Saturday, May 30, 2020

Modern philosophy and the scholastics

For many years I was intrigued by the thought of Edith Stein. Of course one reason for the curiosity was her conversion from Judaism to Christianity in the times when Jewish thought flourished (take Martin Buber's thought as only one example), the second was her decision to leave her Jewish family and become Catholic nun in a very strict, contemplative order. 
But it was still the most mysterious to me how she, coming from the school of Edmund Husserl, evolved into a domain of neo-scholastics...
To understand this, I started to read her "Finite and Eternal Being"...

See her own, deeply honest admission, made in the introduction to the book:

"This (...) seems especially appropriate in the case of the author of this book: Her philosophical home is the school of Edmund Husserl, and her philosophic mother tongue is the language of the phenomenological thinkers. She therefore uses phenomenology as a starting point to find her way into the majestic temple of scholastic thought."

I'm excited to discover how does she go along that path ...

First discovery is ... of the amazing clarity and objectivity Stein approaches philosophy with a deliberate distancing from faith and religion. The rigor she is applying to that distinction, comes, from St. Thomas Aquinas himself, and from many of thinkers of the "thomistic" tradition, like Jacques Maritain.

When writing about the goals and functions of philosophy she says:

"It is one of the function of philosophy to elucidate the fundamental principles of all the sciences"
However, when she goes into the relation between philosophy and a religious doctrine, she remarks:

"Whatever derives from the synthesis of theological and philosophic truth bears the imprint of this dual source of knowledge, and faith, as we are told, is a "dark light". Faith helps us to understand something, but only in order to point to something that remains for us incomprehensible. Since the ultimate ground of all existence is unfathomable, everything which is seen in this ultimate perspective moves into that "dark light" of faith, and everything intelligible is placed in a setting with an incomprehensible background. That is what Erich Przywara means when he speaks of a reductio ad mysterium."
 The intro, and its chapter "Is there a Christian Philosophy" is an amazing proof of the author intellectual honesty. Now, to the essence ...
More to come.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The court is not a premise for rent by politicians

This is Google Translated text of the Supreme Court Judge and the Professor of Jagiellonian University Włodzimierz Wróbel.
The original text is here.

The court is not a premise to rent by politicians. Judge Wróbel's words vibrate like a remorse of those in power... 

My name is Włodzimierz Wróbel, I am a judge in the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court and at the same time I teach criminal law at the Jagiellonian University. We already know that we operate outside the mode, it also turned out today that this mode will end in nothing, which is why the chairman declared that he would not exercise the constitutional competence of the body in which we were and would not vote on the resolution on the performance (as the chairman said), the President of the Republic of Poland, candidates for the first president of the Supreme Court.

If this was a normal procedure in which such candidates were to be selected, then I would probably shudderly tell you about my vision of the Supreme Court, what should be changed, what should be improved, how should it work and probably would not be here in the room or cameras, nor would anyone be interested in it.

I will make this statement a little different. We think that here are the walls in this room, but this room has no walls. Thanks to the decision that we have media access, we have a transparent process, citizens are watching us. I know that my students are also watching me. During the pandemic, instead of normal lectures, we did talk about law and I know that now my seminarians - Andrzej, Kuba, Monika, Mikołaj - listen to this on Facebook. I invite you now to talk about what is happening here.

A tiny constitutional body, one tiny provision

We are in the hall where the general assembly of SN judges is taking place. It's a tiny constitutional body. One small constitution provision. He says that this assembly is to present the president with candidates for the post of head of the main court in this country. Of course, there are many such judgments, we can tell each other that everyone has their own powers, but we know the meaning of the Supreme Court. This is a key position. It can change any judgment of a practically different court.

The head of this court also has a huge position, regardless of how he can organize the work of the Supreme Court, let us remember that he is the head of the State Tribunal, the court that judges the authorities.

A tiny constitutional body, one tiny provision that says that this assembly is to present candidates. The creators of the constitution knew why this provision sounds this way.

Because they knew that every power, no matter what color it is, has a huge snatch to court, because the courts are the only independent, impartial institution that has this power to control. It is to defend the citizen against abuse of this power.

And it is known that there has always been and will be tension between political power and the courts, no matter who rules.

Those who wrote this constitution invented such a mechanism of mutual control, check and balance - say the English. Namely, judges cannot call their own bosses, they must present five candidates, and Mr. President cannot, according to the constitution, simply send to the Supreme Court whom he wants, a politician or a lawyer and make him the head of this institution. You have to get along. You have to communicate.

What is the agreement about? And the fact that the assembly is to present, today the law says, five candidates and from them the president is to choose one and appoint as the first president of the Supreme Court. A simple provision, the act repeats.

Why is this so important? Therefore, that the Supreme Court would not become another political prey, especially when there is increasing social and political tension, such a huge temptation exists to win more independent institutions, to free them, to make them dysfunctional.

Two sentences that shook the judge
So what is happening now, what are we dealing with now? There are two sentences that I am asking you - and I am talking to you, my seminarians, I am talking to you here, I am talking to everyone who listens to me - I was shocked by the two sentences I heard recently.

The first sentence of a prominent politician of the currently ruling party, but it could probably be that of any other politician. He said that in a moment the last bastion will fall, he thought about this event in which we participate, about the general assembly that is to choose the candidates for the first president. Of course, the whole Supreme Court was implicitly implied - this is where the last bastion will fall. But the sentence, which was even more shocking to me, is such a conversation, Mikołaj, remember, you once asked if it is worth being a judge in this country, is there sense? Do you have students, would you like to hear such a sentence from a law student, a young man?

Ladies and gentlemen, what is this gathering for, why are we sitting here, why are we arguing and arguing? That is why we want this bastion to remain as a bastion of justice, and not just become - I don't know - a place to rent by politicians, a caravan where everyone can sit and spend some time. Or in which you can give away elite jobs. That's what this constitutional fuse is for.

The second part of the lecture, the second part of our conversation. A recipe for how such institutions are taken over. This is a very important moment when it is worth talking to lawyers about the legal system, because these independent institutions, such as the court, what is supposed to protect citizens,

that the court was not yours or ours, I go back to that phrase non-stop, only to court was an independent state, no matter what political power in this country is governed.

There will always be tension and there are always ideas on how to appropriate independent institutions. Recipe? You know him very well. What is done first? First, a film is made, judges are turned into beasts, castes, communists, thieves, judges do not have the habit of speaking, they speak with judgments. This situation in which this media attack, a political attack, surprised many. They couldn't say much. Was the justice system functioning well? Sure not. Should that justice just be plowed and say that it doesn't make sense?

Ladies and gentlemen, nothing gives such great satisfaction as the opportunity to unleash authority in the mud. This is a great mechanism. This is the first element.

How is the independent state institution taken over? Procedures are invented, on which politicians mainly influence, political institutions such as the National Court Register are created, which are chosen by politicians themselves, a law is created so that the final decision is always made by a politician and lawyers are often sought, who are often with good will and good will with intention, and often without good will and good intention, they will enter this political plan.

Who will such a president be?
What happens next? We can still see it in this room. We are already beyond any procedure. There is a general assembly, there is a collegiate body, whether someone is being nominated politically who will be the head of this body, after all this is a presidential nomination, you can choose any person. And suddenly it turns out that this constitutional body is not the General Assembly, but the chairman of the proceedings, who decides everything, prejudges everything, says what the law looks like, issues ordinances on how we should discuss whether we will throw into the box or we can verbally ask anyone, we are out of mode.

Finally, it turns out that this procedure is also to end with nothing, it is to be torpedoed, in fact it does not come to what this procedure is to end.

So what happens next? Ladies and gentlemen, this question is the most difficult to answer. I could not explain to you, what I am saying to my seminarians. After all, it is known that nobody will trust such a court, which will be taken over by politicians. He will not be effective, he will not be able to settle disputes, because he will be our court, but not a joint court.

Who will be the president elected in such a procedure?

I do not know, we are still in a phase that has not ended, but from the chairman's statement to this wall, we are heading to this catastrophe, i.e. such an illegal procedure of presenting candidates to the president. Will the president call? I hope not, but maybe he will. And how will it end? Will I be the president of the Supreme Court whom no one will recognize or only a part will recognize? Will I the president of the Supreme Court, who will change any political change, this one, no one, today, tomorrow, in a month, in two years, in three years, in three years, and then another political power will sweep him out again.

We want the first president of the Supreme Court who, when he wonders where he can go abroad, will see only one neighboring country who will be able to accept him?

I don't know, I can't answer the question, what is all this for? Maybe you will be more implied here I am talking to my students.

And the third topic, what are the meetings for, what is really going on here and who is here? Lawyers are sitting in the room. Judges with many years of experience are sitting in the hall. There are academic lecturers and judges in the room who also have such academic experience. There are now citizens outside this room who the police have IDs for. We will leave this room and you judges will have to sit at the judge's table and look into the eyes of citizens who will wonder regardless of your intentions and regardless of your belief in independence, they will wonder whose court you are. And academic lecturers will have a much more difficult role, Professor, because you will have to stand in front of students and tell what happened here.

Mikołaj, don't give up, don't give up being a judge. Don't give up being a lawyer, because it's a profession where you have to fight for others. How? Fight for community, fight for the state.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

The world worlds: Keiji Nishitani deep thought ...

The  world worlds...

Confronted with the thought of Keiji Nishitani, I could not write anything from myself. So I decided to put here some remarkable quotes from his book "Religion and Nothingness", which contrary to the title is not about religion as we used to understand it, rather it is about our universe and being...
« Since olden times, the cognitive power of reason has been called a "natural light." But the real "natural light" is not the light of reason. It is rather, if I may so designate it, the light of each and every thing. What we call the knowing of non-knowing is, as it were, the gathering together and concentration on a single point of the light of all things. Or better still, it is a reverting to the point where things themselves are all gathered into one. All of this goes contrary to our ordinary way of thinking, and, as such, must sound strange. . »
« To say that a thing is not itself means that, while continuing to be itself, it is in the home-ground of everything else. Figuratively speaking, its roots reach across into the ground of all other things and helps to hold them up and keep them standing. »
« To imply that when a thing is on its own home-ground, it must at the same time be on the home-ground of all other things sounds absurd; but in fact it constitutes the "essence" of the existence of things.The being of things in themselves is essentially circuminsessional. This is what we mean by speaking of beings as "being that is in unison with emptiness," and "being on the field of emptiness." For this circuminsessional system is only possible on the field of emptiness of or sunyata. As I have already noted, if the field of sunyata be excluded, for a thing to be on its own home-ground and to be "itself" would be for it not to be in the home-ground of all other things; and, conversely, for it to be on the home-ground of other things would be for it not to be itself. In that case, there would in truth be no way for us to explain the fact that all things "are" in the "world." Only on the field of sunyata, where being is seen as being-sive-nothingness, nothingness-sive-being, is it possible for each to be itself with every other, and so, too, for each not to be itself with every other. »
« Now the circuminsessional system itself, whereby each thing in its being enters into the home-ground of every other thing, is not itself and yet precisely as such (namely, as located on the field of sunyata) never ceases to be itself, is nothing other than the force that links all things together into one. It is the very force that makes the world and lets it be a world. The field of sunyata is a field oj force. The force of the world makes itself manifest in the force of each and every thing in the world. »
 « Even the very tiniest thing, to the extent that it "is," displays in its act of being the whole web of circuminsessional interpenetration that links all things together. In its being, we might say, the world "worlds." »

« For us, this field of emptiness is something we are aware of as an absolute near side. It opens up more to the near side than we, in our ordinary consciousness, take our own self to be. It opens up, so to speak, still closer to us than what we ordinarily think of as ourselves . In other words, by turning from what we ordinarily call "self" to the field of sunyata, we become truly ourselves.»
«All consciousness as such is empty at its very roots: it can only become manifest on the field of emptiness. Consciousness is originally emptiness.»
« The self is not a small, self-centered circle. Together with emptiness it is free of all outer limits . It is, so to speak, something with no circumference whatsoever. This is elemental self-awareness. As a being in unison with emptiness, then, the self is one absolute center, and, to that extent, all things are in the home-ground of the self.»
« We do not simply live in time: we live time. From one moment in time to the next we are making time to be time, we are bringing time to the "fullness of time." That is the sense of what we referred to earlier as "being bottomlessly in time." »
 «The identity of "being" and "knowing" is more primal than traditional metaphysics has taken it to be. »
«To say that each thing is an absolute center means that wherever a thing is, the world worlds. And this, in turn, means that each thing, by being in its own home-ground is in the home-ground of all beings; and, conversely, that in being on the home-ground of all , each is in its own home-ground. »
« Our self in itself is most elementally "middle." It resists all explanation because it is a being in unison with emptiness; because it is a being united with emptiness in a self-awareness according to which emptiness is self; and because, by virtue of that self-awareness, which is nearer to the elemental than anything else, it precedes the world and all things.»

« The finitude of human existence is essentially an infinite finitude. »
« In brief, the statement that the finite is finite, while quite valid in terms of conceptual thinking, is in error from an existential standpoint. It misses the essence of finitude, and because it is prehended from a standpoint that does not face up to existential finitude existentially, it fails truly to reveal finitude. »
« interminable finitude »
«When we persist in our pursuit of what is truly true, among the things that are true, the truly true appears in the mode of paradox or absurdity, under conditions ordinarily considered as altogether contradictory to truth. Where ratio is pushed to its true extreme, the "irrational" shows up. Where meaning is pushed to its extreme, "meaninglessness" shows up. And yet what thus appears as paradox, irrationality, or meaninglessness, is truly absolute reality . It is the living vitality of "life" itself. To say here that life as such is meaningless is to say that life is truly living itself »
« It is the point that Meister Eckhart calls Leben obne Warum ("life without a reason why"). It is the same with the claim that paradox is the "truth" and that irrationality is the ratio. »
« It is life in which one whiles away one's time, accepting whatever may come. »
« The beginning of time itself is before all possible pasts. And it is likewise after all possible futures. Past events, no matter how far back they go, and future events, no matter how far ahead they reach, gather together at the home-ground of the beginning of time. Only as such do they come into being one and all. » 
« It is the Existenz of the self that lives in the world-as-time from the very beginning where time comes to the fullness of time and where the world worlds. Existenz in this sense does not differ from its essential time.» 
« At this point intolerance inevitably raises its head. Like the consciousness of being a chosen people that appeared in the religion of Israel, we have here another case of the self-centeredness on a religious dimension which T oynbee was speaking of. »
« Intolerance here is essentially bound up with the fact that faith comes into being here on a personal standpoint: the standpoint of a personal relationship with a personal God. This is so because, in the last analysis , in religion the personal contains some sort of self-centeredness . Consequently, the faith of Christianity could not help setting off antagonisms from time to time between this self-centeredness and the other element of agape, namely, the love of neighbor. »
« The battles for the conquest of heathendom that we see toward the end of the ancient period , throughout the Middle Ages (as in the Crusades, for instance) and the modern era, the persecution of heresy, the Inquisition, the religious wars within the Christian world-all of these and the intolerance displayed, along with the similar phenomena found in Islam, are all but absent in the history of Buddhism. »
« In terms of its genesis, this view of history came about in resistance to the Christian faith and its intolerance. This view of history is based on trust in human reason. This emphasis on reason got its start amidst the bloody struggles within the Christian world, as the will to find a common standpoint apart from dogmatic faith. Hence, this rational standpoint was, in principle, born of a spirit of tolerance. This led, on the one hand, to the efforts of deism to reinterpret the Christian doctrines from a viewpoint of reasonableness. »
Sunyata and time
« A recurrent world process, as a cyclical movement, implies infinity to the extent that it lacks beginning or end. But to the extent that it does arrive at an end, in a sense, by going back to its beginning, its recurrent character signals a finiteness. It thus possesses, as it were, an infinite finitude, or, we might say, a finitude of a higher order. »
« It is in the nature of time and our very existence, so to speak, that from the start both are saddled with an inexhaustible debt. It is in the nature of our existence that we are unable to sustain ourselves except through being engaged without intermission in doing something. Or put the other way around, our life is such that we must work without pause to pay back the debt that lies heavy upon our shoulders . »
« The finite aspect of our life displays its essence as an infinite finitude. (It is here, as noted before, that the original sense of the mythical notion of transmigration is to be seen.) Our existence and time appear to us here as burdens.»
« The term "karma" expresses an awareness of existence that sees being and time as infinite burdens for us and, at the same time, an awareness of the essence of time itself. »
« Time is at all times on the verge of vanishing, and all things show the frailty of being that keeps them ever poised on the brink of collapse. Time and being display a constant pull to nullification from beneath their very ground. That is Impermanence.»
« Here time and nothingness as the nullification of all things signify the freedom and effortless flight of a bird gliding across the sky without a moment's hitch, unburdened. Like the bird that leaves no tracks along the path of its flight, impermanence here means the non-hindrance of being free of the encumbrances of one's past and of restrictions stemming from former lives.»
« Lastly, we said that time only comes about in virtue of having an infinite openness at its bottom. This infinite openness also contains an ambiguity of its own. In a word, it can mean both nihility and sunyata in its original sense.(...). The true Form of time consists in the simultaneous possibility of these opposing meanings. The essential ambiguity in the meaning of time means that time is essentially the field of fundamental conversion, the field of a "change of heart" or metanoia (pravrittivijfliina).»

« But there is more at issue here than mere chronological or vertical relationships. I have brothers , sisters , and relatives , just as my parents and their parents had. (...) My existence stands against the backdrop of such a network of relationships whose beginning and end are beyond comprehension, and comes into being from out of its midst. From this perspective, questions regarding the source of my existence remain ultimately unanswerable.»
« The beginning and end of time in itself lie directly beneath the present, at its home-ground, and it is there that they are to be sought originally.  To look for the home-ground of time (or being) by tracing time interminably backward or pushing it interminably ahead is to fall victim to a sort of optical illusion, a confusion of dimensions. It is an error of orientation in the pursuit of the home-ground.»
« "God is dead" means that all is dead. It means that the elemental ground of all things has turned to nihility , that the being of all things has been nullified from its elemental ground. Their unity and transcendent center lost, with no home-ground to return to, things scatter with the four winds in a time whose boundaries have been wiped away. This nullification of being transforms all things into transitoriness. At the same time, the roothold where the meaning of all existence takes hold is swept away, transforming the whole into a mass of meaninglessness.»
« Doing determines being anew: does being; it becomes being and thereby re-creates being in time. In other words, doing renews and reestablishes being in time.»

« The story is told of St. Francis of Assisi that, when he was about to have an infected eye cauterized, he turned and addressed the cautery:
My Brother Fire, noble and useful among all other creatures, be kindly to me in this hour, because formerly I have loved thee for the love of  Him  who created thee. But I pray our Creator who created us, that He will so temper thy heat that I may be able to sustain it.And with that, he made a sign of the cross over the cauterizing iron.
We are reminded here of the Japanese saying, "Once you annihilate the mind, even the burning fire is cool." Of course, the fire was hot, and no doubt St. Francis did feel the physical pain . But the fire was not hot at the very point that it was hot, and the pain was not painful in its very painfulness.»
« The same applies to equality. True equality is not simply a matter of an equality of human rights and the ownership of property. (...) True equality, on the contrary, comes about in what we might call the reciprocal interchange of absolute inequality, such that the self and the other stand simultaneously in the position of absolute master and absolute servant with regard to one another. It is an equality in love. Only on the field of emptiness does all of this become possible. Unless the thoughts and deeds of man one and all be located on such a field, the sorts of problems that beset humanity have no chance of ever really being solved. »

This post started during February of 2020 in New York City, ended in June of 2020 in Debina on the coast of Baltic sea in Poland....

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

A politician's book that goes far beyond politics...

During the last holidays of 2nd decade of XXI century I was reading, with bated breath, the book "Sincerely" written by Donald Tusk, who, for the last five years, was the president of the European Council. He was also the prime minister of Poland for seven years - the longest term in free Poland ever. As for now, he is the president of European People's Party (the largest transnational political party).

Let me quote the short note about the book from its publisher (Agora):

"In this extraordinary personal diary, we follow in Tusk’s footsteps from his first to his last day in his role as EC president, we see what has been happening backstage in European politics, and we follow the most dramatic events of the recent past, including the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the refugee crisis, the murder of the mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, and the endless Brexit negotiations. Here we will find complex and surprising portraits of the major figures in world politics, from Barack Obama and Angela Merkel to Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

But "Sincerely" is about far more than what goes on in the corridors of power. Written in a lively, accessible tone, it also expounds Donald Tusk’s political credo, presents his account of the Europe of his dreams – and reveals the bitter disappointment of its present politics."

What I love the book for is its autor's rectitude and simplicity paired with a great passion for better Europe and better Poland. The language of the book is, taken as a piece of literature, not the best, but - that only proves there was no ghost writer behind (as it often happens with politicians), and, in many ways, this special kind of simple language makes it even better.

I wish it was translated to English....