Saturday, November 20, 2010

That Music of My Nature

The Soul's Expression
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

With stammering lips and insufficient sound
I strive and struggle to deliver right
That music of my nature, day and night
With dream and thought and feeling interwound
And only answering all the senses round
With octaves of a mystic depth and height
Which step out grandly to the infinite
From the dark edges of the sensual ground.
This song of soul I struggle to outbear
Through portals of the sense, sublime and whole,
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it,—as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, my flesh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Some Links, Some Notes

* Apparently about a thousand people are living in the sewers of Las Vegas.

* Ed Feser has been arguing for the standard natural law position on lying (that it is always wrong in some way, although, of course, that doesn't mean it's always gravely wrong):
Is it wrong to lie to HAL?
There is no Santa clause
The murderer at the door
What counts as a lie?

* Arsen had a good post recently about Baha'i.

* An argument that instead of using pi things would be simpler if we named a constant equal to 2 times pi.

* His recent post on Galileo and Kuhnian theory of science illustrates very clearly why lots of us cheered when Thony C finally started a blog.

* At "The Smith," Lee Faber looks at Scotus's arguments for divine simplicity.

* Montag discusses the Sharp Centre in Toronto. It is indeed a sight; I don't generally like architecture that tries to be 'modern' (usually a code word for 'chance for an idiot architect to pretend to be deep', and surpassed in awfulness only by 'postmodern', which is usually a code word for 'chance for an idiot architect to affirm brazenly that he is an idiot, and that this is somehow a good thing') rather than beautifully functional, but if you are going to do it, the Sharp Centre shows how you can make it a pleasant surprise rather than something horrifically ugly.

* If you want to know how to do it wrong, you can start with the 'deconstructionist' Graduate House at the University of Toronto, the only genius of which is that it manages to be at once ugly, odiously pretentious, and completely unimaginative. It is a building with no soul; walking past it, which I had the misfortune of doing all too many times, is like walking past an industrialized corpse. One of the signs that it is a horribly bad building is that all the pictures that one can find that try to make it look clever and impressive are at bizarre angles that simply are not true to life. Whoever designed the thing should be drug out into the street and shot. It makes for a significant contrast with something like the Sharp Centre, which is truly 'modern' in the sense that it draws its strength from its attention to what is just about the only thing we 'moderns' do well: playful whimsy.

* Kathleen Stock, Thoughts on the 'Paradox' of Fiction (PDF).
Sherri Irvin, The Pervasiveness of the Aesthetic in Ordinary Experience (PDF).

* Perhaps you've seen this graphic put out by Sam Harris's "Reason Project", supposedly detailing contradictions of the Bible. I actually love it; you could not ask for a better smoking-gun proof of the fact that there are significant numbers of atheists who lack basic reading skills (and, given how it has been received in certain parts of the atheist blogosphere, feel free to make convenient claims without looking at the supposed evidence). Here, for example, is "contradiction" 439: We have some verses (Ps. 9:11, Ps. 76:2, Joel 3:17, 21) that say that the Lord dwells in Zion. We also have some verses (Ps. 123:1 , Eccl. 5:2) that say that the Lord dwells in heaven. Contradiction! I have lots of atheist colleagues who could tell you immediately how stupid this supposed reductio is, so there is nothing about atheism that requires the deficiency of critical thinking skills involved in making it. But a lot of the 'contradictions' are like that. We have literally dozens of examples where the obvious problem is that the compiler of the chart shows that he doesn't have a grasp of what 'poetic expressions' and 'figures of speech' are. We have literally dozens of examples where something is claimed to be a contradiction that obviously is not ("contradiction" 201: Jn 14:26 says the Father will send the Paraclete in Jesus' name; Jn 15:26 says that Jesus will send the Paraclete from the Father). There are at least three cases where a supposed contradiction is blatantly listed twice (e.g., #7 and #9) and there are also cases where supposed contradictions are more subtly doubled (e.g., #11 and #207), either because they don't really care about putting together a decent case or else to puff up the list and make it look bigger than it is. There are many cases where basic language skills, particularly with regard to context, are clearly seen to be missing ("contradiction" 133: Acts 1 says that the author told Theophilus all that Jesus did, John 21 says that there aren't books enough in the world to describe all that Jesus did). There are cases where there is excellent reason to think we are dealing with an idiomatic expression (e.g. #3). When you winnow out all this chaff you are left with a handful of discrepancies, some of which may be due to copyist error (especially with regard to numbers), some of which may be due to the fact that we lack historical knowledge to see how the pieces actually fit together (especially with cases where there's a possibility that two references that seem to be to one event might actually be to two that only seem similar because of the way they are described), some of which may be due to ambiguities in translation or to semantic shifts. The result isn't going to intimidate anyone who has Bible study skills superior to the most extreme forms of KJV fundamentalism; rather, any Christian outside that group who does any sort of Bible study and who actually reads the list of contradictions is going to come out impressed at how, given their best shot to find contradictions, they came up with such an extraordinarily weak case. "Is that really the best they could do?" he or she will ask themselves in wonder. "Until now I never really grasped just how coherent this book compiled over a thousand years from radically divergent sources actually is." And then they will go and look at Chris Harrison's even cooler graphic and rejoice in their faith.

Roger Pears also has some comments.

As I've always said, Christians deserve more rational opponents than these fake rationalists.


* Rebecca recently had perhaps the best spam comment ever. (You can scroll down to see the comment itself.)

Grounds of Suspicion

When we talk epistemology we often talk about grounds for belief. But if we are to have a full account of inquiry, we need more than just reasonable grounds for belief; we need reasonable grounds for suspicion. Whereas belief involves assent, suspicion (as in "I suspect that...") involves motivated inclination where we still have to leave quite a bit open to revision, real inclination on weak expectation; and we often inquire based on what we suspect to be the case. I would suggest that all reasonable grounds of suspicion reduce to three (or some combination of the three):

Broad Analogy: First, reasonable suspicion may be based on experience with cases that at least seem broadly or loosely similar; one carries over expectations from such apparently similar cases. In other words, we fill in gaps with our expectations from cases that seem broadly analogous.

Probable Economy: Second, reasonable suspicion may be based on an assessment of what seems to offer the highest probability of (to quote Ernst Mach) "a picture of the world as complete as possible — connected, unitary, calm and not materially disturbed by new occurrences: in short a world picture of the greatest possible stability." Things like 'elegance', 'parsimony', and such go here. In this case we make desiderata for our models of the world (of a kind that our based on our cognitive needs) expectations for the way the world actually is. We prefer models that are easy to remember, simple to use, convenient to apply.

Inkling of Promise: Third, reasonable suspicion may be based on an assessment of what seems likely to be most useful for discovery if true. Unlike economic or analogical grounds, such grounds are wholly practical in character. This sort of reasoning has the structure of a wager; and the expectations are based on the practical goal of facilitating inquiry.

All three of these are apparent: for instance, well-established analogy gives you reasonable opinion or belief, not suspicion. What gives you suspicion is a sort of prima facie analogy, analogy at first glance; and so with the other two. You have suspicion when the assessment involved is done under such circumstances that we can recognize that there are many potentially relevant things left out. My reason for thinking that these three cover all is that inquiry involves our minds on the basis of prior experience engaging in a practical activity geared toward discovery, and every part of this is covered by a ground: our minds (economy) on the basis of prior experience (analogy) engaging in a practical activity geared toward discovery (promise).

What do you think?

Making a Name of Some Kind

Joe Carter has listed this blog on his list of the best blogs of 2010. I would say 'very kindly listed', but the list is "the top 50 blogs that I have found to be the most convicting, enlightening, frustrating, illuminating, maddening, stimulating, right-on and/or wrongheaded during 2010," and he's (rightly) tactful enough not to specify which ones were the most frustrating, maddening, and wrongheaded! But it's nice to be in good company.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dashed Off

What is certainly good in capitalism is its recognition fo the extraordinary importance of exchange.

the analogies between circumcision and conscience

the verve and cadence of thought

In human society, communication is always partly productive: it is a skill of fashioning, put in the service of certain inds of common cognitive ends.

4 elements of the explanation of the content of ideas, positions, arguments
(1) association (mere)
(2) motivation (motivated association)
(3) causation
(4) intention

When speaking of casuistry it is a mistake to focus too exclusively on cases of conscience; the proper object of study for casuistry is prudence, and all else only secondary to, and derivative from, this.

faith as a taste for truth that saves


have no doubt
Zeno will at last win out
in the coffin you'll a Stoic be

What has only finite power cannot maintain itself indefinitely (Saadia).

the mukhassis argument

tajwiz (affirmation of admissibility)
Maimonides (GP 1.73) notes that this cannot be true if we are thinking of imagination.

"Our intellects are incapable of apprehending the perfection of everything He has made and the justice of everything He has commanded." Maimonides (GP 3.49)

the influence of science on the public by sub-intellectual induction

3 kinds of argument for the eternity of the world
(1) eternity of matter
(2) eternity of motion
(3) eternity of cosmos

arts for the sake of knowing

Ruddick's maternal practice & the Marian work of the Church
(1) preserving life
(2) fostering growth
(3) training minds

We feast not merely on food but also on joy.

The world is better for being known.

Phenomenology studies the world according to its organization in second intention.

"It is the asceticism proper to a created intellect that idealism rejects." Maritain

possible being as good for existing

So rich is the notion of being that it raises the prospect of an infinite task of theoretical determination.

judicium est completivum cognitionis

Genuine concern for intellectual progress requires a restrained but real tolerance for inconsistencies: they form aporia by resolution of which we may progress, but in the meantime we are left with good reasons both for & against.

The vices of 'big government' cluster around two points: poor process of appointment and poor use of civil service.

We are such failures as rend the heart; and thus are eminently suitable to be loved.

The purpose of government is to facilitate civic life.

Without the convertibility of good and being it is easy to confuse the discussion of Consolation Book IV with tout-est-bien theodicy (which conflates prevolitional & volitional [moral] good).

philosophy as the sciences of the ends of rational beings

Rejecting convertibility of good and being forces shifts in the evaluation of a number of arguments, e.g., that for God in Cons Phil 3, or argumetns for the claim that nothing happens for the sake of evil as such, which in turn is so important elsewhere.

Educators have always appealed to fear and hope as well as to reason.

The property of the Church is for the purposes of admonition, instruction, edification, and consolation.

Mendelssohn: property rights (esp. pertaining to contracts) presupposes the possibility of using a thing out of benevolence

the separation of school and state

It is notable that the vast majority of the grand projects of the Ancient and the Medieval periods failed, and those that did not usually had only temporary and limited success. What has survived has been the steady work of good teachers and great artisans, insightful philosophers and inspiring writers. And so it shall be with us.

The Spirit confesses within us that God may forgive in Christ.

There is no civility without a prior community.

Dialectic is intellectual catharsis. Poetic catharsis is dialectic of passion and imagination.

Sacramental repentance makes possible the cure even of the intemperate.

Many problematic features of human thought could be removed if only one could convince people of two things:
(1) that being, good, and true are convertible;
(2) that it is more accurate to say that pleasure subserves complete action than that action subserves the end of pleasure.

the Crusades as a parable for or figure of sacramental repentance: in ideal as conveying truths about penitence, in real failing as warning of ways we fail in preparation for and action from the sacrament

acid stress, heat stress, cold stress, osmotic stress

Analogy often has greater psychological force than demonstration;t his is because it is more easily felt, and to minds heavily dependent on imagination and sense it thus seems more real than intellectual rigor does. The same point underlies the bizarre reaction one sometimes finds to rigorous argument, that it is too intellectual and not sufficiently rooted in 'real life', as if there were any better cognition of 'real life' than intellectual cognition. But what is meant is that it is not sufficiently felt and sensed, for they mean by 'real life' nothing other than 'what I sense and feel'.

Experiments are not direct sources of proof but of signs or indications; proof comes at a higher level, whereby one deduces the cause or reason responsible for the whole topography of signs and indications.

localization, assimilation, and motivation in forming community networks.

the preconditions of association
- Part IV of the Treatise is what you get if you attempt to account for preconditions of association wholly by association.

Principles of association describe not causation but coherence.

As different terroirs yield different kinds of wine, so different cultures yield different kinds of doctors, virgins, & martyrs.

The unity of the Church is made possible throught he formation of pedagogical and cooperative polymers.

If you fail to make distinctions it will never be surprising if you get contradictions.

the suggestive in both science & poetry

It is important in sacred doctrine to recognize that an inexact or approximate answer may be adequate for essential purposes, even when an exact answer is available.

progress in exactness, definiteness, and distinctness (progress in description)

sophistics as the logic of semblance

the use of the intellect that most agrees with the nature of the itnellect

(1) universal reasons
(2) congruous similitudes
(3) probable arguments
(4) aids to understanding

Ages of reformation are also ages of heresy: that whereby one reforms is also that whereby one may deform, and where reformation is widespread there will always be found those who deform.

Deference is achieved by negotiations.

Without honesty there is no accuracy of description.

The tendrils of ethics run through all forms of inquiry.

Salt suppresses bitter tastes; even so are we to suppress and dampen bitterness in the world.

A is said to participate B when:
(1) A particularly recieves what pertains to B universally
(2) A recieves in a way determined to one thing (concretely) what pertains to B without such determination (abstractly)
(3) A is an effect that receives in a lesser way what is in its cause in a greater way.

The fall of Eve, life, results in Adam, the earth, receiving also the poison that has corrupted life.

Humility is the virtue to which receptivity to the sublime most properly pertains.

The sentiment made use of by the lector is not the sentiment of dramatic placement in the situation but the sentiment of recollection in tranquillity.

If you have no craft you have no art.

The liberal arts are arts, and as such the teaching of them should be devoted to inculcating the skills required to producint intellectual products that are elegant and are useful for tasks suitable to free and rational people.

The claim that morality is ultimately about pleasures and pains, or that pleasures and pains do not belong to actions but are ends in themselves, is the first step in the process by which Hell attempts to blackmail Heaven.

The diversity of formal systems of reasoning points to the need for an Illative Sense.

NOMA is Kantianism lite.

bene moratus as a shadow or symbol or initial seed of moraliter bonus

worth as immaculate & worth as forgiven

the implicate religion of reason

The sense of 'true' used in the physical sciences is actually an artistic sense, or a close cousin of it, i.e., 'true to life'.

Nothing is a demonstration that does not directly or indirectly deal w/ the full aporia.

Not every taste for logic is a sign of wisdom, but the taste for the order of logic is.

Pr 27:19 as speaking of Chesed

Wisdom generates all other things by measure and meaning.

God in His providence provides, and punishes, and patiently waits.

Even the well-intentioned and honorable have their Adalias.

incompatibility: logical, causal, practical

God can work with noodles, but it takes no vast survey to see that He prefers to use steel.

relative capacity to outendure in cyclic situations

the will as our power for exaltation

Nobility (nobilitas) is a matter of the degree & manner in which a thing is for its own sake.

2 ways to derive quiddity:
(1) from sensory perception by moving from sensible accident to essence
(2) from another, more universal, science

A positive property, in a broad sense, is that which is demonstrated by using the quiddity as a middle term.

One of the things Plato does with myth is use it to draw together various strands of argument.

grounds of suspicion: analogy, simplicity, promise

4 manifestations of natural desire for immortality (Wordsworth):
(1) primal sympathy
(2) spontaneous hope
(3) faith
(4) reason

cf. Rep 582 for Mill's higher and lower pleasures

Sometimes it is a good strategy to try to get it wrong, at least in imagination, so that one may see what makes its wrongness.

Even genuine virtue can coexist with acceptance or approval of moral wrong as a lapse, and even more easily can it accept or approve of it under a description that does not identify it as morally wrong, not realizing that there is more to the matter. Even the finest prudence needs to draw often on actual experience, which may be limited or faulty.

iterations of despair
the endless moving masses crying 'mercy me!'

Religious experiences -- like all experiences -- give us not truths but objects about which we may truly (or falsely) judge.

We should not be glib about saying that two experiences contradict or conflict with each other; this is harder to show than it sounds. (Hume is a salutary warning; blind men & elephant)

analogy of capacity for religious experience with ear for music

Faith is
(a) an intellectual habit (b) of assent, (c) caused by the will (d) in order to acquire some good, (e) to claims (f) that are not evident (g) but are gauth by an authority (h) in the position to know.
Christian faith: (c) the will is moved as an instrument of grace; (d) the good is everlasting happiness; (g) the authority is God

the proportion objection to the necessity for revelation
"Nature is not lacking in what is necessary." Aristotle DA III,9
(1) as to powers of cognition
(2) as to capacity for fulfillment

It is clear from the Baptist and from Jeremiah that sanctification does not require the use of reason.

The first effect of truth in us is illumination. The consequent effect is refutation.

A person may fail to see either from material impediment (defect of organ), or from absence of light, or from refusal to look.

studious vs curious scrutiny

The intellect's power to judge and reason with its terms is not dependent on the origin of its terms.

Logical positivism reduces all necessity to hypothetical necessity.

Liguorian theory of good faith

From the evil of one's own error only a fool will conclude there is no truth.

the analogy between inherence of indivisible intellect in body & the Real Presence (Ockham & Buridan)

intellectual intussusception

the different ways in which intellect & will are each a vis collativa

bonum honestum as intelligible beauty

Household management is financial insofar as it concerns things and political insofar as it concerns people; and this is true of economics more broadly.

No argument that can be put into words can compel, because words cannot carry compulsion.

explication of sensed relevance

Poetic description assists in discovery by
(1) making similarities and dissimilarities salient
(2) providing access to experiences that may detach from the description
(3) carrying forward experiences into new contexts
(4) increasing and diversifying the competition of descriptions

Every government is in some sense a rule by the majority, but the sense varies somewhat from government to government.

the essential components for a true 'respect for reason'
(1) a delight in promising ideas
(2) a concern for good judgment
(3) an interest in the order and structure of reasoning
(4) an appreciation of the value of deliberation
(5) an endeavor to match reason and life together
- these are quasi-integral parts of 'respect for reason' broadly understood
- a common failing is to think that pursuit of an adjunct or potential part of the respect for reason could somehow excuse the lack of a quasi-integral part. But without the latter there is no respect for reason as such, only at best things associated with it.

To accept the rationality of existence is not an act of faith but of understanding.

Change is from terminus to terminus in a genus, through intermediates in that genus.

(1) The terminus of the generation of a thing must be the thing itself and not merely something prior to it.
(2) What can never be the terminus of generation is ingenerable.
(3) What is ingenerable is indestructible.

Wordsworth's Intimations as an argument that we have a natural desire for eternity.

samsara as a figure of the life of sin

Something that is true of every skill is that if we stop practicing basics we begin to get sloppy ("rusty"). If this is true of skills, what could there possibly be about virtues to prevent them from exhibiting the same characteristic? Nothing whatsoever.

pratitya samutpada implies intelligence, but not an intelligence like ours

If something is X and "that is all there is to it", "that is all there is to it" itself needs explanation.

A free market presupposes that the participants have sufficient education and means to take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities.

No one learns anything from history when it is always used as a club.

the askesis of proclamation

Honor is founded on traditions.

It makes sense to respect beliefs for their truth, for their beauty, and for their utility to good, because it makes sense to respect anything for these.

ecclesiological, Mariological, and hagiological interpretations of the Song of Solomon

Mary : Church :: Joseph : prelates (Albert)

Pr 31:10-31 & the Bride of the Lamb

Col 1:10 as the key text of iconography

If it is demonstration that gives knowledge, why does Scripture proceed poetically? To give discovery.

the two questions criticism of Hume

Theological truths supersaturate philosophical forms for expressing them.

the sense in which wearing a blindfold is natural but gouging out one's eyes is not

Contradiction explosion requires selective destruction of information.

Composition of relevance requires sameness of kind.

pleasantness as an image & symbol of happiness
noncoercion as an image & symbol of liberty
originality as an image & symbol of magnanimity
sociability as an image & symbol of morality

The humanity of Christ, creaturely happiness, & the Virgin as finite things of infinite dignity & worth (cf. ST 1.25.6ad4)

the socially convenient ambiguity of the notion of 'design' in design arguments

apologetic, polemic, hermeneutic, & edifactory uses of arguments
- defense, offense, explication, and encouragement

Ps 90:2 & creation ex nihilo (Saadia)

Suppose we call goods that are purely or nearly purely skill-dependent conjurable goods. An example of a conjurable good would be reliable answers to difficult mathematical equations. We often talk abut hte economics of conjurable goods as if we paid for skills, but, in fact, we rarely if ever pay people for their skills but instead for the goods they conjure with them. Likewise, conjurable goods are not services but products, although we often in practice confuse conjurable goods with services.
One of the noteworthy things about conjurable goods is that they allow people to produce something almost out of nothing -- strictly, out of no more than the energy required to put the skill into effect (although some resources, e.g., pen and paper, will also, as it happens, be involved). The rsult produced, however, is exchangeable for nonconjurables like money and food. The exchange rate is subject to supply and demand, and the value of conjurable goods can be depreciated by technology. (We see both in action throughout history: the conjurable good, reliable answer to arithmetical problem, has lost its value over time due both to the spread of the skill and the invention of calculating devices.) Conjurable goods throw off conservation laws for economics, but they are valued goods nonetheless; they thus are relatively free of material resources and requirements and tend to be the offshoots of the valuable of our general problem-solving capacity, reason. Liberal arts in the strict sense are the skills or crafts that produce conjurable goods. One notices that we tend to conjure with language and number, and it is perhaps the case that all conjurable goods are in some way directly connected to either or both.
One of the interesting economic features of fantasy worlds with magic is that in them material goods become conjurable goods, more like the results of liberal arts (applied mathematics, applied language skills) than they are in our nonmagical world.
Note also that there are institutional or official conjurable goods. CHurches, for instance, create space on liturgical calendars; this requires only the energy of promulgating the calendar & the conjurable goods associated with calendar making (astronomy in the old-fashioned sense). In general they don't sell these for material goods, but this for ethical rather than economic reasons. Likewise a voudou priest or priestess can make a contract with spirits, and charge you for the good produced, much the same way a lawyer cna charge you for the contracts conjured, or a notary for a signature. (Voudou and its cousins are especially interesting in this regard because they are religious systems whose most obvious characteristic is their elaborate, complex, and often highly rational economies of conjurable goods.)

Conjurable goods guarantee that economic systems are not closed systems.

We need a theory of good taste because beauty is what pleases on being seen; and because beauty is predicated analogically we need to recognize different kinds of good taste.

The one thing that makes organ music generally suitable to church use is reverberation: you don't just hear it but feel it inside you, even if only subtly.

The resentment of the Pharisees (faithful son) contrasts with the joy of the angels (shepherd & woman).

Most people who identify themselves as 'skeptics' are really just people who are abnormally likely to assume that the crude rule-of-thumb distinctions we all pick up for practical purposes are in fact universal and exceptionless.

The ninety-nine, the lost coin, & the prodigal son all indicate that the joy in heaven over the repenting sinner is the joy of relief (or something analogous).
- it is a joy sprung from patient (and active) waiting.

Standard propositional logic is properly speaking a logical theory of eliminative arguments. It applies to real life arguments only insofar as they can be reworked into eliminative form.

the poet as perirrhanterium

The primary teaching authority of the Church is exercised in authorizing, permitting, and tolerating, and only thereafter in warning and forbidding.

Moral virtue is like knowledge or craft on one side and health and bearing on the other.

the sorrow that eaches pity and patient hope

Simply assuming that the answers to one's questions will be simple is the first step toward believing extraordinarily stupid things.

The naive believer in progress thinks that when you reach the top of a mountain you keep climbing to get to the stars. Such naive extrapolation overlooks the possibility that the stars can only be reached in a completely different way.

the dependent origination of all virtues

Circularity in argument is only of concern where a distinction between the less known and the better known must be drawn.

What measures must share something of the nature of what it measures, & be in agreement with it along the lines of what it shares.

It is obvious that music is primarily discovered in sound, but it is a mistake to think it is only found in sound; for at least some of the fundamentals of music are available to sight and touch, things like rhythm. For music at its most basic & general is sensed mathematics as measured by time and time alone.

Every unit of measure msut be something that can be treated as indivisible for all practical purposes.

From one's theory of friendship a whole theory of human nature can always be drawn.

With simples, truth is acquisition.

"Hell is superficial." Simone Weil

How foolish are those who are never wrong! They can only be so by never exploring.

Joy goes with understanding as beautiful freshness goes with youth.

Colin Maclaurin takes Newton's 3rd Law, or rather its necessity "for preserving the regularity & uniformity of nature" as an example of 'final causes'.

Derrida as philosophical panopticon

The prmary value of a notation is not abbreviation but transparency or surveyability.

to lend to many nations but to borrow from none

The key point of the master-bondslave cycle, and it is often overlooked, is the acquisition of the standpoint of one who crafts.

Puddleglum's wager as a wager for transposition

creation & providence as providing a middle way that avoids Platonic excessive emphasis on archetypal form & Aristotelian excessive emphasis on essential form (Stein)

validity -> quia
validity + essential relevance -> propter quid

The conditional is related to the A proposition by ascent and descent.

Distribution is what supposition tells you about verification.

Mansfield Park as a study in feminine fortitude

The preservation of culture depends on the cultivation of virtues.

The difficulty with teaching virtue ethics side by side with utilitarianism and deontology is that the latter two are theories; virtue ethics is something more like a civilization.

Much of Shakespeare's work is concerned with the problem of what happens when love is not allowed to grow along its natural lines but is instead forced into an unnatural course.

The first principle of poetry is that even in sensing we go beyond the senses. The second is that even the most attenuated understanding must convert to what the senses give us.

Because of the real presence we do not merely remember Christ's death in the eucharist; we also remember his resurrection.

identity through time as an analogy for transubstantiation (Descartes -- the River Loire / the living body)

gravity as an analogy for real presence (Leibniz)

Each of the sacraments sheds light on atonement.

Genuine humility is a more personable virtue even than generosity.

Utility subserves friendship, not friendship utility.

Smith: commercial society impreoves probity & punctuality in exchange but degrades education & character
- this can be offset by voluntary association and state support of education by law

From Adam, the earth, comes Eve, life, its intimate companion.

the cultivation of a marital ethos

In refusing the Ring, Galadriel overcomes the pride and ambition that made her an exile from Aman.

All science and prudence presuppose a quieting and calming of the passions.

Metaphysics is not founded on demonstration of the first mover and of the immateriality of intellect; but these are areas where the need for metaphysics, i.e., for a first philosophy that is not physics, is most manifest.

Aquinas identifies three kinds of abstraction. The first is abstraction of the universal from the particular, and this belongs to physics. The second is abstraction of form from sensible matter through intellectual conception, and the his belongs to mathematics. And the third is separation through composition and division, i.e., judgment, and this belongs to metaphysics. Now it cannot be that St. Thomas means that these sciences or levels of science are the only ones that use these intellectual operations. For one thing, the lower operations are important for the higher operations, and the first level of abstraction is common to all science whatsoever. For another, the claim cannot be that there is no composition and division in physics and mathematics. The claim instead is about how it is that our minds can take the objects of these sciences as objects.

polemics as a philosophical history of dogmatics (Herder)

votive religion vs. mystery religion

A sacrament is an initiation.

Myths and parables diffuse more widely than their explanations.

To recognize anything as falsfiable we must already have in hand those causal facts about the world that would be relevant to falsification.

the book of Job & the moral postulate of Last Judgment

Appeal to coincidence is explanatory because chance is efficient causation; and it is imperfectly explanatory because chance is efficient causation per accidens.

One of the most dangerous views in ethics is the view that you cannot sin against yourself.

Identification of natural evils requires the presupposing of a natural teleology.

Formal causes are ordered by relations of perfection and imperfection.

If your conception of reason does not make music an activity of reason, you have the wrong conception of reason.

Mediate propositions are actually one but potentially many because a middle can be taken when we have such propositions, thus yielding more than one proposition, just as a line is actually one but potentially many lines. But immediate propositions are actually and potentially one, just as a point is actually and potentially one.

We disfavor bizarre hypotheses because they are inconveniently bizarre; we don't necessarily counta s bizarre even unusual hypotheses we disfavor.

When we call hypotheses bizarre, we are not merely saying that they are unusual, and we need not be saying that they are bad; but rather that they clearly violate certain reasonable expectations for hypotheses on a given topic.

When we are dealing with practical reasoning, there are typically probabilities greater than zero that are nonetheless negligible, regardless of the payoff; negligibility is determined on other grounds.

prayer as the psychological form taken by reconciliation

Divine atonement applies not only to the children of Israel but also to resident strangers (Num 15:26).

atonement as a response to the ethical life as an infinite task

Judaism has not so much a doctrine of the Messiah as a doctrine of the Messianic Age.

Every Wager-type argument is an argument based on division, and thus has the strengths and weaknesses common to arguments from division.

Ad hominem in general concerns itself with untenability.

Just as it is good for even extraordinarily talented musicians to practice their basics, like scales, so too it is good for even the most sophisticated philosophers to practice the basics of analysis, so too it is good for everyone in every field to refresh themselves in the foundational elements of their field.

Ad baculum et al. stand a chance of being legitimate when they can be seen as proposing tests against living experience.

The material cause is that cause which, considered as such, is not a principle of action. The other three causes are principles of action understood as ordered to each other in the act: the end as first, moving the agent; the agent as second; the form as third, being applied to the action by the agent.

being-act, form-act, operation-act

The distinction between active and passive power is not based on whether there is activity, since even passive powers typically involve some activity. The distinction is instead made through comparison of power and its object: if the object is related to the power as moved, the power is active; if the object is related to the power as moving, the power is passive.

The potential is known under notes derived from the actual.

Immanent actions intrinsically bear something of an infinite character: understanding and willing, having transcendent objects, i.e., the true or the good, have scope as vast as being itself; and even sensation, which does not have such scope, has infinite scope in a qualified way, since it is open to any sensible object that might be appropriate.

God wills that we understand His admonitions even in the dreams of sinners. (cf. Ambrose Ep. 51)

The history of historical study shows that the critical tools used by historians repeatedly are broken against new biases and presuppositions of the historians themselves, biases and presuppositions against which the critical tools are powerless. The fundamental problem of historical study, for the historian interested in progress toward knowledge, is how to rise above his own weaknesses; for evidence is powerless against them, since these weaknesses can affect what even is regarded as good evidence, so much so that even a true ground of important historical information can become regarded as an impediment to discovery and learning. the historian settles down behind a protective wall of defective critique, shutting himself into a selective obscurantism that he labels good scholarship.

Admissions against interest as often have to do with confusion or stupidity as with honesty.

metaphysics as the science of dispositions and completions

Pleasure is good with respect to sensory appetite; but whether it is good with respect to rational appetite depends on circumstances.

three ways of speaking of being
(1) in terms of categories
(2) in terms of act and potency
(3) in terms of propositions
with regard to (3), everything is called being about which one can form a true affirmative proposition

the life of virtue by way of penitence

courtliness and homeliness in liturgy

ceremonies of aspiration, of initiation, of affirmation, of consummation

tactical sequences vs. tactical themes

Wager arguments & the promising

sensible vs. intelligible miracles

What we encounter in experience is not experience but the experienced.

Kant & the rediscovery of common sensibles as forms of experiential acquaintance

Fidelity is the core of fatherhood.

Consequences enter into moral evaluation not generally but by way of intention or by way of natural connection with the intended.

Accuracy is never misguided, but precision sometimes is.

A question that must always be asked with regard to argumetns from evil (and yet rarely is asked) is: on the moral principles assumed here, to what am I committed? What kind of life does this argument require?

Abraham, acting in faith, reasoned about God.

When skepticism tangles with practical reason, skepticism always loses.

When people reject strong skepticisms, they usually do so for practical reasons, not theoretical ones.

Suspense of judgment is governed not by theoretical principles but by practical principles.

solipsism in symbolism

3 positions allowing corruptibility of soul
(1) The soul is a body.
(2) Intellect and sense do not differ.
(3) Intellect is a separate substance.

Faith or trust is important in matters of science because of subalternation; for faith is, so to speak, deferred understanding, or more properly, participation of understanding through deference.

Preference is always relative to a division.

The soul is the form of the living body in such a way that it is also the mover and the end of it; and one's account of life will depend on the particular aspect under which one investigates it.

affordances as intentiones

natural vs informational immutation of sense

The mode of desire follows the mode of knowledge of desire's object.

religion & the aesthetic gravity and constancy of moral principles

higher criticis (source, form, redaction &c.) of oneself

Simile is perhaps the most natural figure with which to speak about music.

A metaphor is a metamorphosis in terms.

"The chief songs of the Church are songs of the heart; but they are expressed vocally so as to arouse the songs of the heart, and for the benefit of the simple and uncultured." Aquinas

Etymologia give to the dialectic of the scholastics a poetic bent that would otherwise be lacking, and give an elucidatory role to poetic reasoning and association even in the midst of the pursuit of demonstration.

"Kindness is like a good fire." Aquinas (i.e., benignitas, bene igneitas)

"It is against reason for someone to be a burden to others, for example, by offering nothing for their delight & by hindering the delight of others." Aquinas ST 2-2.16.8

Rhetoric is concerned with modes of persuasion and modes of persuasion are quasi-demonstrations.

Perversions in sexual matters are usually more serious than perversions in matters of food because persons are usually more implicated in the former, and thus the stakes are higher.

Every natural desire is emblematic of every other natural desire; and something similar occurs with aversions.

Every biological function admits of possible perversions, although not all are equally perverse. But it is not the mere function itself that makes this so but the interplay of biological function and reason.

Everyone likes the deus ex machina that is to their taste.

We understand actuality not by defining it but by comparing actual things.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Rose of Marburg

Sainthood isn't the sort of thing that runs in families, per se, but there are still families in which one finds it concentrated. One of the most famous of these was the family of St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, which had a hefty number of saints all at once: St. Basil was brother to St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Macrina, and they were three out of ten of the children of St. Basil the Elder and St.Emmelia, and St. Basil the Elder was the son of two confessors, one of whom was St. Macrina the Elder, while St.Emmelia was the daughter of a martyr. Another family that also had an unusual concentration of saints, although not all at once, was the Árpád dynasty of Hungary, from which that royal family got the nickname, Family of the Saint-Kings. The saints in question were:

King St. Stephen I, Founder of Christian Hungary
Prince St. Emeric (who was also related on his mother's side to King St. Henry II of Germany, after whom he was named; the word 'America' ultimately comes from his name, by way of Amerigo Vespucci)
King St. Ladislaus I
Empress St. Irene of Hungary (who was born Piroska, was the daughter of Ladislaus, and married Emperor John II Komnenos)
Princess St. Elisabeth of Hungary (who was also related on her mother's side to High Duchess St. Hedwig of Andechs and Silesia)
Princess St. Kinga of Poland (Elisabeth's niece)
Princess St. Margaret of Hungary (Kinga's sister)
Blessed Jolenta of Poland (also Kinga's sister)

Today is the feast day of the most famous of the saintly Árpáds, Princess Elisabeth of Hungary. Widowed at age 20 as her husband, Ludwig IV, who was never officially canonized but is nonetheless still revered as a saint in some local calendars, died on the way to the Sixth Crusade, she devoted the next four years of her life to intensive charity for the poor: giving of alms, building of hospitals, and the like. She died at age twenty-four. She is the patron saint of hospitals, dying children, and the homeless.

(There should be more philosophical posts, by the way, as things get less busy around here.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Soap Opera of Kings and Saints

Donnchad mac Crínáin, also known as Duncan, became King of Alba, what we would ordinarily think of as Scotland, in 1034. He was a very young man, and was to have very poor luck in battle: after a series of disasters he eventually led an army into Moray against its lord, Mac Bethad mac Findláich, also known as Macbeth; he was killed by Macbeth in 1040, and Macbeth became King of Alba. Duncan's wife fled Scotland with her two young sons, Máel Coluim and Domnall, also known as Malcolm and Donald. Macbeth seems to have done quite well for himself and became famous for his generosity, but he was eventually killed in 1054 when Malcolm returned with an army. These indeed are the events of Shakespeare's play, although Macbeth consists of a fictionalized version of several legends confused together, and thus is not very historical at all.

Malcolm's attempt to retake the throne didn't immediately have that effect, of course. After Macbeth's death, his followers immediately put a man named Lulach mac Gille Comgaín, a grandson of a king from the former dynasty, on the throne of Alba. He did not reign long, only about a year, and then he was killed and Malcolm came to the throne as Malcolm III. Some sources suggest that he attempted to set up talks with King Edward of England, who would eventually become known as Saint Edward the Confessor, in order to marry Edward's kinswoman Margaret (more of her in a moment). But since he very soon afterward invaded Northumbria, either he never really did so or the talks did not go well at all. Instead he married a woman named Ingibjörg Finnsdóttir, who seems to have been the widow of Thorfinn Sigurdsson, better known as Thorfinn the Mighty, who was the Earl of Orkney.

Now, Thorfinn Sigurdsson had been an unusually powerful and effective Earl of Orkney, ruling for seventy-five years, and according to the Orkneyinga Saga, he had earlier been engaged in a war with the "King of the Scots":

Then Karl Houndson took the rule over Scotland; he thought he ought to own Caithness too, like the former Scot-kings; and he would have scatt from that part of the realm as from other places, but earl Thorfinn thought he had not too great a heritage after his mother’s father, though he had Caithness. He said that realm had been given to him, and he would pay no scatt for it; now out of this arose a mighty feud, and each harried the other’s realm.

'Scatt' is an archaic word, derived from Norse skattr, for tribute. Now, we know of no King of Scotland whose name was Karl Hundason; and, indeed, it would be an odd name for any king to have. The Saga is not particularly reliable as a historical source, so it could simply be made up. If it does refer to real events, 'Karl Hundason' seems to be an insult-name: Churl, son of a dog. The whole story is consistent with the possibility that it really describes, in grandiose terms, a dispute between Thorfinn and the Mormaer or Steward of Moray -- and as Macbeth had been Mormaer of Moray, it is very possible that if there really was a Karl Hundason, Karl Hundason was actually Macbeth. In any case, Thorfinn managed to hold off 'Karl' with no real problem, and thus established Orkney for a time as perhaps the major power of North Scotland.

So it's perhaps unsurprising that Malcolm took the trouble to marry Ingibjörg in order to consolidate his power and influence. In any case, Malcolm and Ingibjörg had a son, Donnchad, who eventually became King Duncan II, and throughout Malcolm's reign relations with Orkney seem to have been very good. Ingibjörg eventually died, although we don't know exactly when.

In the meantime things were happening down south. King Edward of England died childless in 1066. His closest living relative was Edward the Exile, who received that epithet because his family had been exiled to Hungary by King Cnute after Cnute had invaded and taken over England. (King Edward's own kingdom had been a brief restoration after Cnute's death and the dissolution of his North Sea Empire.) On discovering that he was still alive, Edward the Confessor called Edward the Exile back to England to name as his successor. Edward the Exile had a wife, named Agatha, a son, named Edgar, and two daughters, named Margaret and Cristina, and they returned with him.

So far so good, but as it happens Edward the Exile died in 1057, two days after having arrived back in England. Nobody knows why; it's one of those deaths that was suspiciously convenient for a sufficiently large number of people that it's almost certain he was murdered, although nobody knows by whom. This death would leave King Edward's succession in dispute: Edward the Exile's son Edgar was proclaimed king after King Edward's death in 1066, but both Harold, Earl of Wessex, and William, Duke of Normandy, claimed that they were the legitimate heir to the throne, and, in fact, William of Normandy invaded. The Witenagemot or High Council of England recognized that Edgar was in no position to fight this war with the weak backing he had, so they named Harold, Earl of Wessex, as Edward's heir. Harold, however, was killed at the Battle of Hastings, and so the Witenagemot elected Edgar king again. But he was never crowned. William mowed down any opposition to him, and the Witenagemot had Edgar surrender to him at Berkhamstead.

In 1068 Edgar fled with his mother and sisters to Scotland. Malcolm III, now widowed, saw an opportunity, and agreed to support Edgar in his attempt to regain the throne from William. By 1070 he had married Margaret, Edgar's sister. Malcolm invaded Northumbria a few times, but nothing ever came of them. Malcolm and Margaret had eight children, and notably they all have English names: Edward, Edmund, Ethelred, Edgar, Alexander, David, Edith (or Matilda), and Mary. Edward died early; Edgar, Alexander, and David would each become King of Scotland; Edmund became an important Abbot; Matilda married King Henry I of England, and Mary married Count Eustace of Boulogne, who went with his brothers Godfrey and Baldwin on the First Crusade, where Godfrey became ruler of Jerusalem and Baldwin, Count of Edessa, and later King of Jerusalem. That's an entirely different set of stories.

Margaret of Scotland was famously pious: she attended church regularly, went out of her way to do good works for the poor, and was generally well-loved. She became known early on as an exemplary case of the just ruler, and was held up as a model for all royalty to follow; she was canonized in 1250. Saint Margaret of Scotland died on November 16 in 1093; and today is her feast day in the Catholic calendar.

I really do think this would make a more interesting television series than most things you find on television. Who doesn't like Vikings, Scottish kings, Anglo-Saxon political bickering, and Norman Invasions, all rolled into one big story?

Some Things on the Doctors of the Church

This post is mostly for my own purposes, but I might as well explain it a bit. 'Doctor of the Church' is a special, officially given, liturgical title in Rome's Universal Calendar: it indicates (1) saints in the universal calendar who (2) were doctors (i.e., theological teachers) and who (3) have left theological writings that (4) are of extraordinary quality and considerable value for the whole community of the faithful. It originally grew up on its own as applied to a small group of especially important theologians (Athanasius, Basil, Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great) and has since been extended outward by official recognition of a theologian as being in the same class. Because of (2) it is traditional not to consider martyrs for the title, despite a number of notable theologians in that category who fit all of the other criteria, because 'martyr' is a higher liturgical title than 'doctor' -- because of this martyrs would never be liturgically given a Mass for doctors, only for martyrs, and thus the title would be otiose. Likewise (3) is pretty restrictive; there have been some excellent theologians who don't qualify because we know of their work only indirectly and not from any writings they left (Saint Macrina comes immediately to mind). And, of course, there are extraordinarily important theologians who aren't saints in any calendar (Tertullian, Origen, if I recall correctly Theodore Abu-Qurra). These are just some different ways of listing the Doctors of the Church for the purpose of seeing what patterns there might be.

I. By Death Year
(sometimes approximate; year in parentheses is the year they were officially recognized as Doctor of the Church; asterisks indicate approximate length of intervening interval)

368 Hilary of Poitiers (1851)
373 Athanasius
373 Ephrem the Syrian (1920)
379 Basil of Caesarea
387 Cyril of Jerusalem (1883)
390 Gregory Nazianzen
397 Ambrose of Milan
407 John Chrysostom
420 Jerome
430 Augustine
444 Cyril of Alexandria (1883)
450 Peter Chrysologus (1729)
461 Leo the Great (1754)
604 Gregory the Great
636 Isidore of Seville (1722)
735 Bede (1899)
749 John Damascene (1883)
1072 Peter Damian (1828)
1109 Anselm (1720)
1153 Bernard of Clairvaux (1830)
1231 Anthony of Padua (1946)
1274 Thomas Aquinas (1568)
1274 Bonaventure (1588)
1280 Albert the Great (1931)
1379 Catherine of Siena (1970)
1582 Teresa of Avila (1970)
1591 John of the Cross (1926)
1597 Peter Canisius (1925)
1619 Lawrence of Brindisi (1959)
1621 Robert Bellarmine (1931)
1622 Francis de Sales (1877)
1787 Alphonsus Liguori (1871)
1897 Therese of Lisieux (1997)

II. By Birth Year
(often approximate, especially for earlier figures)

293 Athanasius
300 Hilary of Poitiers
306 Ephrem the Syrian
313 Cyril of Jerusalem
329 Gregory Nazianzen
330 Basil of Caesarea
337 Ambrose of Milan
347 Jerome
349 John Chrysostom
354 Augustine
376 Cyril of Alexandria
380 Peter Chrysologus
400 Leo I
540 Gregory I
560 Isidore of Seville
672 Bede
676 John Damascene
1007 Peter Damian
1033 Anselm of Canterbury
1090 Bernard of Clairvaux
1195 Anthony of Padua
1206 Albert the Great (although perhaps as early as 1193)
1221 Bonaventure
1225 Thomas Aquinas
1347 Catherine of Siena
1515 Teresa of Avila
1521 Peter Canisius
1542 John of the Cross
1542 Robert Bellarmine
1559 Lawrence of Brindisi
1567 Francis de Sales
1696 Alphonsus Liguori
1873 Therese of Lisieux

III. By Year of Recognition

[Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great all received it by organically developed custom]

1568 Thomas Aquinas
1588 Bonaventure
1720 Anselm of Canterbury
1722 Isidore of Seville
1729 Peter Chrysologus
1754 Leo the Great
1828 Peter Damian
1830 Bernard of Clairvaux
1851 Hilary of Poitiers
1871 Alphonsus Liguori
1877 Francis de Sales
1883 Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, John Damascene
1899 Bede
1920 Ephrem the Syrian
1925 Peter Canisius
1926 John of the Cross
1931 Albert the Great, Robert Bellarmine
1946 Anthony of Padua
1959 Lawrence of Brindisi
1970 Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila
1997 Therese of Lisieux

IV. By Number of Years from Death to Recognition
(Color Code, very rough: Patristic Era, Scholastic Era, Counter-Reformation)
[Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great all received it by organically developed custom]

1547 Ephrem of Syria

1496 Cyril of Jerusalem
1483 Hilary of Poitiers
1439 Cyril of Alexandria

1293 Leo I
1279 Peter Chrysologus

1164 Bede
1134 John Damascene

1086 Isidore of Seville

756 Peter Damian
715 Anthony of Padua

677 Bernard of Clairvaux
651 Albert the Great
611 Anselm of Canterbury

591 Catherine of Siena

388 Teresa of Avila
340 Lawrence of Brindisi
335 John of the Cross
328 Peter Canisius
314 Bonaventure
310 Robert Bellarmine

294 Thomas Aquinas
255 Francis de Sales

100 Therese of Lisieux

84 Alphonsus Liguori

V. Various Miscellaneous Lists

Because of the split between East and West there are no Eastern Doctors after Damascene, making eight in total (Hilary, Athanasius, Ephrem, Basil, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Cyril of Alexandria, John Damascene).

There are three Carmelites (Teresa, John of the Cross, and Therese), two Jesuits (Canisius and Bellarmine), three Dominicans (Thomas, Albert, Catherine (Tertiary)), four Franciscans (Anthony, Bonaventure, Lawrence, Francis de Sales (Tertiary)), one Redemptorist (Liguori), and five Benedictines (Isidore [it is thought], Bede, Anselm, Bernard, Peter Damian). There are three women (Catherine, Teresa, Therese), two of whom were nuns (Teresa, Therese). There are nineteen bishops, of whom two were Patriarchs of Rome (Leo, Gregory), two Patriarchs of Alexandria (Athanasius, Cyril A), two Patriarchs of Constantinople (Nazianzen, Chrysostom), and one Patriarch of Jerusalem (Cyril J). That's actually very nice balance, although notably Antioch is missing, with no plausible candidate (interesting, given how important the See has been theologically). There is one deacon (Ephrem).

Some notable and influential theologians who very likely meet all the criteria but haven't yet received the designation: Gregory of Nyssa (whose absence is very noticeable), Epiphanius of Salamis, John of Avila, Jeanne de Chantal, Louis de Montfort.

Some notable and influential saints who very likely meet all the criteria except being on the Universal Calendar: Clement of Alexandria, Isaac the Syrian, Hildegard von Bingen, Gregory Palamas, Symeon the New Theologian, Nerses Shnorhali.

Some notable and influential saints who would be good candidates except that they are martyrs: Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Boethius, Thomas More, Edith Stein.

Some notable and influential theologians who will likely at some point be given the designation if their canonization process is ever completed: John Duns Scotus, John Henry Newman.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doctor Universalis

Today is the feast day of St. Albert, Count von Bollstadt, commonly known as Albert the Great. He is the patron saint of scientists, engineers, and roboticists. There is a good discussion of him at the SEP. Sister Mary Albert Hughes's charming booklet on Albert is also online and very much worth reading.

Various Positions on Analogical Inferences

A while back, in talking about the fallacy of false analogy, I noted that the fallacy, as typically understood, seems traceable to Mill, and that Mill makes it a fallacy because he has a particular view of analogical inference that is controvertible. In discussing Mill's account of analogical inference I called him a minimalist, and contrasted him with Hume, who I called a maximalist. When Alan asked some questions about this, I gave an answer, but I think both my original classification and my response were made unnecessarily murky by a failure to distinguish two key questions a good account of analogical inference would have to answer:

(1) Can good analogical inferences oppose each other?

(2) Must analogies meet some condition beyond real resemblance in order to be good?

Let's call a position that requires a Yes to the first question, inclusivism (it includes opposing inferences as legitimate), and the negative complement, exclusivism. And let's call a position that requires a Yes to the second question, restrictivism (it restricts the conditions under which analogies can be good in the first place), and the negative complement, generalism. We can then better see the position between Mill on the one hand and Hume and myself on the other. Mill is an exclusivist restrictivist. He thinks that any analogical inference that gets an incorrect conclusion is fallacious; and he thinks that good analogical inferences, in addition to the resemblance of the analogy itself, also need to build on an established causal connection. Hume, on the other hand, is an inclusivist generalist (as am I). He thinks that even good analogical inferences are defeasible, and he thinks that all an analogical inference needs in order to be a good inference (albeit one that can be defeated by better or stronger inferences) is resemblance. Indeed, he explicitly says that no matter how imperfect the resemblance may be, the inference "may still retain as much as may be the foundation of probability, as long as there is any resemblance remaining".

Putting it this way raises the question of whether the history of philosophy also includes inclusivist restrictivists and exclusivist generalists. An inclusivist restrictivist would have to hold that (1) good analogical inferences can oppose each other and also hold that (2) something more is needed for a good analogical inference than just some sort of resemblance or analogy. This is obviously a coherent position. I can't think of any significant name in the history of philosophy that holds it, but there really aren't that many significant names in the history of philosophy who discuss analogical inference at length. An exclusivist generalist would have to hold that (1) good analogical inferences cannot oppose each other and yet that (2) all that is required for a good analogical inference is resemblance. This seems like it would be an extraordinarily difficult and unintuitive position to hold, and perhaps an impossible one. At the least one would have to say that a lot of things that seem to resemble each other don't actually resemble each other at all (not 'at all' in the sense of 'in all the most important ways', but 'at all' in the sense of at all). This would take some doing, and I doubt anyone has ever taken the exclusivist generalist line on analogical inferences.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Buddhist Parable

There once was a king who belonged to a highly ascetic religion; its monks were expected, for instance, to sleep on beds of nails. He was very puzzled at the practices of the Buddhists, who did not engage in such asceticisms, and once said to some Buddhist monks, "I know that many monks of my religion, even after much mortification, still cannot vanquish their lusts and desires. How mired in sensuality you Buddhist monks must be!"

But the eldest Buddhist monk replied to the king, "Consider this, O King. If you were to release a man condemned to death from prison and decreed that he would be pardoned, but only if he took a bowl of oil and, walking to the next town and back, spilled not a single drop, and if you set in his way musicians and beautiful dancers and fine feasts, what do you suppose he will answer if you then ask him what he saw and heard along the way?"

But the king did not know, and so made an experiment of it himself, releasing a condemned man from prison, granting him pardon on the condition that he spill not a single drop of oil, and setting musicians, dancers, and feasts in his way. And when the man returned -- he had not spilled a drop -- the king asked him, "What did you see and hear on the way?"

And the man replied, "Truly, I heard nothing and saw only the bowl of oil for the entire trip, because I did not dare allow myself to think of anything else."