Friday, March 23, 2018

The Case against Automation

In "Skilled Perception, Authenticity, and The Case against Automation," David Zoller argued that we shouldn't automate everything.  Automating an activity implies that satisfactory performance of that task is sufficient; there is no need to do it excellently.   But doing something excellently is necessary for happiness (cf. Aristotle).

Moreover, each person defines himself by certain vocations (such as being a parent or a teacher or a firefighter), and fulfilling each vocation requires doing certain types of activities.  Automating those activities would contradict the requirement of the vocation.  For example, how can one be a teacher if the associated activities such as demonstrating and explaining something for one's students are done by machines or computers?

Acquiring the skills to perform the duties of a vocation requires training, which requires activity.  One cannot learn to perform a task that, because it is automated, one never does. Because humans and the time and resources available are limited, one can pursue only a limited number of vocations, and so one's skills are limited, which makes the skills that one has mastered more valuable as a sign of one's competence and ability to accomplish something.

David Zoller, "Skilled Perception, Authenticity, and The Case against Automation," in Robot Ethics 2.0, Patrick Lin, Ryan Jenkins, and Keith Abney, editors, Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-19-065295-1.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Wuerl on Amoris Laetitia

This month, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., issued Sharing in the Joy of Love in Marriage and Family: Amoris Laetitia Pastoral Plan.  The document discusses the apostolic exhortation written by Pope Francis and proclaims that all Catholics are called to experience the joy of love.
The desire to love and to be loved is a deep, enduring part of our human experience. God has written onto each human heart the desire for self-giving love, reflected in the divine plan for marriage and family. That plan offers a profound “yes” to true joy in love. It gives us an invitation to experience Christian hope in the love of God that never ends.
The archbishop emphasized that those who have been hurt by others especially need our love:
With humility and compassion, the Church also wishes to encounter, to listen to, and to accompany those whose experience of human love is marked by disappointment, pain, and obstacles.
Their pain is made worse by our society, which is secular, materialistic, and individualistic:
Particularly challenging is an individualism that is concerned only with one’s desires, as well as the throwaway culture that sweeps away marriage and family whenever they prove inconvenient or tiresome.
The often not so silent pressures of popular culture forcefully propose a “new normal” that sells short the dignity of the human person.
Pastors and ministers must lead the process of accompaniment with love:

The Holy Father gives priority to the practice of pastoral accompaniment, which in its most fundamental aspect involves leading others closer to God. We begin each encounter mindful of everyone’s innate human dignity.
[Accompaniment] calls for a conversion of heart. The minister is called to recognize that beyond the assurance of doctrinal statements he has to encounter the people entrusted to his care in the concrete situations they live and to accompany them on a journey of growth in the faith.
In addition, in our families, parishes, and communities, we are all called to help each other grow in faith and hope and love.
Accompaniment is a collaborative effort of priests and laity who understand themselves to be missionary disciples, who experience the love of the Lord in their encounter with him and who seek to share it with others. Pope Francis invites all of us to this practice of accompaniment.
In particular, the family can be "the site of God’s revelation lived out in practice."  But we must recognize that no one is perfect; it is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong; everyone needs God's mercy.

Each of us is a sinner in need of wholeness. ... Each of us is in need of this healing, and so we journey together as brothers and sisters united in our common need for the love and mercy of God that heal every broken human heart.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Chaput on Fides et Ratio

In the March 2018 issue of First Things, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput discussed the lessons of Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II's encyclical on faith and reason.  (Last year I discussed this document here.)

Archbishop Chaput highlighted the pope's emphasis on truth:
John Paul II argues that the search for truth is central to any genuinely human culture. The drive to understand the world and our place in it is one of the most basic human hungers. Truth is not the enemy of freedom but its foundation, since it gives us the capacity to love reality as it really is. Knowledge of the truth expands our freedom to love.

The search for truth and the capacity to love are both important and are not opposed to one another. 
We can only resolve our inner confusions about life by seeking the objective truth about things, and by exploring that truth with others who hold us accountable to reality. As John Paul states bluntly, “Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.”
But searching for the truth is not limited to scientific, empirical research.
The aim of any true philosophy, it notes, should be to find the unity of truth in all things, an understanding of the whole. This demands an engagement with the classical discipline we call “metaphysics,” ... an exotic word for a very basic subject: the study of the deep truths and harmonies built into the world.
As we journey through Lent towards Good Friday and Easter in a world that denies the existence of any truth beyond this world, we must, as the pope wrote, seek answers in Jesus Christ:
Reason cannot eliminate the mystery of love which the Cross represents, while the Cross can give to reason the ultimate answer which it seeks.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Art of Prayer

At the end of the Great Jubilee in A.D. 2000, Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic letter NOVO MILLENNIO INEUNTE "so that the Church may shine ever more brightly in the variety of her gifts and in her unity as she journeys on."   In general, the letter encourages "each local Church to assess its fervour and find fresh enthusiasm for its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities."  In particular, it urges Christian communities to learn the art of prayer.

In the letter, the pope first mentions the people who have been recognized as living holy lives and then challenges every Christian:


The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction. It is also clear however that the paths to holiness are personal and call for a genuine "training in holiness", adapted to people's needs. ... This training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.
He calls on Christian communities (such as parishes) to pray and to act:


our Christian communities must become genuine "schools" of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love". Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: by opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God's plan.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Christian Way

The statement by Evangelicals and Catholics Together on The Christian Way was published in the December 2017 issue of First Things.  Some highlights:
Being a Christian requires more than intellectual or moral agreement with Christian teachings. Christ asks for our love and loyalty. Following him requires conversion, which leads to membership in the Church, the Body of Christ. To be a Christian means being a citizen of a city that has a rich inheritance and glorious future. 
Even now, the Christian way bears witness to the fullness of life promised in Christ. Caring for the sick and the poor, friendship for the prisoner and the outcast, comforting the sorrowful and educating those who need instruction: These are works of mercy that embody the love of God in Christ. This active witness is crowned by ongoing prayer for the needs of fellow Christians, as well as for the world. 
The Christian way seeks to be faithful to that which has been given by God, which turns it outward rather than inward. It serves God’s love for the world. Evangelization seeks to bring people to Christ. But this is not so that Christianity might grow more powerful and “win.” Instead, the Christian mission proclaims the good news that God, in his mercy, offers deliverance to humanity from the power of sin and death, opening up a new future in which the fullness of life reigns.