Saturday, September 23, 2006

An Occasion for Reflection

Via Michael Gilleland, I've found out that Ilkka Kokkarinen, a computer science instructor at Ryerson, has shut down his weblog, Sixteen Volts, because of a scandal about some of the comments made there. While I wasn't a regular reader, I did occasionally read it, enough to know that it's a sad passing. Always smart, sometimes insightful, sometimes frivolous, very often snarky, sometimes biting and cynical, it was always interesting to read, and the blogosphere is diminished by its absence.

In some of his posts, however, it appears that Kokkarinen made some angry and bitter comments about women, which resulted in sharp and, it must be recognized, merited criticism. Kokkarinen has since apologized and, recognizing that such a situation as this merits self-reflection and should be an occasion for self-improvement, has bowed out. It is to be hoped that we would all do the same were we ever in such a situation. While it's sad that another intelligent weblog has vanished due to a controversy, if this is the price of anyone's moral improvement, it is well worth it.

As is always the case in situations like this, those of us bloggers not involved should spend less time nosing about the matter and more time taking it as an occasion for our own self-reflection and careful evaluation of the moral persona we exhibit in the forum provided by blogging. Indeed, the self-reflection should be more general than that: How do we present ourselves to God, the world, and ourselves, and how can we improve?

Mereology on Holy Saturday

A puzzling argument in Christopher Hughes's A Complex Theory of a Simple God:

At ST IIIa.52.3 he [i.e., Aquinas] maintains that the whole Christ was in Hell after His death and before His resurrection, and considers the following argument to the contrary: "The body of Christ is part of Him. But the body of Christ was not in Hell. Consequently the whole Christ was not in Hell" (ST 3.52.3, obj. 1). He answers: "The Body that was then in the tomb is not part of the uncreated person, but of the assumed nature. Accordingly, the fact that Christ's body was not in Hell does not preclude the whole Christ's being there" (ST 3a.52.3 ad 1). If the body in the tomb is not part of the uncreated person of Christ, then the body is not part of Christ, since the uncreated person of Christ is nothing other than Christ Himself. Aquinas' point here is not just that while Christ's body was in the tomb, it was not a part of Christ. (If that were his point, he would say that the body that was then in the tomb was not (then) a part of the uncreated person of Christ, rather than that the body then in the tomb is not a part of His uncreated person.) For Aquinas, neither Christ's body nor any of its parts are parts of Christ, although they are parts of His assumed nature.

[Hughes, A Complex Theory of a Simple God. Cornell (Ithaca: 1989) 250-251]

Hughes understands this to mean that Aquinas holds that Christ as a person "never has any human bodily parts." Some of what Aquinas says, if not read carefully, could yield this conclusion, but I think a more careful reading gives us a better interpretation.

To understand Aquinas on this, we need to recognize that on his account of the descent into hell (hades), the whole person of Christ was in hades, because the soul of Christ was in hades, and the whole person of Christ was in the tomb, because the body of Christ was in the tomb. This last is a peculiar case. On Aristotelian principles, corpses usually have nothing to do (properly and strictly speaking) with persons: my body is really my body, but my corpse will not be my corpse in anything like the same sense. Indeed, my corpse will arguably not even be a body in quite the same sense. The case of Christ is a bit different, though. The divine Word assumes a human nature, which means that He assumes both body and soul. He didn't just assume a soul that happened to inform a body; He became flesh, assuming a body as well as a soul. Thus Thomas's point in the reply to the objection is that the person of Christ is not divided up into a body-part and a soul-part; rather, the person of Christ is wherever either the body or the soul are, because the person of Christ assumed both. The claim is not that the person of Christ has no parts (He does by way of the assumed nature), but that the person of Christ is not divided up according to the parts He has. The objector, after all, is claiming that since only part of Christ (the soul) was in hell, only part of the person of Christ was in hell, and Aquinas points out that this is an illicit inference. Instead, "the whole Christ was in the tomb, because the whole Person was there through the body united with Him, and likewise He was entirely in hell, because the whole Person of Christ was there by reason of the soul united with Him, and the whole Christ was then everywhere by reason of the Divine Nature." So the claim is not that the divine person has no parts, but that the divine person has no parts qua person (rather than qua person of this human nature). And as Hughes notes, Aquinas on occasion implies that Christ is constituted of a rational soul and a body (e.g., SCG 4.37). And this is not surprising, because Christ does have these. He has them by virtue of being a person with a human nature, just as we do. But this does not mean that when part of Christ is here and another part is there that Christ, as a person, is only partly here and partly there.

Granted, the distinction between the two can be subtle. But it makes for a considerable difference. On Aquinas's view, the divine Word on Holy Saturday was (1) everywhere by divine nature; (2) in the tomb by human nature insofar as it involved a body; and (3) in Hades by human nature insofar as it involved a soul. The Word was not divided up, because the Word is (1) divine; and (2) assumes the whole human nature and all its parts. So both the soul of Christ in Hades and the body of Christ in the tomb are the Word of God. It's just that they are the Word of God by virtue of being different parts of His human nature. The only thing death brought about was his ceasing to be a whole man, not his ceasing to be a whole person. Contrast this to a view in which the parts are not parts of Christ; then Aquinas's conclusion -- that the whole Christ is wherever soul and body both are -- could never get off the ground.

What Hughes is, in fact, doing is conflating two things that Aquinas sharply distinguishes: union of person and union of nature. Aquinas's point is always that the natures of Christ are united in and by a person, who has one necessarily and takes on another. Thus Christ exists, and by assuming the human nature, exists in human parts (body and soul). This contrasts with, say, the union of soul and body, which is a union of natures -- two things with certain features each become parts of a greater whole. Nor is this entirely strange. For some people, for entirely independent reasons, want to argue that in mereology we should distinguish the part-whole relation from the part-subject relation, as two different things. Parts divide up their wholes; but they don't divide up the subjects that have the parts. Rather, they (for lack of a better word) express them.

Speaking Against One's Neighbor

There is a parable told by Abba John the Dwarf, one of the Desert Fathers, about speaking against one's neighbor.

Once there was a poor man who had a wife and a concubine; but he was too poor to clothe them. A feast was being held across the lake, and both women wanted to go. So he put the two of them in a barrel and put them aboard a boat; and so they came to the place of the feast. It grew very hot, and the people at the feast went inside to rest. One of the women looked out of the barrel, and seeing that there was no one around, went to a pile of old rags and, joining them together, made herself a girdle and began walking about, seeing the sights. But the other, still naked inside the barrel, said, "Look at that whore who goes about shameless and naked." But the poor peasant said to her, "She at least has her nakedness covered; but you are completely naked, for all that it is hidden from the world by a barrel. Are you not ashamed to say such things?"

And thus it is when we speak against our neighbor: it is nakedness hiding in a barrel that criticizes those who walk about with rags.

The Blight

Thus to mixed ends wrought Tubal; and they say,
Some things he made have lasted to this day;
As, thirty silver pieces that were found
By Noah's children buried in the ground.
he made them from mere hunger of device,
Those small white discs; but they became the price
The traitor Judas sold his master for;
And men still handling them in peace and war
Catch foul disease, that comes as appetite,
and lurks and clings as withering damning blight.

From George Eliot, "The Legend of Jubal"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Idem Secundum Rem et Rationem

There's no question I'm a big fan of medieval thought; but there are areas that are just difficult to follow, that should be treated with utmost caution and care, and avoided if at all possible. Discussions of real and rational relations, I think, are one such area; there are just so many false cognates and subtle differences in assumptions, and so much necessary background, that we shouldn't dive in unless we're ready to go the whole hog (to mix a few metaphors). Another good candidate for this is the medieval notion of sameness (identitas), which is an area with endless potential pitfalls. Nonetheless, it is sometimes unavoidable.

One of the things that I like about Christopher Hughes's A Complex Theory of a Simple God, a discussion of the doctrine of divine simplicity in Aquinas, is that he largely manages to approach the problem of what idem means in Aquinas in a respectable way. Rather than merely assuming he knows what it means, he tries to build up a body of textual evidence for his interpretation, and does a reasonable job of it. I think his interpretation is (probably) wrong, but it's a good attempt.

The basic problem Hughes is addressing is this. Aquinas distinguishes idem secundum rem from idem secundum rationem; these notions, different ways of being the same, are also not mutually exclusive. How do we understand all these different notions of being the same? Hughes argues that identitas secundum rem is classical identity. If this is so, however, we face some obvious problems, because Aquinas very clearly denies of identitas secundum rem several obvious properties of classical identity. For instance, if X is identical to Y, and Y is identical to Z, X is identical to Z. But Aquinas is vehement that this transitivity does not hold for identitas secundum rem. A puzzle.

The puzzle has a natural solution that Hughes rejects. I think this natural solution is (probably) the right one, although there are one or two issues that still remain unresolved. The solution is this: classical identity, identity in our sense, is identitas secundum rem et rationem, not identitas secundum rem. So I'd like to look briefly at this position, without getting into more than some very basic reasons for accepting it.

First, some background. Here, as elsewhere with medieval technical terms, it's usually a good idea to start with the least technical translation of the term, and then refine it in light of the various distinctions and qualifications made by the medievals themselves. Ultimately in medieval Latin, the best translation for identitas, at least at first approximation, is sameness. Aquinas and others aren't starting with our sense of 'identity' and adapting it to other uses; instead they are starting with a basic term (idem, same) and analyzing it for various purposes. Our sense of the word 'identity' is one of the historical scions of their analysis, not their starting point. And we find very clearly that medieval thinkers usually don't mean identity when they talk about identitas -- usually, in fact, they seem to mean sameness of kind. But not always, of course, and that's where it gets somewhat interesting.

The road from Thebes to Athens and the road from Athens to Thebes is the same road; yet in a sense the road from Thebes to Athens is obviously not the road from Athens to Thebes. How should we understand 'same' in this context? How should we understand the difference? According to Aquinas, the road from Thebes to Athens and the road from Athens to Thebes are the same road secundum rem (roughly: according to the thing), but differ secundum rationem (roughly: according to the notion). The road from Thebes to Athens doesn't have exactly the same properties as the road from Athens to Thebes -- indeed, necessarily they will sometimes be different. For instance, if the road from Thebes to Athens is uphill, the road from Athens to Thebes has to be downhill. Direction, by which we notionally distinguish the T-A road from the A-T road, does make a difference, and, indeed, a real difference. On the other hand, there aren't two roads here; they are the same road.

Of course, as Hughes notes, we can take "The road from Thebes to Athens is uphill" to mean "The road from Thebes to Athens is uphill-in-a-Thebes-to-Athens-direction"; he argues that, since one and the same road is uphill-in-a-Thebes-to-Athens-direction and downhill-in-a-Thebes-to-Athens-direction, this shows that the road from Thebes to Athens and the road from Athens to Thebes are indiscernible -- the road from Thebes to Athens has exactly the same properties as the road from Athens to Thebes. But I think this is too glib. Of course the T-A road is going to be the same road as the A-T road; but it doesn't follow from this that they are indiscernible, nor that the relation between the two is identity in our sense. Hughes seems to me to make a common mistake of assuming that because identity in our sense can be clearly and precisely characterized, it can be clearly and easily applied. But in fact it is not so. It is very difficult to know when two things, A and B, that are the same in some way, should be characterized by saying "A is identical to B". And there are lots of contexts in which it does seem to make a difference whether you are talking about the road from Thebes to Athens or the road from Athens to Thebes, which there shouldn't if identity were (unproblematically) applicable here. Moreover, they do appear to have different properties. It's not because the road is the road from Thebes to Athens that it is the road from Athens to Thebes; it would be entirely possible for there to be two one-way roads in each direction. So, while this road that is the road from Thebes to Athens is obviously identical to this road that is the road from Athens to Thebes, the notions 'the road from Athens to Thebes' and 'the road from Thebes to Athens', under which this single road is conceived, are very different. This means that, while we can clearly find an identity here in our sense of the term, we have to do it in a roundabout way. And this suggests that Aquinas is right to sense a distinction here. The road from Athens to Thebes and the road from Thebes to Athens are the same secundum rem but differ secundum rationem.

The only form of sameness recognized by Aquinas that acts like identity in our sense is identitas secundum rem et rationem. And this makes sense, because this is the only sort of sameness that unproblematically and obviously has the features we attribute to identity. Aquinas allows that this sort of sameness has transitivity and intersubstitutability, for instance, which can't be guaranteed of two things that are only the same secundum rem, or only the same secundum rationem.

Hughes does a valiant job arguing that we should take identitas secundum rem as identity; but the cost of this is a long string of very forced interpretations of Aquinas. His most significant set of arguments, however, are quite significant. Namely, he argues that some of Aquinas's arguments, which rely wholly on identitas secundum rem, only work if identitas secundum rem is classical identity. One of the arguments is this one:

And as the divine simplicity excludes the composition of subject and accident, it follows that whatever is attributed to God, is His essence Itself; and so, wisdom and power are the same in God, because they are both in the divine essence. (ST 1.40.1 ad 1)

As Hughes summarizes it, the argument would be: wisdom in God is the same as the divine essence; power in God is the same as the divine essence; therefore wisdom in God is the same as power in God. But this doesn't seem quite right. Hughes's interpretation leaves out part of the argument, namely, that "as divine simplicity excludes composition of subject and accident, it follows that whatever is attributed to God is His essence Itself." Since whatever is attributed to God considered as subject is the same as the divine subject (by the noncomposition of subject and accident), and wisdom and power are both such things (because they are in the divine essence) they are the same in God, namely, in virtue of each being the very same divine subject. This seems enough to make the argument go through; you don't have to treat the sameness of wisdom and power as identity in our sense. The divine subject is identical with itself, regardless of what is attributed to it. So the part of the argument Hughes leaves out in its summary helps to strengthen the conclusion that can be drawn.

Another argument Hughes considers:

But since relation, considered as really existing in God, is the divine essence Itself, and the essence is the same as person, as appears from what was said above (39, 1), relation must necessarily be the same as person. (ST 1.40.1 c.)

As Hughes summarizes this, a relation is the same as the divine essence, the divine essence is the same as a person; therefore a relation must be the same as a person. The problem with this summary is that it ignores the fact that this argument is a response to another position, namely, one in which the personal relations are externally affixed or 'assistant' to the divine essence and the divine persons. Aquinas's only concern in this argument is to insist that this is simply false. And his argument is adequate for this without dragging identity into the matter. If relation is the divine essence itself, and the essence is (in whatever way) the same as the person, necessarily, the relation must (in some way) be the same as the person, and thus not externally affixed or 'assistant'.

Most of the textual evidence Hughes adduces for his view is less promising than these, being more ambiguous. So, while I like the attempt, I don't think he's established what he thinks he has.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Pope's Remarks

I haven't said anything yet about the recent uproar over the remarks of the Pope, because there really isn't much to say, despite the attempt of people to say a lot about it. There is an entirely predictable and reasonable response of moderate Muslims, making entirely predictable and largely reasonable criticisms; there is the less reasonable but still understandable anger of the Muslim man on the street; there are a few people who rightly noted that the Pope made a factual error or two; there are a lot of people who are being obviously unreasonable. But there's really not much said; the only surprise about what little is said is how few people recognize the difference between oratio obliqua and oratio recta.

I was amused, however, by Christopher Hitchins's utter failure to say anything of signifcance about the matter. For instance:

Most of all, throughout his address to the audience at Regensburg, the man who modestly considers himself the vicar of Christ on Earth maintained a steady attack on the idea that reason and the individual conscience can be preferred to faith. He pretends that the word Logos can mean either “the word” or “reason,” which it can in Greek but never does in the Bible, where it is presented as heavenly truth. He mentions Kant and Descartes in passing, leaves out Spinoza and Hume entirely, and dishonestly tries to make it seem as if religion and the Enlightenment and science are ultimately compatible, when the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of “revealed” truth and its all-too-earthly human potentates.

It takes cheek to call someone dishonest for not having a view of history that is obviously simplistic, utterly out of date, and poorly supported by evidence, particularly when it is clearly irrelevant to the point being made -- the Pope brought up Kant as an eminent example of modern self-limitation of reason, and Descartes, or, rather, Cartesianism, is only mentioned as background to Kant. The interpretation of the Gospel of John seems crude, particularly given that it's actually fairly standard in Christian theological tradition to interpret Logos in John as 'Word' or 'Reason'. Where Hitchens is getting 'heavenly truth', I don't know. The Enlightenment is mentioned by the Pope only to say that it should not be ignored. And Hitchens's claim that "the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of 'revealed' truth" so obviously could only be accepted based on a highly selective reading of Enlightenment thought (in all the various, and rather diverse, forms it took) that it can be dismissed outright as mere rhetoric. The whole essay is like this.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blundering Teresas

Jason Kuznicki is reading Middlemarch, and gives his first impression after the first hundred pages. (Which is an interesting idea -- people should do it more often, because it's a great way to interact with a literary work.)

I think he'll be surprised at how it turns out. After all, the thing to keep in mind about Dorothea is that she is Saint Teresa of Avila without the opportunity to be Teresa, without the chance to live the epic life that fits her nature. As Eliot says in the prelude,

Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights and tangled circumstance they tried to shape their thought and deed in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later-born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul. Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as a lapse.

And I think Eliot really should be taken at face-value here: Dorothea is intended to be like the Great Reformer of Carmel, but without a Carmel to reform; like the Great Foundress -- but, as Eliot says later, "a foundress of nothing." Wasted energy. Although, of course, one of the great things about Eliot's treatment is the question of how wasted the energy really is in the end, despite its lack of "far-resonant action." Dorothea is a blundering Teresa; because she is full of mistakes and lack of opportunity, her spiritual grandeur is never given full scope. But even within the narrow confines of Middlemarch a blundering, hindered Teresa may still have something of that Teresa grandeur.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

History Carnival XXXIX

If you haven't visited the 39th History Carnival at Cliopatria yet, you should. It covers everything from the durability of the medieval conception of Islam to the politics of the past to the role of national identity in shaping historical perspective to prints and pictures to Wal-Mart.

The next History Carnival will be hosted at Old is the New New on October 1. Keep an eye out for history-relevant posts to nominate!

Measure and Measured

Kripke, quoting Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations:

He says, 'There is one thing of which one can say neither that it is one meter long nor that it is not one meter long, and that is the standard meter in Paris. But this is, of course, not to ascribe any extraordinary property to it, but only to mark its peculiar role in the language game of measuring with a meter rule.' This seems to be a very 'extraordinary property', actually, for any stick to have. I think he must be wrong. If the stick is a stick, for example, 39.37 inches long (I assume we have some different standard for inches), why isn't it one meter long?

[Kripke, Naming and Necessity. Harvard (Cambridge: 1980) p. 54]

What Kripke is missing, I think, is that, whatever our standard for inches, what makes 39.37 inches a meter is simply its being measured as such by the standard meter. I take it that what Wittgenstein has in mind is that the standard meter, insofar as it is the standard, is never measured to be a meter; it's what measures things as a meter, and so, insfoar as meter is a unit of measure for length, it never applies to the standard meter.

Of course we no longer use a platinum-iridium standard for meters. The standard was changed in 1960 to 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of the orange-red light produced in a vacuum by burning krypton-86, and again in 1984 to the distance traversed by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 seconds as measured by a cesium-133 atomic clock. Now it's the case that the platinum-iridium standard is one meter long, because it is no longer the standard, no longer the measure but the measured.

Of course, Wittgenstein's claim in the first place can only be made if we make some controversial assumptions about what it is to measure. For instance, if I take 'meter' to mean anything that can be measured exactly by the standard measure or anything equivalent to it, the standard meter would, in fact, be one meter long, because it can be measured by a meter stick equivalent to itself. But the claim does make sense, and the property Wittgenstein is talking about is really not extraordinary at all.

Hume on Curiosity and the Value of Truth

It's generally accepted that we have a natural curiosity or love of truth; and it is also often accepted that this natural curiosity justifies the pursuit of truth in the sense that it establishes truth as something valuable (and therefore to be pursued). How should we go about understanding this?

Probably the most natural first attempt would be to say that curiosity is love of truth as such. That is, it's a sort of direct thirst for truth, or at least apparent truth. It's clear, however, that this is not an adequate account of curiosity. If this were an adequate account of truth, any truth would contribute to satisfying our curiosity. But it's obvious that there are lots of truths we don't care about at all. We don't generally care, for instance, whether it's true a dust particle is 2 inches from another dust particle. As Stephen Grimm has pointed out in an interesting paper on epistemic values (PDF), the question, "In virtue of what does a truth spark our curiosity?" is actually less naive than it looks, even if curiosity is love of truth.

There is another possible account that I find especially interesting, and that is the one put forward by David Hume. Hume has a whole section of Book II of the Treatise devoted to curiosity. This section is the concluding section of Book II and appears to have some sort of connection with the concluding section of Book I. As Fred Wilson has noted in a number of articles and books, Hume regularly appeals to curiosity to justify intellectual pursuits. So curiosity appears to be a very important concept for Hume, and he does have an interesting account of it. The account seems to be influenced by Cicero's discussion of it in Book One, section 13 of the De Officiis:

Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man. And so, when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life. Thus we come to understand that what is true, simple, and genuine appeals most strongly to a man's nature.

Of course, this Ciceronian comment doesn't tell us much. But Hume expands it considerably, and what seems to have struck him most is the emphasis on leisure and the role of curiosity in the happy life. He starts by dividing truths into two kinds, those that have to do with the proportions of ideas, and those that have to do with the conformity of ideas to really existing objects. (Obviously this is a straightforward version of his well-known distinction between relations of ideas and matters of fact.) He notes that our interest in the first sort of truth is clearly not an interest in the truth as such -- such truths are not desired merely as truths. Simple arithmetical discoveries -- like the product of the numbers 3432412 and 89786234 -- don't strike us as particularly pleasant, and may even be painful. "Which is an evident proof," Hume says, "that the satisfaction, which we sometimes receive from the discover of truth, proceeds not from it, merely as such, but only as endow'd with certain qualities" (T 2.3.10).

We naturally want to ask, then, what these qualities are that render truth so agreeable to us. The first one Hume considers, which he takes to be the "principal source" of our satisfaction in discovery of truth, is the employment of our wits. We aren't impressed by simple arithmetical discoveries because even when they are genuine discoveries, they are in some sense easy and obvious. As Hume notes, this extends rather broadly. Even what is difficult in itself may be treated as uninteresting if our way of learning it was easy and obvious. Many mathematical demonstrations are of this sort -- hitting on the solution originally may have been immensely difficult; but when we are guided through it, it rarely seems so hard or so interesting. What we want are things that work our minds a bit, to fix our attentions and exert our genius, as Hume puts it.

While Hume puts a lot of emphasis on this condition, it is not the only one, and he suspects that it alone is sufficient for explaining much about our enjoyment of truth. It's not enough for the discovery to take force of mind; the truth also needs to be of some importance. Problems in algebra are infinite; but mathematicians have never treated them all equally. Instead they focus on problems that seem to be useful or important, and so do we all in most of our serious intellectual pursuits. But Hume notes that this immediately raises the question of how this evaluation of utility and importance works in the case of curiosity. On the one hand, it seems that it has something to do with beneficial consequences. On the other hand, people who are actually in the grip of serious curiosity seem to be indifferent to these consequences. What's the resolution of this paradox?

Hume argues that human beings are set up in such a way that, in addiction to real passions, we have what might be called faint images or shadows of passions. These shadow-passions are residual results of imagination and sympathy. An engineer may have a certain satisfaction in the fact that his bomb design makes it effective for its use, without having much liking for people who would benefit from its use; there's a sort of shadow-pleasure arising from sympathy with bomb users (Hume calls this sort of sympathy a 'remote sympathy') that doesn't extend outside the bare imagination, and may even be entirely contrary to the real attitude the engineer has toward bomb-users. This remote sympathy and these shadow-passions may seem a slight foundation for something as powerful as curiosity can be, but Hume argues again that the sort of satisfaction curiosity requires consists chiefly in exertion of the mind. The importance of remote sympathy and shadow-passions is not that they directly give us much pleasure in our discoveries, but that they fix our attention on the pursuit, and this fixation of attention is essential for satisfaction of curiosity.

It is not the only thing essential, however. After all, we may fix our attentions and exert our minds and never satisfy our curiosity at all -- for instance, all our efforts may be frustrated. We need some sort of success. So Hume holds that, although our satisfaction of curiosity is due less to the discovery of truth than to its pursuit, if something makes the pursuit seem futile, we are "uneasy".

Hume, apparently borrowing from Pascal, explains this by comparing philosophy with hunting. In fact, he regards the analogy as very strong, saying that "there cannot be two passions more nearly resembling each other than those of hunting and philosophy" (T The pleasure of hunting consists in the action of mind and body (as Hume summarizes it, "the motion, the attention, the difficulty, and the uncertainty"). It's this that really makes for an enjoyable hunt. However, both the importance of the prey and the possibility of success play a serious role. Hunting for deer in a place known to have no deer, or hunting for magpies rather than pheasant, don't have the appeal of more conventional forms of hunting. Hume makes another analogy to gambling. What makes gambling enjoyable is the actual gaming. But it's difficult to enjoy gambling unless you think there is at least some minute chance that you might actually win; and few people will enjoy gambling for literally nothing (although they might gamble for something other than money, of course, like distinction). It's possible, of course, that there are particular exceptional cases, but as a general rule this seems to be so. And philosophy -- pursuit of knowledge, of whatever kind -- is in Hume's view exactly like hunting and gambling. It's the pursuit that really satisfies, but that satisfaction depends on the pursued being important or useful and being attainable.

So on the Humean view curiosity is not satisfied by truth as such, or even directly by truth at all. Rather, it is satisfied by the work done in finding acceptable solutions to important problems, where the acceptableness of the solution is not that it is true, but that it is a sign of success in the pursuit of truth (e.g., it's clearly closer to true even if we think that it's properly speaking false). It's not so much that truth is interesting as that certain topics are (see again Grimm's paper for a different sort of argument for this conclusion).