Thursday, October 17, 2013

Some Notes and Notables

* G. K. Chesteron's Encyclopedia Britannica article on Humor:

Wit corresponds to the divine virtue of justice, in so far as so dangerous a virtue can belong to man. Humour corresponds to the human virtue of humility and is only more divine because it has, for the moment, more sense of the mysteries.

* Nathaniel Peters reviews Denys Turner's Thomas Aquinas.

* Thony Christie corrects misconceptions about Mary Somerville and Ada Lovelace.

* Jeremy Gray, Epistemology of Geometry at the SEP

* The monks of St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana recently finished a five-year court battle as the U. S. Supreme Court let stand the appellate decision that a state law restricting who can sell caskets. The Abbey is a Benedictine monastery; Benedictines, of course, are required to work as part of their religious rule, and they do so for two reasons, to support themselves and to do good to others. It seems the Abbey has a long woodworking tradition, and in 2007, they established a woodworks specifically to produce cypress wood caskets, the proceeds of which would be used to pay Abbey expenses -- medical and educational support for monks, as well as supplementary support for some of their services to the community. It turned out, however, that a Louisiana state law restricted public sale of caskets to state-licensed funeral directors of state-licensed funeral homes. (The Abbey seems to have a long tradition of making caskets, but since they mostly just made them for themselves, they had never before been engaged in public sale of them.) They received a cease-and-desist order from the state board of funeral directors, and it went to court. The district court ruled in favor of the monks in 2011, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of them again. Their opponents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was widely expected that the Court would hear the case, because this is a murky area of law and we seem to have opposed rulings from different circuit courts on precisely this kind of question. But the Court declined to hear it, so the monks can continue to make their caskets, of which they currently sell about 200 a year.

* A while back Peter Gilbert hunted down the source of a legend about Plato in heaven, having believed in Christ when Christ preached in Hades.

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