Saturday, July 16, 2005

Something New Every Day

A post at Panda's Thumb points out Wells's book God the Invisible King (the Project Gutenberg version has no pop-ups), written in 1917, where Wells lays out what he calls "modern religion," the core of which is "a profound belief in a personal and intimate God," and says, "Without God, the 'Service of Man' is no better than a hobby or a sentimentality or an hypocrisy in the undisciplined prison of the mortal life." Not having read it before, I was surprised; I had thought Wells an atheist, too. He certainly is almost universally considered to be one, perhaps because his The Outline of History had such an influence on so many freethinkers in the English-speaking world. Apparently the matter is more complicated than it is commonly made out to be. Shame on me for presuming in this case; I should know better.

UPDATE: Ralph Luker left a helpful comment, which I'll put here so that it doesn't eventually get deleted when HaloScan gets rid of it:

Right. H. G. Wells went through some changes. God the Invisible King represents the high tide of his theism and its emergence can be tracked in the work immediately preceding it. I suspect that the theism, which is neither identifiable with Christianity nor particularly hostile to it, had something to do with the spiritual crisis felt by many western intellectuals in the World War I era. In Wells's case, that theism began to ebb soon thereafter and he participates fully in, becomes a major spokesman for, the secularism of the inter-war years.

Ninth Amendment

Jeremy has a good post on the Ninth Amendment at "Parableman". It seems to me that the function of the Ninth Amendment is primarily to make clear the fundamental importance of the people: no one can appeal to the fact that the Constitution doesn't enumerate a right in order to infer that the people do not have it. The Constitution is a set of delegated powers and restrictions made by the people on the government: its purpose is to restrict the government (to the extent that this can be done and the national objects of union, justice, tranquillity etc. be met), not to restrict the rights of the people. A major worry about a bill of rights was the possibility that if any rights were left out, that would be an occasion for someone to argue that they didn't exist at all; preventing that is the basic rationale for an amendment of this sort.

Which is all well and good, theoretically; but how should it function practically? The key phrase for practical use should be the phrase "retained by the people". The way I think a court should regard the Ninth Amendment is this: the people have not retained some rights; the rights given up are those in which we have (in the Constitution) allowed the government to interfere with our lives. However, they have retained many rights, some of which are enumerated, some of which are not. The rights that are enumerated must be protected, simply speaking. As to the unenumerated rights, the point is basically this:

People can never be presumed by the government not to have a right, as long as it does not fall into the category of rights they have explicitly (in the Constitution) not retained.

Or, in practical terms: when it comes to determining whether the government can do a given thing, the burden of proof should fall on the government to show that in this action it remains within the field of Rights Explicitly Not Retained By the People. In other words, the real force of the Ninth Amendment should be to require that the government stay within its Constitutionally authorized bounds, and be able to show that it has done so. (The Tenth Amendment does something similar.)

I think Jeremy is right that attempting to parse the Ninth Amendment by enumerating the unenumerated rights is doomed to failure. It's on the right track, in the sense that the courts have the responsibility not to ignore the Ninth Amendment and the duty to take it seriously. But the best way to do that is not to enumerate the rights the people have retained, but to make clear that the government gets no free passes to do something merely because the Constitution doesn't explicitly say it can't; in other words, to make sure that the government only do what the Constitution says it can. The enumerated rights go one step further, since they have to be respected even where the government has been given power; and Jeremy is right, I think, that when it becomes necessary to enumerate a right (as it sometimes has been necessary), the way to do it is by amendment.(*) Indeed, as Jeremy notes, the only constitutional way to enumerate a right is by amendment. For other rights, the Constitution merely says we can't be presumed by the government not to have them.

(*) It occurs to me, though, as one possible exception to this, that people do have enumerated rights that are not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution: namely, additional rights enumerated in their State Constitutions. This, when combined with the Tenth Amendment, has the potential for special judicial bite. Thus, to take just one example, the Vermont Constitution explicitly gives the people (through their legal representatives) "the sole, inherent, and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police" of Vermont; it gives each member of society "a right to be protected in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property," "a natural and inherent right to emigrate from one state to another that will receive them," and so forth. When the Ninth Amendment is combined with the Tenth Amendment, the effect is that residents of Vermont have certain enumerated rights, although they are not enumerated in the U. S. Constitution, that the federal government must respect in any matters to which both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments extend. Thus, even if one thinks the Ninth Amendment weak on its own, it has the potential for important effects when combined with other amendments.

A Hopeless Errand in a Long Defeat

Loren Rosson has a great post, called Tolkien vs. Jackson: One Man's Hopelessness, Another Man's Hope, at "The Busybody." He uses Jackson's film adaptation to highlight a major difference between it and the book: Jackson's masterpiece is about hope, but Tolkien's masterpiece is about hopelessness -- not an absolute hopelessness, since hope does occasionally pop up, but certainly a general hopelessness. Tolkien's characters are fighting a battle they all know they will lose; they are on quests that they intend, at most, to buy time in the face of inevitable defeat. They make it through not on the basis of hope but on the basis of cheer and courage in the face of an apparently irresistible doom.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bonaventure on the Image of God

Bonaventure says a great deal about the Image of God; I can't possibly do justice to all of it. A set of selections from the Itinerarium, Chapter III:

Enter into yourself, therefore, and observe that your soul loves itself most fervently; that it could not love itself unless it knew itself, nor know itself unless it summoned itself to conscious memory, for we do not grasp a thing with our understanding unless it is present in our memory. Hence you can observe, not with the bodily eye [oculo carnis], but with the eye of the mind [oculo rationis], that your soul has three powers. Consider, therefore, the activities of these three powers and their relationships, and you will be able to see God through yourself as through an image; and this indeed is to see God through a mirror in an obscure manner [in aenigmate].

He then goes through the powers, showing how each of the activities of each of the powers participates God in some way. At the end he says:

See therefore, how close the soul is to God, and how, through their activity, the memory leads us to eternity, the intelligence to Truth, and the elective faculty to the highest Good [in bonitatem summam secundum operationes suas].

He then gives the standard Augustinian Trinitarian exposition:

Moreovoer, if one considers the order, the origin, and the relationship [habitudinem] of these faculties to one another, he is led up to the most blessed Trinity itself. For from the memory comes for the intelligence as its offspring, because we understand only when the likeness which is in the memory emerges at the crest of our understanding [in acie intellectus] and this is the mental word. From the memory and the intelligence is breathed forth love, as the bond of both. These three -- the generating mind, the word, and love -- exist in the soul as memory, intelligence, and will, which are consusbtantial, co-equal and contemporary, and interpenetrating [circumincedentes]. If God, therefore, is a perfect spirit, then He has memory, intelligence, and will; He has both a Word begotten and Love breathed forth, which are necessarily distinct, since one is produced by the other -- a production, not of an essence [non essentialiter], nor of an accident [non accidentaliter], but of a Person [ergo personaliter].

The soul, then, when it considers itself through itself as through a mirror [speculum], rises to the speculation [speculandum] of the Blessed Trinity, the Father, the Word, and Love, Three Persons co-eternal, co-equal and consubstantial, so that whatever is in any one is in the others, but one is not the other, but all three are one God.

Then we have the distinctively Bonaventuran discussion. Bonaventure, if you've never read him, is ingenious at making lists; most medieval scholastics are, but he is the Great List-maker among all the scholastics. This comes through clearly when he continues by discussion how the Trinitarian image of the soul is reflected in philosophy:

For all philosophy is either natural, or rational, or moral. The first is concerned with the cause of being [de causa essendi] and thus leads to the power of the Father; the second is concerned with the basis of understanding [de ratione intelligendi] and thus leads to the Wisdom of the Word; the third deals with the order of life [de ordo vivendi] and thus leads to the goodness of the Holy Spirit.

Hence the first, natural philosophy, is divided into metaphysics, mathematics, and physics. Metaphysics deals with the essences of things; mathematics, with numbers and figures; and physics, with natures, powers, and diffusive operations. Thus the first leads to the first Principle, the Father; the second, to His Image, the Son; and the third, to the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The second, rational philosophy, is divided into grammar, which makes men capable of expressing themselves; logic, which makes them keen in argumentation; and rhetoric, which makes them apt to persuade or move others. This likewise suggests the most Blessed Trinity.

The third, moral philosophy, is divided into individual, familial, and political. The first of these suggests the unbegettable nature of the First Principle [primi pincipii innascibilitatem]; the second, the familial relationship of the Son [Filii familiaritatem]; and the third, the liberality of the Holy Spirit.

All these triads are traditional, but the steady adaptation of traditional triads to Trinitarian thought is one of Bonaventure's strengths.

These are by no means the only things Bonaventure says about the Image of God. But a full account of them, with adequate commentary, would take a book. My intention here is just to point out some of them.

[English translations are from Saint Bonaventure, Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Philotheus Boehner, tr. The Franciscan Institute (Saint Bonaventure, New York: 1956) 63-71. I don't entirely like this translation, but it is the most easily available. I've added the Latin, not very consistently, where I think the translation might be a little misleading.]

Links of Interest

* Karl Marx is the greatest philosopher. Looking at some of the reasons people voted for him, the vote perhaps shows something else, e.g., that people don't actually know much about the history of philosophy.

* Philosophy Carnival XVI at "Dinner Table Don'ts"

* History Carnival XII at "Mode for Caleb"

* Miriam Burnstein discusses nineteenth-century religious fiction at "The Little Professor". In the twentieth century Lloyd C. Douglas comes to mind as well.

* A good post at "Fides Quarens Intellectum" on Hume's Sensible Knave.

* I had intended to link to it before, but forgot; Stuart Buck has a post on The Moral Force of Originalism at "The Buck Stops Here". I don't think originalism is adequate, but since I think it is inadequate through incompleteness rather than positive incorrectness, I agree with the argument in the post.

* "Rebecca Writes" begins a series on Hebrews 11.

UPDATE: Nathanael Robinson has an interesting post on European unity at "The Rhine River."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hanique, Part I

It began, as all good adventures do, at an academic conference in the south of France. The conference was called "Saint Catharine of Boulagnon: Identity and Fragmentation," and I had attended to present my paper, "Misattribution of Identity: The Case of Catharine of Bourdeaux," which (of course) discussed the common conflation in hagiographies of Saint Catharine of Boulagnon and Catharine of Bordeaux. Catharine of Bordeaux, of course, was much later, and, far from being a mystic visionary, she was a merchant's wife around whom a minor legend had developed. The conflation was perhaps not unnatural. There are similarities between the two lives. Further, nobody knows where 'Boulagnon' is located. Indeed, the common view of the scholarship (but it is really just an educated guess) is that 'Boulagnon' is a textual corruption for some other name; which other name is a matter of considerable dispute.

After I had given my paper at the conference, I noticed an earnest young man dogging my steps. He was dressed all in black, rather like a valet, looking odd and out of place in this conference of staid and stuffy academics. He seems, however, to have been one of the presenters, and well known to several others attending the conference. I did not quite catch his name (it sounded vaguely like Dr. Personne, which I doubt is right); but I believe he delivered a paper on the confusion of identities between Saint Catharine of Boulagnon and another Catharine, Catharine of Hanique. My reason is this. Once, when I had tired a bit of idle conversation and had moved away from the main mass of chattering academics, he urgently beckoned for me to come with him into a quiet, empty side-room.

"I enjoyed your paper," he said. "I think you are the only one here who could appreciate this as it should be appreciated." He took a small box out of his satchel, and, opening it, carefully produced a book of exquisite make, an incunabulum which had been carefully illuminated to look as if it had been hand-produced. It was small and leather-bound, fitting comfortably into the hand; the spine was about an inch-and-a-half thick. I was not familiar with the typography of the Latin script, but it strongly reminded me of fifteenth-century English print, e.g., a late fifteenth-century edition of Christine de Pisan's The Fayte of Armes and Chyvalrye.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It is a family heirloom," he said. "This book appears to be the only remaining copy of the Vision of Two Souls, by Catharine of Hanique."

"Catharine of Hanique?"

"Yes. The Blessed Catharine of Hanique was the stepsister of Saint Catharine of Boulagnon, or so she claims. They had the same father, but different mothers. The two are often conflated; all the achievements of Catharine of Hanique are attributed to Catharine of Boulagnon. It has been one of the foremost obstacles to her canonization. While I am not Catholic myself, my family had a long history of advocating her cause, which is how this came into my hands."

"It seems like a priceless discovery."

"Indeed. Not only is it the primary evidence for the distinction of Catharine of Hanique from Catharine of Boulagnon, there is reason to believe it was printed in 1441 by Janszoon Koster, which would make it one of the earliest printed books."

I was very skeptical of such a claim, since it did not seem likely that anyone reasonable would carry a book that old in a box in a satchel. But my skepticism did not have time to be expressed, because, as the man held the book out to me to show an exquisitely illuminated capital, a man in a mask rushed out of a dark adjoining room, grabbed the book, and sped away.

Without thinking, I ran after the thief. Across the lobby, out the door, and across the field we ran. Although he was fast, and had the headstart surprise had given him, I was catching up to him. I did not catch him, however; for in the middle of the field was a black helicopter. He jumped in and it rose into the air, carrying away the priceless book by Catharine of Hanique.

I returned to report the sad matter to the earnest young man. "Ah," he said sadly, "they have taken it to Hanique." And he would say no more.

Part II of "Hanique" is soon to come!

Seed of an Argument against Semiquietism

If we are to have a universal respect for persons, we cannot seriously except ourselves; if we are to hope that the virtuous are especially rewarded, whether or not we are rewarded cannot reasonably be treated as morally indifferent if being virtuous cannot be.

(Semiquietism gets a mention in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Quietism. Semiquietist views are very common, and I think morally pernicious. What makes them 'pernicious' rather than merely erroneous is that people think of the semiquietistic state as a sort of superior morality, when in fact it involves a set of moral deficiencies. It is morally deficient to have no concern at all for one's own welfare, even for the sake of goodness itself; and yet this moral deficiency is often mistaken for a type of exceptional goodness.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Glory of the Morning on the Wave

I was browsing various old hymns today and re-read one of my very favorites, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and was struck more than usual by the following stanza:

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.

In other words, the "fiery Gospel" that we find "writ in burnished rows of steel," i.e., that we learn from war, is that we must treat others as we would be treated, even when we are dealing with the 'contemners' (i.e., those who despise moral truth). Sometime last year several blogs were talking about the Unitarian Jihad Name Generator, which was inspired by an article by Jon Carroll. The generator would give a result like the following:

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Dagger of Sweet Reason.

Get yours.

It reminds me a bit of the Battle Hymn: benevolence and moderation very assertively expressed. Julia Howe, the Unitarian who wrote the lyrics, worked with her husband, the abolitionist Samuel Gridley, to better the conditions of prisoners of war in the American Civil War; and the hymn, which sounds superficially belligerent, actually expresses faith in God's progressive providence and asserts our need to participate in it by standing up for justice and truth:

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.



The Scruples of a Christian have determined me to expose my own life to any extent rather than subject my self to the guilt of taking th elife of another. This must increase my hazards & redoubles my pangs for you. But you had rather I should die innocent than live guilty. Heaven can preserve me and I humbly hope will but in the contrary event, I charge you to remember that you are a Christian. God's Will be done. The will of a merciful God must be good.

Once more Adieu My Darling darling Wife.

So ends a letter, dated July 10, 1804, by Alexander Hamilton. The next morning, July 11, he was shot in a duel with Aaron Burr, and he died the afternoon of the 12th. There is a great deal of mystery about his death. The two 'seconds' to the duel each signed a statement about the events. They do not agree. Hamilton's second insists that Hamilton did not fire first, and when he did, that he did not fire at Burr at all. Burr's second insists that Hamilton was the one fired first. We know that Hamilton did not intend to fire first, going into the duel; whether he maintained this resolution in the heat of the moment we will perhaps never really know. One possible scenario is that Hamilton did, in fact, fire first, but did not realize it; he later made comments about his gun that suggested that he thought he had not fired at all.

It was a peculiar end to a man opposed to dueling (on religious principles, but also perhaps on personal principles, since his eldest son had died in a duel just a few years before). Hamilton was, at the theoretical level, one of the great geniuses among the Founding Fathers. He was an active campaigner for what he called a 'more energetic magistrate' -- he is one of the chief architects of the Office of the President as it falls under the Constitution, which seems to be one of the several reasons he was haunted his entire life with insinuations by his enemies that he was a crypto-monarchist.

He was not, it must be said, a bad politician. He was a good friend of George Washington, he was the first Secretary of the Treasury, he was a major leader of the Federalist party, all with good reason. But he made many, many enemies in his lifetime, and his odd and high-strung sense of honor seems to have made things worse. Reading Hamilton on Madison and Jefferson is a salutary treatment for any tendency to think that the Founding Fathers had any unified theory of government, or that they somehow managed to be political saints. An example, from a 1792 letter to Edward Carrington:

Mr. Jefferson, it is known, did not in the first instance cordially acquiesce in the new constitution for the U States; he had many doubts & reserves. He left this Country before we had experienced the imbicillities [sic] of the former....

He came here probably with a too partial idea of his own powers, and with the expectation of a greater share in the direction of our councils than he has in reality enjoyed. I am not sure that he had not peculiarly marked out for himself the department of the Finances....

The course of this business & a variety of circumstances which took place left Mr. Madison a very discontented & chagrined man and begot some degree of ill humour in Mr. Jefferson.

As I said, Hamilton was not in any absolute sense a bad politician. At the practical level, however, Hamilton made repeated bad judgments. A case in point is the infamous Reynolds pamphlet, in which he defended himself against charges of abuse of his position as Secretary of the Treasury in the following remarkable way:

The charge against me is a connection with one James Reynolds for purposes of improper pecuniary speculation. My real crime is an amorous connection with his wife, for a considerable time with his privity and connivance, if not originally brought on by a combination between the husband and wife with the design to extort money from me.

He was one of the most devoutly religious of the Founding Fathers, an Anglican who once proposed the creation of a 'Christian Constitutional Society' devoted to supporting Christianity and the Constitution by diffusion of information, charitable work, and the "use of all lawful means in concert to promote the election of fit men". It is sometimes forgotten that he was the one who first drafted Washington's famous Farewell Address; it was his intent, he said, "to embrace such reflections and sentimetns as will wear well, progress in approbation with time, & redound to future reputation," a goal at which he certainly succeeded, although Washington perhaps helped by cutting down Hamilton's wordiness. Compare Hamilton's draft suggestion (which bears the traces of its draft nature):

Let it simply be asked where is the security for property for reputation for life if the sense of moral and religious obligation deserts the oaths which are administered in Courts of Justice? Nor ought we to flatter ourselves that morality can be separated from religion. Concede as much as may be asked to the effect of refined education in minds of a peculiar structure--can we believe--can we in prudence suppose that national morality can be maintained in exclusion of religious principles? Does it not acquire the aid of a generally received and divinely authoritative Religion?

Tis essentially true that virtue or morality is a main & necessary spring of popular or republican Governments. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to all free Governments. Who that is prudent & sincere friend to them can look with indifference on the ravages which are making in the foundation of the Fabric? Religion? The uncommon means which of late have been directed to this fatal end seem to make it in a particular of manner the duty of the Retiring Chief of a nation to warn his country against the tasting of the poisonous draught.

to Washington's actual address:

Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Notice, by the way, that Washington eliminates Hamilton's insistence on the need for a divinely authoritative revelation. The Founding Fathers, too, ran the spectrum of opinion on the role religion should play in American society and political life.

In any case, Hamilton is an interesting figure. You can find a number of his writings at Alexander Hamilton on the Web.

[Hamilton quotations are from Hamilton, Writings, The Library of America. New York: 2001.]

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Respectful Disagreement Meme

Richard tagged me with this meme a while ago, and I'm just now getting to it. The idea is to name three people with whom you disagree a lot, and say something nice (and true, of course, since otherwise there would be no point) about them. They don't have to be bloggers at all, but the general trend seems to be toward preferring bloggers if you can think of any.

(1) Richard himself would be a good start. I'm not sure it's quite true that we disagree on just about everything; but as he's a utilitarian, an atheist, and tends analytic rather than (as all reasonable people) historical, there does seem to be quite a bit of disagreement there. But Richard is quite remarkable; an undergraduate student at the University of Canterbury, he has a lucidity and sophistication that make it very likely that he's up and coming: very likely to acomplish something significant if he keeps going.

(2) Coturnix is another. The thing on which I have most actively disagreed with him in the past is the value of Lakoff. But I like very much the broader project of thinking through politics at a higher level that leads him to take an interest in Lakoff; even if I'm inclined to disagree with details, I'm glad there's someone perceptive enough to see that we do have to look at these matters from a broader perspective. Plus, he's a great meta-blogger; some of the best blogging about blogging that you're likely to find.

(3) Johnny-Dee comes to mind as well. He's on the analytic side of philosophy too (what is it with you people?). This William Lane Craig obsession? Don't understand it. Plantinga? Almost useless. Molinism? Don't even get me started. But I like his wit and grace and all-around coolness, and he has a knack for reducing difficult arguments to essentials. He makes a good philosophy crossword puzzle, too. And, of course, the things on which we clearly agree are far and away more important than any on which we could disagree.

Actually to some extent I could choose lots more from my blogroll, to varying extents. I'm idiosyncratic beyond all reckoning, so I have lots of disagreements with just about everyone. Disagreement shouldn't get in the way of good will.

I've gotten out of the habit of tagging people with memes. I especially like this one, however, and I have an unusual affection for things that might spread moderation and enlightened tolerance in the blogosphere. So I'll suggest rather than tag the above two people, if they want to do it and haven't already done it (Richard, of course, I know has already done it), and any Cliopatriarchs who want to take up the challenge, and Clark at Mormon Metaphysics, if he wants to do it. Again, the rules are three people with whom you disagree. They don't have to be bloggers, although people have tended to stick to bloggers when they can think of them.

Linking Is the New Gossip

* The Moral Equivalent of War by William James; War Is the Health of the State by Randolph Bourne (HT: Ralph Luker at Cliopatria)

* At "GetReligion" there's a good post on why Spong is not the model to hold up for moderate Muslims (in case you were tempted)!

* Johann Hari notices something about the locations of the London attacks.(HT: GetReligion)

* Volokh asks why people kiss. Well, it's a bit more comfortable than biting....+ For those more interested in the how-to, remember that you live in the Computer Age. You can find instructions about how to kiss on the internet. Indeed, more than you could ever possibly need. And if you clicked any of those, perhaps you should consider this: Maybe you would be having a more enjoyable time if you stopped reading about how to kiss and actually went out and did it.

* "Just as history cannot be rewritten, so we cannot rewrite our anthem to suit current tastes," said Jean-Louis Debre, speaker of the assembly. Somehow the analogy doesn't strike me as a strong one.... (HT: Dappled Things)

+ The joke raises an interesting point. One possible account of explanation sees the explanandum in such an explanation as contrastive between a fact and a foil. Thus explanation is not of the form "p explains why q is the case" but of the form "p explains why q rather than r is the case." So A wants to know why we kiss rather than not kiss; B responds with an answer that would explain why we kiss rather than bite. Hence the joke; if there weren't this crossing of contrastive explananda, there wouldn't be anything humorous about it. Now you know. [If you like this sort of thing, I recommend Chris's post at "Mixing Memory" on the Cognitive Science of Humor. Good stuff. And there's James Beattie, whom I had almost forgot made a showing, which makes it even better!]