Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Abyss & Sea 2

An invitation from the High King was not a minor thing, so Disan left the day after having received it. "The sooner to be back with you," he said to the somewhat exasperated Baia.

"If you continue your pattern of always being away, I'll have to kidnap you and hide you in the turnip cellar," she said.

"Believe me when I say that I would be happy to be in your turnip cellar," Disan replied.

But off he went, and as she watched the sails grow smaller, she sighed and said to herself, "This is the punishment for loving a king rather than a carpenter." She visited the market in Soromir, but her heart was not in it, and she soon returned to the castle. There she called the chamberlain, Sosan.

"I need to get out of this castle," she said. "Make arrangements for a Queen's Circuit to Mainland Sorea."

A Queen's Circuit, or, as it is called more formally, the Court of the Queen in Visitation, was rare because it was always a massive undertaking. That was, indeed, part of the reason Baia had called for one, since it would provide endless distraction while Disan was away. The King and the Queen are the heart of the realm, which is why the Tablets dictated that at least one should always be in any kingdom, and government is accomplished where they are. When the Queen sits in Residence, everyone must come to her for aid and justice. When she rides in Visitation, she goes throughout the kingdom to hear pleas and cases. By Sorean custom, the stationary and the moving court, the ordinary and the extraordinary, worked in different ways, being partially distinct in law and ceremony and wholly distinct in judicial practice. Appointments would have to be made, guards selected, messages sent out to prepare the people, traveling arrangements planned out, supplies inventoried for the journey. It was a week before they set out, and even getting through the preparations that swiftly was only due to Sosan pressing for it every waking moment.

But the busy week mostly kept her mind off the fact that Disan was away, except at night when there were too few distractions. She would toss and turn until she fell into troubled sleep. She would occasionally have nightmares, like nightmares she sometimes had when he had previously been away, of Disan drowning in the sea as ships cracked and broke apart as if they were made of matchsticks and sank beneath the waves. Then she would wake with a start, and a sort of relief, because, as a Sorean and as the daughter of a shipbuilder, she knew that Sorean ships were impossible to sink. But in the nightmare, the impossible felt real, as if the whole world had broken.

Traveling was less busy, in part because travel with an entire Court in retinue is one of the slowest imaginable ways to travel. But the sun was bright and the skies were clear. The spring breeze was bobbing around the legs and under the bellies of the horses, gleefully flapping every banner it could find. In a day and a half they had cross the Isle of Sorea, and then took another day to ferry across the channel to the mainland part of the kingdom. Once there, Baia became tangled up in the endless tedium of royalty. They would move to a sizable village. It would take much of a day to set things up, during which Baia had to meet with the headman and the council and be feasted; the food for the feasts was usually plain but always plentiful, and she had to taste everything and pronounce it good lest some cook somewhere be slighted. They would give her gifts, and she would distribute largesse with a will, having given instructions that the value of all of their gifts to her were to be estimated so that she could give them more, leaving no village poorer for having had her as guest. As the gifts were often skillfully crafted works of the highest quality, it was sometimes difficult to outpace the generosity of the villages. A steady stream of couriers and supplies had to flow between Soromir and the Visitation camp.

After everything had been set up, each day was much the same. Part of the day was hearing pleas and cases, ranging from trivial matters to old disputes turning on arcane matters of law, and part of the day was entertainment, both the Court entertaining the villagers and the villagers entertaining the Court. Baia found both parts of the day dull, but, she thought, at least she was away from the castle.

A few things did occur, however, that were very different from the ordinary, tedious work of royalty. At one point in the Circuit, about a week into it, the Court stopped not at a village but at an estate. As receiving the hospitality of a wealthy landowner is less time-intensive than receiving the hospitality of a village, and as cases were fewer, Baia decided to spend most of a day visiting nearby farms. It got her away from most of the Court, since she only took Sosan and a light guard of four men.

About an hour out, it became clear that there was a problem with the shoe on Baia's horse. Sosan sent one of the guards back to the estate to bring a replacement horse, but everyone else headed toward a farmhouse visible in the distance.

Usually it was not difficult to find the people on these small farms; there was usually someone at home doing the chores, and often quite a few. But it was quiet as they approached. Eerily quiet. Not only did there seem to be no people around, there seemed to be no animals, either, at least around the house. The house showed signs of recent repair and improvement, however; empty, it did not seem to be vacated, either. Baia knocked on the door, but the door swung open easily, and they were hit with a terrible stench. Sosan signaled two of the guards to go around to see what they could find around the back of the house, one on each side, and he and the remaining guard drew their swords.

"If Your Highness will please stand back and wait for us to determine that there is no threat," he said, as they entered.

Baia went down the steps and looked around, and saw something in the bushes. A few steps more and it was clear: some kind of dog.

"Hello, little one," she said. "What has happened here?"

The dog in the bushes said nothing. There was a little rustle, and it became clear that there were two dogs in the bushes. A third came out from behind a shed, and Baia slowly backed toward the house, because it was clear that they were not dogs at all, but wolves.

"Do you uphold the pacts and the covenants?" she asked.

The wolves said nothing, but the two in the bushes crawled out, looking at her with a hot hostility, and the third approached from the other side.

Slowly, trying not to make any sudden movements, Baia drew her dagger from her belt. "Do you uphold the pact and the covenants?" she asked it.

"I uphold them, O Queen," the blade said in a voice of steel that sliced through the air.

"Then be flame for me," she said, pointing it at the nearest wolf.

The edge of the blade flickered, as if it were glinting in the sunlight, and then the whole dagger blazed into fire, a leaping flame, yellow-red with the steel at the heart glowing white-hot. As the wolves paused, she waved the brand at them and called out for Sosan. Sosan appeared almost immediately with the guard who had gone into the house with him, and another of the guards came running from around the side of the house.

Now outnumbered, and facing fire, the wolves backed away. But there was some kind of madness in their eyes and they did not flee. They backed away slowly, growling, and then suddenly attacked. One yelped as Baia's flame blade hit its nose, and the second died on Sosan's blade immediately, thrust with precision through its maw; the third was dispatched soon afterward, and the first, with the singed nose, turned and fled.

"Be still," said Baia to her dagger, and it the flame died, the white-hot steel becoming cherry-red, and it began slowly to cool down to its normal color. "They were feral, or rabid," she said, half wonderingly.

"I have never heard of any behavior like it," said Sosan. He shook his head. "Nor are they the only strange thing. There are three people dead in the house."

"And another in the pigsty," said the guard who had come around the side. "With the pigs all torn to pieces."

The remaining guard returned. "There is a dog that has had its throat torn out," he said.

"Let me see it all," said Baia, "starting with the house."


Although Disan as well as Baia was traveling, he had much less work to do. Soreans make no distinction between royal flagships and royal castles, so whereas Baia had to switch from Court in Residence to Court in Visitation, Disan did not; he remained in Residence, just on a ship rather than in a castle, and with a change from Court to Small Court. The Small Court consisted of the king with his selected advisors and guards, to which were added the captain and crew of the ship, with the captain having the temporary status of chamberlain. It was an elegant and efficient system, and perhaps all the better for the fact that it always led to commoners suddenly ascending on high to become temporary courtiers simply for being boatswains or quartermasters. It was not entirely unheard-of for temporary to become permanent; the Soreans, who held that the life at sea was a noble one, saw nothing inappropriate in a rough sailor, if intelligent enough, becoming advisor to a king. Other kingdoms took it as yet another sign that Soreans were unpolished and provincial, the sophistication of the Sorean Court hardly more than you would expect from a surprisingly wealthy village council.

The duties of a king on a ship are far from elaborate, but Sorean ships are very swift, so hardly more than four days had passed before the ship turned from coastal sea into the Great Canal. While the Great Canal was wide and deep, and its artificial banks, unlike those of a navigable river, perfectly straight and predictable, sailing it was necessarily slower than sailing the sea, in part because of the greater traffic. It was a quiet and uneventful journey, and they reached Talamir in three days.

The voyage gave Disan time to consider a great many things, and his mind often returned to something that had happened when he had been overseas, about which no one except Baia and himself knew.

Disan and his men had been supporting the Chipou tribes with which Sorea regularly traded against tribes further inland that had begun to loot and pillage on Chipou lands. It had been a long and grueling campaign. The marauding tribes were no match for the vastly superior armament of the Soreans, but they had very little unified structure, and it seemed as if every time one gang of bandits would be put down, a warlord would arise, and when he was put down, a minor invasion would begin elsewhere. The marauders tended to avoid straight battle, and more than a few times the Soreans had been forced to fight their way out of an ambush. It could all have gone much worse than it did, but fortunately, Soreans are very adaptable, and they learned very quickly; they soon began returning the favor.

The battle that broke out after one such Sorean ambush had been quite intense; the ambushed group had been nearly three times as large as scouts had thought, due to several different groups unexpectedly coming together. The battle had quickly spread to nearby woods, and there was considerable confusion as the enervating and camouflaging mists called up by the Sorean chanters drifted across the expanding battlefield, reducing visibility. In the air one could hear cries of fear and the groans of dying men. Disan, chasing down one of the marauders in the heat of the fight, had unwisely let himself be separated from his guard. The marauder went down easily before his sword, but only then did he realize that he had no clear notion of where his men were. Castigating himself for having lost his head, he cocked his head in an attempt to find the direction of the fight, but everything had gone strangely silent. There were no sounds of battle. There were no birds in the trees. A steady breeze blew past, but entirely silently. All that he could hear was his own breathing and the beating of his heart. He wiped his sword on the grass and attempted to retrace his steps.

A fog was drifing through the trees, but it was an ordinary fog, not a chanter's mist; it shrouded the mossy branches and slowly wet the stones. The silence grew thicker still, and suddenly Disan had come into a glade. In the midst of it was a stone building, but it was not in the style of the Chipou, nor any other marginal tribe or clan in the realm of barbarians. It was like a shrine in the full style of the Great Realm, except he could not tell to what Power it was dedicated. Its door stood open, wide and black. A light, whispering breeze blew from the door, and it whispered, softly but clearly: "Disan, King of Sorea."

He stood before the door, uncertain what to do. The breeze whispered again, "Disan, King of Sorea." He looked back across the glade, but it was untraversable, covered with rosebushes growing up to a man's chest. The roses were larger than any Disan had ever seen, larger than the finest prize blooms of the Great Realm, more red than blood, and the thorns on the vines were as long as a man's thumb.

Torches on each side of the door burst into flame. The breeze whispered a third time: "Disan, King of Sorea."

Gripping his sword, Disan had taken a deep breath and entered. As he stood on the deck now, looking at the Porphyry Mountain rising above the walls of Talamir, he brooded over what he had found there, and wondered what his best course of action would be.

Talamir was the greatest of cities. It was constructed in seven great walled rings, the outermost wall of which seemed to go on forever to both sides as you approached it. It gleamed brightly in the sun, for although the wall was stone, it was plated with splendid and beautiful orikhalh. The orikhalh plates were very thin, like gold foil, but they were as strong as steel plates several times thicker would be. It had taken many centuries even for the Great Realm to sheath its walls with that most royal of metals, and nowhere else in the world could you possibly find such a thing, because orikhalh itself can be found nowhere else.

The area within each ring, until the central one, was split into two. The area closest to the outer wall was navigable canal; the area near the inner wall was land, except for at the large canal gates, and filled with houses and palaces and marketplaces. Further and further in they went, until they came to the final wall, which had only a small strip of land and many piers. Disan, his advisers, and his guards traveled on land from there to the final gate, the only land-gate in the city, and entered the circle that formed the heart of Talamir and of all the Great Realm. There were no houses, no markets, just, near the gate, the Oracle of the Sun, and beyond that, just a road across a plain, for the most part very gently rising, leading to the Porphyry Mountain, the greatest of all human palaces that ever have been or ever shall be.

The Porphyry Mountain's name was not a lie. It was the highest summit east of the Khalad Mountains, not large as mountains go, but certainly higher than even a high hill. Walls and towers began around its base, then rose all the way up its slope, on every side, as if it were somehow one large, ever-rising fortress, up to the Pinnacle Towers clustered at the peak. But all of this was only the outer shell of the palace; most of it was inside the mountain itself, hollowed out by arts we no longer know. As it was a true neyat, larger within than without, and had been expanded in nearly every generation for a thousand years, nobody knew how large it was inside, or how many rooms it held. Perhaps there was no definite answer. The Khalkythra Palace, which consisted of the royal apartments and the main rooms of state from which the Great Realm was governed, had several thousand rooms; but it was only a small part of the whole. To know the Porphyry Mountain is to know that you are small in comparison with the glory of the Great Realm.

But it was like a second home to Disan, who as a child had often been sent there during the summers to keep company with his fourth cousin, the young Prince of Tala, who was now High King. The human mind can grow accustomed to the most sublime things: the depths of the ocean, the stars of the sky, the Porphyry Mountain. As Disan approached, he did not feel awe or amazement, but only nostalgia and the pensive melancholy of memory.

Monday, November 19, 2018

I Saw No More the Joyous Waves

The Minute-Guns
by Celia Thaxter

I stood within the little cove,
Full of the morning's life and hope,
While heavily the eager waves
Charged thundering up the rocky slope.

The splendid breakers! How they rushed,
All emerald green and flashing white,
Tumultuous in the morning sun,
With cheer and sparkle and delight!

And freshly blew the fragrant wind,
The wild sea wind, across their tops,
And caught the spray and flung it far
In sweeping showers of glittering drops.

Within the cove all flashed and foamed
With many a fleeting rainbow hue;
Without, gleamed bright against the sky,
A tender wavering line of blue,

Where tossed the distant waves, and far
Shone silver-white a quiet sail;
And overhead the soaring gulls
With graceful pinions stemmed the gale.

And all my pulses thrilled with joy,
Watching the winds' and waters' strife,
With sudden rapture, — and I cried,
"O sweet is Life! Thank God for life!"

Sailed any cloud across the sky,
Marring this glory of the sun's?
Over the sea, from distant forts,
There came the boom of minute-guns!

War-tidings! Many a brave soul fled,
And many a heart the message stuns!
I saw no more the joyous waves,
I only heard the minute-guns.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lay Authority

As the USCCB has looked at various options for correcting the failings that have led to the ongoing scandal, I've been interested in how resistant certain sectors of the Church are to options that involve a major role for laity -- lay investigative boards, and the like. The complaint is usually that such things are 'inconsistent with the structure of the Church'. I suppose it depends on what you mean, because the current structure of the Church, with respect to the laity, is anomalous. We have been living for a while in a period in which the laity have less effective authority than they usually have.

Historically, the Church has usually found itself in one of two regimes.

Regime #1: Christians are either persecuted or marginal. In such a case, the authority of bishops depends crucially on the assistance of the laity; the bishops can do nothing without constant lay help, and while the bishops generally provide guidance, the laity in practice have a voice in everything. Practical necessity gives the laity a considerable amount of power across the board.

Regime #2: A Christian state. Christians are relatively in power and thus able to establish the hierarchy in its own right; a symbiosis develops between secular authorities who recognize the rights and privileges of the Church as the Church recognizes the rights and privileges of the secular authorities, and there is mutually recognized overlap. A Christian king has a limited but very real spiritual responsibility for his Christian subjects, and this is explicitly recognized by the Church. If common laity have a problem with bishops, they can appeal to the magistrates and ultimately to the king and emperor. They also have some scope of action on their own if the magistrates are on their side. It's a tricky and complicated system in which laity in general may or may not have significant power depending on circumstances, and can have many points at which to go wrong, but it has a clear and formally recognized lay authority, and what is more, it is ecclesially recognized lay authority with considerably magnified leverage.

We are unusual in that we have been living under neither of these regimes. Because most people in the West live in societies that were Regime #2 but have been de-Christianized, or in societies derived from societies like that, the bishops continue to act as if they have the kind of relative independence they tend to have under Regime #2, so that the laity usually lack the effective power they have under Regime #1, but there are no Christian emperors or kings or even magistrates of the sort that Regime #2 involves, so the laity lack the kind of effective power they would usually have under Regime #2. The kinds of reforms bishops have tended to favor are reforms that have strengthened this; while they say they are putting forward reforms more suitable to democratic societies and an active laity, it's active compliance that they mean, and the particular reforms 'more suitable to democratic societies' are nearly without fail reforms that reduce the actual power the laity have. (A small example: St. Paul VI sharply reduced the role of the Black Nobility in the work of the Holy See; the immediate result of this was that a significant number of laity were removed from having any direct influence over that work. Nothing was ever put in its place to compensate for this. This is a recurring pattern.) Whether reforms are necessary is not the point here; the point is that even faced with real needs for reforms, the bishops have consistently tended to prefer reforms that reduce the say of laypersons in how bishops operate.

It's sometimes said that the problems we have are problems that come from bishops trying to protect their authority. This is arguably true, but also misleading. It makes it sound as if bishops are protecting their authority over people; but this is not true. What authority of this sort do most bishops really have? What effective authority does Cardinal Cupich (e.g.) have over Catholics in his Archdiocese? He can terrorize some clergy, and maybe diocesan staff, but that's about it; most of the Catholic population 'under' his authority just proceed as they would if he didn't exist, indeed, as they would if no bishop at all existed. When bishops protect their authority, what they are protecting is not power over the laity so much as independence from the laity. (Ironically, I think the latter, outside Regime #2 makes the bishops increasingly ineffective.) That they should have some is indisputable; that they should have as much as they'd like given that we don't live in Regime #2 is doubtful; that they should have anything like the relatively free rein that they have had seems to many to be refuted by recent events.

It does seem that our situation, of a relatively educated and (in other aspects of life) active lay population with very little ability to hold their bishops accountable to faith and morals, is not sustainable. Such a laity is used to being heard, even in areas in which they are not obeyed; they are used to putting their weight behind systems in which they are actually allowed some kind of serious participation. And they will inevitably be frustrated and distressed at anything that looks like their concerns are being treated as relatively unimportant. By 'inevitably' I mean in part that it is futile to complain about it if you don't like it, and futile to think that it will go away if you just ignore it, because it falls directly out of the structure in which we find ourselves. And it's important to see that there is nothing irrational or selfish about it: the laity have usually had something like the direct leverage some are rightly complaining they don't have now.

How exactly to remedy the problem is another question. In our day and age, standing lay boards run the risk of capture by various agendas and activisms (one sees this over and over again with schools); something more like temporary ecclesial grand juries would seem ideal for many particular problems, but the organizational requirements for making this a systematic answer are arguably not in our reach; the actual roles for laity that bishops tend to prefer are purely advisory, and what is more, purely advisory confirmations of what the bishops themselves want to do. In any situation, the authority the bishops need to uphold the sacraments and the gospel would need to be maintained. The route we currently seem to be racing down, of the laity appealing to purely secular state authorities, is a disaster waiting to happen, since it will inevitably be highjacked at some point by those who have no concern whatsoever for Catholic faith and morals, and no respect for them, either. Likewise, laypersons 'voting with their feet' and withholding funds, which seems another option people are trying to take, is arguably neither very effective nor very sustainable, and also arguably creates perverse incentives (it is rarely the most rational groups that are most effective in using this strategy). But people who try to dismiss some change along these lines out of hand, rather than addressing specific proposals on specific merits, seem to me to be in every case play-pretending that we live in Regime #1 or Regime #2 as regards lay authority, rather than in an unusual and artificial minimum of direct lay authority that will inevitably have to change in some way.

Voyages Extraordinaires #13: Le Chancellor

Charleston, September 27th, 1869.—It is high tide, and three o’clock in the afternoon when we leave the Battery-quay; the ebb carries us off shore, and as Captain Huntly has hoisted both main and top sails, the northerly breeze drives the “Chancellor” briskly across the bay. Fort Sumter ere long is doubled, the sweeping batteries of the mainland on our left are soon passed, and by four o’clock the rapid current of the ebbing tide has carried us through the harbour-mouth.

But as yet we have not reached the open sea; we have still to thread our way through the narrow channels which the surge has hollowed out amongst the sand-banks. The captain takes a south-west course, rounding the lighthouse at the corner of the fort; the sails are closely trimmed; the last sandy point is safely coasted, and at length, at seven o’clock in the evening; we are out free upon the wide Atlantic.

The Chancellor, also known in English as The Survivors of the Chancellor, is not widely read in English, but it has always had a good critical reputation as one of the great novels about disaster at sea. J. R. Kazallon, whose diary we follow, is in South Carolina and heading home to Britain. He could go to New York or New Orleans to catch a steamship, but walking by the quays, he decides instead to take a sailing ship -- The Chancellor, a British ship heading home with 1700 bales of cotton in its hold. It will turn out to be an unfortunate notion. While it's a rare occurrence, cotton can spontaneously combust if conditions are right, and one of the other passengers turns out to have illegally been smuggling potentially explosive picrate of potash. What is worse, the captain seems to be suffering from a mental illness and has decided to take them off the usual route. Disaster after disaster will strike; a ship with thirty-two people on it becomes a raft with fewer and fewer people, on the verge of death, running out of food, running out of water, despairing of rescue, going mad. In such a situation, can any human being avoid being reduced to a beast?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Friday, November 16, 2018

Dashed Off XXVII

(1) by formal difference (genus to species)
(2) by matter (species to individuals)
(3) by participation (exemplar to examples)

ontological argument and the real composition of essence and esse
that there could only be one being whose essence is actually to be + many beings -> composition of esse and essentia
(NB if this reasoning can be made, it establishes composition without assuming existence of a being whose essence is actually to be)

It is foolish to try to purge religion of the difficult and the tedious, and equally foolish to try to confine it to such.

"to act without any principles is to live by chance" Mary Astell

It is a widely recognized practical principle to do by substitute what cannot be done by the thing itself.

That none may serve as slaves, some must serve freely.

"Gnosis without praxis is the theology of demons." Maximus Confessor

The Maronite liturgy for the assumption especially emphasizes the gathering of the apostles around the Virgin.

We improve our practice by remotion (eliminating discovered errors and fault), intensification (increasing good we've discovered), and assent (finding higher unifying goods).

All the power of law to be obeyed lies in habit.

When people do not respect a freedom in their own activities, the result is always a government that actively tramples on it.

The Fifth Amendment establishes grand juries as part of the judicial checks and balances; this is an obvious point, but it is often overlooked in discussing constitutional checks and balances.

If actual liberalism were always describable by the North Star slogan -- "Right is of no sex, Truth is of no color, God is the Father of all, and we are all brethren" -- it would always be a splendid thing. It is this that holds the full appeal of liberalism as a vision of society. But in every society, high sentiments are used as cover for base graspings, and what we get in contemporary liberalism is too often an elaborate set of political power plays masquerading as morality. A liberal society cannot become just a wax nose for some agenda and still fall under the idea that made it attractive in the first place.

In drifting from Right, Truth, and God, modern liberalism becomes a politics of making things up as one goes along. This often has the brilliance of improvisation to it, and new and clever things are sometimes discovered, answers formed to new situations. But it is a role-playing game in which the rules are just whatever others can be convinced (by sweet words or by insults) to allow. Every good thing will be sold off tomorrow to satisfy some group's whim, the moment feelings tip their way.

Bellarmine puts an emphasis on membership in the Church by desire -- catechisms and excommunicates are in the Church by desire rather than properly.

A people without heroes cannot often be heroic.

The structure of rationalization is the same as that of hypothesis formation.

Fiction by its nature presupposes what is not fictional.

cosmological arguments based on the impossibility of
(1) actual infinite
(2) infinite regress
(3) dependency without an independent
(obv. there are overlapping cases)

It seems clear from the Short Treatise that Spinoza developed his views partly in opposition to a (broadly) Thomistic natural philosophy.

Duty speaks most loudly when it is partly echoed by need.

For every propose semiotics, ask, "What theory of evidence does this suggest?"

Human life needs not only forgiveness but a system of forgiveness.

Equality cannot adequately substitute for reciprocity -- it lacks the latter's capacity to accommodate difference.

All citizens are part of the public sphere by virtue of being citizens; this is just what the public sphere is for a citizenry, the domain established by the union of citizens qua citizens.

the cycle of system and rhapsody in the historical development of philosophical ideas

Christianity evangelizes and expands by layers, often many layers over a very long period of time.

Love and duty tend naturally to have similarities with each other.

Much of government administration is just a system of lists.

Civil rights depend on civic education.

Much of what is called 'public opinion' is not really opinion but a set of interested attitudes. (cf. RB Perry)

Computer programming should be seen as a modern liberal art.

Where there is no light, there can be no mercy.

Nothing drives the world toward dystopia like utopia.

Much of our belief is deferential; it's not that, psychologically, we have much or even any commitment to it, but it is what others say, so we go with it until we have reason to think otherwise.

Imaginative verisimilitude does not work on anything like a Bayesian principle.

experiments as essentially ordered causal series.

It is insufficiently remarked that no moral theory requires that human beings intervene to prevent great evils except under very specific conditions. One reason it is little remarked is that we usually think about these things in cases where the conditions are relevant; but step back from the conditions and it becomes clear enough.

Every obligation arises out of a teleology.

Hume's taste of the fig & Locke's Essay 2.13.24

'loss of problems' as a philosophical disease (Wittgenstein)

Aristotle's account of tragedy makes it an exploration of eudaimonia by reversal.

moral law as a postulate of philosophical inquiry (Plato's Gorgias suggests something analogous to this)

To understand what virtue and duty deserve, the philosopher must posit a point of view according to which the duty or virtue and its desert are united. To understand how they are to be done at all, the philosopher must posit a notion of an in-principle capability of acting morally. To understand how they are to be done adequately, the philosopher must posit the notion of an in-principle process commensurate with their quality.

Sooner or later, academic writing always becomes a parody of itself.

The primary danger with political faction is not disagreement, even heated disagreement, but the rise of a mentality in which people count themselves as just and right because of whom they oppose.

Any view in which moral goodness has no connection to power or to knowledge is inevitably incoherent.

It belongs to the nature of good parenting to draw greater good from the errors of one's children, a feature that is most clear with the parenting of small children (since that is when parenting is most likely to swamp other factors) and in teaching (since this is a relatively specific form that in great measure consists of drawing good out of error).

There are no indefeasible evils.

The Council of Frankfurt 794 rejected II Nicaea because it read it as saying that icons of saints should receive the same veneration as the holy Trinity -- which is so off that it seems it has to be due to a bad translation.

It seems that classification-based validity would be affected by differences in tone or coloring, as in 'dog' vs 'cur' or 'argent' vs 'silver', even if only in marginal cases.

All of history is a testimony to the ingenuity of human beings in going wrong.

(1) Start with Calvin's concessions on infallibility of the Church (Institutes 4.8).
(2) Go beyond: The bishops can represent the Church in this.
:::: Scripture treats bishops as having representative authority.
:::: It is recognized among Apostolic Churches.
:::: It is rationally plausible on the basis of order.
(3) Go beyond: The Pope can represent bishops in this.
:::: Petrine privileges
:::: It is consistent with the way the Church Fathers treated Rome.
:::: It is rationally plausible on the bases of honor and deference.
(4) But not too far: These representations cannot be unlimited, and have conditions.
:::: Divine authority has pre-eminence.
:::: Bishops and Popes have repeatedly recognized this in circumstances in which they were speaking representatively.
:::: Rationally, they are clearly not always speaking representatively.

We can look at any causal series and ask the reason why it is as long as it is.

All forms of participation are cases in which the less universal derives from the more universal, in some way.

tone-meaning arising out of: etiquette, aesthetics, common usage and derivation therefrom, context

The Bible's ideal reader is the Church herself.

Theism is a very large family of related positions, and thus is not the sort of thing that can be assigned a single probability in a context.

Probabilities only exist within a universe of discourse.

A probability is not a brute fact but a measurement; before you can have your probabilities, you must have your means of measurement.

the epiphany and transfiguration aspects of divine tradition

The first requirement for theological language is to facilitate speaking truly.

Too many people do not care about arguments as such, seeing them only as a tool for manipulating others into silence or confusion.

The kind of causality we experience within the stream of experience itself (as opposed to the causal character of having experience at all) is one experience shifting our disposition to receive another experience.

We don't merely move from idea to idea according to resemblance; we resemblance-make among ideas that are available.

Refusing to forgive is a vice in that it subordinates common good to private mood.

Nyaya as a theory of grounds of signification

to transfigure students of this world so that they are also candidates of heaven, workers so that they are also worshipers, thinkers so that they are believers, friends of man so that they are also friends of God

Feuerbach's comment about the stars is key to understanding his failure. The heavens do reveal human nature. But it would be absurd to treat this as suggesting that the stars are nothing but reflections of human nature. The 'nothing but' Feuerbach finds for religion does not derive from the anthropological analysis as such, but only from the axiom of materialism assumed from before the beginning.

Feuerbach approaches theology as if the Church as such had no place in it.

other minds and readiness to respond

In interacting with other people, we recognize ourselves as being already part of a perspective other than our own, distinct from us, independent of us, and continuing when we are not aware of it.

We do seem to cognize with feelings to some extent: who feels gratitude, feels something as gift; who feels anger, feels something as threat; who feels sorrow, feels something as loss. It is, of course, a question whether the object-content comes first from an independent source or is discovered by the feeling itself.

Feuerbach is exploiting a weakness of subject/object metaphysics (given that the object is in some sense in the subject), one that doesn't arise when subject and object are understood by means of act and potency. Taking subject and object as primitive provides nothing to prevent reduction to reflexivity.

As there are apparent answers to prayer, the question of the efficacy of prayer is a subset of the problem of induction.

Bentham relativizes the principle of utility to the interest being considered.

Verbs are 'doing words' because 'do' is a general verb. You can use verbs to answer, "What is being done?" Not all verbs allow for clear answers to time questions on the other hand (infinitives for instance). Thus verbs are better classified as action/doing words than as time/aspect words (as some have suggested).

The problem of induction is not any kind of problem at all unless things appear to be connected.

Religion unites man with himself; in it he finds God as the principle of his own coherence.

Feuerbach's account of the Incarnation is essentially the counterpart to Kant's; where Kant sublimates it into pure practical reason, Feuerbach passionates it into the 'heart', i.e., our sensibility. Their accounts are not wholly wrong, even; but given the limits of their methods, what they are each doing is capturing one aspect of the appeal of the Incarnation to the human mind, and ignoring all the rest, or, indeed, anything that one does not find in the mental attraction itself. Kant traces out how it is morally magnetic, Feuerbach how it is touching to the heart, and then each goes away pretending to have said all that was worth saying. Feuerbach, however, captures more than Kant does, due to the nature of the doctrine.

At-at is a poor account of motion because an account of motion must explain to begin with why one thing at one place/time can be at another.

multiplicity of potential -> need for a mover to select

the facingness of painting, the amidst-dwelling of sculpture

Allusion is the mother of poetic diction.

A mass media society is a society of facsimile emotions.

Feuerbach's conflation of providence and miracle quite clearly leads to a false view of Judaism, which takes providence to be linked to covenant.

"The relation of the communal experience to the individual experience is constitution, not summation." Edith Stein

Scientific knowledge is a community knowing.

The dictum de omni et nullo can be interpreted as making syllogistic validity dependent on classification-based validity.

It as through permissible things that the obligatory becomes feasible.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Evening Note for Thursday, November 15

Thought for the Evening: Deception and Clifford's Ethics of Belief

It's not sufficiently recognized, but because Clifford's arguments in "The Ethics of Belief" (PDF) are ethical, tout court, they have direct implications for a much wider field of human life than just inquiry and belief. The argument cannot be confined just to belief. An obvious case is the common property argument:

And no one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone. Our lives are guided by that general conception of the course of things which has been created by society for social purposes. Our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought, are common property, fashioned and perfected from age to age; an heirloom which every succeeding generation inherits as a precious deposit and a sacred trust to be handled on to the next one, not unchanged but enlarged and purified, with some clear marks of its proper handiwork. Into this, for good or ill, is woven every belief of every man who has speech of his fellows. An awful privilege, and an awful responsibility, that we should help to create the world in which posterity will live.

It follows directly from this (if it works as it is supposed to work) that it is always wrong to lie, since by lying you are contaminating the 'precious deposit' by affecting the beliefs of others by communication. But more than this, it seems to require us to take a stronger stance than is taken even by very strong positions against lying, namely, that any kind of deception whatsoever is morally wrong, because you are interfering with the ability of others to believe well.

This is perhaps not surprising, since one of Clifford's arguments is that believing without evidence is wrong because it creates a dishonest society:

Habitual want of care about what I believe leads to habitual want of care in others about the truth of what is told to me. Men speak the truth to one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other’s mind; but how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it, when I believe thing because I want to believe them, and because they are comforting and pleasant? Will he not learn to cry, “Peace,” to me, when there is no peace? By such a course I shall surround myself with a thick atmosphere of falsehood and fraud, and in that I must live. It may matter little to me, in my cloud-castle of sweet illusions and darling lies; but it matters much to Man that I have made my neighbours ready to deceive.

Anyone who accepts Clifford's argument for the conclusion that 'it is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence' is thereby committed to its being wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone to do something that will deceive or mislead someone else.

This, of course, is not the same as to say that everyone who accepts the claim is so committed; it's Clifford's argument for it in particular that, built entirely on moral principles, requires that those moral principles be applied with parity and consistency across the board. Not every kind of 'ethics of belief' is moralizing the way Clifford's is; William James in "The Will to Believe", for instance, relativizes the kind of 'ethics of belief' you use to the specific goals you have in inquiry, and so is (perhaps unsurprisingly) more accurately called a 'pragmatics of belief' than an 'ethics of belief'.

The fundamental problem with Clifford's argument on this point, of course, is that it's simply wrong, when we look at the evidence, to say that every single belief, without exception, harms the 'precious deposit' or contributes to more dishonest society; this posits a fragility in human society that simply does not show up when you look at how societies work. Every human society has to deal with falsehoods by the load; there is no way to avoid that, because even in the best of times people will make honest mistakes, be confronted with misleading evidence through no fault of their own, misinterpret and misread evidence, and the like. Societies develop means for dealing with it; they adapt and move on. Nor does there seem to be any evidence that a society in which some people occasionally show a disregard for truth is a society that slides into being one in which people in general are "ready to deceive". A lot of things have to go into habitual deception; merely coming into contact with disregard for truth does not seem to give us a cause proportionate to the purported effect. And we see the same with lying: most lies in fact seem to be swamped out or neutralized, and doing things that mislead others does not seem to be particularly likely to make them liars.

The real problem with lying, of course, is that it is a perversion of the natural ends of reason as communicative. But it is true that deliberately saying what you know to be false is a sin against trust as part of common good. It's just not necessarily a sin that on its own damages that common good, and society is not so fragile as to be corrupted by occasional wrongdoing. And neither of the arguments against lying suggests that everything you do that could deceive and mislead is always wrong; although you may generally have to be careful.

The perversion account of lying is usually the most anti-lying position on the table these days (it is often vehemently attacked for being too strong); but Clifford as a nineteenth-century Englishman in a culture in which 'candour' was considered a national virtue and candid behavior and honesty a mark of a civilized gentleman, and John Henry Newman had been attacked for dishonesty just a little over a decade before simply for suggesting that it was sometimes moral to be cautious in expressing the truth. Clifford could assume at the time that it was not a point at which most of his audience would have pressed his argument.

Various Links of Interest

* This has been going around Twitter due to Nick Kapur: A Japanese illustrated history of the United States from 1861. It hits the major highlights: Columbus, the American Revolution, John Adams slaying a giant serpent with a sword, George Washington punching a tiger, John Adams killing another giant serpent with the help of a giant eagle, all the key moments of American history. The book in question is Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi by Nozaki Bunzō under the pseudonym Kanagaki Robun (writer) and Utagawa Yoshitora (illustrator).

* Adrian Currie on the paleontologist Mary Anning

* Corey Dethier, William Whewell's Semantic Account of Induction (PDF)

* Nathanael Blake, Living With Morals: A Review of The Fall of Gondolin

* Juhana Toivanen, The Fate of the Flying Man: Medieval Reception of Avicenna's Thought Experiment

* Timothy Chow, The Consistency of Arithmetic (PDF)

* Given some complaints that are being made about politics today, it's worth remembering Thea Skocpol's argument from over a decade ago: The Narrowing of Civic Life.

Currently Reading

Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman
Simon Conway Morris, Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe
C. S. Lewis, On Stories
Jules Verne, The Survivors of the Chancellor

Universal Doctor

Today is the feast of St. Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church, patron saint of scientists and engineers, teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. Born probably at some point in the 1190s in Bavaria, his own name for himself was Albert of Lauingen, but we don't know if the 'Lauingen' referred to his actual birthplace or to his family's being from there. He became a Dominican in the 1220s and in the following decades became recognized as their most talented teacher, which is why he was sometimes called 'Albert the Great' in his lifetime. He was a major figure in the reintroduction of Aristotle into the West, writing commentaries on the bulk of the Aristotelian corpus. He was briefly bishop of Regensburg, but spent most of his career in other positions. He lived a famously long life, outliving most of his early students and dying in Cologne in 1280. He was deeply interested in the natural world; we have a story, from Albert himself about his trying to get an ostrich to eat gravel in order to test whether the claims in the books about them doing so were true (he couldn't get the ostrich to eat it). He is the first person in the West to work on a systematic study of minerals and stones, and may be the first person to have identified specific organs in a fertilized egg.

In investigations of nature, however, it is necessary not only to consider the changeable understood universally according to its common features, but it is necessary to get down to details so that the primary agent in each individual case may be ascertained, especially in sensible, animate things, because in investigations of nature we must discover the universal principles through singulars, since in such investigations the particulars are better known than the universals. It is through the singulars that we come to believe that it is convenient and necessary for universals and their principles to exist, since it is only those universals which are exemplified in particulars that we accept, while those which are not exemplified in particulars, we reject.

[Albert the Great, De animalibus IX tr. 2, c.4, ed. HernannStadler, in: BGPhlvfA5, Munster9 16'.T21, ll.16-21m as quoted in Leen Spruit, "Albert the Great on the Epistemology of Natural Science", p. 64.]

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Treacherous Month

by Helen Hunt Jackson

This is the treacherous month when autumn days
With summer's voice come bearing summer's gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts
Her head and blooms again. The soft, warm haze
Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways,
And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts,
The violet returns. Snow noiseless sifts
Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning's rays
Will idly shine upon and slowly melt,
Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt?
What profit from the violet's day of pain?