Saturday, February 05, 2005

Poetic Scrawls

Scrawled out in various places; somewhat different from my usual scribbles.

Commonplace Things

The light lies softly on my eyes,
then dies;
broken upon a battered wheel,
tidal pulses that I feel,
the light lies softly on my eyes.

Touch is but a taste and then
the sons of men
leap up at little whispers;
and, as for vespers,
touch is but a taste of then.

The sweet of light is softly thrown
with gentle moan
across a tree that, lying, lies,
where the tree, in dying, dies,
the sweet of light its softest throne.

The child is made by folk and sun,
the little one
is flesh and lighted heat;
from head to dusty feet,
the child is made by folk and sun.


My thoughts are pendant in a void
dewdrops suspended on the air
before they splash the ground,
planets spinning in their space
around a spinning sun.

A gleam of light through crystal glows,
a rainbow leaps, unbodied,
a newborn spirit in the light.

My thought is in that promise,
the moment before the rainbow's birth.

Winter Sunset

the light is rosy pale
the sun swings low
the moon has raised her head
a trifle early today
my fingers are numbed
by cold that makes my breath
billow out clouds
like a dragon's sign
all is pure and good
not made for man
but pure and good
and man can live
with things not made for man

A Brief Explanation of the Lullian Argument

I recently put up the following argument by Ramon Lull, framed in the mechanism of his Art:

[ A A | being perfection | nonbeing imperfection | S V | Y Z ]

The Lullian Art is sometimes called a 'formal logic', but this is not strictly true. A formal logic, in our sense, is usually a literal calculus, i.e., a set of operations on variables identified by letters. Lull's work is not like this at all. It would be closer to think of it as akin to musical notation. [ S V | Y Z ] serves as a sort of key signature for the argument, and the goal of the Art is to optimize the harmony of concepts. So we are trying to find the greatest possible consonance among our fundamental dignitates, or key principles (which in the Lullian Art are things like Goodness and Greatness). S represents the soul, the person who is actually engaging in the argument, remembering (being mindful of, keeping in mind), understanding, and willing; V indicates virtue or vice in these activities. Y and Z represent truth and falsity, respectively. [ A A ] indicates the question whose answer we are trying to find; in this case, Does God exist?

The way the argument proceeds, put very briefly, is by comparison and contrast of being and nonbeing on the one hand with perfection and imperfection on the other, to see which is the true consonance and which is the false. It is, in other words, the Lullian version of an ontological argument.


* Religious Experiences at "Philosophy, et cetera"

* Two Senses of 'Analytic' at "The Conservative Philosopher"

* On Prayer--Fluency Comes With Practice at "Flos Carmeli"

* The Cognitive Science of Art: Beauty and the Brain at "Mixing Memory"

* Jazz for beginners at "Inkless Wells" (Hat-tip: A Journey Through Time.)

* "Science and Politics" has a post with links on Ernst Mayr's death Thursday. He was 100 years old.

* The Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope (PDF) by Eugene Volokh; see also this post at "The Volokh Conspiracy".

Friday, February 04, 2005


"Is it about a bicycle?" he asked.

His expression when I encountered it was unexpectedly reassuring. His face was gross and far from beautiful but he had modified and assembled his various unpleasant features in some skilful way so that they expressed to me good nature, politeness and infinite patience. In the front of his peaked official cap was an important-looking badge and over it in golden letters was the word SERGEANT. It was Sergeant Pluck himself.

"No," I answered, stretching forth my hand to lean with it against the counter. The Sergeant looked at me incredulously.

"Are you sure?" he asked.


"Not about a motor-cycle?"


"One with overhead valves and a dynamo for light? Or with racing handle-bars?"


"In that circumstantial eventuality there can be no question of a motor-bicycle," he said. He looked surprised and puzzled and leaned sideways on the counter on the prop of his left elbow, putting the knuckles of his right hand between his yellow teeth and raising three enormous wrinkles of perplexity on his forehead. I decided now that he was a simple man and that I would have no difficulty in dealing with him exactly as I desired and finding out from him what had happened to the black box. I did not understand clearly the reason for his questions about bicycles but I made up my mind to answer everything carefully, to bide my time and to be cunning in all my dealings with him. He moved away abstractedly, came back and handed me a bundle of differently-coloured papers which looked like application forms for bull-licences and dog-licences and the like.

"It would be no harm if you filled up these forms," he said. "Tell me," he continued, "would it be true that you are an itinerant dentist and that you came on a tricycle?"

"It would not," I replied.

"On a patent tandem?"


"Dentists are an unpredictable coterie of people," he said. "Do you tell me it was a velocipede or a penny-farthing?"

"I do not," I said evenly. He gave me a long searching look as if to see whether I was serious in what I was saying, again wrinkling up his brow.

"Then maybe you are no dentist at all," he said, "but only a man after a dog licence or papers for a bull?"

"I did not say I was a dentist," I said sharply, "and I did not say anything about a bull."

The Sergeant looked at me incredulously.

"That is a great curiosity," he said, "a very difficult piece of puzzledom, a snorter."

--From Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman (a great bit of reading if you have a taste for the absurd).

The Second History Carnival

The second History Carnival is up at Cliopatria. I didn't submit anything, but I probably will for the next one, if I can find the time. I want to write a post on Ottobah Cugoano's responses to Hume. We'll see if I get around to that any time soon. In any case, there are lots of great things there; go see.

Buddhism and Religion

There's some interesting discussion of whether Buddhism is a religion:

* Buddha, Stoicism, and Epicureanism at "Dangerous Idea"

* Is Buddhism a Religion?, a reply at "The Maverick Philosopher"

* Buddhism: a Religion and more on Buddhism-as-religion at "BigHominid's Hairy Chasms" (For those who prefer not to deal with such things, the site itself is fairly racy, so be forewarned.)

And, independently, on related issues:

* Buddhism without Beliefs at "Practical Dharma"

* The Jewel in the Torah at "the fourth rabbi"

While I primarily do Christian philosophy of religion (for obvious reasons), I do have an interest in others - Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or what have you. And it often has relevance, anyway. For instance, the question of whether state Confucianism was a religion or instead a highly ritualized system of civic participation was a question of immense importance for Christian missionaries in the early modern period (the Chinese Rites Controversy -- as always, take the Wikipedia with a grain of salt; but it gives the gist).

In Which Georges Rey Makes a Pretense at Saying Something Constructive

I had originally intended to put up the second part of "The Lotus" today; I had to come to campus anyway to return some library books. However, I was feeling rather wilted (due to this cold) before I started out, so I left it at home, assuming I wouldn't be in any condition to type it up. However, once I was here I felt a great deal better. Whoops. So that will have to be put up this weekend. In any case, I don't know whether this is the actual recovery or an interlude before another wilting. We'll see what I manage to get done today.

I came across this (old) lecture by Rey via Richard's sideblog. It is a quasi-argument for saying that most people do not actually believe God exists but only make a pretense at doing so. I say 'quasi-argument' because it doesn't actually argue this (as Rey himself appears to recognize), but rather just lists a few 'peculiarities' of religious belief that seem to him to suggest it. I'll just list my responses to his numbered points (for the context, see the lecture).

1) But we do. Can anyone seriously think that Jews, Muslims, and Christians write zillions and zillions of books of theology and never at any time discuss details? Indeed, isn't the bigger problem not that there's 'detail resistance' but that there's a tendency to jump to conclusions about the details?--Actually, I know exactly what is going on here; and it isn't about 'detail resistance'. What Rey wants is a mechanism, in some undefined sense; and his complaint is that theism doesn't provide one. But the question at hand is whether theists really believe that God exists; and it isn't clear how this is supposed to bear on that issue, which brings us to the next point.

2) If (1) fails, so does this one. But even if (1) were right, it needs this one in order to be relevant to the subject; and this is merely vaguely suggestive, and nothing more. After all, it is as silly to demand details about many common things that do, in fact, happen; for example, it would be silly to demand details like (for instance) the precise steps I took in order to reach the campus today, when all one actually needs to know is that I walked here.

3) This presumes that all traditional arguments for the existence of God fail. I look forward to Rey's rigorous refutation of them all. More seriously, however, he has lost track of what he was trying to do. His argument is that theists (for the most part) only pretend to believe God exists. But the fact that they present anecdotal evidence (whether or not Rey considers it of a sort that is 'unreliable and subject to a multitude of alternative explanations') is itself prima facie reason to think they do really believe it. And, further, even if Rey considers it 'unreliable and subject to a multitude of alternative explanations', the question that is relevant for Rey's argument is whether the theists in question do.

4) 'Mystery' is not a synonym for 'ignorance' in a theological context. But again, the question is not whether Rey finds it a reason, but whether theists do.

5) Again, Rey is losing sight of his point; the question relevant to whether theists actually believe what they claim to believe is not whether people like Rey find things like vicarious atonement appropriate, but whether theists do.

6) If I have a very close friend that I know will be leaving me for a very long time to do something somewhere else, and believe that this something is what is best for her, does that mean I won't be sad? If I am sad, does that mean I really don't believe that it is what is best for her? -- This whole issue of reactions not clearly reflecting belief is a somewhat interesting one. Here in Toronto there is a tall structure called the CN Tower, which has a glass floor at 1,122 feet. The floor is constructed so that it can easily hold your weight. But, no matter how clearly you believe this, managing your physical reactions so that you can actually stroll across it without any difficulty is an entirely different matter. And in morals it has always been a commonplace that the relation between belief and action is very, very, very tricky. There is no reasonable argument whatsoever that, if we really believed that x, we would always act as if x is true, unless we are putting some sort of weird emphasis on the 'really' that needs to be explained. And even if there were, we would need to have a clearer notion of 'acting as if x is true', which is not as straightforward a notion as it sounds.

7) This is all a complete garbling, an even more serious one than the 'mystery' case, as any look at either Aquinas or Luther or any other such person on belief should show. But even if it weren't, this is a question of beliefs about the nature of belief, and doesn't necessarily bear on the issue of whether theists really believe or not.

8) Again, Rey seems to be losing sight of his point, since none of this shows that theists do not really believe that God exists. (What Rey intends here is very vague. He has not shown that people who project do not believe that the property they are projecting is objective. Indeed, his characterization of projection suggests the exact opposite.)

Rey's quasi-argument is something of a very odd one. The idea seems to be that no reasonable person can believe that God exists, but he seems to want to allow that some theists are reasonable people. However, his way of allowing this is to hold that all these reasonable people are marked out by what would have to be a very unreasonable set of beliefs (very unreasonable if some of Rey's characterizations were accurate) about what they actually believe. And his argument, or quasi-argument, doesn't even tend in that direction; since most of his points have to do with whether or not believing God exists is reasonable, not whether theists generally do actually believe that God exists.

On the issue of theistic belief, a much better work would be H. H. Price's Belief, which actually looks at real issues of belief in a serious way. Also good is Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Of John Galt and Ramon Lull

Ayn Rand was born a hundred years ago today, so there are a number of bloggers who have been saying things about her. For those who don't know much about Ayn Rand, Cox and Forkum has a useful summary of her life. She was often simplistic in her interpretations, and often confused her opinions with facts; but she had one overwhelmingly redeeming quality: she had an unshakable conviction that ideas, reason and philosophy, were of the utmost importance for every person, without exception. Some people are frustrated by John Galt's long speech in Atlas Shrugged; I always found it refreshing that she didn't try - and would never have thought of trying - to slim it down to some preconceived notion of what her readers could take. (But my taste in these matters tends to be idiosyncratic; I think most of the best passages in Moby Dick are the long passages about the types of whales there are, the mythical significance of whiteness, &c. - all the passages other people skip.) And I think a lot of Rand's influence has been in sparking an interest in ideas, reason, and philosophy; Will Wilkinson puts this point well (see also Vallicella's comment on her, after several critical posts). Alex Tabarrok at "Marginal Revolution" suggests that one of Rand's strengths was in her presentation of a modern virtue ethics: "a virtue ethics for the capitalist world." I do think a great deal of Rand's philosophical appeal is precisely that she breaks down and simplifies a number of excellent things in Aristotle's ethics that tend to be overlooked. The simplification sometimes leads to confusion; but what is being simplified is still worth the accessibility that comes with even confused simplification.

Is she a bit of a hack when it comes to philosophy? Definitely. But I think what we see in Rand is someone of considerable native talent and ability whose reason never underwent the sort of discipline that would have made that talent genuinely shine. It's not surprising for someone to be a bit muddled, confused, and simplistic in first formulation (or even second or third formulation); Rand's great weakness is that she keeps wanting to take the early formulations as the clear demonstrations of reason. She lacked one very important thing: the teachableness that makes us recognize when we need to do a bit of serious revision. What she said once she felt must be true for all time; if not in that exact formulation, in one very similar to it. A rather massive flaw.

Is she a bit of a kook? Certainly. On this point, though, she reminds me a bit of Ramon Lull (c. 1232 - 1316); Lull was a bit of a kook - but the kookiness wasn't stupidity. It was, rather, a massive intelligence driven by a philosophical ambition it did not have the resources to fulfill. Lull, a courtier who had a conversion experience and began writing philosophy and theology for the masses, dreamed up his Great Art as the means for spreading the truth; Rand dreamed up Objectivism. And likewise, both are at their best not when they are trying to be technical and rigorous (they both tend to fail at that point) but when they are putting their ideas into literary form. Then all the kookiness just contributes to the charm; a charm that inspired others.

Si per entendre nos seguís nulla res,
no fóra bonea de entenent e entés,
e bé en ignorància fóra més.

Sens produir no pot nuyl hom amar,
ni pot home entendre ni remembrar,
ni ha home poder de sentir e estar.

Hom és pus noble per saber,
que per aur ni per aver,
ab quèl aja ab bo voler.

(This is from a poem by Lull; the title of it is Cent noms de Déu, "Hundred Names of God". Very, very roughly translated: "If in understanding we followed no rule at all, there would be no good in the understanding or the understood, and to be in ignorance would be best. Without producing no man can love, nor can man understand or remember; nor can man have the power of feeling and being. Man is more noble through knowing than through gold or through possessions, even if these be gained by a good will." The issue about loving, understanding, and remembering is an allusion to Lull's philosophy, since all three play a role in the Lullian Art.)

What Lull did was to bring philosophy, in his own weird, kooky way, to people who never would otherwise have had the joy of drinking it in. While Rand's influence is not likely to be anywhere near Lull's influence (which was massive and widespread), she did much the same. And that is a very good thing.

You can find a PDF version of one of Lull's best works, The Book of the Lover and the Beloved, here (translated by E. Allison Peers).

My favorite Lullian argument:

[ A A | being perfection | nonbeing imperfection | S V | Y Z ].

Yes, that's the argument. I'll put up an explanation sometime later. I guest lectured a PHL 210 class on Malebranche today, and I've been fighting some sort of bug since Monday, so I am drained this evening.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Meddle? Only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Every Second Friday


and go to because law school made laura do this.

(Hat-tip: Yankee from Mississippi.)

A Hume Paper

I just found out that one of my papers, The Universe of the Imagination: Malebranche's Walking-Soul Argument and Treatise 1.2.6, has been accepted for the 32nd Hume Society this July.

This is a delightful surprise. I knew I had submitted it (in November) but I hadn't really thought about it at all since. Now I have to go back and re-read the paper to see what I want to improve before handing it on to the commentator in March.

Sweet Manly Savior Sage

An excellent post by Caleb on images of Jesus in American Protestantism.

UPDATE: You can find the Jefferson Bible here. It's a bit of a downer; the good guy dies in the end. (Hat-tip: Keith Burgess-Jackson.)

Seduction and Guillaume de Lorris's Romance of the Rose

Guillaume de Lorris's Romance of the Rose is an interesting little allegorical study of seduction, and more particularly the sort of seduction involved in courtly love.

The Lover is twenty, and the time of the year is May. On the Lover's first approach to the Garden, he finds that the world of courtly life excludes (obvious) vices, poverty, age, sadness, and religious prudishness. The keeper of the gate is Idleness; courtly life is for those who have leisure, and, what is more, idle leisure (as opposed to leisure for study or prayer).

Within the Garden, the Lover comes upon the Fountain of Narcissus (the perilous mirror), where he falls in love. The linking of falling in love with Narcissus is interesting. I think C. S. Lewis somewhere associates the fountain with the Lady's eyes; the eyes mirror back the image the mind projects on them, and we fall in love with reflections of our own fantasies and dreams. The God of Love strikes the Lover with five arrows: Beauty, Simplicity, Courtesy, Company, and Fair-seeming. These arrows give the Lover the Pains of Love: insomnia, loss of appetite, erotic dreams, etc. The God locks the Lover's heart (the seat of his understanding) and gives him commandments - the obvious things, like 'Have a good sense of fashion', 'Look good on horseback', 'Learn how to play a musical instrument' - all the things that help make the women pay attention to you.

The Lover develops a desire for the Lady's Rose (and the Rose is, well, you know what the Rose is). The bulk of the story is the allegorical depiction of how various aspects of the Lady's life aid or hinder the Lover's quest for the Rose. On the Lover's side are Bialacoil (fair-welcome), the son of Courtesy; Franchise; and Pity. Fair-welcome: the Lady wishes to be open-minded, benevolent, 'nice'. Bialacoil is the part of the Lady that is already entirely on the Lover's side, and will be the Lover's primary helper; she wants to be nice to him, partly because that's just the sort of good girl she is, and partly because she does genuinely like him (in a general sense of liking). Franchise is the Lady's innocent security: she has led a protected life, born to no great hardship, and she has a certain naivete about the world: she is secure and freeborn, and has not been taught life's harder lessons. Pity is the Lady's desire not to let the Lover suffer; roughly, her desire to ease the pain of his love for her and not to hurt his feelings.

Against the Lover, however, is a formidable set of foes. These are Fear, Shame, and Daungier (Danger). Fear and Shame are obvious opponents to the Lover's cause; but they turn out not to be nearly so formidable as they seem. When Venus (the sheer animal force of sexual attraction) descends, Fear and Shame, so apparently fierce, become utterly helpless. Danger is another story, however, and in fact Guillaume de Lorris's actual poem, as we have it (it is incomplete), is the story of the Lover's failure to neutralize Danger completely. Daungier, Lewis suggests, is the Lady's pride, her ultimately and most powerful protection from people who would use her or treat her poorly: it is the terror of lovers and the most aggressive and brutal (to lovers!) defense of the woman's heart. Fear and Shame may become helpless in the face of Venus, but Daungier has to be lulled to sleep before any progress can be made.

The Lover, obviously, wants to pluck the Rose; but it is well-guarded. The Lover is actually doing fairly well at the beginning. Bialacoil goes so far as to offer the Lover a leaf near the Rose. Apparently the Lady feels a bit flirtatious; perhaps she is giving him a little love-token. But the Lover spoils this by asking outright for the Rose; Daungier suddenly wakes from sleep, forces the Lover to retreat, and terrorizes Bialacoil.

Poor Lover! Now things are worse, and he is forced to take time to reflect. Reason descends in glory and gives him a lecture full of good advice. The Lover is not too happy with what she tells him, though, because she is effectively telling him to leave the service of Love. So he tries to find a second opinion that will be more in keeping with what he wants. This he finds in Friend, who tells him exactly what he wants to hear, as friends no doubt often do.

Meanwhile, Daungier has subsided; the brute is no longer on a rampage. It has been awakened, however, and stays awake; it keeps a sharp eye on the Rose, watching the Lover with suspicion. Bialacoil is in exile; he has, as far as Daungier is concerned, virtually caused the whole incident. If you go around giving fair welcome to people who want the Rose, what else are you going to get? But the Lady is a courteous woman, not the sort to hold a grudge. Franchise and Pity set to work convincing Daungier to let Bialacoil return. Part of the Lady really does feel sorry for the Lover, who maybe didn't really mean anything by it, and, in any case, what harm can he really do? Just because the Lover was impudent and indiscreet is no reason for her to be mean. She can still be friends; she can still be nice to him. And Daungier relents. Bialacoil returns and soon we are almost right back to where we were: Bialacoil is having a grand old time with the Lover. The Lover, more cautious now, asks to kiss the Rose - not to pluck it, just to kiss it. If she doesn't want to go all the way, he insists, he won't force the matter; but he would like a little something. Bialacoil, however, still is afraid of Daungier, and resists this idea. Resists it, that is, until Venus descends again and touches him with the torch. Handy goddess, that Venus. Bialacoil relents.

So the Lover kisses the Rose, and, alas, everything breaks into confusion. Malebouche (negative rumors and gossip) summons Jealousy (presumably of the Lady's husband: you didn't think she was unattached, did you? This is courtly love we're talking about - adultery is the order of the day). Bialacoil is thrown into prison, guarded by Fear, Shame, Daungier, and Malebouche. Fair welcome will not give the Lover access again.

And the poem ends, unfinished, here. Things aren't looking too good for the Lover's cause; his primary ally, and the real source of his success, is Bialacoil, who is locked up and guarded by an old woman: a chaperone. Things aren't entirely hopeless; Shame has difficulty believing that it is ever entirely wrong to extend fair welcome. But the Lady's nature, combined with social convention and the Lover's blunders, has led to the Lover's being blocked, and whatever hope there might be is very, very slight. The Lover has effectively checkmated himself. Jean de Meun, of course, wrote a more optimistic continuation; but that's another poem entirely.

It is interesting comparing this seduction in the Garden with another temptation in a garden, that of Eve by the cunning serpent. The serpent counters God's authoritative command (do not eat of the tree, or, dying, you shall die) by suggesting that God knows very well that if she eats of the tree she will not die but become like God. And then, the text says,

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

The tree was good for food; delightful to the eyes; desirable for gaining insight. In other words, healthy, attractive, and a satisfaction to curiosity. (Is it just me, by the way, or is it a little funny how easily the husband falls here? It takes some effort for the serpent to bring the woman to that point; the woman just has to give the man the fruit and he chomps it down.)

What seduction in particular does, and temptation more generally, is to construct a sort of fantasy reality, one built out of apparent good (it seems so natural; it would be enjoyable; aren't you just a little bit curious?), thereby disassociating people from the truth - the moral truth, obviously, but also the natural truth. The Lover falls in love not with a Lady but with a reflection in the Fountain of Narcissus, that perilous mirror. The serpent doesn't merely try to cast aspersion on God's authority, he starts confusing Eve about what God actually said and meant in the first place. Seduction takes place in the realm of fantasy.

Commonly, the way this works is that the seducer or tempter develops a parallelism between what he wants and something completely innocent. It's good for food; it's delightful to the eyes; it's a way to learn something knew. Isn't it just a bit absurd to reject something that could be so healthy, so fun, so interesting? The serpent draws Eve away from the prohibition in order that she might just look at the tree. And the Lady's fair welcome and franchise - her benevolence and security - play right into this, by making it easier to confuse the distinction between fantasy (the innocent structure) and reality (the actual deed). It is this confusion that makes the difference between mere fantasy and actual seduction. So I would interpret these cases, anyway.

The Pride Before the Fall

Hugo Schwyzer has an interesting post on predatory inflation of the desire for autonomy. The connection with the title of this post is that the pride that comes before the fall is not generally arrogance due to what one has, but vanity grasping after what one is not ready to have.

Monday, January 31, 2005

At the Rehearsal Dinner

This is a photo from the rehearsal dinner I attended Friday; the bride-to-be is on the left, and I am on the right in yellow, in what we later jokingly called the 'Masterpiece Theatre' pose (or: How To Use An Overstuffed Chair as a Fashion Accessory). The ugly shoes are my rain-and-snow shoes; I wore nicer ones at the wedding (and a blue shirt with a blazer). This is the first real photo of me on this weblog; it isn't a particularly great one of me, but gives the general gist.

It was great fun, all of it, although it is astounding how swiftly such an important event flies by. Surreal; particularly for me, since one day I was in Toronto, and then I was in Portland, and now I'm back in Toronto, wondering where the time went (and wishing Toronto was having weather more like Portland's!). The bride was my best friend in college, and I was roommates with the groom my second year; I knew them both (the bride better than the groom) before they started dating, and so have been a witness to much of the relationship from the beginning. The bride's twin sister, another good friend, is getting married in October; I'll probably attend that one, too, if I have the money (and the invitation, of course!). It is weird having all my friends married off; they're all crazy. But shh! you didn't hear that from me.

Kant on Maxims of Taste

The following maxims of common human understanding do not properly come in here, as parts of the Critique of Taste, but yet they may serve to elucidate its fundamental propositions. They are: (1) to think for oneself; (2) to put ourselves in thought in the place of everyone else; (3) always to think consistently. The first is the maxim of unprejudiced thought; the second of enlarged thought; the third of consecutive thought. The first is the maxim of a never passive reason. The tendency to such passivity, and therefore to heteronomy of the reason, is called prejudice....As regards the second maxim of the mind, we are otherwise wont to call him limited (borné, the opposite of enlarged) whose talents attain to no great use (especially as regards intensity). But here we are not speaking of the faculty of cognition, but of the mode of thought which makes a purposive use thereof. However small may be the area or the degree to which a man's natural gifts reach, yet it indicates a man of enlarged thought if he disregards the subjective private conditions of his own judgment, by which so many others are confined, and reflects upon it from a universal standpoint (which he can only determine by placing himself at the standpoint of others). The third maxim, viz. that of consecutive thought, is the most difficult to attain, and can only be attained by the combination of both the former and after the constant observance of them has grown into a habit. We may say that the first of these maxims is the maxim of understanding, the second of judgment, and the third of reason.

Kant, Critique of Judgment. J. H. Bernard, tr. Hafner Publishing Co. (New York: 1964), pp. 136-137.

One of the interesting things about this is that when Hume in his essay on a standard of taste discusses what marks off bad taste from good taste, his comments essentially boil down to these same three issues: bad taste is plagued by prejudice, limited experience, and inconsistency, while good taste involves working toward objectivity, drawing from wide experience (one's own and that of others), and reasoning with consistency. And Kant is right, I think, that these three elements are characteristics of good thought generally. It would be great if in politics people would cultivate themselves according to these elements. Unfortunately, one must say of good political taste what is often said of common sense: everyone assumes they have it, especially those who don't.

Commerce Department

A fascinating look at the Commerce Department (hat-tip: The Buck Stops Here; although Buck describes it as an argument for abolishing the Commerce Department - whereas I think the argument would be more fitly described as an argument that abolition of Commerce is more complicated than might at first seem, despite its more obvious attractions). I certainly didn't realize that more than half its budget goes to NOAA; although I did know that the Census Bureau was a big part of its work.