Puppy reaction to Sandifer v Day: [Updated]

[Update: surprisingly John C Wright has mentioned this post on his own blog. I have been anointed the rank of “Magic Morlock”: scifiwright.com. Yeah, MAGIC morlock.]

You may need to read this post first to understand the background.

Magic Morlock Nominated Post

El Sandifer has published the transcript to her pod-cast discussion with arch-Rabid Puppy Vox Day. The discussion was about two works; the puppy nominated “One Bright Star to Guide Them” by John C Wright and “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks.

Both Vox Day (voxday.blogspot.com.au) and John C Wright have posted on their blogs in reaction to the transcript.

Day doesn’t say much other than he thought he did well and post a section of the discussion on The Wasp Factory that he liked. Brilliantly, El Sandifer has joined in with the comments at Vox Day’s site and has discombobulated the Day commentariat with a mercurial account of her views on a range of related subjects, including Platonism, Liebniz & Newton’s discovery of differential calculus and a host of other matters. The result are highly entertaining on the whole.

One of my favorite bits. A follower of Day’s blog responds:

“At this point it’s probably just better for you to admit that you believe in magic and be done with it.”

To which El replies:

“You do realize I explicitly identified as an occultist in the course of my debate with Vox, yes?”

I’m glad El doesn’t use her powers for evil.

Sadly, later in the thread John C Wright arrives and amazingly manages to lower the tone. That is quite an accomplishment consider this is the comment section of Vox Day’s blog. A better account of Wright’s behavior is here: http://www.philipsandifer.com/2015/06/john-c-wright-has-just-advocated-for-my.html

Actually, if anything El is minimizing things there as it isn’t obvious that Wright is addressing her recent comments and so quite clearly referencing El.

It is an interesting contrast – probably for mind game reasons Vox Day tried to stay at least somewhat classy in this exchange (or at least relatively compared to his more recent behavior). Wright appears to be struggling to makes sense and seems like El Sandifer’s comments on his book had genuinely upset him.

Over at Wright’s blog he has this to say:

[Sandifer] particularly dwells for an undue time on a monologue by the villain Richard, under the claim that real occultists do not actually perform the make believe rituals made up for my make believe story. Since the monologue is merely elements taken from Shaw and Nietzsche thrown together with the sacraments of the modern Democrat Party, namely, aborticide and fornication, I suspect Mr Sandifer’s offense comes mainly from the clarity of the looking glass: He is Richard.

For context Richard is a former childhood friend of the hero of Wright’s story who has become corrupted and a satanist in later life. Richard has his face mauled by a talking cat.

I think Wright’s antipathy is only in part due to El Sandifer rightly pointing out the weaknesses of Wright’s novella. What concerns Wright more is the similarity of ideas that he (as a catholic) and El S (as a Platonic minded occultist) share. Catholicism has a long tradition of Platonism within its theology although somewhat modified by later medieval inspirpartion from Aristotle via Thomas Aquinas.

The importance of a notion of external truth of abstract entities that exist at a higher level, makes it possible to consider a ‘top-down’ view of truth. In the comments at Vox Day’s site EL S. uses the example of the issue of whether mathematics (such as calculus) is invented or discovered. This notion is important to Catholicism because it makes theology methodologically possible and helps inform such things as the ontological proof of God’s existence (which is nonsense by the way but that is a post for another time).

Catholicism has therefore always needed to distinguish its position (which is essentially magic) with non-catholic Platonic thought and other magical thinking. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia has a wonderful entry on superstition which gives an insight into Wright’s old fashioned form of Catholicism.

There are four species of superstitions:

  • improper worship of the true God (indebitus veri Dei cultus);
  • divination;
  • vain observances, which include magic and occult arts.

This division is based upon the various ways in which religion may be vitiated by excess. Worship becomes indebitus cultus when incongruous, meaningless, improper elements are added to the proper and approved performance; it becomes idolatrous when it is offered to creatures set up as divinities or endowed with divine attributes. Divination consists in the attempt to extract from creatures, by means of religious rites, a knowledge of future events or of things known to God alone. Under the head of vain observances come all those beliefs and practices which, at least by implication, attribute supernatural or preternatural powers for good or for evil to causes evidently incapable of producing the expected effects.

While more empirically minded people might simply scoff at superstition, to the Platonically minded Wright EL Sandifer’s views are deeply threatening in what seems to be an almost visceral way.

Weird and fascinating

8 thoughts on “Puppy reaction to Sandifer v Day: [Updated]

  1. If you knew that the ideas expressed in One Bright Star were written by an atheist would it affect your psychoanalysis of Mr. Wright in any way? Mr. Beale got the entire theme and point of the novella wrong. So did both you and Mr. Sandifer. It’s kind of funny, actually.


    1. A couple of things in two mesages. I am interested in cognitive processes and not subconscious ones. So I am not particularly interested in analyzing the inner psychology of John C Wright. To some extent his online persona may well be a kind of fiction (mine is – I’m not actually a pair of syllogism and [spoilers] I don’t actually live with an talking cat called Timothy).
      So I’m not psychoanalyzing him. I’m looking at the ideas he is expressing and considering the whys thereof. Unless I see substantial evidence to contrary I assume his mind basically works the same as everybody else within a nominal standard deviation of what somebody wants to pick as “normal”.


    2. The religion of Mr Wright at the time relates only to the extent to which he was committed to those ideas as a reflection of the world. Assuming he wrote it as an atheist, he still felt that those ideas were worth putting in his novella but presumably saw them as more metaphorical and less based in some kind of supernatural reality.
      Consider a science fiction story in which somebody gets kidnapped by aliens. The author wrote it at time when they were on public record as saying that UFO abduction stories are nuts and that aliens were not, in reality, visiting Earth and abducting people. The story, however, is published when the author has had a change of heart and now passionately believes that claimed UFO abduction stories are true.

      Worth considering.


  2. I’m curious if there is any real information about Wright’s claimed atheist years and conversion? I’m a bit skeptical of his claim that he had been an atheist. It’s certainly possible of course (I’m not claiming he’s lying) but he does *such* a good job fitting a caricature of an “Hell and Damnation” Bible Belt religious guy that’s utterly clueless of what or how typical American atheists think. If he was an atheist, his apparent lack of self-awareness is astonishing.

    I wonder if he simply cannot understand the concept of atheism? It’s pretty common to find religious folks that can’t comprehend that some people don’t take their beliefs seriously. There are common arguments that atheists must believe in but hate a claimed god, must want to “live in sin” (as defined in their religion), etc. Maybe he really is an example of a theist that thought he was an atheist? I note that he is *really* big on the sin thing, apparently believing in a vicious God (he seemed quite happy to talk about how his god may put Gallo through infinite torture if she wasn’t sincere about her apology for recent remarks),

    All in all, it seems a bit bizarre for a former atheist.


    1. Atheist in its broadest sense covers such a wide range of people that it is very hard to generalise. I do think the Wright’s Catholicism seems very like that of other people I have met who have converted to Catholicism rather than people raised as Catholics.

      If you scroll to the comments of this post on his blog http://www.scifiwright.com/2011/09/faith-in-the-fictional-war-between-science-fiction-and-faith/ he has written a comment on his conversion. It is an interesting account but it doesn’t give any great insights into his thinking when he was an atheist. I assume, as he doesn’t say otherwise, that there wasn’t an equivalently dramatic shift in his politics and there is an implication that it was not a great struggle (to his initial surprise) to reconcile his non-religious beliefs with his new found religion.


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