April 2008


Top Ten Posts for February, 2008 

Here are the Top Ten April posts on Quadrivium:

  1. Faith and Reason: A two part essay dealing with a proper definition of faith as well as its relationship to reason. Part 1, Part 2.
  2. An Evaluation of the Bundle Theory of Substance: An analysis of a popular theory of substance advocated by the famous skeptic/empiricist David Hume
  3. The Ethical Quagmire of Designer Babies: A post that investigates the murky waters of bioethics.
  4. An Evaluation of Descartes’ Claim that the Mind is More Easily Known Than the Body: A post that examines the contents of its formidable title.  (Note: this is not an argument against substance dualism, just an evalution of one of Descartes’ arguments for it).
  5. The Battle for the Mind: German and British Propaganda In the First World War: A post examing the beginnings of modern war propaganda and how it is used to direct the populace.
  6. What is Christian Art?: Is there such a thing as “Christian” art and how does one recognize it?
  7. Much Ado About Nothing: Nihilism and Modernist Literature: A four part essay that examines nihilistic themes in the works of three Modernist authors.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
  8. The Nature of Truth: A two part essay that examines the meaning of truth and its underlying principles. Part 1, Part 2.
  9. There’s Hope For Porn Stars! (sort of): This post analyzes the controversial techniques of a ministry to porn stars along with the misleading statement, “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”.
  10. Two-Way Tie for Tenth: The Suffocating Soul: A two-part book review and commentary on the various ‘corsets’ and ‘tight slippers’ that suffocate our souls.  Part 1, Part 2. And Is Fantasy Escapism?:Is fantasy literature (LOTR, Narnia, etc.) an attempt to escape reality, or does it communicate reality better than any other genre?

* Since I have been unable to come up with some interesting posts here lately, here is a copy of a paper that I delivered at the UNCG Honor’s Symposium in 2007.

In the First World War humanity was horrified at the advent of trench warfare, u-boats, tanks, and casualties on an unprecedented scale as nations rapidly discovered new and more brutally effective ways to slaughter one another’s citizens.  However, war-fueled innovation extended beyond the bomb-blasted battlefields of the Eastern and Western fronts; it began in the home front, as the concept and practice of war propaganda flourished.

            Governments engaged in the Great War learned very quickly that modern warfare would require the effective use of propaganda to sway public opinion.  It was no longer sufficient for a nation’s military to be the only force in conflict now the entire populace – both civilian and soldier – would combine into a national fighting force.  “Of the numerous lessons to be drawn from the First World War, one of the most significant was that public opinion could no longer be ignored as a determining factor in the formulation of public policies” (Sanders & Taylor 1).  National morale would depend on how swiftly recruits signed up and how much comfort and peace of mind citizens would be willing to sacrifice.

            In this paper, I will examine World War One propaganda as it was practiced by the British and German governments.  Each of these nations was required to increase its propaganda effort in order to continue fighting in a war that became increasingly detrimental to public morale.  Examining the propaganda techniques of both countries will reveal a great deal about their respective cultures: how much they differed and how much they shared in common.

            Even before their declaration of war on August 1, 1914, the Germans had already begun work on their own semi-official propaganda machinery, which was loosely spread throughout the various branches of German government (Welch, 22).  Early in the war German journalist Matthias Erzberger established the Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst (Central Office for Foreign Services), which concerned itself with distributing propaganda to neutral nations (especially after the invasion of Belgium).  The German government also heavily employed the Wolff Telegraph Bureau as a means of international propaganda.  After the British cut Germany’s undersea telegraph cables, the Germans relied upon their wireless Nauen station (the most powerful transmitting station in the world) to continue a constant feed of pro-German news reports to the world (Welch, 22-23).

            An interesting German propaganda technique was the use of mobile cinemas.  These transportable film machines would be sent to the German front line to provide entertainment to the weary German troops.  Scattered throughout the featured films, German propagandists had inserted short newsreels that would depict recent events in a decidedly pro-German light. 

            Posters and postcards also played and important role throughout the war.  A comparison of German and British posters clearly reveals the differences between German and British culture.  While British posters relied heavily on artistic flourishes and effective slogans, German posters were much more matter-of-fact.  Indeed, German war posters were often nothing more than large, illustrated graphs which detailed the resources of Germany in comparison to other nations.  One such poster that contrasted Germany’s combined national income with Great Britain’s features a smiling, well-fed German citizen holding a much larger wallet than the sour-faced, emaciated Briton that he is compared to (Welch, 83).

German visual media excelled in adapting national mythology to the war.  This was a decided advantage in propaganda over the British.  Although Great Britain was a nation with a strong literary tradition, it lacked an epic cultural mythology like Germany’s.  German mythology in the Nordic tradition was perfectly suited for militaristic aims.  It should come as no surprise, then, that many German war posters contained images of dragons, Valkyries, and sword-wielding, Siegfried-like heroes.  Portions of the Hindenburg Line were even given such names as Siegfried and Wotan (the father of the gods in German mythology).

Germany placed far less emphasis upon recruiting in its propaganda than did the allies.  The German military was fairly large at the beginning of the war, and since the German government had effectively portrayed their struggle as defensive, the German populace was swept up in a nationalistic fervor.  Indeed, the primary manifestation of German home-front propaganda lay more in what was censored than what was said.  German media was closely scrutinized by the government so that most of what the civilian population imbibed was positive.  Defeats and setbacks were rarely revealed.

            British propaganda has been described as “an impressive exercise in improvisation” (Sanders & Taylor, 1).  The origins of Great Britain’s propaganda machine are little known, but an almost unanimous consensus exists among historians that, prior to the war, the British had no official strategy for propaganda.  However, as the war progressed, German propaganda was eventually surpassed by the effort of the British.  The Germans excelled in quantity (they were notorious for inundating neutral nations with their propaganda), but the British excelled in quality.  The British government learned, and learned quickly, the best way to sway public opinion, at home and abroad, eventually organizing an official war propaganda office titled M17.

            Perhaps the strong British literary tradition contributed to the quality of British propaganda.  A large part of what makes great literature great is the ability to use the right words to convey a precise, effective meaning.  British propaganda excelled at this.  Even the simple poster which pictures two small children asking their befuddled father, “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?” made a powerful impact on the British social conscience.  British newspapers, cartoons, and visual media were very successful in producing their desired effect.

            And what was this effect?  One word: recruitment.  Upon entering the war, Britain’s volunteer army was woefully small compared to the immense German war machine.  This required a massive number of recruits on a short notice.  Initially, recruitment did not pose a problem for the British.  Recruitment centers were literally overrun with volunteers.  However, as the war (which had been predicted to be a short conflict) progressed and casualties mounted, recruitment slowed to a trickle.  This is when propaganda began to play its crucial role.

            Much of British propaganda appealed to a sense of national honor.  Posters and pamphlets aimed to produce guilt among the men who had not volunteered for service.  From the start, however, Great Britain was forced to use its most powerful and persuasive propaganda weapon: the demonization of the enemy.  Germany also employed these tactics, but they were nothing in comparison to the flood of atrocity stories and cultural animosity that Great Britain (and later the USA) would produce.

            Early in the twentieth century the political scientist, Howard Lassell, stated, “So great are the psychological resistances to war in most nations that every war must appear to be a war of defense against a menacing, murderous aggressor.  There must be no ambiguity about whom the public is to hate” (47).  The anti-German propaganda produced by Great Britain focused the anger and anxiety of the populace into a hatred of the savage and barbaric “Huns.”  Much of this was accomplished through atrocity stories.  As Aaron Delwiche has observed, “The atrocity story implies that war is only brutal when practiced by the enemy” (Delwiche).  It is easier to kill a monster than a man.

            By far, the most powerful assortment of atrocity stories produced during the war was The Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages, better known as “The Bryce Report” (named after James Bryce, the head of the committee).  Contained within the pages of this officially sanctioned report were records of nearly every atrocity that it was possible for a German soldier to commit against the populace of Belgium.  The most shocking accounts were those that described the killing or torture of women and children.  While it is certain that such atrocities occurred during the war, the tendency of the report to dwell on the more sensational eyewitness accounts let to its eventually being discredited.  Translated into 30 languages by 1915, the Bryce Report stoked the righteous indignation of the allied populace and dramatically increased recruitment for the cause of defeating Germany.

            Eventually, as the war neared its conclusion, British and German propaganda was overshadowed by the enormous amount generated by the United States.  Yet, the damage had been done.  The emergence of propaganda in World War One set the standard for wars to follow, and sanctioned the deception of civilians and the demonization of the enemy.  In the end, the point is not really the differences between German and British propaganda, but in their similarities.  Both nations were driven by a philosophy that marked an important moment in cultural history: the opening of a vast gap between the “official truth” and the undisclosed reality of war.

—————————————–
Sources Cited

Delwiche, Aaron. “Of Fraud and Force Fast Woven: Domestic Propaganda during the First World War”, taken from < http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/propaganda.htm&gt; on March 3, 2007.

Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. New York: Oxford, 1975.

Lasswell, Harold. Propaganda Techniques in World War I. London: M.I.T. Press,1927.

M. L. Sanders and Philip M. Taylor. British Propaganda during the First World War. London: Macmillan, 1982.

 Welch, David. Germany, Propaganda, and Total War. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

 

What is the balance between putting others above yourself and standing up for yourself, particularly on the job?  When do you lay down the robe of passivity to protect your job?

Matthew 5:10-12 states, ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

What does this passage imply?  Are we to be doormats to be trodden on under any circumstance or is there a point when we stand up for ourselves?  The Christian life is about balance, and I have often wondered where these two extremes can harmonize.  It is very clear by this passage and others that we are not to push others down in our own endeavors.  Looking out for self even at the cost of hurting others is clearly unbiblical.  However, is it completely biblical to always turn the other cheek?  Jesus states in Matthew 5 that we are blessed, or counted as fortunate if people lie against us on His account and our reward in heaven will be great.  There have been instances when Christians have been lied about at work and have lost their jobs because of it.  I would like to know if they would have been right to bring the truth to light, dispelling lies and protecting their jobs as well.

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.  Where is the balance between defending oneself and turning the other cheek, or should we even attempt to balance the two?

Leading up to our meetings with Evangelist Milton my concept of Revival was, I am sure, like most of yours in that I was praying for a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.  I was looking for a “filling” of the Spirit.  In truth I was looking for a “feeling”.  This week I learned that God answers prayers asked amiss.  I had missed the mark by a mile in my perception of revival.  Allow me to explain.

            My perception of revival was that I could prepare myself and stand waiting for the Lord to move in some type of emotional or spiritual manifestation.  What I learned as Christ revealed to me through His servant Brother Milton was that revival is the opening of our spiritual eyes to the truth that is already prepared for us.  Revival is a re-focusing of our attention on the things of God, even the deeper things of God.  It is a revelation to the individual of his relationship to and fellowship with Jesus Christ the Son of God.  It is the answer made real to the question, ”Who, Am I?”

So who am I?  I am dust of the earth.  I am miry clay that the Creator is forming for His good pleasure.  I am a nothing aside of what my Lord makes of me.   I have no intrinsic value.  I am worthy only of the wrath of God.  The real question then becomes “Who am I in Christ?”  In Christ I am a child of the King, a son and an heir. (Romans 8:17)   I am of the royal priesthood. (I Peter 2:9)  I am an ambassador for Christ to the world around me. (2 Corinthians 5:20)  I am not boasting in the flesh because the flesh is reckoned dead and Christ now lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)  This is not being told to build us up but to humble us with the very thought that God so loved us… moreover God so loved me that He would give His only Son to die in my place that I might be saved and be eternally with Him. I have not believed, truly believed who I am in Christ, else I would live more victoriously.

My Christian walk with my Lord and Savior has been so sub-standard that as I look around me I see what a pathetic creature I am.  My righteousness truly is as filthy rags.  I have been trying to live this life on my own without realizing the vast resources at my disposal through Christ.  Therein lies Revival.  Revival is not an entity unto itself.  Revival is the Holy Spirit revealing the riches of Christ we have at our disposal, the vast resources He already has waiting for us since the instant He saved us.  We are sons and daughters what good thing is the Father going to withhold from us? (Mathew 7:8-11) Put down the cup, the bottle and the thimble, wade out in the river and be filled!  We settle for the few drops of blessing in our dry and parched souls when we could be drinking deeply at the Spring of Living Water.

My soul, I have been wandering in the wilderness.  God is not withholding His blessing from me on a whim.  God has not given to me before because I have not asked in faith, fully believing who I am in Christ Jesus.  “I” keep getting in the way so that God cannot bless me and mature me as one of His children.   Not I but Christ, Not I but Christ, Not I but Christ, lives in me!   O, that we I would live every second of our my life proving this truth.,  what Revival we I would have!  

The evangelist has sown the seed and he sowed liberally.  We are now left to feast on the meal the Holy Spirit has spread before us.  When anyone asks you, “Hey, did y’all have “REVIVAL?” up at the church?”  Look them right in the eye and tell them, “Yes, Praise God we did!”  Yes we did and thank God we still are.  Now we are looking for the Quickening work of the Holy Spirit.  (Revival restores life to the believer, quickening brings new life to those without it.  But that is another sermon.)

Since it’s inception just under 4 months ago, Quadrivium has reached the 5000 hit mark (and the 100 post mark counting this one).  Thanks to all contributors, commenters, regular readers, and random searchers who made this post possible!

 I Think About These Things… 

The Mayan Long Count Calendar ends December 21, 2012.  Why is this significant?  I decided to research this event and found the following:

 Is there something significant we should know about the Winter Solstice date of December 21, 2012? Yes. On this day a rare astronomical and Mayan mythical event occurs. In astronomic terms, the Sun conjuncts the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. The Milky Way, as most of us know, extends in a general north-south direction in the night sky. The plane of the ecliptic is the track the Sun, Moon, planets and stars appear to travel in the sky, from east to west. It intersects the Milky Way at a 60 degree angle near the constellation Sagittarius.

The cosmic cross formed by the intersecting Milky Way and plane of the ecliptic was called the Sacred Tree by the Maya. The trunk of the tree, the Axis Mundi, is the Milky Way, and the main branch intersecting the tree is the plane of the ecliptic. Mythically, at sunrise on December 21, 2012, the Sun – our Father – rises to conjoin the center of the Sacred Tree, the World Tree, the Tree of Life..

This rare astronomical event, foretold in the Mayan creation story of the Hero Twins, and calculated empirically by them, will happen for many of us in our lifetime. The Sun has not conjoined the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic since some 25,800 years ago, long before the Mayans arrived on the scene and long before their predecessors the Olmecs arrived. What does this mean?

Due to a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes, caused by the Earth’s wobble that lasts almost 26,000 years, the apparent location of the Winter Solstice sunrise has been ever so slowly moving toward the Galactic Center. Precession may be understood by watching a spinning top. Over many revolutions the top will rise and dip on its axis, not unlike how the Earth does over an extremely long period of time. One complete rise and dip constitutes the cycle of precession.

The Mayans noticed the relative slippage of the positions of stars in the night sky over long periods of observation, indicative of precession, and foretold this great coming attraction. By using an invention called the Long Count, the Mayans fast-forwarded to anchor December 21, 2012 as the end of their Great Cycle and then counted backwards to decide where the calendar would begin. Thus the Great Cycle we are currently in began on August 11, 3114 B.C. But there’s more.

The Great Cycle, lasting 1,872,000 days and equivalent to 5,125.36 years, is but one fifth of the Great Cycle, known scientifically as the Great Year or the Platonic Year – the length of the precession of the equinoxes. To use a metaphor from the modern industrial world, on Winter Solstice A.D. 2012 it is as if the Giant Odometer of Humanity on Earth hits 100,000 miles and all the cycles big and small turn over to begin anew. The present world age will end and a new world age will begin.

Over a year’s time the Sun transits through the twelve houses of the zodiac. Many of us know this by what “Sun sign” is associated with our birthday. Upping the scale to the Platonic Year – the 26,000 year long cycle – we are shifting, astrologically, from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. The Mayan calendar does not really “end” in 2012, but rather, all the cycles turn over and start again, vibrating to a new era. It is as if humanity and the Earth will graduate in the eyes of the Father Sun and Grandmother Milky Way.[1] 

Ok, but it’s only 2008.  What is happening closer to today?  Let’s see, by law all analog broadcast television has to be digital by February 17, 2009.  On February 17, 2009 all full-power broadcast television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital. Digital broadcasting will allow stations to offer improved picture and sound quality and additional channels“.[2] 

The countdown has begun.  I wonder why February 17th was chosen?  Maybe it has to do with Michael Jordan and Paris Hilton’s birthdays?  Or Geronimo died on this date in 1909?  The odds on favorite has to be,  Pope Pious the VII declaring Saint Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television on that date in 1958?[3]   

Many have questioned why conversion to digital is necessary.  According to www.dtv.gov congress decided dtv is necessary.  (strike one: if congress thinks it’s a good thing  hold on to your wallets.)   The DTV booklet on their site such a move is necessary to free up limited bandwidth for public emergency services usage (or so the argument goes) and that is a good thing but they attached a glaring rider… and new wireless services, such as wireless broadband.” [4] 

 So who benefits?  I am not naïve enough to believe the government is doing this on my behalf, for my benefit. Why is Congress so Gung-Ho about the public viewing DTV and HD programming?  That is another thing that has bugged me for years… why do they call it programming?  And what do they mean by programming?

In an Image driven culture DTV and High Def will once again draw everyone’s attention back to focus on the altar of the entertainment gods.  They were tired of their worshippers multi-tasking and wanted undivided attention .  So will DTV make programming (however you define programming) easier?

 part 2

So, what is the magic behind all this forced conversion?  I was a radio technician in the Marine Corps and I understand a little about signaling so I’ll see if I can keep this very simple.  The exact wording on this change concerns “full” power stations specifically for the February 17, 2009 change over.  What this means is the full power “analog” station uses what they call the entire envelope for a given frequency.  It takes tremendous power to drive such a signal so it is less efficient and more costly to provide such a signal.  What the FCC is doing is telling the “full power stations that they need to broadcast digitally on only a portion of the frequency band.  The full band of any given frequency has an upper portion (upper sideband) and a lower portion (lower sideband).  The current analog signal uses both the upper and the lower portions, pushing the entire width to deliver the signal.  What will now happen is the stations will use only a portion of that signal (usually lower) to deliver the signal.  It will take less power to deliver the signal and it will “free up” the rest of the frequency for other uses.  In turn it will allow the government to auction twice a$ many license$ for the $ame amount of frequencie$.   (cha-ching!)

So why won’t your TV work if the station stays on it’s current frequency when it cuts over?  Because your receiver will not be getting the entire signal it requires in order to process the picture and audio after the change over.   This will require you to either buy a set top converter (cha-ching) or a new television (cha-ching, cha-ching).

I still wonder if there is some connection between a enhanced visual image and programming?  If normal analog signal programming produced the couch potato… what will HD programming produce?  If DTV will allow multicasting on the same frequency can HD imbed subliminal images and programming that will only be able to be detected in the subconscious?  I’m not trying to be an X-files Mulder-ite here but I think about these things.

So what will 2012 bring?  Will it bring the next phase of human evolution?  When this once in 26 thousand years event takes place and the long count calendar is “reset,” will we find we are evolving to a higher plane of existence?  If it is so then it scares me to think that the next evolution of man will be built on the foundation of our current condition.   What will be the necessary agency that drives the change?  What overwhelming need will ignite the spark for change?  Will it be: Biological? Psychological?  Spiritual?  I don’t know since I don’t watch enough Oprah.  But next year I can see it in HD.  I digress.

Order cannot come from disorder, if there is no absolute standard where we can anchor ourselves morally we cannot hope for something better to arise from that which is already broken.  Without a standard there is no difference between “is” and “ought” and each one is left to practice what works for them.  Wait, we are already there aren’t we? 

It’s 2008, the Mayan long count calendar ends in 2012.  Charlie Manson will be eligible for parole in 2012.

I think about these things

 


William James  One of the more original methods adopted in the battle against skepticism was the one set forth by the 19th century philosopher/psychologist, William James.  Rather than argue over whether truth can be known, James simply redefines the meaning of truth in his theory of pragmatism.  According to James, the problem with the dispute between skeptics and dogmatists is that the latter professes to know the truth while the former asserts that truth cannot be known (or that one should at least suspend judgment).  James counters both positions by asserting that truth is not a correspondence between belief and an actual state of affairs, but truth is that which ‘works’, or produces proper consequences.  In this post, I hope to demonstrate the incoherence and contradiction inherent in the pragmatic theory of truth.

In his famous lecture, “The Will to Believe”, James makes the following statement:

But please observe, now, that when as empiricists we give up the doctrine of objective certitude, we do not thereby give up the quest or hope of truth itself.  We still pin our faith in its existence, and still believe that we gain an ever better position towards it by systematically continuing to roll up experiences and think.  Our great different from the scholastic [those who hold to a correspondence theory of truth] lies in the way we face.  The strength of his system lies in the principles, the origin, the terminus a quo of his thought; for us the strength is in the outcome, the upshot, the terminus ad quem.  Not where it comes from but what it leads to is to decide…if the total drift of thinking continues to confirm it, that is what he [the empiricist] means by its being true.

In this passage, James is arguing that truth is founded on consequence rather than correspondence.  The truth of a belief is based upon where it leads as opposed to what it agrees with.  In essence, truth is what ‘works’ for the person who believes it.  However, one of the primary problems with this theory is the ambiguity of what is meant by ‘works’.  Indeed the term ‘works’ can be used in a variety of ways.  Take the following three possibilities for example:

  • 1) A belief works if it is eventually verified through empirical observation
  • 2) A belief works if it helps an individual make it through the rigors and hardships of daily life.
  • 3) A belief works if it provides the greatest good for the individual who believes it.

Now consider the following scenario:  Bob has been studying philosophy for 10 years, and he believes that he will successfully defend his dissertation for a PHD in the subject which he is preparing.  Throughout his academic career, Bob’s belief that he would someday earn a PHD has helped him to endure great personal sacrifice.  However Bob’s thesis is eventually deemed unacceptable by the examining committee and he does not receive the degree.  The question is: did this belief work?  It seems to have worked according to (2) but not according to (1).  And who knows if the belief worked according to (3)?  Perhaps Bob would never have received a job after getting his degree or maybe he would have been miserable as a philosophy professor.  The sheer ambiguity of the term is astounding.

Indeed, the very fact that the truth of belief is determined by its consequences leads to problems as well.  According to pragmatism, for a person to hold a true belief, she must know that this belief is ultimately useful in her life.  Yet does not this lead to skepticism as well?  How does one know that a belief is useful or not?  The pragmatist may answer that a belief is useful if leads to the good.  Well then, how does one know what the good is? 

Ultimately, pragmatism seems to confuse metaphysics with epistemology.  I believe that it was Bertrand Russell who observed that pragmatism confuses a test for truthfulness (epistemology) with the meaning of truthfulness (metaphysics).  A doctor can test for the flu by checking someone for a high temperature, however it does not follow that the word “flu” means “that which causes an above average temperature in the body”.  While the usefulness of a scientific model may be a good indicator of its truth, one should not confuse this with the truth of the model itself.

Finally, pragmatism appears to be self referentially absurd.  If the truthfulness of a belief is determined by whether or not the belief is useful, what if I find pragmatism, itself, to not be useful?  What if pragmatism does not work for me?  It seems that, in a case like this, the theory of pragmatism cannot even satisfy its own criteria.  If one interprets ‘useful’ as a belief that is eventually empirically verified, how then does one ever empirically verify the theory of pragmatism itself?  What observations can be made?  What tests can be administered?  And even if one could empirically verify the theory, at what point would the theory be officially ‘verified’?  Would not there not always be the chance that new empirical observations would undo the aforementioned verification?  Indeed, it appears that pragmatism, rather than being a way out of skepticism, is just a more fanciful of getting there.

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