Saturday, February 25, 2006

What does it say, what does it mean, is it true?

I'm writing a paper on Wittgenstein (later) at the moment, and this quote from Chesterton's the Ball and the Cross keep popping to mind:
"Well, we won't quarrel about a word," said the other, pleasantly.

"Why on earth not?" said MacIan, with a sudden asperity. "Why shouldn't we quarrel about a word? What is the good of words if they aren't important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn't any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn't there be a quarrel about a word? If you're not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about? Are you going to convey your meaning to me by moving your ears? The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only things worth fighting about. I say that murder is a sin, and bloodshed is not, and that there is as much difference between those words as there is between the word 'yes'and the word 'no'; or rather more difference, for 'yes' and 'no', at least, belong to the same category. Murder is a spiritual incident. Bloodshed is a physical incident. A surgeon commits bloodshed."

I don't know how apt this quote is, as it is rather difficult to figure out what Wittgenstein means by what he says, but I do know that I vehemently disagree with what he says about certain things (metaphysics, for example).

Adam, Eve, Sin, God.

Yesterday seemed portentous. Perhaps it was because a bird came right up to me and ate the crumbs from my very wholesome breakfast bar, which is actually lunch, then settled a few feet away from me to soak up the sun in a rather chummy manner. Perhaps it was the little kitten that approached me from some bushes and let me pet it. Perhaps it was the question that I asked during section that made the GSI pause and say ' know, you could have a whole class devoted to answering that question.' (the question was on existence as a property, and its relation to Descartes' view of God, which, given the examples of existence which were related to time, did not apply to God at all, God being outside of time - a very mundane observation, but one which no one else seemed to have caught whiff of.)

Or maybe it was the two separate groups from two separate pairs of evangelizer-Christian-types who singled me out as approachable and tried to engage me in debate. The first pair of people challenged me to question my belief in 'things that weren't actually in the bible,' although I explained Apostolic Succession, scripture and tradition, etc. They were very sweet, but I don't know whether my points had any affect on them.

The second pair were a great deal of fun. They were Unitarians - one was 'more experienced' in debate than the other, and seemed to want to give his friend a chance to explain things. Except, when I pressed them to explain their views to me, they were beyond hesitant. In fact, when they realized I was articulate and only agreed with them upon certain things up to a point, they tried to escape, and started walking away. I started up from my seat, ready to chase them. "Wait!," I cried "You hit a rock and then you just leave!?" (I am a master of rhetoric, in case you couldn't tell.)

Now, the Unitarians were young men, and they stopped, rather abashed at being so addressed. Then they came back and sat down, properly shamed. I extracted that they were against drinking, smoking, drugs, and "relations with a woman before marriage." I told them I smoked a pipe, and they asked 'Isn't it bad for you?' 'No.' 'Well, when you have children, will you stop?' 'No.' 'Don't you think it's bad for the children?' 'No.' My flat denials confused them, and so they left that and pressed on to their central...belief.

They were very keen on the idea that God needs us, that He ("or She," they said, until I insisted that they use 'He' and, as they were men pushing a feminist sort of idea to a woman, they were again embarrassed) created us because He was lonely, and that the worst punishment by analogy is 'solitary confinement,' ergo, God...was the most unhappy? So I started debating about God's perfection, original sin and its effects on man, how human beings need other human beings in order to image God, sin, goodness of material things, etc.

The less-experienced debater seemed to be trying the Dialectic approach, asking me questions in order to find a contradiction that I could be caught on - except, my answers were so concrete and sure that they rather intrigued and seemed to persuade or, at least, sway him so much so that his partner had to nudge him in the back and remind him: "Dude, you're supposed to be telling her why God needs man." "You aren't doing such a good job of it" I told them, and they were forced to agree that they weren't.

Unfortunately, I had to run off to section before I'd made a great deal of headway. Nonetheless, I had a great deal of fun - usually, I debate atheists or agnostics, so it was a disconcertingly abrupt and rather a refreshing switch from familiar arguments to the less known but present arguments for the Church or its beliefs.

This is kinda funny.

Don't drink, don't smoke, don't dance - what do you do?