Thursday, May 23, 2024

Two New Poem Drafts

 Numa Pompilius

In cool woods he walks with the goddess
as fountains spring forth from her feet
to water the hills and their gardens
with clarity up-leaping and sweet;

beneath the black poplars in courting
they drank from the splendor of love,
not foolish or vicious or carnal
but fitting to heaven above.

The numina in blessing all nodded;
the omens were propitious in name;
the fulgural rites were down-noted
and augural offerings the same.

The Muses all crowned him with laurels
and through him the City they blessed,
but he, though of each Muse a lover,
the Silent One loved far the best,

and she in her turn graces showered,
for in silence all order is born,
whether music or poem or shaping
or the law even gods do not scorn.

Thus he poured forth a river of wisdom
as rust ate the spear and the sword,
and the trumpets of terror and weeping
were replaced by the reasonable word.

Oh, where in this wide world of mayhem
does Egeria walk in the wood?
And where is the dark tumult martial
replaced by the tacitmost good?

And where is the king who builds bridges,
the priest who gives union with God?
And who quiets the clamor of battle
where Numa Pompilius trod?


As though my thoughts were swimming in a pool,
afloat, a-dream, in still refreshment cool,
I lose all time; eternity is flowing down
like gentle waters covering foot and crown.
My body is a breeze, a glimpse of light,
an insubstantial thing, like white on white,
and as I think of worlds and greater still,
I feel the breezes play upon this verdant hill,
and breathe the fresh of spring and see its green,
and on eternity and solid stone relax and lean.

Links of Note

 * Lucia Bissoli, An Organic System Open to Intelligible Reality: The Concept of Method in Antonio Rosmini (PDF)

* The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith recently revised its norms for handling Marian (and other) apparitions; some discussion has made it into the news by Associated Press and (with more specific details) the National Catholic Register. The primary goal seems to have been to insulate bishops from the more kinds of controversy that might require the Holy See to step in; the primary effect seems to be a sharp restriction on how far bishops can go in declaring apparitions genuine.

* Finnur Dellsén, Tina Firing, Insa Lawler & James Norton, What Is Philosophical Progress? (PDF)

* Tiago Rama, The Phylogeny Fallacy and Teleosemantics: Types, Tokens, and the Explanatory Gap in the Naturalization of Intentionality (PDF)

* Valerie Stivers, Stay in My Heart, at "First Things", discusses Kristin Lavransdottir.

* Robert Howton, Reduction and Revelation in Aristotle's Science of Sensible Quantities (PDF)

* Zili Dong, Wright's path analysis: Causal inference in the early twentieth century (PDF)

* Richard Beck, God Belongs to No Genus, at "Experimental Theology"

* Daniel Layman, Sufficiency and freedom in Locke's theory of property (PDF)

* Claus A. Andersen, Scientia formalitatum: The Emergence of a New Discipline in the Renaissance (PDF)

* Peter Cajka, Managing the Sexual Revolution, Catholic Style: Towards an Intellectual History, at the "JHI Blog"

* A second miracle has been attributed to Blessed Carlo Acutis, thus making him eligible to be canonized as the first Millenial saint; the canonization ceremony has not yet been scheduled. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

How Great Is the Work to Be Done

 The School Teacher
by James Breckenridge 

 Toil, Teacher, toil,
How great is the work to be done!
Toil, Teacher, toil,
Thy labour is only begun. 

 Toil, Teacher, toil,
The twig is entrusted to thee;
Try, teacher, try,
To make it a beautiful tree. 

 Toil, teacher, toil,
The charge of young spirits is thine;
Watch, teacher, watch,
And mar not the essence divine. 

 Toil, teacher, toil,
We wish you a hearty God speed;
Work, teacher, work,
For that is the way to succeed. 

Toil, teacher, toil,
Thine is a noble employ;
Strive, teacher, strive,
To make it thy glory and joy. 

 Toil, teacher, toil,
Let thy soul and thy purpose be strong;
Bear, teacher, bear,
With slander, injustice, and wrong.

Toil, teacher, toil,
Mid clouds by the hurricane riven;
Bold, teacher, bold,
Fear only thy Master in heaven. 

 Toil, teacher, toil,
Though tempted, tormented, and cross'd;
Stand, teacher, stand,
Like a patriot firm at thy post. 

 Toil, teacher, toil,
Encourage the generous youth;
Guide, teacher, guide,
The soul that is grasping for truth. 

 Toil, teacher, toil,
Let the soul of a hero be thine;
Have, only have
 A lofty, a noble design. 

 Toil, teacher, toil,
A power thou possessest for good;
On, teacher, on,
And wield it aright for thy God!

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Success in College

 Students often struggle in college -- it is certainly the case that many students arrive in college unprepared. But having reflected on the last several years (in which this problem has been particularly apparent), it's clear that the difficulties students are having have nothing to do with ability to handle the material. So what is preventing most students from doing well in college? In my experience, many problems, not all but surprisingly many, would be resolved if students were better at dealing with three things.

(1) Percentages. To someone who has never experienced it, it is difficult to convey how exhausting it is to have to explain, to yet another student, and sometimes multiple times, that an assignment worth 25% of the final grade is more important than an assignment worth 5%. I once had a student who sheepishly told him that he almost dropped the class after doing badly on an assignment until his girlfriend, who I think was a math major, insisted that they sit down first and see exactly how badly he was doing in the class, after which she turned to him and said, "Idiot! You were going to drop the class because you currently have a B+ in it!" This problem has only grown worse over the years. In a sense, it's not merely a matter of percentages; it's a matter of priorities, which just often happen to be percentage-related due to the make-up of the final grade. Students do better who develop habits of worrying about what is more worth worrying about, and worrying less about what is less worthy of worry.

(2) Citations. I get many students who simply do not understand how to do basic citations. They will sometimes not know at all how to do footnotes or endnotes; they will often incorrectly think that they have cited a source if they have just listed it in the bibliography; and (more understandably, but still common) they will think they only need to cite if they directly quote. Every college student should have at least basic familiarity with at least one major citation format -- it doesn't matter which. If you have a professor who is a stickler for citation format, you can easily adapt to their requirements, if you already know the basics of at least one format; if you have a professor who is fairly easygoing about citations, any one will do. Citation not only is used for giving credit to sources, it is also a form of evidence (they contribute to showing that your claims about a source have a foundation in the text), and it (at present, at least) provides evidence that you did the work yourself. Citation is not an end-all or be-all; it is a means, and not an end itself; how important it is varies considerably. But many students would do much better on some important assignments if their citation practice were even a little better.

(3) Deadlines. One of the very noticeable things these days is that many students lack any habits for dealing with deadlines. Indeed, it seems custom has tipped the opposite way -- they have developed the assumption that all deadlines are negotiable. In college this is still not so. Instructors may be more or less strict about due dates for particular assignments, but they certainly have their own deadlines for their courses (which is sometimes a reason why they are strict about particular due dates), and some of these deadlines have legal weight. Constantly having to grade straggling papers significantly increases the burden of a course for an instructor -- in providing feedback, in being timely in grading, in keeping track of assignments, and more. Instructors like myself may be willing to bear some of that increased burden, but there is a point beyond which it becomes simply unmanageable, and as more and more students try to get extensions or turn in late assignments for increasingly less serious reasons, a stricter policy becomes more and more attractive. One of the reasons to worry about a more generous policy here is that an increasing number of students lag farther and farther behind as the course continues, until they completely crash and burn. And, of course, as life always runs out of a time, a course always runs out of time; one advantage of a course over life in general, is that you know beforehand when the course is going to end. Everyone procrastinates on some things; but we are not even talking about procrastination here. We're talking about recognizing deadlines as deadlines and treating them as such. Cramming is less than ideal, but it has the great benefit of taking deadlines seriously; many students are so bad at the latter that they would do better even if all they were doing was more cramming.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Evening Note for Monday, May 20

 Thought for the Evening: Forms of Music Listening

I was recently at a concert and began thinking about different ways of listening to music. Obviously, there are many ways to listen to music, but I think at least most of them fall into three families: immersive, associative, and analytical listening.

(1) Immersive:  Immersive listening is a kind of listening in which we are in some sense within the world of the music itself, our mind flowing and bouncing with it. That is, there is a character to immersive listening that makes it internal to the music; we are simply hearing and following along with the whole movement of the music. The rest of the world fluctuates in and out of this awareness. In some sense, this is the most obvious form of music listening, but I think it's also far from the most common; we have to be in the right mood and prepared for it. 

(2) Associative: Associative listening is in many ways the opposite of immersive listening. The music is an occasion and inspiration for thoughts other than the music itself. The music reminds us of things, it suggests events and possibilities distinct from the music itself -- perhaps, for instance, the kind of situation or story to which such music would be appropriate. The connections, whether by memory or imagination, whether by prior association or by resemblance or by considering the music as a cause or model, can be very tight or very loose. In this kind of listening, the associations are more front-and-center; the music itself is there, integrally, but the details of it tend to fluctuate in and out of our awareness depending on how caught up we are in the associations. This is probably the most common way to listen to music, although I think it has many different subspecies.

(3) Analytical: Analytical listening requires a background familiarity with music; however, it doesn't strictly require expertise, or even a significant quantity of music theory or musical talent. It does require an ability to break down the music, and look at it not in terms of any external associations, or in terms of how it affects us as a whole, but in terms of how its parts fit together into a whole, and its whole fits as a part into a larger context. It is thus not purely 'internal' or 'external'; it requires a closer participation than many kinds of associative listening, but also more distance than we find in immersive listening. We are not simply following along with the music; we are thinking it through, and our thought about how it fits together may deviate quite considerably from the musical narrative or flow.

In reality, most music listening probably has at least a touch of all three, and in the same piece we might weave in and out of the three in different ways, depending on what the music is, how the music holds our interest, how long we are listening to it, whether anything else with which the music is associated attracts our attention, and so forth. In addition, our intention in listening to music may affect what kind of listening we do, as well; listening is in this sense a little like belief -- we do not have perfect control over what we hear, because part of it is just immediate response, but experience shows that we do in fact have quite a bit of control over it in the sense of being able to make it more probable that it goes one way rather than another.

There seem clearly to be analogues of these three families in reading, looking at paintings in a museum, movie watching, and so forth, this seems to capture a stable pattern in aesthetic experience in general.

Various Links of Interest

* Samuel Hughes, The beauty of concrete, at "Works in Progress", on the question of why we tend to minimize ornamentation in the modern world.

* Jacopo Pallagrossi & Bruno Cortesi, The Stalemate Between Causal and Constitutive Accounts of Introspective Knowledge (PDF)

* Kexin Yu, Unpacking the City-Soul Analogy (PDF)

* John de Graaf, Toward a Politics of Beauty, at "Front Porch Republic"

* Scott R. Stroud, How America's Philosopher of Democracy Influenced India's Leading Caste Reformer, at "New Lines Magazine", on John Dewey and Bhimrao Ambedkar.

* Tuomas Tahko, Natural Kind Essentialism (PDF)

* Thomas Perrine, Methodological worries for Humean arguments from evil (PDF)

* Philip Gonzales, On the Gratitude of Thinking: A Note on Jean-Luis Chretien, at "Church Life Journal"

Currently Reading

Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Eusebius, The Church History
Waltraud Herbstrith, Edith Stein: A Biography

In Audiobook

Agatha Christie, The Seven Dials Mystery
Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance
Diana Wynne Jones, Fire and Hemlock
Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Lord of Derkholm

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Fortnightly Book, May 19

St. Beda was born in the vicinity of the monastery of Monkwearmouth, sometime in the 670s. He studied at Monkwearmouth under the abbot St. Benedict Biscop, but soon after St. Ceolfrith established Monkwearmouth's sister monastery of Jarrow in 682, transferred there for his studies and remained there as a monk. He was ordained a deacon at about the age of 19 (which was unusually young), and became a priest about 702. He died May 26, 735, which happened to be both Ascension Thursday and the feast day of St. Augustine of Canterbury, one of the key saints on the English calendar. He began to be called 'The Venerable Bede' very early on, although the 'Venerable' here does not seem to have had anything to do with the canonization process. In fact, according to legend, the title was given to him by an angel; a monk was carving a Latin inscription for his tomb, and, not being very bright, was stymied at not being able to find a word to describe him that fit the meter and space. He fell asleep, and when he awoke, he found the word venerabilis carved perfectly into the space. Whatever the source, it became universal very quickly.

He wrote quite a few works, including works on the calendar, works of Scriptural commentary, and works of hagiography, but his most famous work is the work for which all these other works prepared him: Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, in English, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which has held its position as a classic ever since. The Ecclesiastical History was written about 731, when he was nearing sixty years of age. The overall approach is usually thought to be influenced by the Biblical book of Acts and by the History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, and the basic framework is usually thought to have been provided by Gildas's De excidio et conquestu Britanniae, the anonymous Liber beatae Gregorii papae, and Stephen of Ripon's Vita sancti Wilfrithi, but Beda was not a slavish follower of any of the three works; he draws heavily on many other sources, including oral tradition and his own informal investigations as he corresponded with various abbots and monks, traveled to various monasteries, and met various monastic travelers at Jarrow. It is as much what has gone into the book as the book itself that has led to St. Beda being regarded as patron saint of historians and the Father of English History.

For the fortnightly book I will be reading Ecclesiastical History of the English People in the Penguin edition, translated by Leo Sherley-Price and revised by R. E. Latham; it comes with Bede's Letter to Egbert and Cuthbert's Letter on the Death of Bede, translated by D. H. Farmer.

Only the Act Continued Everywhere

 Only the Act continued everywhere. The phrase of the New Testament -- 'He was known of them in the breaking of bread' -- remained true and became more widely true, although the knowledge was not intellectually epigrammatized. The relation of the elements to the Sacred Body was called sometimes identity, sometimes figure or symbol. But neither figure nor symbol implied separation; each word implied an interior closeness which they have perhaps with us lost. The Act was priestly, by Christ and for Christ; the mysterious sacrifice was of Christ; and Christ in it was the food of man. The sacrifice was offered not only on earth but in the heights of the heavens. He offered, who was the offering, and there was as yet no controversy in the Church.

[Charles Williams, The Figure of Arthur, in C. S. Lewis, ed., Arthurian Torso: Containing the Posthumous Fragment of the Figure of Arthur, Oxford University Press (Oxford: 1948) p. 14.]