Monday, September 28, 2020

Shadows of Shadows of Possibilities

Barton Gellman has a completely lunatic article at The Atlantic. Pretty much the entire article is irrational and absurd, but the worst is this:

The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress.

The Electoral College system doesn't have ambiguities in the way this requires; unlike, say, a popular vote system, it's specifically designed to eliminate ambiguities. For the President, the process is like this. The states certify their election votes. The Electors are chosen in accordance with state law. They vote on the day decided by Congress, currently the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Under the Electoral Count Act, they have to complete six Certificates of Vote, signed by all Electors; one of those six goes to the office of the President of the Senate. Much of Gellman's looney-tunes scenario requires there to be rival Electoral College ballots (for multiple states!); of course, the only actual Electoral College votes are those which are consistent with state law. Klain's action of booking a rival room in 2000 was purely a just-in-case move; litigation over whether the votes had been properly accounted was still going on, the Republicans booked a room in case the litigation favored them, the Democrats responded by booking a room as well, in case it favored them. The only way this could have become an issue is if (1) the litigation did not end by the day the Electoral College was supposed to meet despite everyone having an incentive to make sure it did; (2) the litigation did not settle who had the legal claim to the Electoral College votes by the time the vote was counted, despite everyone having an incentive to make sure it did; (3) Congress could not come to an agreement about which to reject.

Congress presided over by the President of the Senate counts the votes; if members of Congress question the legitimacy of any vote, there is a legal process for doing so; no state's Certificate of Vote can be rejected without a vote of both chambers of Congress (such a rejection has happened in only two elections). If a candidate gets sufficient Electoral College votes, he wins, unambiguously. If no candidate gets sufficient Electoral College votes (which, despite Gellman's imaginative attempt to suggest otherwise, logically includes the case where it is close but Congress does not know what enough of the Electoral College votes are, like the rival ballot case), the House voting by state delegation chooses one of the three candidates with the most Electoral College votes. They can choose any of the three they want; all it takes is 26 state-delegation votes. (Currently Republicans hold more state delegations in the House, but it would be the new Congress that mattered.) Whoever gets those wins, unambiguously. If nobody gets enough, they keep balloting until someone does. Much the same process is done for the vice president, except it is the Senate, not the House, that decides the matter in case no vice-presidential candidate gets enough Electoral College votes. If the House can't pick a president by Inauguration, whoever is elected vice president becomes the president. If the House can't pick a president and there is no vice president by Inauguration, the line of succession kicks in and the Speaker of the House becomes president. There is only a limited set of options for President -- Trump, Biden, Pence, Harris, and Pelosi, very roughly in that order of likelihood. No matter what happens, it will be unambiguous. Even in the worst case scenario, with both the College and Congress deadlocked, we would still have an unambiguous winner as Nancy Pelosi is sworn in as president.

I don't say that it's absolutely foolproof; I mean, politicians can be such fools that there is no such thing as foolproof when they are involved. But the process is, again, specifically designed to cut out any potential for ambiguity at each stage.

And this is all, of course, without even considering the fact that Gellman's scenarios require obviously implausible events like Pence deliberately burning his political career by going rogue in order to guarantee that Trump is president (and what is more, that Trump rather than himself becomes president) and Congress doing nothing to stop it.

It would be foolish to deny that history can throw a curveball on occasion for which no one can adequately plan, but throughout Gellman's article we are not so much dealing with possibilities as with shadows of shadows of possibilities. Yes, it is true that if the entire world inexplicably goes mad all at once, the Constitution has no mechanism that can stop it; but that is not only not surprising, it is not the kind of possibility worth worrying about. It would be like planning your vacation while worrying about the fact that you haven't figured out what to do if you get hit by an asteroid while on the beach.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Fortnightly Book, September 27

We finally come to the last, and generally least known, Holmes short story collections: His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.

His Last Bow contains various miscellaneous stories from different years, combined with a preface from Dr. Watson:

Preface by John H. Watson
The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
The Adventure of the Red Circle
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
The Adventure of the Dying Detective
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
His Last Bow. The War Service of Sherlock Holmes

"The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" was originally published in 1892 and also in The Memoirs (1894), but in later editions of the latter was taken out, with part of its story recycled for "The Adventure of the Resident Patient". It was then published in His Last Bow. British editions have often reverted to the original apportionment, while American editions have usually followed the later practice of giving the story to His Last Bow. Other stories were originally published later, with "His Last Bow" receiving its first publication very shortly before the collection itself was published.

The last collection, published in 1927, has some variation in its title. It was originally published as The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes in the British edition and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, no hyphen, in the American edition; later publishers often published it as The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, one word, which is how my Wordsworth Edition omnibus has it. All of its stories are from the 1920s.

The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
The Adventure of the Three Gables
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
The Problem of Thor Bridge
The Adventure of the Creeping Man
The Adventure of the Lion's Mane
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
The Adventure of the Retired Colourman

These are the least-read Holmes stories, in part because they are so late, and in part becase six of them are still in copyright -- until 2022 for "Three Gables", "Blanched Soldier", "Lion's Mane", and "Retired Colourman", and until 2023 for "Veiled Lodger" and "Shoscombe Old Place".

These last collections have short stories that tend to be much more experimental than prior short stories, with deliberate deviations from expected formulas (e.g., "Wisteria Lodge" gives us a police inspector who independently manages to keep up with Holmes, and three of the Case-Book stories are not narrated by Watson), bolder mixing of genres (e.g., "His Last Bow" is an espionage tale, and "Creeping Man" has science fiction elements), and different origins (e.g., "Mazarin Stone" was originally a play that Doyle then turned into a short story).

It's fairly difficult to find easily accessible adaptations of Case-Book stories, but you do occasionally find a few from His Last Bow, so I'll keep an eye out for some of those, if I have the time for them.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Patrick Rambaud, The Battle


Timeline of the Age of Napoleon

Opening Passage:

In the morning of Tuesday 16 May 1809, a Berline flanked by horsemen pulled out of Schönbrunn and drove at a leisurely pace along the right bank of the Danube. It was an unremarkable carriage, olive coloured, without coats of arms on its panels. As it passed, the Austrian peasants raised their black, broad-brimmed hats, out of caution, rather than respect, because they recognized the officers riding their long-maned Arabs at a trot, a panther skin under their seats, uniforms in the Hungarian style -- white, scarlet, heavy with gold -- a heron's feather in their shakos: these young gentlemen were the permanent escort of Berthier, Major-General of the occupying army. (p. 3)

Summary: While The Battle follows a number of people, the primary protagonist is Louis-François Lejeune:

Institut supérieur des arts de Toulouse - Portrait de Louis-François Lejeune - par Constantin Prévost - Inv 85.1.11
(Constantin Jean Marie Prevost, Portrait de Louis-François Lejeune)

Lejeune is an artist who, after having volunteered for the army in the French Revolutionary War, had a brilliant military career. At the time of the Battle of Essling, he is an officer of the General Staff. The story picks up in Vienna, where Lejeune has become friends with Henri Beyle; both Beyle and Lejeune have fallen in love with the same (fictional) Austrian woman, Anna Krauss. It is, of course, a doomed love affair, for both; Anna cannot simply stop being an Austrian whose country is at war with the French. And it is, in any case, difficult to carry on a love affair when you are going into a huge mess of a battle.

Despite being our primary character, however, Lejeune is hardly the only character; Rambaud puts a great deal of effort into covering the diversity of temperaments at the battle. Some are gentle, others calculating. Some are in the military from half-literary ideas of army, some just fell into it, some are sociopaths in it for the butchering and raping. Almost all of the major figures are half-distracted by things that have nothing to do with the battle at all. And, of course, there is Napoleon himself who, in the middle of an army, is clearly very, very alone; he has a good head for a battlefield, but he is very unsure of himself, with all the insecurity of a vain man who knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that everyone around him is only telling him what he wants to hear.

Napoleon attempts a forced crossing of the Danube at the island of Lobau, near the villages of Aspern and Essling, but despite the skill of his military engineers, it turns into something of a disaster. The Austrians, under the highly competent but also overly cautious and hesitant Archduke Charles, are upstream, and the first attempts to build a bridge are plagued by the Austrians sending an endless supply of trees and boats filled with rocks downriver to tear it down. But the Archduke is not primarily concerned with preventing the crossing; his actual plan is to attack the French army soon after they cross, before they can receive reinforcements from the Army of Italy. Napoleon, no fool in matters of war, recognizes this and is attempting to compensate by bringing all the battalions he can across the river. Fighting begins at Aspern, where the Austrians hit the French much harder than expected and seize the village; Masséna is able to recapture it, although at high cost. Fighting at Essling, which Lannes is attempting to hold, is scarcely less fierce. Meanwhile, Napoleon is bringing more and more of his troops across the bridge.

Fernand Cormon 005
(Fernand Cormon, The Battle of Essling, May 1809)

The second day of fighting is even more fierce and muddled than the first. Lannes manages to hold Essling, but Masséna is pushed out of Aspern; the French almost win when they temporarily break through Austrian lines, but Archduke Charles, his caution serving him well on this occasion, had an extra reserve he is able to bring up. The French will almost be driven into the Danube, but the battle will end in total exhaustion on both sides. The cost is high, over forty thousand dead on the field, twenty thousand on the French side in what was for the French a complete failure, and Marshal Lannes wounded in a way that will require amputation, an amputation he will not ultimately survive.

Lannes mortally wounded at Essling (E. Boutigny)
(Paul-Émile Boutigny, Lannes Mortally Wounded at Essling)

Lejeune will continue with his army career, an illustrious one except for a period of disgrace when he left his post in the terrible march on Moscow, and will eventually paint a famous series of paintings of battles of the Napoleonic Wars. Beyle will eventually publish a number of books, including Vie de Napoléon and Le Rouge et le Noir, under his pen name, Stendhal. And Napoleon, of course, will face ever more serious difficulties until his final end.

Balzac, who originally had the idea for a book on the Battle of Aspern-Essling, had intended not to include Napoleon, or at most to have him show up briefly, and to have no women at all, the point being to show someone in an armchair what battle is like. Rambaud deviates from both of these. Adding the fictional affair with Anna enlivens the story quite a bit, I think, but I go back and forth on whether making Napoleon himself a major character was a worthwhile move. Rambaud's depiction of Napoleon is interesting, but there are already so many characters involved in the story -- it has an epic's cast despite not being epic-length.

Aspern (Wien) - Löwe (Kriegerdenkmal)
Der Löwe von Aspern, which commemorates the battle

Favorite Passage:

A grenadier with shrapnel in his leg dragged himself out of the line of fire. When he fell to the ground, he had snatched up some of the coins the standard bearer, his former neighbour in the line, had hidden in the folds of his stock. He surreptitiously opened his hand, took a close look at his treasure and muttered bitterly that it wasn't worth anything any more. On 1 Janueary 1809, the Emperor had removed from all coinage the motto which still figured on the coins he had picked up:


Recommendation: Recommended, if you like war novels. It's an easy and vivid read, and makes a considerable attempt at accuracy, although for the same reason parts of it are quite brutal.


Patrick Rambaud, The Battle, Will Hobson, tr. Grove Press (New York: 2000).

Friday, September 25, 2020

Mayhap Thou Canst Not Ripen Without Frost

by Helen Hunt Jackson

O golden month! How high thy gold is heaped!
The yellow birch-leaves shine like bright coins strung
On wands; the chestnut's yellow pennons tongue
To every wind its harvest challenge. Steeped
In yellow, still lie fields where wheat was reaped;
And yellow still the corn sheaves, stacked among
The yellow gourds, which from the earth have wrung
Her utmost gold. To highest boughs have leaped
The purple grape,--the last thing to ripen, late
By very reason of its precious cost.
O Heart, remember, vintages are lost
If grapes do not for freezing night-dews wait.
Think, while thou sunnest thyself in Joy's estate,
Mayhap thou canst not ripen without frost!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Marcus Minucius Felix, Octavius

We know very little about Minucius Felix. He was a lawyer, almost certainly from North Africa although practicing in Rome, who converted to Christianity; he lived in the late second century or early third century (he is mentioned by Lactantius and seems to be alluded to by Cyprian, so he is no later than the middle of the third century). The Octavius is his only known work, although Jerome seems to say that he also had another work, Of Fate, which is not extant and is mentioned by no one else. That's about all the reasonably direct information we have.

The Octavius only survives in one manuscript tradition (based on a ninth-century manuscript in Paris); it was overlooked for a long time because it is bundled with Arnobius's Against the Nations and was only discovered not to be part of that work in the sixteenth century. It has a number of obvious links to Tertullian's Apologeticus, so there would be room for extrapolating more if it can be determined which of the two has priority; that would, for instance, give us a better sense of dates for the work. If Octavius is prior to Apologeticus, this would put it prior to the third century, if it is posterior, this would put it after the second. The scholarship has gone back and forth on this. It was originally thought that Octavius was influenced by Apologeticus; then beginning in the seventeenth century, the priority of the Octavius seems to have become dominant, in part because Minucius's handling of classical authorities is more precise than Tertullian's and because Minucius seems to be describing, even if we assume he is embellishing, a real event. No arguments on either side are really definitive.

Besides (possibly) Tertullian, Minucius is quite clearly heavily influenced by Cicero, in structure and in style as well as in some of his more general themes.

You can read the Octavius at or Early Christian Writings. C. Francis Higgins has a nice article on Minucius Felix and the Octavius at the IEP. Paul Lejay also has a nice, if now somewhat dated, article in the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Characters

The dialogue is a discussion involving three friends:

Marcus Minucius Felix: The narrator, he acts as the 'judge' in the debate between Caecilius and Octavius. His name is on monuments in Tebessa and Carthage, although it's unclear whether these refer to the same Minucius. At the beginning of the dialogue, he is practicing law in Rome.

Caecilius Natalis: A pagan. There is a monument with his name on it at Cirta, in North Africa, where the dialogue claims he is from; whether this is the dialogue's Caecilius or a family member, the Caecilius mentioned on the monuments was an active participant in the pagan life of Cirta.

Octavius Januarius: A Christian. His name is on a monument in Saldae, although, as with the other two, it's unknown whether this is the same Octavius or simply related to him.

The Plot

The dialogue is nostalgic in tone (influenced by Cicero's De Oratore). Minucius, reflecting on his friendship with Octavius, who has died, is brought back to the time when Octavius converted their friend Caecilius to Christianity. Octavius came to visit Minucius in Rome, and as the courts were on hiatus, they went down to Ostia for bathing and relaxation. They are walking to the beach with Caecilius, when Caecilius sees an idol of Serapis, and salutes it with a kiss. Octavius makes a mocking comment on the gesture, scolding Minucius for letting his friend remain in ignorant superstition. They spend some time enjoying themselves at the beach, with Octavius telling various stories about the sea. As they are returning along the shore, they come to the docks and see the boys skipping shells on the waves, each one trying to outdo the others. At this point Minucius notices that Caecilius is a bit too quiet, and asks him what is wrong. Caecilius says he is bothered by Octavius's comment, less atbeing called ignorant than at the the fact that Minucius had been rebuked for it, and he proposes, if Octavius is willing, that they sit down and argue it out. (There is undoubtedly a narrative parallel between the boys and the men here. The men are adult lawyers, so their form of skipping stones in friendly competition is to argue.) Minucius will be the judge; Minucius is a Christian convert, but Caecilius asks him to be as completely impartial as he can. Caecilius gives his arguments against Christianity; he's put in a much better mood by it, likely by the opportunity to show off his oratorical skills. Minucius scolds him for thinking so highly of himself when Octavius hasn't even spoken yet; Caecilius rebukes him lightly for not maintaining his impartiality, but Minucius responds that they should be concerned less with the eloquence than with the truth of the discourses. Then Octavius gives his defense of Christianity. After he finishes, they are silent a bit. Minucius is impressed by Octavius's ability to express what is easier to feel than express. Caecilius admits himself outmatched, but declares himself a victor of the sort, in that Octavius has led him to understand the matter better. As the sun is setting, Caecilius proposes that they discuss the matter more deeply the next day, and they head home.

The story that frames the debate is an extraordinary literary capturing of the kind of nostalgia that is associated with close friendship, and in and of itself gives the dialogue a charm and interest that accentuates the actual debate.

The Thought

The apologetics of the work is primarily sociological, not theological. Certain broader philosophical issues, particularly knowledge of the goods and the existence and nature of providence, play a significant role (and connect the dialogue to its Ciceronian forebears), but for the purposes of the argument, they are primarily there to assist in determining whether Christian life is reasonable.

Caecilius argues a version of the Academic position that we only know the probable, not the true, due to the uncertainty of human life, and criticizes Christians (often uneducated) for being overly dogmatic on matters beyond human ken. Either human life is governed by chance or, if it is governed by nature, we do not have certain knowledge of it; because of this, the safest course is to stick with the customs of your forefathers. This is all the more the case in that the Romans had risen to greatness in preserving the religion of their fathers, and failures to respect the auspices had often led to disaster.

Thus the presumption should be for the pagan religion, which has the consent of nations. Christians, however, reject this and do so not by argument but by conspiracy. And in their secret societies, they are rumored to do horrible things: worship the head of ass, engage in incest, worshiping the genitals of their priests, having orgies, drinking the blood and eating the flesh of babies, and (even worse) worshiping a criminal and the cross on which he was executed. If such rumors are not true, why do Christians go around in such secrecy? What is more, their God is a strange God nobody has ever heard of before, yet they think He is a busybody who is nosing about even in peoples thoughts, all over the earth, and they threaten people by saying that He is destroying the world, which everyone knows to be sempiternal, with fire. On top of that, they claim that bodies will be resurrected after the destruction, and promise themselves blessed perpetual life after death while condemning everyone else to everlasting punishment, not because of what they deserve but because of what the wicked judge they pretend to be God decides beforehand. Nor does their account of resurrection even make sense -- the body was already destroyed, so it can't be resurrected, and if it's a new body, then you are not same person.

All of this seems clearly to be made up so as to help them veil to themselves what seems to be the real situation: they are often wretched, destitute, and homeless -- apparently with their God not much caring -- whereas the supposedly inferior pagan Romans live lives of enjoyment and happiness in comparison. Christians are thus acting neither modestly nor wisely, nor with proper regard for the limitations of the human mind. Christians would be better off imitating Socrates, who refused to speculate about divine matters, and who showed (confirmed by the Oracle at Delphi) that confession of one's own ignorance is wisdom -- the foundation of the Academic approach to philosophy.

Octavius responds by saying that Caecilius's argument is inconsistent and erratic. Parts of his arguments depend on a deep skepticism about divine things and parts only have real force against Christians if we know divine things fairly well. He can, however, respond to all of it from a single and consistent position. Caecilius complains about the Christian lack of education and wealth, but fails to grasp one important thing: "all men are begotten alike, with a capacity and ability of reasoning and feeling, without preference of age, sex, or dignity." The capacity to be wise is not a matter that is hostage to fortune, and you do not become wise by being rich, nor even by mere study. Though poor and uneducated, they may still be wise. Their position should be judged not on their circumstances but on its truth.

Caecilius is right that we should know ourselves and be aware of our limitations, but he draws the wrong conclusions from this, because he should instead recognize that things in this world are so interconnected that we need to know divinity in order to know humanity. It is absurd to exaggerate the extent to which the world is governed by chance; we see quite clearly that the world is very orderly, in a way that suggests divine reason. There is a divine providence. What is more, this is not just a generic providence but one that extends to the parts of the world, because you still see the orderliness when you focus on the details. Our real limitation is that the God who must exist to do this is too much to know. We should not, like the pagans, diversify this by many names; we should simply recognize that any names we give will be inadequate. And this, Octavius says, is the common consent of nations: people spontaneously address God just as God. "And they who speak of Jupiter as the chief, are mistaken in the name indeed, but they are in agreement about the unity of the power." The poets and the Stoic philosophers, too, often talk in this way, and many of them agree with the Christians that this divine power pervades all. What is more, Plato's doctrine in the Timaeus is very similar to what Christians say of God. So in fact there is plenty of philosophical authority in support of something broadly like the Christian position, and we should take this to be more seriously than just the traditional opinion, because know that people have often fallen easily into false beliefs. And if we're talking about absurdities and inconsistencies, it's not as if you can't come up with a long list of traditional pagan beliefs that propose bizarre things or are connected to strange or inconsistent stories. And the real shame is worshiping idols, stone or wood, that are made by human hands, and making them the center of pagan rites.

Caecilius had attributed the greatness of the Romans and the value of their auspices to their religion. Octavius replies that the Romans have a long history of impiety, and a simpler explanation is that they were so successful because they were violent and terrifying. Likewise, Caecilius's appeal to auspices is highly selective; there are many cases of people taking auspices and meeting a bad end. This is not to say that the argument has no force: auspices do sometimes seem to have touched on the truth, impressively even. But this is because there are spirits who know more than we do and meddle with human matters, like Socrates's numen. If there are angels and demons, then the occasional impressive successes of the auspices can be explained; but these spirits are everywhere recognized as intermediaries, not gods. And these demons are themselves what stirs up the prejudice against Christians, so that people hate them before they even know them.

This brings us then to the claims that Christians engage in horrid crimes in secret. Octavius notes that he himself (and perhaps he's including Minucius, as well) had once believed such things. Even as he would defend people from charges of crimes like these in court, he did not even bother to think that Christians might have something to say in their defense. Many of them are not even very plausible, like the oncephalic calumny, that Christians secretly worship the head of an ass, but even if it were true is not so very from Egyptian paganism. Christians do not worship a criminal; they believe the man on the cross was unjustly killed, and, moreover, was God; but, again, pagans cannot attack Christians for these things without answering for the fact that their are pagans who do analogous things. Similar things can be said of drinking the blood of infants: this is not right, but even if it were true, pagans have a long history of exposure of infants and of abortion. Similar things go for the charge of incest;Christians have strict standards in favor of marriage, and call each other brother and sister not out of incest but out of recognition of God their Father, and out of mutual love for each other. In every case, the pagans charge is that Christians do things, leaving no evidence, when there is plenty of evidence that pagans do things analogous to what they are attacking. Nor is it even true that Christians are engaged in secret conspiracy. They don't blabber about everything, to be sure, but they don't think God can be confined to a building, and they think the proper sacrifices to God are not showy animal sacrifices but virtue, innocence, justice.

As to the conflagration and the resurrection, the idea that the world will perish in fire is entirely consistent with the common recognition that all things that begin also perish, and the Stoics too hold that this world-order will perish in fire. Nor is it absurd to think that man, who has been formed by God, can be re-formed by Him. We are still in the winter of the body; there will be a spring. And it is not difficult to find pagan poets and philosophers peaking of reward and punishment in the afterlife, as well. To ignore God is sufficient for punishment, to know Him is sufficient for pardon; but even if that weren't so, Christian standards of morality are higher than pagan standards. The reward and punishment is not a matter of fate; men are free; it is our doing that is judged, not our being. And the adversities of this life increase us in virtue, especially martyrdom. Christians set aside the pagan customs not out of fear and a desperate attempt to comfort themselves, but for something better. If the Academic philosophers think otherwise, let them be pitied for it; Christians have obtained the truth that the Academics sought badly.

Caecilius concedes the argument; Octavius has given a reasonable answer to all of his objections. He accepts that it is reasonable to believe in providence and that the Christian way of life is sincere.

Additional Notes

* Part of the dialogue is an argument over the nature of providence, with Caecilius suggesting as possible an Epicurean view and Octavius, without getting too technical, drawing on Stoic arguments for divine providence. Octavius's argument seems heavily influenced by Cicero's presentation of the Stoic argument in De natura deorum.

* All of the anti-Christian calumnies Caecilius notes are calumnies for which we find independent evidence elsewhere, sometimes in slightly variant forms. Some of them, like the onocephalic calumny, were Roman calumnies against the Jews that the Christians inherited. Others, like the cannibal feasts, the incestuous orgies, and the worshiping of a criminal are obviously garbled versions of Christian doctrines.

* One of the things that is important to the dialogue, and emphasized by Minucius's intervention between Caecilius's and Octavius's speeches, is that friendship competes for truth (veritas) and not praise (laus). Caecilius, despite his immediate objection, affirms much the same by the end of the dialogue: they are not in a competition with a mutually exclusive victory, but Octavius can conquer by showing forth the truth, yet Caecilius can still be a victor by coming to see it. The only victory that matters when friends are involved is truth.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Two Poem Drafts


Our words are mortal words.
They fail;
they break upon the worldly wave;
they die,
nor all your wit and will
can one word save.
And when to holy gods
we use our words to pray,
they fail,
the mortal never rising up
to pure immortal realms.
An impure sacrifice,
they almost desecrate,
almost corrupt,
what we in prayer would say.
Can any words we pray
give forth a goodly scent?
Will the smoke ever rise?
Or are we forever broken-tongued,
telling truth with lies?
The one holy sacrifice,
O folk of sincere hearts,
the only gift fit for gods,
would be a god;
the only prayer fit for heaven
would be spoken by a god.
You must pray,
do not doubt it;
even in words you must pray,
but know your place:
when you pray,
let gods pray to gods,
and you,
O good-willed heart,
be still,
be small,
be awed.

A Demon's that Is Dreaming

Fire in the darkness,
blackness in the fire,
are glinting in the shadows
without desire:

alien intelligence
cold and coolly far,
and in the mocking eye
a fallen star.

Winds upon the ashes
stir within an eye,
a pupil full of spirit
but no sigh,

staring, all uncaring,
hostile, unconcerned,
a shadow that is burning
but not burned.


Today is the feast of an important, even though not widely known, Celtic saint, St. Adamnan of Iona (also known as St. Adomnan or St. Eunan). He died in 704. Adamnan is generally considered the author of the Life of Columba, his much more famous earlier-generation cousin; the Life is our single most important source of knowledge about life in Scotland and Ireland in the seventh century. He also wrote Of Holy Places, drawing from a variety of sources (especially a Frankish monk, Arculf, who had been there in person) to try to give as accurate a picture of the Holy Land as a Irish monk could possibly give in the seventh century; the work is of particular historical interest in that it has one of the earliest extant maps of Jerusalem (only the Madaba Map is earlier) and the earliest known drawings of major Christian churches (Holy Sepulcher, Apostles on Mount Zion, Ascension, and Jacob's Well).

Adamnan was probably born in modern day County Donegal in Ireland; he somehow received an extraordinarily good education -- nobody knows exactly how -- and eventually became abbot of Iona. He established very good relations with the Northumbrian court and was often called upon to serve diplomatically to assist prisoner exchanges, treaty negotiations, and the like. At some point he had a falling out with his fellow monks (particularly those in Iona's satellite monasteries in Ireland); St. Bede suggests that it was due to his preference for the Roman rather than the Celtic dating of Easter. Whatever may be the case, it's possible that the falling-out was one of his reasons for being so willing to be out and about doing diplomatic work.

In 697, he called and presided at the Synod of Birr; supposedly he had a dream about his mother reprimanding him for not doing more to protect the women and children of Ireland. The Synod passed what has since become known as the Lex Innocentiu, the Cáin Adomnáin, or Canon of Adamnan, in which the priests and kings of Ireland agreed, among other things, to guarantee noncombatant immunity in warfare to women and children. It's unclear how effective it was, historically, and it likely had no enforcement beyond the honor system, but the agreement in itself was a diplomatic achievement, and a forerunner of later attempts to reduce the brutality of war by legal means.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Cement of Society Is....

... submission to the laws of society (George Berkeley, 1712): "And since the bond and cement of society is submission to its laws, it plainly follows, that this duty hath an equal right with any other to be thought a law of nature."

... charity (Jonas Hanway, 1758): "As charity is the great bond of union, and the surest cement of society, the present occasion will warrant the greater indulgence."

... sympathy (Henry Home, 1758): "When we examine those particular passions, which, though painful, are yet accompanied with no aversion; we find that they are all of the social kind, arising from that eminent principle of sympathy, which is the cement of human society."
(Henry Home, 1758): "Nor must we judge of this principle as any way vitious or faulty: for besides that it is the great cement of human society, we ought to consider, that, as no state is exempt from misfortunes, mutual sympathy must greatly promote the security and happiness of mankind."

... sincerity (Henry Venn, 1763): "In these several important particulars, and in all similar to them, you will pay a conscientious regard to sincerity. Your motives also will be distinct from those of the mere moralist, and infinitely more cogent. He may be an advocate for truth and sincerity, and would have all men practice it, because it is the cement of society, and the only foundation of mutual confidence. Feeble motives, alas!"

... the ocean (James Hervey, 1779): "I am glad to find, that a jealousy for the interests of morality, is the chief obstacle in the way of your assent; because, I am persuaded, it is much of the same nature with those forbidding and mistaken apprehensions, which our ancestors entertained, concerning the ocean. They looked upon it as an insurmountable obstruction to universal society. Whereas it is, in fact, the very cement of society, the only means of accomplishing a general intercourse; and the great highway to all the nations of the earth."

... the illusion that secondary qualities are in external objects (Henry Home, 1779): "Now if this illusion be the only foundation of secondary qualities, they must be defined perceptions in the mind of man, which by an illusion of nature are placed upon external objects....In a word, this illusion is the cement of society, connecting men and things together in an amiable union."

... language (William Parker, 1781): "Communication of thoughts, of mutual counsel, and designs of action, was one original intent and main use of speech: and so language becomes one common bond and cement of society, and mutual connexion of men amongst each other."

... the administration of criminal and civil justice (Alexander Hamilton, 1787): "There is one transcendant advantage belonging to the province of the State governments, which alone suffices to place the matter in a clear and satisfactory light,--I mean the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice....This great cement of society, which will diffuse itself almost wholly through the channels of the particular governments, independent of all other causes of influence, would insure them so decided an empire over their respective citizens as to render them at all times a complete counterpoise, and, not unfrequently, dangerous rivals to the power of the Union."

... opinion, i.e., public opinion (James Wilson, 1792?): "All trials, says Beccaria, should be public; that opinion, which is the best, or perhaps only, cement of society, may curb the authority of the powerful, and the passions of the judge; and that the people, inspired with courage, may say, "We are not slaves; we are protected by the laws."

... friendly confidence, i.e., trust between friends (Charles Johnstone, 1797): "The ingratitude and perfidy of one, whom he had placed his whole confidence in, and bound to him by the highest obligations, upbraid him continually with his own baseness to his patron, and make him afraid to place trust in any other; so that he lives in a state of constant suspicion and dread of all mankind, destitute of that friendly confidence, which is the cement of society, the comfort and support of life."

... fear (Plutarch, as translated by John and William Langhorne, 1804): "The Lacedaemonians have not only temples dedicated to Fear, but also to Death, to Laughter, and many of the passions. Nor do they pay homage to Fear, as one of the noxious and destroying demons, but they consider it as the best cement of society."

... just subordination (William Augustus Miles, 1808): "A respectful deference on the part of the people, to the judgment of those who are entrusted with the executive government, is necessary for the preservation of that just subordination which forms the very essence of all civil institutions, and constitutes the best cement of society."

... children (John Evans, 1810): "Cornelia turned the conversation to another subject, to wait the return of her sons, who were gone to school. When they returned, and entered their mother's apartment, she said to the Campanian lady,--These are my jewels, and the only ornaments I admire! Such ornaments, while they impart a refined gratification to parental affections, are the cement of society."

... love (Samuel Davies, 1811): "Love is the cement of society, and the source of social happiness; and without it the great community of the rational universe would dissolve, and men and angels would turn savages, and roam apart in barbarous solitude."

... small talk (North American Review, 1823): "But evil and good generally keep close to each other in this world of compensation, and the good caused by easy access to literature, is indubitable and important; the tone of small talk -- the great cement of society, is much elevated; better and higher things are made the subject of conversation; a lady or a gentleman must know more and think more than formerly; and this is all extremely well, for it is much better to discuss the last books than the latest scandals, however the change be effected."

... confidence, i.e., trust (John Rowan, 1826): "Confidence is the cement of society; it is the principle of its cohesion: and never, in that character, fails to perform its function."

... property (James Mackintosh, 1835): "Property, the nourisher of mankind, -- the incentive to industry, -- the cement of human society, -- will be in a perilous condition, if the people be taught to identify it with political abuse, and to deal with it as being involved in its impending fate."

... courtesy (Charles William Day, 1852): "Courtesy is the cement of society -- the philanthropic amalgam which blends the variations, and unites the trifling inequalities, of the great human family."

.. the middle class (John Bascom, 1875): "As midway men, they furnish the natural cement of society, they keep labor in countenance, and check the hauteur of capital."

... religion (Thomas Alfred Walker, 1899): "But religion is the cement of human society. Its utility is even greater in the larger society of mankind in general than in the limited society of any particular state, where its place is partly supplied by laws."

Some of the dates are almost certainly not right, but simply the earliest I could find without spending hours on the topic.

Two Partners in a Country Dance

Do not primary and secondary qualities in Philosophy put your Lordship in mind of two partners in a Country Dance? They stand cheek by joul for a long time very cordially. Then they set, cast off, and turn their backs as if mutually affronted and never to see one another any more. After some time they meet as good friends as ever; set, cast off again, and so on to the end of the Dance, when they are found hand to hand, in perfect friendship.

In the first ages of the world when Common Sense reigned uncontrouled by the subtleties of philosophy, primary and secondary qualities dwelt peaceably under the same roof and were joynt proprietors of the same subject, body. Democritus and Epicurus set them at variance. And pretending to find out that secondary qualities were mere spectres and illusions of sense, they banished them to Fairy Land. Aristotle took compassion upon them, recalled them, and restored them to their former Inheritance. And during his Administration they dwelt cordially with the primary, and the distinction betwixt the one and the other was forgot.

DesCartes, Malebranche, & Locke set them at variance again, but were not so cruel to the secondary qualities as their predecessors in atomical philosophy had been. They indeed turned them out of body, but seemed to make ample amends by giving them a place in the mind, and making them sensations of the mind. And now one would think that both parties must remain ever satisfied and never more have any thing to do with each other. But Fate had ordained that they should not dwell long asunder, and like true lovers they both soon repent of the separation.

For First, the secondary qualities, far from being vain of their new possession, seemed to disdain being called by its name; and retaining a strange and unaccountable liking to the old material subject, and to their old companions, still retained the name and title of Secondary Qualities of Body, even among those who believed that they had no part nor lot in body, but in the mind onely.

Secondly, the primary qualities, now in the sole and undisturbed possession of the material subject, were so far from being satisfied with their condition, that unable to brook a longer separation, they took a desparate resolution, unparalleled in history, & in a body forsook their native country and inheritance to follow their old companions.

This extraordinary event your Lordship knows happened in the aera and under the Philosophical Administration of Bishop Berkley. The good Bishop did the best he could to accommodate both primary and secondary qualities with lodgings in the human mind. And having both become meer sensations, they lost their distinction again. In the mean time, the old material subject, which had made so magnificent a figure in ages past, being now stript of all its qualities, looked so pitifull, that it is said to have sunk into the Abyss to cover the shame of its nakedness.

The next aera again disjoyned primary and secondary qualities, not onely from one another but from every subject. For having now no where to lay their head but in the human mind; a bold and cunning Engineer (by what motive induced to so daring an attempt remains a secret) dexterously sapped the foundation of this edifice, untill at last the substratum cracked and gave way, and the whole superstructure fell to pieces. Primary and secondary qualities as well [as] all the other inhabitants who survived the Ruin, were left with Epicurus' Atoms, vacuum per inane vagari.

In this situation of things your Lordship acts charitably as well as justly, by restoring both primary and secondary qualities to their ancient inheritance, to which I think they had always a just title.

Thomas Reid, The Correspondence of Thomas Reid, Paul Wood, ed. Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh: 2002) pp. 27-28. This is in a letter to Lord Kames (14 February 1763). The bold and cunning Engineer is Hume, of course. I'm not really sure why Reid thinks Kames is reuniting the partners. Kames holds that primary qualities are in the objects and secondary qualities in the mind, so he actually divides them. But he does hold that we have an unavoidable mental impulse to treat secondary qualities as if they were also in the object, and that this illusion is, as he calls it, "the cement of society, connecting men and things together in an amiable union" (Essay on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, Part II, Section III), so perhaps Reid thinks this enough.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Evening Note for Monday, September 21

Thought for the Evening: The Correspondence-Network Structure of the Church

One of the things about the early Church that I think is not considered often enough in ecclesiology is that the major texts clearly indicate that the Church has the structure of a correspondence network. Without any doubt, this is not the whole account of the Church's structure, but it is undeniably a part.

I. The Church in the New Testament is expressed in epistolary form. The New Testament has 27 books; 20 of them are without any question epistolary in genre: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, I Peter, II Peter, I John, II John, III John, Jude. Another three, Luke, Acts, and Hebrews, are not letters but have at least some letter-like features (e.g., letter-like opening for Luke and Acts, letter-like ending for Hebrews), and another, Revelation, has letters in it. (Acts also has a letter in it.) Only Matthew, Mark, and John have no obvious connection with epistolary form.

In addition, I Corinthians 5:9 could very well be referring to a previous, nonextant letter to the Corinthians, and Colossians 4:16 refers to a Laodicean letter, which, if it's not the same as Ephesians (an unlikely possibility, although one that cannot be ruled out), is also nonextant.

II. The early Church outside the New Testament is expressed in epistolary form. The surviving works of the Apostolic Fathers are (in no particular order): I Clement, II Clement, Ignatius to the Ephesians, Ignatius to the Magnesians, Ignatius to the Trallians, Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Ignatius to Polycarp, Polycarp to the Philippians, Barnabas, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Diognetus, Shepherd of Hermas. Of these, only Shepherd of Hermas lacks epistolary form.

Thus of the major works of the early Church, from the earliest Pauline letter to well into the second century, most are either epistolary themselves, or assume an epistolary background. We could actually continue this much further along; while literary genres diversify as we go along, and we get apologetic treatises, polemical works, poetic works like Proba's Virgilian Cento, it still continues to be the case that much of what we have is epistolary in character. The surviving letters of St. Basil, St. Peter Chrysologus, St. Gregory the Great, St. Peter Damian, etc., etc., are all quite important parts of the theological history of the Church. But it is useful for first steps to stick with the smaller sample.

III. The Church is clearly depicted in detail and in mass as having the structure of a correspondence network. The fact that the works we have are epistolary in character does not appear to be an accident. First, there are a few explicit statements that indicate that the early Church saw itself as having a unity precisely as a correspondence network, even if not exclusively as one. One is the aforementioned Colossians 4:16:

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

So Paul takes it to be assumed that the Colossians will read aloud the letter he has sent their church, and then instructs them to make sure that they get the same letter to the Laodiceans to read and themselves read the letter they get from Laodicea. Not only is Colossians a letter to a church, it seems to presuppose that giving and receiving letters was taken to be at least a semi-formal process that involved and was understood by the whole local church, and it definitely indicates that churches circulated letters they received.

Something like this is found also in Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 2:4:2:

Thou shalt therefore write two little books, and shalt send one to Clement, and one to Grapte. So Clement shall send to the foreign cities, for this is his duty; while Grapte shall instruct the widows and the orphans. But thou shalt read (the book) to this city along with the elders that preside over the Church.

This seems to suggest that major churches, at least, had a formal position which consisted of giving and receiving correspondence to and from other churches.

Second, the book of Revelation seems to depict the Church in terms of epistolary correspondence, by framing the first part of the revelation in terms of letters to the seven churches of Asia. It's pretty clear that the seven churches of Asia represent the Church as a whole, and it's at least strongly suggestive that here, at least, even their relation to Christ is depicted in epistolary terms.

Third, letters are clearly seen as authoritative channels throughout. This is obviously true of Revelation. It's also true of most of the epistles of the New Testament, which give authoritative instructions to churches (most of them) or to individuals in supervisory/episcopal positions over the churches (the Pastorals) or even to a household or 'domestic church' (Philemon). In addition, when the apostles met at the Council of Jerusalem, they did not simply make a decision and disperse; they sent out an authoritative letter with instructions to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia (Acts 15:23-29). This letter does indicate that in-person confirmation is still quite important, but it's also notable that they didn't just sent Judas and Silas; they gave their instructions in a letter.

What broader ecclesiological implications does this have? First, an epistolary correspondence indicates a certain measure of independence in givers and receivers, although of course that doesn't mean a complete independence, and we saw above that correspondence is often a channel of authoritative direction. But it does indicate that local churches each have a certain measure of independence; they are addressed, and while they may be authoritatively directed to do things, they are still specifically addressed so that they may do things. An epistle is a semi-dialogue; while not itself dialogue, the bare fact that it is an epistle implies that it is put forward in the context of a larger dialogue. Second, we see that local churches are addressed together; they receive as a church, and apparently, at least through some official like Clement, give as a church, as well. Third, it seems like a great deal of the 'stitching' of the Church is achieved by the Apostles and by the Apostolic Fathers through the communication-at-remote that epistles allow.

In modern times, the only church letters that get all that much attention are papal encyclicals. But ecclesial correspondence is still fairly common, even if it is not emphasized and is treated often as a perfunctory formality. It suggests, in any case, that, in the interests of knitting the Church together we should consider again the ways in which the Church functions as a correspondence network.

Various Links of Interest

* Rabbi Gil Student, Is the Akedah Ethical? There's been an interesting dispute happening online in Jewish circles about the Akedah (the Sacrifice of Isaac) and its proper interpretation, and in particular how much or how little Kierkegaard's interpretation can be accepted on rabbinical principles. Rabbi Student's contribution is, I think, one of the more interesting ones.

* Michael M. Uhlmann, As the Electoral College Goes, So Goes the Constitution. Every presidential election year I have to gear up to fight the entire army of the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass over the Electoral College, and endlessly explain to people that there is literally no popular vote in the United States; that we don't even have the mechanism required to ascertain the popular vote; that the number that the journalists report is not a popular vote number but consists of adding votes obtained in different elections structured by different laws and thus not actually capable of being added together; that in fact the United States holds not one but fifty-one elections for President, each a simulation of who would be President if the whole of the country were like a given state (or DC), and then partly weights these elections by population; that the President of the United States is literally the one who presides over the union of states; that it is more important in a country as large and diverse as the United States for the chief executive to have to appeal to people throughout the country than to appeal to sheer numbers of people, especially if the latter are heavily concentrated in only a few areas; that for level of interest and general understanding, the Electoral College is the only non-parliamentary system of election that simplifies the election in a way that makes it easy for everyone to follow; that anyone who uses the word 'gerrymandering' in connection with the Electoral College doesn't know what 'gerrymandering' is; that whether the Electoral College favors rural voters or urban voters depends entirely on how you define 'rural' and 'urban' (even Wyoming and Alaska have urban areas, and even California and New York have rural areas, by entirely reasonable definitions of both); that the Electoral College does not in fact structurally favor either Democrats or Republicans; etc., etc., etc. I am very much not looking forward to the iteration of this argument that this year is currently promising.

* E. John Winner, Heidegger's Illusions

* Danièle Cybulskie, Medieval Rabbit Farming. The linking of actual medieval rabbit farming practices with the common depiction of rabbits in illuminated manuscripts as armored and having castles is particularly nice (and illuminating!).

* Eleanor Parker, The Lives of Others

* Against Cultural Marcionism at "Dappled Things"

* Therese Scarpelli, Embodied vs. Non-Embodied Modes of Knowing in Aquinas

* Urban Hannon, How to Be a Radical

* Abraham Lincoln, The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions

* Colin Chamberlain considers Malebranche's miniature earth and sky argument.

Currently Reading

Patrick Rambaud, The Battle
Henri Grenier, Thomistic Philosophy, Volume III: Moral Philosophy
Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Music on My Mind

Mean Mary, "I Can Be Brave".

Rough Timeline of the Age of Napoleon

20 November 1753 Louis-Alexandre Berthier is born.

16 May 1758 André Masséna is born.

29 September 1758 Horatio Nelson is born.

8 July 1766 Dominique Jean Larrey is born.

10 April 1769 Jean Lannes is born.

1 May 1769 Arthur Wellesley is born.

15 August 1769 Napoleon born in Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica

5 September 1771 Archduke Charles Louis John Joseph Laurentius, third son of Emperor Leopold II and Maria Luisa, is born.

1779 Napoleon enrolled at the military academy of Brienne-le-Château

1784 Napoleon admitted to the École Militaire in Paris

1785 Napoleon commissioned a second lieutenant in the 1st Artillery Regiment

1789 The Estates-General of France meet; the French Revolution begins

Revolutionary Period

20 April 1792 France declares war on Austria; the War of the First Coalition begins, during which Larrey will begin his revolution in military medicine, including the invention of the ambulances volantes and the concept of triage.

March 1793 The War in the Vendée begins as Catholic peasants rise up against the Revolutionary suppression of the Church and against forced conscription.

July 1793 Napoleon publishes Le souper de Beaucaire, a political pamphlet attempting to address common concerns about the Revolution; this catches the attention of a number of powerful people, including Augustin Robespierre.

August 1793 Due to Robespierre's influence, Napoleon is put in charge of artillery for the Siege of Toulon; his artillery tactics lead to the capture of the city, but he is wounded in the thigh. Promoted to Brigadier General, he is given command of artillery for the Army of Italy

1795 Napoleon assigned as infantry commander to the Army of the West and the War in the Vendée; as it would technically have been a demotion, he gets out of it by pleading poor health, and is assigned instead to the Bureau of Topography. His continued refusal to take demotion and serve in the Vendée will lead to his removal from the list of generals in active service. He turns this around, however, by helping to put down the 13 Vendémiaire revolt in Paris, which leads to his promotion to Commander of the Interior and the command of the Army of Italy. Berthier is made his chief of staff.

9 March 1796 Napoleon marries Joséphine de Beauharnais.

April 1796 In the whirlwind Montenotte campaign, Napoleon shatters the cohesion of the First Coalition.

January 1797 Napoleon defeats the Austrians at the Battle of Rivoli, in great measure due to a forced march by André Masséna to provide reinforcements.

17 October 1797 The Treaty of Campo Formio ends the War of the First Coalition.

1798 Napoleon commands the Expedition to Egypt in order to try to hamper British trade routes; he defeats the Mamluks in the Battle of Shubra Khit and the Battle of the Pyramids. The French Revolutionary Navy under François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers are defeated at the Battle of the Nile by the British Royal Navy under Horatio Nelson, thus trapping Napoleon's army in Egypt and giving the British dominance of the Mediterranean. Napoleon rules Egypt as military governor. The French consolidate rule in Egypt and begin conquering Syria from the Ottomans.

29 November 1798 War of the Second Coalition begins.

12 March 1799 Austria declares war on France, a matter of good timing on the part of Austria because the French Revolutionary Army is too overextended and scattered.

20 March 1799 The Siege of Acre begins. While Napoleon expects it to be a short siege, the brilliant administrative capabilities of Jezzar Pasha, in addition to the fear of the Syrian troops and the civilians that the French would massacre them even if they surrendered, extends the siege a month and a half and to strengthen the fortifications of the city; British blockade of French supply lines forces Napoleon to retreat, his first major failure.

June 1799 André Masséna is defeated by Archduke Charles at the First Battle of Zurich

18 June 1799 The Coup of 30 Prairial VII; Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès bloodlessly seizes power

September 1799 At the Second Battle of Zurich, André Masséna defeats the united Austrian and Russian armies, retaking Switzerland and forcing Russia to withdraw from the Coalition.

9 October 1799 Napoleon returns to Paris a war hero.

9 November 1799 The Coup of 18 Brumaire VIII; Lucien Bonaparte manipulates the Councils to evacuate Paris due to a (fictional) Jacobin uprising, under the protection of Napoleon. The Bonapartes seize power by outmaneuvering Sieyès and Napoleon is elected First Consul.

The Consulate Period

15 July 1801 Concordat of 1801 ends the period of suppression for the Catholic Church

March 1802 The Treaty of Amiens ends the War of the Second Coalition.

4 August 1802 The Constitution of the Year X is adopted, making Napoleon First Consul for Life.

1803 Larrey publishes Relation historique et chirurgicale de l’expédition de l’armée d’orient, en Egypte et en Syrie.

18 May 1803 Britain declares war on France and the War of the Third Coalition begins, although very little in the way of hostilities occurs for some time.

18 May 1804 The French Senate grants Napoleon the title of Emperor of the French, and the First French Empire begins.

The First Imperial Period

March 1805 Napoleon begins the Trafalgar Campaign.

May 1805 Napoleon crowns himself King of Italy.

August 1805 Napoleon begins the successful Ulm Campaign.

21 October 1805 The British Royal Navy under Nelson defeats the French Imperial Navy under Villeneuve, although Nelson himself dies from wounds in battle. British naval superiority over the French is conclusively established.

30 October 1805 Marshal Masséna defeats Archduke Charles at the Battle of Caldiero in Italy.

2 December 1805 Napoleon wins the Battle of Austerlitz against the Austrians and the Russians, in what is generally regarded as his greatest victory. Napoleon writes to Josephine, "I have defeated the Austro-Russian army commanded by the two emperors; I am a little weary."

27 December 1805 The Treaty of Pressburg ends the War of the Third Coalition.

1806 The Invasion of Italy; Masséna seizes the Kingdom of Naples.

15 August 1806 The construction of the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile begins

October 1806 The War of the Fourth Coalition begins.

12 August 1807 The Gunboat War between Denmark-Norway and Britain begins.

2 September 1807 Anglo-Russian War begins between Russia and Britain.

2 May 1808 Peninsular War begins between France and Spain/Portugal; the British send Arthur Wellesley to Iberia to support the Portuguese.

10 April 1809 The War of the Fifth Coalition begins.

22 May 1809 Archduke Charles defeats Napoleon at the Battle of Aspern-Essling, but Napoleon manages to withdraw. Lannes is wounded in battle and, despite Larrey's swift surgical response, will die from the wounds.

6 July 1809 Napoleon decisively defeats Archduke Charles at the Battle of Wagram.

14 October 1809 The Treaty of Schönbrunn ends the War of the Fifth Coalition.

24 June 1812 Napoleon makes his legendary mistake of invading Russia.

18 August 1812 Arthur Wellesley is made Earl of Wellington and given command of the Allied armies in Spain.

14 September 1812 Napoleon captures Moscow but cannot hold it.

3 March 1813 The War of the Sixth Coalition begins.

19 October 1813 The Coalition decisively defeats Napoleon at the the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of Nations because of the size of the battle, which would remain the largest European battle ever until World War I. It is estimated that over 200,000 rounds of ammunition were used, and the casualties on both sides were so high that the locals were still disposing of corpses months later.

31 March 1814 The War of the Sixth Coalition ends when French forces capitulate to the Coalition after the Battle of Paris. Napoleon is furious at the capitulation, but cannot persuade his marshals to continue to fight.

April 1814 The French Senate deposes Napoleon; Napoleon tries to abdicate in favor of his son, but this is rejected by the Coalition. At the Treaty of Fontainebleu, Napoleon is made to abdicate unconditionally and is exiled to Elba. Larrey offers to join Napoleon, but is forbidden by Napoleon to do so. Louis XVIII becomes King of France.

The Return Period

3 May 1814 Arthur Wellesley is made Duke of Wellington and Marquess of Douro.

November 1814 Congress of Vienna begins.

26 February 1815 Napoleon escapes from Elba. Sympathizers and old comrades begin flocking to him.

13 March 1815 Congress of Vienna declares Napoleon an outlaw and the War of the Seventh Coalition begins.

19 March 1815 Napoleon enters Paris at the head of a large army.

1 June 1815 Berthier mysteriously dies by falling out of a window.

18 June 1815 Napoleon is defeated by Coalition forces under Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon returns to Paris to attempt to pull together political support for further action, but fails.

22 June 1815 Napoleon abdicates in favor of his son.

10 July 1815 Napoleon is captured by the British and is sent in exile to Saint Helena.

4 April 1817 Masséna dies.

5 May 1821 Napoleon receives last rites and dies on Saint Helena, apparently from stomach cancer, although this has long been disputed.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Logical Problem of the Trinity

I've sometimes briefly talked about what I call 'Abstract History of Philosophy', which consists in part of drawing from the history of philosophy to develop an abstract logical account of the possible positions and combinations of positions, and then using that to understand the actual historical positions better. In effect, you understand the actual course by seeing how causal influences affect travel through the abstract set of possibilities. In any case, Beau Branson has a really nice paper, "No New Solutions to the Logical Problem of the Trinity" (PDF), that gives a good example of one way this can work, using analytic philosophy of religion as an example.

The 'Logical Problem of the Trinity', due to Richard Cartwright (1987), consists of identifying the following elements of the doctrine of the Trinity and asking how they can all be consistent:

(S1) The Father is God.
(S2) The Son is God.
(S3) The Holy Spirit is God.

(S4) The Father is not the Son.
(S5) The Father is not the Holy Spirit.
(S6) The Son is not the Holy Spirit.

(S7) There is exactly one God.

Call all of these together, 'P'. Branson notes that it is generally assumed (on analogy with the Logical Problem of Evil) that there is a wide range of different possible defenses of the consistency of P, and also that in fact that defenses have tended to cluster around two poles, Relative Identity and Social Trinitarianism. What Branson shows is that, while the exact form of the latter two may owe something to historical contingency, it is not surprising that versions of these two keep coming up, because positions at least approximately like them are the only positions that fulfill certain basic conditions.

There are two completely different ways people have argued that P is inconsistent. One, which Branson calls LPT-1, takes (S1)-(S3) to be identities ('God' as singular term), with (S7) using a counting schema with identity; the other, LPT-2, takes (S1)-(S3) to be ordinary predications ('God' as predicate nominative), with (S7) using a counting schema with predication. In either case, predicate logic with classical identity (PLI) will result in a contradiction. So addressing the Logical Problem of the Trinity requires establishing an interpretation of P under which neither LPT-1 nor LPT-2 is viable. All the solutions Branson looks at assume predicate logic is an adequate logic for this situation.* They also assume either the identity or the predication version of the standard analytic counting scheme.** Then there are only a few positions that have been proposed.

(1) Social (ST). On ST, (S1)-(S3) are not taken to involve identities, but predications, not (logically) any different from saying "Paul is human, Peter is human, James is human". This on its own is not quite adequate, since proponents of ST also tend to accept the analytic counting schema for (S7). But if we think of the parallel, Paul is human, Peter is human, James is human, you can accept a version of (S7), at least on some metaphysics of human nature, without getting an inconsistency, because the predicate in the counterpart to (S7) wouldn't mean exactly the same thing as it does in the counterparts to (S1), (S2), and (S3); it would mean one common human nature, as opposed to the individual human natures in (S1)-(S3). Thus ST also holds that the predicate 'God' in (S1)-(S3) does not mean exactly what it does in (S7). If that's the case, LPT-1 and LPT-2 both are inadequate due to not capturing the difference.

(2) Relative Identity (RI). Peter Geach famously noted an important problem in translating natural language identity statements into statements involving classical identity -- classical identity is 'absolute', but natural language identity statements are at least very often relativized to a kind. For instance, we say things like, "Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens are the same person", which is an identity statement, but one about identity of personhood. You can try to work around this using classical identity, but it gets increasingly complicated and controvertible. So, assuming that this is so because you ultimately can't adequately translate these relative identity statements by classical identity, there are two positions -- either there are two kinds of identity, relative and classical, or all identity is in reality relative. For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn't much matter which you choose (although you can get slightly different accounts of where LPT-1 in particular goes wrong depending on other assumptions). Thus the RI position, while it accepts predicate calculus as an appropriate for this topic, proposes that PLI is using the wrong account of identity; instead, you should use a version of the predicate calculus with relative identiy (RIL). Assessing this is complicated a bit by the fact that, since in PLI, classical identity is used in a lot of definitions (e.g., singular term reference), you have to relativize those, as well. But allowing for this, you can give a translation of P that uses identity all the way through and is consistent.

(3) Arianism. The Arian position on the Trinity is immune to the Logical Problem of the Trinity -- indeed, historically they obviously put forward arguments against the orthodox position that are forerunners of the Logical Problem of the Trinity. The Arians held that Father and Son both should be said to be God but not in the same sense, just as an animal and a picture of an animal can both be called 'animal', but not in the same sense. Thus LPT-1 and LPT-2 fail because there is an equivocation in (S1), (S2), and (S3).

(4) Naive Modalism (NM). The Sabellian or modalist position (or at least what is often assumed to be the Sabellian position) on the Trinity is also sometimes proposed. On this view, (S4), (S5), and (S7) are not non-identities, and therefore we don't get an inconsistency. As Branson notes, this requires some potentially implausible fudging about how we interpret these three components of P -- in the most plausible interpretations, you are simply denying them. But it's a position that has been proposed that avoids the problem.

As Branson goes on to argue, while you could have variations on each of these, something like these are the only real options for handling the Logical Problem of the Trinity. When you abstract from details and look at how each position works in the abstract, there are only a few positions possible.***

(I) LPT-1 or LPT-2
The doctrine of the Trinity is logically inconsistent.

(II) Non-PLI
PLI is not an appropriate logic for analyzing this subject, due to an inadequate account of identity. In another, more adequate logic, translation of P yields no contradiction. RI is the primary historical form this has taken in analytic philosophy.

(III) Modalism
(S4)-(S6) are at least not true in the sense in which they would have to be understood to generate the contradiction; that is, however they are to be understood, they are not non-identities.

(IV) Equivocation-1
There is an equivocation in (S1)-(S3), and therefore P involves no contradiction. This is the Arian position.

(V) Equivocation-2
There is an equivocation between (S1)-(S3) on the one hand and (S7) on the other, and therefore P involves no contradiction. ST is the primary historical form this has taken in analytic philosophy.

(I), (III), and (IV) are automatically ruled out by the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, since they are respectively the heresies of Unitarianism, Sabellianism, and Arianism. Thus, given the background assumptions of analytic philosophy, the only ways to defend orthodox Trinitarianism from the Logical Problem of the Trinity are (II) and (V). This explains why the discussion has stabilized around the two poles of RI and ST -- while details of particular positions may be due to other things, something like these are the only non-heretical options. (Of course, you could accept both. This is not a popular option, which would be a matter worth investigating.****) Branson ends:

The Trinitarian speculations of philosophers might help with the metaphysics of the Trinity, with establishing the Biblical basis for it, or with some rhetorical or other issue. But from a purely formal point of view, they will always be just another member of one of the Families of answers to the LPT we have defined here, and will necessarily share the controversial features that define those families.


* This is not a trivial assumption; predicate logic arguably presupposes that you are applying it to things with an at-least-in-principle precisely discrete extensions, which is a worrisome presupposition in the context of the Trinity. Predicate calculus, after all, was developed largely to talk about sets, which are entirely constituted by elements that are already assumed to be discrete, and applying it to anything messier than that often requires elaborate workarounds. In addition, predicate calculus can't easily handle things like modes of predication in scholastic term logic, which have historically been used in this context. But the vast majority of analytic philosophers treat predicate calculus as the one true, or at least the fundamental, logical system, and therefore the assumption that predicate logic is applicable is almost universal among analytic philosophers of religion.

** Also not a trivial assumption; it is not difficult to find Church Fathers like St. Basil or scholastics like St. Thomas denying that (S7) should be a counting statement at all -- in Platonic and Aristotelian systems of philosophy, there are more fundamental senses of 'one' than the kind you can count. But analytic philosophy historically developed, at least in great measure, out of philosophy of mathematics, and thus the assumption that a statement like (S7) is a counting statement is also going to be almost universal among analytic philosophers of religion.

*** I simplify Branson's actual taxonomy here; he has reasons for going a more complicated road, but they aren't relevant to the overall point.

**** My own guess is that the sharp divide is actually due to the anti-Trinitarian positions: people don't find LPT-1 and LPT-2 to be equally plausible objections (because they interpret key claims differently), so if they think LPT-1 is more plausible, they gravitate to (II), and then (V) looks like unnecessary interpretation-gerrymandering; if they think LPT-2 more plausible, they gravitate to (V), and then (II) looks like unnecessary logic-chopping. That is, people are not looking at the whole abstract field of arguments (which can only in any case be understood after a lot of arguing has already happened); they are addressing the objections they themselves think are most serious and that influences the responses that they think are most serious.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Dashed Off XXI

This begins the notebook that was begun in August of 2019.

God as Creator is principle of Scripture (exitus); Christ as Redeemer is end of Scripture (reditus)

a freedom adequate for virtue

"The body charms because the soul is seen." Frances Reynolds
"It is cultivation that gives birth to beauty, as well as to virtue, by calling forth the visible object to correspond with the invisible intellectual object."

Benenti & Meini (2018): contour theory should be thought of in terms of perception of 'manifestations that are similar' rather than perception of similarity
-- NB that they take it to apply to visual arts insofar as they convey dynamic information

Augustine's criticism of Neoplatonism (DT Bk IV, ch. 4)
-- Note that he grants that Neoplatonist contemplation is veridical. His argument is that it is irrelevant to temporal matters like the resurrection of the body or the eschaton, and our full purification requires temporal mans. Thus faith is needed.

"In what we may call 'the analogy of speech-acts,' the Father ('who spoke [est locutus] by the prophets') locutes, the Son is the illocution, the promise of God, teh Spirit is the 'perlocution,' the effect achieved through (per) the speech-act." Vanhoozer

the Lord's Supper achieves all five of Searle's illocutionary points (Melvin Tinker, "Language, Symbols, and Sacraments: Was Calvin's View of the Lord's Supper Right?")

Without a principle of sufficient reason, there is no way to assess the adequacy of explanations.

Nationalism is the product of a long-successful progressivism; it is the result of progressives pushing national identity over local identity in order to facilitate their reforms. (This is seen especially when looking at the history of progressivism's intersection with Romanticism.)

'Secularization' as a word originally meant the seizure and liquidation of the property of the Catholic Church. It then was used metaphorically for the repurposing of religious things and practices by people like Dilthey and Weber.

It is important not to confuse charity and meddling: the latter is often pride's aping of charity.

"The major poetic idea in the world is and always has been the idea of God." Wallace Stevens
-- Modern poetry, he notes, in trying to get away from this idea can only adapt it in a new way, or find a subsitute for it, or find a way in which it is unnecesssary, which "probably mean the same thing".

I went to the world;
it whispered of truth,
it spoke of itself
in chant and in hymn,
the chant of the stars
in regular course,
the hymn of the stars
in argentine light.

"The soul, he said, is composed / Of the external world." Stevens "Anecdote of Men by the Thousand"

the external world as the foundation of indispensability arguments
--perhaps self and other minds are co-equal?

"To share in the rationality of a craft requires sharing in the contingencies of its history, understanding its story as one's own, and finding a place for oneself as a character in the enacted dramatic narrative which is that story so far." MacIntyre

(1) The human body plays a major role in one's constitution as a human person, not a minor one.
(2) We can distinguish modification of the body itself from ornamentation of it or correction of it for the purposes of improved bodily function.
(3) Our body is part of what connects us to other people within human society.
(4) The body is a precondition for human action in the world, and a sort of ecosystem for its incubation.
(5) We are born into a normative web interconnecting with our body, which can change and shift but also resists change, not being infinitely malleable. This web is social, medical, and jural in character.

the modulation of basic goods by and in humanitarian traditions

Humanitarian traditions give a local direction of progress to moral ideas and activities.

There are many who can only trust to God's mercy if they can dictate how it will work.

Hume's Dialogues as an implicit account of religious imagination: analogies, natural inferences, social relations/contexts, imaginative indeterminacy

The people insist on rights to protect themselves; states insist on rights to extend their power. Every practical consolidation of rights in law and institution has been some structure of governance extending its power.

The possibility of death is inherent in bodily life.

The only teleology of analytic philosophy is problem-formulation, and thus the only direction of progress visible in it is the better formulation of problems.

parsimony as a form of the doctrine of the mean
(Every reasonable conclusion consists in a mean between going too far beyond the evidence and not going far enough with the evidence.)

It is impossible to formulate the atheistic argument from evil without conceiving of the world as a failure.

If we take ? as a modal operator, how would we interpret ~?~
~?~ → T → ?

Many errors in politics and ethics arise from assuming that because someone is the principal authority, he or she is the absolute authority, or an authority of unlimited scope in that domain.

We are stakeholders in each other.

Sensible ideas (phantasms) underdetermine concepts.

One must beware of 'due process' protections that are really 'diffusion of responsibility' protections for people who are denying real due process to others.

To demand that people always act optimally is perverse.

Capital punishment can only be proportionate in dealing with one who is both dangerous (periculosus) to and corrupting (corruptivus) of the common good.

static vs dynamic analysis of argument
labtesting vs fieldtesting of arguments

To love another well, oneself loving well must be loved well.
To love well, one must love well what one's well-beloved loves well.

modal operator variations
(1) strong-weak hierarchies
(2) n-ary
(3) operator indexes
(4) ordered vs unordered
(5) interacting vs non-interacting

approximative quantities [several]
range quantities [1-5]

simultaneity // colocation // compossibility // overlap

Intentionality reveals itself as the possibility of prudence.

In terms of Heidegger's notion of maintaining the force of primordial words, the Neoplatonist is always better situated than Heidegger himself.

Neither flesh nor abstraction can substitute for tradition.

followable way is not equal to stable way,
to follow what can be followed is not changeless following,
doctrines that can be spoken are not the doctrines that last

NB that Kant thinks that an a priori proof of "All thinking things are simple substances" would insuperably block the Kantian approach to critique.

"A vice, indeed, turns into heresy when it is defended by arguments dependent on false doctrine." Peter Damian
"...if the prince is God's agent who dispenses retribution to the offender, he who gently pats criminals and villains on the head is undoubtedly the agent of the devil."
" is from holy preachers within the Church that we learn how to resist all perverse and wicked men who seek deceptive goals."
"The same Scriptures, moreover, while instructing us in the practice of patience, also sustain us with consoling hope."
"Truly God's provident will must be praised, since when he cuts, he cures, when he strikes, he instructs, and when he wounds, he restores us to health."

"The love of the beauty of the world, while it is universal, involves, as a love which is secondary and subordinate to itself, the love all the truly precious things which bad fortune can destroy." Simone Weil

There are four kinds of true success for boys and men: great deeds of body, like exploring or military heroism; great deeds of mind, like discovery and profound teaching; forming a family so that it thrives; and living a priestly, cenobitic, or eremitic life of prayer. Those men are greatly to be pitied to whom none of these options are open.

Aesthetic judgment is subjective only in the sense that it incorporates reference to the real action & effect of things on the mind.

Certain arguments please us by their structure, inspire us as argument with a kind of disinterested favor, and so may be called beautiful; this is not a mere personal preference but the form of its communicability to the rational mind.

ornament as charm supplementing beauty (vesting charm) vs. ornament as secondary beauty vs ornament as vesting beauty

the play of arguments

"In any dimension of warfare, victory is achieved by reducing the connectivity of the opposition's network while improving your own network's connectivity." John Robb

(1) beauty of chance things
(2) intelligible beauty
(3) moral beauty

Perfection gains by beauty and beauty by perfection, good and beauty being interlinked.

God as the 'Ideal' (in the Kantian sense) of the Intelligible, the Moral, the Beautiful, the Sublime

"The good the soul turns to in order to be good is the good from which it gets its being soul at all." Augustine
"Whoever loves men should love them either because they are just or in order that they might be just."

Beauty in argument tends to apply more to the reasoning, sublimity in argument more to the understanding.

beauty under the note of novelty, of harmony, of virtue, etc.

Augustine (DT X.3.8): the mind thinks it is a body through an excessive love of sensible images. Cp. also X.3.11
DT XI.3.14: "The limits of thinking are set by memory just as the limits of sensing are set by bodies."

Attacks on the History of Philosophy as a discipline are generally attempts to bully historians of philosophy into support for a particular narrative of the actual history of philosophy.

Hume's account of the galley effect does not give any reason why it would actually convey a notion of a limit, rather than just indefiniteness.

Kant's noumena as underlying infinites

the sublimity of humility as dividing religion from superstition (Kant)

In metaphysics, from the very beginning, reason has achieved great things, had many triumphs. But so vast is the field that the greatest of our victories are but little steps in comparison.

(1) Intellectual beauty and sublimity are the first and primary forms of beauty and sublimity.
(2) Intellectual beauty, including moral beauty, is to be loved as well as respected.
(3) All sensible beauty is suggestive of intelligible beauty.

landscape gardening and the picturesque from many perspectives
-- similar to the ornamental aspect of architecture
-- landscape gardening as extending ornament outward

Populism is not a political position but a strategy.

moral necessity (law), moral actuality (character), moral possibility (freedom)

personal relationships as involving the habit of presence

beauty, sublimity, symbolic order, instrumental order, system

The Kantian judgment0functions approach to definition, while not as useful as the genus-species approach or the four-cause approach, does seem to get good results, especially with more formal concepts.

"For beautiful art, Imagination, Understanding, Spirit, and Taste are requisite." Kant

Kant: complete communication requires articulation, gesticulation, and modulation (word, deportment, and tone)

Kant divides the fine arts into those of speech, form, and play (of sensations), but it seems better to treat each art as mapping differently on a 'grid' of these three, each one involving something of each (even the most static visual art draws on our linguistic classifications and subtle variation according to circumstances), but in a different measure.

Policies can only be fruitfully debated when the participants recognize that there are things more important than policies or debates about them.

Doctrine and prayer are so intimately bound together that depreciation of one is depreciation of the other.

'Coolness' in any generation is associated with competitive superiority.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


Today is the feast of St. Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino, SJ, Doctor of the Church. Born in 1542 in the province of Siena, he was the nephew of Pope Marcellus II. He was a prodigiously bright student, and he eventually went on to join the Jesuits. He spent quite a few years teaching theology, but the tumultuous politics of the day, as well as his own reliability and loyalty to the Church, resulted in the popes repeatedly drawing on his expertise in difficult missions. He died at the age of 78, on September 17, 1621. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930, and declared a Doctor of the Church the next year.

From his catechism, which for a very long time was the most influential catechism in publication:

S. In what arrangement are these mysteries understood in the most holy sign of the Cross?

T. When we make the most holy sign of the cross we say, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," and we sign ourselves in the manner of the cross. We touch our forehead with our right hand while saying, "In the name of the Father," next the breast when saying, "of the Son," and lastly, we raise our right hand, moving it from the left shoulder to the right while saying, "and of the Holy Spirit." The phrase "in the name of," signifies the unity of God, for we say, "in the name," not names; likewise, it shows the Divine Power that is in the three persons alone. Next, the words, "of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit," point out the persons of the Trinity. Moreover, the manner of signing oneself with a cross not only represents the Passion, but consequently also the Incarnation of the Son of God. The progression from the left to the right shoulder (but not from right to left), while using the right hand means we have been transported from transitory to eternal things, and from death to life.

[Robert Bellarmine, Doctrina Christiana, Ryan Grant, tr. Mediatrix Press (2016) pp. 8-9.]