Godwin’d in 1, sometimes the comparison is apt, or: The horrors of progressivism and lopsided accusations of extremism.

Godwin’s law

Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say

-Warnings of slippery slopes not so fallacious.

Pushing Infanticide

-Denmark heirs of Mengele

Monty Python oracles of our times


Eugenics in the United States

-Although Californian/American progressivism inspired the Reich

Abortion and Killing in Defense of Others

“The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject…” -Hitler’s praise for the compassion of the Spartans.

When people target abortion doctors, or bomb abortion clinics, pro-choice people exclaim, “See how extreme the pro-life crowd is! They’re insane!” But, no, if abortion = baby murder on par with murdering adults (or five-year-olds), and if there are no effective non-lethal means to stop these murders, then there seem to be very strong presumptive grounds for killing abortion doctors and bombing abortion clinics, according to the commonsense moral doctrine of killing in defense of others. The main normative dispute should really be about the moral status of the fetuses. Otherwise, the dispute would just be over whether killing is necessary (are there equally effective non-lethal means?), or whether the proper targets are being killed (e.g., abortion clinic bombers must avoid killing innocent people when they rightly kill abortion doctors).

Consistent life ethic

-Of false dichotomies

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Bodies of the damned

What kind of body will the damned have?

Will they be raised with glorious incorruptible bodies like our risen king’s?

Will they be raised with another perishable body?

It is frustrating enough that we know so little of the future fate of the redeemed, but the future fate of the damned is even more obscure.

Given that none but God is immortal and he is the creator and sustainer of all things, whatever form the dead have will be sustained by God. Given that there is no division between body and soul in man it is not enough to say that the redeemed will be given glorious incorruptible bodies and the dead won’t.

If one holds that the dead will exist conscious yet without bodies until the resurrection will the damned just stay as disembodied spirits capable of suffering? Revelation, the Rich Man and Lazarus, and other teachings on hell don’t paint a picture of ghosts suffering, but physical pain.

And per Luke 12.47-48 suffering will be proportional to knowledge of God’s expectations and degree of violations. Is this a difference in duration of punishment (fewer blows as Jesus says) or intensity of punishment (equal number of but less forceful blows)? And what about John’s apocalyptic imagery which seems to lump all the damned together?

If eternal death is in fact eternal dying and the dead will live forever (just a horrific eternal life) then how will there be a difference in punishment? Will those who could not have converted receive a rational infinity set of blows and those who rejected the gospel receive a real infinity set of blows?1 Or is eternal death actually death without end preceded by proportional punishment-and not painfully dying without end2-as proposed by annihilationists?

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinality_of_the_continuum
  2.  The damned seem like the immortal Titan Prometheus damned to have a vulture eat his liver each day which grows back to be eaten again the next in this view.
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Improving Wikipedia

analyze wikipedia articles automatically to find the ratio of words to citations

Sadly the above link doesn’t return anything useful. I propose a needed feature for wikipedia is to automatically determine the ratio of citations in an article to the number of words so that articles can be sorted on this to find the least well supported articles as targets for improvement.

Certainly the quality of citations trumps the quantity. But those articles with a ratio of zero or approaching zero are easy targets for improvement.

I have proposed this at “the village pump” see below:


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The Minimum Wage Debate in link form


With a binding minimum wage of w the marginal ...

With a binding minimum wage of w the marginal cost to the firm becomes the horizontal black MC ‘ line, and the firm maximises profits at A with a higher employment L . However in this example the minimum wage is higher than the competitive one, leading to involuntary unemployment equal to the segment AB. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Minimum Wage is Racist

Walter Williams Again

Social Mobility in America

The mainstream view on social mobility, and they speak with a british accent


The validity of price controls in a given market is not an empirical question

Empiricism anyway

More left wing empiricism

Empiricism the other direction


Krugman can’t make up his mind which way the empiricism points

A voice from the past

On good and bad arguments for the minimum wage

A thought expiriment for minimum wage proponents

Everybody got to be populist to buy the votes

Demand curves do slope downward

A conservatives case for the minimum wage, Immigrants suck


More conservatives myrmidons for increasing the minimum wage

Forget a minimum wage how about a guaranteed basic income?

Obama was against raising the minimum wage before he was for it

Fortune Magazine

No wage is cool but not anything between zero and the legal minimum

Let’s give the New York Times the last word


What if you don’t care and you just want to browbeat your opponents?

EDIT: I forgot one, look towards the end.

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Denmark’s Terrible Gini Coefficient

Blue are rich countries, Orange are poor countriesCommentators pay frequent attention to the Gini coefficient of income in various countries to determine which countries are more ‘equal’, that is which countries have the lowest disparities between rich and poor. Equally frequent is the lack of attention paid to the relative differences between countries. Given that you want to be tall is it better to be a random jockey, where the Gini coefficient of height is very small, or a random pro basketball player where the Gini coefficient is greater.

If we are chasing material comfort, security, and freedom money buys we should take a greater Gini coefficient in exchange for a greater (purchasing power adjusted) median income.

But assuming we are all good egalitarians, shouldn’t we be concerned not with income but with wealth?

To be a member of the idle rich elite you don’t need great income you need great wealth. You need great income in the past. Assuming you want to protect the old money from the new the best way seems for the aristocracy to impose high marginal taxes on income to prohibit entry into the elite.

Win the lottery, clear the hurdle in one swoop, and you are in. 10 million dollars in a money market account and you can safely spend 1000 dollars a day. Live at the Four Seasons Hotel in NY, fly around the world first class, wine and dine like Solomon; and never work another day in your life. Yet your income is on par with an above average dentist or your average MD.

If it is passive an income in the 99th percentile of Americans puts you in the lifestyle of the 99.99. Wealth matters more than income.

Consider saving for retirement, people work to accumulate wealth to have something to spend when they either tire of working or are unable to work; they hope their store of wealth will outlast their store of time. Income is useful as it leads to wealth. At least if income is greater than expenses.

If passive return on wealth is greater than expenses and inflation then you have a shot at being a member of the idle rich.

But Denmark.

A Gini Coefficient on income of zero, perfect income equality, doesn’t mean much if most people are toiling in the salt mines for their income yet some are sipping cocktails on the beach enjoying a passive income stream. Even if everyone’s income is identical this is not an egalitarian paradise.

A Gini Coefficient on Wealth reveals a little more, including that Namibia (0.847), Zimbabwe (0.845), Denmark (0.808), and Switzerland (0.803) are less egalitarian than the United States (0.801). Which gets us back to the Jockey vs Basketballer problem. Life in Denmark, Switzerland, and the United States is certainly better than life in egalitarian paradises like China (0.550). Maybe everybody should move to Japan (0.547).

So Gini on wealth doesn’t reveal all people would like to reveal either. People want to live were everyone is equal and everyone is rich while conveniently ignoring the poor outside their borders (if you are in favor of the forced redistribution of wealth by government then you should favor taking from an American making minimum wage to give to the half of the population of the world living on less than $2.50 per day).

Proposal: to capture what people would like to capture with so-called inequality metrics graph Gini Coefficient of Wealth vs Median equivalized disposable household income at PPP.





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Markan Priority without Q, support from Mark 4 and parrallels

The synoptic problem-the explanation of the literary relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke1-is intractable, despite (or perhaps because of) the efforts of brilliant men on all sides of the debate.2

Of the numerous possible relationships among the synoptics3 three are seriously defended by scholars today: (1) The Two-Source Theory, (2) The Farrer Hypothesis, and (3) the Griesbach Theory. The Two-Source Theory is that Mark wrote first, Matthew used Mark, Luke used Mark, but Matthew and Luke were unknown to each other. The Farrer (sometimes Farrer-Goulder or Farrer-Goodacre) Hypothesis is that Mark wrote first, Matthew used Mark, and Luke used both Mark and Matthew.4 The Griesbach Theory is that Matthew wrote first, Mark used Matthew, and Luke used both Matthew and Mark.5

The prima facie most unlikely of the three theories is the Two-Source Theory, i.e.: Matthew and Luke’s dependence on Mark but independence of each other. How does one explain the Matthew-Luke double tradition, including frequent verbatim overlap, between Matthew and Luke if one presupposes, ex nihilo, mutual independence?6 One presumes, ex nihilo, a document, “Q”,7 important enough for two canonical gospels to be independently reliant on it, but not important enough to be preserved for posterity or be mentioned by either Apostolic or Church Fathers.8

The most powerful response in favor of the Q/Two-Source theory is the supposed literary superiority of Matthew. Why, advocates of the theory ask, would Luke butcher Matthew’s superior composition?9 Possible arguments that redactions and remixes are not always artistically superior, or that differences in purpose, theological emphases, and audience trump style are minimized by Q-Theorists. I will show that Luke conceivably could have butchered Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and other discourses, given that he has butchered Mark’s discourse on Parables, or Sermon by the Sea. Mark’s parable chapter and Matthew and Luke’s parallels also testify to Markan priority, and to Luke’s knowledge of Matthean additions to Mark.

To summarize Mark 4:1-34 addresses three points in favor of the Farrer Hypothesis:

  1. Contra Griesbach and for Markan Priority.
  2. Contra Q Theorists claim that Farrer-Luke treated his two sources, Matthew and Mark, differently.
  3. Contra Q Theorists claim that Luke is ignorant of Matthew’s additions to Mark, i.e., the Minor and Major Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark.

Markan Priority

While Griesbachians would claim that Mark 4 supports Matthean priority and Markan posteriority,10 the Farrer Hypothesis is in agreement with the Two-Source theory regarding Markan priority. However the classic arguments for Markan priority: Mark’s fresh vivid style, redundant phrases, bad greek, and theological difficulties can be turned on their head by Griesbachians.11

An argument novel to the Farrer Hypothesis tradition and most developed by Goodacre is not subject to such turnabout, however. Goodacre highlights the pattern of “editorial fatigue,”12 i.e., the inability of a redactor of an earlier source to sustain omissions, substitutions, transpositions, and other editorial choices throughout a passage, thus betraying his use of the earlier manuscript in composing his own.

The Parable of the Sower and its interpretation in Mark 4 and Luke’s parallels are an interesting example in favor of Markan priority.13 By having a paired parable and explanation any redactor would have to be careful to consistently preserve any editorial changes made through both the parable and the interpretation.14 Goodacre notes that three times Luke omits portions of the Markan parable but he nonetheless interprets these portions after he has failed to include them.

First: Luke fails to mention the seed that fell onto rocky soil and “sprang up quickly because it had not depth of earth” (Mark 4:5; Luke 8:6). However, he does include the interpretation that “those who when they hear, with joy they receive the word” (Mark 4:16; Luke 8:16).

Second: In Luke 8:6 the seed that “withered for lack of moisture” is different from Mark 4:6 which notes that the withering is for lack of root. However, in Luke 8:13 (cf. Mark 4:17) Luke reverts to the Markan interpretation “and these have no root; they believe for a while.”

Third: Luke 8:6 lacks the scorching sun reference of Mark which is interpreted as “trouble of persecution.” However, Luke does include the “temptation,” which he later interprets as the scorching sun (Luke 8:13).

Goodacre’s editorial fatigue analysis is a handy tool in the quiver of arguments for Markan priority–which is too often taken for granted and not argued–that doesn’t suffer from being commutative.

Luke’s Treatment of Mark

As mentioned previously the omissions, compressions, and transpositions that Farrer-Luke undertook on Matthew, especially on the Sermon on the Mount, are held unlikely by Two-Source theorists on aesthetic merit.15 The implicit charge is that Farrer-Luke is inconsistent in his treatment of sources.16

Considering Luke’s preface his order (or radical reordering) of sources should not surprise us since he was unsatisfied with the ordering of other Gospel accounts.17

Different treatment of sources is, however, not so hard to fathom when the nature of the sources also differ. Luke’s reordering of sayings material is inherently more likely than would be his reordering of narrative material. Given that Mark is notably a narrative source for Luke and Matthew is a sayings source we should not expect Luke to treat them identically.18

Our chapter of focus, Mark 4, shows us in those cases Luke treats Mark and Matthew the same when they are a sayings source.

Luke regularly shortens Mark’s discourses, retaining some material, omitting other material, and relocating the rest. Turning to Luke’s alleged use of Matthew, we find the same behaviour. Matthew 5-7 is treated in the same way that Mark 4 is treated; some is retained, some is omitted, and the rest is distributed. The scale is different but the redactional procedure is the same… Luke’s attitude is consistent and thus prima facie coherent.19

Given Luke’s compression and rearranging of Mark’s shorter discourse, is it not therefore plausible that he would treat Matthew’s discourses, which are even longer, similarly?20 The weight of the argument against Luke’s editing of Matthew’s magnificent composition, The Sermon on the Mount, is further weakened by the “Rag Bag” nature of the latter part of the composition.21 When we compare Farrer-Luke’s treatment of Mark’s parable chapter and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount we see that his editorial procedure is consistent.22

Minor and Major Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark

It will now turn out that the two-source hypotheis has two Achilles’ heels. The first is the minor agreements between Matthew and Luke in the triple tradition, the second, the ‘Mark-Q overlaps’.23

Q-theorists maintain that agreements, of whatever degree, between Matthew and Luke against Mark are too limited in number or coincidental in nature to suppose that Luke is aware of Matthew’s gospel.24

Verbatim agreements in Greek between Matthew and Luke against Mark are problematic for Q theorists, and they are demonstrated in parallels of Mark 4.25 Agreements in order between Matthew and Luke against Mark are problematic for Q theorists, and they are demonstrated in parallels of Mark 4.26

The proposition that this is problematic is supported by Mann, a Griesbach Theorist, who notes that literary dependence that can be explained by extant works should be is a canon of literary criticism.27

The power of these arguments is lessened by a great deal of debate framing and semantics by Q-theorists. Rather than admitting to Major Agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark in the triple tradition, they broaden the definition of “Q material” from the Matthew-Luke double tradition to include portions of the triple tradition. These are portions that support the Farrer hypothesis, and Luke’s apparent knowledge of Matthean additions to Markan pericopae. Q theorists have thus framed the debate so passages where Luke is clearly aware of Matthew are off limits.28

On the Mustard Seed, Tuckett claims that an “unpicking” process of redaction would have to have been followed by Farrer-Luke and it is much more likely that Q-Luke followed Q and Q-Matthew conflated Mark and Q.29 Here, Tuckett claims that this sort of “unpicking” is unprecedented, however whether Streeter-Matthew or Farrer-Luke is more consistent with ancient editorial practices is debated.30


“The Q hypothesis is not, of itself, a probable hypothesis. It is simply the sole alternative to the supposition that St. Luke had not read St. Matthew.”31

The Two-Source theory is wholly dependent on the presumption that it is implausible that Luke read Matthew. As we have argued: Farrer-Luke treats source material coherently by type, the conspicuous minor32 and major agreements between Luke and Matthew against Mark, and the contortions that Q-Theorists must go through to explain away or dismiss contrary evidence demonstrate Luke’s knowledge of Matthew is inherently plausible. Further as we have seen with Goodacre’s ‘editorial fatigue’–which also testifies to Luke’s use of Matthew–Markan priority, contra Griesbach, is the most likely explanation.

While I can offer no argumentation from fundamentals, history and experience have shown that when forming explanations you are better off when you explain the most facts with the fewest hypotheticals. When judging between two competing theories that cover the facts equally well, the simplest theory is most likely to be correct.

Parabolic Coda

Until Copernicus, because no one wanted to contradict Aristotle, everyone maintained that the earth was at the center of the universe.

There are problems with this hypothesis, it doesn’t accurately predict the motion of the heavenly bodies. Thus, the geocentric theory accrued complications, to explain why the planets appear to slow down and go backwards, and at different rates, while the sun and moon don’t.

As the cruft of complicating hypothesis developed there were always exceptions that were difficult to explain from this framework. Someone always stepped in with a fresh auxiliary to buttress the theory that the earth is at the center of the universe. Further unaccountable exceptions to the model’s predictions were always found.

This accrual culminated in Ptolemy’s formulation of the geocentric model which asserted that the earth was almost at the center of the universe and rotated once every day. All the heavenly bodies were attached to crystal spheres (deferents) that revolved around the earth, or the off-centered center-which was almost earth. The moon was closest followed by Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the fixed stars.

Even this of course is too simple, so another complication is needed to account for apparent retrograde motion. Each heavenly body–except the sun, moon, and fixed stars–was attached to an epicycle, another crystal sphere attached to the deferent which revolved relative to the deferent in the opposite direction of the deferents revolutions around the earth. Ptolemy worked out the relative sizes and rates of revolution of the deferents and epicycles to make the system predictive of reality.

Ptolemy was successful. An astronomical clock based on his model, called an orrery, could predict the position of the lights in the sky on whatever date you wished.

There is a problem with Ptolemy’s model, despite it accounting for all the problem cases, it is wrong. By taking a false axiom, geocentrism, hypotheses must be multiplied–the epicycles within cycles, and off centered universes–to cover all the facts. Eventually a simpler theory, heliocentrism, that covered all the facts won the day, but only by throwing away false axioms.

Given that hypothetical source documents are not needed to explain the synoptic problem, we should dispense with Q.


Downing, F.G. “A Paradigm Perplex: Luke, Matthew and Mark.” New Testament Studies 38 (1992): 15-36.

Drury, J. Tradition and Design in Luke’s Gospel: A Study in Early Christian Historiography. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1976.

Farmer, W.R. The Synoptic Problem. Dilsboro, N.C.: Western North Carolina Press, 1964, 2nd ed. 1976.

Farrer, A.M. “On Dispensing with Q.” In Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot, edited by D. E. Nineham, 55-88. Oxford: Blackwell, 1955.

___________. The Gospel According to Luke (I-IX). The Anchor Bible, vol. 28. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981.

___________. The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV). The Anchor Bible, vol. 28A. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985.

___________. The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV), The Anchor Bible, vol. 28A. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1985.

Goodacre, M. The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem. Harrisburg, Pa: Trinity Press International, 2002.

___________. “Fatigue in the Synoptics.” New Testament Studies 44 (1998): 45-58.

___________. “A Monopoly on Marcan Priority? Fallacies at the Heart of Q.” In Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers 2000, 583-622. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.

___________. The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze. New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

Goulder, M. Luke: A New Paradigm, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 20. 2 vols. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989.

Green, H.B. The Gospel According to Matthew. The New Clarendon Bible. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975.

Mann, C.S. Mark. The Anchor Bible, vol. 27. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1986.

McNicol, A.J. ed. Beyond the Q Impasse — Luke’s Use of Matthew: A Demonstration by the Research Team of the Institute for Gospel Studies. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International, 1996.

Neirynck, F. The Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke Against Mark: With a Cumulative List. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 1974.

Olson, K. “Unpicking on the Farrer Theory.” In Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique, edited by Mark Goodacre and Nicholas Perrin pp. 127-150. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Orchard, B.J. The Order of the Synoptics: Why Three Synoptic Gospels? Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press, 1987.

Powery, E.B. “Q.” in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, 4:697. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009.

___________. “Synoptic Problem.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, 5:429-434. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009.

Sanders, E.P. and M. Davies. Studying the Synoptic Gospels. London: SCM, 1989.

Stanton, G.N. “Q.” In The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, 644-650. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Stein, R.H. Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

___________. “Synoptic Problem.” In The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, 784-792. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Tuckett, C.M. “The Beatitudes: A Source-Critical  Study. With a Reply by M.D. Goulder.” In The Synoptic Problem and Q: Selected Studies from Novum Testamentum, 180-203. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1999.

___________. Q and the History of Early Christianity: Studies on Q. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

___________. The Revival of the Griesbach Hypothesis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

___________. “Synoptic Problem.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 5:263-270. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Vinson, R. “How Minor? Assessing the Significance of the Minor Agreements as an Argument Against the Two-Source Hypothesis.” In Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique, edited by Mark Goodacre and Nicholas Perrin, 151-64. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 2004.


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Did you click?


Unknown Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 7.49.45 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 7.49.58 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 7.50.07 PM

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Lear, and Edmund; Means, and Ends

“We have been trying, like Lear, to have it both ways: to lay down our human prerogative and yet at the same time to retain it.  It is impossible.  Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey [absolute value], or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses.” (Lewis, 73)

This passage sheds some light on the differences between Lear and Edmund that prevents the two most memorable characters of the play from ever interacting.  Harold Bloom wrote that “King Lear is a play in which the prime villain, Edmund, and Lear never speak to one another,” and “Shakespeare wants us to surmise why it would be unfeasible for them to communicate.”  Why it is infeasible is such an interesting question that it merits inquiry.  Even if Lear and Edmund had conversed, I believe it would not have been true interaction, for while they speak with the same words they use different vocabularies of the soul.

Lear is an absolutist.  While he is correct to believe in absolute value, he is foolish to believe that words are its true reflection.  He is naive.  The play begins and he is shocked to find that his youngest and most prized daughter will not indulge his vice–the desire for flattery.  His belief in value and order conducive to the veneration of elders and respect for authority is not the root of his error; rather, Lear is blind to the pragmatic dishonesty of his two older daughters.  He cannot fathom the rejection of truth, value, and order; so, when he has first been deceived, he regards Cordelia’s subsequent instruction to be insult rather than a better image of that absolute value that he sees only through a glass darkly.  “So young and so untender?/So young, my lord, and so true.” (I.i.118)(emphasis added)  Lear then unknowingly sells away his humanity in exchange for a mind free of worry, believing that he can retain his honor, “[t]he name and all th’ addition to a king.” (I.i.152)  He has thrown away his authority and humanity and has left the exercise thereof to his daughters’ discretion.

In contrast, Edmund sees clearly, however twisted.  He is the epitome of the modern man in every age.  He is a relativist, a social darwinist, and a nihilist.  He is not a liar; for him words are not a matter of right and wrong but of cleverness and efficacy.

“A credulous father and a brother noble,

Whose nature is so far from doing harms

That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty

My practices ride easy.  I see the business.

Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.

All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.” (I.ii.186)

To Edmund, the rightness of actions are decided by the advancement they afford him.  A villain that is immoral is to be feared for the evil of his actions.  A villain that is amoral is to be feared for more fundamental reasons.  A villain like Edmund undermines the foundations of civil society and denies the worth of humanity.  However, in order to thrive Edmund requires others to both be naive and hold onto absolute values.  He can only exist parasitically on the credulous and noble.

γνωθι σεατον.  It is interesting that the villain of the story nonetheless possesses a virtue–insight–that Lear does not.  In a speech given in the second scene of the play, Edmund tells us that he understands his nature and accepts full responsibility for it, his actions, and the outcomes thereof.

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that

when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits, of

our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters

the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains

on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves,

thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance;

… … …

… I should

have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the

firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.” (I.ii.125)

Contrarily, as late as the second act Lear defers responsibility of knowledge and action.

“You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!

You see me here, you gods, a poor old man

As full of grief as age, wretched in both.

If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts

Against their father, fool me not so much

To bear it tamely.  Touch me with noble anger,

And let not women’s weapons, water drops,

Stain my man’s cheeks.” (II.iv.313)

However, we should desire for Lear not to have the virtue of insight but, rather, the higher cardinal virtue of prudence.  Nietsche was wrong; nihilism, relativism and amorality are not an advance but a regress to barbarism.

After passing through hell, “…I am bound/ Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears/ Do scald like molten lead,” (IV.vii.52) Lear surpasses Edmund, knowing himself with wisdom–not merely cunning.  He begins a skeptic:

“I will not swear these are my hands…

… … …

I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

Methinks I should know you and know this man,

Yet I am doubtful, for I am mainly ignorant

What place this is, … … …” (IV,vii,62)

It is this same doubt that, in time, leads to wisdom.  When we see Lear again in Act V Scene III the scales have fallen from his eyes.  He is now as wise as befits his age (I,iv,43).

Act V Scene III is downright awkward in Shakespeare’s painfully obvious sidestepping of any direct confrontation between Edmund and Lear.  For, immediately prior to where the action picks up, they must have had some degree of interaction.  Edmund has just conducted a military hearing regarding Cordelia and Lear.  But to include the exchange would have wasted time; Edmund’s treachery, the assassination order, and Lear’s cheering speech do more to delineate how high Lear has risen and how low Edmund has sunk.  The spiritual planes they occupy are presently too distant to be bridged.  Lear:

“No, no, no, no. Come, let’s away to prison.

We two alone will sing like birds i’ th’ cage.

When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down

And ask of thee forgiveness.  So we’ll live,

And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh

At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues

Talk of court news, and we’ll talk with them too–

Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out–

And take upon ‘s the mystery of things,

As if we were God’s spies.  And we’ll wear out,

In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones

That ebb and flow by th’ moon.” (v,iii,9)

Lear is become a stoic transcendentalist.  Edmund, on the other hand, is proud of his treachery, even after having fallen under Edgar’s sword.

“What you have charged me with, that have I done,

And more, much more.  The time will bring it out.

‘Tis past, and  so am I. But what art thou

That hast this fortune on me?  If thou ‘rt noble,

I do forgive thee.” (v,iii,195)

Till the end he is remorseless and nihilistic, dismissing his imminent death, desiring only to know who has outmaneuvered him, who was more cunning.  Yet, after hearing Edgar’s speech, he claims that his heart has changed, and sends his sword to stop his last machination.  The token arrives too late, and–supposing the deathbed conversion is legitimate–now, instead of a vocabulary, a wall of guilt separates Edmund from Lear.  In death they are separated further.  Lear’s death is so sublime that it inspires Kent to follow; Edmund’s death is dismissed as a trifle.

As Lewis implies, we cannot have it both ways.  Edmund is a man turned inward obeying his nature.  Lear is a man turned outward, a rational spirit striving to obey the absolute.  These two ways produce antithetical vocabularies that work in the souls of the characters in the play; one, Lear’s, regards men as ends, while the other, Edmund’s, regards men as means.  With such a fundamental difference, the two vocabularies would have talked past each other, had they met.  As it is, their separation provides a sort of dramatic tension that allows each of the two vastly different characters room to emote without getting in the way of the other.

Works Cited:

Lewis, C.S.. The Abolition of Man. San Francisco: HarpersCollins, 2001.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. New York: Washington Square Press, 1993.

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Drones, a Letter to the Editor


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Jesus’ Self Knowledge

Infant Jesus





At what point did Jesus know who he was?

In medieval and renaissance art we frequently see an infant, and sometimes newborn, Jesus standing erect, looking out of the painting at, and making the sign of blessing over the viewer. Of course newborns can’t stand, can’t focus their eyes, and don’t have the fine motor to control to make any gesture much less the sign of blessing.

A pious jew of pious jewish parents according to the gospel accounts Jesus would have said the shema innumerable times. Jesus reveals the shema as the greatest command when questioned directly. Jesus answered similarly when he was tempted by Satan. And Jesus taught similarly when his disciples asked him how to pray. This all seems to distance Jesus from God.

But, Luke put’s a precocious Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem when he was twelve years old. When his parents, having found him after a long search, question him he answers incredulously: “didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?” Here just as later he talks of God as his father. Likewise John has Jesus say to his mother at the beginning of his ministry “my time has not yet come.”

Thus there is a definite tension in the gospel accounts about who Jesus thought he was. And it seems that the overriding tendency among evangelicals today (I have the feeling that this is an overreaction to the complementary error of the biblical minimalists) is an overly high Christology. We should always let “Jesus be Jesus.” He was who he was and our elevating him above that is not pious, or humble, or reverential, or glorifying, our making him something he was not is nothing but wrong.

Looking backwards it is too easy to read the beginning with the end in mind. In the case of Jesus’ self knowledge we know Jesus as a resurrected, immortal, ascended, king enthroned at the right hand of God. We have trouble fathoming a Jesus who had to learn how to speak, who had to be potty trained, who had to learn how to walk, who had to learn how to read, etc. etc. etc.

But, if Jesus had been less human and more superhuman, like the infant Clark Kent, then he would have been creating disturbances throughout Judea well before he started his public ministry.

We should be prepared to be surprised as we continue seeking to meet Jesus the Judean peasant, and Jesus the enthroned king.

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