Saturday, April 14, 2012

Music on My Mind

Johanna Kurkela, "Satojen merien näkijä," which means something like "The Seer of Hundreds of Seas". I have no Finnish to speak of, but as near as I can gather, the song is about something like the ghosts of those drowned at sea, who see all the wonderful sights of all the seas and sing songs to forget their loss.

The Immortality of the Crab

Inmortalidad del cangrejo
por Miguel de Unamuno

El más profundo problema:
el de la inmortalidad
del cangrejo, que tiene alma,
Una almita de verdad...

Que si el cangrejo se muere
todo en su totalidad
con él nos morimos todos
por toda la eternidad.

In English, although you could probably work out most of it even if you don't know Spanish:

Immortality of the Crab
by Miguel de Unamuno

The most profound problem:
that of the immortality
of the crab, which has soul,
a little soul, in truth...

That if the crab dies
wholly in its totality
with it we all die
for all eternity.

'Thinking of the immortality of the crab' is a Spanish idiom that is used to describe times when one is thinking distractedly or daydreaming. So if you were thinking about nothing particularly relevant and someone asked what you were doing, you might say, "Oh, nothing, just thinking of the immortality of the crab." Presumably, of course, this is because the immortality of the crab is not a very practical matter, so it covers all the things you might be thinking that aren't very practical or useful or interesting or worth taking the trouble to communicate to someone. Ah, says Unamuno, turning his Spanish existentialist eye to you, but perhaps the immortality of the crab is really crucially important after all....

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hojas Azules

I remember long ago reading a very striking story about a man who is abruptly asked by a stranger whether he has a blue eyes; apparently the stranger's girlfriend had demanded of him una rama de hojas azules, which he had misheard. So, being somewhat psychopathic, he was going around trying to get her una rama de ojos azules, which is, shall we say, somewhat different. I haven't ever come across it again; if anyone knows it, let me know the author.

The hojas azules are interesting in themselves. I've only ever heard the phrase 'hojas azules' in connection with acacia plants, which doesn't quite sound right; but it has indeed been a long time since I've read the story. It's also possible that she really wanted something like a porcelain bowl with blue-leaf tracery, but if so I don't actually remember that; all I remember is the branch of blue leaves -- and the branch of blue eyes.

Shepherd on the External World IV: Dreaming and Waking

We've seen in previous posts the basic ideas underlying Shepherd's account of how we know there is a world continually existing distinct from us (both external to our minds and independent of them). The most important test case whenever we are talking about this subject, however, is the world of dreams. When we are dreaming we seem to dream of ourselves just as if we were in the external world: we seem to dream that things continue to exist unperceived, that they are external to us, that they are independent of us. This can cause a serious problem for any account of our knowledge of the external universe, since it allows the skeptical argument that perhaps our waking inferences are no more reliable than our dreaming inferences.

It's unsurprising, then, that Lady Mary Shepherd devotes special attention to the subject. Her basic answer is that we do not, in fact, dream of things that we regard as continuous, external, and independent; the dreaming world lacks essential features necessary for something to be the external world, or part of the external world. Objects in the dreaming world are incomplete, and their incompleteness crucially affects what we can conclude about them. The way Shepherd puts this is that they are "not capable of fulfilling their definitions" (EPEU 87). Further, in the waking world we recognize that our judgment in the dream-world was impaired, and that it was not taking into account the full set of relations constituting the thing. For instance, we recognize in the waking world that dream-world bread did not fill or nourish, that injuries did not actually harm, that things acted in ways that were not consistent with their supposed natures. Now, this does not in and of itself capture everything that is needed to handle the problem. But it does show quite clearly that, however it might seem like real bread when we are dreaming, dream-bread is not the same, nor is it bread in the same sense, as the bread of waking life, and we can say this for everything in the dream except our own minds. Even if we assumed that dream-bread continuously and independently existed outside our minds, it is still not real bread. For it to be real, it would have to "fulfill its definition", but it fails to exhibit any qualities of bread beyond the most basic appearances.

Nonetheless, it is important to say yet again that this does not wholly eliminate the dream-world from the realm of the external universe. And one reason for this is that Shepherd is quite clear that part of the reasoning we looked at in the previous posts does apply to the dream-world. The dream-world is full of things that are not really what they seem to be; but this does not mean that it is wholly severed from the external world. In particular, the dream-world, just like the waking world, requires causes independent of our minds. First of all, there are the background causes: there has to be a capability for sensation in general (a mind) and, because differences are introduced into this capability in a dream-state just as much as they are in the waking-state, dreams are in a general way also expressions of the external world. Where the dream-world differs from the waking world is not in its general causes but in the particular causes of the particular objects in it. We establish that particular objects continually and independently exist outside our minds by irregularly calling upon them with the senses and discovering that they are regularly ready to appear; this readiness to appear is an effect that needs explanation by an adequate cause, namely, one that continually and independently exists outside the mind. With dreams, some of the same arguments show that there must be some causes of the sensible qualities in our dreams that are independent of the mind (understood, again, as the capability for sensation in general). And the same is true for externality:

Nay, the real, plain, matter of fact is, that objects external to mind are needed even for illusory ideas for all ideas whatever, and their causes, are external to, (i.e., not included in,) any particular given state of sensation and its cause. (EPEU 98)

The crucial difference between the dream-world and the waking world, then, is that in the waking world we can conclude that the causes of our perceptions continue to exist even when unperceived, whereas we cannot do so for the dream-world. In dreams we do not get the same readiness to appear in response to irregular calls of the senses, and therefore cannot conclude that there is anything ready to appear. One thinks of the well-known phenomenon that in dreams things that are complicated (writing, faces) can look different every time you look at them. On the basis of this we can recognize them as illusory. When we talk about 'bread' we mean something that on irregular calls of the senses returns such-and-such effects regularly. But what seems like bread in a dream does not do this, and is shown therefore to be something different from what 'bread' means. It does not fulfill its definition, and thus is not real bread.

More than that, in dreams we generally don't have proper calls of the senses at all. In waking life we actually use our sensory organs, and, as we have seen, the use of those sensory organs is a crucial part of our sense of the world around us. But it is rare if at all that we have the sense of using our sensory organs in dreams. What we are generally getting in dreams is a collection of sensible qualities that would, in waking life, require the use of the sense organs to get; but in dreams we get them without anything clearly identifiable as the use of those organs. We see things without the concomitant sensations connected with using your eyeballs; we hear things without the directional differences involved in using our ears; we move (remember that Shepherd treats motion as a sort of sixth sense) without clear use of legs, arms, and so forth. Even when we have something like the sensation of using our sensory organs in dreams, it does not have the coherence and order that such use does in waking life, and therefore cannot be given the same explanation.

The appearance of close similarity between dreaming and waking experience is due almost entirely to the fact that, when we have incomplete information about an object, we cannot be certain of what to expect. If all we have of a thing is its superficial sensible qualities, it may well surprise us. The causal reasoning remains the same, and it remains as rigorous. but because we start with only partial information, we can only get partial or merely probable conclusions. Objects in dreams have all the same "present qualities" as objects in waking life. But they fail to meet the test of active observation the way waking-world objects do, and while our information can be as defective in the waking-world case (optical illusions, for instance), this occurs within a framework of objects that meet the test and show themselves ready to appear. That is, we can and do have illusions in the waking world, but they occur within the framework of a continually existing external world independent of us. In the dream-world we lack the basis to get this complete framework up and running; we can conclude that there is some kind of cause, external to and independent of the mind, affecting us, but we can't get its continual existence. The lack of such continually existing causes associated with our objects is associated with the fact that the dream-world seems massively less coherent than the waking world.

Shepherd herself admits that dreams are a difficult case, and is more tentative about her answers here than elsewhere. This is not, I think, so much because she has doubts about her arguments as that they get a fairly weak conclusion: they do not guarantee, for instance, that there is no dream-world continually existing on its own external to and independent of us. Rather, they simply show that, given common behavior of dreams, we are not able to draw this conclusion, and that even if we did we could not conflate dream-objects with the objects of waking life, however similar they seemed, because they do not exhibit the same order. This is weaker than what one might expect; one might want to have a proof that the dream-world is not a real world. But this would be a tall order. On Shepherd's account even in waking life we do not have direct experience of objects except insofar as they cause effects on us in experience and we are used to taking those effects as signs of their causes. But no adequate account of dreams can avoid saying that there are causes for our experiences in dreams, and thus that in dreaming we really are experiencing something outside our minds, understood as the capability for sensory experience in general. Even in dreams we are in, and are affected by, a world outside our minds. The only difference is how much dream-experiences, as opposed to waking-experiences, tell us about that world.

I think I will have one more post in this series, on some further applications and implications of Shepherd's account of our perception of the external universe.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Philosophical Discussion

That pretty much sums most of it up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Music on My Mind

Kareem Salama, "Aristotle and Averroes". Kareem Salama is the world's most famous Muslim country singer. He has a number of good songs, including Lady Mary, which I suppose is the world's only country song about the Virgin Mary from a Muslim perspective, and is well worth a listen.

Honor All Work of the Craftsman

Recent discussion reminded me of this:

Children of men, lift up your hearts.
Laud and magnify God, the Holy and Eternal Wisdom,
the everlasting and adorable Trinity.

Praise Him that He hath made man in His own image,
a maker and craftsman like himself,
a little mirror of His triune Majesty.

For every Act of Creation is threefold,
An earthly Trinity to match the heavenly.

First, there is the Creative Idea,
passionless, timeless,
beholding the whole work complete at once,
the end in the beginning;
and this is the image of the Father.

Second, there is the Creative Energy,
begotten of the Idea and subject to it,
working in time with sweat and passion
from the beginning to the end;
and this is the image of the Word.

Third, there is the Creative Power,
the meaning of the work,
and its response in the lively soul;
and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.

And of these three, each equally is the work,
whereof none can exist without the other;
and this is the image of the Trinity.

Honor, then, all work of the craftsman,
imagined by men's minds,
built by the labor of men's hands,
working with power upon the souls of men,
image of the everlasting Trinity,
God's witness in world and time.

And whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.

This is from Dorothy Sayers's The Zeal of Thy House, a play about the danger of pride and about craft as prayer, and is the first expression of an idea that she develops much more fully in her best nonfiction work, The Mind of the Maker.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade died on Good Friday -- the best day to go out, I suppose, since it puts one in the best company. Kinkade is an interesting figure, and, I fear, quite representative of our day. He was an extraordinarily talented artist -- all of his early work is brilliant, and shows him to have been someone who could have been one of the great painters of the day. But he never became one of the great painters of the day because he then spent decades not honing his art but giving people exactly what they wanted (which, unexpectedly, was paintings and prints of impossibly bright and surreally lit cottages) and making large profits from it. Commercially he is perhaps the single most successful painter in history; and he did it by not simply being kitschy, but being an endless torrent of mass-produced kitsch. And he didn't just sell paintings; he sold prints of paintings, slightly painted prints of paintings, factory-made prints of paintings that were touched up by the painting of other artists under Kinkade's direction, etc. Real Kinkade paintings are tens of thousands of dollars; but Kinkade made it so that everyone who wanted could have a sort-of-kind-of-Kinkade almost-painting in their dining rooms at very cheap prices by mail order or through Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery franchises. There's actually something quite ingenious about it; nobody did the business of art, the capitalism of it, better than Kinkade. Very likely nobody ever will. And this must be pointed out, reiterated, and reiterated again: All Kinkade did (and he did it deliberately, and was very explicit about doing it deliberately) was treat his paintings like authors in our society are expected to treat their literary works and like musicians in our society are expected to treat their music.

The best posthumous discussion of this rather controversial man is at "God and the Machine".

Monday, April 09, 2012

Convalidation of Rationalization

Rationalizing, where you give an after-the-fact reason that wasn't actually your reason (often it is assumed that it is better, or at least more acceptable, than your actual reason was), has a very bad reputation, but as time goes on I think this reputation is largely -- not entirely, but largely -- undeserved. Claiming that an argument is merely a rationalization is often taken to be quite damning to the argument, but, of course, that an argument is a rationalization doesn't actually tell us that it's a bad argument. It may, in fact, be an excellent argument -- it's just after-the-fact. And if it's a bad argument, this will be for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that it's a rationalization.

I suspect that plausibly identifying something as a rationalization is mostly taken to undercut the argument in a purely moral way, the implication being that it is somehow dishonest to put the argument forward because it was not one's real motivation. This may well be the case sometimes, and perhaps often, but it doesn't seem to be generally true that rationalizations are dishonest. One of the reasons to deny the suggestion that rationalizations are dishonest is that the only thing that distinguishes a rationalization from an argument that is not a rationalization is the circumstance in which it originated. Rationalizations, once out there, work exactly like any other argument: they can be examined like any other argument, confirmed like any other argument, refuted like any other argument, acted upon like any other argument. What is merely a rationalization one day may be your real reason for acting, or one of your real reasons for acting, the next day. This fact that rationalizations can lose the illicitness of their origin by beginning to be used the right way is, I think, an important phenomenon, and probably describes a large number of arguments. We could call this convalidation. (The term comes from canon law, and is used to describe procedures of recognizing previously invalid marriages as valid once the impediments to them have vanished, or once a special dispensation has been obtained. So, for instance, if a couple violates a canonical requirement for valid marriage simply because they did not realize that it was a requirement, but later recognizes this and also recognize that there is nothing preventing them from conforming to the requirement now, they can go to the proper authority and get their marriage convalidated. Under canon law the usual reason for this is Catholics not marrying according to proper Catholic form, which usually requires redoing the ceremony, but not all convalidations require doing the whole thing over.)

A rationalization is convalidated, then, when it is no longer merely a rationalization, but is put to non-rationalizing use, usually by being confirmed or by being acted on. Again, I think it's absolutely essential to recognize something like this because:

(1) Rationalizations differ from non-rationalizing arguments only in the sense that they fit differently into the background motivational framework; in every other respect, they are arguments like any other, and assessed like any other.

(2) The role an argument plays in its motivational context can and often does change. Everybody has the experience of this, and rationality requires it. Thus rationalizing arguments can become nonrationalizing arguments if the motivational context changes enough.

(3) Evidence from cognitive science (and ordinary experience) strongly suggests that we rationalize a lot, but only condemn egregious cases. So, at least in practical life, either some rationalizations are legitimate or they can be made so. Further, what is pretty clearly a rationalization at one stage is often not treated as a rationalization later on.

(4) Chaining rationalizing arguments permanently to their defective origin runs into the dangers people worry about when they talk about genetic fallacies. Actually, I think most of the above suggestions can be derived simply by asking about the relation between rationalization and the genetic fallacy. (I don't actually think that genetic fallacy is a helpful fallacy-label; genuinely fallacious examples that go under the label are always better placed under another label. But I do think that when people are worried about the danger of genetic fallacy they are often worried about something that is genuinely significant and important.) Surely the origin of an argument is not universally relevant? But as times change a relevant origin may become an irrelevant origin.

It's surprising that there is so little work on anything like this, but there surely needs to be work on it.

Twain and the Maid

The Awl has an interesting if somewhat odd article on Mark Twain's interest in St. Joan of Arc. It's informative, and says some interesting things, but it is indeed odd. One of the oddities, which takes front and center in the article, is the claim that Twain's interest in the Maid was obsessive. But there's no reason to think it more obsessive than any number of other interests a person may have (it pales besides Sandberg's interest in Lincoln, for instance), and Twain is hardly the only person (and was hardly the only person in his own day) who had an intense longstanding interest in her. There is, as the article says, a sort of riddle in Twain's interest, since he was anti-Catholic and anti-French, and Joan was very, very Catholic and very, very French. The article suggests that it was because Joan met his conflicting ideals of womanhood, but I'm not sure this really explains anything (and it fails to give us any reason for thinking the direction of causation must go this way rather than the other -- given the longstanding interest, there's a good argument to be made that Twain's ideal of womanhood is heavily drawn from the Maid, not vice versa).

The two authorities to which Daniel Crown appeals in the article make some odd comments. For instance, commenting on the contention of some Catholics that Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc is a religious work (in whatever sense that means, since it is not explained), Crown says,

According to Morris, however, the religious angle doesn’t add up. “He really doesn’t emphasize the piety or the voices [in Recollections]. He kind of keeps his hands off the spiritual side of things.”

But, of course, it's not as if it's any big secret, or needs to be emphasized, that the Maid was a Catholic martyr; it's obvious on the face of it. And to say that Twain "keeps his hands off the spiritual side of things" requires, I think, that one be operating on a conception of spirituality that is not shared by either Twain -- who makes no secret of the importance of Joan's spirituality (Cf. Twain's sarcastic comments, later in the article, on common artistic representations of her) -- or many religious believers.

Likewise, the article, following Morris, makes a big deal of cross-dressing. This may, indeed, have been something that attracted Twain to the potential of the story, but the article goes out of its way to make a big deal out of something that (1) Twain did not make up and could not have been eliminated from the story; (2) plays a relatively secondary role, although it does come up at important moments; and (3) is a pretty common literary trope. Likewise, the article tries to make a big deal out of Twain's interpretation of Joan's wearing of men's clothes: "It’s no accident that Twain chose to spin Joan’s cross-dressing as an exercise in modesty." But this is not a "spin"; it is explicitly in the primary sources, because (1) it's Joan's own explicit claim, (2) it's the interpretation of the men who fought beside her, and (3) it was, besides, not an uncommon practice in the period, despite the English attempt to make use of it to reflect badly on her character.

A further issue arises when discussing the Maid and feminism:

“The way he constructs her, Joan is not a feminist,” Harris said. “What she does is a very conventional female act: she sacrifices herself for men, God, and her king and country. In the book she says, ‘I would far rather be home, a simple peasant girl, spinning with my mother.’ Instead she puts on male clothes and goes out and fights battles. But she doesn’t want to. I think that’s key for Twain.”

This is a somewhat mind-boggling comment. Sacrificing oneself for one's men, for God, for one's king, and for one's country is not "a very conventional female act"; it's a very conventional male act. It is men who have traditionally been expected to sacrifice themselves for Kirk and King and God and country, particularly in the way that Joan does it. There is simply no possible way to read Joan's story, in any version, and conclude, "Ah, yes, I see, she was just doing what was ordinarily expected of a woman." What Joan did was what is expected of a soldier, and being a soldier is a conventional male act. And the reluctance fits with this, too; the notion of the soldier who would rather be at home is a common literary trope, and is certainly what Twain is adapting here -- the only thing that's conventionally female in any of this is Joan's idea of what being at home would be like.

This is why the emphasis on the cross-dressing is somewhat misguided, particularly in the context of Twain's representation of Joan. There's a straightforward sense in which Joan is not feminist -- she's not doing anything she is doing 'for women'. But precisely what Twain is showing in this work -- and it is a strength -- is that Joan is very much a girl. She is a teenaged girl, with a teenaged girl's focus, a teenaged girl's generosity, and, when exasperated or sure that she's right and everyone else is wrong, a teenaged girl's saucy impudence, and what Twain draws out is that these are part of what makes Joan rise above everything. Twain's Joan does not go out and fight wars, throw back the English, raise French morale, and face her death bravely because she is masculine or butch; she does it because she's a girl. She's courageous, undaunted, and resolute, and she is all these things because she is a girl. She is uncorrupted by the world, unafraid of men, and does what needs to be done regardless of danger; and Twain's whole point is that every single one of these is connected with Joan's girlishness. In Twain's world a girl, even a very girly girl, a girl as girlish as she can be, can, given the right circumstances and the right cause, put grown men to shame on their own field.

We also get this comment:

As Harris told me, “If you just read Recollections for Joan, it’s not a very interesting book at all. But if you read it for De Conte, the narrator, you realize that he basically becomes a voice for the book’s author.”

But the article had previously shown that this is not true: while it's by no means Twain's most popular work, there are plenty of people who think the Recollections are an interesting book when read for Joan.

There are other oddities, not dealing with Joan in particular -- for instance, the author clearly has misunderstood Twain's comments on women and suffrage, which are really about the evils of electioneering, and the author's take on the Angelfish overlooks the fact that (1) Twain was actively encouraging the girls in literary and artistic endeavors; (2) Twain never gives any indication of its being anything more than chatty and humorous; and (3) Twain was in his seventies at the time, and most of the correspondence occurred in 1908 and 1909. Here is a better discussion of this phase in Twain's life.

At the same time, though, it's good to see someone discussing it, and the article is, as I said, fairly informative. As I've mentioned before, I suspect that history might prove Twain right about its being his best book, in literary terms. Huck and Tom loom large mostly because they are fun and funny, and we don't really get that with Twain's Joan. But we do get a carefully crafted story, the craft of which has never quite been given its due.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


The Philosophy Forum here hosted a movie-and-discussion of Agora last Wednesday, so I finally got around to seeing it. As a movie it was actually somewhat better than I was expecting. As a supposedly historical movie it was as bad as one could expect, and perhaps more so. Some thoughts.

(1) Rachel Weisz makes a very charming Hypatia, even though she is way too young to play a philosopher who more likely died in her sixties, and several of the other actors were quite good. Actually, I think a lot of the strength of the movie is in the acting -- it adds depth to what could have been a very two-dimensional script. Sami Samir gets too little screentime as Cyril. I also thought Rupert Evans did decently with Synesius, but I think the character was weakly written, and this hampered him somewhat. But the single best character in the movie is Ashraf Barhom's Ammonius. He's written as a straightforward religious fanatic (as the real Ammonius may well have been); in almost any other movie this would have been a caricature. But here he's played with such humor and finesse that one can see immediately how such a man could draw followers.

I remember someone saying a year or two ago that it was a little jarring that most of the good guys are light-skinned people with English accents while most of the bad guys are dark-skinned people speaking with Middle Eastern accents. And there are a few points in the movie where this does become a little jarring.

(2) I was utterly baffled through much of the film by Davus, who I think is the weakest and least intelligible character. It's interesting that all the historical characters are pretty well-rounded, even if the movie is not sticking very closely to history, while the fictional characters are all very flat or very inconsistent.

(3) Cinematic license in a movie is only justifiable by the fact that cinema largely conveys ideas by setting up situations that convey moods, and so adaptation to convey the right mood makes a great deal of sense. A lot of the license taken with history in this movie is not of this kind -- far too much, in fact. But there is some. I think the movie conveyed very well what might be called the general mood of Alexandria; Alexandria was famous for two things, philosophy and political violence, and we do get a pretty nice sense of what it would be like to live in a city dominated by thought and force in this way.

Likewise, we get a few nice bits here and there. For instance, I liked the scene in which Hypatia solves a moral problem by appealing to Euclid; even though the moral conclusion was more modern than ancient, solving ethical disputes with geometry is a very Neoplatonistic thing to do; had there been a lot more of this, that would have been great. The work the movie does to show the contrast between Christians and pagans in terms of how they treated the poor and the slaves, while not integrated very well into the rest of movie, was a nice touch, as well, because we know that this was actually an issue: one of the things that pagan Neoplatonists like Julian the Apostate really worried about was that the pagans had difficulty taking care of their own on anything like the scale that Christians took care of their own.

(4) The movie gave me a good occasion to re-read Charles Kingsley's Hypatia. Kingsley's historical novel has a somewhat implausible plot and is positively patronizing to absolutely everyone, but still manages to be quite readable. In addition, you get real Neoplatonism, which is interesting in its own right, and real fourth/fifth-century Christianity (even if filtered through Kingsley's peculiar theology), rather than the crude sketch of the movie. (Kingsley also takes a fair number of licenses, but many of his are not so noticeable due to (1) the fact that he was writing in the nineteenth century and thus is sometimes simply working from ideas that are now out-of-date; and (2) they are only occasionally gratuitous, being reasonably well integrated; and (3) Kingsley actually had some notion of what the real history was from real primary texts. Also, Kingsley is quite clear that he's presenting "New Foes with Old Faces".)

(5) On the historical inaccuracies of the movie, which are legion, see the excellent posts of Tim O'Neill at "Armarium Magnum":

"Agora" and Hypatia -- Hollywood Strikes Again
Hypatia and "Agora" Redux
A Geologist Tries History (or "Agora" and Hypatia Yet Again

Mike Flynn also has some nice posts on the real history of Hypatia:

The Mean Streets of Alexandria I
The Mean Streets of Alexandria II: When Hypatia Was a Little Girl
The Mean Streets of Alexandria III: The Deconstruction of the Serapeum
The Mean Streets of Alexandria IV: The Teachings of Hypatia
The Mean Streets of Alexandria V: After Graduation: The Calm Before the Storm
The Mean Streets of Alexandria VI: The Feud of Cyril and Orestes
The Mean Streets of Alexandria VII: Murder Most Foul
The Mean Streets of Alexandria VIII: The Aftermath
The Mean Streets of Alexandria IX: The Sources

Sapere Aude

How much we do not know!
How little we believe!
Our minds are thick and slow
and easily deceived,
our hearts mistrust the show
with less than sure reprieve.

The signs were writ in gold
on founding-stones of earth
before the earth was old,
the sea with spanning girth
had writ on wavelets cold
the truth; there was no dearth
to minds that dared be bold.

And prophets with their dreams
and dances spoke the word
that shed this light in gleams
if ears had only heard;
but few took what had seemed
and thereby truth secured.

Dare taste the life and grace!
Dare taste, and so be wise
as fits our hoping race;
do not that hope despise.
The lines had all been traced,
the signs that Christ would rise.