Saturday, July 24, 2010

Immanuel Kant's Guide to a Good Dinner Party

On Kant's view dining alone is bad for a philosopher: it encourages 'intellectual self-gnawing' that leads to a lack of vitality. Eating with at least one other companion, on the other hand, allows for a good interchange of ideas. New material for thought flows into the mind in a natural way, without any of the forced effort required in tracking down new topics on one's own. As Kant puts it in Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, the life that harmonizes best with our humanity is the life that involves, on a regular basis, good meals with good conversation. In such a life our need for nourishment, without being harmed or curtailed in any way, becomes an instrument for social enjoyment and philosophical thought: rest and reflection united as one. In light of this Kant gives us some tips to hosting a good dinner party (you can find them all in Anthropology, if you think I'm joking):

(1) The number of guests should follow Chesterfield's rule: no fewer than the Graces (i.e., three), no more than the Muses (i.e., nine).

(2) The dinner party must exist not merely for physical satisfaction but also for social enjoyment. (This is the reason for the bounds on the number of guests.)

(3) Anything indiscreet that is said at the table stays at the table: there is a moral sanctity to the dinner party, and a duty of secrecy, because without the trust made possible by these it is impossible to have enjoyable culture. This is not a mere matter of taste; it is a matter of the fundamental preconditions that allows free exchange of ideas in social interaction.

(4) When the dinner party is a full one, and there is plenty of time, the conversation during the dinner party should go through three stages:

(a) Narration, i.e., exchange of news
(b) Ratiocination, i.e., lively discussion of the diversity in judgment at the table
(c) Jest, i.e., play of wit

Thus the conversation should always begin with raising pertinent and personal material then move into lively discussion until, tired from the hard work of arguing and reasoning, everyone settles down into lighter talk that leads to laughter. According to Kant, with his nineteenth-century German skepticism about how interested a woman could be in heavy intellectual conversation, when women are present the last stage is especially important, so that by being given a chance to respond to teasing they can show their own intellectual merits.

(5) No dinner music whatsoever. Kant regards it as one of the most absurd innovations in his time.

Obviously, liveliness is the key to a successful dinner party. Fortunately, Kant gives us guidelines for that as well:

(6) Choose topics of conversation in which everyone is interested, and always give people the opportunity to add their own topics, if they are appropriate.

(7) Never allow an extended silence. There can be momentary pauses in conversation, but no more.

(8) Do not change the topic unless necessary and especially do not keep jumping from one topic to another. The conversation should flow naturally and exhibit an organic unity of its own. The reason for this is that in a symposium, as in a drama, the mind occupies itself in part by reminiscing over what has previously occurred and tying the various phases together. A conversation that keeps changing topics is as disconcerting as a play that keeps changing topics and themes.

(9) Dogmatism is to be forbidden absolutely, whether it be on the part of the host or on the part of the guests. When people get too serious and insistent, start making jokes to divert them back to play rather than business.

(10) When serious conflicts arise that really and truly cannot be resolved, self-discipline is essential so that passions do not run too hot. Tone is absolutely essential; even if very serious topics are broached, every effort should be exerted to avoid any estrangement of the guests from each other.

Kant concedes that these laws of refinement are insignificant in comparison with serious moral laws, but he insists that anything that promotes reasonable sociability is conducive to virtue. In his eyes, the cynic's purism and the anchorite's mortification are both easily seen to be distorted forms of virtue because they make virtue ugly and uninviting. The real philosopher is at the dinner party.

The implications of this are, of course, somewhat larger than dinner parties; the point of talking about dinner parties at all was to make points about the role of sociability in the reasonable human life. Human beings cannot simply rest on their laurels but must to some degree make themselves rational animals by living a life suitable to rational animals. Restrained but lively sociability is precisely the sort of thing that contributes to this, and Kant in his own (very bachelor!) experience knows of no more perfect examples of reasonable sociability than his dinner parties -- for which, in fact, he was rather famous, and of which, one can tell, he was rather proud.

What is more, it sits well with Kant's very strong insistence that there are times when you should give hard philosophical thinking a rest. He sharply criticizes the practice of reading or trying to think through philosophical questions while dining alone; he thinks that, by forcing reason ever inward on itself, it creates pathological conditions of thought and a sort of hypochondria, whether literal or figurative. It creates disorder and pushes you toward insanity. Social eating, on the other hand, gives the intellect relaxation and room to recuperate while not letting it come to a standstill. Its benefits are not automatic, but it does allow one to find the middle way between the minimum healthy amount of thinking and the maximum healthy amount of thinking. And we have a moral duty to ourselves and others not to shut ourselves up in our own minds.

Kant, by the way, at one point gives an example of a joke he apparently thought very good and that he apparently heard told at a dinner party. Countess von Keyserling was visited by Count Sagramoso, who knew only broken German; at the time a schoolmaster came by who was putting together a natural history collection in Hamburg and therefore had birds on the brain. In order to make conversation, the Count said, "I have an aunt in Hamburg, but she is dead." To which the schoolmaster replied, "Why didn't you have her skinned and stuffed?" The Count had used an anglicism, Ant, for the German word for 'aunt', Tante and the schoolmaster had heard Ente (duck) instead of Ant (aunt). Life of the party; that's Kant.

The First Step in Philosophy

The first step in philosophy is not a step; the first step in philosophy is to open your eyes. Not until he has looked round him, and with more than a little astonishment, in the actual world, not until he has in some measure become ‘a spectator of all time and all existence’, has any man a standing in the realm of thought. The majority of us are rustics, whose daily perambulations round the village pump mark the limits of our travel. ‘The winds of the world’, in Walter Page’s phrase, ‘have not ventilated our brains.’ I do not except the learned doctors,

profoundly skilled in analytic,
Who can distinguish and divide
A hair ‘twixt south and south-west side—

who know, it may be, the language of the brain but not of the soul, who know what algebra is but not adversity, comfort, but not dismay, sobriety, but not savagery, what respectability is, but not fury, madness, despair, who are strangers to nature and the passions in the raw, in their wide, untamed expanses. There is another way of thinking than theirs, more fundamental than logic, and another language than it speaks, God’s thinking and God’s logic, the universal, invincible, terrible logic and language of facts.

W. M. Dixon, The Human Situation, Lexture XI. (Dixon was a last-minute Gifford lecturer; he stepped in when Emile Meyerson died before giving his course of lectures. Meyerson's a name you don't hear much these days, but he was an extraordinarily well-respected chemist and philosopher of science in his day.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Links for Thinking

* Mike Liccione has a post that pretty much sums up my view of the current problems wracking much of the Catholic hierarchy. There are, of course, complete stupidities on the part of some critics, and there is room to be disturbed over people accepting news articles uncritically given that religion reporting is notorious even among journalists for its inaccuracy and sloppiness (due, e.g., to the fact that it is very often handled by people without much background acquaintance with the area in which they are reporting, and to uneven application of standards). But over all, it really is true, with regard to the increasing problems of the bishops, that the worse it gets the better off everyone will be.

* An excellent column by Martha Nussbaum discussing the burqa. A great many people seem to me to be missing the point about one of the arguments, which is not that features of our society are exactly like the burqa but that many of the purported reasons for banning the latter are ones that we obviously don't bother to apply consistently, as witnessed by features of our own society, and therefore are not themselves adequate reasons for such a ban.

* John Wilkins discusses names and nomenclature in classification.

* All-too-true parody of some sermons: the words mean things, but the sermon doesn't. (ht)

* An Egyptian court has overturned an earlier ruling that had involved some pretty serious meddling in the marriage law of Coptic Christians. It was not a black and white issue; the intent had originally been to allow Coptic Christians to remarry after divorces, but the way it was done involved a court telling the Coptic Church what its view of marriage had to be. This problem arises due to the fact that Egypt has no civil marriage. Kudos to Pope Shenouda, by the way, for standing up on the matter and insisting that the Coptic Church would not apply the original decision; this is not always an easy thing to do in Egypt, and shows a great deal of courage.

* A discussion of the Golden Section in architecture.

* Ed Feser has a post on intuitions in contemporary philosophy. As I've argued before you can see very clearly how unsophisticated even the more sophisticated discussions of intuitions in analytic philosophy are by contrasting them with similar discussions in Scottish Common Sense philosophy. The Common Sense philosophers appealed to 'evidence' (which at the time meant something more like 'evidentness' than our meaning) in much the same way analytic philosophers have often appealed to intuitions, but the Common Sense philosophers recognized that this was useless without a rigorous accounting of what they meant. And thus Beattie, for example, has eight different classes of evidence, each with its own account and rational justification, doing the work analytic philosophers over the past few decades have been trying to cram into the one class of 'intuitions'. The problem, of course, is not with talking about intuitions; the problem is with never asking questions about the way in which something is intuitive and what that actually means.

* Saint Nicholas Velimirović on Gandhi.

* Worries about government interference in scientific inquiry continue.

* On Plato's Philebus and desire.

* A philosophy joke. I've heard a similar story, except with the punchline, "Yeah, that's what you say," which is indeed irrefutable and always true.


* Philosopher's Carnival CXI is up at "Parableman"

The Frog in the Casket

Today is the feast day for St. Birgitta Birgersdotter of Vadstena, also known as St. Bridget of Sweden. She founded the Bridgettine (or Brigittine) Order, which was once extraordinarily widespread, but was pretty severely disrupted by the Reformation. There still are a number of branches of the Bridgettines in existence, though. Prior to founding the Order she had several children, one of whom, Catherine of Vadstena, was also canonized. St. Bridget is the patron saint of Europe.

She had visions, and her Revelations are a spiritual classic. Here's an excerpt, not very typical, but certainly the sort of thing that could be made into a solid short story:

Once there was a sorcerer who had the most shining gold. A simple and mild man came to him and wanted to buy this gold from him. The sorcerer said to the simple man: ‘You will not receive this gold, unless you give me better gold and in larger quantity.’ The man said: ‘I have such a great desire for your gold that I will give you what you want rather than losing it.’ He then gave the sorcerer better gold and in larger quantity and received the shining gold from him and put it in a casket, thinking of making himself a ring from it for his finger.

After a short time, the sorcerer approached that simple man and said: ‘The gold you bought from me and laid in your casket is not gold, as you thought, but the most ugly frog. It has been fostered in my chest and fed with my food. And in order for you to test and know that this is true, you may open the casket and you will see how the frog will jump to my chest where it was fostered.’ When the man wanted to open it and find out if it was true, the frog appeared in the casket. The cover of the casket was hanging on four hinges that were about to break and fall off soon. Immediately when the cover of the casket was opened, the frog saw the sorcerer and jumped into his chest.

When the servants and friends of the simple man saw this, they said to him: ‘Lord, this most fine gold is in the frog, and if you want, you can easily get the gold.’ The man said: ‘How can I get it?’ They replied: ‘If someone took a sharp and heated spear and thrust it into the hollow part of the frog’s back, he would quickly get the gold out. But if he cannot find any hollow in the frog, he should then, with the greatest force and effort, thrust his spear into it, and this is how you will get back the gold you bought.’


My own suggestion for the interpretation of Value may be set out in summary form as follows:

The essential condition for the actualisation of Value is the discovery by Mind of itself or its own principle in its object.

When Mind makes this discovery in the activity of contemplation, the form of Value actualised is Beauty.

When Mind makes this discovery in the activity of analysis and synthesis, the form of Value actualised is Truth.

When Mind makes this discovery in the activity of personal relationship the form of Value actualised is Goodness.

William Temple, Nature, Man, and God, Part I, Appendix A

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two Poem Re-Drafts

The Hunt

Sad moon shines on fields below --
soft and lunatic light!
But dark and cold themselves are chilled
with a darker shadow's fright.
Clip of hoof of herald-horse,
call of ram-theft horn:
terror rises in the hearts
of all from woman born.
Like famine, conquest, slaughter,
behind him endless hell,
pallid steed leads pallid hounds
in a hunt beyond all pale.

Black Lilies

Some lilies bloom in darkest hell,
black their petals, with twilight stripes.
Miswrought scions of Asphodel,
their seeds, borne by winds of fire,
spread out through realms of night,
send forth scent of death, of mire,
of rotting corpses on battle-plain
where rusted blood is washed by rain.
Beware! That scent which cloys the air
of realms that know no life or light
will catch the mind and hold it there,
in shade and endless sleep to lie.

Living, Logical, and Sufficient

On the contrary, my object, and my only object, is to bring reason and belief into the closest harmony that at present seems practicable. And if you thereupon reply that such a statement is by itself enough to prove that I am no ardent lover of reason; if you tell me that it implies, if not permanent contentment, at least temporary acquiescence in a creed imperfectly rationalised, I altogether deny the charge. So far as I am concerned, there is no acquiescence. Let him that thinks otherwise show me a better way. Let him produce a body of beliefs which shall be at once living, logical, and sufficient;—not forgetting that it cannot be sufficient unless it includes within the circuit of its doctrines some account of itself regarded as a product of natural causes, nor logical unless it provides a rational explanation of the good fortune which has made causes which are not reasons, mixed, it may be, with causes which are not good reasons, issue in what is, by hypothesis, a perfectly rational system. He who is fortunate enough to achieve all this may trample as he likes upon less successful inquirers.

Arthur Balfour, Theism and Humanism, Lecture V

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moral Order

Looking back, then, on the thought of the ancients, we see that the sages of various lands, in far-past ages, unite in the emphatic assertion of a Moral Order as the thing of supreme moment for the faith and life of man. This message, handed on from antiquity, the wisest of our own time earnestly re-affirm, saying to their contemporaries in effect: ‘Believe this and thou shalt live.’ The consensus gentium firmly supports this cardinal article in the religious creed of mankind.

The consensus in favour of a moral order is the more remarkable that it is associated with the most discrepant theological positions, having for their respective watchwords: no god (in the true sense of the word) as in Buddhism, two gods as in Zoroastrianism, many gods as in the religion of the Greeks, one God as in the religion of the Hebrews. In view of this theological diversity, the common faith in an eternal august moral order may be regarded as the fundamental certainty, the vital element in the religion of humanity.

The root of this basal faith is an intense moral consciousness. Men believe in a moral order in the cosmos, because they have found a commanding moral order in their own souls.

Alexander Bruce, The Moral Order of the World, Lecture XII. As with any comparative analysis of this sort, one has to remember that the points made are at a very high level of abstraction; but Bruce's two works make for very interesting reading.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Condemned Philosophers

In class today we discussed Book I of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, and I found my memory faltering with regard to some of the backstory for the philosophers mentioned by Philosophy in the following passage:

But if, because they happened in a foreign land, you don't know of the exile of Anaxagoras, the poison of Socrates, or the torture of Zeno, still you could have known about Canius, Seneca, Soranus, and others like them -- their memory is neither very old nor very obscure.

Socrates, of course, is obvious, but to refresh my memory, here's some brief background on these.

The Pre-Socratics

Anaxagoras: Anaxagoras taught in Athens for several decades. He famously taught that the sun was just a fiery rock. Apparently he was, for this reason, put on trial for impiety and sentenced to death. He fled to Lampsacus, where he lived until his death.

Zeno: Zeno, the same Zeno famous for the paradoxes, was said to have participated in a revolt against the government of Elea; for which reason he was put on a mortar and pounded to death.

The Stoics

Canius Julius: Canius was a nobleman in the reign of Caligula; Boethius himself tells the story of how Caligula accused him of knowing about a secret conspiracy, to which Canius replied, "If I had known about it, you never would have." He was put to death. Another story about him is that just before he was executed someone asked him what he was thinking about, and he replied, "I'm thinking that I want to see if at the instant of death I can perceive the motion of the soul, and whether it has any feeling at that point." He was put forward by Seneca as an example of tranquillity of soul.

Seneca: Seneca, of course, was Nero's advisor, apparently on good terms for a short while, but this wasn't to last. Nero eventually suspected Seneca of participation in a conspiracy to assassinate him, and ordered him to commit suicide. He slit several veins and, apparently, slowly bled to death, although there are different versions of the story, one famous one in Tacitus, according to which he put himself in a warm bath to speed up the bleeding and suffocated from the steam.

Soranus: Barea Soranus was a Roman senator under Nero who became well known for treating provincial cities fairly; he once refused to punish a city for protecting the statues of its gods from Imperial agents trying to spread the worship of the emperor. Although an old man, he was brought to trial on charges of treason; one of his accusers was one of his old tutors, the Stoic philosopher Publius Egnatius Celer. He was put to death. Under the rule of Vespasian, Musonius Rufus, best known as the teacher of Epictetus, managed to get Egnatius Celer put to death for the deed, and Egnatius Celer passed into history as a standing example of treachery. Soranus's daughter Servilia was also put to death under Nero, allegedly because she consulted the dark arts in order to determine her father's fate.

While Stoics are a good source of philosophical deaths, it's notable that just prior to the passage Philosophy made some very critical comments about Epicureans and Stoics both; it is one's character that she thinks makes one a true philosopher rather than someone violently trying to tear off one little bit of Philosophy's robe. The two last, Seneca and Soranus, are also notable in that Nero comes up several times in the work as a representative symbol of the unjust tyrant.

UPDATE: Just realized I forgot to give the edition for the quote. It's from Relihan's translation, in the Hackett edition (2001).

The Every-Varying Circumference of the Predicate God

The problem of Physical Religion has now assumed a totally different aspect, as treated by the Historical School. Instead of endeavouring to explain how human beings could ever worship the sky as a god, we ask, how did any human being come into possession of the predicate god? We then try to discover what that predicate meant when applied to the sky, or the sun, or the dawn, or the fire. With us the concept of God excludes fire, the dawn, the sun, and the sky; at all events, the two concepts no longer cover each other. What we want to study therefore is that ever-varying circumference of the predicate god, which becomes wider or narrower from century to century, according to the objects which it was made to include, and after a time to exclude again.

Friedrich Max Müller, Physical Religion, Lecture VI

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dashed Off

"Grandeur of Ideas is founded on Precision of Ideas." Blake

the Blakian argument for innate ideas

marriage as a sort of religious order

habitus of truth: wisdom (sapientia), understanding (intelligentia), knowledge (scientia)
habitus admitting of true and false: opinion, suspicion, suppositional inference (logismos)
habitus of error: there seems no traditional list of these

"How important it is in the spiritual life to rouse oneself to great things!" Teresa of Avila

the infinite seeking infinite works in an infinite sense of love

sacrament as merciful action
sacrament as abiding presence

the wave of truth collapsed to the particles of proposition by human judgment

to unwind the modern world and weave anew in light of it

Marriage is an intellectual disposition organizing emotional and sexual inclinations, or at least the presumptive resolution to tend toward such a state. It shares this with, e.g., priesthood and professionalisms of all kinds, differing from them in how it organizes other incliantions and in what sort of disposition is involved.

Every argument must be analyzed not merely in terms of its abstract plan but also in terms of its instrumentality to an end.

Love is not merely juridical, but it is juridical; this is why we so often speak of it in terms of rights, privileges, and debts.

deference, loyalty, purity, equability, and care

We should look at temptations as the battles God is teaching us to fight.

to lament the insensitivity of the unjust rather than to hate them (St. Diadochos)
by our sympathy to others becoming heralds of God's goodness (Abba Isaac)
speaking ill of another as moral cannibalism (Abba Hyperechios)

Rhetoric is swifter than analysis but not more lasting.

the analogy between Epicurean gods and Platonic forms

Philo's double world objection to Cleanthes and Aristotelian objections to Platonic forms

geometrical diagrams as demonstrative descriptions of geometrical figures originating from the principles of those figures, as conclusions from premises

the incubation of arts in sub-civilizations and subcultures

Patience is the seed of lasting cheer, and lasting cheer the seed of ardent joy.

The acts of prayer, adoration, conession, thanksgiving, reparation, petition, may be fleshed with sentiment or may not; but we do not pray with all of our heart until we pray with sincere sentiment.

You may read the letters on the sacred page, or hear them spoken aloud, but until your heart hears the word syou have neither read nor heard holy scripture. And how may you tell that your heart hears them? It is when you live them in wiser judgment and more loving works.

ends of marriage vs. ends of acts in marriage

Human dignity requires not merely that defect be remedied but also that excess be restrained.

Licet corrigere defectus naturae

We certainly do let practical reasons confirm us in our beliefs (& disconfirm as well) -- one sees this in scientific inquiry as well as real life.

Matter is that in virtue of hich a thing can be-or-not-be; thus that which exists but exceeds the proportion of its matter is not corruptible insofar as it does so exceed it.

rights as instruments for securing justice vs. rights as instruments for protecting from injustice

Kant's duty of respect for man even in the logical use of his reason -- we should, rather than simply supposing his claims to be absurd, suppose that there is some truth in it worth seeking out

Examples serve as moral encouragement in that (a) they prove feasiblity and (b) they make visible what the practical rule expresses more generally. But the latter concedes more than Kant admits, because from it one can build a theory of moral learning from examples. We can draw the rule out of the example, so to speak, and be guided by it by the instrumentality of the rule or even without the rule in investigation of the rule.

rights as a facultas for exerting one's abilities, given in light of some common good (as a human being, as a citizen, as a member of a family, etc.)

Pascalian wagers to the existence of reasons do not need an exhaustive division of possibilities

'Cannot' is always relative to a 'can'.

Sciences, especially architectonic ones, are defined by the analogical, not the universal.

Just as being has categories (substance, quantity, quality) so also transcendental unity has categories (sameness, equality, likeness) broadly corresponding to these. And so too must truth, goodness, and beauty. This will bear much thinking.

Transcendental arguments are dialectical because they proceed from conceptions of reason, which are principles extrinsic to things; and this form of inquiry is dialectic. But we can cover dialectically everything metaphysics covers. And knowing this we now better understand Kant.

God acts numine, nature acts nomine; and the nominal act echoes the numinal, but under a name.

to accomplish the particular commandments through the general

"A man can never be harmed by anyone else, except by way of causes that lie within himself." Cassian

Acedia is a capital vice becuase it impedes the transformation of mind required for true repentance.

Divine consolation instills patience.

Docilitas requires an active and honest mind.

censoriousness as an anti-philosophical vice

Learning (docilitas), reciprocity, & consistency as the fundamental principles of critical thinking.

purposive occupation of the understanding through the entertaining play of the imagination

Most goods are only partial substitutes for each other.

Rawls's veil of ignorance presupposes people who are imaginative, sensible, and prudent even when considering only their own interests.

Dispassion is essential for accurate judgment of the just & unjust, the good & the bad, because passion carries with it an interest to a particular good without regard for its relations to other goods. This does not, of course, mean that passion has no role in such things, only that dispassion must play a key role in judgment or evaluation for purposes of accuracy.

To postulate a possibility is to posit a cause.

It is not possible to assess the relation between quality of the product & quality of the act producing it wihtout considering the final cause.

- on a Leibnizian assumption in a certain class of arguments from evil

the good of triumphant good

Infinites can be more or less inclusive even if they aren't more or less extensive, e.g., { odd integers} is less inclusive than { natural numbers } but not less extensive.

Oughts are described by propositions or verb phrases, values by abstract noun phrases, goods by noun phrases both concrete and abstract.

pain as bad with respect to pursuit of the pleasant, as good with respect to the pursuit of self-preservation (within limits both ways, of course)

That God is divinely just entails that God is divinely wise and vice versa, and so it is with all essential attributes.

Principles are established not through argument but through the work of coming to understand their terms.

three grounds of false friendship: carnality, sentimentality, vanity

order-of-nature Molinism vs. possible-worlds Molinism


Nietzsche's mistake: to conceive of the will as syphilitic

the will to life as a will to craft

The most expensive luxury in the world is incompetence.

Sensory perception always has some sort of connection to the object perceived because it is an alteration in some way be the object; but one may for many reasons perceive the object as being something it is not.

A major problem with much prayer is that we pray for magic, not grace.

The only kinds of confidence worthy of respect are those rooted in humility.

Prayer, like Scripture, has a literal and a spiritual sense.

Sometimes the language in which we express an argument should be geared not to persuasion but to transport.

Philosophiren ist dephlegmatisiren, vivificiren. (Novalis)

As Head, Christ is threefold principle of the Church: principle of its being, principle of its coming to be, and principle by which it is known.

"Values" are related to each other as means and ends.

perfective vs. dispositive generators

trade & information exchange along networks of courtesy and obligation

An infrastructure for compassion is not an infrastructure of it; left to its own devices it can become an instrument of extraordinary cruelty.

Science, do what it will, cannnot avoid occasional surprise.

Form is a principle of both actual and potential motion.

Deontic obligation is necessity-like because it actually is necessity, namely, necessity for a good to be had or an evil to be avoided. Even Kant's categorical imperative is the necessity for having the good will, inasmuch as it is, so to speak, the intrinsic character of it.

threefold character of sensory experience
(1) presentation of object
(2) actuality and potentiality
(3) signification

causation as found in features of experience, in habits of association, and in categories of inference

Civil society consists almost entirely fo instrumetns for reducing, navigating, and resolving risks.

distressing situations as symptomatic of ethical risks

Hierarchy with reasonable means of review gives a legitimacy to correction that is lacking in correction among equals.

the circulation between lust and vainglory

resentment as a sign of vainglory

The key to moral reform is careful regard to deliberate venial failing; it is here that the greatest potential for prevention and repair exist.

Attention is the greater part of prayer.

Without a notion of moral deference, one's account of rights will be seriously defective.

Scripture does not merely have words; it has intonations & moods.

Nothing is more ecumenical than death.

'to put the commonplace truths of human affections in an interesting point of view'
'to remind men of their knowledge as it lurks inoperative and unvalued in their own minds'

the need for journalism about failures of journalism

The Mass cannot properly be understood until one sees how all of the Sacraments are involved in it.

The heart of philosophy is application of principles. In order to apply principles well we develop arguments. In order to develop arguments well we develop analyses of arguments.

Deception massively interferese with assessment of costs and benefits on other fronts.

Substance is related to accident not merely as cause but, even setting aside causation, it is still related to accident as principle.
- it is efficient cause qua conferring existence
- it is material cause qua potential to the accident
- but it is principle not only in these ways but also as that on which the accident depends, qua prior actuality, precisely insofar as it is prior to the act of the accident
In other words:
- insofar as it (considered as) perfecting
- insofar as it is (considered as) perfected
- insofar as it is (considered as) neither perfected nor perfecting
In each case the principiation implies the causation, given the nature of substance & accident, but they are distinct.

Personhood adds to rational nature 'this act not dispositionally or actually dependent on another act with which it is fit to be unified'.

In order to have supererogation, all you need is not to conflate moral duty and moral taste.

Power and knowledge are kinds of goodness.

Measure is based on indivision; mathematics analyzes kinds of indivision pertaining to quantity.

predicate states what subject is: substance
predicate states what is in the subject
- essentially and absolutely
- - as pertaining to matter: quantity
- - as pertaining to form: quality
- not absolutely but with reference to another: relation
predicate refers to subject but is taken from something extrinsic:
- totally
- - but not as a measure: vestment/habit
- - as a measure:
- - - time: when
- - - place
- - - - with regard to order of parts: position
- - - - without regard to order of parts: where
- from a certain point of view in the subject
- - from the point of view of the principle: action
- - from the point of view of the terminus: passion

noting remains: negation
subject alone remains: privation
subject & genus remain: contrariety

Prudence unites duty and self-interest.

Part of the proper reading of a poem is inventing and imagining situations for it.

Marriage cannot give spiritual increase (as such) to the Church, but it can contribute the material disposition for it.

To none of God's saints is it given to live in ease, but to some it is given to suffer more visible hardships. To all is it given to persevere in the faith.

Who cannot recognize the sublime shows himself irrational, incpaable of recognizing the true reach of reason.

There is a charity of the angels, transcending all passion, but in general charity given to human beings must be fleshed in human forms. That usually means that one must cultivate the warmth of home and hospitality for it, for people will often find the more purely celestial versions too strange, or too hot, or too cold, or all three, to bear.

Organic life makes discrete parts act as if they were continuous in some way, for it makes them one in a greater degree than the merely discrete.

Resurrection is analogous to creation and to formation, btu different from each. For, whereas creation gives form and matter alike, and formation gives form to matter, resurrection gives matter to form.

The effect of worldly society is that one can say the same but mean ever the less.

The repulsion of distraction in prayer is itself fruitful prayer.

the presentiment of reason in favor of explanation by final causes

Marriage as a sacrament represents Christ's Passion, not as to penalty (despite possible jokes) but as to charity.

Within marriage sex can be an act of justice and religion; when marriage is also sacramental it can also be an act of faith and charity.

Morality under the dispensation of death is genuine morality; but its being so fails to do anything about the condition under which it operates.

A word like 'survival' is fundamentally ambiguous, as the word 'life' is; it must be made precise, not taken as a primitive.

We may know that a capability exists without knowing that circumstance in the cause which makes it so capable; for the former may be known by knowing the effect, but the latter can only be known by knowing the cause.

Askesis is the art of purity of heart.

By knowledge we are justified (Is 53:11) da'at

human intellect: infinite exemplar cause
human will: infinite final cause

sublime ideas, true judgments, strong reasonings, good lives: the aims of philosophical reasoning

One of the tasks of the philosopher is to unlock the implicit intelligibilities of things - of experiences, of events, of lives.

the relations among: problem, position, argument, idea

To produce phenomena we need to be able to correct for error.

Taken as instruments for pleasure, e.g., in sex, human beings inevitably have severe limitations; placing too high a value on such a thing will inevitably result in disappointment with other human beings.

To reduce friendship to a feeling is to remove human society from reason, and to reduce on the highest aspects of human life to a matter of animal affection.

It is treu that our capability for procreation is a potential we have not obligation to actuate, and it is true that having children is somethin we can choose or not, as a matter of moral freedom. But it does not follow that we can treat a procreative act as not procreative; wishing does not make it otherwise than it is, and nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. We can adapt the use of our biological factulities, but cannot rationally pretend that those faculties are other than they are.

a fortiori reasoning as modal inference

Testing of hypotheses requires differentiating of evidential support.

Davy's Consolations in Travel as an evocation of the beauty and sublimity of scientific interest

Consistency has never been the measure of sincerity.

The artifact can, as it were, get away from the artificer to the extent that the artificer's action is like the action of a generator or generating cause.

forms of scientific inquiry
(1) eduction from experience
(1a) observationally
(1a1) direct
(1a2) indirect
(1b) experimentally
(1b1) direct
(1b2) indirect
(2) probable inference
(2a) because not otherwise
(2b) because it saves the phenomena
(3) suspicion
(3a) from analogy
(3b) from parsimony

Relics are ways of regarding saints themselves as icons.

the transfigured robes of Christ as Nature and Scripture
Scripture as a garment for the Word

Torah is very clear that animals & fields under our care are to receive rest & refreshment just as we are.

the rebuke of simony as an especially Petrine function

"Nations to be real must first be imagined." Alasdair MacIntyre

That form of government is best that, on the positive side, makes it most likely that those who govern will be virtuous, and, on the negative side, makes it most difficult for those who govern but are vicious to damage the public good.

"The seed of all sins is in my blood!" Nicholai of Zicha

reading the Psalms in the spirit of Davidian repentance

It is inconsistent to advocate a just wage and not make an efofrt to patronize excellent work of great value to life and society.

Unbelief is a sin only as an expression of pride or craving.

If evidence is an analogical term, the primary form of it is that which is evident, or, to caputre the activity of it (which is lost with 'is evident') that which manifests.
- Note that this does not require that we assume some kind of cataleptic impression (which is properly a mode of manifestation)

Every paradox is an implicit dilemma.

iconography as an exercise of sacred doctrine

In any society in which power pools into one of its sectors there willb e rising pressure from that sector agains the public good, as people within that sector apply their power in order to try to use the government to socialize all the risk of their practices, while they keep all the profits and benefits of them for themselves.

In politics it is often necessary to aim for the ideal but to be satisfied with the adequate; none are so dangerous as those who conflate the two.

Since a definition or defining account is the middle term of a demonstration, it is the principle of knowing.

Scientific inquiry is empirical not in that its object is sensible experience, but in taht it is studies mobile being as sensible; for the sensible changing of things insofar as it is sensible and involves change provides the initial knowledge from which other things are proven.

public apologies as modern purification rituals

patron saints: exemplary, emblematic, intercessory

The distinction between simple apprehension and judgment guarantees that we have a sort of implicit knowledge we don't know that we have. For the mind can be assimilated well to something and yet not have judged something about it; we can understand to some extent humanity, which is rational animality, without having thought about its being so.

Ambiguities do not arise from distinctions of suppositiones but from nondistinction of suppositiones.

The purpose of business is the sustainability of good things.

examples that express a situation as it is vs. examples that express a situation according to a proportional likeness

the dryad as personifying the beauty of the tree

Lyric poetry is no time to be brisk & narrative poetry is no time not to be.

Management is a calculation in which teh primary factors are cost, incentive, and profit.

A passover offering is not merely offered but eaten. Indeed, it is remarkable how often eating and sacrifices are linked.

pregnancy as a symbol of grace (cf. St. Gregory of Sinai)

the decay of classical learning as a contributory cause to atheism

All of our faculties must undergo conversion to God.

The human corpse is a relic of either sanctity, or excellence, or lost potential.

Garson, in suggesting that Austen privileges taste over execution fails completely to recognize that taste is domain-specific. Emma cannot have eminence over Jane Fairfax in musical taste; Jane, having both taste and execution, must be superior. But we recognize as readers that despite failures of both taste & execution, Emma has good taste in something extraordinarily important in comparison (represented partly, for instance, in her friendship with Knightley).

the good taste suitable for friendships of excellence

The difficult with sincere confession is coming constantly face to face with the fact of one's self-ignorance.

the sin proper to art as such

sublimity as a source of resistance to Berkeleyan idealism
- i.e., the difficult of believing that all this sublime furniture of the world depends on us
- it would have to be a non-Kantian account of sublimity
- B. could respond by distinguishing 2 kinds of dependence (in light of divine language). The question then would be: is this enough?

'Love perseveres, love endows. It envies not, boasts not, usurps not. It misbehaves not, serves itself not, overreacts not, resents not. Love rejoices not at evil but rejoices with the truth. It always lasts, always trusts, always hopes, always endures. Love never fails.'

the representation of logical structure in three dimensions & the rotation & translation thereof.
- certainly very different-looking arguments can be 'topologically' the same

Without shared goals there is no real arguing.

Human reason can only trace out some of the features of true human happiness on the basis of sensible and mental facts naturally available to it.

We can only specify the sense in which someone might have a problem with mental causation within the context of some account of causation.

Contingent predicates give contingent propositions.

the matter of logic (John of St. Thomas)
(1) predicables
(2) predicaments
(3) formation of per se propositions (which allow demonstrations)

informal logic
(a) as material
(a1) as pertaining to demonstration
(a2) as pertaining to correspondence
(b) as ordinary language
(c) as involving formal defect

Arguing over the individuation of actions is like arguing over the individuation of line segments.

Hypocrites bloom where moral activities are partly public in character.

Those who wish to wait to raise children in traditions until they are older think of the traditions chiefly as impositions of belief. But in practice they are more often sources of ideas and often they are training in the skills of using such ideas well. This puts a different complexion on the matter.

One of the inadequacies that plagues many accounts of causation is an inability to distinguish in a principled way between efficient and deficient causes.

theoretical propagation of ideas experiment-ward & back-propagation of ideas theory-ward

informal logic as the materials science of reasoning

Leadership is the organization of cooperation.

sexual desire as an incentive to that good will required for sustaining the species

Prosperity breeds tyrants and devastation confirms them.

confusion of popularization with rituals of entertainment

poetry as prelude to dictates of reason (nomoi)

When the text as read has vivacity, it sparks imaginative associations that facilitate understanding.

'Empire' is more like architectonic action that it is like place or thing.

the Delphic sayings as the root of resistance to tyranny: Know Yourself; Nothing in Excess

One of the essential features of the healthy life of the Church is an ability to respond to problems in many ways at once.

the distinction between 'schism' as a state and 'schism' as a sinful act -- very important

Laches & the courage of philosophical dispute

poets vs. lovers of the Muses

figurative speech : literal speech :: complex numbers : integers

The road to glory lies uphill.

two vectors of symbolism in liturgy: economic & cosmic

True piety requires a sense of one's own limits.

The teaching of music is successful when it leads to love of beauty itself.

The problem with ecumenism is that people pray for unity and do not act with the charity through which alone God brings unity into being.

The communal marriage of the Platonic polity is neither good nor happy nor just for the individual, nor does it do justice to individual eros -- but it is not intended to do so. Rather, it is to establish clearly the eros of the whole polity, that it may be an image of the eros of the soul, and to establish the friendship of the polity as a good beyond any private good of a part, that it may be an image of order in the soul.

Republics and democratic regimes are considered beautiful because they exhibit the most variety of any regime. They become ugly to the extent they have this through lack of sense and lack of self-restraint.

the Platonic character of Mill's utilitarianism

Two Kinds of Symbols

But we have, for our purposes, to make a distinction at the outset between two different kinds of symbols. There are visible objects or sounds which stand for something of which we already have direct knowledge. Such symbols are not intended to give us any information about the nature of the thing or things symbolized, but to remind us of them, or tell us something about their action at the particular moment, or prompt us to act in a certain way at the particular moment because of them. The Union Jack does not give a patriotic Briton any information about his country or the part it has played in the world, but it reminds him of a whole world of things which he knows otherwise. The sound of a trumpet announcing the arrival of a king to inspect his army, or the tolling of a bell to announce his death do not tell those who hear the sound anything about the appearance or character of the king: nor would it give them any idea of what coming to inspect an army meant, or what dying meant, if they had not already the idea of those things in their minds: the sound tells them merely that the man they otherwise know is going to perform the action, or has suffered the experience, which they otherwise knew, at that particular moment of time. Or, thirdly, the trumpet which orders the troops to get up in the morning or begin their march, does not tell them anything about getting up in the morning or marching which they do not know already; it tells them only that these actions, of which they have already definite ideas, acquired otherwise, have to be performed now.

The other kind of symbols purport to give information about the things they symbolize, to convey knowledge of their nature, which those who see or hear the symbols have not had before or have not otherwise. There is the old story of someone born blind having explained to him what the colour scarlet was by his being told that it was like the sound of a trumpet. Whether that was a happy analogy or not, it is plain that the only possible way in which a person born blind could be given any information regarding colour is by the use of some things within his own experience, as symbols working by analogy.

Edwyn Robert Bevan, Symbolism and Belief, Lecture One

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Kantian Rainbow

Kant is often regarded as a fairly dry philosopher, but I find that this is not usually so, if you can endure the endless academic jargon. One example is the passage in the Critique of Judgment in which he talks about how the charms of nature suggest moral qualities to us (e.g., as the songs of bird suggest joy and contentment), and even goes so far as to assign to each color of the rainbow the moral quality it suggests:

White: innocence

Red: sublimity
Orange: intrepidity
Yellow: candor
Green: friendliness
Blue: modesty
Indigo: constancy
Violet: tenderness

For those with the German, the actual words are "zur Idee der Erhabenheit, der Kühnheit, der Freimütigkeit, der Freundlichkeit, der Bescheidenheit, der Standhaftigkeit, und der Zärtlichkeit."

All this reminds me, indirectly, that I've been wanting for some time to have a post on Kant's guidelines for having the best dinner parties, which, if I have time, I'll get to at some point later in the week.


Zarathustra emerges from the gloom, suddenly, and he is brightly illuminated by the witness which he himself or his closest followers have given in the old hymns still extant. It is a strong, nervous form of worship we become acquainted with there. Its fundamental character is given in the Avest aven after it has become an agricultural religion, properly so called, and the official religion of an empire. It continues in its desire to serve God by tilling and planting, by extending civilization while struggling against a hard climate, drought, and warlike predatory neighbours, central Asiatic hordes of the type which time and again have harassed the civilized nations.

Nathan Söderblom, The Living God, Chapter VI.