Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Dikaion de Psychai en Cheiri Theou

 The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no tribulation will touch them. They seemed to the eyes of the imprudent to die, and their exit was believed evil, and their going away from us to be shattering; but they are in peace. And though they are to human eyes punished, still their hope is full of immortality, and having been slightly disciplined, they are greatly benefited, because God assayed them and found them worthy for himself. He tested them like gold in the furnace and he received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their examination, they shall shine and run across like sparks on a reed. They shall judge the nations and rule the people, and their Lord will reign for always. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and those who are faithful in love will continue with him, for grace and mercy are to his holy ones and he examines his chosen. But the impious shall suffer punishment according to their own thought, those who have neglected the just and departed from the Lord. For whoever despises wisdom and discipline suffer hardship, and their hope is empty, and their deeds are pointless, Their women are witless and their children are wicked, their stock is cursed. For blessed is the barren one who is pure, who has not known the bed of transgression, who shall bear fruit in the examination of souls, and the eunuch who has done no lawlessness with his hands, nor imagined wickedness against the Lord, for he is given the chosen gift of faith and an inheritance in the temple of the Lord more to his mind. For the fruit of good labor is glorious and the root of prudence is unfailing. The children of adulteries shall be unfulfilled and the seed of the transgressive bed shall vanish, for if they happen to live long, they shall be accounted as nothing, and their old age shall be honorless, and if they end quickly, they shall have no hope, not even in the day of discernment. For unbearable is the end of the unjust generation.

[Wisdom 3:1-19, my very rough translation.I have translated episkope and like words by words indicating 'examination', which seems to fit best; literally, it means supervision or oversight. The last several sentences are heavy with different telos-related words, which can mean the ending or fufillment or completion of something. I find the emphasis on one's own thought interesting: the difference between the end of the just and of the unjust is that the unjust are punished even by their own lights, whereas the just are not. While some of the last part is obscure, I'm fairly the point is less a claim about the actual progeny of adulterers and more a comment that even the apparent blessings of the unjust (of which wife and children and descendants are an especially great kind) will not really be blessings -- however the unjust may seem to flourish, they are not in fact doing so. It's unsurprising, I think, that parts of this passage are often read in commemorations of martyrs, who end badly in the eyes of the world but have great reward, in contrast to many who seem to do well but in reality are building toward disaster.]

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Pointing the Path that Leads His Journey Right

The Moon
by John Clare

How sweet the Moon extends her cheering ray
To damp the terrors of the darksome night,
Guiding the lonely traveller on his way,
 Pointing the path that leads his journey right.
Hail! welcome! blessing! to thy silver light,
That charms dull night, and makes its horrors gay.
So shines the Gospel to the Christian's soul;
So by its light and inspiration given,
 He (spite of sin and Satan's black control)
Through all obstructions steers his course to heaven.
So did the Saviour his design pursue,
 That we, unworthy sinners, might be bless'd;
 So suffer'd death, its terrors to subdue,
 And made the grave a wish'd-for place of rest.

The Liturgical Commonwealth

 Let's start with a basic picture of human society, which I think is at least approximately true. Human beings are both sympathetic and rational, and for both reasons tend to combine their efforts in with others. In some of these interactions, the people involved are interacting in order to have some good that they have in common with others through the interaction. This common good is literally common; it is not a distributed good, divided among the people interacting, and it is not a collective good, distinct from the good of each. It is a good held in common, each individual's good and yet not divided among them. Systems of such interactions are called 'communities' after this good shared in common. In rational interactions with common good, we have rational principles governing how the common good is to be handled in the interactions; these are obligations and norms. When a community has in itself all that is required for the common good it has as a community, it is a complete society. The explicit obligations and norms of a complete society, when made explicit by the actions of all of the members of the community, or made explicit by those whom the members of the community treat as having the relevant authority, are called laws.

Let's also consider the nature of the Church, with an account of its origin that I am greatly simplifying but that I think is also at least approximately true. The Church by its nature does not arise out of a set of responses of its individual members; it is not the Jesus fandom. It is an institution, in the very literal sense that it was instituted by Christ and the early disciples operating on behalf of Christ. Even in the life of Christ it had rites and structured practices (baptism, preaching, healing missions) formed under his direction. It likewise had roles that were at least semi-formal and had some specific responsibilities -- the book of Acts lists the roles of authority in the Church as the Eleven (i.e., the Twelve Apostles minus Judas), the Brothers of the Lord, the Women, and Mary the Mother of the Lord. The last of course is a sui generis role; the Apostles seem to have been the primary authority, with the Brothers of the Lord primarily concerned with the role of Christians in Temple worship and the Women primarily concerned with administering the material needs of the Church, although our knowledge of the role of the latter two is very hazy and limited, because only the Apostles had a role that made it possible for them to provide a stable organization for the Church as a whole, and because the Brothers of the Lord did not survive much beyond the destruction of the Temple and the Women, whose original unity seems to have been that they had been wealthy women personally healed or exorcised by Jesus who were returning the favor by providing money and other help to Jesus and his disciples, seem to have broken up into various diverse practices and traditions.  The Apostles in organizing the Church established what seems to have been a fairly wide variety of different roles, of which the role of Supervisor (or 'bishop', to use the English modification of the Greek word for 'supervisor') was particularly important. The very early Church, however, seems to have been quite flexible in terms of the offices used, and one reason the role of Supervisor became dominant is that it literally involved the Apostles delegating some of their own supervisory functions, which could be said of no other role. The Church is organized under a particular commission, part of its very institutional structure: to go into all the world, baptizing and making disciples; it thus has both a sacramental and doctrinal aspect to it.

Therefore the Church is a community to which you are called, into which you are initiatiated, and within which you are part of an organization. Many of these features are not made by those who are members but received by them as part of the process of tradition, vocation, initiation, and participation. The Church pre-exists any of its members and is received by its members as involving common good that is higher than any human good, and part of that common good is the community itself. The Church itself is also a complete society, since it has everything in itself that its common good requires.

So far, so good; I am simplifiying, but this is in its broad outlines a fairly standard kind of ecclesiology. However, I think there is another aspect that gets forgotten. The Church as outlined above is a received society rather than a formed society; that is, its members receive the common good that makes it a community, including its sacramental and doctrinal hierarchy, whose existence depends on its institution from Christ and the Apostles rather than the members themselves. But when human beings have a common good, they form communities, and therefore the members of the Church, sharing the common good they receive from divine institution, form a society that depends on its members. This aspect of the Church I call the 'liturgical commonwealth'. It forms within the Church as part of the Church, and includes all of the members of the Church. The Church is not reducible to the liturgical commonwealth (because it is not reducible to the kind of society it is insofar as it depends on its members), but the Church is the liturgical commonwealth. 

The common good of the liturgical commonwealth includes all of the doctrine and the sacraments of the Church, and thus all of the hierarchy which supervises the doctrine and the sacraments. However, as with every other complete society, the liturgical commonwealth as such has authority over itself to protect that common good, and this is a power that belongs to the whole people who are part of it. Bishops have supervisory power over doctrine and sacraments, including the power of canon and liturgical law, but the whole community can by custom and various means of organization establish norms and even laws that are distinct from this.

This adds a layer of complication to ecclesiology -- the Church has to be considered both insofar as it is a received hierarchy and insofar as it is formed by its members -- but it also, I think, explains a great many things. There are many powers bishops and priests have historically had that are not strictly required by their doctrinal and sacramental mission; they are powers that have been given by the communities they served, because the community needed certain functions to be fulfilled and it was more convenient to attach it to the already-received episcopal or priestly office than to invent a new office. Likewise, there have been many roles that are distinct from the received hierarchy that have nonetheless played an important role in the Church. Monks and nuns and the like are an obvious case; they are now more or less formally integrated into what we usually think of as the received hierarchy, but this is actually a relatively new thing, something that took many centuries. All of these positions are things that were not necessarily done as an extension of episcopal organization, and yet developed a considerable amount of authority and influence just by the custom of the people. That is, the roles were generally created by the people as part of their way of upholding the common good, and then the bishops, exercising their supervisory power, organized those roles that the people had developed. (There are particular kinds of monastic that were invented by bishops, but in those cases the bishops were generally using a pre-existing role, developed by the people, as a model that they then adapted.) Other roles that have certainly been important for the Church but which were formed by the people rather than received as part of the instituted common good, are Christian kingship and Christian knighthood. Recognizing that the Church is a liturgical commonwealth clarifies the functions of such roles within the whole order of the Church.

In English we often call the hierarchy-constituting sacrament, 'holy orders'. But the original name for it was just Order. And the 'order' in the sacrament of Order was not a specialized term. Every society whatsoever has order, in the same general sense that 'order' was applied to the sacrament of Order; every society has to ordain (i.e., set in order) things for its common good. The Church has an instituted sacramental order, but as a liturgical commonwealth, it also has the same general sort of social order that human societies tend to have. And just as we have 'holy orders', that is, sacramental components of the sacramental order, we also have what might be called 'social orders', that is, social components of the social order. They are not equal, because the sacramental order is itself part of the common good that the social order is formed to protect and preserve, and because the supervisory powers of bishops are conferred sacramentally but are both sacramental and social in scope. (Christian marriage, like the clergy, also exists in both orders, and plays an important role in structuring the liturgical commonwealth.) But they are distinguishable. We can see this even in the clergy; the clergy are primarily structured by the sacramental orders (deacon, priest, bishop), but there are clearly distinctions among clergy that are social-order distinctions (monsignor, cardinal). But there are social orders in the Church that we primarily associate with the laity as well; again, Christian kings and Christian knights are an example. Some, like Christian kings and Christian knights, have been explicitly given a kind of sacramental recognition for their role in upholding the common good of the Church; that is to say, there are sacramentalia (sacramentals) associated with them, in the form of various blessings and Christian rites that at various times and places the Church has recognized. But the lay social orders themselves develop as part of the laity just living their lives in the Church, not because of these sacramental recognitions. Thus recognizing that the Church is also a liturgical commonwealth can serve to clarify the role of the laity in the Church, since the laity often participate in the actual work of the Church through social orders and roles that could, if necessary, be formalized as social orders, and because the laity play a major role in shaping the customs and norms of the liturgical commonwealth.

The idea is that the Church is therefore a kind of double society, the society into which we are called and which we form in light of the society into which we are called. Thinking in this way

(1) provides a way of clarifying a number of ecclesiological questions, like cultural and local powers of clergy, like the role of the laity in the Church, like the way in which the Church is both a divine and a human society, etc.;

(2) gives an ecclesiology that recognizes the priority of the sacramental and doctrinal order without reducing the Church to that;

(3) gives an ecclesiology that is flexible enough to account for the real importance of the customs of the people and Christian culture without reducing the Church to that.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Music on My Mind


The Hound + The Fox, "Return to Pooh Corner". Originally a Kenny Loggins song.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

En de Anthropos ek ton Pharisaion

 And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nikodemos his name, an Archon of the Judeans; he came to him at night, and said to him, Rabbi, we are aware that you have come from God, a teacher; because no one is able to make these signs that you make, if God were not with him.

Iesous responded and said to him, Amen, Amen, I say to you, if anyone is not born from above, he is not able to see God's realm.

Nikodemos says to him, How is a man able to be born, being old? He is not able to enter his mother's belly a second time and be born.

Iesous said to him, Amen, Amen, I say to you, if anyone is not born of water and Breath, he is not able to enter God's realm. What has been born of flesh, is flesh, and what has been born of the Breath is breath. Do not wonder that I said to you that y'all ought to be born from above. The breath breathes as it will and you hear its sound, but you are not aware of whence its comes and whither it departs; so are all who have been born of the Breath.

Nikodemos answered and said to him, How are these things able to happen?

Iesous answered and said to him, You are the teacher of Israel and do not know these things? Amen, Amen, I say to you, that that of which we are aware, we speak, and to that which we have seen, we testify, and our testimony y'all do not receive. If I have told y'all things on earth and y'all do not believe, how will y'all believe if I tell y'all things above the heavens? And no one has risen to heaven if not the one having come down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moyses elevated the serpent in the wasteland, thus the Son of Man ought to be elevated, so that all who believe in him may possess perpetual life.

Thus God was so devoted to the world that he offered his only-born son, so that all who believe in him should not be annihilated but should possess perpetual life. For God did not send out his Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be rescued through him. Who believes in him is not judged; who does not believe him has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the only-born Son of God. 

[John 3:1-18, my rough translation. There are several subtleties to the Greek here that are difficult to capture in translation. One interesting feature of this passage that is usually missed in English is that Jesus keeps switches back and forth between singular and plural 'you'; hence my use of 'y'all'. Another feature that is virtually impossible to convey in English is that Jesus originally says, 'If anyone is not born anothen'; anothen literally means 'from above', but can also mean 'anew'. From what Jesus goes on to say, it is clear that he intended 'from above' as the primary meaning (although perhaps not excluding 'anew'), but Nicodemus clearly interprets him as meaning 'anew' (as do many translations). Another tricky point is how to translate pneuma, which can mean spirit, breath, and wind; the passage also uses pneumatos, which is clearly a title. So I've picked 'breath' as the single translation that fits most easily with most of how it's used here, and then distinguished pneuma and pneumatos by capitalizing the latter. Monogene is tricky; it literally means something like 'single one from a given stock', so 'unique, one-of-a-kind'; but Jesus's repeated comments about birth, a related word, just prior to this do suggest that there is wordplay here again, in which Jesus is using the word in a way that highlights its relation to birth-words, thus 'only-begotten' or 'only-born', which arguably also fits better with the same word as used in John 1:14.

Nicodemus's title, archon, is often translated as 'ruler', which is very literal but not very enlightening. An archon would have been a member of the governing council of the local community; it was not itself a religious position, although it often overlaps with religious positions. Judeans were an ethnos in the ancient world, and as such were expected to be partly self-governing, so archon is here an official title for a community leader. Nicodemus's comment about 'signs' at the beginning fits with a continuing theme in the Gospel of John about signs that are not correctly interpreted. It is possible that this is why there is unusual wordplay running through the entire passage, in which Jesus is represented as using several words in ways that are slightly different from what one would expect: just as people not born of the Spirit do not understand what He was doing, so people not born of the Spirit do not understand what He was saying.]

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Baptism of Vicarious Desire

 There has recently been in several places in social media some discussion of baptism of vicarious desire (baptismus in voto parentum); unfortunately it has been plagued by several serious misconceptions. I think it is worthwhile to make a few clarifications, although they do not on their own rise to a full treatment.

(1) The question of whether there is baptism of vicarious desire arises from the case of infants whose parents were intending to baptize them who die before baptism. There are a few things potentially confusing about the name.

Despite the English name, the 'desire' has nothing to do with 'desire' in the colloquial sense; the 'desire' in this context specifically indicates baptismal intention. For instance, catechumens may die before they receive sacramental baptism; but to be a sincere catechumen is to be preparing for baptism, and thus to have baptismal intention, so they are said to receive baptism of desire. Baptismal intention is a necessary but not sufficient element of sacramental baptism; thus in the case of catechumens who die, they have part but not all of what makes for sacramental baptism. When this has actually been discussed, saints and doctors have typically seen this as a case of genuine participation in something not completely possessed; that is to say, baptism of desire is genuine baptism, and thus suffices for salvation, but it is incomplete and does not provide everything that sacramental baptism does (e.g., it does not give any kind of sacramental character because it is not sacramental baptism). This is known as 'baptism of desire'. It is distinct from (although related to) what we are currently considering. Despite occasional skeptics, here is no real doubt in Catholic theology that there are cases of baptism of desire; it's not a hugely common topic, but one can find clear support for it in some Church Fathers, some particular version of it seems to be the situation for the Old Testament saints, and the Council of Trent at least implies it as a possibility and is often interpreted as requiring it as part of Catholic theology of baptism.

Most forms of baptism, including baptism of desire, involve what is known as proper baptismal intention; that is to say, the person baptized is the one who has the baptismal intention itself. However, there are kinds of baptism that do not involve proper baptismal intention but vicarious baptismal intention. This is the sort of intention that is involved in sacramental baptism of infants; the baptismal intention is that of the parents and the Church on behalf of the infants rather than of the infants on behalf of themselves. There is no real doubt in Catholic theology that vicarious baptismal intention suffices in the case of sacramental baptism; infants receiving sacramental baptism with only vicarious baptismal intention (which is the only way they can) are genuinely baptized.

Thus the question of whether there is baptism of vicarious desire amounts to this: Are there cases of baptism falling short of sacramental baptism where the baptismal intention is vicarious? For example, if parents are preparing for an infant to have sacramental baptism but the infant dies before it can actually receive sacramental baptism, is the infant baptized? Catholic theology does not take baptism to be an all or nothing affair; there are baptisms that are taken to be genuinely but only incompletely or partially baptismal, like baptism of desire and baptism of blood (martyrdom). Is an infant who dies (for instance) just before receiving sacramental baptism baptized in this kind of genuine-but-incomplete sense? That is the question.

It is important to recognize, because I find that people regularly fail to do so, that the question is not whether infants can be saved without baptism; the question is whether they can be baptized without sacramental baptism. Likewise, we are not considering whether every infant is so baptized; we are considering whether infants who were going to receive sacramental baptism but did not are baptized. (There's a weird notion that occasionally floats around that baptism of vicarious desire is an alternative to limbo; in fact, they don't really have anything to do with each other -- the claim that there is a limbo of children is a claim about what happens to children who are not baptized, the claim that there is baptism of vicarious desire is a claim that some children are baptized in a particular way. Dragging limbo into the matter is an ignoratio elenchi.)

(2) Some peope take the fact that there is nonsacramental baptism due to proper baptismal intention and sacramental baptism due to vicarious baptismal intention as directly establishing that there can be nonsacramental baptism due to vicarious baptismal  intention. This is probably too quick, but it is true that it makes it a reasonable question to ask. Given that we certainly have 


what principled reason is there to claim that the right corner of the table should get a NO rather than a YES? Infant baptism does establish that vicarious baptismal intention can sometimes be adequate as baptismal intention; baptism of desire does establish that sometimes one can be baptized with proper baptismal intention without having received sacramental baptism in particular. So the question becomes, what principled reason is there for denying that someone can be baptized with vicarious baptismal intention without having received sacramental baptism in particular? And that turns out to be quite difficult; most of the arguments I've come across would, if they worked, also establish that there is no infant sacramental baptism. What is given with proper intention in baptism of desire and adult sacramental baptism is given with vicarious intention in infant sacramental baptism. Since infant sacramental baptism is a non-negotiable YES in Catholic theology, any argument against baptism of vicarious desire that would also imply that infants cannot be sacramentally baptized, if one attempted to apply the same argument to sacramentally baptized infants, is a non-starter. In practice I find that critics of the idea of baptism of vicarious desire tend to start with the baptism of desire and then argue that infants don't have proper intention and so don't have baptism of desire. This is trivially true, and irrelevant, because baptism of vicarious desire is not baptism of desire in this way. If lack of proper baptismal intention were sufficient, no infants could receive any kind of baptism. The fundamental puzzle that has to be addressed if one rejects baptism of vicarious desire is how the arguments for infant sacramental baptism work if vicarious baptismal intention is not adequate for baptism. (An indirect version of this, which one finds very occasionally discussed in Baroque authors, is circumcised children in the Old Testament, who are taken to have baptism by anticipation, a very specific form of baptism of desire, but who, if they died before the age of reason couldn't be baptized, as adult Old Testament saints could be, under baptism of desire, since their anticipation of Christ was vicarious rather than proper.)

In short, any argument against baptism of vicarious desire would have to be an argument that while one can be baptized with proper intention despite not having received sacramental baptism, one can only be baptized with vicarious intention if one has received sacramental baptism. Most attempts to discuss the question completely fail to argue this.

(3) Well, what do we find when we look at the Church Fathers and scholastic doctors? The answer is that we find almost nothing either way. The question does not seem to be directly asked until the early modern period. Scattered passages from the Church Fathers and scholastics that are occasionally brought forward in favor of baptism of vicarious desire are generally on closer inspection seen to be about infant sacramental baptism; scattered passages that are occasionally brought forward against it are on closer inspection either talking about infants who are not baptized at all (which is not relevant to this case) or occur in contexts that are clearly about proper baptismal intention (which is not relevant to this case) and don't discuss vicarious intention at all. Some arguments concerning infant sacramental baptism can be interpreted as also implying that there can be baptism of vicarious desire; some arguments concerning baptism of desire can be interpreted as also implying that proper baptismal intention is in fact required if there is no sacrament. The 'can' is quite important; one could also usually not interpret them in these ways. The handful of Baroque theologians who discuss the matter explicitly, usually building on or arguing against Cajetan, are divided and often cautious. Some people argue that they tend overall toward the negative on the topic; I don't know if this is actually true, and I don't know anyone who has actually done the study required to establish this, Baroque sacramental theology being a sorely neglected field of research. But even if it is, there doesn't seem, as far as I can tell, to be any consensus among those who definitely reject it as to exactly why there is infant sacramental baptism but not baptism of vicarious desire for infants who die before they can actually receive sacramental baptism. Part of this is that it is difficult to find any well developed account of vicarious baptismal intention and its relation to proper baptismal intention. The primary topic that comes up when discussing the question of baptism of vicarious desire is whether infants in the womb can be baptized; but this only looks at a subset of the infants whom one might consider candidates for having had baptism of vicarious desire, and therefore one's answer to this question does not give us a general account of the latter. Sacramental theology after the collapse of Baroque scholasticism, while not entirely empty, has for the most part left the topics of scholastic sacramental theology where they were, and where it has touched on them has usually done so in a perfunctory or fragmentary way. Baptism of vicarious desire has only very occasionally even had serious examination in modern times.

Thus, contrary to what some would imply, the matter has simply never had the discussion appropriate for definite decision, in either direction.

(This is a quite common problem. The medieval and Baroque scholastics did truly extraordinary work in systematically working through the issues of Catholic sacramental theology -- I truly believe that their efforts constitute one of the great wonders of intellectual history -- but despite working through it over centuries, scholastic theology as a shared conversation and project collapsed before it was completed. There are vast portions of the map of sacramental theology that are barely sketched out. To take just one easy-to-prove example, Thomists still don't have a fully worked-out theology of matrimony or unction because Aquinas never got to the point himself of fully working through the implications of his instrumental theory of the sacraments for these sacraments, and Thomists since have only barely contributed anything along this line. But you can find significant gaps everywhere.)

In any case, all this is simply to point out things that need to be taken seriously to discuss the matter at all. If anyone wishes to know my own view, it's that baptism of vicarious desire exists and is genuine baptism; on the usual principles we apply, it almost certainly exists for cases like the infant dying shortly before actually receiving baptism, and probably also for cases of infants who actually die in childbirth, where the parent certainly would have baptized them if they had lived long enough. Miscarriages are a much harder case, in part because any arguments are necessarily indirect, but I think the arguments are at least plausible. Children who die without sacramental baptism whose parents were committed to giving them such baptism participate in baptism because they have through their parents and the Church the intentional element of sacramental baptism; this suffices for salvation, but does not give other benefits of sacramental baptism, like the baptismal character. However, whether this is true or not, fully arguing in either direction requires prior work on vicarious intention, indirect and incomplete participation in the sacraments, and the like that has simply not been done.

The Tracks of Some Unearthly Friend

 Angelic Guidance
by John Henry Newman 

Are these the tracks of some unearthly Friend,
 His foot prints, and his vesture-skirts of light,
 Who, as I talk with men, conforms aright
Their sympathetic words, or deeds that blend
With my hid thought;--or stoops him to attend
 My doubtful-pleading grief;--or blunts the might
 Of ill I see not;--or in dreams of night
Figures the scope, in which what is will end?
Were I Christ's own, then fitly might I call
That vision real; for to the thoughtful mind
That walks with Him, He half unveils His face;
But, when on earth-stain'd souls such tokens fall,
These dare not claim as theirs what there they find,
Yet, not all hopeless, eye His boundless grace. 

 Whitchurch. December 8, 1832.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Soil of Liberty

 Nor with heroic daring against the Foreign foe, can black vengeance against the Domestic be wanting. Life-circulation of the Revolutionary Committees being quickened by that Law of the Forty Sous, Deputy Merlin, not the Thionviller, whom we saw ride out of Mentz, but Merlin of Douai, named subsequently Merlin Suspect,—comes, about a week after, with his world-famous Law of the Suspect: ordering all Sections, by their Committees, instantly to arrest all Persons Suspect; and explaining withal who the Arrestable and Suspect specially are. ‘Are Suspect,’ says he, ‘all who by their actions, by their connexions, speakings, writings have’—in short become Suspect. Nay Chaumette, illuminating the matter still further, in his Municipal Placards and Proclamations, will bring it about that you may almost recognise a Suspect on the streets, and clutch him there,—off to Committee, and Prison. Watch well your words, watch well your looks: if Suspect of nothing else, you may grow, as came to be a saying, “Suspect of being Suspect!” For are we not in a State of Revolution? 

 No frightfuller Law ever ruled in a Nation of men. All Prisons and Houses of Arrest in French land are getting crowded to the ridge-tile: Forty-four thousand Committees, like as many companies of reapers or gleaners, gleaning France, are gathering their harvest, and storing it in these Houses. Harvest of Aristocrat tares! Nay, lest the Forty-four thousand, each on its own harvest-field, prove insufficient, we are to have an ambulant “Revolutionary Army:” six thousand strong, under right captains, this shall perambulate the country at large, and strike in wherever it finds such harvest-work slack. So have Municipality and Mother Society petitioned; so has Convention decreed. Let Aristocrats, Federalists, Monsieurs vanish, and all men tremble: “The Soil of Liberty shall be purged,”—with a vengeance!

Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History, Chapter 3.4.VI. It is said that Charles Dickens carried around this book while writing A Tale of Two Cities.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Links of Note

 * William Paris, The Problem Spaces of Public Philosophy, at "The APA Blog"

* Bridger Ehli, Hume on Modal Projection (PDF)

* Lauren N. Ross, What is social structural explanation? A causal account (PDF)

* Baskerville, Book I of Plato's Republic, at "Baskerville Reads"

* David P. Hunt, Form and Flux in the Theaetetus and Timaeus (PDF)

* Colin Guthrie King, Aristotle's Categories in the 19th Century (PDF) -- I thought this was a very interesting article.

* Stephanie Pappas, Mistranslation of Newton's First Law Discovered after Nearly 300 Years, at "Scientific American". The headline, it should be said, is not very accurate, although the body of the article is much, much better than one would expect from such a title. The rough summary is that Daniel Hoek argues against a (now-)common interpretation of the First Law by going back to the Latin rather than the English translation which seems to be the basis of the interpretation. I haven't read Hoek's paper, but the abstract for it does suggest that the translation is an error; I would say rather that it is potentially ambiguous, in a way that later was misinterpreted. ('Unless' in the eighteenth century sometimes is used in ways that make it interpretable in the same way as 'except insofar'.) But in any case, it would not usually have been interpreted incorrectly due to the English translation until the twentieth century, because most Anglophone physicists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would have read the Latin original. Learning Latin was something that they would have done as schoolboys, and scientists like Faraday who could not read Latin and Greek with at least moderate fluency were rare. In England in particular, everyone who would have studied physics or calculus in university would certainly have studied Newton's Principia in the original Latin; it was a point of a pride. And when one looks at major Newtonian interpreters, like William Whewell, it is very clear that they did not make the mistaken interpretation that Hoek is criticizing (in fact Whewell's interpretation is quite close to the paraphrase suggested by Hoek). It's interesting to consider when the misinterpretation arose; the earliest reference given in the article is in the 1960s, and I would not be surprised if that were its origin -- new interest in Newton by people who probably (as Hoek suggests) did not go back and look at the original Latin.

* Fiorella Tomassini, Right, Morals, and the Categorical Imperative (PDF)

* Sara Protasi, Teaching Ancient Women Philosophers: A Case Study (PDF)

* Brian Kemple joins Hunter Olson for a two-part podcast on medieval semiotics.

* Ryan Haecker, Origen's Speculative Angelology (PDF)

* Andrea Iacona, Connexivity in the Logic of Reasons (PDF)

* Ben Zion Katz, Maimonides on Free Will, Divine Omniscience and Repentance, at "The Seforim Blog"