Saturday, July 23, 2005

32nd International Hume Conference: Final Day

Unfortunately, today was moving day for me, so I missed all the sessions (I had especially wanted to attend the sessions on testimony, on determinism, and on necessary connection). I did manage to attend the banquet in Strachan Hall, which is, for those of you who don't know, always very fine academic dining indeed. (If you are so curious as to want to know where I sat, it was at the middle table at the bottom of the photograph at the link; I sat at the farthest seat on the right-hand side. It should also be said that that's an astoundingly bad photograph of the Hall; it actually is much better-looking. I had eaten there once before, when I was invited to Trinity College Humanities High Table.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

32nd International Hume Conference: Day Four

* The first paper I attended today was Georges Dicker's "Three Questions about Treatise 1.4.2," which was quite good. I disagree rather completely with the section on coherence (I'll perhaps post my views on the subject at some point), but it was thought-provoking.

* Then I attended Kevin Meeker's "Hume's Hyper-Cartesianism," which (I confess) I didn't entirely follow, partly because I was nodding off, not having had much sleep last night (not due, it must be said, to the paper itself). The question period was very good, though.

* It is possible that George Campbell's 1726 A Treatise of Fluxions was actually written by David Hume (i.e., he took the notes for the lectures). The manuscript bears the title, "A Treatise of Fluxions, By Mr. George Campbell: Professor of Mathematicks in Edinburgh, Written by David Home, 1726." 'Home' is the Scottish spelling of Hume's family name; Hume deliberately changed the 'o' to a 'u' in an effort to make sure the English pronounced it correctly. Hume would have been the right age, and would have intersected with Campbell at the right time. Yukihiko Kawashima, of Tokyo International University, made a transcription of the work, and I got a copy. (One of the nice things about the Hume Conference is being able to interact with a number of talented Japanese Hume scholars. There are quite a few of them -- more than you might think; much of the best work on Hume's economic, historical, and social thought being done at the present time is done in Japan.)

* I then attended Cathy Kemp's "Hume-Rousseau Reconsidered," which was excellent. Hume's description of Rousseau before the Break, in April 1766: "often the most amiable man in the world"; after the Break, just two months later in June: "the blackest and most atrocious Villain, beyond comparison, that now exists in the World." I didn't like the question period, but then I'm a heretic: I don't think Hume's reaction after the break was ideal, I don't think Rousseau was (as Hume thought) vicious, and, indeed, although Rousseau was extreme here in the way he was with everything, I don't think he was entirely unreasonable.

* There are a few more sessions today, but I have movers coming tomorrow, so I'm off to take a quick nap and then finish packing.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Distinctive Voice?

There's an interesting discussion going on among the biblioblogs:

1. Book Review: The Five Gospels: What did Jesus Really Say? (The Sword)

2. Searching for the Authentic Voice of Jesus (Hypotyposeis)

3. "Render to Caesar..." (The Busybody)

4. Context and Nuance in Jesus' Sayings (NT Gateway Weblog)

5. Carlson on the Jesus Seminar (The Sword)

6. More on the Jesus Seminar, and methodologies (The Busybody)

7. Mark 7.15 (Earliest Christian History)

8. Mark 7.15 (Biblical Theology)

9. More on Mark 7 (Earliest Christian History)

10. Mark 7.15 and Purity (Euangelion)

11. More on Mark 7 (Biblical Theology)

12. Mark 7.15 and Authenticity (Euangelion)

If it continues, I'll update, as time permits.

A Poem Draft

the sunset does not care

the sunset does not care
there is beauty in its fire
a brilliant dragon-glory
amoral in its light

the sunset does not care
be you rich or poor
be you wrong or right
it pours and does not judge

the sunset does not care
it simply heralds night
it shines and does not hide
whatever you may do

the sunset does not care
indifference is its way
splendor to the sight
of all divided worlds

32nd International Hume Conference: Day Three

Continuing my notes on the Hume Society meeting:

* Today I attended a talk by Steven Jauss called "Dubos and Hume on the Paradox of Tragedy" -- very good. This is an immensely interesting subject (I've been intending for some time to write a post on it). The paradox of tragedy is essentially the puzzle that (1) pity (or sorrow) and fear (or horror) are unpleasant things to experience; (2) these emotions are conjured up by watching a tragic play; but (3) watching a tragic play is often a pleasant experience. Jauss noted that Hume misinterprets Dubos's position rather seriously.

* Then there was a special session on the Hume Society itself, which was interesting. Cornford's great satire on academia, Microcosmographia Academica (1908), was mentioned; if you've never read the work, I recommend it. In the meantime, you might read Scott McLemee's essay on it. Every graduate student should read it; times may have changed, but the more they change the more academic politics is the same. Cornford divides the field of academic politics into five groups:

A Conservative Liberal is a broad-minded man, who thinks that something ought to be done, only not anything that anyone now desires, but something which was not done in 1881-82.

A Liberal Conservative is a broad-minded man, who thinks that something ought to be done, only not anything that anyone now desires; and that most things which were done in 1881-82 ought to be undone.

The men of both of these parties are alike in being open to conviction; but so many convictions have already got inside, that it is very difficult to find the openings. They dwell in the Valley of Indecision.

The Non-placet differs in not being open to conviction; he is a man of principle. A principle is a rule of inaction, which states a valid general reason for not doing in any particular case what, to unprincipled instinct, would appear to be right. The Non-placet believes that it is always well to be on the Safe Side, which can be easily located as the northern side of the interior of the Senate House. He will be a person whom you have never seen before, and will never see again anywhere but in his favourite station on the left of the place of judgment.

The Adullamites are dangerous, because they know what they want; and that is, all the money there is going. They inhabit a series of caves near Downing Street. The say to one another, 'If you will scratch my back, I will scratch yours; and if you won't, I will scratch your face.' It will be seen that these cave-dwellers are not refined, like classical men. That is why they succeed in getting all the money there is going.

The Young Man in a Hurry is a narrow-minded and ridiculously youthful prig, who is inexperienced enough to imagine that something might be done before very long, and even to suggest definite things. His most dangerous defect being want of experience, everything should be done to prevent him from taking any part in affairs. He may be known by his propensity to organise societies for the purpose of making silk purses out of sows' ears. This tendency is not so dangerous as it might seem; for it may be observed that the sows, after taking their washing with a grunt or two, trundle back unharmed to the wallow; and the purse-market is quoted as firm. The Young Man in a Hurry is afflicted with a conscience, which is apt to break out, like measles, in patches. To listen to him, you would think that he united the virtues of a Brutus to the passion for lost causes of a Cato; he has not learnt that most of his causes are lost by letting the Cato out of the bag, instead of tying him up firmly and sitting on him, as experienced people do.

And after giving these five groups, Cornford says, "O young academic politician, know thyself!" Needless to say, I'm a Non-placet with Liberal Conservative sympathies. In any case, to return to the Hume Conference, Wade Robison applied the distinctions to the Hume Society itself, in order to make the point that the Hume Society and the procedures for the Hume Conferences were deliberately designed in order to ensure that none of these groups (or, rather, their analogues in Hume Scholarship, which range from the conservative conservatives who think a Hume conference should consist entirely of dry history to the liberal liberals who think that it should consist of things that are vaguely associated in their minds with something that they may have read in Hume somewhere) ever gained total control in any given year.

* Then there was a nice harbor cruise; the weather was quite good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

32nd International Hume Conference: Day Two

Continuing the notes on the Hume Conference:

* The first paper I went to was Stefanie Rocknak's "The Vulgar Conception of Objects in 'Of Skepticism with Regard to the Senses'". Part of me wanted to go to the concurrent session, Kenneth Sheppard's "Politics, Moderation, and the Hanoverian régime: The Revolution of 1688-1689 in David Hume's Essays," but since I officially do work on the theory of the external world, I went to Rocknak's paper. It gave an interesting proposal, but I'll have to think a bit more about how far I agree; that part of Treatise 1.4.2 is an immensely complicated tangle.

* I presented my paper in the next session. I don't recall if I already posted my abstract; here it is:

In 1916, Carll Whitman Doxsee published a paper in The Philosophical Review arguing that Hume was influenced by Malebranche. He identified three areas of possible influence: causation, self-knowledge, and natural belief. Study of this subject has progressed since then, but the lines of influence that are usually identified have remained surprisingly close to Doxsee’s original pioneering work. My intention here is to break new ground by showing some of the evidence for seeing a connection between Malebranche’s view of material bodies and Hume’s discussion of the idea of external existence in 1.2.6. To do this I will discuss some of the elements of Malebranche’s account of our knowledge of material bodies, then look at aspects of Hume’s discussion that suggest he may have this view in mind. I will end with some brief remarks about how this conclusion, if true, would affect interpretation of the passage.

A modest argument, although it seems to be completely original. In light of the questions, it's clear that I need to re-work and expand the section mentioned in the last sentence: a few "brief remarks" aren't really adequate -- there needs to be more than just a gesture. But people seemed to like it (although the Locke people wanted more Locke); and Terence Penelhum approached me at lunch, saying that on the evidence given I had to be right. That's an ego boost if ever there was one!

* I unfortunately had to miss the next session in order to buy more boxes, and to do a number of visa-related things.

* There was then a presentation in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library on the Walsh Philosophy Collection (scroll down) of rare books related to Hume and early modern philosophy. The two coolest things: (1) Discussion of the mezzotints of the Ramsay portraits of Hume and Rousseau (the Ramsay paintings can be seen online at the National Gallery of Scotland). I hadn't realized that the famous portrait of Rousseau was owned by Hume. The closely associated Ramsay portrait of Hume shows Hume in the formal courtwear of an Embassy secretary, which had been in Paris just a year before the portrait was painted. (2) David Norton and Peter Millican talking about a canceled page in the first edition of Hume's Treatise. The relevant page is at the very end of Treatise 1.3.9. When the third volume of the Treatise went to press, Hume had a page printed at the very end of the volume that was intended to replace the original page in the first volume; what was added was a very important footnote on the meaning of 'imagination' -- so important, apparently, that it was added to the first edition even as it was still coming off the presses. This is one of the things I really love about History of Philosophy: even something as apparently innocuous as a canceled page in the physical production of a book can be an intriguing clue to philosophically important matters. I almost missed this, and I'm glad I managed not to do so.

* The day ended with an excellent and beautiful paper by Michel Malherbe, "La réception des Philosophical Essays en France: Métaphysique, science et méthode."

* Now I'm off to continue packing, and then to bed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

32nd International Hume Conference: Day One

I'll just be giving a few notes each day on the events.

* The Conference was opened by Donald Ainslie and Margaret MacMillan.

* There was a plenary session; the speaker was Martha Nussbaum. Her paper, "'Mutilated and Deformed': Adam Smith on the Material Basis of Human Dignity," which is part of the book she is currently working on (The Cosmopolitan Tradition) was excellent. Since it was really part of the chapter, the argument was a bit complicated -- there were really three arguments: (1) Contrary to common conception, the Adam Smith of Wealth of Nations is less callous and cold than the Adam Smith of Theory of Moral Sentiments; (2) There are a number of interesting contradictions between Adam Smith's appeal to the importance of material conditions (health, education, etc.) in WN and his more severe acceptance of Stoic ideas in TMS; (3) We need to move away from a conception of human dignity that is based on enduring suffering to one where people are regarded as having human dignity for the simple fact of being human. The third was only lightly touched upon, but I suspect it will be a major theme of the book. It was a very enjoyable talk. I look forward to reading the finished work.

* Afterward, a nice reception. Now I'm off to do a little packing, and then (as Pepys always says) to bed.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I'm Disappointed that I Didn't Get Two-Thirds!

You Are 61% American
Most times you are proud to be an American.
Though sometimes the good ole US of A makes you cringe
Still, you know there's no place better suited to be your home.
You love your freedom and no one's going to take it away from you!

Only 61%? Drat my taste for bleu cheese! Still, it's about right. (HT: Blogenspiel)

Reminder for People in the Toronto Area

The Hume Conference begins tomorrow at the University of Toronto.

Plenary sessions are open to the public and may be attended without registration. All plenary sessions will be held in the George Ignatieff Theatre at Trinity College. The plenary speakers are:

Tuesday: Martha Nussbaum (U of Chicago)
Wednesday: Michel Malherbe (U de Nantes)
Friday: Dan Garber (Princeton)
Saturday: Don Garrett (NYU)

Individual sessions are also open without registration to any UT students or faculty, if they are intending to attend only one or two of the sessions. Lunch and other events require registration.

The schedule for the conference can be found by following the relevant link from the Department of Philosophy homepage.

If you can make it, I strongly recommend it: Hume Society events are quite enjoyable for anyone with a taste for philosophy. There's a reason they call it the Nice Society of Fun People.

A Long Poem Draft

Very rough. For the original, see Judges 5.

Song of Deborah

Then Deborah sang, and Barak sang,
and with these words their voices rang:

When in this land the locks are long,
sing to the Lord a blessing-song;
when people courageously volunteer.

Hear, O kings, and princes give ear,
to the Lord I will now sing,
and make my melody to Israel's King.

Lord, when you marched from out Seir,
the earth did tremble in its fear,
the heavens vanished as you neared,
the clouds with water poured,
the mountains quaked before the Lord,
the Sinai God, Israels' God.

When Shamgar held the judge's rod,
in the days of Jael the roads were waste,
as merchants on the ways made haste,
but the peasants prosper in our day,
the plunder pours upon the way,
because Deborah the judge arose,
a mother whom the God of Israel chose.

When Israel chose other gods to praise,
then war was the demon at the gates,
nor our shields were seen, nor our warriors' spears,
but my heart swells high to the leaders here,
who gave themselves with spear and sword
to save this people; praise the Lord!

You who on white donkeys ride,
or on embroidered cloth abide,
or on the roads now make your way,
frame a song, your praises say
to the music sounds of an oasis sun,
recount the battles the Lord has won,
sing the triumph of the peasants' fate,
when with the Lord they marched on the gates!

Awake, O Deborah, awake!
Arise, your music now to make;
arise, O Barak, captives take!

Then down marched the remnant of the elite,
when the people of God with martial beat
marched out agains the mighty,
marching out into the valley,
following the kin of Benjamin.
From Macher marched the mighty men,
from Zebulun the captains came;
then also was fair Issachar's name
with Deborah and with Barak blessed.
They came at his heels and without rest.

But Reuben wandered in his heart.
Why did you take the slower part?
Why did you stay with the bleating sheep?
Why did Gilead his places keep?
Why did Dan with the ships sit still,
and Asher as though robbed of will,
sitting down by the settled sea?

But Zebulun went, and without fright,
and Naphtali went to the battle heights.

The kings, they came; their swords did ring
against the swords of Canaan's kings.
At Taanach by Megiddo's stream
were banished all of Canaan's dreams.

The stars in their courses Sisera fought
when they from heaven wonders wrought,
when Kishon in torrents swept them away,
when the rain poured down this blessed day!

March on, my soul, with all your might;
the horse's hoof does not tread light
in the galloping of the army steeds.

Says God's angel: Meroz curse,
may the blight on its people yet be worse,
for they did not come to the Almighty's side,
when He cast to the depths the mighty's pride.

Let the deed now be confessed:
Jael is of all women blessed!
He asked for water, she gave him milk,
as smooth and fine as purest silk;
to the nail of the tent she put her hand,
then took up a hammer to save her land,
then struck a blow through Sisera's head.
He sank, he fell, at her feet lay dead.
His temple pierced with the hammer's beat,
he sank and lay still at her feet!

Out of the lattice his mother peers,
Sisera's mother with all her years;
she sits there, exclaiming, wondering:
Where are the chariots thundering?
Why tarries the pounding hoof of horse?

Her ladies answer in due course:
Do they not divide the loot?
For every man a girl or two,
for Sisera the finest suit,
spoil of embroidered stuff, well-made,
that might around the neck be laid?

So may perish, O Lord, your foes,
but your friends are like the sun that shows
in the rising of its might
the dawning of our peace and light.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Three Algerines in 18th-Century London

Part of Boswell's London Journal entry for July 18, 1763:

At the head of St. James's Street I observed three Turks staring about in a strange manner. I spoke a little of English, French, and Latin to them, neither of which they understood a word of. They showed me a pass from a captain of a ship declaring that they were Algerines who had been taken by the Spaniards and made slaves. That they made their escape, got to Lisbon, and from thence were brought to England. I carried them with me to a French house, where I got a man who spoke a little Spanish to one of them, and learnt that they wanted to see the Ambassador from Tripoli, who though not from the same division of territory, is yet under the Grand Signior, as they are. I accordingly went with him to the Ambassador's house, where I found a Turk who could speak English and interpret what they said; and he told me that they had landed that morning and had already been with the Ambassador begging that he would get liberty for them to go in an English ship to their own country; that he was to get them liberty from the Lords of the Admiralty; and that he had ordered them victuals. I gave them half a crown. They were very thankful, and my Turkish friend who spoke English said, "GOD reward you. The same God make the Turk that make the Christian. But the English have the tender heart. The Turk have not the tender heart."

I was anxious to have my poor strangers taken care of, and I begged that they might sleep in the house with the Ambassador. The landlady, a hard-hearted shrew, opposed this vehemently. "Indeed," said she, "I would not suffer one of 'em to sleep in my beds. Who knows what vermin and nastiness they may have brought with them? To be sure I may allow them to sleep on the floor, as they do in their own country; but for my beds, Sir, as I'm a Christian, I could not let them sleep in a bed of mine." Her Christian argument was truly conclusive. Abandoned wretch! to make the religion of the Prince of Peace, the religion which so warmly inculcates universal charity, a cloak for thy unfeeling barbarity! However, I was glad to have it fixed that they should sleep under a roof; and I begged my friend to take care that they lay comfortably.

From Boswell's London Journal 1762-1763, Pottle, ed. McGraw-Hill (New York: 1950) 307-308.

Good for Boswell. As for the landlady -- alas, things never change. It's interesting to get a little glimpse of English attitudes toward foreigners in the eighteenth century, though.