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Nicholas Lash (1934-2020)

I learned a few minutes ago that Nicholas Lash had died earlier today.

Nicholas was a brilliant, incisive philosophical theologian who was by far the most formidable member of the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge during the time I was a PhD student. He was, as far as I'm aware, the first Catholic to hold a chair in the Faculty since the Reformation. (A laicized priest married to a former nun, he was not, like many people with similar profiles, an enemy of his church. He remained unapologetically and obviously Catholic.)
Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and the holder not only of a PhD but also of an earned DD from the university, he was an elegant prose stylist whose work was rarely simple—he sought to remind us repeatedly of the complexity of thought, language, and the human situation—but always stimulating and insightful. He engaged with a broad range of topics and figures—from Newman (the subject of his dissertation and first book) to Marx to William James to Gerar…

First DailyNerve Test

Here's a test question for those who want to explore DailyNerve, a great new site designed to generate crowdsourced innovative responses to today's problems.

Awakening to Disappointment: Reviewing Episode VII

Warning: this is a spoiler-rich review. Proceed at your own risk.
Viewed as a stand-alone movie, The Force Awakens is perfectly watchable and interesting, with decent dialogue, high production values, and a story that, if not compelling, is at least intriguing. And, hey, it’s co-written by Lawrence Kasdan. But TFA is not a stand-alone movie: it’s Episode VII of the Star Wars saga and, as such, it’s a disappointment.
The biggest insult to fan loyalty is, of course, the death of Han Solo. Many people’s favorite character in Episodes IV-VI, Solo doesn’t get enough screen time in EpVII, and his relationships with the other characters seem developed in rather perfunctory fashion. Still, for anyone who’s cared about the characters for decades and valued the series since its inception, Solo matters, and killing him off is a brutal slap in the face. (Hardly surprising behavior, unfortunately, on the part of the director who annihilated Vulcan and canceled an entire time-line so he could turn St…

Another DailyNerve test: Planned Parenthood and tissue sales

As we know, a great deal of attention has been focused on-line on the issue of whether Planned Parenthood locals have sold tissue from aborted fetuses. To provide another test of the DailyNerve platform:

Suppose tissue sales occurred: how could Planned Parenthood most effectively defend them?

DailyNerve Test: Responding to deBlasio on Uber

I've been involved for several years in the work of BigNerve and associated companies. One of those companies, DailyNerve, focuses on "solution news." According to the site: "Have you ever read a piece of news and thought, “how hard could that really be to fix?” or better yet, “I know how we could fix that!”? Well, here’s your chance to get those ideas out there. At DailyNerve you are the think tank to the news. / We have one simple goal. We want to find ingenious solutions for common problems that plague people on both a local and a global level, and we want to utilise crowd sourcing to do it. That means getting those ideas out of YOUR head, and into reality.”

DailyNerve works by inviting reader responses to question-centered contests, with reader-proposed solutions assessed through a sophisticated crowd-based technique. I'm testing the platform today with a question (framed, like all DailyNerve contest questions, in the subjunctive):

How could activists seekin…

On Seth Adam Smith's Dad

Less than a year ago, Seth Adam Smith's great blog post, "Marriage Isn't For You," went viral. In the post, Smith explains how, not long before his wedding, his dad dealt bluntly with his cold feet by urging him to think about giving to, rather than getting from, his bride-to-be.
It is, as I say, a great piece. But it raises an interesting question for me, a question somewhere at the border of normative and applied ethics.
The crucial moment in Smith's story comes when his dad says: Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. . . . Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.It seems clear that the elder Smith isn't offering a report on what he thinks his son is doing, much less on what people in general are do…

Does Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince Commit the Sunk-Costs Fallacy?

Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince contains a simple explanation of what seems like an important aspect of love: history. The Little Prince seeks to explain why his rose, in particular, matters to him. (It seems likely that Saint-Exupéry was trying to understand and justify his tumultuous relationship with his wife.) The Little Prince is deeply troubled by the discovery of many, many roses that seem phenomenally indistinguishable from his rose. He says to them:
You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you—the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars; because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumble…