Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Music on My Mind

Al Matthews, "Fool". Al Mathews recently died. Matthews is best known for his role as Sergeant Al Apone in Aliens, which has often been considered one of the great movie portrayals of a US Marine (Matthews himself had been one, and put a lot of working into making sure the characters were handled in a way that made them believable as Marines). But the multitalented man did quite a few other things. Above is what he would be best known for if he weren't known for his role in Aliens.

Poem a Day XVII


The thunder is thick in the air;
the static leaps up through the hair;
the flame of the gods pierces darkest night,
sheds light through the park;
the tears are falling from the byssal sky,
with sigh like recalled kiss
on the breezes that mourn their loss
where leaves of trees in anguish toss.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Poem a Day XVI


Like to sun,
fire-throwing, pure,
is mind,
light-pouring and encompassing all,
in the brilliance that it casts
and the world on which it falls;
like to water,
ever-pouring rush,
like to air,
always restless in its roam,
like to silk in its shimmer,
supplely falling in its drape,
like to wide country vista,
like to roads,
like to home,
like to cars in their speeding,
their direction and their roar,
like to lamps on the streetposts
casting circles on the street,
like to one single word,
like to speeches by the ton,
like to bird,
quick on wing,
quick to soar,
swift and fleet,
like to mountains made of granite
in endurance and in might,
like to pillows soft and gentle,
consolation for the day,
like to apples, peaches, grapes,
in the sweetness of their taste,
like to hello and farewell
as you journey on your way,
so is mind,
hard and soft,
fast, slow,
thick, clean,
subtle in its movement,
unchanging and yet moved,
so swift it is already,
always somewhere else,
bright, dark, far, near,
unproven and yet proved,
here, there,
this, that,
I, other, and the same,
easy-found, yet hard to find,
like every object in its likeness--
but mostly like to mind.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Law of Their Nature

Mankind is a system of creatures, that continually need one another's assistance, without which they could not long subsist. It is therefore necessary, that everyone, according to his capacity and station, should contribute his part towards the good and preservation of the whole, and avoid whatever may be detrimental to it. For this end they are made capable of acquiring social or benevolent affections, (probably have the seeds of them implanted in their nature) with a moral sense or conscience, that approves of virtuous actions, and disapproves the contrary. This plainly shows them, that virtue is the law of their nature, and that it must be their duty to observe it, from whence arises moral obligation, tho' the sanctions of that law are unknown; for the consideration of what the event of an action may be to the agent, alters not at all the rule of his duty, which is fixed in the nature of things.

Catharine Trotter Cockburn, "Remarks upon some Writers in the Controversy concerning the Foundation of Moral Virtue and Moral Obligation", Philosophical Writings, Sheridan, ed. Broadview (Peterborough, ON: 2006) p. 114.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Golf Pictures

A rather interesting tale: Valentino Dixon was in prison, serving a long sentence, and took up drawing pictures about golf. He had never played golf, but he had considerable talent drawing, and someone had asked him to draw a picture of a hole on Augusta golf course, and he discovered that drawing it was relaxing. He began sending his pictures in to Golf Digest, to which another inmate had a subscription and whose photographs he had started using as an inspiration. After a while, the drawings caught the attention of someone and a reporter for the magazine, Max Adler, looked into it as a possible story. When he did, he started finding a large number of puzzles about Dixon's case -- policework that didn't seem to follow procedure, unreliable witnesses, a confession by someone else, and the like. So he published a story not just about the pictures but raising questions about the case, and, although it wasn't a straightforward or easy path, Valentino Dixon's sentence was vacated and Dixon walked free, recognized as an innocent man, a few days ago.

Golf Digest's original profile on Dixon: Drawings from Prison

And their report on the whole story: For Valentino Dixon, a Wrong Righted

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dashed Off XXII

constancy and coherence as features of laws of nature (invariance and change-patterns)

Humean fictions as a doubling of ideas (slightly varied) treated as if the same -- e.g., the idea of vacuum (empty space) from (a) the idea-set of two bodies and nothing else (empty) and (b) the idea-set of two bodies with interposing body (space); or unchanging duration from (a) unchanging idea-set and (b) changing idea-set.

The coherence theory of truth detaches immediate apprehension from truth.

fiction vs abstraction accounts of constancy

All of relativity theory and all of quantum mechanics requires abstraction well beyond what empiricism can handle.

To say that lying can be permissible is to say that truth is not itself a good for fortitude.

Protestantism naturally tends to make Christianity more like Islam.

Dedekind cuts and the ability to say 'these numbers are relevant and those are not'

not-incipit-not, not-incipit, incipit, incipit-not
not-desinit, not-desinit-not, desinit-not, desinit

A widespread tradition of an event that would have had to have been widely witnessed is prima facie reason to believe the event occurred (cp 'Kuzari principle').

Sinai tradition
Either based on (1) purportedly real experiences or (2) legends arising later.
If (1), then either (1.1) real experiences or (1.2) conspiracy and lies.
If (1.1), then either (1.1.1) real experience of real or (1.1.2) hallucinatory experience.
If (1.1.1), either ( supernatural event or ( confusion over natural event.
-- Of the non-supernatural alternatives, only the legends branch is worth taking seriously without direct proof -- e.g., the conspiracy would have to be massive, the hallucination would have to be massive, and the natural event would have to be indistinguishable from a preternatural miracle.

People regularly speak as if legends just magically grew up, spontaneously appearing for no definite reason. But neither in organ nor in development nor in preservation do they work this way. the actual causes must be considered.

Even children will not believe just any crazy thing.

In matters of testimony, one must not confuse proof of defeasibility with proof of defeat.

the existence of the Jewish people as a preternatural miracle
the Life of Christ as a preternatural miracle with supernatural elements

Judicial review must be a means of upholding the law or it is a usurpation of power.

A self-victimizing culture arises when the broader culture confuses being a victim with an act of moral rebellion against evil.

Democratic politics is a process of discovering how horribly evil you have been when your opponents start doing what you already do.

If you ask whether an argument is plausible, you are asking about its poetics. If you ask whether an argument is convincing or compelling, you are asking about its rhetorical usefulness. Do not confuses these with other logical questions.

tarka as an assistant to pramana
--tarka, unlike pramana does not establish the nature of the thing or give anything definitive, but it gives weight to an alternative in apparent conflict

"all wrong cognitions have the resemblance of right cognitions; whenever a wrong cognition appears in the world, it always bears the semblance of a right cognition" Uddyotokara

Philo's Embassy to Gaius and Philippians 2:6

ecclesial infrastructure as standing reserve

Science is self-correcting in the way accounting is. But the books must actually be balanced and audited.

legal justice // political prudence

the Kuzari argument // the traditionary argument

concrete nature -- tutelar
abstract principle -- preternatural
death -- beyondgrave
ultimacy -- deity
Perhaps we can think of these as causal efficacy from over-limits -- the limit of human life (death) the limit of human rule, the limit of the concrete, all limit. But there is something about consciousness here, since we have invisible intelligent power in deity, tutelar, and some beyondgrave; preternatural is not intelligent but intelligible above/beyond (our) intelligence.

beyond the limits of humans as understanding agents
(1) intelligible power under which we stand
(2) intelligent power beyond us
---- (a) by being forces beyond death, which we cannot escape
---- (b) by being forces at root of nature, which we must presuppose
---- (c) by being ultimate

sublimity & natural religious experience

We think of languages as having a defined structure, and this is not wrong, but the actual structure is fuzzy, ranging from the barely coherent nongrammatical up through the perfectly serviceable nongrammatical through normal grammatical registers up to the most polished polished grammatical registers and then to the overly defined and stilted registers.

The feeling of doing one's duty often supports one in difficult and miserable times.

analogy of natural providence + analogy of moral providence + analgoy of Israel -> (by convergence) the truth of the Catholic Church

"Hierarchy within can alone preserve egalitarianism without." C. S. Lewis
"The Dictator and the Secret Police breed in countries where schoolboys lack the No Sneaking Rule."

Sirach as a meditation on Scripture as applied to life (quotes or arguably alludes to almost every OT work, follows a scriptural structure in 44-49, note the grandson's prologue)

legend development
(1) embellishment of prior story
(2) literalization of metaphor
(3) confusion of stories
(4) fabrication entering testimonial stream

elements of system
uddesa: list of topics
laksana: definition/account for each topic
pariksa: critical examination of account's application to topics
systems as related topics with examined accounts

As faith is both personal and ecclesial, so also is prayer both personal and ecclesial.

Nomen substantiae potest aliquid repraesentere in opinione. (Peter of Cornwall)

Noumena as well as phenomena must be able to be signified.

the gifts of the holy Spirit as new formal modes of knowing and willing

the link between romance and pleasant embarrassment

Overlap as 'possibly a point is in both a and b'
Parthood as 'necessarily a point in a is in both a and b'

All limitations on free speech are the expression of some special interest.

Democracies primarily work on group loyalties.

Museum curation often fails by omission, not of topics, but of key context.
Museums are often legendaria, mythological presentations, telling a story that is more about an identity than any history.

boundary/border as symmetric binary operator B(a,b) [similar to overlap]

a is part
Therefore there is something b such that a is part of b

Reception of tradition has two axes, which might be called preservation and generation.

memory as giving testimony to oneself

the plasticity of tradition

Habermas errs by substituting consensus for peace.

The democratic institutions of the Western world are not, and never have been, very concerned with consensus.

the client-forming character of bureaucracy (bureaucracy as patronage system)

ethical integrity, intellectual merit, societal impact in research decisions

If the rational being is to think of his maxims as practical at all, he must think of them as having the regulating principle of will in both matter and form.

the sophistical political maxims [Kant]
(1) fac et excusa
(2) si fecisti, nega
(3) divide et impera

acceptation of the faith vs tradition of the faith

Note that Kant claims that a hereditary nobility is a rank that precedes merit. But the real character of hereditary nobility is that it is a rank rewarded for another's merit, which could not be adequately rewarded otherwise. It is not that hte merit is passed down, either; it is that the inherited rank is the reward for the progenitor. It may then be confirmed in further service, because it then functions as a familial practice of honorable service.

Nature does not make talent and will hereditary; but we do in fact inherit the consequences of the talent and will of others.

Meritorious service to the state is made possible not merely by talent and will but by the means to leverage them.

three forms of teaching
(1) dogmatic
(2) catechetical
(3) dialogical

Pyrrhonians treat the authority of reason as an external authority.

Human beings are always stupid -- but not equally stupid at all times.

'a is at least part of b' is equivalent to 'b is at least the whole of a'

force as mereological (Hegel)

Shepherd's theory of causation involves a generalization of Newton's first law.

templates as patterns that are transcribed to produce a consistent product with a particular character

Parity arguments require (1) similarity of structure and (2) unavailability of relevant principled differences.

Too much of the discussion of empty names conflates or fails to appreciate the difference between 'existing' and 'posited for consdieration'.

Philosophy within, citizenship without.

Journalism forms a check on politics only if it is not itself corrupt, and only if it is not a bottleneck for information that citizens need in order to govern well.

Poem a Day XV

No One Has Ever Known Another

No one has ever known another,
no isthmus joins two minds.

The oceans between are fog-laden,
walls dividing island from island.
Even the islands that trade
speak by messages in bottles.

No one has ever known another;
the oceans are deep between us.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Evening Note for Thursday, September 20

Thought for the Evening: Kinds of Failing in Teaching

Suppose you intend to teach something (it doesn't particularly matter for our purposes what). Then it seems you could intend to teach but fail to teach because you did not do anything that was even the right sort of thing. For instance, perhaps you don't really understand what teaching is, and so even though you genuinely intend to teach, all you manage to achieve is a cargo-cult imitation of it, like a child might -- you put people in rows and stand in front of the group like you've seen in pictures and babble in gibberish or about nothing in particular as if you were lecturing. This is a failure of teaching that is so fundamental that we could say that you didn't even get started on teaching. We can call it the zero level of teaching failure:

0. Not the kind of thing that even could be teaching

But you could fail even if you were not that clueless. For instance, you could try to teach, and do the kind of thing that teaching actually involves, even though you are not the right kind of person to teach -- for instance, if you don't actually know what you are talking about. This gives us the next level of teaching failure:

1. The right general kind of thing to be teaching, but not the right person

Even if you are the right kind of person, you could fail in other words. For instance, you could pick a self-defeating time to teach, or try to teach people who aren't even hypothetically interested in hearing what you have to say, or through a medium that just doesn't work. Thus we have:

2. The right kind of person doing the right general kind of thing, but not in the right circumstances

However, as every teacher knows, you could be the right kind of person doing the right kind of thing in the right circumstances and still fail. For instance, you could garble your explanation so that instead of teaching the student, you just hopelessly confuse them. WE have all been there. Thus the next level of teaching failure:

3. The right kind of person incorrectly doing the right general kind of thing in the right circumstances.

Suppose you do it all correctly, though; you could still be interrupted by something, or impeded by something, so that your correct and adequately done work goes to waste. It happens; your teaching could be perfectly fine in itself but foiled by something external to it. And thus:

4. The right kind of person correctly doing the right general kind of thing in the right circumstances, but blocked by something external

If you manage to avoid all these failures, to that you are the right person doing the right general kind of thing in the right circumstances and aren't prevented or impeded by something else, congratulations; you have in some sense succeeded in fully teaching. I say 'in some sense' because while you have the esse of teaching, you can (I'm sorry to say) still fail to achieve the bene esse. Everything could come together so that you are fully teaching, and you could still be flubbing it. Maybe you need more sleep, or maybe you need to care more, or maybe you are trying out something that is just falling flat, and instead of its taking flight, you can hear it drop like a stone and plink on the distant floor of the abyss that has apparently opened at your feet. Thus:

5. Full teaching that is poorly done

But there is another kind of failure -- the fifth level is where full teaching is lame or sickly for reasons belonging to it, but sometimes teaching is all done right and just smothered by a lack of a support. Perhaps you yourself don't follow through properly; or perhaps you need support from others and they don't come through for you. Perhaps the student drops the ball on their end. Perhaps you do well and get drowned out by error in the end through no fault of your own. And thus the last:

6. Full teaching done well itself but not well supported

There are plenty of ways to fail at teaching, then, and failure is available in plenty even when other things come together just right. An interesting modification of all this is when we are talking not just about teaching but about teaching on behalf of, when the teaching itself is an act of representation. Level 1 failures for teaching in general tend to be about whether you can actually do anything to teach at all; but you can be a perfectly fine teacher and still not be the right kind of person for representative teaching. This is quite common. Perhaps we are talking about teaching in order to certify, as with college professors or teachers in beauty schools, or maybe you are teaching, by a sort of dispensation, what is in itself a higher authority's prerogative to teach, as with rabbis or catechists or the Pope. Such cases impose more conditions that have to be met to avoid each level of failure as a teacher.

As a college professor, for instance, I not only have to teach, I have to teach in such a way that at least a fair amount of what is taught can be used for degrees, transfers, other classes. This is actually a very large set of constraints; a prerogative of being an academic is being able to teach as one sees fit, but in fact, even setting aside laws and policies, there are many things that restrict what one can do. I could teach a perfectly excellent Intro Philosophy class starting with the Pre-Socratics, then looking at Cicero, then Iamblichus, then John Scotus Eriugena, then Gersonides, then John Norris, and ending with Collingwood. It would be perfectly excellent in the sense that it would be an entirely viable way to introduce people to philosophy; they would learn an immense amount about philosophy. But in practice it's not a viable class at all. It wouldn't directly prepare students for a typical upper-level philosophy class; it would be an uphill battle explaining to one's colleagues in the department why this course covering people some of them may never have heard of, or that they know only in name, is an Intro course; another department looking at the syllabus might doubt that it should really transfer as an Intro course, so you wouldn't be doing your students a favor if they try to transfer the credit. It would usually not be good teaching on behalf of the college, even if it were great as teaching. (This ties in, incidentally, to something I've mentioned before, namely, the defective concept of the Intro Phil course.)

Various Links of Interest

* John Brungardt has begun translating John of St. Thomas on natural philosophy. It's only just started, but it looks like it will be a nice project.

* Holly Brewer, Slavery-entangled philosophy. I am, I should say, not wholly convinced by all parts of this argument.

* Elisa Freschi, Bhavanātha and the move towards theistic Mīmāṃsā

* Lani Watson, What is a question -- very nice little essay on the subject.

* Elizabeth Bruenig, He wanted to be a priest. He says Archbishop McCarrick used that to abuse him.

* Ed Condon notes that the recent Catholic crisis is not due to a lack of mechanisms in canon law for dealing with it, but a lack of will in using canon law to protect those who need protection.

* Lloyd Strickland, The “Fourth Hypothesis” on the Early Modern Mind-Body Problem

* Jeremiah Carey, Dispassion as an Ethical Ideal

* Ruth Goodman, Getting Clean, the Tudor Way. A good way to get a sense of the root cause of Tudor fashion, all the ruffs and sleeves: it all comes down to linen being relatively easy to clean and replace.

* When Frederick Douglass came to Ireland -- in his own words

* William R. Black, Let's bring the Sabbath back as a radical act against 'total work'

* Kwame Anthony Appiah, On the Kidnapped Boy Who Became a German Philosopher

* Paul Gerard Horrigan, Transcendental Beauty
Paul Gerard Horrigan, Transcendental Aliquid

* Eduard Habsburg, Ancient Walls and New Bridges

* Steven T. Kuhn and Brian Weatherson, Notes on Some Ideas in Lloyd Humberstone's Philosophical Applications of Modal Logic

Currently Reading

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Lloyd Humberstone, Philosophical Applications of Modal Logic

Poem a Day XIV

Early Morning

Bright is the day that forms,
shaped by hands unseen;
the world is glowing with joy,
the air is pure and fresh.

There is wind in the flag; it bounds,
it leaps with light step,
it soars, swoops, dips,
bobs in the light like a bird.

How can hearts be weighed down?
Let your soul soar with the breeze,
your mind rejoice in creation,
for gladness is the hue of dawn.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Voyages Extraordinaires #35: César Cascabel

“Has nobody got any more coppers to give me? Come, children, search your pockets!”

“Here you are, father!” replied the little girl.

And she drew out of her pocket a square-cut piece of greenish paper, all crumpled and greasy.

This paper bore the almost illegible inscription “United States Fractional Currency,” encircling the respectable-looking head of a gentleman in a frock-coat, and likewise the figure 10 repeated six times,—which represented ten cents, say about ten French sous.

“How did you come by that?” inquired the mother.

“It's the remnant of the takings at the last performance,” answered Napoleona.

The Cascabels are an optimistic, ingenious, and resourceful French circus family who have been touring the fairs of the United States in their great covered wagon, the Belle-Roulotte (Fair Rambler, in the English translations -- a nice example of a translator introducing a clever translation pun), which serves as a mobile home. They make it all the way across the United States to Sacramento, but as they are returning, ready to go back to France, they are robbed, and they realize that they are not going to be able to earn enough money, just from the return trip across the United States, to pay for getting themselves and the Belle-Roulotte home to France. Undaunted, they decide to go West rather than East. It's a longer voyage, but one that can in principle be done entirely across land, up through Alaska, across the frozen Bering Straits, and all the way across Siberia. If they can just get across the Urals to Perm, they will easily be able to get back to France. Together with a native girl named Kayette and a Russian named Sergius, who join them, they will witness the transition of Alaska from Russia to the United States, brave the Siberian weather, outmaneuver dangerous Russian bandits, and solve a tricky political problem before they are finally home free. And in the end their fortunes will depend on a pantomime-play directed with a circus master's timing.

Caesar Cascabel is very different from stereotypical Verne, but it was a fun, light read; the main characters are charming and undauntable, the story reasonably interesting, and the resolution nicely done.

Poem a Day XIII


The blue is painted on the roof,
the lamp is burning high;
they are, and need no further proof,
nor further reason why,

and yet they pour out proof indeed,
their source they signify,
and pour down gifts for those in need,
which is enough of why;

and so with virtue of the mind
as with the blazing sky;
by being as it is, it finds
the endless source of why.