Ama-ar-gi and Mormonism

March 14, 2006 | 25 comments
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“Ama-ar-gi,” a Sumerian word, has the distinction of being the oldest written instance of the concept of freedom or liberty, appearing on a clay tablet from about 2300 B.C. The word itself has something to say about the vexed question of the relationship between Mormonism and liberty or freedom. Most Mormons insist that there really is no vexed question here. They invoke the idea of free agency, and insist that by affirming some sort of under theorized notion of metaphysical freedom of the will and the importance of choice for moral development they have exhausted the issue.

Liberty, however, turns out to be a devilishly difficult concept. How do we understand the interaction between choice and pressure? As Robert Nozick famously observed, the man confronted with the threat of “your money or your life,” nevertheless has a choice to make. Once we leave the largely barren question of metaphysical free will, we are forced to think about freedom in the messy context of social realities that rarely match up perfectly with the idealized choice of a wholly unconstrained agent faced with nothing but preferences and a list of possible actions.

Our two words — liberty and freedom — have quite different origins. Not surprisingly, both find their beginnings in the language used anciently to discuss human slavery. While we tend to think that the opposite of “slavery” is “freedom,” linguistically this is a relatively late development. For millennia the most natural antonym for “slave” was “master.” Roman slavery developed along fairly complicated lines, however, and their language needed a word to denote the peculiar legal status of not being enslaved. Hence, the word “libertas” from which our word “liberty” is descended. “Libertas” ultimately had its origin in the word for “unbinding” or “untying.â€? It had a purely negative meaning of the absence of constraint.

“Freedomâ€? in contrast has a Germanic rather than a Latin root being related to modern German words like “frei.â€? It is also descended from words used to discuss slavery. Interestingly, however, its origin lies in an ancient Indo-European word meaning something like “beloved.â€? Thus, for example, the English word “freedomâ€? and the English word “friendâ€? trace themselves back to the same root. “Ama-ar-gi” does not belong to an Indo-European language but has a similar root. As a legal matter, “ama-ar-giâ€? referred to the free status of a family or tribe into which one leaving slavery was adopted, and literally meant something like “returning to mother.”

In his famous essay, “Two Concepts of Liberty,â€? Isaiah Berlin made much of the distinction between negative freedom — the absence of constraint — and positive freedom — the power to accomplish one’s ends. Both concepts are essentially individualistic. The contrast between freedom and liberty, however, suggests a distinction more useful for Mormons. Rather than looking at freedom in terms of an absence of constraint, we can see it as becoming a beloved part of a community. Paul wrote of becoming fellow citizens with the saints and a member of the household of God. This is slavery imagery (which is to say that it is also freedom imagery), but it is not the merely negative freedom of “libertas.â€? Rather, it is a reference to the slave and foreigner who is adopted into a free nation and a free household. Nearly two millennia later, Joseph Smith unwittingly played on the similar language surrounding slavery when he insisted that “the grand and fundamental principle of Mormonism is friendship.â€? On this view, to be free is much more than the absence of constraint or metaphysical freedom of the will. It is more than agency or the testing quality of decision making. To be free is to be among friends and loved ones, something which at its best Mormonism offers in abundance.

[Edited to correct linguistic errors pointed out by Ronan Head, a cool guy who ought to be hired by someone to teach dead Near-Eastern languages.]

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25 Responses to Ama-ar-gi and Mormonism

  1. DKL on March 14, 2006 at 2:32 am

    From a practical point of view, the primary function of freedom is to provide a framework (legal, philosophical, or otherwise) in which credit, blame, and other forms of accountability may be meted out. Nozick’s famous observation is mostly beside the point; as Nozick well knew, “sign this contract or I’ll kill you!” does not result in an enforceable agreement.

    In practice, freedom is either a highly overrated and underused commodity, or it functions primarily as an escape valve. The regularity that we depend on in our lives consists primarily of our refusal (and others’ refusal) to exercise our freedom–our turning a blind eye to the options available to us. Our employers don’t sit with bated breath, wondering whether we’ll exercise our freedom and stay home (unless we’re already on the verge of being fired for exercising too much of this sort of freedom). Nor do we worry with any consistency whether the mail man will exercise his freedom and not deliver our mail today. On the contrary, our employers rely (and we rely) on others not to exercise their freedom in many important areas.

    I can’t agree with your last statement, “To be free is to be among friends and loved ones.” Sure, it’s the kind of thing that Socrates might have said before drinking poison, but try asking people whether they’d mind getting sentenced to jail even if it meant that they could be with a friend.

  2. Kimball Hunt on March 14, 2006 at 5:05 am

    Absolute freedom is impossible, as is absolute lack thereof–well, short of death, in which there is absolute freedom (or else, lack thereof, depending on how you look at it). But in life there are always various contraints: physical, societal, psychological; and if there’s constraints, there are also “enablings” of physical blessings or endowments, societal blessings or beneficial situations, or psychologically fortunate gifts.
    Religion and ethics tries to exercies both individual and societal control by starting with the individually psychological with then its sort of “cloning” these individuals off, like cell division, to produce a societal control (with this control, I suppose, in the end ultimately being of the material or physical). Whatever we are taught as children goes into some inner layer of our psychological “something or another” that’s really hard to subsequently change: whether this “thing learned in childhood” should be a fear of something, or a prejudice, or a belief in some myth or foundational belief system, or some imperative to act a certain way.
    This deepest layer of belief can be changed, but to do so tends to involve a process that can be quite fraught with difficulties. And so then, also, this blog is designed for people with backgrouds of their thus having been “died in the wool” as Mormons (or else those who wish for whatever reason to convert to this stance, or those who can take what is spoken from out of this frame of reference and respond to it).
    Anyway, “true” freedom, then–since freedom in this world cannot be absolute–must have its opposite right within its own very nature. True freedom must balance domination with anarchy, chaos with order. So in any instance, each individual must choose to fight against whatever particular contraint, and at times he or she will choose to go along with it. She will choose her battles. And each individual will do this in each intance (and parts of an individual’s psychology will do so even within himself), and in its totality this is all of human life.
    So where (Since this is a religious blog, I suppose. . . ) is “God” in all this, then? Well, if Life were to be capitalized in the above sentence, then God could be This Total Life. Or it could be perfectly balanced Freedom (as it could be pure Contraint, as that is, “from error”): the perfect “mechanism of control,” yet which would be seen as not actually having to exercise any overt control.
    Yet even the “total” experience of God can exists only conceptually, or as theorized to come to exist beyond death–even though we’re said to experience Him to the degree and in the instances when we feel or sense to honor altruistic impulses–or even to strengthen ourselves in ways essentially unselfish.

  3. Ronan on March 14, 2006 at 7:48 am

    Anal Sumerologist alert:

    Hyphens are all important. I was looking at Amagi for 10 minutes until I realised it’s Ama-ar-gi. (Crawls back to subterranean library.) FWIW, it literally means “return to mother” and is usually used in terms of the manumission of slaves. It isn’t Indo-European, it’s good Sumerian (a language isolate).

    (Oh, and the “gi” is actually “gi4.” Believe me, this is unemployable knowledge.)

  4. Russell Arben Fox on March 14, 2006 at 8:21 am

    Nate defends positive freedom. In other news, hell freezes over, Frank begins a campaign to unionize the faculty at BYU, and Russell sends a contribution to the Cato Institute.

    Just to be pedantic, Nozick pinched his “your money or your life” example from Rousseau, who used a story of a brigand threating to kill someone while robbing them on the highway to show the emptiness of the concept of pure liberty. But then, Hobbes used before him the example of the sovereign holding a sword to someone’s throat as they submit to argue that such individuals still had the liberty to resist. It’s a pretty old argument.

    “Joseph Smith unwittingly played on the similar language surrounding slavery when he insisted that ‘the grand and fundamental principle of Mormonism is friendship.’”

    Why do you say “unwittingly,” Nate? On my reading, while Smith may not have been able to theoretically articulate what he aspired to, but I think it’s pretty clear that a beloved community is what he was after from the beginning.

    “Sure, it’s the kind of thing that Socrates might have said before drinking poison, but try asking people whether they’d mind getting sentenced to jail even if it meant that they could be with a friend.”

    Depends on what kind of jail, DKL. Jesus Himself said that it was the “truth” that would make us free, and I take the truth He was speaking of to be the commandments and covenants of His gospel….which, among other things, includes a host of duties and restrictions that more than few people have historically compared to a prison.

  5. Kimball Hunt on March 14, 2006 at 9:40 am

    “No calories” has become “calorie free”: ‘No calories,’ a bland statement of fact, while ‘calorie free’ communicates the exhileration of newly loosened shackles!

  6. Jonathan Green on March 14, 2006 at 10:04 am

    Nate, what’s your prefered source for etymology? This isn’t a pointed question, I’m merely curious, because I’m not satisfied with any of the English-language reference works. German, on the other hand, has two or three good ones; I prefer Kluge: Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, personally.

    Since there might be something useful for you in Kluge’s entry on ‘frei’, I’ll give it a rough translation:

    frei: attested in the 8th century. From Germanic *frija- “free”, also in Gothic ‘freis’ and Old English ‘freo’; in Old Norse however the derivation ‘frjals’, which also appears in Old High German ‘frihals’, Old English ‘freols’, Gothic ‘freihals’ and is presumably to be explained as a Bahuvrihi-compound “he whose neck is free”. Welsh ‘rhydd’ matches this Germanic word exactly, which must be genealogically related because of its phonetic shape. With this agreement, Germanic and Welsh (and thus Celtic?) set themselves off from the other [Indo-European] languages, in which *prijo- originally means “own, very own” and then “familiar/initimate, dear” (Indic prija- “own, dear”, Latin proprius ‘own’, perhaps also poetic Greek propreon “gladly, willing”; see also ‘freien’). The meaning “own, very own” is linked to Indo-European *peri- “near, by” (=”that which is by me”); also the primary verb Indic prinati “gladdens, enjoys” must have originally had a locational meaning (“is at hand, approaches” or similar). The meaning “free” presumably develops from “own, very own” in phrases like “one’s own children”, which is only said when it is important in matters of inheritance etc. Perhaps Germanic *fri-halsa also shows the transition in meaning: “he whose neck is his own” = “he to whom his own neck belongs” = “free”.

  7. S. P. Bailey on March 14, 2006 at 11:40 am

    Russel wrote: “Why do you say “unwittingly,â€? Nate? … I think it’s pretty clear that a beloved community is what he was after from the beginning.”

    That’s the impression I got reading Bushman, with his emphasis on Joseph’s longing for kin.

  8. Matt Evans on March 14, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Russell,

    More than “defend” positive liberty, I think that here Nate recognizes it as a useful concept. I tend to agree with the school that thinks we already have a fine word for the concept of positive liberty — power — and that using the labels freedom and power for negative and positive liberty creates less confusion. Everyone can understand that while I am free to be a world-class pianist, golf a 57, make a billion dollars, and build a rocketship that flies to Saturn, I may not have the power to do so.

  9. Nate Oman on March 14, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Jonathan: My source is David Hackett Fischer’s discussion in the first chapter of _Liberty and Freedom_. I am willing to defer to those more qualified on the linguistic point. If the entymology turns out to be historically inaccurate, don’t worry. Just imagine that I am being poetic and Heiddegarian ;->.

    DKL: “From a practical point of view, the primary function of freedom is to provide a framework (legal, philosophical, or otherwise) in which credit, blame, and other forms of accountability may be meted out. Nozick’s famous observation is mostly beside the point; as Nozick well knew, “sign this contract or I’ll kill you!â€? does not result in an enforceable agreement.”

    I think that this is a pretty good way of restating the classical liberal forumlation of freedom. Interestingly, Nozick invokes the “your money or your life example” to show that the idea of consent cannot be understood in terms of internal mental states or metaphysical freedom of the will, but rather consists of action under certain social conditions. In other words, in a sense he derived the classical liberal concept of freedom that you outline from the seeming problem of understanding freedom and the mugger. (See his essay “Coercion” reprinted in _Socratic Puzzles_.)

    As it happens, I am a big fan of classical liberalism and the liberal conception of freedom. However, I think of myself as a political liberal rather than a perfectionist liberal. In other words, liberal freedom is a nice way of setting up certain public institutions in a pluralistic society. It does very little, however, to illuminate the idea of freedom on a deeper, spiritual level. There are three possible implications that one can draw from this fact. First, freedom is a concept that has nothing to say about personal or communal spirituality and we should all be tough-minded, Millian liberals. Second, the the liberal concept of freedom is therefore morally bankrupt and ought to be jettisoned. Third, we need to understand the liberal concept of freedom as being one among several ideas that share a certain family resemblence and we will need a different forumlation of freedom to make it an idea with any spiritual content.

    I take it that you adopt the first position while Russell adopts the second position. I think that you are both wrong. As for being compared with Socrates about to drink poison, I can only blush and thank you for the compliment ;->.

    Russell: As always I appreciate pedantry, especially when it tries to tar me with some sort of a Rousseauian brush. I will be sending my son off to a foundling home and writing about my love of children presently. You are wrong, however, to think that I am arguing in favor of some idea of positive freedom. Indeed, I more or less disclaimed that the distinction I was trying to draw was the one put forward by Berlin. Joseph was certainly talking about a hell of lot more than positive freedom when he talked about Zion and friendship. As for his unintentional speech, my point is that he did not explicitly draw the connection between friendship and freedom.

  10. Nate Oman on March 14, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    Ronan: Thanks! I edited the orignal post, although I didn’t write gi4. Fischer does discuss the return to mother entymology, which makes the idea of freedom as belonging even more poignant in a way.

  11. Ben H on March 14, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    Aristotle also considers choices made under threat to be more properly voluntary than not, and the sort of thing one can be responsible for, though of course the choice has to be understood in context (Nicomachean Ethics III.1). In some circumstances, we might blame someone for giving in to a threat, as we blame Esau for selling his birthright for a bowl of stew (though I’m not sure we are right to blame him–based on the text, his brother seems to be the unreasonable one there). An old idea.

    Hm. Nate, I think a lot of people would say the kind of freedom you are describing is a positive conception of freedom, even if it is not Isaiah Berlin’s. I would. But they might be trying too hard to fit your conception into pre-existing categories. I’ll have to think a bit more and ask some more questions.

    So, perhaps there are two opposites to this conception of freedom: slavery and exile?

  12. Sideshow on March 14, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Nate:

    Along the line of Ronan’s comments, please keep in mind that the study of the development of a linguistic form is “etymology”. If you really want to use an ‘n’, please go all the way, change the ‘y’ to an ‘o’, and convert your posts to refer to insects somehow.

  13. Nate Oman on March 14, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks Mark B.

  14. MDS on March 14, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    Is there perhaps some connection between freihals/*fri-halsa/: “he whose neck is his own� = “he to whom his own neck belongs� = “free� and the Biblical stiff-necked? Those who are stiff-necked are enslaved by their refusal to follow the commandments? Probably too much of a stretch from an old Germanic word to stiff-necked, which has roots in Hebrew. Any help from our etymology buffs?

  15. DKL on March 14, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    I thought this word sounded familiar. Sure enough, the cuniform script for Ama-ar-gi decorates the endpapers of the edition I own of Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments–the must-read book on ethics from the 18th century. According to LibertyPress, the clay tablet that bears the inscription is from the city of Lagash–never been there, but I hear it’s nice. (They also publish Hume’s History of England, the best yet written.)

    Nate and Russell, the more I think about your definition the more I dislike it. No matter what Jesus says about friendship, it’s a superfine brand of freedom that allows all conceivable restrictions provided that you’re surrounded by friends and families.

    Russell, you’re right to surmise that I’m a child of the enlightenment. The formulation that I offer (liberty as a framework according to which groups mete out accountability) suits my inclination to have more or less concrete sense of what constitutes freedom of action; specifically, the kind of environment in in which people are generally prone to give credit or to place blame or to apply some general notion of accountability. In Mormonism, we understand this to mean (in some sense) that freedom constitutes a baseline condition for personal and communal morality.

  16. Kimball Hunt on March 14, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Thank you for letting me inflict my blog on you. I’m a novice. And you’re my first blog. I just loved your discussion sometime back, which I just read yesterday, of “Is Signature Books Anti-Mormon.” It’s posts seemed pretty temperate to me, as just a reader, and not a tenderly hearted advocate of ideas. But the fact that you guys put your money where your mouth is as far as your trying to retain civility is just so very admirable, I must say. And it’s true that scholarship–or so I imagine–like [sic] any creative pursuit fares best when peoples’ budding forays in it are carefully nurtured and thier promising initial efforts are encouraged.

    I just read also McMurty’s follow-up response in NYT Review (although not yet Bushmans second book). And in this age of political correctness, it’s surprising that it’s considered politically INCORRECT to allow for belief in a religions foundational story? And I wonder if a scholar who happens to legitimately Hassidic also be required view the kabbalah as its necessary being a entirely Medieval in its genesis and not Medieval in its revival of more ancient knowledge?

    This topic’s in a way is similar to the civility issue–so that when a reviewer simply puts his prejudice out there and delicately and politely says why he prefers one approach over the other and then allow people to appreciate whatever the competing works’ various strong points. “I like poanuts so I like Snickers, but if you like almonds and coconut maybe you’ll respond well to the Almond Joy,” not to offend any honey ‘n’ oatmeal loving granola people in here. So a lot of it boils down to tone?
    And now on to liberty/freedom, although not specifically anything about etymologies: Brigham Young, bless him, was all about supporting and some would say enforcing a standard of “stalwartness” in Zion. Was brother Brigham’s theocracy a Golden Age? Or is the current, socially evolutionary dynamic of democracy within contemporary Utah, with all the problems of anarchy and chaos this entails more of one?

    Speaking of Socrates, are the Platonists’ “right-wing” criticisms of democracy valid? Or is the rule of even a philosopher king’s force forever that of the Great & Abominable? And is the answer to these questions to be found in the words of prophets? or those of Senate orators? (of whatever Age).

  17. DKL on March 14, 2006 at 8:05 pm

    In my previous comment, I intended to address the final paragraph to Nate (though Russell is free, of course, to read it and respond).

    Kimball Hunt, Welcome! “Is Signature Books an Anti-Mormon Press?” is the perfect place to start reading the bloggernacle. Greg Call’s Comment #24 is a brilliant quip that I have tried to memorialize by repeating the remark I make in my comment #44 in as many places as opportunity has allowed (back then, I posted under my full name, David King Landrith, but that seems like a previous lifetime). In any case, I just re-read the thread and it brings back memories. In it, I had a great time making fun of Daniel Peterson by pretending to take him seriously (as here and here).

    The best bloggernacle thread ever, in my opinion, is My Only Real Regret, by the author of this very post.

    As far as Plato, according to Karl Popper, his Academy produced no fewer than 8 disastrous tyrants. Based on that sample, I categorize the philosopher king as Great & Abominable (though it is against my own interests to do so).

  18. Ben H on March 14, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    no fewer than 8 disastrous tyrants

    A sobering thought. To be fair, though, we should compare the results of other educators of the time and place, or consider whether the students would have been tyrants anyway. Socrates seems to have befriended Alcibiades precisely in the hope of moderating his political ambitions–maybe not his fault, then, that Alcibiades caused so much trouble in the end.

  19. Susan on March 14, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    I agree with you, Nate, that “friendship” is an extremely important and highly charged notion within the economy of Joseph’s thinking. He has a thoroughly consistent impulse to extend what he is experiencing to his circle of friends. Think of opening the possibility of translating to Oliver. I think it is very interesting to trace the development of priesthood within the context of friendship–his generous impulse to find a story for life that includes his friends. Think of the Mormon concept of God and heaven within this context–a grand heavenly gathering of friends (though often male friends, but that’s another discussion).

    Of course, the converse of “friend” is “enemy.” And that notion is just as charged and central to his economy.The most intense of Joseph’s feelings about enemies fell on what Elaine Pagel (in her book on Satan) calls “intimate enemies”–those in the family, those who once were friends. What better story to capture this than that of Lucifer, the fallen angel, the fallen friend, the intimate enemy.

    Mormon theology is in crucial ways a story about bonds of friendship–and bonds of friendship and kinship gone awry.

    Pretty sure this doesn’t have anything to do with you main point here. Just free associating. . . . .

  20. Jim F. on March 15, 2006 at 12:31 am

    Ben H: To be fair, we should ignore Popper’s writings on the history of philosophy.

    DKL: You prove to be as good a connoisseur of the bloggernacle as you are of caffeinated drinks. (Though you’re judgment that Aspertame leaves a crisp after taste goes way too far.)

  21. DKL on March 15, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Jim F and Ben H, Popper actually provides a list of the tyrants. I’d have to dig my copy of “The Open Society and It’s Enemies, Vol. 1″ out of one of the many boxes in the basement to give you the list. The book is fun reading because it’s Popper, but you’re right, Jim, it’s not good history of philosophy. (Positivists were never very good at that sort of thing, and though Popper’s not a positivist, he’s close enough.) In any case, whether 8 men graduated from the Academy and became Mediterranean tyrants isn’t exactly what I’d call “history of philosophy,” even if it does tend to indicated that the Academy didn’t teach politics very well.

    As far as the drink, I’ll have to reread the post, but I think I commented that the mouth feel of aspartame is silky compared to the gummy mouth feel of corn syrup, and that aspartame tends to give a comparable taste-profile more sudden, less gradual transitions than natural sweeteners tend to. Since aspartame has an astringent off-flavor, it can’t qualify as a crisp flavor.

  22. Kimball Hunt on March 15, 2006 at 2:11 am

    David, thanks for your gracious welcome.

    Actually doesn’t Platonism in general complain of democratic inefficiencies, as it by comparison extols the virtues of the more milititaristic Spartans with their vast slaveholdings? And I don’t need mention that a certain native of Macedonia named Aristotle himself originally attended Plato’s Academy. Oh and let’s see, Aristotle went to work for the great “democrat” Philip (to teach his son, that other respector of democracy–not!–Alexander.

    Oh, Dave, I read the entire post from, I think, last December? with regard to Mormon temple garments. And I have to admit it took me through all sorts of mental—–reactions, varying from my wanting to start going back to church and almost wanna wear em again or else to– Laugh– never step into a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints again. Which schizophrenia’s got everything to do with me and nothing to do with this thread.

    For my commentary: Garments were given back in the days of polygamy, when early developing girls might be married as early as twelve years old without raising eyebrows. And in conservative cultures generally, such modesty keeps people abiding by the applicable numbers of the Ten Commandments, analogous to the high necks of the Puritans and the hijabs of the Muslims.

    My family’s Mormonism was such that once my younger sis wore a dress with a shield-shaped partial-sleeve instead of a regular little sleeve. She hadn’t been to the temple yet. My dad had her change– I have no idea how a 20-year-old girl now could find stylish clothes now. Yet I’ve seen this sister of mine’s young daughter with bare midriffs my sis would never dream of wearing.

    The sociological principle involved is for the ” good” Mormon girl in any generation to neither be the frumpiest girl dressing in misses’s styles nor the girl who’d have (at least last season) put the little towel dresses on. But the point is such standards change. It goes from one waltz per evening. To walzing’s OK but not too tight. To waltzing OK but not the foxtrot. To the foxtrots OK but not swing. To the swing’s OK but not the twist. You get the idea. The idea is not to be the first–but then not to be the last.

    Then the first lady of Massechussetes, miss Romney.

    Well, Brigham had daughters who were actresses. How did they dress? The BYU dance troupes were mentioned. How do they dress? And someone thought to criticise a girl on a float in an evening gown. I see their philosophical point in their wanting to be consistent. But the true consistency is I think the sociological argument I’ve mentioned. And that would be to don a costume to shine within the social setting required of one, while at the same time retaining one’s morality.

    And this is the exact same issue as the traditional Muslim girl in France’s accomodating fulfilling social expectations through her not covering her hair in public school. (And hey! you think Ruth dressed at all times exactly like a “good,” devout Hebrew girl of less status?)

  23. Nate Oman on March 15, 2006 at 9:58 am

    Mom (aka Susan): I think that you have to add one other idea to your imaginative economy of Joseph Smith: recocilliation. He did not simply see the world as a struggle between himself and his friends on one hand and enemies, intimate and otherwise, on the other. He also continually sought reconcilliation with intimates from whom he was estranged, Orson Pratt and W.W. Phelps providing two of the most dramatic examples, but others could be added. In that sense, his vision was much more Christian than the Manichean picture that you present.

  24. Jim F. on March 15, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    DKL, you are probably right about what you said about Aspertame in your post. I was writing from memory. In my mouth “astringent” is absolutely accurate, especially in the after-taste but also readily noticable if I sip rather than guzzle. Diet Coke with Splenda is an improvement, but only slightly. Real Coke, original formula, with cane sugar has the taste I crave, though you have to leave the country to get it. The same for Dr. Pepper. (But my preferences reveal that my red-neck origins continue to assert themselves.)

    Sorry for the thread-jack, Nate.

  25. Susan on March 15, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    I don’t see things in the agonistic way you describe. I rather see the strengths of something being intimately related to its weaknesses. I see them together, intimately intertwined, not opposed. It’s true that Joseph had a great capacity for reconciliation. He showed that again and again. Think of how hard it was for him to give up on Bennett. But that said, it wasn’t easy to be at odds with him. Bushman shows striking examples of Joseph’s wrath. Those qualities seem intimately intertwined in the man.