Saturday, March 05, 2011

A Forgotten Work by Lady Mary Shepherd

Thanks to Google Books, I've recently discovered an essay by Lady Mary Shepherd that is not in the Thoemmes Press edition of her works:

On the Causes of Single and Erect Vision

In Essays on the Perception of an External Universe there is another essay on this topic (Essay XIV), "On the Reason Why Objects Appear Single Although Painted on Two Retinas, and Why They Appear Erect Although the Images Be Inverted on Them." The above essay, however, is a different essay, and postdates the Essays, as can be seen from the citations in the text and from the fact that it was published in The Philosophical Magazine in June 1828, the year after the publication of the Essays. This essay was therefore never published in book form, which is no doubt why it was missed. Another project I'm going to have to undertake at some point: compare the position taken in this essay with that taken in Essay XIV.

Any future edition of Shepherd's works, then, will need to include not merely the works in the Thoemmes Press edition, but also this essay and the letter preserved by Blakey.

Sceptic, Saint, Revolutionary

Reason and love may be fancifully described as the two wings of the human spirit. Flight is not possible with one wing alone. With love and no reason the saint becomes amiably ineffective and superstitious. With reason and no love the sceptic becomes a clever cynic. The perfect man would be a sceptical saint. And in our day he would be also a revolutionary.

Olaf Stapledon, Saints and Revolutionaries, Chapter 3. Brought to mind by John Wright's discussion of Darkness and Light, which is essentially the science fiction version of the nonfiction Saints and Revolutionaries. Stapledon, of course, had a doctorate in philosophy, and was a philosophy lecturer for a time; his philosophical works, like his science fiction, consist of striking passages and arguments knit together with stretches of the odd and even bizarre. Perhaps at some point I'll go through and discuss some of his philosophical works here.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Blood of a Goat

Whenever philosophers have determined to separate systematic knowledge from moral virtue and pretended that knowledge should stand on its own feet as self-sufficient, the result has been disastrous. Knowledge, like a human body from which the blood is removed and replaced by, say, the blood of a goat, has languished and perished at the reckless hands of those who subjected it to such treatment. It is in fact easier to create a living, intelligent being by chemically tossing together physical components than to create philosophy without love of truth and virtue.

Antonio Rosmini, Introduction to Philosophy, Volume I: About the Author's Studies. Rosmini House (Durham 2004) 153.

Why and Wherefore

by Oliver Herford

Why and Wherefore set out one day
To hunt for a wild Negation.
They agreed to meet at a cool retreat
On the Point of Interrogation.

But the night was dark and they missed their mark,
And, driven well-nigh to distraction,
They lost their ways in a murky maze
Of utter abstruse abstraction.

Then they took a boat and were soon afloat
On a sea of Speculation,
But the sea grew rough, and their boat, though tough,
Was split into an Equation.

As they floundered about in the waves of doubt
Rose a fearful Hypothesis,
Who gibbered with glee as they sank in the sea,
And the last they saw was this:

On a rock-bound reef of Unbelief
There sat the wild Negation;
Then they sank once more and were washed ashore
At the Point of Interrogation.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

On Smith on Aquinas on Lying

Janet Smith has an essay criticizing Aquinas's account of lying, and it deserves to be mentioned because it's pretty much the only argument I've seen given by the recent opponents of the (broadly) Augustinian account of lying that can really be called a reasonable argument for why one might hold that it is false. I think her interpretation of Aquinas is more rigid and narrow than the text requires and outright problematic at points, but I have to say that I'm grateful to Dr. Smith for finally supplying the anti-Augustinians with an argument on this important subject that is not a waste of everyone's time. (It should be noted incidentally, of course, that Aquinas is not the only one in the broad Augustinian camp; even if Aquinas's account fails, it wouldn't follow that the broadly Augustinian position fails -- Augustine, or Bonaventure, or Scotus, or any one of the many people who hold some variation of the position, might have a more durable account.)

On Aquinas's view, formal falseness consists in the intention to say what is false; a material falseness consists in the saying of something that is in fact false. One could, for instance, intend to say something true but what one says is actually false. That is materially false, and it is not sufficient for lying. You can lie without any material falseness at all: if you intend to lie but what you say happens to be true, you still can be said in some sense to have lied, even though you did not even say something false. As Aquinas says, your action has falseness essentially but truth accidentally.

Now there are three potential pitfalls one may face when it comes to proper interpretation of this claim, one of which is obvious and therefore easy to avoid and the other two of which are more subtle and easy to fall into. The first subtle one is that the falseness of which Aquinas speaks is not a mere mismatch between words and things but a falseness of action by which words and things are related. It is the falsity of the manifesting or enunciating that makes the enunciation formally false. We are talking about acts of reason, and in particular, they are reason's particular acts of manifesting the true and the false. It is entirely because of this that lying, which by its nature involves falseness in the very act of manifestation of the true and the false, is in opposition to the virtue of truthfulness, which (of course) involves truth in the rational act of manifestation of the true and the false. It is also what is involved in the distinction between material falseness and formal falseness: in material falseness, that which is enunciated is false, while in formal falseness, the enunciating itself exhibits falseness: it is an intention to say what is false in the sense that it is a will for false speaking, a will to be false in speaking -- the falseness is built into the intention itself even if it fails actually to issue in anything that is false. A little more on this below.

The second subtle pitfall is to confuse formal falsehood with the intention to deceive. What makes this one tricky is not Aquinas's actual discussion so much as the fact that Aquinas very clearly distinguishes these two things that we sometimes conflate. The intention of speaking the false is what lying is, but the intention to deceive has to do with a natural effect of being false in speaking. The latter is not formal falseness but effective falseness, i.e., falseness in the effect of one's speaking. Smith fails to keep this properly in mind, I think, when she says:

Thus I believe Aquinas would not approve of misleading Nazis who were attempting to kill Jews even with true speech. I believe his principles mean someone answering the door of his neighbor's house (who is harboring Jews) and responding to a Nazi demanding that he "Turn over to me any Jews in your house" would lie if he said "There are no Jews in my house." Such is true speech, but said with the will of saying something false [voluntas falsum enuntiandi], which Aquinas finds to be the essence of a lie.

Now, whether or not Aquinas would approve of this, we cannot conclude this from his discussion of lying because Smith is clearly wrong about what kind of falseness is involved here. While one could say what the person in the scenario says with voluntas falsum enuntiandi, nothing about the scenario Smith describes requires it; everything in the scenario is consistent with a will to speak truly. One could want the Nazi to be deceived, i.e., one could be aiming at effective falseness. (Strictly speaking, nothing in the scenario Smith gives requires this, either, since one could very well be answering in shock, or befuddlement, or honest confusion, or even, not expecting the Nazi to be deceived at all, simply to delay or give him pause.) But this is not the same as willing to speak falsely, and Aquinas is very clear about the distinction. Even if one assumes that Aquinas thinks that trying to deceive people always involves formal falseness, it does not follow from anything he actually says about lying. And it leads to further confusion later, when Smith runs into a puzzle over why Aquinas explicitly allows circumstances in which we can hide our purpose and meaning, one that her interpretation has made insoluble.

The other pitfall, which is easy to avoid, because Aquinas himself says that it is formal falseness that makes something have to do with lying, is to think that this distinction between formal falseness and material falseness is a distinction between formal lies and material lies. Later moral theologians use the terminology; it is not Aquinas's own distinction, which is between formal falseness, which is in itself lying, and material falseness, which is not in itself lying at all. Smith, for what reason I do not know, jumps right into this pit, by summarizing Aquinas's view as saying that there are two kinds of lies, material and formal. The result is a much more extreme position than I think the text can reasonably be stretched to suggest.

Smith goes on to say that Aquinas thinks that lying is wrong because it violates the purpose of enunciative speech, which in a sense is true; but it is more completely accurate to say that Aquinas thinks lying is wrong because false enunciative speech violates the purpose of reason from which it springs. Enunciative speech, remember, is not a thing the rational act extends to; it is an act of reason and is subject to the ends of reason itself. And since reason, with truth as a fundamental end, has truth as its end in having signs at all, false enunciative speech is reason's use of signs in a manner inconsistent with truth as the end of reason. Words have their value as signs of acts of mind, and thus exist to express the mind: false enunciative speech is their use by a mind to express itself in a way inconsistent with actual expression of itself. It is a use of what naturally expresses the mind in order to misexpress it; this is an injustice in broad sense of the term and a disorder of reason itself. One can definitely call this a violation of the purpose of enunciative speech, but the 'purpose of enunciative speech' doesn't just jump out of nowhere, but arises from the fact that enunciative speech is an act of reason. This is perhaps easy to overlook if you focus too narrowly on ST 2-2.110.3; but all of Aquinas's discussion of lying presupposes his discussion of the virtue of truthfulness; he is discussing lying because it is opposed to truthfulness. And truthfulness is, broadly speaking, the virtue whereby the mind expresses itself to another mind in a way consistent with itself.

It's clear that Smith runs into trouble in this regard, because what she immediately goes on to puzzle about is where the purpose of enunciative speech comes from. And when she discusses it, she discusses it not in terms of a mind expressing itself, which are the terms in which Aquinas discusses it, but in terms of "how language operates." Now, language does not operate at all except insofar as it is used by reason; language does not "operate to convey the truth," but reason can express itself truly by language. Several of Smith's examples of false enunciations fail completely because of her sloppiness on this point. Cordialities, for instance, are obviously often forms of figurative speech, and reason can express itself truly by figurative speech. This is true as well of fiction and scholarly speculations. Other examples she gives are cases where reason has a particular aim in saying something -- encouragement, consolation, and so forth -- that concerns the effects of saying it. However, as should be clear from our discussion above, not a single one of these is relevant: they merely identify the obvious fact (one presupposed, in fact, by Aquinas's account of lying) that you can deliberately aim at other things in addition to the end of reason's expressing itself at all.

It is extremely odd. Most of Smith's argument against Aquinas makes the bizarre assumption that Aquinas doesn't understand that language can be used to do things like encourage and console and entertain. The sheer ignorance of language that would entail is just stunning, and it is not consistent with (for instance) Aquinas's commentary work, and it should have given Smith more pause than it apparently did. And it is a strong sign that her interpretation of Aquinas is not wholly adequate to Aquinas's actual position.

Much of Smith's own view of the matter I find somewhat difficult to understand. It's a variation of the 'right to know' account of lying but a somewhat unusual one, and I don't know yet what to make of most of her claims, nor do I understand all of her arguments. So I'll leave them alone for now, particularly since I still intend at some point to post on some of the philosophical problems faced in general by 'right to know' accounts of lying. I'll also mull her account over a bit more to see if time will remedy my perplexities over it, and if so, I might post on it in particular.

Thursday Virtue/Vice: Craftiness, Guile, and Fraud

Augustine has an interesting and remarkable letter in which he is talking to Jerome about virtues and vices, primarily with a view to considering whether you need all virtues in order to have any of them. In it he gives an interesting analysis of one way in which vices and virtues can be opposed, in which the vice we are considering, astutia or craftiness (sometimes also translated as 'cunning'), is used as an example:

There are, as you know, some vices opposed to virtues by a palpable contrast, as imprudence is the opposite of prudence. But there are some vices opposed to virtues simply because they are vices which, nevertheless, by a deceitful appearance resemble virtues; as, for example, in the relation, not of imprudence, but of craftiness to the said virtue of prudence. I speak here of that craftiness which is wont to be understood and spoken of in connection with the evilly disposed, not in the sense in which the word is usually employed in our Scriptures, where it is often used in a good sense, as, "Be crafty as serpents," and again, to give craftiness to the simple." It is true that among heathen writers one of the most accomplished of Latin authors, speaking of Catiline, has said: "Nor was there lacking on his part craftiness to guard against danger," using "craftiness" in a good sense; but the use of the word in this sense is among them very rare, among us very common.

In other words, there are vices opposed to virtues by "palpable contrast" and vices opposed to virtues by "deceitful appearance". Thus, says Augustine a bit later, "two vices are wont to be opposed to one virtue, one that is evidently opposed, and another that bears an apparent likeness." Imprudence is opposed to prudence outright, by palpable contrast, but craftiness is opposed to prudence in the sense that it is a vice that in some sense will substitute for it, so that we think we have prudence when actually we are merely crafty.

Aquinas takes much the same approach to craftiness (ST 2-2.55.3-5). Of course, since Aquinas is Aristotelian, ther eare always at least two vices opposed outright to a virtue, a vice of excess and a vice of defect; and since virtues can be analyzed into their quasi-integral parts, there can be as many oppositions to a virtue as there are parts of it. But he also accepts the Augustinian argument that there is an opposition by false semblance. Like Augustine, he notes that the word can be taken in a good sense, but it can also be taken in a bad sense, as when the Apostle Paul says (II Cor. 4:2), "We renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the word of God." (Aquinas doesn't explicitly refer to it, but the word astutia is also used to describe the devil's wiles and the craftiness of the serpent in the Garden.) And he also takes astutia, craftiness, as a vice, to be opposed to prudence by false semblance. Prudence is right reason about practical action, and this can be aped in two ways: either the end in view is merely apparently good, or the means used are counterfeit and dissimulating by their very nature. The vice pertaining to the former is carnal prudence, while craftiness is the vice that is associated with the latter. It's important to note that, because craftiness concerns itself with means, it can have a good end in view; but, as Aquinas says, "a good end should be pursued by means that are false and counterfeit but by such as are true."

This vice of astutia is associated with two other names, dolus (usually translated as 'guile' or 'wiles') and fraus (i.e., 'fraud'). Craftiness, like prudence, has two basic aspects: deliberation and execution. These two names simply indicate craftiness in its aspect of execution: guile is craftiness in any form it takes, whether by word or deed (although most commonly by word), and fraud is craftiness in the form it takes when we are crafty by deed.

The vice of cunning, and the kind of education that opposes it, plays an important role in Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Society has regularly pinned cunning or craftiness (feminine wiles) on women as a vice to which they are especially inclined; Wollstonecraft argues that this is to some extent self-fulfilling and can only be combatted by a real education:

The mind will ever be unstable that has only prejudices to rest on, and the current will run with destructive fury when there are no barriers to break its force. Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety. will obtain for them the protection of man; and they be beautiful, everything else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives.

Even worse, when Wollstonecraft looks at Rousseau's proposals for the education of women, she sees an educational approach that is designed to guarantee nothing but cunning in women. True virtue, however, rests not on cunning but on knowledge, and knowledge requires real learning, and not merely the knack of being able to exploit the weakness of people. Greatness of mind is inconsistent with cunning: greatness of mind requires great views, while cunning is whole caught up in the petty. Men and women must both be educated in ways that aid them in rising above cunning:

To render mankind more virtuous, and happier of course, both sexes must act from the same principle; but how can that be expected when only one is allowed to see the reasonableness of it? To render also the social compact truly equitable, and in order to spread those enlightening principles which alone can meliorate the fate of man, women must be allowed to found their virtue on knowledge, which is scarcely possible unless they be educated by the same pursuits as men. For they are made so inferior by ignorance and low desires, as not to deserve to be ranked with them; or, by the serpentine wrigglings of cunning they mount the tree of knowledge, and only acquire sufficient to lead men astray.

Cunning, in other words, is a degradation of one's rational capacities; and, what is more, it is a degradation of one's rational capacities that leads one to degrade social relations and, at times, the character of other people. A key goal of education must be to give people the larger views, the greater perspectives, that make it more likely that they will rise above cunning, and to give them assurance of their own capacity for free and independent thought. Without this, the need for self-preservation will almost certainly lead to habits by which one's plans are sneaky, rather than open, and manipulative, rather than just or benevolent.

February's Virtue/Vice Posts


Solertia and Eustochia


Truth or Truthfulness


Mollience (Effeminacy)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Jane Russell

"Culture," Bob Hope once said, "is the ability to describe Jane Russell without moving your hands." Most of the descriptions of the actress, who died on Monday, have focused on her looks -- full-figured brunette with legs a mile long, a Hollywood sex symbol who could give Marilyn Monroe a run for her money. But she was famous as well for playing smart-talking, wise-cracking women with talent and indomitable will.

In this interview the film star talks about her religious life, for which she also became well-known, and the World Adoption International Fund, one of her major ventures.

Divine Dispensation

[T]here isn't now, hasn't been in the past, nor ever will be in the future anyone with a character so unusual that he has been educated to virtue in spite of the contrary education he received from the mob--I mean, a human character; the divine, as the saying goes, is an exception to the rule. You should realize that if anyone is saved and becomes what he ought to be under our present constitutions, he has been saved--you may rightly say--by a divine dispensation.

Plato, Republic Book VI, 492e (Grube-Reeve translation).

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Notes for Noting, Links for Thinking

* Thomas Osborne, MacIntyre, Thomism, and the Contemporary Common Good (PDF)

* Three young atheists answer the question, "Can atheists talk about theology?" I find the disparity between the headline, "Skeptics do not require theological knowledge to judge faith claims," and the answers very interesting: what all three atheists actually say is that you do need theological knowledge 'to judge faith claims' in order to provide reasonable criticisms, but that you don't need to accept the theology as a believer in order to do so. And clearly this, and not the headline, is the reasonable line for an atheist to take. (All three answers are, I think, quite sensible.)
ADDED LATER: See James Chastek's excellent discussion of the answers.

* Rev. Barry Lynn argues that churches should be discriminated against when it comes to historic site maintenance funding. Of course, he doesn't put it that way. The fact of the matter is, once funding is being given out for historic site maintenance anyway, deliberately refusing to maintain church buildings that otherwise meet the criteria is not really feasible, short of something analogous to a Blaine amendment.

* People outside of Texas generally don't have a clear idea at just how messed-up the Texas State Board of Education is; it's sometimes presented in the media as if it were a partisan issue, with conservatives on the TSBoE trying to fix liberal skew, or else as representing conservative insanity generally. This is certainly not right; very few people in Texas, right or left, seem very happy with the TSBoE at present, which is meddlesome, arbitrary, pompous, and expensive for Texans (since it controls textbook standards, and its arbitrary manipulations of them generally make textbooks much more expensive for Texas schools). It's a good sign of the dysfunctionality of partisan politics, since most people recognize the incompetence of the TSBoE, but nobody does anything about it because conservatives are afraid that the liberals will be even worse and the liberals are afraid that if they don't seize and use the same power, the conservatives will go even farther. The conservatives are in control right now, and are awful, but the liberals were just as bad when they were in power. I find it's very difficult for people outside Texas to understand this; I once lost my temper a bit over being lectured on the politics of the situation by someone in Pennsylvania. In any case, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think-tank concerned with education, has recently given Texas educational standards a failing grade (also here) and made some sharp criticisms of the new standards, such as calling it "a confusing, unteachable hodgepodge," which is exactly right. It's worth keeping in mind, incidentally, that TSBoE has only an indirect power over Texas education, by setting textbook standards and curriculum requirements; it can (and does) make things harder for good teachers, but there are many excellent Texas teachers making do.

Education is no more immune than any field to party politics; but when this extends beyond institutional administration and the like, into the actual content of the curriculum, education is no longer a means for encouraging a free citizenry, but is more and more a means for propagandizing the masses. And this perversion of education from being the material of freedom to being the advertisement of a political view is just not acceptable, regardless of who does it.

* Anyway, you can read the Institute's report on history standards for each state at its website. Just judging from the report, South Carolina seems to have the right idea.

* A group in San Francisco is gathering signatures to put a ban of infant circumcision on the ballot in the name of civil rights. Jews are not amused, since it would eliminate the Jewish form of ritual circumcision, brit milah, and while infant circumcision of some form is not a strictly required practice for Muslims and Christians, there are plenty of Muslims and Christians who are somewhat annoyed at the idea of a ban as well.

I find the argument for it interesting, since it's the claim that nobody has the right to make a decision about anyone else's body; which, if applied consistently, would also eliminate parents making decisions with regard to medical and cosmetic surgeries for their children. The proposed ban actually has a medical exception, but even this limited allowance is not consistent with any of the philosophical arguments I've seen given in support of the ban. One could just as easily start in the opposite direction: obviously arbitrary genital cutting is unreasonable, but given that it can be done for reasons of physical health, what other reasons would make reasonable exemptions in light of the goals of civil society? And then, given that nobody thinks that religious freedoms should admit of no protection at all, it's difficult to argue that religious reasons could not ground at least some such exemptions. Not, of course, that people won't try; the difficulty, however, which most people don't guard against sufficiently, is making such an argument without begging the question.

* A nice discussion by Joseph Rickaby of the traditional Catholic account of equivocation and lying.

* Bearing has a very nice post on reading Francis de Sales's Introduction to a Devout Life.

* The most awesome of all snarky anti-TSA comments threads.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Seed of Immortal Truths

This passage makes more clear what Rosmini means by 'system of truth' in the passage quoted in the previous post.

The characteristic of truth is to be intimately related with a supreme unity out of which it evolves into plurality. Each unit of this plurality also gives rise to a further plurality of more limited truths, which in turn produce an abundant crop of truths that germinate further rich crops. So the seed of immortal truths, which continues to extend ever more widely, is classifed into species and genera and develops into various branches of knowledge, art forms and intellectual disciplines. The characteristic of truth, as I have already mentioned, is to flow into other truths, in which it is renewed and continually increases in number, without losing its primal unity and simplicity. It is so incorporeal and divine that, as I said, it finds no satisfactory likeness or representation anywhere amongst material, sensible beings.

Antonio Rosmini, Introduction to Philosophy, Volume I: About the Author's Studies. Rosmini House (Durham 2004) p. 20.

Philosopher and Sophist

What is the system of truth but a kind of majestic statue or noble image of God himself, of much greater worth than anything produced by human hands. It is, after all, impressed upon immortal souls by the living image of eternal wisdom. The person who devotes himself to such a great work is called a philsoopher and the subject he pursues is called philosophy. How, then, can such a name be profaned and abused by appying it to those who, although they too use their intellects, do so in such a shoddy way that their sole achievement is the demolition and disfigurement of the philosopher's work? Their sophistry obscures the light of truth revealed by true philosophy and daubs with falsehood the respectable limbs of the body of wisdom which the philosopher depicts in his writings.

Antonio Rosmini, Introduction to Philosophy, Volume I: About the Author's Studies. Rosmini House (Durham: 2004) pp. 94-95

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Constitutional Puzzlement

Presidential administrations do a great many things that mystify me, but reading Eric Holder's statement on the President's recent decision with regard to DOMA, I am more mystified than usual. It is entirely reasonable for a President who thinks a law unconstitutional to refuse to defend it in court; that is the only way to fulfill the obligation of his oath. What I don't understand is how a President, once he has made this decision, can also continue to enforce the law, since an unconstitutional law, being void, shouldn't fall under the Constitutional requirement to execute the Laws faithfully -- that means executing the Constitution faithfully above all else, but if a law is unconstitutional, the Constitution can't be faithfully enforced as long as the unconstitutional law is also enforced. How does one have one's cake and eat it, too? What conceivable argument can be given for the claim that one can constitutionally enforce what one regards as unconstitutional?

On Chrysostom on Lying

Besides Cassian, John Chrysostom is the Church Father who is most often appealed to as the representative of a 'pious lie' tradition. When we look at Chrysostom, however, we find many of the same ambiguities present in Cassian, and perhaps more.

Chrysostom's On the Priesthood opens with an autobiographical story of Chrysostom's relationship with one of his early friends. This friend was more religious than Chrysostom himself, for young John was tangled with the desires of the world, but their friendship held, and as John became more serious and mature, the friend, whose name was Basil, began to spend much more time with John, and proposed that they together share a house, priests together, with the object of growing in the spiritual life.

John still had a mother, however, and his mother, hearing of the plan, took him aside. Weeping profusely, she reminded him that she no longer had his father to lean on, and begged him to remain with her for as long as she lived, and not leave her alone to the trials of widowhood. John communicated this to Basil, but Basil insisted that they still should join together and form a religious community. At this time they both heard word that they were likely to be advanced to the episcopate. John was very alarmed at this rumor, neither feeling ready nor regarding himself as worthy of the honor. Basil came to him and said that whatever John decided, Basil would follow him in the endeavor. John, however, realized that he could not deprive the Church of a bishop of Basil's qualities, said that they should postpone the decision, in such terms as to encourage Basil to think that they would both accept the episcopacy. When the person came to raise them the episcopate, John hid himself, and Basil reluctantly accepted the honor, particularly since some bystanders made him think that John had already accepted it. Basil was distraught when he learned the truth, but John rejoiced at his friend's honor, praising God that his plan had worked. Basil, seeing this, realized that this had been John's plan all along, and was even more grieved.

Basil remonstrated with John, saying that he would now have the shame of having to hide the fact that he had been tricked. Many people accused John of vainglory and arrogance because he hid from receiving episcopal honors, but Basil could not respond to the accusation, because everyone thought he was in on it: he could never get anyone to believe that he and John, such close friends, did not know all the details of each other's schemes, and, that he could not bear to suggest that their friendship had been so weak that John kept Basil from knowing his intent. John took advantage of the openness of their friendship. Nonetheless, he did not demand an apology or that John should justify his deception, but only that John should tell him how he could possibly answer the accusations against John.

John, however, was unphased, and insisted that he could justify himself on all counts. What wrong had John actually done? He had deceived Basil, but for Basil's own good and the good of others. The evil of deception is not absolute; it depends on the intentions of those who practice it. Generals are esteemed for their capacity to deceive, and in war and peace alike deceptions have been the saving of many lives.

Basil dismissed this, pointing out that he was not an enemy.

Ah, replied John, but deception does not always only benefit the deceiver. Physicians sometimes must trick their patients to get them to take their medicine. Likewise, St. Paul attracted the attention of Jews by circumcising Timothy, even though neither were under the law. Such deception is not even really accurately called deception, because it is more like a prudent management of the situation, a form of cleverness. That man is a deceiver who makes unjust use of such practices; the one who makes salutary use of them is in a different category altogether. The benefits Basil received were those of St. Peter, whom Christ told to show his love not by fasts, vigils, and the like, but by tending Christ's sheep.

But what of John, then, who claims to love Christ, the proper expression of which is tending His sheep, but who fled the honor? That was due to John's inability to fulfill the function. John then argues that Basil, on the other hand, was ready and suitable for fulfilling the office. This, of course, serves as the framework for the rest of the discussion, which is about the high standards that should be expected of those admitted to the priesthood, and especially to the episcopacy.

This, then, is one of the major texts people sometimes appeal to in order to make a place for lying in piety. But it is clear enough that this text will only get one so far. We have no reason to think that John lied outright to Basil; we don't have a precise account of what he said, but we don't have any reason to think it was a lie. When Basil accuses him of deceit, what he accuses him of is not saying false things but withholding information, knowing that Basil would assume that John had told him everything. And it is this that John is defending, and even goes so far as to say is not really deceit at all. And there is nothing in this that is directly contrary to the tradition that it is always wrong to lie; what Chrysostom describes is not clearly a lie at all. Indeed, he pretty much says this himself.

the second passage in Chrysostom that is sometimes adduced on this subject is Chrysostom's influential discussion of the confrontation between Peter and Paul, as described by Paul in the epistle to the Galatians. Chrysostom, like a number of Fathers, had difficulty thinking of Peter as quite so obtuse about God's plan as he might seem on bare literal reading, particularly given that he had had it directly from God, and had difficulty reconciling Paul's behavior in this situation with his circumcision of Timothy, so Chrysostom (and others) suggested that there were indications in the text that it was in fact an elaborate set-up by Peter and Paul (a simulated confrontation). Peter had begun to accept Gentile ways as a way of welcoming the Gentiles, but he was sharply criticized for this by Jewish Christians, who were extremely upset by it. Thus, said Chrysostom (I will be giving only a rough summary), Peter reverted to Jewish Christian ways, expecting Paul to jump in and raise a ruckus. This Paul did, seeing exactly what Peter was about, and sharply and publically criticized Peter; Peter in turn meekly accepted the rebuke as an example to the Jewish Christians. Thus Peter and Paul were able to make the point without alienating the Jewish Christians from Peter: the new situation could be presented to them as a way to keep peace with the community at large and not as Peter's own willful choice, while, at the same time, Peter's acceptance of the rebuke provided an example for the Church at large to follow and gave a certain amount of authority to Paul. The circumcision of Timothy was a similar ruse on the part of Paul, a concession unnecessary in itself but valuable for not alienating Jewish believers and the Jewish community at large.

Now it is notable that this elaborate management of the situation involves no outright falsehood, either: nothing either Peter or Paul says is false, and the only thing that can remotely be called dissimulation is the fact that Peter accedes to the demands of the Jewish Christians not because he agrees with them but because he knows that it will give Paul an opportunity to make an important point. It's an elaborate teaching exercise. Some Fathers, most notably Augustine, were uncomfortable with the whole notion of the ruse, and Augustine and Jerome had one of their first fights over it, Jerome insisting that the ruse interpretation was the more pious and reasonable interpretation and Augustine insisting that it was more pious and reasonable just to say that Peter made a mistake and Paul corrected him. But however uncomfortable Augustine may have been with it, the ruse, should one choose to accept that interpretation, doesn't fall under any later definition of lying, or even Augustine's own definition of lying. The worry is not that Peter and Paul lied in any proper sense but that deception, even with good intention, is dangerous business for the soul, and the difference between the Fathers on this point is simply over whether it was too dangerous.

We find, then, much the situation with Chrysostom that we found with Cassian: we must avoid naive reading because the 'lying' involved in these cases doesn't map onto post-Augustinian accounts of lying in a straightforward way. To the extent that 'lies' are talked about at all in this context, the Fathers are usually using the term loosely, and even then they often show recognition of the complexities of this loose usage, as with Chrysostom's claim that his deception of Basil shouldn't even really be called a deception. There are still ambiguities about how far Chrysostom thinks one can go, but it's important to note that they are ambiguities: nothing Chrysostom says is outright inconsistent with the post-Augustinian tradition that lying is always wrong, and trying to make them inconsistent requires a considerable amount of eisegesis.