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Ask a Theologian

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't know if it's really true to say that Herod was universally hated by his subjects. He certainly wasn't very popular, for the reasons given. But we don't hear of many riots and protests during his rule. Ed Sanders has some interesting things to say about Herod the Great:

    If you're interested in conditions in first-century Palestine, including what Judaism was like at the time and how Jesus related to it all, then by far the best introduction I know of is E.P. Sanders' The historical figure of Jesus (London: Penguin 1993). Sanders is one of the world's top scholars on first-century Judaism and the historical Jesus, and this book is extremely readable.
     
  2. amaterasu

    amaterasu the true messiah

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    Plotinus, thanks for the great answers in a great thread :) keep up all the good work!
     
  3. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    I know this is a philosophy question, but what specifically are you researching with regard to Leibniz?
     
  4. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I'm researching his epistemology, in particular his theory of intention and reference.
     
  5. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    cool! I did a short paper about an apparent counterexample to Leibniz' Law of the Identity of Indescernibles which we solved using Russell's stuff about definite descriptions, but that's the only encounter I've had with him. I think we'll read the Monadology (sp?) for a class next year.
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    [Fifty] Personally I think that Leibniz' Law isn't true, but then I'm not entirely happy with the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which he believes (I think rightly) entails it. The Monadology is good fun but you shouldn't read it on its own - you should also read at least The New System (and explanation thereof) and his correspondence with Arnauld, which help to make sense of the more gnomic parts of the Monadology.



    I had a poke around the library to see what the story is with the development of the marriage ceremony in the Catholic Church. Basically, it seems that the ceremony developed together with the notion that marriage is a sacrament. To the degree that it was considered a sacrament, to that degree it was a church business (just as you can't get baptised by a judge, as a rule). But it was only in the Middle Ages that this belief really came about.

    It seems that, in the first and second centuries, Christians got married in the same way as anyone else, using traditional forms of marriage ceremony and following Roman law. These traditional forms varied considerably throughout the empire. The Epistle to Diognetus 5:6 states that marriage is the same for Christians as for anyone else. However, Christians seem from an early stage to have believed it important to get the bishop’s blessing before getting married, as recommended by Ignatius of Antioch in around AD 107:

    The idea seems to be that marriage is a basically secular and legal institution, but one should have the blessing of the church before doing it. I suppose it would be rather like saying that buying a house isn’t an ecclesiastical business, but a devout Christian might wish to seek the blessing of a priest before doing something so important.

    About a century later, Tertullian seems to make some reference to some kind of marriage ceremony:

    But some commentators argue that Tertullian is simply thinking of the need for marriage to be wholly Christian (ie, it is wrong to marry a non-Christian), not referring to some set marriage liturgy.

    Only in the fourth century did there evolve an identifiable liturgical rite, and even then this rite was still distinct from the marriage itself. In the west, the priest would veil the bride and say a blessing, while in the east she would be garlanded. However, this was still distinct from the marriage ceremony itself.

    Marriage as an ecclesiastical event, rather than a civil event with a spiritual dimension, seems to have emerged in the early Middle Ages. But not until the twelfth century do we find explicit rules laid down for it, in the Gratian’s Decree of 1140, the first compilation of canon law. During this period, the notion developed that marriage was a sacrament, similar in nature to ordination. It was understood as a sort of spiritual contract, requiring the consent of both parties. If marriage was a sacrament, then performing it was the responsibility of the church, not of any non-ecclesiastical organisation or the civil law. And in fact the church did actually take on the whole business, including an investigation before the ceremony, undertaken by the priest, to ensure that marriage was the right step. In the 1150s, Peter Lombard set out what would become the definitive list of seven sacraments in his Sentences, and marriage was among them.

    In 1184, marriage was officially defined as a sacrament, at the council of Verona. The subsequent vindication of Peter Lombard at the fourth Lateran council in 1215, and the adoption of his Sentences as the standard theological textbook in Oxford and Paris soon afterwards, meant that this understanding of marriage as a sacrament quickly became widespread and unquestioned.

    Hope that helps...
     
  7. ironduck

    ironduck Chieftain

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    Thanks Plotinus :goodjob:
     
  8. DNK

    DNK Member

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    Thanks again for the answers. I actually ran out of questions for a while, but have since come across some more.

    After taking part in a fairly heated debate over the potential sentience of AI, I got to wondering if anything similar has been debated in theological circles. I understand AI itself would be a fairly new debate, but what about animals, etc? I know there's always Genesis and the understanding that God put animals on earth for man, but has this view shifted over the years, completely changed maybe?

    What about morality and animals or animal use/abuse?

    What guidelines have been used for sentience in animals and animal morality?

    Of course, anything on AI would be appreciated also, I just doubt there's much literature on it. Still, has anything been said recently? There's a lot of murky territory out there with genetic programming, AI, cybernetics, etc...
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    All right, I will try to answer that soon - I haven't forgotten. I just don't know much about it! The brief answer is that Christians have had many and various things to say about animal rights and suchlike, but have generally not laid down hard and fast doctrines on the subject; and as far as I know, AI is not much debated among theologians. Of course it is a very big subject in philosophy, as are the related areas of animal sentience and animal rights.
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Anyone who's interested in the rational discussion of some of the kinds of things we've been talking about here could do a lot worse than look at this site. It's a debate between professionals (rather than the rank amateurs which most of us here are) on certain arguments for and against theism. Of course there are plenty of books on this sort of subject already - and I mean good books, not Dawkins-level rubbish - but the interest of this one is that it's being conducted right now and posted online as it happens. You can also submit your own questions to the participants.
     
  11. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Plotinus: I have my own inklings as to why, but I'm interested in your perspective as to exactly why Dawkins is full of poopy when he moves beyond criticizing young earth creationism to criticizing theism broadly construed.
     
  12. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Nice link Plotinus. :thumbsup:

    Oops, I'll try again without a smilie...

    Thanks Plotinus for offering the above link. Like your fine posts, it offers something nore than the traditionsal OT fare.

    Perhaps that was better if a bit boring. I'll try again, but this one really needs 3 or 4 dancing bananas to create the right image. ;)

    The link above for me was new
    On a break from NESing I'll read it through! **imagine dancing bananas here**
     
  13. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Because his arguments are poor, he doesn't understand the position he's arguing against, and he seems to make no attempt to do so. Dawkins seems to think that if he can refute a caricature of religious belief, he has refuted all religious belief.

    I must admit that I haven't read The God Delusion, although I've read extracts. The reason for this is that I've read other pieces by Dawkins on religion in the past, and found them to be absolute rubbish. His knowledge both of religious doctrine and of religious history seems to be very patchy, informed more by prejudice than by real study. So I've not bothered to waste my time on his subsequent rants on this subject.

    I'm happy to discuss his arguments if anyone wishes to reproduce them here though, and no doubt any discussion that results will be more rational and fruitful than the original. The earlier pages of this thread contain some discussions of that nature already, although if memory serves, they digressed into Perfection's failed attempt to defend a very strong version of the verificationist principle.
     
  14. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    HEY!
    I didn't fail, I just lost interest! [pissed]
     
  15. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, I think I refuted your initial attempts to defend it, and you didn't continue those attempts or try to answer the objections - so whether that was because you were unable to do so or because you chose not to do so, I'd still call that a failed attempt! You can't say that you didn't fail simply on the grounds that you chose not to succeed.
     
  16. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Nope! I'd explain further but I've lost interest again!
     
  17. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well then, you won't mind if I continue to regard those views as satisfactorily proven to be false.
     
  18. CCA

    CCA Chieftain

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    THis has probably been asked before but...

    What does one need to do in College to be a Theologian like you?

    What about job security, is it easy to get a job in the academic field?
     
  19. DNK

    DNK Member

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    Still waiting... ;)

    Spoiler :
    Is one reason you dislike Dawkins perhaps this:
    I haven't read much of Dawkins, but this seems to be a standard style of his: take something, don't explain what you're attacking, assume it's some simple thing that everyone else already knows ("theology" = ?), then say you don't like it and it's a load of crap, give no reasoning, and go on a rant for the rest of the time, PROFIT!
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    In order to become a theologian, you need to study theology (amazingly!). But it is extremely difficult nowadays to get an academic job in any discipline, especially humanities. Academia is a very strange field, given that one is hired (in theory) simply to teach, but candidates are chosen (apparently) almost entirely on the basis of how likely they are to produce research. So people are hired to do one thing on the basis of how good they are at something completely different. This is because every university wants to hire people who will publish, make a splash in their field, and attract glory (and funding) for their institution. So quite apart from the basic looniness of this system, which has unfortunately developed over the past couple of decades, it means that if you want an academic job you have to have not only a PhD but also some publications under your belt (preferably journal articles rather than books) and the apparent potential for more.


    Yes, exactly. That Dawkins quote demonstrates precisely the combination of bile and vagueness that he makes so peculiarly his own. One could turn that argument just as easily against any humanities subject or artistic field, yet we don't hear Dawkins calling for the downgrading of literature as a worthwhile endeavour or music as an academic subject. If you start saying that only subjects that have pragmatic purposes and bring technological benefits are worth studying, or are even identifiable as "subjects" at all, then you've gone down a pretty strange route. I'd have thought that Dawkins would normally want to praise the desire to study something out of sheer scientific curiosity, not because of the benefits it brings but out of the desire simply to know; that was the motive behind the rise of science in the first place, not the desire to build aeroplanes. I doubt that Galileo turned his telescope towards the moon because he hoped to reap technological benefits, but simply because he was curious about it. Yet here Dawkins forgets the purest of scientific motives and insists that it's only worth studying something if it brings material benefits. Not just sophistical, but rankly unscientific.
     
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