Should Luke Trust His Feelings?


I was watching Star Wars with my kids during our vacation last summer, and repeatedly heard Obi-Wan tell Luke to trust his feelings. I usually dismiss this as New Age claptrap; but this time I pondered it for a while: what does it mean, to trust your feelings? And is there a sense in which Luke truly ought to trust his feelings?It seems to me that the word "feelings" has at least three distinct meanings: emotions (which is what people usually mean, I think), sensory perceptions, and acts … [Read more...]

Black Tuesday is on Thursday This Year

world trade center cross

Thirteen years ago, terrorist zealots killed over 3,000 people on U.S. soil. Today, their spiritual and philosophical heirs are engaging in genocide across large parts of what used to be Iraq and Syria.I don't pretend to know what America's appropriate response to ISIS should be. We could move troops in and stop it for now; but I'm not at all confident that a similar phenomenon wouldn't recur shortly after we (inevitably) pulled our troops out again.We've heard a variety of Muslim … [Read more...]

Nom Nom Nominalism

Are these chairs or couches?

Every once in a while, on more philosophically inclined blogs, I read about the evils of nominalism; and since it has a bearing on the Aquinas series I'm posting on Mondays I thought I'd say a few things about it.According to Thomas and Aristotle, every being has an essence, what it is: a cat, a dog, a rock, a flower, a human being. Thomas and Aristotle agree with Plato that these essences are universals: all cats are cats because they share the single essence "being a cat". However, … [Read more...]

When Prayer becomes Mortification

What I look like when I pray

I first started praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the mid-winter of 2008, a few months after my reversion to Catholicism. At that time it was all exciting and new, and I looked forward to my prayer times every day; but that's not why I adopted the Liturgy of the Hours as a personal devotion. And then, when I became a Lay Dominican, I necessarily embarked on a life of diligent prayer. Per the rule, I am to pray a significant fraction of the Liturgy of the Hours, a daily rosary, daily mass … [Read more...]

Praying for the Islamic State


One of my friends at Patheos, Rebecca Hamilton, recently wrote a post about the monstrous actions of the Islamic State in the Middle East, and noted that she prayed for the conversion of the Muslims.Someone commented on this, to another Patheos blogger,I could barely get past "I prayed for the conversion of the Muslims", a statement as oppressive as anything Isis has done.The comment stuck in my head. I wonder what the commenter thinks "the conversion of the Muslims" entails? … [Read more...]

What’s a Meme? Let me count the ways….


In last Tuesday's post I referred to an image with superimposed text as a "meme", and one commenter justly took issue with that. He said,Well, as long as we on the subject... :) I object to calling a slogan-based statement combined with a pretty picture a "meme". It may be *intended* to become a "meme", but it ain't yet.So....what is a meme, anyway?I first encountered the term in the pages of Douglas Hofstadter's book Metamagical Themas, a collection of his columns from Scientific … [Read more...]

In Mosul, Crown Him with Many Thorns


There's a fine old hymn I learned in college:Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne, Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own. Awake, my soul, and sing of him who died for thee, and hail him as thy matchless King through all eternity.And it seems clear that we are to do so by living for Him, by leading lives that redound to His glory. (That's an interesting word, "redound". I'm not sure I've seen it in any other … [Read more...]

Active Contemplation—Wait, What?

Dripping Shower Head

I've sometimes thought that Dominican contemplation is very active contemplation, because Dominicans are active contemplatives.Religious orders are often described as being "active," working in the world, or "contemplative", praying behind walls. Dominicans, by contrast, are said to be "active contemplatives", embracing the activity of preaching, where preaching flows from contemplation. Somewhere (I cannot find it at the moment) I read that St. Thomas Aquinas looked at the merits of the … [Read more...]

Why Marriage is Controversial

Thoughts about Marriage

I first posted this on my old blog, a couple of years ago. I'm reviving it for this week's Summer Symposium on the Family, in preparation for the Bishop's Synod on the Family this October.The following chart shows why discussing marriage with others who do not share your presuppositions is fraught with peril.I suspect that most people’s notions of marriage form a subset of the items on the chart. Trouble is, for two different people the overlap can exclude what one or the other f … [Read more...]