Revisiting: A Dating (Multi)Culture

Every third Saturday of the month I intend to re-post something I wrote for one of my assorted old blogs or tumblogs. What I’m sharing today comes with a bit of backstory, but it explains that itself; what I should say about “A Dating (Multi)Culture” from The Thinking Grounds is that it was one of my attempts to figure out multiculturalism, and less what it is than what it could be.

Source: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives at

Source: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives at

A Dating (Multi)Culture

Leah Libresco is kvetching about dating woes at her blog Unequally Yoked, in some conversation with other bloggers. One of these other bloggers, Thomas Umstattd, critiqued the courtship culture he had spent some portion of his life promoting and offered as a substitute a 1950s-style model of casual dating. In this model, people do not go out on a date with the same person twice in a row. If a guy takes you out for ice cream on Monday and you want to take him up on his invitation to the Saturday night dance, you need to get a date with someone else during the week. This way, accepting a date or asking someone out on a date doesn’t imply anything much, and you get to know a number of people in a romance-possible context without feeling like you’re leading them on. After all, if I know my date is seeing another guy two days from now, I can hardly feel entitled to her attentions or affections. What we call “dating” was called “going steady” or “exclusive” back then, and it meant that you’d then only go on dates with that one person. By the time anyone proposed marriage, you had gone on dates with rather a lot of people and had a sense of what you were looking for in a partner.* Continue reading

Moral Error Theist

When I wrote about my personal myth, I was combining three ideas that had independently attracted me: emergent phenomenon, etc.; tzimtzum and a weak/limited God creating order from chaos; inherent vice and information studies as a long defeat against entropy. After this I want to be able to talk about ethics, but as before I’m really combining what I’ve built up already with other insights (this time, ethical philosophy) and I think, in order to talk about that synthesis, I first have to introduce you to some of the ethical ideas I’ve been considering. This will thus be a bit of a detour, but hopefully it is more scenic route than summer construction.


Source: More Good Foundation at

If you’ve spoken with me about moral philosophy or seen my commenting on certain blogs, you might be familiar with my most recent former position on morality. For those who haven’t and for those who have forgotten, I’ll summarize that position below:

One of the following propositions is true: a) there are such things as objective moral facts, but we have no reliable way of knowing them with sufficient certainty; or b) a position called moral error theory is true and therefore there are no objective moral facts. Both handle equally well the evidence I have available to me. Lacking any objective metric to distinguish between the two, I lean toward the former position because the consequences of falsely rejecting it are worse than the consequences of falsely rejecting moral error theory and because, for me personally, it is easier to psychologically survive in a world of uncertain moral significance than in a world with no moral significance.

I bring this up because I have been changing my mind; specifically, I am now leaning more toward moral error theory, but with a twist.

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Tzimtzum and Inherent Vice: A Personal Myth of Pattern

The last time I wrote about the pattern-based worldview I’m trying to work out, I got on the topic of afterlives and religion, in a way very brief, casual, and personally unsatisfying way. I do not have a strong sense of my audience yet, so I can’t say whether that’s something that would bore or bother you; nonetheless, I’m going to be talking about my personal religious attitudes for at least a few more posts while I talk about living and thinking in this world I’m working out. For this post I’m going to pick up where I left off when I was talking about digital phylacteries: if resurrection is “easy,” why would Christianity suggest that it is difficult for God to effect?


“Order. Chaos. Order.” Source: Mike Mahaffie at

But first I want to make something clear: what follows is on the order of myth. I do not mean to offer it as a complete, literal cosmology, not even of a highly speculative variety. Certainly it is no replacement for physics as a description of the cosmos. Moreover, I am open to correction on how compatible this myth is with other bodies of knowledge; if you see problems, let me know.

A second thing I should make clear is that this account is stitched together from Richard Beck’s “Warfare and Weakness,” a series of posts on his blog Experimental Theology, in which Beck looks to combine the insights of John D. Caputo’s The Weakness of God and Greg Boyd’s God at War to create an invigorating, enabling warfare theology that will rescue progressive theology from its doldrums.1 In particular, I am drawing on “Part 5, The Weakness of God,” “Part 6, Let There Be Light,” and “Part 7, The Victory of the Lamb.” I have also layered it with my own views on emergence, reality-as-reliability, and other pattern-based worldview work, which don’t appear in Beck’s version nor, as far as I know, in Caputo’s and Boyd’s books.

Without further ado, the myth:

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Clouds, Daffodils, and Jam That Will Not Come Together Again: A Series Index

I have been gradually trying to work out–on? through?–the consequences of defining and understanding reality as reliable emergent patterns; while this seems too obvious a point to belabour, I’ve been getting some surprising results and thought it would be worth writing about.

This is an index or table of contents, which I will update as I post more on this topic.

  1. Reliable, Therefore Real – Making a definition of the word real that I find useful
  2. On Santa Claus and Hofstadter’s Souls – Expanding on Hofstadter’s discussion of consciousness and identity and considering whether Santa Claus or the Greek god Apollo are real
  3. Digital Phylacteries and the Simulated Afterlife – Extrapolating from the above to simulations that might be afterlives and afterlives that might be simulations
  4. Tzimtzum and Inherent Vice: A Personal Myth of Pattern – Writing a cosmological myth to see if and how what I’ve discussed above can cohere with my pre-existing religious (and library science) beliefs
  5. Moral Error Theist – Taking a detour into moral error theory to prepare for further talk about patterns, persons, and ethics
  6. Magnanimity – A look at one virtue in a world where people are patterns (upcoming)
  7. Eudaimonia – A look at a second virtue in a world where people are patterns (upcoming)
  8. TBA – Discussing Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt (upcoming)
  9. Harmony – A look at eudaimonia on a social level, using a word I really quite loathe
  10. Courage and Criticism – A look at a final pair of virtues that intersect with the others
  11. Declaring Allegiance to Pattern – A more theoretical overview (upcoming)
  12. Reassessing Three Controversies – How I’ve changed my mind, and haven’t, on three controversies typically linked to religious worldview: homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia (upcoming)

The title of this index comes from two different sections of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia:

The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives, the things people write poetry about—clouds—daffodils—waterfalls—what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in—these things are full of mystery, as mysterious to us as the heavens were to the Greeks.


When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backwards, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before. Do you think this is odd?

Monthly Marvel: Cheshire Cat

On the first Saturday of each month for at least the next little while I intend to share here one of the Weekly Wonders from that previous project. The Cheshire cat, known mostly for its grin, is this month’s wonder.


This week’s fantastic being is the Cheshire cat.

Image source: the Namesake webcomic (, by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon, who hold copyright. Used with permission.

Image source: the Namesake webcomic (, by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon, who hold copyright. Used with permission.

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