Saturday, February 01, 2014

Dashed Off IV

Still trying to catch up on these. As always, it's exactly what it says on the tin -- dashed off.

pleasure and pain as ingredients of cognition

the suitability of the world as a stage for moral lives as rational animals

intelligibility - congeniality for thought - purposefulness

All tradition presupposes the tradition of human nature itself, as educable and as having a cultivation or education appropriate to it.

Ought implies can because ought is needful can.

The (sensible) beautiful as concerning us precisely as both rational and animal.

Polytheism tends to move from subjects to agencies or roles, especially when faced with other polytheisms.

Rhetoric is concerned more with the conditions of persuadability than with persuasion as such. The basic principle is that people must be under conditions so as to be persuadable in order to be persuaded: that is, they must be ordered, disposed, to persuasion.

analogy as an indeterministic logic allowing different answers according to level of focus, contextual assumptions, and (perhaps) trial-and-error search in a conceptual field marked out by them

We know divine reason or eternal law by image in reason and by indication and symbol in revelation.

Language is natural to us in the sense that coming up with language is natural to us; and even our everyday use of language is just a coming-up-with-language. We invent on the fly, even if we make extensive use of previously discovered solutions.

sign languages as dynamic 3D written languages
sign language as iconic presentational spoke languages

consensus gentium as abstracting from merely individual biases (still leaves systemic biases)

Practice and habit smooth over waverings in genius and temper.

books as licensed discussions, the licenses for which may be leased or traded under contract

(1) Do we reason practically with regard to means and end?
: Obvious to experience
: Required for communication and structuring of argument
(2) Does this reasoning admit of analysis in terms of principles?
: Experience shows ability to make principled distinctions and to give reasoned, principled arguments
: Intrinsic to its character as reasoning
(3) Do these principles concern the good?
: Obvious to experience that we consider good in practical reasoning
: Agents act for ends under aspect of good
: Convertibility of being and good guarantees good-based principles of reason
(4) Is bonum est faciendam et prosequendam a necessary first principle?
: Cannot distinguish good and bad in practical life without it
: Necessary given nature of good as desirable
: Results when converting the principle of noncontradiction according to convertibility of being and good
(5) Does moral life fall under these principles?
(6) Are these principles precepts?

Marriage makes more reasonable the loves even of those who are not married.

One may marry because of love, but one certainly marries in order to love.

The meaning of every work of art at least partly contains the history of art.

pauses in reasoning as part of the reasoning

Being a means and an instrument, the state must be constrained not merely by aims but by procedural and institutional constraints that preserve it as an appropriate means and instrument.

The purpose of argument in general is not to persuade but to reason.

probability as modal logic with proportions

will to power as thymos

Game-theoretical explanations presuppose stable demerit and benefit.

first principles of natural law -> general reflex principles of aesthetics -> canons of aesthetic ends -> cases of productive reason

clarity as dialectical success

Beyond a certain expanse of time man can only plan ahead by appeal to the timeless.

The only true sign of learning is understanding what it is that we do not yet know.

the beautiful as occupying us cognitively

Our sensibility is not structured independently of our capacity to understand the world.

reflex principles as rules for the unification of taste with reason

An exhaustive account of beauty would require an exhaustive account of cognition.

The beautiful as that which is cognized as the exemplary object-of-satisfaction.

beauty as an apparent preadaptedness to our minds

The pleasantness of the pursuit of the pleasant does not depend wholly on the pleasant that is pursued.

The state is the child of the populace.

the familial destination of man

Art reflects our cultivation of ourselves.

Overwhelming joy stuns like terror.

Every sublimity is in some sense an intelligible sublimity.

rhetoric as the logic of advice

cultivation of taste for beauty as related to cultivation of freedom of mind

universal communicability of taste as the sociality implicit in reason

Nothing can be regarded as an appearance except by regarding it as being given.

The maximum of saturation is not revelation but union.

An interpretation is an interpreter interpreting.

Love is not univocal & is told in many ways; to recognize a single garment of love does nto requrie us to hold it is a single unwoven thread. The weaving of the garment is precisely what it is for love to be told in many ways.

love as rationality-giving

God is presupposed in making distinctions.

The apophatic opens out into confession, and confession returns at its end to negative theology.

hierarchy as the work of teleiosis

In transubstantiation, Christ is first exterior and we must come to Him in order to commune.

Transubstantiation is not an account of change so much as an account of presence in mystery (sacrament).

There are few mistakes worse than criticizing theology for not being omniscience.

transubstantiation as an account of the beginning or genesis of our theosis (bodily through sign and spiritually through faith Christ in His full humanity unites us to God) - > cf "This sacrament is nothing else than the application of our Lord's passion to us."

In transubstantiation, sacrifice is no longer merely exterior (priestly) nor moral-symbolic (prophetic).

Without real presence in some way, Christ's sacrifice is not for us, not made ours in particular, but is merely a generic sacrifice, at best.

Hope is lifted up by signs of charity, for it exists itself by inspiration of charity.

Covenant presupposes law; in particular, it requires our being able to act together under one law, or in light of one law.

Transubstantiation is the way in which Christ's presence in sacrament and liturgy goes beyond His presence in creation; and rejecting it turns Christian worship into the contemplation of God in His creation. In other words, all accounts other than transubstantiation are accounts of a particular way God is present in creation and cannot distinguish communion from these. (Possibly consubstantiation, taken in ways other than ubiquity, has some room here, as well.)

the heresy of Modernism as flight from the body in theological matters, flight from the theological body (informed by rational soul, with divine vocation)

(1) real presence
(2) conversion (real difference)
(3) this conversion is neither annihilation nor creation
(4) this conversion is not a natural change (material transformation)
(5) symbolic (accidents remain)
(6) but complete
(7) and nongradual, being a pure expression of divine power

pharisaism as the failure to give alms to oneself (Augustine Ench XX sect 76)

natural law as first tradition

The Eucharist symbolically represents glory; one's account of it establishes the limits of human glorification by God.

Marriage expresses in holy sign that which Eucharist accomplishes in holy act.

Marriage becomes a sacrament in part because Eucharist is the sacrament of sacraments.

The sacraments each transfigure different aspects of rational life: e.g., eucharist community, reconciliation repentance, matrimony covenant.

sacramentals as showing how grace ripples out and transfigures the world around us, giving it new significance (the work of bees)

The epiclesis establishes that transubstantiation is not merely of bread and wine but of bread and wine made holy sacramentalia by prayer and grace.

Scripture as the principle and matrix of all sacramentalia

liturgy and the sublime in the picturesque and harmonious

unction as the hylemorphic sacrament -- why the rational soul must in some way be form of the body (not origin of Vienne, but the sacrament requires Vienne's insistence)

Kant's moral philosophy throughout presupposes the impossibility of the Beatific Vision.

Christ's Baptism shows that baptism is the sacrament of being a child of God; in baptism, we stand in Christ's place, the Spirit descends, and the Father says, "This is My Son."

Christ had not only to take on human nature, flesh, but also the tradition of it, which chiefly consists in each generation being part of the previous, invested in it, by each being part of his or her mother. (This closely ties to Mary as New Eve; Christ must take on not merely mankind as Adam, dust, flesh, man; but also in some way mankind as Eve, life, the being-given of a new generation.)

cause as explaining resemblance, contiguity and regularity

The modern world does not handle symbolism well because it approaches it purely associatively, leading to insuperable gaps and strange incongruities.

liturgy as a participation in eternal reason

natural law as teleology of the will precisely as free (Chastek)

Given that Kant makes the subject of ontology objects of thought rather than being, Hegel was perhaps inevitable.

practices helping to fix metaphorical meaning (alchemy has some excellent examples of this)

Humean curiosity & Nietzschean will to power

Randomness in evolutionary theory is randomness with respect to fitness outcomes; i.e., you can always substitute 'not tending in itself to fitness'.

Leviticus as the book of vocation (cp Vayikra)

shelamim as showing the Israelites to be a priestly people

the sacrificial system as uniting the Israelites so that they could together carry the burden no one of them could carry alone

sacrifice & vocation as connected: no vocation without sacrifice

The first step in carrying the Cross of Christ is to take up the compassion of Christ.

In judgments of taste we posit the unity or oneness of human nature.

enlightenment, universal standpoint, consistency

humanity (rational nature) -> sociability -> taste as having universal import -> civilization

genius as exemplary originality, originating standards for freedom

As judgment of sublimity concerns the supersensible in ourselves, so Kant's judgment of design concerns superhuman art in nature.

taste as the discipline of genius

Stimulus is not a distinct event from receiving of the stimulus.

taste as unification of experience

articulation, presentation, modulation

rhetoric as imaginatizing the intelligible; poetics as intellectualizing the imaginable

poetry as intimating the supersensible with the sensible

the attraction of gambling as based on free play of sensation

For Kant teleology is as if we treated the beautiful as determinative for causation.

teleological judgment is problematic for Kant; this makes possible the use of it as analogy
->indeed problematic modality seems analogy-linked; it is the as-if modality, so to speak

Kant's 'ontology' is necessarily just empiricism.

Treaties establish international law obligations on states (assuming they are legitimate) but only the obligation and only on states: the obligation on the state is an obligation to legislate and enforce, not itself the legislation.

You cannot plan away the need for prudence.

Whom None Can Bribe, and None Can Overawe

Any Poet At Any Time
by Alfred Austin

Time, thou supreme inexorable Judge,
Whom none can bribe, and none can overawe,
Who unto party rancour, private grudge,
Calmly opposeth equitable law,
Before whom advocacy vainly strives
To make the better cause to seem the worse,
To thy Tribunal, when our jangling lives
Are husht, I leave the verdict on my verse.
Irrevocably then wilt thou proclaim
What should have been, what now must ever be,
If in oblivion perish should my name,
Or shine aloft in mighty company.
I to my kind proffering of my poor best,
Remit to Time's arbitrament the rest.

Alfred Austin had the unenviable task of being a merely ordinary poet following Tennyson as Poet Laureate, which was made worse by the fact that he was suspected of getting it for political reasons, and probably did. He also tended to write in old-fashioned and unpopular styles. When he was appointed, he had the instant hate of his peers for being undeserving, and his reputation has never recovered from it.

In reality, he is a competent poet, particularly good with natural description. His poetry consistently reads well aloud, which is one test of poetic competence, and his strange reputation as both pompous and pedestrian arises from the conversational quality of his poetry -- he has no soaring flights of prettiness, just surges of excitement, complicated by an English irony. It is a common fault of poetic criticism to label every walking poet plodding and everyone less than high genius incompetent; such bombastic court flattery results in many an injustice to the common craftsman.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Nicholas Cusanus and Squaring the Circle

I was looking up something or other on Bl. Nicholas of Cusa the other day and started reading about his works on squaring the circle. One of the things that I noticed was that a lot of websites simply stated that he attempted to square the circle -- which, of course, is mathematically impossible. Now, this, and particularly the dispute with Regiomontanus on squaring the circle, which the websites mostly had in view, is not something I am deeply familiar with, but I have read more than a bit of Cusanus, and one thing I am quite sure of is that his position on the subject is not that straightforward. The fact of the matter is that you can find arguments both for and against the possibility of squaring the circle in his works; part of the reason for this being that he often is attempting to summarize the dispute. He also very famously has a tendency to slip out of subjunctive mood into indicative mood in talking about things that he does not necessarily believe, which sometimes makes it difficult to determine whether he is putting forward something as his own view or as a reasonable conclusion given some assumption he might not actually hold. And he uses examples and analogies in a way that takes some getting used to. Thus, for instance, it is often said that he held that a straight line was a circle of infinite diameter although it's not actually clear that he thought that this was literally true. Interpretation is further complicated by the fact that he seems to have thought that the dispute between those who thought the circle could be squared and those who thought it could not be was based on equivocation, and that the two sides were not using the same definition of equality.

Nonetheless, it is definitely true that he here and there gives theological arguments, in which he uses squaring the circle as an example, that seem very clearly to presuppose that it is not possible to square the circle. What is more, he occasionally uses it as an analogy in discussing one of his most important philosophical positions, that we are not able to achieve exact, precise truth, but only an approximation to it. (As he says at one point, the human intellect is to truth as a many-sided polygon to a circle.) So it seems more likely to be his view that it is not, in fact, possible to square the circle, in the proper sense, but that we can 'square' the circle in the sense of getting something like it by approximation.

Again, the whole is quite complicated, and I don't pretend to have an understanding of his full view; it's possible that there is some nuance I am missing. But I am, again, quite sure that it is an error simply to claim that he held that the circle could be squared when one can find both explicit statements in his work denying that it is possible and importantly placed analogies that seem to assume that it is not; his view is certainly more complicated.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Autonomy, Compassion, and Physician-Assisted Dying

Mercier, Sumner, and Weinstock on "physician-assisted dying":

Those who advocate for the legal option of medical aid in dying have been quite consistent in calling upon these two principles, autonomy and compassion, in support of their efforts.

It should now be obvious why the opponents’ equation of physician-assisted dying with murder is mistaken. No one, of course, doubts that murder is wrong. But its wrongness is due to two important factors: the harm it does to the victim and its violation of the victim’s autonomy. Neither of these factors applies to physician-assisted dying.

What really should be obvious is how much this begs the question; practically all opponents of the process involved hold that it in fact does harm the victim and/or in fact violates the victim's autonomy. We see this even more obviously when they go on to explain. First, for autonomy:

Murder substitutes the will of the perpetrator for that of the victim. Physician-assisted dying respects the free will of the patient.

But no serious analysis of murder as wrong on autonomy grounds takes it to be wrong for such an absurdly vague reason as that it "substitutes the will of the perpetrator for that of the victim," a description so thoroughly useless that it can apply to virtual identity theft in Second Life. And respect for "the free will of the patient" in no way affects the analysis for whether one should actively cooperate with it or not; one cannot simply leap from one to the other as if they were the same. Much of the confusion here is due to the author's conflation of autonomy and freedom of choice -- the two on certain conceptions overlap but are not the same -- but even setting this aside, the analysis given is absurdly simplistic.

And on harm:

Murder harms its victims by depriving them of further life which would be of value to them. But patients elect medical aid in dying when the only future they can foresee promises nothing but additional suffering.

That the terms are being deliberately rigged to get the 'right' answer is even more obvious here, since most people would hold that the harm to a victim comes by depriving them of further life -- no additional weasel clause. If someone clearly and obviously did not value further life and someone came up and killed them without asking their consent, there would be no room to argue that it didn't count as murder because further life wasn't of value to them; the bare fact of taking their life would be regarded as harming them. What is more, it isn't clear why anyone would assume that 'harm' can be connected so tightly to valuing of one's life. Everyone recognizes that people die because of biological harms; this doesn't magically go away if the person in question is suffering from severe prolonged depression. Everyone recognizes that people can be harmed in ways of which they are not aware, or, indeed, in ways that they don't think they are being harmed, by means of things that they do not at that point value. (For instance, the experience of looking back and seeing that one was harmed by being deprived of something of value that at the time one was simply not in a position to value is not an uncommon experience.) When they first raised the issue of harm, the authors said that the principle involved was "compassion for our fellow citizens". Does compassion suddenly vanish if people don't value further life, so that no harms against them are recognized at all? Because to hold not that the harm is outweighed but that there is no harm to raise the issue of compassion is, at the most generous assessment, a clear case of trying to rig the definitions to get one's pet result. (This doesn't even get into the obviously illegitimate slide from talking about "further life which would be of value to the patient" to "further life of which the patient can foresee no value".)

Mercier and Weinstock I don't really know, but that Sumner, who can generally be expected to give an argument with some effort in it, would put his name to such ridiculously amateurish and question-begging reasoning just baffles me. This is not serious philosophical argument; it is sophistical advocacy pretending to give reasons.

Music on My Mind

Epica with Roy Khan, "Trois Vierges". The lyrics are a bit bizarre, and don't really fit the melody at all; but that's typical of Epica and, frankly, you could give Simone Simons and Roy Khan stock reports to sing and it wouldn't matter much.


Let us, then, embracing more and more this good obedience, give ourselves to the Lord; clinging to what is surest, the cable of faith in Him, and understanding that the virtue of man and woman is the same. For if the God of both is one, the master of both is also one; one church, one temperance, one modesty; their food is common, marriage an equal yoke; respiration, sight, hearing, knowledge, hope, obedience, love all alike. And those whose life is common, have common graces and a common salvation; common to them are love and training.

St. Clement of Alexandria, Pedagogus, Book I, Chapter 4

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Infinity and Dignity

The dignity of the intelligent subject arises, as I have observed, from the dignity of the idea of being, the source of the subject's understanding. Being, the first object of knowledge and the source of all our other knowledge, is universal, unlimited and infinite, and alone renders the mind capable of knowing all the genera and species of good, and enjoying such knowledge. The nature of this knowledge and enjoyment is characterised by a truly supreme and infinite dignity. It enables the intelligent subject to forget self by considering things as they are in themselves; to look at things impartially and justly; and in so doing, to render homage to being itself, without thought of self, in all the degrees in which it knows being.

The objectivity found in intellective contemplation is in a certain sense infinite, as I said, because it has no limits. It is capable of making known all things, even infinite things, as they are and whatever they are. And infinity is the fundamental principle of dignity. Wherever we are engaged with something infinite, we are dealing with something so great and awesome that finite things give way before it. In its presence, they experience a sublime sense of their own nothingness in thinking of this being which, transcending them, calls forth unlimited reverence for its own veiled, obscure grandeur. The primary dignity of the intelligent subject, therefore, lies in the contemplation of truth.

Bl. Antonio Rosmini, The Principles of Ethics, Chapter 3, Article 9 (section 66).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas Day

Here in Austin we're icing over slightly, so the college called off classes. The roads are actually not very bad. I know this, because classes were cancelled quite late, so by the time they had cancelled classes I had driven the fifteen miles up the Interstate to northern Round Rock in heavy traffic and had been on campus for an hour; after which, having done some minor bits and pieces of work I drove back. Well, it's probably for the very best; Austin drivers tend to lack the concept of 'following distance', and going up I passed three or four accidents.

In any case, I'll take the holiday. Today is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church. It is also the 1200th anniversary of the death of Charlemagne. So, how about a little medieval political philosophy to celebrate? Here's a passage from Summa Theologiae 2-1.105.1, my translation:

With regard to the good ordering of the government [principum] of some city or nation, two things must be attended to. One is that everyone should have some part in the government [in principatu], for through this is conserved the peace of the people [pax populi], and everyone loves and takes care of such an ordering, as is said in Politics 2. The other is that one must attend to the kind of ordering of regime or government. For whereas these are of diverse kinds, as the Philosopher hands down in Politics 3, nonetheless especially significant is kingdom, in which one rules according to virtue, and aristocracy, that is, governance by the best [potestas optimorum], in which a few rule according to virtue. Thus the best ordering of government is in a kingdom or city in which one is distinguished so as to rule all according to virtue; and under him are several ruling according to virtue; and nonetheless rule belongs to everyone, both because anyone can be chosen and also because they are chosen from all. This, then, is the best polity, well-mixed from kingdom, inasmuch as one is preeminent, and aristocracy, inasmuch as many rule according to virtue, and democracy, that is, governance by the people [potestas populi], inasmuch as the princes are chosen from the people and to the people belongs the choosing of princes [electio principum].

This follows fairly straightforwardly from Aquinas's account of law, which is based on common good, and his conception of who has the authority to do what is required to take care of the common good. From Summa Theologiae 2-1.90.3, also my translation:

Law properly, primarily, and principally is concerned with order to common good. But to order something to common good belongs either to the whole multitude or to someone acting as proxy [gerentis vicem] for the whole multitude. And thus making law either belongs to the whole multitude or to some public person who is to care [curam habet] for the whole multitude. For in everything else to order to the end is his to whom the end belongs.

And what follows about the responsibilities of such a government. In De Regno 1.13 lays out what he sees as the seven responsibilities of the one charged with caring for the multitude (also my translation):

Thus taught by divine law, he should set himself especially to the study of how the many subject to him may live well; which study is divided into the three parts, as the first is to institute a good life in the many subjects, the second to conserve what is instituted, and the third to move what is conserved forward to what is better [conservatam ad meliora promoveat].

And for good life for one man two things are required, one principally, which is acting according to virtue (for virtue is that by which one lives well), the other secondarily and as it were instrumentally, which is sufficiency of bodily goods, whose use is needed to act virtuously. But the unity of that man is caused by nature; while the unity of the many, which is called 'peace', is procured through the industry of the ruler. Therefore for the instituting of good life for the many three things are required. [1] First of all, that the many be established in the unity of peace. [2] Second, that the many united by this bond of peace be directed to acting well. For just as a man can do nothing well unless a unity of his parts is presupposed, so a multitude of men, lacking the unity of peace, by fighting among themselves are impeded from acting well. [3] Third, it requires that through the industry of the rulers there be present a sufficient abundance of things necessary for living well.

So when the good life by the duty of the king is established for the many, it follows that he must set himself to conserving it. But there are three things which do not allow public good to last, of which one arises by nature. The good of the many should not be instituted for only one time, but should in some way be perpetual. Yet men are mortal; they are not able to abide perpetually. Nor, while alive, are they always vigorous, because they are subject to many variations of human life, and thus men are not able to perform their duties equally throughout their whole lives. And another impediment to conserving the common good, proceeding from inside, consists in perversity of will, in that some either are lazy [sunt desides] in performing what the commonweal requires or, beyond this, are noxious to the peace of the multitude, in that by transgressing justice they disturb the peace of others. And the third impediment to conserving the commonweal is caused from outside, in that through the incursion of enemies the peace is dissolved and sometimes it happens that the kingdom or city is scattered.

Therefore to these three a triple charge is placed on the king. [4] First, that he prepare for the succession and substitution of those who fulfill diverse duties; just as through the divine government of corruptible things, which cannot abide forever, provision is made that through generation one should take the place of another, so that the integrity of the universe is conserved, so also is the study of the king to conserve the good of the many subject to him, in that he concerns himself attentively to fill with others places that are empty. [5] And second, by his laws and precepts, penalties and rewards, he should force [coerceat] men subject to him away from iniquity and encourage [inducat] them to virtuous works, taking God as example, who gives law to man, favoring those who observe it, repaying with penalty those who transgress it. [6] Third, a charge is laid on the king to restore safety against enemies to the many subject to him. There would be no use in eliminating internal dangers if one could not defend from external ones.

And then for the instituting of the good of the many there is a third thing belonging to the duty of a king, [7] that he attentively move it forward, which is done when, in each thing noted before, he studies to perfect it, correcting what is disordered, supplying what is missing, and doing better what he can.

She Sleeps

The Sleeping Beauty
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Year after year unto her feet,
She lying on her couch alone,
Across the purpled coverlet,
The maiden's jet-black hair has grown,
On either side her tranced form
Forth streaming from a braid of pearl:
The slumbrous light is rich and warm,
And moves not on the rounded curl.


The silk star-broider'd coverlid
Unto her limbs itself doth mould
Languidly ever; and, amid
Her full black ringlets downward roll'd,
Glows forth each softly-shadow'd arm,
With bracelets of the diamond bright:
Her constant beauty doth inform
Stillness with love, and day with light.


She sleeps: her breathings are not heard
In palace chambers far apart.
The fragrant tresses are not stirr'd
That lie upon her charmed heart.
She sleeps: on either hand upswells
The gold-fringed pillow lightly prest:
She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells
A perfect form in perfect rest.

The third stanza approaches perfection.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Notable Links

* Trent Dougherty on Skeptical Theism at the SEP

* John C. Wright on the Green Hornet

* Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, ‘Beyond all holiness’: St Nicolas Cabasilas on the Mother of God

* Dorothy Cummings McLean on apostasy and liturgy in Benson's Lord of the World.

One thing that would be interesting would be more people reading Dawn of All, which can be seen as the next step. Lord of the World showed that if things went very bad for Catholics, the true Catholic must be willing to accept martyrdom, should faith ever demand it. Dawn of All showed that if things went very good for Catholics -- then the true Catholic must be willing to accept martyrdom, should love ever demand it. Good or bad, the measure of Christian life is the same, and the measure is a Man willing to suffer and to die on a Cross for us and for our salvation.

* A lecture from the early 1960s by James Weisheipl, O.P., on Communist philosophy (PDF) (ht)


* Peter Brooks on Balzac

Unsettling Omen

Two white doves that were released by children standing alongside Pope Francis as a peace gesture have been attacked by other birds.

As tens of thousands of people watched in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, a seagull and a large black crow swept down on the doves right after they were set free from an open window of the Apostolic Palace.

One dove lost some feathers as it broke free from the gull. But the crow pecked repeatedly at the other dove.

It was not clear what happened to the doves as they flew off.

While speaking at the window beforehand, Francis had appealed for peace in Ukraine, where anti-government protesters have died.
(From here)

Unfortunately, given the way the world works, it's probably an accurate symbol regardless of whether anyone believes in omens or not.

Incidentally, I find it somewhat remarkable that we get news reports on what happens when the Pope releases doves.

They All the Mysteries of Friendship Know

The Defence
by John Norris

I. That I am colder in my Friendship grown,
My Faith and Constancy you blame,
But sure th' inconstancy is all your own,
I am, but you are not the same;
The flame of Love must needs expire
If you subtract what should maintain the Fire.

II. While to the Laws of Vertue you were true,
You had, and might retain my Heart;
Now give me leave to turn Apostate too,
Since you do from your self depart.
Thus the Reform'd are counted free
From Schism, tho they desert the Roman See.

III. The strictest Union to be found below
Is that which Soul and Body ties,
They all the Mysteries of Friendship know,
And with each other sympathise.
And yet the Soul will bid adieu
T' her much distemper'd Mate, as I leave you.

Donne couldn't write a metaphysical poem with metaphysical conceits that were more metaphysical; the oddity of the second stanza Protestantism metaphor (the breaking of a friendship as the Reformation) is as striking as a good metaphysical conceit should be, and that in the third, while less original, is well expressed.

John Locke and John Norris had their big break in 1692. Collection of Miscellanies, which this is from, was first published in 1687 (and went through nine editions by 1730). Unfortunately, I don't have any access to the earlier editions; I am assuming that this was in the original. If that's so, then it predates the Locke/Norris spat, making it somewhat ironic, since it fits what must certainly have been Norris's perspective on the quarrel perfectly. An additional irony is the explicit Protestantism of the poem, given that one of the many insults Locke and Masham applied to Norris after the break was that his views were Papistical superstitions imbibed from Malebranche.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mereological Loves

[A] man's children are more lovable to him than his father, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. viii). First, because parents love their children as being part of themselves, whereas the father is not part of his son, so that the love of a father for his children, is more like a man's love for himself. Secondly, because parents know better that so and so is their child than vice versa. Thirdly, because children are nearer to their parents, as being part of them, than their parents are to them to whom they stand in the relation of a principle. Fourthly, because parents have loved longer, for the father begins to love his child at once, whereas the child begins to love his father after a lapse of time; and the longer love lasts, the stronger it is, according to Sirach 9:14: "Forsake not an old friend, for the new will not be like to him."
(Aquinas ST 2-2.26.9)

I've always thought the first and third are especially interesting arguments, because I think there is almost certainly something to the basic idea, but it's very difficult to pin down exactly how to understand it in a way that goes beyond a vague sense of analogy. (It's also a good example of a way in which mereology can arise in unexpected places.) The basic idea, of course, is that parent is to child as whole is to part. Aquinas, of course, is not claiming that there aren't defective parent-child relationships, in which it does not turn out this way; the point, which has some precedent in Aristotle but is taken well beyond anything in Aristotle himself, is that parenthood as such involves taking one's children to be in some way a part of one's own self, while the reverse relationship of being a son and a daughter involves taking one's parents to be in some way a whole of which one's self is a part. This is not intended to be a metaphor. And it does seem that there is some broad, morally relevant sense of the term 'self' where both of these end up being true. The basic norm for parenthood in Aquinas's account is necessarily Christian love of neighbor -- loving others as oneself. Thus the parent is to love the child as himself or herself, and the child is to love the parent as himself or herself. But this does not mean that they are symmetrical, because it is modulated by this part-whole asymmetry. The parent ideally loves the child as himself or herself, but in a sense the child is already a definite part of the parent's self. The child ideally loves the parent as himself or herself, but for the child the parent is much more like an environment, a background, or, to use the mereological terms, a whole of which the child is a part.

In the Sentences commentary (In III Sent d 29, a 7), Aquinas links this idea to the causal relation between parent and child. For the parent, the generation of child is not really all that much different than the development of a body-part; the child is a res patris (a thing belonging to the parent, or, sometimes more narrowly, a thing of the father)and res patris diligentis est, ut membrum ipsius (the thing belonging to the loving father is as his own body-part). The child is in some sense a natural expression of the parent, whereas the parent is more like the world in which the child finds itself. Because of this, Aquinas argues, as he does above that there's a legitimate sense in which the love of the parent for the child is capable of greater intimacy (nearness) than the love of the child for the parent.

The mereological asymmetry does other work in Aquinas, although it's not often brought out in a way to make it blindingly obvious -- for instance, it is the reason that parents have authority over children, namely, that as the 'whole' they are natural caretakers for the common good they share with the child, which takes precedence over the individual good of either the parent or the child -- but we really don't need to get into it for the basic idea. (Although it's worth noting how often Aquinas puts social order in mereological terms.) As I said, it's one of those ideas that seems to have something in it -- even if it turns out unworkable as is, it seems to capture something -- but it's difficult to get traction on this idea beyond the basic idea itself.

Fortnightly Book, January 26

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was a prolific author; he could often write for sixteen hours a day with no more than minor breaks (and a lot of coffee). At some point amidst all his novels and plays and short stories, he began to see that much of what he was doing somehow was tied together, and in 1830 he began to formulate this tie by grouping works together in a sort of super-opus, which he eventually called La Comédie humaine, The Human Comedy. In a sense it kept outgrowing itself. He originally just grouped some of his works under the label Scènes de la vie privée, Scenes of Private Life, which naturally suggested the possibility of something more expensive; he then conceived of the idea of a sister series, Scènes de la vie de province, Scenes of Provincial Life. As this series progressed he began using occasionally recurring characters from work to work.

By 1834, he recognized that a different organization could include a handful of his other works, and that there might be a better way to group the works already there. Thus he came up with the idea of a three-category classification for this super-group: Etudes de Moeurs au XIXe siècle, Studies of Nineteenth-Century Manners, which was largely built around his original conception and natural extensions of it, and was concerned with the effects of society; Etudes philosophiques, Philosophical Studies, which were more fantastic, building on ideas that were spiritualistic or quasi-counterfactual, which he took to shed light on social causes; and Etudes analytiques, Analytical Studies, which was taken up by one of the works Balzac had wanted to add in, The Physiology of Marriage, and which, being more abstract and removed from narrative, he took to explore the principles connecting cause and effect in society. The first category, however, kept growing, until it contained not only the first two Scènes but also Scènes de la vie parisienne, Scenes of Parisian Life; Scènes de la vie politique, Scenes of Political Life; Scènes de la vie militaire, Scenes of Military Life; and Scènes de la vie de campagne, Scenes of Country Life. By the end of his life at age fifty-one, La Comédie humaine consisted of about 91 complete works and forty-six incomplete or projected works. In the works as we have them characters number in the thousands. And it is worth keeping in mind that he had a short life: the entire super-opus as we have it was written in the space of about twenty years. We talk about world-building today, but authors who can really be said to do it in a serious way are few; Balzac is one of them. Incidentally, not all of Balzac's work are in La Comédie humaine; he has several plays that are not, and one of his most famous (and most banned) works, Droll Stories, is also separate.

Being a remarkably prolific author should have set Balzac up for life, but he had a tendency to spend money as quickly as he got it. He lived and ate well, spent money on mistresses, and engaged in reckless-to-the-point-of-crazy business ventures at every turn. At one point he had to flee his creditors and he died more or less penniless. It's hard to think of the author of the Human Comedy as a human tragedy, though; perhaps he was more of a human farce.

The fortnightly book is Eugénie Grandet. It was the first of the Scènes de la vie de province, published in 1834 when only the first bare outlines of the super-opus were in view, and is usually regarded as one of Balzac's greatest novels, and the first of his novels to be not merely good but great. It is said to be one of his more serious and restrained novels, looking at the interaction of life and money. This will be my first time reading it. I haven't really read any of Balzac's novels before, although I've read quite a few of his short stories, including all of the very-much-not-for-children-and-sometimes-not-for-adults Droll Stories, which is the other Balzac book I have on my shelf.

I'll be reading it in a nice Heritage Press (New York) edition with reproduced wash-and-line drawings by René de Sussan. It uses 14-point Bembo type on nice paper. The binding is especially nice; I quote from the Sandglass:

The three-piece cloth binding, assembled into one piece by the Russell-Rutter company in New York, follows the style devised by Meynell for our great French Romances series. The backstrap is a forest-green buckram of the highest, most expensive grade, with the script title stamped in genuine gold leaf, and the linen sides are printed in dark green with an overall pattern reproducing the classic French fleur-de-lis. As with our Great French Romances, this design has deliberately been handled to give the tapestry a faded effect.

Nothing like reading a Heritage Press edition, with its perfect balance of practicality, inexpensiveness, and artistry; these things really do affect how one reads.