Saturday, December 17, 2011

Music on My Mind

Trevor Jones, "Delbert's Theme". A bit of instrumental, because Enbrethiliel brought it to mind.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Giving

It's a little late in Advent for this, but if, like me, you had a hectic early Advent, it might still be worthwhile. I've previously recommended Africa Windmill Project as a candidate for Advent giving, and still do:

Africa Windmill Project focuses on educating and supporting rural farmers as they work to feed and care for their families. We do this by working directly with the farmers and by supporting other organizations as they work with farmers. Currently Africa Windmill Project is focused in the Central Region of Malawi.

The Africa Windmill Project has a blog where they occasionally post notices about the status of projects; lots of interesting things there. (For those who prefer to review financial data before donating, that can be found by registering with GuideStar.)

I have also in the past had fairly good experiences with International Justice Mission, although you should know beforehand that they are rather assertive mailers:

International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems - police, courts and laws - effectively protect the poor.

International Orthodox Christian Charities, which is, as it says on the tin, an Orthodox organization but is devoted entirely to humanitarian activities, has also been a charity with which I've had good experiences in the past. It has a number of programs.

Any other suggestions?

Marjatta and the Berry (Re-Post)

This is a repost, with minor revision, of a post originally posted in 2005.

The Kalevala is one of the world's most remarkable works of literature. Compiled by Elias Lönnrot in the early nineteenth century from Karelian folk songs, it is the national epic of Finland. What Lönnrot was attempting to do had been attempted before with much less scholarly skill, in particular by James MacPherson in his 1760 Ossian, an attempt to pull together Highland folksongs into a national epic.* But Lönnrot's masterpiece is in another league entirely.

One of the interesting aspects of the Kalevala is Lönnrot's adaptation of the first three poems in a religious cycle of Christian legends; in a trope common in folklore, he presents it as the ending of the Kalevala -- the old gods and heroes sail away as they are replaced by Christianity. As the story goes, there was a young girl named Marjatta who was sweet and pure and innocent; so pure and innocent, in fact, that she refuses to sit in a sledge drawn by a stallion. One day she's out tending sheep on the hillside, when she comes across a cowberry, which she eats ('Marjatta' suggests the Finnish word marja, 'berry'). She becomes pregnant. After nine months, she begins to realize that she needs a sauna (to ease childbirth, of course); so she goes to her mother, who gives this supportive response:

'Fie upon you, demon's bitch!
Who were you laid by?
Was it an unmarried man
or else a married fellow?'

So she goes to her father, who is equally supportive:

'Go, you whore, further than that
scarlet woman, further off
to the bruin's rocky dens
ino the bear's craggy cells--
there, you whore, to breeed
there, scarlet woman, to teem!'

Marjatta responds:

'I am not a whore at all
no kind of scarlet woman:
I am to have a great man
to bear one of noble birth
who will put down the mighty
vanquish Väinämöinen too.'

Väinämöinen is the sky-god/hero who is the protagonist of most of the Kalevala. According to Bosley's notes the line 'who will put down the mighty' might be more literally translated as 'who will have power over power itself'. But back to Marjatta: she needs that sauna, and it doesn't seem to be forthcoming; so she sends her servant-girl Piltti find a sauna at Sedgeditch; when Piltti asks who she will ask for one, Marjatta replies that she should ask for Herod's bath at Saraja's gates.

Piltti comes to Herod's cabin and there finds Herod at a feast. The picture is unforgettably good:

Ugly Herod in shirtsleeves
eats, drinks in the grand manner
at the head of the table
with only his lawn shirt on;
Herod declared from his meal
snapped, leaning over his cup:
'What do you say, mean one? Why
wretch, are you rushing about?'

Piltti replies that she's looking for a bath at Sedgeditch. When Herod's mistress asks her for whom she's asking, Piltti replies that it's for Marjatta. To which Herod's mistress replies:

'The baths are not free for all
not the saunas at Saraja's gate.
There's a bath on the burnt hill
a stable among the pines
for a scarlet woman to have sons
a whore to bring forth her brats:
when the horse breathes out
bathe yourself in that!'

Piltti returns to Marjatta with this bit of helpful counsel. Poor Marjatta bursts into tears and goes to the stall on Tapio hill, praying as she goes:

'Come, Creator, my refuge
and my help, merciful one
in this hard labour
in these most hard times:
free a wench from a tight spot
a woman from the belly-throes
lest she sink in woes
perish in her pains!'

So Marjatta gives birth with the horse's breath as a sauna, and beside a manger brings forth a baby boy, whom she wraps in swaddling clothes.

The story goes on from there, with a confrontation between the little boy and Väinämöinen. It's an interesting set of legends, forming a sort of mythological symbol of the life of Christ that plays on the association of Marjatta and marja; one thinks of the common medieval play on the association of Maria and Latin maris, as in Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, a popular title for Mary.

[All quotations from the Kalevala are from Keith Bosley's translation, Oxford University Press, 1989.]

[*] The Ossianic question, namely, whether MacPherson had forged the poem, was one of the major literary disputes and scandals of the eighteenth century, with most of the period's literary intellectuals in Britain lining up on one side of the question or another, e.g., Hugh Blair argued that it was genuine, David Hume and Samuel Johnson that it was not. My understanding is that current folklore scholarship holds it to be based in actual Highland folksongs, but massively re-worked.

Palantirs on Every Desktop

David Brin shows himself to be completely incompetent at literary analysis:

We owe absolutely nothing to $%#! elfs or wizards who clutch secret "wisdom" (what we moderns call "useful information about the world") to themselves for thousands of years, leaving men and women to flounder in miserable ignorance, when they might have opened a college in Lothlorien Forest, so we'd have flush toilets and palantirs on every desktop. Oh, thank God such creatures are mythological, because Tolkien himself opined that they were - in truth - the enemies of humankind.

Too true, because a society in which the Eye of Sauron has direct access to every desktop would be quite splendid, and flush toilets will necessarily be the highest priority of all rational people when they are engaged in a struggle with Morgoth. But the level of literary sophistication in the post does explain why I always find Brin's stories to be extraordinarily tedious characters used for implausible developments of ideas that are occasionally mildly interesting.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Links of Note

* Brit Brogaard has a paper up on eudaimonistic virtue epistemology.

* The Symbolism Survey. A sixteen-year-old in 1963 did a project in which he sent a survey on symbolism to 150 authors; seventy-five responded, and these are some of the notable ones. The Ayn Rand one has caught the most attention, being very Ayn-Randish -- but it is noticeable, and also Ayn-Randish, that she thought it important enough to reply. Ray Bradbury's response is somewhat interesting, too.

* The IEP has a new article on Immanuel Kant's Philosophy of Religion

* Geza Vermes on early Jewish Christianity. I'm glad to see him pointing out that the Patriarchs of Jerusalem up to the time of Hadrian were, as Eusebius puts it, "of the circumcision."

* Bill Witt has some Anglican Reflections on Justification by Faith, in which he corrects some common misunderstandings of the Reformation view.

* Humphrey continues discussion of some of Pinker's statistics.

* Janet Smith clarifies her argument on lying. I find it very unhelpful; it leaves me more baffled than ever about how the different parts of her argument are supposed to work (particularly her discussions of purposes of speech). But I thought I should point to it. In any case, nothing she says here persuades me to modify my quodlibetal question on lying.

* There are rumors that the Pope will name St. Hildegard von Bingen a Doctor of the Church at some point in 2012. (ht) If so, I'll end up having to modify my Doctors of the Church post again.

* An interesting post on the Carolingian argument for why the Frankish Emperors could call themselves Emperors of the Romans.

The Myth of Judgment

Fr. James Schall has an interesting post on the eschatological myth with which the Gorgias ends. I'm not sure I fully follow the line of argument in the essay, but I read the myth rather differently -- that is to say, the afterlife is not the point at all. When Socrates sums up, he says that Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles have failed to prove that you shouldn't live the sort of life that the myth says you should. Thus I don't think the justice or injustice of the world is Socrates's primary concern; it comes up, but is not discussed extensively. Rather, what Socrates is doing is showing that Callicles's trump card -- the claim (entirely true as far as it goes) that Socrates's philosophizing will result in his being brought before a jury and condemned to death -- is just a story, and other stories can be told. And what matters is that Callicles and the others have been unable to refute Socrates's contentions that those who do wrong are always worse off for doing it, that nothing bad really happens to the just person, and that being good is always better than seeming good; these are all contentions woven into the story. What the gods do in the story is bring the question back to truth: Zeus sets up a situation in which no soul can hide behind rhetoric, in which every soul stands naked and unadorned for its judgment. Souls scarred with injustice are seen as scarred; souls beautiful with justice are seen as beautiful. The myth is not chiefly about eschatology, what will happen after you die, although that is the framework of the story; the myth is about reality, how things are now, even if we ourselves, not being gods, cannot always see them.

But, as I said, it's an interesting little post.

Wrongmaking Characteristics of Right Actions?

I was looking at something in Tooley's SEP article on the problem of evil, which is one of those SEP articles that makes an interesting paper without being very good as an encyclopedia article, and stopped to read his "Concrete, Deontological, and Direct Inductive Formulation" of the PoE. Evaluating it he goes through each of the nine premises and concludes, "So all of the premises seem fine"; I don't actually think this is true, since several of the premises seem to me to be ambiguous as formulated. But this premise in particular just baffled me:

(10) An action is morally wrong, all things considered, if it has a wrongmaking characteristic that is not counterbalanced by any rightmaking characteristics.

It reminds me of Campbell's cutting comments (in his critique of Hume on miracles) about the bizarreness of Hume's principle of counterpoise. Clearly if we are accepting this principle as "by virtue of the concepts of rightmaking and wrongmaking characteristics, together with the concept of an action's being wrong, all things considered," we can't be using the phrase "wrongmaking characteristic" to mean "characteristic that makes an action wrong". And the same with "rightmaking characteristic". In every other discussion I've come across in which phrases like these have been used, 'wrongmaking' was the adjectival form of 'making wrong'. So what, then, are these wrongmakers and rightmakers that don't necessarily make actions wrong or right? What general features do they have?

When he first mentions them, he says that they are properties "that determine whether an action is one that ought to be performed, or ought not to be performed, other things being equal." I take it that the ceteris paribus clause here is supposed to be doing some major work, but combining it with (10) seems to convey the idea that wrongmaking characteristics are characteristics that make an action wrong when it's not a right action, and rightmaking characteristics are characteristics that make an action right when it's not a wrong action. And then (A) we need to have a clear account of how we identify them in a non-question-begging way, which we don't have; and (B) we need to have an argument that they are universally stable and not merely functional according to circumstances -- i.e., that characteristic of type C is not wrongmaking under some circumstances and rightmaking under others; and (C)we need to know how we assess the balance of rightmaking and wrongmaking. Indeed, rather weirdly, rightmakers and wrongmakers don't make actions right or wrong; rather, what makes an action right or wrong is the higher-order characteristic of how your wrongmakers relate to your rightmakers. This is not, as far as I have been able to determine, standard usage of the terms at all; in standard usage, 'rightmaking' indicates something that makes your action right. It's not normally used to talk about what makes your action right assuming it isn't "overbalanced" by the sort of thing that makes your action wrong (if it's not "overbalanced" by the sort of thing that makes it right...); or, to put it in other terms, we don't usually talk about oughts in such a roundabout, vague, and wishy-washy way.

Setting aside the unnecessarily confusing nature of the terminology, part of the weirdness is that this is a principle of the kind that usually indicates a consequentialist view, but it is stated in terms that are usually used to indicate a deontological view. (Tooley seems to want to get away from a consequentialist view in order to avoid certain controversies, but this sort of principle is not a usual part of deontological views, and so it's difficult to see how it avoids the problem of controversy.) We can make sense of:

(10') An action is morally wrong, all things considered, if it has disutility that is not counterbalanced by any utility.

But (10) is not obviously even coherent, and even if we assume it coherent, it isn't clear how we'd identify our wrongmaking and rightmaking characteristics as they'd have to be understood here (without begging any questions), and even if we assume we could, it isn't clear how we'd determine whether (say) 'letting Pinocchio become a real boy' was counterbalanced by (say) 'letting Bambi's mother die', and by what measure. Under what moral theory does it actually make sense to analyze actions this way?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Poem Re-Draft


'Tis true he's not the greatest bard
to grace the human race;
his poems are filled with little lines
that hang in filler-space.
He has a certain fervor
(more a fever in the brain);
it substitutes for music --
thus all his lyrics strain.
And he preaches like a pastor,
and lectures all the day;
I'd love to love his poems
but his words get in the way.
He is pompous and pretentious --
yes, a flash of wit thrown in,
but his taste is all the former,
the clunky prosist's sin.
And, boy, he likes a good conceit
(conceited people do!),
writ in vain and empty words
dressed up like clerihew.


Homer may be an ocean
and Virgil a city spired;
I think that people tell it true
who say Dante is a choir.
But this poet is a napkin
scribbled in a dim-lit bar
before the scribbler passes out
and the barkeep calls a car.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Foe of Every Cruelty

Today is the feast of St. Lucy, Virgin Martyr; she is one of the saints who is often easily picked out because she is usually represented as carrying her eyes on a plate, like so:

Saint Lucy by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

The reason is that the stories of her martyrdom tell that her eyes were gouged out during the Diocletian persecution.

She was extraordinarily popular. She has an important, although mostly offstage, role in Dante's Divine Comedy (Dante, who had eye troubles, was highly devoted to her); she is the saint that the Virgin Mary sends to Beatrice, telling her to send Virgil as Dante's guide through hell; or so we are told by Virgil himself:

" 'That Lady called on Lucia with her request
And said: "Your faithful follower has now
Such need of you that I commend him to you."

" 'Lucia, the foe of every cruelty,
Started up and came to where I was,
Sitting at the side of the aged Rachel.

" 'She said, "Beatrice, true credit to our God,
Will you not help the man who so loves you
That for your sake he left the common crowd?

" ' "Do you not hear his pathetic grieving?
Do you not see the death besieging him
On the river which the ocean cannot sway?"

She is also conspicuously mentioned in the Paradiso, where Beatrice confirms Virgil's story:

"And opposite the eldest family father
Lucia sits, who stirred your lady when
Your head was nodding downward, to your ruin."

Thus in the Mystical Rose of Heaven she is directly across from Adam.

John Donne also has a famous poem on St. Lucy's Day:

A Nocturnall upon St. Lucie's Day, Being the Shortest Day
by John Donne

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

This poem is usually thought to have been written in 1627, a year in which Lucy Donne, his daughter, and Lucy, Countess of Bedford, a close friend, both died. The reference to the 'year's midnight' is to the fact that St. Lucy's feast was at one time more-or-less the Winter Solstice (in England in Donne's day, and for quite some time before it, St. Lucy's would have been the closest major saint's day to the Winter Solstice -- you need to keep in mind, of course, the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendar). St. Lucy's as liturgical Winter Solstice creates an interesting series of juxtapositions given that her name is derived from the word for 'light'; exactly suitable to the poetic conceits of a metaphysical poet like Donne.

Monday, December 12, 2011

On an Answer to a Quiz Question

I've recently finished grading one of the take-home tests I give for my Intro courses; it's a test on the history of philosophy, and is a rather difficult two-part test, so I throw in a lighter question or two. One of them is simply to name something they learned from the course that is not on the test. As you might expect, there's a wide variety of answers, but one answer I've come to expect, which is virtually always mentioned by one or two students, is that they were surprised to discover that there were any Christian philosophers. That is to say, any Christian philosophers ever. Sometimes I get a more generalized form, expressing surprise at the existence of religious philosophers of any sort.

They learn that such people have existed, of course, because I always have a medieval philosophy segment to the course, and all the philosophers there are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim and, because it is convenient for giving some order to the period, explicitly labeled as such. I think of this as being to some extent a vindication of teaching Introduction to Philosophy with a historical approach, despite the difficulties it introduces: had I not taught this course several times, and if I taught it by problem-units (free will, skepticism, etc.) rather than by historical sweep, it would never have occurred to me even to raise the point explicitly -- it's the sort of thing I ordinarily take completely for granted. And, whatever one may think about the interest of that point in general, this is a matter that is undeniably a point of interest to many students: I mean, there are students whose minds are seriously just blown by it, and all their preconceptions of philosophy smashed into bits by it.

One wonders what the background causes are that lead so many students to disassociate the concepts of philosophy and religion, but it's not an uncommon thing. The number of people who, on discovering (usually through different channels) that I'm both Christian and teach philosophy, have actually been taken aback, and puzzled about how that could possibly work, is extraordinary. It can't be any well-defined conception of philosophy. I find that most people, that is, most ordinary people going about business that has nothing to do with academia and have never taken a philosophy class before, have difficulty keeping philosophy and psychology straight. And (for instance) it's not difficult to find people whose conception of philosophy is that it is a sort of koan meditation; in their mind philosophy works by coming up with questions that have no possible answer -- not many possible answers that can't be narrowed down but no possible answers at all. (This is, incidentally, worth keeping in mind when one teaches philosophy, because such students can go through philosophy courses without ever being disabused of it, since they have no problem with saying that such questions can look like they have answers, or that people can think they are giving answers to them. But a lot that is puzzling about the way students respond to, say, trolley problems or skeptical scenarios suddenly makes sense if you assume that some of the students are assuming from the beginning that posing a trolley problem or skeptical scenario is like asking about the sound of one hand clapping. To them it's a category mistake to think that one can really get any farther than merely posing it.) But it is very, very common. Perhaps the heavy emphasis on skepticism that has been such a common staple of the modern undergraduate philosophy class is a contributing factor; but, again, we are talking about people who have never had an undergraduate philosophy class before, and whose acquaintance with the very term consists entirely of pop culture references and whatever might come up in ordinary conversation.

Dashed Off

domain-specific principles of sufficient reason
->cf. Suarez: "we have a general rule that distinctions are not to be multiplied without sufficient reason (seeing that a distinction does not occur in anture without a sufficient cause or without necessity)."

Ezekiel's repair of the temple as figure of resurrection

acquired faith: opinion fortified by argument

(1) the infinite for-any-finite-a-greater
(2) the infinite greater-than-any-finite
(3) the infinite than-which-nothing-greater
->For each we may inquire whether it can be in potentia and whether it can be in actu
->in each case the potential is with respect to some power real or posited

negative indistance

reflection on the Passion a prayer for purity

The worst forms of despair disguise themselves as faith and hope, especially the former.

We should avoid both mortal sin and venial sin, but our reason for avoiding them is not the same: we avoid mortal sin so that we may love God and neighbor, and we avoid venial sin so that we may love them better, and not defectively.

Both Hobbes & Leibniz take conatus to be the impulse of motion considered pointwise -- in Leibniz's analogy conatus : motion :: point : space

analogy between reduplicative & material propositions (Leibniz)

Faith, being an infused virtue, has a twofold analysis, one human that concerns itself with motives of credibility and one divine that is spritiual discernment through divine illumination; and a twofold synthesis, one human that concerns itself with the beauty of the whole world and one divine that is intimacy with glory.

The divine side of faith is entirely on God's terms, not ours.

the perichoresis of virtues

We can only appropriate ideas of the Mysteries, never the Mysteris themselves; but they can appropriate us.

The vocation of a writer is to bear witness; and it is perhaps the very distinguishing mark of the good writer, as opposed to the bad, that the good writer bears witness to what is definitely something.

We learn our true worth through humility; and one thing we learn through humility is that the beatitude or happiness worth having is a very great thing.

People who see the world as it is but cannot give different priorities to what they see will inevitably become depressives.

Without prudence, conscience is mere abuse.

Mockery is answered by proof of rightnes,s proof of congruity, or proof of defensibility.

the world as an occasion of aspiration

A painting, like a text, is a composition of signs.

Impassibility is moral transcendence.

the link between the Ascension & the Headship of Christ

Ascension as anticipation of parousia (Acts 1:11)

Analysis of argument is fundamentally analysis of means and ends; formal structure becomes relevant insofar as it makes arguments suitable or unsuitable for their ends.

adapting belief revision models to argument revision (some are at least primitive versions of the latter already)

It is a mistake to confuse acting without a principle and acting in violation of it. People violate noncontradiction all the time; it is still the first principle of all reasoning, without which nothing makes sense....Just as it would be follish to assume that inconsistency, which is mere violation, means either that we are free from noncontradiction or that noncontradiction is not a norm of consistency,m, to too with bonum faciendum, mutatis mutandis.

If you are not wrong often, you are not thinking enough. (But being wrong often is rather different from being wrong always, or even being wrong about most things; both of these are dysfunctional in a way that being wrong often is not.)

In sexual life our bodies are rational signs of deeper things.

No one understands heroism who thinks it can be forced.

The Faith is not merely our fidelity but our confidelity.

Human beings are often at their best when humbly attempting great things and earnestly doing simple things well.

intense emotion concentrating itself into an image in which the subjective is expressible by the objective

images as seeds of civilization

evocative juxtaposition of images

In art as well as science even failures can be progress (for this is a feature of reason that learns).

Analytic philosophy of the more formal sort is like cubism in its focus on the abstract and inorganic structures of concrete and living forms; it is like impressionism in its more intuition-peddling sorts. This philosophical cubist impressionism has its place, but the museum of philosophical art, even the museum of modern philosophical art, is not chained to one such style. The same can be said of the philosophical tachisme of certain continental schools.

Bentham & Grote seem wrong in saying that pain has more various shapes than pleasures.

Sometimes useless information combines with other useless information to become useful information.

The philosopher has a responsibility to take even false and dubious positions seriously, to the extent that they raise points that may indeed need to be resolved.

computers as mathematical looms

Some contributions to a nation, or to humanity, are so great that ar eword or honor that can be confined to a lifetime is not adequate; this was one reason for heritable titles.

'Observation' as used in different scientific fields is an analogical term, not a univocal one. Observing double stars is not the same as observing bird song, and neither is the same as observing subatomic particles.

In at least some cases (e.g., solution of proportional equations) analogical reasoning is fully rigorous. So the question becomes: under what condtions are analogical inferences so rigorous?

It is true that truth does not contradict truth, but it is also true that the coherence of truth with truth may be subtle.

Reasonable gadflies and intelligent kooks have always performed inestimable services for the intellectual world.

We are beggars in the face of grace in exactlyt eh saem sense we are beggars before nature, and just as we must panhandle for air to breathe, we must panhandle for divine light. But these are all loose metaphors; they capture nothing but our dependence on things that do not depend on us.

Polytheism tends to monotheism by two routes: henotheism (this god is more deserving of my worship, at least, than other gods) and theomonism (all gods are in some way one).

To overcome suffering for what is right is greater by far than signs and wonders.

Bentham's methods of paraphrasis and archetypation are valuable if freed from Benthams complete incapacity to understand the human mind, and the inevitable self-parodying crudeness that results.

Paraphrasis naturally tends to abstraction, not concretion; where concreteness is increased there is generally implicit modification in which concrete things are treated as if they were themselves abstract (i.e., the paraphrasis is by figure of speech), or else information and meaning is definitely lost.

"To try wrong guesses is, with most persons, the only way to hit the right. The character of a true philosopher is, not that he never conjectures hazardously, but that his conjectures are clearly conceived, and brought into rigid contract with facts." Whewell

Because hypocrisy is chiefly a matter of motivation, and becaus ethe values and ideas the hypocrite chooses as whitewash are often genuinely good, we should not forget that the arguments & criticisms made by hypocrites can be right.

To make human beings means to the ends of technology rather than vice versa is inconsistent with human dignity and therefore with justice.

Sacrifice is associated with eating because the latter is assimilation.

As Christ's redemption comes under natural signs, so His body and blood under signs of bread and wine.

Some kinds of prayer, like exercise, require good form. (Hence Acts of Contrition, Faith, Hope, Love, and so forth.)

the familial munus: to guard, reveal, and communicate love

Hope is the patriotism of Heaven.

the liturgical year as an oscillation of anticipations and remembrances

All is material, everything occasion, for grace.

loyalty to the virtuous as a group
-Foot's army of volunteers

the books of Daniel & Esther as models for hagiography

the eduction of anecdote and moral from story

Money in the broad sense is a system for comparing, prioritizing, and rationing in a broader system of exchange.

the conditions for self-sustaining intellectual networks

Pleasures without contexts corrupt.

All intellectual insults, however specific, approximate over time to synonymy with 'stupid', i.e., to indefinite and generalized denigration of intellectual & reasoning abilities. Since any intellectual criticism can be turned into insult simply by being used that way, critical vocabulary has a sort of natural tendency to degeneration and impoverishment.

We have in Scripture not one voice but a consonance of voices, and they do not sing all the same notes, but harmonize different notes in polyphonic song.

It is the grace of the young tnot to be terrified of the precipice on which they stand; we have all been there and we all barely noticed.

The aim of the poetic art is to make something to be wondered at.

logical time as measured in inference steps
- note significance of branches of argument (one branch to C can take longer than another branch to C, and two lines of argument can be non-simultaneous or simultaneous)

circular reasoning as a sign of the edge of argument
(cf Aristotle's point that petitio principii treats non-principles as principles)
-> the edge of argument is like the edge of fractal if we consider structure alone

per accidens & per se series of questions

Hope lies in understanding priorities and differences of importance.

Conversions that are not moral miracles always build on some kind of intellectual curiosity or some kind of natural piety, and, indeed, often a mix of both.
-> Indeed, thinking of this further, how many of the obviously unconvertible are so wholly because they are incapable of even basic intellectual curiosity about what they are rejecting? Rational curiosity doesn't guarantee conversion; but deadness of intellectual interest is deadness to all but miraculous persuasion.

Freedom is exactly as valuable as the acts of honor and virtue it makes possible.

Delusion is a stopping of the mind before it has returned to first principles.

seraphim and scorpions

Lists being natural or rational in character, no infinite list of numbers can ever include all real numbers. This suggests the possibility of superlists, pertaining to higher cardinalities: the real superlist, etc.

Equality between human beings necessarily has to take many different forms; any account of human equality failing to recognize this will fail to attain certain needful kinds of equality. For equalities are as diverse as relations between people, and while these fall into kinds, there are many kinds; and there are equalities that pertain to unequal incidentals, as with employers and employees, or parents and children, that are distinctive to those relationship and easily lost through an attempt to reduce all equality down to one kind.

the history of philosophy as a datum for natural theology (cf. civil theology)

Our call is not to civilize the earth but to be civilized in it.

As signs the sacraments are revelations.

The Eucharist is not merely Passion and Resurrection extended to us; it is also Pentecost extended to us.

hamartia - hubris - nemesis - anagnorisis

Since sin consists of dwelling on lesser goods to the exclusion of greater goods, the key practice that must be learned in moral life is looking beyond good to greater good.

It is the beauty, not the complexity, of the universe that most properly indicates divine wisdom.

In the finest classical tragedies, nemesis operates unseen: we are destroyed before we know it.

mereotopology of regions of influence

Means of communication that allow swift transmission of ideas do not always do the best job of establishing them; and vice versa.

the cultivation of play into art

young man's humor, old man's calm

The most dangerous kind of person who presents himself as an intellectual is the one who will not allow others room to be wrong.

rings & fields & the theory of lists

Error theories are not merely useful but necessary when otherwise the existence of a concept or term is itself reason or evidence for the opposing position. That is, when you can say, "But how could we have had the concept/term X at all, if we didn't somehow get it from X?" So Descartes (at least) showed that this is so for God (qua the infinite) & the rationalists extended this in their anti-empiricist arguments; other examples would be things like 'contingency', 'good', and so forth. That is, there is an actual argument from our having that very idea that would need to be addressed by the opposing side (or else it stands).

People who tell no stories of darkness and light, in stark black and white as we say, cannot see shades of gray as gray.

Religious liberty protects the supremacy of the Faith from neglect, fraud, and discord insinuated into society by political interests.

We seek out ritual & liturgy not for pleasure but for rich experience.

paradox of tragedy & extreme initiations

The pretense that all other men contribute equally to the common good as good fathers do is a dangerous one for both societies and men.

Unpredictable turns of argument can form predictable patterns.

nonpersonal, emotional, and analytical factors shaping turns of argument

The potential parts of argument-types are typical deteriorations and adaptations of the original.

argument simulacra

therbligs of reasoning

Facts are feats of intellect and thing.

Lullian combinatorial method as an attempt to trace the fractal edge of argument.

invariances in voluntary acts

the 'great chain' of the good (much more important, perhaps, in hostorical cases than Lovejoy's interpretation allows)

An advantage of the mathematician over the logician is that in some/many areas of logic the lgoician cannot take advantage of the power of massively iterated operations.

The pursuit of wisdom is necessary for a government; it is the only way to be both consistent and flexible enough to stay just in the face of the world's mutability.

comparison & contrast of seed crystal and pollen metaphors for aphorisms

- there needs to be more exploration of marriage as a sign

Logic has analogies to every art.

zones of reasonable doubt and constraints thereupon

regions of acceptable utility

A utilitarianism without a semiotic of goods is blind.

drivers and enablers in historical explanation
- disablers as well

NQV analysis of interscholastic disputes
Boyd's Loop analysis of interscholastic disputes

secularism vs. liminalism

Like ocular blindspots, mental blindspots can be identified by inference. Doing so, however, requires being open to such inferences in the first place.

incantatory functions of money

the oracles, especially Delphic, as having seeded Greek philosophy

Mary as the Mother of Many Ends (Lull)

"As the end is, so is the hope." Lull

"One virtue is an exemplar for another." Lull

Standards of artistic excellence must consider the difficulty of what is being done.

To study philosophers requires appreciating the interest of philosophical experiments that didn't work out.

paratypical modifications of arguments

(1) Regions of influence are colelctions of nodes linked by arcs of influence.
(2) Of two regions of influence, a region A mediately influences a region C when there is some region B such that there is a path through B from a node in A to a node in C.
(3) A region A includes a region B as a subordinate region of influence if every path of influence to a node in B includes at least one node in A, and there is at least one node in A not in any path in B.
(4) Region A and region B overlap when there is some region C that is a subordinate region of both A & B.

We can think of the nodes of regions of influence as persons, texts, artifacts, or institutions.

Possibility of arcs of influence is determined by the causal conditions for communication.

bridge influence can be represented by cuts, on assumption that all relevant influences are considered

utility-amplifying institutions
utility-generating institutions

decision theory & the modeling of prudence

prudence in limited, closed situations vs. prudence in open-ended situations

Laity are not simply subordinate to clergy but functionally interordinate with them, by each being subordinate to the ends of the other in certain respects. The two errors in ecclesiology to avoid are that in which the clergy do not serve their flocks and that in which the laity have no real shepherds.

the vocation of marriage to be revelatory

Society can only reliably be ruled by philosopher-kings when society is filled with potential candidates for philosopher-kings.

sophistry as idolopoetic

If the Seventh Letter hadn't been written by Plato, we would still have to say that its anonymous author was one of the most remarkable minds of ancient Greece.

the divine pastor in Plato's Statesman
(he feeds, heals, arranges nuptials, acts as midwife, soothes with music)

baptism as maieutic

The statesman, politikos, weaves the friendships of the city into balanced harmonies.

self-interrogating reasoned exposition

sexual usury

rhetoric as the art of persuading many by means of mythology rather than instruction (Plato Polit. 304d).

The universe participates the likeness of the Word, but is not the Word.

Christian eschaton is not mere phthora.

Agape is what most suits the pursuit of agathon.

immediate self-sameness (point)
mediate self-sameness (circular motion)

Intention is one of the things capable of temporal asymmetry.

The best thing for good government is prudence in the authorities; the second best thing is for law to be sovereign; the latter is easier to guarantee.

Just as virtue in a person is not merely knowledge, so justice in a city is not merely the knowledge of those in charge.

One of the things writing cannot convey is the massiveness of true dialectic, both its scope and detail; take a text as long as you please, it is merely one surface of the rational discourse that created it.

Times of adversity require patience, forbearance, and pardon.

"The source of wisdom is God's word in the highest heaven." Sir 1:5

the battle of cant & candour

It takes true candour not to call virtue cant.

An understudied area is how much philosophy depends on the mild approval or even mere toleration of large numbers of people who are otherwise largely indifferent to it.
--> NB: this is today most clearly seen with the sciences

Totalitarianism is an attack on MacIntyrean practices.

Immorality corrupts but does not destroy society -- until it becomes immoralism.

The caricature of fortitude will seem more like fortitude than fortitude itself to those who have little acquaintance with fortitude. And so with all other virtues.

Excessive fear of hypocrisy is quite as dangerous as hypocrisy.

open & closed premise sets
-> quasi-closed premise sets for nonmonotonic/defeasible inference

a theory of human exchange in terms of object, work, expense, and risk

The extent of hypocrisy in a society is an indirect (and somewhat unfortunate) measure of the excellence of its moral standards.

the horror reveal & the suspense nonreveal

The amount people are willing to pay for something is usually less than their estimate of its value; people like bargains, and want things at bargain price.

Demand is explained by taste, need, price, and ability to demand.

The key to economics is the difference between real equality and practical equivalence in a domain.

accessibility relations between markets

Lending markets are generally markets involving asymmetric information; they rarely even approach ideal symmetry.

The reason for interest lies in bargaining about loans (not lending itself).

What matters most in modern democratic politics is who is known to oppose you.

Is 55:10-11 & fourfold sense

Political parties are expressions of practical reason; many of their quirks & abuses chiefly arise when practical reason is severed from speculative reasoning.

Finance as a field is nothing other than contract engineering.

protecting the juridical person in man through juridical equality & due process
protecting the moral person in man by protecting memory & conscientious objection
protecting the individual identity in man by protecting creative spontaneity and assertion

commonalities of sentiment reflect natural law which reflects divine law

(1) Being is prior to becoming.
(2) Knowledge originates in experience.
(3) Logic alone does not verify.

Fortitude "is a habit that builds fortifications against the vices" (Lull)

"Faith is the intellect's instrument and enables it to elevate its understanding through belief." (Lull)

the source & sink of an idea

Participation is the basis of testimony.

remote & proximate preparations for rational inquiry

Pleasures must be purified, moderated, and mortified.

the parallel between skepticism & scruples
(note that scruples is often caused by meticulous-mindedness combined with confusions about principles, and failure to distinguish sentiment and consent)
(note too the major remedies for scruples: reasonable obedience & deference to others)

As there are many kinds of assent (imaginative, opinion, knowledge), so there are many kinds of inference (in Newman's sense) corresponding to each.

Holidays and festivals, however vulgar, give nourishment to imaginative and poetic life in people who otherwise may get little.

pseudo-traditionalists who throw out internals to maintain externals

Too much activism breeds an unwillingness to listen to others.

Latin & Greek as treasuries of alternative conceptual vocabularies (obviously any language shaped by robust interplay of philosophical traditions could serve -- classical Chinese and Sanskrit have similar value)

The mountain in the reflection has no height at all. This is half of Zen.

treating words as fields of association

Much of the task of life is to learn how to go bravely to meet our fate, whatever it may be.

Economics is fundamentally an exercise in recognizing what you cannot assume.

For one who has done wrong but retains a living and well-formed conscience, judgment is itself a punishment or at least partial expiation. Hence purgatory: the just find judgment a vindication, the honest wrongdoer under mercy finds it expiation; for both it is salvation.

We measure space by the power to traverse it.

The translator presents the original not literally but by an extraordinary figure of speech.

Participation is another way to talk about final causes (directly or indirectly, depending on the kind of participation).

ongoing operational preferences in reasoning

Every premise set establishes not just conclusions strictly deduced by also conclusions apt to be drawn.

Remnants of older arguments remain in later arguments.

As belief requires context, there must be cognitive acts prior to it.

What makes fideism a coherent kind of position is that (1) we often find ourselves believing things without knowing why and (2) we take at least some beliefs to be themselves evidence of their own truth (the act of believing is itself evidence of the belief). Thus the general logical type, fideism, is possible: We could indeed find ourselves believing something on no discernible evidence but reasonably take the believing itself as evidence of the belief's truth, and this just is fideism. (You will note the similarity of this to taking something to be self-evident; which is no doubt why fideists not uncommonly make the mistake of conflating fides and intelligentia.) Things get trickier when it comes to specific fideistic positions, especially in areas in which the belief in question is not somehow self-reflexive.

Prayer gives stability toboth work and study, whether we are thinking individually or communally.

The greater part of maturity is learning how to work with what the world throws at you.

All formal systems explicitly representing identity necessarily require the assumption that at least some intensional or modal contexts are irrelevant. Consider X=Y. But as labeled, X is X, and not Y, and Y is Y, and not X, and X is on the left and Y is on the right; thus if this is identity, these must be considered irrelevant.

Our discourse about time is modally complex, including not just time-ordering modalities, but also alethic, epistemic, incipit/desinit, and perhaps even deontic. It is a stew of modalities.

Love of the good is health of the will.

Precepts of natural law fructify into prudential counsels of moral philosophy.

Faith we have because of the good, hope we have because of the true.

If families or nations have duties, they have the rights requisite to perform them.

-- a map of the episcopal, monastic, and mendicant lines of the Doctors of the Church

Religious rituals are in effect dialectical negotiations of vaiorus kinds, and thus exhibit on a large scale the features we recognize on a small scale in argument, persuasion, courtesy, and otehr interactions with human beings.

Courtesy is the natural expression of respect, whether we speak of respect for another person, or resepect for truth or justice, or respect for the natural world. Courtesies just are what human beings do in expressing respect.

We often require of people a rational account of how they avoid the problems of not believing something.

Agnosticism is not a simplifying position; it uses necessity to eschew simplicity.

Much of analytic philosophy is voodoo philosophy: to attack or support reasoning you attack or support toy models of it.

Definition is the test of self-evidence.

Music on My Mind

Loreena McKennit, "The Star of the County Down"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Three New Poem Drafts

Distance and Silence

If distance dimmed the heart's fair fondness,
who would love the stars?
All beauty will we seek more deeply
who see it from afar.
And if their silence were obnoxious
to our waiting ears,
what poets would ever seek to catch
the music of their spheres?
For all that they do never sing,
their music fills our hearts:
their silence is but a negative
we transpose into parts.


The fairies are godlings Christ has tamed;
we know their haunts and speak their names,
we hear their whispers in the air,
and majesty and strength are there,
but never do we rise to pray
or sacrifice to keep their way,
nor ever do we bend the knee,
but stand before them, less but free.
Some may revere, but all are made bold:
we love them as loved tales of old,
rumors long-lost of an age of gold.

Wraith in the Mountains

Shines the moonlight down on the mountains,
Sings the wind through snow-laden crags;
Listen closely, can you not hear me
Echoing down into valleys below?
Words are not a means of expression
Able to sing the depths of my plaint;
Only the moonbeam cold and undying
Can ever record the tale of my woe.
Youthful hearts' love can die unavailing,
Deepest hopes can break on cold stone.
Waters pouring in falls from the mountains
Histories tell of this ominous woe.
Ever is too long for man to remember.
Ever years cover all minds and all hearts.
Sorrow alone speaks and always remembers;
Grief will yet linger beyond human heart.
See the moonlight shining on mountains;
Hear the wind sing softly on high;
All that they tell, beyond all recalling,
Lingers on here in hint and in muse.
Have you never in all of your far-flinging journeys
Moved past a scene great-burdened with time,
Knowing that somehow there once was a story,
Never yet knowing the tale for the feeling,
Words unavailing to capture the mood?
Shines the moonbeams bring on high summits,
Harping of wind pours through the cold stone;
Listen closely -- can you not hear me
Hinting my tale to the valley below?