Sunday, February 05, 2023

Aquinas on Philosophy

 Of all human studies, the study of wisdom is the most complete, most sublime, most useful, and most joyful:

Most complete because, inasmuch as man gives himself to the study of wisdom, so much does he have already some part of true beatitude, so that the wise man says, "Blessed the man who continues in wisdom" (Sir 14:22).

And it is most sublime because through this, man preeminently approaches to the divine likeness, who "made everything through wisdom" (Ps 103:24), in that, because likeness is the cause of love, the study of wisdom preeminently unites with God through friendship. Thus Wis 7:14 says that wisdom "is an infinite treasury to men, of a sort that those who use are made participants in friendship with God."

And it is most useful because through this wisdom we come to the kingdom of immortality: "Craving for wisdom leads to the perpetual kingdom" (Wis 6:21).

And it is most joyful because "her company has no harshness, nor her banquet any sorrow, but gladness and delight" (Wis 7:16).

[Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 1.2.1, my rough translation. Studium could also be translated as 'pursuit', so one could substitute that for 'study' at any point here. The point of the 'most complete' is that, as the pursuit of wisdom already participates in beatitude, and beatitude or happiness lacking nothing is the ultimate end and goal of all human pursuits, there is nothing in any pursuit it does not in some way cover. Thus the honest seeker of wisdom, to the extent that he or she actually seeks wisdom, is fulfilled as a human being (blessed), a friend of God, is preparing for an inexhaustible reward, and is already in the process of achieving what he or she loves (which is how Aquinas understands joy). 

ADDED LATER: I suppose I should say something about the 'most'. The terms are actually comparative in form, not superlative. I've gone back and forth, but if one follows through the reasoning, the claim is that the pursuit of wisdom is more complete, sublime, useful, and joyful than all (other) human pursuits. Thus, while the forms are comparative, the meaning is superlative.]

On the Texas State Constitution

 I've been a bit behind this past week on a number of things because of our winter freeze here last week. I was not one of the people who lost power, although that seems to be almost a fluke, since neighborhoods only a few blocks away on every side had outages for at least some of the time, but internet has occasionally been very inconsistent, and, of course, there was both preparation before and during the storm and a lot of catch-up on everything afterward, as errands that would ordinarily have been spread over the week had to be done all at once toward the end. It should be noted, as I have seen many false claims about this, that there was no problem at all with Texas's electrical grid. The winter storm, while not very cold, occurred at the mushy, sleety border right around freezing that coated everything with ice. The result was that tree branches everywhere broke under the weight. (Toward the end of the storm, you could hear, every so often, a loud CRACK as yet another one went down. I was out on a long walk Friday, and everywhere I went there were broken tree branches that people were still trying to clean up.) A large number of such broken branches kept taking out power lines. The ice also made repair difficult and dangerous. Thus the real issue was a maintenance problem. It's unclear to me whether it was the utility company or the city that fell down so badly in this department. My bet is on the city; around here, you are usually not completely wrong if you blame Austin City Council. The city receives very large sums of money from the utilities and is notorious for wasting most of it, and since COVID a lot of the city's maintenance has been at least inconsistent. Regardless, someone needed to be out doing a lot more tree trimming.

One thing I find somewhat interesting is the repeated attempt by a lot of parties to pin the problem on Abbott. This happened over the last winter freeze, too, and occurs for political reasons, of course. But Governor Abbott has no direct authority over most of these matters. As the most visible state politician, he can put a lot of political pressure on particular points, and he has some powers under various laws that can increase such pressure, but he is not directly in charge of any of it. One of the things that often seems to confuse people about Texas -- I've known Texas residents who get confused about it -- is its somewhat peculiar state constitution. Texas was built very clearly and explicitly on principles of legislative primacy. This is why, for instance, at least as I was told growing up, if you look at a map of Texas, this huge state is divided into lots of little tiny counties -- 254 of them, more than any other state even accounting for size. The borders of the counties also often don't make much sense in terms of what they divide. This is a designed feature, one that was put into the system in order to guarantee that there would be no way for counties to mount any kind of effective resistance against state laws. It's also why the state fathers originally attempted to have Governors serve two-year terms (which was eventually changed because it wasn't really workable, although people still try to reinstate every so often).

In any case, this is likewise the reason why the Governor of Texas is the weakest state governor in the United States. One might naturally expect that the Governor has more authority and power than the Lieutenant Governor, just as one might naturally assume that the New York Supreme Court is New York's supreme court, but in the one case as in the other, this is wrong for historical reasons. Practically speaking, the most powerful position in Texas is the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. This is because the Lieutenant Governorship is both an executive and a legislative position; he can exercise some powers of the Governor as the Governor's deputy, but primarily serves as president of the Texas Senate, where he has considerable influence over legislative committees. In addition, executive authority is deliberately broken up in what is known as the plural executive system --several of the most important positions that technically answer to the Governor's office are not appointed by the Governor but are independently elected. The Governor also has only very limited power to remove anyone from office. There are a few things over which the Governor is directly in charge as a constitutional matter, and he has further powers under various statutes, but Texas is deliberately and undeniably designed so that the buck always ultimately stops at the Texas State Legislature, which is balanced only by the people, although it is also deliberately restricted in ways that guarantee that that has some bite. (The Constitution of Texas is famously long and complicated, and the reason is that the legislature cannot do anything that the constitution does not explicitly allow, so every time something new comes up, an amendment has to be put forward to the people. The result is that the document is filled with exceptions to limitations to grants of authority, as well as things like a very long section about what debts the legislature can allow that has two subsections that are accidentally numbered the same.)

The electrical grid (officially known as the Texas Interconnection) is directly under the authority of ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT is a nonprofit organization whose members are the electrical utilities. ERCOT is regulated as far as fees and customer rights are concerned by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. This is an executive agency whose board is appointed by the Governor, and its Chair is a non-voting member of ERCOT's governing board. But ERCOT itself, in its primary operations, answers only to the relevant committees in the state legislature. And, likewise, failures at the city-level, like the recent one, are not directly under the Governor's authority, either. This sort of thing is quite common for almost everything in Texas -- authority is divided up, when there is any relevant authority at all, but usually in such a way as to give primary responsibility to the legislature.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Dashed Off IV

This begins the notebook started in March 2022.

 

Socrates' use of leading questions: people joke about this but rarely see that it is evidence for what Socrates is actually doing.

legal cross-examination as storytelling with witness confirmation (Note that it is not argument-making, which can get an objection for being argumentative)

It is difficult for human beings to grow enough to begin to understand divine love.

One purpose of objections in court trials is to record possible errors in case of appeal.

major / minor / conclusion
law / fact / legal opinion
general or objective right / title / subjective right
obligation / case / duty

Democracies tend to be litigious because litigation is the democratic use of courts.

Courts in a sense are charged with drawing morals, in a sense that is used for fables, from cases. Laws : legislatures :: morals of cases : courts

wrongdoing under the color of law
wrongdoing under the color of medicine
wrongdoing under the color of ministry
wrongdoing under the color of education

In criminal law, most of the power of courts is in assessing mens rea.

free will as a postulate of criminal law

(mere) general intent crimes vs malice crimes vs gross negligence crimes vs specific intent crimes

marriage as a testimony of human dignity: the truth that a person holds within a lifetime of value and more

confirmation and knighthood

Llull calls priests 'spiritual knights'

Human beings recognize chance by designing models.

Any legitimate theory of probability must at least reduce to the frequentist interpretation for balls in an urn and similar systems.

Statute of Merton (Provisiones de Merton), 1235 [Henry III]
-- This is generally regarded as the first statute proper, although it has prototypes in the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest. This was a concession to the barons, like those, but ends up serving as the model for the deliberate use of standing statutes in Edward I.

common law rules for statute interpretation
(1) Statutes are to be construed not merely according to letter but according to intent and object.
(2) Statutes are to be understood in light of what they contribute beyond common law.
(3) Beneficial and remedial statutes are to be construed liberally, penal statutes strictly.
(4) Statute is to be considered in light of statute.
(5) Statutes for the inferior do not necessarily apply to the superior, even when general.
(6) General statutes imply what is required for their effect.
(7) Later repeals earlier if they are inconsistent.
(8) Statutes do not bind the Crown unless the Crown is named.
(9) There is presumption against what is unreasonable or destructive.
(10) Penalty implies prohibition.

argumentative transplants from one system or school to another

In Esther, it is notable that the Jews are saved by making it acceptable for them to defend themselves.

A problem with standard propositional logic is that it treats all falsehood as logical falsehood.

"It turns out that conservation laws give me infinite sufficient causes in the same way that electrical cords are of indefinite length. Conserved quantities are homogeneous middle parts, and one can have as many such parts as he pleases. Considered precisely as multiplicable, one can have as many feet of cord or sufficient physical causes as he likes. Considered as *middle*, however, physical causes are conduits of higher order and thus non-interactive actions." James Chastek

In international law (and sometimes elsewhere) 'right' is often used when what is really meant is 'reasonable standard'.

the illocutionary and perlocutionary forces of paintings

Every human right as ad rem and in re aspects.

papal provisions (exercise of papal provisory powers)
(1) iure concursus
(2) iure reservationis
(3) iure praeventionis (gratia expectativa)

Weapons become arms in the ambit of personal skill; arms depend on the armigerous.

Legibility should serve governance, not governance legibility.

evidence : investigative prudence : rights : justice

evidences as beings of reason involving signs in the context of inquiry

radically contingent ordered intelligibility

philosophy shaped by acquired virtues, philosophy shaped by infused virtues

Boethius's Consolation as a philosophy of insufficiency

"Man does not suffice to himself; he must act for others, with others, by others. One cannot arrange for oneself the affairs of one's own life." Blondel

We come to understand people better by cooperation with them.

"Les hommes pensent à Dieu; donc Dieu peut exister. Les hommes ont le sentiment de Dieu; donc Dieu existe." Blondel
"Une république d'athées ne puet pas subsister, et la France en offre la preuve."

"Repentance, contrition of spirit, and lamentation are signs which attest to the correctness of our feat of prayer. Their absence, on the other hand, is a sign of inclination towards false direction, self-delusion, deception, and barrenness." Ignatius Brianchaninov

infused prudence and the discrimination/discernment of spirits

citizenship as a right of legal identification
-- this legal identification can then modulate the expression of human rights

Legal citizenship can only maintain cohesion in a population by association with rights and duties.

Since the state must serve civil society, citizenship cannot ever be a morally neutral status for it.

citizenship as an envelope power
rights as subject vs rights as citizen

Opposition to X inevitably spills over into opposition into things adjacent to X.

The democratic politics we have is not abstract democracy but a deliberate attempt to transfer feudal and royal rights to the people considered as a body.

Commitment matters more than numbers in democratic governance.

'the taxonomical state'
'the statistical state'

It is irrational to punish responsible citizens for the failures of irresponsible citizens.

Philosophy as an activity has a scope far beyond philosophy as a system, which in turn extends beyond philosophy as scientia.

Wisdom extends to many things we cannot know for certain.

One advantage of the mutability of fashion in clothes is that at different times it accentuates different kinds of beauty.

"nobility is nothing less than the continuance of ancient honor" Ramon Llull

ci-devant liberalism

Whether philosophy can dispense with revelation naturally depends on whether revelation exists.

In all philosophy, there is an aspiration, indeed, many aspirations.

Sacred doctrine differs from metaphysics by revealed data, greater light, and higher end.

love of wisdom as a human virtue allied to prudence

the internet as a mission territory

libretto approaches to philosophy of X

Anything relevant can enter into the dialectical level of philosophy.

A very great many psychological experiments are less experiments than living fables, and, indeed, despite much work-up to meet the conventions of the experiment genre, are used even by psychologists more as fables with morals than as experiments.

The human race has a natural destiny to assembly before God, but we are fractured in our ability to achieve it; thus we need to be formed into an ecclesia by God. But God in doing this does not erase our facturing, but uses it.

liturgical commendaria

"Sacrifice and priesthood are by the ordinance of God so united that both have existed in every law." Council of Trent

The souls in purgatory are (1) detained and (2) aided for the sake of (3) purification.

Remission of guilt is distinct from remission of penalty.

the satispassive nature of sacramental unction

ecclesial acquisition by usucaption of Greco-Roman heritage, through documented continuous possessory activity

An expressed proof is not a mere string of speech acts like assertion; it itself is a speech act.

illocutionary proof (being a proof) vs perlocutionary proof (proving to)

Joint proof requires coordinations of provings, by means of questions and imperatives. Indeed, in general, coordinated reasoning requires interrogative and imperative elements.

The natural law precept to live peaceably with those with whom we live binds us, when living with others, to recognize a shared juridical state with them, a co-possession of rights, both in common and reciprocally.

The arguments for dueling and for abortion are sometimes remarkably similar.

Idealistic aspirations is how you maintain good systems; it is not how you reform bad ones.

People have a right of innocent passage with respect to cultures; that is to say, anyone may draw from a culture as long as they do so in a way that is not prejudicial to the integrity and flourishing of the culture.

Most people talk politics as a way of talking about themselves.

All discussions of 'political legitimacy' reduce to matters of law, of representation, or of support.

Opinions matter more when there isn't a glut of them.

The law must apply to moral agents and therefore must take into account that it does so.

Reason naturally expresses itself in a sort of pomp and pageantry.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

A Nobler Part to Act

 Had Man been a different Creature, and placed in different Circumstances, a Spider for instance, or an Hound, a different Set of Duties would have then become him; the Web, the Vigilance, the rapacious Conduct of the former; the Sagacity, the Love of Game, and Swiftness of the latter, and the Satisfaction of Appetite, the Propagation and Love of Offspring common to both, would have fulfilled the Destinations of his Nature, and been his proper Business and Oeconomy. But as Man is not only a Sensible, an Active, and a Social, but a Rational, a Political, and a Religious Creature, he has a nobler Part to act, and more numerous and more important Obligations to fulfill. And if afterwards, in any future Period of his Duration, he shall be advanced to a superior Station, and take in wider Connections, the Sphere of his Duty, and the Number and Weight of his Obligations, must increase in proportion.

[David Fordyce , The Elements of Moral Philosophy, Kennedy, ed., Liberty Fund (Indianapolis: 2003) p. 37.]

Keitai eis Ptosin kai Anastasin

 And when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him, his name was called 'Iesous', which he had been called by the angel before being conceived in the womb.

And when their days of purification according to the law of Moyses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Hierosolyma, to present to the Lord as had been written in the Lord's law, Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord, and to give sacrifice according to what has been said in the Lord's law, A couple of turtledoves or nestling pigeons.

And see! A man was in Ierosalem, Symeon his name, and this man was just and conscientious, awaiting Israel's consolation, and holy was the Spirit on him. And it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he was not to see death before seeing the Lord's Anointed. And in the Spirit he came into the holy place when the parents were bringing in the child Iesous, which they were doing according to what was customary by his law. And he welcomed him into his arms, and blessed God and said, Now release your servant, master, in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have readied in the presence of all the peoples, light of unveiling for the nations and glory of your people Israel.

And his father and mother were wondering at the things that had been spoken about him. Then Symeon blessed them and said to Mariam his mother, See! This one is for the falling and rising of many in Israel and for a disputed sign. And a sword will pass through your soul so that the reasonings of many hearts may be unveiled.

And there was a prophetess, Hanna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in many days, having lived with a husband seven years from her maiden-years but a widow of about eighty-four years without leaving the holy place, serving night and day with fastings and supplications. And she at that hour standing by was praising God and was speaking about him to all those awaiting Ierusalem's ransom.

Then when they had completed all according to the Lord's law, they went back to Galilaia to their city, Nazareth, and the childling grew and strengthened, becoming filled with wisdom, and God's grace was on him.

[Luke 2:21-40, my rough translation. There's apparently a lot of variation in manuscripts over whether it is 'their purification', 'his purification', or 'her purification'; it makes no significant difference to the story. Eulabes, attributed to Simeon, literally means 'taking well in hand', and is used to indicate something like 'respectfully cautious' or 'careful', but it is often translated here as 'devout' or 'God-fearing', i.e, someone who is reverent and careful to observe the appropriate religious practices. The word for 'revealed', kechrematismenon, is associated with divine oracles; I've tried to keep it distinct from the other revelation-word used in the passage, apokalypsin/apokalyphthosin. It's notable that Simeon blesses Joseph and Mary and not, as one might expect, the child. The word for 'rising' is the same word used to mean 'resurrection'.

The word for 'daughter' does not necessarily imply that Anna was the immediate daughter of Phanuel; it can also be applied to any female descendant. Given that her maiden years bring her to her teens, and then she was married for seven years and then a widow for eighty-four years, she must be over a century old. This would mean that she was old enough to remember the Hasmonean kingdom before Pompey made it a protectorate of Rome in 63 BC and Herod the Great took it over by leveraging his Roman connections in 37 BC. If we assume that Christ was born around 4 BC, as is often thought today, she became a widow in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, king and high priest, around about the time that he was at war with the Seleucid king Demetrios III Eucaerus. She may have been born in the reign of Aristobulus I. 

Some manuscripts say at the end not merely that Jesus became strong but that he became strong spiritually.]

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Three O'Clock on Friday IV

 This is the fourth and last part of a short story draft. Part I, Part II, Part III.


For days after the Riverfront raid, Howard lived a life of jumping at every unexpected sound. He had run as far as he could run before collapsing, and then hunkered down in a shabby apartment in the first deserted building he could find. There he stayed like a mouse in a wall who thinks the cat is just outside.

As time went on, sharp, conscious fear faded to a dull background anxiety, the imagination's association of stray sounds with the Ducal Guard became less constant, and the magnetic lure of society began to make Howard more restless for news and diversion. He put on his shabby fedora and his shabby trenchcoat and ventured out, cautiously, like the mouse hoping that the cat is away. When nothing happened on his first tentative outing, he became bolder, and ranged more widely. He also began staying at a different place each night, still away from others. There were many unused buildings in the City and many abandoned and trashed-out apartments, and Howard figured that he was less likely to draw attention if he did not remain in one place.

When out one day, he began to feel that it was about time that he actually ate something. He did not feel hungry, but he had not eaten since just before Sam had killed him, and that felt too long a time to go without eating. This might not have amounted to anything, but he saw a handpainted sign saying RSTRNT in a shop window soon after and went inside.

It was nicer than he expected. It happened to be in a neighborhood of the City that was not as heavily worn as most of the ones Howard had been around. It was very dim inside, since the only light that was on was near the door, but his eyes soon adjusted, and Howard realized that the reason why that light was the only one on was so that those inside could see who entered and not vice versa. That could be the sign of a trap, but it could also be the sign of a well-run establishment. There was no bar, so he took a table where he could see the room well, or as well as it could be seen in the dimness, and yet have his back toward a wall. He took a surreptitious look around, noting the two figures huddled together in the corner and a third in a hoodie closer to the door. A teenager, looking sullen and somehow dimmer than the restaurant, came by and asked, "Hamburger?" Howard nodded and the waiter ambled off in a way that seemed bored, although in an affected rather than a natural way. Howard very much did not like teenagers, and teenaged affectations of boredom even less. He wondered, with a little malice, what the waiter's face would look like if taken by the Ducal Guard, but feeling some guilt and anxiety over it, immediately dismissed it. The guilt was not about the teenager but about having thought about the Ducal Guard. There is something in the human psyche that assumes that if something is thought about, it is more likely to appear.

The waiter brought back plate with hamburger and thick fries. The hamburger was quite good, Howard supposed. He did not exactly enjoy it, but it did everything a hamburger should do, and did none of things a hamburger should not do. The same was true of the fries. He ate quickly, although without enthusiasm, put his money on the table, and left.

As bad luck would have it, he literally ran into someone while turning a corner, not five minutes after leaving the restaurant. Panic lit up his face at the danger of being recognized, and it was made even worse by the fact that he knew the other face and the other face, also showing panic, clearly recognized him, as well. They both stood there in shock, their minds sorting which way to run, but then his fear-addled mind finally labeled the face he already recognized: Ronnie.

"Ronnie!" he said softly. "I'm sorry. I was not watching where I was going."

The other face settled down. "Howard!" she said. "You could give someone a heart attack!" Then, belatedly, almost grudgingly: "I also was not watching where I was going." Then, as Howard wondered what to say, she said, "My slate is free, and I am staying at the brownstone with the broken porch light."

Howard nodded and she walked on. He stood for a moment, waiting until she was about a block ahead, then, looking around to make sure nobody else was in view, slowly followed her. When he arrived at the brownstone, he knocked and she let him in, carefully re-locking the six locks on the door behind him while he waited.

When she had done, she asked, "Did you hear about the Cardinal? He's been living the high life in the casino district recently. I suspect he was the one who informed on the party."

"Yes," said Howard, "he was the one."

"Why are bishops always like that?" she asked. Howard knew nothing of bishops, and did not even know what that question meant, so he said nothing, and the conversation moved to other things.

He stayed the night and then left in the morning. But before he did, Ronnie said to him, "I've heard there's a card game today in Umbra Close, northwest of the cathedral."

So it was that later he made his way to Umbra Close, taking a long detour around to avoid getting too close to the church. He nearly did not find the place, since nothing remained to indicate it except UM CLO on a very dirty and barely legible sign, but he saw it just before he gave up searching.There was a glimmer of light shining through a papered-over basement window, so Howard went down the steps and knocked at the door.

"Who is it?" someone shouted through the door.

"The milkman," said Howard.

"What do you want?"

"Fish in newsprint," Howard replied.

There was a pause and someone drew back the deadbolt. John looked at him uncertainly a moment through the crack in the door, then let him inside.

"Hello, Howard," said John after he had locked the door again. "How are you?"

"Well enough, John," said Howard. "And you?"

"Well enough," said John.

They went into the next room, a disused storage room in which someone had set up a card table. Tom and Sam were already there, and Howard exchanged greetings with them and then sat down to Tom's right. They dealt the cards and began playing. Tom chattered on about something, although Howard paid little attention to it, and might have managed to tune it out entirely if it had not been punctuated occasionally by Tom's half-bray, half-quack laugh, which no one could possibly ignore. Other than that, the game took all of Howard's attention. It did not quite feel good to be back to gambling, but it felt less bad. Howard did notice, though, that Sam was playing poorly. Sam did not always have the luck, but he never played poorly, and Howard wondered why he was so distracted.

He had his answer, or he thought he did, when a banging came to the door. "Open up in the name of the Duke!" a voice shouted.

"To the window," hissed Sam, springing away as he did so. He was there before anyone else had risen, popped the covering, and climbed up the fire ladder.

Howard rose to follow, but before he could do so, Tom had grabbed Sam's chair and brought it crashing down on John's head. "You should not have informed on us last time, John!" Tom hissed at them. Then he and Howard looked at each other a moment. Tom flashed a sarcastic grin, then sprinted after Sam; Howard followed.

The ladder came up in a different close. It's name Howard could not tell; all he saw as he ran past was the capital T of its name. He ran out, turned down a street, then another.

And then his luck ran out, because he turned into another street and ran directly into members of the Ducal Guard.

He screamed as they grabbed him, and struggled to get free, but their grip was steel-like and freezing cold, and it seemed like the arm they held no longer worked properly.

"Off to the Castle," a voice said.

He screamed again and struggled again, but it was no use, and as he did so, he found himself staring at the face of one of the Guards. Or rather, at the lack of face. There was nothing where there should have been a face. It was not merely invisible, so that one could see beyond it; there was nothing beyond it. It was not merely shadow, obscuring the sight; there was no shadow. The face was simply not there; one looked, and one could not see beyond, and yet one could not see it. Howard screamed again as they dragged him down the street toward the Castle on the hill.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, and the bell of Our Lady of Sorrows rang out with one low, dull tone.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Noble, Grand, Généreux

Dernier Tribut
Au Général Toutant Beauregard
by Victor Ernest Rillieux

Oh! chez lui l’on peut dire avec toute franchise,
 Qu’en tout temps l’on trouvait un [vrai]ment beau regard
Pour l’humble vétéran, pour la veuve soumise
Aux coups du dur destin, frappant sans nul égard!
 Noble, grand, généreux; durant sa longue vie
Jamais le noir soupçon par son fatal venin
Ne put même effleurer sa gloire, son génie,
 Lui donnant l’une et l’autre un prestige divin!
 Tendre époux, bon soldat et chevalier créole,
 Son nom, dictame saint aux cœurs louisianais,
 Resplendira toujours, ainsi que l’auréole
Qui partant d’un ciel pur brille et ne meurt jamais!
 Sur la tombe où repose un guerrier magnanime,
 Près de ses compagnons morts en braves soldats,
 Je viens y déposer pour tout gage d’estime
Une modeste palme à leur noble trépas!

Victor Ernest Rillieux was a Louisiana Creole poet; while an important poet of his day, he fell into such oblivion after his death that many of his poems do not survive, and we know relatively little of his life. His most famous poem is "Amour et Devouement", dedicated to Ida B. Wells. Note the play-on-words between Beauregard's name and the beau regard that Rillieux ascribes to him as his clearest characteristic. My very rough translation:

Last Tribute
To General Toutant Beauregard

by Victor Ernest Rillieux 

Oh! of him one can say with full frankness
That one always found a truly beautiful concern
For the humble veteran, for the widow submitting
To the blows of hard fate, striking without regard!
Noble, great, generous; during his long life
Never dark suspicion by its fatal venom
Could ever touch his glory, his genius,
Giving to him for both a divine fame!
Loving spouse, good soldier and Creole knight,
His name, holy balm to Louisianan hearts,
Will always shine, as the sun-halo
That from a pure sky shines and never dies!
On the grave where lies a magnanimous warrior,
Near his companions who died as brave soldiers,
I come to deposit there as a proof of esteem
A modest palm to their noble passing!

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard, or G. T. Beauregard, as he usually went by in his lifetime, is an interesting person in himself. His first language was French, but he picked up English while attending a private school for children of Creole background in New York City. He attended West Point, which seems to be when he quietly dropped the 'Pierre' and started treating 'Toutant' as a middle name; being Creole was not exactly a boon to one's career in the U.S. Army. He was brilliant, though, and became a military engineer in the Mexican-American War; it was at this point that a rivalry developed between him and Robert E. Lee, one in which Lee, a much better military politician from a highly pedigreed very non-Creole background, would consistently come out on top. His career as a military engineer, however, was filled with successes and engineering innovations invented by him. He was interested in politics, but his political career stuttered, so eventually he become superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy. Unfortunately for him, Louisiana seceded soon after, and the Union Army immediately and summarily removed him, despite Beauregard's protest that such an act cast aspersions on his honor. So he went back to Louisiana. He tried to get a position as commander of the Louisiana state army, but was beat out by Bragg, who had better political connections; he enlisted as a private, but applied for a higher-ranking position, and Jefferson Davis eventually put him in charge of the defense of Charleston, and along with that posting made him one of the Confederate Army's seven full generals. He was the one who designed the Confederate Battle Flag, and his generalship was often innovative (although he also often took risks), but his career was rocky. He was not particularly liked by other generals, and his tendency to take clever risks made many of his decisions controversial; at several points, he was engaged in a sort of tug-of-war with Lee over strategies. 

After the Confederate loss, he was given a pardon by Andrew Jackson, and was allowed to run for political office by Congress on recommendation of Ulysses S. Grant. And his post-bellum career was in many ways more striking than his military career, because after a few years he became one of the South's most active advocates for equal rights. This seems to have been a turnaround for him; he had not before that point showed much sympathy for the cause, but his unceasing advocacy in this regard is one of the things that likely led to him receiving this last tribute from one of Louisiana's most important black poets.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Music on My Mind

 

The Hillbilly Thomists, "Bourbon, Bluegrass, and the Bible".

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Common Doctor

 Today is the feast of St. Tomasso d'Aquino, Doctor of the Church. From his commentary on the book of Colossians, on Colossians 1:3-6:

Our good consists principally in faith, hope, and charity; for through faith we have familiarity with God, through hope we are raised up to Him, but by charity we are united to Him. I Cor. XIII, 13: 'so now abide faith, hope, and charity, these three', &c. And so he [St. Paul] gives thanks for these three. First, that they [the Colossian Christians] have faith, although he was not the one who preached to them, which was a disciple named Epaphras, and later Archippus. Thus he says 'hearing of [your] faith', which is the source of spiritual life. Hab. II, 4: 'my just one lives from faith'. Hebr. XI, 6: 'who would draw near to God should believe', &c.

But this faith without working love is dead, as is said in Iac. II, 17. And thus it ought to be that there is a working love. Gal. ult.: 'in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor foreskin is worth anything, but a new creation'. And so he says, 'and the love which you have, etc.'.

For there is a love of charity and a worldly one, but the worldly one does not extend itself to all, because love is to those with whom there is communion, which is the cause of love, and this cause in worldly love does not pertain to all, but only to those who share blood or who share worldliness, but the love of charity extends itself to all. And thus he says 'in all'. For even if sinners are loved, this is so that at some point they might be saints. 1 Io. III, 14: 'we know that we are translated from death to life, because we love the brethren'.

Moreover, the world's love has fruit in this world, but charity has it in eternal life. And this third he puts under hope, saying, 'according to the hope that is laid up', that is, according to eternal glory, which is called hope, because it is held as certain. Iob XIX, 27: 'laid up is my hope in my heart'.

[Super ad Colossenses, sect. 11, my translation]

If you want to read St. Thomas without getting too heavily into technical matters, I recommend the commentary on Colossians very highly; I think it's one of the best commentaries on Colossians ever written and it is a fairly good introduction to important elements of St. Thomas's theology, but it is also relatively short and readable.