Saturday, February 12, 2005


* The Law of the Blogger at "American Digest" (via The Volokh Conspiracy)

* A beginning attempt at a Christian male pro-feminist theology of appetite -- or further proof that I have lost it completely at "Hugo Schwyzer"

* A selection from Victor Klemperer's Dresden diaries

* Powerful Defender -- Elizabeth Bunyan: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 at "promptings" (hat-tip: Rebecca Writes, where it's Puritan Month)

* Why I Love the Doctrine of Total Depravity at "Rebecca Writes"

* "North Western Winds" has a series of reflections on Russell Kirk's "Six Points of Conservatism": The Living Order, Guarding the Taproot, The Church Lady, Equality and Charity, Human Nature.

* Christian Carnival LVI at "Dunmoose the Ageless"

* Magic Books, Grocery Lists and Silent Messiahs: How rightly approaching the Bible shapes the entire Christian Life at "The Internet Monk"

Another Poem Draft

I scribbled this on the back of an envelope on my recent trip to Portland.

The Crucial

Be supple on things not crucial;
the cross alone is cause
for controversy fruitful
over Providence's laws.
Seek not a thing of scandal;
do nothing in your way
to give your foes a handle
over what you do or say.
In this world of stumbling blindness,
the way is rocky-rough,
so know, in your God-graced kindness:
the cross is scandal enough.
In the darkness of passion's midnight,
in the memory of the rods,
for scandal you have no true right;
that right alone is God's.

Be supple on things not crucial,
that weekend of amaze
is, if we are truthful,
enough for all of your days.
From Good Friday in its darkness
through the day in sorrow's tomb,
to Easter's living redress,
our birthing from the womb:
the crucial time's our moment,
God's scandal in the world,
heaven's kingdom's foment,
when the death-knot was uncurled.
When they try to make polemic,
one answer alone can we give,
this scandal to truth endemic:
God died, God rose, God lives!

New Issue of Dialogue

The new issue of Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie came Thursday. This one wasn't particularly interesting; the last really interesting article in this journal was Grupp's article on the Platonist exemplification tie. But the journal usually has something of some interest. There are three different articles on Wittgenstein's view of religion this time around, which is sort of odd. But I do find the matter of some interest, not because I think Wittgenstein has anything particularly good to contribute on the subject of religion, but because it is an interesting case for history of philosophy, since it has to work with a very limited set of evidences. So I have what might be called a vague methodological interest in the subject. For instance, there's the following interesting passage by Kai Nielsen, in response to Bela Szabados's claim that Nielsen wants to make a distinction between Wittgenstein's religious reflections and his philosophical comments on religious discourse, but transgresses this distinction:

In some respects, no; and in some respects, yes. Yes in the sense that biographical resources can sometimes provide rich resources for understanding the philosophy of the person in question, yes in denying there is a rigid distinction between someone's own religious reflections and his philosophical comments on religious discourse. But no in affirming the following: that there is no rigid distinction does not mean there is no distinction. We do well to distinguish (a) between the following remarks about religious discoruse: "The forms of language are the forms f life." "There is a distinctive religious form of life with its own distinctive discourse" (philosophical remarks about religion), and (b) the religious remark "Human beings are corrupted with sin; if they are aware of that they are utterly wretched." Sometimes the latter-type remarks can help us understand remarks of the former type. (Perhaps it goes the other way around as well.) And sometimes it is unclear which kind of a remakr a given remakr is, e.g., "Religion is nothing more than the projection of one's emotions." But nothing but confusion will result if we do not distinguish these types of remarks, particularly in their paradigmatic occurrences. (p. 793)

Kai Nielsen, by the way, is one of the small handful of atheists who actually do philosophy of religion worth occasionally paying attention to; he typically does work on naturalistic ethics. Here you can find Antony Flew's 2002 review of Nielsen's work Naturalism and Religion (which actually sheds a bit of light on the hubbub about Flew this winter).

Blackstone's Commentaries

You can find William Blackstone's classic work, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769), at The Avalon Project. Also online is St. George Tucker's 1803 annotated Blackstone, with notes of reference to the United States (it's still a bit under construction, though).

Of a constitution, so wisely contrived, so strongly raised, and so highly finished, it is hard to speak with that praise, which is justly and severely it's due: --- the thorough and attentive contemplation of it will furnish it's best panegyric. It hath been the endeavour of these commentaries, however the execution may have succeeded, to examine it's solid foundations, to mark out it's extensive plan, to explain the use and distribution of it's parts, and from the harmonious concurrence of those several parts to demonstrate the elegant proportion of the whole. We have taken occasion to admire at every turn the noble monuments of antient simplicity, and the more curious refinements of modern art. Nor have it's faults been concealed from view; for faults it has, left we should be tempted to think it of more than human structure: defects, chiefly arifing from the decays of time, or the rage of unskilful improvements in later ages. To sustain, to repair, to beautiful this noble pile, is a charge intrusted principally too the nobility, and such gentlemen of the kingdom, as are delegated by their country to parliament. The protection of THE LIBERTY OF BRITAIN is a duty which they owe to themselves, who enjoy it; to their ancestors, who transmitted it down; and to their posterity, who will claim at their hands this, the best birthright, and noblest inheritance of mankind.

--Commentaries, Bk 4, ch. 33.

Friday, February 11, 2005

On John Austin on Natural Law

John Austin was an influential early utilitarian philosopher, best known for his work on law. Here are his criticisms of Blackstone's claim that laws contrary to the will of God are void as law. I have come across people still using both arguments in one form or another.

Now, to say that human laws which conflict with the Divine law are not binding, that is to say, are not laws, is to talk stark nonsense. The most pernicious laws, and therefore those which are most opposed to the will of God, have been and are continually enforced as laws by judicial tribunals. Suppose an act innocuous, or positively beneficial, be prohibited by the sovereign under the penalty of death; if I commit this act, I shall be tried and condemned, and if I object to the sentence, that it is contrary to the law of God, who has commanded that human lawgivers shall not prohibit acts which have no evil consequences, the Court of Justice will demonstrate the inconclusiveness of my reasoning by hanging me up, in purusance of the law of which I have impugned the validity. An exception, demurrer, or plea, founded on the law of God was never heard in a Court of Justice, from the creation of the world down to the present moment.

None of this proves Austin's point. For the point about laws contrary to Divine law not being binding is essentially this: to be binding, a thing must obligate, but nothing immoral obligates. There is no moral obligation to conform to someone's decision if it requires you to do something immoral. And it's doubtful that there's any other sort of obligation that actually binds you to do something when you are morally obligated not to do it. That a court might not consider your claim that the law is unjust is not to the point; all that means is that courts enforce laws that are unjust. It tells us nothing about whether the law is genuinely binding or authoritative; and a law that is not genuinely binding or authoritative is only a law-like pretense at law. The stark nonsense is to pretend to that immoral laws can be obligatory for anyone. Austin holds, of course, that what makes a law obligatory or binding is sanction; and this is the reason he appeals to the court in the above. Sanction is an amoral thing; it is rule of force, plain and simple, and therefore cannot distinguish moral and immoral laws. Blackstone, on the other hand, is concerned with authority, not sanction; and the foundation of all authority is moral authority. He is concerned with why it can be right to obey law. The difference between the two makes all the difference between whether one ultimately sides with Antigone or with Creon. Austin sides with Creon; Blackstone with Antigone. But Austin's argument merely begs the whole question under dispute between him and Blackstone, since the real dispute here is over what creates obligation. On Austin's view, it is power to punish; on Blackstone's view, it is right reason. On Austin's view, anything put forward by a tyrant with sufficient power obliges; on Blackstone's view, such tyrants may have the power to punish, but not the right to rule. On Austin's view, the existence and the merit of law are entirely separate; on Blackstone's view, merit is the very heart of what law is, and when law is deficient in merit, it is a perversion of law, and not a true law. Austin's argument requires one already to hold that Blackstone's notion of law is false.

But this abuse of language is not merely puerile, it is mischievous. When it is said that a law ought to be disobeyed, what is meant is that we are urged to disobey it by motives more cogent and compulsory than those by which it is itself sanctioned. If the laws of God are certain, the motives which they hold to disobeyed, what is, what is meant is that we are urged to disobey it by motives more cogent and compulsory than those by which it is itself sanctioned. If the laws of God are certain, the motives which they hold out to disobey any human command which is at variance with them are paramount to all others. But the laws of God are not always certain....To incite the public to resistance by determinate views of utility may be useful, for resistance, grounded on clear and definite prospects of good, is sometimes beneficial. But to proclaim generally that all laws which are pernicious or contrary to the will of God are void and not to be tolerated, is to preach anarchy, hostile and perilous as much to wise and benign rule as to stupid and galling tyranny.

This strikes me as simply bizarre; we are to encourage disobedience with regard to good possible results and discourage disobedience with regard to justice, on the basis that the latter is uncertain. I see no rhyme or reason in this argument, which puts forward one uncertain thing as better than another uncertain thing, entirely because the latter is uncertain. But there is actually no reason to think that the latter leads to 'anarchy', any more than the former. Indeed, it was a common view for a very long time, and never led to anarchy then; the people who advocate it are not anarchists; the whole charge is just a trumped-up bit of nonsense that has no factual basis behind it. And what sort of 'wise and benign rule' goes about making unjust laws? To the extent its laws are unjust it is precisely not wise and benign, and needs correction.

The point, then, is that these two common complaints against natural law actually either beg the question or are not well-founded. I haven't considered positive arguments for natural law here; but natural law is one of those positions that is typically dismissed without good reason.

[Quotations are from the selection pf "Province of Jurisprudence Determined" in Readings in the Philosophy of Law (2nd edition), Arthur and Shaw, eds. Prentice Hall, 1993: pp. 79-80. You can find out more about John Austin here.]

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Malebranche and Seventeenth-Century Views of Heredity

With several posts about on early modern lore about monstrous births (e.g., at Early Modern Notes and at Philobiblon), I knew I had to write something on Malebranche, since Malebranche buys into these sorts of stories and discusses them philosophically. The major text for Malebranche's views on this subject is The Search after Truth, Book Two, Part One, Chapter Seven. For those who haven't dabbled in Malebranche, The Search after Truth is a manual for avoiding error. It looks at various potential sources of error so that the reader, by becoming acquainted with the source of error, may have a better idea as to how to avoid it. Book Two is concerned with errors due to the imagination, i.e., our internal processing of sensory information. Much of it is concerned with the quirks of 'animal spirits' and brain fibers, and it is in this context that we find Search 2.1.7. (In what follows I will be quoting from the Lennon-Olscamp translation of the Search, which is put out by Cambridge University Press.) [It occurs to me that those who don't work much with Malebranche might need some background. Nicholas Malebranche's dates are 1638-1715; the first edition of the Search was published in 1674. Schmaltz's SEP article on Malebranche is a good quick summary of his philosophical views.]

Malebranche reasons that, since the infant in the womb is part of its mother's body, in complete dependence on its mother, it makes sense to think that the infant has the same passions and sensations as the mother. What the mother experiences, the infant also experiences. This line of thought, Malebranche thinks, is "incontestable for many reasons":

Consider only that a mother who is very frightened at the sight of a cat begets a child with a horror that surprises him every time this animal is presented to him. It is easy to conclude from this that the child must have seen with the same horror and emotions of spirit what its mother saw when she carried it in her womb, since the sight of a cat that does it no harm still produces in it such strange effects. (LO 113)

However, Malebranche is still a Cartesian, and that means he's very cautious about things that are strictly certain. He insists that he is proposing this communication between the mother and the child only as a hypothesis, which he thinks is heavily confirmed by a number of things, and without which he thinks many things remain obscure.

Another element in the discussion is the fact of sympathy or compassion. At one point Malebranche discusses how the look of an impassioned man "penetrates" even people who hardly know him (LO 113), and at another a young maidservant who, on seeing someone bled through the foot, took to bed with a pain in her foot for several days (LO 114). Unborn children, however, have more delicate brain fibers, and thus are more subject to these sorts of sympathy experiences.

On this basis Malebranche explains the case of a young man who was born mad, with his bones broken in the same places that a criminal's bones were broken:

According to the principles just established, the cause of this disastrous accident was that his mother, having known that a criminal was to be broken, went to see the execution. All the blows give to this miserable creature forcefully struck the imagination of this mother and, bya sort of counterblow, the tender and delicate brain of her child....At the sight of this execution, so capable of frightening a woman, the violent flow of the mother's animal spirits passed very forcefully from her brain to all the parts of her body corresponding to those of the criminal, and the same thing happened in the child. (LO 115)

The mother's body is able to withstand these violent tempests of animal spirits, but the child's body was not. Malebranche goes on to connect this case with other cases, like birthmarks:

The explanations of this accident are broad enough to explain how pregnant women who see people marked on certain parts of the face imprint these same marks on their unborn children, and on the same parts of their bodies; and one can judge from this that it is with reason that pregnant women are urged to rub some hidden part of their body when they see something that surprises them , or when they are excited by some violent passion, for that can make the marks appear on these hidden parts rather than on face of their child. (LO 116)

Monstrous births are covered in this explanation, too. The particular example Malebranche gives is interesting:

It has not been more than a year since a woman, having attended too carefully to the portrait of Saint Pius on the feast of his canonization, gave birth to a child who looked exactly like the representation of the saint. He had the face of an old man, as ar as is possible for a beardless child; his arms were crossed upon his chest, with his eyes turned toward the heavens; and he had very little forehead, becasue the image of the saint beign raised toward the vault of the church, gazing toward heaven, had almost no forehead. He had a kind of inverted miter on his shoulders, with many round marks in the places where miters are covered with gems. In short, this child strongly resembled the tableau after which it mother had formed it by the power of her imagination. This is something that all Paris has been able to see as well as me, because the body was preserved for a considerable time in alcohol. (LO 116)

Even stranger things than the Saint Pius baby were birthed; Malebranche goes so far as to say that "there is nothing so bizarre that it has not been aborted at some time," and gives as examples babies shaped like "apples, pears, grapes, and other similar things" (LO 117).

Malebranche thinks that this communication between mother and infant serves some biological functions. For instance, he attributes instincts to it (giving the age-old example of the lamb and the wolf, which is found in medieval authors). Further, he suggests that "without this communication women and animals could not easily bring forth young of the same species" (LO 117). This account of epigenesis is an interesting one. The debate between epigeneticists and preformationists was a major one at the time. Malebranche's account of heredity is actually a blend of preformationist and epigenetic views; in the Dialogues on Metaphysics he talks about all the bees that will ever exist pre-existing in the first bee. This is a preformationist view; but that Malebranche is not purely preformationist is clear from his comment here. He is primarily preformationist, but he gives some credit to the epigenetic side as well. As he goes on to say:

It is true that the most reasonable thinking, that which conforms most closely to experience in this very difficult question of the formation of the fetus, is that infants are already almost completely formed even before the action by which they are conceived, and during the gestation period their mothers do nothing but provide them their normal growth. However, this communication of the mother's animal spirits and brain with those of the infant seems to serve to regulate this growth, determining the particles used to nourish it to be arranged gradually in the same way as in the mother's body; which is to say, this communication of the spirits renders the child like its mother, or of the same species. (LO 117-118)

Malebranche thinks this is confirmed by mutations like the fruit-shaped miscarriages; although he allows that God might have set things up in a purely preformationist way. It's not impossible that the purely preformationist account is the right one, but the evidence - monstrous births and tulips (plants from the bulb are more similar to the mother plant than plants from the seed) - suggests a certain amount of epigenetic regulation.

The communication between mother and child plays a role in Malebranche's moral psychology, since he attributes a number of errors to it. One set of errors are what might be called temperamental errors, i.e., excessive domination by a given passion. Malebranche gives as an example the case of King James, which I confess to finding rather funny:

One might nevertheless relate here the example of King James of England, of whom Sir Kenelm Digby speaks in his book on the Power of Sympathy. He assures us in this book that when Mary Stuart was pregnant with King James, some Scottish Lords entered her chambers and killed her secretary, who was Italian, in her presence, even though she threw herself in front of him in an effort to obstruct them. This princess received some minor wounds, and her fright so impressed her imagination that they were communicated to the child she carried in her womb. Thus, her son King James remained incapable all his life of looking at a naked sword. Digby says he experienced this himself when he was knighted, for when this prince began to touch his shoulder with the sword, he moved it directly toward his face, and he would even have been wounded had someone not adroitly guided it to where it belonged. (LO 119-120)

It is this sort of thing, Malebranche thinks, that explains phobias.

More important than temperamental errors, however, is the Error of all errors: original sin. Malebranche appeals to the communication between mother and child to explain the transmission of concupiscence, i.e., excessive attachment to sensible things, which is what constitutes original sin. Original sin, I would argue, plays a key role in Malebranche's epistemology, so although Malebranche is not strictly committed to his explanation of its transmission, it does nonetheless have an important role to play.

(Sharon suggests that there could be a sort of series on this, and I agree - at the very least we could get up enough posts for a Sideshow in the next Carnivalesque or History Carnival, all on the theme of pregnancy, birth, and miscarriage in the early modern period. So, if you know of anything that you could blog on the subject, go ahead and do it. The more the merrier!)

Another Scribble

The Garden of the Great Khan

Every tree of the forest is found here,
and a bower for every bright bird,
and the flowers that leap up at the world's end
are faded by these beyond words.
When the sun in its shining blooms fire,
the lilies all bloom in return
with a whiteness, a gold, and a redness
beyond what the hearthfire can burn.
The scent of their petals is precious;
it floats around dancers like dreams,
and the dancers that dance to the birdsong
float like the boats in the stream
on a music that Muses must envy
when the horse-spring has flowed from its fount
to inspire the poets and prophets
who camp beneath Parnassus-mount.
Light that leaps down from the angels
is reflected here in the small ponds
that give way in rippling reverence
to the softness of sorrowful swans;
and the sweetness of light in that music,
the sweetness it sends to my tongue,
is a taste beyond all of the honey
of which all the poets have sung,
and its nectar, distilled into power,
is found in the peach on the tree
more fair than the fruits called Undying
in the islands beyond the wide sea.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Ash Wednesday

"Ales Rarus" has a good post on Ash Wednesday.

Various Things on Causation

Chris has an excellent post at "Mixing Memory" on causal reasoning, looking at attempts in cog. sci. to model causal reasoning.

Some philosophical work on the topic that I've found at least thought-provoking is the generally unpopular (but also always misunderstood) manipulability theory. Manipulability theory cannot, I think, be a full account of causation, nor can it be a strict account of what the nature of causation is (this review of Woodward gives one reason why); nonetheless, I think it captures an important aspect of the way we reason about causes that is usually neglected, or, at least, used to be (it's recently become something of a hot topic due to people like Woodward). This (PDF) is an interesting defense of manipulability theory (a.k.a. agency theory) against some common objections.

I've previously recommended some of the work of Eric Hiddleston, especially his paper, Causal Powers (PDF). Hiddleston is an advocate of the probabilistic-contrast-based causal power theory Chris mentions in his post.

Things for Reading

* Devotional Reading of H. P. Lovecraft at "Flos Carmeli"

"When God slides out of the picture, we slide in to the madness of fallen nature."

* Pseudonymous kid learns philosophy at "Bitch Ph.D."

* The Fountainhead starring Skull Force

It's a parody that also makes a good summary of the book. All the Roark and a fraction of the time! (Hat-tip: Cliopatria.)

* Carnival and Lent at "Early Modern Notes"

All the links on Shrove Tuesday you could possibly need.

* Hume's Skeptical Solution to Taste at "Whistling It by James Liu"

Not a Perfect World

Joshua at Blogosophy says:

Has anyone noticed, or commented on, the fact that if the No Perfect World argument is sound, then Heaven is impossible? I suspect that philosophers who regard it as a logic puzzle don't care, but Christian apologists probably ought to. Yes, even an eternity of perfect bliss in communion with God can alway be improved upon. Perhaps by adding adequate parking...

But the doctrine of heaven isn't about a perfect world (in the sense relevant to the argument); it's about a particular state of life in this world. Indeed, that's the whole point of doctrine; it isn't supposed to be a hypothetical about what would be the case if this world were perfect, but a promise about what can be the case in this world (under a certain set of conditions). And, indeed, it traditionally isn't even intended to be a perfect state of life, except in the sense of being completely fulfilling (since it involves the sort of union with God for which we were intended); there's nothing in the traditional doctrine to say that it is beyond divine omnipotence to make a creature that can experience a heavenly state of life even better than any human being could possibly experience.

So the No Perfect World argument (by which is meant a particular defense against the argument from evil; it is discussed here and here) doesn't really have any bearing on the issue of Heaven. Of course, as my readers know, I don't have any particular commitment to this response to the argument from evil, since I think such defenses superfluous (and I don't think this one particularly impressive or even remotely important except to the extent it points out that supporters of the argument from evil are generally not as clear about what they mean by gratuitous evil as they pretend). But I think the heaven issue isn't one that really arises here.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Thought for the Day

To help the masses you must first learn from them.

A Jotting about Aquinas on Divine Simplicity

It is not sufficiently noted that Aquinas always characterizes the doctrine of simplicity as the claim that there is no composition in God. Composition, however, tends to be a technical term for Aquinas; it means a union of two things as potential to actual. That this is in fact what he means in this context is clear from the way he goes about discussing simplicity. It has become common to claim that Aquinas's doctrine of simplicity conflicts with the doctrine of the Trinity; but this is an artifact, I think, of not properly characterizing Aquinas's doctrine of simplicity. I think a failure to recognize the essential point about composition is a major factor in this. For the only alternatives to Aquinas on this is to say either 1) that the Trinity is an aggregate; or 2) that the Persons are related to each other in some way as actual to potential. (1) contradicts the unity of the Persons. (2) contradicts the equality of the persons. So the alternatives to Aquinas violate the doctrine of the Trinity. Aquinas's does not, because the doctrine of the Trinity does not require us to say that there is a union according to potential and actual in God. This, of course, leaves many other questions (could it possibly be otherwise?), but the claims of Aquinas's problem here are massively exaggerated.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


The first part of the short story draft, "The Lotus," is here, for those of you who missed it. The second part, of course, is here. The third and final part will be put up sometime later this week.

The Lotus, Part II: Quin

I had been searching for Quin for three days. On the morning of the fourth day I was awakened by a rustlen near the fire. When I jumped up, I found myself pointing my rifle at Quin who continued to make coffee with my messkit as calmly and unconcernedly as if we had made camp together.

"God morning, Trim," he said. When we had first met, we knew too little of each other's language to do anything but mangle the pronunciation of each other's name, so we settled on the closest approximation to first syllables that we could: Quin and Trim. The approximations remained long after Quin was able to pronounce my name correctly. (I, alas, still cannot pronounce Quin's name properly. The third syllable is one of those sounds that are only pronounced easily by those who have been pronouncing it all their lives.)

"I have been looking for you forever," I said, lowering the gun.

"Forever is a long time, Trim," he replied reproachfully. "You were only looking afew days. It's a short time to find anyone in these parts." He set the coffee over the fire and turned to me. "What are you trying to find today?"

I took a picture of Rozanov out of my pocket and gave it to him. "If you are able, I would like to hire your services again. I can pay twice what I paid last time."

"You almost missed me, Trim. I intended to set out tomorrow for home.

I was surprised. Quin rarely talked of his home. I knew him better than probably any man alive, but I knew nothing of it except that it was away west and populated with a different people than these who lived near the jungle. He had left when young, due to some family dispute, and had never returned.

He seemed lost in thought a moment, then said, "Let's find your man, Trim. I think I know where to look."

After coffee, we set out and journeyed to the northwest for several days, until we came to a village. Several villages came out to meet us; Quin approached them and started joking with them. The jokes, of course, were largely at my expense; in many of the villages in this area there is no better way to get the sympathy of the natives than to joke about the follies of Europeans. We had done this before, I posing as the stupid foreigner, a role that is disconcertingly easy to play, and Quin telling several tale tales of bungling European ways, each taller than the last.

And it worked, as usual. Quin began to hear stories as well as tell them, since the villagers had met a few crazy Europeans themselves. At one point, Quin showed them Rozanov's photograph; they recognized him at once, but refused to say where he had gone. Every time Quin asked they would become silent, and look as if they did not know quite how to proceed.

We were fed a meal of catfish by the villagers which, given that hospitality is very important in this region of the world, was probably better than the meals they eat themselves, and then set out again. Before we left, however, one of the elders of the village took Quin aside and whispered something to him. After the village was out of sight I asked him what it was.

"Ah," he said. "He told me that we would do better to give up looking for this man because he was cursed."

"Oh," I replied, disappointed.

A ghost of a smile played over Quin's face. After a moment or two of silence he contined: "And that we should avoid following the second stream on the right because then we, too, could become cursed in the same way."

"Well, Quin," I said after a moment, "are you ready to brave the curses of the second stream on the right?"

"Some day, Trim, you and I will have to find something that requires going where we will be blessed," he replied.

Over the next two weeks we slowly made our way deeper and deeper into the jungle. The slow pace was necessary given the difficulty of tracking. A jungle is a flurry of activity in every way, from the swift-growing greenery to the perpetual toil of insects to the movements of animals. Quin, however, is the best I have ever seen at tracking, and despite the deliberate pace we made excellent progress.

On the afternoon of the twelfth day I was preparing to catch some small crocodile for dinner when I heard Quin signaling. I met up with him beside a human skeleton in very bad shape.

"Rozanov?" Quin asked.

I shook my head. "Judging from the leg, it is too short. His guide, perhaps?" I knelt to look closer. "The skull is crushed, the chest is crushed. Whatever did this was brutal."

Quin began looking around for more, and within a quarter of an hour had found the remains of an old camp site. Although it was clear no one had been there for several weeks, there was still a pack, half-buried in the underbrush. Inside was a book. It was badly water-damaged, but on opening its front cover, I could easily make out, in a bold and beautiful Cyrillic hand, a name. It was Fyodor Rozanov.