Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Gold of Many Thoughts

by Archibald Lampman

What is more large than knowledge and more sweet;
Knowledge of thoughts and deeds, of rights and wrongs,
Of passions and of beauties and of songs;
Knowledge of life; to feel its great heart beat
Through all the soul upon her crystal seat;
To see, to feel, and evermore to know;
To till the old world's wisdom till it grow
A garden for the wandering of our feet.

Oh for a life of leisure and broad hours,
To think and dream, to put away small things,
This world's perpetual leaguer of dull naughts;
To wander like the bee among the flowers
Till old age find us weary, feet and wings
Grown heavy with the gold of many thoughts.

Lampman is often known as the Canadian Keats, and is arguably the greatest Canadian poet. He deserves to be better known. The above poem is not his most striking, by any means, but I like the pollen imagery.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Life Enough

The Spinner's Song
by Kathleen Millay

No time, no time, to sing my songs,
But time to spin my spinning!
No way, no way, to right the wrongs,
But ways enough for sinning.

No laugh to take, no laugh to give,
But tears and tears for crying;
No living worth the death to live,
But life enough for dying.

There's an old saying that has always stuck in my mind: "It takes more grace than pen can tell / To play the second fiddle well."* It's a saying very appropriate to Kathleen Millay, who had the extraordinary misfortune to be a competent poet in the shadow of a brilliant poet, a decent poet forever trailing after a celebrity poet. She was the younger sister of Edna St. Vincent Millay; she spent all her life being compared (never quite favorably) with her sister, never being able to do anything without being compared (again, never quite favorably) with her sister, and thus, despite being in many ways better than many better-known poets, getting nowhere. It was a life of being consigned, largely by force of birth, to second fiddle, and she did not weather it well in her lifetime, nor did her reputation much outlast her death. But someday, perhaps, there will be a revival of interest in her.

* The basic idea of the saying goes back at least to the nineteenth century, with jokes and proverbs and anecdotes about second fiddle or second violin being the hardest instrument in the orchestra to play. This particular version, a favorite in Baptist sermons, seems to come from a poem of (as far as I can tell) completely unknown provenance and authorship. You can read a version of the anonymous poem here.

Todd Bates

Todd Bates, a philosophy professor at Bethune-Cookman University (in Florida), died on June 14. He was 42, which is far too young. He blogged at The Anglican Scotist, and in fact the last post there was just a few days before the brain aneurism that led to his death. He recently published a book on Duns Scotus.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A World Full of Gods: Chapter Six

Having laid out the basic frame of his main argument in Chapter Five (that "evidence from religious experience supports a belief in many gods more firmly than a belief in only one" (p. 81)), Greer fills it in somewhat in Chapter Six. It's important to remember what, precisely is being argued. The term 'religious experience' has a restricted meaning in this argument, namely, "apparent encounters between one or more people and a god, spirit, or sacred presence, which either does not have a material body or which appears to transcend the limits of its material embodiment in ways not readily explained by a purely materialist analysis" (p. 67). And the key point about these experiences on which it builds is their sheer diversity.

But so far the book has really done little more than argue "that polytheism is a reasonable interpretation of human religious experience" (p. 81) and that polytheism might have some advantages over monotheistic and atheistic alternatives. In particular, Greer's argument in Chapter Five does little more than indicate that polytheism has a prima facie viability as an interpretation of the diversity of religious experiences; this is a very weak conclusion. In Chapter Six he attempts to strengthen this conclusion by a comparison between the polytheistic interpretation of diverse religious experience and its major monotheistic and atheistic rivals.

He does this by way of a somewhat heavy-handed (he himself recognizes it as such) analogy. Suppose you have a little village of five houses and you are a folklore researcher, studying beliefs the villages have developed through their experiences of what they call Cat. We can summarize the five houses in the following way:

(1) House One is certain that Cat exists; it is a tabby with blue eyes. Why do they think Cat exists as a tabby with blue eyes? They were told so by their parents, and it is confirmed by their experience: every morning they leave out kibble, and every evening it is gone. What is more, once Cat was actually seen when the kibble was put out. Because of this House One is sure that whenever the other houses in the village claim that there are different Cats that they are obviously wrong; their kibble is probably eaten by wandering vagabonds.

(2) House Two is also certain that Cat exists; it is a black shorthair with green eyes. Like House One, House Two puts out food -- milk, in this case. And once, they, stumbling home drunk one night, came across Cat, which let out a terrifying screech and glared at them. As to the beliefs of other villagers about Cat, House Two is certain that they are actually feeding rats, not Cats; some of them may be doing it sincerely, but House Two is sure that some do it knowingly.

(3) House Three is also certain that Cat exists; it is a big marmalade tom with orange eyes. Unlike House One and House Two, House Three suspects that the other villagers who have seen Cat probably really did see him, just not under optimal conditions. They think that Cat likes best the food they put out (canned food), but wouldn't be at all surprised if he also eats the food at the neighbors' houses; they've seen him on top of the fences between yards, so know that he can go to any house he pleases.

(4) House Four is certain that there is no Cat at all, and pities his neighbors for believing such ridiculous nonsense. They've never seen Cat; they've never heard Cat; all his neighbors' claimed experiences with Cat can be explained by hallucination, bad lighting, wishful thinking, and the like. An obvious confirmation of this is the fact that none of them agree about what Cat looks like. Who knows exactly what happens to the food, but it's probably eaten by wandering vagabonds.

(5) House Five insists that there are at least three Cats in the village: a tabby, a black shorthair, and a marmalade tom. And more. They can understand why someone might think there's only one -- each Cat has its own preferred territory, and different preferences in food, although none of them is so thoroughly picky as to stick only to one territory and eat only one kind of food. They all come around at least occasionally, so House Five keeps a selection of kibble, milk, and canned food just in case.

So now that we have the set-up, let's do some correlating. Houses One, Two, and Three are Cat equivalents of monotheism; they deriving according to their assessment of the other views about Cat. One and Two are exclusive. One thinks that the others are simply wrong (One's explanation for all other Cats but his own is the same as the explanation given by Four). Two thinks that there probably is something there, but something more malignant than Cat; this correlates to monotheistic views in which all others are worshipping demons, or something like them. Three is more inclusive, like those who think that everyone worships the one God, but some better than others. Four, of course, correlates to the atheist, and Five to the polytheist.

Houses One, Two, Three, and Five all have experiences that are crucial to their beliefs; Four lacks any such experience, or else simply discounts it as inadequate, but in a sense is drawing on an overall experience of life in the village. All Five have an error theory that explains why the others go wrong. So we are considering positions that have (1) a experiential component; and (2) an interpretive component. What Greer wants to argue is that in the cases of One, Two, Three, and Four, the interpretive component has some element of special pleading: none of the four have an error theory that rules out the possibility that they, too, might be committing that sort of error. One's kibble could be eaten by vagabonds, Two's milk could be drunk by rats, Three could be the one who only saw Cat under bad conditions, and Four could be subject to wishful thinking and the like. Only if we already knew that their position was true House Five, however, is using one standard for everybody, and the error that is attributed to others is simply having too narrow a view of things; and House Five could even admit this is true of them without giving up the House Five interpretation.

So let's call this the Special Pleading Problem. Greer's basic case for polytheism is that polytheism is, almost by its very nature, immune to the Special Pleading Problem. A polytheist could, of course, be exclusivism (only the gods of Olympus exist, etc.), but there's nothing about polytheism itself that requires this -- it would have to be for additional reasons, which would have to be examined on their own. And in general polytheists are not exclusive in this way.

The Special Pleading Problem occurs at the interpretive end of things; it can be combined with the problem noted in Chapter Five and developed a bit more fully in Chapter Six, which we can call the Natural Explanation Argument: the most natural explanation of diverse religious experiences is diverse objects of experience. From this Greer concludes that monotheism and atheism have a burden of proof that polytheism does not have; and that, therefore, "polytheism should be the starting point for any reasonable discussion of human religious experience, barring the presentation of good evidence or sound arguments that such an interpretation is not correct" (p. 88). As he says later, it's the default option. Greer, of course, recognizes that monotheists think they have such evidence; but he goes on to argue that it is in general inadequate. Suppose the monotheist points to miracles, and even suppose that the monotheist makes an excellent argument that the God the monotheist worships gives miracles while the polytheist's gods don't. What does that actually establish? At most that the monotheist is worshipping a god who is freer with miracles than other gods. In order to do better than this, the monotheist has to argue that there is a real difference in kind between the experiences of the monotheist and the experiences of the polytheist -- that the monotheist's experiences don't just show his God, but show that his God is exclusively God.

It's pretty much here that makes me wish that Greer had taken his subject more seriously in Chapters Three and Four, rather than treating them as a detour. The argument that Greer develops through Chapters Five and Six depends crucially on the assumption that the only thing to go on is experience, and the most natural interpretation of the experiences in question. But this can only really be the case if monotheists are wrong that that there are more abstract arguments for the existence of God that at least suggest that there is only one God and if atheists are wrong that there are more abstract arguments suggesting that there is nothing divine at all. Strict demonstration wouldn't be required. If, for instance, the monotheist has a cosmological argument for God's existence, and a corollary of this particular argument is that it is a little bit more likely than not that there is only one God, then the level playing field Greer assumes (we all just have experiences to go on and have to interpret them as best we can) is suddenly no longer level: the argument, if it stands, introduces a preference for One, Two, and Three over Four and Five. Even if it's only a tiny bit, this changes the nature of both the Special Pleading Problem and the Natural Explanation Argument. The argument of Chapter Six, so strongly polytheism-favorable, can only be so if (1) the only thing to be explained is religious experience; and (2) the only criterion of what counts as a good interpretation is best fit to religious experiences without special pleading. (2) depends crucially on the monotheists and atheists not having special arguments that go beyond religious experience as used in this argument and that add new criteria for what counts as a good interpretation of the experiences. The argument in Chapters Five and Six, which in its own way is quite brilliant if the assumptions are granted, is making assumptions that are both controversial and only weakly supported by the prior argument of the book.

Nonetheless, while Greer does go for the strong conclusions in these chapters, it's important to keep in mind that the point of the book as a whole is not to establish that polytheism is true but to establish that polytheism is worth taking seriously, and Greer's argument puts him on strong ground with respect to this conclusion. The rest of the book builds on the argument given in Chapters Five and Six in order to discuss what a polytheist can claim to know about the gods, and what life in a polytheistic world is like. There's a lot of fairly diverse material in the upcoming chapters, but much that is interesting as well. We'll discuss them in future posts.

A Poem Re-Draft and a New Poem Draft


Past the first awareness is the seed,
source untouched by any craving need,
spark forever steadfast in its light,
constant in reflection and in fight:
thinker is but thought, and doer deed.

Sacred text in hand, the lion waits;
teaching is the path through golden gates
reaching other realms and then
byssal depths of light beyond all ken.
Flawless question given, answers dissipate.

Lion for reflection on the plains,
Free of deep delusion, in the rains
sees the golden grasses and the sky;
golden eyes outlook all things that die.
Thoughts devoid of craving know no pain:
self once overcome, no self remains.

Desinas Ineptire

Some poems are not made
to move the mind,
but only hold the object
as it were in crystal,
and others still in words to say
what words can barely hold,
or yet to play a game
with counters on the page.
But this one has no point,
no purpose and no end,
save to remind of you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Paradox of Fiction

Michael Gilleland recently had a post quoting Macauley on reading Homer's Iliad while out walking. This section in particular caught my eye:

I never admired the old fellow so much, or was so strongly moved by him. What a privilege genius like his enjoys! I could not tear myself away. I read the last five books at a stretch during my walk to-day, and was at last forced to turn into a by-path, lest the parties of walkers should see me blubbering for imaginary beings, the creations of a ballad-maker who has been dead two thousand seven hundred years.

I've been intending for several months now to write a post on the paradox of fiction, and this reminded me of that. So here are a few thoughts thrown together; I may expand or improve on them in a later post.

The paradox of fiction is essentially this. We human beings read, watch, and listen to a lot of fiction. We know that it is fiction. But we have emotional responses and attachments to the characters. So, according to Colin Radford, who first put it forward, this shows that there's something incoherent in our emotional responses: we feel for things we know don't exist.

I find in general that there are people who think Radford was on to something and people who think he was just confused, and this can affect discussions quite a bit in places you wouldn't expect. I remember once arguing with an atheist who claimed that, since atheists don't believe God existed, it is just nonsense to claim (as some theists do) that atheists are in fact acting out on anger at God. If I recall correctly, I responded that, while atheists might not all be angry at God, his argument for this was a bad one: people have emotional responses, including anger, to fictional characters all the time. He would have none of it.

Nonetheless, it certainly is true that people fall in love with Mr. Darcy, or with Marian Halcombe, or get outraged at the treachery of a character in a Tyler Perry movie. So if you think our emotional responses, in order to be rational, have to be sensitive to our beliefs about whether their objects exist, then this causes Radford's problem. The simplest and most natural solution to this whole thing is to say that our emotional responses are (so to speak) prior to any beliefs we might have about the existence or nonexistence of their objects -- in effect, that we can have emotional responses to things we just think about, regardless of what we judge to be true about them. Thus we rule out the view that emotional response to things we think about but believe not to exist is irrational. Not only does this fit the phenomenology of fiction pretty well, it has the additional advantage of not requiring us to say that human interaction with fiction is thoroughly irrational, without committing us to all that much. This is known as thought theory; it's tricky to give a positive defense of it, and there are several varieties, but it's also the position with the most obvious general advantages. Some people, however, will have none of it.

One of the more outrageous positions among those who will not take the easy way out is pretend theory, which has a number of forms but is usually associated with Kendall Walton. Walton handles the paradox by denying that we actually do have any emotional responses to fiction. Women reading Emma don't pity Harriet Smith; they merely pretend to do so. Actually, fear is probably the easiest point at which to make the case for pretend theory, and the one that is usually used as an example: if you go to a horror movie, you know that you are not in danger. But surely, Walton will say, at least the risk of danger is a precondition for fear? So you only make-believe that you are afraid when the bogeyman jumps out.

Yes, but surely, you might say, we experience something when the suspense builds? Certainly, says Walton; we experience make-believe fear, which is not an emotion but a quasi-emotion.

The whole problem with pretend theory is that it only actually works, and only covers all of the evidence of human experience of fiction, if quasi-emotions are pretty much exactly the same as emotions, excepting the one distinctive feature that they occur in contexts in which we believe the object doesn't exist. Much of pretend theory ends up being an error theory, because people certainly think that they have emotional responses to movies and novels and the like, and in order for it to be such, quasi-emotions have to be easily confused with the corresponding emotions. So it does in fact seem that pretend theorists are committed to saying that we have make-believe emotions and real emotions, that the former are not really emotions at all but pretenses at emotions, but that in our experience we often (and perhaps always) can't distinguish the two except by checking to see whether we believe the object to exist or not. If this is all that it amounts to, the theory not only doesn't resolve the paradox of fiction, since it just verbally portions out our emotions into two groups, one of which it arbitrarily refuses to call emotions; it also introduces needless and useless complication in our discussion of human emotional life, forcing us to explain on different principles what can actually be explained on the same principles.

A third position is illusion theory. Illusion theorists say that we do have real emotional responses to fictional characters; but we are able to do so because we don't fully believe that they don't exist. That is, we have a partial belief (one is tempted to call it a quasi-belief, but illusion theorists think that it really is a sort of belief, just an incomplete or weak one -- which makes me think instead that the theory is unfortunately named). They often claim for themselves Coleridge's famous phrase, "willing suspension of disbelief". This is not a popular position, but I think philosophers generally don't do justice to it. It actually coheres fairly well with a common (albeit wrong) philosophical view that beliefs can be adequately analyzed in terms of 'credences'. Credences can get so great that we can say that, for practical purposes, you have no doubt about something, without necessarily implying that there is no credence on the other side; and if there is, we have no particular reason to think that these residual credences can't generate emotional responses. In this sense emotional response to fiction would be the result of the difficulty of obtaining perfect certainty. Sure, you don't believe there are vampires; but it's still the case that your eyes see them on the movie screen, and your ears hear people talking about them as if they existed, and it's not too hard to imagine that this might add a tiny little force to the vampires exist side of the balance -- too small ever to change your considered position about vampires, but just enough to allow for a tiny bit of trepidation, maybe a little anxiety, a little jumpiness. In any case, I don't think illusion theory is right, but I think, contrary to the usual view, that it is massively superior to pretend theory. It fits the evidence better than is usually admitted (I mostly reject it because of my views on the nature of belief). Think of how people sometimes have to remind themselves that it's all in their heads. And it coheres with other features of our emotional lives, as well. In Toronto there is a very noticeable landmark called the CN Tower. It is very, very tall (until 2007 it was both the world's tallest tower and the world's tallest freestanding structure). If you go up to the top, you can try to walk on a glass floor. The floor is marvellously engineered: the glass is very thick and it's supported by steel. The only way anything's falling through that glass floor is if the whole tower comes tumbling down. But it's remarkable how difficult it is to walk on a glass floor 342 meters (1122 feet) above the ground, no matter how much you are sure that the engineering behind it is good. Now, setting aside the paradox of fiction, consider the paradox of the CN Tower and ask yourself the following question: which is the more likely explanation, that you are pretending to be afraid of falling or that part of you, however small, really still believes that you might fall to the ground?

A fourth position is counterpart theory. Counterpart theories say that we do have emotional responses when faced with fictional characters, but that these responses aren't to the fictional characters themselves. Rather, our mind associates the fictional characters and events with real-life characters and events (counterparts), and we have emotional reponses to these. I actually think this is superior to pretend theory, too, since obviously we do sometimes associate fictional characters with real-life characters and events and have emotional responses to the latter. It's just extremely difficult to see how this could cover the whole panoply of emotional responses to fiction, and the account seems like it would inevitably be strained.

Of course, none of these views would help out my atheist interlocutor: on thought theory it's entirely possible to be angry at things you think don't exist; on pretend theory, you might not be angry, but you could still be quasi-angry, which (it turns out) is a lot like being angry; on counterpart theory, you may not be angry at the thing you think doesn't exist, but you could still be angry at something it reminds you of (one way really to annoy some atheists is to tell them that they are motivated by the fact that they have serious issues with father figures!); and on illusion theory, you can be an atheist and angry at God because you believe in him still a little bit (suggesting which is another way really to annoy an atheist, which I guarantee you is why some theists so gleefully suggest it). There's really no theory of emotions, or any that does justice to the paradox of fiction, anyway, on which you can be guaranteed not to get angry on thinking about something that you believe doesn't exist. Which, of course, is not to say that you necessarily would, either.

So you know that I prefer thought theory, followed by illusion theory, as the best account of emotional responses to fiction, like Macauley's "blubbering for imaginary beings". Which theory do you think best?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tiles Blown Off a Roof

If we examine human society and souls closely and with real attention, we see that wherever the virtue of supernatural light is absent, everything is obedient to mechanical laws as blind and as exact as the laws of gravitation. To know this is profitable and necessary. Those whom we call criminals are only tiles blown off a roof by the wind and falling at random. Their only fault is the initial choice by which they become such tiles.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God, Craufurd, tr., p. 128.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Savage and the Barbarian

But man can be at odds with himself in two ways: either as savage, when feeling predominates over principle; or as barbarian, when principle destroys feeling. The savage despises Civilization, and acknowledges Nature as his sovereign mistress. The barbarian derides and dishonours Nature, but more contemptible than the savage, as often as not continues to be the slave of his slave. The man of Culture makes a friend of Nature, and honours her freedom whilst curbing only her caprice.

Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man (Wilkinson and Willoughby, trs.), Fourth Letter, section 6.

A Garden of Poets

I put up a fair amount of poetry, although the amount depends to vary depending on (1) how much poetry I am reading; (2) how busy I am; and (3) everything else that affects posting. I had a thought yesterday, though, that it would be interesting to get a sense overall of the poetry that is posted (I'm talking poetry by people who are not me). To put it in concrete terms, if someone were to make an anthology of all the poetry that I've put up, what would it look like? So I spent way too much time last night going through seven-years-and-counting of posts to find what poems I had shared in that time. And so here is the list, not counting mere excerpts from long poems and any scattered poems I may have accidentally missed. (I have not been very careful to distinguish translators from original authors, nor in distinguishing poems known only by first lines from poems that have standard titles.) Hymns are well represented; indeed, for a long time, hymns were the bulk of poems that were actually posted; while posting other kinds of poems goes back to the beginning, doing it semi-regularly is something that didn't begin until the past three or four years. Poems associated with feast days and holidays are well represented -- one reason for how well-represented Keble is, since there are only two poems by Keble that are not liturgical calendar poems. (Christina Rossetti also benefits from having written so many liturgical calendar poems, but she would still have significant representation without them.) About 1/5th of the poets represented are women. I haven't tallied it up, but it looks like the Victorian dominates every other period. That would make sense given (1) my reading habits, including my taste for Romanticism; (2) my interest in didactic lyric, which arguably had its heyday in the nineteenth century; and (3) the fact that many of the poems are chosen because of striking lines or verses, and the Victorian period is a period in which a considerable amount of attention was paid to the cultivation of striking lines (as opposed to, say, the general impression of the poem as a whole, or to complex images, or to elegance of meter, or some such). The eighteenth century and early twentieth century both do fairly well, however. It's mostly English or English translation, of course, but there are by my count three poems in Latin, two in Spanish, and two in French.

"In Those Twelve Days"
"Oranges and Lemons"
"The Parting Glass"
"Wassail, Wassail, Sing We"

Adam of St. Victor
"Vox Sonora"

Adolphe-Basile Routhier
"O Canada!"

Alexander McLachlan
"Song of Mary Magdalene"

Alexander Pope
"Universal Prayer"

Alfred Noyes
"The Loom of the Years"

Alfred Tennyson
"'Break, Break, Break'"
"Ring Out the Old"
"St. Agnes' Eve"
"The Deserted House"
"The Kraken"
"The Oak"
"The Sisters"

Alice Meynell
"A General Communion"
"The Wind is Blind"

Anna Seward

Anne Bradstreet
"By Night When Others Soundly Slept"

Anne Brontë
"Believe Not Those Who Say"

Arthur Hugh Clough
"Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth"

Arthur Rimbaud

Bernard of Clairvaux
"O Jesus, King Most Wonderful" (tr. by Edward Caswall)

Bret Harte
"Love and Physic"

Catherine Winkworth
"O Thou Essential Word"

Charles Baudelaire

Charles Edward Thomas
"Mater Dolorosa"

Charles Kingsley
"Child Ballad"

Charles Wesley
"And Am I Born to Die?"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"A Common Inference"

Charlotte Turner Smith
"Sonnet XXXIV -- To a Friend"

Christina Rossetti
"A Christmas Carol (On the Stroke of Midnight)"
"A Harvest"
"An Easter Carol"
"A Nursery Rhyme"
"Beneath Thy Cross"
"By the Waters of Babylon"
"Christmas Eve"
"Consider the Lilies of the Field"
"De Profundis"
"Easter Eve"
"Easter Even"
"Easter Monday"
"Easter Tuesday"
"Feast of the Presentation"
"Good Friday"
"Herself a Rose, Who Bore a Rose"
"Holy Innocents"
"I Have No Wit, No Words, No Tears"
"Martyr's Song"
"Maundy Thursday"
"Monday in Holy Week"
"One Certainty"
"Palm Sunday"
"Resurrection Eve"
"St. John the Apostle"
"The Knell of the Year"
"There Remaineth Therefore a Rest"
"The Thread of Life"
"Tuesday in Holy Week"
"Wednesday in Holy Week"
"Whitsun Day"

Christine de Pisan
"Ballad 26 -- to her deceased husband"

Christopher Smart
"The Dog in the River"
"The Fox and the Grapes"
"The Mountain in Labour"
"The Two Bags"

"Hymn to Zeus" (tr. by Edward Beecher)
"Hymn to Zeus" (tr. by M. A. C. Ellery)

Conrad Aiken
"There Was an Island in the Sea"

Coventry Patmore
"Magna Est Veritas"

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
"Nuptial Sleep"
"The Kiss"
"The Passover in the Holy Family"
"The Sea-Limits"

Dorothy Gurney
"Perfect Love"

Edith Sitwell
"Still Falls the Rain"

Edna St. Vincent Millay
"What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why"

Edward Esch
"Light of Gold"

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"Acrostic, by St. Simeon Metaphrastes"
"A Curse for a Nation"
"A Sea-Side Walk"
"Song of the Rose"
"The Soul's Expression"

Emma Lazarus
"The New Colossus"

Emily Dickinson
"A Triumph May Be of Several Kinds"
"I Died for Beauty"

Ezra Pound
"Canto XLV"
"The Logical Conclusion"

Felicia Dorothea Hemans
"A Paraphrase of Psalm CXLVIII"

Francis Quarles
"A Divine Rapture"

Francis Thompson
"The Kingdom of God"

Frederick Lucian Hosmer
"Not Always on the Mount May We"

Friedrich Schiller
"The Knights of St. John" (tr. by Edward Bulwer Lytton)

F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Rain Before Dawn"

Geoffrey Chaucer
"The Love Unfeigned"

George Berkeley
"America or The Muse's Refuge"
"On Siris and Its Enemies"

George Gordon Byron
"Sonnet on Chillon"
"The Destruction of Sennacherib"
"There Be None of Beauty's Daughters"

George Eliot
"Question and Answer"

George Herbert
"Colossians III.3"
"Love (III)"
"The Agonie"
"The Holdfast"
"The Thanksgiving"

George Santayana
"Sonnet III"
"Sonnet V"

Gerard Manley Hopkins
"Duns Scotus's Oxford"
"Morning, Midday, and Evening Sacrifice"

Gilbert Keith Chesterton
"A Ballade of Suicide"
"The Donkey"

Grace Noll Crowell
"A Song on a Bare Bough"
"By the Light of the Years"

Harriet Skidmore
"Saint Rose of Lima"

Hassard Dodgson

Henry More
"Hymn for Pentecost"

Henry Vaughan
"The World"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Henry W. Baker
"O God of Love, O King of Peace"

Hugo Ball

Humbert Wolfe
"Requiem: The Soldier"

Isaac Watts
"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"

James Beattie
"Epitaph, Intended for Himself"

James Russell Lowell
"The Changeling"

James Thomson
"A Song of Sighing"

James Whitcomb Riley
"Dawn, Noon, and Dewfall"
"Little Orphant Annie"
"The Old Swimmin'-Hole"
"The Ripest Peach"
"The Shoemaker"

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (tr. by Edwin Zeydel)

John Bowring

John Byrom
"To Henry Wright of Mobberley, Esq., on Buying the Picture of Father Malebranche at a Sale"

John Davies
"In What Manner The Soule Is United To The Body"
"The Twentieth Psalm"

John Donne
"A Valediction Forbidding Mourning"
"Holy Sonnet X"
"Holy Sonnet XII"
"Holy Sonnet XIII"
"The Annunciation and Passion"

John Dryden
"A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, November 22, 1687"
"Te Deum"

John Godfrey Saxe
"The Blind Men and an Elephant"

John Greenleaf Whittier
"O Holy Father, Just and True"
"O Thou, Whose Presence Went Before"

John Henry Newman
"Christmas without Christ"
"My Birthday"
"The Month of Mary"
"The Transfiguration--Lauds"
"The Transfiguration--Matins"

John H. Hopkins, Jr.
"We Three Kings"

John Keats
"Bright Star"
"The Poet - a Fragment"

John Keble
"Ascension Day"
"Ash Wednesday"
"Easter Eve"
"First Sunday after Easter"
"Good Friday"
"Monday Before Easter"
"Monday in Whitsun Week"
"Palm Sunday"
"Second Sunday in Lent"
"St. John Baptist's Day"
"St. John's Day"
"St. Stephen's Day"
"Thursday Before Easter"
"Tuesday Before Easter"
"Wednesday Before Easter"

John Lingard
"Hail, Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star"

John Mason Neale
"Draw Nigh, Draw Nigh, Emmanuel"
"Good King Wenceslas"
"The Eternal Gifts of Christ the King"

John Milton
"On His Blindness"
"On the Platonic Idea as Understood by Aristotle"

John Norris
"Damon and Pythias, or Friendship in Perfection"
"Lay Down, Proud Heart, Thy Rebel Arms"
"Sing Then Ye Blest Attendants on His Throne"
"The Conquest"
"The Retirement"

John Pierpont
"Prayer of the Abolitionist"

John Rollin Ridge
"False, but Beautiful"

John Wesley Work, Jr.
"Go, Tell It on the Mountain"

Joseph Addison
"The Spacious Firmament on High"

J. R. R. Tolkien
"O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!"

Juana Inés de la Cruz
"En que da moral censura a una rosa, y en ella a sus semejantes"

Juan de la Cruz
"En una noche escura"
"O Living Flame of Love"
"Stanzas of the Soul"

Julia Ward Howe
"Arise, Then, Women of This Day!"
"Battle Hymn of the Republic"

Langston Hughes

Martin Luther
"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"

Mary Sidney
"Psalm CXVII"

Matthew Bridges
"Crown Him with Many Crowns"

Nahapet Kouchak
"Birthday Song"

"Hymn III to the Night" (tr. by George MacDonald)

Oliver Herford

Oscar Wilde
"Ave Maria Gratia Plena"

Paul Elmer More

Peter Maurin
"Politics is Politics"
"World War -- 1914"

Phillips Brooks
"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Phyllis Wheatley
"An Hymn to the Morning"
"To A Gentleman And Lady On The Death Of The Lady’s Brother And Sister, And A Child Of The Name Of Avis, Aged One Year"

"In Love Nothing Exists Between Heart and Heart"
"My Greatest Need Is You"

Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The Snow-Storm"

Richard Wilbur

Robert Browning
"Youth and Art"

Robert Burns
"Address To The Unco Guid, Or The Rigidly Righteous"

Robert Herrick
"Another Upon Her Weeping"
"Ceremonies of Candlemas Eve"
"Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve"
"Her Legs"
"The Ceremonies for Candlemas Day"
"The Rainbow, Or Curious Covenant"
"The Vine"
"Upon Julia's Breasts"
"Upon Julia's Breath"

Robert Southwell
"A Child My Choice"
"Life is but Loss"
"Love's Servile Lot"
"Man's Civil War"
"Scorn Not the Least"
"The Epiphany"

Roy Campbell
"Love in a Hut"

Rudyard Kipling
"A Charm"
"Blue Roses"
"The Gods of the Copybook Headings"
"The Vampire"
"When 'Omer Smote His Bloomin' Lyre"

Ruth Pitter
"Time's Fool"

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"Apologia pro Vita Sua"
"Drinking versus Thinking"
"God's Omnipresence"
"Human Life"
"Inscription for a Fount"

Stephen Crane
"The Wayfarer"

"The Excellence of Bards"

Thérèse of Lisieux
"My Song for Today"
"To Scatter Flowers" (tr. by S. L. Emery)

Thomas Aquinas
"Adoro Te Devote"
"Pange Lingua"

Thomas Earnest Hulme
"The Embankment"

Thomas Ken
"Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun"

Thomas Lovell Beddoes

Thomas Love Peacock
"The Flower of Love"

Thomas Merton
"Duns Scotus"

Thomas Stearns Eliot
"The Hippopotamus"

Thomas Traherne
"On Leaping Over the Moon"

Thomas Wilson
"A brief declaration in meter, of the vii liberal artes, wherin Logique is comprehended as one of them"

Thomas Wyatt
"My galley, chargèd with forgetfulness"

"Epître sur Les Trois Imposteurs"

William Blake

William Butler Yeats
"The Wild Swans at Coole"

William Cowper
"Sonnet to William Wilberforce, Esq."
"The Castaway"

William McGonagall
"The Tay Bridge Disaster"

William Morris
"Mine and Thine"
"The Day of Days"

William Wordsworth
"Even as a Dragon's Eye that Feels the Stress"
"Surprised by Joy--Impatient as the Wind"

Wystan Hugh Auden
"Friday's Child"
"The Romantic"
"The Shield of Achilles"
"The Unknown Citizen"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Have Studied It Long

By the Light of the Years
by Grace Noll Crowell

I have learned these things by the light of the years--
Like a child coming over his books--
That the darkness outside of my window at night
Is never as dark as it looks,
And if I but run out and search--I can find
Some little light--steady and kind.

I have learned that Hope is the white feathered bird
That sings all day in my breast;
That Fear is the crouching beast that comes
To tear the bird from its nest.
I have learned to close the door on Fear
After many and many a year.

I have patiently learned that Pain will cease
Tho' peace comes slowly and late,
And that there will drift down to sleepless eyes
Lost sleep at last, if I wait,
So why should I worry--and fret and cry--
Knowing these things pass by.

I have learned that to doubt is to hurt One who long
Has walked by my side and been true--
That Faith wears a shining face--and to trust
Is the grateful, wise thing to do.
I have studied it long by the light of the years--
And have learned it--through my tears.

Rough Thoughts about Boole and (x)(1-x)(1+x)=0

Boole bases his logic on the equation x2=x (of course, an algebra in which this is true is famously an algebra of 1's and 0's). From this he derives the equation (x)(1-x)=0, which represents in his system the law of noncontradiction: the left-hand side is interpreted as a combining of a term or claim (x) and its negation (1-x) or, alternatively, in terms of true and false. Of course you don't have to treat x2=x as the 'fundamental law of thought' and derive (x)(1-x)=0 from it; you can do the reverse, and take (x)(1-x)=0 as fundamental, getting x2=x from it.

But if you can take x2=x as your starting point, why can you not equally take some other starting point, such as x3=x? Boole considers this at one point. He notes that x3=x is equivalent to (x)(1-x)(1+x)=0, and rejects this as a viable way to go because (1+x) has no interpretation.

But perhaps he was too hasty here. You can associate interpretations with the equations in the following way (A):

x : x is in the universe of discourse
1-x : x is not in the universe of discourse (or more accurately, non-x is in the universe of discourse)

Boole usually takes 1 to symbolize the universe of discourse; If we take this, is there any room for an interpretation of (1+x)? Perhaps something like this would work:

1+x : x is outside the universe of discourse (i.e., x is in addition to everything in the universe of discourse)

Given the way Boole understands the concept of a 'universe of discourse' I'm not sure he'd think this makes much sense. But it does seem useful in logic to compare universes of discourse with each other sometimes, in which case this interpretation might be useful.

Alternatively, if we think in terms of propositions rather than terms, we could think of it in this way (B)

x : x is true
1-x : x is false

In which case it would seem reasonable to think of (1+x) as:

1+x : x is neither true nor false

This would make an algebra in which x3=x a three-valued logic. I'm not really sure how close it is to any standard three-valued logic, though. In a x3=x system, x2=x still holds, as does (x)(1-x)=0, but so does (x)(1+x)=0 and (1-x)(1+x)=0. Both of these make sense under interpretation of (B) (they essentially treat as contradictory the claims 'x is true and also neither true nor false' and 'x is false and also neither true nor false'); and under (A) if 'outside the universe of discourse' and 'inside the universe of discourse' are treated as mutually exclusive and if we don't interpret (1-x) to be synonymous with 'not in the universe of discourse'. Perhaps we can generalize both interpretations to treat (1+x) generally as stating that x is irrelevant.