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Friday, January 08, 2010


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Some clarifying analysis here, thanks.

On complication of the 'vale of soul making' idea, which first struck me in C.S. Lewis's Screwtape letters, is that throughout most of history it was (maybe still is) statistically unusual for someone to live their three score years and ten. Many or most people died around childbirth, in childhood and before sexual maturity - i.e. before having a chance to benefit from soul making.

This fact seems to have weighed much more heavily upon early thinkers than it does upon moderns (influencing e.g. the question of at what age baptism should happen) but it does require some analysis to understand, and I'm not sure that I do really understand it in terms of the 'plan of salvation'.


You're welcome. I hope you find equally clarifying my remarks on your atheism-as-a-delusion argument, which is the next post in line.

As John Keats sets forth the vale of soul-making idea, those who die at or near childbirth are reabsorbed into the Godhead: they never become individuals. Hence they do not end up in limbo (limbus infantium, to be precise) or any such 'place.' See here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09256a.htm

One of the many advantages of blogging is that one meets interesting and intelligent people such as yourself. Happy New Year.

Thanks - that online Catholic Encyclopedia looks like a really good resource.

I found the orthodox Thomistic explanation fine, so far as I could tell, although I also found it surprising. It was surprisingly similar to the Mormon idea of an intermediate 'heaven' for good unbelievers - the terrestrial kingdom - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrees_of_glory.

Keats's idea sounds a bit unorthodox - rather animistic, like the recycling of a finite number of souls apparently characteristic of hunter gatherer spirituality - http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/animism.html. I suspect that Keat's idea of resorption of the infant soul must inconsistent with something important somewhere along the line...

My interest here is in answering the general question of 'what is the point of mortal life?' in a brief and approximate way that is relatively simple and self-contained.

In the spirit of Samuel Johnson's refutation of Bishop Berkeley, Dr. Vallicella says,

"It is arguable that there is no insoluble problem of evil for theists-A. Suppose this world is a "vale of soul-making" (the phrase is from John Keats) in which human beings, exercising free will, make themselves worthy, or fail to make themselves worthy, of communion with God. Combine this soul-making idea with post-mortem existence, and the existence of purgatory but not hell, and we have perhaps the elements of a solution to the problem of evil.";

and I refute it thus:



You are a nice guy, but please don't waste my bandwidth with stupid stuff like this. The ComBox is for serious discussion of serious questions by serious people. It is not a place for the incompetent or the unserious to spout off. You did not address anything I said in my carefully composed post. If you want to know what a good comment looks like, read the comments of Peter Lupu. He disagrees with me on many points, but he knows how to do it.

Anyone who thinks that Samuel Johnson refuted Bishop Berkeley is an idiot as I explained in an earlier post, an explanation which apparently was lost on you. As a literary writer you have picked up a few cliches from the history of philosophy, but you have no understanding of philosophy.

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