Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Problem of Arthur's Battles

 It is fairly universal across the legends constituting the Matter of Britain that Arthur, after he became king, fought in a war of consolidation against the northern British kings and then fought a war against the Saxons. The former is fairly well developed, but the latter much less so. The primary text on the Saxon Wars is that of Nennius, in his Historia Brittonum (sect. 50):

Then it was, that the magnanimous Arthur, with all the kings and military force of Britain, fought against the Saxons. And though there were many more noble than himself, yet he was twelve times chosen their commander, and was as often conqueror. The first battle in which he was engaged, was at the mouth of the river Gleni. The second, third, fourth, and fifth, were on another river, by the Britons called Duglas, in the region Linuis. The sixth, on the river Bassas. The seventh in the wood Celidon, which the Britons call Cat Coit Celidon. The eighth was near Gurnion castle, where Arthur bore the image of the Holy Virgin, mother of God, upon his shoulders, and through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the holy Mary, put the Saxons to flight, and pursued them the whole day with great slaughter. The ninth was at the City of Legion, which is called Cair Lion. The tenth was on the banks of the river Trat Treuroit. The eleventh was on the mountain Breguoin, which we call Cat Bregion. The twelfth was a most severe contest, when Arthur penetrated to the hill of Badon. In this engagement, nine hundred and forty fell by his hand alone, no one but the Lord affording him assistance. In all these engagements the Britons were successful. For no strength can avail against the will of the Almighty.

This seems explicit enough, but runs into the problem that we don't actually know where any of these places are, and the only battle that has any date in any sources is Badon (516 in the Welsh Annals, although Gildas seems to suggest it was before 500). It's also worth noting that (1) Nennius doesn't actually say that these were all in a single campaign, and (2) it's not entirely clear that what the principle of his ordering is. Nonetheless, it's common to assume that this list is at least more-or-less chronological order in a single major campaign. If we do assume that, it's still unclear whether the campaign would have been in the north (Scottish border), or the center (the area around York and Lincoln) or the south (around Caerleon).

Suggestions are plagued by loose fantasies with names, so that pretty much every river in Britain with a name like Glein, Gleni, or Glen, gets to claim the first battle, and so on with the rest. Since many of the names are not distinctive -- Glen would just mean 'pure' and Douglas would just mean 'black water' --this doesn't help much. But on the other hand, it's true that we have very little more than names and basic descriptions. We have a fairly good mix of geographical identifiers, and he order of the battles in terms of geography is: river, river, river, river, river, river, wood, castle, city, river, mountain/hill, mountain/hill. But these are all so generic that they don't provide much guidance. The name that seems most promising is Caerleon (City of Legions); Caerleon in these contexts usually means Caerleon-on-Usk, in the south of Wales, which seems to suggest a southern campaign, and this is a common proposal. On the other hand, "the wood Celidon" seems to some to suggest the Caledonian Forest, which would put it in the north. The primary virtues of a more central campaign are the importance of York (Eboracum) and the ability of the central campaign to allow some northern or southern action if you like.

I suspect the southern campaign option is the most popular one today; one reason for that is historical -- it just does not seem historically likely that there were enough Saxons in the north to be that much of a threat. Nonetheless, the legendarium seems clearly to envisage a northern campaign. In the Vulgate Cycle, the main Old French sequence of stories, the northern kings fail to defeat Arthur in part because their war with him is interrupted by a Saxon invasion of their countries, thus giving them a more immediate problem; Arthur's wars with the Saxons grow causally out of this, so it seems he has to be fighting in the north. Wace seems to envisage a war spanning an impossibly large portion of the island: major waypoints are 'beyond York', York, Lincoln, Bath, and Totnes, but strikingly the whole thing ends at Loch Lomond, with Arthur having invaded Scotland to terrorize the Scots for supposedly having aided the Saxons.

If I want to fill out some of the framework here, I need to make some choice about where the battles would have taken place. The legends seem to push me to a northern campaign. My current tentative idea is something like this:

(1) The river Gleni: Sometimes 'Glein'. The mouth of the River Glen, overlooked by Yeavering Bell (Ad Gefrin, where there is an Iron Age hillfort)

(2), (3), (4), (5) The river Duglas in the region Linuis: Various locations around Douglas Water in Lanarkshire

(6) The river Bassas: This is generally recognized as the most elusive site, regardless of the assumptions one makes, and it's one on which I waver. I'm inclined to make it a minor tributary of the Clyde somewhere in the very broad vicinity of Fallburn Hill Fort or Crawford Castle. A suggestion that is sometimes made is that it is Cambuslang, up near Glasgow, which has some Arthurian associations (although perhaps not close enough to make it stand out) and a nearby Iron Age hill fort. It's also not a stretch for it to be a battle after some battles along the River Douglas. Thus it has some attractions; but then 'the river Bassas' would just be the river Clyde, and I am not sure why it wouldn't just have been called that, since it's one of the rivers with the most durable names.

(7) The wood Celidon: The Great Wood of Caledonia, perhaps near Drumelzier.

(8) Near Gurnion Castle: Near a Roman fort somewhere around Stow of Wedale.

(9) The City of Legion, which is called Cair Lion: I am strongly inclined to go well out on a limb with Carlisle, previously Luguvalium, in Cumbria. It would have been Caer Luel, not Caer Leon. But if Nennius saw anything described as 'the City of Legion', he may have just assumed that it was Caerleon, because this is what 'Caerleon' was taken to mean. York (Eboracum) would probably be safer -- it may have occasionally been called City of Legions, and comes into the campaign anyway, and the legendarium has the Saxons besieging York in the time of Uther. But there was a Roman legion stationed at Luguvalium, and a Roman fort (where Carlisle Castle is currently found); and Carlisle would have been in Rheged, one of the northern kingdoms that the legends suggest were invaded by the Saxons. Some people suggest the Roman hillfort of Trimontium, and it would have been a thriving place, although as far as I know, no one ever calls it 'City of Legion'.

(10) The banks of the river Trat Treuroit: Sometimes 'Tribuit' or 'Trevoit'. Hexham/Warden, where the North Tyne and the South Tyne join to become the Tyne. If one were to do Trimontium, the River Teviot would be the obvious choice.

(11) The mountain Breguoin: Sometimes 'Agned'. The Roman fort of Bremenium, near Rochester.

(12) The hill of Badon: Cockleroy Hill, near Linlithgow. Then Arthur and Hoel could march to Loch Lomond, as in Wace.

In Google Maps, the campaign would look something like this. Of course, many of the particular places are only approximate, and armies would not have been following modern roads except perhaps occasionally where the modern roads happen to follow much older Roman roads. Some of these overlap with places suggested by those who posit Arthur as 'really' a Scottish king; this is not consistent with the legends, but many of the places would make some kind of sense of the legendary battles. You might also notice the regular associations with Iron Age and Roman hillforts. (This would make sense of Nennius's list, I think; it might well be a list of hillforts of which he or his source knew, which then were associated with Arthur. And there does seem a sporadic impulse in the legendary traditions to associate Arthur with Roman and Iron Age hillforts, in much the way that Merlin is often associated with Neolithic monuments.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Links of Note

 * Rob Alspaugh, Cur Deus Homo II.10-15, and Cur Deus Homo II.16-18a, at "Teaching Boys Badly"

* Constantin Luft, What's in a Name? Legal Fictions and Philosophical Fictionalism (PDF)

* Menashe Chaim Roberts, Development in the Analytic Philosophy of Judaism, at "The APA Blog"

* J. Dmitri Gallow, Surreal Probabilities (PDF)

* Patrick Flynn, The Philosophical Attraction to a Simple God, at "The Journal of Absolute Truth"

* Tai-Dong Nguyen & Manh-Tung Ho, People as the Roots (of the State): Democratic Elements in the Politics of Traditional Vietnamese Confucianism (PDF)

* Shahidha Bari, What do clothes say?, at ""

* Rosanna Picascia, Our epistemic dependence on others: Nyaya and Buddhist accounts of testimony as a source of knowledge (PDF). This is a fascinating paper, well worth the time of anyone interested in the nature of testimonial evidence.

* Timothy B. Jaeger, Phenomenology's First Lady: Hedwig Conrad-Martius and Phenomenological Realism, at "JHI Blog"

* Felipe Nobre Faria & Andre Santos Campos, Social Evolution as Moral Truth Tracking in Natural Law (PDF)

* Darwin, No, It's Not 1933, at "DarwinCatholic"

* Susan B. Levin, Plato on Women's Nature (PDF)

* Carlos Fraenkel, Is a Public Philosophy Still Possible?, at "Liberties"

Monday, July 15, 2024

Seraphic Doctor

 Today is the feast of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Doctor of the Church. From the Breviloquium: 

 Not only is Wisdom capable of knowing [all things]: it is the very principle of knowing. Therefore, it is called 'light,' as being the principle of knowing all that is known; 'mirror,' as being the principle of knowing all that is seen and approved; 'exemplar,' as being the principle of knowing all that is foreseen and disposed; 'book of life,' as being the principle of knowing all that is predestined and reprobated. For divine Wisdom is the 'book of life', considering things insofar as they return to God; the 'exemplar,' considering things as they proceed from God'; the 'mirror,' considering things as they follow their course; and the 'light,' from all these perspectives simultaneously. Now under the concept of 'exemplar,' we also use other terms, such as 'idea,' 'word,' 'art,' and 'reason.' 'Idea' refers to the act of foreseeing; 'word,' to the act of proposing; 'art,' to the act of accomplishing; and 'reason,' to the act of perfecting, for it adds the idea of a goal. Since all of these acts are in God, one is often taken for another. 

[Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Monti, ed., The Franciscan Institute (Saint Bonaventure, NY: 2005), p. 50.]

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Her Wine was Dew of the Wild White Rose

 Meg Merrilies
by John Keats 

Old Meg she was a Gipsy,
 And liv'd upon the Moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
 And her house was out of doors. 

 Her apples were swart blackberries,
 Her currants pods o' broom;
Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,
 Her book a churchyard tomb. 

 Her Brothers were the craggy hills,
 Her Sisters larchen trees --
Alone with her great family
 She liv'd as she did please. 

 No breakfast had she many a morn,
 No dinner many a noon,
And 'stead of supper she would stare
 Full hard against the Moon. 

 But every morn of woodbine fresh
 She made her garlanding,
And every night the dark glen Yew
 She wove, and she would sing. 

 And with her fingers old and brown
 She plaited Mats o' Rushes,
And gave them to the Cottagers
 She met among the Bushes. 

 Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen
 And tall as Amazon:
An old red blanket cloak she wore;
 A chip hat had she on.
God rest her aged bones somewhere --
She died full long agone!

Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Arian Syllogism

 Francis A. Sullivan, SJ, in his The Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia, published in 1956, has a nice way of getting a sense of the terrain of a large amount of patristic Christology. A major argument by the Arians against the Nicene position was to challenge the supporters of the latter to explain how the one subject to passion and death could be consubstantial with God, who is impassible. Sullivan puts the core of this challenge into syllogistic form (p. 162):

MAJOR: The Word is the subject even of the human operations and sufferings of Christ.

MINOR: Whatever is predicated of the Word must be predicated of Him according to nature.

CONCLUSION: The nature of the Word is limited and affected by the human operations and sufferings of Christ.

The Arians then took this to indicate that the Word could not be divine, since the divine nature could not be so limited and affected. There were sects, less popular and influential (and in general regarded by all other parties as raving loons) that rejected this additional assumption by claiming that passibility could in fact be attributed to God.

The Nicene position, which accepts that the divine nature is impassible but rejects Arianism, requires rejecting the syllogism. The syllogism, interpreted as pretty much anyone would regard the natural interpretation, is valid. So the Nicene position requires rejecting either the Major or the Minor. This eventually -- not immediately, but eventually -- created a significant rift between, on the one side, Antioch and (a bit later) Constantinople, and, on the other, Rome and Alexandria, all of whom were firm supporters of the Nicene orthodoxy, but who split on the question of why the Arian argument was wrong.

The Antiochenes, beginning apparently with Eustathius of Antioch, rejected the Major, i.e., the claim that the Word is subject even of the human operations and sufferings of Christ. This effectively disposes of the Arian argument. It runs into some initial difficulty in terms of how to interpret certain Scriptural expressions, but the Antiochenes did take the trouble to address the matter, and the whole position finally achieves its strongest defense in the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia -- and it is a fairly strong defense. This is the reason for the peculiarity of Theodore's career -- while not completely avoiding all controversy on the matter, he effectively becomes the major Antiochene theologian, and one of the greatest theologians of the day; he lives a life widely respected and dies in communion with the Church and no aspersion at all on his reputation as orthodox; his writings are later condemned in harsh terms. There is no doubt of Theodore's commitment to Nicene doctrine or his opposition to Arianism, the major heresy of his day; there is no doubt that he put considerable thought both into the rejection of the Major nor -- what is perhaps more important for his generally good reputation at his death -- is there doubt about his sincerity and honesty in trying to take into account the objections people were occasionally already raising against it (to the extent that he sometimes sounds very much like later Alexandrian orthodoxy, although always giving the expressions an Antiochene interpretation). But there becomes no way to defend the Antiochene position against those objections which are worked out with increasing force, without the development of Nestorianism. 

Athanasius, on the other side, clearly addresses the Minor, i.e., the claim that whatever is predicated of the Word must be predicated of Him according to nature, and the Alexandrians preserve this tradition. In particular, he takes the Minor to be equivocating, and distinguishes between what is predicated of the Word according to human nature and what is predicated of Him according to divine nature. This lets Athanasius preserve a robust doctrine of the Incarnation -- the Word actually does become flesh and dwells among us, since Athanasius can keep the Major -- but without muddling together the divine nature and the human nature and making the divine nature passible. It did have some difficulties to work out, such as how we predicate human attributes to the Divine Word, but Athanasius did so at least roughly, and later Alexandrians up to and including Cyril with slowly increasing sophistication.

The opposition between the Antiochenes and the Alexandrians is muddled a bit by the rise of the Apollinarian heresy, which vehemently opposed the disunifying of Christ that they saw in the Antiochene approach, and in fact anticipates some of Athanasius's response to it, but gets sidetracked with the assumption that a human being is a mind or spirit with a human body, and that therefore Jesus is the Divine Word because He is just the Divine Word with a human body. The Antiochenes opposed this for a number of reasons that were entirely right; and therefore it is because of opposition to Apollinarianism, which was on serious examination obviously untenable, that the Antiochene theologians came to be so certain that they were right. Some of Athanasius's most serious difficulties in argument were concerned with overcoming this by-then entrenched certainty that the options were either the Antiochene position or Apollinarianism; he had to argue that one could reject the Minor without being committed to the latter. This was not actually difficult to do in itself, but the assumption became so entrenched so quickly among those who were already inclined to the Antiochene position that making them see the point was often quite difficult.

These are not by any means the only issues or lines of influence, nor even the only important ones -- there are theological reasons why it eventually became so clear that the Alexandrian position had to be the right one that only become apparent when you consider how the two positions interact with other aspects of Christian doctrine or prayer. Famously, the question of Mary as the God-bearer, Theotokos, or Mother of God was the one that eventually did in the Antiochene position, but it was only an especially eminent case. The Antiochene position is very plausible considered only in itself, but it creates a remarkable number of problems when it comes to how it relates to other theological doctrines. Nonetheless, Sullivan's account of the period in terms of responses to the Arian syllogism gives a nice handle on a large portion of the theology of the Church Fathers.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Major Dissimilitudo

 God's being is from eternity and is immutable, for He has no beginning and in Him nothing begins. His whole being is one act; that is, He is eternal actuality and activity. But He is the beginning, the principium [beginning, principle]. From Him whatever has a beginning sets forth. Created things have a beginning and in them something constantly has its beginning, and this is their major dissimilitudo [greater unlikeness] to the divine being.

Edith Stein, Potency and Act, Redmond, tr., Institute of Carmelite Studies (Washington, DC: 2009), p. 128.

Dashed Off XVI

This begins the notebook started in June 2023.


"When Men are scattered into different places, and fixed at a distance from each other, it would be a foolish Labour to gather all the Provision into one Heap, and to distribute it out of the common Mass." Pufendorf 

"Love is to be valued because it enhances all the best pleasures, such as music, and sunrise in mountains, and the sea under full moon. A man who has not enjoyed beautiful things in the company of a woman whom he loved has not experienced to the full the magic power of which such things are capable." Bertrand Russell

The act of imputation always occurs within a general plan or system of actions. Imputability may pre-exist, but actual imputing is ordered to an end.

Bruni's three principles of a republic: libertas, aequalitas, ius.

What is most important in the sacraments is not our receiving but Christ's doing.

seminal causation // objective causation
seminal reasons as 'signs' of possibilities

The heart of Christianity always lies beyond and behind what can directly be experienced. This is the life of faith.

"In vain are we called Christians if we do not imitate Christ." Leo (Sermon 25)

Because they are relatively comprehensive, people often use politics and religion very deliberately to justify doing things they would otherwise regard as unreasonable.

the state as a pen-and-paper 'artificial intelligence'

Implicature cannot be determined prior to determining the illocutionary force.

three elements of conversational implicature
(1) cooperative presumption
(2) determinacy (supposition of belief or something similar)
(3) mutual knowledge (supposition of intention to communicate belief or similar)

Pragmatic meanings cannot be determined without knowing ends of the communicating.

"Our experience, as it comes to us, is a realm of Signs." Royce

idolatry and the cognitive alienation of the image of God into other things

(1) object/element/individual
(2) relation of membership
(3) assertion of membership (mapping to truth/falsehood)
(4) principle/norm/standard to which assertion may be compared so as to constituted the unity of the class

Through the Spirit we are made the symbol of Christ.

intrinsic common consent (nature or reason) vs. extrinsic common consent (original experience and tradition or widespread experience)
common consent and the entire human race as a rational inquirer
four forms of common consent: nature, reason, experience, tradition --> each of these gives you certainty within the limits of the source plus confirmation/testing through time and across different situations

Many social entities are specifically designed artifacts that are physically produced; it's just that only considering their physical production gives you an incomplete explanation.

Scientific experimentation takes place within the social world, and scientific experiments are social entities that fill a social role in inquiry.

Doubting itself implies by contrast the idea of omniscience.

theocrasia: the melding of deities

"Man is the being who can say *no*." Scheler

The mind or sense of the Church is a communal participation in divine providence.

"Ecclesia est societas instituta ad conservandam profitendamque omnem veritatem doctrinae Christi pertinentem." Berthier

atheism fantasy in science fiction

the angelic proclamation as an archetype of evangelism (Leo, Sermon 26)

"Peace nurses love, engenders unity, gives repose to the blessed, and provides a home to eternity....Where the truth of peace has been, no virtue can be lacking." Leo (Sermon 26)

possible worlds as perspectives --> intersubjective identity

"In solipsistic experience we do not reach the natural object, 'human being'." Husserl

Human life begins already in the middle of extensive cooperation.

Encounter is necessarily not the most fundamental mode of personal interaction; it is a derivative and highly impoverished one.

We begin as persons to understand the world and we begin to understand the world insofar as it is personal toward us.

Reason comes from what is beyond itself but not different from itself.

love and the blending of personal ambits

Even in sexual love we feel ourselves swept up by something bigger than we are, which we are, being swept up by the species of which we are a part.

Medicine is sanocentric in end but remedial in means.

To recognize moral disagreement requires recognizing there really is disagreement and that it really is moral.

constituation as "a time-indexed, contingent relation of unity between items of different primary kinds" (LR Baker)

Marriage is constituted not merely by the spouses but by a moral framework.

institutionalizing, institutionalized, and noninstitutional conventions

Numerical terms are not univocal, because they vary according to number system.

Affirmation of existence is not denial of the number zero, as one sees when the zero is temperature.

Platonic Myths as attempts to communicate the justice and the like are much 'bigger' than people are assuming.

mathematics as the icon of knowledge

Most observable things are made to be observable.

four different experiences of community: in, with, to, from/for
baptism : in :: confirmation : with :: ordination : to & for

ordinate (prior/posterior) disjunctive transcendentals ; purity (unqualified/qualified) disjunctive transcendentals
--> These are overlapping -- unqualified priors are especially important for metaphysics

Every virtue, intellectual or moral, suggests divinity in some way.

"a spiritual creature possesses an intrinsic generation which is the generation of a word by the mind; among all created things, this bears the greatest likeness to eternal generation." Bonaventure
"Generation is the communication or acceptance of being through consubstantiality."
"Both generation and spiration exist in the person of the Father."
"That unity is highest which exists in many but is undivided, and this implies a tirnity. That truth is highest which is infallible and most certain, and this implies necessity. That goodness is highest which is both lovable and loving, and this implies will."

novelty as a kind of measurable posteriority

society as constituted by fellowship and headship

The divine processions are immutable and consensual.

All good is self-diffusive in a manner appropriate to itself, but that good is most self-diffusive that loves.

transcendental unity --> continuous union --> discrete unit

Lukasiewicz's axioms for the 24 valid moods of syllogism
(1) Aaa
(2) Iaa
(3) CK Abc Aab Aac (Barbara)
(4) CK Abc Iba Iac (Datisis)

Modalizing predication is not the same as modalizing a predicate term that is then predicated.

"God gave language, when it was first instituted, a double purpose, and established it as a kind of mediation between the two great orders of visible and invisible things. Its first purpose was to make the sensible universe fully intelligible; the second, to make it a means by which we might pass beyond the confines of the sensible universe and rise to the knowledge of greater things." Rosmini
"Nothing is more absurd than to consider as contrary to reason the means that help, perfect, and instruct it."

People don't learn from 'instructional design'; the latter removes barriers and interfering complexities, and does not bear the essential elements of teaching and learning. Effective learning cannot be engineered, only aided.

Freedom always presupposes a kind of grace.

"A 'fall' takes place when an agent enters a region of the life-tree to which there is no permitted inlet. A 'predicament' occurs when an agent finds himself in an (acting-, life-) situation from which there is no permitted way out. An agent is in a predicament when his situation is such that, whatever he does, he does something he ought to omit, and whatever he omits, he neglects something he ought to do." von Wright

the Jephthah Theorem -- O(~t/p) -> O~p
"It is only as a consequence of a fall that a man can come to be in a predicament." von Wright

possibility --> ensemble --> probability

Physics is always in a state of inconsistency; it has never not been so.

'ens quoddam diminutum' = not ens realis, but not repugnant to actual being like ens rationis (cf. Punch vs. Mastri on whether this is possible; this dispute arises due to differences in how ens realis is defined)

The possibility of creatures presupposes God as exemplar cause; the possibility of their beginning to exist presupposes God as efficient and final cause.

Love itself does not kneel.

Contracts do not express resolve or resolution.

A contract is a shared artifact.

Statutory law is always a response to the life of a community, which pre-exists it.

authority as self-diffusion of truth

"We humans very easily attribute to ourselves rights we do not have." Rosmini

Good tends to link up with good over time.

"True peace for a Christian means not being separated from the will of God and taking delight only in those things which God loves." Leo (Sermon 29)

The actual language of science is and has always been heavily intensional.

"The cause of evil is a deficient cause, but in God there is no deficiency; his every act is perfect." Rosmini

first cause
(1) as positive (creative) -> being
(2) as negative
-- -- (2a) non-deficient
-- -- -- -- (2a1) permissive -> moral evil
-- -- -- -- (2a2) inactive -> penal evil
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- (2a2a) nongiving (not carrying out an action)
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- (2a2b) ceasing to carry out action
-- -- (2b) deficient (N/A)