A Theological Anthropological Meta-Heuristic for a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandric Universalism

A Grammatical Heuristic for the Hypostatic Union:

Person or hypostasis is primary, whether divine or human.

Christ, the person, the Logos, has an essential divine nature and a secondary human nature.
His assumption (becoming) of the latter humanizes the Logos.

The essential nature of human persons is identical to Christ’s secondary nature, but it is not a nature each person fully exemplifies or realizes, initially. It is a nature we become. That
becoming for us constitutes our deification.

The identical uncreated logoi (divine volition & energeia) that humanize the Logos, deify the
human person.

Christ is constituted by & fully exemplifies the divine & human natures.

Human persons are constituted by the same human nature, only progressively so, I would
suggest, participating in the divine nature as vestige, then image, then likeness, thereby only
signifying” the divine nature which is analogous to the human nature, which different
persons realize to varying degrees.

So human nature is analogous to the divine nature, participating as an effect proper to its
cause, resembling it to varying degrees, so signifying (semiotically) vestige, image & ,
eventually & hopefully likeness. That essential nature, when fully realized, would be identical to the human nature assumed by the Logos.

These are grammatical heuristics. BYOM (Bring your own metaphysic!)

Given that heuristic for relating the divine & human natures in the Hypostatic Union, what constitutes this shared human nature – cosmically, noetically & logically?

For every noetic form of knowing there is a corresponding form of logical engagement, as these epistemic approaches engage every aspect of our donative reality via probes that are methodologically autonomous but axiologically integral: descriptive, interpretive, evaluative, normative & contemplative. [1]

Human Agency Acts:

1) Cosmically, as vestigium Dei or Human Being, which reflects the cosmos, involves existential causes in potency to probabilistic essential causes, which include probabilistic telic realities-

teleopotent (veldopoietic),

teleomatic (cosmopoietic)

teleonomic (biopoietic) &

teleoqualic (sentiopoietic).

Divine Causal Joint:
The Spirit operates here via the Gratuity of Creation

2) Noetically, as an imago Dei or Willing Human Person, which reflects the Divine Nous of the divine esse naturale and involves efficient causes in potency to probabilistic material causes as

kinetic (dynamical) and constituting the will, which is teleological (sapiopoietic) and which responds [2] per innate nous, intellectus or sapienta, which can assent, refuse or remain quiescent (absence of refusal) & which engages

descriptively via the

perinoetic (empirical);

interpretively via the

dianoetic (logical), aporetic (diastemic), epinoetic (apophatic), & ananoetic (metaphysical);

evaluatively via the

anoetic (affective) ;

normatively via the

deonticnoetic (moral & prudential); and

contemplatively (receptively) via the

metanoetic (theotic).

Divine Causal Joint:

The Spirit willingly operates via the Gratuity of Grace on human persons as

vestigia Dei thru divine energeia through their teleopotent (veldopoietic), teleomatic (cosmopoietic), teleonomic (biopoietic) &
teleoqualic (sentiopoietic) natures (generally considered exceptional or miraculous), thereby effecting all manner of existential causes (which are efficient causes but not distinctly human) and as

similitudines Dei thru divine energeia through their semiotic natures, thereby effecting all manner of formal causes in utterly efficacious but ineluctably unobtrusive ways.

But the Spirit, condescendingly, refrains from operating on (coercing) the human will via any manner of distinctly human efficient causes (contra Reformed & Báñezian anthropologies). So the Spirit will not operate via the Gratuity of Grace without the human will’s assent or quiescence, as it will not coerce one who refuses to cooperate with Grace.

3) Logically, as a similitudino Dei or Human Becoming, which reflects the Divine Logos of the divine esse intentionale and involves formal causes in potency to probabilistic final causes as

phronetic (autonoetic) and constituting reason, which is teleological (scientiopoietic) and which responds [3] per logic or ratio, which can progressively transmute the will (metanoesis) by engaging

descriptively via the

empirical (perinoetic);

interpretively via the logical (dianoetic), diastemic (aporetic), apophatic (epinoetic) & metaphysical (ananoetic);

evaluatively via the

affective (anoetic) ; and

normatively via the

moral & prudential (deonticnoetic); and

contemplatively (receptively) via the

theotic (metanoetic).

Divine Causal Joint: The Spirit operates here via the Gratuity of Grace.

A Gelpian-Lonerganian Architectonic – a missiological meta-heuristic

Be attentive, orient, describe, truth, final causes, eschatological, protological, transjective necessity or Ens Necessarium – analog of paterological uniqueness

Be intelligent, empower, interpret, unity, efficient causes, ecclesiological, interpretive, intersubjective intimacy – analog of hypostatic unity

Be reasonable, sanctify & consecrate, evaluate, beauty, formal causes, soteriological, evaluative, charismatic, harmonic, unified self as intrasubjective integrity – analog of mystical, creaturely-divine, sophianic union

Be responsible, sustain, nurture & heal, norm, goodness, material causes, sacramental, ethical, normative, interobjective indeterminacy – analog of essential unicity

Be in love, save, contemplate, freedom, existential causes, synergy, sophiological, liberational, theotic, intraobjective Logos-logoi identity – analog of unitary energeia


[1] These furnishings of the human epistemic suite correspond roughly to Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives and eightfold functional specialties, as explicated elsewhere in my Retreblement.

[2] Noetic responses roughly correspond to aspects of “knowing” as, for example, Newman’s illative sense; Polyani’s tacit dimension; Maritain’s connaturality; Fries’ nonintuitive immediate knowledge; Peirce’s abductive instinct; Aristotle’s intuitive induction; even noesis as pistis or faith.

[3] Logical responses roughly correspond to a more reflective engagement of existence’s donative realities, which are apprehended more inchoately when appropriated, noetically.

This is a companion piece to my Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism

Also to my Cosmotheandric Universalism

Cosmotheandric Universalism

Because the Incarnation eternally proceeds from – not the divine nature as an essential necessity, but – the divine will as a volitional inevitability, therefore 

occasioned – not by some felix culpa, but – from the cosmotheandric get-go,

apocatastasis less so seems intended as some “restitutio in pristinum statum” and moreso seems to me

an indefeasible proto-logical entailment, hence eschato-logical inevitability.

Finite persons are constituted via acts in potency, divine persons by pure act. As such, Jesus eternally humanizes the Logos and deifies human nature via the cosmotheandric incarnation, thereby implicating several types of participation per distinct but analogous forms of dynamical perichoreses:

1) trinitological between the divine persons;

2) Christological in the hypostatic union;

3) cosmological in vestigia Dei;

4) anthropological in imagoes Dei; &

5) theotic in similitudines Dei.

Through those Trinitological & Christological perichoreses, divine persons “exemplify” the divine nature.

Through those cosmological, anthropological and theotic perichoreses, human persons “signify” the divine nature.

These eternal cosmotheandric realities thus constitute the proto-logical contours of all paterology, Christology, pneumatology, Trinitology, anthropology, ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, sophiology, missiology and eschatology.

These proto-logical contours logically advert to no such reality as “evil.”

While, temporally & ephemerally, privations of goodness can obtain ontologically via a “parasitic existence,”  eternally, no coherent accounts of oikonomic condescension or kenotic tzimtzum could abide same and remain logically consistent and existentially congruent with the integrally related  & inherently consonant divine logics as are revealed in our Scriptures, celebrated in our Liturgies & Devotions and realized in our Theoses.

Eternally perduring parasitic existences would render unintelligible every divine logic: proto-, Christo-, anthropo-, soterio-, ecclesio-, sophio- and eschato-

This is all developed systematically in:

Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism

Introducing Republican Voters Against Trump, the Lincoln Project, 43 Alumni for Biden, Right Side PAC & the Bravery Project

Vote! It Does Makes a Difference!

Casting a vote can have both/either symbolic and/or pragmatic effects.

Optimally, a vote would be both symbolic and pragmatic, not only sending a signal but contributing to practical outcomes.

One may vote pragmatically with an aim of influencing one or more practical outcomes. Generally, the greater the gravity of a particular issue, morally and practically, the more one may feel justified in being a single-issue voter.

Because voting involves prudential judgments, generally, it can be eminently defensible however one chooses to cast one’s vote, whether symbolically, pragmatically or focused on a single issue. (Roman Catholics should be especially attentive here, as any given POTUS vote that doesn’t formally cooperate with evil is not likely to constitute anything other than an extremely remote form of material cooperation. This is because the causal chain between a given POTUS vote and individual evil acts is so very tenuous and such acts are so highly contingent).

Symbolic votes can help shape conversations as a means of conveying one’s prophetic witness for or protest against competing interests or stances. More often, perhaps, they’ll be cast with an aim to more so influence future outcomes, less so with any real hope regarding immediate efficacies.

Pragmatic votes, of course, can be aimed toward immediate outcomes, whether avoiding clear and present dangers or advancing particular goals, whether incrementally and cumulatively over time or with immediate effect.

Nowadays, it often seems that, when it comes to choosing between various candidates, voters feel as if they’re faced with a choice among the lesser of evils. Rather than embracing candidates because of personality strengths, character traits, specific competencies or even particular political postures, voters are otherwise only really hoping to empower what might ensue vis a vis executive administrative teams, legislative agendas and/or judiciary selections.

So, another voting distinction, in addition to voting symbolically, pragmatically, single-issuedly or strategically (whether aimed at outcomes over time or more immediately), is that of supporting a party or coalition’s ticket or even entire slate – not BECAUSE of, but – IN SPITE of their nominees.

Prudential judgments and political strategies can vary widely, even among those who largely agree regarding the morality of any given reality. For example, take that most contentious of issues – abortion. Two voters can aspire to precisely the same practical outcome, let’s say in this example, of immediately reducing the number of abortions and ultimately eliminating them, yet disagree strategically regarding how to best realize that outcome? Specifically, voters can disagree regarding – not only the relative likelihoods, but – the past or future (in)efficacies of court-packing, judicial strategies, overturning Roe, criminalization, birth control health coverage, etc Now, surely, most can conceive of how two voters, both of large intelligence and profound goodwill, can navigate the very same constellation of facts and putative counterfactuals, can probabilistically project the very same array of un/likely outcomes and, yet, prudentially arrive at different conclusions regarding the most (counter)productive strategies – politically, legally and practically?

Another dynamic that regrettably pollutes political discourse is all or nothing and either-or rhetoric. Again, we should be thinking more so in terms of least and most likely outcomes, less so in terms of worst and best case scenarios. After all, it’s not as if minority positions are politically impotent, especially in a federal polity designed specifically to thwart the tyranny of the majority?

To wit:

Regarding the economy, it’s not as if a long-established regulated capitalism is in jeopardy of becoming even a Western European Democratic Socialism, much less a totalitarian socialism or communism. This is not to deny that some political rhetoric focuses way too much on dividing up the golden eggs, while so much is otherwise over-concerned with nurturing the golden goose. It’s only to recognize that the most likely case scenarios, based on the country’s historical political give and take, don’t justify the prevailing political hyperbole, e.g. that we’re on a slippery slope to communism.

Regarding taxation, by consensus the tax tables have generally been progressive, only differing in terms of degrees, where marginal rates vary. Those rates will need to be raised and to become less regressive in order to dig ourselves out of the massive deficits and debts incurred by this administration, some unavoidably and some most imprudently.

Regarding healthcare, there’s little chance of a wholly socialized approach with single-payer and single-provider, much more likely a public option along side private alternatives.

On and on, whether regarding crime & punishment, war & peace, policing & the military, energy & the environment, the 1st & 2nd Amendments, immigration, voting, safety nets, etc. While the range of policy choices can certainly be wide, historically, the range of policy outcomes has inevitably been narrower, the pace of change more incremental and never as apocalyptic as hysterically portrayed by our country’s ideologues, right and left! Such people facilely & cynically misapply epithets to all who stray from their narrowly conceived policy prescriptions, even to those who otherwise share the very same moral stances and societal aspirations! They casually toss around labels like baby killers, warmongers, communists, and on and on and on. Enough!

As a general rule, the saner voices of dissent regarding a given politico likely will be those from within one’s party, the more serious forms of critique likely will be those from within a candidate’s inner circle of most senior advisers.

In 2020, those most serious forms of critique come from a growing list of Trump advisers turned detractors, which is striking in “its size, the seniority of its members and the vehemence of their critiques” and whose “proximity to Trump has brought a devastating level of detail and credibility to their appraisals of his tenure.” [1]

To wit:

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who calls Trump a “f….ing moron.

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis who said Trump “tries to divide us.”

Former Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump “an idiot” and said “I think we need to look harder at who we elect.”

Former National Economic Policy Council head Gary Cohn who said Trump “was a professional liar.”

Former Trump Alt-Right advisor Steve Bannon said Trump “is like an eleven-year-old child.”

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton stated “I don’t think he’s fit for office.”

While space doesn’t permit, the snippets, above, from those senior advisors, are emblematic of stances they’ve expressed and documented more at length in interviews, books & elsewhere. And they aren’t inconsistent with the concerns previously expressed by 50 senior Republican national security officials in 2016, which they’ve reiterated and expanded for 2020. Nor is it inconsistent with that mountain of evidence as has gushed forth for over a thousand days from all manner of sources, including news cycles, POTUS Twitter feeds, transcripts of Congressional testimony, etc, although others may reasonably interpret it differently than I. Those stances, in my view, have been credibly, diligently & dutifully set forth in Bolton’s book. McMaster’s book will be released in September. Finally, while requiring a more critical eye and some degree of skepticism, Michael Cohen’s book should not be cursorily dismissed. After all, why would he risk libel and defamation suits from his extremely litigious ex-boss, if he did not believe he could prevail on the merits regarding the veracity of the book’s claims?


Thu, September 24, 2020

More than 200 retired generals, admirals endorse Biden, including some who served under Trump

In 2020, such voices of dissent certainly include RVAT, the Lincoln Project, 43 Alumni for Biden, Right Side PAC and the Bravery Project.

To wit:


Republican Voters Against Trump

These are Republicans, former Republicans, conservatives, and former Trump voters who can’t support Trump for president this fall.

Lincoln Project

We do not undertake this task lightly nor from ideological preference. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain. However, the priority for all patriotic Americans must be a shared fidelity to the Constitution and a commitment to defeat those candidates who have abandoned their constitutional oaths, regardless of party.

Right Side PAC

Right Side PAC was formed by Matt Borges, a former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, and Anthony Scaramucci, who served as Trump’s White House communications director. Borges said the group was a complement to the Lincoln Project, another super PAC formed by anti-Trump Republicans. Scaramucci said that he was “very confident that we can convince a large group of Republican voters that Biden is the right person to vote for if they want to stay true to their principles and to the legacy of the Republican Party.”

43 Alumni for Biden

43 Alumni for Joe Biden

Principles matter more than politics. That’s why we, a group of alumni who served President Bush, and other Republican presidents, governors, and Members of Congress, support Joe Biden for President.

Bravery Project

About Us

We’re conservatives and Independents standing up and choosing to be brave by publicly declaring that Donald Trump and his enablers don’t represent us–that Trumpism is destroying this country.

August 31, 2020 Update

Biden’s GOP endorsements show cracks in Trump’s coalition as a steady stream of GOP endorsements this year for Biden — highlighted by the early emergence of The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, two groups trying to peel away GOP voters from the President — has surged into a torrent over the past two weeks.



I get that there will be many intelligent, goodwilled people who will vote for the 2020 GOP ticket IN SPITE OF Trump, whether symbolically, pragmatically or single-issuedly. And they won’t share the degree of concern that those dissident former advisers have instilled in me, perhaps not finding them as credible as I do.

I also reckon there will be some people who will vote GOP “because” of who Trump is but am not willing to generalize about either their intelligence or goodwill, as that would require a case by case analysis (which would admittedly be animated by an enormous degree of curiosity & incredulity).

I’m just here to suggest that persons of equal intelligence and similar goodwill can, in an eminently defensible manner, vote for the 2020 Democratic ticket IN SPITE OF Biden. And, I’ve no quarrels, generally, with those voting Democratic “because” of who Biden is, although that invites nuance and qualification beyond our present scope.

When it comes to risk-reward calculations and tradeoffs, however one imagines a person or a nation might best thrive, one is obliged to first ensure that this person or nation survives?

Some justified their 2016 vote for Trump based on the rewarding prospect of stacking the judiciary, suggesting that any risks attendant to his occupying the Oval Office would otherwise be mitigated by him being surrounded by adults. On one hand, that gamble has most assuredly paid off in terms of a substantially reshaped judiciary. On the other hand, the adults have left the building – McMasters, Bolton, Tillerson, Mattis & Kelly and more! Scores of other GOP faithful, including Romney, have issued warnings.

In 2016, 50 senior Republican national security officials issued a letter stating “None of us will vote for Donald Trump.” Here is what they had to say:

quote: The undersigned individuals have all served in senior national security and/or foreign policy positions in Republican Administrations, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. We have worked directly on national security issues with these Republican Presidents and/or their principal advisers during wartime and other periods of crisis, through successes and failures. We know the personal qualities required of a President of the United States.

None of us will vote for Donald Trump.

From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.

Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, and U.S. institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.
In addition, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends. Unlike previous Presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign affairs and “knows more about ISIS than the generals do.”

Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be President. In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.

In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commanderin-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. end quote

Again, when it comes to risk-reward calculations and tradeoffs, however one imagines a person or a nation might best “thrive,” one is obliged to first ensure that this person or nation SURVIVES.

Serious people of large intelligence and profound goodwill, who have been in a much better position to know this, are telling us that Trump as POTUS poses a grave existential threat to – not only our Constitution, but – the planet, itself, by way of his command of our nuclear arsenal.

If that was all less obvious in 2016, in my view, it’s more so in 2020.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell did not sign the 2016 letter, above, from national security officials opposing Trump, but since then, Powell has made his disapproval of the President clear. Most recently, Powell pledged his support for Biden in 2020, calling Trump a liar and saying Trump is bad for the country. [2]

For more than 40 years George F. Will has been a leader of conservative political thought. Will won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977, was a contributor for Fox News from 2013-2017: “The president’s provocations — his coarsening of public discourse that lowers the threshold for acting out by people as mentally crippled as he — do not excuse the violent few. They must be punished. He must be removed.” [3]

Please vote Biden in November, as if your life depended on him getting elected.


[1] Josh Wingrove https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-24/from-bolton-to-mattis-trump-faces-aides-turned-adversaries?srnd=markets-vp

[2] Mariam Morshedi https://www.subscriptlaw.com/blog/conservative-voices-against-trump

[3] ibid

Reflections Regarding Political Discourse

Although I’m independent, that’s just my temperament. I really like our two-party system & I truly welcome such discourse, especially that of family & friends, even when I don’t feel like contributing.

In some cases, our parties should be collaborative. In some, though, they best be competitive. Such collaboration, competition & criticism generally fosters better outcomes.

I choose to focus on WHY my family & friends vote this way or that. I honestly cannot recall any such WHYs that I would find either objectionable or wholly unreasonable.

The likelihood that such votes will produce the outcomes each voter desires (or fears) is an entirely different question. In retrospect, I’ve been so wrong about that often enough over the decades that it tempers how much confidence I invest in my own inclinations (or against others’).

It’s true that some retweets & shares might display various types & degrees of crassness, stereotyping & oversimplification, but I haven’t seen cruelty or hatred in my (admittedly pruned) social feeds. I don’t let inartful moments become defining moments for my family & friends, especially when they are in no way reinforcing moments regarding people I’ve knowned & cherished, many since childhood! That’s some insurance that it won’t be done unto me, either.

And, by default, I choose to charitably interpret all tweets & posts from family & friends as truly aspirational expressions or as deeply felt voices of prophetic protest, which is to say that, while virtue twerking exists, we’re in no position, in principle, since we shouldn’t judge, to know if that’s what’s going on in any particular person’s motives.

re the crassness, stereotyping & oversimplification, most commonly it presents in the form of all or nothing and either-or thinking for realities that otherwise present in degrees, also in sweeping over-generalizations wholly lacking nuance and, sadly, in superficial interpretations that mischaracterize situations & caricature persons but which could’ve been clarified or corrected by digging just a little deeper & fact checking. So, when I use the characterization of “not wholly unreasonable” or inartful, that only means I resist judging others’ hearts. It doesn’t mean that I necessarily congratulate them for using their good heads well. Honestly, there’s not sufficient time in a day to provide fact checked corrections to the amount of garbage that populates even my pruned social feeds.

Among the most crass expressions are those that indiscriminately apply the term murderers to all sorts of persons in abortion debates. Over-against such discourse consider:

Trump ‘is so much anti-life,’ Kentucky Catholic bishop says in abortion discussion

“For this president to call himself pro-life, and for anybody to back him because of claims of being pro-life, is almost willful ignorance. He is so much anti-life because he is only concerned about himself, and he gives us every, every, every indication of that.”

Bishop John Stowe,
Diocese of Lexington


Well, one can concede Trump’s not truly pro-life, yet still feel his judicial appointments might advance the cause.

Why we shouldn’t call women who’ve had abortions murderers

Why We Shouldn’t Call Women Who’ve Had Abortions “Murderers”


On March 27, Tommy Scholtes, the spokesperson for the Belgian Episcopal Conference, condemned the professor, calling his words a “caricature” of Church teaching.

“The word ‘murder’ is too strong,” he insisted. “It presupposes violence, an act committed in the consciousness, with an intention, and that does not take into account the situation of the people, often in the greatest distress.”

“Such formulas do not really help the Church, particularly in the context of the Pope’s call for life,” Scholtes continues. “For, on the other hand, respect for life remains, of course, at the center of the doctrine. But the Pope also calls for mercy: We must show understanding, compassion.”



Calling abortion murder invites violence

Calling abortion murder invites violence


Conservatives Call for Civility, But Claim Democrats Want to Murder Babies


Many Dems share the goal of reducing the abortion rate & numbers with an aim toward eliminating any need for same but cite evidence that criminalization doesn’t work, is counterproductive & becoming increasingly unenforceable (hence bad law). Calling them murderers offends charity, incites violence & departs from the truth, i.e. it’s a lie, hence a defamation. There’s a difference between a moral stance and a prudential strategy re how to best realize an outcome.


Abortion extremism will yield more laws like New York’s



I don’t think abortion is murder, and neither do you


Those who suggest differentials in punishments for women vs providers are justified are being disingenuous & condescending toward women.

We must never allow that woman to perceive the Pro-Life movement as a bunch of angry self-righteous Pharisees with stones in their hands, looking down on her and judging her.

Cardinal O’Malley


As for the practical implications of abortion votes:



As for the facile correlations between city politics and crime:

Is President Trump Correct In Saying Democrat Mayors Run The Most Violent Cities?

My Personal Outlook

Worldview Default Biases

1) Theologically, my approach (default biases) is Incarnational.

Descriptively, a theory of Truth.

Hence, my socio-economic-politico-cultural vision embraces Christian humanism.

In our vital affairs & essential orientations, approaches are optimally traditionalist, while, in our speculative pursuits & accidental orientations, optimally, they’re boldly progressive, all governed by prudentially applied subsidiarity principles ordered toward a human dignity, recognized in the realizations of solidarity, compassion, humility, disinterestness, blessedness (objective beatitude or AMDG) & joy (subjective beatification).

Ergo, my default biases are

2) Philosophically, a pragmatic, semiotic realism.

Descriptively, a theory of Knowledge.

3) Socially – optimally, familial & suboptimally, NGOs.

Interpretively, ultimately an Ecclesiology & theory of Unity.

4) Culturally – pluralistic.

Evaluatively, ultimately a Soteriology & theory of Beauty.

5) Economically – optimally, communal & suboptimally, regulated capitalism.

Normatively, ultimately a Sacramentology & theory of Goodness.

6) Politically – optimally, anarchical & suboptimally, classically libertarian (as, alas, we are not angels).

Transcendentally, ultimately a Sophiology & theory of Freedom.

A Metaphysical “univocity of reality” in a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism – a Peircean Precis

Thinking in terms of Peirce’s

Being > Reality > Existence

Considering a Neo-Chalcedonian Christology

While we still refer to divine & determinate hypostases via semantic univocity & ontological analogy …

Can we say that the Logos-logoi identity that humanizes divine persons & deifies human persons

invokes a metaphysical “univocity of reality per a Peircean Thirdness of generals, including created logoi, teloi, nomicities, etc,

all “participating” in a creatio ex deo, the essentially divine person self-determinately so, the essentially human person determinately …

such determinate effects variously exemplifying or signifying their Cause per their unique tropoi …


human persons as vestigia, imagoes & similitudines Dei …

the divine person as Logos in hypostatic union?

This would distinguish Maximus, on his own terms, from Balthasar’s Maximus, who overapplied the analogia?

Analogia of an Aesthetic Teleology

1) analogy of aesthetic intensityfixed

a) God: intrinsic perfection

b) human: subjective beatitude, bliss of beatific vision

2) analogy of aesthetic scope – variable in terms of manifestation

a) creator, God: scope of manifestations increased thru ad extra “exemplifications” of Logos & Glory, i.e. of divine esse intentionale, more than mere Cambridge properties, thin passibility

b) co-creator, human: scope of manifestations increased thru “significations” of Logos & Glory, objective beatitude, AMDG

Analogia of Divine & Human Tropoi

1) tropos of divine person

   a) essential nature exemplifies Logos

   b) secondary nature, exemplifies humanity

2) tropos human person

   a) essential nature as vestigial & imaginal Dei signifies Logos, exemplifies evolving humanity

   b) secondary nature as similitudino Dei signifies Logos, exemplifies deified humanity

Universalist Implications


The Summer of Love: Feser-Hart Redux

I was initially disappointed with Feser’s lack of earnest engagement with _TASBS_ . At the same time, I do concede that he and DBH have previously gone back & forth rather extensively & substantively. In some sense, one might ask how much more can Feser really add by way of argumentation.

See, for example:


Honestly, I really couldn’t stomach more of Feser’s revival of that ole time religion, i.e. a decadent neo-scholasticism. The disconnect for me & his ilk truly is visceral. I don’t necessarily reject Feser’s counterarguments because they aren’t logically consistent. What leaves me cold or, sometimes, even on the verge of wretching, is that such rationalistic takes as his are so existentially disappointing.

To proceed from Feser’s valid premises to check for soundness, one must also accept his terms, which, in my case, presuppose that I will have jettisoned all of my most deeply felt aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions.

Now, I fully expect that, post-mortem, we will all travel “beyond” those quotidian evaluative dispositions in various ways, but I certainly don’t expect we’ll travel “without” them, that any acceptable post-mortem anthropology should do such violence to my earthly experiences of all that’s been true, beautiful, good & unitive. For that matter, neither can I set aside my theophanic experiences of the here & now for the morally unintelligible theodicies on offer.

Rhetorically, I felt like DBH was interrogating me, asking how I really felt, what I most deeply valued, whom I most fervently cherished and how those relational dispositions imparted normative impetus to how I’d really respond to various thought experiments, whether now or post-mortem, whether regarding God or, let’s say, my precious children. And he was suggesting “Hold that thought! Cherish that feeling!” before engaging any syllogism!

Others, like Feser, assure me, rather, that … well, if that single damned soul is my son  … “Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.” And when we reflexively recoil & launch an invective, they complain of our harsh rhetoric.

That’s it. I’ve said much more about much else, elsewhere & here. Sometimes too much, to be sure. So, I apologize again. But these are reasons of my heart. I’m searching for arguments that are not just valid. The most taut tautologies for me will also be existentially satisfying.

In a more discursive vein, I realize that many have misinterpreted _TASBS_ as a theodicy.

What I have described above has more to do with its theophanic thrust. I eschew evidential theodicies. I resist them vehemently. But I do countenance logical defenses regarding the problem of evil. One of the bigger takeaways from DBH’s arguments, for me, was a deeper appreciation for the conception of evil as privation, which, as a concept over the years, wasn’t wholly compelling to me, although, in some ways, just sufficient. What infused that notion with more meaning was interpreting it (as  a corrollary to _TASBS_) as referring to an eschatological reality.

While I had previously bought into the idea that evil had no intrinsic existence, still, it most definitely was real and “existed” parasitically. To suggest that its parasitic existence wasn’t visible, real, etc always seemed to be wholly incoherent, lame, unpersuasive. One just could not convincingly say it was absolutely “no thing.”

Only per a universalist account can one affirm that, ultimately & eternally, evil will indeed enjoy no parasitic existence &, as a corrollary to all being realizing its Sophianic union with Being beyond being, evil will lapse into utter no-thing-ness, absolutely not existing, since no privations of the good, of being, shall perdure.

Evil may not be absolutely no thing “yet” but it is progressively “becoming” nonexistent, for we are poised to exist in fulfillment of the divine Logoi.

Anything less than the utter destruction of evil’s parasitic existence (hindering our telic realizations) will leave us with a Manichean residue and a “relatively good” God?

So, while _TASBS_ proffered no shallow evidential theodicy as misread by folks wearing the wrong hermeneutical lenses, it does seem to provide a theophany which has practical implications for grounding a modest logical defense – not Platinga’s or Stump’s, but – perhaps like M.M. Adams’?

To be clear regarding the normative role that our aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions play in how we judge competing theophanic accounts:

Our evaluative dispositions are integrally situated within an holistic hermeneutical spiral, which orients us to transcendental imperatives. They represent laws planted in our hearts, experienced by our consciences, which have been further informed by family life, friendships & loves, church fellowship, catechetical instruction, moral development, liturgical cultivation, formative spirituality, communal discernments & ongoing conversions, both secular & religious.

They are not to be cursorily dismissed, hastily set aside or cynically caricatured.

I personally subscribe to an axiological epistemology, as has been previously articulated by Amos Yong and I in conversation with CS Peirce, Lonergan & RC Neville.

This should be read in conjunction with:

A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved

And with:

An Open Invitation to Universalism – no matter how you square divine-human agential interaction

A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of David Bentley Hart’s _That All Shall Be Saved_

A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation By David Bentley Hart, Yale University Press (2019).

Feser recently published this review: David Bentley Hart’s attack on Christian tradition fails to convince

Precis of Feser’s Review

For Hart, at the end of the day it is not scripture, not the Fathers, not the councils, not the creeds, not Holy Tradition, that should determine what Christians believe.

The Fathers

Feser: The possibility of eternal damnation is taught in Scripture, by almost all the Church Fathers.

Why did Jesus not explicitly say that everyone will be saved, if that is what he meant? Why did it take centuries before any Christian even floated the idea?


Ambrose Andreano: Patristic universalism

The Councils

Feser: The Council of Trent rejected the view that a Christian can be certain of his salvation. As a non-Catholic, Hart would not be troubled by some of these facts, but his view is generally considered heterodox even in Eastern Orthodoxy.


Justin Coyle: May a Catholic faithful to the magisterium endorse universalism?

The Scriptures

Feser: Hart dismisses the traditional interpretation of the scriptural passages that teach the possibility of everlasting punishment. He claims that Christ’s words to this effect are either hyperbole of the kind typical of parables and apocalyptic literature, or have been mistranslated. When Christ speaks of punishment that is “everlasting”, he really means merely that it will last for an age.


Matthew Joss – Graduate Student of St. Mary’s College Logos Institute, University of St. Andrews writes:

DBH describes his hermeneutical method: obvious doctrinal statements (generally from the epistles) should be privileged over the figurative language of the Gospels and Revelation (93-94). There is an extended section dealing with the translation of aionios, which is quite helpful, although its actual application to texts is limited. He concludes, “The texts of the gospels simply make no obvious claim about a place or state of endless suffering”

Theological Anthropology

Feser: On the philosophical side, too, Hart’s book is a mess. A line of argument developed by Aquinas holds that it is impossible for the will to change its basic orientation after the death of the body. The reason is that the intellect’s attention can be pulled away from what it judges to be good and worth pursuing only by the senses and imagination, and these go when the body goes. The view has been spelled out and defended in detail within the Thomist tradition, but Hart has little to say about it other than to dismiss it with a few insults and cursory objections which Thomists have already answered.


Pastor Tom Belt:
Maximian irrevocability thesis

Moral Responsibility

Feser: Hart argues that since rational creatures are made to know and love God, any choice against God is irrational. If a choice is non-culpable because it is irrational, how can we be culpable for any bad thing that we do (given that bad actions are always contrary to reason)? How can we deserve even finite punishments? And if we can’t, then why do we need a saviour?


DBH: response to David W. Opderbeck, Ph.D.

Hart’s Rhetoric

Feser: DBH’s book freely indulges the boundless appetite for gratuitous invective and other ad hominem rhetoric for which he is famous.


John Sobert Sylvest:
re DBH’s harsh rhetoric

Hart’s Pantheism

Feser: Hart holds that all human beings are parts of Christ’s body in such a way that if even one person is damned forever, then Christ’s body is incomplete, and even his obedience to the Father is incomplete. Hart also holds that the individual self is destined to be “reduced to nothing” so that we can be “free of what separates us from God and neighbour.” What is left he compares to the Hindu notion of Atman. But all of this is hard to distinguish from a pantheism that blasphemously deifies human beings.


John Sobert Sylvest: That’s too facile a caricature to dignify with a response.

Divine & Human Agential Interaction

John Sobert Sylvest:
account of the noncompetitive nature of divine & human agencies

The Arguments of DBH Ed Feser Failed to Engage

Response 1

John Sobert Sylvest:
Essay Before Reading TASBS

Response 2

John Sobert Sylvest:
Essay After Reading TASBS

This should be read in conjunction with:

The Summer of Love: Feser-Hart Redux

And with:

An Open Invitation to Universalism – no matter how you square divine-human agential interaction

An Open Invitation to Universalism – no matter how you square divine-human agential interaction

Anyone Could Bust a Universalist Move!

Scholars divide when evaluating individual church fathers & scholastics in terms of their stances toward determinism & freedom, compatibilism & libertarianism, intellectualism & voluntarism, and other such categories as pertain both to philosophical anthropology and to the relationship between divine & human agencies.

Such confusion reigns because they ignore the noncompetitive nature of divine & human agencies, a theandric reality implicit in Chalcedonian Christology, & even more perfectly explicated in Neo-Chalcedonian distinctions.

As a theoretic upshot of this noncompetitive agential account, absolutist readings of classical theologians will amount to facile caricatures. Those can otherwise be avoided by an appropriations theory approach, wherein theologians are better distinguished merely in terms of notable emphases, e.g. soft determinism, weak compatibilism, moderate libertarianism, moderate voluntarism, moderate intellectualism, etc.

In human agency, for example, the intellect’s necessarily operative just not wholly determinative in volition. In divine agency, for example, creation ensues – not from an essential necessity, but – a volitional inevitability of divine hypostases that are – not quidditatively, relations, but – qualitatively, relational.

As a practical upshot, this noncompetitive agential account should suggest (to those acquainted with universalist-infernalist debates) that arguments, among classical theists, for & against apocatastasis, need not turn on premises grounded in alternative accounts of divine-human agential relations.

After all, per some narratives, we might characterize Isaac of Nineveh, Gregory of Nyssa & Aquinas as weak compatabilists, Maximus & Scotus as moderate libertarians.

Furthermore, Augustinian, even Calvinist accounts, which altogether circumvent such agential issues, can be formulated consistent with apocatastasis. Finally, Báñezian accounts are consistent with a hopeful universalism.

How, though, do we negotiate the logics that might implicate an essential vs hopeful (practical) universalism?

One way or the other, whichever stance one takes, even totally for or against, the trick is to make some type of theological assertions, to ground them exegetically & patristically, to articulate them in some metaphysical idiom, & then, finally, to (legitimately) run for the apophatic cover of a positive mysterianism, whenever one’s interlocutors point out the unavoidable antinomial residues.

Our search for our (anti)apocatastatic apologetic, then, not escaping Gödelian constraints, will force a choice between consistency and completeness. As Hawking said, the good money’s always on consistency, i.e. accepting the unavoidable incompleteness. More aptly, as the Nazianzen did, we’re really just looking for the least inadequate way to convey our faith.

In some respects, then, if we’re going to have to embrace an ineluctable agnosticism, we can focus our arguments on exhaustively explaining HOW volition works, putting an end to our curiosity regarding the precise nature of noncompetitive divine-human agential interactions, opting for Augustinian, Thomistic or Scotistic emphases, while leaving an antinomial theological residue regarding WHAT God wills.

Or, we can focus our arguments on exhaustively explaining WHO God is, putting an end to our curiosity regarding the precise nature of WHAT God wills, opting for the universalist “hints” gifted us by Origen, Isaac of Nineveh, Gregory of Nyssa, the Nazianzen, Athanasius, Maximus & others, while leaving an antinomial anthropological residue regarding HOW human volition works. The good money, seems to me, remains with cultivating an abiding aporetic sense regarding the precise nature of noncompetitive divine-human agential interactions. After all – not just theological, but – enduring metaphysical aporia also abound regarding the origins of – not just human language & sapience, but – even animal sentience.

Thanks to Chalcedon, at least, we know via participation what it’s like to imitate the divine & even to grow in likeness to Christ. We remain otherwise stumped regarding “what it’s like to be a bat.”

When it comes to choosing one anthropological tautology over the next vis a vis our noncompetitive divine-human agential interactions, the tie-breaker for otherwise logically consistent accounts, for me, remains anthropological congruity with our time-honored, shared moral & aesthetic sensibilities. Any account, including speculative post-mortem anthropologies, that does violence to our quotidian experiences of human belonging, desiring, behaving, believing & becoming, I reject.

As a theological corollary, since we are imagoes & similitudines Dei, incongruous images of God that do violence to our most deeply felt anthropological sensibilities, intuitions & discursive reasonings, I also reject.

Accordingly, I heartily commend DBH‘s TASBS and offer my own Systematic Apocatastasis:

A Gelpian-Lonerganian Architectonic – a Missiological Meta-Heuristic

Be attentive, orient, describe, truth, eschatological, protological, transjective necessity or Ens Necessarium – analog of paterological uniqueness

Be intelligent, empower, interpret, unity, ecclesiological, interpretive, intersubjective intimacy – analog of hypostatic unity

Be reasonable, sanctify & consecrate, evaluate, beauty, soteriological, evaluative, charismatic, harmonic, unified self as intrasubjective integrity – analog of mystical, creaturely-divine, sophianic union

Be responsible, sustain, nurture & heal, norm, goodness, sacramental, ethical, normative, interobjective indeterminacy – analog of essential unicity

Be in love, save, contemplate, freedom, synergy, sophiological, liberational, theotic, intraobjective Logos-logoi identity – analog of unitary energeia

The above meta-heuristic provides the hermeneutical key to my Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism


A Moderately Libertarian Approach to the Will – with Scotistic & Maximian influences

Both Duns Scotus & Maximus the Confessor sufficiently nuance their notions of the will in ways that sufficiently navigate past both voluntarist & intellectualist flaws.

The following strategies are influenced by but not developed solely from Scotistic & Maximian approaches.

relocate primary causation (as an immediate, continuously conserving cause) to the act of existence, which is in limited potency to an essential cause

recognize that secondary causality includes realities that vary in degrees of indeterminacy

relocate the will from a formal to an efficient causal act, which is in limited potency to a material cause

relocate the operation of grace from an efficient to a formal cause, which is in limited potency to a final cause

distinguish will (self-determination) from nature (hetero-determination)

distinguish an “assent to,” a “refusal of” & an “absence of refusal of” grace (as one can cease to refuse grace without assenting to it)

distinguish three logoi of being, well-being, and eternal being, God the sole cause of the first & third, while well-being’s intermediately caused by our sponaneous movement & gnomic willing (epistemic & axiological distancing), hence, intellect’s necessarily operative but not wholly determinative in volition

attribute gnomic will to evolution not a “fall”

distinguish freedoms to assent, refuse or permit (absence of refusal)


freedom from – an indeterminate willing w/o ratio (choosing among goods, including one’s choosing whether to will at all) from

freedom to – a determinate willing w/ratio (fallibly choosing between goods, per one’s constitutive desires & needs, and privations, iow, refusing grace) and

freedom for – a self-determined or self-limited willing (as in kenosis)

Helpful Resources:

The Subtle Doctor and Free Will, Part 1, Maximus Confesses

The Subtle Doctor and Free Will, Part 2, Duns Scotus on Freedom of the Will and Divine Foreknowledge

A paradox in Scotus account of freedom of the will by Gonzalez-Ayesta

Duns Scotus on the Natural Will by C. Gonzalez-Ayesta

Chapter 4, Duns Scotus on Freedom as a Pure Perfection – Necessity & Contingency by Gonzalez-Ayesta in
Margaret Cameron ed., Philosophy of Mind in the Early and High Middle Ages: The History of the Philosophy of Mind, Volume 2, Routledge, Jul 6, 2018

St. Maximus the Confessor on the Will—Natural and Gnomic by David Bradshaw, Ph.D.

But the Problem of Free Will by David W. Opderbeck, Ph.D.

Divine Freedom & Necessity (analogues & antinomies)

no best possible worlds but a pareto front of equipoised optimalities, choosing among the perfectly good – jssylvest

Freedom and Necessity in Modern Trinitarian Theology, Oxford University Press, 2016

Brandon Gallaher shows that the classical Christian understanding of God having a non-necessary relationship to the world and divine freedom being a sheer assertion of God’s will must be completely rethought.

Review of Brandon Gallaher, Freedom and Necessity in Modern Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: OUP, 2016), Reviews in Religion & Theology 24.4 (2017): 697-699–Justin Shaun Coyle.pdf by Justin Shaun Coyle

Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism

One can find further resources regarding Scotistic & Maximian libertarian conceptions of the will within these notes, above, especially by searching for Mary Beth Ingham, Marilyn McCord Adams & Eleonore Stump.

A Plea for a Rhetorical Ceasefire in the Politicization of the Covid19 Pandemic

When it comes to country (even state & county) comparisons of Covid19 data, it’s best to be suspicious of politicos, their ideologues & sensationalistic media, who, because of confirmation bias, have cherry-picked numbers to portray the pandemic as either more or less severe than it really is.

The reason they do this, of course, is to either scapegoat or exonerate government leaders for political purposes.

Such a politicization, typically, will cynically characterize those leaders’ responses in terms of – not just in/competency, but – moral turpitude and scientific illiteracy.

Too often, such politicizations will either over- or under-exaggerate the short & long term consequences of lockdowns (vis a vis their various durations & extents) in terms of economics, mental health and educational & career development, etc

Further, even the more nuanced comparisons of per capita mortality & case severity by country are seldom sufficiently nuanced. Specifically, they fail to adjust for salient demographics, like GDP,
population density, age, gender, life expectancy, prevalence of
obesity, diabetes & other comorbidities, quality of
health infrastructure – nurses, doctors, icu’s, etc

As a result, the nature & extent of government mandated measures, for better & for worse, get over-exaggerated, precisely because other salient factors get ignored. And those factors, in some early studies, were much better predictors of per capita mortality & case outcomes than variations in government mandates.

So, when it comes to finding the sweet spots between the flattening of covid case & economic recession curves (keeping in mind the drastic, multifarious consequences of both), toward such multiple ends as reducing both mortality & healthcare overcapacity, there need be no (can’t be a) one-size-fits-all lockdown percentage or duration in order to realize a given country, state or county’s goals, as aimed to fall within a generally acceptable sweet spot range.

For all sorts of eminently defensible reasons, Western democracies will have experienced higher per capita mortality rates by the time the pandemic has, hopefully, run its course or been otherwise thwarted by vaccines & treatments. And such differentials, I promise, will not be reflective of varying levels of enlightenment, whether of political, moral or scientific natures. Rather, as seen thus far, other demographic factors will more so account for them.

Such differentials as between, on one hand, the US & Western Europe, and, on the other, what are effectively totalitarian dictatorships, especially are not reflective of an enlightenment of any sort or suggestive of strategies I’d wish to emulate?

It is a strength – not a weakness – of our federalist system, the best governmental experiment in humankind’s history, that New York & California can adopt one strategy, Texas & Georgia – another.

Did some states reopen too soon? I think so. Does that mean, however, that I believe some governors operated wholly outside the bounds of what I would defend as politically, morally or scientifically defensible?

Not in my view.

I would only suggest some have, roughly seems to me, sub-optimized. Even then, for the most part, our leaders are, less often truly statesmen & stateswomen, most often followers, whose chosen strategies will reflect a given population’s most current political sensibilities (which can shift like hurricane winds). Necessarily, then, they must judiciously calibrate the degree of governmental coercivity that will be most effective & truly enforceable for their particular constituency, that is — without precipitating widespread revolt & noncompliance. That factor will differ from topic to topic, state to state, even county to county. Such subsidiarity & diversity reflect values we should not ridicule and dare not sacrifice.

Our democratic republic, as an experiment, has many laboratories, which, given time & experience (often painful), will gift ourselves & the world the Best Practices that – historically have & in this case will, again – serve humankind on manifold fronts & in multiform ways.

Often, a governor must calibrate & titrate executive responses to a constituency which is climbing what is a steep learning curve. Those, who pretend the answers & strategies are apparent & the learning curves shallow for human realities surrounding pandemics, lack – not only the right answers, but – even the right questions. This is true for the experts. How much more true it must be for Joe & Jane Citizen?

The way I feel about it, presently, is that all of the politicization of this pandemic, coming from all directions, is positively repugnant.

Still, I’m going to give all politicos, ideologues & sensationalistic journalists, as well as myself and other citizens, a pass.

This is a once in a century event. We’re relatively confused & understandably anxious.

Does this mean that I don’t think certain persons have given in to various kinds & degrees of confirmation bias?


Does this mean that I don’t think many persons of all persuasions have taken positions out of pure political expedience & said things that are transparently & utterly laughable, even sad & hurtful?


What I’m inviting others to join me in doing is to give everybody a Free Covid19 Pass.

It’s too important a reality to treat as facilely as it has been thus far. Let’s observe a rhetorical ceasefire & turn our focus to keeping safe, staying healthy & helping all in need.

After all, there’s no shortage of persons of all persuasions, who have taken all sorts of positions regarding all sorts of other things out of pure political expedience & who have said so many other things that are transparently & utterly laughable, even sad & hurtful!

So, let’s throw the rascals out & vote our heroes & heroines in for all those other reasons, which existed prior to the pandemic.

And, if one simply can’t resist covid19 sniping, please  let’s not demonize or valorize Texas vs New York. All of our states are going to come out of the crisis with differentials that will take years to properly analyze & sufficiently nuance in terms of curve-flattening effectiveness for both the viral &, the more elusive but eventually sufficiently quantifiable, recession-based consequences.

Let’s, instead, focus on why, for all intents & purposes, Covid or otherwise, we’d still rather live in our Western democracies (including Sweden) than China, N. Korea or Russia.

For now, I’m going to research further how the entire premise of this essay might collapse based on a drill down into the Covid19 data coming out of Germany. I may have to eat crow and suggest we’d all be better off emulating them? My guess is that’s not going to be the case, but … who knows?

Published earlier this year – a prologue to the above essay:

Desperately Searching for the Sweet Spot of Epidemic & Recession Curve-Flattening

The public polling seems to show that a significant minority thinks our pandemic-control measures have gone too far, even as a significant majority supports continued efforts at social distancing. ~ Michael Brendan Dougherty

Let these debates flourish as we pursue the truth together!

Let’s be humble enough to admit that the truths regarding pandemics can be incredibly elusive, even for the experts that model such realities, epidemiologically & economically.

There are some, however, who have suggested (with the most arrogant, ad hominem faux-erudition) that these truths are out there in plain sight, that the world’s governmental, epidemiological & economic experts are parading around naked and blind to such truths, all the while unwittingly foisting untold evils on the world, enabled by a complicit unthinking public.

Now, it’s one thing to make such sweeping charges in so facile a manner, but, per the time-honored wisdom practiced by most historians & sociologists, once one has analogically (not to mention with a callous insensitivity) invoked the spectre of various types of Nazi complicities to make one’s case, the audience can rest assured that the cards about to be played will reveal a losing hand.

To wit, consider Jack Kerwick’s diatribe:

After facilely psychoanalyzing the world in one fell, dismissive swoop, suggesting that the vast supermajorities of experts & their trusting followers, alike, have unthinkingly bought into their precautionary Covid19 strategies, Jack inventories the costs they somehow failed to consider:

“It can, and already has, led to incalculable pain and suffering. It is no stretch to call these evils. Consider all that has occurred over the last six or seven weeks or so, since the dawn of The Great UnReason.”

Regarding items 1-9, all I can ask of Jack is:

“Really? You believe that the world’s governments, public health experts, epidemiologists, economists, medical & hospital associations have been blind to these costs? And, thanks to the blog of a part-time philosophy teacher, they’re now going to gasp a collective ‘Oops!’?”


Even regarding item 10, the Third World consequences of food supply disruptions, those projections, themselves, come from Arif Husain, the chief economist at the World Food Program, a United Nations agency.

Regarding the Third World, as well as here in the states, for that matter, as better info emerges, strategies will get tailored to account for country to country & intra-country regional variations. We won’t be deploying such blunt instruments as we’re able to augment our tool chests. Consider this early April Foreign Policy article:

Kerwick goes on:

“The masses of Americans who have bought hook, line, and sinker, without a moment’s hesitation, the Zombie tale of an Apocalyptic Virus are as well responsible for the immense suffering that their endorsement has left in its wake.”

Of course, Jack’s not just talking about the average John & Mary Doe, but the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Liz Cheney, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney & Bill Cassidy, not to mention those who extend William F. Buckley’s legacy at the National Review.

There are more sober voices, thankfully:

From Michael Brendan Dougherty at the National Review:

If you judged by social media, you’d think that America in the coronavirus crisis had a pro-lockdown faction led by Dr. Anthony Fauci and a “let it rip” faction led by a handful of red-state governors and professional conservative saber-rattlers. This may be a useful narrative for people whose jobs thrive on controversy, myself included. It may even be helpful for organizing our thoughts on the virus. But mostly, it just isn’t true.

MBD continues:

There is a good reason to hesitate to judge, namely our ignorance. Plagues are a time for scapegoats and blame-shifting precisely because they deal out suffering such a seemingly unjust and random fashion. Our leaders say they will follow the science, but they can’t, really. With a heretofore-unseen virus such as this one, the science is more like inherited wisdom and intuition from previous, similar maladies, at least at the start. What follows is a confused rush to catch up through trial and error. The results are not always pretty, or immediately useful. And although those who stay with their own carefully constructed echo chambers might think otherwise, where COVID-19 is concerned the evidence has not come down decisively on one side or the other of the false lockdown/let-’er-rip dichotomy.


The point I’m arguing has nothing to do with who’ll ultimately be right in the curve-flattening cost-benefit calculations. I’m solely here to make the point that, whichever side turns out to be wrong, it won’t be because they weren’t thinking or unaware of the tragic tradeoffs articulated in “Jack’s” questions.

As it is, the more successful the interventions, the more likely they’re going to be later misinterpreted as overreactions.

Because there are both epidemiological & economic trade-offs & risks, medical scientists & economists should collaborate to approximate a range of data-driven strategic sweet-spots. And they have.

This Goldilocks calculus should get reapplied as new information becomes available & uncertainties recede. And it has.

So, the curve theories that policy-makers rely on, when devising strategies to confront the threats of epidemics, should involve the flattening of both epidemic & recession curves, and economic, social, political & medical scientists should all provide input. Such is the case.

The disease & economic models employed for policy responses can vary widely in their approaches and assumptions, giving widely divergent results. And, the modelers should be transparent about the variables and assumptions used. And they have been.

I seriously doubt, though, that those of us who grasp the norms, above, should be credited with articulating some original, novel, brilliant observation, when we suggest that policy-makers should strive to avoid costly precautionary overshoots?

And, as we observe that such costs should not be too narrowly conceived?

Soon enough, scientists & policymakers, over a period of years, through rigorous research & vigorous investigations, will be asking:

Did the precautionary mitigation strategies work?

Were they never needed in the first place?

For now, I really don’t know.

And, for sure, Jack Kerwick doesn’t!

We manifestly do not and cannot know enough, yet, to say whether the world’s experts, collectively & pervasively, miscalculated their epidemic-recession curves for this pandemic.

In this recent pandemic, did the world’s best epidemiologists, economists & governing machineries, as well as most of those who’ve placed their faith in these authorities, sadly but truly, display a “curious, but quite authentic, inability to think“?

Did they really ignore the above-stated, time-honored norms?

Did they really ignore the the kinds & depths of pain & suffering that have ensued in the wake of their mitigation strategies?

My guess is that, ultimately, a majority report will vindicate the world’s policy makers, finding that they took adequate measures based on sufficient information as available at the time. And that they indeed asked all the right questions. It will likely indicate, from the benefit of hindsight, that more optimal measures could’ve been taken based on better information, which didn’t surface for various reasons, some benign but unavoidable, some due to bad faith and indefensible.

There will always be minority reports, too. It’s important that their voices of dissent not be suppressed, scientifically or politically.

But let us not confuse the sane voices of legitimate dissent with the shrill ad hominems of echo chamber ideologues.





Poor Countries Need to Think Twice About Social Distancing




COVID-19 Models: Can They Tell Us What We Want to Know?

Flattening the Coronavirus Curve Is Not Enough

Social distancing, politicized: Trump allies are urging an end to isolation, worrying public health experts