Saturday, March 19, 2005

Fools, Fools, and More Fools

The post on the Ship of Fools at "Giornale Nuovo" reminds me of this delightful essay on the twenty or so different kinds of fools that Aquinas discusses in his works, from the insipiens to the stolidus to the stupidus to the fatuus. Alas, I am something of a vecors at times; fortunately, however, I am not incrassatus. One of the terms, inanis, empty-minded, is related to the word used in the Latin of Aquinas's citation from I Corinthians: "If Christ did not rise, our preaching is empty (inanis), and our faith is empty (inanis)". Helpfully, the essay ends with Aquinas's remedy for folly of every kind: mercy, and (in particular) prayer, instruction, and advice.

Wisdom from Swift

Some pearls from Jonathan Swift's Thoughts on Various Subjects:

No preacher is listened to but Time, which gives us the same train and turn of thought that older people have tried in vain to put into our heads before.

When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

The greatest inventions were produced in the times of ignorance, as the use of the compass, gunpowder, and printing, and by the dullest nation, as the Germans.

It is pleasant to observe how free the present age is in laying taxes on the next. FUTURE AGES SHALL TALK OF THIS; THIS SHALL BE FAMOUS TO ALL POSTERITY. Whereas their time and thoughts will be taken up about present things, as ours are now.

It is in disputes as in armies, where the weaker side sets up false lights, and makes a great noise, to make the enemy believe them more numerous and strong than they really are.

What they do in heaven we are ignorant of; what they do not we are told expressly: that they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.

Complaint is the largest tribute heaven receives, and the sincerest part of our devotion.

The common fluency of speech in many men, and most women, is owing to a scarcity of matter, and a scarcity of words; for whoever is a master of language, and hath a mind full of ideas, will be apt, in speaking, to hesitate upon the choice of both; whereas common speakers have only one set of ideas, and one set of words to clothe them in, and these are always ready at the mouth. So people come faster out of a church when it is almost empty, than when a crowd is at the door.

The preaching of divines helps to preserve well-inclined men in the course of virtue, but seldom or never reclaims the vicious.

If the men of wit and genius would resolve never to complain in their works of critics and detractors, the next age would not know that they ever had any.

Aquinas on the Necessity of the Resurrection

What follows is my rough translation from the Latin of ST 3.53.1. For another English translation, see the New Advent Summa; I borrowed a bit or two from that translation. I'll probably have several posts over this next week on this subject, and on other Holy Week subjects.


[1] So we proceed to the first [objection]. It seems that it was not necessary for Christ to rise again. Thus Damascene says (in book IV [of De Fid. Orth.]), "Resurrection is the rising again of what is disintegrated and fallen." But Christ did not fall through sin, nor was his body disintegrated, as is clear from what was said above (ST 3.51.3). Therefore it was not appropriate for him to rise.

[2] Further, whoever rises is promoted to something higher, because to rise (surgere) is to be uplifted (sursum moveri). But the body of Christ after death remained united to the divinity, and so could not be promoted to something higher. Therefore rising again was not due to it.

[3] Further, everything that happened to the humanity of Christ was ordered to our salvation. But the passion of Christ suffices for our salvation, for through it we are liberated from fault and penalty, as is clear from what was said above (ST 3.49.1,3). Therefore it was not necessary for Christ to rise from the dead.

But against this is what is said at the end of Luke, "It was needful that Christ suffer and rise from the dead."

I reply that it must be said that it was necessary for Christ to rise again, for five reasons.

First of all, for the commendation of divine justice, to which pertains exalting those who humble themselves for God's sake, according to Luke 1: "He deposes potentates from their seats and exalts the humble." Therefore because Christ, according to charity and obedience to God, humbled himself even to death on the cross, it was needful that he be exalted by God even to glorious resurrection, as it is said in His Person in the Psalm (138:2) as the Gloss expounds it, "You have known," that is, approved, "my sitting down," that is, humility and passion, "and my rising up," that is, glorification in resurrection."

Second, for our instruction in faith. Because through his resurrection our faith about Christ's divinity is confirmed, because, as is said at the end of II Corinthians, "Although he was crucified from our infirmity, he lives from God's power." And likewise, it is said in I Corinthians 15, If Christ did not rise, our preaching is empty, and our faith is empty." And in the Psalm (29:10), "What profit is in my blood," that is, in the shedding of my blood, "while I descend," as it were through various grades of evil, "into corruption?" As though He were to answer, "None, If therefore I do not rise again at once, an my body be decayed, I shall bring news to no one, I shall profit no one," as the Gloss expounds.

Third, for the uplifting of our hope. Because, while we see Christ, who is our Head, rise again, we also hope in our own resurrection. Wherefore it is said in I Corinthians 15, "If Christ is preached that He rises from the dead, how is it said among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" And in Job 19 it is said, "I know," that is, through the certainty of faith, "that my redeemer," that is, Christ, "lives," having risen from the dead, and therefore "in the last day, I shall rise out of the earth; this my hope is stored in my bosom."

Fourth, for the formation (informationem) of the lives of the faithful, according to which [it is said in] Romans 6, "As Christ is risen from the dead throught the glory of the Father, even so may we walk in newness of life." And further down, "Christ, rising from the dead, therefore no longer dies; so also recognize that you are dead to sin, but living to God.

Fifth, for the completion of our salvation. Because just as for this reason he endured evil things in dying so that he might liberate us from evil, so he is glorified in rising again so that he might promote us to good, according to Romans 4, "He was delivered for our sins, and he rose for our justification."

To the first it must therefore be said that, although Christ did not fall through sin, He fell through death, because as sin is a fall from justice, so death is a fall from life. Wherefore we can understand as from the person of Christ what is said in Micah 7, "Do no rejoice over me, my enemy, because I have fallen; I will rise." Likewise, although Christ's body was not disintegrated through returning to dust, yet the separation of the soul from the body was a sort of disintegration.

To the second it must be said that divinity was united to the flesh of Christ after death by a personal union, not a union of nature, as the soul is united to the body as form so as to constitute human nature. And because of this, the body, united with the soul, was promoted to a higher state of nature, but not to a higher personal state.

To the third it must be said that the passion of Christ operated for our salvation, properly speaking, inasmuch as it removed evils; but resurrection inasmuch as it was the first beginning and exemplar of goods.

Sterne on Mind-Body Union the present state we are in, we find such a strong sympathy and union between our souls and bodies, that the one cannot be touched or sensibly affected, without producing some correspondnig emotion in the other.--Nature has assigned a different look, tone of voice, and gesture, peculiar to every passion and affection we are subject to; and, therefore, to argue against this strict correspondence which is held between our souls and bodies,--is disputing against the frame and mechanism of human nature.--We are not angels, but men cloathed with bodies, and, in some measure, governed by our imagination, that we have need of all these external helps which nature has made the interpreters of our thoughts.

Laurence Sterne, Sermon 43 ('The Efficacy of Prayer') in The Sermons of Mr. Yorick (1760).

Sterne, of course, is best known for his work, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a bizarre and beautiful work of bawdy satire and Christian skepticism, and the most experimental of all experimental novels that ever have been and probably ever will be. In Tristram Shandy, Sterne takes the novel to the very outer limits of what a novel can do, nearly breaking it in the process. Sterne was a village vicar in the Church of England for about twenty-two years; The Sermons of Mr. Yorick are his own (Mr. Yorick is a character in Tristram Shandy, distantly related to Hamlet's Yorick; Sterne applies the name jokingly to himself).

Declaration of Interventions

This is a very interesting post (hat-tip: Jonathan Dresner at Cliopatria). The question it brings to my mind is: Can it really be considered a self-evident principle "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of its ends, it is the Right of the Intervener to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government"?

But, of course, the original statement of the Declaration of Independence brought up exactly similar questions. There was at the time an interesting sermon by George Campbell, one of Scotland's great early modern philosophers, that discussed the Declaration of Independence, and he actually mocks the document for accepting as self-evident so many things that few reasonable people had ever thought self-evident before. It's a bit jarring to read it; it's one thing to read someone who might quibble with some of the language -- it's something entirely different to read someone (and what is more, someone quite brilliant and rational) who thought that the argument of the Declaration of Independence was irrational and incoherent.

But to get back to the right of intervention issue; the real issue is what lies behind this right. In just war theory, for instance, as it has usually been conceived, there is no right of military intervention, properly speaking, whatsoever. The just war tradition sees war powers as an extension of the responsibility of the governing agent(s) to protect the people they govern. On this view, the only military intervention that can even conceivably be legitimate, therefore, is defensive, i.e., what is strictly required to defend one's own citizens. And this suggests to me that one reason the post is a bit unnerving is that, unlike the Declaration of Independence, it is not unified; the first part of the second paragraph (the right of intervention part) actually is completely separate from the second part (the abuses and usurpations part). In the Declaration of Independence, the two go together because the people whose safety and happiness underlies the right of abolition are the same people against whom the abuses and usurpations are committed. But in the post, the two are split: the people are the ones who have the right to abolition, because it is their safety and happiness that are at stake; and they are the ones who would suffer by the imprudent abolition of longstanding authority. But it is the intervener who is worried about the particular abuses in question, since we have moved from the intention to place its people under despotism to the intention to endanger others with certain kinds of weapons.

It's interesting how this sort of thing makes you think through things you otherwise would never have thought through.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Whewell on the Basis of the First Law of Motion

This isn't Whewell's most complete discussion, but it's the one I happen to have on hand:

If we call to mind the axioms which we formerly stated, as containing the most important conditions involved in the idea of Cause, it will be seen that our conviction in this case depends upon the first axiom of Causation, that nothing can happen without a cause. Every change in the velocity of the moving body must have a cause; and if the change can, in any manner, be referred to the presence of other bodies, these are said to exert force upon the moving body: and the conception of force is thus evolved from the general idea of cause. Force is any cause which has motion, or change of motion, for its effect; and thus, all the change of velocity of a bodywhich can be referred to extraneous bodies,--as the air which surrounds it, or the support on which it rests,--is considered as the effect of forces; and this consideration is looked upon as explaining the difference between the motion which really takes place in the experiment, and that motion which, as the law asserts, would take place if the body were not acted on by any forces.

Thus the truth of the first law of motion depends upon the axiom that no change can take place without a cause; and follows from the definition of force, if we suppose that there can be none but an external cause of change. But in order to establish the law, it was necessary further to be assured that there is no internal cause of change of velocity belonging to all matter whatever, and operating in such a manner that the mere progress of time is sufficient to produce a diminution of velocity in all moving bodies. It appears from the history of mechanical science, that this latter step required a reference to observation and experiment; and that the first law of motion is so far, historically at least, dependent upon our experience.

William Whewell, Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, vol. 1 (London: John W. Parker, 1847) pp. 217-218.

He also considers the other laws of motion in the same way, connecting them to basic causal principles.

Manifestior Via II

Blogger's not letting me into my Edit Post section at the moment, so this will have to go in a new post. I said:

In any case, Aquinas's interpretation of the 'whatever is moved is moved by another' principle, as it is unfolded elsewhere in Aquinas's work, doesn't have any problem with persistence in a state of rest or motion: the mover in such a case is (proximately) the nature of the moving object and (remotely) the generator of the nature (or, alternatively, the remover of impediment to motion).

While this is close, on further thought, it isn't quite right. Here's a way to look at it. The First Way is easily shown to be valid. There are only three questions the proof really raises:

(1) Is there really motion?
(2) Is it true that whatever is moved is moved by another?
(3) Is it true that no infinite regress of movers is possible?

If the answer to all three questions is 'yes', the proof is sound. The question we are considering here is (2). Now, it is important to understand what is being asked here. If we find an object in motion, we can ask several sorts of questions, e.g.,

(a) Why is this object in motion at all?
(b) Why is this object continuing to be in motion, given that it already has been in motion?

The inertia principle doesn't quite shed full light on either of these questions. It is, however, part of the answer to (b), since it says that continuing in motion (or at rest) is what objects do, as a general principle (assuming no cause of change). But the second question is actually rather irrelevant to the First Way. The principle that whatever is moved is moved by another is relevant to (a): if it is true, we can ask, what makes this thing to have been in motion? And we can answer a number of things. It may have been wrenched into the motion it has (violent motion); it may have been responding to natural force (natural motion); etc. But the inertia principle doesn't prevent us from asking this sort of question at all. So it doesn't appear that the issue of persistence in locomotion is relevant to the principle at all. (The issue about generators merely points out that Aquinas's argument is not based on the assumption that everything that is currently in motion is currently being moved by some direct cause. It is often incorrectly thought that it does.)

The principle is related to the causal principle that "Everything that begins to be has a cause of its beginning to be"; the latter, in fact, is just a slightly less general form of the principle (if you suppose that there is no motion that has always existed, they are equivalent). This is the relevance of Whewell's analysis; Whewell showed that not only is it reasonable to think the laws of motion are consistent with this latter principle, they can follow from it if you add a supposition or two. I have never seen anyone do an analysis at the level of sophistication at which Whewell does his that suggests otherwise.


* Berkeley, Johnson, and Common Sense by Max Goss at "Right Reason" (see my comment there for my view)

* Necessitas Consequentiae versus Necessitas Consequentiis at the new and improved "Maverick Philosopher" - it's a great little discussion of this extremely important logical distinction.

* Ignatius of Antioch and the Gospel of Matthew at "CADRE Comments"

* If I Give My Soul at "Majikthise": a bit of Johnny Cash blogging.

* Jonathan Edwards at "Flos Carmeli"

* The Fourth Skeptics' Circle at "The Two Percent Company". This one is more disappointing than previous ones, but there are still some good posts.

Manifestior Via

David at "Miscellaneous musings on this and that" discusses Aquinas's First way here and here (hat-tip: Dangerous Idea). Just a few points:

* The Summa was written as an introductory theology textbook; but the students who were expected to use it would all have studied Aristotle for several years. The First Way is manifestior, i.e., more obvious, for such a person, particularly given the obviousness of change to the senses.

* On the inertia objection: I have discussed the matter here. Briefly: (1) Since motus is not confined to locomotion (which is just motus or motion in place), this is not actually an issue for the argument at all, unless analogous objections could be made to work for other cases of change. All the argument needs is one (this is a problem with the argument in David's second post; it proceeds on the false assumption that the argument only works if it covers every case of change; I think with Aquinas's interpretation it does in fact work for every form of change that falls under the concept of motus, but this is more than the argument strictly needs to reach its conclusion). (2) But as Weisheipl pointed out, Newton's own formulation doesn't actually conflict with the principle; (3) and, as I pointed out, Whewell's nineteenth-century analysis of the relation between the inertia principle and causal principles, which is the best that has been done, has the result (allowing for some difference in philosophical idiom) of making the inertia principle a corollary of the sort of causal principle Aquinas uses. (4) In any case, Aquinas's interpretation of the 'whatever is moved is moved by another' principle, as it is unfolded elsewhere in Aquinas's work, doesn't have any problem with persistence in a state of rest or motion: the mover in such a case is (proximately) the nature of the moving object and (remotely) the generator of the nature (or, alternatively, the remover of impediment to motion). In short, it is actually doubtful that there is any problem here. No one has actually done a non-question-begging analysis to show that there is any problem at all; and, as I noted, Whewell's analysis, which has to my knowledge no competitors, suggests exactly the contrary.

But I'm glad it's being discussed. David's right that the First Way is probably not particularly useful for apologetic purposes; but that's a rhetorical limit to the argument, not something that is problematic for its demonstrations. Demonstrations generally are not particularly useful for apologetics, because, however, good the demonstration may be, the skeptic will always be tempted simply to deny the premises in order to avoid the conclusion. Demonstrations get you from the premises (whatever they may be) to the conclusions; but apologetics primarily needs to get you to the point where you begin to recognize the plausibility of the premises (whatever they may be).

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Helen and the Phantom Slut

For noble men are never hated by the gods,
although they suffer more than those of no account

One of my early posts on this weblog discussed how I hope, at some point down the road, to write a verse novel on the curse that haunts the House of Atreus. The basic outline, heavily but not exclusively influenced by Euripides would be:

1. Iphigenia at Aulis: Agamemnon sacrifices his oldest daughter to appease Artemis and make it possible for the Greek fleet to set out for Troy. Artemis apparently shows her acceptance by turning Iphigenia into a deer at the moment of sacrifice and stirring up the sailing-winds.
2. Trojan Women: The Greeks have defeated Troy and are now dividing up the women and killing their children; largely, this would be about Hecuba, Andromache, and Cassandra.
3. Agamemnon: Agamemnon returns home with Cassandra as his slave-girl; Clytemnestra kills him.
4. The Libation Bearers: Electra and Orestes, children of Clytemnestra, kill their mother to avenge their father.
5. Orestes: Pursued by the Furies, Orestes is brought before the tribunal of the gods at the Areopagus and (narrowly) is acquitted, on the condition that he visit a particular country and return from there to his homeland with a statue of Artemis.
6. Iphigenia among the Taurians: Performing his task, Orestes comes among the Taurians, who sacrifice all foreigners to Artemis. As it happens, when Artemis accepted the sacrifice of Iphigenia, she did not turn the girl into a white deer, but replaced her with a white deer before she was actually sacrificed, and whisked her off to this barbarian land to be her priestess. Iphigenia and Orestes find out about each other, and she helps him escape with the image.

The basic idea is that through Iphigenia, as the restored Sacred Victim, the gods are able to unravel the curse (which they cannot directly lift). However, as I noted in that post, the problem with this is that it only undoes it for the line of Agamemnon. Iphigenia's restoration cannot be stretched to cover the line of Menelaus as well; so the curse on the Atreides only finds an incomplete resolution.

However, I have been reading Rex Warner's translation of Helen, and it occurs to me that it might very well provide the beginning of a solution. The basic premise of Euripides' play is the idea, suggested by the poet Stesichorus, that Helen did not go to Troy with Paris. Angered over Paris's choice, Hera fashioned an exact facsimile of Helen out of air. This phantom was the one who fled with Paris. The true Helen was transported by Hermes to Egypt, there virtuously to live out the duration of the Trojan War while her good name was destroyed by the phantom. Returning home from the war, Menelaus is blown off course and shipwrecked on the shores of Egypt. The king at that time had decided he wanted to marry Helen himself, so he has quite prudently decided to kill every Greek who comes by, to guarantee that Menelaus never has a chance to rescue her. The play, which has one of Euripides' beautiful recognition scenes, is about how Menelaus and Helen meet up and manage to get off the island with their lives. As tragedies go, it's actually quite lighthearted and funny.

Now, it strikes me that this could be adapted to heal House Atreides on the line of Menelaus. Just as the restoration of Iphigenia restores the House of Agamemnon, the restoration of Helen could restore the House of Menelaus. It would require adapting the story quite a bit. The deus ex machina at the end seems to me to be one of Euripides' most clumsy. In a play like Alcestis or (more subtly) Medea, the deus ex machina works quite nicely because of the way the play is structured; but here it is very little more than a way to end the play. And the plot really doesn't give much by means of which the curse could be lifted (unlike the Iphigenia arc, which has the neat characteristic of containing one who was sacrificed and yet lives). But it has great elements -- the idolon, the chastity of Helen, the prophetess Theonoe (which has to be one of the best names for a prophetess ever). Something could be done with it.

Kemp Smith's Sense of 'Naturalism'

Norman Kemp Smith is something of a giant in Hume scholarship; his Philosophy of David Hume (1941) radically changed the field. One of his best-known theses is that Hume is not a skeptic but a naturalist. This has inspired and exercised many scholars since. It has recently become fashionable to criticize it:

However, there are several difficulties in Kemp Smith's approach and in his "naturalistic" intperpretation of Hume's philosophy. The first of these is his emphasis upon the words "nature," "natural," and "natural belief." Hume himself des not use the phrase "natural belief," and while he often uses the word "nature" in contexts that might seem to support Kemp Smith's interpretation..., he gies the term "nature" no emphasis comparable to his typographical emphasis on such words as "CUSTOM" and "HABIT"....

This is from Claudia Schmidt's David Hume: Reason in History (Pennsylvania State: 2003), p. 5. Here Schmidt is just summarizing the scholarship (Schmidt's work is very good for getting a basic impression of what Hume scholars have said). It's a common view. But I've never entirely understood it; because it seems likely to me that Kemp Smith was using 'naturalist' in his sense, not in a special Humean sense. If we look at some of Kemp Smith's other writings (which I suspect Hume scholars generally have not), we find that he occasionally divides philosophical systems into three basic types:

1. skeptical
2. idealist
3. naturalist

The skeptical type of philosophical system is exactly what it sounds like. 'Idealism' as used here is an idiosyncratic usage; by it Kemp Smith means the sort of philosophical approach that gives rational or intellectual agency an explanatory priority over everything else. Thus I am an idealist in this sense, Kemp Smith was an idealist in this sense, and, indeed, most theists are idealists in this sense. Naturalism contrasts with this; naturalists give something explanatory priority over reason and rational agency. Anyone who is what we would today call a 'physicalist' would be a naturalist. And Kemp Smith's proposal is that Hume should be considered not a skeptic (who, effectively, denies explanatory priority to anything) but as a naturalist. The reason is that Hume does attempt to explain some facets of the world, and his explanation of the world involves explaining reason and rational agency in terms of something else - instinct, custom, etc. The first clause, that he explains, is a reason to think he is not a skeptic; and the second, that he does not give first place to rational agency, is a reason to think he is not an idealist. So, naturally, he must be a naturalist.

History Carnival

The Fourth History Carnival is up at Blogenspiel. The post hoc theme (which is very well done) is the relevance of history.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Pictorial Doubt about a Form of Determinism

There is a past state and a present state:

[past] [now]

A common determinist claim is that the whole state of the world at moment t (the past moment) entails a given state at t' (the present moment):

[past] -> [now]

However, we might ask how it is that anything in the past logically entails anything in the present. The events of the past as such don't appear to yield such an entailment. Therefore, it must be the union of the past state with some supposition or set of suppositions that overarch both the past and the present. This supposition cannot, however, be simply general (for the most part) in its application, because that introduces something less than an entailment:

[past] ~> [now]

So it must be one that is much stronger:

[past] -> [now]

In other words, it has to be a universal and necessary [that should read: non-probabilistic--ed.] supposition. Now the question is: we are supposed to believe

[past] [now]

rather than the weaker

[past] [now]

But it seems this could not be established by empirical evidence without begging the question. And it does not seem there is any necessary truth that overarches past and present in such a way that it requires us to say that the present state is logically entailed by the past state, at least none that wouldn't highly controversial. So what could it be?

Another Poem Draft

Coursing Star

Leap up, high star, at the voice of your Maker,
Leap up and rejoice at eternity's song.
In the spinning of the stars, He is there.
In the streaming of the dust, He is there.
In the fire and morning light, He is there.
Golden in the pond a water lily turns,
Bright in its flashing, rippling the pool.
Leap up, bright lily; leap up, coursing star!
Ripple your praises in harmonic creation.
Leap up, great fire; leap up with delight!
In the height of your fire forge living song.
In a canyon shouts echo, rebounding,
Resounding, returning, touching all things.
Leap up, coursing star, with your echoing light;
With your echoing force turn wandering worlds.
Leap up, coursing star, flying through spaces;
Sing with your brethren the praise of the Lord!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Primary and Secondary Qualities: A Philosophical Fairy Tale

I'm currently reading Paul Wood's edition of Thomas Reid's correspondence, so I will probably be putting up interesting things from it the next few weeks. Here's the first, a selection from a letter to Lord Kames (14 February 1763). I have modified the punctuation and capitalization a bit to make it easier to read. It has intrigue, romance, and nefarious plots. It does not, however, have Rodents of Unusual Size.


"Do not primary and secondary qualities in Philosophy put your Lordship in mind of two partners in a Country Dance? They stand cheek by joul for a long time very cordially. They they set, cast off, and turn their backs as if mutually affronted and never to see one another any more. After some time they meet as good friends as ever; set, cast off again, and so on to the end of the Dance, when they are found hand to hand, in perfect friendship.

"In the first ages of the world when Common Sense reigned uncontrouled by the subtleties of philosophy, primary and secondary qualities dwelt peaceably under the same roof and were joynt proprietors of the same subject, body. Democritus and Epicurus set them at variance. And pretending to find out that secondary qualities were mere spectres and illusions of sense, they banished them to Fairy Land. Aristotle took compassion upon them, recalled them, and restored them to their former Inheritance. And during his Administration they dwelt cordially with the primary, and the distinction betwixt the one and the other was forgot.

"DesCartes, Malebranche, & Locke set them at variance again, but were not so cruel to the secondary qualities as their predecessors in atomical philosophy had been. They indeed turned them out of body, but seemed to make ample amends by giving them a place in the mind, and making them sensations of the mind. And now one would think that both parties must remain ever satisfied and never more have any thing to do with each other. But Fate had ordained that they should not dwell long asunder, and like true lovers they both soon repent of the separation.

"For First, the secondary qualities, far from being vain of their new possession, seemed to disdain being called by its name; and retaining a strange and unaccountable liking to the old material subject, and to their old companions, still retained the name and title of Secondary Qualities of Body, even among those who believed that they had no part nor lot in body, but in the mind onely.

"Secondly, the primary qualities, now in the sole and undisturbed possession of the material subject, were so far from being satisfied with their condition, that unable to brook a longer separation, they took a desparate resolution, unparalleled in history, & in a body forsook their native country and inheritance to follow their old companions.

"This extraordinary event your Lordship knows happened in the aera and under the Philosophical Administration of Bishop Berkley. The good Bishop did the best he could to accommodate both primary and secondary qualities with lodgings in the human mind. And having both become meer sensations, they lost their distinction again. In the mean time, the old material subject, which had made so magnificent a figure in ages past, being now stript of all its qualities, looked so pitifull, that it is said to have sunk into the Abyss to cover the shame of its nakedness.

"The next aera again disjoyned primary and secondary qualities, not onely from one another but from every subject. For having now no where to lay their head but in the human mind; a bold and cunning Engineer (by what motive induced to so daring an attempt remains a secret) dexterously sapped the foundation of this edifice, untill at last the substratum cracked and gave way, and the whole superstructure fell to pieces. Primary and secondary qualities as well [as] all the other inhabitants who survived the Ruin, were left with Epicurus' Atoms, vacuum per inane vagari.

"In this situation of things your Lordship acts charitably as well as justly, by restoring both primary and secondary qualities to their ancient inheritance, to which I think htey had always a just title."

Thomas Reid, The Correspondence of Thomas Reid. Paul Wood, ed. Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh: 2002) pp. 27-28.

A Vow of Silence?

It has been a while since I've posted an internet quiz. This one is via Flos Carmeli.

The Monk
You scored 13% Cardinal, 69% Monk, 41% Lady, and 37% Knight!

You live a peaceful, quiet life. Very little danger comes you way and you live a long time. You are wise and modest, but also stagnant. You have little comfort, little food and have taken a vow of silence. But who needs chatter when just sitting in the cloister of your abbey with The Good Book makes you perfectly content.

Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid

Wegner and Will

An interesting paper by Tim Bayne (PDF; via OPP) on Wegner's claim (in The Illusion of Conscious Will) that conscious will is an illusion. For my part I'm a bit puzzled though. It has been several months since I read Wegner's book (which is quite an interesting book). But I don't recall him arguing for the claim that conscious will is an illusion in the book. He does gesture at argument (e.g., by citing Dennett) and some of the phenomena he considers might be used as part of an argument for such a claim, but as I recall the book, Wegner largely just takes it for granted that conscious will is an illusion. His argument is not for this claim, but for the claim that even people who consider conscious will an illusion can find the phenomena of conscious will to be an interesting and fruitful field of scientific study. And his argument for this claim, I think, is quite excellent. But everyone else seems to read Wegner as arguing for the claim that conscious will is an illusion, which suggests that perhaps I just missed something in my reading.

Another Scribble

This odd draft was inspired last night by reading something in Umberto Eco's Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. It's a bit weak and flabby in parts, but it's somewhat interesting.


I see her face on every billboard passing,
on television, and hear her name
a hundred times a day, on radio,
in dialogue, in whispers echoing
from out my subconscious into light.
Her form haunts my every waking hour,
I cannot turn attention to the side,
but must give to her the natural prayer,
the natural piety, of my haunted mind.
As Romans in ancient days gave nod to numen
Of tree or water, hoping for return,
I spend my days in nod to a woman,
without return, no nod of recognition,
for she does not know me, nor I (in truth) her.
She is an ideal passing, an idea in my mind,
calling to the will to make it love.
And love I must, as I lie here waking,
for her voice still echoes in my mind
from when I saw her, Sylvie, on the screen,
an ideal woman beyond my reaching grasp,
than whom a better never will I find.

But as I lie here waking, I am half-sleeping,
my memory reaching backward, searching
for I know not what, in fancy's play,
and I am taken back to a childhood day,
all shrouded in the obscure fog of time,
and suddenly, as were it thrust on me,
I recall unto myself an older love,
whose image haunted me in vernal youth.
She was the one who taught me that true prayer
is attention of the mind, that piety
is rush of will and though around the one,
the idea that stands for more, but stands alone.
As when the lover dreams of roses, he knows he dreams,
and knows the beloved is the object of the dream,
but yet is caught in wandernig, trying to see
how this rose captures, but does not hold, a blushing girl;
so were my thoughts of Sylvie, or it seemed
that all my thoughts were symbols of Marie,
the two being but one, in fancy's play --
I started briefly to the waking day,
wondering at the invention of my mind,
to reach back through the depths of time,
and teach me what I knew, but did not think:
beloved Sylvie is but code for fair Marie;
my love for one is but my other love,
remotely present Sylvie is but absented Marie,
not as though they were the same,
but in the will that loves them, and the thought,
the only difference is appearance and the name.

But now I drift again through foggy times
to think, not of Sylvie, but of Marie,
although it takes no effort (they are one,
the one a masking for the other in my mind),
and drift in musement's play upon a girl
I hardly knew, but loved in every way,
and think her face, her voice, her form
as if were present her every charm,
and all of it seems so clearly ideal,
an idea before me that now draws
my love away, but yet, it slips away,
for thinking of Marie, I think another girl,
her sister, Jeanne, who was my closest friend,
through whom I knew the ideal girl,
and in the shifting play of shifting mind,,
I interchange the other for the one,
commingled and conjoined, all differences unknowing,
and find there is no change, no change at all.
Maries presence was but Jeanne's, yet symbolized,
something standing for this something that I knew,
though I thought it not, and knew it never.
And somewhere on the cusp of now and ever
a chain of nods, of references to other,
Marie a yes to Jeanne, and Sylvie to Marie,
ideal for ideal traded, and both for real,
the thing made ideated in another thing.
Sylvie was the rose; she stood a sign
for yet another girl, who was idea,
that stood for yet another, who was Jeanne.
And loving every symbol was but to love the real,
and loving every woman a loving of fair Jeanne.


I've been looking over my paper on Malebranche and Hume's Treatise 1.2.6 for the Hume Society meeting this summer before I pass it on to the commentator, and I came across a bit of a puzzle. While the anonymous reviewers who recommended the paper weren't supposed to write extended comments, some of them did write things that the organizers thought might be useful to the authors of the paper, so the organizers passed the relevant sections of those comments on to authors who were interested in reading what they had said. I was one. Looking over the commentator's comments, however, I find it addresses a problem that isn't in my final draft of the paper. This puzzled me, so I looked more closely. The commentator quotes a few lines that aren't found in that draft, either, but are found in an earlier draft of the paper. Since I haven't modified the paper since submitting it, I had the final draft ready to submit by the deadline. But the only possible interpretation of the evidences before me is: I didn't send it! I got it ready, prepared to submit it, and submitted an earlier rough draft instead! Now, that's what I call absentmindedness. The only thing I can think of that explains it would be if I mislabeled the relevant file; since I submitted by e-mail, I just uploaded the file. And apparently I uploaded the wrong one. Well, no harm done, since they accepted it anyway; but my only excuse for it is that for the entire months of October and November I was half asleep.

On the bright side, I had already fixed the problem noted by the commentator, which is a good sign of something or other.