Friday, October 20, 2006

Links of Note

* Kenny Pearce has a good post on Berkeley and Moore on the external world.

* The 37th Philosophers' Carnival was recently at "hell's handmaiden."

* I'm currently reading Wilson and Sperber's paper on Relevance Theory, on one scion of neo-Gricean pragmatics. (h/t: This is the Name of This Blog) While it tends a bit jargonish, this is very cool area of philosophy of language that deserves to be more widely known outside of philosophy (I've often thought that issues relating to implicature should be taught in critical thinking courses -- after all, figuring out tricky implicatures is one of the most basic and universally important forms of critical thought). Although English professors tend to get it wrong a lot. I'm not sure if that's cause for pessimism generally, though, because a lot of English professors get a lot things wrong a lot. Those who'd like a quick background or refresher should read the SEP article on Implicature. See also Kent Bach's Top 10 Misconceptions about Implicature (PDF). Relevance theory is a recent popular attempt to re-work Grice's four-maxim account of implicature into an account that only requires one maxim (governing relevance). Doomed, probably, but interesting enough.

* Coturnix has a very interesting post at "A Blog Around the Clock" on whether Ramadan-style fasting is healthy. Or perhaps, rather, on what exactly the strain of Ramadan-style fasting is, since it obviously does, and that's part of the point.

* U2's Bono on the Incarnation.

* Daniel Nolan's The Varieties of Flirtatious Experience (PDF) to Jenkins's recent paper on the philosophy of flirting, which was linked to in a number of places in the blogosphere. He points out something I pointed out at the time, namely, that playfulness really doesn't seem as relevant to an analysis of flirting as Jenkins claimed. However, I think he still concedes too much by conceding that flirting is 'unserious'. Obviously it can be, and is often most enjoyable when it is, but I don't think Nolan appreciates how seriously some people take flirting. But he makes up for the lapse by recognizing something I had also pointed out, namely, that people don't always flirt with sex or romance in mind.

* Alan Rhoda has a good post on how not to think of formal logic.

* Don't forget that if you run into any interesting posts having to do with the period roughly from 1500 to 1800, or have run into any in the last month or two, you should nominate them for the next edition of Carnivalesque by sending the link to Henrik, the next host, at hkarll002[at] or by using the Blog Carnival Submission Form.

Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals

Christianity Today has published a list of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelical thought as it actually exists now. Here's the list; the one's I've read are bolded.

50.Revivalism and Social Reform. Timothy L. Smith
49.Knowledge of the Holy. A. W. Tozer
48.The Hiding Place. Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
47.The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? F. F. Bruce
46.Out of the Saltshaker and into the World. Rebecca Manley Pippert
45.The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Mark A. Noll
44.The Gospel of the Kingdom. George Eldon Ladd
43.Operation World. Patrick Johnstone
42.The Purpose-Driven Life. Rick Warren
41.Born Again. Charles W. Colson
40.Darwin on Trial. Phillip E. Johnson
39.Desiring God. John Piper
38.The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Lesslie Newbigin
37.God's Smuggler. Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
36.Left Behind. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
35.The Stork Is Dead. Charlie W. Shedd
34.This Present Darkness. Frank E. Peretti
33.The Late Great Planet Earth. Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson
32.The Cross and the Switchblade. David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
31.The Next Christendom. Philip Jenkins
30.Roaring Lambs. Robert Briner
29.Dare to Discipline. James Dobson
28.The Act of Marriage. Tim and Beverly LaHaye
27.Christy. Catherine Marshall
26.Know Why You Believe. Paul E. Little
25.Boundaries. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
24.The Meaning of Persons. Paul Tournier
23.All We're Meant to Be. Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty
22.The Genesis Flood. Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb
21.The Master Plan of Evangelism. Robert Emerson Coleman
20.A Wrinkle In Time. Madeleine L'Engle
19.The Cost of Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
18.The Divine Conspiracy. Dallas Willard
17.What's So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey
16.Basic Christianity. John Stott
15.The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. F. H. Henry
14.Let Justice Roll Down. John M. Perkins
13.Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Josh McDowell
12.Power Evangelism. John Wimber with Kevin Springer
11.Celebration of Discipline. Richard J. Foster
10.Evangelism Explosion. D. James Kennedy
9.Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot
8.Managing Your Time. Ted W. Engstrom
7.Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Ronald J. Sider
6.The Living Bible. Kenneth N. Taylor
5.Knowing God. J. I. Packer
4.The God Who Is There. Francis A. Schaeffer
3.Mere Christianity. C. S. Lewis
2.Understanding Church Growth. Donald Anderson McGavran
1.Prayer: Conversing With God. Rosalind Rinker

It's a mark of the accuracy of the list that, despite not having read most of the works here, I have heard of most of them, and come across most of them indirectly (allusions, quotations, excerpts, summaries etc.). As Lee notes, they are of very uneven quality. I highly recommend both The Hiding Place and Christy, though. The Hiding Place is Corrie ten Boom's account of her family's hiding of Jews and underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland. The Ten Booms were imprisoned and a number of them died there; Corrie herself, although relatively young, spent ten months in prison, finally ending up in the Ravensbrook concentration camp. Christy is a novel about a young rich girl who sets out to teach a Mission School in the poorest part of the Appalachians; when there she struggles with problems like illiteracy, but also finds that the poor she's teaching have as much to teach her as she does them.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Third Heaven

II Enoch 8:1-9:1
And those men took me thence, and led me up on to the third heaven, and placed me there; and I looked downwards, and saw the produce of these places, such as has never been known for goodness. And I saw all the sweet-flowering trees and beheld their fruits, which were sweet-smelling, and all the foods borne by them bubbling with fragrant exhalation. And in the midst of the trees that of life, in that place whereon the Lord rests, when he goes up into paradise; and this tree is of ineffable goodness and fragrance, and adorned more than every existing thing; and on all sides it is in form gold-looking and vermilion and fire-like and covers all, and it has produce from all fruits. Its root is in the garden at the earth’s end. And paradise is between corruptibility and incorruptibility. And two springs come out which send forth honey and milk, and their springs send forth oil and wine, and they separate into four parts, and go round with quiet course, and go down into the PARADISE OF EDEN, between corruptibility and incorruptibility. And thence they go forth along the earth, and have a revolution to their circle even as other elements. And here there is no unfruitful tree, and every place is blessed. And there are three hundred angels very bright, who keep the garden, and with incessant sweet singing and never-silent voices serve the Lord throughout all days and hours.

And I said: How very sweet is this place, and those men said to me: This place, O Enoch, is prepared for the righteous, who endure all manner of offence from those that exasperate their souls, who avert their eyes from iniquity, and make righteous judgment, and give bread to the hungering, and cover the naked with clothing, and raise up the fallen, and help injured orphans, and who walk without fault before the face of the Lord, and serve him alone, and for them is prepared this place for eternal inheritance.

Apoc. Moses 37
And God saith to him: 'Adam, what hast thou done? If thou hadst kept my commandment, there would now be no rejoicing among those who are bringing thee down to this place. Yet, I tell thee that I will turn their joy to grief and thy grief will I turn to joy, and I will transform thee to thy former glory? and set thee on the throne of thy deceiver. But he shall be cast into this place to see thee sitting above him, then he shall be condemned and they that heard him, and he shall be grieved sore when he seeth thee sitting on his honourable throne.'

And he stayed there three hours, lying down, and thereafter the Father of all, sitting on his holy throne stretched out his hand, and took Adam and handed him over to the archangel Michael saying: 'Lift him up into Paradise unto the third Heaven, and leave him there until that fearful day of my reckoning, which I will make in the world.' Then Michael took Adam and left him where God told him.

But after all this, the archangel asked concerning the laying out of the remains. And God commanded that all the angels should assemble in His presence, each in his order, and all the angels assembled, some having censers in their hands, and others trumpets. And lo ! the 'Lord of Hosts' came on and four winds drew Him and cherubim mounted on the winds and the angels from heaven escorting Him and they came on the earth, where was the body of Adam. And they came to paradise and all the leaves of paradise were stirred so that all men begotten of Adam slept from the fragrance save Seth alone, because he was born 'according to the appointment of God '. Then Adam's body lay there in paradise on the earth and Seth grieved exceedingly over him.

Then God spake to the archangel(s) Michael, (Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael): 'Go away to Paradise in the third heaven, and strew linen clothes and cover the body of Adam and bring oil of the 'oil of fragrance' and pour it over him. And they acted thus did the three great angels and they prepared him for burial. And God said: 'Let the body of Abel also be brought.' And they brought other linen clothes and prepared his (body) also. For he was unburied since the day when Cain his brother slew him; for wicked Cain took great pains to conceal (him) but could not, for the earth would not receive him for the body sprang up from the earth and a voice went out of the earth saying: 'I will not receive a companion body, till the earth which was taken and fashioned in me cometh to me.' At that time, the angels took it and placed it on a rock, till Adam his father was buried. And both were buried, according to the commandment of God, in the spot where God found the dust, and He caused the place to be dug for two. And God sent seven angels to paradise and they brought many fragrant spices and placed them in the earth, and they took the two bodies and placed them in the spot which they had digged and builded.

And God called and said, 'Adam, Adam.' And the body answered from the earth and said: 'Here am I, Lord.' And God saith to him: 'I told thee (that) earth thou art and to earth shalt thou return. Again I promise to thee the Resurrection; I will raise thee up in the Resurrection with every man who is of thy seed.'

II Corinthians 12:2-4
I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

It is said that the Christians of Antioch were once under siege from Turks, and defeat seemed inevitable. In their dire straits they turned to God and prayed; and it is said that when they did some in the church saw a man in shining garments praying with them. He said his name was Luke, and that he, too, was of Antioch, and that in remembrance of the many saints and martyrs given to heaven by Antioch, the Lord had allowed them to assist the people of the city in their time of need. Taking heart, the Christians of Antioch forced the lifting of the siege and put the Turks to rout.

Here is the opening of the Sermon on the Plain, one of the most famous sections of the Gospel attributed to Luke:

Looking at his disciples, he said:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

One of the neatest resources on the Gospel of Luke, at least for theological purposes, is Thomas Aquinas's Catena Aurea on the Gospels. You can find it here. I also recommend Cyril of Alexandria's Commentary on Luke.

Three Poem Drafts

The Only Failures

The only failures move like ghosts,
wraiths of endless hell,
all regret and no remorse,
relenting without success,
unrepentant recollections.

They are clouds devoid of water,
unable to take glory,
unable to catch sunlight,
silent, sullen larvae
refusing to take wing.

Nature Is Ungodded

Nature is ungodded,
no idols stand.
They are smashed upon the wayside
of a dead and dusty land.

Their ruin ends the ages;
shattered is the pagan dream.
On its face like a mask forgotten
timeless moonlight gleams.

Heathen nightmares, sharded,
crumble in the rain,
the mud covering them over
with a semblance of disdain.

No longer the scourge of rulers,
nor the fear of the humble poor,
they go down into darkness forever
and are no more.

Every Good Thing Passes

Every good thing passes;
darkness always wins;
birth ends in a sepulcher;
Adam always sins.

Every good thing passes;
every glory fades.
To grow is but to pass away;
night always ends the day.

Every good thing passes;
nothing stays and bides.
If God is born in Bethlehem,
God is crucified.

Dark is this evangel:
loosed is the silver cord,
shattered is the golden bowl,
till the severing of the sword.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Broken Constitution?

An interesting op-ed on the Constitution at The Los Angeles Times by Sanford Levinson (of UT Austin). Interesting; but a great deal of the reasoning seems almost incomprehensible to me. I can see the point of advocating a 'no confidence' procedure, but this makes no sense whatsoever:

For now, then, Bush retains his powers — including the power to veto legislation. This is another extraordinarily undemocratic element of the U.S. system. It allows one man to override the wishes of strong majorities and, in effect, become an independent third house of an already cumbersome legislative process. This "three-house" aspect of our legislative process is one explanation for the difficulty — often, the impossibility — of passing innovative legislation and having it signed into law.

First, let's set aside the entire mention of Bush, since one of the peculiarities of the current President's administration is that he never uses his veto powers. (Total vetoes by W in six years: 1.) But the rationale for the veto power is clearly stated in The Federalist 73: "It not only serves as a shield to the Executive, but it furnishes an additional security against the enaction of improper laws. It establishes a salutary check upon the legislative body, calculated to guard the community against the effects of faction, precipitancy, or of any impulse unfriendly to the public good, which may happen to influence a majority of that body." Indeed, Hamilton considers the 'one man' and innovative legislation objections explicitly:

But this observation, when examined, will appear rather specious than solid. The propriety of the thing does not turn upon the supposition of superior wisdom or virtue in the Executive, but upon the supposition that the legislature will not be infallible; that the love of power may sometimes betray it into a disposition to encroach upon the rights of other members of the government; that a spirit of faction may sometimes pervert its deliberations; that impressions of the moment may sometimes hurry it into measures which itself, on maturer reflexion, would condemn. The primary inducement to conferring the power in question upon the Executive is, to enable him to defend himself; the secondary one is to increase the chances in favor of the community against the passing of bad laws, through haste, inadvertence, or design. The oftener the measure is brought under examination, the greater the diversity in the situations of those who are to examine it, the less must be the danger of those errors which flow from want of due deliberation, or of those missteps which proceed from the contagion of some common passion or interest. It is far less probable, that culpable views of any kind should infect all the parts of the government at the same moment and in relation to the same object, than that they should by turns govern and mislead every one of them.

It may perhaps be said that the power of preventing bad laws includes that of preventing good ones; and may be used to the one purpose as well as to the other. But this objection will have little weight with those who can properly estimate the mischiefs of that inconstancy and mutability in the laws, which form the greatest blemish in the character and genius of our governments. They will consider every institution calculated to restrain the excess of law-making, and to keep things in the same state in which they happen to be at any given period, as much more likely to do good than harm; because it is favorable to greater stability in the system of legislation. The injury which may possibly be done by defeating a few good laws, will be amply compensated by the advantage of preventing a number of bad ones.

And I find the next point made utterly irritating:

Californians have a particularly overwhelming reason to disrespect the Constitution: Although 35 million people live within its borders, it has the same vote in the U.S. Senate as does Wyoming, which has roughly 500,000 people.

How can you defend a system under which Barbara Boxer was returned to the Senate in 2004 with about 6.5 million votes at the same time that Alaska's Lisa Murkowski won the exact same job and power with about 150,000 votes? No greater deviation can be imagined from what we like to believe is a national commitment to "one person/one vote."

Yes, California has the same vote in the Senate as Wyoming -- that's the whole point of the Senate, that the states vote by state representation, and that the people of a given state elect representatives to represent that state overall. The 6.5 million votes / 150,000 votes comment is a red herring: there is nothing about the elections to the Senate themselves that stand in the way of one person / one vote, if you have a big thing about that. But once elected those votes are no longer in play -- votes are good for the election, and no further. What is significant from then on out is representation, and the purpose of a Senator is to represent the people of a state insofar as they organized into a state.

Granted, this does mean that tax dollars flow disproportionately to states of low populations, but this, insofar as it is a problem, is simply a comment on our government's spending habits. To some extent it need not be considered a problem: the population of Wyoming is not a relevant factor in determining whether Yellowstone is worthy of federal support, and the same could be said of a great many more things. Likewise, the relative populations of New York and Nebraska tell us nothing about how much money should be spent on farm subsidies in those states. And so forth. There is a lot of pork going about, and it's possibly the case that states with smaller populations are more porcine than others, but attributing it to the constitution of the Senate needs a serious defense.

What exasperates me most is the battleground argument. Once and for all: It is not a problem that candidates focus on places that are more likely to get them the extra votes needed to win, and, even if it were, it is not something that can be avoided in any democratic system. It happens everywhere, and the only variation is what, in particular, is fought over. The only thing that's even potentially disturbing about the Electoral College version of it is the size of the units that are fought over (whole states); but if that's a problem, you should focus on having your state divide its EC votes the way Maine does.

And so it goes. I'm a big fan of the Electoral College, as I've noted repeatedly on this weblog, so I won't say more about the other swipe at the Electoral College. But the attack on the extended period between election day and inauguration forgets completely that in a nation of 300 million people it can take time to settle election disputes to everyone's satisfaction (so there is a straightforward rationale for an extended period between election and certification by Congress). Perhaps there is a rationale for reducing the period between certification (January 6) and inauguration (January 20); but since Congress can change the date of the vote-countin, it doesn't appear to be a particularly constitutional problem. And two weeks is hardly a terrible length of time for transition.

Nonetheless, it is true that the Constitution is not perfect. It never has been, as Hamilton and others noted. But most of the serious governance problems we face are not constitutional but purely political, and a genuine remedy at the constitutional level is not easily forthcoming.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Buddhist Parable

There is a Buddhist parable that once at the foot of the Himalayas there was a colony of monkeys whose blood had remarkable properties: red and translucent, it could be turned into a dye of great brilliance that would never fade. Because of this, cloth merchants from all over the world were constantly trying to trap the monkeys.

The monkeys, as it turned out, were extremely cunning, and they could almost always figure out how to get out of the traps set for them. It was found, however, that they had two very serious weaknesses: they enjoyed the taste of rice wine and they like shoes. Yes, shoes. They were passionate about fancy shoes, and liked putting them on and parading about. And wouldn't you? You certainly would.

Having discovered the monkeys' weaknesses a group of clever cloth merchants decided to turn the weaknesses to their advantages. In the general neighborhood of where the monkeys were most often seen they set of several kegs of fine rice wine, and scattered lots of brightly colored shoes. They then went to hide in the bushes.

Now, the monkeys were not stupid. They saw immediately that it must be a trap. Who, after all, leaves kegs of fine rice wine on a hilltop, open and unguarded? Who scatters pretty shoes out in the middle of nowhere? Definitely a trap. So the monkeys said to each other, "We know how wicked and cunning the cloth merchants are, and how they will do anything to further their profit. If we taste the wine, they will kill us for our blood. Let us leave." So they turned around and began to leave.

As they went, however, they could still smell the aroma of that fine rice wine, and some of them cast a look over their shoulders. Doing so, of course, they saw all the pretty shoes scattered about, just waiting to be put on. Finally a few monkeys turned back, saying, "It's obviously a trap, but if we take just a drop or two, we should be able to escape. Remember! Just a few drops! Any more and we will be killed for our blood!"

So they dipped their fingers into the rice wine, and it was excellent. Naturally, a little drop wasn't enough, so they dipped their hands in. Soon they were guzzling it like sailors. After all, if they could not resist the scent of the wine, how could they possibly resist the taste?

The monkeys were soon quite drunk, and, being drunk on a hillside covered with pretty shoes, they just could not bear not to try them on. So they put on the pretty shoes and began to parade about. Then the cloth merchants came out and easily killed them all; not only were the monkeys drunk, they were tripped up by the fancy shoes they were wearing.

The moral of the story is easy enough to see when you begin to understand that you and I are the monkeys, cunning and able to escape almost any trap. And yet there is always that fine rice wine and those pretty shoes....

A Poem Draft

Rebecca's post here reminded me of this, which I'd written some time ago and never put up.

The Ache

The honeyed ache of parting,
the sweetness of harsh care,
is like the children by the gravestones
with the sunlight in their hair:
I know the name for sorrow,
the angels' word for grief
that is written in the rainbow;
the name is Heart's Relief.

I have felt the pain of glory
in my throat, behind my face,
in a heart that beats with worry
but is kissed with wild grace.
Clouds weep in brightest sunshine,
the eyes burn with tears unshed,
and the dawn-light of the morning
crowns the flowers of the dead.

Endless rows of crosses
like the leaves in woods of gray
are greeted by the morning
and kissed by dawning day.
I have felt the ache of sorrow
like a stone dislodged from place,
in the throat like endless yearning
for the glory of God's grace.

I know the grace of sadness,
I know the bitter tale,
the grief with roots in gladness,
in the joy that cannot fail.

And Truth Shall Deliver You

Balade de Bon Conseyl

Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse;
Suffyce unto thy thing, though it be smal,
For hord hath hate, and climbing tikelnesse,
Prees hath envye, and wele blent overal.
Savour no more thanne thee bihove shal,
Reule wel thyself, that other folk canst rede,
And trouthe thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

Tempest thee noght al croked to redresse
In trust of hir that turneth as a bal;
Gret reste stant in litel besinesse.
Be war therfore to sporne ayeyns an al,
Stryve not, as doth the crokke with the wal.
Daunte thyself, that dauntest otheres dede,
And trouthe thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

That thee is sent, receyve in buxumnesse;
The wrastling for this world axeth a fal.
Her is non hoom, her nis but wildernesse:
Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stal!
Know thi contree, look up, thank God of al;
Hold the heye wey and lat thy gost thee lede,
And trouthe thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

Therfore, thou Vache, leve thyn old wrechednesse;
Unto the world leve now to be thral.
Crye him mercy, that of his hy goodnesse
Made thee of noght, and in especial
Draw unto him, and pray in general
For thee, and eek for other, hevenlich mede;
And trouthe thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

You can hear the Middle English read here (click the title link). Chaucer scholars don't seem to know much about this Chaucerian work; it's gnomic poetry, but is almost certainly good-humored ribbing as well, as can be seen by the play on the name of the addressee, Vache (cow). Paraphrased into Modern English, very quickly and roughly and crudely (improvements welcome):

Flee from the masses, dwell in truthfulness;
Let your belongings suffice, though they be small,
For greed is hateful, and ambition unstable,
The crowd is envious, and are blind overall.
Take delight no more than befits you,
restrain yourself who restrains others' deeds;
and truth shall deliver you, have no fear.

Trouble yourself not with making every crooked straight
in the trust of Fortune's turning wheel;
in little work the rest is great.
Beware therefore of kicking against the awl,
Do not fight like the jar fights the wall;
restrain yourself who restrains others' deeds,
and truth shall deliver you, have no fear.

What you are sent, submissively receive;
wrestling for this world gets you nothing at all.
This is not your home, this is but wilderness:
Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beast, out of your stall!
Stick to the high road, and let your spirit lead you,
And truth shall deliver you, have no fear.


Therefore, O Vache, leave your old wretchedness;
Leave this world to which you are enthralled.
Cry mercy to Him, who of His goodness
Made you out of nothing, and especially
Draw unto him, and pray generally
For yourself, and for others', heavenly rewards;
And truth shall deliver you, have no fear.

Ignatius to the Ephesians

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch (died ca. 110). So here is a bit from his letter to the Ephesians:

But some most worthless persons are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, and hold opinions contrary to the doctrine of Christ, to their own destruction, and that of those who give credit to them, whom you must avoid as ye would wild beasts. For "the righteous man who avoids them is saved for ever; but the destruction of the ungodly is sudden, and a subject of rejoicing." For "they are dumb dogs, that cannot bark," raving mad, and biting secretly, against whom ye must be on your guard, since they labour under an incurable disease. But our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For "the Word was made flesh." Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Eminently Unfit for the Presidency

Reading some of the works of Orestes Brownson, I came upon his scathing criticism of Lincoln in "The Next Presidential Election" (Brownson's Quarterly Review, April 1864). Since Brownson, despite his failings, was always an astute and intelligent observer, it goes to show that heroes -- and there is by now, I think, no doubt that Lincoln, despite his failings, is one of the greatest heroes in American history -- don't always look heroic even to their more intelligent contemporaries. Some of Brownson's remarks on Honest Abe:

That Mr. Lincoln is not our free choice for President, that we do not consider him qualified for the position he occu­pies, that we consider him wholly unqualified, is well known to our readers. We have never been able to discover in him a single quality in any special manner fitting him to be President of the United States at any time, and especial­ly in times like the present; and we have found in him no quality not eminently unfitting him for his high office, ex­cept, perhaps, his patience, his good humor, and capacity to labor, he has not the mental qualities, the education, the habits, the manners, the personal presence and dignity, the knowledge of history, philosophy, literature, civilization, men and things, or of the human heart itself, that we de­mand in the Chief Magistrate of a great people....That he is honest, that he is a kind hearted man, well disposed, and anxious to administer the government well, need not be questioned, though we always suspect a man's honesty who has the soubriquet of honest. "Honest old Abe," reminds one of Mr. Clay's ad­dress to a former Senator of Massachusetts : "Honest John Davis ! Canny John Davis !" The nickname is always bestowed in irony, as the livery stable man called one of his horses Spry, because he could not be made to go more than a couple of miles an hour. It, if it sticks, implies that he is canny, cunning, has, under the appearance of great sim­plicity, a long head, and will, if you are not on your guard, come round you or overreach you. But be this as it may, be the term applied in good faith or not, honesty without capacity, though it may do very well for a. private man who has a competent and faitful steward to manage his affairs, does not answer for the President of a great nation and the Commander-in-Chief of her Army and Navy, especially when her very existence is at stake.

We wish to speak of Mr. Lincoln in terms befitting our­selves and his high position, but we must say that he has proved himself totally deficient in administrative talent. No branch of the government has been well and efficiently administered under him....[T]he Administration in the sense that it must receive its impulse, its spirit and tone from the President himself, has been loose, fluctuating, un­systematic, weak, and inefficient, in all save expenditure of men and money. It has lacked promptness, energy, economy. Its extravagance has been appalling, its expen­ditures enormous, and little to show for them....The Administration has not known how to inspire its own agents with a sense of duty, or to hold them to a rigid accountability. It has not known how to husband its resources, or to manage its finan­ces with economy, with advantage to the public service. The people gave generously, Congress voted liberally ample supplies of men and money, but nothing has come of it, but an army of suddenly enriched contractors, speculators, and swindlers, who are using all their influence to prolong the war. The Administration seems never to have regarded economy as necessary. The war, it was sure, would be a short war ; the Rebellion was always on its last legs, and was sure to be soon put down; and what mattered to so great and rich a nation a few hundred millions a year more or less? Peace would soon return, commerce revive, and the resources of the people reunited would soon extinguish a national debt of any magnitude.

Mr. Lincoln's military operations have shown an equal want of administrative capacity. The responsibility is not to be shifted from him to the Generals commanding in the field, or to the General-in-Chief, with his head-quarters at the seat of Government. Generals commanding armies are subordinate to the civil power, and though the ablest, having the best dispositions in the world, they can accom­plish little under a weak, indecisive, and vacillating civil administration, that has no intelligible purpose, that changes its purpose every other day, or does not insist on its pur­pose being carried out....

The policy of the Administration in its conduct of the war has been not only expensive, inefficient, but capricious, often unintelligible, to be explained only as one or another influence in the cabinet, or outside, predominated....

So has it been with the slavery question. Mr. Lincoln would take no step towards emancipation till he had wearied out the hopes of the negroes, disheartened them, alienated them, by making them feel that the war was to bring them no deliverance. When his generals took steps to reassure them, he rescinded their orders, snubbed them, then relieved them. After the hopes of the negroes had been sufficiently damped, after their enthusiasm had died away, and their confidence in the Yankees had been destroyed, then he comes out with a threat to emancipate the slaves in certain States and parts of States, but taking care to give the Rebels a hundred days to prepare for it, and to guard against the damage it might do them. He then comes out with his Proclamation, but takes care to confine its operation to slave territory not within our lines, and hemmed in by other slave territory into which they could not escape with­out being liable to be arrested and imprisoned as runaway slaves. He left Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, slave States apparently, to bar escape, by State laws, to the poor slaves from the States in which he declared them free. Was he afraid that the slave would take him at his word, and get away from his master, and be a free man ? If he had adopted the Emancipation Policy immediately after the first battle of Bull Run ; or if he had sustained the Pro­clamation of General Fremont in the Department of the West, the military order of General Hunter in the De­partment of the Soiith, and quietly instructed Generals Butler, Burnside, Buel, and McClellan, to issue similar orders in their respective Departments, the policy would have encountered no serious opposition in the loyal States, it would have excited great enthusiasm; would have secur­ed the confidence of the negro population, and struck a heavy blow at the very heart of the Rebellion. But no; Mr. Lincoln wan't ready ; he must study longer his colored map, and meditate what he should do with the negroes freed by the presence of our armies, when our lines should be driven back, and they come again within the lines of the Rebels; and so the golden opportunity passed away, never to return....

His soul seems made of leather, and incapable of any grand or noble emotion. Compared with the mass of men, he is a line of flat prose in a beautiful and spirited lyric. He lowers, he never elevates you. You leave his presence with your enthusiasm damped, your better feelings crushed, and your hopes cast to the winds. You ask not, can this man carry the nation through its terrible struggles? but, can the nation carry this man through them, and not perish in the attempt? He never adopts a clean policy. When he hits upon a policy, substantially good in itself, he con­trives to belittle it, besmear it, or in some way to render it mean, contemptible, and useless. Even wisdom from him seems but folly. It is not his fault, but his misfortune. He is a good sort of man, with much natural shrewdness and respectable native abilities ; but he is misplaced in the Presidential Chair. He lives and moves in an order of thought, in a world many degrees below that in which a great man lives and moves.

But Brownson, who is writing just prior to the Presidential election, continues on to note that despite nobody particularly wanting Lincoln in office, in all probability Lincoln will be re-elected, because there isn't any decent alternative; the only hope of the Democrats being to put up a War Democrat "who is willing to let Slavery die and be buried" and whose loyalty to the Union no one could deny. And, says Brownson, if the Democrats put forward a Peace Democrat, better a Lincoln than a Copperhead. Brownson had actually already spoken favorably of a Lincoln second-term in a previous column in his Quarterly Review, precisely because he could see no alternative.

Links of Note

* Tanasije Gjorgoski gives his list of Top 10 Appearances of Kant in (Not So) Popular Culture. One of those appearances in not so popular culture looks very familiar. If you like philosophy and haven't heard the Kant Song, by the way, you should. It should be in the toolbox of everyone who might possibly teach Kant (or have to explain Kant) under some circumstance.

* Douglys of "Armchari Investigations" on the Boolos-Smullyan 'Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever'.

* Johnny-Dee considers the principle of credulity.

* The 41st History Carnival is up at "Clioweb". Some lovely stuff as always; blog carnivals are by nature uneven, but I think the History Carnival tends consistently to be one of the best, in the sense of both quality of the posts and general accessibility. Other carnivals tend to do better on one than the other (e.g., the Philosophers' Carnival tends to be fairly consistent about quality, but I doubt many people not in philosophy find it very readable, and this is, I think, common to most of the more heavily academic carnivals).

* Mark Chu-Carroll has had a number of really great posts recently on what we might call tangible math or manual calculation (in the literal etymological sense of 'manual' -- using one's hands):

The Slide Rule
Manual Calculation using a Slide Rule
Using the Slide Rule Part 2: Exponents and Roots

The Abacus
Arithmetic on the Abacus: Part 1
Using the Abacus Part 2: Multiplication
Division on the Abacus
Computing Square Roots on Paper
Square Root on the Abacus

Finger Math
No Abacus Handy? Use Your Hands
Binary Fingermath
Multiplying with Your Fingers

I find it all very fascinating. I've always liked this aspect of math; in elementary school I loved reading about Napier's bones; I still like reading about dactylonomy (calculating with the fingers), e.g., the Venerable Bede's system, which allowed the representation of numbers up to 9,999 (his primary mathematical interest, of course, was in keeping track of years and dates, where you need to be able to keep track into the thousands, but don't usually need operations more sophisticated than basic arithmetic). I have a book on (basic) chi-san-bop somewhere; it's a neat little system. I wish more of what we were taught about in mathematics, at least early on, was of this tangible sort; even though people would still forget as much as they do now, in the meantime they would have become acquainted with the same mathematical operations in several different physical forms, which is the perfect preparation for understanding the abstract theory.

Oregon Trail

A lot of people have already seen this, but I only just got to it. Oregon Trail, just like you used to play in school. My first time playing it again I made it all the way and collected 3208 points. How about you?