Saturday, October 28, 2017

No Ends in It Is Found

The Squaring of the Circle
by Margaret Cavendish

Within the Head of Man's a Circle Round
Of Honesty, no Ends in it is found.
To Square this Circle many think it fit,
But Sides to take without Ends, hard is it.
Prudence and Temperance, as two Lines take;
With Fortitude and Justice, foure will make.
If th Line of Temperance doth prove too short,
Then add a Figure of a discreet Thought;
Let Wisedomes Point draw up Discretions Figure,
That make two equall Lines joyn'd both together.
Betwixt the Line Temperance and Justice, Truth must point,
Justice's Line draw downe to Fortitude, that Corner joynt;
Then Fortitude must draw in equall length,
To Prudence Line, Temperance must give the breadth.
And Temperance with Justice Line must run, yet stand
Betwixt Prudence and Fortitude, of either hand.
At every corner must a Point be layd,
Where every Line that meets, an Angle's made;
And when the Points too high, or low do fall,
Then must the Lines be stretch'd, to mak't even all.
And thus the Circle Round you'l find,
Is Squar'd with the foure Virtues of the Mind.

She has a further prose explanation in which she elaborates on this conceit. Vices are points at the end of lines, so that Justice is between Severity and Facility, Prudence is between Sloth and Stupidity, Fortitude is between Rashness and Timorosity, and Temperance between Prodigality and Covetousness. Each line, as a side of the square, divides an outside from the inside. Justice outside is Distributive (justice; she also just calls it Distribution) and inside is Communicative (justice; she also calls it Community); Fortitude outside is Despair (presumably what one faces) and inside is Love (what one has within in the face of the desperate); Prudence outside is Experience and inside is Industry; Temperance outside is Observation and inside is Ease. Then this is used to construct more virtues. From Distribution we get the line of Charity, from Observation, Discretion, and together these make an angle, Hope. From Community we get the line Clemency, from Ease, Comfort; together these make an angle, Peace. From Despair is drawn a line of Hope, and from Industry a line of fruition, and they angle as Tranquillity. From Love is drawn Faith, and from Ease, Pleasure, and these angle as Joy. The points of this square are then labeled Obedience, Humility, Respect, and Reverence, and if the lines are drawn true virtues Square the circle of Honesty. (Honesty quite clearly still has its connection with the Latin, honestas, and here means the totality of noble character.)

The conceit is a nice one, as metaphysical conceits go, but the execution seems lacking in some ways. It's a bit awkward that the corners of the square of the cardinal virtues are vices, for instance. It does identify a legitimate ethical problem, though, the fact that virtues are talked about as discrete (they are for various particular purposes) but truly moral life is an integral whole (honestas is for the sake of honestas) -- and thus the question of how you square, using the lines of virtue, the perfect circle of moral life is a very good candidate for a metaphysical conceit.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dashed Off XXIII

natural vs methodic asceticism

Philosophy can treat the symptoms of original sin, sometimes to excellent effect, but it cannot cure the disease, for it has no way to supply what is lacking.

Peter's shadow (Acts 5:12) // Paul's garment (Acts 19:12)

the links between the Transfiguration and the martyrdom of Stephen

baptism as "a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness" (Zech 13:1)

Platonic myths as poetic descriptions of philosophical inquiry

Our character flaws are misfires of our greatnesses.

Who cannot personify a book cannot read well.

personal continuation after death as seen in
(1) prayers for the dead
(2) invocation of the saints
(3) veneration of icons
(4) sacramental unction

depiction as testimony

Rhetorical arguments are derived from analogues and symptoms.

Christ on the cross as aliquid stat pro aliquo

being a sign vs being a signifier

skill as natural secret (technical arcana)
Think of Feanor here: the uniqueness, unrepeatability, arises from (a) the unrepeatable nature of Feanor's skill; (b) the unrepeatable nature of his materials; (c) the unrepeatable je-ne-sais-quoi contributed by chance or fate (even Feanor cannot repeat his feat -- they are not just works of skill but of skill at a level even Feanor cannot himself guarantee, Feanor on an excellent day).

The amusing (geloios) is a kind of misfiring (hamartema) or shamefulness (aischos) that is painless (anodynon) and not destructive (ou phthartikon).

Laughter is an expression of relief. It is an error to conflate this with humor.

Privacy is merely an outgrowth of certain kinds of courteous practices.

teleological vs morphological metaphors

Augustine, Harmony 3.29, considers (1) manuscript variation, (2) the majority and antiquior readings, and (3) lectio difficilior.

defending the first precept of natural law by retorsion

All load-bearing criticisms should be retorsion-tested.

Formalizations of metaphorical usage requires a way to recognize norms and deviations from them.

Metaphors are not mere deviations from literal discourse (they are not mere inadvertent misuses of words, for instance).

Aristotle's formal analysis of metaphor by ratios is still the best formalization ever developed, notwithstanding the endless progression of fancier and fancier apparatuses.

Questions of the literal paraphrasability of metaphors are analogous to questions of commensurability of irrational numbers.

The teeth of the maiden are like washed sheep, or Julia's leg like an egg, whether we are culturally primed to recognize this or not. We see this truth in the fact that a little thought is all it takes to see the point of an alien metaphor, if it trades on a likeness of which we could be acquainted.

Word meanings are miniature traditions.

language as equipment for interrelating
To indicate something is to interrelate, or hypothetical interrelate, with respect to that thing.

"similes are metaphors needing an explanatory word" Aristotle Rhetoric 1406b

metalinguistic negation & fitness of words ('It wasn't hot, it was sweltering'; 'It wasn't bad, it was awful')

As vague metaphors, similes are strongest when contextualizing other, stronger metaphors: Mine eyes, like clouds, were drizzling rain.

usury of signs (trying to get the effect without doing the productive work -- e.g., trying to play on patriotic symbols to get an effect without using them as patriotic)

a book with the title, The Book You Are Reading

jurisdictio suppleta in errore communi cum titulo colorato

titulus coloratus (apparent right resulting from a real title revoked or voiced, where the latter is not known)
titulus existimatus (apparent right arising only from common belief)

While venial sins individually are not inconsistent with charity, a multiplicity of venial sins approaches such inconsistency, and a large multiplication of them is a grave negligence, and thus mortal sin.

excellences of good metaphor: to saphe (clarity), to heda (sweetness, elegance), to xenikon (foreignness) -- Aristotle Rhetoric 1405a

Riddles and figures of speech have the same root.

The clarity provided by the papal office is not the same as the clarity provided by one who occupies it.

Hume's empiricism can be seen as turning everything into metaphor (resemblance) and metonymy (contiguity) and our habituation to them.

the fourfold power of the state
(1) maiestas: supreme power in the hands of the people, making government possible
(2) imperium: power to coerce (jus gladii)
(3) iurisdictio: power to appoint judges, hear/judge cases, and execute judgments
(4) notio: power to hear and judge cases

order: perpetual, inalienable, one, unique, for the sanctification of individuals
jurisdiction: conditional on higher will, alienable, graded, delagatable, for the governing of the community

Pufendorf on moral entities:
states as moral entities framed on analogy with space
persons as moral entities framed on analogy with substance
- moral entities are "Modes superadded to natural things and motions by intelligent beings, chiefly to guide and restrain voluntary action and to procure regularity in methods of life"
- created or imposed

titles as moral formal qualities; powers, rights, and duties as moral active operative qualities; honor, authority, fame as moral passive qualities. prices as moral quantities for things, esteem as moral quantity for persons

"In the Law of Nations, as in all subjects, we have the Ideas and the Facts;--the Ideas are the Idea of the Good Faith, of the Justice, and we trust also of the Humanity of Nations; the Facts are the History of Nations." Whewell

The doctrine of separation of Church and state has tended to be collapsed into separation of private and public. But the Church cannot be shoved into a realm of the private, for it is certainly public.

philosophical myths
(1) to describe the eternal temporally
(2) to separate the imperfect from the perfect

"Just as light shines merely by acting as light, so too God orders the universe merely by acting as God." Olympiodorus

Skills by their very nature distinguish real good from apparent goods.

papal ratification : active magisterium :: reception by the Church : passive magisterium

"The whole Church wrote the Holy Scriptures and then gave life to them in Tradition. To put it more accurately, Scripture and Tradition, as two manifestations of one and the same Spirit, are a single manifestation. Scripture is nothing but written Tradition, and Tradition is nothing but living Scripture." Alexis Khomiakov

"The *whole* Church teaches -- the Church in all her fullness." Khomiakov

The passive magisterium is not a 'Church of Pupils'. It is a teaching authority (that is literally in the meaning); for in the Church to receive is to teach.

Infallibility resides in charitable catholicity.

Immutability of doctrine and holiness of rite are in the care of all the Body of Christ.

The importance of papal authority is seen in how ruthlessly and consistently the devil has attacked it.

remotive metaphor (sun without fire, wineless cup)

locus standi as intrinsic to rational complaint (that complained about must involve actual harm, according to reasonable causal account, in such a way that complaint is not merely futile and vain): complaining about something when there is no harm, or about something that does not in fact cause the harm there is, or about something that simply cannot be fixed, is unreasonable

The Son is begotten of the Father in such a manner that the Spirit dwells in Him, for otherwise He would not be perfectly begotten of God. Likewise, the Spirit proceeds from the Father so as to proceed through the Son who is with the Father, for otherwise He would not perfectly proceed as God from God. That the Spirit is from the Father is shared by Father and Son, for the Spirit of the Father and of the Son; for there is no separation in the Trinity, only distinction in unity, and all Three each have that they are with the other Two.

hedonism as an idealism of motivation (motivation as wholly in the mind, with proximate cause and object wholly in the mind)

Self-regarding and other-regarding impulses are often nested within each other.

pain as passively unpleasant vs pain as actively displeasing
pain as a feel of lack vs pain as a feel of excess

the threefold end of purgatorial endurance: refreshness, light, peace
purgatory as endurance, enlightenment, and pacification

In "This is My Beloved Son", the My points to the Father, the Son of course to the Son, and the Beloved to the Holy Spirit.

"the Psalmist calls the Spirit the Presence of the Son" Cyril of Alexandria on John Bk 9

"that the peace of Christ is His Spirit, it needs no long argument to demonstrate completely" Cyril A, on John Bk X

"The Son is the express Image of the Father, and His Spirit is the natural Likeness of the Son." Cyril A, on John Book XI

pre-formal matters in logic: equivocation, implicit meaning, relevance, regimentation, term formation

integral humanism, integral development, integral ecology

Heresiology is precedential in its rational structure, with heresiarchs and their heresies serving as precedent-types to avoid.

criticism : error :: complaint : harm

PSR as the abstract structure of evidence

three modes of reading Scriptural imprecations (Aquinas ST 2-2.25.6 ad 3)
(1) proclamation: as prediction rather than wish, with resignation to divine will
(2) prayer for justice: as wish directed to the justice of punishment rather than penalty as such
(3) prayer for purification: as wish not with respect to punishment but for removal of fault itself

rule of law: reason uncorrupted in its concern for common good

NB Dicey regards the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty as inconsistent with a natural law theory.

the concept of enmity in the jus gentium / law of nations

Hume takes our grasp of the external world to be in terms of extrapolative supposition and pragmatic conflation. This is perhaps as weak as it is possible to get and still have a substantive notion of the external world -- lose supposition, an dour grasp of any external world is crude and limited; lose conflation, and it is entirely speculative, hypothetical.

person as principle, as constant being, as noble being, as intentional being

the natural metaphor-seeking of the human mind in love

baptismal character is title to divine common good

Devotion avoids attenuation into vagueness and airy pseudo-abstraction by conversion to sensible practice -- the jingling of bells, the warm puff of incense, the song -- and finds its purity of heart in the prayer thereby incorporated.

the ordinary housekeeping of the household of faith

Hegal over-historicizes, history being his picture-thinking, and he describes as historical process things that in fact are one moment of it. All of the Phenomenology is one moment.

comedy and tragedy as the two aspects of faith

basic requirements of healthy institutions:
(1) avoiding avoidable negative side effects
(2) avoiding reward hacking
(3) scalable oversight
(4) safe innovation
(5) robustness in the face of distributional shifts

A problem-structure cannot be wholly circular or nonbeginning because the one attempt to consider and address a problem is starting somewhere. It could however be never-ending (no number of steps will solve it: insoluble) or could have paths that double back, and could be never-ending because of this.

Discipline is a pointer to doctrine.

apologetical utility: approximating or being in the direction of the truth, starting at the starting-point of the interlocutor

biological possibility as a deontic modality (what is required given developmental and evolutionary structures and processes)

Proverbs beget proverbs, and poems give birth to poems.

A proverb is:
Origen -- something said openly that points to something deep within; a cryptic saying with indirect meaning
Hippolytus -- word of explanation serviceable for the whole path of life
Evagrius -- as saying signifying the intelligible under the physical.
-- Note that Gregory of Nyssa, Adv Eun 3.2, uses both of Origen's descriptions

A good classification
(1) is stable in diverse circumstances
(2) balances diverse considerations
(3) is appropriate to the things
(4) is reasoned and principled

the correspondence authority of bishops

maze-generation : carving passages vs building walls

command of the sea // air supremacy
smuggling and privateering // asymmetric warfare

battlefields/battlespaces and perspectival mereologies (a battlespace is really overlapping battlespaces-from-different-perspectives, with their perspectival parts -- for instance, it matters if I can see you but you can't see me)

Apostolic profiles of the Church: Petrine, Johannine, Jamesian, Pauline
- cp. von Balthasar. It seems to me to be a mistake to think of a Marian profile on this level, in the way it would be a mistake to think of a 'Christian' profile on this level. Christ and Mary are indeed archetypes of the Church, but in a very different way from the Apostolic
- Note that the Apostolic profiles are found in the structure of the New Testament, as well.
- Note that Baltahasar himself over-officializes Peter and over-liberalizes Paul, and does not adequately capture the vision and prophecy that goes along with Johannine love -- his apostolic profiles are flat caricatures, compared to those we get in Scripture.

private revelation as condensation

"The implicit philosophy of any phenomenology of religion is the renewal of a theory of reminiscence." Ricoeur

'Detonation' and 'elaboration' of mystical experience are not separable.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Evening Note for Thursday, October 26

Thought for the Evening: Andrew Moon on Degrees of Belief

One of my very longstanding views is that there are no such things as degrees of belief: degrees of belief, or credences, are fictitious artifacts whose popularity in philosophy is due far more to its flattering the analytical tastes and skills of a certain kind of philosopher than to its actually arising out of a tenable analysis of belief. I always regarded them as a bit speculative and dubious, I think, and have been outright against them since my first reading of Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. This is definitely a minority position; for a long time it was very difficult to find anyone rejecting the notion of degrees of belief. Crispin Sartwell and P. M. S. Hacker had come out rejecting it in print when I was in graduate school, and up to that point there hadn't been much else on the Nay side. Nor could one find it even being used as a punching-bag. The only work by a proponent of degrees of belief that even really treated rejection as an option serious enough to look at in some detail was H. H. Price's Belief, from 1969. I have noticed, however, over the past decade that there has been, while not exactly a major shift, an increasing trickle of people willing to question old certainties about the matter, even if such questioning doesn't lead them to rejecting. Eriksson and Hájek, for instance, had a very nice paper in 2007 that noted problems with the usual accounts, although they eventually conclude that 'degrees of belief' should just be taken as a primitive.

Andrew Moon has recently come out with a paper, "Beliefs do not come in degrees", that argues the skeptical position in greater detail than has been done before. Moon argues against three arguments -- really, probably better thought of as classes or families of arguments -- in favor of degrees of belief, which he calls the confidence argument, the argument from natural language, the firmness argument. He presents and defends arguments on the opposing side, including a different argument from natural language, and what he calls the intention argument and the determinables argument. The determinables argument is particularly interesting.

If something comes in degrees, Moon argues, it makes sense to analyze it into two components: there is a determinable property that comes in a determinate form, and it is possible for the determinate forms relative to a determinable to have a certain order relative to each other, as well. So, for instance, being red is a determinable; being light red and being dark red are determinates of it. What is more, these determinates have an orderly relation to each other that we can characterize as more and less red: light red is less red than dark red, even though at the same time light red is red just as dark red is. On the basis of this kind of analysis, Moon proposes his principle for how things with degrees work, the Determinables-Determinates Condition:

If P comes in degrees, then P is a determinable with a corresponding set of determinates that are degree-ordered.

To this Moon adds what he calls the Anti-Threshold Condition:

If P1 is a determinable that comes in degrees with a corresponding set D1 of determinates that are degree-ordered, P2 is a determinable with a corresponding set D2 of determinates, and D2 is a proper subset of D1, then P2 does not come in degrees.

So, for instance, you can be more or less wealthy, but not more or less a millionaire, although millionaires are a proper subset of wealthy people. I think the Anti-Threshold Condition is the part of the argument that needs work. Consider the case of P1 = 'being red', P2 = 'being scarlet'. The determinates for P2 are a proper subset of the determinates for P1, but P2 certainly comes in degrees. Moon is on very plausible ground in thinking that there is some way in which threshold properties are exclusive of degreed properties, but we need a better way of identifying when a property is threshold and when it is degreed. However, Moon's argument primarily turns not on this particular condition so much as the difference between threshold properties and degreed properties -- the bare fact of proper subsethood is not sufficient.

If belief comes in degrees, then, by the Determinable-Determinates Condition, there must be a determinable with a set of ordered determinates. Most of Moon's argument is that there is no plausible candidate for such a determinable. Being confident won't work because a tiny amount of confidence is not belief. If, on the other hand, one holds that belief is reaching a certain threshold of confidence, then belief is a threshold property, not a degreed property: it consists not of degrees but of simply having overtopped a given minimal level of something. Even if confidence and belief are related in this way (which is doubtful, since there are reasons to think that confidence and belief come apart in a number of ways), it would imply that belief is a category rather than a scale.

As noted, I think there is more work needed on this argument; but it is certainly true that the degree-of-belief position needs to be examined more closely in terms of the metaphysics of degrees.

Various Links of Interest

* Dale E. Miller, John Stuart Mill and Charlottesville

* How and Why Did the Viking Age Begin?

* Josef Joffe, The First Totalitarian, reviews Victor Sebestyen's biography of Lenin.

* Andrew Janiak, Who was that Marquise? Rediscovering forgotten voices of women in philosophy.

* An audio version of Charles Williams's ghost story, Et In Sempiternum Pereant. You can also read it online. It is a sequel short story to his novel, Many Dimensions, which was a fortnightly book here in 2013. As with MD, its central action is a self-offering that saves.

Currently Reading

Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island
Tanith Lee, The Secret Books of Paradys, I & II
Cajetan, Commentary on St. Thomas Aquinas' On Being & Essence
Edith Stein, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts
Jacques Maritain, The Peasant of the Garonne

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


One of the fundamental axioms of a sane philosophy of history, I have often noted, is that the history of the world progresses at the same time in the line of evil and in the line of good. In certain periods--our own, for example--one sees the effects of this simultaneous double progress erupting in a kind of explosion.

[Jacques Maritain, The Peasant of the Garonne, Cuddihy & Hughes, trs. Wipf & Stock (Eugene, OR: 2011) p. 4.]

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

There's Mercy in Every Place

The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk
by William Cowper

I am monarch of all I survey;
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.
O Solitude! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?
Better dwell in the midst of alarms,
Than reign in this horrible place.

I am out of humanity’s reach,
I must finish my journey alone,
Never hear the sweet music of speech;
I start at the sound of my own.
The beasts that roam over the plain
My form with indifference see;
They are so unacquainted with man,
Their tameness is shocking to me.

Society, Friendship, and Love
Divinely bestow’d upon man,
O, had I the wings of a dove
How soon would I taste you again!
My sorrows I then might assuage
In the ways of religion and truth;
Might learn from the wisdom of age,
And be cheer’d by the sallies of youth.

Ye winds that have made me your sport,
Convey to this desolate shore
Some cordial endearing report
Of a land I shall visit no more:
My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me?
O tell me I yet have a friend,
Though a friend I am never to see.

How fleet is a glance of the mind!
Compared with the speed of its flight,
The tempest itself lags behind,
And the swift-wingèd arrows of light.
When I think of my own native land
In a moment I seem to be there;
But alas! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair.

But the sea-fowl is gone to her nest,
The beast is laid down in his lair;
Even here is a season of rest,
And I to my cabin repair.
There’s mercy in every place,
And mercy, encouraging thought!
Gives even affliction a grace
And reconciles man to his lot.

Alexander Selkirk, of course, lived several years on a desert island; his story became famous, and is usually thought to have been the model, or one of the models, for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fool's Goods

Today is the feast of St. Severinus Boethius in the Roman Martyrology. From the Consolation of Philosophy (Book III, Prose 8):

Will you strive to heap up money? But you will steal it from the one who has it. Would you wish to be resplendent in high offices? You will play the suppliant to the one who grants them to you, and so you who want to outdistance all others in honor will become worthless through the humiliation of having to beg for it. Do you desire power? You will be exposed to the plots of your subjects, and will subject yourself to risks and hazards. Should you seek glory? But you are dragged in all directions then, on each and every rough road, and so cease to be free from anxiety. Would you lead a life of pleasure? But who would not dismiss and push away what is the slave of this most worthless and fragile thing, the body?...

From all of these considerations, this is the sum total that it may be reduced to: these things, which cannot offer the goods that they promise, and which have not themselves been brought about by the convergence of all good things, do not lead to true happiness as if they were various true paths, nor do they themselves bring it about that people are perfectly happy.

[Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, Relihan, tr., Hackett (Indianapolis, IN: 2001) pp. 65-66.

The Third Policeman

Far and away my favorite postmodern novel is Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman; O'Brien, having had some success with At Swim-Two-Birds, tried to get the new work published by the same publisher, who rejected it on the ground that they wanted the author to be less fantastic, not more. It was only published after his death. I think it's an almost perfect blend of humor, seriousness, and absurdity (both humorous and serious).

The BBC put out an excellent, and I mean excellent, reading by Patrick Magee of an abridgement (quite a competent abridgement, too) of the work, which you can find online. It's a bit over two hours long. I highly recommend it. Magee hits everything perfectly, and has the knack of stating the most insane absurdities as if they were obvious facts only a child would deny, which is absolutely essential to capturing the spirit of the work.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fortnightly Book, October 22

Learned, clear-headed, and practical, he fulfilled in all emergencies those three conditions which united ought to insure human success -- activity of mind and body, impetuous wishes, and powerful will. He might have taken for his motto that of William of Orange in the 17th century: "I can undertake and persevere even without hope of success."

The next fortnightly book is Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, which is one of the most notable of the works Verne wrote in his own favorite genre, the robinsonade, that adventure of the intellect in which Man is faced with Nature, overcoming whatever the hostility of the latter may throw against him, and even turning it to human ends. Five Union prisoners of war escape from Confederate prison during the siege of Richmond by an improvised hot air balloon and are blown far off the map in a great storm. The balloon is damaged, and eventually they reach the limitations of what they can do to keep it aloft over the ocean, and must just trust to providence. They discover an island, exotic and filled with resources and dangers. But even allowing for that, the island has deeper secrets to uncover....

I'll also be watching the 2005 TV movie The Mysterious Island, which I happened recently to see in the cheap rack in the grocery store and, knowing that I would eventually be doing this book, picked up. It has an excellent cast, but it looks awful, and, indeed, the reviews of it are pretty uniformly negative, with one review I saw noting that it wasn't really Verne's story so much as an adaptation of it by random monkeys. The question is, Will this be gloriously awful, or just awful awful? In case it is the latter, which it might well be, CBS Radio Mystery Theater adapted the novel into a radio episode in 1977, so I'll do that as well; CBSRMT, being post-Golden-Age, is often uneven, but it's never simply awful.