At the NCRegister Blog: Taking Another Look at Pascal’s Wager

Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence, and the Abundant Life by Michael Rota, a Catholic philosophy professor, is an interesting consideration of whether one should choose to live a Christian life. Written for readers who have no formal training in philosophy or theology in a very accessible format, Professor Rota presents, in this newly released book, Blaise Pascal’s seventeenth century argument, which we now know as “Pascal’s Wager.” Pascal originally intended the wager to be for people who do not have a firm belief in God or are wavering in their faith.

The Interim State Conference in Idaho: AKA “Our Second Honeymoon”

Apparently M and I went on our “second honeymoon” last week, deemed so by our philosopher friend who happened to be at the same conference in Idaho with his family (we will call them “the P’s”). Who wouldn’t want their second honeymoon to take place with a newborn tagging along at a philosophy conference on a lovely lake in Idaho. 
What better topic to have in mind on a second honeymoon than that awkward “Interim State” between Death and the Resurrection of the body. Will that really be us existing without our bodies or do we need our bodies to be us? Or will we really us but just not as complete as we should be? 
If you want to know these answers, look for some published papers that will be accepted for publication in the next 12-24 months and published in about 4-6 years once the journals make it through their backlog. Well, maybe some journals will manage to publish them in about 3…
The river and mountains between Boise and McCall, Idaho.

 So, the story starts last Tuesday when, Aunt J and Uncle T arrived to spend the night. The next morning, after dropping M, baby T, and I at the airport, the girls and the relatives headed to the farm in Wisconsin for the duration of our trip.

We flew for the first time with any of our children this trip, and traveling with just a newborn (that happens to be our fourth newborn) is super easy. Plus, everyone is deceived into thinking your baby is well-behaved because he just acts like all other newborns: eat, poop, sleep, repeat. The worst part of it was nights, because my rocking chair did not fit on the airplane. I think that hotels should offer rocking chairs as well as roll-away cribs.

The mountain range around McCall.
 So back to Wednesday, we were whisked through security at the airport and enjoyed a quiet early lunch. The flight was easy breezy as T slept the whole way until descent. He did not seem to mind the pressure changes. We enjoyed an early dinner and a local brew while we awaited our shuttle to McCall. A conference participant was on our flight, so they embarked on the philosophical discussion even then. It lasted the 2.5 hour whole shuttle ride with other conference participants. We met a lot of really neat philosophers at this conference. You would like them… even if some are wrong in their views… 😉

By the time we got to the hotel, T had had enough, and fussed for the next 4 hours until he fell asleep for 3 hours, woke up and then slept 3 more hours. So, Thursday morning, we were somewhat rested. Though I survived the morning on three cups of hotel coffee.

Ponderosa State Park, McCall, Idaho.
Thursday morning (while the Interim State was discussed in depth at the hotel by the conference participants) involved going to a state park with other philosophy families and their children and getting lost in the woods with some members of the P family. It was a nice hike. The one and four year old were really into the Idaho squirrel.

This is before we knew we were lost.

Being a fan of Terence Malick films has forever ruined being in the woods for me in that I hear Jim Caviezel’s voice in my head as I look up at trees saying things like, “all things shining” and “the glory”.

It was a beautiful day and I really did experience the glory in those woods.

Once we were rescued, we made it back to the hotel and I went out to lunch with M and a neat family (the B’s), napped with the baby in the hotel room while the conference went on, and then went out for a steak dinner with lots of participants and their families.

Friday morning was high 50s and windy, but we braved the beach and took in the view. When you are six weeks old on a day like this, you prefer to stay snuggled up to Mom.

The lake and the mountains were amazing. Once again we had lunch with the philosophers and rested in the hotel for the afternoon and watched the other families swim at the pool. Dinner involved fish and chips, two locally brewed beers, lively discussion on Purgatory, C.S. Lewis, and liturgy, and this amazing dessert! Since it is called a “grasshopper”, I highly recommend it for any feast of St. John the Baptist, except for his beheading when you have to eat cabbage.

Taste the glory.

And here is the first photo ever taken of just M and his son, which is not really, because we have all of those strangers mulling around in the background. I could not get him to smile. Maybe he is contemplating being in the Interim State and is not happy about it.

This was about as romantic as our “Second Honeymoon” got: A chilly walk to the lake as the sun was setting. I was longing for a sweater, and the baby was about to hit “fussy hour.”

Saturday, I leisurely read a book and drank coffee while the baby napped in his stroller and carseat. The conference ended at lunchtime, so we once again discussed philosophy over lunch (I mostly listened), and shuttled back to Boise for the night. Don’t even ask how the night at the Airport Inn went. Let’s just say we got coffee at the airport.

See, we went to the airport!

Here in this second photograph with “just” his son, M is kind of smiling, but the airport guy with the sticks is photo bombing.

We made it home safely to St. Paul, and Uncle T got us from the airport. The girls were happy and waiting for us.

So, ended our “second honeymoon.” I hope I get to go to another conference sometime before the next seven years are up…

A few last thoughts:
-Philosophy conferences are fun! Free hotels and eating out every meal! Also, always lively discussions at every meal!
-It takes three disposable baby wipes to do the work that one cloth wipe can do.
-It is nice to be able to talk to other adults for 4 days without interruptions beyond that of a needy newborn.
-I missed my other kids by the end.
-Hotels really need to have rocking chairs in the rooms, not just wrought iron ones at the pool.

Seven Quick Takes–Sept 20

1. Some days a second massive cup of coffee is necessary. Some days it must be made with two packets of hot cocoa powder (as opposed to my usual black). I am not sure why I am so tired, but I am. Plus, my feet are cold. I probably should go put my slippers on.

2. This is the life, let me tell you. At 11:30 AM on a cool Fall morning, we are up, dressed, fed, have been to morning Mass, vacuumed the usable part of the house, the baby took a good nap, and the older girls and I did school, coloring, and played Blokus. Now they are running around outside in jackets and the baby is cheerfully playing on the floor with an empty purple cup. And I might actually write quick takes on a Friday.

3. Saga of the Leaky Pipe Update: Not much to say here, except for the questionable plumbing work done my the previous owner has been replaced with professional work (this was Monday). Our project manager is coming on Monday with carpet and paint samples for me to pick out!!! Does anyone think that light yellow walls with a grayish carpet will look bad? Please say something before I make the choice!! The walls should be done while we are visiting all the awesome people of Buffalo next week.

4. Hot-Cocoa-Coffee is amazing, and a lot less expensive and effort than running out to a coffee shop with three kids.

5. If the kids are still happy when the quick takes are done, I am going to read the Papal interview that everyone is talking about. But there is always quiet time for that, though I am trying to hash out a blog post in my mind so the too goods will be competing for attention.

6. M and I restarted doing something that we should have done months ago. You see, we live one mile from a perpetual adoration chapel. This means that when our kids are all in bed at 8pm, we have no excuse for one of us not to go to the chapel at least once a week. So, we started taking turns again last week. It is really good for us to do and maybe I will be more focused in prayer in general because of it.

7. And for some practice in ethics, I leave you with the Trolley Problem game.

For more quick takes, head over to Jen’s Conversion Diary Blog. 🙂

Phenomenological Evidence that I am from the South

Happy April 18th everyone! Today it is snowing in Minnesota. They predict 4-8 inches. Maybe my “Northern-Mid-Western-Michigander” husband has been right all along and I am really from the South. I never thought of St. Louis as in the South but look at this weather they have there:

That looks like Spring to me. 64 and raining is better any day than this:

And Buffalo, NY (which most of the country believes to be East Coast but is actually 8 hours of road West of the coast) where we lived the four previous years is having some nice Summer weather today:

I am pretty sure Minnesota should change its name to Siberia, and then maybe I would be more able to handle this weather. But that is probably not true and what is true is that Missouri is really and truly a Southern state.
So here is my phenomenological evidence: I have been doing some self-sensing and some sensing of the world around me (my environment). Mostly I have been sensing cold. For the past six months I have been sensing cold. And I have been seeing a lot of white outside and sensing cold white things on my nose and eyelashes. That is all fine when we are getting ready for Christmas, and maybe I can tolerate a bit of it during Lent when it is supposed to be a penitential season anyway, but my senses are giving me evidence that I am not from around here and I am actually a Southerner. St. Louis is in the South and not in the North or the Mid-west. And Buffalo is just a bit quirky when it comes to weather.

The Metaphysics of Waffle Makers

I made waffles the other night for dinner in honor of the Feast of the Annunciation. M is wonderful and does the dishes every night. When he got to the waffle maker we had the following conversation:

M: How should I wash the waffle maker?
S: Just wipe it down with a paper towel.
M: Should I immerse it in hot, soapy water?
S: Well, that would break it. Would it even be a waffle maker then?
M: If it did not function as a waffle maker would it still be one?
S: I don’t think it would be. Maybe we could put it in a 20 lb bag of rice for a week and then it would work again.
M: What if I completely rewired it, would it still be the same waffle maker or a new one?
S: It would be the same one, I think.
M: Do waffle makers persist through part replacement?

Thought of His Thoughts

M after reading a text for an hour: “I should have written my dissertation on ________! He is awesome!”

He goes on describing how this philosopher says all the things that another philosopher said, but way earlier. He quotes me a few lines.

Me: “Do you feel like you are Adam finding your Eve? ‘At last this is experience of my experience, thought of my thoughts?'”

That is what is is like to live with a philosopher. In case you did not know.

On the Morality of Wearing Makeup

Update July 24, 2018:
I have a complete opinion on this matter that I wrote last December.

She came back from the job interview with a job offer in hand. As I talked to her about the student work position on our college campus, she mentioned that her new boss told her that she would be expected to wear makeup at her job. While I knew that women often wore makeup to work, I had never been required to wear it to work. I felt a little upset for my friend who sat through being told by a man that she — a young, pretty woman — had to wear makeup while men who worked in the same workplace had no such requirement.

Up to this point it had seemed normal to me that one would choose to wear makeup in a professional or formal setting, but when it was imposed on my friend I started to feel that there was a problem with it. With so many women coming out with their stories and accusations of men treating them with impropriety, we need to dig deeper into the causes of this problem. The expectation that women use cosmetics is just one of many contributing factors our society’s tendency to reduce women to objects to be used rather than human persons to be loved.

Read the rest here.

Lately, I have been thinking about the morality of wearing makeup. As in all moral questions in this household, St. Thomas Aquinas gave his opinion from the Summa Theologica first. If you don’t want to read the questions linked, I will make a brief summary.

In the first article he asks if there can be “virtue and vice in connection with outward apparel”? He answers that the vice one could have from outward apparel comes from the person using the apparel immoderatly, 1) being contrary to the customs among those whom one lives and 2) by having immoderate attachment to the apparel. Under number two one can have these vices a) dressing to seek glory, b) too much attention to sensuous pleasure (only focusing on the bodies pleasure in dress), and c) being too solicitous in regards to one’s outward attire. Thus, one must seek the virtues of humility and contentment to overcome the vices of immoderation in dress.  While one can be too focused in this way, one can also be deficient.  In neglecting one’s outward apparel, one can also be seeking glory by giving the appearance of being in the service of God, thus deriving glory from others’ opinions. But one can also be deficient in the social customs of dress and neglect to have the correct knowledge of how one is to present oneself. One last point is that one should dress according to one’s station in life so as to be truthful in how one presents oneself.

So, how does this apply to makeup and cosmetics? The second question is “Whether the adornment of women is devoid of moral sin?”

Okay, I am not trying to make anyone angry, and I am not trying to offend anyone. Part of being a Christian is examining our lives and choosing to live morally. I am simply trying to examine the morality of wearing makeup which is so culturally expected and in many cases required of women. Be prepared for a shocking response….

St. Thomas says that a woman should dress so as to not lead others into sin. That sounds about right. He also says that a “married woman can adorn herself to please her husband without sin.” So, if one’s husband prefers it (and it does not violate moral law), she should please him! What if one is single? If one has no wish to marry, then it is wrong to wear things that incite men to lust, especially if that is one’s intention.

St. Frances De Sales says in Chapter 25 of Introduction to the Devout Life, that “a wife may dress to please her husband, and that it is lawful for a maiden to dress to please her friends.” He explains that “propriety in dress consists in material, fashion, and cleanliness.” And as “to the material and fashion of clothes, propriety in these respects depends on various circumstances such as time, age, rank, those with whom you associate; and it varies on different occasions.” This sounds reasonable and even very practical. One dresses nicer for a wedding than for everyday occasions. And it would be silly to paint the house or scrub the floor in my best clothes! Once again one is to pay attention to the social acceptability. When considering cleanliness there is frequent bathing (which is often hard for mother’s of young children) and maintaining other hygienic habits.

One thing I want to say here is that the social customs, no matter how prevalent, do not usurp the moral law. And while I will not list them here, there are a number of common social customs that are clearly in violation of the moral law. That being said, it is possible for social customs to be wrong.

Now we come to Question 169, Article 2, Objection 2 (links and text from the source linked above at Cyprian says (De Habit. Virg.): “I hold that not only virgins and widows, but also wives and all women without exception, should be admonished that nowise should they deface God’s work and fabric, the clay that He has fashioned, with the aid of yellow pigments, black powders or rouge, or by applying any dye that alters the natural features.” And afterwards he adds: “They lay hands on God, when they strive to reform what He has formed. This is an assault on the Divine handiwork, a distortion of the truth. Thou shalt not be able to see God, having no longer the eyes that God made, but those the devil has unmade; with him shalt thou burn on whose account thou art bedecked.” But this is not due except to mortal sin. Therefore the adornment of women is not devoid of mortal sin.”

St. Thomas responds to the objection with this: Cyprian is speaking of women painting themselves: this is a kind of falsification, which cannot be devoid of sin. Wherefore Augustine says (Ep. ccxlv ad Possid.): “To dye oneself with paints in order to have a rosier or a paler complexion is a lying counterfeit. I doubt whether even their husbands are willing to be deceived by it, by whom alone” (i.e. the husbands) “are they to be permitted, but not ordered, to adorn themselves.” However, such painting does not always involve a mortal sin, but only when it is done for the sake of sensuous pleasure or in contempt of God, and it is to like cases that Cyprian refers. 

It must, however, be observed that it is one thing to counterfeit a beauty one has not, and another to hide a disfigurement arising from some cause such as sickness or the like. For this is lawful, since according to the Apostle (1 Corinthians 12:23), “such as we think to be the less honorable members of the body, about these we put more abundant honor.””

The main objection is that when one puts makeup on a human face, one is creating a falsehood by presenting ones made-up face as one’s own face, and further “assaulting” the “Divine handiwork.” These are strong accusations and I have already heard several reactions to them.

1) These statements were made for that time and not our time. I do not see this a a good objection. Women throughout history have always worn makeup and covering one’s face in the past is not different than covering one’s face now.

2) Makeup is to accentuate one’s beauty and does not cover up God’s creation except the blemishes which St. Thomas says is okay. I think this is a valid point and can see how makeup does not cause one to counterfeit one’s appearance.

3) What about social custom?  It is socially prevalent, and one person compared it to “shaving legs.” Another person pointed out that there is a material difference between removing body hair and applying layers of chemicals to one’s face creating a sort of mask.  Another point is that are the social customs just adding to the objectification of women? If a woman does not wear makeup in the workplace is she seen as less? Is expecting woman to wear makeup making her lower than men? (I have heard from a trustworthy man that he has heard many negative things about women who don’t wear makeup from other men). If a woman in Western society does not wear makeup, is she deficient in the social customs category? Does it depend on how socially acceptable her natural complexion is?

These are all questions that have disturbed me while considering the morality and I really am not sure how to answer them. If you have an opinion, I would love to hear it. Please comment here so as to keep the discussion in one place!

One thing is clear to me, and that is if there is vanity and lack of humility in one’s personal wearing of makeup, then it is sinful to do so. The points about seeking glory, seeking pleasure, and inordinate attachment to are applicable to wearing makeup. Can one also be deficient?

It’s Been Awhile…

Yes, I did drop off the face of blogspot into what is called the first trimester of pregnancy. And the way I approach blogging is if I don’t have something that will impress the whole room to say, than I never take the time to say it. Please compare me to Elizabeth Bennet or Mr. Darcy, or both, in this approach.

Anyway, I am eagerly awaiting the end of nausea and a bit more energy in the next couple of weeks and am going to post because it has been so long, whether I impress anybody or not. The last month has been pretty insane. G, gave up her naptime, but still retreats into quiet time every afternoon, which makes me realize how much I love the quiet of the afternoon. The girls keep each other up for an hour every night instead of falling asleep of late, but whatever, at least they are in their room. And in the middle of the not falling asleep shenanigans that go on, G. bounced out of her bed and broke her wrist. Oh boy! A cast for at least three weeks and she is already sick of it; it’s been three days. Also, I am now married to a doctor of philosophy, which meant that for the past two weeks I was trying to read a 375 page dissertation before I attend my husband’s defense. This lead to strange pregnancy dreams of not finishing in time and that sense of dread I used to get back in school when I was afraid I would not have time to finish my homework. I failed to finish, and did not get to go anyway since I was getting my daughter put in a cast. Plus, there were Easter preparations and trying to find food I can eat without feeling sick.

I found a new thing that makes my stomach turn today: watching my one year old squish up cheese. I am really glad I savored the non-pregnant 15 months I had after L. was born. Babies are a blessing, but pregnancy really does take a lot of energy. I was thinking, if we have twelve kids, I am almost a quarter of the way through first trimesters!

Oh and I am the proud winner of about 15 games of Sudoku on the iPad. I finally braved the game and discovered the way to reason it out. It is addicting. This also means there are 15 fewer blog posts on this blog.

That’s about it. But I promise that I will soon write and amazing comparison between Jean De Brunhoff’s Babar the King and a reading from my husbands Catholic social teaching class. Thanks for reading…

How Liberal Education Can Continue Even When You Are The Mother Of Small Children: Part Two The Intellectual Life

I was the kid who preferred reading novels all day to playing outside or with toys, or even watching tv. I would escape for hours into a novel, and as soon as that was finished pick up another. Most things I read were not great literature, but as my excellent high school guided me in my reading choices, I became more selective. In college I was a part of the honors Great Books program, and slowly learned to become a scholar. My final degrees of choice were theology and philosophy, and through several inspiring yet academically rigorous professors I learned how to do research and write a good paper. My then fiancé and I both decided to take a summer and school year to work on our Masters degrees, I chose theology and he philosophy. That year was very formative. I realized that I truly enjoyed the intellectual rigor of studying the liberal arts, the one I studied being theology. Once I graduated the studying ceased. I discussed prayer last week, here I want to discuss continuing the intellectual life.

The first thing to do is READ. However, since time is so precious, one has to be particular about what to read. I spent much of my first pregnancy immersed in classic novels, and then if you go back a few years on this blog you can see my feeble attempts to “get something out of them.” I was not very good at reading more than fiction after four years of intense study at the university, but I read the occasional history and essay. My husband continually encourages me to read philosophy and theology. It helped that there were several books he wanted me to read. I have read a quarter of his dissertation. He convinced me to start the Summa Theologica during my second pregnancy. I made it a few questions in. I am also reading the assigned readings for his class on Catholic Social Teaching this semester, and am in the midst of a good novel. The point is to make good choices about what you read and take the time to do it. I do most of my reading after the kids are in bed, and sometimes I can do a little when they are playing together (though that time is usually for housework or playing with them).

The next thing I do is TALK. I talk to my husband, of course. It helps that my best friend whom I live with loves great books, theology, and of course philosophy. It did take several years of marriage for me to realize how important it was to him that I converse with him about what he is currently researching and about what I am reading. It is really good for our friendship and marriage when we keep up with each other in an intellectual way. I also am blessed with friends from college who are geeks like me and read classic novels. These we discuss via phone. But having people who share your interests to talk to really helps.

The last thing I do is to write this blog. I am determined to write one more intellectual post a week about some of my reading or based in conversations I have had. My husband likes to write ideas in a journal. He also gets paid to think, so that helps him. But as a stay at home mom, reading, talking, and writing is a big struggle and it is a challenge to make it a priority.

Making the effort to do these three things has helped me find balance in my life, and keeps me happy. The intellectual life is as essential to my life as regular prayer and regular exercise, and it make my husband happy. Knowing these things about myself, I also know that I really have to work at it. It is not easy to develop the habits, but it is possible even while taking care of small children and a home. I know it make me a better mother and wife, and when I get bombarded with questions about God or life by an almost three year old I feel confident in my answer and pleased to be beginning a liberal education for my children.

Pre-Literate Philosophy

Photo is from when G. was the age L. is now

I could not help my laughter when I heard G. yell,
“Ready, Think, Go!” before charging around the house with her doll stroller full of her most favorite animals.

But seriously, it is good advice. I know my biggest problems occur when I forget to think before I go or before I speak.