly is in no wise a miracle but an act of bestowing grace.

To be sure, grace for the human soul differs from grace for merely material things. Precisely because grace is not law but is customized to each individual, and because it works within the soul subtly and often undetected (again unlike a miracle which is intended to be seen by the multitudes in all its magnificence and in order not to threaten one's identity) that it is one of the most mysterious supernatural phenomena.

St. Thomas teaches that "to faith [and therefore to grace in general] those things in themselves belong, the sight of which we shall enjoy in eternal life, and by which we are brought to eternal life." God "so provides for natural creatures, that not merely does He move them to their natural acts, but He bestows upon them certain forms and powers, which are the principles of acts, in order that they may of themselves be inclined to these movements, and thus the movements whereby they are moved by God become natural and easy to creatures... Much more therefore does He infuse into such as He moves towards the acquisition of supernatural good, certain forms or supernatural qualities, whereby they may be moved by Him sweetly and promptly to acquire eternal good..."

This way, the autonomy and self-sufficiency of nature are preserved. So, if not the Father or the Son, then the job of granting prayers falls squarely to the Holy Spirit. I personally feel He has been neglected by both the people and the theologians. But now it follows that in order to pray properly, one ought explicitly to call upon the Holy Spirit's aid.

Universal Salvation and the Two Hells

The human hell is weeping (inconceivable pain) and gnashing of teeth (utter hatred) mixed into a package of eternal horror. It is impossible, let it be proposed, that a perfectly good God would let any of His creatures suffer like that, including even the demons.

This reasoning runs into two problems. (1) Why does Jesus warn us on many occasions of hell? (2) Aren't demons already condemned to hell?

(1) I think, though cannot prove definitively, that the human hell exists not as an ultimate place or state of punishment but as an ultimate incentive against moral evil. It is meant to be avoided by all, just as it is best that a human law threatening punishment for stealing is never violated. In other words, if any man, no matter how brutal or sinful or selfish or wild, were to feel hellfire, then he would become so afraid that he'd immediately embark upon a long path of self-reformation. It is still possible go to hell; but in fact the human hell is actually empty, as no one fails to heed its horror if exposed to it.

Of course, hellfire is God's final tool when everything else has failed. Very few people are given this grace.

(2) Demons are condemned, but they go to their own demonic hell which is different from human hell. It does not feature pain by hellfire. Instead, the demons will experience in their hell

  1. separation from God and impossibility to contemplate Him naturally,
  2. privation of any grace and knowledge of divine secrets in the state of glory,
  3. environment less pleasant than either their heavenly home from which they fell or this universe into which they were banished and where they now reside,
  4. sorrow from inability to satisfy their desire of harming humans,
  5. sorrow from being completely defeated by creatures they used to despise -- us.

If the wicked angels believed they would, upon defeat, go to anything like the human hell, they would never have rebelled. Satisfaction of pride, no matter how burning, in refusing to serve humans, is a limited finite end; eternal torture is an infinite evil. Surely, every angel was smart enough to weigh the probabilities and agree to receive the Holy Spirit's grace, if the alternative was a chance of being utterly destroyed and tormented forever.

Thus, the problem of infinite horror is neatly solved. The human hell is absolute evil but is supposed to and does stay empty (though avoiding it is each person's task; there is no limit to how much one can sin and suffer before he comes to his senses), functioning merely as a perfect deterrent; the demonic hell will be full of filth, but the prisoners there will simply be isolated and forgotten and miserable from pain of loss or privation of the goods proper to angels both in nature and glory, but they will not suffer hellfire.

Note that even if these two objections to universal salvation are solved correctly, this is merely evidence in favor of the conclusion, not a proof. That it does not befit God to torture creatures for all eternity is merely my own intuition. Perhaps my heart is unbecomingly soft. Nevertheless, these ruminations may be of interest.

Mind Over Matter

Human beings are unique animals in being rational. But the uniqueness of a feature in an animal is no guarantee that its use is its most exalted function. For example, whales communicate in a peculiar manner; that does not mean that making sounds is their most defining feature. Humans differ from all other primates by having hairless skin; that does make shaving into the be-all and end-all of being human.

However, it is a straw man to object that we derive the importance of the mind from its uniqueness.

It's simply that it is through acts of the intellect, i.e., thinking, that all other goods of a human life are attained and enjoyed. Even if thinking is not the best thing to be doing as an end, it is indispensable as both a means to and essential constitutive part of "flourishing" or true happiness in all three of nature, virtue, and narrow happiness trinities.

Two Senses of Goodness

One is a "good man"; the other, "good for man."

They are linked in the simplest way possible: in general, it is good for a man to be good.

Aristotelian Hierarchy

Consider the hierarchy of the Aristotelian causes in the order of increasing dignity:

  1. material
  2. efficient
  3. final
  4. formal

For prime matter, its material cause is within it; all other causes are outside. This includes even the efficient cause, because prime matter does not "work" or function in any way; it's completely inert. Someone else must make quarks and electrons with it.

For merely material objects, their material and efficient causes are within. When we ask, "What makes this car exist right now?" the answer is, "The fact that it's made of such and such materials and works in a certain way." However, the car's final cause is outside of it.

A machine has no purpose other than to serve man by performing a useful function. Its "goals" do not differ from those of its creator. It wants nothing for itself. It is a perfect slave. A human slave might try to hide his abilities so as not to be swamped with hard work; a machine would not "think" of anything so clever. Or, a master must make sure that the slave will prefer to comply with the master's orders over rebelling; a machine does not in this manner calculate benefits and opportunity costs. A machine has no internal life or experiences that are inaccessible to anyone but itself. Where the machine ends and raw materials and the environment begin is an arbitrary decision.

For humans, now also their final cause is within. A man's purpose is his own happiness, his own joy. He is essentially no one's tool, though of course people do make use of each other, say, in the market or within a firm. A human being is an end in himself.

However, a man's formal cause, i.e., the answer to the question "What / who am I?" is still external and will only be revealed to him upon entrance to heaven in glory: God "shall give him a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it." (Rev 2:17) Even then, we will be what God makes us into. In order to find out what a person is in all his unique individuality who is in the process of becoming, we'd have to query God and His mysterious designs.

Lastly, God has even the formal cause internally. He is 100% what He is, complete and perfect.

On the Fall of Man

Technically, the natural happiness enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was due to a special protection granted to them by God. They enjoyed immortality of the body, perfect health, and a beautiful environment in which to live.

This protection was God's to give and God's to take away; it was a privilege not a right. It was completely different from the perfect security of happiness of the blessed in heaven.

So, when God cast the first parents out of the Garden, He also lifted this unique grace. It cannot therefore be said that God hurt Adam; He merely withdrew an extraordinary benefit to which Adam had no claim in the first place and put him exactly where he belonged in his as yet unregenerated state -- in the wild.

But other than that, the whole thing was a complete setup! And the way it happened, through Eve and the crafty snake and the apple -- it's the stuff of a sitcom. It's hilarious!

In short, the fall of man is marked by both tragedy and comedy; or more precisely, the angelic fall was a tragedy, and the human fall was a farce.

Euthanasia and Physical Exercise

Given the distinction I proposed between life, dying, and lifespan, [1], [2] -- life ends and dying begins when an old person can no longer take care of himself, with lifespan being the total length of one's sojourn on earth, what effect does physical fitness have on these?

It is obvious that healthy living enhances the quality of life. The 3 other questions are much less certain:

  1. In regard to the quantity of life, does exercise prolong life?
  2. In regard to the quality of dying, does it make dying less unpleasant?
  3. In regard to the quantity of dying, does it hasten the dying process?

For example, let Smith contemplate acquiring a habit of vigorous daily exercise. Which is most plausible:

  1. Regardless of whether Smith exercises or not, he will live for 60 years in reasonable health and be miserable in the last 10 years while he is dying (so his total lifespan is 70 years).

    However, if Smith exercises, then during the 60 years of life he will be very healthy, yet at the end of that period, his decline into ruin will also be especially fast, steep, and stunning.

  2. If Smith exercises, then he will be healthy for 80 years and miserable for 10 years. This answer would have it that exercise extends life but does not diminish either the intensity or the duration of the suffering that accompanies dying.

  3. If Smith exercises, then he will stay in sound body and mind for 90 years. At some point he will go to sleep and never wake up. His heart will just up and stop. If so, then exercise both extends life and eliminates the process of dying. Smith would then be kind of like Moses who "was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated." (Deut 34:7)

These are deeply empirical questions, and I just don't know the answer to them.

But if physical fitness didn't merely prolong life but also made dying easier and quicker (once dying has begun), then it would be a very compelling, if less often stressed, argument for exercise and health consciousness. People routinely provide for times even after their deaths: they make wills, groom successors, fight for lost causes. Why not do something now to abate a future evil as inevitable and ominous as dying?

In addition, if Moses-like lives are possible through fitness, then euthanasia in old age might become a non-issue. If everyone took care of themselves really well during life, then perhaps their transitions could be painless and swift. But I'm speculating.

Don’t Believe Anything the Government Says…

... until it has been officially denied. Thus, the Australia's alphabet soup of regulatory agencies wants to "regulate" the blockchain tech and its applications like Bitcoin. To wit:

"Our approach to developments in the fintech sector is to work to harness opportunities and economic benefits, not stand in the way of innovation and development," ASIC's guidelines state.

Ah, thanks. Now we know. This is obviously a lie. Their "approach" will result in strangling innovation and development, slowly, one absurd "regulation" after another. The vested interests, such as banks, and the state are afraid of Bitcoin and its cousins, but, concerned with what public opinion may engender if they are too open that they want to destroy them completely, attempt simply to regulate them out of existence quietly. When will we learn not to let the fox guard the henhouse?

Similarly, we have a story that "British troops arrive in Estonia to deter Russian aggression." What aggression? There's no aggression; there has not been any aggression since the fall of the USSR; and unless NATO shoots first, there will be none. Well, look at what they deny: "This is a credible deterrence, not to provoke a conflict but to prevent conflict," says NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. I commend this man for telling us a very specific and therefore useful lie. So, again we now know that that's precisely the purpose of this little foray: to provoke Russia and satisfy the pro-war lobby.

Physical Exercise, 2

Another neglected benefit of a habit of exercise is that it naturally normalizes your diet.

Suppose you work out every day. You go to Panera to have lunch and see a delicious-looking muffin. "I'd like that," you think. "But wait a minute," you check yourself. "I just spent 25 minutes lifting heavy things. Do you really expect me," you say to no one in particular, "to negate all that hard work? What was I, masturbating? I am not throwing it all away into a bottomless pit for the sake of a trivial sensual pleasure."

After a calculation like this, it is extremely easy to leave the muffin alone. You escape Panera's trap feeling smart and in control.

Your health and good looks become an investment, an asset, and an object of pride. You want not only to preserve it but grow it, obtain capital gains. And no pathetic muffin can stand against a businessman's cunning and inner drive.

Eugenics, @FEE

There was some weird stuff coming out of FEE, specifically by Jeffrey Tucker, recently on how the old progressives were fans of eugenics. Presumably, the idea was that since eugenics is "bad" (I guess like Hitler or something), the modern progressives should be ashamed of their intellectual forefathers and renounce their doctrines.

But wait a minute, is the minor premise really true? Eugenics broadly conceived is perfectly great. Who in their right mind can be against children who are healthier, stronger, smarter, more gifted, and with greater nurseries of virtue and natural receptivity to divine grace? For example, we spend a vast amount of money on (bad) education. Why not have children who, through their innate potential, will benefit more from education? This is one way to make education more efficient and our money better spent.

With more smarter, both intellectually and emotionally, people out there, economic progress would proceed at a faster pace. Perhaps there would be more libertarians, and even government policy could be changed for the better.

Moreover, if genetic engineering reaches its technological maturity and becomes commercially viable, then eugenics will become the order of the day. I'm sure there'll be snares for us here, too, but probably nothing fundamentally unavoidable. Ultimately, don't we want men to be strong, and women, beautiful?

But perhaps by eugenics Tucker means something more narrow and sinister: government attempts to control or manipulate human reproduction.

Well, by all means let's consider the old eugenicists' ends and see what became of them.

They wanted to stop black people from working and instituted minimum wage laws to that effect. Now under pure laissez-faire, that might indeed have made children less affordable to blacks and so reduced their number. But the leftist progressives in addition erected an outrageous welfare state that not only increased the numbers of blacks beyond what unhampered free market would have allowed, but had a completely dysgenic effect on them. I contend that if laissez-faire had never been abandoned, then the present generation of blacks would be far smarter and meeker than blacks actually now are or ever have been.

They wanted to prevent white women from working to protect the integrity of the family and so passed maximum working hour laws. As we can clearly see, instead the feminist left has driven women into workplace both by ideological preaching and via high taxes and inflation to the detriment of both the number and happiness of children. (Note that 100 years ago the problem had special urgency, though I agree there was no justification for government interventions. Alfred Marshall writes in his Principles: "the degradation of the working-classes varies almost uniformly with the amount of rough work done by women.")

They wanted to facilitate the expansion of the white race. Instead, the leftist celebration of multiculturalism, "diversity," unlimited immigration, and terrible marriage laws that heavily favor women and encourage easy divorce have caused white populations to decline. Their contempt for private property and "discrimination" did even more damage to their own cause.

They wanted to make the race vigorous and gallant. Instead, they squandered millions of society's best in world wars.

They wanted to eliminate the "unfit." The "unfit" have not in fact declined in proportion, nor can they ever, as is clear from the following note by Mises: "It is true that today many people who in the past would have been doomed to life-long disability are restored to full vigor. But on the other hand many whom innate defects, sickness, or accidents would have extinguished sooner in earlier days survive as permanently incapacitated people." (HA, 837). In other words, the cripples are cured; but the dead become lifelong cripples. However, they ended up enabling abortion on demand, such that now perfectly "fit" babies are destroyed whenever the mother finds it inconvenient to carry them to term. They hated the Catholic Church; by teaching that birth control is morally unobjectionable, they have checked the propagation of the genes of holy and God-fearing folks.

It is obvious that the progressive eugenicists have failed utterly to achieve any of their goals; in fact, they seem to have brought about results opposite those they aimed at.

In short, they're complete losers. Moreover, the modern progressives have apparently nothing in common with their predecessors regarding this issue. Their only connection is this: the old progressive eugenicists had certain generally not too objectionable ends. However, the means they chose in pursuit of those ends failed and in fact made things worse from their own point of view. The modern progressives went so far as to forget the eugenic ends themselves but now glorify the non-functioning means (minimum wage, etc.) as crazy and scandalous ends in themselves. So, the left is nuts, but we've known it already.

The Trinity’s Missions

It's useful to grasp that the Holy Spirit mission to the world is uniquely His own. He acts without any "supervision." He is fully God, does everything according to His own counsel, and does nor answer or report to anyone, including the Father or the Son whom He is equally great as.

At the same time, when the Father was creating the world, the Holy Spirit's mission was already taken into account and fully calculated. The persons of the Trinity held a discussion, as it were, and the entire course of divine providence, from the creation of the heavens and the earth to the return of the last saint into heaven, was mapped out in complete detail.

So, God does not make mistakes.

We can see that the divine persons' glory is equal in magnitude but radically different in kind.

Chastity, Cont.

Chastity is a special not general virtue. A husband and wife need temperance not chastity. Otherwise, they should have sweet sex and lots of it. Chastity for boys is also overrated and unrealistic to boot; they want to "become men," cannot be stopped, and probably should not be. Of course, parents and society should encourage mastery and self-control in them, too.

In other words, acquiring confidence in dealing with women is a big step for a young man toward inner peace. Then we can with some success urge: You want to be a man? There's much more to it than just that. You have a lot of work ahead of you. Virginity for some men is a divine impulsion; for most others, it's a natural shame.

Chastity is a virtue for unmarried girls and Catholic clergymen.

The Numbering of the Persons of the Trinity

Let me suggest that the Holy Spirit should properly be considered the 2nd person of the Trinity, and Son, the 3rd.

First, in regard to the relations within the Trinity. The Father's intellect and the possible worlds He knows and contemplates, and His own act of understanding them, are His own nature. His ad extra power to create is His unique characteristic and also entirely His own. But His love needs to proceed outward and cause effects. The Holy Spirit then is both the means by which the Son is begotten, and, since love is a unitive force, and the Father and the Son love each other through the Holy Spirit, what unites them into one God.

The Holy Spirit then is in between Goodness (the Father) and Being (the Son and creation). He proceeds indeed from the Father through the Son. As a result, He is second according to understanding.

St. Thomas provides reasons for the traditional numbering, but I do not like them.

Second, regarding the missions of the persons to the world. The Father created the original world marked by mutual independence of creatures and their natural happiness.

The second creation, consisting in the breaking down of this "aseity" and indifference of creatures to each other, began right after by the Holy Spirit. The aim is to integrate all creatures into one communion through love. And the process started with the fall of the angels, indeed long before the Son was crowned king of this communion. The good angels are now glorified and as full of charity as they'll ever be. The divine grace, which is teaching humans how to love, has been given to us since the beginning of our species. It has intensified since the coming of Christ, but it was not lacking in the world before.

In addition, the world was carefully prepared for the Incarnation of the Son, starting explicitly with Abraham and the nation of Israel. But the Incarnation occurred within known recorded history, a crowning event of the divine plan. It's true that the Son's mission is now complete, while the Holy Spirit's is ongoing; nevertheless, the latter started much earlier. Hence, it makes sense again to consider Jesus the 3rd person.

Physical Exercise

I am not going to lie to you: getting in great shape, unless you are exceptionally genetically gifted, can take a massive amount of commitment and effort. Just cultivating the right habits can take years.

But one notable motivation for exercise is stressed less often: the fear of what nature will do to you if you let yourself go. It's a form of "servile fear," a foundation of all virtue.

This fear is easier for me to feel now that I've hit 40. One can get away with not working out at a younger age without terrible health consequences.

However, if you don't exercise as a young man, then girls will not love you. You should fear that a great deal.

Universal Salvation?

There are some arguments that suggest that universal salvation is a thing.

For example, does it make sense for God to create a man who is essentially impervious to grace? The Holy Spirit searches his heart, again and again, predicts that the appropriate grace would be rejected, therefore abstains from futilely giving it in the first place, and so leaves him alone his entire life. So, the man never learns to love. Upon his death, God examines him, realizes that it's not the case that if he were surrounded by more fortuitous circumstances, then he would in fact flourish (so he was just unlucky and still has a chance), as a result finds him completely useless, and throws him into hell.

What would be the point? To positively reprobate anyone like this? Who benefits from the creation of a man from the beginning inevitably predestined to hell?

And yet we do not know God's purposes. Just as an example, maybe God foresees that this condemned man will beget a son who will be great in His sight and convert many people. The man is sacrificed for a greater good that could not be brought about at a smaller cost. Suppose further that the son will actually convert 100 men. Moreover, these men are almost as "transcircumstantially depraved," in William Lane Craig's phrase, as the man but not 100%, such that the only way in which they could be and in fact would be saved is through the actions of the son. Losing 1 is then a price of gaining 100. As long as this is even a possibility, universal salvation remains unproven. Moreover, with the amount of tragedies occurring daily in people's lives, and the fact that the angels do weep for our sins, the problem becomes so much murkier. It is indisputable that we lose people. Children die horribly in wars. I don't know what becomes of them.

I do not believe that universal salvation can be demonstrated by reason; nor moreover is it an article of faith. Nor, finally, is it a proper object of hope, because it may not be true, and it is blasphemy to hope that the omniscient God had created "better" than He did.

Each of us should seek to save as many people as he can, and rest with that.

Hang the Banksters?

My brief note in the previous post about possible punishments for fractional-reserve banking should obviously be rightly understood.

Suppose it will turn out that this crime will be very difficult to detect; the law, expensive and inconvenient to enforce; and the crime's consequences, highly pernicious to society as a whole though not immediately to any individual victim (so no citizen will file a lawsuit). So, we'd then have these worms, FR counterfeiters, subverting the very lifeblood of the economy, money, with impunity and laughing at justice with contempt.

Well, then, let's ratchet up the brutality. Increase punishments to them so much that the threat will still make them think very hard whether they want to break the law.

If only the threat of death to them is sufficient to safeguard the welfare of the commonwealth, then it's the price I will be willing to pay (even if, by the way, I personally happened to be in business of running a bank).

Bitcoin and Banks

Bitcoins are 100% cash. They're not even like bank-issued paper currency, "fiduciary media"; they're pure cash, in the same way as gold coins are cash.

If Bitcoin becomes global universal currency, I don't even know if banks will survive this.

There may still be a need for intermediaries between lenders and borrowers who would collect cash from the former, pay them interest, and re-lend at a higher interest rate to the latter. So, investment loan banking may -- though who can really tell what industry-changing innovations the future will bring? -- remain a viable business model.

If such banks stick around, it will still be of utmost importance to insist upon and enforce 100%-reserve banking. I mean, if succeeding at this requires that bankers who dare to keep fractional reserves be hanged in public executions, then so be it.

But commercial deposit banks and their checking accounts and banknotes may easily disappear entirely.

Good Lives

Speaking of The Name of the Rose, there are only 3 characters in fiction that I've read, Mary Stuart's Merlin, Avram Davidson's Vergil, and Umberto Eco's William who embody a kind of ideal of mine.

They are extremely powerful men, yet bothered by no self-doubt or struggles with sin. They pursue their scientific and God-commissioned projects with cold self-forgetful competence. Yet their self-mastery does not prevent but in fact cause their great emotional passion. They love life, the world, in Vergil's case, women, and love without holding back.