Saturday, April 28, 2012

Symphilosophie or the Friendship of Philosophers

I've been recently studying Aristotle's thoughts on friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics, so I found much of interest in Brandon's post on Symphilosophie, or collaborative philosophy.

Among Friedrich Schlegel's fragments is this piece on philosophical friendship:

125. Perhaps there would be a birth of a whole new era of the sciences and arts if symphilosophy and sympoetry became so universal and heartfelt that it would no longer be anything extraordinary for several complementary minds to create communal works of art. One is often struck by the idea that two minds really belong together, like divided halves that can realize their full potential only when joined....

While philosophical debate can sometimes turn into verbal or written combat between individuals, bloodsport, the possibility exists of philosophers working together on a common project, of two philosophers being of one mind. In other words, philosophers can be friends who put aside their various intellectual quirks to help each other out in creating a “communal work of art."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Conversations with Walker Percy

This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. -- Walker Percy (HT: Bad Catholic)

Dude! Right off the 405, it's the Californians

Saturday Night Live pokes fun at us Californians and our obsession for freeways. It's, like, totally accurate and rad! (HT: Darwin Catholic)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Universe Came into Existence Out of Nothing? Now that's Something!

Edward Feser gives his latest response to the silly view of some atheist physicists that the universe came into existence out of "nothing" due to the laws of physics. I'd add something, but as only a beginning Thomist, I've got nothing on Dr. Feser:

Meanwhile, Julie Andrews already provided a response to Victor Stenger, Stephen Hawking, and Lawrence Krauss way back in 1965, through the power of music:

Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could
Translation: Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit

Aquinas on Amor Amicitiae and Caritate

As we saw before in Nicomachean Ethics VIII, Aristotle defines friendship as loving another for their own sake. The perfect friendship is a mutual love between the virtuous, who share a common project of willing the good for one another. However, as Aristotle argues that friendship requires equality (or something near enough) he believes that friendship with God, “who surpasses us most decisively in all good things,” is impossible:

…but when one party is removed to a great distance, as God is, the possibility of friendship ceases.
     NE, viii, 7

It is here on the topic of friendship with God that Aquinas departs from the Philosopher. While Aquinas agrees that friendship involves loving another for their own sake, willing the good for them, and thus is mutual, as a Christian theologian, he believes that friendship with God is possible. God has revealed Himself to us along with the possibility of friendship with Him: "I will not now call you servants . . . but My friends." (John 15:15)

How can we be friends with God? According to Aquinas, the theological virtue of charity, of friendship with God, of loving God for his own sake, is an infused virtue:

Now, the conversation of man with God is by contemplation of Him, just as the Apostle used to say: “Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Since, therefore, the Holy Spirit makes us lovers of God, we are in consequence established by the Holy Spirit as contemplators of God.

Charity is only possible for us because of grace, because God is absolutely magnanimous, as the Thomist James Chastek reminds us.

Monday, April 23, 2012

G.K. Chesterton on Divine Simplicity

A lady I know picked up a book
of selections from St. Thomas with a commentary; and began hopefully
to read a section with the innocent heading, "The Simplicity
of God." She then laid down the book with a sigh and said,
"Well, if that's His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like."

                              --St Thomas Aquinas, Introductory Note

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Aquinas on Theology as Queen of the Sciences

...the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things. 
                                                                                   St. Thomas Aquinas, ST 1.1.5

Make Some Friends! Lauren Faust on Philia: Part 1

Previously I took an all-too-brief look at how Aristotle handled friendship (which I might expand upon later). As an interesting comparison (and to continue the focus on virtue ethics), I thought I’d start looking at the first three episodes of the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in order to see how much of an influence the Philosopher might or might not had on producer Lauren Faust’s views on the virtue of friendship. [Yes, I probably am the only Aristotelian-Thomist brony in existence.]

                                               Random Thoughts on Why I’m a Brony

Aristotle's virtue ethics, updated for the 21st century

I’ll leave the friendship theme, review and commentary of episodes 1 and 2 for the next post, but I do have a few things to say regarding the series as a whole. Producer Lauren Faust, who previously worked on Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls, has created a children’s animated show transcending the limitations of “girl’s shows” and Hasbro product placements. This isn’t Saturday morning trash. MLP: FiM is worthwhile even to viewers not in the target range, featuring likable, relatable characters, entertaining plots and action, humor for both kids and adults, and a promotion of a kind of virtue ethical approach to friendship (albeit of the simplified Hallmark variety). Faust’s influence really makes the difference between this generation of MLP and previous MLP shows (which you can catch on YouTube, if you dare).  Did I mention the stylized animation of MLP: FiM goes a long way in making this a show that will not give you a headache from excessive sweetness?

In my case, the main characters, flawed yet ever willing to get along, and the friendship moral drew me into the show (I should also mention the goofily endearing character of Derpy). Given my philosophical cast of mind, I began to wonder if I could hammer out a “My Little Pony Virtue Ethics” with an emphasis on friendship (just like “Care Bear Virtue Ethics”). But that attempt  will have to wait for another post.

Friendship is Magic: Part 1 (Character and Plot Overview)

                             Twilight Sparkle: Egghead

The first episode of MLP: FiM introduces us to our main protagonist, a purple unicorn named Twilight Sparkle, a bookworm of the highest order. She apparently devotes most of her time to reading books on magic and close to zilch to social interaction. I can definitely relate to this character. Luckily, for the extroverted among us, the ruler of the pony kingdom of Equestria, Princess Celestia, points out that “there is more to a young pony's life than studying” and  commands her personal pupil Twilight to move from Canterlot Castle to Ponyville’s Library. Now, moving to a library to find out about the world beyond books might seem counter-intuitive, but Twilight does receive the task to make some friends, much to her chagrin.

Reluctantly inspecting the town, Twilight quickly comes across five ponies with highly distinctive quirks (hint, they’re crazy!), as Ponyville is a very welcoming place. The pink pony Pinkie Pie is random, energetic, and likes to party. The country pony Applejack has a big family and likes working hard harvesting apples. The blue pegasus Rainbow Dash is a bit of a slacker and likes honing her flying technique instead of working. The glamorous unicorn Rarity is prim and proper and likes making dresses. The bashful pegasus Fluttershy is found in the episode if only the viewer will listen closely (psst! she likes animals). 

The Mane Six

All five want to be friends, but the dour Twilight isn’t in the best of moods, she just wants to get back to the library and study. Her mind is obsessed with tales of a dark princess come back to raise havoc and of magic objects called “elements of harmony” with the power to cast out evil. Can these stories be true?  Finding the time to read further, however, is not an easy task, as Ponyville always has something to celebrate, with Pinkie Pie seemingly masterminding every party. Twilight quickly finds herself distracted by a surprise welcome party at her library house and then a summer sun festival at Canterlot Castle.

The partying (as well as the episode) ends with the return of Nightmare Moon, the evil alter ego of Princess Luna, sister of Celestia and co-ruler of Equestria. After a thousand-year banishment on the moon, the evil princess intends to gain her revenge by supplanting her sister (strangely absent) and covering the world in complete darkness (a perpetual nighttime).

Nightmare Moon: Just a bit cranky after an unscheduled 1000-year lunar vacation

To be continued…

              [Next post: Friendship is Magic: Part 2, Plot, Review, Commentary and Theme]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Aristotle on Friendship

Aristotle defines friendship roughly as "loving others for their own sake" in Nicomachean Ethics VIII. He adds that reciprocity is necessary, that is, each person must love the other or wish the other well. Friendship is mutual love; you can only be a friend with a friend. Therefore, one can't be friends with inanimate objects, which can't return our love (unless this is Toy Story). Similarly, one person wishing another person well is not friendship but a display of good will.

According to Aristotle, there are three types of friendship, based on utility, pleasure, and virtue. In a friendship of utility, each person loves the other for the sake of some good received from the other. Friendships of pleasure involve loving others for something pleasant that they give. By contrast, friendships of virtue turn on a love for each other's character.

Not surprisingly, the perfect friendship for Aristotle is one based on virtue. Virtuous people are a pleasure to be around, love the good, and therefore naturally seek the companionship of other virtuous people. The stability of character of the virtuous person ensures that a friendship of virtue will last long, if not permanently. In a sense, both friends are of a common mind or project, which is the willing of the good for the other. Friendships of utility and pleasure are more fickle, more easily dissolved; a person loved for some good or pleasure provided might stop offering that benefit. In those friendships, a person only loves another to the extent that they can profit or take advantage; they will their own good but not that of the other.

For the Catholic, according to Aquinas, a higher view of friendship is possible, which we'll see in a future post.

In the next post, I'll look at Lauren Faust's view of friendship as I review the first three episodes of MLP: FiM. In addition, sometime in the future, I'll examine other Aristotelian virtues with the help of the "Mane Six."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Sci-Fi Thomist

Dante's Divine Comedy is hard SF for Thomists, according to A-T philosopher Edward Feser.

It's nice to see that even we supposedly stodgy and obscure scholastics can get in on the SF fun.

Monday, April 9, 2012

RPG Catholic

Welcome to the maiden post of RPG Catholic! I suppose I should give a reason for why I intend to pour another blog into an internet cup already full to the brim with interesting Catholic philosophy, theology and even science-fiction sites, most of whose authors are far more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. Well, the only justification I can offer now is that I have a love for certain subjects that I feel like sharing in my own whimsical manner. I'm a lover of wisdom, for example, so I'll have many things to say about the ideas of my two favorite philosophers, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, and other major intellectual thinkers. As my blog's namesake implies, I'm also a Catholic who happens to like playing RPG games, so I'll have some things to say from a Catholic perspective about certain video games I like along with general observations on gaming culture. I also aspire to become a professional sci-fi or fantasy writer, so I'll review a few of the authors who influenced me immensely and perhaps even post some of my own work in the future.

What do I talk about first? Well, there doesn't seem to me to be a better topic to begin with than ponies! That is, I’ll be reviewing the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic throughout the next few weeks and especially looking at the moral lessons its creator, Lauren Faust, has to share. Some readers might think me odd for being a "brony," an older male fan. I answer that I believe any element of the good, of truth, to found in our culture (film, literature, poetry, even a girl's cartoon) is worth highlighting. Besides, if a philosopher I highly respect like Brandon Watson of Siris can find positive examples of virtue even in the Care Bears, I think it wouldn’t hurt to point out that the same thing is possible for MLP: FiM.

P.S. D.G.D of Sci-Fi Catholic has his own take on the merits of FiM.