Saturday, September 17, 2005

Notes and Links

* Scott Paeth guest-blogs on Niebuhr at "Majikthise".

* Also guest-blogging at "Majikthise", Scott Lemieux has an interesting post on judicial review.

* Mental Illness and Proper Response at "Studi Galileiani": Hugo discusses changing views of mental illness, which is always an interesting topic. One wonders, for instance, what exactly was wrong with Kit Smart, for instance. Smart was one of the most brilliant English poets of the 18th century; he was locked in an asylum for what was called at the time 'religious mania'. It isn't wholly clear what this was supposed to be. When Samuel Johnson mentions the case, for instance, he seems to reduce it down to Smart's odd tendency to pray out loud every time he felt an impulse to pray, no matter what the circumstances. (There's also a story, which may or may not be true, of his going about naked, singing psalms in the rain.) Smart, as is clear from his poetic masterpiece, Jubilate Agno, written while in the asylum, certainly didn't think he was suffering from a mental illness. Of course, there's always a question as to how much one should trust someone's own judgment in such cases. But it's hard for us to have any clear grasp of what was going on in the Smart case, and this isn't just for lack of information; the society was different, the expectations were different, and we are always a bit in the dark about the details. Should we just write it off as a case of schizophrenia, before schizophrenia had a name? Or is that really any more helpful than those absurd late nineteenth-century attempts to classify Teresa of Avila as a 'hysteric'?

* "Redeem the Time" has one of Thomas Aquinas's most famous passages on government up -- Lord Acton once said, on the basis of precisely this passage, that Aquinas was the first Whig. Of course, non-Whigs read it differently. There's a good interview on precisely this subject here. Regardless of the details of interpretation, Aquinas's analysis is one of the finest arguments for mixed government ever written.

UPDATE: C. S. Peirce and his Quincuncial Map Projection get a mention at "Cosmic Variance".

* It's Harvest Moon season (HT: Dappled Things)

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