Tuesday, March 02, 2021

The Purest Fountains of Natural Reason

We may say that the Morals of this Philosopher are infinitely Sublime, but at the same time, pure, sensible, and drawn from the purest Fountains of Natural Reason. Certainly, a Reason destitute of the Lights of Divine Revelation, has never appear’d with so much Illumination and Power. And as there is not any Duty omitted by Confucius, so there is not any besides those here mentioned. He greatly extends his Morals, but not farther than needs must; his Judgment ever telling him how far he must go, and where he must stop. In which he has a very considerable Advantage, not only over a great number of Pagan Writers, that have Treated of Things of this Nature, but likewise over several Christian Authors, who abound with so many false, or over-subtil Thoughts; who almost every where surpass the Bounds of their Duty, and who give themselves up to their own Fancy, or ill Humour; who almost always digress from that just Mean, where Virtue ought to be plac'd; who, by their false Pourtraitures do render it impossble to our Practice, and consequently make few Virtuous Men....

...Every Thing herein is Solid; because that right Reason, that inward Verity, which is implanted in the Soul of all Men, and which our Philosopher incessantly Consulted without Prejudice, guided all his Words. Thus the Rules which he Prescribes, and the Duties to which he Exhorts, are such, that there is no Person which does not immediately give his Approbation thereunto. There is nothing of Falsity in his Reasonings, nothing Extream, none of those frightful Subtilties, which are observ'd in the Moral Treatises of most Modern Metaphysicians, that is to say, in Discourses where Simplicity, Clearness, and Perspicuity ought to prevail throughout, and make itself Sensible to Minds of the lowest Rank.

From The Morals of Confucius, a Chinese Philosopher. This book, originally published in 1691, is an English translation of an earlier French work generally attributed to Jean de Labrune (a French Protestant minister better known for his historical works, who died in 1743), and somewhat more probably attributed to Louis Cousin (a royal censor through whose hands a number of Confucius-related works, including the Sinarum Philosophus, which is the Latin translation of Confucian texts on which this book is based), but in reality we just don't know who wrote it. The particular examples of moral treatises of 'Modern Metaphysicians' that the author has in mind when he talks about "frightful Subtilties" are Nicole's Essay on Morals and Malebranche's Treatise on Morals.

The Balm, the Tears, the Fragrant Charity

Dostoyevsky
by Maurice Baring


You healed the sore, you made the fearful brave,
They bless you for your lasting legacy;
The balm, the tears, the fragrant charity
You sought and treasured in your living grave.
The gifts you humbly took you greatly gave,
For solace of the soul in agony,
When through the bars the brutal passions pry,
And mock the bonds of the celestial slave.

You wandered in the uttermost abyss;
And there, amidst the ashes and the dust,
You spoke no word of anger or of pride;
You found the prints of steps divine to kiss;
You looked right upwards to the stars, you cried:
“Hosanna to the Lord, for He is just.”

Monday, March 01, 2021

The Humean Account of Scholastic Philosophy of Nature

 In Treatise 1.4.3, Hume gives his account of broadly Aristotelian and scholastic philosophy, and it's an interesting insight into early modern views of the 'schools'. (Early modern philosophers often don't really elaborate much on what they see as the problems with the schoolmen, so it's nice to have an actual account.)

Hume takes Peripatetic philosophy to be fundamentally motivated by two problems.

(1) the problem of how a composite thing can be one (simplicity)
(2) the problem of how a changing thing can be the same (identity)

These are not minor problems; Hume thinks they are genuine and quite serious, and that there is no easy solution to them. We do in fact face apparent contradictions in both these cases, since we psychologically tend to elide similar and related perceptions but are at the same time able to recognize them as distinct. The 'ancient' way of handling this has at least an initial promise, although Hume thinks it ultimately fails: "feign something unknown and invisible" which remains the same through the variations and one in the composition. 'Feign' is a semi-technical term for Hume; the result of feigning is a fiction in something much like the sense of a 'legal fiction' and the original meaning of the Latin term: a thing made, a construct. We construct this unknown invisible something and suppose it to exist. This unknown invisible something is substance or prime matter. (Hume is not alone among early modern critics of scholastic philosophy in not making a sharp distinction between substance and matter.) This does have the apparent advantage of navigating the contradiction:

The peripatetic philosophy asserts the original matter to be perfectly homogeneous in all bodies, and considers fire, water, earth, and air, as of the very same substance; on account of their gradual revolutions and changes into each other. At the same time it assigns to each of these species of objects a distinct substantial form, which it supposes to be the source of all those different qualities they possess, and to be a new foundation of simplicity and identity to each particular species. (T 1.4.3.6, SBN 221)

This line of thought naturally leads to the notion of 'accidents'. We never find colors, sounds, tastes, shapes, and the like in isolation, which means that, if we are supposing substances, we always find them associated with substances, and "The same habit, which makes us infer a connexion betwixt cause and effect", that is, on Hume's account custom based on constant connection, "makes us here infer a dependance of every quality on the unknown substance" (T 1.4.3.7, SBN 222). Once we have accidents, though, we have room for 'occult qualities' and 'faculties' or causal powers, which are accidents that are themselves only supposed and not known or ever experienced. And the tendency to attribute human psychological movements to the world around us leads from there to things like 'sympathy' and 'horror vacui' to top it all off.

All of this, on Hume's basic empiricist principles, is untenable. We get unknown somethings piled on unknown somethings. Because of the copy principle, if we don't ever have any experience of something, we have no actual idea of it. Assigning words to these unknown somethings gives us the illusion that we know what we are talking about when in reality, we don't. And by the separability principle, anything that can be conceived of distinctly can exist separately, so the entire justification of substance and accidents, and the notion of 'inherence in a substance' becomes completely unworkable. 

Hume's actual criticisms depend almost entirely on these two principles, so rejecting them both (which any Aristotelian would) will evade the objections he specifically identifies. It is, however, an interesting (and unusual) attempt actually to give an account of basic ideas in Aristotelian philosophy and explain why they would be initially attractive.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Fortnightly Book, February 28

 Maurice Baring (1874-1925) was born into an extremely wealthy banking family, and had an excellent education; he had a facility for language, and so went into the diplomatic service, which he found he hated. He did discover that he loved all things Russian, though, and first began to get a name by reporting on the Russo-Japanese War. He converted to Catholicism in 1909, and served with distinction in World War I. The end of the war led him to experiment with drama and novels (he had before then primarily written poetry, essays, and the occasional short story), and it was as a novelist that he became truly famous. He spent the last years of his life suffering from Parkinson's disease and other incidental illnesses.

For the next fortnight I will be reading two of Baring's novels. The first, The Coat Without Seam (1929), is the tale of a man who is haunted by the tale of a relic, the seamless robe of Christ, which keeps popping up in his life; the second, In My End Is My Beginning (1931), is a historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots. I'll be quite busy this week and next for a number of reasons, but Baring has a very readable style, so it shouldn't be difficult to do them both.

The Original Blast and Miracle

The Magician is the Man when he seeks to become a God, and, being a usurper, can hardly fail to be a tyrant. Not being the maker, but only the distorter, he twists all things out of their intended shape, and imprisons natural things in unnatural forms. But the Mass is exactly the opposite of a Man seeking to be a God. It is a God seeking to be a Man; it is God giving his creative life to mankind as such, and restoring the original pattern of their manhood; making not gods, nor beasts, nor angels; but, by the original blast and miracle that makes all things new, turning men into men.

G. K. Chesterton, "Magic and Fantasy in Fiction".

Saturday, February 27, 2021

George MacDonald, Phantastes

Introduction

Opening Passage:

I awoke one morning with the usual perplexity of mind which accompanies the return of consciousness. As I lay and looked through the eastern window of my room, a faint streak of peach-colour, dividing a cloud that just rose above the low swell of the horizon, announced the approach of the sun. As my thoughts, which a deep and apparently dreamless sleep had dissolved, began again to assume crystalline forms, the strange events of the foregoing night presented themselves anew to my wondering consciousness. The day before had been my one-and-twentieth birthday. Among other ceremonies investing me with my legal rights, the keys of an old secretary, in which my father had kept his private papers, had been delivered up to me. As soon as I was left alone, I ordered lights in the chamber where the secretary stood, the first lights that had been there for many a year; for, since my father’s death, the room had been left undisturbed. But, as if the darkness had been too long an inmate to be easily expelled, and had dyed with blackness the walls to which, bat-like, it had clung, these tapers served but ill to light up the gloomy hangings, and seemed to throw yet darker shadows into the hollows of the deep-wrought cornice. All the further portions of the room lay shrouded in a mystery whose deepest folds were gathered around the dark oak cabinet which I now approached with a strange mingling of reverence and curiosity....

Summary: It is the day after the twenty-first birthday of Anodos, whose name means 'the way up', although by an appropriate pun you could also read it as 'without way'. He will indeed have to change from being a pun or caricature of himself, aimless and without way, to ascending. In a little cabinet hidden away in a secretary that he inherited from his father, he will find a little woman, who shows him a vision of Fairy Land and promises he will enter it. This indeed happens the next day, when his bedroom becomes a forest.

He soon comes across a little cottage with an old woman and her daughter, who warn him of some of the more obvious dangers of the forest, and in particular the Ash and the Alder, who are malicious trees. After he leaves their cottage, partly ignoring their advice, he has to flee the Ash, and is saved, for the moment, by the Beech, who out of love gives him a special protection to carry with him. He eventually comes across a remarkable bit of marble covered with moss. Cleaning off the moss, he finds that the outer part is soft and also removable, like alabaster, and he scrapes that off, as well, discovering the form of a beautiful maiden. He is inspired to sing to her, and by the power of his song she wakes, but flees him.

Setting out to find her, he comes across a knight in rusty armor, Sir Percival, who warns him of the seductive enchantments of the Maid of the Alder, into whose trap he had fallen and for which reason he will not polish his armor until he has finished a quest. Anodos simply resolves not to be trapped, and continues after his Marble Lady. Soon he finds a white lady who is something like her, but discovers all too quickly that it is the Alder herself, who is working with the Ash. By the wiles of the Alder Maiden, he loses the protection of the Beech, and just narrowly avoids being killed by the Ash. After further adventures, in which he again ignores kindly advice, he enters the cottage of an ogress, and there discovers his Shadow. Now he has a second motivation beside finding the Marble Lady, to get rid of the Shadow, a terrible black shadow which will not disappear even when an ordinary shadow would. It also makes everything that falls into it seem ordinary and plain, as if were not something from Fairy Land. He falls in with a girl who carries a small crystal globe that gives out a beautiful harmony if lightly touched. Out of curiosity, he holds the globe too roughly and it shatters and she separates from him.

Other adventures follow. He comes to a fairy palace, in which there is a library in which reading the books makes you seem like you are living what the book describes, and he reads the story of Sir Cosmo of Prague, who discovers a lady in an enchanted mirror and dies to save her. He discovers that the statues of the palace dance, and only return to their pedestals when he enters the room, and among them he eventually finds the Marble Lady. Singing to her, he frees her again, but again she flees him.

If all of this seems a little random, it is so deliberately; the story is episodic, constructed out of dream-like scenes that have no obvious direct connection. But in Fairy Land, even mere juxtapositions have a deeper connection. All these things will tie together. He will meet the girl with the crystal globe again; he will learn more about Sir Perceval, who will slay the Ash, and Anodos will eventually become his squire. Sir Perceval has a connection to the Marble Lady. And all of these things are thematically bound by the notions of service and knighthood -- 'knighthood' in fact being originally a synonym for 'service'. The Shadow is tied up with Anodos's arrogance, and at one point he even tries to justify it on the grounds that he is above the common mass of people and can see through the enchantments that they take for granted. He repeatedly fails to listen as seriously as he should to the advice of persons of humbler station than he. He thinks that he can avoid the temptation of the Maid of the Alder simply by resolving to do so, failing to consider the significance of the warning of Sir Perceval, who had fallen into her trap despite (as Anodos will later discover) being morally a far superior person to Anodos. His thinking of the Marble Lady as his lady is presumptuous. At one point, he falls in with two brothers and joins with them in saving a kingdom; they both die and he alone survives. He later starts thinking of himself as an equal of Sir Galahad, despite the fact that he already knows that the two brothers who died were far better knights than he.

It can be good to have an Ideal, when it raises you to be higher, but there is a grave danger in it. Pursuing Ideals sometimes tangles us up with our Shadows; we become proud. In such cases, we must learn the lesson of Anodos:

I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal.

We err, wander, when we try to see ourselves in the ideal; the foundation of heroism is not our own fancied greatness but doing hard things humbly and small things well. It is easy to set out to find your Ideal; but the thing that you really must do is lose your Shadow.

C. S. Lewis famously said that Phantastes 'baptized his imagination', which I think is not always fully understood. A baptism is a death. That is the whole point of a baptism. But it is not a mere death; it is a death into a new life. What Lewis found in the work, and which is undeniably there, is Death. Death, not as a monster, not as an end, but as a sweetness that opens up rather than closes down the world. It is easy to see why Lewis, who struggled through much of his early career with a very dark pessimism about the world, would be so affected, so startled, as it were, by an imaginative vision in which Death was good and noble and sweet to the mind. It was not a change of understanding, nor a change of conscience, but quite literally a change of imagination. But much of what we call the world is not a matter of understanding or conscience, but merely a matter of how we imagine things to be. Changing that can change much. Phantastes is a fairy tale; it does not establish, it does not prove, it does not exhort. It does not even really show the world itself in a different way. But it does provide a context for learning a new way of imagining the world. That is not everything, but it is a basis for much else. And that is a lesson we all must learn at some point; we could put it in the words of Novalis in the epitaph to the last chapter: "Our life is not dream, but it ought to become one, and perhaps will."

Favorite Passage:

One peculiarity of these books, or at least most of those I looked into, I must make a somewhat vain attempt to describe.

If, for instance, it was a book of metaphysics I opened, I had scarcely read two pages before I seemed to myself to be pondering over discovered truth, and constructing the intellectual machine whereby to communicate the discovery to my fellow men. With some books, however, of this nature, it seemed rather as if the process was removed yet a great way further back; and I was trying to find the root of a manifestation, the spiritual truth whence a material vision sprang; or to combine two propositions, both apparently true, either at once or in different remembered moods, and to find the point in which their invisibly converging lines would unite in one, revealing a truth higher than either and differing from both; though so far from being opposed to either, that it was that whence each derived its life and power. Or if the book was one of travels, I found myself the traveller. New lands, fresh experiences, novel customs, rose around me. I walked, I discovered, I fought, I suffered, I rejoiced in my success. Was it a history? I was the chief actor therein. I suffered my own blame; I was glad in my own praise. With a fiction it was the same. Mine was the whole story. For I took the place of the character who was most like myself, and his story was mine; until, grown weary with the life of years condensed in an hour, or arrived at my deathbed, or the end of the volume, I would awake, with a sudden bewilderment, to the consciousness of my present life, recognising the walls and roof around me, and finding I joyed or sorrowed only in a book. If the book was a poem, the words disappeared, or took the subordinate position of an accompaniment to the succession of forms and images that rose and vanished with a soundless rhythm, and a hidden rime.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended. 

Doctor of Peace

 Today is the feast of St. Grigor Nerkatsi, Gregory of Narek, Doctor of the Church. From the beginning of his "Litany for the Church and the Ark of the Lord":

Gathered we all in the holy, universal, apostolic church,
we earthlings in circles, sing there in many groups,
praising with the myriads of spiritual beings angelic;
we join the circles of the luminous kind.
We bless the One coming to you,
the Most Holy Trinity, (with whom) we plead.

You who are above the cherubic arch, the watchtower of the four-faced beings,
and are worshiped by the full circle of the angelic kind,
O Triune essence
who willed to establish this rock at the hands of the holy apostles,
an impregnable city by (your) deliberate miracles,
foursquare, in the midst of the universe.
You made her glorious, radiant from the foundations (up),
brilliant, beyond the brilliance of the Ark.
And you adorned her beautifully, befittingly lavish,
the daughter of Sion that is above.
The many groups of singers there
join their voices with the heavenly ones.
We bless the One coming to you,
the Most Holy Trinity, (with whom) we plead.

[The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek, Abraham Terian, ed. and tr., Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN: 2016), pp. 121-122.]

Friday, February 26, 2021

Dashed Off IV

love, grace, fellowship as Trinitarian

We do not have purity from ourselves but are upraised to it.

We know of no love incapable of wrath.

Acts makes clear that the household/family itself is important to the Church.

distinctions and the Trinity:
-- Sabellian
-- -- 1. purely conceptual
-- -- 2. founded conceputal
-- -- 3. modal
-- orthodox
-- -- 4. relative
-- tritheistic
-- -- 5. compositive
-- -- 6. count

categorical vs hypothetical prayer
-- hypothetical includes impetratory, categorical includes adoration

Ps 88:21-22 as a template for canonization of saints (cp. Inveni David)

"The totus christus is christus victor." Barth CD IV/3.1

All of the kinds of cause are implicit in the final cause.

Maimonides' gracious ruse interpretation of sacrificial ritual

an emptiness is blowing like a wind across the plain;
the sorrows fall in torrents in a never-ceasing rain

"In the enjoyment of a great myth we come nearest to experiencing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction." CS Lewis

Arrogance is blind to simple wisdoms.

Gersonides: separate immaterial intelligences as the law, order, and rectitude (equilibrium) of phenomena

"No man is crushed by misfortune unless he has first been deceived by prosperity." Seneca
"Two most beautiful things will follow us wherever we go, universal Nature and our own virtue....All that is of the greatest worth for a man lies outside the power of his fellow men, and can neither be given nor taken away."
"Once virtue has hardened the mind, it renders you invulnerable from every quarter."

A human emotion is as it were on its way to rational thought.

We do not merely eat food; we make of it a meal, and meal-making is social by its nature -- shared recipes, shared techniques, shared cuisine and style. To make a sandwich or a tempura or a curry is to make it with a host of others, participating in something shared.

God, loving us, gives us grace that we might have fellowship with Him.

the major repulsive characterizations: self-absorption, dishonestly, desperation, pushy cheerfulness

Legal bans are always and only bans to the limit of feasibility.

Spinoza is closer to right when one recognizes that substance is related to accident and mode as final cause; the problem, of course, being that Spinoza denies final causes.

final cause
-- of action
-- of form
-- of existence
-- -- as subject of inherence
-- -- as external source of being

Helen vs. Penelope

All saints recapitulate their ancestral Christ.

Liberty cannot be distinguished from usurpation except with respect to common good.

as-it-were-filial piety toward the natural

Wealth requires the building of material traditions (although individual wealth is sometimes, even often, derived from cannibalizing material traditions already built).

the accumulation of deteriorations

Equality is sometimes used as a hostage-shield for undermining support networks that solve genuine problems, while pretending that no alternative solutions need to be provided.

Much of our sense of Northern and Celtic myth is derived from Christians preserving Northern and Celtic myths.

"Divine grace, predestined in Christ to be given to the whole world, is secretly at work in the whole sphere of history, and thus all myths, philosophies, and poetic creations are innately capable of housing within themselves an intimation of divine glory." Balthasar

Professional codes of ethics must be interpreted not as restrictions of rights but as protections of them.

the warning passages in Hebrews: 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29

the end-use problem in education

negation as failure and 'not-necessarily-p implies not-p'

distributive vs collective pantheism

the arm of God in the Magnificat as the Son of God (Rosmini)

Professional ethics are developed individually and refined cooperatively.

"Need is the stimulus to concept, concept to action." Steinbeck

"...a great many people are capable of returning to virtue's path if punishment is waived." Seneca

Homeschooling is the natural matrix of all schooling.

When bishops do not do what is required to purify the Church from within, it always happens that the Church is purified by its enemies from without.

Scripture in text, Scripture in proclamation, Scripture in prayer, Scripture in Church doctrine, Scripture in Church practice

All successful human cooperation, however complex, gets its success from the success of component cooperations constituted by two or three people.

the hyper-LARPing character of almost everything in modern society -- politics, art, religion, science

professional ethics and the demonstrative regress (the ends of the profession qua service serving as a check and means of refinement)

Narrative is the natural language for experimentation -- think of a Faraday memoir. This is suppressed by the Methods format of modern papers, but even there it is not wholly eliminated. Every experiment has a plot, every experiment has a theme, every experiment has characters (the experimenters, the participants, the equipment). Every experiment needs to work narratively as well as abstractly, and it is by thinking through the logic of the narrative that you uncover biases. The convention of this particular 'genre' abhors the deus ex machina.

philosophical field / attention space / system of networks of alliances and oppositions

Politics is a realm of approximations.

"The provisionality of myth must allow itself to be judged by the finality of the Gospel, so taht in this finality the world of myth may attain to its rightful rank and expressive value." Balthasar

natural theology of myth
-- 1. myth as evidence of human tendencies
-- 2. myth as a moral language
-- 3. myth as expression of virtue of religio
revealed theology of myth
-- 1. preparatio evangelica
-- 2. spoiling due to original sin
-- 3. mythmaking as subcreation
-- 4. True Myth

sources of natural religious practice: vow, symbol, experiential association, which together create precedents, which are then mythologized

the light of the Two Trees in Tolkien a depiction of the light of art undivorced from reason

amicable populations vs. political alliances

ethnic vs national uses of flags

Human rights should be upheld, but human rights discourse in partisan politics should be regarded with suspicion, because it is used as a Powerful Justifier, and Powerful Justifiers in partisan politics always need to be regarded cautiously.

As means to the ends of civil society, states have primary (easing and protecting citizen life by preventing interference and impediment), secondary (serving as a forum for negotiation and adjudication), and fallback (stepping in when nothing else can work) functions; state decadence consists in the inversion of the order of these functions, so that fallback functions begin to be treated as primary and primary functions as a sort of safety net for state action rather than civil ends.

the ism vs the istic

If it's an existential crisis, you won't be able to solve it by means of a political party.

"Being as such by itself to the very end 'causes wonder,' behaving as something to be wondered at, something strikign and worthy of wonder." Balthasar

language as kenosis of logos

Levi-Strauss on Father Christmas

Intuitions are not private languages but communicable.

The horror of evil arises from desecration.

the novel as a response to the collapse of the epic
-- this suggests naturally that kinds divide into a few groups
-- -- 1. reclamation: try to find new ways to reclaim epic qualities
-- -- 2. stabilization: try to find a new equilibrium with similar functions to those of epic
-- -- 3. acceleration: try to eliminate epic qualities entirely and replace them with the anti-epic

subcreative fall (art used for domination)

heroisms of the truth, of the good, of the beautiful

conscientious objection & avoiding the profanation of the Image of God

Observation discloses not merely the transient but also the invariant or (relatively) permanent; it implies of suggests something beyond the immediately observed, so that by quite ordinary logical links one observed fact, properly understood, implies other observable facts, and suggests yet other observable facts.

Logic is an instrument of explication.

We can make the same moral claims while expressing different moral sentiments.

To have a meaning is to be a means to a communicative end.

heart-warming as an aesthetic concept

There is a significant, although not absolute, difference between the secure and the insecure working class.

Acts 9: Saul in persecuting the Church persecuted Jesus; this anticipates and grounds the Pauline doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ.

the joy so deep it is almost like sorrow

Luthien, Melian, and Galadriel are all more important and more powerful than their husbands.

Most critical theory that one finds in actual application is elitist in motive and in structure, and is received by academics precisely because it gives them permission to regard with contempt, with dismissal, or with scoffing the masses in their uncritical ignorance.

Societies most often deteriorate through common failings.

"Undoubtedly, the passions need reason. Without it, some would not survive; others cannot be aroused and stimulated sufficiently to produce feelings of wonder." Rosmini

To Show a Heart Grief-Rent

To Keep a True Lent
by Robert Herrick


Is this a fast, to keep
The larder lean?
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour?

No; 'tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat,
And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Great Philosophy

 ...A great philosophy is not a philosophy without reproach. It is a philosophy without fear.

A great philosophy is not a dictée. The greatest is not one that has no flaw.

A great philosophy is not one against which there is nothing to say. It is one that has said something.

And it is even one that had something to say. Even if it could not...[s]ay it.

It is not one that has no defects. It is not one that has no empty places. It is one that has full places.

Charles Péguy, Notes on Bergson and Descartes, Ward, tr., Cascade Books (Eugene, OR: 2019) p. 43.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

For Olden Verse that Smacks of Love and Wine

When I Have Passed Away
by Claude McKay


When I have passed away and am forgotten,
And no one living can recall my face,
When under alien sod my bones lie rotten
With not a tree or stone to mark the place;

Perchance a pensive youth, with passion burning,
For olden verse that smacks of love and wine,
The musty pages of old volumes turning,
May light upon a little song of mine,

And he may softly hum the tune and wonder
Who wrote the verses in the long ago;
Or he may sit him down awhile to ponder
Upon the simple words that touch him so.

James Matthew Wilson has a really nice reflection on Claude McKay at the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship.