Saturday, November 06, 2004


Don't forget to go over and look at the Early Modernists' Carnival at H.L.!

Martin Elginbrod

For some reason I can't get this rhyme out of my head:

Here lies Martin Elginbrod,
Hae mercy on my soul Lord God,
as I would do were I Lord God,
and ye were Martin Elginbrod!

It's a bit of puzzle: it's one whopper of a counterfactual to speculate what Martin would do if he were God and God were Martin!

Hume's Philosophy of Good-Breeding

I've been intending for a while to write about Hume's too-often-neglected philosophical account of good manners. So here it goes.

The key to Hume's account is sympathy, which produces our sentiment of morals in all the artificial virtues (Treatise Artificial virteus are virteus only because they have a tendency to social good (they are 'artificial' virtues precisely in that they are invented for this purpose, or, at least, come to be generally approved for this reason). Hume gives a number of examples of these artificial virtues: (property-)justice, allegiance, modesty, chastity, 'laws of nations', and good manners.

So how does sympathy create the virtue of good breeding? Consider the case of someone arrogant. Through sympathy we enter into how the arrogant man feels about himself. These feelings present a view of ourselves that is "mortifying and disagreeable" (Treatise - in short, humiliating. Needless to say, we don't like this at all. And since everyone feels this way about arrogant or proud people, everyone disapproves of arrogance or pride (ironically, because we are to some extent proud ourselves and don't like feeling humiliated). On Hume's account, this suffices to make pride a vice. To restrain this vice, we begin to develop general maxims for behavior. Enter the rules of good breeding.

Hume makes an analogy between the rules of good breeding and his account of the laws of nature (by which he means general maxims about just property-transference):

Laws of Nature
   negative function: to prevent opposition of self-interest
   positive function: to secure property in society

Rules of Good-Breeding
   negative function: to prevent opposition of pride
   positive function: to render conversation agreeable & inoffensive

So etiquette serves a function analogous to property law: it reduces conflicts between people and makes their lives easier.

Now, Hume regards the distaste for pride that grounds etiquette as a prejudice, and so we find that Hume's account of good manners draws almost directly from the discussion of prejudice as a form of unphilosophical probability in Treatise 1.3.13. And if we turn back to that section, what do we discover? Hume uses the rules of manners as an example in his discussion of unphilosophical probability:

For why do we blame all gross and injurious language, unless it be, because we esteem it contrary to good breeding and humanity? And why is it contrary, unless it be more shocking than any delicate satire? The rules of good breeding condemn whatever is openly disobliging, and gives a sensible pain and confusion to those, with whom we converse. After this is once established, abusive language is universally blam'd, and gives less pain upon account of its coarseness and incivility, which render the person despicable, that employs it. It becomes less disagreeable, merely because originally it is more so; and 'tis more disagreeable, because it affords an inference by general and common rules, that are palpable and undeniable. (Treatise

So when someone acts toward us with scurrility, e.g., insulting us horribly, this shows up against the background of the rules of good-breeding, and are condemned because of these rules, which have been developed to keep pride in check. These rules also, interestingly, mollify the insulted: because they exist, the person insulted can regard the insulter as 'despicable' - "no good breeding in that one" - and this means that the insulter's opinion (as expressed in the insult) is really much less important than it might have otherwise seemed. What is happening in this case, according to Hume, is that our reasoned judgment has joined forces with our prejudice against self-applause. This prejudice would operate even contrary to reason, but, of course, not all prejudices are contrary to reason all the time.

This gives us something of a picture of how the rules of etiquette build up. We develop our (somewhat, and Hume thinks necessarily, inconsistent) prejudice against self-applause. But prejudices on their own can be very irregular and inconstant, as well as undiscriminating. Prejudices lead us into contradictions. To resolve these contradictions we reject or refine the first crude principles encapsulated in our prejudice. And so it goes. Of this sort of pattern, Hume says:

Mean while the sceptics may here have the pleasure of observing a new and signal contradiction in our reason, and of seeing all philosophy ready to be subverted by a principle of human nature, and again sav'd by a new direction of the very same principle. The following of general rules is a very unphilosophical species of probability; and yet 'tis only by following them that we can correct this, and all other unphilosophical probabilities. (

This is not a minor point; for all philosophy and science is built on general rules! But as noted above, not all such general rules are equal: some are more regular than others, in the sense that they lead us into fewer contradictions. The more regular they are the more they are considered 'rational'; the less regular are, the less 'rational' they are considered to be. In reality, they are the same sorts of things; it's just that, as a matter of practice, we find some more useful than others because they fit our experience more easily. The rules of etiquette, despite their origin in the prejudice against self-applause, are clearly considered by Hume to be refined enough to be considered 'judgment', i.e., rational. Our rejection of pride is a hastily and rashly formed general rule; but refinements on this general rule improve it for the purposes of society. It always remains a prejudice - Hume likes to argue that it really can't be a vice for someone of genuine merit to value himself highly - but genuinely serious forms of pride are common enough that we don't make any exceptions for them. And just as the rules of etiquette allow us to insult people if we do so in an oblique and subtle way (we call these 'witticisms'), so they allow people to disclose their superiority, if they do so in a sufficiently oblique and subtle way:

Nothing is more disagreeable than a man's over-weaning conceit of himself: Every one almost has a strong propensity to this vice: No one can well distinguish in himself betwixt the vice and virtue, or be certain, that his esteem of his own merit is well-founded: For these reasons, all direct expressions of this passion are condemn'd; nor do we make any exception to this rule in favour of men of sense and merit. They are not allow'd to do themselves justice openly, in words, no more than other people; and even if they show a reserve and secret doubt in doing themselves justice in their own thoughts, they will be more applauded. That impertinent, and almost universal propensity of men, to over-value themselves, has given us such a prejudice against self-applause, that we are apt to condemn it, by a general rule, wherever we meet with it; and `tis with some difficulty we give a privilege to men of sense, even in their most secret thoughts. At least, it must be own'd, that some disguise in this particular is absolutely requisite; and that if we harbour pride in our breasts, we must carry a fair outside, and have the appearance of modesty and mutual deference in all our conduct and behaviour. We must, on every occasion, be ready to prefer others to ourselves; to treat them with a kind of deference, even tho' they be our equals; to seem always the lowest and least in the company, where we are not very much distinguish'd above them: And if we observe these rules in our conduct, men will have more indulgence for our secret sentiments, when we discover them in an oblique manner. (Treatise

This is all the Treatise account. The Enquiry account is shorter but much the same; he even draws the same analogy between rules of good-breeding and rules of justice. He calls these rules of good-breeding a "lesser morality" and, in another place, "the companionable virtues."

One other place in which Hume discusses the philosophical underpinnings of good manners is the essay "Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences." There he argues that republics and monarchies create different sorts of cultural climates, because advancement depends on different things in each. In republics advancement depends on usefulness; thus, Hume claims, republics are more conducive to the sciences. In monarchies, however, advancement depends more on being agreeable; thus they are more conducive to "the polite arts". It is in this context that Hume gives his misguided defense of gallantry. The basic point of the argument is right - that gallantry is an improvement over the previous condition. However, in arguing for this conclusion, Hume overshoots the mark by arguing that gallantry is virtuous and sits well with wisdom and justice. And I think in some sense he must. The rules of good-breeding may be a lesser morality, but on Hume's account they must be considered a morality; gallantry must be considered a virtue.

It is here, I think, that we start seeing the problems with Hume's philosophical account of good-breeding. It is, for one, an elaborate form of hypocrisy: we disguise our contempt and our arrogance largely so we can express our contempt and arrogance without being too offended by the contempt and arrogance of others. But at the same time, Hume's account makes this moral in a very robust sense. It may not be as important in the greater scheme of things as (say) justice; but it is for all that as much a part of morality as justice. Hume's account doesn't really give us much room for transcending the rules of good-breeding; we can refine them, but all refinement really does is give us more flexible versions of the same thing. Women are doomed to be inferior because that's the way the rules have always been; these rules are refined through the centuries, but all we ever can get is a less brutal way for women to be inferior! Much of this actually indicates more of a flaw in Hume's account of what virtue and vice are than anything in the actual account of manners, but not all of it. Still, it is arguably the most sophisticated philosophical discussion of manners or etiquette ever put forward, and is worth some thought despite its many and definite flaws.

ACPQ Summer 2004

I've been wanting to say a few things about the most recent American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, but other things have just swept it away. The first two offerings are a continuation of a dispute about Aquinas's Aristotelian commentaries. I confess, I always find this sort of dispute a bit pointless. Let's consider a different case. I write amateur poetry. Most of it is explicitly Christian. Some of it is not. I have written poems based loosely on the perspectives of Parmenides, Descartes, Vico, Mullah Sadra, etc.; one might ask: "Can these be seen as expressing Brandon's own views, or are they merely poetic interpretations?"

Am I (say) a Greek Pagan or a Sufi Muslim? Assuredly not.

When I write (say) a Cartesian poem, is that an insistence of any sort that I am a Cartesian? Assuredly not.

Would I write a poem on a perspective with which I did not find myself in particular sympathy in some way? Assuredly not.

Can my views simply be read off these poems from non-Christian perspectives, or perspectives of philosophies I do not hold? Assuredly not.

Can these poems be said not to convey my views at all? Assuredly not.

There is in these debates, I think, a perpetual temptation to regard texts as something from which one can simply 'read off' some sort of view; but this is not so. Texts are signs of minds and beliefs, not facsimiles of them. The same issues arise with regard to Aquinas's other works as arise with regard to his commentaries on Aristotle, it's just that the way in which the Aristotelian commentaries are signs of Aquinas's mind and views is a much more complicated matter than the way in which (say) the Scriptural commentaries are signs of his mind and views. In the Commentary on the Metaphysics we see Aquinas (whoever he is) leaving signs of his mental interaction with the text of Aristotle; and these signs tell us something about Aquinas, as any signs would. But what they tell is indirect and obscure, by their very nature. Some such signs are less indirect and less obscure; but they do not cease to be indirect and obscure, because they do not cease to be signs.

Consider a very different example: Kierkegaard. Is Johannes de Silentio Kierkegaard? In an obvious sense, yes: Johannes de Silentio is Kierkegaard writing pseudonymously. However, is what Johannes de Silentio writes a direct sign of what Kierkegaard believes, in the sense that reading Johannes de Silentio you are reading off Kierkegaard's beliefs in a straightforward sense? Not at all. In Johannes de Silentio we find Kierkegaard; but it is Kierkegaard under persona - truly Kierkegaard, but not in a straightforward way. All the signs of Kierkegaard in (say) Fear and Trembling are mediated through a pseudonymous persona; they are truly signs of Kierkegaard, but it is Kierkegaard as it were baffling us. If I ask you a straightforward question and you deflect it by answering it in a round-about and obscure way, you have answered my question, but you have baffled me a bit as to what is truly going on in my mind. The Pharisees ask Jesus a question; he responds in parables; they do not know how to reply, becausem although they can follow the answer, they have only a vague intimation of what that response tells them about Jesus. The disciples do better: they have heard Jesus often, and have heard him speak in many ways. But they are still to a degree baffled. It takes a Pentecost to unbaffle them.

And the question becomes: Is it really any different with any other text? No. By this I do not mean that we can never understand a text. What I mean is that there is always a limit to a text, and the limit is that it is not a person, not a mind, not a thought. It is a sign of these things, and the ways in which it may be a sign of these things are myriad. So I would say: there is no straightforward answer to the question of whether the Aristotelian commentaries give the mind of Aquinas, because the answer is Yes, and No. Yes: they are nothing other than signs of Aquinas mentally working through Aristotle for a purpose. In the Aristotelian commentaries we have signs of what a person with Aquinas's views (whatever they are) writes when writing a commentary on Aristotle, and that means we have signs of Aquinas's own views. No: Aquinas is not a commentary on Aristotle. Even if he agreed with Aristotle's text, as he interpreted it, in every particular, he is not a commentary on Aristotle's text. This sounds odd to say, and trivially true; but it is astonishing how easily it can be forgotten - we can easily slip into talking about Aquinas's views as if they were simply the commentary on Aristotle (or ST or SCG or whatever). But they are not; these things are only signs of Aquinas's views.

The way this is all written makes it sound as if I am more skeptical about our ability to know Aquinas's views than I am. There are signs that Aquinas closely agrees with Aristotle in some things in some way, and signs that he doesn't in others; there are also more ambiguous signs that can, upon examination be made more specific. But there is always a residual limitation to this: no amount of text, however clear, conveys to us the wild, living intellect of any human person. (There really isn't any need for it do so.) This doesn't prevent us from knowing a lot about such a person and his or her intellect; but it does explain why I think the dispute pointless. It's just silly to think we can have a general answer to the general question "Are the views in Aquinas's Aristotelian commentaries Aquinas's own views?" that would be at all accurate. It's only in the close analysis that we make headway with such questions, and even that will never answer all possible questions we could propose, even all the important questions we could propose. It would take a Pentecost to unbaffle us; and I'm afraid that Aquinas, not being Christ, lacks the resources to give us one.

Also in this issue is an article on Descartes's real distinction argument by Justin Skirry. Skirry holds a hylomorphic interpretation of Descartes's dualism. I think this is an interesting view, but I don't think it is Descartes's view - I incline toward Rozemond's view in Descartes's Dualism. The hylomorphic view requires, I think, overlooking just how much Descartes modifies the scholastic terminology he adapts.

Besides these articles, there is an article on Heidegger, which bored me, and an article on Lacan by Conor Cunningham, which looks interesting, but which I cannot understand at all. I must, therefore, forego comment on it.

On Flood's Reply to Vallicella

There is an interesting conversation going on about creatio ex nihilo in the 'philosophosphere', so I thought I'd jump in. Anyone who reads this weblog regularly can almost certainly guess what my position is, so I won't belabor it. What I do want to discuss, briefly, is a contribution by Flood, responding to Vallicella. Two arguments in particular stand out:

A) Now that which is not distinct from a thing logically cannot fail to be that thing. Therefore the creation that issues from God’s operation upon himself is, necessarily, God. If God exists, then for any x, x is either God or a creature of God: tertium non datur. For God to create, but not out of that which is other than God, is for God to create out of God. Perhaps Vallicella can shown, or has already shown in PTE, how the product of such a process could be other than God. Absent such a showing, the logic of exnihilation would seem to issue in pantheism.

B) When we use “dependent” to express the relationship of one thing (or attribute, state, or trait) to another, we abstract that relationship from all the others the two may have to each other. The predicate “dependent” cannot express the totality of relationships that the one has to the other. That is because non-dependency or independence in at least one respect is a necessary condition of non-identity or difference. If a is dependent on b in one respect, then there must be at least one other respect whereby it is not the case that a is dependent on b. The notion of total dependence, dependence in every respect, entails identity, and therefore no dependence at all. If a is dependent on b in all respects, then a “collapses” into b, taking dependency, and difference, with it.

If a is dependent on b in all respects, then any difference between a and b is merely nominal, i.e., “a” and “b” are two names for the identical entity.

I don't see any reason to agree with the aspects of these two arguments that I have bolded above. (A) seems to require that all causation be operation on something pre-existent. There's a certain imaginative plausibility, given that this is the way causation generally works in our experience; but I can't think of any reason why one would need this to be an essential part of causation. Likewise, with regard to (B), the claim about total dependence seems to be simply false; for in a case of total dependence one of the things about b that would be dependent on a would be the distinction between a and b - and I see no reason why such a distinction could not be part of b's dependence on a. (It's worth pointing out, too, that the 'total dependence' here could very well just be total dependence of all positive attributes; and this would not, as far as I could see cause any problem even if we assumed Flood's principle here.)

It's always possible that I'm missing something key in the movement here; but the moves seem to be far too quick. And when one looks more closely at them, it's difficult to find any good reason for those moves, or, at least, I find it difficult.

Since Aquinas is ultimately in the background here, it's worth pointing out that he responds to something like the move in (A) in the response to Objection 2 here; and I think the response to Objection 2 in another place would be at least related to the issue in (B) - although I find (B) immensely more obscure than (A). Flood also introduces problem of evil issues; Aquinas responds to these sorts of issues here. It's also worth pointing out (since it's also an issue in the discussion) that, while Aquinas's full understanding of creation ex nihilo requires appeal to his doctrine of the composition of essentia and esse, essence and actual being, it doesn't (again, as far as I can see) play any obvious role in his ST discussion of creatio ex nihilo itself. This is so even when he argues that only God can create; the issue in his discussion is always the nature of the cause, not the constitution of the effect. He does integrate his doctrine of creation with the composition doctrine in De Potentia; what he says there seems to me to be entirely reasonable, but then, I think the composition doctrine in its basic form is entirely reasonable - we can't simply conflate actual being and kind of being as if they were the same thing; indeed, I'm not sure what that would mean. As Aquinas sometimes puts it, existence is other than essence. Aquinas's doctrine goes a bit beyond this basic point, but I find it a hard question to determine how much farther it goes. [As far as I can tell from my readings so far, I don't think it goes much farther; and the bit it adds seems reasonable to me.] The idea is found in De ente et essentia:

Everything that receives something from another is in potency with respect to what it receives, and that which is received in the thing is its act; therefore, a quiddity or form that is an intelligence is in potency with respect to the existence that it receives from God, and this received existence is received as its act.

For Aquinas 'compositio' typically means a union in which one element of the union is identifiable as act and the other is identifiable as potency; so the question of whether we can make sense of his view that creatures are composed of essentia and esse really boils down to whether we can regard essence as really potential to actual being in the created substance itself. It doesn't, I think, have anything to do with 'reception' [in a fairly literal sense] (as the original criticism in Deck's exegesis seemed to be); Aquinas talks about reception because it's a natural word to use when talking about the act-potency relation, not because it's carrying any serious metaphysical burden in the actual composition doctrine. In other words, we can afford to take the 'reception' talk very loosely; and so the question would just be: Is there some reasonable sense in which we can say essence receives existence [i.e., is there a sense in which e could say essence is really potential to existence]? I don't see why there wouldn't be. I have to look more closely at Deck's criticisms; I didn't find them convincing at all, but Aquinas and I tend to be congruent souls on most things, so he usually makes more sense to me on first blush than his critics do. As I said, I'll have to look more closely at the criticisms.

UPDATE: Clark had already put up an interesting post at Mormon Metaphysics; see also his comment below for clarification as to how it relates to my post here. I should also give the URL of the post by Vallicella to which Flood is responding; that is here. I've also added a few small things in brackets above for clarification.

Beyerstein on Framing

A good post at Majikthise on the ineliminable need for coherence and consistency in presenting one's views.

Two More Poem Drafts

Because poems are what I have that are most easy to post!

The first is an older one. The second I scribbled down yesterday. Both are somewhat flawed, but they both have a great line or two (especially the ending of the second).


All hint at the will of God; it stands behind each law,
it summons up each power that summons love and awe.
The creative act of God is not a whisper in early time -
it flows through every birthing as meaning flows through rhyme,
and, like the evocations of words within the heart,
reverberates in every whole that transcends summing parts,
and grounds each single part, as every leaping thought
makes as if anew the words within it caught.

The Good of Sorrow

This chill, sharp wind through lonely trees,
Which whips with snow and wails,
Is colder far than any ice-swept seas
In ancient north where story fails.
Am I a snowflake quickly sweeping
Through the flurried airs of night,
Alone in all my whispered weeping,
Battered in an endless fight?
So wild is this way I'm wending,
Yet intimating something more:
For drifts of sorrow, sadness sending,
Sadness-ending loves restore!

Modesty and Ignorance

Sorting through some of my papers I cam across a copy of Julia Driver's 1999 article "Modesty and Ignorance", along with G. F. Schueler's response. Driver argues for an underestimation account of modesty: modesty involves underestimating self-worth in some respect to a limited degree. Both Driver and Schueler understand this to be underestimation involving ignorance; and both consider modesty to be a virtue. The difference is that Schueler has a different account of modesty: for Schueler, modesty involves not caring about whether people are impressed with you. Now, I don't think the term 'modesty' in English is used for just one thing; but I think that for the things for which we use it most, both these accounts are false to the point of absurdity, as, indeed, I think it false to say modesty is a virtue - modesty is a behavioral thing and therefore may be either virtuous or vicious. But I won't argue these here, in part because I think it is absurd to think one can discuss any particular virtue or vice without an immense amount of context - certainly more than can be had in a journal article or a blog post. There are just too many factors; although I suppose it can be done when everyone's already on the same page, or if you can at least potentially get them on the same page. I just have a thought or two about issues that come up in the arguments.

Driver considers the objection that ignorance seems to be something on which we place considerable disvalue. To this she replies:

This is too quick. We sometimes do value ignorance. For example, ignorance of one's own beauty is often said to enhance it. The term "unaffected" is used as a compliment and refers to a person's lack of awareness, or ignorance, of their own personal charm. In addition, we certainly value innocence in children, which is a form of ignorance. So the general principle that ignorance is always bad seems to be violated by a number of counterexamples. My account of modesty as a virtue would constitute simply another counterexample.

Some points. (1) 'Unaffected' does mean 'lack of awareness'; but neither is synonymous with ignorance. In fact, a beautiful woman who knows quite well that she is beautiful can be unaffected in her beauty if she's just the sort of person who doesn't worry about her looks at all. The childhood innocence is stronger; but there really needs to be much more argument that it is "a form of ignorance." For one thing, occasionally adults do display childlike innocence despite not being ignorant in the matters about which they are innocent. I suspect that Driver is just playing on an equivocation in the usage of the terms here; sometimes we do use 'innocence' as a synonym for 'ignorance' - but this does not mean that we are valuing it, or that we are right to value it, when we do.

(2) The objector does not need to say that ignorance is bad but that what involves ignorance is not a virtue insofar as it involves ignorance. These examples (and any analogous ones) are not really counterexamples to this position; at least, they would need considerably more elaboration and argument. Driver considers the possibility that someone would say that her own arguments show only that we value something which happens to be correlated with ignorance. She goes the whole hog and tries to argue that it is the ignorance itself that we value. She says:

Imagine someone who believes that he's the best, though he hasn't gone through a ranking exercise. He may know because God told him, or his mom told him, or he read it in the New York Times. It is correct, too. Thus, he knows he is the best. Any professions of inferiority on his account would constitute false modesty. If one were to find out that he knew and professed an even slight inferiority, one would be offended. I think this has to do with feeling as though one has been patronized or condescended to.

Thoughts: (2a) This is not an argument that we value the ignorance; it is an argument that we don't like professions of inferiority that seem condescending.

(2b) Driver seems to be assuming that the only expression of modesty is profession of inferiority. But this need not be the case. For instance, one can express modesty by giving the ultimate credit to something else, e.g., by pointing out that being the best is due to natural talents he didn't earn, or due to biology, or due in part to some lucky breaks. It's at least the intended point of the shout-outs to God athletes and actors are so fond of when they win something.

(2c) Driver assumes that false modesty is not modesty. But it could just as easily be accounted a form of modesty involving a certain falseness. If one were to take this line, Driver's example would be interpreted as a case of modesty that is not a virtue.

Driver goes on and tries to argue that self-deception and deception are sometimes virtuous. I won't discuss the examples she gives for this; but, again, they don't require that we see them as virtuous even if we don't consider them necessarily bad. Not every non-bad thing we do is virtuous. (Schueler makes this point.)

Schueler makes many of the same assumptions as Driver (e.g., that false modesty is not modesty involving falseness).

Schueler's arguments are both more odd and more complicated. Since both Driver and Schueler like giving examples without analyzing them very closely or very carefully, I'll do the same, and provide an example that I think neither of their accounts can handle at all.

Suppose I know that I am the most brilliant person alive; and when I say I know, I mean it is true and that I have good, relevant evidence for thinking it true. I do want people to be impressed with my accomplishments, and don't have any qualms about taking steps to make sure they are. However, I do have considerable respect for people around me, and I do know that a lot of what I rightly consider to be my brilliance is due to factors that were entirely out of my hands, so I don't think it needs to be rubbed in. Therefore I'm very subtle about how my accomplishments come up for people to be impressed at, and when the subject comes up, I downplay it, not by lying, but by pointing out true things that indicate that I can't take full credit for my brilliance, and by phrasing things in such a way that I don't really call attention to it. Essentially all I'm doing is putting my known brilliance out there for people to see, but going out of my way to do it so as not to hurt people's feelings, or make them feel bad in comparison, or make them feel stupid, or anything like that. Isn't this being modest?

Remember, I started the example with 'Suppose'. It is a supposition (although no one has ever called me modest - or immodest, for that matter)!

Another Remedy

There's a lot of venting and puzzling going on over the election - which is certainly fine, despite the fact that it's going on and on and on. (And despite the fact that some people slide from venting to absurdity.) I found a thought at Ales Rarus: what is really needed on the Left is something like a new Dorothy Day. For that matter, we could all use something like a new Dorothy Day.

Here's an interesting text by Day - her reaction to the death of Martin Luther King Jr.:

On Pilgrimage - April 1968

Here's her response to WWII:

From The Catholic Worker January 1942, 1, 4

There are throughout Day's writings many things with which I disagree (many, many things), but there's no doubt we could all use a few good Dorothy Days in visible places.

Friday, November 05, 2004

It's the Other Enlightnment

Garry Wills has an odd op-ed in the New York Times called "The Day the Enlightenment Went Out" (hat-tip to Cliopatria for the link). He asks such questions as "Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?" If we are going to use such a criterion, I'm suddenly in doubt as to whether France in the French Enlightenment would count. Despite Wills counting America as an Enlightened nation in its inception, we wouldn't have counted then, any more than we do now. But he goes on to say:

America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed "a candid world," as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind."

I'm not sure what Wills means by "the first real democracy in history," but it seems to me that the U.S. was far more a product of British thought than French thought; and while we talk about a Scottish Enlightenment, and could potentially do the same with England, we normally think of France when we talk about "Enlightenment values". Arguably, our Enlightenment values were Scottish rather than French. John Witherspoon, sixth president of the College of New Jersey (a.k.a Princeton), signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a leading member of the conservative side of the Scottish Enlightenment - the Popular or Evangelical Party of the Church of Scotland; and there was clearly interest in the whole movement well before he was invited to become president of an obscure backwoods colonial college (which he proceeded to turn into the foremost educational institution in North America, turning out the likes of James Madison). And the Scottish Enlightenment was a more conservative Enlightenment than anything on the Continent. Wills goes on to bemoan ignorance in the populace; but I don't think "Enlightenment values" have ever been a cure for that in any age or country. They're values, after all, not facts; and, what is more, nothing in Enlightenment values prevents the possibility of ignorance: you can be just as wrong respecting the evidence or the sciences as you can be right, and I think history shows that all over the place. In any case, it is certainly true that the main impetus of the Scottish Enlightenment would have had no problem with the Virgin Birth. (That they probably would for the most part have had no problem with evolution, too, is just a guess; but a reasonable one, I think, given their interest in the subject, and the early response of evangelicals and moderates to Darwin. They would have had no patience for anyone trying to use it as a weapon against Christianity, though.)

Wills then goes on to talk vaguely about fundamentalism. Strictly speaking, 'fundamentalism' is hard to pin down; and, what is worse, it is generally not a helpful descriptive term but a derogatory stereotype. It's very difficult to know what people are talking about when they use the term. I haven't a clue as to how Wills intends it.

But I do like Wills's ending. We should yearn back for the Enlightenment: the Scottish one, which (if I may be partisan a moment) for all its faults was far more reasonable and moderate (and democratic) than anything the Continent ever produced.

Carnivalesque II

Carnivalesque II (the Early Modernists' Carnival) is up at Houynhnm Land. Unfortunately, it's currently unfinished - computer problems locked me out of my notes, so I had to do it all by memory. Fortunately, I remembered most of the posts, but there's likely to be a few more things added to the Carnival over this weekend. So feel free to browse the links, but check back at some point, because there might be a few additions here and there.

This also means that if you haven't submitted to it, but have a post you'd like to submit, you have a grace period. Send it to me at:


(Or, of course, you can leave the link in the comments here.)


Thursday, November 04, 2004

For Keeping in Mind

Don't forget: the Early Modernists’ Carnival, Carnivalesque, is coming to Houyhnhnm Land (pronounced “whinnim” or “hwinnimn"), my other weblog. The date will be November 5 (probably late in the evening). If you have written a post in September or October (the first few days of November will be OK, too), or have in surfing the blogosphere come across a post, on the early modern period (broadly conceived - from about 1450 to 1850), send it my way. You can email me through the “Email” link at Houyhnhnm Land, or directly through the following address:


(With @ for [at] and . for [dot], of course.)

Since H.L. is devoted primarily to early modern philosophy, posts in that area, or in the general history of ideas in the early modern period, will be especially welcome; however, this is in no way a requirement. Also, if you have a post that’s primarily on the late medieval period, or on the post-early-modern period, which would be of interest to early modernists in any way, we’re interested in that, too.


Chris at Mixing Memory has been doing a great series on cognitive science research into metaphors. This is a topic dear to my heart, so I'll put up the posts as they come along. So far he has:

Metaphor I: A Brief History of Metaphors in Cognitive Science
Metaphor II: "Metaphor Is Like Analogy"
Metaphor III: Metaphor Is Categorization
Metaphor IV: The Reckoning


November 25th is, as you know, the Feast Day of Queen Saint Catharine of Alexandria, Virgin and Great Martyr. She is a patron saint of schools, philosophers, theologians, and rhetoricians. Starting about the thirteenth century, her feast day became one of the most important holidays of the year, and remained important in places even into the eighteenth century (Leibniz mentions St. Catharine's Day customs somewhere as an easily recognizable example). I have decided that Siris will hold a St. Catharine's Day Pageant, since she would quite clearly be the patron saint of this blog, and if Patrick and Valentine get celebrated, I don't see why she shouldn't. It won't quite be a blog carnival, although there will be linking (so if you come across anything that would be fitting, send it my way via the above address), and I'll be planning a number of things.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


In browsing commentary on the election, it has occurred to me (and this will, I hope, be my last post on the subject) that by any nonpartisan measure, this has been one of the most successful elections in recent history; and, what is more, that Kerry has been one of the most successful campaigners the Democrats have ever had. It was a Kerry success, even though it wasn't a Kerry victory. For Bush, of course, it was both.

Assuming MSM to be more or less right (we still have to see, technically, but it would be odd if they were off by more than a million or two), Bush broke the record for the President elected with the greatest number of votes, with about 59,000,000. Kerry is close on his heels at about 56,000,000.

How many votes did Gore get in 2000? About 51,000,000. Clinton in 1996? About 37,000,000. The only near equivalence in recent memory was Reagan in 1984 - somewhat more than 54,000,000 (which I think was the previous record). For further comparison, what is the combined population of Australia and Canada? About 52,000,000. The population of the United Kingdom is a bit over 59,000,000. That's a lot of voters. It's not India-big, by any means (voter turnout in India is larger than the population of the United States, despite our being something like the third most populated country in the world), but it is, on both sides, a very respectable expression of democracy.

Bush comes away with about 51% of the popular vote. Kerry gets about 48%.

What percent of the popular vote did Clinton get in 1996? About 49%. Gore in 2000? About 48%. Kerry clearly didn't do too badly in terms of the popular vote. It's also clear he did well in the Electoral College.

So I think we have good reason to ignore any post-election analysis that assumes that Kerry somehow failed, rather than what seems to be the case, namely, that he did extremely well but Bush did better.

Impromptu Election Hangover Cure for We the People

Well, thank goodness that's all over; now it's time to take a breath and step back, regroup and rethink the way we Americans approach everything. Start with this, from Andy at Under the Sun:

She's a Beauty, Isn't She?

And it's worth noting that Kerry's concession speech was gracious...

...and that Bush's victory speech was also gracious (hat-tip for both: Yankee from Mississippi).

And we can keep in mind that part of the whole point of a system of government like ours is the expectation that people can meet together as rational agents of good will and honor, to try to solve our problems together. It takes the hard work of trying to understand those with different views, and the equally hard work of always trying to see your own views in a new light, rather than letting them rigidify into dogma, malice, or fear. And alas, it takes the even harder work of being patient enough with those who have already let their views rigidify, knowing full well that it wouldn't take much for us to go the same way. All this is necessary for our mutual improvement; and it is this mutual improvement that is the heart of the American Way. For what makes us all Americans, the one thing we all share that can inspire us all, is never the America that is, but always the America that we know can be. At the heart of who we are is a pragmatic idealism, a firm recognition that it is by setting always in front of us a shining vision of virtue that we make the clearest and most definite progress. It is what unites us, perhaps as motley and divided a group as there could be, into a single people.

I have heard much this past year about the dangers of a slide into a totalitarian government; and I agree that it is a danger that faces us. It is a danger that faces any powerful republic, particular in times of great trouble. But this perpetual danger is not a danger because of the Presidency; it is a danger because Congress always faces at least some temptation to sell itself and the people it represents out, to fail in its responsibility, its duty to be a rational and deliberate body, carefully considering all the actions of the United States government in light of the common good and our constitutional principles. I hope all of us Americans will see fit to consider deeply that, for all the importance and excitement of the Presidency, our most important votes Election Day were not for the President but for Congress, and I equally hope we will take up the responsibility such votes demand, the responsibility of being ever vigilant with regard to the actions of Congress, ever ready to hold our representatives responsible for their decisions in our behalf, and ever ready to support them against encroachments of power when they act according to duty. This, above all else, is the primary defense of the people against all totalitarianism. I will go further, and say it is the only defense. This defense, this perpetual vigilance, is our chief responsibility as Americans.

And the last thing to remember is that invocation which echoes throughout the years of our existence: God bless America. This means not that all things are right with us - they never are - nor that our side is the side of God - for it very often is not. It means rather that there is a side that is right, and it is our hope that we have the strength to be on it. It means that there is a higher law to which human law must answer if it is to be just; and we are responsible for seeing that it does answer. It means that there is an America, whose glory is a passion for freedom, whose greatness is a firm resolve for justice, whose power is found in the three words "We the People", whose excellence is in the recognition that all human beings are created equal. It is never entirely the America that is. Indeed, for the most part it has never been at all the America that is. But it is the America that can be; and when our predecessors have said, "God bless America," it has always meant: annuit coeptis - the nod is given to our undertaking. Not what we have accomplished (it is never enough) nor what we hold up as the banner of our pride (our pride, as every other, shall be cast down), but our undertaking, our endeavor. What we, as Americans, have undertaken to accomplish, a shining city on the hill - it is worth doing, for all our infinite failures in doing it. We should take time to remember this in times like these, for it is who we are - an endeavor, never completed, never perfect, never entirely adequate, but utterly worthwhile. So I say, and I hope you can say it with me: God bless America. We need such blessing, as we have always needed it and always will.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Two Poem Drafts

I've been intending to dig back in my files and post a short story; I'm a rather better story writer than a poet, or, at least, a more consistent one. But that will have to wait for a time when I'm less busy. Here are two recent scribbles. The first doesn't require much explanation, beyond the fact that it alludes to some of the plays on words in Genesis 3; the second is a first rough attempt at translating a Latin poem. I like translating Latin to tighten up my skills, which are somewhat patchy. I haven't had a chance to get the original source for this poem; Rudolf Otto in The Idea of the Holy calls it the "Rhyme of St. Bernard," without giving any citations. I've used the Latin text he provides; and I've tried to avoid as much as possible the 'splay' that creeps into translations by keeping the diction tight, which has served as the primary poetic constraint. I'd be interested in any thoughts on how it might be improved along these lines; the hard part about translating Latin verse is that Latin allows for much denser wording, whereas English tends to diffuse it with extra words. I'd like this one (eventually) to be as concise and poetically 'punchy' as possible (and I'm willing to sacrifice exactness of translation for it).


the subtle serpent
the naked one
came to Eve seducing
upon the bough
in sliding lie
God's promises reducing
to but a shadow
of themselves
made naked of God's mercy

the subtle Eve
the naked one
to Adam came sweet-plying
seduced in words
turned here and there
with sliding twists of lying
she a shadow
of herself
made naked of God's mercy

Adam the subtle
the naked one
to God gave up an answer
he spoke in words
that slid away
from truth like fleeting dancer
he but a shadow
of himself
made naked of God's mercy

Messiah true
the naked one
upon the bough was dying
at his feet
in deepest pain
his mother was there crying
as turned shadow
into bright light
made naked through God's mercy

Rhyme of St. Bernard

Zion, singular city, mystic manse, in heaven hid,
Rejoice I now in you, now I moan, I sorrow, I pant for you;
Through you (for unable am I in flesh) oft I pass in heart,
But earthly flesh and fleshly earth soon fall back again.
By mouth can none repeat nor none reveal
What luster fills your walls and citadels.
I can speak of it only as my finger can touch sky,
Or I run upon sea, or make dart stand in air.
Your grace overwhelms each heart, O Zion, O Peace,
No praise can you belie, O City without time.
O new manse, you the pious gathering, pious folk, build,
Exalt, inspire, increase, assimilate, effect, unify.

The Latin (for those who are interested):

Urbs Sion unica, mansio mystica, condita coelo,
Nunc tibi gaudeo, nunc tibi lugeo, tristor, anhelo,
Te, quia corpore non queo, pectore saepe penetro;
Sed caro terrea, terraque carnea, mox cado retro.
Nemo retexere, nemoque promere sustinet ore,
Quo tua moenia, quo capitolia plena nitore.
Id queo dicere, quo modo tangere pollice coelum,
Ut mare currere, sicut in aere figere telum.
Opprimit omne cor ille tuus decor, O Sion, O Pax.
Urbs sine tempore, nulla potest fore laus tibi mendax.
O nova mansio, te pia concio, gens pia munit,
Provehit, excitat, auget, identitat, efficit, unit.

If You Want a Write-In Candidate

If you're tired of the ordinary election selections, try this possibility.

The best campaign point is the one about the children (I also like the one about the trains).

(Hat-tip: The Will to Blog.)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Third Party Voting

From a WorldNetDaily article:

A vote for Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party, or for the Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik – regardless of whatever personal virtues they possess, or those of their party's platform – amounts to a vote for Kerry. After all the high-sounding words have been spoken in justification of voting for either one, this is the undeniable fact that remains. It's the most basic mathematics possible, so I won't insult anyone by explaining it.

Yes, the most basic mathematics possible through the looking glass. Whatever happened to 1 unit = 1 unit, as in "A vote for Peroutka is equal to a vote for Peroutka"? But under this new mathematics third party voters get the privilege of voting multiple times: a vote for (say) Cobb is a vote for Kerry (say the Republicans) and a vote for Bush (say the Democrats), and is (I hope) also a vote for Cobb. So apparently all third party voters vote three times. But if the Cobb voter is voting for both Bush and Kerry, the two cancel out, leaving just the Cobb vote. So a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for that third party candidate; in case you needed an argument for it. There's no point in trying intimidation tactics; if Bush or Kerry want the votes of third-party-inclined voters, they should earn them.

I am always very disturbed by this constant tendency to measure votes by how much power they give you over other people's destiny - as if the only power of a vote were your power to outvote everyone else. But this is simply false. Voting is not - should not be - a struggle to overrule people who disagree with you; it is a contribution to the governance of one's society by having in one's possession something that must be earned. This is the power of vote, that the politicians must earn our votes. If a candidate wants your vote, that candidate has to earn it; and what is more, you are the absolute and sole authority on whether that candidate actually has earned it. You establish the standard. And if they did not earn it, you don't have to give it to them. If you think that under the circumstances Kerry earns your vote simply by not being Bush and having a lot of voters with him, and decide to give it to him on that basis, that's your right. If you think that under the circumstances neither Kerry nor Bush have earned it but a third-party candidate has, and decide to give your vote on that basis, that's your right. If you think none of them have earned it, and decide not to give it to any of them, that's your right. And so on through all the possible scenarios. The power of your vote, which you alone can exercise, is that it is something to be earned according to the standards you deem fit. Nothing more, nothing less.

Christian Carnivals of Various Sorts

Christian blog carnivals are multiplying - a must given how saturated the Christian Carnival itself is becoming. This will make it a bit easier to browse good blog posts; although it will add a great many more links than any one person could handle (at least, if he's me).

So there's the Christian Carnival XLI at "From the Anchor Hold". That came out last Wednesday.

And there's the First Catholic Carnival at "Living Catholicism", which was out the 26th.

And then there's Post Tenebras Lux - the Carnival of the Reformation, which has put out its first post at "Jollyblogger" today.

I notice that the two newer carnivals are going to do themed carnivals - this Post Tenebras Lux, for instance, was on Sola Scriptura, while the next Catholic Carnival will be on the Eucharist. This is a great idea.

Simon on Intuition

Contrary to the postulations of some spiritualistic philosophies, the intuition of consciousness does not disclose, without further ado, the nature of our acts, of our powers, and of our substance. Consciousness tells me that I think, that I will, that I freely choose, and that I am. But in order to know what thought is, what the will is, what freedom is; in order to know whether I am a substance or a bundle of phenomena, a piece of extension or a spirit, or a composite of body and spirit, awareness of my activities does not suffice. It is necessary to subject these activities to analysis, to disengage their forms from surrounding contingencies, to compare, to judge and to reason; in a word, to exercise science and philosophy. No intuition can be substituted for the work of the reason and dispense with its difficulties: this holds for the soul as well as for nature. It is up to the spontaneous philosophy of common sense, and later to the technically worked-out philosophy of the philosophers to render explicit and distinct what immediate experience presents in confusion.

Yves R. Simon, Freedom of the Will. Peter Wolff, tr. & ed. Fordham University Press (New York: 1969) pp. 81-83.

A big philosophical amen to that. It's really quite surprising how commonly philosophical arguments presuppose that knowledge of one's own nature is easy; whereas in reality, beyond a certain elementary level, it is one of the most difficult topics of inquiry that can be proposed. This underestimation of how tricky it is to know oneself in a robust sense is a flaw that occurs all over the place, on every side of every question that appeals to facts about what we are.

My Burial Was Marked with a Total Eclipse of the Sun

I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

The site provides the following clarification:

You are Joshua Abraham Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States of America!

Born in England sometime in the second decade of the nineteenth century, you carved a notable business career, in South Africa and later San Francisco, until an entry into the rice market wiped out your fortune in 1854. After this, you became quite different. The first sign of this came on September 17, 1859, when you expressed your dissatisfaction with the political situation in America by declaring yourself Norton I, Emperor of the USA. You remained as such, unchallenged, for twenty-one years.

Within a month you had decreed the dissolution of Congress. When this was largely ignored, you summoned all interested parties to discuss the matter in a music hall, and then summoned the army to quell the rebellious leaders in Washington. This did not work. Magnanimously, you decreed (eventually) that Congress could remain for the time being. However, you disbanded both major political parties in 1869, as well as instituting a fine of $25 for using the abominable nickname "Frisco" for your home city.

Your days consisted of parading around your domain - the San Francisco streets - in a uniform of royal blue with gold epaulettes. This was set off by a beaver hat and umbrella. You dispensed philosophy and inspected the state of sidewalks and the police with equal aplomb. You were a great ally of the maligned Chinese of the city, and once dispersed a riot by standing between the Chinese and their would-be assailants and reciting the Lord's Prayer quietly, head bowed.

Once arrested, you were swiftly pardoned by the Police Chief with all apologies, after which all policemen were ordered to salute you on the street. Your renown grew. Proprietors of respectable establishments fixed brass plaques to their walls proclaiming your patronage; musical and theatrical performances invariably reserved seats for you and your two dogs. (As an aside, you were a good friend of Mark Twain, who wrote an epitaph for one of your faithful hounds, Bummer.) The Census of 1870 listed your occupation as "Emperor".

The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, upon noticing the slightly delapidated state of your attire, replaced it at their own expense. You responded graciously by granting a patent of nobility to each member. Your death, collapsing on the street on January 8, 1880, made front page news under the headline "Le Roi est Mort". Aside from what you had on your person, your possessions amounted to a single sovereign, a collection of walking sticks, an old sabre, your correspondence with Queen Victoria and 1,098,235 shares of stock in a worthless gold mine. Your funeral cortege was of 30,000 people and over two miles long.

The burial was marked by a total eclipse of the sun.

(Hat-tip: Cliopatria.)

Voting Is Hard Work

Here it is, my one partisan post - sort of. I'm actually not a partisan person at all; the closest I come to being partisan in anything is that I consider myself to be philosophically vaguely Thomistic. But, as you know, I voted last week, and so it seemed fitting to say something about it.

All the candidates for all the parties I found less than satisfactory; from the Fog of Bush to the Fog of Kerry to the irritating Lincoln-hating of Badnarik to the utter political incompetence of Cobb, I found problems with all of them.

Why I Did Not Vote for Bush: He's Mr. Muddle. I honestly can't figure him out at all; in policies he seems not to go left or right but to Mars. Now, I confess I find most of the objections to Bush to be just junk; they're a stretch at best, and some of them are rather ignorant. (It must be kept in mind that, being in Canada and hearing a lot of Canadian objections as well as what I read on the web, this isn't actually all that surprising; there are many Canadians who like to think of themselves as informed about American politics who show themselves in conversation to be pretty obviously confused.) My own objections to Bush are largely: 1) I don't think he has his priorities right; the first priority of a President should be practical, down-to-earth management of the executive branch. I see nothing of this in Bush. This is related to my other objections. 2) He's an advocate for undisciplined government spending. 3) While I think calling Iraq a 'disaster' is absurd, I really have never seen it as a particularly helpful response to terrorism. 4) There's always the hint of magical thinking about him (I find it in Kerry, too): more government involvement seems always to be the solution to just about everything.

Why I Did Not Vote for Kerry: This essay at FindLaw pretty much sums it up (I don't agree with everything in it, but with the basic point). I consider Bush much, much less guilty in this department than Kerry; the whole point of the Senate is to be the deliberative body on these matters, and part of the point of the Senate is to be a check on Presidential power; whereas sweeping out Presidential power to the extent practicable is just what Presidents have to do (and what good Presidents as well as bad have always done) to be what the energetic chief magistrate the President is supposed to be. Kerry supporters often like to pat themselves on the back about what they see as their moral high ground on the war in Iraq; as far as I'm concerned, their Emperor has no clothes. Were I to choose between Kerry and Bush, I would not choose Kerry, precisely because I think his betrayal of the Constitution, although less obvious, is more serious. I have other objections to Kerry, although none so decisive as this. I also don't think he's shown any signs of real good qualities - despite his reputation for nuance, I've seen little of it (I have seen a number of signs that he can't figure out what is relevant to the issue at hand; I sympathize with this since it's a failing I often share - but it's not nuance but a complex form of confusion).

Why I Did Not Vote for Cobb: Cobb is the Green Party Candidate (whoops - I just realized that this makes it sound like this is a reason I did not vote for him; it isn't, it was just a clarification because you probably haven't heard of him). Of the four parties I considered (Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian), Cobb's campaign has been the most utterly incompetent. What does one say of a Green ticket in which the Vice Presidential candidate has said she's voting Democrat and which targets only 'safe states' - i.e., the ones where they won't take votes from Kerry? How stupid is this approach? I cannot even count the ways. The Greens had already lost votes like crazy to Nader; and then they worked as hard as they could to make themselves even more insignificant. What the Greens needed was to show they could carry their momentum over from the previous election, even without Nader. What they've shown instead is that they can't do politics. I have sympathy with the Green Party on a number of issues (according to the test the Libertarians have on their web site I'm largely in sympathy with the sound of the Republican and Green Party Platforms, and not at all for the Democratic and Libertarian platforms). But this is a Green Party for which I could not at all vote.

Now, as to Badnarik: I voted for him. Or rather, I voted for the Libertarian Party this election, and the only way I could do it was to vote for this rather repugnant man. Badnarik became the party candidate through an accident of politics, moving ahead of much better candidates through intra-party bickering. When he became the Libertarian candidate, he hadn't paid income taxes in ages (he didn't even file returns); he drove (and for all I know, still drives) without a driver's license. Both are supposed to be, apparently, a form of libertarian civil disobedience; I can't, for the life of me, see how the latter is reasonable on constitutional-libertarian principles (i.e., libertarianism within the framework of the U.S. Constitution), and the former seems about the stupidest thing one can pick to engage in civil disobedience about. So he's a kook about taxes. He has also gone on record calling Lincoln and FDR evil dictators. Now, I quite recognize that both were occasionally on rather iffy ground; such is life and the Presidency. But I have no tolerance and no sympathy for anyone who goes around calling the Great Emancipator an evil dictator. He's the worst possible choice for the Libertarian Party in the worst possible year; ask almost any libertarian. He was almost enough to tip me Green or Republican. But I do think that what is needed at this stage in time is a healthy and visible Libertarian Party. This is the election year to make it visible; unfortunately, healthy is not on the menu. So, balanced on the edge of insanity, caught between a rock and a hard place, I did not know what to do until a salutary thought came: there is no way on God's green earth that Badnarik will ever be President. So I voted Libertarian, and hoped Badnarik can keep himself from doing something terribly stupid if the Libertarians do well.

And that's what it came down to: I voted for someone only because I was certain they would not win. Ugh. I can see why some people just pick a party and stick to it. But I take (some) comfort in knowing that everyone else who is voting is voting for someone unfit for office, too. On second thought, that just makes it worse, so never mind.

My largely random prediction for the election: Mainstream Media will be a bit more skittish about declaring states than they were last time, but will still rather stupidly continue to think their declarations are essential parts of the election process. Bush will get 262 Electoral College votes (or so); Kerry the rest of the 538. This depends on Kerry winning Florida, which I think he might; if he loses Florida, however, he will lose. If he gets Florida [but not 270 - ed.], the vote will go to the House, where Bush will win. The popular vote will be razor thin, close enough that a fluctuation in turnout could easily make it go either way. Nonetheless, the candidate who gets more of the popular vote will pretend it's a really important number. Were I to guess (as if I weren't completely guessing about the rest of this!), I think Bush will squeak by in popular votes. Lots of litigations from Democrats and Republicans alike. Bush will get New Mexico, the state which had the closest election last time (and went to Gore by a sliver of votes), by a small margin as the southern two-thirds of the state actually votes this time. The Libertarians will get about 3% of the national popular vote; Nader about 1%; the Greens less than 1%. The media and polling organizations will not entirely recognize how stupid they were in not giving anyone good polling data on the Libertarian vote. Republicans will increase their hold on Congress. There will be at least one 'faithless Elector'. Whoever loses will again kick up a fuss about how evil the Electoral College is, and will again be wrong because what they will really be complaining about is just their own state's election law. Bush will have lost Evangelical votes and picked up Catholic votes; but he will not have picked up Catholic votes in most of the solid-Kerry states.

It certainly is a lot more fun to guess about the election than to vote in it.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Hume on Gallantry

A while back I posted on Hume's sexist argument against immortality of the soul - i.e., the argument to the effect that if the soul were immortal as Christians think it to be, women would have mental faculties equal to those of men, so the soul can't be immortal. I couldn't think of another case of blatant sexism (he treads close in discussing chastity, but it's a bit obscure what he intends there), but came across one today when reviewing various things Hume says on good manners. The topic is the rise of gallantry in civilized societies:

"As nature has given man the superiority above woman, by endowing him with greater strength both of mind and body, it is his part to alleviate that superiority, as much as possible, by the generosity of his behaviour, and by a studied deference and complaisance for all her inclinations and opinions. Barbarous nations display this superiority by reducing their females to the most abject slavery; by confining them, by beating them, by selling them, by killing them. But the male sex, among a polite people, discover their authority in a more generous, though not a less evident manner; by civility, by respect, by complaisance, and, in a word, by gallantry."

(This is from the essay "Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences," par. 40.) If you hadn't figured it out before, now you know why there have been feminists opposed to things like men's opening doors for women: they are trying to stamp out Humean tones in gallantry, in which the thought is that men must do nice things for women because women are weaker and more stupid; in which gallantry is just a way for men to exercise authority over women without the nasty business of slavetrading and killing; in which the idea is that men must be polite to women so that their being inferior isn't such an unpleasant thing.

Fortunately, there is more to Hume on manners than this; I'll be posting on the better parts this week.


It's All Hallow's Eve, and this post from "The Little Professor" has put me in mind of Stoker's short stories. Many of Stoker's short stories are available online (e.g., here), and it is certainly true that "The Dualitists; or, the Death Doom of the Double Born" is, despite its clunky title, a chilling tale.


Don't forget, by the way, that Carnivalesque, the Early Modernists' Carnival, is coming up this Friday; if you've come upon any interesting posts on or relevant to the early modern period, send the links my way.