Saturday, April 20, 2013

Four Poem Re-Drafts


You bring out against me Sennacherib's host,
the resource and reason your legions can boast;
but wind and the wave and the fish of the sea
will fight all the armies that fight against me.

Your words made of razors and forceful with rage
will die on your tongue, will die on the page,
will fall like felled oaks and snap like frail cords
through gnawing of mice and the word of the Lord.

You may bring out your words like the rush of a sea,
your weapons of paper, but I shall not flee;
my kin and my people the promise shall see:
the stars in their courses fight those who fight me.


The blue flower grows in the realm of Tapio,
where tree-roots deeper than any mountain's grow,
where forest-tops are marching like the sea,
an endless and everlasting sea,
and mead-paws dance in fields untouched by snow
where blossoms flourish whose names nobody knows
on a hill whose name nobody knows.

Rust and Fire

One in kind are rust and fire.
Ruin is combustion slow;
flaming quickly is desire.
Flame will have the sharper glow,
spread the fiercer, fairer light,
but wood must rust with aching speed,
give but transient delight.
Death is from consuming need,
craving turns to cinder each,
burning deep in mind and heart,
universal in its reach,
dark, corrosive, through every part.
Decadence with more control
corrosion too will spread abroad;
iron burns in part and whole
from air and malice of the gods.
Decay is merely slow desire:
one in kind are rust and fire.


War among the gods! World is shaken,
Mountain thrusts back sea,
Sea swallows violent mountains,
Winds uproot eternal stones,
Monsters fight in boundless deep.

Even gods know harsh defeat,
Battles ended. The darkest god,
Starless, lightless void that burns,
Fell to his knees, broken crown.
A chain-encircled mighty form
Driven across the wastes,
Brought to judgment by the gods.

I traced a lightless thread
Errant in my dreams. At its end
There poured a windless sea.
It sorrowed at world's end.
Stars were deep within it.
Fog on fog, wisps of cloud,
Rolled across the starry glass.
Upon the shore a ship of bones
Was moored; it whispered words,
"Come," and I embarked.
By mind, not wind, it moved
Across the glassy sea,
And carried me to sullen isles.
Upon a rain-wet granite stone
A form of darkness sat in bonds.
From it blindness poured.

I quailed and fled. When night falls,
When falls the fell defeat,
When mind by gloom is chained,
Some thread of darkened wisp
Across that glassy sea has curled
And tangled with your thoughts.
One strand, one thread, one wisp.
Our world knows dark as night,
Or else the chthonic cave.
Things are darker still, and by still sea,
The darkest god is iron-bound,
As rain that mothers rust pours down
Until the iron twists and breaks.

Music on My Mind

The Rasmus ft. Anette Olzon, "October & April". I very much like the use of standard love song conventions to sing about how poisonously wrong people can be for each other.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Poem Draft


What chains we bear about us!
We forged them link by link
from beaten steel of heartache,
the follies that we think.
We slave for things that serve us,
these idols that we make,
until our minds are creased with age
and old enough to wake.

They Both Start with the 'Ch' Sound

The Czech Republic is currently having to deal with the American version of geographic knowledge:

As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities - the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.

It says something about both social media and American life, I fear, that the Czech embassy actually felt it had to release a formal statement devoted to it.

What really worries me is that there might be Americans who would read the last sentence above and think, "But aren't Central European countries part of the Russian Federation?"

Holy Elf-High

Today (Friday) is the feast of St. Aelfheah, also known as St. Alphege or St. Godwine, who had an interesting martyrdom in the late tenth century. He was chosen to be Bishop of Winchester. While he was doing episcopal things, like building a massive organ in the cathedral, there was a big Viking raid under none other than Olaf Tryggvason. We don't know for sure the exact details, but after the raid, Olaf signed a treaty with the locals (guaranteeing him danegeld) and was baptized as a Christian by Aelfheah.

Aelfheah eaventually became Archbishop of Canterbury, and a few years after the Danes raided, burned the cathedral, and captured Aelfheah. He refused to pay a ransom to his kidnappers, and refused to let anyone else do it. Angered (and, by all accounts, drunk), they took him out to throw things at him, and eventually he was hit with the butt of an axe and died. According to some versions, his death led Thorkell the Tall to defect from the Danes to the English, helping Aethelred the Unready to fight off King Cnute. Cnute himself, however, eventually had Aelfheah's body moved back to Canterbury. St. Anselm of Canterbury did a great deal of work to restore his shrine and devotion, and it is said that St. Thomas Becket commended himself to St. Aelfheah before he died.

Last year there was a big set of celebrations commemorating the Millenium of Saint Alphege.

Elf-high, of course, is the literal meaning of Aelfheah's name.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Augustine and "Absolute Divine Simplicity"

Divine simplicity is the doctrine that God is not composite. By "absolute divine simplicity" one might mean simply the claim that divine simplicity is not merely relative: relative simplicity would be relative noncomposition, i.e., if something were relatively simple that means that calling it composite or composed of parts is less appropriate for it than it would be for something else. Sometimes it is used in that sense. However, there is another sense in which it is used that bespeaks a severe historical misunderstanding, in which it is treated as indicating not merely noncomposition or non-compositeness, but some other kind of unity that is more difficult to describe, and is supposed to eliminate distinctions, or else to make everthing in God identical to everything else. This is often used by Orthodox polemicists against Catholics, but I've also seen it used by Protestants and others of indefinite background, and I think it is also muddling up Catholic discussions, so it seems to be quite widespread.

Part of the problem here is that in the West a lot of theology before a certain point in time was in Latin, and you do find discussions of divine simplicity in terms of identitas, deriving from the word idem. Unfortunately, our term 'identity' is not usually a good translation of identitas, despite the fact that it's easy to read the latter as the former. Identitas just means 'sameness', and it can apply to any kind of sameness. The most common meaning of identitas, in fact, is 'sameness in kind', although it can also mean other kinds of things.

Part of the problem, however, is how history is read. And Augustine, who is often accused of arguing for this "absolute divine simplicity" is a good example. The accusation is simply incorrect. Most of the passages in question are simply being misread and often don't have anything directly to do with simplicity. And when we actually look at Augustine's doctrine of simplicity we find (1) that it's a pretty spare account that can be read more than one way; and (2) that Augustine nonetheless characterizes divine simplicity in a way that is very difficult to reconcile with the notion that he accepts "absolute divine simplicity".

Augustine says very, very little about divine simplicity in his writings. It gets mentioned, usually in passing without much comment, but even the mentions are fairly scattered. In De Trinitate, for instance, which people often point to as their source, most of the mentions just tell us that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal because God is simple; God cannot be changeable because God is simple; divine simplicity is neither formable nor formed; and these, again, are generally in passing without much explanation. We do get more in Book VII of the work and passages that refer back to this, and I will talk about that in a moment, but Augustine talks about divine simplicity a lot more in the De Trinitate than he ever does elsewhere, and it doesn't actually occupy much of the book because it is a major concern for him.

What of the more substantive discussions, though? In order to understand these we have to understand why Augustine is writing the De Trinitate in the first place. The De Trinitate is an attack on Arianism. It is not, as some have claimed, a speculative work, although one can perhaps say that there's always a speculative aspect to Augustine. It is a polemical work. It is frank about this, opening with an explicit statement of this intention, and the entire discussion is an argument against Arianism -- the Eunomian version of it, at least as Augustine understood it. Pinning down Eunomianism precisely is a bit tricky, but suffice it to say that the Eunomians argued that God is Unbegotten (agennetos) and perfectly simple. The Son, however, is Begotten (gennetos), and therefore cannot be God. The Father and the Son, contrary to the orthodox profession, are not consubstantial; the Son cannot even be like the Father in being. What makes the Son the Son? The fact that God communicates divine energy or operation to him, and it is in this sense that the Son is divine.

It is likewise difficult to determine how much of the Eunomian position Augustine actually knew. While Augustine does argue against various kinds of Arianism throughout his writings, in general they tend to show that he knows the heresy mostly through books. In any case, the basic positions for which Augustine is arguing in the Trinity are, first, that the Holy Trinity is the one true God, and, second, that we are not being incoherent if we accept that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are consubstantial. To this end he argues that Scripture requires the doctrine of the Trinity (thus handling the first point) and that there is a way for someone who loves God to recognize that the rejection of consubstantiality as simply incoherent is wrong. It's noteworthy that at the very beginning he asks that his readers not read him superficially, but to be very careful that what they are attributing him is what he actually says.

Thus Augustine is only considering simplicity so far as to argue against the Eunomians in favor the Nicene thesis that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are consubstantial and therefore one God. He also tends to raise it in particular when he is talking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being equally God. It is precisely in this context that the most important discussion of divine simplicity, in Book VI takes place. As he puts it (VI.iii):

But Scripture proclaims, that "He thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Therefore any adversary of the truth whatever, provided he feels bound by authority, must needs confess that the Son is equal with God in each one thing whatsoever. Let him choose that which he will; from it he will be shown, that He is equal in all things which are said of His substance.

To explain this, Augustine immediately in the next chapter discusses an analogy. In the human mind, we have many virtues. When we attribute, say, prudence and justice to the mind, we mean different things. However, these virtues are not separable. This position, usually called the unity of the virtues thesis, is extremely common prior to the modern period. In order to have any one of the cardinal virtues, especially in full form, you have to have them all. To have prudence, you have to have justice, fortitude, and temperance; and people who are equal in prudence have to be equal in the others. How much more so, then, should divine excellences be regarded in the same way, given that the human mind is not as simple (noncomposite) as the divine substance? In the human mind, we cannot say that to be is the same as to be courageous or prudent or temperate or just. Why not? Because our minds can exist without these. This is quite important, so I will repeat it: The precise sense in which being and being wise (or just, etc.) fail to be the same in us is that we can be and fail to be wise (or just, etc.). With God, however, it is different:

Since, in the human mind, to be is not the same as to be strong, or prudent, or just, or temperate; for a mind can exist, and yet have none of these virtues. But in God to be is the same as to be strong, or to be just, or to be wise, or whatever is said of that simple multiplicity, or multifold simplicity, whereby to signify His substance.

When we attribute a divine excellence to God, then, we must do so in a way that recognizes that He is a "simple multiplicity or multifold simplicity" and that He has this excellence in such a way that He cannot possibly fail to have it. To be God is to be divinely wise, divinely just, etc.; and these are all unified, like the virtues in us, but even more perfectly. Since, however, Augustine has argued that Scripture tells us that the Son is equal to the Father, in order to be equal to the Father in one divine excellence, He must be equal to the Father in all divine excellences, precisely because the divine excellences are "simple multiplicity or multifold simplicity". Therefore the Son is consubstantial with the Father. The same thing is true of the Holy Spirit.

One might ask, however, what sense it makes to talk of "simple multiplicity or multifold simplicity" in the first place, if one is not persuaded of its coherence by the analogy with the unity of the virtues. Augustine explicitly addresses this concern by approaching the subject another way. We say creatures are not simple; so what leads us to draw this conclusion? Consider a body. We recognize that this body has parts, and that means in particular that these parts can be greater or lesser than each other, and the whole is greater than the parts. Likewise, we take color to be something different from size, and both to be different from shape. Why do we think this? Because the body can change size without changing color, change color without changing size, change either without changing shape, and change shape without changing either. Thus we conclude that bodies are composite. Now Platonist-wise, consider a spiritual substance, which will be more simple than a body. Why might we say that it is still composite? It certainly lacks the easy division into parts that bodies have; we can even say in some sense that it is whole in both whole and part, or, in other words, that the line of reasoning we used about parts and wholes fails for spiritual substances. However, it is still the case that we can take the soul to be composite, because we can recognize that it has qualities separable from each other and from itself. A spiritual substance can fail to be skillful, but become skillful; likewise, it can lose its skill. In addition, its various qualities can change with respect to each other, just as the qualities of bodies can. Thus, Augustine says, we know that spiritual substances are composite because they are changeable.

Just as the line of reasoning about parts and wholes that we used on bodies failed for spiritual substances, however, the line of reasoning about changeableness that we used on both fails for God. We can say many, many things of God, with good reason: but God is not composite, because divine excellences are equal and unchangeable, and therefore inseparable. Thus Augustine says,

His goodness is the same as His wisdom and greatness, and His truth the same as all those things; and in Him it is not one thing to be blessed, and another to be great, or wise, or true, or good, or in a word to be Himself.

It is important to be quite clear that, given the way the argument is set up, the only possible way to understand this is to take Augustine as saying that divine excellences are the same in the sense that they are equal and having one means that one cannot fail to have the others. Every one of the several passages in which Augustine says something like, "In God, to be is to be wise," must be understood in precisely this sense, because it is in every case a reference back to this argument. And in fact this becomes extraordinarily obvious: whenever Augustine mentions it, you always find that he's also talking about how God's excellences do not change and do not admit of greater or lesser.

And, of course, the whole point of this is again to argue for the consubstantiality of the Trinity. God cannot be divided into parts according to greater or less, the way bodies can; God's excellences cannot come and go; and if a Person has one divine excellence, He cannot fail to have them all. Thus if the Son and the Spirit are equal to the Father in any divine excellence, they must be consubstantial with the Father. And this, too, we find in every case.

We can easily that other comments by Augustine relevant to the account of simplicity in the De Trinitate are very similar. For instance, at one point Augustine says that we can speak substantively and relatively of God, and that God is not a subject of qualities but things like good, wise, etc., are all said of God substantively. But, again, it is clear in context that he is concerned to argue that God is not something that could be nonwise, nongood, etc.

We could go into more detail on specific passages, but it should be clear enough that Augustine's account of divine simplicity does not collapse all the divine excellences into each other. This is inconsistent with his analogy with the unity of virtues, and it is inconsistent with his claim that the divine simplicity is a "simple multiplicity or multiple simplicity", and it does not fit with the argument that he actually gives when you look at his claims in context rather than quoting them out of context.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


MrD has a good discussion of a recent article:

The thing is, you can't have a system which is easy on both the accuser and the accused. Being the victim of a crime is distressing. Being accused of committing a crime is distressing. Any system has to come up with some sort of balance between the rights of the accuser and the accused, and there are reasons that Grossman should be familiar with for the particular balance that society has struck. That's not to say that it's the best possible balance, but let's be clear: Any change that would have had things easier on her son would also have made things harder on at least some actual rape victims. There is not a system that magically sorts out the guilty from the innocent without making things difficult for anyone.

There are a lot of ways in which we could modify and improve the ways we handle rape-related issues, but this is a fundamental principle that we always need to keep in mind.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wi' A' Its Virtues Rare

The Siller Croun
By Susanna Blamire

And ye shall walk in silk attire,
And siller hae to spare,
Gin ye’ll consent to be his bride,
Nor think o’ Donald mair.
O wha wad buy a silken goun
Wi’ a poor broken heart!
Or what’s to me a siller croun,
Gin frae my love I part!

The mind wha’s every wish is pure
Far dearer is to me;
And ere I’m forc’d to break my faith,
I’ll lay me down an’ dee!
For I hae pledg’d my virgin troth
Brave Donald’s fate to share;
And he has gi’en to me his heart,
Wi’ a’ its virtues rare.

His gentle manners wan my heart,
He gratefu’ took the gift;
Could I but think to seek it back,
It wad be waur than theft!
For langest life can ne’er repay
The love he bears to me;
And ere I’m forc’d to break my troth,
I’ll lay me doun an’ dee.

Blamire, sometimes called the Muse of Cumberland, is best known for her Scottish-dialect lyrics describing Cumbrian life; several of them, including this one, were set to music by Haydn. You can listen to it here at the 30:45 minute mark. If you prefer baritone to soprano, you can listen to a Thomas L. Thomas singing a version of the song here, at the 2:30 mark.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Brief Introduction to Natural Law Theory IIIa

Part II

Having considered the way in which natural law theory is a theory of practical reason and the status of the principles of practical reason as law, we have to say something about the features of natural law itself, of which the most important are the ways in which the precepts of natural law are known, the ordering of those precepts according to the ordering of goods, and the reasons for deviations from natural law and disagreements about its precepts.

IIIa. Particular Precepts as Known

Since natural law consists of the fundamental principles of practical reason and their application to particular human goods as law, there are necessarily two aspects to how precepts of natural law are known. On the level of fundamental principles, the precepts of natural law have to be self-evident in the way any fundamental rational principles are, i.e., understood to be true when truly understood. The primary example of this, of course, is that of the first precept, good is to be done and sought and bad avoided, without which it is not possible to consider any plan or decision in a rational way at all. There is, however, no reason to think that all the fundamental principles of practical reason reduce completely to this one precept, any more than there is reason to think that all the fundamental principles of speculative reason reduce completely to the principle of noncontradiction. The primacy indicates its universality of application and its basicness in the order of practical consistency, just as it does if we consider the principle of noncontradiction in the order of theoretical consistency; it doesn't indicate that it's the exclusive or only precept of natural law that can be understood on its own terms. Indeed, given the way in which Aquinas argues for natural law, it is clear that any self-evident logical principles that can in any sense be said to apply to the relation of means to ends are themselves self-evident principles of practical reason. Likewise, there will certainly be precepts that identify self-evident features of practice itself.

Just as with speculative reason, however, we have to be careful even here. There are many logical and mathematical truths that are self-evident, in the sense that they are understood to be true when understood truly, but this does not mean that understanding them truly is always an easy endeavor. The most general and overarching principles of logic and mathematics can be understood by anyone capable of human thought; but as they increase in complexity or sophistication, the sphere of those who can understand them easily shrinks dramatically. Further, the histories both of logic and mathematics show that understanding in either field may take an extraordinary amount of careful reasoning. This is true of practical reason, as well. The first precept and other very basic precepts are easily intelligible and are recognizable whenever people consider whether plans or decisions are good or bad, reasonable or unreasonable. If one understands what decisions or plans are, or what means and ends are, or what goods and actions are, one already implicitly recognizes them. Many principles of practical reason, however, may be much more difficult to grasp or understand, and require greater preparation and study before one can do so.

The difficulty can be seen to increase when we consider the fact that they must be applied to particular circumstances. The range of circumstances to which human beings are exposed is immense, our previous understanding of the precepts may not be sufficiently good to determine what to do under some possible conditions, and (as we will see a little farther on) many goods and bads must be considered in almost any situation. This means that application will rarely if ever consist of straight deduction from general principles, the way it often will in theoretical reasoning. Both ceteris paribus and mutatis mutandis will often need to be assumed even if they are not explicitly stated. A single variation of circumstance can sometimes shift the kinds of goods being considered in a particular case, and thus the principles that are relevant. Thus, to use Aquinas's example, most cases of returning what has been entrusted to you are cases where it is clear that returning it is the right thing to do; however, when you add some additional circumstance, like causing great harm to the people around you, it is no longer so clear, not because the general principle of returning what is entrusted was wrong, but because it may no longer be clear how to apply it (e.g., whether it really requires one to return it at that time or under thsoe conditions), or even, if the circumstances are different enough, whether it still applies at all (e.g., whether the person has done something that abrogates any obligation in the matter).

This fits with our usual experience of practical reasoning, in which it is more a matter of estimation than rigorous deduction. This does not mean that there is no logic to it, or that these estimates cannot be evaluated as good or bad under the circumstances. Just as in practice we must often make do with mathematical estimates, which can nonetheless be evaluated as good or bad according to more rigorous mathematical standards, so too in practice we must often make do with practical estimates about how good or bad, and in what ways, particular actions will be in particular circumstances, while still being able to evaluate our estimates by more rigorous reasoning. To understand more fully how this works, we need to look at how precepts are ordered and the things that can interfere with good practical reasoning, which we will do in a different post.

Part IIIb

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fortnightly Book, April 14

Roger Hugh Charles Donlon was the first Vietnam War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, and the first member of special forces to do so; Donlon's citation makes for interesting reading. This brings us to the next Fortnightly Book, which is called Outpost of Freedom and tells Donlon's story.

This is an as-told-to book, written by Warren Rogers, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning political reporter best known for his biography of Robert Kennedy, with whom he was friends (and who provides a foreword for this book). One of Rogers's Pulitzers was for reporting on Green Beret activities in Vietnam, and he had been a Marine in WWII, so he was eminently suitable for this sort of collaborative not-quite-ghostwriting memoir in which he tells another person's story from that person's point of view.

The book seems to have become quite successful. It's nonfiction, but like most of the military-themed fiction in my library, this one was originally part of my grandfather's library.

The major reasons I'm reading it is that, given how busy I've been lately, I could use a book on the shorter and easier side, and I've been doing other military-themed reading recently. But it does have fairly good reviews.

Shaw, Two Plays for Puritans; & Man and Superman


Opening Passage from The Devil's Disciple

At the most wretched hour between a black night and a wintry morning in the year 1777, Mrs. Dudgeon, of New Hampshire, is sitting up in the kitchen and general dwelling room of her farm house on the outskirts of the town of Websterbridge. She is not a prepossessing woman. No woman looks her best after sitting up all night; and Mrs. Dudgeon's face, even at its best, is grimly trenched by the channels into which the barren forms and observances of a dead Puritanism can pen a bitter temper and a fierce pride. She is an elderly matron who has worked hard and got nothing by it except dominion and detestation in her sordid home, and an unquestioned reputation for piety and respectability among her neighbors, to whom drink and debauchery are still so much more tempting than religion and rectitude, that they conceive goodness simply as self-denial. This conception is easily extended to others--denial, and finally generalized as covering anything disagreeable. So Mrs. Dudgeon, being exceedingly disagreeable, is held to be exceedingly good.

Opening Passage from Caesar and Cleopatra

An October night on the Syrian border of Egypt towards the end of the XXXIII Dynasty, in the year 706 by Roman computation, afterwards reckoned by Christian computation as 48 B.C. A great radiance of silver fire, the dawn of a moonlit night, is rising in the east. The stars and the cloudless sky are our own contemporaries, nineteen and a half centuries younger than we know them; but you would not guess that from their appearance. Below them are two notable drawbacks of civilization: a palace, and soldiers. The palace, an old, low, Syrian building of whitened mud, is not so ugly as Buckingham Palace; and the officers in the courtyard are more highly civilized than modern English officers: for example, they do not dig up the corpses of their dead enemies and mutilate them, as we dug up Cromwell and the Mahdi. They are in two groups: one intent on the gambling of their captain Belzanor, a warrior of fifty, who, with his spear on the ground beside his knee, is stooping to throw dice with a sly-looking young Persian recruit; the other gathered about a guardsman who has just finished telling a naughty story (still current in English barracks) at which they are laughing uproariously. They are about a dozen in number, all highly aristocratic young Egyptian guardsmen, handsomely equipped with weapons and armor, very unEnglish in point of not being ashamed of and uncomfortable in their professional dress; on the contrary, rather ostentatiously and arrogantly warlike, as valuing themselves on their military caste.

Opening Passage from Man and Superman

Roebuck Ramsden is in his study, opening the morning letters. The study, handsomely and solidly furnished, proclaims the man of means. Not a speck of dust is visible: it is clear that there are at least two housemaids and a parlormaid downstairs, and a housekeeper upstairs who does not let them spare elbow-grease. Even the top of Roebuck's head is polished: on a sunshiny day he could heliograph his orders to distant camps by merely nodding. In no other respect, however, does he suggest the military man. It is in active civil life that men get his broad air of importance, his dignified expectation of deference, his determinate mouth disarmed and refined since the hour of his success by the withdrawal of opposition and the concession of comfort and precedence and power. He is more than a highly respectable man: he is marked out as a president of highly respectable men, a chairman among directors, an alderman among councillors, a mayor among aldermen. Four tufts of iron-grey hair, which will soon be as white as isinglass, and are in other respects not at all unlike it, grow in two symmetrical pairs above his ears and at the angles of his spreading jaws. He wears a black frock coat, a white waistcoat (it is bright spring weather), and trousers, neither black nor perceptibly blue, of one of those indefinitely mixed hues which the modern clothier has produced to harmonize with the religions of respectable men.

Summary: I don't have all that much to say about these works, beyond that they involve typical Shavian paradoxes: the devil's disciple sacrifices himself for another, the brutality and virtue of Caesar are one thing, and the quasi-Nietzschean Superman turns out to be Woman, to name just the most obvious ones. Of the three, Man and Superman is the best, although the very best part of it is the part from Act 3 that is often skipped, the long argument between the Devil and Don Juan Tenorio. In a sense the latter conveys the theme of all Shaw's major works, in its image of heaven being the realm in which people devote themselves to the way things really are while hell is "the home of the unreal and of the seekers for happiness"; hell, it turns out, is all about love and beauty, or at least the appearances of them, and amusing oneself without consequences -- which is only possible in mere fantasy. The general idea of looking at things without rose-colored glasses, without illusions and hypocrisies, is an important one for Shaw.

Favorite Passage from The Devil's Disciple

Go out into the street and bring in the first townsman you see there.

SERGEANT [making for the door]
Yes sir.

BURGOYNE [as the sergeant passes]
The first clean, sober townsman you see.

Favorite Passage from Caesar and Cleopatra

CLEOPATRA [vehemently]
Listen to me, Caesar. If one man in all Alexandria can be found to say that I did wrong, I swear to have myself crucified on the door of the palace by my own slaves.

If one man in all the world can be found, now or forever, to know that you did wrong, that man will have either to conquer the world as I have, or be crucified by it. [The uproar in the streets again reaches them.] Do you hear? These knockers at your gate are also believers in vengeance and in stabbing. You have slain their leader: it is right that they shall slay you. If you doubt it, ask your four counselors here. And then in the name of that RIGHT [He emphasizes the word with great scorn.] shall I not slay them for murdering their Queen, and be slain in my turn by their countrymen as the invader of their fatherland? Can Rome do less then than slay these slayers too, to show the world how Rome avenges her sons and her honor? And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand. [Fierce uproar. Cleopatra becomes white with terror.] Hearken, you who must not be insulted. Go near enough to catch their words: you will find them bitterer than the tongue of Pothinus. [Loftily wrapping himself up in an impenetrable dignity.] Let the Queen of Egypt now give her orders for vengeance, and take her measures for defense; for she has renounced Caesar. [He turns to go.]
Favorite Passage from Man and Superman

Are you all Socialists here, may I ask?

MENDOZA [repudiating this humiliating misconception]
Oh no, no, no: nothing of the kind, I assure you. We naturally have modern views as to the justice of the existing distribution of wealth: otherwise we should lose our self-respect. But nothing that you could take exception to, except two or three faddists.

I had no intention of suggesting anything discreditable. In fact, I am a bit of a Socialist myself.

STRAKER [drily]
Most rich men are, I notice.

Recommendation: All three are worth reading, but Man and Superman is especially recommended; it would be for the character of Henry Straker alone, even if it had few other virtues.