Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smith on Sensibility and Self-Command

As taste and good judgment, when they are considered as qualities which deserve praise and admiration, are supposed to imply a delicacy of sentiment and an acuteness of understanding not commonly to be met with; so the virtues of sensibility and self-command are not apprehended to consist in the ordinary, but in the uncommon degrees of those qualities. The amiable virtue of humanity requires, surely, a sensibility, much beyond what is possessed by the rude vulgar of mankind. The great and exalted virtue of magnanimity undoubtedly demands much more than that degree of self-command, which the weakest of mortals is capable of exerting. As in the common degree of the intellectual qualities, there is no abilities; so in the common degree of the moral, there is no virtue. Virtue is excellence, something uncommonly great and beautiful, which rises far above what is vulgar and ordinary. The amiable virtues consist in that degree of sensibility which surprises by its exquisite and unexpected delicacy and tenderness. The awful and respectable, in that degree of self-command which astonishes by its amazing superiority over the most ungovernable passions of human nature.

[Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, I.1.45. It is interesting to find this juxtaposition outside of Sense and Sensibility, although it could just be a convergence or influence from the general ambience. But I'm not sure it is consistent with the general thrust of S&S to divide up virtues into sensibility-virtues and self-command-virtues like this.]

Monday, April 24, 2017

Evening Note for Monday, April 24

Thought for the Evening: Progymnasmata and Language-Learning

A comment by Cristina on the evening note about developing a treasury of ideas led me to think about the possibility of adapting classical rhetorical pedagogy to language-learning -- or, to be more exact, to learning of language fluency (since the basics would have been covered by grammar rather than rhetoric). It makes considerable sense, actually, if you think about it, since rhetoric is concerned with speaking and writing well.

Classical rhetoric is constituted by the five canons -- inventio or heuresis (discovery of appropriate things to say), dispositio or taxis (organizing what is said in a coherent way), elocutio or lexis (style in which it is said), memoria or mneme (vocabulary, patterns of discourse, and the like), pronuntiatio or hypokrisis (which includes pronunciation but is more broadly the whole acting-out of what is said, so would include things like gestures and tones, or punctuation in writing). These can operate more or less simultaneously in actual speaking and writing, so they can be considered the elements of speaking or writing well, and together constitute the goal of rhetorical pedagogy.

Actual classical rhetorical pedagogy usually broke up into two parts: progymnamsata and gymnasmata. Gymnasmata were full-scale rhetorical declamations on any topic, and thus practice for advanced students. Progymnasmata were more rudimentary exercises designed to focus on specific skills needed for the more advanced work, and thus slowly to get you to the point where declamation was a real possibility. They could vary, but there were twelve or thirteen that were traditionally standard. (There could be some overlap, but they were broadly speaking in sequential order.)

(1) Mythos: Students would be given a fable, usually from Aesop, and would have to adapt it -- both summarize it in simpler terms and expand upon it by adding descriptions. One can see the advantage of doing this in language-learning: the fable provides a sort of frame that the student can rely on while exercising their skills. They can use the same patterns of speech, the same phrases, and like, but have to modify it to new use.

(2) Diegema: This exercise would go a bit further by having the students tell a complete story, and would be varied by telling the whole story from the beginning, or starting from the middle, or starting from the end.

(3) Chreia: Students would start with an anecdote with a precise point -- a specific action or saying, or the like; a wide variety of different kinds of anecdotes would be used, and they would be varied in different ways (rephrased as praises or condemnations, given brief explanations, or compared to other anecdotes). While the story would be simpler, the skill would be more advanced, since it requires both concision and precision, as you would have to do strictly what was required to fulfill the various tasks.

(4) Gnome: This would work the same way, but with proverbs and maxims.

(5) Anaskeue: Students would be given a myth or legend and argue that it was absurd, or doubtful, or useless, etc.

(6) Kataskeue: Students would take the other side and argue in favor of the myth or legend, that it was reasonable, or probable, or practically valuable, or the like.

(7) Koinos topos: Students would talk about general virtues or vices, qualities, or characteristics, or talk about general types of people.

(8) Enkomion: Students would go beyond (7) by praising virtues, abstract qualities, specific people, places, or all sorts of other things in close and varied detail.

(9) Psogos: This would work the same way, but from the opposite side, criticizing things in detail.

(10) Ethopoeia: Students would construct a speech for a historical or mythological character, speaking from that person's point of view, and in a way appropriate to that person. This would start getting quite advanced, because you would need to consider things like how polished or concise or florid a person's style might be, and, of course, you would have to change it up with different characters.

(11) Ekphrasis: Ekphrasis is basically word-painting, in which one uses all the resources of language to describe something (often a work of art, like a literal painting, or a sculpture) to give people who had not seen it a vivid imaginative picture of it.

(12) Thesis: With thesis one would develop precise, specific arguments for this or that being the correct answer to a general question (like whether it was beneficial to marry, or whether the world is spherical. At this level the exercises are starting to take the same form as the later declamations, with introductions, descriptions, arguments for and against, and conclusions. The exercises would be varied not only by questions but by different kinds of argument -- whether things were legal, or just, or useful, or beneficial, or possible, and the like.

(13) Nomou eisphora: While (12) is at a general level, this exercise (which literally means 'proposal of law') would go further by dealing with specific questions (specific laws, specific policies). At this point, the student is taking the first steps in full-scale declamation.

Throughout every stage, there would be a lot of imitation and borrowing -- full creativity would be one of the things that would distinguish progymnasmata from gymnasmata -- as well as detailed analysis of examples to see how they worked so that the student could do the same. One sees this to some extent in ordinary language-learning -- think of all the endless dialogue-fragments one gets in standard language textbooks -- but, of course, language textbooks tend to focus on grammar; rhetorical proficiency is another level of language-learning on its own.

Various Links of Note

* Samizdat is a form of political resistance involving the self-publishing of works to get around state censors. One of the more notable samizdat publications is the very long-running periodical, The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, also known as the LKB kronika, which ran from 1972-1989 and kept track of the oppression of the Catholic Church (as well as related oppressions) in the Lithuanian SSR. Copies would be handtyped and then smuggled around, and then out to where they could be read over Vatican Radio (thus giving it a much larger audience than most samizdat did). It makes interesting reading. Very grim, but also there are regular sparks of hope -- a poem smuggled around, a report of Catholics being confirmed despite Soviet inquiries, and the like. And, of course, it kept going and going and going. You can read a number of the issues translated into English online.

* Lydia Moland, Friedrich Schiller, at the SEP.

* Joe Gibes, How to Make Nazi Doctors

* James Hannam, Medieval Science in Medieval Fiction

* Andrew Loke, The resurrection of the Son of God: a reduction of the naturalistic alternatives

* An English translation of the Suan shu shu, which I believe is currently the oldest extant Chinese mathematical text, dating from about the second century BC.

Currently Reading

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Donald Ainslie, Hume's True Scepticism
Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World
Michael Flynn, Eifelheim

A Poem Translation Draft

by Arthur Rimbaud


You are not serious when you are seventeen;
- a fair night, thick with stein and lemonade,
bright cafes, chandeliers in sheen,
- you walk the green linden promenade.

The lindens smell fine on fine June nights,
the eyes close from breeze sweet and clear,
the wind is charged with noise -- not far the city lights --
perfumed with vine and perfumed with beer....


Here we see a somber blue on a little felt,
by a little branch set in frame,
quilted by malignant star that melts
with shivers soft, a small, fair flame.

June night! Seventeen! You drink deep;
youth's sap is a heady champagne....
You wander, on your lips still keep
a kiss; a quivering soul, it remains....


Through novels the crazy heart robinsonades
when in the streetlight's clarity pale
a girl walks by with her charms displayed,
though partly by her father's collar veiled....

And, as she finds you all innocent,
while tapping by in little heels,
she sudden-turns, full of life up-pent;
- on your lips die melodic peals....


You are in love, till August placed.
You are in love. - Your poems she takes in fun.
Your friends have left; you are in poor taste.
- Then one night she writes, your worshiped one!

- That night... - you return to the cafe-sheen,
asking for the beer-stein and the lemonade.
You are not serious when you are seventeen
and you still have green lindens on the promenade.

Rimbaud is a challenge, always. Here is the French; here is an English translation by Wyatt Mason.


In ancient days of yore, when blogging was relatively new, we did a lot of quizzes just to be doing things; but they are rare these days.


Of course, with any sort of centrist designation, it is always difficult to tell whether it indicates an actual position in the center or a position that is not easily measured on the scale. I had several Neutral/Not Sure answers, usually because I thought the question too vague. And the Equality/Wealth numbers are heavily affected by the strength of my opposition to communism as a political ideology. (I think it is in practice at least as bad as fascism. I also think it's an error, tempting as it may be, to treat capitalism as the opposite of communism, an opposition that requires treating communism as labor-ism. It's unsurprising that communists do tend to put themselves forward as the champions of Labor over Capital, but this characterization doesn't survive any serious analysis, I think. The opposite of modern communism is something for which we have no definite name, a society in which people are not reduced to their political-economic role, one based on ethical principles rather than economic plans and in which civic friendship and shared traditions matter more than means of production.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Passages on Self-Command in Sense and Sensibility

Chapter 8:

"How strange this is! what can be the meaning of it! But the whole of their behaviour to each other has been unaccountable! How cold, how composed were their last adieus! How languid their conversation the last evening of their being together! In Edward's farewell there was no distinction between Elinor and me: it was the good wishes of an affectionate brother to both. Twice did I leave them purposely together in the course of the last morning, and each time did he most unaccountably follow me out of the room. And Elinor, in quitting Norland and Edward, cried not as I did. Even now her self-command is invariable. When is she dejected or melancholy? When does she try to avoid society, or appear restless and dissatisfied in it?"

Chapter 11:

Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times, was an illustration of their opinions.

Chapter 19:

Elinor sat down to her drawing-table as soon as he was out of the house, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought nor avoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almost as much as ever in the general concerns of the family, and if, by this conduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared much solicitude on her account.

Such behaviour as this, so exactly the reverse of her own, appeared no more meritorious to Marianne, than her own had seemed faulty to her. The business of self-command she settled very easily;—with strong affections it was impossible, with calm ones it could have no merit. That her sister's affections WERE calm, she dared not deny, though she blushed to acknowledge it; and of the strength of her own, she gave a very striking proof, by still loving and respecting that sister, in spite of this mortifying conviction.

Chapter 22:
"It is strange," replied Elinor, in a most painful perplexity, "that I should never have heard him even mention your name."

"No; considering our situation, it was not strange. Our first care has been to keep the matter secret.— You knew nothing of me, or my family, and, therefore, there could be no OCCASION for ever mentioning my name to you; and, as he was always particularly afraid of his sister's suspecting any thing, THAT was reason enough for his not mentioning it."

She was silent.—Elinor's security sunk; but her self-command did not sink with it.

"Four years you have been engaged," said she with a firm voice.

Chapter 23:

The necessity of concealing from her mother and Marianne, what had been entrusted in confidence to herself, though it obliged her to unceasing exertion, was no aggravation of Elinor's distress. On the contrary it was a relief to her, to be spared the communication of what would give such affliction to them, and to be saved likewise from hearing that condemnation of Edward, which would probably flow from the excess of their partial affection for herself, and which was more than she felt equal to support.

From their counsel, or their conversation, she knew she could receive no assistance, their tenderness and sorrow must add to her distress, while her self-command would neither receive encouragement from their example nor from their praise. She was stronger alone, and her own good sense so well supported her, that her firmness was as unshaken, her appearance of cheerfulness as invariable, as with regrets so poignant and so fresh, it was possible for them to be.

Chapter 32:

Elinor only was sorry to see them. Their presence always gave her pain, and she hardly knew how to make a very gracious return to the overpowering delight of Lucy in finding her STILL in town.

"I should have been quite disappointed if I had not found you here STILL," said she repeatedly, with a strong emphasis on the word. "But I always thought I SHOULD. I was almost sure you would not leave London yet awhile; though you TOLD me, you know, at Barton, that you should not stay above a MONTH. But I thought, at the time, that you would most likely change your mind when it came to the point. It would have been such a great pity to have went away before your brother and sister came. And now to be sure you will be in no hurry to be gone. I am amazingly glad you did not keep to YOUR WORD."

Elinor perfectly understood her, and was forced to use all her self-command to make it appear that she did NOT.

Chapter 37:

She was very far from wishing to dwell on her own feelings, or to represent herself as suffering much, any otherwise than as the self-command she had practised since her first knowledge of Edward's engagement, might suggest a hint of what was practicable to Marianne. Her narration was clear and simple; and though it could not be given without emotion, it was not accompanied by violent agitation, nor impetuous grief.—THAT belonged rather to the hearer, for Marianne listened with horror, and cried excessively. Elinor was to be the comforter of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs; and all the comfort that could be given by assurances of her own composure of mind, and a very earnest vindication of Edward from every charge but of imprudence, was readily offered.

Chapter 37:
"Yes. But I did not love only him;—and while the comfort of others was dear to me, I was glad to spare them from knowing how much I felt. Now, I can think and speak of it with little emotion. I would not have you suffer on my account; for I assure you I no longer suffer materially myself. I have many things to support me. I am not conscious of having provoked the disappointment by any imprudence of my own, I have borne it as much as possible without spreading it farther. I acquit Edward of essential misconduct. I wish him very happy; and I am so sure of his always doing his duty, that though now he may harbour some regret, in the end he must become so. Lucy does not want sense, and that is the foundation on which every thing good may be built.—And after all, Marianne, after all that is bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one's happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant—it is not fit—it is not possible that it should be so.— Edward will marry Lucy; he will marry a woman superior in person and understanding to half her sex; and time and habit will teach him to forget that he ever thought another superior to HER."—

"If such is your way of thinking," said Marianne, "if the loss of what is most valued is so easily to be made up by something else, your resolution, your self-command, are, perhaps, a little less to be wondered at.—They are brought more within my comprehension."

"I understand you.—You do not suppose that I have ever felt much.—For four months, Marianne, I have had all this hanging on my mind, without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature; knowing that it would make you and my mother most unhappy whenever it were explained to you, yet unable to prepare you for it in the least.— It was told me,—it was in a manner forced on me by the very person herself, whose prior engagement ruined all my prospects; and told me, as I thought, with triumph.— This person's suspicions, therefore, I have had to oppose, by endeavouring to appear indifferent where I have been most deeply interested;—and it has not been only once;—I have had her hopes and exultation to listen to again and again.— I have known myself to be divided from Edward for ever, without hearing one circumstance that could make me less desire the connection.—Nothing has proved him unworthy; nor has anything declared him indifferent to me.— I have had to contend against the unkindness of his sister, and the insolence of his mother; and have suffered the punishment of an attachment, without enjoying its advantages.— And all this has been going on at a time, when, as you know too well, it has not been my only unhappiness.— If you can think me capable of ever feeling—surely you may suppose that I have suffered NOW. The composure of mind with which I have brought myself at present to consider the matter, the consolation that I have been willing to admit, have been the effect of constant and painful exertion;—they did not spring up of themselves;—they did not occur to relieve my spirits at first.— No, Marianne.—THEN, if I had not been bound to silence, perhaps nothing could have kept me entirely—not even what I owed to my dearest friends—from openly shewing that I was VERY unhappy."—

'Self-command' is used once in Persuasion, once in Pride and Prejudice, three times in Mansfield Park, five times in Emma, and not at all in Northanger Abbey. It is notable that of the eight times it occurs in S&S it is only attributed to Elinor, and it is put center stage in Chapter 37, where it is used twice, and discussed specifically between the characters, rather than simply being a passing comment.

Flowers Laugh Before Thee on Their Beds

Ode to Duty
by William Wordsworth

Jam non consilio bonus, sed more eo perductus, ut non tantum recte facere possim, sed nisi recte facere non possim"

"I am no longer good through deliberate intent, but by long habit have reached a point where I am not only able to do right, but am unable to do anything but what is right."
(Seneca, Letters 120.10)

Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!
O Duty! if that name thou love
Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring, and reprove;
Thou, who art victory and law
When empty terrors overawe;
From vain temptations dost set free;
And calm'st the weary strife of frail humanity!

There are who ask not if thine eye
Be on them; who, in love and truth,
Where no misgiving is, rely
Upon the genial sense of youth:
Glad Hearts! without reproach or blot;
Who do thy work, and know it not:
Oh! if through confidence misplaced
They fail, thy saving arms, dread Power! around them cast.

Serene will be our days and bright,
And happy will our nature be,
When love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security.
And they a blissful course may hold
Even now, who, not unwisely bold,
Live in the spirit of this creed;
Yet seek thy firm support, according to their need.

I, loving freedom, and untried;
No sport of every random gust,
Yet being to myself a guide,
Too blindly have reposed my trust:
And oft, when in my heart was heard
Thy timely mandate, I deferred
The task, in smoother walks to stray;
But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.

Through no disturbance of my soul,
Or strong compunction in me wrought,
I supplicate for thy control;
But in the quietness of thought:
Me this unchartered freedom tires;
I feel the weight of chance-desires:
My hopes no more must change their name,
I long for a repose that ever is the same.

Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead's most benignant grace;
Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face:
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds
And fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
And the most ancient heavens, through Thee, are fresh and strong.

To humbler functions, awful Power!
I call thee: I myself commend
Unto thy guidance from this hour;
Oh, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;
The confidence of reason give;
And in the light of truth thy Bondman let me live!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Two Maps

From The Hunting of the Snark:

He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:”
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best—
A perfect and absolute blank!”
From Sylvie and Bruno Concluded:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dashed Off IX

the megalopsychic aspect of philosophy

Over time, love will findnew ways to communicate its constant faith and hope.

the Church as (1) witness and guardian of sacraments; (2) champion of the sacraments against what opposes it; (3) making the sacraments available to those who need; (4) teacher of and with and in the sacraments

the peace by which we may joyfully and openly keep the festivals of our God

"Kings have no call to make laws in the Church." Damascene

Presentation of Mary in the Temple // Presentation of Mary in the Heavenly Temple (Assumption)

forms of using words that are not meanings -- e.g., words in a word find or in Scrabble

"Assertions are essentially, and not just accidentally, speech acts that can play the role both of premises and of conclusions of inferences." Brandom

propositions that by type are analytic but by token are not (Now is now)
(perhaps 'I am' is an example of the reverse?)

It is a strange assumption of many analytic 'thought experiments' that stories can go only one way. In reality, we could elaborate, say, trolley problems, or Parfit's identity scenarios, in indefinitely many ways of varying complexity, limited only by ingenuity. The story needs something beyond itself to stay 'on track'. In reality these, because unacknowledged, are often assumed without explanation.

the moral issues of lying and the dependence of language use on moral principles

It would directly follow from both Mill's utilitarianism and Kant's deontology that language use is ethical in character, since these purport to be accounts of practical reason.

language misuse // hypocrisy

Languages grow out of friendships (in the Aristotelian sense).

canon law as a means of moral education

lying as a violation of language understood as common good

Moral progress is improvement in one's care for common good.

conscience as law and conscience as witness

antiquity as mark of the Church
(1) apostolic sees
(2) continuity to the apostles
(3) agreement with the Fathers
(4) preservation in practice of confirmable elements of antiquity
(5) responsibility for the monuments and memorials of the ancient Church

causal extrapolation
motivational extrapolation (camel's nose)
opportunity identification
justificatory slope

Start with mere muddle, end with mere muddle; to clear up a muddle, one needs to find something clear, however small it may be.

pleasure-pressure, utility-pressure, and virtue-pressure on belief formation

establishing oneself by establishing others

'Liturgy, liturgy' -- does it mean nothing more than incense and bells? If the Christian is not Christian, what does he have to do with liturgy?

the leisure for attending to liturgy and love

Logos (ratio) is one; its manifestations are many.

thematic history of philosophy and interactional history of philosophy

the Beatific Vision as the primary bulwark against the errors of the post-medieval age

the mereotopology of moving borders

poetry and the decomposition and recomposition of images

unction as sacramental hospice

meaning as speech act affinity; meaning as speech act

punishment as communication of desert (cf. Kant)

analytic philosophy as argumentative design process

rational commitment & deontic analysis of argument

incommensurable goods of reasoning

The common interest of all to live in juridical union is always broader than the scope of the instruments of governance.

Authority derives from God as (1) efficient cause of human existence, life, and reason; (2) exemplar cause in providence; (3) final cause as ultimate good.

the Aristotelian six parts of tragedy as aspects of plausibility: Spectacle, Diction, Melody, Thought, Character, Plot

Prudence is what gives all other virtues their flexibility.

That is evidence for x which the wise would regard as making X evident.

'X is true'; therefore 'Recognize X as true'

Annunciation : Finding in Temple :: Visitation : Presentation
Agony in Garden : Crucifixion :: Scourging : Carrying the Cross
Resurrection : Coronation :: Ascension : Assumption

the Golden Rule as a principle of dignity

defeaters for consensus gentium: new evidence not commonly available, evidence of imposed rather than natural consensus

Philosophy extends everywhere that friendship extends.

analogy : mutation :: confirmation : selection
the success conditions of confirmation

tradition-line fragmentation

The primary act of evangelization is always and without exception prayer.

where Solovyov says Sophia, think Shekhina.

numerables; numbers; systems of numbers; relations among systems of numbers

transubstantiation as cloistered priesthood

the cleansing of the Temple as a preparation for the Eucharist (Neusner)

We should all strive to be orthodox. But how foolish to assume that we are! It is something for which we must pray. What our striving alone can achieve has nothing of grace, and thus nothing of faith.

It is a matter worthy of some thought that St. Joseph, least of the Holy Family, was its head.

Mary the garden of Eden in whom is found the Tree of Life

Societies are built not out of the steel of legal contract but out of the softer stone of customary trust.

argument in function of ratio decidendi vs. argument in function of obiter dictum

Justice can only be maintained by rational argument.

le bon sens as required for determining how models fit together

the virtue of hope as the internal possibility of Christian martyrdom

appeal to intuitions as (sometimes) appeal to ordinary language, in the sense of ordinary language philosophy

infused fortitude & frequent confession; infused temperance & frequent communion

prudence as the skill-cultivating virtue (it cultivates skills to assist other virtues, in addition to forming them)

It's easy to think of permissibility as allowing intension and remission; this suggests that there is an intension and remission of obligation as not-permissible-not.

constancy : Box :: coherence : Diamond

conditionals as lossy measures

to treat wisdom in oneself and in others as an end in itself and never merely as a means

Appeals to hypothetical scenarios generally involve the topos of similarity.

Sacramental reconciliation confirms the forgiveness of perfect contrition and supplies what is missing for forgiveness in imperfect contrition.

the sentinel sacrament

prophets as preservers of tradition

motive of interest; motive of inquiry; motive of credibility

moral realism -> virtue ethics -> telos of moral life -> classical theism

Our passions should tinge reasoning and prayer, not dominate them.

The Confucius Sinarum Philosophus often translates junzi as 'philosophus'.
The philosopher who studies widely in tradition but holds to what is essential will not err.
If the philosopher is not dignified, he will not inspire awe, nor will his learning be anything but frivolous. He must be honest in inquiry and true of word. He must not associate with the base. When he errs, he must not be reluctant to change. To err without changing is to err indeed.
The philosopher is not of limited function, like a tool; the utility of philosophy is not circumscribed. When people ask, "What is the use of philosophy?" they mean, "To what is its use limited?" and thus err from the beginning.

Properly acting according to tradition requires finding the right exemplars.

To renew the people requires loving them.

As discourse is built out of much figurative speech, so history is built out of much figurative action.

The freedom of speech worth having is that which facilitates the virtues of speech, but the virtues of speech require room for their development and refinement over time and across different levels of experience. Only to allow virtuous speech is to prevent the development of virtuous speech.

"The denial of substance leads inevitably to the substantializing of accidents." Coffey

modes of exemplation; modalities of being exemplate

life as principle; life as facultative; life as operative

The gifts of the Holy Spirit do not perfect the theological virtues, but only their exercise.

Note Hume's explicit use of constant conjunction in T

constant conjunction as a sign of exemplarity

identity and smooth passage of resemblance

causation as the foundation of contiguity and temporal priority

Hume's account of causation requires that we be able to make an a priori distinction between the mind and its objects.

different accounts of testimony applied to moral exemplarity (role model)

incorruptibility of soul // continued existence of bodies

apparent final cause and the apparent tendency of things to continue to exist

principle of credulity // principle of imitation

moral practices as involving transindividual evaluations or norms

Doctor Magnificus

Today is the memorial of Saint Anselm of Canterbury, Doctor of the Church. From his Epistula de Sacramentis Ecclesiae (from Jasper Hopkins's translation (PDF)):

Your Reverence asks about the sacraments of the Church, because they are not everywhere performed in the same way but are dealt with differently in different places. Assuredly, if they were celebrated in one way and with one mind throughout the whole Church, it would be a good and praiseworthy thing. However, there are many differences which do not conflict with the, fundamental importance of the sacrament or with its efficacy or with faith in it; and these cannot all be brought together into one practice. Accordingly, I think that these differences ought to be harmoniously and peaceably tolerated rather than being disharmoniously and scandalously condemned. For we are taught by the holy Fathers that, provided the unity of love is preserved within the Catholic faith, a different practice does no harm. But if one asks whence these different customs arise, I deem [the source to be] nothing other than the differences of human dispositions. Even though men do not disagree about the truth and validity of the sacrament, nevertheless they do not agree on the suitability and seemliness of the manner of administration. For what one person deems to be more suitable, another often deems to be less suitable. Now, I do not believe that to disagree concerning such differences is to wander from the truth of the matter.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jokes as Syllogisms

An interesting passage from an article about two comedians:

“Jokes are just a disruption of logic,” Keith says. Kenny takes their explanation one step further. “A joke is basically syllogistic,” he states, referencing the form of reasoning that goes: All dogs are animals, all animals have four legs, therefore all dogs have four legs. “Its premise and then the punchline would be conclusion. It’s the same shit.”

It's hard to know how strictly one should take such an equation, but this would suggest that the incongruity of the joke is its middle term, which would make sense; and it would also explain why there are so many analogies and overlaps between sophisms and jokes (e.g., see Julia Nefsky's discussion from 2005).

The Sovereign Rule of Justice

Now the first lesson social justice teaches us -- which governments nowadays have certainly not learnt nor seem to want to learn -- is that civil government with its acts and ordinances must never transgress the natural bounds of its authority, which cannot be defined without prior definition of the type of institution proper to civil government. Unless and until the sovereign rule of justice is accepted, there are no limits a government will not transgress. Utility alone, such a vague and empty word, cannot prescribe any definite limits to it because it depends on the probable evaluation of circumstances. Utility which is of its nature variable, depends on the judgment of the person who carries out the evaluation.

[Antonio Rosmini, Introduction to Philosophy, Volume 1: About the Author's Studies, Murphy, tr. Rosmini House (Durham: 2004) p. 27.]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Music on My Mind

Mean Mary, "Iron Horse".

Far from Human Sound and Sight

Vis Medicatrix Naturae
by Alfred Austin

When Faith turns false and Fancy grows unkind,
And Fortune, more from fickleness than spite,
Takes the keen savour out of all delight,
And of sweet pulp leaves only bitter rind,
Then I the load of living leave behind,
Fleeing where, far from human sound and sight,
Over brown furrows wheels the lapwing white,
And whistles tunely with the winter wind.
For Nature's frank indifference woundeth less
Than Man's feigned smiles and simulated tears:
She is at least the egoist she appears,
Scorning to proffer or entice caress;
And, through the long reiterated years,
Endures her doom with uncomplainingness.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bell of the Intellect

We do not dispense with clocks, because from time to time they go wrong, and tell untruly. A clock, organically considered, may be perfect, yet it may require regulating. Till that needful work is done, the moment-hand may mark the half-minute, when the minute-hand is at the quarter-past, and the hour hand is just at noon, and the quarter-bell strikes the three-quarters, and the hour-bell strikes four, while the sun-dial precisely tells two o'clock. The sense of certitude may be called the bell of the intellect; and that it strikes when it should not is a proof that the clock is out of order, no proof that the bell will be untrustworthy and useless, when it comes to us adjusted and regulated from the hands of the clock-maker.

[John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, Ch. VII, sect. 3.]

Monday, April 17, 2017

Evening Note for Monday, April 17

Thought for the Evening: Developing a Treasury of Ideas

Isaac Watts is best known for his hymns, and rightly so, but he also wrote a textbook on logic, which was a bestseller for years. He himself did not see any sharp division running through his hymnody, theological writings, and logical writings; the full title of his book on logic, for instance, is Logic, or The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life. The book, published in 1724, follows a Port Royal model, dividing the field among the four intellectual operations of (1) perception/conception/apprehension, (2) judgment, (3) argumentation/reasoning, and (4) disposition.

I tend to be unimpressed with early modern logic texts, for the good reason that they tend not to be very impressive, but Watts's book is actually fairly good, and definitely deserved its twenty or so editions. I've noted before, for instance, that Watts's explanation of ad verecundiam in terms of a topos, and thus a way of classifying middle terms, is far superior to almost every other discussion of it afterward (most of which were just following Whately's less careful account of the subject). Other parts of the book, like his discussions of equivocal words, are both clear and show a serious and thoughtful consideration of the subject.

In discussing each of the operations, he gives general guidelines to help with success in each, which he calls general directives, and then also gives special rules for actually attaining that success. The general directives for conception are:

(1) Furnish yourself with a rich variety of ideas.
(2) Use the most proper methods to retain that treasure of ideas which you have acquired.
(3) As you proceed both in learning and in life, make a wise observation what are the ideas, what the discourses and the parts of knowledge, that have been more or less useful to yourself or others.
(4) Learn to acquire a government over your ideas and your thoughts, that they may come when they are called, and depart when they are bidden.

He gives three benefits for the first directive: (1) it helps with the operations that follow on conception; (2) it will help guarantee that your views are not continually shocked and upended due to your ignorance; and (3) it will make you more cautious, since you will have come across uncommon things. He also tells us how to build up this treasury of ideas:

The way of attaining such an extensive treasure of ideas, is with diligence to apply yourself to read the best books; converse with the most knowing and wisest of men; and endeavour to improve by every person in whose company you are; suffer no hour to pass away in lazy idleness, an impertinent chattering, or useless trifles : Visit other cities and countries when you have seen your own, under the care of one who can teach you to profit by travelling, and to make wise observations; indulge a just curiosity in seeing the wonders of art and nature; search into things yourselves, as well as learn them from others; be acquainted with men as well as books; learn all things as much as you can at first hand; and let as many of your ideas as possible the representations of things, and not merely the representation of other men's ideas : Thus your soul, like some noble building, shall be richly furnished with original paintings, and not with mere copies.

He also gives helps on the second directive, noting that we have to take pains to remember the important ideas. (It is in this context that he gives his famous image of some people's minds as looking-glasses, receiving images of all objects, but retaining none.) We should spend some time every day recollecting the things we have learned, talk them over with suitable people (a practice that will also help you to articulate your ideas), and commit the best and most important to writing (as in Locke's idea, influential throughout this period, of a commonplace book) and to review it at regular intervals in order to assess your progress.

The third is obviously about focusing on the genuinely advantageous. He recommends that we follow the fourth directive by having a book or a set of notes to keep us on track, but mostly just force ourselves to stick to the essential points and steps (but he also recommends that we not hold ourselves too strictly to this, lest we tire ourselves out, and keep in mind that some times are just better for thinking things through than others).

All of this is salutary advice, of course, and an excellent reminder that good reasoning is, at its root, not a technical formula or a method but an intellectual way of life.

Various Links of Note

* Daniel Kaufman shares notes on G. E. M. Anscombe's "Modern Moral Philosophy".

* Mark DelCogliano, The Christ of Analytic Theology: A Review Essay, on Tim Pawl's Conciliar Christology.

* Christopher Tollefsen, What Is Legalism?, and Ian Speir, The Calvinist Roots of American Social Order: Calvin, Witherspoon, and Madison, at "Public Discourse".

* William Briggs, Why Decision Analysis Isn't Straightforward

Currently Reading

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Donald Ainslie, Hume's True Scepticism
Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World
Michael Flynn, Eifelheim

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fortnightly Book, April 16

I was going to do Teresa of Avila, but I think I'll wait a few weeks for that. So instead we'll do Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, published anonymously in 1811. It was a success, but as Austen had to indemnify the publisher against losses, it cost her a pretty penny before she started making any money on it.

To do something a little different, if I have the time, I think I will watch the Tamil cinematic adaptation of S&S, Kandukondain Kandukondain, which is an adaptation of the novel I have certainly not yet seen; the Bollywood movie has Aishwarya Rai in it, so at least one part of it will be very watchable.

Христос воскрес!

Christ Our Pascha #999:

The Risen Christ, our Pascha, is the New Man, for by his Resurrection, death is overcome. In his glorified body, his Divine Person is the bearer of the new creation--of the new heaven and earth that God created in the beginning, but which humanity--through sin--subjected to transitory fading and vanity. The renewal of creation--"Behold, I make all things new" (Rev 21:5)--begins with the Resurrection of Christ and passes through the spiritual rebirth and renewal of each of us: "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17).

[Christ Our Pascha: Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (Edmonton: 2016) p. 308]

Hnizdovsky XrysVos1 Ukr
(An Easter card by Ukrainian-American painter and illustrator, Jacques Hnizdovsky)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio


Opening Passage:

O'er better waves to speed her rapid course
The light bark of my genius lifts the sail,
Well pleas'd to leave so cruel sea behind;
And of that second region will I sing,
In which the human spirit from sinful blot
Is purg'd, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.

Here, O ye hallow'd Nine! for in your train
I follow, here the deadened strain revive;
Nor let Calliope refuse to sound
A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone,
Which when the wretched birds of chattering note
Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.

Summary: In writing a poem about Purgatory, Dante faced a number of significant challenges. Purgatory is, as it were, the Holy Saturday of the afterlife; it is not that it is unimportant, but by its very nature it is preparatory to, and therefore dwarfed by, something infinitely more important. That there is some kind of purification in the afterlife is implicit in intercession for the dead, but the theology of it is not particularly precise or developed, and was less so in Dante's day. Thomas Aquinas, who is Dante's usual go-to for theological guidance, says almost nothing about it, and what he does say is both minimal and early. Fewer artistic conventions had been developed for it than for Hell or Heaven; Dante cannot draw from any sort of extensive ready-made iconography. The tradition yielded very little more than general principles: it is purification, a penitential state but of satispassion and not (as our penitential practices are) satisfaction, the patient Church receiving our prayers and waiting to be made pure for Heaven. The Council of Florence had not yet clarified the relation between Latin and Greek doctrines. St. Catherine of Genoa had not yet written her visions.

Thus Dante's imagining of Purgatory gets a great deal of credit for originality; he was starting almost from scratch and trying to write a poem fit to stand with poems about Hell and Heaven, which had superabundant materials on which to draw. But as is often the case with real artistic originality -- and as Dante himself would certainly have thought -- the originality and novelty all has to stem from faithfulness to the root ideas. Dante is original not so much in the sense of making things up as in the sense of working systematically and rationally through a territory that had hardly been scored before. And I think we can identify fairly easily the basic principle on which he worked, although one might argue about the precise formulation of it. It is, I suggest, something along these lines: Purgatory is the completion of the penitential work of the Church as we know it. In a sense, the entire mountain of Purgatory is a church created by God to serve as the sacred space for the liturgy that prepares souls for the Communion of which Eucharistic communion is just a sign.

Purgatory is on earth, in the antipodes, and Dante emphasizes this a lot. It serves as a sort of mirror image of the work of the Church in the world on our mortal side of the globe; except that this image is intended to describe something more perfect than our failure-ridden and flawed work can attain. But, although the penitential life of Purgatory is more perfect, it is not fundamentally different. Everything achieved in Purgatory by patiently enduring, could have been achieved in life by active penitential practice. Purgatory is just a matter of finishing what we, foolish mortals with bad priorities, left unfinished; it is a matter of coming to live the life of the Beatitudes, which we were already called to do in mortal life.

Commentators often remark on the originality of what they call 'Ante-Purgatory', the area that is not quite Purgatory in which the excommunicated and the lately repentance congregate and wait before being allowed in. It makes sense as a reflection of the Church: in life, those delaying penitence tried to linger outside due to desires for other things, deferring repentance as long as possible; in Purgatory, they must endure an equivalent lingering-outside before fulfilling their desire to continue inward, thereby sharpening their desire for the repentance they must undergo.

It is also noticeable that Purgatory is filled with art. Dante as he goes his way through the Divine Comedy tends to pay special attention to the arts, especially his own field of poetry, but to a very remarkable degree it is a primary focus of the Purgatorio, perhaps second only to repentance itself. We are met with hymns from the very beginning. On the first terrace, in which the twisted love of pride is untwisted, we see engravings on the wall so perfect that they seem life-like, depicting examples of humility, and similar engravings on the floor depicting examples of pride. On the second terrace, devoted to envy, we have voices proclaiming fragments of stories. On the third terrace, dramatic visions before the imagination give examples of gentleness and wrath. On the fourth terrace, we have more shouted stories, concerning sloth and envy, and recitations of prayers reflecting on the fifth, reflecting on examples of avarice and prodigality. The fruit trees on the sixth terrace speak of gluttony; the penitents themselves allude to examples of lust as they walk the fires of the seventh terrace. What meets Dante in the earthly paradise is an elaborate and lush mix of tableau, pageant, and mystery play.

But art is not only pervasive, it is central. From Canto XXI, in which Dante and Vergil meet Statius, to Canto XXVI, when they meet Arnaut Daniel, there is a sort of convention of poets going on, discussing issues relevant to poetry. Statius praises Vergil and then, of course, is delighted to meet him; opponents of the 'sweet new style' concede Dante's excellence in it; Dante meets his influences. But I think there is even more going on here. The central cantos speak of free will and love. Love, of course, is the ultimate creative force in the Comedy, and precisely the distinction between Hell and Purgatory is that love in Hell is fake, and all love in Purgatory is genuine. The damned get what they desire, and shriek because it is sterile agony; the patient endure penalties as severe, and yet they sing, because they love justice, and, perhaps, even more, they love love. All vices are love twisted; all virtues are love rightly ordered. And, of course, the free creativity of love is the foundation of the self-discipline of art as well as the self-discipline of repentance; and the purpose of art, for Dante the ultimate love poet, is to uphold true and genuine love.

Art and penitential practice are thus allied, or, rather, intermingled, in Purgatory, as they are (albeit less perfectly) in the sacred art of the Church Militant. But it is not simply sacred art that is in view. Dante's devotion to Vergil is, if anything, even more intense in Purgatory than it was in Hell; and, more than this, we see in the meeting with Statius the essential idea that Vergil, by his excellence in poetry, prepared the way for the salvation of Statius's soul. The penitential Church presented by Dante is a thoroughly artistic Church; and it draws from all the art in the universe to turn it to its rightful end, the Love that moves the stars. Repentance is a restoration of love to its proper character; but love is inherently creative. A repentant Church is an artistic Church. It could not even stop itself from being so. And, likewise, art that has not been turned aside, but expresses well and clearly that love which creates, is morally good for us, an aid to repentance. The penitent face their sufferings singing; they are upheld and aided in their self-discipline by the visual arts; they re-learn what they should be through story.

One other striking thing about the Purgatorio is that Dante engages in self-critique. His forehead is carved with all of the vices. He regards himself as one of the greatest poets of all time, but he recognizes that this is a possible problem of pride that requires repentance. And, of course, when he gets to the terrestrial paradise and sees the splendid Beatrice, he is treated to a sharp and unrelenting lecture on his bad priorities -- and indeed, she as much as says at one point that he was so far gone that she got permission to have him see hell in the hope of saving him. Dante in Hell is an observer; Dante in Purgatory must do as the penitent must, and undo his disorders before he can see Heaven.

Favorite Passage: There are a number of good ones, but this, the prayer of the penitent proud from Canto XI, is particularly memorable:

"O thou Almighty Father, who dost make
The heavens thy dwelling, not in bounds confin'd,
But that with love intenser there thou view'st
Thy primal effluence, hallow'd be thy name:
Join each created being to extol
Thy might, for worthy humblest thanks and praise
Is thy blest Spirit. May thy kingdom's peace
Come unto us; for we, unless it come,
With all our striving thither tend in vain.
As of their will the angels unto thee
Tender meet sacrifice, circling thy throne
With loud hosannas, so of theirs be done
By saintly men on earth. Grant us this day
Our daily manna, without which he roams
Through this rough desert retrograde, who most
Toils to advance his steps. As we to each
Pardon the evil done us, pardon thou
Benign, and of our merit take no count.
'Gainst the old adversary prove thou not
Our virtue easily subdu'd; but free
From his incitements and defeat his wiles.
This last petition, dearest Lord! is made
Not for ourselves, since that were needless now,
But for their sakes who after us remain."

Recommendation: Well, obviously, Highly Recommended. If you pace yourself, I think it actually moves more smoothly than the Inferno or the Paradiso -- it lacks the sheer flood of name and story in the other two poems, and likewise the complicated schemes integrating massive numbers of themes.

Sanctify Thy Woe

by John Henry Newman

Mortal! if e'er thy spirits faint,
By grief or pain opprest,
Seek not vain hope, or sour complaint,
To cheer or ease thy breast;

But view thy bitterest pangs as sent
A shadow of that doom,
Which is the soul's just punishment
In its own guilt's true home.

Be thine own judge: hate thy proud heart;
And while the sad drops flow,
E'en let thy will attend the smart,
And sanctify thy woe.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Music on My Mind

BLQ, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross".

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
by Isaac Watts

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Pretty much everybody skips the fourth stanza; that's a bit unfortunate, as it plays a structural role bridging between the third and the fifth.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Statistics and Aesthetics

Rosmini has an interesting passage in the Theodicy in which he comments on what we might call the statistical character of some kinds of perception of the beautiful (sect. 277):

If you put into a bag 90 little balls of ivory, all of the same size, one sixth of them yellow, two sixths red, and three sixths black, and then draw them out one at a time at haphazard, there is no certainty that one colour will come out first rather than another, but there is probability in the proportions of one half for the black, one third for the red, and one sixth for the yellow. Whichever colour you happen to extract is always an irregularity, because that colour had not, so to speak, an entire right to come out, but only half a right, or a third, or a sixth part. But if, replacing the ball after each extraction, you go on repeating the same operation a very great number of times, you will find that the number of balls for each colour comes nearer and nearer to the relative proportions in respect of the colours. And the longer you continue, the more will the irregularity diminish, and the normal design become more apparent; thus clearly showing you, that the law which inclines the colours to regularize themselves, although accidentally disturbed in its action, would entirely prevail if you were to prolong the extractions to an indefinite length of time.

Agreeably to this, he who can only consider particular cases, is not in a position to be able to realize to himself the marvellous beauty of this universe; nay, in noticing the irregularities which are inevitable in it, he must take them as so many evidences of deformity; whereas he who considers a long series of events will see therein an admirably regular and symmetrical order.

In his example, if you look at a fine piece of embroidery, in which there is an immense amount going on, and you only look at a few threads, you will not see what is happening with the whole embroidery -- you will see a bit of color, then a bit of another color, and the like, and miss the whole picture to which each of the threads contributes.

The analogy is closer than it might appear. While we don't usually think of statistics as concerned with the beautiful, it is about the discovery of patterns and symmetries in a population, and thus connects directly to matters of beauty, which are also concerned with patterns and symmetries. If one can simply see the pattern or symmetry, one can perhaps simply see the beauty of something, but there are inevitably things whose full beauty is too big to catch at a glance, and in those cases the size and quality of your samplings can matter greatly, because fully seeing the beauty requires getting a sense of what is happening as a whole. But, of course, sampling alone is not enough, in statistical or aesthetic matters; one must have a way to make sense of the result.


Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates with the fruits of the orchard, cypress with spikenard. (Song of Songs 4:13)

The pomegranate tree, before its pomegranates are ripe, brings no enjoyment to those who eat; it is encased with thorns. So also is everyone who becomes God's garden and paradise in this life; first he must live with difficulty, with hunger and thirst and striving and exertion, and whatever other sufferings there are for virtue. Thus he constrains himself, and whatever trials come upon him involuntarily, whether caused by companions or by Satan, all of this he patiently and voluntarily bears for love of God. Afterwards, there will be appetizing fruit for God, like the pomegranate, which grows among thorns until it is ripe.

[Gregory of Narek, The Blessing of Blessings, Ervine, tr. Cistercian Publications (Kalamazoo, MI: 2007) p. 133.]

And that's a wrap.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth: and some indeed unto honour, but some unto dishonour. (2 Timothy 2:20)

For the gold and the silver are the good men, but the gold are the better men and silver the less good men. In the same way the wood and the earth are the wicked men, but he earth are the worse men while the wood are the less evil men.

Consequently he designates a diversity regarding use, so that the good are vessels of honor, as it were deputed for honorable use; the evil are earth and wood, as it were deputed for dishonor, that is, vile use. In the same way among men, some, namely the saints, are as it were precious vessels....But some are useless vessels, namely the evil.

[Thomas Aquinas, Commentaries on St. Paul's Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, Baer, tr. St. Augustine's Press (South Bend, IN: 2007) p. 121.]

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gerdil on the Possibility of an Actual Infinite Multitude

An interesting passage from Gerdil's Recueil de dissertations sur quelques principes de philosophie & de religion (1760); it is one part of an argument against the eternity of matter. The translation, which is mine, is just a rough first draft.

One can, it seems to me, give a demonstration of the impossibility of an actual infinite in quantity by a series of clear and incontestable principles.

(1) Every multitude, every collection composed of an infinity of terms contains as many ones as it has terms. For it is evident that in a collection each term is counted by a one.

(2) The natural series of numbers stands in place of every collection that has ones; because it is evident that in this assemblage one can designate one, then two, then three, and so in series, until one has gone through all the terms or ones.

(3) As to suppose a collection infinite in terms is nothing other than to suppose an infinite multitude of ones, it is evident that the natural series will be applicable to this collection, or at least that this infinite collection of ones will not possess infinity in another way than the natural series of numbers.

(4) In every progression of the natural series continued to infinity, the succeeding number never rises more than one unit above the preceding number; so there can be no leap from one number to the other, and one cannot reach one from the other, save by continual addition of one and one.

(5) In the natural progression the series of numbers increasing from 1 by the continual addition of unity to unity, and this without end, it follows that there is no assignable term in this series which is not preceded and followed by other terms, from which it differs only by one.

(6) Therefore, since this progression must always continue to infinity, it is impossible for the sequence of terms to arrive at a point where, after any finite state, it does not follow another finite term, and which is not only superior to it by a unit. The passage from the finite to the infinite is therefore not only obscure and incomprehensible, which alone would not be sufficient reason to reject it, but absolutely impossible. This must be demonstrated with the utmost accuracy.

I say, then, that in the natural series of numbers the passage from finite to infinite is impossible. If this passage is possible, there would then be a finite number after which follows the infinite number. This is borne out by the idea of ​​the passage from one to the other, for the natural series beginning with one, and rising by finite numbers, if it reaches infinity, necessarily there is a finite number one at which one passes to infinity. Now, in the natural series, it is impossible for an infinite number to succeed any finite number; for this infinite number must exceed the finite to which it succeeds by one alone, or an indeterminate number of units. If it exceeds by one only, then it is finite, since it has a finite relation to a finite number. If it exceeds it by an indeterminate number of ones, then it is not what immediately follows in the natural progression, contrary to what was supposed; and the natural series always rising by the continual addition of this indeterminate number of ones, in the resulting terms it will always be equally impossible to find the term that ceases to be finite.


And if the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18)

The Pelagians were unwilling to believe that the whole mass of the human race was corrupted and condemned in one man. It is the grace of Christ alone that cures and frees from this corruption and condemnation. For why will the righteous be saved with difficulty? Is it a labor for God to set free the righteous? Far from it. But to show that [our] nature was rightly condemned the Omnipotent himself does not wish to set [us] free easily from so great an evil, because sins are easy to slip into and righteousness is strenuous, except for those who love; but charity, which makes them lovers, is of God.

[Bede, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Cistercian Press (Kalamazoo, MI: 1985), p. 113.]

Monday, April 10, 2017

Evening Note for Monday, April 10

Thought for the Evening: John Quincy Adams on Tropes

John Quincy Adams spent part of his life as a professor; he was professor of logic for a while at Brown University, and then accepted the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard. It was a subject he was eminently qualified to teach, having both a thorough mastery of all the classical and modern works on the subject as well as a practical familiarity with the art itself, and, perhaps, just as importantly, a passionate belief in the importance of rhetoric to the survival and prosperity of a republic. President Madison asked him to be the first ambassador to Russia, and so after only a few years he resigned his professorship, but he was asked by his colleagues to publish his popular lectures, which he did, in 1810, under the title, Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory.

The lectures have much of interest in them, especially on the subject of figurative language, which he discusses at length. Adams has an associationist account of figurative tropes. As he conceives it, every figure of speech involves three elements of meaning -- the literal sense, which serves as a kind of reference point, another idea which one intends to convey, and a "chain of communication" between the two ideas, consisting of some association of imagination. On the basis of this assumption, he is able to give a coherent account of the traditional four major tropes (Volume 2, p. 311):

There are four distinct principles of association so familiar to the minds of men, that they serve as the foundations, upon which the use of a word, meaning one thing, for a thought meaning another, is justified in the practice of all nations. The first of these is similitude; the second, the relation between cause and effect; the third, the relation between a whole and its parts; and the fourth is opposition. These various relations form the connecting links of all the principal tropes. Hence it has been contended, that there are only four primary tropes; the metaphor, founded upon similitude; the metonomy, founded upon the relation between cause and effect; the synecdoche, standing on the relation between a whole and its parts; and irony, the basis of which is opposition. There are however various other distinctions, which the continual analytic process of theory has discovered, which form a secondary class of tropes.

This is fairly similar to Hume's list of principles of association -- resemblance, causation, contiguity -- especially when one adds the principle Beattie added in critiquing Hume, contrariety. I don't know that there is a direct influence here. Beattie had already remarked that Hume's principles of association were already discussed in the context of memory by Aristotle (in the De memoria), and all of these people read the same classical sources. On the other hand, Adams was extremely familiar with Hume, who also has an associationist account of figurative language (although not one developed in precise detail), so a direct influence can't be ruled out, either.

Adams says a number of other interesting things about figurative language. One of his particularly interesting ideas, which I think deserving of more consideration, is that figurative language has a quasi-synaesthesic character (which Beattie also notes). "The purpose of figurative speech," he says (p. 269), "is to address the eye through the medium of imagination." Hearing is a relatively impoverished sense, considered in itself; it receives sounds, but these sounds must be interpreted as signs to be of any use. However, because these signs are associated with other sensory phenomena in our imagination, the clever orator can make use of them to conjure up other sensory details in the minds of his audience. "Every image, under which a writer or speaker proposes to display thought, is a picture" (p. 274), and for this reason Adams recommends his students always test out their figures of speech by considering how they would seem if painted on a canvas -- because our sense of the quality of the figure of speech can be easily distorted by other things (e.g., familiarity), and a figure of speech is so often using sounds to encourage a picturesque vision in the imagination.

Adams often displays a sense of humor in his handling of his material. The best of his jokes is that with which he introduces irony (p. 340):

Perhaps of all the figures of speech, that, which would least require an explanation, is the irony; which is so convenient an instrument of that mutual benevolence, which mankind are delighted to extend to one another, that I question whether there was ever a student, who had made the proficiency necessary for obtaining admission within these walls, but understood its character, as well as any of his teachers.

Various Links of Note

* P. S. Ruckman, Jr. looks back at problems in the Obama Administration's approach to clemency.

* Some of the history of the persecution of Copts in Egypt.

* The history of the Comic Sans typeface.

* Alex Good, The Rising Tide of Educated Aliteracy

Currently Reading

Dante, Purgatorio
Christ Our Pascha
Donald Ainslie, Hume's True Scepticism
Mark Anderson, Pure: Modernity, Philosophy, and the One
Michael Flynn, Eifelheim

Clap Your Hands

O, All Ye People, Clap Your Hands
by John Quincy Adams

O, All ye people, clap your hands,
Shout unto God with holy mirth;
In fearful majesty he stands;
He is the Monarch of the earth:
Before us nations he subdues,
And prostrates kingdoms at our feet;
For us a portion he shall choose
In favored Jacob's chosen seat.

God, with a shout, to heaven ascends;
Sing praises to our God and King:
Hark! the loud tempest ether rends;
Sing praises, praises, praises sing.
His power Creation's orb sustains;
Sing hymns of praise to him alone:
Jehovah o'er the nations reigns;
He sits upon his holy throne.

See gathering princes, men of might,
In crowds from earth's remotest shore,
With us in worship all unite,
And Abraham's God with us adore:
The shields of earth are all his own,
And, far o'er human ken sublime,
Eternal pillars prop his throne,
Beyond the bounds of space and time.

Yes, this is the same John Quincy Adams who was the sixth President of the United States.


For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to the dead: that they might be judged indeed according to men, in the flesh; but may live according to God, in the Spirit. (1 Peter 4:6)

God has such great concern, such great love, such great desire that we be put to death in the body but quickened in the spirit, that he has commanded [us] to preach the Gospel, the word of faith, to those also who are implicated in greater crimes and justifiably must be accounted among the dead, namely, because of their self-indulgence, desires, insobriety, gluttony, drunkenness and unlawful worship of idols, since even they, when they have passed judgment on, that is, rejected and put aside, their bodily desires, may be alive spiritually and may look for eternal life together with those whom the grace of the Gospel finds living innocently.

[Bede the Venerable, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Hurst, tr. Cistercian Publications (Kalamzoo, MI: 1985) p. 109.]

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Wildflowers of Central Texas

Texas is a wildflower state. Wildflowers are found in profusion naturally (more than 5000 species flowering plants, many of them very brightly colored), they are seeded by the state along the long stretches of highways (the state of Texas has more than 800,000 acres of side-of-the-highway land, and the Department of Transportation essentially landscapes most of it as wildflower grounds), and people go wildflower hunting. There has been quite an abundance recently; I intended to get out with a camera, but haven't had the time, and the weather is not cooperating today, so I will just use Wikimedia Commons.

The star of this spring has been the evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa, also known as pinklady. It's a common enough flower in the southern United States, but Central Texas tends to get them a bit earlier than most places due to mild winters and wet springs. This year I started seeing them in late February. It's usually a shy bloom, since you usually find them here and there in tucked-away places, but it has been all over this spring.

Showy Primrose

The state flower, of course, is the Texas bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis. Because it is a standard for seeding, for obvious reasons, you always see a lot.

Texas Bluebonnet (3) (129891889)

Another bright bloom is the Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa, also known as prairie-fire. Its flowers are edible, but the plant is an efficient accumulator of selenium, which means that its leaves and roots can become quite toxic.

Castilleja indivisa

The Texas purple thistle, Cirsium horridulum, has also occasionally been making an appearance.

Texas Purple Thistle

Another one I have occasionally seen is Texas star, Lindheimera texana.

Lindheimera texana-IMG 3556

Every time it rains, there's a few days in which we get the rain lily, also known as the flor de mayo. Wikimedia commons doesn't seem to have an image, but you can see it at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website. It's a picky flower, and, as its name suggests it likes the rain; it comes after the showers and never stays around long.

There are some notable flowers that really aren't out yet this spring, like the Indian blanket, of which I have only seen one, or the giant spiderwort or the purple cornflower. Primary wildflower season usually lasts from March through June, so we are not even halfway through.

Not Mine

Hallowed be Thy name,
not mine,
Thy kingdom come,
not mine,
Thy will be done,
not mine,
Give us peace with Thee
Peace with men
Peace with ourselves
And free us from all fear.
[Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, Sjöberg & Auden, trs., Alfred A. Knopf (New York: 1964) p. 142]

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Just War Theory Presupposes an Account of Justice

Saba Bazargan-Forward has an interview on just war theory at 3AM; it's OK. It has the superficiality much modern just war theory has, although some of that might just be the interview format, and it has good points -- it's nice, for instance, to see someone acknowledging that just war theory concerns specific acts of warring and not 'a war', which can be a complicated and even a vague and ill-defined thing.

I was interested, though, in this:

Now, it’s one thing to collaterally maim and kill foreign civilians in necessary defense against an unjust attack by their country. But it’s another thing to collaterally maim and kill foreign civilians to whom we owe compensation! The second is much worse.

But, of course, the obvious response to this is "No, it's not." Once you're at the point of maiming and killing, whether you are in debt to the people you are maiming and killing is at best a secondary matter. And if you were to ask people whether your debt to someone might possibly be canceled if they attacked you without cause, there are a lot of people who would say that, yes, depending on the circumstances, that could very well wipe the debt clean. They may have already taken out their compensation in violence and then some. (Part of the problem, too, may be that compensatory debts for war are not actually equivalent to what they are compensating for; what happened was that lives were lost and infrastructure destroyed and time wasted, none of which can be undone at all. Compensation in this sort of case is to help start some things anew; it is not a measure of harms.) And the problem is seen in focus when we consider his further comment:

We end up, then, in an interesting place: sometimes, in order to wage a defensive war permissibly, we first have to discharge compensatory duties.

This starts looking very much like a reductio ad absurdum of the entire idea.

The sort of thing Bazargan-Forward is talking about arises from the fact that the principle of proportionality, as it is usually understood in analytic versions of just war theory, is a foreign principle to the theory itself, a consequentialist idea that wandered in and pushed out the original notion of proportionality, which was not about balancing harms and benefits but about fitting appropriate means to the acceptable ends. (That's where the name came from: proportioning means to ends. Thus you'd originally have considered things like what is required actually to solve the relevant moral problem, consistency of means with ends, the relative importance of various priorities, what you have a natural right to do, and the like.) Thus there's nothing about just war theory itself that says anything about how to handle it, allowing for looser and stricter interpretations as people please. Bazargan-Forward takes a very strict interpretation. He is thinking that we have accumulating harms and benefits that just stay there inertly, so that if you are in arrears it always has to be made up as soon as possible, and that you are not acting proportionately if you do not pay back what you owe.

But none of these things are true. As time goes on, what is harming and what is benefiting are constantly changing, and if you are actually weighing harms and benefits, that would therefore change, too. Before Petroland unjustly attacked Imperioland, Imperioland was indebted to Petroland because of past harms. This would not be static in the meantime as the populations changed, even considering downstream effects, but even if we set that aside, the unjust attack is now a harm in the other direction, and thus the entire calculation of who harmed who and how much would now be different. Further, hostilities arguably put the whole matter on hold as something that cannot be properly worked out until other problems are solved. And whether or not you are in debt simply does not affect whether or not you are engaging in a proportional response in this particular moment. If a criminal owes me medical expenses for prior assault, he still has the right to defend himself if I am trying to stab him in the chest, and he can defend himself in exactly the same way that he morally could if he were a perfect stranger.

This ties in to a broader issue, namely, with claims that just war theory can't handle this or can't handle that. Just war theory by its very definition is not a standalone theory. The root of just war theory is the question, "Can actions of war be just actions?" and the Yes answer comes with the condition, "when justly disposed people justly use means for just ends". The particular form of just war criteria is often affected by long experience of recurring problems in warfare and the kinds of things you can get people to agree to in order to resolve them (and sometimes by historical accidents like the consequentializing of proportionality, which is due to, first, Vitoria's particular formulation of it, and, then, a consequentialist interpretation, including the conflation of being harmed and being wronged, thus losing the sense of making sure harms you cause are not worse than the wrong committed against you), but all of the criteria are specific forms, adapted to the conditions of war, of general requirements of justice in any kind of endeavor. Any just war theory that does not implicitly recognize this is a fake just war theory -- why is it even talking about 'just war' if it is not about justice in warring? The question is therefore, can the relevant account of justice handle the problem? If it can't, no amount of fiddling with just war theory is going to improve matters, and if it can, there's no problem for just war theory.


Contend not in words, for it is to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:14)

Contention signifies a conflict in words. Therefore, it can be understood in two ways since the one speaking sharpness is depraved in two ways. In one way, if through this one comes to favor what is false, as when someone, trusting in his loud voice, impugns the truth. In another way, on account of the disorder, as when sharpness is used either beyond the appropriate manner or against the character of the person. But if it be used moderately, both with due circumstances and for the truth, it is not a sin. And thus in rhetoric it is one instrument of exhortation. But in Sacred Scripture it is taken to mean the disorder.

[Thomas Aquinas, Commentaries on St. Paul's Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, Baer, tr. St. Augustine's Press (South Bend, IN: 2007) p. 116.]

Friday, April 07, 2017

Jottings Toward a Typology of Murder Ballads

"There's always a killer, / so logically someone has to die...."
Murder ballads are a form of song about death, but are distinguished from other death songs in three ways:

(1) They are story-songs.
(2) They are differentiated from other story-songs about death by the fact that they concern murder or punishment for murder.
(3) They are not songs about murder ballads.

Thus, for instance, "Murder Ballad", from which the above line is quoted, fails to be itself a murder ballad because it is a song about murder ballads that tells no story, although it introduces one, and does not actually involve any murder. "Strange Fruit", while powerful and often classified as a murder ballad, is not a murder ballad in this sense; it is condemnation requiring no story.

For song purposes, suicide ballads are best not counted as murder ballads; they tend to work very differently. The sense of 'murder' is popular rather than strictly legal.

Given this genus-species definition, we can divide murder ballads into murder simple and murder comeuppance ballads. The most obvious division is between murder ballads that describe a murder, and nothing else, and a murder ballads that deal with comeuppance for murder. Comeuppance ballads divide into two kinds: true comeuppance and false comeuppance. In true comeuppance, there is a murder and the murderer is punished (gets comeuppance). In false comeuppance, there is indeed a process of comeuppance, but it goes awry. They can be divided into two kinds: miscarried comeuppance, in which someone who is not the murderer is punished for the murder, and eluded comeuppance, in which the murderer manages not to receive their punishment. There should be further division of murder simple as well, particularly given that it is a large field, but it is not as simple a question to come up with any one set of principles for dividing them; this requires more study. As will be seen below, my provisional division is by narrator.

Some basic examples.

I. Murder Simple

In murder simple we meet a murderer. It may be narrated by a third party or by the victim or by the murderer. Thus, in Nick Cave's "Where the Wild Roses Grow", the song is fittingly a duet between murderer and victim:

In "Banks of the Ohio" and Cher's "Dark Lady" the murderer is the narrator. In "When It's Springtime in Alaska", the victim is. In "Henry Lee", "Matty Groves", "Stagger Lee", and Carrie Underwood's "Two Black Cadillacs" a third party is the narrator, as is also the case with Tom Lehrer's parody, "The Irish Ballad".

Murder simple ballads are probably the most common kind of murder ballad; they also seem to have become increasingly popular over time.

Note that a murder ballad can involve comeuppance without being a comeuppance ballad in our sense, if the murder is itself comeuppance for some other kind of crime -- adultery is probably the most common one.

II. True Comeuppance

True comeuppance tales are probably the form of murder ballad most difficult to do properly; but when done properly, they are the crowns of the genre. As with murder simple, true comeuppance ballads could be narrated by the murderer, by the victim, or by a third party. A well done true comeuppance ballad from a murderer's perspective is very difficult to beat. An example is "Down in the Willow Garden"/"Rose Connelly":

"I Hung My Head" is from the perspective of the murderer. Third party narrations are far and away the most common: "Miss Otis Regrets", "Frankie and Johnny", "Omie Wise", "Mary Hamilton", "Pretty Polly" (a splendid version, by the way), "Big Iron", are all examples. I don't think I know any famous ones from the victim's perspective, but it's certainly a possible class.

Note that the only distinguishing characteristic is that there is comeuppance; it might not actually be a major part of the song, as in "Pretty Polly", in which the murderer just gives himself up.

III. Miscarried Comeuppance

The wrong person sometimes gets punished! A good example is "Long Black Veil":

There are some interesting differences in this class of murder ballad. In "Long, Black Veil" the innocent man dies rather than admit that he was having an affair with his best friend's wife; in "Poor Ellen Smith" (this version, at least), the idea seems to be that the innocent man was too obvious a suspect because of other unspecified wrongs he had done; in "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", the innocent man dies because he was beaten to the murder and didn't get an appropriate trial ("Don't trust your soul to no backwoods son of lawyer").

IV. Eluded Comeuppance

Probably the rarest kind of murder ballad, in eluded comeuppance the murderer gets out of comeuppance. An example would be Springfield Exit's "George Cunningham":

There's quite a bit of diversity here, as well. In "George Cunningham" the murderer escapes punishment by ingenuity and Cunningham family loyalty; in the Dixie Chicks's "Goodbye Earl" the murderers escape through lack of evidence and because no one actually cares much about the man who died; and, among the best of all, in "Red Headed Stranger" the murderer escapes because "you can't hang a man for killin' a woman / Who's tryin' to steal your horse."


Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

From this point on, he skillfully urges the various classes of the faithful not to show themselves unworthy of so great a grace of the spirit by living according to their bodily desires, lest any of those marked with the royal and priestly name, driven on by the wickedness of their vices, fall away from the glory of the nobility granted or promised them....Appropriately, however, he teaches those who are free to keep themselves from bodily desires, because the freedom of a more relaxed life is accustomed to be exposed to the greater dangers of enticing allurements that fight against the soul, because while the body body weakly gives in to pleasant concupiscences, the army of the vices is being strongly armed against the soul. He suitably calls them newcomers and strangers that they may the less subject their mind to earthly affairs the more they remember that they have a fatherland in heaven.

[St. Bede, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Hurst, tr. Cistercian Publications (Kalamazoo, MI: 1985) p. 89.]