Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Poem Draft

Indian Blankets

The Indian blankets
by the side of the way
bow low in the wind
and flicker like flame;
they mirror my heart,
for my heart is now free
with the holiday-dance
of the sweet summer breeze.

Indian Blanket flowers

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Place in the Ranks Awaits You

by Adelaide Anne Procter

Rise! for the day is passing,
And you lie dreaming on;
The others have buckled their armor,
And forth to the fight are gone:
A place in the ranks awaits you,
Each man has some part to play;
The Past and the Future are nothing,
In the face of the stern Today.

Rise from your dreams of the Future, —
Of gaining some hard-fought field;
Of storming some airy fortress,
Or bidding some giant yield;
Your Future has deeds of glory,
Of honor (God grant it may!)
But your arm will never be stronger,
Or the need so great as To-day.

Rise! if the Past detains you,
Her sunshine and storms forget;
No chains so unworthy to hold you
As those of a vain regret:
Sad or bright, she is lifeless ever;
Cast her phantom arms away,
Nor look back, save to learn the lesson
Of a nobler strife To-day.

Rise! for the day is passing;
The sound that you scarcely hear
Is the enemy marching to battle : —
Arise! for the foe is here!
Stay not to sharpen your weapons,
Or the hour will strike at last,
When, from dreams of a coming battle,
You may wake to find it past!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Cassam on Conspiracy Theories

There is an excerpt from Quassim Cassam's book on conspiracy theories at at IAI. Like much of Cassam's work on this topic, I think it is both interesting and seriously flawed. A good way to see the problems with Cassam's argument is to look at one of the examples he uses to try to pin down what conspiracy theories are:

Suppose that a conspiracy theory is defined as a theory about a conspiracy. History books tell us, for example, that Guy Fawkes and his colleagues plotted to blow up the English Parliament in 1605. The plot was a conspiracy, and historical accounts of the plot are therefore conspiracy theories....

...Unlike well-documented historical theories about the Gunpowder Plot, Conspiracy Theories are highly speculative. They are based on conjecture rather than solid evidence, educated (or not so educated) guesswork. After all, if a conspiracy has been successful then it won’t have left behind clear-cut evidence of a conspiracy. This leads to the idea that the only way to uncover a conspiracy is by focusing odd clues or anomalies that give the game away.

The fundamental problem is that, while there was a genuine conspiracy to blow up Parliament, the genuine conspiracy was also a seed-crystal for what was undeniably a conspiracy theory, according to which a much larger population of Catholics were involved in a conspiracy to undermine the peace and laws of Britain, despite the fact that most of them had nothing to do with it. Thus we have a conspiracy theory built around an undeniable conspiracy. And Cassam in general tends not to graps that conspiracy theorists themselves do think that the evidence of the conspiracy they are talking about is clear-cut; they think the conspiracies are succeeding not because they are always successful in leaving behind no evidence but because they are successful at obfuscation. An English Protestant who thought that the Catholics were engaged in a conspiracy to subvert the kingdom could literally point to things that showed it -- particular plots, actions of Jesuits, and the like. The evidence was clear and obvious; it's just that Catholics were good at lying, and would be able to do it all in secret if not for divine providence and the work of vigilant people like himself. The odd clues and anomalies are not proof of the conspiracy itself; they are proof of the desperate cover-up as the conspiracy attempts to hide its failures. The conspiracy itself is taken to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt; everyone would believe it if it weren't for all the obvious lies that people are believing instead. The conspiracy theorist focuses on odd clues or anomalies not because it is the foundation of his belief that there is a conspiracy but because the conspiracy theorist has to show other people that they are in fact only believing a cover story that can't possibly be true. How do you prove to somebody that something is a lie? You show them the inconsistencies. And once you've made people realize that they've been lied to, the conspiracy theorist thinks, the evidence will speak for itself.

Cassam is here, as most people are, confused by the name 'conspiracy theory'. This makes it sound like it's just about there being some sort of conspiracy. But we could just as easily call it 'cover-up theory'.

This is the reason why Cassam's later conclusion, "Conspiracy Theories are first and foremost forms of political propaganda", is in one sense on the right track and in another simply not useful, because the conspiracy theorist is someone who sees himself as countering political propaganda. Cassam, in his view, would be the propagandist -- after all, in a sense Cassam has effectively just admitted it, by saying that the reason he opposes conspiracy theories is that they put forward dangerous political views. Of course, Cassam doesn't think that he is propagandizing; but neither does the conspiracy theorist. Conspiracy theorists are not putting out propaganda; they are trying to oppose what they see as propaganda. It just so happens that what they see as propaganda, put out by an elite with political incentive to lie, Cassam sees as reasonable report, put out by experts with political incentive to seek the truth, and what he sees as propaganda, the conspiracy theorist sees as critical thinking that shows that the so-called experts are in fact active propagandists.

Conspiracy theory in the sense Cassam has in mind does not begin with an intent to propagandize; it begins with political discontent when it takes on the idea that the opposed political faction, whatever that may be, is fighting dirty and trying to hide that fact. Take, for instance, one of the popular conspiracy theories of the Enlightenment period, the theory of priestcraft: a bunch of priests have made alliance with a bunch of politicians to benight society throughout the ages, encouraging superstition and backing it with police power in order to make the people more pliable to both priest and politician. This is the kind of conspiracy theory that only arises in the context of an already-existing dispute about the role of religion in political life, from people who have come to think, for whatever reason, that their religious opponents are fundamentally liars concerned only with their own political position and their dupes who don't bother to think through the religious propaganda because they have a political reason not to do so.

It's true, of course, that conspiracy theorists can and do propagandize, like anyone else; but the mistake is not in recognizing this but thinking that the propagandizing is the core of the conspiracy theory. Cassam thinks that the basic function of a conspiracy theory is to advance a political agenda; but the basic function of a conspiracy theory is to stop the perceived advance of a political agenda. There is a fundamental sense in which all conspiracy theorists, regardless of whether they are right or left politically, are reactionaries. They exist to resist; they are in their own view the Resistance. The people in power are fighting with dirty tricks. The 'experts' have sold out. The proof of it is there to see, but the powerful are lying to try to hide it. And what you need to do is not persuade people of the conspiracy -- that's obvious to anyone who just thinks the matter through -- but to wake people up to the fact that they are being taken in by a lie. Now, of course, you can call their wake-up attempts propaganda if you like, but the point is that Cassam mislocates it: it is not to put forward an agenda but to resist one. To advance an agenda you just argue for it; but to resist one, you set out to debunk falsehoods, to uncover lies, to wake people up.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Voyages Extraordinaires #31: Le Chemin de France

My name is Natalis Delpierre. I was born in 1761, at Grattepanche, a village in Picardy. My father was a farm laborer. He worked on the estate of the Marquis d'Estrelle. My mother did her best to help him. My sisters and I followed our mother's example.

My father never possessed any property. He was precentor at the church, and had a powerful voice that could be heard even in the graveyard. The voice was almost all I inherited from him.

My father and mother worked hard. They both died the same year, 1779. God has their souls in His keeping!

Natalis Delpierre becomes a soldier and fights in the American Revolution, and then for the king, and then for the Republic. It is a time of great tension, as none of the other Powers trust the French Republic, and Germany in particular seems inclined to invade. Because of this, Delpierre takes two months' leave from the army to go to Germany and find his sister, Irma, who is servant and companion to a half-French family there, the Kellers, in order to bring her back safely. However, it turns out not to be possible to bring her back immediately, and war breaks out while he is there. This will lead Delpierre, Irma, and the Kellers to the journey that gives the book its title, Le Chemin de France (in English, The Flight to France).

The book is a light and easy read, with twenty-five very short chapters. The narrator is quite engaging. As with most of Verne's books, the backbone of it is a geographically precise journey, this time in the midst of war zone. That sounds perhaps more interesting than it is; the primary difficulty for the protagonists is not the war but the need to evade arrest when everyone is at the height of their suspicions; the armies affect their travel primarily by forcing them to go a long and difficulty road around in order to avoid them, which causes them to overstay on their passport. This is not to say that there is no excitement, nor does the story drag in any way (it is too short to drag), but aside from a couple of brief brushes with death and the urgency of a deadline, it largely ends up being a tale of a trip on which everything goes wrong. It's interesting, but in a way it's only very accidentally a war story.

I read it in English translation, in a cheap copy I picked up; although there was no indication of the translator, I believe that the translation was that by I. O. Evans, which, if so, means that the translation was probably usually so-so. Indeed, looking at the French, it's noticeable that the translation above strips out all the specifically Catholic references; what Delpierre actually says is that his father was a cantor, singing the Confiteor, with a loud voice that could be heard in the cemetery near the church, and could have been a priest, being a 'peasant dipped in ink', but his voice was about all that Delpierre inherited from him. The omissions are not essential to the story; that Delpierre's father was a cantor plays no role in the story, except that it makes sense of why he says that he only inherited his father's voice -- Delpierre is not the priestly or scholarly type, so his narrative will be rough and uneducated (in fact, Delpierre only starts learning to read and write in the course of the story he as narrator is setting down later in life). It's the kind of little value-adding detail that translations like this sandpaper away.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Feeling Your Way Through Poetry

Talking with Nick about GPT-2, I mentioned that one of the things poets do is feel out the next easy word, so I thought I would talk about this a bit more. I have no particular conclusions to draw about it, and am making no particular argument; it's just an interesting process, and it's also interesting in its contrast to other things poets are usually doing simultaneously.

One word doesn't given us much, so let's start with two words:

The evening

Now, obviously, the question is, the evening what? And there are two obvious paths we can go; we can take evening as an adjective, or we can take it as a noun. If the former, among the very salient next words are 'breeze' and 'star'; if the latter, two of the obvious next words are 'is' and 'falls'.

One of the things you do in writing poetry is to take a road less traveled and deliberately avoid the easy word, feel your way to something and then avoid it, and it will be worth contrasting this with just feeling your way through. So for the moment let's instead do:

The evening wolf

And the obvious question is, the evening wolf what? Now that we definitely have a noun, it begs for a verb. 'Is' is still possible; 'howls' is obvious. Let's break away from those and say instead:

The evening wolf breaks

Now, I've deliberately picked this verb because it's an odd one; you need a kind of breaking that a wolf can do, which limits what can go next. Two obvious possibilities are 'out' (as in breaking out in a howl) and 'cover'. Perhaps we can twist slightly again and say,

The evening wolf breaks silence

Now, we can compare that with the case in which we tried to go the easy way. So

The evening star

What do stars do? They shine.

The evening star shines

What's the next word after shines? Probably 'down'.

The evening star shines down

You usually don't just shine down, though, you shine down on something.

The evening star shines down on

On what? We could get a noun next, but it's probably going to be 'the' + something.

The evening star shines down on the

What do evening stars shine down on? The world.

The evening star shines down on the world

We could leave it there, but there's an obvious next word,

The evening star shines down on the world below

So let's pause here. It's a very pedestrian line (by definition, since taking the linguistic path of least resistance is what it means to say that something is pedestrian in poetry), which is not to say that it is a bad one; a poet who wrote lines like this would probably be trying for larger-scale effects -- big descriptive scenes, juxtaposed images, narratives, thematic repetitions, slowly building metaphors or twists. You often need pedestrian lines to make larger poetic structures easier to pick out. It's very difficult to do large-scale poetic effects Sagrada-Familia-style, with nothing normal in the details and yet a clear structure to the whole. So if you started here, you might use a structure like:

The evening star shines down on the world below,
which, covered with the freshly fallen snow,
shows tracks, deep black, of wolf and hare,
that punctuate the paper white and bare;

and so on, narratively, each line usually being the sort of thing that on its own could be found in a prose description or narrative, just arranged so that you keep the rhyme. The evening star shines down on the world below is a storytelling kind of line.

With The evening wolf breaks silence you would probably be doing detail-work -- capturing a particular image or metaphor or aural effect.

The evening wolf breaks silence,
the clouds unveil the light
which howls with silver violence
against the shades of night.

But what I am doing in showing how you might go from the original line is another act entirely different from feeling your way; I am identifying a function for the poem and engineering a way to incorporate the lines into a mechanism with that function. If you just feel your way forward, it works very differently. You know, for instance, that you are eventually going to go off the road, just as you know you would if you were blindfolded on a real road. But just by feel you can get quite a bit. For instance, evening stars shine down on the world below, but in poetry they also shine down on snow, and there are likely many, many poems where below calls and snow answers, so you can feel that a line after one that ends with 'below' is likely going to have 'snow'. If you're writing in English and used to poems that rhyme in couplets, one way to go from line to line will be boustrophedon, taking your words left to right in the first line and then taking them right to left in the next, then back to left to right. (In practice, of course, you sometimes might be feeling your way in both directions, sometimes left to right, sometimes right to left, just as the spirit takes you.) So we have

The evening star shines down on the world below

and it's very unlikely that you would just have the lines like this! The natural thing is to have something in front of 'snow'. What is often in front of 'snow'? 'Fallen'.

The evening star shines down on the world below
fallen snow

And what's an obvious thing to come before 'fallen', when you are talking about stars and snow?

The evening star shines down on the world below
freshly fallen snow

A few more moves and we might well get something like my two first lines above:

The evening star shines down on the world below,
which, covered with the freshly fallen snow,

Just by feel you might get the tracks in the snow, and the wolf and hare (which often make tracks in snow, and might be naturally paired); it's just possible that by feel you might get the paper from the white and snow, but unless you've come across the image before, you probably would not get the punctuation on paper because it's not common and requires combining several different comparisons simultaneously. When crafting a poem, that's exactly what you might use easy lines for to lay out the obvious things that you then twist all together at once. If you're not crafting, you're never going to get a twist except by accident. (Such accidents do happen; as I've noted before, there is a purely aleatory component to every kind of art. One of the things you do if working by feel is to keep an eye out for such happy accidents.)

You could go on by feel for as long as you please, but in practice you would usually not do so unless you were writing something very short, because of the fact that you will inevitably go off the road. As I have no great poetic genius, a lot of the poetry I write is just my experimentation with this or that, so I do lot of first drafts mostly by feel, and inevitably at some point, if you have a meter, you get off it, if you have a syllabic count, you deviate from it, if you have a rhyme scheme, you lose it. Do it with anything very long and you start sounding like William McGonagall, who is the master of going on and on as purely on the basis of feel as you can go while somehow still getting something completely recognizable as verse:

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o'er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill'd all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Dashed Off IX

Unction makes one's illness a sign of Christ's Passion, first for oneself and then for others.

- to read Hume's Treatise as a background to his History, an account of how to write history

"Marriage is a Holy Mystery (Sacrament) in which by the grace of the Holy Spirit a man and a woman are united into one body and create a domestic church. The family union created by marriage is a community of persons which, according to God's plan, is an icon of the relationship of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity." COP #471
-- note that while there is a sense in which marriage as a natural office is hieratic, only by the sacrament of marriage is it genuinely ecclesial

One can think of the traditionary argument as being almost Kantian: Reason provides the structure of meaning, but the material is necessary for language actually to exist. This linguistic material, however, must be given to us, and in human cases it must be given to us by teaching of the language. But all though must ultimately work by means of linguistic material. So far it is structurally analogous to Kant on intuition.

inherence, consequence, composition

Kant's combat arena metaphor for skeptical method A423/B451

the terroir of symbol systems

"Christ reveals himself not to untaught or completely unlearned souls, but he shines forth and appears to those souls who are already more prepared to want to learn and who, giving birth to the beginning of faith in simple words, hasten on toward the knowledge of the more perfect." (Cyril of Alexandria)

Every universal proposition implies a kind of possibility and impossibility.

"The intelligible species which are participated by our intellect are reduced, as to their first cause, to a first principle which is by its essence intelligible -- namely, God." ST 1.84.4ad1

The uncreative person's conception of creativity tends to be purely recombinatorial.

suppositional voluntarism

memorization and doxastic voluntarism

Marx's analysis of alienation applies even more forcefully to socialist regimes than it does to capitalist regimes, since socialist regimes, trying to go beyond capitalist ones, in fact aggravate the essential problems involved.

In the course of an inquiry, it not uncommonly happens that a question arises about a source of evidence, such that a monitum or vetitum has to be imposed with regard to it, until the question is answered.

registers of literal reading
(1) hyperhyperliteral: even etymological meanings taken as literal
(2) hyperliteral: even figurative speech taken as literal
(3) grammatical: includes tropes and explicit elements only
(4) historical/narrative: includes tropes, implicatures, implications, explicit and implicit allusion in the text itself.
(5) contextual: includes everything for the historical/narrative as well as emergent allusions, implicatures and implications in a broader context or corpus, interactions with genre conventions or reasonable juxtapositions with other texts

character arcs
involve learning how
(1) with respect to the good
---- (a) to handle good possessed
---- (b) to seek good not yet had
---- ---- (1) and in seeking to fail to achieve the good sought
---- ---- (2) and in seeking to achieve the good sought
(2) with respect to the bad
---- (a) to handle bad possessed
---- (b) to go about avoiding bad
---- ---- (1) and in the attempt to fail to avoid bad
---- ---- (2) and in the attempt to avoid the bad

Apology presupposes honor conventions.

the Epicurean clinamen as making a distinction between physical and ethical events

Act so that the maxim of your action is in accordance with what is sublime.

misvalues in axiology

"I can think of myself as immortal only insofar as I am myself the creation of an act of love." Marcel

Love imbues into things a goodness not reducible to reward, and it is such that participation in it is that whereby the goodness is imbued. This participation is made possible by love itself in a threefold way: vocation, satisfaction, election, each of which orients the participant. Such participation, for human beings, cannot but be by signs, by which this participation is intensified, expressed, handed over, and consummated.

Moral law is received from grace, as a means of grace.

"The duty to educate follows from the agreement to beget children; and the obligation to set up a common household follows from the common duty of education." Mendelssohn

The rights to admonish, to instruct, to fortify, and to comfort are ipso facto rights to the infrastructure and resources essential to these things.

One must dabble much to learn how to build well.

poetry as purifying passion into wonder

monarchy: principle of expansive household
aristocracy: principle of fealty
democracy: principle of voluntary association

Aquinas's reason for thinking that verecundia is not a virtue would be reason to think penitentia is not a virtue; but the latter is a virtue; therefore, etc.

Thomas Carleton Compton: As the sun among the planets, so dialectic among the seven liberal arts is the greatest in splendor (because it teaches truths).

In liberal arts, you learn how to make things with your mind.
Computer programming should be regarded as a liberal art.

five elements of a marital disposition: competence, discretion, openness to children, fidelity, indissolubility

the American citizen as conceptually armigerous

NB that the Maximian Life of the Virgin links the Presentation of the Virgin to Psalm 44. (Note also the allusion at the beginning of the discussion of the Dormition.)

Bodies are experienced as acting.

the refinement of the feeling that something is wrong (or 'looks wrong' or 'sounds wrong')

the Prayer of Azariah as a template of Eucharistic devotion

the world as illuminant (making known)

Political parties kill themselves by pique.

Testining in education should be used simply to indicate thresholds.

The entire Catholic Church owes the humility of Pope Gregory XII a debt beyond all repayment.

II Constantinople gives the orthodox exegesis of "one incarnate nature of the Word".

Note that Hume sees pride and humility as having a causal structure (they require both a causative idea and an object = self).

T->◊B as a bridge principle between alethic and doxastic

demonstration as uniting epistemic Box and alethic Box

the three aspects of episcopal authority: ordinarial, synodal, collegial

The beginning of ECHU takes its origin from Hume's letter to Hutcheson 17 Sept 1739.

The effectiveness of a pope tends to lie more in the accumulation of small things than in major projects.

The measure of a day is what is learned in it.

"The ceremonial law itself is a kind of living script, rousing the mind and heart, full of meaning, never ceasing to inspire contemplation and to provide the occasion and opportunity for instruction." Mendelssohn

the first Chrysippean argument: (1) The cause of what human reason cannot achieve would be superior to man. (2) The heavens are what human reason cannot achieve. (3) The cause thereof all men call God.
the second Chrysippean argument: (1) If there are no gods, nothing is better than man. (2) It is arrogant for man to believe that nothing is superior to man. (3) Therefore it is arrogant to believe there are no gods.

Whether we see a need is partly dependent on our willingness to help, independently of seeing it.

precedent + aleatory variation, through rational selection inspired by the Muse, applied against material resistance

amplique and ciselante phases in the history of philosophical systems

Secrets tend to be much alike.

Kitsch tells us that for which receivers of art thirst, and avant-gardism that for which artists itch.

There is always an element of chance in factional politics, because factions will emphasize what has turned out to succeed, even if only by chance, rather than what a deliberate and coherent plan would have anticipated. Thus, for instance, American conservatives emphasize at present low taxes, pro-life issues, and gun rights, because these are the only popular organizing successes they have had in recent memory. American progressives backed off free speech, once a core issue, when it became clear that it impeded other, more recently popular and successful, progressive issues, like gay rights; and so forth.

Note that the argument of the Lysis implies that virtue is required for love of wisdom: only the virtuous can love wisdom, or, rather, the pursuit of virtue is integral with the love of wisdom.

God as Proton Philon

"To the goods of the mind answers authority; to the goods of fortune, power or empire." Harrington

The first and fundamental condition for good classificatory terminology is distinction useful for inquiry.

FCS Schiller: science, philosophy, and religion all have an animist origin, i.e., they first arise form the notion that all things are analogous to man, and from this form the concept of physical causation on the model of volitional causation.
-- animism in light of uniformity of nature -> polytheism; polytheism in light of uniformity of nature -> monotheism (if personal agency continues) or pantheism (if the sense of causation obscures the notion of personal agency to the point it seems impossible)
-- "Animism is also the origin of philosophy, for the volitional theory of causation does duty also as a theory of the ultimate truth about the world."

"Known essences are simply that activity of at hing which is comprehended in the idea of the thing." Rosmini

"The religion of the Roman people in general has two separate aspects, its ritual and the auspices, to which a third element is added when, as a result of portents and prodigies, the interpreters of the Sibyl or the diviners offer prophetic advice." Cicero (Cotta in NatD 2.5)

All materialism ultimately collapses into speculations about appearances.

A people is
(1) a community of families
(2) a market
(3) a militia
(4) a moral unit of cultus
(5) a system of customary law

Lorentz transofrmation as rotation in 4 dimensions (Poincare)

Protests often seem to fail because of the way they put on display the incoherences of the movement.

"Liberation that cries out against others is not true liberation." Romero

Taxation must be linked to service, risk protection, or restoration of what is lost.

Part of the hieratic function of the natural office of marriage is curation of the family memories -- preserving the traditions, holidays, commemorations and celebrations, etc.

separation of the legislative, executive, eleemosynary, and judicial powers of government
the eleemosynary function of government: pardon, patronage, pension, provision, and subsidy

There is a false kind of social justice that is very good at repenting of other people's sins.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Noting of Notable Links

* Roger Scruton, Kitsch and the Modern Predicament. I discussed kitsch here recently, trying to situate the notion in a larger context.

* Clare Coffey, Modernity's Spell, discusses mesmerism.

* John Locke's Method for Common-Place Books

* John Wilkins on John Ray.

* John P. McGann, Poor Human Olfaction Is a Nineteenth Century Myth

* Gregory DePippo on the life of St. Vincent Ferrer, who served the Avignon papacy; I've discussed St. Vincent here before, Vincent Ferrer and the Antipope.

* Dan Nosowitz looks at the manchineel tree, America's most dangerous tree.

* Elizabeth Picciuto, Why We Feel for Fictional Characters. I discussed the Paradox of Fiction here some years ago. Like Picciuto I would reject premise 1.

* A. Dneprov, The Game

* An interesting Quora discussion of how China feeds its people.

* Brandon Otto, Confirmation in the Church Fathers. I don't think he gets St. Cyril of Jerusalem entirely right; in comparing Confirmation and the Eucharist, the point St. Cyril is making, it seems to me, is not that Confirmation involves something like transubstantiation but that it involves the real presence of the Holy Spirit.

* Ian Miller reviews Owen Davies's A Supernatural War, on purported miracles and religious experiences in World War I.

* Jim Beall, Warships of Sea and Space

* James Hannam on Lucretius.

* Emily Herring on Henri Bergson.

* Philippe Lemoine, Why falsificationism is false and Hell hath no fury like a Popperian scorned

* Oliver Burkeman, How the news took over reality