What Would You Suffer For?

Question One: What are you willing to suffer for?
Question Two: What is more important continual suffering, sweat, and sacrifice?
Question Three: Why do you gladly suffer and fight, when others quit, cut-corners, and complain?


High-Value Test: What are you willing to suffer for, with dignity?

Question One: What are you willing to suffer for?

Question Two: What is more important continual suffering, sweat, and sacrifice?

Question Three: Why do you gladly suffer and fight, when others quit, cut-corners, and complain? 

This will clue you into what your vision of life is.  What is your motivating ‘why’? This defines you as a person, and as a leader.

To quote Nietzsche, “if you have a ‘why’ you can survive of almost any ‘how’. 

Twilight of the Idols (1889), section: ‘Maxims and Arrows’)

“In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment, it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

Viktor Frankl

Just as everybody is a leader of some sort, everybody has a vision of life, of some sort too. And these to aspects are related.

But some leaders are ineffective, and some leaders influence people in the wrong direction. Hitler was an effective influencer, but evil, for instance. 

If you want to be a good leader, even a good person, you need to know what your ‘vision of life’ is.

You probably don’t want to drop everything you’re doing and start studying history, philosophy, and theology.

Are there some shortcuts? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that you can wrestle with telling questions that reveal things about yourself. No, in the sense that such revelations don’t remove the necessary soul-searching and contemplation in order to discover, what you do believe, should believe, and can believe.

Yet, there are such things that I’d call ‘high-value’ tests. For instance, a way that you can see what you think is materially valuable might be to imagine that you discover your house is on fire. What do you grab first? For instance, if you grabbed your cat, and ignored your children…well…that would quite concerning. Regardless, this thought experiment allows you to consider what is truly valuable, though not exactly in a material sense.

In the context of leadership, consider the fact that great leaders can transform meaningless drudgery into meaningful and inspirational activity…but this is only possible…if one has a great vision of life. 

To this end, ask yourself this question: “What will you suffer with dignity for?” Your answer will be revealing. If you are not willing to suffer for anything good, then you clearly have nothing to lead with. If you only have petty or small aims, then only petty and small sacrifices are the limit of your influence. 

But if you have a grand vision, of what is great, and noble, and wonderous, as well as a clear idea of what is wrong (the obstacles of the vision), then you might have a suitable vision of life that can justify getting through the low points of life, and work, etc. 

Living an admirable life requires us to work through suffering. Leadership requires navigation through suffering preeminently. Those that follow look to you as a lighthouse for guidance. Do you have any light to give?

Stories to Check Out:

Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning

Consider great trials, and the heroic persons that went through them (and why):

  • Saint Patrick of Ireland, who went back to his slave-captors to share the gospel with them. See my article here.
  • Socrates, who drank the Hemlock, since it was somehow unjust to escape the lawful punishment of the court. He thought it was better to suffer injustice, rather than commit an injustice himself.
  • Saint Thomas More, who died at the behest of King Henry VIII of England, because he refused to bend his religious principles in order to give the King another divorce.
  • Martin Luther King devoted himself to non-violent civil disobedience, despite violent attacks on himself.
  • Jesus suffered and died for sinners, despite His innocence, and His disciples committed themselves to spread the gospel despite the inevitable exiles, trials, and martyrdom, that such ministry required.

Are You the Center That Holds? Three tips to be a Transcendent Leader:

First, have a Transcendent Vision: You need a vision that is grand. Don’t have one? Study those that do. Study philosophy and theology, and what I’d call ‘good fiction’ (which is also, controversial fiction)

Second, have Transcendent Standards: You need rational prejudices, such as Truth, Goodness, and Justice.

Third, have a Transcendent Stability: You’re a lighthouse, not a superman. As a leader, you don’t have to be able to do everything. Rather, you have to be a stable point that directs the parts towards the whole. You guessed it…you need a stable transcendent vision to do this. You need convictions that are invincible. Recommendation, start with the great Leaders. 

Books to Read to Get a Vision: 

Books to Read to Get Transcendent Standards: 

  • Read good philosophy books that explain why Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, are objective features of reality (is this a contentious statement? Yes, but I do believe that this is right)
  • Read about great military struggles. (I reject universal pacifism and hold that some violence is justified

Books to Read to Get Stability: 

I have found that stability comes with mental preparation, mentorship, and rigorous reflection. This requires investment. Even reading fiction is a kind of investment. If you take the stories seriously, in the sense you are a character in a story, and not just escaping from your daily grind. For instance, you have priorities, aims, standards, and a vision of reality that motivates you. Are you heroic? Why not? If you take good stories seriously, then they are not mere stories, but hypothetical thought-experiments for your actual life. Resolve to be the hero: take the necessary steps, and you’ll become the leader that you invest yourself in. 

Thanks for listening. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

False Liberalism and Adler’s Educational Prophecy

Mortimer Adler argued that certain trends in education were emerging back in the late 1930s and 40s. He argued that there was a distinct difference between true liberalism that he advocated for from what he called ‘false-liberalism.’ In addition to arguing at length about those differences, he set out certain consequences that he thought would follow.

If you’ve studied education and philosophy, you’ve likely come across the name John Dewey. Adler was a critic of Dewey’s educational program. What is interesting for us, living in 2019, is that Dewey won the popularity contest, for the soul of education. There are probably a few pockets in the U.S. that favor Adler, but it is the minority. In this context, it is very informative to see what Adler was on about all those years ago because Dewey’s ilk has become the regnant influencers in education.

So, what did Adler say?

He distinguished true liberalism from liberalism by showing that true liberalism cultivates the authority of reason, whereas false liberalism cultivates reverence for the State. Where the dignity of man is placed above the State, the false-liberal encourages humans to be used as means of the State (rather than ends). The true liberal believes in objective truths that unify and transcend our differences, but the false liberal reduces the student to ‘might makes right’ since the authority of reason is subordinate to that of the Super-moral State (or even absent).

According to Adler, true liberalism fights two types of tyranny: the tyranny of the passions over rationality, and the tyranny of the State over its citizens. Through disciplining the mind to criticize all things, even the authority of the State, its purpose and purview, a properly liberal education frees men from the shackles of emotional bondage: they can think carefully, logically, and not be overwhelmed by fallacious reasoning, with subjective appeals by tyrants that stoke envy, fear, and false promises. Therefore, true liberalism is about freedom, and the freeing of the mind from irrational, as well as being able to morally resist the growth of political tyranny.

The reason why should be obvious: a citizenry in full command of their rational faculties is not swayed by emotional-laden appeals, full of false promises, and invalid arguments.

This, of course, is not all to do with politics though. Living a happy life is a very different aim than being a ‘productive citizen.’ A free person may oppose the government, leave the country, or challenge the views of the colleges. A truly liberal educator would only inquire if the reasoning was well-founded and valid though, not inquire whether it fit with a party narrative.

In sum, a truly liberal education serves its students in a robust sense, their very thriving conditions (eudaimonia, or ‘happiness’ in an objective sense of ‘flourishing). It dangerous substitute claims to be liberal but is actually a counterfeit: it promises freedom but delivers the bondage of emotions over the self, and the State over its ‘subjects’ (though the word citizen might still be used). The false-liberal society may change the definitions of words (see 1984). Additionally, the false-liberal society will applaud the mastery of social problems –not by developing mastery over the emotions–but by the chemical evasion from the discomforts of cognitive dissonance and malaise (see Brave New World).

  • What type of education will you favor?
  • Did education’s shift from liberalism to false-liberalism engender the twin tyranny of emotions and the State?

What do you think?

For a more complete discussion on this, see Adler’s book on Reforming Education.

Some short articles on Mortimer Adler can found here:

Intro to Political Economy Without the Labels

Let’s consider two political-economic theories. Since the terms normally used have been hijacked so that there are too many emotional connotations, it is hard to get anywhere with the common terms (unless you’re talking to an audience willing to do a bit of research). Rather, I would like to describe two types of competing theories without using potentially misleading terms. So, here it goes (I won’t reveal which theories are which until the end).

Let’s consider two political-economic theories. Since the terms normally used have been hijacked so that there are too many emotional connotations, it is hard to get anywhere with the common terms (unless you’re talking to an audience willing to do a bit of research). Rather, I would like to describe two types of competing theories without using potentially misleading terms. So, here it goes (I won’t reveal which theories are which until the end).

Both theories have moral and empirical dimensions. The moral issues relate to whether a given action or policy is just or unjust. The empirical dimension relates to whether a return-on-investment is ‘worth it’ (generating the effects that are aimed at, considering the cost). The empirical dimensions are in some ways easier to decipher but in other ways very easy to be misled. The misleading data usually relates to inappropriate conclusions from data or cherry-picking pieces of data that distort the interpretation of the whole.

Theory I

Theory I has a historical-moral foundation about how State governments have ‘gone wrong.’ This would include all of the major civilizations, from ancient Rome, through the feudal states of medieval Europe. The rough idea is that governments have a specific purpose, and this purpose is to respect boundaries that come from human nature and/or God. The governments throughout human history go wrong precisely in that they take on tasks that are outside of their proper bounds. So, here we have a theory of government that also connects to a theory of ethics. The ethics portion relates to the evil of coercion. Since it is evil to coerce another free person to do what you want, against their permission, and these theorists sought to minimize social evil, they sought to minimize coercion. Their solution, then, was that original coercion (violence and force) is the only justification of government force, so that only when there is force initiated by someone, is the government then–and only then– within their proper place to use force against the offenders that initiated the force. In sum, Theory I is about the minimization of force and coercion, and thus also, keeping the State in its proper bounds, so that it doesn’t go rogue (serving the ruling elites instead of its citizenry).

This has been the moral dimension of Theory I

Theory II

Theory II is more difficult to explain because the moral and empirical dimensions are overlapping and confused. Where the return-on-investment is concerned, if the results are favorable, then the moral standard is satisfied. So, in Theory II’s conception of moral justification the very fact that it promises to produce a given result satisfies both the empirical and moral standards (since the moral and empirical issues overlap). The concern for coercion is either minimized, or held to be radically different from the depiction made by Theory I. Theory II advocates emphasize favorable aspects that make human societies better, and adopt the policy that they think promises the best outcome without any concern for coercion, since in their view the coercion is justified if the outcome is favorable. For instance, taking money from the rich is permissible, even if they came about their wealth through perfectly just ways, such as hard work, long-term investment, and family cooperation.

Lady Justice, Case-Law, Right, Scale, Court

Evaluating the Two Theories
These theories operate on different theories of government, justice, and economics.

The first theory aims to minimize coercion, with clear boundaries of the State’s job. The second theory aims to maximize well-being, regardless of theory I’s worries about justice. According to Theory II, it is just if everything is equal, no matter if there needs to be coercion for ‘make it happen.’ Correspondingly, according to Theory II society is unjust if there is too much inequality, regardless of the historical cause of the distributions. Theory I is not worried about differences of outcome per se as long as all transactions are historically just, and there is no coercion.

Theory I’s account of justice fits perfectly with our basic moral intuitions, but Theory II’s account does not fit. For instance, if I give a million dollars to an orphanage, then Theory II would endorse this policy. The fact that the money was stolen from a bank does not matter to Theory II. Theory II regards the State as a kind of super-moral authority, above regular citizens (somehow the ‘whole’ has some special power over individuals if it is for the ‘common good’). On Theory I’s reading of justice, this is not the case. Only if the bank first stole the money, could it rightly take the money, and even then, it would be expected to return it to its rightful owners. Theory I does not regard the State as a super-moral authority. Rather, it is a servant of people, with very tight reigns on its proper sphere. It can only coerce when coercion was initiated towards its citizens first, without which, it cannot justly do anything.

This is the thumbnail sketch of the moral dimensions of Theory I and II. The empirical dimensions are about what actually happens when these ideas are put into practice. As mentioned, this is both easier in one sense and much harder in another sense. For instance, a country might call themselves Theory I or II, but defenders of a given theory might deny that they ‘really’ are specimens of their professed doctrine. This can be frustrating because it would be nice to simply look at history, and say, ‘that has been tried, and it failed horribly.’ It becomes even more complicated when popular audiences don’t precisely know what the key aspects of these theories look like, so one side can blame the other, and the reverse, simultaneously. In fact, this uncomfortable and frustrating fact is part of the motivation for writing this short piece.

There is a lot of data to support the fact that Theory I actually provides better results than Theory II, on empirical grounds, but this argument should be kept separate in our minds. The moral argument for Theory I stands alone, and if right, shows that Theory II is immoral at its root (regardless of what is promises or delivers). There are great worries about Theory II on empirical grounds in that the overall aim of Theory II does not actually occur. The core problem though, considering that most people will not sort through the data and the competing works of literature, is that improvements are happening in the world, regardless of the policies in place. For instance, sometimes a policy can be instituted, where the target effect is getting better without the policy. Think of technological improvements. You can imagine a sneaky CPA siphoning out money from a very successful account, but only when great gains are made. Since the great gains are still seen, the unseen portion of the theft is left unattended. In short, bad policies may have damages and injuries to a system, even though nobody knows about them because it isn’t about what is obvious, rather, it is seeing the contrast to what would have been otherwise. (for an excellent discussion along these lines, see Bastiat).

Statue Of Liberty, Landmark, Liberty, Statue, America

Beyond this introductory analysis, one would need to consider economic theories in light of the 20th-century history, especially theories of value (labor theory vs productive-competitive theory), the competing theories of libertarianism and egalitarianism, and the problems associating to making decisions in groups (the information problem).

I will be adding additional links below for articles and books, for those that are interested in getting a more in-depth understanding of the issues. If you didn’t surmise this already, Theory I represents the libertarian free-market doctrine, and Theory II represents the socialist-egalitarian doctrine. Allowances must be made for ignoring many nuances that exist within any philosophy of political theory. Advocates of both sides might seek to correct things in this brief article, but brevity requires broad strokes. There are important variations of both positions. However, if the Libertarian theory is right, then the big-state egalitarian is wrong, on moral grounds. Secondly, there is a mounting body of evidence that the free markets are simply better at delivering prosperity than socialist-egalitarian policies. Again, there are difficulties for us in deciphering the data though, since one part of a thriving society might obscure the fact that injustices are being made, and citizen’s rights are being trampled.

Related Issues for Research:

Theory of Value, Theory of Alienation, Misunderstanding Boom/Bust Cycles, Centralization Problems: (1) Information (2) Incentives (3) Totalitarianism,
Hayek: The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents–The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2)

For strictly philosophical arguments: Rawl’s Egalitarianism: A Theory of Justice, Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia

Good Philosophy is Servant Philosophy: Mesoteric and Exoteric Philosophy: A mission statement

Here is my understanding of what a good philosophy might look like. Three types of education need to be in view. To see these three, first start with two: Lay philosophy versus Professional philosophy.

Here is my understanding of what a good philosophy might look like. Three types of education need to be in view. To see these three, first start with two: Lay philosophy versus Professional philosophy. Professional philosophers operate at a very high level, in the sense that the works that they consume, produce, and engage in, require many years of investment before the works can be understood. Contrast this with what I’d call Lay philosophy, which is basically what one might encounter in a good introductory survey course in philosophy. I say ‘good’ because a good intro course is built in a way to be challenging but still accessible, and the bad course doesn’t actually provide a helpful introduction to philosophy that really helps the student.

If I could rename ‘lay philosophy’ with ‘exoteric’ and ‘professional’ with ‘esoteric’, then we’ll be getting somewhere. I think that philosophy influences people a great deal, but it does so in a very roundabout way. It is like that rudder in a great ship. If you were watching somebody in the depths of a cruise ship, it might appear that they are not doing much (working on machines, servicing them, etc), but this would be a mistake. The whole ship relies on the engineers in the ship. This is an imperfect analogy, but important. Philosophers influence other people in the university, which in turn, educate others, like those in education. So, esoteric philosophy is that hard-to-understand expert philosophy, and exoteric philosophy is for public consumption. ‘Ex’ summons to mind ‘outside,’ and ‘eso’ invokes ‘inside’ or ‘into’. In the middle, is ‘meso’ which simply mean ‘middle.’ As a philosopher, I wish to be a mesoteric philosopher that straddles the esoteric and the exoteric, between the high-level abstruse philosophy and the lower-level introductions to philosophy.

In many ways, I think that the exoteric and mesoteric philosophical levels are more important for society. Consider the political divisions, the crises of education, and so many other issues. Much of these things would be far different if the majority of the populace had access to what I would call good philosophy, that simplifies, unifies, and clarifies, our growing body of human knowledge. That is, in my estimation, philosophers should provide a way to understand how all of the bodies fit together (unifying), while carefully showing how each province of knowledge is different from another (clarifying differences) and simplifies hard-won wisdom into accessible statements that help a people live meaningful, resilient, rewarding lives. (See Adler, Maritain)

In this sense, I think philosophy should be a kind of service to people. But this is an odd position to have for an academic, as most academic, in terms of numbers derived from polling data, don’t like the free market (except for good economists). Free markets are about goods and services, where a person thrives if and only if, a one helps other people thrive, providing them with something that enriches their lives. Additionally, free markets are about rational persuasion and voluntary transaction (if I can’t convince you that my information, services, or products are worth your time and money, then I don’t get your support). I think that philosophy is a great benefit to humanity, to those that get acquainted by it and enrich lives. As such, if I’m ‘market-facing,’ as economists call it, then if I provide a good product (my philosophy), then success will be reflected by my support from voluntary transactions from responsible adults that value what I’m providing. In this case, I desire to occupy a space in the exoteric and mesoteric market space for philosophers (which I’d guess, is not exactly saturated). Contrast this coerced transactions, where a body of persons, assign the worth of somebody’s goods or services, and those goods or services don’t have responsive feedback from the market. Think about the cost of an x-ray or the way a professor is hired. The costs and processes ‘behind the scenes’ aren’t in the open, and the usually the only way things get checked by the public is if something goes terribly wrong (x-ray machine explodes, or professor gets involved in a scandal). However, free-market mechanism directly relates to the product being provided. I will provide some articles on the free market later, but for my present purposes, I think that good philosophy is a great benefit to all, and that it can be defended and promoted in the free market. And this, is basically what my philosophy is about. I’ll provide a bunch of philosophical articles tailor to my audience, which is interested in clarification, simplification, and unity, to their own lives. If you like what you see, you can buy my books later on (you won’t have to buy a $100 book, because the academic superpowers decided that you should add that to your mountain of debt).

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Check out my posts on economics, politics, logic, wine, and even Easter.

5 Reasons You Should Be A Classical Liberal (American Conservative):

This is a defense of Classical Liberalism, which is the philosophy that gave birth to the United States, and continued to develop it, until now. However, there are many misconceptions. The Classical Liberal (American Conservative) is anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-discrimination, anti-poverty, and anti-coercion

This is a defense of Classical Liberalism, which is the philosophy that gave birth to the United States, and continued to develop it, until now. However, there are many misconceptions. The Classical Liberal (American Conservative) is anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-discrimination, anti-poverty, and anti-coercion:

Anti-racist: The idea that human beings are made in the Image of God is a key idea to conservative American thought. Because there is a higher unity to humanity, the division into race seems strange. Christians, in fact, have been fighting slavery and racism for centuries. But to oppose the divisiveness of tribalism, you need a higher unity. This higher unity is first, a unity of humanity as a whole. A second and more profound unity is the unity of being something that God created. So, we have a shared nature, and we share a creator. 

Anti-fascist: Fascism is a modified form of socialism (see history of Mussolini and Hitler). Fascism is completely antithetical to American Conservatism. Conservatism opposes heavy centralization of State power: Fascism is the strong centralization power (there is more to it, but a necessary condition of Fascism is strong centralization; so, conservatives oppose the necessary conditions of Fascism). It is about as consistent to say that Rambo was pacifist, as an American Conservative is a Fascist. There is a lot of misinformation here, so you’ll need to look at some scholarly articles, specifically on Nozick, Sowell.

Anti-discrimination: I oppose grouping people by class, gender, and religion. To wrestle with demographics you might have to concede that such distinctions exist, however, Conservatives don’t start the analysis of every political discussion with ‘let’s divide everybody up by class, sex, color, etc.’ The fact is, your priorities are far more important.

Anti-poverty: Everybody should help out their community, and Conservative free-market principles have shown to do that the most, in addition to healthy charitable donations. Conservatives are against poverty, and anyone who says otherwise is guilty of slander or libel (not to mention the ad hominem fallacy; for more information on fallacies and policies go here)

Anti-coercion:  Tyranny from the State and violations of rights from other citizens are best illustrated by emphasizing coercion as an evil. Libertarian Conservatives want the least amount of coercion in society, this is why even the government is only licensed to use coercion against those that are guilty of coercion.

Positively, American Conservatism is: 

American Conservatives are proud of the political philosophy that broke away from classism, slavery, monarchy, and tyrannical government. Really, read a bit of history. You’ll have to go through centuries of political history, and the development of political and philosophical thought on law, jurisprudence, reflections on religious liberty, and the tensions between the state and worship.

This doesn’t mean that 1776 was the birth of Utopia. Rather, the Founders of the United States constitution forged the constitution with works like Utopia (that is the book, from Thomas More; I recommend it) in mind, as well the wars that have ravaged Europe, the wars between Protestant and Catholics, and the Freedom for self-determination. Conservatives draw from a rich wellspring of philosophical, political, and literary thought. Without education into these fonts, their vision cannot be grappled with.   

Now, one must consider the implications of this article. If I’ve been honest, that I’m a conservative because of these things, then it would be patently contradictory to equate Conservatism with anything related to the things that I oppose (either I’m wrong, misguided, hold contradictory ideas, etc).

The Statist Fallacy:

Fallacies come in several varieties, formal and informal.
There are many informal fallacies, and these probably constitute the bulk of our thinking errors, as they allow a person to weigh something too highly. For instance, an attack on a person (ad hominem), moves a person from thinking about a given argument that does not depend on a person at all, to thinking about the speaker (if the guy is racist, bigot, insert anything ‘ist’), then you don’t have to consider their argument. Or, overweighting a group of people, as if something is more likely to be true if a bunch of people says it is (but there is no necessary connection).

Here is a fallacy that I think deserves its own name. This is what I call the ‘Statist fallacy’, it is a form of false dichotomy, where there are only two options: either (1) you support cause ‘x’ and must use the government to implement policy in the causes’ name, or (2) you do not support cause ‘x,’ because government is the only means to effect the policy in question.

Essentially, then, government is the only kind of group-agent/collective that can do the work….for basically everything. Of course, the problem is that it is completely untrue. A person may support a cause, whole-heartedly, and think that the government is not the most efficient mechanism tackle the cause in question. You can have voluntary groups, like private schools, private businesses, church, etc (these are all voluntary; they are not coerced to exist by outside forces, like the government)

Take gun control: there is evidence that having guns actually protects people (society as a whole, and citizens in particular). https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulhsieh/2018/03/20/any-study-of-gun-violence-should-include-how-guns-save-lives/#300c20155edc Additionally, gun rights, as a measure against growing government tyranny, as well as an extension of individual rights to safety and protection. See an article from Huemer here.

Take free markets: someone might believe that there is both a moral and an empirical foundation to valuing and promoting the freemarkets. See here.

Now, with these in mind, the unscrupulous thinker might find it offensive that somebody is advocating for less government intervention in healthcare, gun control, and the free market. This unscrupulous thinker might argue that the person advocating for free markets, gun rights, and less government meddling with healthcare, is arguing these things because he wants more murders, more medical tragedies, and more greed. However, if you’ve read this post, then you would be able to point out that because someone adopts a given policy, this does not mean that they oppose the cause that actually stands behind it (because only the government can solve problems, and if you’re against government doing something, then you must be against the cause too! Monster). That is, there are people that actually believe that people will be happier if there is a free market, more self-reliant people, and that government can often actually make things worse when they are operating outside of their proper sphere. Shocking, I know, but true.

Should you uncritically adopt any position? No. Should you assume that I have done my research and that I am right to support gun rights and free markets? No. Additionally, however, you should not assume that if someone says “I’m not sure the government should do ‘x’, […]” then this person is opposed to a thriving country, more equity, justice for all, etc. Some people believe that the government shouldn’t do something because– historically– there are reasons to believe that the government often does things inefficiently.

Now, it does not follow that because someone has done their research, that they are necessarily right. Nor does it follow that because somebody believes something different than you, that they have bad intentions in their heart. However, it does follow that if you assume the other person has nefarious aims that poison all of their thoughts, and they are, therefore, necessarily wrong and evil, that you will be unable to objectively evaluate what they are saying.

Reflection on Love (Biblical)

If you’ve heard of how the Bible talks about love, then you may have wondered how that connects to how we commonly talk about love. There are some big differences about how the Bible discusses love, and how popular secular culture talks about love. So, I thought a few words would be helpful.

Biblical Conception of Love

The Christian notion of love is one that is not emotional, in the sense that though love may be felt, the feeling itself is not the most important part. For instance, consider the light of the sun. You can feel it on your skin. However, the feeling of the suns rays should not be confused with the light itself. The light from the sun exists whether or not the light is felt, just as the room still exists, even if you close your eyes. Likewise, love may be felt, when we’re in our proper frame of mind, but we are commanded to love regardless of our emotions at a given time.

However, if love is an emotion (and nothing else), then love is no suitable basis for anything; not marriage, not righteousness; not parenting, not anything. If love is fundamentally an emotion then the Christian doctrine is false. Love is connected to God’s very nature, and therefore reflects humanity’s unfallen nature too.

Saying that love is an emotion is not merely an inconsequential opinion, but it reflects a belief that undermines all the fabric of ethics, marriage, politics, and all of human life. It is that serious.

If you do not grasp the objective nature of love, then you will always be confused with the responsibilities and realities of the goodness and sorrows of this life.

Relevant Interrelatedness of Love

Loving your spouse, or your neighbor, or even your human enemies, is a commandment (Matthew 5:43). This commandment does not take account for the ephemeral feelings of the individual, but simply requires obedience to God. One might wonder how can this be. However, if love is not primarily an emotion, it isn’t very mysterious. Love your wife and be faithful, whether you are temporarily discontent or not. That is what an honorable person does. Love your neighbor, whether they are nice to you or not. Love your enemies, whether you dislike them or not.

If this seems strange, then there is maybe a kind of confusion in how we conceive the concept of love. You can place your wife’s health and goodness before your own, or your child, for instance, no matter how you feel at a given time. It is definitely hard, and that is why we revere those that do it well. You can treat your neighbor in a way that encourages their health and goodness, despite ephemeral childishness, irrationality, and pettiness. You can even sincerely pray for your enemies’ salvation and goodness, no matter your practical antagonism. That is to say, the Christian conception of love is transcendent–beyond–mere feelings. Perhaps this should be a dividing line between adults and children: adults can get past the feeling, and live up to the duty of love. It isn’t easy, and that is why it is a mark of the mature.

Influence of Concepts to Virtue or Vice of Love

Since God is love, and we’re designed as the Image of God, we must be loving or cease to exist fully (i.e. we get diminished when we act contrary to love). Loving is a duty. If we do not love, then we cannot be full. However, the objective nature of love has a deep bearing on what hate is too. Just as we must love what is good, we must hate what is evil. This is not contradictory. Love indicates priority, and high priority connects to love, and low priority connects to hate. There is no contradiction in hating the sin of a person while simultaneously loving their being, their existence, and their health. And since human health is objective also, hating sin is just as simple as hating poison. Poison is objectively adverse to health, as poison countermands the structure and functioning of human physiology.

4 Aspects of Christian love:

  1. Love is not merely emotional (‘feeling love’, and ‘love itself’, are different things)
  2. Love has a rational dimension
  3. Love has a dimension of character (what you love reveals your character)
  4. Love transforms you (you become, in some sense, what you love)

Virtue is excelling in human activity and acts of love is the purpose of human activity. Vice is demonstrating human activity gone wrong; it is a kind of weakness, ignorance, and imbalance. Vice is not hating itself, but an imbalance that often leads to hating the wrongs things (and understanding hate, too, as nothing but emotion, this would be a similar mistake).

So, let us love what is “true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8.

Great Related Articles:

Learn your fallacies, and save the world! (Yes, this is hyperbole, but there is something to it)

Is this an exaggeration? Yes! Learning your fallacies may not save the world, but it will make it a little less irrational, and that is a very good thing. You could, of course, go the completely free route, and look at Wikipedia, and the many lists of fallacies, or check out some great free podcasts.

Is this an exaggeration? Yes! Learning your fallacies may not save the world, but it will make it a little less irrational, and that is a very good thing. You could, of course, go the completely free route, and look at Wikipedia, and the many lists of fallacies, or check out some great free podcasts.  Also, you can check out my article Intro to Logic for Commenting on Social Media (aka, how not to be an idiot, when reading, thinking, and posting on social media).

If you only are going to spend a few minutes…then simply read on.

Bad reasoning is typically divided into two major types. The first is a problem in the logical structure relating to a problem in form, or a formal fallacy. The other type of problem relates to a problem of content (the material, or matter, of the argument). Both are important, but if you are not going to spend your time studying logic (be honest), then the most common errors will be discussed here, which can be broadly captured by two camps of errors about the matter of an argument: ‘appealing to the wrong things’ and ‘being hasty.’ Common examples of appealing to the wrong things can be appealing to popularity, authority, force, feelings, pity, envy, etc. The biggest issue that you need to realize is that fallacies screw up your reasoning because they do have something to them, and often they do get you rules that often work out (but they don’t always, and often mislead us). Consider being a poisoner. Would you succeed in poisoning someone if you leave out a contained labeled “POISON!”? No, but you might succeed if you hid the poison in things that look like non-poisonous things tea, coffee, and doughnuts.

Fallacies are like that, they are sneaky little blighters.

You probably would go right, most of the time, by taking your doctor’s advice, but just because a doctor advised something does not mean that it necessarily is the best course (doctors can be wrong). You’d probably get it right sometimes if you polled people on uncontroversial topics like the weather. But here’s the problem: with controversial things, we’re trying to sort out the BS, and to do that, we need to be less hasty, less credulous, and more critical.  To accomplish this, we have to take to heart to some hard lessons, like: facts don’t care about how you feel (it doesn’t necessarily mean anything except that you feel a certain way), doing something doesn’t mean you should (even if a bunch of people think it is ok), believing you are right doesn’t mean that you are, and even thinking carefully–even this– still doesn’t mean that you are right.

The first major camp of informal fallacies is basically about appealing to things that don’t really matter (though it seems relevant), if you think carefully (even if that method often works well normally). The second camp relates to being hasty. This is obviously related to the first, but is a little different, because it has less to do with appealing to something, than with assuming that one’s premise gets you more than it really does.

For instance, consider statistics: correlation does not equal causation. E.g.  100% of serial killers drink water. Coincidence? Put that water down you sicko! This might trick us though, because when there is a causal relation, there will also be a correlation.

Another popular fallacy, also with statistics, ignores this: disparity does not equal injustice. E.g. Two equally trained people do the same things, but one gets paid much more than the other. Injustice! But this is clearly problematic, what if one person is working while in jail for murdering pregnant women and their unborn babies (and working in the prison)? This could also make sense when one person with equal training, background, etc, simply does a better job than the other, despite otherwise equal backgrounds. But in this case, one person was working in a prison, while the other was doing the same job outside of prison (relevantly different than).

Or take an economic fallacy that is driven by the uncritical conviction that equal ‘labor’ should net equal pay (as if labor and calorie expenditure are more valuable than, say, productive value). Contrast the differences between a person that creates an entire industry and makes a billion dollars, and works 70 hours a week, but his twin works 70 hours a week too, but at McDonald’s, and makes far less. If there is an injustice, it requires an argument, rather simply saying that if there is a disparity, then there must be an injustice. In this case, one person took risks, built something that otherwise wasn’t there, and created a complex system of layered planning, cooperation, and voluntary exchanges, on the one hand, while on the other, this person took no risk, built nothing, invested nothing in terms of long-term plans/energy, etc, made naught but a sandwich, created no systems, and did not need to know how to facilitate multi-layered, voluntary exchanges.

This is nothing but a sketch, of course. I’d recommend that you do your own research, try to jump to fewer conclusions, say ‘I don’t know’ a lot (unless, of course, you do), and try to name the fallacies that you think you find in the news, what you read, and what you say. We make mistakes all the time. It is just silly to assume otherwise. So, let us all try to make fewer bad appeals, less hasty generalizations, and help each other seek the truth, encourage civilized discussion, and become self-educated in the best sense of the word. If we do these things the world will be a little better off.

Some other websites with fallacy examples:


Some Free Podcasts:


Good Books to Buy:

Socratic Logic: A Logic Text using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles, Edition 3.1
With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies

Some other websites with fallacy examples:




Some Free Podcasts:



Good Books to Buy:

Socratic Logic: A Logic Text using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles, Edition 3.1

With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies

Why is God Relevant?: A Primer

God’s identity refers to the character of God, His personhood, and His various characteristics. God is tri-personal, meaning that He is three persons in one being, or three ‘whos’ and one ‘what’. But one might ask, why should I care what type of being God is. That is a great question, and here is a preliminary answer.

First, since we are Image-Bearer’s of God, God’s identity is relevant for our own identities as we are His reflective creations. Just as a 2-dimensional mirror-image is like the 3-dimensional object that reflects in the mirror, so we are like God in some relevant ways. We are less than God, certainly…but there is something about us that is only answered by looking at God. What are these similarities precisely? This is a question for another time. But there is much to discuss before we get to this question. For now, this is a good account of the reflective relationship between man and his God:

We are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us” CS Lewis

So, understanding God’s relationship to you sheds light onto who you are, your purpose, and why you struggle after apparently impossible things, like justice, peace, immortality, and unconditional love. We are meant to be more than this world. The relationship we have with God determines many aspects of our life, our virtue, our wisdom, and our vocation(s). Who God is, this determines who you are because you are made in the Image of God. Just as the light of the moon gets its light from the sun, the sun is relevant to the moon’s light, since it is derived from the sun.

Next, God’s identity informs the context of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Knowing God’s identity, and understanding God’s relationship to you provides the back-story for the reason why we need a savior, and why we have a savior. That is to say, part of God’s identity, that He has revealed to us, is that He loves us and wants us to be perfect: this explains why He set-up perfect standards and why He would suffer and die on the cross to raise us to perfection. We needed a savior because God’s standards could not be met by us. We have a savior because God is love, and would incarnate Himself in Jesus Christ so that we may be perfected through Christ’s sacrifice.

So, who God is determines our understanding of our own identities and His relationship to you and me objectively, as God’s nature precedes our nature because our nature is a reflection of God’s nature.

Popular Nonsense

First falsehood: God is an anthropomorphism, such that, He is a psychological manifestation stemming from a deep-seated desire for a father figure (a la Freud, and Nietzche). However, the God of the Bible doesn’t conform to human behavior. God doesn’t solve the superficial problems that we want to be solved. The Christian God is not anthropomorphic.

Second Falsehood: God is bound by human morality and is subject to our anthropomorphic idea about Him (a false belief about His nature).

Human righteousness is a function of our nature as Image-bearers of God, which means that we have a specific nature and purpose. We are limited creatures within a larger plan. We struggle and live life within this larger plan. Our decisions are morally evaluable according to our design and our limitations of knowledge. However, God does not have a design to live up to as we do. Nor does He work in ignorance about making decisions that may or may not fall in line with the greater plan. Therefore, His commands and decisions in this world are not susceptible to our terribly oblique, imperfect, and woefully unequipped judgments. To judge God as if He were a person like a human being–just and only like us– is to commit yourself to a gratuitous anthropomorphism.