Saturday, January 15, 2005

A Note on Sikhism

Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world (after Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism), is nonetheless virtually unknown to many people in the West; even (rather surprisingly) to people who regularly interact with Sikhs (there's a strong Sikh presence here in Toronto). A primer:

Sikhism originates with Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1538) in the Punjab (more precisely, in what is today Pakistan). Nanak began his preaching career on receiving a vision to preach enlightenment and the way to God. The religion Nanak founded is strictly monotheistic and has a strong emphasis on human brotherhood. After Nanak there were nine more Gurus, each considered a reincarnation of Nanak himself. There are, however, no more Gurus for Sikhism today. Or, rather (since Sikhs themselves would not put it that way), the Eleventh and Perpetual Guru of Sikhism is Shri Guru Granth, the primary holy text of Sikhism, consisting of the writings of the first nine Gurus and an occasional Hindu or Muslim text. You can find the Guru translated online.

A common cultural mark of the Sikh is the five K's: the Kanga (a wooden comb symbolizing order); the Kachha (undergarments symbolizing purity); the Kara (a steel bracelet symbolizing absolute service to Truth); the Kirpan (a sword symbolizing the defending of the right and the struggle against the wrong); the Kes (uncut hair and beard symbolizing respect for God, who gave it; it is always to be bound up in a turban, symbolizing holiness). All baptized Sikhs vow to wear these marks or memorials. Morally, the three main ideas appear to be 1) constant meditation on God; 2) earning an honest living; 3) compassion. Truth and truthful living is the binding thread of the three; 'Sikh' means 'one who learns', and Truth is perhaps the central element of Sikh belief. The root verse of Sikhism is (roughly, in English):

There is only one God;
His name is True;
He is the Creator.
Without fear,
Without hate,
Timeless and Formless,
Beyond birth-and-death, the Enlightened,
He can be known by the Guru's grace.

One of the distinctive features of Sikhism is its attempt to mediate between Hinduism and Islam. While Sikhism rejected the caste system and polytheism from the beginning, and does not exist to serve as a bridge between the two, it nonetheless has always been in some ways an attempt to find a peaceful middle ground. It does this, one might say, by proposing that everyone go behind their specific forms of worship to recognize the meditation on God, beyond any particular name, as more fundamental. As Nanak famously said, "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim." As one might expect, this world being the way it is, the Sikhs have nonetheless had a long history that at times has been both bloody and painful. When the partition between Pakistan and India was made, part of the reason was religious; unfortunately for the Sikhs, though, the division was between mostly Muslim Pakistan and mostly Hindu India; the Sikhs were left out of the equation entirely. There are still Sikhs who hope for the re-establishment of the old Sikh state of Punjab, in some form, in some form, at least. That state was destroyed by British invasion in the 1840s, as the British extended their sway over all India.

All About Sikhs is a useful website for basic information.

Poem Draft

I scribbled this down yesterday:

Ashes and Clay

When the wordly wise seem to conquer,
when they scoff at the words on your tongue;
when they treat as though they were nothing
the chants your forefathers had sung;
when they speak as if Delphi's oracle
had informed them of all secrets and ends,
as if each word they were speaking
did from Apollo descend;
then cast off their sophists' deductions
and of their white noise learn to say:
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay.

They may take for their fashion the pompous,
or the dismissal of every decree,
or lace every word with a scorning
of the things they do not bother to see.
They may boast of their goodness and virtue
or rejoice in their love of the poor
(whom they ignore every day in the passing
but as an abstraction adore).
They may contrast your life with disfavor,
but remember when the hounds start to bay:
their maxims are proverbs of ashes;
their defenses are defenses of clay.

They will speak at great length of true justice;
they will condemn you for faults beyond ken;
they will hold you to standards of greatness
beyond the attaining of men.
And when it is done will they embrace you?
No, they hold you, you alone, to the blame;
for you never did think like they think,
and your name was never their name.
When they do this be strong and have courage,
and a mirror hold up to their way,
for their maxims are proverbs of ashes,
and their defenses are defenses of clay.

But beware when you speak to another;
beware of your word and your thought.
For you are not so wise in your knowledge
as never in folly to be caught.
You may speak with great understanding;
you may speak with the wisdom of years,
or know al lthe paths that the world takes,
or the grounds of each hope and all fears;
but always be mindful of danger,
how someone might face you and say:
"Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay"!

The Flimsy Fetter

Gilleland at "Laudator Temporis Acti" posted an excerpt from a poem by James Beattie. The selection is from Beattie's comic poem "The Wolf and Shepherds. A Fable". While you're there, also check out Beattie's "Epitaph, Intended for Himself".

Blogging about Bills, besides acting as a source of all sorts of information on U.S. legislation, uses Technorati to track the discussions of bloggers about bills as they are passing through Congress. (Hat-tip: farkleberries.)

Worth Reading

* The God of 'Joan of Arcadia' at "Ralph the Sacred River"

* The Baluchistan Issue at "Chapati Mystery"

* Judith Schaechter at "Giornale Nuovo"

* Imprecision of the Phrase 'Global Warming' at "Real Climate" (the discussion in the comments is particularly interesting)

* The Love of Saint Thérèse at First Things

* St. Thomas Answers the Psychological Determinists at "Disputations"

Jesus and the Analysis of Reasoning

Given that I have an interest in the analysis of reasoning of all kinds, particularly actual communicated reasoning in the real world, I find Joe Carter's 'Jesus the Logician' Project very interesting. I agree with Jeremy that that's not the most accurate title that could be given the project; but the project itself is worthwhile. (Hat-tip: Parableman.)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Who Would Have Thought?

Elizabeth Bennet
You are Eliza Bennett from Pride and
! Yay, you! Perhaps the
brightest and best character in all of English
literature, you are intelligent, lively,
lovely-- in short, you are the best of company.
Your only foibles are that you stick with your
first impressions... and your family is quite

Which Jane Austen Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Hat-tip: Blogenspiel.)


There's a very interesting post at Hugo Schwyzer's weblog on circumcision in the context of the Abrahamic covenant.

Siris Links on Evolution; and on ID Again

I haven't really posted anything on the ID debate, beyond my recent post rant on the subject, but I have done one or two things that are at least obliquely related.

Darwin on Reason and Imagination

Readworthy (on Tim Burke's open letter at Cliopatria)


A Small Contribution to the Eventual Resolution of the Evolution Dispute

None of these really discuss 'intelligent design theory' itself, though. I have intended to do a post, for some time now, on how not to argue with IDers, but I never got around to it. To my comments in the most recent post above, I want to add two things:

1) It is a mistake to think ID can be refuted by labeling it as a "God of the gaps" argument; this is to mistake cause and effect. An argument can only be shown to be a 'God of the gaps' argument if the 'gap' has already been completely filled with a better candidate than God - in other words, nothing can be non-question-beggingly labeled a 'God of the gaps' argument until it has already been refuted. If it were to turn out, for instance, that the gap could never be filled by any alternative to God, that exact same argument would just be a straightforward (defeasible, but undefeated) causal inference. What makes it a 'God of the gaps' argument is that God's role gives way to a gap-filler. (The problem with 'God of the gaps' arguments is that they confuse primary and secondary causation, and treat a secondary-causation issue as if it were a primary-causation issue.) Of course, it is entirely reasonable to say, "My own view is that this or that ID argument will turn out to be a 'God of the gaps' argument or a 'designer of the gaps' argument, for such-and-such reasons," and, indeed, this is my own view of a large number of ID arguments; but what is doing the work here is the set of reasons for thinking that the gap will be filled, not its being a 'God of the gaps' argument. Likewise, it is a mistake to criticize ID by saying it is based on pessimism about the future of science, i.e., that it thinks science can make no progress on a given subject; precisely the problem with ID is that it is not structured this way. There can be entirely reasonable grounds for being pessimistic about the future of science on an issue; indeed, there are provable limits (methodological limits, uncertainty principles, and the like) which bar scientific progress of a certain sort in a certain direction. But ID is not pessimistic about the progress of science in this way; it is structured as a set of arguments for the conclusion that we can be quite optimistic about the future of science, even given certain alleged failures in current theory, because the future of science is ID. That is, IDers see themselves as proposing a new direction of progress for a science otherwise doomed to fail; and this is not a giving up on science, but a claim that science is capable of accommodating ID as a biological theory. And it is this that is the issue. IDers are not arguing from an unfillable gap to a designer that bridges the gap; they are arguing that ID is the best way to fill the gap. (I think in doing so they are usually committing a version of the 'God of the gaps' argument, in that they are often confusing primary-causation and secondary-causation issues; but this does not come from a pessimism about science, but from a scientistic attitude.)

2) It has to be understood that there are lots of different design arguments, and they fall into rather distinct kinds. The most obvious distinction is between problem of evil arguments (or most of them, anyway), which argue from a lack of design or a misdesign, and arguments that pick design, simply speaking, as their starting point. But even in the latter category there are many different types, not all of which are put forward by IDers, and not all of which are in opposition to any particular evolutionary theory. Even among the design arguments put forward by IDers there are different versions. For instance, Michael Behe's argument in Darwin's Black Box seems to be a natural inference argument. It takes the design inference as a default inference, based on the way we naturally think. Default inferences can be nullified by alternative positions that essentially say "The default is off". I will call these defeating suppositions. Behe's argument is essentially that (because of irreducible complexity) the defeating supposition for the default inference fails for certain biological machines and cascades; and therefore we are rationally required in these particular cases to fall back to the default inference. (This is very similar to Paley's argument, which is, would argue - against virtually unanimous opinion, it must be said - also a natural inference argument.) Now, one irony here is that many biologists' view of the situation is structured exactly in this way; indeed, it is so pervasive that even vehemently anti-ID people like Dawkins accept this view, and even those who cannot consistently do so often slide back into saying or implying something that would require this view to be true. If this is the case, then the whole issue at stake is simply whether Behe is right about the failure of the defeating supposition; and the most successful refutation will be to show in each particular case that the defeating supposition still holds (the defeating supposition can fill the apparent gap, thus not requiring us to appeal to design to fill it). In other words, Behe's argument is weakest at his criticism of Darwinism; it is surprisingly difficult to find anyone who consistently even rejects Behe's actual design inference, much less rejects for good reason. This is different from William Dembski's argument in No Free Lunch, which is not a natural inference argument (Dembski I think actually has more than one; I am speaking of the primary one, the Explanatory Filter Argument). In Dembski's argument, we must first eliminate a 'chance' class of events and a 'law' class of events (which are not defeating suppositions but standing defaults); and then, when we have done so, we reach a 'design' class of events. I put the words in quotes because the classification itself is not extraordinary; and a great many opponents of ID have wasted many words on the classification to no good end. One may classify things in whatever way is convenient; the question is not how we are going to divide events into classes but what we are going to be able to infer once we have done so. On Dembski's argument, the inference from the 'design' class of events to a designing cause is sanctioned not by natural defaults in reasoning but by induction, and it is here, at the design inference itself, that Dembski's argument is weakest, since Dembski spends very little time and effort on this aspect of his argument. If the two arguments are conflated, as they usually are, the only possible result is muddled confusion; because they are weak and strong at different places.

Neither of these arguments, however, exhausts the field of possible philosophical design arguments (or comes anywhere near doing so). It's also noteworthy that in their bare outlines, neither of these arguments gives particular warrant to thinking ID particularly scientific. That is, it is entirely possible to deny that design considerations are scientific and to accept these arguments; on such a view, we will simply have come to another limit on a particular direction of scientific progress, where other, non-scientific considerations kick in. (There is also nothing in these arguments that makes it inconsistent to think of ID as scientific; the whole issue of whether ID is scientific or not is not an issue of the nature of ID arguments themselves, but of the role played by design considerations as compared to the role played by scientific considerations.) If they work, that is not a sufficient reason to consider them useful for scientific biology; and if they don't, it won't be because they are unscientific. That is, this is so if we are just considering the basic formats of the arguments, and not necessarily claims made for them.

What is clear, however, is that the conclusion of the argument, while somewhat interesting if true, is actually next door to nothing; all design arguments face the major limits Hume notes in his discussion of the analogical design argument, because the analogical design argument is the most general form of design inference. That is, even if we accept them as true, they may give even less than the most modest intelligent design theorist actually claims for them. This is because IDers tend to see their conclusions as at the same level as evolutionary theory; evolutionary theory, however, is a secondary-causation issue, and tells us nothing about ultimate causes (one could, of course, hold that the only 'ultimate causes' are secondary causes, but this requires higher-level assumptions). IDers, to their great credit, admit this; but they don't typically act on it. Suppose an ID argument is sound: what do we then have? We have a bare conclusion we can do very little with and a promissory note for possible further research once we get a clearer notion of all the things that are designed. ID is in this sense like eliminative materialism: if an eliminative materialist were to claim scientific status for e.m., the 'scientific' status would actually just be a promise that one day, many decades in the future, science will have so radically changed that psychology will collapse into neuroscience, and concepts like 'belief' and 'mind' and 'thought' will be totally replaced. Likewise, at the most optimistic assessment, the 'scientific' status of ID is a promise that, one day, many decades in the future, science will have so radically changed that we will be able to do something with this conclusion that we have drawn through an ID argument. But even supposing this is all true, in the meantime it leaves us with just a very vague gesture toward what may actually be just a science-fiction fantasy.

3) My pet peeves in the whole discussion are (A) when people confuse final cause arguments with design arguments: the two types of arguments have a certain relation (design arguments deal with the peculiarities of a very specialized form of final cause), but the two cannot be equated. Aquinas's Fifth Way is not a design argument; it is an argument about the possibility of anything's being an efficient cause at all. 'Final cause' in the scholastic sense does not mean what it came to mean later. (B) when people assume that all design arguments are of exactly the same format (which I've already dealt with).

I'll end before this slides too much into a rant again.

Review of Schnall

I (briefly) review Schnall's recent article in Hume Studies over at Houyhnhnm Land.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Seek to Bring Forth and Establish the Cause of Zion

I found this post on politics at "In Medias Res" somewhat interesting.

Aphorisms from T. H. Huxley

T. H. Huxley, despite his occasional flaws, is probably my favorite nineteenth century freethinker-type. Henrietta Huxley's collection of Aphorisms and Reflections from the Works of T. H. Huxley (1907) is a great read. Here's a sample:

In science, as in art, and, as I believe, in every other sphere of human activity, there may be wisdom in a multitude of counsellors, but it is only in one or two of them.

Anyone who is practically acquainted with scientific work is aware that those who refuse to go beyond fact, rarely get as far as fact; and anyone who has studied the history of science knows that almost every great step therein has been made by the "anticipation of Nature."

M. Comte's philosophy in practice, might be compendiously described as Catholicism minus Christianity.

We live in a world which is full of misery and ignorance, and the plain duty of each of us is to try to make the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat less ignorant than it was before he entered it.

There is assuredly no more effectual method of clearing up one's own mind on any subject than by talking it over so to speak, with men of real power and grasp, who have considered it from a totally different point of view.

Of all the senseless babble I have ever had the occasion to read, the demonstrations of these philosophers who undertake to tell us all about the nature of God would be the worst, if they were not surpassed by the still greater absurdities of the philosophers who try to prove that there is no God.

Genius as an explosive power beats gunpowder hollow; and if knowledge, which should give that power guidance, is wanting, the chances are not small that the rocket will simply run amuck among friends and foes.

Surely there is a time to submit to guidance and a time to take one's own way at all hazards.

History warns us that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.

The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.

Science is, I believe, nothing but trained and organised common sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only so far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club.

No slavery can be abolished without a double emancipation, and the master will benefit by freedom more than the freed man.

The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all the woes of mankind, is wisdom.

A man's worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes.

All truth, in the long run, is only common sense clarified.

Patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.

My belief is, that no human being, and no society composed of human beings, ever did, or ever will, come to much, unless their conduct was governed and guided by the love of some ethical ideal.

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and, however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.

My experience of the world is that things left to themselves don't get right.

The only people, scientific or other, who never make mistakes are those who do nothing.

The most considerable difference I note among men is not in their readiness to fall into error, but in their readiness to acknowledge these inevitable lapses.

"Magna est veritas et prævalebit!" Truth is great, certainly, but, considering her greatness, it is curious what a long time she is apt to take about prevailing.

The great tragedy of Science–the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.

Science and literature are not two things, but two sides of one thing.

I am too much a believer in Butler and in the great principle of the "Analogy" that "there is no absurdity in theology so great that you cannot parallel it by a greater absurdity of Nature" (it is not commonly stated in this way), to have any difficulties about miracles. I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school.

It is better for a man to go wrong in freedom than to go right in chains.

People may talk about intellectual teaching, but what we principally want is the moral teaching.

The more rapidly truth is spread among mankind the better it will be for them. Only let us be sure that it is truth.

Playing Providence is a game at which one is very apt to burn one's fingers.

It is one of the most saddening things in life that, try as we may, we can never be certain of making people happy, whereas we can almost always be certain of making them unhappy.

William Whewell's Epistemology

I hope to post something on William Whewell's ethics. To understand Whewell's ethics, however, one must first understand his epistemology, which he developed in doing his groundbreaking work in the history and philosophy of science. The heart of this epistemology is the view that all human cognition consists of two parts or aspects, which Whewell calls Thing and Thought, Observation and Reflection, or (most often) Fact and Conception. (Strictly speaking, Whewell distinguishes all these three: Observation, for instance, is an action, and Facts are assertions about Things; but they are all closely related.) When he is talking about the most general and stable Conceptions, he calls them General Relations or (when they are considered simply in themselves) Ideas. Examples of Ideas are Space, Time, Number, Resemblance, and Cause. We use these Ideas to connect Facts by necessary consequences; this is called reasoning. In reasoning we assume certain Fundamental Principles with regard to these General Relations; these are sometimes called Axioms or Maxims, as in the Axioms of Geometry.

Scientific thought is the observation of the external world in light of the General Relations; and in this observation we often comes to recognize that a group of Facts or objects correspond to a general Law. This is a Law of Nature, and on the basis of Laws of Nature we can predict that some things will certainly happen, and others probably will happen. When we separate Laws of Nature from the Facts that conform to them, they are called Theories.

This basic pattern extends into moral science as well as physical sciences. Just as there are Laws of Nature to which Facts in the external world conform, there are Laws of Human Action. However, the precise relation between Law and Fact is somewhat different. In physical sciences we ascend from Fact to Law, and try to find the Law that best fits the Facts; this is a matter of speculative reason. In moral sciences, however, we descend from Law to Fact, and try to conform the Facts as best we may to the Law; this is a matter of practical reason. Since both, however, operate on the same principles, the principles and inferences of practical reason can be unfolded into a speculative system.

You can read a passage from Whewell on this subject here. I hope to get to Whewell's ethics soon.

History Carnival Reminder

Don't forget, Sharon is looking for historical posts for the upcoming History Carnival. Here is her reminder at Cliopatria:

Don't forget the first History Carnival will appear on Early Modern Notes sometime Friday (or possibly Saturday depending on busy-ness) and I'm looking for entries.

I'd especially like to hear from you if you've read - or written - something historical that isn't on the usual well-trodden history blog track: in new blogs (or ones that aren't yet well known), and in blogs that aren't usually focused on history.

You can email me at: sharon AT

Note the middle paragraph.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Hume Studies

The April 2004 Hume Studies came in the mail today. I have only browsed it briefly, but it looks good. I'm excited over one of the papers, Ira Schnall's "Constancy, Coherence, and Causality". In it she rejects Price-like interpretations of Hume's Treatise 1.4.2; which is good - I agree entirely (it was a small part of my paper at the 2003 Hume Society Conference), and it is very gratifying to see others come to the same conclusion independently. On the other hand, there is not one reference in the entire article to Treatise 1.2.4; which is, I think, the most fundamental problem with most discussion of 1.4.2. So expect some comments when I've read it more closely.

I might also comment on Guimaraes's "The Gallant and the Philosopher," which continues the unfortunate trend, started by Annette Baier, of treating Hume as an "unwitting, virtual woman" (Baier's phrase). Hume is not the most sexist man of his time by any means; but trying to make him out not to be sexist (particularly in his discussion of gallantry) is as absurd as Baier's attempt to excuse Hume's racism as a case of empiricism. Any comparison of Hume with a real egalitarian (like Beattie, for instance) will show that Hume fell well short of the mark he could have attained. Such is my antecedent doubt, anyway; I'll have to see if it stands after I've looked at the article much more closely.


Some salutary observations on the danger of spiritual pride toward the end of this post at "Eternity Road".

Evolution and ID

There's been some discussion of intelligent-design-theoretical issues around about (e.g., here, here, here). I'm a rather serious opponent of what is commonly called "intelligent design theory"; but I also have found the response to it to be radically less than impressive. I have never seen so many intelligent people incapable of presenting arguments that do not rely on mere force of rhetoric (and sometimes not even that). And so much willful ignorance about the history of design arguments on both sides, too! We get people who attribute Paley-like (or, rather, what is commonly thought of as Paleyan) design arguments to Thomas Aquinas; there are endless inaccurate statements on the relation between Darwinism and traditional Aristotelianism; poor, poor Paley (whose logic Darwin always praised, even when disagreeing with his premises) has had attributed to him every bad argument he never wrote; uncountable mischaracterizations of Hume fly about; and some interesting completely non-Paleyan design arguments are entirely ignored. In the face of so much contempt for serious consideration of the history of thought, I say: a pox on both houses. A refusal to place what you are talking about historically is a failure to understand the real relevance of your subject to anything.

My chief complaint against what's usually called 'intelligent design theory' is that it is scientistic, plain and simple. It regularly confuses levels of argument that shouldn't be confused (unfortunately, so do most responses to it). It wants to be metaphysics and science simultaneously, and, worse, it wants to be the former by being the latter; and that is scientism. And that's a game I find utterly dubious.

National Review's 100 Best 20th-Century Non-Fiction Books

This is a bit older, but you can find the list with commentary here. Apparenly I have read less than a quarter of the books that are must-reads for conservatives; although there are a few books here that are not really very readable (look me in the eye and tell me that you have read The Joy of Cooking from cover to cover). I have bolded the ones I have read. (Hat-tip to Fides Q.)

1. The Second World War, Winston S. Churchill
Vol. 1, The Gathering Storm
Vol. 2, Their Finest Hour
Vol. 3, The Grand Alliance
Vol. 4, The Hinge of Fate
Vol. 5, Closing the Ring
Vol. 6, Triumph and Tragedy

2. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (excellent, but everyone should find an abridged version)

3. Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell

4. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. von Hayek

5. Collected Essays, George Orwell

6. The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper (meh.)

7. The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis (Lewis's Durham Lectures; they deserve more recognition than they get)

8. Revolt of the Masses, José Ortega y Gasset

9. The Constitution of Liberty, F. A. von Hayek

10. Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman

11. Modern Times, Paul Johnson

12. Rationalism in Politics, Michael Oakeshott

13. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Joseph A. Schumpeter

14. Economy and Society, Max Weber

15. The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt

16. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West

17. Sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson

18. Centissimus Annus, Pope John Paul II

19. The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn

20. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

21. The Great Terror, Robert Conquest

22. Chronicles of Wasted Time, Malcolm Muggeridge

23. Relativity, Albert Einstein (a genuinely great introduction; I wish all books intended to introduce people to scientific issues were as good)

24. Witness, Whittaker Chambers

25. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn (overrated)

26. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis (cut my teeth on this one)

27. The Quest for Community, Robert Nisbet

28. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.

29. Up in the Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell

30. The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton

31. Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton

32. The Liberal Imagination, Lionel Trilling

33. The Double Helix, James D. Watson

34. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Phillips Feynman

35. Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, Tom Wolfe

36. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Albert Camus

37. The Unheavenly City, Edward C. Banfield

38. The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud

39. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

40. The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama

41. Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

42. The Age of Reform, Richard Hofstadter

43. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes

44. God & Man at Yale, William F. Buckley Jr.

45. Selected Essays, T. S. Eliot

46. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard M. Weaver

47. The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs

48. The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom (utterly blah.)

49. Ethnic America, Thomas Sowell

50. An American Dilemma, Gunnar Myrdal
An American Dilemma, Vol. 1
An American Dilemma, Vol. 2

51. Three Case Histories, Sigmund Freud

52. The Struggle for Europe, Chester Wilmot

53. Main Currents in American Thought, Vernon Louis Parrington

54. The Waning of the Middle Ages, Johann Huzinga

55. Systematic Theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg
Systematic Theology, Vol. 1
Systematic Theology, Vol. 2
Systematic Theology, Vol. 3
(skimmed some of the rest; I don't find Pannenberg particularly interesting)

56. The Campaign of the Marne, Sewell Tyng

57. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein
(why the Tractatus rather than the Philosophical Investigations? - although I have an affection for the Tractatus that I do not for the Investigations)

58. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Bernard Lonergan (it's OK; Lonergan is rather tiresome and unoriginal sometimes. Verbum is much better; at least there he's looking at Aquinas, who actually has interesting things to say.)

59. Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
(no, I haven't read it. I've looked at its binding on the library shelf sometimes and said, "I should read that sometime." But I haven't ever done so.)

60. Disraeli, Robert Blake

61. Democracy and Leadership, Irving Babbitt

62. The Elements of Style, William Strunk & E. B. White (the worst thing to happen to the English language in a long, long time)

63. The Machiavellians, James Burnham

64. Reflections of a Russian Statesman, Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev

65. The Hedgehog and the Fox, Isaiah Berlin

66. Roll, Jordan, Roll, Eugene D. Genovese

67. The ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound

68. The Second World War, John Keegan

69. The Making of Homeric Verse, Milman Parry

70. The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling, Angus Wilson

71. Scrutiny, F. R. Leavis

72. The Edge of the Sword, Charles de Gaulle

73. R. E. Lee, Douglas Southall Freeman

74. Bureaucracy, Ludwig von Mises

75. The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton

76. Balzac, Stefan Zweig

77. The Good Society, Walter Lippmann

78. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (meh. The Sense of Wonder is better)

79. The Christian Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan (but I have no recollection of most of it)

80. Strange Defeat, Marc Bloch

81. Looking Back, Norman Douglas

82. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Henry Adams

83. Poetry and the Age, Randall Jarrell

84. Love in the Western World, Denis de Rougemont (not great, but not bad either)

85. The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk

86. Wealth and Poverty, George Gilder

87. Battle Cry of Freedom, James M. McPherson

88. Henry James, Leon Edel

89. Essays of E. B. White, E. B. White

90. Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov

91. The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe

92. Darwin's Black Box, Michael J. Behe

93. The Civil War, Shelby Foote

94. The Way the World Works, Jude Wanniski

95. To the Finland Station, Edmund Wilson

96. Civilisation, Kenneth Clark

97. The Russian Revolution, Richard Pipes

98. The Idea of History, R. G. Collingwood (boooooooring)

99. The Last Lion, William Manchester
Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill: Vol. 1 Visions of Glory, 1874-1932
Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill: Vol. 2 Alone, 1932-1940

100. The Starr Report, Kenneth W. Starr (!?!)

Uriel's View

Who shall tell what may be the effect of writing? If it happens to have been cut in stone, though it lie face down-most for ages on a forsaken beach, or "rest quietly under the drums and tramplings of many conquests," it may end by letting us into the secret of usurpations and other scandals gossiped about long empires ago:-this world being apparently a huge whispering-gallery. Such conditions are often minutely represented in our petty lifetimes. As the stone which has been kicked by generations of clowns may come by curious little links of effect under the eyes of a scholar, through whose labors it may at last fix the date of invasions and unlock religions, so a bit of ink and paper which has long been an innocent wrapping or stop-gap may at last be laid open under the one pair of eyes which have knowledge enough to turn it into the opening of a catastrophe. To Uriel watching the progress of planetary history from the sun, the one result would be just as much of a coincidence as the other.

Another favorite passage from George Eliot's Middlemarch (Chapter 41)

New Center of Intellectual Energy?

An interesting editorial on religion in academia by Stanley Fish (hat-tip: The Buck Stops Here). I'm a little puzzled about what Fish means by 'deliberative reason' in the article.

Since I only really watch L&O: Criminal Intent anymore, I never saw the L&O episode he mentions. It strikes me as the most insanely stupid thing a prosecuting attorney could do. What sort of idiot addresses a largely Jewish jury on the assumption that if they are conscientiously Jewish they will commit themselves to justifying anything done in the name of Israel and the Jewish people? Perhaps I am missing something.

UPDATE: Miriam in the comments notes that I am: in context, McCoy's point was that it was the defense that was assuming that Jews would commit themselves in this way. This makes so much more sense!

Monday, January 10, 2005

New Calendar?

I found this quite interesting (hat-tip: 3 Quarks Daily). It reminds me of the Shire Calendar in the appendices to LotR (with concession to our current calendar, of course). It would be annoying, though, for us Americans to have Fourth of July every year falling on Wednesday, an awkward day that is not conducive to four-day weekends. And that Newton week is not, I think, as convenient as a leap-day system.

If such a calendar were to go through, on the matter of birthdays would it be better to backtrack and convert your birthday into the new calendar day, or to carry over your birthday into the new calendar (or as close to it as possible)? If I keep August 7 in the new calendar, I will always celebrate my birthday on a Monday; which is actually the day I was born, but this is not so for everyone.

Henry, incidentally, has a Calendar Reform page. Rather than 'Newton' I would recommend that the week be called by the old Roman calendar name, "Intercalaris". Intercalaris was a month occasionally inserted after February before the Julian reform (which left only the leap day as a residue). From what I understand, it was also called "Mercedonius"; so perhaps 'Mercedon' would be easier on the ear. If it has to be named after anyone, it should be named after Clavius, who did most of the astronomical and mathematical work behind the Gregorian reform.

History Carnival Coming Up

There's a History Carnival coming up; if you do history, or have an interest in history, or have recently blogged on a historical topic, check the Carnival homepage to see if you have anything that meets the (very reasonable) standards of accuracy and use of evidence, or anything that could be put in shape to do so.

You Know Which Road is Paved with Them

Sharon has a good post on the problems with Virginia House Bill no. 1677. I have no doubt that there are good intentions somewhere behind it; but as that brilliant wag Anonymous (the source of all good epigrams) has said, God save us from the good intentions of legislators.