The Strange Rules of “Check Your Privilege”

It is tempting to think that our culture is becoming less and less a place where the principles of reason are valued, especially in areas where they should be.

As evidence of this, I recently came across an article by a university professor entitled, “I’m a Mom And A Vaccine Researcher. Here’s Why You Should Vaccinate Your Children.” I’m always keen to read a good argument, especially if it is one that I have not heard before, so I read the article.

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Believe the Right Things for the Right Reasons

One of my favorite passages in Plato’s Republic is in Book II immediately after Thrasymachus’ argument with Socrates concerning justice. Thrasymachus argues that justice is only the advantage of the stronger, and Socrates breaks down Thrasymachus’ argument. However, Glaucon, one of Socrates’ friends is unsatisfied with Socrates’ response and he says to him “Socrates, do you want to seem to have persuaded us that it is better in every way to be just than unjust or do you want to truly convince us of this?”  Socrates says, “I want truly to convince you if I can.” Glaucon then renews the argument of Thrasmymachus, not because he thinks it is true, (in fact he thinks it is untrue) but rather he wants the argument to receive the strongest response. Glaucon says, “It isn’t Socrates that I believe any of this myself. I’m perplexed, indeed, and my ears are deafened listening to Thrasymachus and countless others. But I’ve yet to hear anyone defend justice in the way I want, proving that it is better than injustice. I want to hear it praised by itself, and I think that I’m mostly likely to hear this from you.” He wants to put forward the strongest possible version of the argument so he can hear how Socrates might take it down.

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The Dark Knight and Human Nature

If you ever look up philosophical/psychological perspectives on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, you would immediately come across arguments about whether the films are “liberal” or “conservative” particularly as they relate to the question of human nature. Questions concerning anthropology such as, “What are humans fundamentally?” “Is human nature essentially good or essentially evil?” “Is there even such a thing as an established human nature or is it malleable and constructed individually or culturally?” are important questions and undoubtedly emerge in Nolan’s three Batman films.  Some argue that the movies present a nihilistic worldview, (the rejection of any objective meaning or principle, life is ultimately void of any real purpose) as presented through the character of the Joker. Others think that the Batman trilogy puts forward a humanist worldview as it displays the greatness of the human spirit to overcome and triumph over struggles as presented through Bruce Wayne or the passengers on the ferries. Others think the story is about the battle between the humanist and the nihilist, one trying to convince the other that human beings are fundamentally evil or fundamentally good. I… Read More »The Dark Knight and Human Nature

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Interview with Holly Hamilton-Bleakley Part 2

SV: Given our culture’s emphasis on individualism and personal freedom, and more parents being out of the home so often, could you talk about the importance for parents spending consistent and quality time with their children (e.g. family dinners, family prayer)? HHB: Yes, we certainly do emphasize individualism in our culture, as well as a kind of personal freedom that brings with it a kind of unrealistic idea that we are independent from others, particularly our families.  That individualism, however, can be very closely tied to an isolated loneliness, especially in the teenage years (just look at the recent growth in self-harming among teenagers), if it isn’t tempered with a good dose of family connectedness. And how does a family feel connected?  Time spent together is an absolutely essential part of it.  But it doesn’t have to be ‘perfect time’.  In fact, I’m a big believer in the imperfectness of families.  One session at our family dinner table can go from laughing to fighting to complaining to scolding to edifying in about 5 minutes, and then repeat the cycle for the rest of the dinner. … Read More »Interview with Holly Hamilton-Bleakley Part 2

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Interview with Holly Hamilton-Bleakley Part 1

SV: As someone who was in graduate school, while also starting a family, could you tell us what that experience was like and any advice you might give to someone who is in school or considering going into school while also raising children? HHB: Honestly, it was really, really hard.  I’ve spoken a bit about my experience in a few of my posts, (;   Looking back on it now, I think I probably suffered from something like post-natal depression.  But I think my difficulties came, too, because I struggled with how to balance looking after a baby/toddler, and also pursuing my studies.  I felt a lot of pressure to make progress on my thesis, and then found myself feeling frustrated by the time-consuming demands of parenting, especially the parenting of small children. I would want my daughter to sleep so I could work, but she wouldn’t sleep.  Or I would put her on the floor to play while I worked, but that would only last for 15 minutes or so before she needed my attention, and so forth. Of course I knew it was… Read More »Interview with Holly Hamilton-Bleakley Part 1

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“I Don’t Know”

The philosopher Socrates was driven by a thirst for truth. He would begin his dialogues by often imploring someone if he knew what “x” (justice, love, piety, etc) meant. The person would give a ready answer hoping to solve the problem of “x” and end any further dialogue with Socrates. However, Socrates would find various problems with the man’s definition and would press him on it, until the man would finally confess (either out of frustration or sincerity) to Socrates, “I don’t know,” at which point Socrates and his friend recognizing their own ignorance, would then dialogue and think together about how to find a solution. In academic settings (like grad school), it seems every other moment is an opportunity to impress others with your knowledge. We want for people to think of us as intelligent, and not just generally knowledgeable, but uniquely intelligent. It is frustrating though, when you want an answer from someone and instead of simply saying, “I don’t know” they’ll respond with a lengthy twenty minute exposition full of technical jargon, but afterwards you’re left thinking, “You still haven’t answered my… Read More »“I Don’t Know”

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Witches, Warlocks, and Magic

Growing up in a conservative Christian home there were some things that were considered sort of… “off limits.” And one of those things was books, tv shows, or movies that had anything to do with magic, or more specifically, witchcraft.

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Is America a Christian Nation?

In what sense can we describe a nation as being “Christian?” By its leaders, or its citizens, or maybe its laws? By all these measures, America would not be considered a Christian nation. And yet, I frequently hear Christians speak so earnestly about how America is a Christian nation, and how we need to get back to our Christian roots, almost as though the United States has a special place in God’s heart. For many evangelicals in America their Christian faith is directly tied to their American identity. In fact, I have many memories of saying the Pledge of Allegiance at my Christian elementary school, or singing the “Star Spangled Banner” in church. But the truth is, America is not a Christian nation, and I’m not sure it really ever has been a Christian nation. It’s always difficult for me to hear certain Christians talk about the founding fathers as being these proud, whole-hearted Christians. It’s often said that they stood on biblical/Christian principles. I have even heard some say that they built this nation based on teachings of Jesus and the laws found in… Read More »Is America a Christian Nation?

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Christianity and Postmodernism. Friends or Enemies?

What is Post-modernism? To some Christians, it’s a scary, terrible movement destroying the culture, while other Christians embrace it as a breath of fresh air. Gary Aylesworth is right in pointing out that defining postmodernism is a very difficult, (maybe nearly impossible) task. Because it’s such a huge and somewhat ambiguous topic with each person having their own take on it, it’s difficult to talk about what it actually is (that in and of itself captures part of the mood of postmodernism). A helpful way to understand postmodernism is in this way: postmodernism is that which stands over and against modernism. The term “postmodernism” gets the name because it means after modernism. So, postmodernism is a certain philosophical practice/method/lens which stands in contrast to modernism and also critiques modernism. So, then we have to ask the question, “what is modernity?” In the history of philosophy, modernism is that period which contains thinkers like David Hume, Descartes, Immanuel Kant, John Locke. Modernity has been characterized as having a very analytical and rational (I mean using reason and thinking, I don’t mean rational as opposed to empirical)… Read More »Christianity and Postmodernism. Friends or Enemies?

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The Bible, Guns, And Peacemaking

I have never had an interest in guns. I’ve never found them impressive, attractive or anything like that. I have never owned a gun, and I have no plans on ever owning a gun. And yet for many Christians, being a patriotic gun owner is synonymous with being a Christian. And I think this view is troubling for a number of reasons.  Guns, violence, and patriotism all seem to be very interconnected in some Christian circles, so that is what I want to respond to as a whole.  But first let me say that if I were not a Christian, I think the arguments encouraging gun ownership would be very compelling. However, it is my Christian faith that leads me to believe what I do about guns. So, let me offer some reasons why I am not a gun enthusiast, first by giving a framework for it: I think that the Bible is very clear on the intrinsic value of human life. It is very grievous to me that we live in a culture that disregards the incredible weight and value of a human life,… Read More »The Bible, Guns, And Peacemaking

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