Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lamb of the Lamb

A Poem of St. Agnes

The little lambs on heaven's field
remind me of a girl who fought
against the darkness, for the fair,
whose heart was free from trembling fear,
who would not falter, did not fail,
but held her ground against the foe.
"I faithful stay to Spouse and Friend,
my Jesus; I am truly free
with him," she said, her voice not faint.
And then she bent her head, with faith
exposed her neck. The death-stroke fell.

Agnes and Emerentiana

The world in rage will not endure
a girl who hears a higher call;
to blood it turns a prayer pure
and destines her to velvet pall.
And should a girl on girl depend
to keep her image to the end,
the world will hate as well her friend,
for friendship is the purest art.
It hates the pure -- such will not bend,
through grace transcending scripted part.
Then sword will fall, or stones descend --
they die unconquered, pure of heart.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Dashed Off II

Lacking aidos is a civic disease.

One of the common mistakes of the contemporary Catholic hierarchy is thinking one can teach by committee.

Few things seduce more effectively than the promise to change the world.

Suspension of judgment is teleological, and knowledge can be one of its ends.

philosophical inquiry in elenctic, aporetic, and aphoristic modes

The self-giving character of marriage is also self-forming.

the catholicity aspect ("space") and the apostolicity aspect ("time") of the sacrament
the sanctity aspect // "cause"

platonism, nominalism, etc., about argument-forms

objective traditionality vs meant traditionality

traditionality in mode of standing retention vs traditionality in mode of recollection vs traditionality in mode of reflective image

Sacred tradition is quasi-holographic in character; each part has reflections elsewhere.

Every present perception has a memorative and an anticipatory aspect.

introduction rules as an account of evidence; elimination rules as an account of use

The principle of charity in interpretation is a principle of evidence; sticking to the evidence is often the only way to be fair and reasonable, but this requires being open to evidence, rather than discounting it from the beginning. Thus charitable interpretation, to avoid prejudicial discounting of evidence. Treating someone as rational still allows, by evidence, the possibility of showing them wrong, confused, etc. Treating someone as irrational discounts evidence that could show them right or reasonable.

To learn a prayer is to pray.

Our interaction with the world is other-mind-ish; interacting with minds is our default stance, which we adapt to other things.

other minds & being able to think of oneself counterfactually

Life without parole is a kind of death sentence -- the difference between life without parole and what is called 'death' is just willingness to wait.

Every belief is also a normative evaluation of something as fit to be taken as true.

Ideas are not constitutive or regulative in themselves but as structuring this or that action or reason.

No quality capable of being measured in terms of both intensity and duration is such that intensity measures can be directly compared, much less added, to duration measures. An hour of travel cannot be added to instantaneous velocity. A minute of being hot cannot be added to absolute zero. And intensity of pleasure cannot be added to duration of pleasure, or even directly compared.

Pleasure does not come in discrete units but in layers, and while the layers are often distinguishable, they also bleed into each other.

acting in accordance with the principles suitable to one deciding on behalf of the whole Church

Kant links sublimity of maxims to independence of maxims from incentive G439 and sublimity of person to legislating moral law G440.

theory of value // theory of evidence

?: If A is evidence and it is true that when Z exists, A exists, then Z is also evidence.

evidentiality as binary modal operator (a is evidence of b) truthward fit

the exclusion of evidence vs the nonpossession of evidence

rank order for evidence (being more/less evidential of something)

evidence as value for belief
For every axiology, there is a corresponding theory of evidence.

All belief is belief that something is or is not.

the prior, the higher, the purer

Mercy is a directive virtue.

Treating potentiality as prior // treating the sensible as prior to the intelligible

values as concepts of practical reason

Each sacrament expresses an ecclesiology.

paraphyletic groups as artificial classifications suitable for building/converging on natural classifications

Loving your enemy is the essential princpile required for putting real good above political usefulness.

independence, continuation, and externality as issues arising with every measurement

number as that which allows naming without limit

+A+B A overlaps B
<+A+B> the overlap of A and B
+A+<+B+C> A overlaps the overlap of B and C
+A-B A overlaps nonB

patron saints and heroic language

gracefulness as bewgliche Shchönheit, movable beauty (Schiller) -- transient and can appear by chance

dignity approaching gracefulness: nobility; dignity approaching fearfulness: sublimity

"Just as bombast arises from the affectation of the sublime, preciosity arises from the affectation of the noble, and from affected grace comes fussiness and from affected dignity, ceremony and gravity." Schiller

The sublime is that which pleases by exceeding what can be seen. (But often this is by suggestion through what is seen.)

"atheism, conceptual of course, is only ever valid as far as the concept of 'God' that it mobilizes extends" Jean-Luc Marion
"Conceptual atheism becomes rigorous only by remaining regional."

The names of God are praising-names.

unum : memory :: verum : intellect :: bonum : will

goodness as incandescent truth

aliquid as the distinguishable

Human intellect is not intellect purely and in itself, but intellect in the sensible world of matter.

The theology of the Holy Spirit follows from the theology of the Father and the Son.

The rational response to grace is gratitude.

A description of the world at one time necessarily includes some description at other times.

All modern definitions of determinism entail that strict hard determinism, even if true, could only be known to be true by omniscience.

Things charm by the suggestion of beauty (which may or may not be their own).

For something to be an error, it must violate a norm that identifies rightness or correctness.

"rationality has at least four dimensions, intellectual, aesthetical, moral, and practical" James
(note similarity to Mill's Art of Life)

doxastic vs epistemic 'must'

"Moreover there are many cases in which it is our duty to act upon probabilities, although the evidence is not such as to justify present belief; because it is precisely by such action, and by observation of its fruits, that evidence is got which may justify future belief." Clifford
- Obviously raises two immediate questions: (1) If so, why can't belief sometimes be such an act upon probabilities? (2) If so, what of actions that require particular beliefs? James at least touches on both.

Clifford's spectroscope example seems clearly to concede one part of what James will argue -- that our 'passional natures' are involved in assessment of evidence.

Of any 'ethics of belief', ask how it is supposed to work with children. (Cp. Ward)

Clifford's argument in "The Ethics of Belief" seems to require a Knowledge Norm of Assertion, and to make any kind of deception an egregious moral wrong. (The moral argument Clifford gives transfers quite easily.)

central market, circuit market, and periodic market forms of law and justice

different kinds of analogical inference for different kinds of Diamond?

Infallible authority at any point in actual teaching can be (1) to truth as such; (2) to security or safety of position; (3) to suitability to either.

papal teaching by properly infallible authority vs papal teaching by universal ecclesiastical provision

respectful deference in conditions of doubt

Every theory of classification suggests a theory of concepts.

(1) To be a community both free and unified, ecclesial community must have some power of autonomy or legislation and of legitimate sanction, which is not subject to being overruled by other powers.
(2) Within a community, reasonable deference to law and sanction is loyal.
(3) Loyalty is a moral duty for those who belong to a community, where it may be had without violating natural or divine law.

Deference to spiritual authority is a case universal enough to fall under direction of natural law. It is confined to no age or clime, but universally obtains at all times and in all places where men live lives more exalted than the lives of beasts.

Ends excel means intrinsically; whether one thing excels another in other cases depends on ends in light of which something may be determined to excel.

Anderson suggests that the battle referred to in Charmides is Spartolas, not Potidaea, and thus that Socrates was in one of the early contingents.

Socrates on war
- it is kalon and agathon (Prot 359e)
- actions in it may be just (Gorg 468b-470b)
- life of commander second only to life of philosophers (Phaed 248a)
- art of war contributes to joyful life (Mem 11.1.19, IV.5.10)
- he doesn't discourage Xenophon from war as such (Anab 3.1.5)
- service in fleet is noble (Rep 396b, cp Laws 707a-c); cp land battles make bitter men in Laws 707c)

In Big Medicine, there is an ever-present danger of health care professionals being treated only as means; this danger is compounded in legislated health issues.

the personalist principle & humanitarian traditions

1) What has no contraries is both ingenerable and indestructible.
2) The world as a whole has no contrary from which it can be generated; it is therefore, as far as its nature is concerned, indestructible.
3) Angels have no substrate that can have contraries for generation and destruction; they are therefore neither generable nor destructible.

architecture and the suggestion of gracefulness

presentational vs representational art
presentational vs representational scholarship

holy and one: Creed
holy and apostolic: sacraments
holy and catholic: saints

At His Baptism, the Father acknowledges His Beloved Son, in who He is well pleased. At the Transfiguration, the Father also acknowledges His Son. But on the Cross no acknowledgement comes, and the Son cries out in the anguis of it.

Sloppiness of detail is often a symptom of a lack of mercy toward others.

Success is a form of victory, not a form of pleasure.

People devote themselves to money for three reasons: to survive, to increase pleasure, and to win what they see as a sort of sport or game. Notably, it is the latter of these that creates the most intensive pursuit of money.

pleasure, success, friendship, truth

The more brilliant one is, the more thoroughly one can err -- no one takes the errors of a slug to be great errors.

natura daedala rerum

the at-your-service-ness of hope

"The acuity of genius is the acute use of acuity." Novalis

the sublimity-suggestive

A Platonic or philosophical myth is a syllogism of allusions.

"Humor is lyrical...." Kierkegaard

Mendlesohn's fantasy forms
(1) portal fantasy: involve a point of entry, from which the fantastic is reached and learned
(2) immersive fantasy: the fatastic is within the story just the ordinary, and we treat it as supposed for the story
(3) intrusion fantasy: the fantastic remains immune to discovery as it enters the ordinary
(5) liminal fantasy: the apparently ordinary on the edge of the fantastic -- within the story, the fantastic is ordinary and we are estranged from it as part of the story
(6) miscellaneous
-- really these should be seen as act-packages, sets of things one may do; a single work may blend them or nest them.
-- portal stories tend to be healing stories; immersive stories tend to be stories of the loss of the fantastic

The Lord of the Rings is a text on ascetic discipline: the quest to give up power in favor the good.

The terminus of divine acts of omnipotence in the world, taht to which they tend, is always Sabbath peace.

"Drink loosens the tongue. But it also opens the heart wide, and it is a vehicle instrumental to a moral quality, that is openheartedness." Kant

"Man is destined by his reason to live in a society of other people." Kant

credibility : truth :: gracefulness : beauty :: manners? : good

"error serves truth in spite of itself" Maritain

Satisfaction of what is owed is a necessary part of purification.

Hyperbole and idealization have one root.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Music on My Mind



Hà Okio, "Sài Gòn Cà Phê Sữa Đá". A very cute song. Cà phê, of course, is coffee; cà phê sữa đá is the preferred Vietnamese way of taking it, with ice and sweet condensed milk. It's a nostalgia song, remembering times, sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy, when you just hung out with friends, sometimes coming, sometimes going, drinking cà phê sữa đá in the parks in the city center.

Judging the Effect and Judging the Intent

If the hurtfulness of the design, if the malevolence of the affection, were alone the causes which excited our resentment, we should feel all the furies of that passion against any person in whose breast we suspected or believed such designs or affections were harboured, though they had never broke out into any action. Sentiments, thoughts, intentions, would become the objects of punishment; and if the indignation of mankind run as high against them as against actions; if the baseness of the thought which had given birth to no action, seemed in the eyes of the world as much to call aloud for vengeance as the baseness of the action, every court of judicature would become a real inquisition.... Actions, therefore, which either produce actual evil, or attempt to produce it, and thereby put us in the immediate fear of it, are by the Author of nature rendered the only proper and approved objects of human punishment and resentment. Sentiments, designs, affections, though it is from these that according to cool reason human actions derive their whole merit or demerit, are placed by the great Judge of hearts beyond the limits of every human jurisdiction, and are reserved for the cognizance of his own unerring tribunal.

Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, II.iii.25

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Three Poem Drafts

Leucocholy

How small the world is,
and how far;
a million miles away I stand,
a weary endless void between,
and stretch my hand,
and stretch my hand,
and stretch my hand,
again for this,
again for that,
again, again, for this, for that.
As though beneath a heavy sea,
as though one sat a million years,
as though the world became too slow,
as though one's talents went to waste,
again for this,
again for that.
It must be done,
though there is no point,
the only purpose to reach the end,
again for this,
again for that.
Like sorrow without chance for tears,
like boredom without restless need,
like hunger with no taste for food,
like weariness that cannot sleep,
again, again, for this, for that.

Winter Fragment

The water I'll be wadding
into a little ball
constructed and compounded
from the crystals that will fall
like ash from wayward fire,
like dust upon the wind,
like diamonds turned to dancing
that lightly will descend.

On the Road

On the road,
although I journey on my own,
I am never quite alone,
for I know you are out there somewhere
on the road.
I travel up high mountains
and down to lowly valleys,
across the deepest, widest sea,
and wonder if you think of me;
for you are always in my thought.
May your journey be blessed by God
as out there somewhere you go your way
on the road.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Rocks of Distinctions and the Whirlpools of Universalities

In matters of the understanding, it requires great skill and a particular felicity to steer clear of Scylla and Charybdis. If the ship strikes upon Scylla, it is dashed in pieces against the rocks; if upon Charybdis, it is swallowed outright. This allegory is pregnant with matter; but we shall only observe the force of it lies here, that a mean be observed in every doctrine and science, and in the rules and axioms thereof, between the rocks of distinctions and the whirlpools of universalities: for these two are the bane and shipwreck of fine geniuses and arts.

Sir Francis Bacon, Wisdom of the Ancients XXVII.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Evening Note for Monday, January 15

Thought for the Evening: Mythology as a Guide for Morals

One of the weaknesses I've always thought modern philosophy of religion to have is a lack of interest in mythology. Greek mythology is particularly notable, since Greek mythology does not consist of tales repeated word for word, but of tales continually reworked for particular purposes. This is a peculiarity of Ancient Greek religion. Every Greek myth has a local traditional core somewhere, but this core consists mostly of old ceremonies and rituals with certain religious associations. The nature of the Greek religion means that Greeks constantly formulated and reformulated stories about these local traditional cores, and there were no standardized versions of the stories (although Homer tends to dominate other sources, when they overlap). Tragic poets would draw on these local traditional cores as they saw fit for whatever purposes they saw fit, and there was no expectation that the tale had to be told this particular way or that (although the giving of awards at festivals was probably partly affected by whether people thought the tale appropriate to the gods and heroes). The Greeks even had a genre, the satyr play, which consisted of Silenus and his satyrs breaking into some important Greek myth, messing it up because they were drunk, with the result that the Greek heroes had to find a way to fix it. The point of saying this is that the Greeks didn't give their myths simply to say what other people had said; Greek myths are told with a purpose. Platonic myths, while more explicitly philosophical, are entirely within the Greek myth tradition, and Plato is not ever really operating out of the bounds of what any skillful poet might have done in mixing and matching and developing and revising the tales to make a point.

Myths are likewise not told arbitrarily; myths for which no one can see the point tend not to be retold. In particular, the myths that tend to be told tend to be those that are striking (they entertain or please for some reason) or that teach something useful and practical, or both. One cannot conflate them with allegories -- but it takes no great insight or research to see that there is often an allegorical component to myths, and even the non-allegorical part may be at least partly didactic.

A good example of a myth that is not particularly allegorical but quite clearly is didactic is the myth of Baucis and Philemon, which we get from Ovid. Zeus and Hermes are wandering the land in disguise and they come to a village, where the people are so wicked that when the gods ask for a place to sleep, the villagers all deny them, and don't even do so with courtesy or kindness -- a violation of xenia or the hospitality we are obligated to show to strangers in matters of necessity. So Zeus and Hermes pass through and come to the poor hovel of Baucis and Philemon at the edge of the village; Baucis and Philemon are far poorer than any of their neighbors who live in the village. Baucis and Philemon, although having very little, give a xenium of wine to the strangers -- and discover, to their astonishment, that the wine jar never goes empty, no matter how much they pour. Suddenly they realize that the strangers are gods, and recognizing that, they beg forgiveness for the fact that they have offered the gods so little. Old Philemon tries to chase down a goose to kill and cook for them, but the goose takes shelter in Zeus's lap, and Zeus tells them not to worry about that, but instead that they should come with Zeus and Hermes to a mountain outside the village. They do, and Zeus completely destroys the village with a flood -- except that the hovel of Baucis and Philemon has somehow been spared, and it has been turned into a beautiful and ornate shrine as a sign that the gods were there. Zeus asks the couple what they wish in turn for their hospitality, and they ask to be made caretakers of the shrine, and also that neither of them would die before the other. So they become caretakers of the shrine, and as their death approached, they were both made trees, one an oak, one a linden, with intertwining branches. This theoxeny is not particularly allegorical, but who can deny that it has a moral, and arguably more than one, about hospitality?

Some myths do have an allegorical component that is quite important. Among the works of Sir Francis Bacon is one called Wisdom of the Ancients, which is concerned precisely with this allegorical aspect of myths. Bacon realizes that his contemporaries have a prejudice against allegorization, and one that he thinks is not always unreasonable, and so in the preface to the work, he explicitly defends his allegorical interpretations. He notes three things:

(1) Myths often have a structure that is very plausibly understood as allegorical. Zeus, for instance, is king of the gods; keeping that in mind, some myths about Zeus have a structure that strongly suggests a general comment about kings and their subjects. Zeus has to deal with rebellions; he has to keep unruly subjects in line; he has to take counsel and put it into practice; and the result is that tales about Zeus are often tales about kings. (President Macron a while back was widely made fun of for saying that he wanted to run his administration on a jupitérien model; but the point was entirely intelligible in terms of myths about the kings of the gods, and applying the idea did not require, as people willfully interpreted it, attributing godhood to himself.)

(2) In myths, names are often quite clearly allegorical. Metis means 'counsel', or the quality required for giving good counsel. Nemesis means 'revenge' (or probably originally 'rendering what is due').

(3) Some myths have weird features that are hard to explain unless they are taken to involve deliberate allegory. Jupiter mates with Metis, then swallows her, and then Athena is born: this myth, which seems rather random on its own, looks exactly like what you would expect if you took it as an allegory.

Bacon himself recognizes that myths are not purely allegorical; but as he notes, the allegorical -- and therefore some broadly philosophical point -- is there. But even if you insisted otherwise, he notes that stories have the twofold function of entertainment and teaching, and even if the Greek myths are assumed to be vague and indefinite, with no definite meaning, the use of stories naturally tends toward teaching; stories work as a kind of proto-argument. A story, even if it does not deliberately involve any allegory, may nonetheless guide the understanding in a certain direction, and in doing so make certain things more clear than they might have been without the story. Thus Bacon says, the ancients in their myths had either a great wisdom or a fortunate one: great, if deliberate, but if not deliberate, their myths nonetheless served as a springboard for higher reflection.

Thus one does not have to go full-scale Neoplatonist about myths in order to recognize that they provide interesting and useful explorations of ideas, particularly as they related to morals; likewise, one does not need to hold that the best way of understanding this relation is to look at the surface and no further, as if Zeus eating Metis and having Athena spring out of his head was primarily about cannibalism rather than about, in some sense, the nature of wisdom. Myths have a moral relevance. I've talked about Greek myths, in part because Greek myths are a particularly easy case with which to argue this. But one can make the same argument, mutatis mutandis, for myths generally. Myths have features that are mostly for entertainment, and features that arise out of historical accident or religious tradition, but they also have features that arise out of reason, and particularly moral reason. They are worth a bit of reflection.

Various Links of Interest

* Liam Kofi Bright and Aaron Novick, Zhengming, discusses Carnap and Xunzi.

* Thony Christie on the development of our thought about the Andromeda Galaxy.

* Edward Peters, Is the ‘Pauline Privilege’ an exception to Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage?, and Is the ‘Petrine Privilege’ an exception to Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage?

* Wesley Hill, The Tears and Laughter of the New Testament: Why David Bentley Hart's Translation is a Glorious Failure

* Richard Ostling on the cursing of the fig tree.

* Ladykillers: Murder Ballads and the Country Women who Sang Them

* Mediaeval or Medieval

* Katherine Rowland, We are Multitudes, discusses microchimerism and pregnancy.

* Why the Vatican is using milk to paint its buildings.

* Gene McCarraher, Radical, OP, talks about Herbert McCabe. (ht)

* How utilitarian are you on the Oxford Utilitarianism Scale? I score a 14 out of 63, meaning I'm not very utilitarian at all.

Currently Reading

Jules Verne, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
John C. Wright, Count to Infinity
Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Christopher Kaczor, ed., Thomas Aquinas on Faith, Hope, and Love
Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John

Two Types of Laws

One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fortnightly Book, January 14

After Cinq semaines en ballon, Jules Verne published Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras, a tale of an expedition to the North Pole. It is rarely read today, but at the time consolidated Verne's reputation as someone who could deliver a resounding adventure story. It has two parts Les Anglais au pôle nord and Le Désert de glace. Early working titles indicate that Verne had originally thought of the work as a Robinsonade on the deserted ice, which a significant portion of it still is, but the story in its final form goes well beyond a tale of survival.

I'll be reading The Adventures of Captain Hatteras in William Butcher's 2005 translation, which is, I believe, the first unabridged translation into English.

To the North!

Map from Journeys and Adventures of Captain Hatteras by Jules Verne
(Édouard Riou's original illustrated map for the book.)

Hammer of the Arians

I missed it, but yesterday was the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church, a pagan Neoplatonist who converted to Christianity. From his book On the Trinity:

I believe that the mass of mankind have spurned from themselves and censured in others this acquiescence in a thoughtless, animal life, for no other reason than that nature herself has taught them that it is unworthy of humanity to hold themselves born only to gratify their greed and their sloth, and ushered into life for no high aim of glorious deed or fair accomplishment, and that this very life was granted without the power of progress towards immortality; a life, indeed, which then we should confidently assert did not deserve to be regarded as a gift of God, since, racked by pain and laden with trouble, it wastes itself upon itself from the blank mind of infancy to the wanderings of age. I believe that men, prompted by nature herself, have raised themselves through teaching and practice to the virtues which we name patience and temperance and forbearance, under the conviction that right living means right action and right thought, and that Immortal God has not given life only to end in death; for none can believe that the Giver of good has bestowed the pleasant sense of life in order that it may be overcast by the gloomy fear of dying.

And yet, though I could not tax with folly and uselessness this counsel of theirs to keep the soul free from blame, and evade by foresight or elude by skill or endure with patience the troubles of life, still I could not regard these men as guides competent to lead me to the good and happy Life. Their precepts were platitudes, on the mere level of human impulse; animal instinct could not fail to comprehend them, and he who understood but disobeyed would have fallen into an insanity baser than animal unreason. Moreover, my soul was eager not merely to do the things, neglect of which brings shame and suffering, but to know the God and Father Who had given this great gift, to Whom, it felt, it owed its whole self, Whose service was its true honour, on Whom all its hopes were fixed, in Whose lovingkindness, as in a safe home and haven, it could rest amid all the troubles of this anxious life. It was inflamed with a passionate desire to apprehend Him or to know Him.