Saturday, April 16, 2005

Of Pascalian Apologetics

Pascal's Wager is rather tricky to interpret, but here are my current thoughts on the subject. A caveat before starting out: Pascal's Wager is found in the Pensées; since the Pensées are fragments, we face something of the same problem with interpreting Pascal's argument that we do with interpreting any fragmentary text. In particular, we have to guess the actual context and point of the argument from the other fragments. Further, the fragments we have are just notes - they are not fragments of a developed text but fragmentary notes for a text that was never written. (You can go here for the main texts.)

The Wager is expressed dialectically, so it needs to be broken down into its dialectical elements to be interpreted properly. Indeed, it is virtually certain from the way the Wager fragments are organized that Pascal intended to write it as a dialogue; failure to recognize this has been one of the most common errors in attempts to interpret it. Unfortunately, because we are dealing with fragmentary notes, we have to reconstruct a bit. Here's my rough-draft attempt at a dialogue-paraphrase that stays close to Pascal's actual notes. At the end I will make a few remarks about some common misguided criticisms of the reasoning. It should be noted that there are several different sorts of arguments deriving from Pascal's own, and not everything I say will be relevant to all of them; I am interested in Pascal himself.


Context: Let us now speak according to natural lights.

A: We cannot know if God is or what He is, for we have no affinity to the infinite and incomprehensible. If this is so, who will dare try to decide the question of whether God exists? Not us.

B: But if we can't decide the question, how could one blame Christians for not giving a reason for their belief? After all, they don't claim to be able to prove the mysteries of God; and yet, despite not considering the question decidable yourself, you blame them for not giving proofs!

A: Well, yes, they don't claim to be able to prove divine mysteries, so fair enough on that point. But this still doesn't excuse people who believe what Christians are claiming.

B: Let's look at this point. The question is whether God is or is not. But we are already presupposing that reason can't decide this issue. "A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up." So what will you wager? According to reason, there isn't any basis either way (according to our supposition). So you really have no right to reprove people for having made a choice without proof; you yourself admit that you don't know anything more than they do.

A: True; but I don't blame them for having chosen to believe that God exists, but for having chosen at all rather than suspending judgment. Whether you choose heads or choose tails, you are still in the wrong. "The true course is not to wager."

B: Ah, but that really doesn't seem to be an option. [Admitting a choice, you have already embarked on thinking through the wager, which involves considering what you might wager.] So what would you choose? On the assumption that you must choose, let's see what's less in your interest. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; two things to stake, knowledge (pertaining to reason) and happiness (pertaining to will); two things you are trying to avoid, error and misery. By our supposition, reason isn't shocked at either of the options available, and we have to choose anyway. Let us estimate the gain and loss of happiness in wagering whether God is. If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. So wager that God is.

A: OK, let's go with that for the moment. Even then we are still faced with a problem, since gain and loss are not the only things to consider in a wager. We also must consider how much we are wagering. Even if I must wager, I might end up wagering too much.

B: Let's consider that. Since by our supposition we have no particular reason to choose either side over the other, if we wagered one life of happiness for the possibility of gaining two lives of happiness, we still could wager. If we stood three lives to gain, however, on our supposition that we must play, and on our supposition that reason is indeterminate on the issue (which implies that for all we know the chance of gain on either side is equal), we would be stupid not to wager one life of happiness for the chance of gaining three lives of happiness. But suppose there are infinite lives of happiness on the table. Since we can be right to wager one life of happiness against two, and since it would be stupid not to wager one life of happiness against three, what shall we say about wagering one life of happiness against infinite lives? What we stake is finite. What we can gain is infinite. So long as we don't stand to lose an infinite, the reasonable thing is to wager everything on the chance of infinite gain. And it doesn't seem that we have anything to lose.

A: But it isn't certain whether we will gain anything, whereas it is quite certain that we are risking something. There is, as it were an infinite uncertainty about our gain, and this cancels out any reasonableness in risking what we are certainly risking.

B: Not so. Everyone is staking something certain for something uncertain; but we are weighing a finite certainty (our stake) against a finite uncertainty of gain. Uncertainty of the gain is related to the chances of gain and loss; and this, on our previous supposition, is for all practical purposes even. Reason has not shown us any more chances on one side than on the other - this is what started us off. So our game is one of finite risk, equal risk of loss and gain, and infinite possible gain. "This is demonstrable; and if men are capable of any truths, this is one."

A: OK; but it would still be better if we could see the cards - get some sort of inside tip to help us make a better bet.

B: And so we can; we have things like Scripture and all the things to which Christians appeal.

A: Yes, but if I must wager, I'm in a bind. I simply am not made so that I can believe these sorts of things.

B: Then at least learn what's involved in your inability to believe. The issue is a matter of passion, emotion, rather than reason, for reason allows one to believe, but you cannot believe. This is a disease that can be cured. See if you can become convinced, not by piling arguments on top of each other, but by getting your passions under control. The remedy for unbelief is to do what others in your place have done. If you do what they have done, getting involved in the spiritual disciplines that abate the control of the passions over us - attending mass regularly, taking the holy water, or whatever - then this will fix your problem and bring you naturally to believe.

A: But this is what I'm afraid of.

B: Why? What do you have to lose? Your stumblingblocks here are your passions, not your reason; your emotions are getting in the way. And doing these sorts of things is precisely what will lessen your slavery to your passions.

[They continue to discuss this issue a bit, talking about what is really lost and won through these spiritual disciplines. We now come to the end.]

B: What harm will come from taking this side? Due to this spiritual discipline, "you will be faithful, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful." To be sure, you'll lose out on those poisonous pleasures of fame and luxury, but surely these other things more than compensate. By doing these things you will gain so much in this life, and you will see so great a certainty of gain at every step you take, and you will see that what you lose will be so worthless, that you will at last recognize that your risk is virtually nothing, whereas your gain was actually certain and infinite all along.

A: That is a very charming idea!

B: If this pleases you or seems impressive in any way, you should know that it is made by someone who has prayed to God, laying all before Him, asking that you in your doubts may be given such strength that you too can lay before Him everything you have -- for your good and His glory.


(1) Note that Pascal is very explicit that the dialogue is "according to natural lights". This is very important; it indicates that he is not speaking in his own person here, at least in the sense that he is not bringing in his full views. The Wager is concerned to make people aware of the need for faith. This faith, which (one would presume) is temporarily set aside to consider the various risks and gains of different beliefs, is nonetheless continually in the background. Pascal's argument, in other words, is not (as it is sometimes treated) an argument for God's existence. It would be more accurate to call it an argument for the conclusion that faith in the existence of God is possible, reasonable, and potentially desirable, even according to natural lights, i.e., even according to ordinary reason, and (toward the end) that what really keeps people from recognizing the viability of faith is not reason but the prejudices of the passions. This is confirmed by another statement of Pascal's, closely associated with the Wager itself:

But by faith we know His existence; in glory we shall know His nature. Now, I have already shown that we may well know the existence of a thing, without knowing its nature.

Note that it is by faith that we know His existence. The Wager argument immediately kicks in, looking at how this claim fares even according to natural lights. And Pascal's answer: it is very defensible.

(2) Recognizing the point in (1) immediately eliminates a large number of attempted criticisms of the argument. The argument is not a wager on God's existence. Pascal is not claiming that you should wager that God exists. He is not arguing that God's existence is the "safest bet". The Wager argument is an argument that faith in God's existence has something to say for it even when treated as a gamble by natural reason. Some people want to deny that we know enough about the question to say one way or another, and that faith that God exists is therefore unreasonable ("who will dare try to decide the question"). They think the issue is too uncertain or too risky for faith. Pascal argues that these people are mistaken.A confirmation of this interpretation is the line about inside information: Pascal is not saying that the assessments of risk and gain are the real risks and gains. In fact, he explicitly denies it; we have "inside tips" in the form of Scripture, the Church, and "all things to which Christians appeal". The assessments of risk and gain are simply those given "according to natural lights," without considering the inside tips.

(3) So the Pascalian is in a much stronger position than he might seem: he is arguing that even under very skeptical constraints faith in God can be rationally defensible -- and the Christian has far more than just a gamble to undergird his faith. Pascal's Pensées show that Pascal has in mind not merely the Wager, but also things like prophecy, typology, miracles, the superiority of Christianity over other religions, &c. as part of his apologetic argument. His primary interest at this point is to argue that we do not need to be certain to believe. There are quite a few aphorisms in the Pensées that are devoted to precisely this subject, e.g.:

(234) If we must not act save on a certainty, we ought not to act on religion, for it is not certain. But how many things we do on an uncertainty, sea voyages, battles! I say then we must do nothing at all, for nothing is certain, and that there is more certainty in religion than there is as to whether we may see to-morrow; for it is not certain that we may see to-morrow, and it is certainly possible that we may not, see it. We cannot say as much about religion. It is not certain that it is; but who will venture to say that it is certainly possible that it is not? Now when we work for to-morrow, and so on an uncertainty, we act reasonably; for we ought to work for an uncertainty according to the doctrine of chance which was demonstrated above.

He wishes to insist that people genuinely be seeking; this is the whole purpose of the Wager as we find it in Pascal. Others might try to twist it, in a misguided way, to other purposes; but Pascal is only interested in underlying the need to seek for faith:

(236) According to the doctrine of chance, you ought to put yourself to the trouble of searching for the truth; for if you die without worshipping the True Cause, you are lost. "But," say you, "if He had wished me to worship Him, He would have left me signs of His will." He has done so; but you neglect them. Seek them, therefore; it is well worth it.

We are back to the inside tips again. And, in a sense, Pascal's whole point is that the skeptic needs to take these tips (Scripture, the Church, miracles, etc.) seriously, and not ignore them or facilely dismiss them. Pascal has considerable sympathy with them. In his view, they are not wrong in saying that there is a great deal of uncertainty in this matter; they are only wrong in thinking that this precludes faith. This is the point of the Wager.

Harmony of the Spheres: The Second Poetry Carnival

Welcome to the second Poetry Carnival, hosted at Siris! Siris is named for Bishop Berkeley's philosophical work, Siris, whose title is an Anglicization of the Greek word sireis, meaning "chain." Berkeley summarized the argument of Siris in his poem On Tar. I wrote a brief commentary on the poem here. I've decided to give the Carnival a theme from Dante's Paradiso.

April is National Poetry Month, so in addition to the submitted and nominated entries, I've added a few posts celebrating this occasion. For those who are interested, by the way, someone has set up a weblog explicitly for National Poetry Month. It is called the poet in you. The idea is that you send (snailmail) your original self-expressive poems and it gets put up on the weblog. Details are here.

[Planetary glyphs are from Astrografx; the star glyph is from Spot's Free Graphics; the angel glyph is from Bible Doctrine News. Poetry Carnival button provided by Wesley English, a.k.a the punk of poetry.]

The Inconstant and the Angels

Bitch Ph.D. posts a translation of Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska's poem, "Lot's Wife," at My contribution to poetry month at XX (Cross-posted at her own weblog.) It includes a link to the author's biography.

The Seekers of Glory and the Archangels

William Meisheid at Beyond the Rim has a poem on the death of Hunter Thompson, A Life in the Key of Lost:

We strain and strive to find our place
Within the span of time and space
Some choosing to live the examined life
Others seeking to avoid the strife
Yet all appraised by someone, somewhere

The Lovers and the Principalities

Ron Stewart at Northern 'burbs gives us a poem on the nature of love in I do not choose to love thee:

I do not choose to love thee because you are beautiful,
Although a thousand fields of a thousand flowers are vile in comparison.
I do not choose to love thee because of your smile,
Although a thousand galaxies with a thousand suns could ne'er shine so bright.

William Meisheid of Beyond the Rim reflects on how he would grieve at his wife's passing, in Love and Death:

Remember me as I remember you
Through love and death
My heart is true

The Wise and the Powers

For National Poetry Month, Rana at Frogs and Ravens posts Conrad Aiken's "Morning Song of Senlin" in Tilting.

One of the excellent nominated posts was On Poetics at Poetry in the Afternoon:

Yes, I know that someone
when all’s said and done is wrong. I just hope it might
be Aristotle, because there’s nothing between us and history.

The Warriors and the Virtues

New Patriot posts Allen Tate's Aeneas at Washington for National Poetry Month.

The Just and the Dominions

At Obsidian Wings, hilzoy celebrates National Poetry Month by posting Carl Dennis's "Just Deserts" in Poetry: Justice. The comments are worth reading, too.

From Feministe, also celebrating National Poetry Month, posts Langston Hughes's "Children's Rhymes" in Poetry.

If you want a prose break at this point, you can read an article on Political Verse in Late Georgian Britain. (Hat-tip: EMN)

And at Early Modern Notes for Women's History Month, Sharon posted a selection from Mary Collier's 1739 correction to the poet Stephen Duck, The woman's labour.

The Contemplatives and the Thrones

One of the most interesting nominations we had this time around was Signal Fire from McCarty Musings:

No, I knew you were saying,
"Last night, alone, I heard the stars sing,
and I thought I would die from joy."
And "The lamp of God is dim today,
but still, my heart can love him, and him only."

Another name for the choir of angels called the "Thrones" is "Ophanim" or wheels. Since the the Thrones are associated with the Contemplative Souls, my poem, The Conversion of Ramon Lull seemed a fitting one for this sphere:

The lights were shining strangely
in the darkness that was fallen
on the mountain on the day
when Raymond saw the wheels

The Cherubim

Sally of The Sleeper Car gives us North Star for November:

As long as I can remember
You have argued with August
And whispered to the winter
While I wander on the edge of the night
And stop to hear you closer
And for a small moment in

The Seraphim

Seraphim, of course, are the Fiery Ones, so for National Poetry Month it is fitting to have this fire-themed contribution fromEmily Dickinson at the tattered coat.


And that wraps up this edition of the Poetry Carnival. If you want to contribute a late submission, send it right in and I'll put it up as time permits.

If you are interested in hosting a future Poetry Carnival, contact Andrew Nichols.

Friday, April 15, 2005


The History Carnival (#6) is up at Cliopatria, hosted by Jonathan Dresner; and it is a beauty: the posts are very well-chosen, diverse both in style (from the very serious to the very light-hearted) and in content (there's certainly something for everyone).

Don't forget to send me your Poetry Carnival submission today. The address is branem2[at]branemrys[dot]org.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Difference Between a Sot and a Scot

I thought this medieval joke funny, and it is philosophy-relevant, too:

Charles the Bald: Quid distat inter sottum et Scottum?
John Scotus Eriugena: Tabula tantum.

Which translates quite easily as:

- What is the difference between a sot and a Scot?
- Only the table.

You can read up on the provenance of this story, which goes back to the twelfth century, at PIMS. (Hat-tip: Cnytr, from Zadok)

Master of the World

Umberto Eco's reflections on Jules Verne are rather interesting (hat-tip: Vox Popoli). I particularly found this passage interesting:

Per quanti meriti si debbano riconoscere al nostro Salgari, il padre di Sandokan non aveva un gran senso dell'umorismo (come del resto i suoi personaggi, tranne Yanez), mentre i romanzi di Verne sono pieni di humour, basti ricordare quelle pagine splendide del 'Michele Strogoff' dove, dopo la battaglia di Kolyvan, il corrispondente del 'Daily Telegraph', Harry Blount, per impedire al suo rivale Alcide Jolivet di trasmettere la sua corrispondenza a Parigi, tiene occupato l'ufficio telegrafico dettando versetti della Bibbia per l'ammontare di qualche migliaio di rubli; sino a che Jolivet riesce a rubargli la posizione allo sportello telegrafico e lo blocca trasmettendo canzoncine di Beranger. Recita il testo: "- Aoh! - fece Harry Blount. - Così è, - rispose Alcide Jolivet". E ditemi se questo non è stile.

It certainly is true that Verne has an excellent sense of humor. I just finished Master of the World , the lovely little sequel to Robur the Conqueror, published in 1904, the year before Verne's death. It deserves to remembered, even if for nothing else, for the spectacular image of the automobile/boat/submarine/flying-machine taking flight over the edge of Niagara Falls in the midst of a lunar rainbow. Here's a passage from Chapter Four:

The public imagination, highly excited, readily accepted every sort of rumor about this mysterious automobile. It was said to be a supernatural car. It was driven by a specter, by one of the chauffeurs of hell, a goblin from another world, a monster escaped from some mythological menagerie, in short, the devil in person, who could defy all human intervention, having at his command invisible and infinite satanic powers.

But even Satan himself had no right to run at such speed over the roads of the United States without a special permit, without a number on his car, and without a regular license. And it was certain that not a single municipality had given him permission to go two hundred miles an hour.

Master of the World is an interesting work in many ways, and shows a great deal of Verne's greatness as a science fiction writer. People sometimes talk about Verne as if he were infinitely optimistic about scientific progress; but this requires a very superficial reading of most of his works, which fully recognize the dangers inherent in the increased power science brings. Master of the World, for instance, brings up a haunting question: What are the police to do when criminals have vastly superior technology? And it is interesting in that the hero of the work is not the inventor (who is the villain) but an inspector in the federal police -- what we would now call an FBI agent -- seeking to capture a criminal with virtually inexhaustible means of escape. He fails. In fact, he is captured himself. The inventor is eventually brought down -- but by what, exactly?

This touches on another issue. Jules Verne was throughout his life a devout Catholic; and the Verne-style of scientific fiction was developed in great measure as a reaction to Poe's explicitly materialistic scientific romances. Verne liked Poe's work, but disliked Poe's tendency to make up science -- and what he disliked most about it was that Poe made up the science in order to avoid supernatural explanations. So Verne wrote a different kind of scientific romance, one that respected the natural and moral order established by Providence. The curious resulting paradox, which has often been noted, is that Poe, the materialist, is famous for his stories about the supernatural; and Verne, the Catholic, is famous for stories that have no explicit supernatural intervention at all. I almost wrote 'no trace of the supernatural'; but this would be clearly false. For while Verne does not (except in his very early story "Master Zacharias") make use of explicit supernatural intervention in his works, they are all filled with traces of the supernatural. Verne does not merely write fiction about science; he also writes of human virtues and failings, and his works contain a surprising amount of religious imagery. It's subtle enough that it can easily slip by the reader in most works. But it's there (one is reminded in some ways of other, very different, Catholic writer whose major works are not explicitly Christian but nonetheless exhibit the trace of Catholic Christianity everywhere: Flannery O'Connor, J. R. R. Tolkien). In Master of the World it is far more explicit than in many of the other works. The hero of the work attempts to set aside the rumors of the Devil; but Robur is nonetheless inexorably associated with the Devil throughout the work. Indeed, the book ends with such an association:

It is easy to imagine what a welcome my old housekeeper gave me when I entered my house in Long Street. When my apparition--does not the word seem just--stood before her, I feared for a moment she would drop dead, poor woman! Then, after hearing my story, with eyes streaming with tears, she thanked Providence for having saved me from so many perils.

"Now, sir," said she, "now--was I wrong?"

"Wrong? About what?"

"In saying that the Great Eyrie was the home of the devil?"

"Nonsense; this Robur was not the devil!"

"Ah, well!" replied the old woman, "he was worthy of being so!"

So the book ends. And Inspector Strock cannot deny it; he himself has just gone on for quite some time about Robur's pride. Robur is not Satan; but in his pride he is satanic. And the old woman, who is superstitious but (as we learn from the story) also surprisingly shrewd, seems also to be dead-on in her assessment that Strock was saved by Providence. Because of his pride Robur, a figure like a Miltonic Satan, is cast down from heaven by bolts of lightning, and falls to his death in the Gulf of Mexico, while Strock, in the same fall, lives. Robur could conquer the human race with his inventions; but when he arrogantly attempts to ignore the natural order itself, he is spectacularly defeated. Providence wins, and Verne doesn't need to give more than a hint to point it out. And, while other works are less obvious than this one, and some are primarily just great holiday fiction, one finds similar, more subtle, hints elsewhere.


It was bound to happen sometime, I suppose. In what is about the coolest move yet for a blog carnival, the Carnival of the Vanities has temporarily split into a host edition and an anti-host edition -- one hopes that it has a shorter lifespan than the real Avignon schism. The comments of the host at "yeah whatever" on the posts received in Carnival #134 generated so much controversy that a Carnival #134 Avignon Edition was set up at "This Blog is Full of Crap." (hat-tip: Parableman) One of the interesting things about the schism so far is how important people's sense of blogging conventions, and in particular, the conventions of the Carnival, has become: the Avignon edition was built due to discontent at the host's conformity to Carnival conventions, and it is notable that most of the bloggers who have supported the action have clearly connected their support to the maintenance of those conventions.

It reminds me a bit of Hume's view of etiquette as a "lesser morality" in the sense of being a morality-like system built on a weaker set of general principles. Indeed, Hume would find the whole event of interest, given that it shows how the sort of principles he describes (sympathy, generalization, moral sentiment) work to increase social order, even in a relatively rough-and-tumble medium like the blogosphere.

A Scribble

Scribbled down today after a walk:


They asked me what philosophy is and I said
it takes all the thoughts that run in your head
and all of the things in the world we find
and all of the thoughts of other minds
and puts them together to make them flow:
it is the mysticism of the Great Coherence.

It has been so since its glimmering dawn
when a man looked up and saw To On;
around and around like the dragon curled
by the triple root of the Tree of the World
until it reaches the heights of the Heavenly Rose:
it is the mysticism of the Great Coherence.


Vox Apologia XIII is up, on the Cosmological Argument. It has one post, by Jeremy Pierce, discussing the basics of the use of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in such arguments. He's getting some criticism from a presuppositionalist that I think is simply misplaced. Trinitarian theism, as such, cannot be strictly proven by reason; no, nor by presuppositionalist 'transcendental arguments', either. But as Jeremy rightly points out in his responses, since God is triune, the cosmological argument does conclude to the Triune God; just not as such. And there's certainly no problem with that.

I intended to put together a post for this carnival, but I've been awfully busy. Since this carnival allows for late submissions, however, I'll probably put something up a bit later -- on infinite regress, probably. Next week's topic: "Pascal's Wager: Useful or Useless?" I'll be thinking about putting something up for that one, too; although I'll probably just adapt an old post on it.

A New Way to Do History of Philosophy

Giant Battle Monsters!

Plato is a Giant Mecha-Ant that breathes Poisonous Gas, shoots Laser Beams, and has Bulletproof Skin.

Aristotle is a Human-Sized Robot that Fears Nothing, came from Another Planet, Screeches when Angry, can Change Colour, and is in League with Dark Forces.

And so forth. And now we can resolve once and for all that greatest of questions in early modern philosophy: who won the fiercest philosophical battle of all time: Malebranche or Arnauld? Send the monsters against each other in battle and see!

By the way, it turns out that I'm a Tiny Lizard that eats Trees, breathes Ice Vapour, Fears Nothing, dissolves in Water, and has Enormous Tusks. And Thomas Aquinas trounces me every time.

(Hat-tip: Cliopatria.)

Living Bodies and Higher Brains

I thought it would be useful to gather into one post links, in order, to the various posts from the recent personhood discussion.

1. On Being a Human Person (Siris)

2. What Is a "Person"? (Under the Sun)

3. On being a person (prosthesis)

4. Humunculi in the Forebrain (Siris)

5. Humanness and Persons (Mormon Metaphysics)

6. Higher Brain Death and Personhood (Mixing Memory)

7. Higher Brain Death and Personhood (Siris; the post doesn't add anything, but there are comments)

8. Who speaks for the res extensa? (Fido the Yak)

9. Personhood and Loci Communes (Siris)

10. Soulless Materialism (Philosophy, etc.)

11. Person as an Analogous Term (Vomit the Lukewarm)

12. Ghost in the Machine (North Western Winds)

13. Higher Brain Death and Personhood Revisited (Mixing Memory; this had a link in the Philosophers' Carnival (#12))

14. Higher Brain Death and Personhood III (Mixing Memory)

15. Self-Sacrificial Euthanasia (Ralph the Sacred River)

16. Encased in the Flesh (North Western Winds)

If I've forgotten any, let me know, and I'll add them. I'll also add any additional ones, if there are any (I'm not sure I have anything more to say without leaving my original primary focus on moral reasoning rather than metaphysics; but that might change). One of the cool things about this exchange is that almost all of the posts say something worth reading, even if only to disagree with it; and the weblogs over which it has ranged have been fairly diverse in nature.

17. Persons, other and otherwise (Fido the Yak; gives some recommended reading on the subject, including an online text by Masahiro Morioka)

Monday, April 11, 2005


Somehow I've gouged my thumb, although I don't know how; it's minor, but since I have so much typing to do at the moment, I think I'll cut out any unnecessary typing (including blogging) until Thursday morning or so, just to be on the safe side.

* My discussion with Chris on personhood (so far it's been probably the best blog discussion I've had in my short blogging career) continues at "Mixing Memory".

* Caleb discusses Democratization and Christianity at "Cliopatria".

* Layman discusses a chapter from C. S. Lewis's God in the Dock at "CADRE Comments".

* Théâtre d'Amour at "Giornale Nuovo" looks at early modern love-emblems.

* And don't forget: this weekend Siris hosts the POETRY CARNIVAL:

The purpose of the Poetry Carnival is:

(1) to help to make visible to the general blogosphere the work of poets in our midst.
(2) to foster an increased appreciation for poetry.
(3) to expose blogging poets to each other’s work.

Send all entries for the second Poetry Carnival to branem2[at] (with a @ for the [at], of course), with the following information:

Title of Blog:
URI of Blog:
Title of Poem (or just the first line or a number):
Permalink URI of the Poem:
Number of Lines:
Key Line or lines (1-4) to excerpt:

So if you have posted any poems of your own devising since the last Poetry Carnival (January 24), send them my way. Even if you aren't the poetry-writing type, if you've posted on poets and/or poems that you feel should be more widely appreciated, send those to me, also. Since this is National Poetry Month, I know you all have lots.

The Voice

In the beginning,
two thousand years before the heaven and the earth,
seven things were created:
the Torah written with black fire on white fire,
and lying in the lap of God;
the Divine Throne,
erected in the heaven which later was over the heads of the Hayyot;
Paradise on the right side of God,
Hell on the left side;
the Celestial Sanctuary directly in front of God,
having a jewel on its altar graven with the Name of the Messiah,
and a Voice that cries aloud, "Return, ye children of men."

--the Haggadah

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Poem Draft

Something idly scribbled during a bout of sleeplessness:


when prayer to God
is something you say
not something you live

when the poor
are not the people begging
but a word to hit your opponents with

when the right to life
is something you see trampled
only when the other party does it

when care for health
is the last thing you remember
when health care comes to mind

when virtue is a name
for all the things you do
or when you do them all the time

when your personal rights
are a way to ignore your community
not a way to be a part of it

when injustice
is something other people do
that has nothing to do with you

when your words
are not for communication
but for control

when the people you claim to help
are the labels that come to mind
when you are thinking of insults

when time itself
is merely something passing
not a moment to be seized