Sunday, February 14, 2016

Maronite Year XXIV

All the Sundays of Lent in the Maronite calendar are concerned with types and emblems of our salvation, and the readings for Sundays in Lent after Cana Sunday all concern restorations. We have two healings (the leper, the hemorrhaging woman), then the parable of the prodigal son, and then two more healings (the paralytic, the blind man). We begin with the cleansing of the leper.

Sunday of the Healing of the Leper
Romans 6:12-23; Mark 1:35-45

Christ our God! Physician of souls, of bodies,
with compassion turn Your gaze upon us;
heal us of the leprosy of wickedness,
strengthen us in the weakness of our flesh,
cleanse us from all stain in action or in thought.

By Your word, from Your grace, forgive us, heal us;
bring back in penitence the wanderers,
strengthen the weak and console the sorrowful;
feed the hungry, give aid to the needy,
Son of David, have mercy! Make our souls clean.

People of Christ! Your scarlet sins are washed white.
The law's burden Christ bore upon His cross.
Conform not to the world; be transformed by Christ.
Hate the evil and cling to what is good;
Do not let sin reign in your body's desires.

Let nothing in you be evil's instrument;
Offer yourself to God who gives you life.
Because of grace, sin is no more your master,
and you are raised to be children of God.
He has healed you; draw close to His majesty.

Cleanse your hands, O sinners, purify your hearts;
know that penitence may exalt your heart.
Those who are humble God will lift to heaven.
Repent, live in love, and do not be proud.
Son of David, have mercy! Make our souls clean.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Music on My Mind



Vashti Bunyan, "Train Song".

Tanaver

I'll be seeing how far I can get with Tanaver this term; it has to compete with quite a few things, but I should be able to inch it forward, at least, and, it is to be hoped, get through Part II by summer.

Part II

Chapter I: A Dangerous Meeting
Part I, Part II



Part I was as follows; in its present state it's less a coherent Part I than a series of sketches for one, in need of quite a bit of revision. I've actually considered just suppressing it as background and starting the whole thing in media res with the above chapter, but I'm fairly sure I'll need something broadly like this Part I for structural and character-development reasons.

Part I

Chapter I: A Day in the Life
Part I, Part II
Chapter II: This Darkest Sea
Part I, Part II
Chapter III: Conversation over Lunch
Part I, Part II
Chapter IV: City in Heaven
Part I, Part II
Chapter V: Ohu's Stronghold
Part I, Part II
Chapter VI: Representatives
Part I, Part II
Chapter VII: Negotiations
Part I, Part II
Chapter VIII: The Thing That Can Explode
Part I, Part II
Chapter IX: Transitions
Part I, Part II
Chapter X: Samar in the Field
Part I, Part II
Chapter XI: Pavilion
Part I, Part II
Chapter XII: The Gates of Death
Part I, Part II

Lent IV

When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights. Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and search severely into his inmost heart: let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harboured. Let chasteness drive incontinence far away; let the light of truth dispel the shades of deception; let the swellings of pride subside; let wrath yield to reason; let the darts of ill-treatment be shattered, and the chidings of the tongue be bridled; let thoughts of revenge fall through, and injuries be given over to oblivion.

Leo the Great, Sermon 39 (Sermon on Lent I)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dashed Off IV

Luke's genealogy as showing that human genealogy points as a sign to God

work & the overflow of human dignity

subsidiarity as the maintenance of civil society as the end of political community

marriage as the sanctuary of civilization

the garden of Eden as an emblem of hospitality

The principle of parliamentary sovereignty works well only when there is some implicit higher authority to which parliament is beholden at a level higher than human law itself, e.g., reason, God, honor, and so forth. This seems to be true of sovereignty principles generally: they are not supreme-in-every-way principles (if coherent and reasonable) but principles of supremacy with respect to some particular thing, on the grounds of, and according to, the standards of a higher order of thing. Sovereignty in law presupposes a standard for its lawmaking that makes it sovereign lawmaking possible (and it does not have to be another sovereignty in law).

doctrine of precedent: Cases like in law and fact should be decided in like ways on like principles.
illustrative vs binding precedents (Diamond vs Box precedents)
precedent // counsel (allowing for differences introduced by law if we are considering legal precedent)
reasoned departure from precedent
(1) precedent overruled by higher authority
(2) precedent reasoning provably in error
(3) conflicting precedents in need of resolution

grammatical, schematic, teleological, and analogical interpretations of codified law

the implicit dialogue of courts

care of the environment & recognizing the world as cosmos

shalom as completeness (Is 9:5ff; Mic 5:14)
Song 8:10 and Christ's peace

jargon as crutch instead of clarification vs jargon as instrument of clarification

history of philosophy and philosophical field study

dualist arguments
(1) explanatory gap
(2) unity of consciousness
(3) unity of perception
(4) active/passive distinction
(5) immanent/transeunt action distinction

personal identity through changes of body // personal immortality

Promulgation makes law inherently semiotic.

In the overflow of glory we are made signs of Beatific Vision, not just personal signs (as in the sacraments of character) but personal signs in every aspect of our person.

the import of a text in an ecclesial context

doxastic, pragmatic, and social aspects of trust

Advice is structured by perspective; thus even good advisors will have varied advice given varied perspectives.

external-condition-based need vs nature-based need (this is not a sharp distinction but it seems sometimes to be important)

prediction of conclusion from premises

problems functioning as partial solutions to other problems

the Prophets as an immune system

The body, for all of its weakness, keeps dragging us out of ourselves and back to the goodness of creation, and also to the contrast between our thoughts and our deeds; without it we would all be Satans.

the spoken word as the intellectual word infusing the body as word

Ascension is the feast of hope; Christ's ascension is the beginning of our exaltation, we have a great intercessor in the heavenly courts, and in the sacraments ever receive the promise of His return.

- a version of Sense and Sensibility with the carnivalesque instead of the picturesque
- a verse novel on the Curse of the Alcmaeonids

vestige as the capacity to be sign of first cause

Parables outlast laws.

reasoning as energies, operations, pouring forth from a secret heart

memorial signs & the philosophy of memory

the overflow of doctrine into monument

The imperfection of an analogy does not imply the nonexistence of its resemblance.

Memories are received and anticipations are constructed.

hidden inferences, inferential leaps, shielding inferences, patching inferences

Revolutionaries always only want very specific revolutions.

superstition as a kind of forgetting

media as cognitive artillery (cf. Spengler)

"From the beginning of the Church Christ has been written about; but this is still not equal to the subject." Aquinas In Ioh 2660

Each sacrament unifies the Church in its own particular way.

preservation of the heritage of the Church as a responsibility arising from confirmation.

functional backformation in science-fictional worldbuilding

charity as divine evaluation

accumulation of errors & compensation for it in probable inference

analogous (nongeneric, nonspecific) likeness
creatures : God
potency : act
substance : accident
work : idea
instrument : principal cause

Aquinas on the material world as soul-making: DP 3.10ad3&4; DP 5.5, 5.9; SCG 3.22; SCG 4.97

We can be taught by 'people in general' insofar as they practically converge.

the Iliad and the Odyssey as about disagreements over justice and injustice (Alc 112b)

Education is the root of civic life.

Socrates as philosophical Hephaestus (cp. Socrates as Daedelus)

the cardinal virtues as each opposing a kind of slavishness (Alc 121e-122a)

the doubly divine mission of philosophy: Delphic Oracle, Socratic daemon

To be both philosopher & poet runs in Plato's family; Charmides 155a.

temperance as cultivated by beautiful discourse

virtue is knowledge // person is mind

the direct connections between temperance and health
anticipations of virtues in animal survival

Duhem sees esprit de finesse as teleological. Thus the concern of the intuitive or French mind for illumination is a concern for explanatory ends.

marriage as oriented to the salvation of others

Alc 132d-133c & the love of neighbor as needed for proper self-knowledge (indeed, love of God as well, in order to see in others what is divine in them)

philosophical vs nonphilosophical polymathy

"Fear the gods, honor your parents, respect your friends, obey the laws." Isocrates Speech to Demonicus.
"Give honor to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king." 1 Peter 2:17

Scripture insinuates more in Tradition than it explicitly covers.

the collection and curation of exemplar arguments

the filaments of just friendships running throughout a healthy society

'to dwell in mind among heavenly things'

Rational conversions tend to be by exhaustion.

Intelligence is an at least possible cause of intelligibility.
- meaning of intelligence
- different modes of diamond
- meaning of intelligibility
- whether it is analytic

Xenophon and Plato disagree about whether the daimonion suggested courses of action or only restrained. Xenophon is clear that it covered right and wrong; Plato can be read as suggesting that it only covered the inexpedient (although this distinction is not itself very clear).

Resurrection : Ascension : Pentecost :: faith : hope : love

the perpetual coronation of the Church // the coronation of Mary // sacrament of matrimony as sacrament of coronation

Buddhism's relation to polytheism is based on the recognition that there must be something purer than the gods.

Other philosophers do philosophy as individuals; Plato does it as a multitude.

the human being as an ecosystem (temperance as its cultivation, preservation, conservation)

terms as nullary modalities

Thirst for obvious novelty is a sign of a life of bland repetition.

episcopal ordination: confers a special outpouring of the Spirit (LG 21), confers the fullness of orders, establishes a high priesthood, confers offices (teaching, ruling, sanctifying), impresses a character, constitutes authoritative teachers
ordinational character: in person of Christ as Head

methods as having syllogistic structure (Duhem)

the relation between temperance and discretion

Holy Family & sacrament of matrimony

A 'pure land' is a Buddha-aspiration; it falls short of pure enlightenment by being only one vision of it, but through it one receives the teaching one requires. Infinite compassion is the most accessible/shareable vision, so the pure land of Amitabha, expressing this aspiration, is itself the most accessible.
sunyata, boundless light (mirror knowledge), supreme giving, boundless compassion, perfected action

the problem of developing the advantages of centralization without its dependencies

fear management & hope construction in rhetorical reasoning

three forms of education: cultivating, artificial, inspired (Theages)

Dialectic must begin with an internal agreement with oneself.

Phaedrus & the pursuit of pleasure as dehumanizing

agent intellect as like a memory of divine truth

devoting one's life to love through philosophical discussions

lawmaking as speechwriting

Calliope & Urania as the Muses of philosophical life

prophet, mystic, poet, lover

Rhetoric draws the soul to dialectic.

sophrosyne vs. hybris

honor and courtesy as restraints on government

Inquiry, where fruitful, is more interesting the longer it continues.

Long-term sustaining of scholarship requires not just scholarly devotion but also the interest of dabblers.

logical positivism as taboo avoidance

To maintain troth one must serve the truth.

asceticism as a rhetoric of the body

"if someone wants to praise martyrs, let them imitate martyrs" (Chrysostom On St. Barlaam)

translation as an ecumenical act

the Platonic dialogues as a moral analysis of the Peloponnesian War

aristocracies of aspiration

law, honor, calculation as the three expressions of political reason

critique as working backwards to principles (this would make it a branch of dialectics)

We develop prudence by learning how to evaluate and apply advice.

the academic vice of substituting pseudo-dialogue for dialogue

the papacy as personal union, as symbolic union, as sign of union

achieving effortlessness without carelessness

Good sense is the first root of authority.

proverbs as wards of virtue

explanatory gap argument against pantheism (complicated by asymmetry of explanation)

experience machine as the beginning of an argument for the ethical importance of thymos

testimony as a component factor in memories (e.g., people remember earlier memories from childhood if they have been reinforced by detailed testimony, people bridge gaps in memory with testimonial reconstruction, etc.,)

Learning requires exemplar causation.

Sacramental form is a structure of activity in a context.

defeat in detail as a rhetorical (eristic) goal

Not Every Same is the Same Same

Dale Tuggy has a challenge for the Christological position that Jesus is God:

  1. God and Jesus differ.
  2. Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical)
  3. Therefore, God and Jesus are two (not numerically identical). (1, 2)
  4. For any x and y, x and y are the same god only if x and y are not two (i.e. are numerically identical).
  5. Therefore, God and Jesus are not the same god. (3,4)
  6. There is only one god.
  7. Therefore, either God is not a god, or Jesus is not a god. (5, 6)
  8. God is a god.
  9. Therefore, Jesus is not a god. (7,8)

 James Anderson and his commenters note that the analogous argument fails miserably for certain understandings of composition cases, noting that analogues to (4) in composition cases require assuming that every kind of numerical sameness is numerical identity. But an additional, although less obvious, problem with this argument is with (2), the claim that difference guarantees that things are not numerically identical, which raises questions of interpretation. Tuggy tries to conflate (2) with the indiscernibility of identicals. Superficially this is plausible. The indiscernibility of identicals, x=y → ∀F(FxFy), tells us that the operation of identifying two particular things requires positing that everything predicated of one is predicated of the other; this does mean that a difference is inconsistent with the operation of logical identity. But what counts as 'everything' here? It's not obvious that we should be using unrestricted rather than domain-relative quantification with identity. It is not required by the notation that we be thinking of every possible predicate; we can also just be thinking of a narrower range of predicates, and the logical operation of identity still would make perfect sense.

For instance, it's plausible to say that I am one and the same person as I was yesterday. The person, Brandon, who existed yesterday, is identical to the person, Brandon, who exists today. But the indiscernibility of identicals would require that yesterday-Brandon and today-Brandon share all predicates. They do not do so if we are considering all predicates. Thus in justifying (2), Tuggy has to make an ad hoc exception for times, which he explicitly does. But if (2) doesn't work across times, which certainly involves differences affecting predicates, why would we assume that it necessarily and self-evidently works across every other kind of difference? There are always analogies between times and other modalities, for instance; we would expect to find that there are at least some other modalities that are at least similar enough to temporal ones to work the same way in these cases.

It's clear yesterday-Brandon and today-Brandon only share all predicates if we are talking only about what makes a person a person. So within the domain relevant to determining what is a person, the operation of logically identifying yesterday-Brandon and today-Brandon still makes complete sense, and we can with perfect reason say that yesterday-Brandon and today-Brandon share all the predicates within that domain. Likewise, if we are considering George H. W. Bush at age 40 and George W. Bush at age 40, and we want to prove that they are not the same person, what we would do is identify one difference they have within the domain of things relevant to being a person; it's even more obvious that we don't need unrestricted quantification here, because we just need to look at what's relevant to the topic at hand, sameness of personhood in particular.

This requires no elaborate theories of relative identity; it just requires recognizing the obvious formal fact that the logical operation of identity can make perfect sense even if we are quantifying over a restricted domain rather than over everything whatsoever -- just like any other logical operation. Likewise, although there are lots of reasons to think the tendency of philosophers to quantify over everything is a bad practice in general, and that they should fall in with the common practice of mathematicians and computer scientists in being more restricted and specific about what they are quantifying over in every particular case, it's not necessary to insist upon it: the point above just requires the obvious logical fact that you can quantify over specific, restricted domains. And to be sure, this means that the logical operation of identity might work for given objects in some domains and not in others -- i.e., it might make sense to hold that yesterday-Brandon and today-Brandon are identical if we are only considering persons, but not if we are considering phases of a person's life -- but nothing whatsoever about the formal operation itself rules this out.

Some people have tried to block this by claiming that there is a special identity relation, what might be called proper numerical identity, which only exists when we are quantifying over all predicates. This sort of move is highly artificial and ad hoc; there are reasons to doubt that we ever use this super-special identity concept outside of very limited formal contexts in which we just posit that it applies. If you say that something, a, is identical to something else, b, are you ever in real life taking into account every possible thing that could possibly be said about them? I'm highly skeptical of the idea that in most cases you really are taking every predicate into account. When we talk about these things in ordinary English, in ordinary contexts, without trying deliberately for a peculiarly philosophical consistency, we are surely not so thorough. And even if we were deliberately holding ourselves to a very high degree of thoroughness, as in philosophical contexts we often are, we still can't run through every predicate, so we would have to be doing some kind of higher-order logic dealing with predicates that apply to predicates, in order to sort them and make sure we covered them all. And the problem becomes more acute when we look at modalities -- like the temporal modality distinguishing me from my younger self -- the sort of thing we do all the time. This super-special concept is not what we usually mean by saying that things are the same at all. My younger self and I do not share all the same predicates; I've changed, even if it has been but a day. But I am exactly the same person as I was yesterday! Everybody knows what I mean when I say something like that. If I think about my younger self, and think about myself today, and ask how many people I have thought about, the obvious answer is that I have thought about one, and only one, person, exactly one and the same person.

In order to get something like what Tuggy needs for his argument, we need to identify numerical sameness with numerical identity with unrestricted logical identity. (That is to say, the attributes 'not two [or more]', 'numerically identical', and 'represented by the logical operation of identity' have to be the same.) But if we're really to make sense of sameness and identity, it's difficult to see how we can do this without breaking at least one of these identifications: either numerical sameness and numerical identity are not the same, or numerical identity and logical identity are not the same. The view that numerical identity (the identity by which we count things as precisely one and the same, hence the name) and logical identity (as we find it in, say, the indiscernibility of identicals) are the same is required by Tuggy's (2); the assumption that (2) is equivalent to the indiscernibility of identicals requires that numerical identity actually be the logical operation of identity. The view that numerical sameness (the sense in which we say that things are the same so as to be one) at least requires numerical identity is required by Tuggy's (4): talk about the same god or divine being is talk of numerical sameness, and (4) says it requires numerical identity. But Tuggy's view is even stronger than this, since his justification of (4) assumes that they're really the same thing. So [numerical sameness] = [numerical identity] = [ unrestricted logical identity]. We will keep running into puzzles if we attempt to do this, however.

Numerical sameness doesn't actually seem to work like logical identity when the latter is not restricted in domain. For one thing, the natural way to talk about numerical sameness is to say that things are the same F (whatever F may be); but this kind of talk doesn't show up at all when talking about logical identity -- in the latter we don't talk about things being the same F but just the same. We can equate these expressions if we are not quantifying over everything -- if we just quantify over the domain relevant to F, then 'the same' will just mean 'the same F'. But if we're not quantifying over every predicate, then we aren't using the super-special concept of identity; we're just using a logical operation in a particular domain. Thus things that differ might still be one in some other way, if we look at some other domain. If we're talking about my younger self and my present self, they differ if we're only talking about phases of life; but they are still in a very real sense one thing if we are talking not about phases of life but about persons. But if things are in some real sense one thing, then in that sense they are numerically the same. I am the same person yesterday and today. But since I differ between yesterday and today, the sameness can be the kind of identity we use in logic only if we are only considering predicates that are not affected by this difference of time. But if this is how we're handling things, then knowing that two things differ does not tell us that they are not in some other way the same. And quite clearly this would make Tuggy's argument useless.

We get a broadly analogous set of problems if we look at composition, which is what Anderson was looking at (Anderson accepts the identity of numerical identity and logical identity found in (2)). [Tuggy's initial response to this does not seem particularly appropriate, because he very oddly treats Anderson's response as being about material composition rather than as being about ways in which Tuggy's original argument could fail to be sound, since Tuggy's challenge was explicitly to give reasons for denying or withholding assent to the premises of the argument. Anderson notes this later. And, for some reason, Tuggy only considers denial and not withholding of assent in his response, despite the fact that the challenge was explicitly about denial or withholding of assent. Identifying a puzzle that arises on some metaphysical views certainly gives at least some reason for being cautious in assenting. In addition, it is an error to focus solely on material composition, since material composition is just being put forward as an example of why you might reject an argument of this general kind; due to analogies among arguments, you would have to also look at the question of whether similar reasons to reject this kind of argument might arise for (say) temporal composition, or transworld identity, to take just two examples of things that often have broad structural analogies to material composition. Likewise, it doesn't matter at all whether divinity is very like matter; if the analogue of (4) were to fail for material composition, or any other kind of case, we would need a reason to think (4) itself is so obvious and undeniable in the case of divinity.]

Numerical identity likewise doesn't seem to work like unrestricted logical identity. Numerical identity here means the identity used to indicate that things are such as to count as the one and very same thing. There are a number of possible assumptions under which numerical identity could turn out not to be unrestricted logical identity; for instance, if there is relative identity, if there is temporary identity, if there is contingent identity, if there is vague identity, if there is partial identity, and so forth, all of which have been proposed for reasons having nothing to do with the Trinity, and any of which would problematize Tuggy's argument. But set all of these controversies aside for the moment. Do we really require the full logical power of unrestricted logical identity in order to count things as exactly one thing? I am counting chicks running around, One, Two, Three, Four, and you say, "No, you just counted the original one again." And I ask, "Are you sure that it's the very same? It's in a different place and it's not cheeping like the one I counted as One." And you say, "Yes, it very definitely is one and the same." Are you actually taking into every predicate? I just told you that One and Four differed in at least two predicates, and you still insisted that One and Four were numerically identical. Why aren't you taking numerical identity to require the indiscernibility of identicals? Of course, you could still be using the indiscernibility of identicals, if you're not actually quantifying over every predicate -- if, for instance, you are only allowing predicates indexed to times, or are only allowing predicates relevant to being a chick. But that, again, is not what Tuggy needs for his argument.

The point of all of this long (and yet all too brief for the complexity of the topic) discussion is that there is at least some reason to doubt that we can get all these samenesses to be the same sameness, [numerical sameness] = [numerical identity] = [logical identity when we are not restricting quantification]; but if we are restricting quantification, something may differ in one sense and yet be the same in another, which makes Tuggy's argument useless -- (1)-(5) could give us no more than the claim that God and Jesus are not the same divine thing if we are looking at some predicates, which is not at all controversial, and which cannot get us (7) -- and if any of these identities of sameness break, the argument equivocates.

None of this is unknown; Tuggy himself recognizes for (4) that philosophers have noted lots of problems with this particular identification. His response is that "to save their various theories, sometimes philosophers deny what is obviously true." And, indeed, yes, to save his theory Tuggy does seem to be denying what is obviously true, namely, that a number of problems have been identified with the kind of claim in (4), if we are actually trying to be precise about it; accepting it as true lands us in a number of puzzles, any one of which could be pointed to as a reason for being cautious when considering whether to accept (4), or even for withholding assent.

Lent III

These things, beloved, we write to you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling in the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. So let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all who would be converted to Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved. Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites; but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God.

Clement of Rome, 1 Clement 7

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lent II

No one, however, loves his neighbour who does not out of his love to God do all in his power to bring his neighbour also, whom he loves as himself, to love God, whom if he does not love, he neither loves himself nor his neighbour. Hence it is true that if a man shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he becomes guilty of all, because he does what is contrary to the love on which hangs the whole law. A man, therefore, becomes guilty of all by doing what is contrary to that on which all hang.

Augustine, Letter 167 (chapter 5/section 16) to Jerome.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Radio Greats: Another Point of View (CBS Radio Workshop)

A discussion in the comments for a post at "Shredded Cheddar" put me in mind of a very famous and fun episode of CBS Radio Workshop.

If you want original radio, testing the limits of the genre, CBS Radio Workshop is where you go. It ran in the waning years of the Golden Age of Radio (1956-1957). It was the last in an admirable tradition of experimental radio that really attempted to explore all the possibilities provided by radio as a medium.

Because it did experimental radio, CBS Radio Workshop has no typical episode, but probably its most famous episode, and arguably the best of a fairly good run, is an episode called "Another Point of View (or, Hamlet Revisited)", narrated by the great William Conrad. It is a bit funning with the Bard, a tongue-in-cheek argument that Hamlet is the villain of Shakespeare's play and that there is nothing rotten in Denmark but Hamlet makes it so. And being properly done, it's actually a good way to think through the play and its characters -- by taking another point of view, even as a joke, it sheds a new light on the play. It also sheds light on us. One of the things that makes the episode work is that the values by which it tries to make its case are the ordinary, everyday values of the modern world.

You can listen to "Another Point of View" online at the Internet Archive (episode 22). (You can also find it here.)

Lent I

The way to wisdom is therefore not like that of a man rising from the water into the air, in which, in the moment of rising above the surface of the water, he suddenly breathes freely, but, like that of a man proceeding from darkness into light, on whom more light gradually shines as he advances. So long, therefore, as this is not fully accomplished, we speak of the man as of one going from the dark recesses of a vast cavern towards its entrance, who is more and more influenced by the proximity of the light as he comes nearer to the entrance of the cavern; so that whatever light he has proceeds from the light to which he is advancing, and whatever darkness still remains in him proceeds from the darkness out of which he is emerging.

Augustine, Letter 167 (chapter 3/section 13) to Jerome.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Philosophy and the Virtue of Temperance

One of the ways to read Plato's Gorgias is as an argument that the practice of philosophy requires the virtue of temperance (sophrosyne, self-control), and vice versa. This contrasts with rhetoric and sophistry, which have no such connection. In fact, the rhetors in the Gorgias end up explicitly affirming a number of things that are inconsistent with the virtue of temperance. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between what seems good and what is really good.

Gorgias claims that rhetoric is valuable because it is concerned with speeches that persuade, without educating, on matters of right and wrong in the city; as Socrates notes, this means that rhetoric deals with what seems good rather than what is really good. This is affirmed when Polus argues that orators are powerful because they do what they like (i.e., what seems good to them). Socrates, however, denies that what people like (i.e., what seems good to them) is what they want (i.e., real good), although, of course, since he likes provoking Polus, he states it in the most paradoxical way he can find. For instance, Socrates claims that people who do wrong and are never punished for it are to be pitied, while being wrongly punished is always a happier life than doing anything wrong; Polus will be boggled at this kind of view, in which someone could suffer terribly and have a happier life than someone who gets everything they like. Callicles in turn argues that success, the good life, the life worth having, consists of desiring as much as possible and having the phronesis (intelligence) and andreia (manliness or courage) to achieve your desires, and denies that restraining your ambitions when you could achieve them is anything but either weakness or stupidity. Socrates will argue that all of these claims are incoherent.

But more than this, all of this argument, while about self-control, is also about philosophy. This is actually made clear in multiple ways. Early on, in the discussion with Gorgias, Socrates says that he hopes Gorgias is a man like himself: someone who would prefer to be refuted than to win an argument. The claim here is entirely analogous to Socrates' later claims about punishment, because both refutation and punishment are kinds of correction. Winning an argument is a matter of appearing good; but being right is a matter of real good. Not being punished is a matter of appearing good; being just is a matter of real good. In order to be the philosophical kind of person, rather than the kind of person we later learn (despite Gorgias' facile claims otherwise) the rhetors are, you must be willing to make a distinction between merely apparent good and real good. The oratorical conception of success is concerned with winning the argument, getting away with it; the philosophical, with improving the argument, improving oneself.

It's more than just a matter of aims, though. Socrates' argument against Callicles that the good life needs self-control doubles as an argument that the good life needs philosophy. (It is one of the standard marks of Plato's philosophical brilliance that he can make an argument about one subject also at the same an argument about another subject.) Socrates argues that the good and the pleasant (i.e., what seems good because it satisfies desire) can't collapse into each other. Callicles' view that we should desire as much as possible and satisfy those desires in neverending progress requires exactly this kind of collapse. But if we hold this view, we start getting very weird results: we should itch as much as possible, letting our desire to scratch grow as large as possible, in order to maximize the pleasure of scratching; soldiers should let fear, i.e., our desire to run away, grow as big as possible and then have the manliness/courage to satisfy that desire. Callicles tries to get out of this by saying there are better and worse pleasures, but this just breaks his argument against self-control: if some pleasures are better than others, we should sometimes control ourselves so that we get the better pleasures rather than the worse pleasures. Good needs to be discovered and accommodated; it cannot be imposed by force of will.

If real good and apparent good can't be collapsed into each other, though, then we have to reflect seriously about what real good is -- which is philosophy. Thus if the good life requires self-control, as Socrates argues, the good life requires philosophy.

If this is the case, though, it applies to reasoning as much as it does to anything else in life. Winning an argument is merely seeming to be good. Rhetoric may be able to give you that appearance. But the good of reasoning does not boil down to the appearance of winning the argument, however nice that might be; the good of reasoning is having a good argument that gets you something true, and what counts as that good must be discovered. Philosophical reasoning is temperate reasoning, in which you control and restrain yourself in order to find real good in reasoning rather than merely apparent good. Someone who falls back on mere rhetoric is someone who has committed himself to 'might-makes-right' in rational matters. There is a kind of very general moral realism about reasoning implicit in philosophy itself; if you reject the idea that good in reasoning is independent of our preferences, then in Socratic terms you are no philosopher at all: you are a sophist.

Note that the moderation here is not one of tone. Plato's Socrates argues respectfully with those who argue respectfully, but vehemently and polemically against those who argue vehemently and polemically. But Plato's Socrates is also quite clearly put forward as someone who insists that there is a real good of reasoning, and that it is discovered and not imposed by force of will. Because of that, we have to restrain ourselves, not running after merely apparent good but seeking that real good. That is philosophy.

Maronite Year XXIII

Maron, or Maroun, was a Syrian monk in the fourth century who eventually retired to Cyrrhus to become a hermit. He was an open-air hermit; he lived outside, even in the wind, rain, or hail, and tended a pagan temple he had converted into a church. As word began to spread, more people joined him. Theodoret of Cyr, who was bishop of Antioch at the time, gives us a few snapshots of this blossoming ascetic movement. The Maronite ascetic movement became a central pillar of the Christian community in the mountains of Syria and Lebanon, and that community, of course, would eventually become the Maronite Church.

The memorial of St. Maron has been celebrated on February 9 since the seventeenth century (prior to that it was on January 5). He is on the universal calendar, and so his memorial is celebrated on February 9 in the Latin Church, as well. The day is a Holy Day of Obligation for Maronites.

Feast of Saint Maron
2 Timothy 3:10-17; John 12:23-30

How arrayed is Maron with blessings!
Christ said, "Follow," and he followed,
giving up all for the pearl of price.
Prayer, penitence, and virtue,
humility and true devotion,
simplicity that endures all,
led him to carry the hermit's cross,
to praise God on the mountaintops.
To his plain solitude many came,
seeking devotion to the Lord,
so that he increased heaven's numbers;
they became strangers to all else,
continuing in what they received,
furnished to every good work.

How arrayed is Maron with blessings!
He was anointed a father,
gathering a nation from nations.
He was a plow of the garden,
preparing hearts for the seed of truth.
O Father Maron, pray for us,
that we may remember you in joy,
that we may have beatitude,
a poverty of spirit in faith.
Who serves the Son is honored well.
We glorify the one Father,
who calls the faithful to solitude,
and the only Son, the one way,
and the Spirit who crowns victory.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Berkeley's Direct References to Plato's Theaetetus

These are the explicit, direct references to Plato's Theaetetus that are found in his Siris. They make an interesting selection. Besides the Theaetetus, Berkeley explicitly refers to Timaeus, Phaedrus, Epinomis, Republic, the Platonic Epistles, Phaedo, and Alcibiades Major.

253. We know a thing when we can understand it: and we understand it, when we can interpret or tell what it signifies. Strictly the sense knows nothing. We perceive indeed sounds by hearing, and characters by sight: but we are not therefore said to understand them. After the same manner, the phaenomena of nature are alike visible to all: but all have not alike learned the connexion of natural things, or understand what they signify, or know how to vaticinate by them. There is no question, saith Socrates in Theaeteto, concerning that which is agreeable to each person; but concerning what will in time to come be agreeable, of which all men are not equally judges, He who foreknoweth what will be in every kind, is the wisest. According to Socrates, you and the cook may judge of a dish on the table equally well; but while the dish is making, the cook can better foretell what will ensue from this or that manner of composing it. Nor is this manner of reasoning confined only to morals or politics; but extends also natural science.

304. There is according to Plato properly no knowledge, but only opinion concerning things sensible and perishable, not because they are naturally abstruse and involved in darkness, but because their nature and existence is uncertain, ever fleeting and changing; or rather, because they do not in strict truth exist at all, being always generating or in fieri, that is, in a perpetual flux, without any thing stable or permanent in them to constitute an object of real science. The Pythagoreans and Platonics distinguish between το γιγνομενον and το ον, that which is ever generated and that which exists. Sensible things and corporeal forms are perpetually producing and perishing, appearing and disappearing, never resting in one state, but always in motion and change; and therefore in effect, not one being but a succession of beings: while το ον is understood to be somewhat of an abstract or spiritual nature, and the proper object of intellectual knowledge. Therefore as there can be no knowledge of things flowing and instable, the opinion of Protagoras and Theaetetus, that sense was science, is absurd. And indeed nothing is more evident than that the apparent sizes and shapes, for instance, of things are in a constant flux, ever differing as they are view'd at different distances, or with glasses more or less accurate. As for those absolute magnitudes and figures, which certain Cartesians and other moderns suppose to be in things, that must seem a vain supposition, to whoever considers, it is supported by no argument of reason, and no experiment of sense.

305. As understanding perceiveth not, that is, doth not hear or see or feel, so sense knoweth not: And although the mind may use both sense and phancy, as means whereby to arrive at knowledge yet sense or soul, so far forth as sensitive, knoweth nothing. For, as it is rightly observed in the Theaetetus of Plato, science consists not in the passive perceptions, but in the reasoning upon them, τω περι εκεινων συλλογισμω.

311. As to an absolute actual existence of sensible or corporeal things, it doth not seem to have been admitted either by Plato or Aristotle. In the Theaetetus we are told, that if anyone saith a thing is or is made, he must withal say, for what, or in respect of what, it is or is made; for that any thing should exist in itself or absolutely, is absurd. Agreeably to which doctrine it is also farther affirmed by Plato, that it is impossible a thing should be sweet, and sweet to no body....

316. And as the Platonic philosophy supposed intellectual notions to be originally inexistent or innate in the soul, so likewise it supposed sensible qualities to exist (though not originally) in the soul, and there only. Socrates saith to Theaetetus, You must not think the white colour that you see is in any thing without your eyes, or in your eyes, or in any place at all....

348. Socrates, in the TheƦtetus of Plato, speaketh of two parties of philosophers, the ρεοντες and οι του ολου στασιωται, the flowing philosophers who held all things to be in a perpetual flux, always generating and never existing; and those others who maintained the universe to be fixed and immoveable. The difference seems to have been this, that Heraclitus, Protagoras, Empedocles, and in general those of the former sect, considered things sensible and natural; whereas Parmenides and his party considered το παν, not as the sensible but as the intelligible world, abstracted from all sensible things.

367. As for the perfect intuition of divine things, that he supposeth to be the lot of pure souls, beholding by a pure light, initiated, happy, free and unstained from those bodies, wherein we are now imprisoned like oysters. But in this mortal state, we must be satisfy'd to make the best of those glympses within our reach. It is Plato's remark in his Theaetetus, that while we sit still we are never the wiser, but going into the river and moving up and down, is the way to discover its depths and shallows. If we exercise and bestir ourselves, we may even here discover something.

Maronite Year XXII

Ash Wednesday is specifically a custom that arose in the Latin Church. While it's common both East and West to have a specially recognized day for starting Lent off on the right foot, the imposition of ashes is a Western idea. The only Eastern churches that regularly do it are the Maronites and the Syro-Malabar, and in both cases it is a latinization. It is a borrowing that fits the Maronite Church very well, though; historically, the Maronites began as an intensive ascetic movement, so in general ascetic practices meld very easily into Maronite life. Obviously, however, it makes no sense to have an Ash Wednesday in the Maronite calendar, because Lent begins on Cana Sunday. So the imposition of ashes is done on Monday. Through much of the world, however, Maronite churches also will recognize and distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday, as part of the Maronite tendency to recognize Latin holidays as well as their own. This is especially true in areas of the world like the United States, where a significant portion of regular parishioners are likely to be Latin rite themselves. However, the ashes distributed on Ash Wednesday have to be ashes that were already blessed on Ash Monday.

Historically the Maronites have tended to have no particular regulations for Great Lent, in part because the centrality of ascetic practices to its life has meant that fasting was a regular and common occurrence, anyway. In more recent times, however, as the Church has expanded, the requirement to fast and abstain on Ash Monday and Good Friday, and to abstain on Fridays of Lent, has been established; this is another imitation of Latin practice. The Maronite rule for abstinence is the same as in the Latin Church (no meat), while the rule for fasting is no food and no drink (except water) from midnight to noon, with food only in moderation afterward. All of this is only a minimum, however. The traditional Maronite practice is to fast and abstain (from both meat and dairy) every weekday of Lent except for the feasts of St. Maron, of the Forty Martyrs, and of St. Joseph.

Ash Monday
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:7; Matthew 6:16-21

By the work of fasting and prayer,
our fathers were given holiness;
they returned to You and were made wise.
By heroic labors they were raised;
fasting and prayer make the heart clean.

We do not work for perishing food,
but for the Bread of Life, Food of Souls;
our treasure is not in worldly things,
but eternal in the vaults of heaven.
Fasting and prayer open bright gates.

The polished mirror reflects splendor;
our souls when polished reflect glory.
From soul to soul the light of Christ shines,
ever greater, never diminished.
Fasting and prayer spread a great light.

By Your prayer You taught us to pray;
by Your prayer You brought hope to us.
By Your fasting You taught us to fast;
by Your fasting You redeemed your Church.
Fasting and prayer give the Kingdom.