Gnothe seauton

Looking back through some old notes I was reminded of a study once presented at a Psychological Society conference. It claimed that accents could be graded. This was tested by presenting a short film of someone being interviewed about a minor crime. The possible offender spoke in a variety of local accents. The subjects were then asked whether they thought the interviewee was guilty. You may not be surprised to learn that a Birmingham accent was most likely to be associated with guilt, followed closely by Glasgow and Liverpool. A later study showed that such accents reduced an individual’s job chances.

Professor Honey’s definitive Does Accent Matter makes it clear that what we call a BBC accent carries the highest credibility. Some of us will remember when Wilfred Pickles started reading the BBC News, towards the end of the war. (Give ‘im the mooney, Barnie.) I have to confess to wondering (I was very young et très snob) how anyone could give credence to such a source. Perhaps it fooled the Nazis into thinking we had given up the ghost.

How very unfair! Yet perhaps not more unfair than the well established fact that tall people are seen as having greater personal authority. More of them get into senior positions and estimates have been made of how much each inch of height is worth in extra salary. The figure is around £500. Or that attractive people are more credible, more likely to win legal actions, and to be awarded larger damages than the less well favoured.

But before we deplore these judgments too strongly it is good to remember that prejudice is a necessary thing. That is, in the ordinary run of life we do not have the time to judge from scratch the people we encounter. It is essential that we start with a number of assumptions. Of course we must be ready to correct or refine those assumptions in any particular case. The problem may be that we are often unaware of the rocky foundation on which our assumptions are based.

Our assumption about height is thought to be related to a primitive instinct that leaders should be physically formidable enough to protect us against outside dangers. But it could be argued that this instinct could result in tall people feeling more confident, and so actually performing better as leaders. There may be a sexual note here. When Kissinger said “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”, he knew of what he spoke. Money may work too: Bernie Ecclestone is small and rich, and glamour surrounds him.

Are you a racist? Almost certainly; however strongly you deny it you probably are. An instinct to be suspicious of strangers is built into the human psyche. This is not surprising – strangers are riskier than those we recognise as similar to ourselves. And of course racial differences are usually visual. One of the ways that Nazis identified Jews was by measuring their noses.

A doctor, interested in such matters, sent invented applications for consultancy posts at hospitals. While the details were identical, the name was sometimes obviously British and sometimes obviously Asian. British named applicants were substantially more likely to be shortlisted for interview. The medical establishment is not amused. And incidentally foreign accents are less readily believed than our own.

These distinction start very young. At 5 months a baby can distinguish adults faces equally well across a racial range; by 9 months, using more of the brain and incorporating more experience, they can recognise and interpret faces from their own race better than from other races. And, if you can’t interpret facial expressions, you are wise to be wary.

How do we eradicate such prejudices? I don’t think that we can. The only remedy is, in humility, to be aware of how we are susceptible to such basic instincts. As I have suggested they have developed early in human, and even pre-human, times. And they are often based in rational precautions against primitive dangers – often no longer pertinent. We are not surprised that Socrates emphasised the exhortation written in gold at Delphi: “Gnothe seauton – Know thyself.”

(My grandson, Alexander, who is 6 years old (7 in a week, he says) wants to have his name on the internet. Here it is.)

About Quentin

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135 Responses to Gnothe seauton

  1. John Thomas says:

    I’ve long thought that accent is important in the business of immigration. People who sound “like us” fit in better, they’re “one of us”, even if appearance quickly shows they may be different in some essential (ie. ethnic origin) way. The many British-born Asian/Caribbean people blend in well (because they sound like everyone else), but often their grandparents sound “foreign”. I even think that people who, on sight, seem very likely to be transsexual (M > F) “pass” as convincing women if they sound like women; but if they sound like men, their appearance can be very woman-like, but it is still hard to think of them as women (do any other commenters, here, have experience/views on this?).

  2. Vincent says:

    If I ring a helpline and get an Indian voice, my heart sinks. Is this because I feel that they really can’t help me when they are so far away, and probably using a script, or is there just a teeny weeny bit of prejudice? If I am honest, I fear so.

    Welcome to Alexander, by the way.

    • John Thomas says:

      – But prejudiced against exactly what, Vincent? In these circumstances I would also be wary about: communication, their knowledge of my situation, cultural differences – but not of their race or skin-colour. A minute ago I was in conversation with an Asian/British person – he was no different from me or anyone else. I think “racial prejudice” is increasingly (in our society) the concern of those in whose interests it is (political/financial) to argue “Oh yes, there’s still plenty of racism around! Oh yes!”

    • tim says:

      …. mentioned in the Canon of the Latin Mass (I have a grandson of the same name, whose elder brother is Linus).

      My heart sinks when I get a call from overseas in an Indian accent for two justifiable reasons: firstly, it is likely to be unsolicited and time-wasting; secondly, I am likely (being old and somewhat deaf) to have trouble understanding it.

  3. Mike Horsnall says:

    Its the communication difficulty-accent included. I don’t think thats racist-I really like Asians by and large but if I get one I can’t understand in the circumstances you describe my heart sinks too.

  4. John Nolan says:

    Since independence few Indians encounter English-speakers from the UK so over the years their use of English has become more idiosyncratic and the accent more impenetrable. What amuses me is the way they introduce themselves: “Hello, my name is Steve/Dave/Tony” when it is highly unlikely that a native of Delhi would have been given a Christian name.

  5. Peter D. Wilson says:

    I agree with nearly all the above, although I have found BTOnline’s helpline staff, while obviously Indian, clear and immensely helpful.

    Otherwise, I am ashamed to say, it is very difficult to suppress an unwarranted supposition of superiority when I hear an African or particularly plebeian British accent.

  6. David Bingham says:

    I think it depends on the subject. In the case of say psychology, or counselling or philosophy, I have noticed that a slight Germanic accent adds weight to the speakers comments – or with music, opera etc an Italian or Russian accent seems to impress the Brit. For football a Scottish – even better, a Glaswegian – accent that impresses. right?
    David Bingham, Durham

  7. tim says:

    Accent trumps colour (partly because of the telephone). I remember an interview on BBC radio a few years ago with a black Welsh Master of Foxhounds. My prejudices judged him British to the core – and therefore favorably. Or at another time, less happily, making a date on the phone to meet a fellow professional. He had an impeccable public-school accent – so I almost jumped when I walked into his office and discovered he was from West Africa. I fear he noticed – also that he was probably accustomed to the reaction. Of the two conflicting prejudices, the accent proved the better guide.

  8. tim says:

    Prejudices exist across a broad spectrum running from the baseless and completely loopy to the entirely rational (I think I’m just giving a precis of Quentin’s article here). Here are some of mine (feel free to position them on the spectrum).

    ‘Verse’ free of any trace of discipline (such as rhyme or scansion, particularly the latter).
    Subeditors who can’t scan (example: Oxford Book of Scientific Quotations, changing ‘ aluminum’ to ‘aluminium’ in Lehrer’s Elements Song – following house style to wreck the line; [more examples may follow, unless reason prevails])

    Hymns that don’t scan well, and cheat with assonances instead of rhymes (some horrible examples in modern Catholic hymnbooks)

    (What I regard as) grammatical solecisms generally – worst of all, using ‘may’ as auxiliary about counterfactuals ” If Andy Murray had won that game in the second set, he may have won Wimbledon”.

    The use of ‘discrimination’ to mean ‘unjust discrimination’ (leading directly to the assumption that all discrimination is unjust).


    Eurospeak (eg, ‘sheepmeat’)

    The idea of inevitable moral progress, leading to chronological snobbery

    Ad hominem arguments deployed in advance of any rational argument against the opponent’s views. First show why he is wrong, before trying to explain the irrational motives that led him to adopt a false postion.

    People who go on and on when they ought to have the sense to stop.

    • John Nolan says:

      Tim, some people might accuse you of grammatical pedantry, but I would not be one of them. A constant irritation is the expression “five times less” (literally meaningless – try saying “twice less”) instead of “a fifth as much”. Similarly, it should be “three times as much” and not “three times more” which has a different meaning altogether. Not to mention those who do not know the difference between the intransitive lie/lay/lain and the transitive lay/laid/laid, something which a first-year foreign student of English would not have problems with.

      Regional accents and dialects are all very well, but I made damn sure when I went to university I dropped my Midland vowels and spoke RP (which is accentless English in terms of region, although it has noticeably changed over three generations). I have a German friend who speaks Hochdeutsch in a professional context yet uses Swabian dialect among his family and intimates. Such easy switching is not normal in English, and dialect speakers will always have a disjunct between the way they speak and the way they write.

      The BBC had an economics reporter who had a broad Lancashire accent. I found it difficult to take anything he said seriously, since to southerners it sounds comical (think George Formby and Gracie Fields and Eric Morecambe).

      • tim says:

        Yes. Absolutely agreed. I grew up partly in the West of Ireland, from the age of nine on. My siblings and I spoke in quite different accents with our parents and with the locals. When I went to school in Yorkshire I acquired a Yorkshire accent. This changed again when I went to Oxford. None of this was done consciously, however.

        There is no doubt that how you speak affects how what you say is received (obviously, it depends on the prejudices of the hearer). I have got away with (what with hindsight I can see were) the most ponderous platitudes uttered in plummy tones, and only been called twice – once by a colleague, and once (most uncharacteristically) by a new Japanese acquaintance.

      • John L says:

        Sorry, John, that you dropped your Midland vowel sounds.
        I can forgive you for dropping mine, but those of Johnson and Shakespeare???
        As for “Received” Pronunciation, my inevitable reaction is always “received from whom?”.
        I don’t see this at all as being accentless in terms of region. It is merely a southern accent, with vowel sounds based on Norman French instead of Saxon/Danish English. To Midlanders and Northerners, RP sounds not comical but just too “refained”..
        I love our dear Queen, but we must all remember how we mocked “Mai hasband and Ai” in the early speeches. That sort of “Queen’s English” certainly isn’t mine, and if I am mocked for my Midland speech (still with me after fifty-odd years in the North), then it is a mockery I am happy to accept.
        Tim’s comment on the appalling hymns we have to put up with doesn’t even touch on political correctness or call it inclusive language if you will. The one which always grates is the line “To dwell in lowliness with men, their pattern and their king”. This contains the rude word “men” and so has to be changed to read “To dwell in lowliness with us” – so far, so good, but then utterly neglects to change “their” to “our” in the rest of the line.
        To cap it all on todays’s documentary on Radio 4 discussing new trends in ladies’ underwear, “…where A woman will buyTHEIR underwear…” delivered in an impeccable southern accent. We don’t even have the his/her awkwardness as an excuse, the gender in question is clear. We are beginning to accept a plural genderless possessive because we don’t have a genderless singular one. This increasing abuse of the language is what brings out my prejudice. Let the accent go hang if only the language is correct.
        Come back, Johnson, all is forgiven!

    • Horace says:

      ¿Cu vi parolas Esperanton?

    • tim says:

      One or two others:

      Sentences without verbs.

      Paradox, for example Chestertonian (usually ‘prejudice’ is against something. Here I am pro: anti may be more towards the rational end of the spectrum, though).

      Use of the Latin language (pro, again).

      • John Nolan says:

        A sentence usually has a verb, but technically requires only a subject and a predicate. “No fool he” is a sentence. It’s difficult to avoid Latin, since English has borrowed so heavily from it. Latin words in an English context should, however, be pronounced as English.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        John – you remind me of another pet hate that always raises my hackles: Latin plurals used as if singular, notably “data” and especially “media” – which makes me think of Medea’s dance of vengeance in goodness knows what opera. No doubt it will be said that once taken into our own language they may legitimately be used as we wish, but this usage still strikes me as offensively illiterate.

      • tim says:

        Oh – and one more – ‘environmentalism’ (against – probably obvious that I’m against, because I don’t use a neutral term).

        This must be fairly high on the y axis (importance) though where it is on the x axis (rationality) is much more controversial. I suspect my high rating is an outlier.

        I undertake not to offer any more prejudices of my own (note datestamp), but not to refrain from further comment on prejudices already listed, by me or others.

  9. Nektarios says:

    Fellow bloggers

    I am trying to follow the different strands in this discussion about prejudice. I can see some of the prejudices are pleasure orientated, some come out of racism, some come out of conditioning, some come out of fear and so on.
    So can we establish a principle in all this evaluation process?

    If I evaluate what is important or not important, it is based perhaps on my prejudice and not on fact, therefore I distrust my judgement in evaluation. But when facts demand evaluation, facts decide the value.

  10. John Candido says:

    The Secondsight community has approached the subject of prejudice with due consideration of the multiplicity of its occurrence. Self-awareness is obviously King in these, as well as other circumstances. What is not immediately thought of whenever the subject of prejudice arises is the scientific testing of active ingredients of various commercial therapies or medications. What is known in experimental circles as the independent factor or variable; IV in nomenclature. Without control groups, a clear distinction for the independent variable, objective data collection, which are called dependant variables; and in some experimental studies, a placebo, and double-blind trials, we cannot be sure of the correctness or otherwise of commercial claims.

    A century ago the prevailing populations of many advanced countries were regaled about the miraculous curative properties of various products on sale. Snake oil salesmen were bountiful as it was their chosen way of life. These sorts of salesmen conjure-up similar images in everyone. Of course there are plenty of snake oil salesmen around today; duplicity is their true stock in trade.
    Questionable consumer items can potentially go on sale barring their prohibition by authorities. Without the public apparatus to police, test, and rule something as prohibited, for a multiplicity of reasons, it is worth knowing that the work of snake oil salesmen is perpetual, because you cannot legislate to expunge commercial duplicity; in thought anyway.

    Where would our modern world be without the rigour of science? We would go back in time to an unfortunate appreciation of anecdotal evidence, prejudice, ignorance, and a susceptibility to clever marketing. The sheer difficulty for the general public who make many consumer choices throughout any year, without the benefit of a ‘Food and Drug Administration’ (USA), or an Australian ‘Therapeutic Guidelines’, or the UK’s ‘National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence’, is obvious.

    Hello Alexander! How lucky are you? You can have your name on the internet where most of us on Secondsight did not have the internet when they were seven years of age. We did not even have a personal computer or a mobile phone for that matter.
    Try and imagine what the world will be like Alexander, when you are our age and you might have a grandson or granddaughter, like your grandfather Quentin. It would be very hard to try to imagine just what the world of technology will look like in another 50 to 60 years. Whatever it will look like, I hope it will make all of us more powerful, productive, and cleverer. The future world of technology will amaze everybody.

    • tim says:

      Yes indeed, John S. It’s a pity we can’t do double blind tests of our prejudices (in many cases, anyway). Though experimental tests in economics, including development economics (with many of the same advantages and disadvantages as in drug trials) are increasingly popular. I fully agree with your last three sentences – which (this is yet another of my prejudices) is the only sort of technological forecast that seems at all plausible.

      However, John, you have unfortunately reminded me of another trivial prejudice of mine. This is the failure to use commas to separate the vocative case from other parts of the sentence. It can lead to worrying ambiguities. Press report from some years back of a case of alleged (I think proved) racial assault by a racist gang on a solitary man: quote: “Do you want some Paki?” I would have dearly liked to be certain that the absence of a comma before the offensive epithet was correct. If it was, then this remark by the gang leader was directed to other members of the gang – if not, it was a challenge addressed to the unfortunate victim. In direct speech, the pause and emphasis with which the words were delivered would typically make the difference quite clear.

      The previous correspondence also suggests that Quentin’s line of prejudice should be extended to a plane. On the new y axis we plot triviality (grammar, etc – low values) and importance (racism, homosexuality and so on – high values). I should apologise (as sincerely as I can manage) for overemphasising the former.

      • tim says:

        Sorry, stupid, careless and disrespectful mistyping. For ‘John S’ please read ‘John C’.

    • John Nolan says:

      John, your faith in science, technology and the unstoppable march of progress, with the light of modernity triumphing over the darkness of faith and superstition would be touching were it not utterly and demonstratively misguided.

      • John Candido says:

        John Nolan.

        Demonstrate to me how the rational appreciation of the virtue of science is ‘misguided’?

  11. tim says:

    Nektarios, you are proposing your second paragraph as the principle to be established? If so, I fully agree.

    But (to return to some previous discussions) this implies that we need to be particularly careful about establishing facts – and – sometimes – recognise that our prejudices may lead us to accept as ‘fact’ what in fact is not properly supported.

    • Vincent says:

      Tim, you’re right. We shouldn’t shy away from the Nektarios challenge. I think that the common factor is that prejudice is a pre-packed judgment which comes into the mind whenever a relevant issue arises. It can be negative, e.g. don’t trust the police, or positive, e.g. I warm to people who have Scottish accents.

      Their sources are various. Quentin has already written about our primitive fear of strangers. But they could also be born of a single incident such as a single brush with the police – which is then extended to cover the police in general. They could arise from family attitudes which we have imbibed in our youth: for example a strong belief that people get what they deserve. They could arise from our own temperaments: someone of a fearful temperament will have different prejudices from someone who is self confident.

      But they share the characteristic of leading us to judge or act instinctively – when perhaps we ought to be questioning whether or not they are true, or whether or not they apply in a particular instance. Whenever they quench serious thought and good evidence they become dangerous

      • tim says:

        Thank you, Vincent – I agree with every word of that. Nevertheless, a rule of thumb that is right much of the time (‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’) may be more practically useful than, say, an exhaustive (and exhausting – and still fallible) examination on every occasion.

    • Nektarios says:


      If we have certain conclusions, beliefs, ideals and you want to see clearly what the world
      is, all those conclusions, beliefs, ideals, prejuices and so on will prevent it.
      It is not a question of how to get rid of our prejudices, but seeing clearly, intelligently, that any form of prejudice, however noble or ignoble will actually prevent us from perception.
      When you see that prejudices go. What is important is not the prjudice but the demand to see clearly.

  12. mike Horsnall says:

    “….If I evaluate what is important or not important, it is based perhaps on my prejudice and not on fact, therefore I distrust my judgement in evaluation. But when facts demand evaluation, facts decide the value…..”

    This looks good at first glance but I can’t really make sense of it. ‘Facts’ presumably refers to ‘events’ or ‘occurrences’ or some such. Facts tend not to speak for themselves otherwise there would be no need for interpretation. It seems to me the sentence “But when facts demand evaluation, facts decide the value…” is almost without meaning because the significance of events is mostly decided by the value we place upon them.

  13. tim says:

    Trivial prejudices (grammar, and so on) may be good fun, but perhaps we’d do better to revert to more serious topics. Let’s go back to racism – very, very carefully! (eg, do I dare put the word in scare quotes, or might that be offensive?).

    Here Quentin’s spectrum from loopiness to rationality is useful to think about. Whatever the absolute position of racism on that line (if such a thing can exist), popular opinion has clearly changed in the last century or so. In the 19th century, racism was clearly well established at the rational end. Indeed, did the word ‘racism’ (obviously derogatory – compare ‘capitalism’, ‘communism’, ‘fascism’, etc) actually exist then – does anyone know?. Obviously there were differences between races – how could you doubt it? And obviously these differences were important. Look (they could have said) at the success of European races (and particularly the British) in colonising the rest of the world, and setting superior moral standards. Darwin would have supported this in some degree (I think – or if that’s unjust, certainly people like Spencer and Galton, who started Eugenics). I feel confident that (for example) Chinese and Japanese people would have felt similar superiorities, based of course on quite different grounds. Today such views are seen (I don’t say wrongly) as totally loopy, as well as degenerate.

    So how are we to react when we find ourselves (as clearly many of us still do) harboring racist sentiments? Surely, we must do as we do in similar cases. We are naturally prey to many vices – take laziness and selfishness, for example – which are ‘natural’ in senses including being widespread and probably having survival-value in many circumstances. Recognising this, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much about having such feelings – but should make serious efforts to overcome acting on them. This means two things – awareness of how these feelings can cause us to act unjustly or cause offence, so as make it easier to avoid doing so – and secondly, re-educating ourselves as far as necessary to conform to (what we reasonably believe to be) the truth.

    Perhaps I can be a bit bolder at this stage (at the risk of losing any sympathy I may have gained so far). Racism (surely) is ‘objectively disordered’. If we have an ‘objective disorder’ what are we to do? We are not to be blamed for having it. We are to be blamed for expressing it, or failing to do whatever we sensibly can to combat it in ourselves. This is what the Church says about homosexuality and (assuming as I do that the Church has got this right) isn’t that a reasonable analogy?

    What do you think? And would someone be prepared to have a go at sexual prejudice? Would it be inappropriate (blessed word!) to suggest Iona or St Joseph might kick off?

    • John Candido says:

      ‘Perhaps I can be a bit bolder at this stage (at the risk of losing any sympathy I may have gained so far). Racism (surely) is ‘objectively disordered’. If we have an ‘objective disorder’ what are we to do? We are not to be blamed for having it. We are to be blamed for expressing it, or failing to do whatever we sensibly can to combat it in ourselves. This is what the Church says about homosexuality and (assuming as I do that the Church has got this right) isn’t that a reasonable analogy?’

      Where the analogy falls down is the assumption about the ‘correctness’ of current sexual teaching in the Catholic Church. The sexual teaching of the Catholic Church has curiously not changed much through the centuries. The teaching has been based on ancient Greek philosophical teaching, and the outmoded principles of the religion of Manichaeism, which had their pre-eminence between the third and fifth centuries AD.

      Manichaeism is based on a simplistic dualism in that the body and the soul are to be treated in a separate manner. Immaterialism is holy while matter is evil. ‘Light’ represents the soul and ‘darkness’ represents the human body. It is no wonder we have inherited an irrational hatred of our bodies and an entirely negative concept of sexuality. Manichaeism is also a gnostic religion comprising of mystical and occult elements. Fathers of the Church such as St. Augustine of Hippo followed these philosophical principles to inform their theology of the body.

      As modern people situated in the 21st century, you would have to ask why on earth the Catholic Church is still following the gnostic dualism of Manichaeism to inform and base their teaching on sexuality. What the Church should be doing, if it is to have any credibility left, is to expunge the influence of both ancient Greek philosophy and the principles of Manichaeism, as it relates to dualism and the human body.

      There needs to be a thorough revision of the Church’s teaching on sexuality as informed by modern principles of sexuality as found in psychology, sociology, medicine, and genetics. This revision must not be conceptualised as a sexual free for all, but a new ethic of sexuality based on modern knowledge and all of the Christian principles of love sans Manichaeism. Anything less is a failure of ecclesiastical leadership.

      ‘…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:32 ‘Good News Bible’, Catholic Edition.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        John Candido – I don’t see anything manichaeistic in condemning the indulgence of an obviously misdirected sexual drive.

      • tim says:

        John C – thanks! But I am going to plead _nolo contendere_. You may feel this is unfair, cowardly, or even dishonourable, but I stick by my previously stated assumption, that the Church in this case has got it right. I am not going to argue in favour of it, because I am not equipped to do so sensibly. The fact that you know ten times more about it than me doesn’t mean you are right – others of a different opinion may (possibly) know ten times more about it than you. I am going to fall back on (not a new prejudice, since I have just promised to stop advancing these, but) an implicit generalisation of the previously stated prejudice – that in cases of doubt, where I can’t follow the argument effectively, my prejudice is that the Church will have got it right. Always subject to what Vincent very properly said above about the duty of challenge, I think this is an example of the useful and practical prejudices that Quentin has suggested may exist. “You perceive, Sir, that I may prefer an _authority_ to a _ reason_” (_’Headlong Hall’_, adapted). This may not be a strong position, but I’m not abandoning it. Indeed, I will mount a modest counter-attack. I”m not sure why your rejection of my stated premise as false (which rejection for the purposes of the argument only I will hypothetically accept as correct) entitles you to say that my analogy falls down, and to start arguing with me about a different topic. I think the analogy works, whether the premise is correct or not – but perhaps I’m wrong about that, as well as the premise.

      • John Nolan says:

        John, whenever you touch on the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and ethics in general, you spout arrant nonsense. If one needed an example of Alexander Pope’s dictum that “a little learning is a dangerous thing” one need look no further than your writings. They are informed throughout by a strange conceit that modern intellectual fads must, by virtue of the fact they are modern, be superior to the wisdom of previous ages.

        Have you ever considered the possibility that the Church might be right and that you, John Candido, in your little 21st century time-bubble with hyperlinks to the latest trendy opinions might just be mistaken? Somehow I doubt it.

  14. tim says:

    Peter DW, I have to confess to carelessness (even indifference) about ‘media’ and ‘data’. The knowledge that this can irritate people will (I hope) induce a purpose of future amendment.

  15. Quentin says:

    What a splendid set of contributions we have had today!

    Just a little thought. The primitive instincts I referred to (such as fear of strangers) are thought by neuroscientists to have evolved through our genetic memories. For example, if being wary of strangers is a useful protective move, it follows that those who incline this way have a greater probability of survival and so pass the relevant genes on. It’s interesting to follow this thought into other areas. Fears like heights, spiders, snakes etc come about this way. (Though we do not make judgments about, say, acrophobics though as we might do about racists.

    Interestingly the sexual instinct (obviously an outcome of evolution) would indicate that men should spread their “wild oats” as frequently and broadly as they may, while women should attempt to beguile men into staying with them to provide for the children. (though we should remember the physical and psychological changes women undergo round about ovulation, designed of course to attract impregnation). What we might see as an effect of Original Sin may be no more than a survival strategy, which has perhaps outlived its usefulness.

    • tim says:

      Yes. The relation between evolved instincts and morality is of fundamental interest – and needs very careful consideration. There is fog over the whole ground. Which facts are clearly established? Which principles must be preserved at all costs? What is clear is that there is a certain parallelism or mapping (as the mathematicians say) between evolved instincts and moral rules. Obviously it is not complete, or reliable. But it has something to say to us, if we could work out what. I’m inclined to begin with the principle that you have to start from a moral maxim to reach a moral conclusion: facts alone will not do it. So if you say ‘morality is no more than the evolved survival instinct’, I reply “No – I reject survival as a moral principle” (providing obvious counter-examples).

      Sorry – this comment is both muddled and naive, and might be better deleted – but it is a vital topic. Maybe worth a separate column – or has it been touched on before?

      • Quentin says:

        The points you make are, I think, germane to the issue. If we start from the traditional moral value — the obligation to behave according to, or at least not against, human flourishing — then the instincts are relevant evidence of what responses were once fittest for human flourishing. That they may not be so nowadays (at least in some instances) reminds us that the circumstances and the obligation may change from time to time, as the human condition changes.

        I do want to write about this some time; I just haven’t worked out how to do it without being excommunicated.

    • Nektarios says:

      What you have posted above is a very interesting set of ideas, quasi- scientific propositions and theories and a crtain amont of prejudices. None are facts, but responses
      to situations and scientific or nearer home, predudices.

      Let’s look very carefully into this whole issue of sexual instinct and prejudices. Relationship is life. we cannot exist without relationship. One may deny relationship, withdraw from relaionship because it is frightening, beause in that there is conflict and hurt. So most of us builds a wa around ourselves in reationship.

      So let us observe closely relationship, not learn, for there is nothing to learn.
      We always want to learn, and like you have done, Quentin, put relationship as a whole and a fact into categories.In doing so we feel safe. But whereas, if we observe without any direction or motive,just observe with the naked eye visually, but also with the mind, the heart, the brain that is free to observe without any prejudice. Then do we discover the beauty of relationship.
      So, what is relationship? To be related, not blood relationship,but to be related to another. Are we ever related to another? Except perhaps sexually or holding each other, but psychologically,inwardly, deeply are we related to anyone at all? Or we wat to be deeply related but don’t know how it could happen. so our relationship with anothe is full of tears, occasional joy, occasiona pleasure, and the repitition of sexual pleasure.

      So are we related to anybody at all? Or are we related to another through thought, through image we have built up about our husband or wife. Obviously. Se we carry the image of our wife and she about you and each one goes in their own direction – ambition, greed, envy, competitiion, seeking power and position. You know what is happening in relationship, each one moving in oposite directions, or parhaps parallel, but never meeting.
      This is modern civilization, so within this image of reltionship there is constant struggle,
      conflict, divorce, changing of partners or imagined soul-mates. We know what is happening.

      • Nektarios says:

        What you have posted above is a very interesting set of ideas, quasi- scientific propositions and theories and a certain amount of prejudices. None are facts, but responses
        to situations and scientific or nearer home, prejudices.
        Let’s look very carefully into this whole issue of sexual instinct and prejudices. Relationship is life. we cannot exist without relationship. One may deny relationship, withdraw from relationship because it is frightening, because in that there is conflict and hurt. So most of us builds a wall around ourselves in relationship.
        So let us observe closely relationship, not learn, for there is nothing to learn.
        We always want to learn, and like you have done, Quentin, put relationship as a whole and as a fact into categories.In doing so we feel safe. But whereas, if we observe without any direction or motive,just observe with the naked eye visually, but also with the mind, the heart, the brain that is free to observe without any prejudice. Then do we discover the beauty of relationship.
        So, what is relationship? To be related, not blood relationship,but to be related to another. Are we ever related to another? Except perhaps sexually or holding each other, but psychologically,inwardly, deeply are we related to anyone at all? Or we want to be deeply related but don’t know how it could happen. so our relationship with another is full of tears, occasional joy, occasional pleasure, and the repitition of sexual pleasure.
        So are we related to anybody at all? Or are we related to another through thought, through image we have built up about our husband or wife. Obviously. So we carry the image of our wife and she about you and each one goes in their own direction – ambition, greed, envy, competitiion, seeking power and position. You know what is happening in relationship, each one moving in oposite directions, or perhaps parallel, but never meeting.
        This is modern civilization, so within this image of relationship there is constant struggle,
        conflict, divorce, changing of partners or imagined soul-mates. We know what is happening.
        This is a corrected copy. There were too many typing errors.

  16. Nektarios says:

    mike Horsnall
    My son is dead, that is a fact. When I remain with the immovable and irrevocable fact, then I am living with the fact, my son is dead. Not moving away from it, then the fact that, my son is dead, then the fact, my son is dead and living with it meet.
    My son is dead is a fact, living with that fact is not a fact but a response and idea to the one fact.
    There are not two facts, only one, my son is dead.
    The sorrow I feel is not a fact, only my son is dead is a fact.
    I was shocked on hearing the news, my son is dead. Being shocked is not a fact, only my son being dead is a fact.
    There in my sorrow, I think of where he is now? I may believe he is in heaven. The desire to move away from he fact is there in my thoughts. My thoughts begin to add ideas and beliefs and hopes to dissauade my fears and sorrow of the fact, my son is dead.
    I hope this goes someway to define for you, what a fact is?

  17. John Nolan says:

    Herewith a list of some of my prejudices. They may be right or wrong; some may be based on experience, as a lot of prejudices are; some may be totally irrational.

    1. Those with the benefit of a classical education are better equipped to make sense of the world and their judgement tends to be more reliable.
    2. Women tend to ‘go by the book’ whether it involves following a recipe or the speed limit; men are more likely to make their own rules.
    3. If you want to believe in the transcendental, the only religious position which makes any sense is that of the Roman Catholic Church.
    4. European culture is intrinsically superior to any other, however ancient.
    5. The maintenance of tradition is at least as important as the pursuit of progress.
    6. Pacifism is a naive creed.
    7. Never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.

    • tim says:

      Hurray! (John N)
      Much relieved to have my wife confirm that there is a gap between my eyebrows.

    • John Candido says:

      1. Maybe, but so much depends on the individual, and his/her values, society, and friends.

      2. It is increasingly the case that females will equal men’s tendency to be barbarians and improvise. I do hope that men can find it within themselves to follow good women.

      3. A very questionable proposition given the Second Vatican Council’s Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relations of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), Dignitatus Humanae (Declaration on Religious Liberty), and Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World).

      4. Because of the Industrial Revolution, the Age of Reason, and the political revolutions of the late Eighteenth Centuries, I fully agree. However you have to be respectful to other peoples and their cultures and traditions, and try to see the world from their point of view, if you want to broaden your mind and understand another person in his/her cultural milieu.

      5. You seem to be giving ‘progress’ a slight edge over ‘tradition’, however, I could have misread you.

      6. Full marks from me.

      7. They should all go to jail.

  18. John Nolan says:

    Oh, and another one: the amount of tatoos and body piercings is in inverse ratio to the level of intelligence, and anyone who has either might as well wear a placard around his or her neck announcing “I belong to socio-economic group D or E”.

  19. Nektarios says:

    Mike Horsnall
    You asked me briefly to tell you what I believe a fact is?
    My son is dead, was for illustration purpose only, which is a fact sadly for millions of people the world over, but not personally.
    I am glad it went some way to help your own understanding what a fact is. A fact is not an opinion, a feeling, an emotion. It is a reality. One has to live with that reality. When one lives with the reality of a fact,
    then all that I think, feel, sorrow I experience, which are not the fact but meet the reality of the fact. Do you follow?
    Perhaps you would like to see all that in relation to God. God is a fact, how I meet that fact, live with that fact, is important. All that I have learned, belief system I hold, all that I have been taught, conditioned meets the fact of God.
    But closer to home, there are certain facts about myself, and I live with the facts of myself.
    I may not like some of these facts of myself, so I seek to escape from the fact that is myself and invent another personna – but that is living a lie.
    A fact is only a fact when one lives with it.

    By the way, where are all the women in this discusssion – come on girls!

    • tim says:

      I fully endorse your final comment, Nektarios – but regret your omission of a comma before ‘girls’ (see my earlier posting on this). Again, there are possibilities of misinterpretation (if one really works at it).

      • Nektarios says:

        Oh, dear me, if you thought there was an hint of misinterpretation in my final comment to MH, I would indeed have to work at it, I can only apologies to any reader who would have picked up such a low thought in what I wrote. What preceded in the sentence, makes clear what I meant, don’t you think?

        I was rather surprised you had no comment on the main part of my posting to MH?

      • John Nolan says:

        I didn’t have to work on it. It’s the best joke on this blog for ages, although my sense of humour tends towards the Rabelaisian.

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Yes, I was rather afraid all this might follow, you do seem to dwell in rather a private reality most of the time. No more now please.

  20. tim says:

    By the way – Peter DW – ‘media’ – your view is by no means unique. Letter in latest issue of ‘Economist’ (5 August) says exactly the same thing.

  21. Rahner says:

    “That they may not be so nowadays (at least in some instances) reminds us that the circumstances and the obligation may change from time to time, as the human condition changes.
    I do want to write about this some time; I just haven’t worked out how to do it without being excommunicated.”

    The claim that Catholic moral teaching e.g., on human sexuality, is in a complete and final state and is not open to ANY revision or development is a claim that many moral theologians would regard as unreasonable (or even laughably absurd). In any case, Quentin, don’t worry, an excommunicated Catholic is still a member of the Church.

  22. tim says:

    Rahner, that claim, so phrased, is indeed ridiculous. But a similarly framed converse, namely that any or all such teaching can be reasonably changed by adding (or deleting) the word ‘not’, would be equally ridiculous. Score-draw?

    Quentin, please be careful! It would (to take no higher ground) make many of your contributors very unhappy if you were excommunicated. Maybe you can put your thoughts in a hypothetical form – as Galileo would more prudently have done in the sixteenth century. I can hear (and sympathise with) Rahner snorting as he reads this suggestion!

    • Rahner says:

      Of course, each issue in moral theology has to be retained/revised on a case by case basis. I should have thought this was obvious……

    • Quentin says:

      Tim, I like the idea of playing a Galileo, but I hope that I can be a trifle more subtle than giving the name of my opponent as Simplicio.

      • tim says:

        I feel sure your contributors will wish to suggest a suitable name (or names….?). i know someone who is world-class at inventing tendentious names (though something exquisitely subtle and ambivalent is what you really need….)

  23. tim says:

    @Nektarios – August 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm.

    No apology is owed from you. On the contrary, it is I who must apologise, as humbly and sincerely as may be possible in the circumstances, for a deliberate and gross (in two senses) misinterpretation of what you wrote. As you say, the context made your true meaning absolutely clear. I twisted it to provide some support for my completely trivial prejudice. In mitigation, I’m tempted to say it supported it rather well. Conversely, in aggravation, one reason I let it through was that I arrogantly and stupidly thought that few readers would notice or bother to work out what I was driving at.

    I also am sorry not to have provided any response to your substantive point, Here I have a better excuse – I’m not yet sure what I think about it. Normally in such a situation I don’t reply immediately and frequently not at all. But by way of partial penance for my earlier offence I will think about it and let you have a comment of some kind in the next 24 hours.

    With best regards…

    • Nektarios says:

      May God bless you!

      What are you not sure about? Re read what I wrote, and just observe what you see happening in relationship. You may then have some further questions to pose?

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Nektarios – with all respect I dearly wish that I could understand you better. However, when in a discussion on facts you present a hypothetical situation as fact, and indeed hammer home that it is so, but subsequently state that it is not, can you wonder that less subtle mortals are baffled?

      • tim says:

        @Nektarios (August 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm)
        I promised to reply to specific questions from you, and hold myself bound to that. So I will answer this in due course, But I don’t find it easy! I have to set priorities! I can’t promise a time-scale! At present, here, I’m not even sure about what I’m not sure about!

  24. Ion Xone says:

    “It is no wonder we have inherited an irrational hatred of our bodies and an entirely negative concept of sexuality.”

    This is incorrect, the Church celebrates love between two people and encourages it. What it ‘hates’ is people going out and sleeping with people indiscriminately since this results in a) babies that are missing a parent or are abandoned and b) sexually transmitted diseases of all kinds. The Catholic Church isn’t encouraging monogamy as much as it’s encouraging personal responsibility – something the modern world hates with a vengeance since personal restraint and responsibility are not traits that fit well with an obsessive and aggressive pursuit of self-gratification.

    In regards to earlier comments about science and progress, science and discovery are a good thing (why else would the Catholic Church have given so much money to it over the centuries?). However, the idea of progress is a myth that can be easily dismissed by pointing out that the word ‘progress’ is simply impossible to quantify since everyone has a different interpretation of it. The Christian idea of progress is many-layered and involves things like spreading the Gospel, peace, charity, building up cultures, and generally helping people.

    Progress for many others mean using the law to silence free speech, banning religious and cultural freedoms, and killing anyone who disagrees or looks at them funny. Including intellectuals, I might add. ‘Progress’ is not inherently good, right, or just. Just because you are going forward doesn’t mean you know where you are going.

    • John Nolan says:

      Nor can John Paul II’s “theology of the body” simply be dismissed as obscurantist, or even more absurdly, as Manichean.

    • tim says:


      • tim says:

        I don’t disagree with John N above, but I’d intended to support Ion Xone’s contribution. I’m not up to doing more on this topic than cheering John N on from the touchline.

    • John Candido says:

      ‘This is incorrect; the Church celebrates love between two people and encourages it.’

      The Church does belatedly celebrate the love between a man and a woman in the sacrament of matrimony. It does try to present its teachings in a contemporary manner to make them as attractive as possible. It is a good example of how the Church is influenced by the contemporary society that it finds itself. A fuller rendition of history would be that it is a nice tweaking of centuries of sexual maladjustment, dualism, misogyny, homophobia, Manichaeism, unwarranted sexual guilt, an unbalanced obsession with sex and with sexual sins such as masturbation, the maladaptive influence of ancient Greek philosophy, and a massive ignorance about human sexuality.

      This ignorance and prejudice was used as a power ploy over clergy, religious, and the laity, with celibacy held-out as approaching Christ’s throne, when in fact it was used as a means to control the possibility of a loss of ecclesiastical property through inheritance.

      What has been historically exhibited by the Church is a monumental ignorance of human sexuality. How can it possibly be otherwise given that the Enlightenment and experiential science entered human history during the seventeenth century?

      It is beyond historical dispute that the Church has had an unhealthy attitude to sex for centuries. It still does. Centuries of teaching which was based on the influence of Manichaeism cannot be made contemporary by employing terms such as ‘joy’, ‘love’, and Pope John Paul II’s long and rather drawn-out lectures (129 in all) on the ‘theology of the body’. It is the very same system of ideas that is behind creaking celibacy, clericalism, and would be partly responsible for the worldwide clerical sexual abuse scandal currently engulfing the Roman Catholic Church.

      I cannot for the life of me understand how such an intelligent collection of individuals, which the Roman Catholic Church is eminently the case, cannot see what has been going on for centuries in the Church. I suspect it is a case of the sheer power of the institution over the individual and the fear that such power can effect, if awoken in anger.

      On an unrelated matter, I will repeat my question that I proposed to John Nolan a little while back one final time, in the hope that he can answer it as best he can. Anyone else is free to answer it if they desire to, and I see that ‘Ion Xone’ has made an attempt.

      Demonstrate to me how the rational appreciation of the virtue of science is ‘misguided’?

      • John Nolan says:

        First of all, ‘virtue’ is a morally-loaded concept, whereas ‘science’ is morally neutral. Nobody is suggesting that one should deplore the increase in human knowledge about the natural world. Neither do scientists necessarily work in a moral vacuum. Not long ago there was a debate as to whether the research results obtained by Nazi doctors could be legitimately used in view of the research methods used to obtain them. However, what we loosely refer to as science, ie natural science, is but one branch of human knowledge (scientia) – philosophy is another, as is moral theology. A study of the latter might give you a better idea of where the Church is coming from, rather than swallowing a tendentious pseudo-historical conspiracy theory and repeating it ad nauseam.

        Some of the things you say are quite simply untrue. Manichean dualism was identified as being incompatible with orthodox Christianity from the early centuries and of all heresies it was seen as the worst; by the High Middle Ages the most convenient way to stigmatize a heretic was to accuse him of it. The Church did not ‘belatedly’ recognize the unitive element in matrimony; apart from anything else, it’s explicit in Scripture. ‘Experiential science’ did not enter human history in the 17th century – historians of science exploded the myth of a pre-scientific age years ago, and credit the Church with encouraging natural scientific enquiry in the interests of better understanding God’s creation.

        The moral precepts of the Church, and of Christianity in general, underpinned Western society at least until the last two decades of the 20th century. That they are now challenged by a post-Christian libertinism is a fact. Do you espouse this new ‘morality’ because you are a libertine, or because it seems to you to represent ‘progress’? Two highly intelligent ‘progressive’ thinkers, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, toured the Soviet Union at the height of Stalin’s man-made famine, which claimed over six million lives. At every railway station they saw graphic evidence of what was actually happening, yet on their return they wrote a book extolling Soviet Communism. Marxism simply couldn’t be wrong; after all it was ‘scientific’.

  25. John Candido says:

    For those who like the convenience of an online dictionary, Princeton University has given us theirs called WordNet. It is an English language lexical database that groups words according to their grammatical forms as well as offering synonyms as well. It works like an online version of a combined dictionary and thesaurus. It is free to download and use. If you like offering feedback or asking questions, you are able to do so as well with WordNet.

  26. tim says:

    Nektarios, I promised you a comment on the main substance of your post of August 5, 2012 at 3:51 am

    A preliminary point. You often seem to think and reason in a different style from some other contributors – certainly, from me and Mike H, say (not that I want to imply that Mike and I either necessarily agree or reason similarly). I think you frequently take a higher and potentially more profitable approach than many of us. But we (I, at least) quite often have trouble following it. We misunderstand you (a specific and not necessarily trivial example was your statement “My son is dead”. You were giving this as an example of a fact. But both Mike and I misunderstood this as an actual fact about you, and Mike specifically sent his sympathy). These misunderstandings worry us (sometimes to the point at which we have difficulty staying civil). I’m cautious about commenting on what I’m not sure I’ve understood. I can from my own experience understand disappointment when making what strikes one as a really significant, novel and useful contribution and getting no response whatever – but I think blog contributors simply have to live with this.

    Now, as to substance. You and Mike H differ about what facts are and what are their importance, yes? Can we start from the journalist’s ‘creed’: “Facts are sacred – comment is free”? We all agree about the ‘creed’ – I thought. But Mike H (August 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm) says “Facts tend not to speak for themselves otherwise there would be no need for interpretation”. Here I think I generally tend to agree with you rather than with him (as Vincent did). But I was taken aback by one of your selected examples of a fact. “God is a fact” Yes! Most contributors to this blog will agree (some of us have to work quite hard against occasional doubts)– but it is tremendously ambitious to propose this as an incontrovertible fact. And I don’t really follow why you distinguish between such an earthshaking fact and (for example) experienced sorrows, which (though more difficult to evidence) nevertheless seem to me to be ‘facts’ in the same sort of way. And to revert to a previous gripe, if facts are sacred, I think your approach is sometimes a little too casual. You earlier gave as an example of an established fact, that man’s nearest genetic relative was the banana. If you had said that the earth was flat, I would have been no more willing to believe it. When I challenged you, your response can fairly be summarised as “Oh, I’m sure I read it somewhere”. Not good enough!

    I fear this response is not very helpful – certainly I am not satisfied with it, and would not post it if I had not promised to say something. But for the future, I will read your posts more carefully and use proper efforts to understand them in the sense you intend (rather than using perverse interpretations to try to make a point). And if you would like a comment from me on any specific point, ask for it, and I will provide one. I hope it will be more helpful than this one is.

  27. mike Horsnall says:

    “..Now, as to substance. You and Mike H differ about what facts are and what are their importance, yes? Can we start from the journalist’s ‘creed’: “Facts are sacred – comment is free”? We all agree about the ‘creed’ – I thought. But Mike H (August 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm) says “Facts tend not to speak for themselves otherwise there would be no need for interpretation”….”

    Just to give a couple of examples of what I’m trying to get to:

    1) A bludgeons B to death with a hammer.
    2) Joe sleeps with Mary.
    3) Gold is soft , shiny and scarce.
    4) The train to Skipton left at 3pm.
    5) Lots of people like sport.

    All of the above I understand as ‘facts’ (That is just my understanding of course). The interpreataion of these five ‘facts’ and the ranking of their importance will be complately dependent on their context rather than their discrete worth . As far as I can see facts are pretty inert and depend on human values for their interpretation and significance. If there is any glaring error in this line of thought I would be pleased to have it illumined.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      PS Sorry about the typo’s, they do seem to creep in, especially when dashing off a reply in one’s lunch break.

    • tim says:

      Mike, thanks. What I said about your earlier comment was pretty feeble, for a reason you will recognise – I did’t understand what you were getting at! I now do – a bit better, at least, maybe, I hope (etc., etc.,…). What helps me is your mention of context! Absolutely! Without context a fact is meaningless! But I (and I think Nektarios?) was taking this for granted!

      I’m very happy with all your facts. I also understand (do I?) why you say they are ‘inert’ in the absence of context. I quibble about ‘human values’. Will an illustration help? “Joe sleeps with Mary”. What is the context? Suppose it to be a dispute about the paternity of Mary’s child. (We’ve got to suppose something, or the fact remains inert, as you say). Then, if “Joe sleeps with Mary” is not, and never has been, a fact, this fact (or not-fact) determines the outcome of the dispute. My quibble is about ‘depending on human values’, If Joe does’t sleep with Mary, he cannot be the father of her child. It is a matter of scientific fact rather than (possibly erroneous) human values. Do we agree that once the context is determined, the truth or falsity of relevant facts will (typically) determine the outcome? I didn’t interpret Nektarios’s original statement as going beyond that, which was why I was surprised when you challenged it.

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        Tim, yes of course. The point I was making was that what we think of Joe sleeping with Mary, whatever the outcome, will depend on what we believe about monagamy. adultery,underage sex etc etc. Really its two sides of the same very thick coin. I find the appeal to facts becomes very cliched if not clarified-as if facts really do speak for themselves- which of course they don’t.

  28. tim says:

    Thanks, Mike, I owe you a comment on this, and you shall have one, when I’ve worked out what it should be. I’m only nervous (as with my latest reply to Nektarios) about whether it will be worth reading…

  29. Nektarios says:

    Tim & Fellow bloggers

    There is an assumption that your way and several others on the blog of reasoning, is the only way.
    There is also an assumption on this blog, that so many of the assertions made are facts when they are only assertions posing as facts or truths.
    There are also on this blog, naturally, many opinions, but these are not facts either, are they?
    There are also on this blog some who get rude, verbally aggressive, resorting to put downs and the likes, simply because they are challenged, asked to think more deeply, look, instead of asserting.

    I have already apologized on the blog for my posting with ” My son is dead”, which some have taken exception to. It was solely cutting down what would have been a rather lengthy posting to bare essentials. You and others have taken offence that after MH giving me his sympathies for the losss of my son, it was necessary for me to qualify it, which I did. But as I commented, for millions around the world, even this day, will say, my son is dead. For them that is a fact, and the only way to realize a fact, is to live with it.

    My style of writing on the blog may indeed baffle you initially, but I am not setting out to baffle you
    at all, but to slow you down to look at what you are arguing for, asserting more deeply and become more aware and so on.

    We have been looking at the issue of facts and prejudice, that is what I was dealing with. That is why a posed a principle to look at. One may agree or disagree, you are all free to do so, but it is not necessary to hurl the many insults I have received over the time I have been on the blog on various topics, simple because you have to work at it a bit more internally.
    What was unfortunate was ” my son is dead” was believed as a fact, and obviously, it has upset some of you and your sensibiities. That was my fault, I should have clarified it at the time what I was putting across.

    I know many of you are busy people, professional people, academic people, but if I am not clear enough for you to understand, upsetting you needlessly, or not helping the discussion along,
    or expanding any of our horizons especially spiritually, then, I may as well not be writing on
    the blog?
    Perhaps you can all let me know – afterall it is your blog.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      Nektarios – I am saddened by your finding yourself insulted by comments on this blog, and if my own have contributed to this feeling, I deeply regret it. A prime requirement of civilised discussion is courtesy. However, in this context, one aspect of courtesy is clarity of expression. Your contributions impress me as deeply spiritual, indeed mystical, and I realise that mysticism may need to hint obliquely at what human language cannot express directly. Nevertheless I commonly find them incomprehensible, and I am sure that some concession to the more literal-minded among us would be appreciated by others besides myself.

    • tim says:

      Nektarios! Thanks for this! Give me a little time to think about it, and I promise to come back – with a reply that if all goes well may be more helpful than last time. I need to regroup!

  30. tim says:

    @John L (August 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm) I missed your comment earlier (probably ‘inebriated by the exuberance of my own verbosity’ – oh no, I’ve been misled again by the blog sequence, which aims to be logical rather than time-based). I would like specifically to endorse your case against the politically correct but grammatically repulsive substitution of the gender-free plural for the singular gender-specific pronoun. Or oblique strokes -‘he/she’? The absolute worst is ‘s/he’ – this usage came close to causing a permanent rift between me and an editor for whom I have tremendous respect – but then he is a Hungarian emigré.

    • John Nolan says:

      Tim, I agree absolutely. It is sometimes impossible to avoid ‘he or she’ when referring to a particular group, eg pupils in a mixed school; however, the possessive must be ‘his or her’, not ‘their’. When referring to a non-specific group, eg politicians, historians, pianists, and wishing to use the singular for the sake of elegance, the masculine pronoun only should be used; everyone is aware that women can be politicians, historians and pianists, and the constant repetition of ‘he or she’ and ‘his or her’ would soon become wearisome.
      There is a problem when the general group is overwhelmingly female, for example nurses, in which case the feminine pronoun might be more appropriate. I don’t think male nurses would take offence.

      “A historian must be aware of the provenance of his sources”
      “A good nurse treats her patients as human beings”.

      PC is the enemy of grammar and common sense alike.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        The “he or she” problem can usually (not always) be avoided by the use of plurals, as is often more appropriate anyway.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        P.S. to “he or she” – the singular “for the sake of elegance” may be a fashionable trope, but I find itintensely irritating.

      • tim says:

        John, we think so much alike on so many matters that I am becoming concerned that I may be taken for your sock-puppet. So I strain to seek minute differences of opinion between us in what you have just written. PC as applied to grammar – and to a considerable extent language – I hate. ‘Gunpersons’! ‘ The Ploughperson’s’ Lunch’! . Even ‘fisherfolk’, a term which existed before PC, grates. But I do think that there are occasions where some notice may be taken. PC people object that ‘man’ means ‘male’ exclusively. Wrong. Sometimes it mean ‘male’ exclusively and sometimes it means ‘human being’. In addressing those who cannot accept this incontrovertible truth, it may sometimes be kind to select inclusive language. My own practice (sometimes) is to use ‘she’ where you would use ‘he’ – “No philosopher worth her salt would embrace such a proposition” – but I fear that this may be in equal parts patronising and confusing.

      • John L says:

        Thanks for the support and apologies for the time-sequence – I started reading this blog later than I should have preferred. The basic problem is that while Latin distinguishes between “Homo”, “Vir” and “Mulier”, English hasn’t the inclusive word other than “Human”, which sits badly in the context of the examples discussed. Most ladies I know find the inclusive use of “Man” as inoffensive and we jump through hoops only to satisfy a minority.
        Thank goodness “Homo factus est” not just “Vir”.
        Placing my tongue further into my cheek, I am delighted that others share my prejudice about misuse of language, but I wish I’d had more support on the “accent” issue!

      • Quentin says:

        John, some years ago I wrote a book on persuasion. The preface contained the following sentences: “For eugraphical reasons I have ordinarily used the masculine form. Needless to say, from the Garden of Eden onwards, women have been redoubtable persuaders.”

        My publisher was an educated man, so I assumed that he could understand ‘eugraphical’ despite its omission from the Oxford Dictionary. However, I shall claim ‘first usage’ if it ever gets there.

      • John L says:

        I like this comment, Quentin – I’m sorry I am late in responding – I missed it at first, being so embedded in the Nektarios debate.

  31. Mike Horsnall says:

    “……but if I am not clear enough for you to understand, upsetting you needlessly, or not helping the discussion along,or expanding any of our horizons especially spiritually, then, I may as well not be writing on the blog….”

    As far as I can see you have said it all yourself. Go back over your many convoluted attempts to discuss fairly basic subjects. Go over the blog slowly, take your time, go slowly now and observe clearly the effect of your writings on others. Take pencil and paper, note down a positive and negative column. Shouldnt take too much to see that your posts lack clarity and precision while confusion cloaks all your efforts. As to rudeness you have endured yourself, go back also and note the tone of outraged stridency that creeps into your posts when you are ignored….get a friend to read your posts, listen to what they say.
    You have asked this question about clarity before on this blog Nektarios. Of the four people who answered, two found your postings annoying and two found them baffling. It would be good if you simply gave up on your well meant but ponderous attempts to spiritually develop everyone and began instead to try and understand what the concerns of others are then communicate with them simply and effectively ….also ,occasionally, to lighten up a little…. Sorry but you did ask….now I can expect a pounding from all those many kinder spirits than I who man the parapets watching out for signs of ill temperedness….

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Forgot to add that this is only my view of course and that its also clear others sometimes appreciate the ‘challenge’ they think you bring. I get the impression that you are quite new to blogging and havent figured out yet that an overall tone of polite conversation beats obscure brow beating any day -regardless of topic.

    • Nektarios says:

      Mike Horsnall
      Ah well, if I am baffling to some of you, then I am in good company with the Apostle
      Paul who Peter found at times baffling. Goodness knows what you would say to the Apostle John who wrote the book of Revelation?
      And yes, as far as this blog goes, I am a relative newcomer but aware of the guidelines.

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        No you are’nt baffling to me-I was in the ‘annoyed’ camp. Annoyed because you seem to muddy the waters so regarding spirituality,mysticism and vision. Its not a great thing to baffle others about the impenetrable clarity of God.Other writers, better by far than you or I make the subject far clearer and less ponderous. In Catholic tradition we tend not don the mantle of interpretation for ourselves but seek instead simply to present the great spiritual writers themselves as they are and then explain their words as best we can. You seem to me to peddle a kind of muddied mulch and then get tetchy about the way it is received.

  32. tim says:

    @ Nektarios

    I want to write in great detail, but circumstances (contingency) may prevent this. So here is my Executive Summary:

    Please do NOT stop contributing to the blog!

    I hope to justify this in due course at interminable length, but in case I can’t, I thought you should have my bottom line now. Obviously, other views (Mike H) may differ (possibly, even after they’ve read my full case). But think of Abraham pleading with God about Sodom – even one or two people who benefit from reading your contributions should justify you in persevering.

    • tim says:


      What I feared might happen is happening – I’m running out of steam. So instead of going on at enormous length – as threatened – I am going to have to summarise down to bare essentials. The problem is that this makes misunderstanding even more likely. Here goes:

      1, Whatever you may think, I (unlike Mike H?) don’t regard my method of arguing as the only legitimate way. I do prefer it, because I’m used to it and understand it better. I in fact said this specifically in the first draft of my last post – then made the misjudgement that this was unnecessary and better left out.
      2. I was wrong to try to make you feel guilty about making us think your son was dead. It was a good illustration of the possibility of misunderstanding. So I was right to mention it. But you acted quite innocently, and I shouldn’t have hinted otherwise.
      3. I am absolutely sure that you do not try to confuse readers deliberately. But nevertheless we often end up confused. Knowing this is not your intention doesn’t help us much in making out what you do mean. It may encourage us to work harder on working this out, though.
      4. It doesn’t help to compare your writing to the Book of Revelation. Most of us are confused by that, too.
      5. It is inevitable that many people who find it hard to understand what you are driving at will give up before they succeed.
      6. You reasonably complain about people being rude to you. I can sympathise (at least as long as it’s not me). I understand their frustration, in some degree – but I don’t understand what they gain from expressing it.
      7. It is worth all of us making more efforts to be clear. I am self-indulgently fond of irony, indirection, quotation, allusion, jokes. I’m not going to change this overnight, but maybe I can be a bit more careful a bit more often.

      So given all the difficulties, why should you make the considerable and largely thankless effort needed to continue as a contributor?

      Paradoxically, it is because so many of us find you so difficult to understand. Your value to us is your different approach. You say things, and take approaches, that the rest of us don’t think of. That is valuable – to at least some of us, at least some of the time. Diversity! It should be worth a little minor irritation. So please stick with it!

      • Nektarios says:


        What you say about your personal way of arguing as being used to it and prefer it,
        is perfectly natural, normal and common place. But I am aware of the process of thinking, of argument and all that, but I am also aware that that process is very limited, when it comes to spiritual realities.
        I am not deliberately trying to make it difficult for you and others to understand, it is largely because you others and myself have been taught in a certain way, got used to it, use it everyday.
        We can never get to grips with spiritual realities of our lives or of our Heavenly Father, by mere descriptive. And I say it again, as I have in several posting over the months,
        ` The descriptive is never the actual’. If for example, all I have are the descriptive about God or the various aspects of the spiritual life, I would not have made much progress in my spiritual journey; I would be stuck with words, meanings, and so on,
        important in their place as they are.

        Yes, many would and will give up before they succeed. I am not spoon-feeding anyone, not your authority, not looking to be your authority. Some give up at the first hurdle, others try to understand, but alas with their dependency on words and the descriptive they are a little confused or baffled because they way I put things does not fit into their pattern, their normal way of looking at, talking or discussing things.
        One can ask, but they seldom do. Rather, they get annoyed or let rip at me on the blog.

        Lastly Tim, Many of you are within the Roman Catholic Church and some in other Churches, and the way one has be taught, often limits us, it is a bit like learning a new language, all very confusing at first, but then we pick up the language and vocabulary,
        And that is a joy.
        Thank you for the encouragement. May God bless you.

  33. John Nolan says:

    @ Mike Horsnall

    Gosh! Your put-downs of Nektarios make mine in re John Candido look restrained!

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Oh dear, didnt mean it as a put down just that there are some things which are important-I probably regard the mystical journey- as you regard liturgy -serious stuff, not to be lightly discussed or made more difficult than need be. Thanks for pointing that out… Sorry Nektarios I wasn’t trying to be rude.

      • Nektarios says:

        Mike Horsnall,
        I am not offended, but please clarify for me and others where and how I am muddying
        the waters of spirituality or mysticism?
        I am not comparing myself to others. I have had the joy of reading many Catholic and Orthodox writers and spiritual giants and find myself perfectly at home with them.
        You may have read them too, but what we see happening on the ground, at the grass roots
        is way below par of what these great writers have communicated, talk about, encourage
        and so on.
        So please, demonstrate from what I have written where I have muddied the waters of spiriritualityor mysticism?

    • tim says:

      @ John L (August 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm). Admirable post, if you allow me to say so. It’s clear in Latin! Sensible women (unlike me) don’t fuss about linguistic trivia. They do however very properly tell you off sharply if you appear to subscribe to unproved doctrines of differential ability between the sexes.
      I’m feeling guilty about not supporting you about different accents. The trouble is I’m not quite sure what I think. Tastes differ – some accents for some people are much more attractive than others – for example, Irish brogue, compare Belfast with Mayo.

      • John L says:

        Thanks, Tim.
        I’m a married man, so I’m well aware of the areas of thin ice. My wife, thank goodness, is one of those ladies who do not feel so threatened as to require “inclusive” language. Its use in the Liturgy is, to her, an annoying distraction.
        As for my accent, I’m afraid that my brand of Midland is one of those which many find unattractive. Nevertheless I am not inclined to change it – I empathise with ” h-h-h-‘ancock agonistes”

  34. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Nektarios – I am sure you have insights worth sharing with us, but would you please try to lead us more gently into the ways of thinking that you suggest we should follow? I’m worried by the suggestion of complacency in obscurity that your comment this morning conveys.

    • Nektarios says:

      Peter D. Wilson,

      I am not setting myself up as some authoritiy for you to follow.
      I am aware , for example how earthbound our religious life and thinking has become
      here in the UK.
      Yes, I could rant and rave at some comments that have been made, but what is the point of that?
      When we receive the topic chosen by Quentin, I am well aware of the direction he is wanting us all to arrive at. We seldom if ever get there. And not always a right direction either – sorry Quentin!
      Yes I do desire us all to work together in our spiritual lives, help each other if we can.
      Yes, sometimes I deliberately put things in a certain way to slow you down and make you think.
      I am not your Priest or Pastor, who is going to spoon-feed you, and make you dependent on me – what a horrible thought. Rather, it is only to supply you with sufficient to explore your own spiritual life &c.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Nektarios – Thank you. I don’t wish to suggest that you are setting yourself up as an authority, but I believe that you may have something helpful to communicate. I should like to make some sense of it, but I can’t.

  35. John Nolan says:

    Right, some other prejudices, in this case against:

    1. Television historians who use the present tense all the time (yes, I accept that this is not ungrammatical, but loses all its effect if overused, which it patently is).

    2. Everything else that has its origins in the 1960s and 1970s including Vatican II, pop culture, and the complete abandonment of what was regarded as culturally relevant.

    • John Candido says:

      1. Reasonable point.

      2. Sorry John, but that is just rubbish! To give you one example from pop music from the sixties; the sheer brilliance of the music of the Beatles, what can you say that hasn’t been said already. It was an absolute privilege when the Beatles came to Australia and especially when they arrived in Melbourne. Pandemonium, mass adulation, fun, music, madness, happiness!

    • Quentin says:

      Ok, here are a few little ones. People who emphasis the second syllable of harassment. People who pronounce covert as co-vert — the origin is cover, not co-ver. People who say comper-sight — unless they are trade unionists and so can’t help it. People who think disinterested means uninterested (except Americans, who have no concept of disinterest.) There are some others, of course — but I can’t even bring myself to put them on paper.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Quentin – … and how about “decayed” for “decade”, “may” when the sequence demands “might”, and countless others of the kind that don’t come to mind at the moment?

        Thanks for lightening the tone; it was getting a bit fraught.

      • John L says:

        Yes, Quentin – I know the feeling. However – here are a couple…
        Any change of any sort is now always a sea change. I can hear Shakespeare turning in his grave from here – that lovely poetry debased!
        Any question of any sort is now always “begged”. This is more infuriating because when a misuse of language of this kind finds its way into common parlance, then we are all deprived of the meaning inherent in its correct usage.
        This may be followed my the infuriating person who tells me that language is a living thing and changes all the time. That’s true so far as it goes, but when we lose subtleties of meaning through lazy misuse my prejudice arises against educationalists and others who do not vigorously resist it. It is a cop-out (if you will forgive another annoying expression).

      • John L says:

        Added to which, the annoying person who doesn’t check his typing, such as allowing “my” to pass for “by”.

      • tim says:

        Quentin, all these have I held from my youth up.

        And, John C. why do you have to advocate ‘for’? You and I speak the Queen’s English. In English, ‘advocate’ is a transitive verb, and may be followed directly by the objective advocated. The Americans see these things differently – lots of space, enormous gas-guzzling cars, what are a few superfluous prepositions here and there? But we should set them an example of economy.

      • John Candido says:

        Tim, you are right about my use of the word ‘for’ after ‘advocating’. Nobody is perfect.

  36. John Candido says:

    John Nolan.

    ‘Manichean dualism was identified as being incompatible with orthodox Christianity from the early centuries and of all heresies it was seen as the worst…’

    ‘Some modern scholars have suggested that Manichaean ways of thinking influenced the development of some of Augustine’s ideas, such as the nature of good and evil, the idea of hell, the separation of groups into elect, hearers, and sinners, and the hostility to the flesh and sexual activity.’ (, accessed: 8th August 2012)

    Indeed, St. Augustine was a Manichaean before converting to Christianity. Manichaeism may have been strongly condemned by the Church; however this has not stopped it from being of considerable influence to significant early Church Fathers such as St. Augustine, and far too many others in the early Church. This same philosophical influence of Manichaeism and Platonic philosophic considerations continued down through the centuries.

    Thomas C. Fox wrote ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, 1995, published by George Braziller, New York, USA. In it he established the connection between St. Augustine’s theology, Plato’s philosophical dualism, and elements of the Manichean religion.

    Apologies for the length of the following quotes from his first chapter, which is called ‘Sexuality and the Christian Tradition’.

    ‘Christians generally view St. Augustine (354- 430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in Roman North Africa, as the greatest thinker of Christian antiquity. He is credited with fusing the religion of the New Testament with the Platonic tradition of Greek philosophy. At the age of about forty-five, he wrote the Confessions, the story of his own sensual youth, which ended in his conversion to Christianity a dozen years earlier.’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …p. 20)

    ‘Augustine showed promise from an early age of being a bright student. By age nineteen, he travelled to study at Carthage where he was influenced by Manichaeans who viewed existence in starkly dualistic terms, as a conflict between light and dark substances with the human soul caught up in the struggle. The Manichaeans claimed to be the true Christians. Some practiced deep asceticism, preaching that the Redeemed Christ enabled imprisoned particles of light to escape from darkness.’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …p. 20)

    ‘The philosophy influenced but did not satisfy Augustine’s spiritual quest. At about age twenty-eight he moved to Milan, Italy, where he heard Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, and the most eminent Christian churchman of his day, preach. This was Augustine’s first intellectual exposure to Christianity.’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …p. 20)

    ‘In the seventh book of the Confessions, Augustine describes how he finally found God – the ‘changeless light,’ at once immanent and transcendent. The discovery was more than the conclusion of a reasoning process, he wrote. It was a mystical experience. For Augustine, God came to be light, and evil to be darkness. The Manichaean influence remained, and the dualism continued; but in Augustine’s emerging formulation, God was pure spirit and evil became non-existence. To reach pure spirit, however, it would be necessary to escape from the prison of bodily limitations, most especially those involving sexual urges.’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …pp. 20-21)

    ‘It was largely in response to the Manichaeans that Augustine reaffirmed a belief in the general goodness of marriage and procreation. Sexual intercourse without procreative purpose, however, was a serious sin, he thought. The only sinless sexual union he could imagine was one intended for procreation. Augustine’s writings were extensive and many focussed on human sexuality. He devoted a chapter in ‘The City of God’ to attempting to show that before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam was fully able to control his sexual urges. With the Fall, that ability ended. Augustine could not fathom the notion of sexual pleasure in Eden, not when Adam and Eve where in their pre-Fall state.’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …p. 21)

    ‘These were just some of the considerations Augustine addressed in his writings. They help throw light upon how early Christian attitudes toward sex later, under the scrutiny of theological consideration, began to work their ways into church laws. The basic consideration was, what was to God a morally pleasing act? The corollary was, what was not pleasing, what was sinful, and what, therefore, required confession and forgiveness by Church authorities?’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …p. 22)

    ‘…Augustine eventually came to see human nature as corrupted and totally dependent upon the grace of Christ. In effect, Augustine had taken the dark sexual pessimism of the Greek Philosophers and formulated it into what was seen as foundational Christian theology. He did this by arriving at an explanation of the fallen state of human nature and linking it with the sexual act. The sin of Adam and Eve, he came to believe, was passed down through the generations by the very act of sexual intercourse. Thus, all humans carried Adam and Eve’s original sin, a term he is widely viewed as having coined. This linkage further enshrined in Christian thought the duality of the goodness of spirit and the evil of the corporal world.’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …p. 22)

    ‘…Augustine, however, had an enormous impact upon Christian thought because he wedded original sin to the sin of the flesh. He wrote that after Adam and Eve’s sin ‘they were ashamed and covered their sexual parts with fig leaves’. Augustine taught that since some concupiscence, or sexual appetite, is involved in virtually every human sexual act, all sexual acts are in some sense sinful. (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …pp. 22-23)

    ‘To the degree these ideas sound familiar to the Christian, one begins to understand the central influence of Augustine’s thought in Christian history. In Augustine, Manichaean sexual pessimism and early Christian scepticism toward sex were, in effect, raised to the level of systematic theology. This theology has permeated Christian thinking to this very day.’ (Fox, ‘Sexuality and Catholicism’, …p. 23)

    I could go to other monographs that I own, but I have gone on for far too long for one post.

    • John Nolan says:

      I had to look up your guru, Thomas C Fox and found that he is not an authority on anything in particular but is closely involved with the National Catholic Reporter. Quelle surprise! Ioannes Candide, noli irasci – tu scis me dicere veritatem.

    • John Candido says:

      My apologies for the first link in my above reply on the 8th August 2012 at 2:57 pm. A more accurate link would have been, and to proceed to the section entitled, 1.2 Later History. It is here that Augustine is introduced as a former Manichaean who later converted to Christianity.

    • John Candido says:

      This post is a correction of an incorrect link as well as a YouTube link that has been troubling me on the 9th August 2012 at 10:18 am. Apologies to all.

      This is an interview with American Dominican Canon Lawyer Fr. Thomas Doyle O.P. and it runs for about 47 minutes. Don’t be put off by the length of this interview because it is an excellent piece of journalism. He is quite an intellectual with an extensive academic background in philosophy, theology, politics, as well as a doctorate in Canon Law. The subject matter is his extensive experience and support of those who have been sexually abused by American priests and bishops, and the scandalous responses of many priests and bishops in the USA as well as throughout the world to this crisis.

  37. Mike Horsnall says:


    So please, demonstrate from what I have written where I have muddied the waters of spirirituality or mysticism?

    Gosh, where would you like me to begin?

    You at various times introduce your own theology regarding the ‘illusory’ nature of the self which you dig out from some old patristic strand and then blow it up to what is clearly an obsessive level. You try to back this up by simply asserting your self as an authority who has buried themselves deeply and profoundly in such issues-yet you produce no evidence of your standing and show yourself as prone to all sorts of half cocked abstractions based on for example anecdotal nonsense about banana’s (for goodness sake)

    You speak so much about understanding yet demonstrate so little understanding of others-hence the cloud of confusion that blows with you and which you risibly locate as some ‘deep’ aspect of your teaching too complex for others to grasp.

    You announce that the human race is in the grip of something you call’ thought’ which you then decide define for yourself to completely seperate from any ‘reality’ You then roll merrily along by defining the grounds of ‘reality’ according to your wishes of the week.

    You prove yourself incapable of even the most simple humility by twisting and wrenching lines of conversation to your own ends-vis your embarrassing tirade about death and pedlars of death in the Liverpool Care Pathway conversation.
    You automatically assume somehow that your words carry some ‘weight’ or should do – by the simple mechanism of assuming a teaching position based on your own authority…”do you see”
    “Do you understand?” “I have said this five times before” etc etc etc. When challenged about the basis of your authority you deny having any then carry on as if you had.

    You at various times traduce many teachings of the catholic church- us for example celibacy among priests which you clearly and patently do not understand
    You tell us that only one in a thousand priests makes a good confessor.
    You tell us of the lack of integrity of any Pope you care to label as such.
    You tell us all about the instituional church -to which you do not belong
    In doing so you clearly demonstrate the cowboy nature of your thought -this is ok for the lberal wing of this blog because none of them aspire to be teachers of anything other than their own opinions- they can at least give basis for their biases. its not ok for the sort of stuff you trot out which you completely fail to substantiate -trying to duck the issue by downcrying rational thought. You so bend and twist the spiritual writers you purport yourself master of yet credit none of them with your words or refer any of your ideas to any existant tradition where these great illumined truths of yours can be checked or even researched.

    Were I to go through your posts in detail Nektarios we would be here for months. Were you honest enough just to admit that what you trot out is simply your own pastiche that would be fine but no you have to deliver your words as if fresh from the trumpet blast. You are not a believable witness of the truths you purport Nektarios…. Rather than demand of me that I demonstrate to you, why don’t you begin to reference your ideas to any definite tradition? is after all your good self that is keen on getting to the bottom of things.

    • Nektarios says:

      Mike Horsnall

      Are you finished?
      Who made you a judge over me?
      I have not decried rational thought, but I have questioned some of the conclusions on various topics.

      Yes, I can play the games that we did as young Christians over 40 years ago of chapter and verse. If you say say something give chapter and verse.When quoting a book,, the writer, title of the book and page numer, and if it was a good book to recommend would give the ISBN number as well.

      Yes I can give a bibliography to back up anything I say, but it would be longer than what I said on my postings – all you are getting are distillations, little pointers to probe, investigate a little more and encouragements to go deeper.
      As to the rest of your allegations – well they are just too silly for words, and not worth responding to. That is not that I cannot respond to it, I can, but it would be pointless in your case.
      As for my authority – I am not claiming any authority over anyone. If you think I am, you are misguided.
      Normally, I would not respond to such silly and incorrect allegations you make and in a most unchristian manner.
      I am also aware of some people who have left this blog on accont of some your put downs.
      As for me, I count it of very little consequence to be judged by you, I judge myself far harder than you would ever be aware of.
      I would be grateful if you would refrain and contain yourself from writing such erroneous bile on the blog concerning myself – who you do not know.

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        Retreat behind bluster if you will, do not ask for my honest opinion again .

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Mike – After all this unhappy exchange, I am forced regretfully to consider a distressing possibility: could it be that when a correspondent persists in habitual obscurity, sidestepping pleas for clarification, what is being obscured is not the substance of his thought but the absence of it?

  38. John Candido says:

    There is an excellent interview of ‘reviled’ American Dominican and Canon Lawyer Father Thomas Doyle on ‘Dateline’. The subject of the interview is the Church’s poor response to the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

  39. tim says:

    @ John L. – your recent posts.

    Could not agree with you more about several of them. My wife, like yours, is irritated by unnecessary ‘non-sexist language’, particularly in Church. She was taught by intelligent nuns that ‘brothers’ (in the epistles) meant ‘brothers and sisters’ and has never doubted this for a moment. She is particularly nettled by ‘sisters and brothers’ (the standard English phrases – where they need to be used – are ‘brothers and sisters’ but correspondingly ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ – this is simply convention). I suppose really we should follow St Paul’s advice and each give in to one another’s unimportant prejudices – I wonder why I don’t?

    Don’t beat yourself up about mistypings. We appreciate them. It is much easier to go through a piece and correct the misprints (or argue about them, or simply feel slightly superior) than to provide appreciation, constructive criticism, or even more difficult, a useful and original comment. As to the cry that the language is constantly changing, this is true – but the point (the opposite of Marx’s) is not meekly to accept this, but to change it back. Change in language is bad. People using words in different senses confuse each other – Babel comes again. We should no more countenance change in language than in morals.

  40. Nektarios says:





    • Quentin says:

      I am very sorry to read this, and I hope that Nektarios will find a way to come back to us. Naturally I have followed the recent exchanges concerning him and, while I have no intention of judging who is right, I did not find any comments which breached good practice on this Blog. That is, points seem to have been made temperately and supported by reasons.

  41. John Candido says:

    Nektarious, what you might do is to have a rest and think about what others have said to you in terms of constructive criticism. Discuss it with your wife or a trusted friend of yours. Having that rest and rethink might allow you to return to Secondsight with renewed vigour and insight.

  42. John Candido says:

    I hope that you will not find this as a personal attack on you and your writing in Secondsight Nektarios; however, I will be as truthful to you as possible. I have found most of your writing to be somewhat desultory, excessively focused on minutia; sometimes it is incoherent, irrelevant, unbalanced, and too focused on yourself. Believe it or not Nektarios I am trying to be constructively critical about your written contributions. I am not a paragon of literary ability either as I have done the very same things from time to time in Secondsight.

    You need to be as objective about your writing as possible, and this is no easy task for anybody. I try to follow certain ideals in my own writing with mixed success. If I may list them you might want to utilise them as your own writing goals. First of all get into the habit of reviewing your own writing as often as you can. Getting a friend or teacher to assess what it is you have written is also a very useful method of getting better at writing. These two suggestions alone will help you to improve your contributions immensely, but believe me when I tell you that they are not easy to do. Try to write as simply as possible with the aim being that you want to assist as many people as you can.

    This is a list of writing ideals that most of us only aspire to. Try to write clearly, precisely, specifically, accurately, relevantly, consistently, logically, deeply, completely, significantly, adequately for your purpose, and fairly. In addition, work towards developing a plausible and consistent narrative, utilising a breadth of reading sources, evidentiary support for your arguments, humility, and explanatory power. Try to contribute pieces that are a product of personal reflection, using examples by way of elucidation, and present alternative ways of looking at a situation or issue if possible.

  43. tim says:

    A sad day.

    I accuse no one, and I defend no one – but couldn’t we have done better? But now is not the time for an inquest – later (if at all).

    Whatever his reasons, it is now wise for Nektarios to take a break from this blog. Like others, I hope he may someday return, and that he may find a welcome when he does. Meanwhile I don’t fully subscribe to John C.’s charitable advice about reviewing constructive criticism (I’m always looking for a reason to disagree with John). I think Nektarios should put the whole matter completely out of his mind for at least six months.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      A sad day indeed, but we tried hard to accommodate him. Whether we could have done better – maybe, though I strongly suspect that the outcome would have been the same anyway.

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