Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Two Poem Drafts

The Catullus is not a great translation, but one with a particular purpose; Catullus is doing a number of interesting things with idea-rhyme in the poem (the repeated self-exhortation to endure, the repeated ending of a line on a negative, etc.), and I wanted a version that took that seriously, even if it sacrificed other things.

Sky and Sea

Freedom is a joy
like a sky blue and clear,
nothing to restrain,
no boundaries to fear,

but in the sky none can drown.
At times we tumble down

to where freedom is a sorrow
like a sea on every side,
no land to the horizon,
no place to flee or hide,

water, water, wave upon wave,
no boat to help, no hand to save.

Catullus 8

Wretched Catullus, cease being a fool;
what you see as lost, as lost take.
Once there shone for you white suns,
as you went where the girl took,
one loved so that loved more will be none,
where those many foolings were done
that you willed and she did not nill,
truly there shone for you white suns.
Now she wills not, you, powerless, want not;
follow not she who flees, nor wretchedly live,
but carry on with resolute mind, hold out.
Farewell, girl, now Catullus holds out!
He needs you not, nor asks you out unwilling,
but you will grieve -- who asks you out? Nobody.
Villainous girl, woe to you, what life is left you?
Who will visit you now? Who will see you as pretty?
Whom will you love now? With whom will you be?
Whom will you kiss? Whose lips will you press?
But you, Catullus, firmly hold out.

With Many a Break and Flaw

Vita Nuova
by Oscar Wilde

I stood by the unvintageable sea
Till the wet waves drenched face and hair with spray,
The long red fires of the dying day
Burned in the west; the wind piped drearily
And to the land the clamorous gulls did flee:
'Alas!' I cried,'my life is full of pain,
And who can garner fruit or golden grain
From these waste fields which travail ceaselessly!'
My nets gaped wide with many a break and flaw,
Nathless I threw them as my final cast
Into the sea, and waited for the end.
When lo! a sudden glory! and I saw
From the black waters of my tortured past
The argent splendour of white limbs ascend!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Even *You* Can't Be Caught Unawares!

I don't particularly plan on seeing the new version of The Lion King, but all of the advertisement has left me humming the best villain song in the entire Disney franchise -- not a minor achievement given that it competes with the likes of "Poor, Unfortunate Souls" and "Hellfire". So, "Be Prepared":

One of the things I like is that it actually shows some real insight into the underworkings of political manipulation, and it doesn't hurt that Jeremy Irons and Jim Cummings (who share Scar's vocals, since the former's voice started giving out during recording) get just about everything right in the delivery.

O buona ventura!

Today is the feast of St. Bonaventura of Bagnoregio. His name was Giovanni di Fidanza; we don't know for sure why he was instead always called 'Lucky', but the usual story is that when his parents took him to St. Francis of Assisi when he was sick as a boy (which he himself tells us happened), St. Francis took him in his arms, and said, "O buona ventura!"

From the Breviloquium:

Not only is Wisdom capable of knowing [all things]: it is the very principle of knowing. Therefore, it is called 'light,' as being the principle of knowing all that is known; 'mirror,' as being the principle of knowing all that is seen and approved; 'exemplar,' as being the principle of knowing all that is foreseen and disposed; 'book of life,' as being the principle of knowing all that is predestined and reprobated. For divine Wisdom is the 'book of life', considering things insofar as they return to God; the 'exemplar,' considering things as they proceed from God'; 'the mirror,' considering things as they follow their course; and the 'light,' from all these perspectives simultaneously. Now under teh concept of 'exemplar,' we also sue other terms, such as 'idea,' 'word,' 'art,' and 'reason.' 'Idea' refers to the act of foreseeing; 'word,' to the act of proposing; 'art,' to the act of accomplishing; and 'reason,' to the act of perfecting, for it adds the idea of a goal. Since all of these acts are in God, one is often taken for another.
[Bonaventure, Breviloquium, Monti, ed., The Franciscan Institute (Saint Bonaventure, NY: 2005), p. 50.]

Here's a joke by St. Bonaventure:

The King of Anglia asked a certain bishop what the two horns on his mitre signified. He responded, and well, that they signified the Two Testaments, which bishops ought to know. "And what do those two hanging things (pendicula), which hang behind the back, signify?" He responded that they signified ignorance of both, 'because we know neither one nor the other, but throw both behind the back.'" And in this he spoke badly.
[Bonaventure, Collationes de Septem Donis Spiritus Sancti, Collatio IV de dono scientiae, 17.]

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Evening Note for Sunday, July 14

Thought for the Evening: Hayes on Liquids

One of the most interesting works in what could be called analytic philosophy in the twentieth century was not a work in analytic philosophy but in computer science. Pat Hayes in 1979 wrote a work called "The Naive Physics Manifesto", which criticized a great deal of artificial intelligence research for playing around with toy models built simply to be toy models. He proposed that researchers instead should be focused on the formal representation of actual common-sense knowledge. No more theories made for artificial models made for theories; rather, deal with the real world, the everyday world. Hayes himself gave a demonstration of how this might work, using common-sense knowledge about liquids, "Naive Physics I: Ontology for Liquids", and the result is, I think, far superior to most work in analytic philosophy. How can you represent, in a formal, logical way (Hayes prefers to use just ordinary first-order logic with an occasional bell or whistle), the way we reason about liquids?

Standard first-order logic works as well as it does because it tracks relations between individuals. Liquids obviously pose something of an initial puzzle for this, because liquid, as we find it in everyday life, does not come in obvious discrete units. It's difficult to pin down what a piece of liquid would be (although Hayes eventually does so). But liquids can have a spatiotemporal continuity, a unified history, and we can and do make sense of this in terms of contained quantities of liquid: water in a lake, tea in a cup, and even a raindrop is contained by its own surface cohesion. So we can think of containers (it doesn't matter what kind), which we can call c, and then talking about the inside of them, inside(c), and this contained space can harbor an amount of a liquid, amount(l,s). Even with just this much we can represent quite a few things. Amounts are partially ordered; there is a zero amount, which we can call none. For instance, we only need this much and 'greater than' to say that there is tea in the cup:

amount(tea,inside(cup)) > none

There are plenty of other things that we might want to add: a way to compare the capacities of different containers, metric units, definitions for things like 'full' or 'channel'. Some of this can potentially be complicated, and requires hard thinking about things like measurement or surfaces, as well as the kinds of activities or processes liquids undergo.

One of the things he makes in order to try to make the work easier is a taxonomy, an 'ontology', of liquids. In everyday reasoning there are features of liquids that have a particularly important role to play in distinguishing different kinds of liquid situations. Some liquid is bulk, some finely divided into drops. Some is lazy (normal behavior of water on its own), some is energetic (requires some activity to maintain). Some is supported, either inside a space or on a surface, some is unsupported. Some is moving, some is still. These have various relations that can be traced out; for instance, while not all lazy water is still (for instance, falling water is lazy and moving), all still water is lazy. And, Hayes says, "Of the 32 logical possibilities, only 15 are physically possible, even allowing souch outrè possibilities as mist being blown along a tube" (p. 86). These 15 can be put in a table that looks something like this, with examples:

wet surface liquid flowing down a sloping surface waves on a shore? SUPPORTED ON SURFACE BULK
liquid in a container river flowing along a channel liquid pumped through pipe SUPPORTED IN SPACE
falling column, as in a waterfall rising column, as in a waterspout UNSUPPORTED
mist in valley? mist rolling down valley? mist blown through tube? SUPPORTED IN SPACE
cloud of mist falling rain splashing spray UNSUPPORTED

I have sometimes wondered how Hayes came to his conclusion that there were only fifteen possible cases here. Hayes recognizes that there are other states for water -- he mentions liquid soaked up by something, liquid, suspended across a mesh, and free-floating bubbles -- but I take it that he thinks that the fifteen capture all the physical possible cases that we get if we only look at these possible features of liquid. Presumably it's right to rule out LAZY STILL UNSUPPORTED BULK, which we might perhaps get with blobs of liquid on a space station but not in any everyday circumstance. (I have somewhere a children's book from the space shuttle days in which liquid blobs floating in space are highlighted as a weird and new thing that astronauts deal with, which can be taken as evidence that there seems something fantastic rather than everyday about it.) Are there really no ordinary cases of LAZY MOVING SURFACE-SUPPORTED DIVIDED and ENERGETIC MOVING SURFACE-SUPPORTED DIVIDED? If drops on a surface are LAZY STILL, there seems an obvious possibility for ENERGETIC MOVING -- drops skittering on a hot surface. And if that would count, then LAZY MOVING would obviously be single drops rolling off a sloped surface. A single falling tear is LAZY MOVING, and it is DIVIDED, and it seems to be SURFACE-SUPPORTED.

In any case, the idea is that for each of these you can formalize some basic principles that govern common-sense reasoning about them; Hayes himself only looks at LAZY BULK, suggesting that at least a lot of the principles would carry over to the other cases. To do this he has to work through questions like, "How should you characterize a liquid's wetting something?" (obviously this requires looking at how surfaces work) and "How should you characterize change in the liquid?" (for which Hayes suggests we should consider not just the liquid at a time but the kinds of histories a liquid can have). It takes some work to come up with the principles, but it turns out that you can describe a lot of situations involving liquids with relatively few of them.

One of the important things that Hayes notes -- I think it is probably the single most important idea in an article full of important ideas -- is that the taxonomies are not a secondary matter. They do significant work in the reasoning. In many cases they are what make the axioms or formal principles even usable to begin with, and they also serve a function in ruling out possibilities, which lets you draw more conclusions from your formal principles than you otherwise would be able to draw. Classification is a central part of reasoning itself.

Hayes' work touched off an interest in 'ontologies' in computer science, some of which has been very worthwhile and interesting, and some of which has not been so, but it's an admirable bit of work. One could wish that more 'naive' work of the sort had been done in more fields.

[Patrick J. Hayes, "Naive Physics I: Ontology for Liquids", Formal Theories of the Commonsense World, Hobbs & Moore, eds., Ablex Publishing Corporation (Norwood, NJ: 1988) 71-107.]

Various Links of Interest

* Natalja Deng, What is temporal ontology? (PDF)

* Daniel A. Kaufman, Feeling Like a Man

* Richard Marshall interviews Christopher Shields on Aristotle and metaphysics at "3:16".

* Lisa Shapiro on the history of philosophy

* The Beast of Gévaudan

* Matthew Wills looks at Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, at the JSTOR blog.

* Ofra Magidor, Category Mistakes, at the SEP

* Brett T. Feger, The Importance of Good Posture, looks at what Aquinas says about the subject.

* Rob Alspaugh, Biblical Weaponry and Josiah's Failure

* Arend Smilde, Horrid Red Herrings: C. S. Lewis and the "Argument from Desire"

* Amy Olberding on the problem of incivility

* Eduard Habsburg on the dissolution of Austrian monasteries in the early modern period

* If you are an American wondering how to contribute to constructive handling of current immigration problems, I have heard very good things about both Annunciation House and CLINIC.

* Willis Renuart, In Praise of Religion's Dark Side

* Chateaubriand on the “Dangers Facing the United States” (1846)

* Bl. John Henry Newman is due to be canonized on October 13.

* Mark Spencer, Beauty, First and Last of All Transcendentals

* Merlin looks like an interesting approach to public philosophy

* Undergrads learn about humanity first-hand by studying philosophy with incarcerated individuals

* I have been spending way too much time watching the videos at the Townsends YouTube channel (there's an auto-play video). Here's one on how to make barley water:

Currently Reading

Oscar Wilde, The Complete Plays
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (Unabridged)
St. Peter Damian, The Letters of Peter Damian, 1-30
St. Augustine, On the Trinity
Hegel, Philosophy of Right

Saturday, July 13, 2019

On Mizrahi on Ad Hominem

Moti Mizrahi has an argument on the value of ad hominem up on Aeon.co. While interesting, I think it fails to be clear enough about what is going on, and due to that draws an incorrect conclusion, and ultimately one that I think is complete toxic to moral education.

(1) I've noted before that with ad hominem, ad verecundiam, and the like that it is important to distinguish two things, for both historical and practical reasons. First, there is what could be called the tactic or approach to argument. This is the original kind of idea that went with these labels. The original point, which we find most clearly in the Logic of Isaac Watts, is that these are argument-building approaches; they designate a field within which you can draw the middle terms that allow you to draw conclusions. This has to be distinguished from the error, the way in which this approach to argument goes wrong so as to create a fallacy. In general with these "ad" fallacies, the actual error is ignoratio elenchi, or at least something close to it; they are generally recognized as fallacies of irrelevance. The tactic in such cases is not producing something that actually addresses the supposed point of argument.

Mizrahi's argument, to the extent that it is right, can be translated into these terms by saying that not every instance of the tactic involves an error. This is very definitely true, and some of the reasons Mizrahi gives are certainly right for the right reason: you can identify cases that are tactically ad hominem that are not ad hominem fallacies because they are provably relevant. Arguing against appeal to authority is a good example, fairly straightforward.

(2) However, Mizrahi's failure to be entirely clear about the distinction between tactic and error leads him to make a mistake. He says,

When an appeal to authority is made, it’s reasonable to respond by pointing out that the authority appealed to is acting in a manner that is inconsistent with her advice. Such practical inconsistency provides a good reason to think that refusing to follow the authority’s advice wouldn’t be imprudent. It’s important to note that this sort of ad hominem argumentation is legitimate only as a rebuttal to appeals to authority.

This is certainly not true, however, because we can run arguments analogous to those touching on the appeal to authority with other cases. For instance, it is reasonable to argue against someone who denies that we can communicate truths, or know what's right or wrong, or know about the world, by noting ways in which their own life and practice fails to bear out their claim. This is indeed the most respectable form of ad hominem tactic; it is a staple of philosophy literally since ancient days. It is never so useful as it is when it is used against sloppy debunkers or skeptics, people who debunk or object so badly that their debunking or objection would redound on them as well as the object.

His mistake in restricting ad hominem, even of the structure he is considering, to appeal to authority, leads him to characterize ad hominem argument as "defeasible". Ad hominem as a tactic is not a specific argument, so it is not the sort of thing that can itself be defeasible; there is good reason to deny that ad hominem arguments are defeasible generally, if constructed properly -- it's just that, as with other approaches, an error can insinuate itself, and the ad hominem argument can fail to be relevant to the particular point at issue, even despite appearances.

(3) On the basis of his argument, Mizrahi continues:

If I’m right, rebellious children are on firm ground argumentatively when they challenge their parents’ advice on smoking with ‘You use tobacco, so why shouldn’t I?’ By being smokers themselves, and thus failing to set a positive example, the parents have undermined their status as authorities whose advice should be followed.

Mizrahi correctly notes that this is not the end of the story, because there are other reasons not to smoke. However, I think he is simply wrong on this conclusion for two reasons: (1) it does not follow from his actual argument; and (2) it does not follow from the correct analysis of ad hominem.

First, it does not follow from his own account because he has not actually established that the inconsistency is specifically of the kind that undermines the authority of the parent. All that the child has noted is that the parent fails to follow their own advice. But this on its own does not undermine authority. Imagine a stronger case, a parent who is a drug addict, counseling her child to stay far away from the drug to which she is addict. Is her authority in any way undermined by her addiction? Not in the least; indeed, if anything, it's obvious that you should take their advice very seriously. It's not the relevant kind of practical inconsistency. It is not enough to catch people out in failing to follow their own advice -- everyone fails to follow their own advice on all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. What you need for the authority-undermining is exactly that: something that suggests that their status as an authority on the question is not to be taken seriously, either because they are clearly not the authorities they claim to be or because there is reason to think they are being dishonest in their advice or because there is reason to think the kind of principle they are denying is the kind that is necessary for them to have any authority at all. The only one that could be relevant here is if the parent is being dishonest; but this is not something that can be known from the facts that Mizrahi has given, and is not generally true of smoker parents who advise their children not to smoke.

Second, by not properly distinguishing the tactic and error, Mizrahi has also apparently assumed that, because the error does not always arise in using the tactic against appeals to authority, that it therefore always does not arise in using the tactic against appeals to authority. Mizrahi has not established that ad hominem is good (even if defeasible) in the context of appeals to authority, but only that appeals to authority provide some cases in which the ad hominem tactic can be seen not to involve the error of irrelevance that would make them a fallacy. In reality, the child is apparently guilty of irrelevance here -- the failure of the parents to comply with their own advice is not due to anything inconsistent with their authority in being able to assess whether smoking is a good thing, nor with anything that gives the child a reason to defer to parental authority on this matter.

As I noted, Mizrahi's conclusion would be a disaster for moral education, and this is for the reason that I noted earlier: everyone fails to follow their own advice quite a bit, for all sorts of reasons. The advice, however, should not be regarded as in any way contaminated by these things, unless it can actually be established that the practice is inconsistent specifically for reasons that would call into question the advice itself. And since advice is a major part of the foundation of moral education, not recognizing this is the kind of thing that can poison moral education.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Dashed Off XIV

Hume on juries: "an institution, admirable in itself, and the best calculated for the preservation of liberty and the administration of justice, that ever was devised by the wit of man" (History, on Alfred)

Burke on bail: "the most certain fence against the abuses of power"

the Australian 'Dreamtime' in reality means somehting like 'god-seeing' or 'seeing of the timeless'
- a 'dreaming' is an inherited story/symbol system; it is quasi-property, or perhaps more analogous to a title deed to a tribal status. (how far could this be regarded as quasi-heraldic? Much of the property interpretation, while no doubt founded, raises suspicions that it is actually an assimiliation to English-Australian concepts of property)
- songline/dreaming track is a path included in traditional songs and stories about the divine makings; by following the creation story one can navigate the land

The thing that makes Renaissance art better than much else is a sort of transfiguration-quality: their paintings look real, their marble sculptures look alive, their buildings look like something the world itself copies rather than vice versa; and yet everything has the double meaningfulness of *symbolic* realism. Their techniques need not be the only way to achieve something like this; but Renaissance artists achieved it on a scale few others can match.

Intemperate minds cannot be free.

(1) No tax should be laid without notifying the person taxed of the amount. (i.e., no hidden taxes)
(2) No tax should be laid in cases in which it cannot be justified by risk, loss, or service relevant to common good.

Civil rights are specified by institutions used to protect them.

childhood as mimesis of adulthood

"Where there is passion, there is confusion of ideas." Rosmini

Data collection presupposes some abstract notion under which the data is collected. You can't coherently collect data at random.

Baptists come close to having a religion of pure word: church service centered wholly on word; rites as ordinances, i.e., words acted on; grace that works first by imputation, that is, like words; proselytization by word.

Establish churches have a tendency toward religion of pure ceremony.

Research contributes to inquiry in two ways: in incomplete research, suggestion to the imagination; and clarification in complete research.

Rosmini's first principle of human rights: Do harm to no one.
- This, given the way what belongs to a person is united to the person, to take what belongs to them can harm them, so their right to it must be respected.
- It would follow from this that there is a kind of sliding scale.

The right to another's obedience is founded not on force nor on the past but on reason. (cp. Rosmini's right to impose respect for natural law)

"The rational law is divine light indeed, like the form of truth itself, but human beings need something more to conceive an infinite, supreme, real being -- he who sees the light does not always see the sun." Rosmini
"When the human race presumptuously exalted itself, it did two things: it put itself in place of 1. the rational law, and 2. God. Both kinds of self-exaltation resulted in undue, illegitimate subjection."

The preciousness of freedom arises from its link with truth.

the potential, virtual, and actual existence of arguments as parts in reasoning

When you start a study of a new thinker or system, you are merely moving X's and Y's around based on their apparent contextual use -- you have no internal understanding of the terms, so you are guesstimating based on what you've seen, so far, about how this term 'works'. As you progress further, you integrate further evidence and develop an understanding of the function of those terms in the larger context -- why these terms are used here, and not merely that they are, and why ultimately they are *needed* for what is being attempted. And as this functional understanding with functional understandings of other things, you get a sense of how these terms are expressive of the whole system or approach. This, however, is a very difficult point to reach.

Rosmini's peaceful means for the governed to defend their rights
(1) the moral goodness of the governed
(2) formation of uniformity of thought about rights
(3) religious influence where faith is shared
(4) persuasive influence on governing power
(5) passive resistance
(6) speaking the truth
(7) remonstrance and petition
(8) forma pact with the governing power
(9) emigration

sophistry as a usury of authority

Prisons are too often schools of vice.

motives of credibility
that suggest suitability to human belief as human
that suggest authority
that suggest general truth
that suggest specific truth

Rosmini's account of the soul seems to tie it too much to consciousness. (There is a strongly dualist tinge to his entire discussion.)

What is written in water requires no erasure.

positive interpersonal contact encouragement as a key element in the development of a coherent and just society (in particular, one needs self-sustaining institutions regularly serving this function)

the people as militia and independence of survival, defense, and emergency response

"The human mind, impatient and desirous of reaching immediate conclusions, always prefers to guess about nature rather than observe it." Rosmini

A great deal of guessing is jumping to the general principle most similar to that to which one attends. Good guessing involves attending well and using the most appropriate similarity.

self-preservation instincts -> habit of living -> vested interest in living
(suicidal tendency involves the breakdown of this process: loss of vested interest makes erosion of habit of living possible, the difficulty of living arising therefrom in spurts can sometimes overpower tendency to self-preservation)

The Stone of Destiny was originally not just a focus of coronation but of affirmation of the rights of the Church.

Extension is a measure of activity.

Rosmini on visual language (OT 918-920)

OS Curry's seven universal moral rules: love your family, help your group, return favors, be brave, defer to authority, be fair, respect the property of others

It is hard to read Condorcet's Sketch, written while in hiding and with a warrount out for his arrest as a traitor, and not see it as wishful thinking.

Factional politics is an endless tale of people missing the big picture.

"In the order of discoveries, man can look for only three things: a fact, a cause, or an essence. Are the waters of all seas salty? This is a fact. Why is sea water salty? This is a cause. What is salt? This is an essence." Maistre

"the syllogism is the man" Maistre

Human beings only achieve fullness of self in the context of the divine, both as such (God) and as veiled (truth, goodness, beauty).

the dangers of the pedagogical state

nominal Catholics as a kind of integument or membrane for the Church -- Despite their nominality, there is something to be said for their serving a real role in the Church, as a buffer zone between the Church and the world. This is not to say that they do this with the highest efficiency, or that they are the only possible buffers, but the Catholic-but-only-in-name nonetheless does play a role as buffer matter for the Body. (And, of course, they are not merely a protective layer but a sort of field of evangelization which can often be more easily drawn in than anything beyond it.)

the life of the Church as unceasing production of spiritual acts originating from within

In preaching as in nutrition or medicine, the immediate effect is not that at which one primarily aims.

hypercompetent (technical) genius vs eustochic (inspired) genius

methods of genius imitation
(1) hypercombinatorial with filter
(2) hyperanalogical with filter
(3) hyperdialogical
- really the difference is in where the teleology is found. (1) and (2) give explosion of possibilities, then narrow accord to ends; (3) gives the possibilities according to ends and narrows according to fit-to-end.

"The body expresses existence at every moment." Merleau Ponty

"One of the neglected laws of sound, philosophical method states: 'Take care not to deny to your opponent what you yourself need in order to prove your supposition." Rosmini

affective, appreciative, and evaluative regard

All of Anselm's theology is rooted in Benedictine vocabulary and reflection.

institutions for creating interest alignments

Human rights do not ordinarily impose onerous or elaborate obligations, but easy and simple ones. Only in extraordinary circumstances do the obligations become onerous or elaborate; they get the burden or the complexity from the circumstances, not the rights themselves.

For a social and rational animal, the end of reproduction can never be bare procreation.

One of the major intellectual difficulties in religion is taking a universal point of view without losing everything in a pile of abstractions.

distinction between just & unjust punishment requires natural merit or demerit, which requires natural law

the Church as permeant

We often seek not only the pleasant but the easy even distinct from its pleasantness.

religious material culture as quasi-sensorium for the Church

A great many things called 'rights' in the modern world should in fact be called 'claims' in something like the sense that people claim a throne, because they are claims of a position of authority.

conceptual anti-skepticism arguments
(1) You have the concept X.
(2) No thinker in this skeptical scenario could have the concept X.
(3) Therefore you are not a thinker in this skeptical scenario.
- for (2), causal-constraint defenses vs thinker-inadequacy defenses

arguments that a skeptical argument is linguistically self-defeating: if the conclusion were true, the argument could not be formulated/communicated/expressed.

a possibility: ontological arguments should be seen as different kinds of blockers for different kinds of skeptical arguments in theistic contexts

- note Rosmini on the phrase 'external world' AAMS 497

noncommensurability of values -> freedom of choice

Freedom of indifference primarily concerns possible goods; choice between good and evil requires something added to freedom of indifference, namely, temptation.

By concupiscence we carry temptation around with us.

abstract ideas in intellect // habits in will (Rosmini)

honesty as mind's chastity (Augustine)

to treat gift as gift: gratitude
to treat communicative reason as communicative reason: truthfulness
to treat divine gift as divine gift: religion

creation as that title than which no greater title can be thought
-other titles reflect it either directly or (where the title is remedial) in result. Accession, long possession, etc. are each in their own way like creation.

genius & Peirce's Musement

humility as chastity of will

the poison metaphor for lying (lying poisons speech/communication/social relations)

honesty as a precondition for peace

All evidence, even statistical, is anecdotal until it reaches a certain level of abstraction.

anecdotal reasoning // precedential reasoning

Half of security is discretion.


This is a really nice representation of discoveries of the exoplanets, which maps them on the sky and assigns each a note. It celebrates the fact that this June the tally passed 4000. Each note and color represents some fact about the exoplanet represented; Phil Plait explains them at "Bad Astronomy". (He also explains why such a large number are clustered in one area of the sky.)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Terror of Dereva

Today is the memorial of St. Olga of Kiev, particularly celebrated in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Olga was a Varangian, which means she was of Scandinavian descent (she is known in Scandinavian countries as St. Helga), and she married Prince Igor of Kiev. Kievan Rus was a pretty wild place at the time, and there were a number of loosely allied tribes around it who paid some kind of tribute or other for one reason or another. The Drevlians, called so because they dwelt in the land of Dereva, were one of these. They stopped paying it, and Igor went to make them continue the payment; he got the payment, but then decided that perhaps they should be paying more. In response, they killed him. The son of Olga and Igor, Svyatoslav, was only three years old, so Olga took the throne as queen regent. And the Drevlians had the chutzpah to send a delegation to inform her that they had killed her husband and to propose that she should marry their prince, Prince Mal. Olga convinced them that it would be necessary to do things with more ceremony, so she told them to return to their boat, and the next day, they would be sent for; they should refuse to come by horse or by foot, and she would have the people carry their entire boat to her as an honor. This they did, and Olga had the people carry the boat to a trench she had ordered dug overnight; they dropped the boat in, and buried the Drevlians alive. Remember, she was of Viking stock, it was a Viking custom for people to be honored by burial in a boat.

She sent messengers the Drevlians, agreeing to their proposal, but said that she would only come if they sent their noblemen to escort her. This they did. After their long journey, she had them taken to a bathhouse, with instructions for them to appear before her when she was done. While they were bathing, she had the bathhouse set on fire, starting with the doors so that they could not escape.

She then set out, but sent messengers beforehand saying that before she could marry Prince Mal, she needed to grieve at the grave of her husband, who had been buried in the city where he had been killed, Iskorosten. She asked them to gather all the mead they could for the funeral feast. This was done, and the funeral feast held. When the Drevlians were drunk from the mead, she had them slaughtered. Then she went home. But she was not done.

The preliminaries having been accomplished, having paid her respects to her husband in that inimitable, old-fashioned, high Varangian style, events had now passed to the inevitable next phase: the actual vengeance. You didn't think that she had even started on her revenge yet? Everything up to this point was just part of the funeral honors for her husband. Now she could begin the revenge war. The Kievans, of course, were much better organized and trained as an army, and also had greater numbers, so the revenge war went quite well for them. The Drevlians were driven back.

And again Olga returned to Iskorosten, and laid siege to the city. It was difficult to get a tight seal on the city, though, and the siege lasted a whole year without success. So Olga tried a different tack. She sent a message to the people of Iskorosten, pointing out that other Drevlian cities had submitted and, when they had paid tribute, she had left them alone. They responded that they were willing to pay the tribute, but, given the involvement of their city with the killing of her husband, did not trust her to leave them alone afterward. She replied that enough people had died for her husband's death, but acknowledged that their fear was a reasonable and legitimate one, so she proposed that instead of ordinary tribute, they should just send her three pigeons and three sparrows for each house in the city. This they did, a very large number of pigeons and sparrows. Then Olga had her soldiers tie oily strips of cloth to the legs of the birds, light the ends of the strips on fire, and release the birds. The birds, of course, returned to their nests in the city. The city became a blazing inferno. Many were burned alive. The citizens who could, fled, but as they did so, Olga had them caught and divided into three groups: one group was killed, the second enslaved, and the third -- she left behind to pay tribute.

So the story goes.

Olga, it turned out, had an extraordinary mind for organizing and planning, whether it was organizing and planning a war of vengeance or organizing and planning a kingdom. She established laws, built trading posts and towns, and reorganized the government, making Kievan Rus one of the best-run kingdoms of the day. Having received a barbarian kingdom with warlord status among a number of other tribes, she turned over to her son an incipient empire.

In 950 or so, however, she went on a visit to Constantinople and was baptized into the Church. We don't know why she went, and we don't know what led her to become Christian. There has long been a story that the Emperor Constantine VII was pestering her to marry him, and she took baptism, designating him to be her sponsor, because she realized that it would then make the marriage impossible. Since the Emperor would have already been married, it's probably not true. It is even possible that she may have converted to Christianity in Kiev and thus journeyed to Constantinople as a pilgrimage. She returned to Kiev, and tried to convince her son to convert, as well, but he refused, saying that his men would no longer respect him, a common problem of Christian nobles throughout the realms dominated by the Scandinavians. But because his mother was now a Christian, Svyatoslav became a protector of Christians, and Olga built a number of churches throughout the land. The old-style Varangians grumbled -- but grumble is all they did.

When she died, her pagan son made sure she had a Christian funeral. And Olga's foundation would be the basis by means of which her grandson, St. Vladimir, would Christianize Kievan Rus.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

One World Was Not Enough for Two

Her Voice
by Oscar Wilde

The wild bee reels from bough to bough
With his furry coat and his gauzy wing.
Now in a lily-cup, and now
Setting a jacinth bell a-swing,
In his wandering;
Sit closer love: it was here I trow
I made that vow,

Swore that two lives should be like one
As long as the sea-gull loved the sea,
As long as the sunflower sought the sun,--
It shall be, I said, for eternity
'Twixt you and me!
Dear friend, those times are over and done,
Love's web is spun.

Look upward where the poplar trees
Sway and sway in the summer air,
Here in the valley never a breeze
Scatters the thistledown, but there
Great winds blow fair
From the mighty murmuring mystical seas,
And the wave-lashed leas.

Look upward where the white gull screams,
What does it see that we do not see?
Is that a star? or the lamp that gleams
On some outward voyaging argosy,--
Ah! can it be
We have lived our lives in a land of dreams!
How sad it seems.

Sweet, there is nothing left to say
But this, that love is never lost,
Keen winter stabs the breasts of May
Whose crimson roses burst his frost,
Ships tempest-tossed
Will find a harbour in some bay,
And so we may.

And there is nothing left to do
But to kiss once again, and part,
Nay, there is nothing we should rue,
I have my beauty,--you your Art,
Nay, do not start,
One world was not enough for two
Like me and you.