Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dashed Off

Some jotted notes; all the standard caveats apply.

styles of argument architecture (the aesthetics of argument presentation & of argument construction)

Over and over one finds people poisoning their minds with continual streams of political commentary; this is one sign, albeit a pathological one, of the need people have of using their intellects in a social way, much as excessive eating of junk food is a pathological sign of the need for sugars and fats.

As faith has preambles, so too does hope (and faith and hope are preambles to charity).

Circumstances change the species of moral acts when they add or reduce repugnance to reason.

Nothing has its relation to the First Cause by chance; but it is consistent with this to say that things can be related to each other by chance.

The relation between virtue and moral rule is by way of the mean.

the seed-idea of an argument, around which it crystallizes

Hedonistic utilitarianism is right insofar as useful good is ordered to pleasurable good, but it is incomplete insofar as pleasurable good is ordered to worthy good.

The powers of teh instrument are applied to its actual operation by its principal mover, as when the capabilities of a pen are applied to writing by the writer.

(1) What actually belongs to a being whose actual being is other than its nature is either caused by the principles of its nature or comes to be from some extrinsic principle.
(2) Actual being is not caused by the principles of a thing's nature.
: If actual being were caused by a thing's form, essence, or quiddity, something would be cause of itself.
(3) Everything that has actual being from an extrinsic principle is traced back to something that has actual being in virtue of its nature
: infinite regress.
(4) Therefore, &c.

'the radiance of satisfaction, the garden of concord'

Charity orders even (human) wisdom and wisdom orders even prudence, which orders all moral virtues.

Virtues by their nature are proficiencies that complete our humanity with respect to its capacity for doing good.

the facts about change that are presupposed by experiments in general (transcendental arguments from the human act of experimenting)

The processes by which one transforms syllogisms of one figure into syllogisms of another figure are like translations and rotations of objects. Thus Aristotle's syllogistic is in part like a topological study of mediate inference; and transformations into First Figure are logically more important than some have thought -- as often happens, despite his handicaps and limitations in playing it, Aristotle is playing a far more sophisticated game than those who condescend and criticize him are playing.

With the painter example Anselm tells us exactl what he means be esse in intellectu.

the interplication of slow and swift forms of reflection
Swift reflection is oftne error-ridden, but also often fruitful; whereas slow reflection is often the opposite. (It varies according to the circumstnaces, of course.)

If society focuses on pleasure, it needs to be told of Hell; and if it focuses on the gloom of life, it needs to be told of Heaven; and if it focuses on inertia, it needs to be mocked mercilessly.

The power to punish is dangerous; the power to reward even more so.

almsgiving as a form of purification

Islam is a poetic and philosophical outworking of the idea of submission to God; in this sense Muslims are correct when they argue that Islam is natural religion. The Beautiful Names are poetic expressions of teh many ways in which God may be an object of submission -- as Merciful, as Light, as Avenger, as Punisher, as Guide, as Everlasting, as Living, as Wise, as Vast, as Rewarder, and so forth. (This root is more clearly seen in the Meccan surahs than the Medinan, and in the facets of Islam that are concerned with tariqah than those concerned with shari'ah.) And it is because of this that Sufi Islam can seem both very distinctively Muslim and very natural and universal.

the names ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim as indicative of egress and regress from God (the Outbreathing of the Compassionate, the Inbreathing of the Merciful)

For precisely the same reasons Jewish worship before Christ was prefigurative, it is even now, and will always be for as long as it lasts, figurative. But while before Christ it prefigured Christ simply, in being practiced after Christ it figures Christ incompletely, for it occurs with unqualified nonacceptance of Christ under the aspect of his first advent, but not under the aspect of his second advent. Or rather: it still figures Christ as promised, and also as implicit in the promises, but is an incomplete figure becuase it does not figure Christ as given. For even we still but figure Christ in the fullness of promise, although we have Christ as given to us, and as we are given to him.

Salvation is participation in paschal mystery by appropriate sign: this is why 'baptism of blood' is possible.

the irrevocable vocation of Israel (Rm 11:29)

Christian charity cannot proceed primarily by courting the favor of governments, although charity can indeed counsel.

Exchange, deference, and care as genera of the potential parts of justice.

Aquinas runs the Fourth Way by way of the maximally true, following Aristotle; but one could also run it by way of the maximally beautiful, following Augustine (cf. De Civ 8:6) and the Platonists generally (cf. Symposium 210e-211d, and Aquinas somewhere in the Sentences commentary; and likewise by way of the maximally good.

virtual containment of one causal power in another

The first thing geometry teaches is that from very little, thought out well, vast vistas of thought may arise.

Reasonable habits of moral deference protect one from hubris and self-indulgence.

Taking Goethe as the 'Newton of biology' seeds a Romantic Naturphilosophie; putting Darwin in such a role also seeds a Naturphilosophie, although, it would seem, not a Romantic one. The genetic process and the most general structural features have major similarities; there is no doubt that they are kin even if not close kin and they are kin precisely as each is a Naturphilosophie.

Drop by drop is wisdom distilled and step by step is understanding reached.

Truth and goodness are being in light of life; for life takes being as an object. Unity is here, too, because life takes objects by a union: true and good are being insofar as it can be one with life.

Truth of speech is veracity; truth of sentency is therefore merely suitability to veracity.

the link between original thought and catharsis

We get the idea of participation by beginning with the partial and the whole, the follo, or the complete.

To ask of each idea, what is the simplest version of this?

Tendency & the pre-existence of a final cause are the same thing.

Sacred doctrine adds to the moods of scripture the inquisitive mood. This does not mean that sacred doctrine operates only in the inquisitive mood. But as it is the mood most key to sacred doctrine's being a kind of teaching, the other moods become moods of sacred doctrine by being at least combinable with the inquisitive mood.

the book of Job as a study of divine sublimity

When the scholastics spoke of locomotion as motus, they were always thinking of it insofar, and only insofar, as this locomotion *involves action and passion*, for that is what motus is. The late medieval period began, and the early post-medieval period finished, the hard work that established the surprising fact that it is intelligible to consider some things we call locomotion without thinking of action or passion, and, indeed, leaving the whole matter of action and passion in abeyance. Strictly speaking this did not show that there is no action and passion in these inertial cases, but only that, of the things we call locomotion, some are such in ways that require understanding them direclty in terms of action and passion, and others are such in ways that require understanding them at most indirectly in terms of action and passion. Virtually all the difference between standard Aristotelian and standard Newtonian ways fo talking about locomotion are found in this.

The Trinity is the background of every other Christian doctrine.

Ps. 95 & the theology of Scripture (as in Hebrews)

One reason there is no redemption without blood is that virtually universally people have, rightly or wrongly as you may insist it to be, associated redemption and similar things with animal sacrifice; & thus to mark it as clearly redemptive, prior to Christ, in whom these notions receive their proper expansion, one must mark it with blood. And one reason Christ's redemptive work msut be one of blood is so that there may be no question that Christ's redemption is superior precisely as redemption to what is associated with animal sacrifice. And so, where Christianity has gone, animal sacrifice has eventually faded; for no blood more is needed when Christ has bled for us.

Doubt and perplexity are not the same.

A philosophical system is a multi-dimensional thing capable of being reorganized many different ways, even without significant variation of content, each of which brings out different glints and hues.

The practical problem with semper reformanda is that it presents a task no human beings can perform. Reformers are as subject to original sin; thus the thrust of reformation as a human activity always has a skew that leads reformers, over time, to reform their reform into incoherence at best and perversion and depravity at worst. Resolve can delay this, but human resolution cannot do so indefinitely. True spiritual reform is an act of which the Holy Spirit alone is genuinely capable.

the ecclesiology of Ps 48
the study of Church history & the diversity of its cultures (Ps 48:13-15)

Ps 37 & the theology of the Beatific Vision (the land = the Vision, cf. 37:4)

Peace is found in turning from evil and doing good.

as though by some etceteration
our endful lives were endless made

Ps 32 & the theology of reconciliation
- note that 32:1-2 exhibits both imputation and more than mere imputation (in their spirit no deceit)

God our city (Ps 31:22)

Torah cannot be mere law, for it instructs, enlightens, and refreshes.

The Psalms teach us that the kind of security given by God is the security of victory.

Christ as the Pattern of Blessings (Ps. 21:7)

It is a sign of foolishness to think that every kind of classification should carve nature at its joints.

It is remarkable that those who have insisted that Christian doctrines of sexuality are esp. distorting have done almost none of the comparative work required to show this.

An account of inquiry that does not leave an important place for idiographic reporting of experience is necessarily incomplete.

It is not quite true that statistics concerns itself with analysis of data; rather, it concerns itself with analysis of patterns to which data is subject insofar as it is analyzable.

Certain people in the early years of anthropology used the discoveries of anthropology to argue that religion was merely a primitive survival; but whta they really showed was that even the most attenuated rituals host the residua of profoundly primeval experience.

internally felt fluidity and solidity

intrinsic & extrinsic pathways of argumentative cascades

Human minds get their depth in great measure from their capacity to summarize many other minds.

the sense of the phonic structure of language as a prerequisite for poetry

No account of separation of church & state can be coherent save that which rests, directly or indirectly, on freedom of conscience as part of common good.

dogmatic definitions as apotropaic formulae

the political arts of humility

Character development plays only a minor role in the movement of stories; it becomes important only in certain genres.

Christ is heir of God in a threefold way: by birth, by adoption,and by appointment (exaltation as representative).

Human dominion over the earth is an extension of our dominion over our own acts, which is grounded in reason and will. Human beings only have dominion over the earth to the extent that their actions are consistent with genuine lordship, and their actions are only consistent with genuine lordship to the extent that they act with authority; and they only act with authority, as opposed to usurpation, to the exten they act in light of universal good, and in ways consistent with the authority whence they have authority.

recusatio as a means of political power

unity of action, unity of setting, and unity of sentiment in the whole canon of Scripture

Resurrection as the objective correlate of the experience of the Church

In the cross of Christ parodic enthronement becomes symbol of the real enthronment of ascension, and the wordly analogue of heavenly truth.

the literary simultaneity of a text

Soul is cause of the living body as form, as agent, and as end.

the affinity between imagination & intellect

Time is as continuous as change, no more and no less.

The fundamental problem of science is not experiment, nor theory, nor confirmation or disconfirmation, but communication of what is important when and where it is useful.

Note that the book of Ruth itself makes the parallel between Ruth & Tamar (Ru 4:12).

The glory of empires is the sunset reflected in their windows.

4 elements of tradition
(1) the written page of Scripture
(2) the preaching and doctrine of the apostles and Fathers
(3) the age-old common practices of the Church
(4) continuing reception of the enduring & consistent guidance of the Paraclete

Christ as full of grace, Mary as made graceful

The direction of scientific progress is toward the sublime.

Songs 4:7 // Eph 5:27
- authorizes ecclesiological interp.

True love is as wonderful as the sunrise, but it's also as quotidian and easy to take for granted. But it is precisely the quotidian that distinguishes true love from its gaudy imitations.

Our presential self-knowledge is experience of ourselves as principle.

Metaphysics is the science of what can admit of actual being.

The wisdom of the Fathers contains eminenter that which may be drawn out by others in many different ways; this rich diversity is in the patristic gift, but eminently rather than formally.

In the apprehension of the Church there is no development: that is faith itself. But in the judgment, that is, the articulation of faith, there is one kind of development; and in the discourse of the Church there is another kind of development -- many kinds, in fact, to correspond to many kinds of discourse.

hierarchy of angels as analogous to hierarchy of virtues

"Wisdom and prudence are acquired, says Aristotle, by one who is content to sit down and be quiet." Aquinas

Thought is more like rest than like movement.

motus : incomplete :: operatio : complete

"There is nothing on earth more beautiful than the birth of an idea when, in its pristine novelty, it throws a new light on our old world." Gilson

Criticism, more than metaphysics, is a battlefield of endless controversies.

Constructivism is in a sense always right, because the intellect produces concepts; it is always incomplete because it does not produce concepts in a void.

Whether something is inconsistent is a fact amenable to logical analysis on its own. Whether something is a paradox or sophism, however, is a fact about psychology, and requires an equivalent, in the arena of logic, to moral psychology in the arena of ethics.

Constantinople has its patriarchal status wholly as New Rome, not replacing Rome, but solely as an extension of Rome.

The wicked walk circuitously. (Ps. 11:9)

The right goal in translating Scripture is not to convert Scripture's words into the language, but to convert the language's words into Scripture.

Human dao participates divine dao; natural dao participates divine dao.

Hope lends sorrow a nobility that often makes it greater, not less.

Faithful reason adorns the wedding dress of the Bride of the Lamb with endless pearls of extraordinary nacreous beauty; these pearls it forms itself and within itself.

the analogy between metaphysics & mysticism

Pace Wang Bi, one as the principle of numbers is not one as the ultimate of all things.

Being pregnant with potential is intrinsically valuable; and poets regularly recognize this.

Even if beliefs were wholly & always involuntary, it would still sometimes be culpable not to try to change them, just as it is sometimes culpable not to try to change other things that come on one involuntarily.

It is difficult to find consistency in Locke's Essay because it is honestly what it tries to be -- i.e., as Locke wrote to Stillingfleet, "it is a copy of my own mind, in its several ways of operation." And for all the underlying principles, minds are very unruly things.

Jesus as the armor of light (Rm 13:11-14)

"Whatever has potentiality, from the very fact that it does, evidently has the nature of good." Aquinas

Nothing becomes crystal-clear without long patience.

If 'instrumentally valuable' can cover cases of 'potentially F' as well as 'instrumental for F', it is no longer univocal.

A phenomenon becomes evidence only when understood in such a way as to be relevant to something else.

motivating, directing, & completing features of the liturgy

The primary question for the beginner: What more must be done to love well?

virtue as consisting more in what one does not experience than in what one does experience (John of the Cross)

The beginner perhaps is not advanced enough to silence the faculties; but quieting them and calming them somewhat is entirely within reach.

The task of the beginner is perpetually to prepare for grace: to trim the wick, to sweep the house, to lay out clothes for the feast.

Difficult as it is for some to grasp, the realm of reason is quite as vast and rich as the realm of life, and requires study and classification quite as full and intricate.

The logical analysis of analytic philosophy is like statics; and one must not confuse statics with dynamics, as Captain Nemo rightly says, or one will be subject to grave mistakes.

"By observing the human mind at work, in its failures as well as its successes, we can experience the intrinsic necessity of the same connections of ideas which pure philosophy can justify by abstract reasoning." Gilson

Motus occurs in the categories of action & passion, & in a looser sense time, for these categories pertain to various aspects of motus.

little detachments in the life of spiritual beginners

One sign that something is wrong with utilitarian ethics is that even the damned can be utilitarian.


  1. >>Nothing has its relation to the First Cause by chance; but it is consistent with this to say that things can be related to each other by chance.

    Two pseudo-random number generators using the same algorithm but different seed.  In the sense that both are entirely deterministic, neither is related to its First cause (the algorithm) by chance.  Are they related to each other by chance?  In a sense yes, because anyone observing a portion of the sequence will observe no correlation between them.  In another sense no, because one who understands the algorithm (the 'First Cause') will understand and be able to predict the different successive values they take.  And it is only in the latter sense that they are not related to their First cause by chance. 

    In summary, aren't you equivocating in 'by chance' here?  One who understood perfectly the operation of two things that are deterministically related to their First Cause, would also understand that they are deterministically connected to each other, and not by chance.  Only one who fails to understand this deterministic connection will attribute their operation to chance. 

  2. branemrys11:16 AM

    Simply positing two pseudo-random number generators doesn't tell enough about their relation to say anything about whether they are related to each other by chance. Certainly two deterministically selected seeds, due to a cause that could not but select those two seeds alone, would result in two pseudo-random number generators whose outputs wouldn't be related by chance. But you need something much more general than that for your example.

    The argument is interesting, but seems to me to assume two things:

    (a) If two related things are not related by a chance relation they are related by a deterministic relation and vice versa.
    (b) That deterministic relations are such that if B is deterministically related to A and C is deterministically related to A, then B is deterministically related to C.

    But there are reasons to be at least wary of both of these. (a) suggests that there is no free choice, since relations by free choice are arguably neither by chance nor deterministic.

    And (b) seems to require that what makes B deterministically related to A is the very same thing that makes C deterministically related to A, which we have no reason to think. For instance, suppose B is deterministically related to A, so that it cannot help but come about when A starts a deterministic process, and ditto with C, but that the processes leading to B and C are just one of many options on the table, each of which is selected on its own by a genuinely random process. Then B is deterministically related to A and C is deterministically related to A, but they are related to each other purely by chance; there is no deterministic connection between them at all.

    In other words, from the status of the relations of two things to a third one cannot necessarily conclude that the relation between those two things has the same same status as their relation to that third thing. So we'd need an actual argument for it in the case of deterministic relations; but it's difficult to see what such an argument could be, short of assuming that there are no nondeterministic relations.

  3. Ocham3:44 AM

    >>If two related things are not related by a chance relation they are related by a deterministic relation and vice versa.  

    What is a chance relation?   'Chance' is surely just our word for events that appear to have no relation at all - but which on deep investigation may turn out to be completely related - as in the random number sequence with different seeds.  Aristotle has the example somewhere of a stone that falls from a hillside.  It appears to have happened by chance, but the action of sun and ice upon the stone is perfectly deterministic. 

    It is consistent in this sense of 'chance' that two things bear a 'chance' relation to one another that are deterministically related to the First Cause.  But I think it equivocates on 'chance'.

  4. branemrys10:53 AM

    It's certainly a common view that chance is just a word covering our ignorance -- which is what your account implies; at least, it's a view that has been common since it enjoyed almost complete dominance for a while in the early modern period. But there are reasons to be suspicious of any such account of chance; for one thing, it can't account for the most important use of the idea, namely, that it has at least some basic explanatory value to say that something happened by chance. One of the two must give, and the one that is most fundamental is the explanatory value one.


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