Saturday, December 23, 2006

God in the Trough

Reading over Saint Gregory Thaumaturgos's beautiful Nativity sermon, I began thinking of the peculiarities of the Christian feast of Christmas. I don't think we think of them often enough during the Christmas season.

As a major solemnity Christmas generally plays a counterpoint to Easter: birth and re-birth, I suppose. It also has special relations to two other major solemnities -- Epiphany and Annunciation, and that's harder to pin down. Annunciation is the Feast of Incarnation; Epiphany is the Feast of Manifestation; but Christmas is a little of both, and has tended liturgically to absorb all their features. The Annunciation is about the Incarnation coming through faith; the Epiphany about having what was promised in full public sight; Christmas is a sort of odd twilight in between. We don't usually have much in the way of special celebrations of the Annunciation on March 25, and what we do have tends to celebrate it as a Marian feast, i.e., as Lady Day; there are still places and cultures where Epiphany is a big deal, but for the most part everything associated with it has over the years been swallowed up by Christmas. One reason seems to be liturgical -- we hang the movable feasts on the only real candidate for that, Easter, and we need another major feast to serve as the peg on which we hang the immovable ones. Annunciation and Christmas are the most plausible candidates, and Christmas has the advantage of being farther removed from Easter, and so capable of marking out the difference more clearly. Thus the role of Advent in the liturgical year, which, when diagrammed, becomes very clear.

But perhaps the chief reason is the power of its image. Easter has a powerful image: the Risen Christ in whom we are raised. But the image for the Feast of the Annunciation is very subtle. As Oscar Wilde wrote of it:

Was this His coming! I had hoped to see
A scene of wondrous glory, as was told
Of some great God who in a rain of gold
Broke open bars and fell on Danaƫ,
Or a dread vision as when Semele,
Sickening for love and unappeased desire,
Prayed to see God's clear body, and the fire
Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly.
With such glad dreams I sought this holy place
And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand
Before this supreme mystery of Love:
Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face,
An angel with a lily in his hand
And over both the white wings of a dove.

Certainly lovely, but not overwhelming -- not a shower of gold, nor a devouring flame. Something much more indirect. Epiphany has its Star, but that's also indirect, and what it has beyond that it shares with Christmas. Christmas dominates over all, to some extent overbalancing even Easter, because it gives an image that simply blows the mind. We owe it to Luke the evangelist, who tells us of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem:

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And again tells us of the message of the angels to the shepherds:

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

And there we have it, thrown out almost casually, if angels can throw out anything almost casually. There is good news of great joy, and it is this: a savior has been born who is Messiah and Lord. And the sign of it is a blanket-wrapped baby in a feeding trough. As Gregory rightly puts it in the sermon linked to above:

But what shall I say and what declare? I see the carpenter and the manger, the Infant and the Virgin Birth-Giver, forsaken by all, weighed down by hardship and want. Behold, to what a degree of humiliation the great God hath descended. For our sakes "impoverished, Who was rich" (2 Cor 8:9): He was put into but sorry swaddling cloths -- not on a soft bed. O poverty, source of all exaltation! O destitution, revealing all treasures! He doth appear to the poor -- and the poor He maketh rich; He doth lay in an animal manger -- and by His word He sets in motion all the world. He is wrapped in tattered swaddling cloths -- and shatters the bonds of sinners having called the entire world into being by His Word alone.

And so we see the significance of Christmas. Annunciation is the Feast of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh; Epiphany is the Feast of His manifestation to the world as flesh. But Christmas grabs us, seizes us, because it is the Feast of His Humility, that he did not regard equality with God something to hold tight, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, coming in human likeness, found in human appearance, humbling himself. God wrapped in a blanket, lying in a trough in some cave in a tiny little town because no one had room for him elsewhere; unheralded and unsung except by angels in the heavens and shepherds coming in from the fields. Luke knew what he was doing; what he wrote down was one of the most memorable religious images in all of history. It seizes the mind, overwhelms it, sets it alight, and moves it to action.

This is why, incidentally, I am always wary about Christians criticizing people for celebrating Christmas, which we often do. We should not do this -- no, not if they put up their lights and tree ten weeks early, nor if they listen to inane songs, or whatever other random fits of daffing with which they may go crazy. They are caught in the grip of an image that cannot be shaken; it inflames them with a fever that they can hardly bear. It grabs their hearts by their handles and pours them out until they are half-mad and all irritable from the strain of it. And, absurd as some of the festivities may be, the fire that lights them is a little bit contagious; even on the fringes, where people isolate themselves as much as possible from the religious side, one still feels its influences. It's not always the healthiest madness, but it is a forgivable one. When Dionysius descends, can people not be caught up in the bacchanal? How can they hold back, and not romp in reverence? Is there nothing to be enthusiastic about in the celebration of God's own humility, rich in giving, unashamed to be poor? By one gift beyond all expectation, we are inspired in our own myriad little ways, however faulty, however absurd. But if God was so humble that he did not shirk being a poor baby boy laid in a trough, we are called to the same humility; to humble ourselves in giving, and, failing that, to humble ourselves to those things others do that we deem foolish or absurd or tacky. God had to put up with your own folly and absurdity and tackiness, but He did not hesitate to endure it, and, more than endure it, associate Himself with it, if that's what it took to bring you to light. And that's what it took. We should all let the humility rub off on us a bit.

By the way, if you haven't seen it, you should check out The Logic Museum's page on the Vulgate version of Luke's Nativity story. You can see a Latin manuscript, its transcription, and the English translation, all beautifully done.

Hilaire Belloc on Footnotes

Men will have pomp and mystery surrounding important things, and therefore the historians must, consciously or unconsciously, tend to strut, to quote solemn authorities in support, and to make out the vulgar unworthy of their confidence. Hence, by the way, the plague of footnotes.

These had their origin in two sources: the desire to show that one was honest and to prove it by a reference; the desire to elucidate some point which it was not easy to elucidate in the text itself without making the sentence too elaborate and clumsy. Either use may be seen at its best in Gibbon. With the last generation they have served mainly, and sometimes merely, for ritual adornment and terror, not to make clearer or more honest, but to deceive. Thus Taine in his monstrously false history of the Revolution revels in footnotes; you have but to examine a batch of them with care to turn them completely against his own conclusions--they are only put there as a sort of spiked paling to warn off trespassers. Or, again, M. Thibaut, who writes under the name of "Anatole France," gives footnotes by the score in his romance of Joan of Arc, apparently not even caring to examine whether they so much as refer to his text, let alone support it. They seem to have been done by contract.

Belloc, On Historical Evidence, First and Last. Spiked palings and contracted footnotes are, alas, too common still today. By the way, although the book is a delightful read, the best sketch in the book, and the one that everyone should read, is The End of the World.

Moral Intuitions and the Darwinian Dilemmaist

I've been thinking about Alex's recent post at "Atopian" on Moral Intuitions, based on some work by Sharon Street. The basic argument considered is the following:

1. Many of the moral intuitions that we are inclined to accept are those which evolutionary selection would favour.
2. Evolution favours our acceptance of those intuitions independently of whether they are true.
3. From (1) and (2), either: (a) The intuitions evolution favours just happen to coincide with truth, or (b) Many of our intuitions (those which evolution has favoured) have no justificatory weight.
4. (a) is hopelessly optimistic.

From (3) and (4):
5. Conclusion: (b) Many of our intuitions have no justificatory weight.

Premise (3) strikes me as somewhat problematic, since as stated the dilemma seems to be a false one. Given that evolutionary selection favors moral intuitions, and that it does so independently of whether they are true, and ruling out mere coincidence, our intuitions still could have justificatory weight if attributing such a weight to them could be justified by something that has justificatory weight. The moral realist isn't really caught in a dilemma; he faces a challenge (to give a justification of the moral intuitions in question, i.e., to show that in normal circumstances they at least probably have a tendency to be true, as far as is discernible from other things ascertained to be true), and that's a very different sort of thing. In that sense the fact that premise 1 pulls its punch -- that it talks about many rather than all -- turns out not to be so trivial as one might have thought.

But, as Alex notes, the premise that one would most likely contest is #2. The response to such a contest is that, whereas our ability to recognize the truth of factual statements increases our chances of survival, our ability to recognize the truth of value statements could not do so.

This is an interesting argument; but I have difficulty making much sense of it. Now, the likely avenue for arguing this is what we can call, following Sharon Street and others, the adaptive link alternative: that the reason such tendencies are favored is not that they are true, but that they are mechanisms linking certain kinds of circumstances to adaptive responses. It's clear that there are lots of these. For instance, one tendency I have is, having touched a very hot surface (circumstance) to withdraw my hand quickly (response); the link between circumstance and response here is adaptive in the sense that it increases my chances of reproducing (by decreasing my chances of dying).

There very clearly are value statements that, if both true and accepted as true, would contribute to the survival for both individual and species more than they would if they were false but accepted as true. Take, for instance, the claim, 'It is good for our health and well-being to be as accurate as possible about potential dangers'. If this is true, accuracy about potential dangers contributes to our survival -- since anything that is good for our health and well-being contributes to our survival -- and certainly more so than if it turned out to be false. Now, this is certainly a value statement, since 'good' is a value term; what is more, it is a second-order value statement, since 'well-being', and at least arguably 'health' and 'danger' as well, is a value term. So some intuitive tendencies to accept some kinds of value statements would be favored more if those value statements are true. And any value statements that are allowed in start ramifying; even if they are not morality in a strong sense, they are a 'lesser morality' (to use a Humean phrase), are often treated as moral statements, and quickly start connecting up to very strong moral statements with only a few suppositions.

The problem with the adaptive link response, as far as I can see, is that it's not actually a competitor explanation. For instance, I have a tendency to see middle-sized objects in my vicinity; this tendency both tracks truth and makes a massive contribution to a web of links between my various circumstances and my various responses -- a web of links that are adaptive because they increase my chances of reproducing by decreasing my chances of being killed by middle-sized objects in my vicinity and increasing my chances of finding a mate. It would be absurd, however, to say that because vision contributes to reproductive success that therefore it has no justificatory weight when it comes to the truth or falsehood of claims about middle-sized objects; for the obvious reason that it contributes to reproductive success for the very same reason it justifies claims about middle-sized objects -- namely, that it is a means of becoming informed, however fallible and limited and approximate the information may be, about middle-sized objects. Indeed, because vision has potential justificatory weight for claims about middle-sized objects, it has justificatory weight for claims about much, much more (scientific practice builds on this sort of thing). And a similar response is available to the moral realist: the reason we think that certain kinds of moral intuitions establish adaptive links between circumstances and responses is the very same reason we should think that these moral intuitions have some tendency, however fallible and limited and approximate, to truth. And, as I've noted, there are genuine value statements, however weak, that seem to fit this sort of strategy very well. The most plausible account of why we tend to treat knowledge of potential dangers as a good thing is one that admits that it is a good thing; it contributes to good states of being, which increases our chances of survival and healthy reproduction, thus establishing an adaptive link between circumstance and response. It is true, of course, that a species like us except for a tendency to believe that knowledge of potential dangers was a bad thing would be much less likely to leave offspring than we are. But what of it? That's simply a confirming reason to think that knowledge of potential dangers is a good thing. Contrary to the claims of Street and others, Bad Things really do sometimes eat you. That things can eat you is as good a sign that they are able to be Bad Things as that they are carnivores. And the moral realist just needs to take that and move on from there.

The Darwinian Dilemmaist would, I suspect, think that somewhere in this the moral realist is begging the question. Three points in particular seem likely to be made.

(1) Coincidence. How does the moral realist explain the fact that the tendencies toward beliefs that are true just happen to coincide with the adaptive links between circumstances and responses? But as noted, for at least some evaluative intuitions there seems to be no mystery and no coincidence; and given those, we can work our way up.

(2) Contrary Predispositions. How does the moral realist deal with the fact that we seem to have contrary predispositions -- tendencies to make bad evaluative judgments? But this seems no more to be a problem than the tendency of our senses sometimes to misinform us. Tendency to truth is not the same as infallible possession of it. Indeed, it is not even close. Our senses establish a tendency to make true judgments about objects that we sense, as well as sensible objects that we don't, and, under certain conditions, nonsensible objects as well. But this tendency is merely a tendency; and it's arguably nowhere as strong a tendency as we tend to think it is. What we do is reason things through, look at alternative explanations, gather additional information, in order to compensate for any weakness or limitation in the tendency. Further, it's clear that in the case of evaluations, especially moral evaluations, bad judgments can usually be traced to incompleteness. Thus, racist whites judge that whites are more morally valuable than blacks because they simply don't consider all the moral issues on the line in such a judgment. It's as if someone, having taken a look around the room, concluded that everything that existed at all was in that room, rather like Douglas Adams's man who rules the universe. But the fact that we often make judgments on incomplete information doesn't shed any light on whether our materials for judgment are any good.

(3) Bruteness. How does the moral realist explain why we don't tend to make other judgments (e.g., that infanticide is a good thing) other than by simply appealing to their falsehood as a brute fact? But the moral realist doesn't appeal to their falsehood as a brute fact -- he is perfectly able to give all the adaptive reasons the Darwinian Dilemmaist is able to give. The only difference is that whereas the Darwinian Dilemmaist tries to impose a false dilemma, the moral realist jumps through its horns. Consider a similar sort of argument for claims about middle-sized objects. The universe of logically possible claims about middle-sized objects is utterly immense; and many of these logically possible claims are things we have no particular tendency toward. For instance, I have no particular tendency to judge that this white, papery-looking block in front of me is a supernova. And the reason, I would be inclined to say, is that it pretty clearly is not a supernova, since it pretty clearly is a book. It would be nonsense to say that this is merely appealing to the falsehood of the claim 'This block is a supernova' as a brute fact. For one thing, I have multiple lines of evidence and reasoning at my beck and call to argue that this is not a supernova but is, in fact, the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association, which is a very different thing. Likewise, I can point out that a supernova is more interesting than the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association. But I don't have to appeal to this as a brute fact; I can point out all sorts of reasons to think it so.

One reason I can do this is that particular judgments are merely particular judgments, but tendencies to make good judgments cover entire regions of judgment. If I take any particular judgment, such as 'This thing that I see is not a supernova', the adaptive link discussion tells us nothing about it, for the obvious reason that if I have genuine tendencies (however limited, fallible, or approximative) to make good factual judgments about middle-sized objects in my vicinity, all that I need to make this particular judgment is for this thing, falling within my field of vision, actually not to be a supernova. Similarly, the Darwinian Dilemmaist seems to be engaging in a confusion of levels when arguing against the moral realist. There are actually two issues:

(1) what explains our tendencies or predispositions to make a certain kind of judgment about X
(2) what explains the fact that this particular kind of judgment about X is a good one.

The moral realist has a (2)-explanation for certain kinds of value judgments: that there really are values of a certain kind. He then points out that this goes some way toward a (1)-explanation, because some of these values are clearly adaptively relevant if true, and from these we can rationally expand our field of discussion to encompass all sorts of good moral judgments. The Darwinian Dilemmaist responds that we have a (1)-explanation, namely, that some of the values are adaptively relevant and that therefore there is no need for (2)-explanation. But we know in fact that this is not generally the case; for instance, no one would accept a Darwinian Dilemma for visual realism, because (1)-explanations don't usually tell us much of anything relevant to (2)-explanations. It is true that the moral realist needs multiple lines of evidence suggesting that the tendency is not a bad one and that some of the resulting judgments are certainly good ones -- as the visual realist definitely has. But this sort of confirmation is all the moral realist needs. And moral realists don't ignore this point; they don't simply point to the predispositions and then say, 'That's that'. They elaborate, give reasons for thinking the predisposition tends in the right direction here but not, due to unusual circumstances, there, and so forth. And that's what really would need to be examined to see whether moral realism is a cup that can hold water.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Butler on Oppression and Self-Deception

Whoever will consider the whole commerce of human life will see, that a great part, perhaps the greatest part, of the intercourse amongst mankind, cannot be reduced to fixed determinate rules. Yet in these cases, there is a right and a wrong: a merciful, a liberal, a kind and compassionate behaviour, which surely is our duty; and an unmerciful contracted spirit, a hard and oppressive course of behaviour, which is most certainly immoral and vicious. But who can define precisely wherein that contracted spirit and hard usage of others consist, as murder and theft may be defined? There is not a word in our language which expresses more detestable wickedness than oppression: yet the nature of this vice cannot be so exactly stated, nor the bounds of it so, determinately marked, as that we shall be able to say, in all instances, where rigid right and justice ends, and oppression begins. In these cases, there is great latitude left for everyone to determine for, and consequently to deceive himself. It is chiefly in these cases, that self. deceit comes in; as everyone must see, that there is much larger scope for it here, than in express, single, determinate acts of wickedness. However it comes in with respect to the circumstances attending the most gross and determinate acts of wickedness. Of this, the story of David, now before us, affords the most astonishing instance. It is really prodigious, to see a man, before so remarkable for virtue and piety, going on deliberately from adultery to murder, with the same cool contrivance, and, from what appears, with as little disturbance, as a man would endeavor to prevent the ill consequences of a mistake he had made in any common matter. That total insensibility of mind, with respect to those horrid crimes, after the commission of them, manifestly shows that he did some way or other delude himself: and this could not be with respect to the crimes themselves, they were so manifestly of the grossest kind. What the particular circumstances were, with which he extenuated them, and quieted and deceived himself, is not related.

Butler, On Self-Deceit, Fifteen Sermons. The story in question, of course, is David and Bathsheba, 2 Sam. 11-12 (with a special focus on Nathan's confrontation with David in chapter 12), one of the most interesting stories of David's reign.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Three Poem Drafts

Not Just the Right

Somewhere between hyperbole and ellipsis,
I became lost; no sign showed the way;
the middle became mediocre and I saw
that I needed not just a road but a fire,
a path of flame, an ardent way, to find
not just the right but the holy.


My heart is unquiet
waiting for you,
hoping for your coming,
happiness held in hope
infusing my every action.
I taste the goodness that will be
on the white-stone day,
the red-letter day,
the day of our coming.
In darkness I keep vigil,
sustained by memory,
recollecting your promise;
I wait, dwelling in it,
arranging all around it.


December brings a bitter wind
that creeps up on the skin;
hurry, friend, and close the door
that lets the bitter in.
In this month, an advent month,
take thought to dark and cold;
joy is made by a well-lit fire,
so make your hearth-light bold.
No face is warmed when all alone
it walks on frosted streets;
our limbs are limbered with delight
when friends inside we meet.
Outside the sabers on the trees
grow long and deadly-sharp;
but we will drink December cheer
to sound of drum and harp!

History of Religion Map

There is a very cool map showing the history of the major religions over the ages at Maps of War. Things like this are very approximate, of course, but it does give the general sense of the geographical spread of religions over time. Of course, it doesn't give one a very good sense of population; and I would criticize it for ignoring Sikhism. But, as I said, it does give one a reasonably good sense of geographical spread, particularly, I think, in the Middle Ages, with the tug-of-war between Christian and Muslim. (Hat-tip: MS)

P. S. Also see the history of the Middle East map, which I think I've linked to before.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Chesterton Game

From the Blog of the American Chesterton Society:

1. When did you first read a Chesterton book, story, or poem, and which was it?

The first Chesterton work I remember reading was the Autobiography, at some point in college. I then went on to read Manalive, The Ball and the Cross, and The Flying Inn.

2. What was the most recent of GKC's writings you read?

I re-read them occasionally as I find the opportunity, so it's hard to say. Probably St. Francis of Assisi.

3. Which is your favorite book, poem - or quote?

Book: The Man Who Was Thursday
Poem: The Ballad of the White Horse

"And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world's desire
'No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.' "

4. Which would you recommend to a beginner?

The Father Brown mysteries, without a doubt; and St. Thomas Aquinas.

5. What is the most unusual fact or quirky detail you know about G.K.Chesterton?

Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw, and James Barrie once made a cowboy movie together (directed by Barrie).

Links and Notes and Bits, Oh My!

* "The Brooks Blog" hosts the fortieth Philosopher's Carnival. The posts on shaming punishments are particularly interesting.

* John Birkenmeier argues that in some ways 1204 would be a better date for the beginning of the Great Schism than the usual 1054; 1204, of course, is significant for being the year of the Sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

* Mark Lauterbach is reflecting on Jonathan Edwards's chapter on censorious thoughts in his commentary on I Corinthians 13. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

* A nice article at physicsweb on Maxwell.

* Archbishop Terry Buckle discusses the Book of Common Prayer's Advent Collect at "". Hat tip to Magic Statistics.

* I love radio theater. So I was pleased to find that the "On the Night Before Christmas" episode of Fibber McGee and Molly can be found at YouTube. It's in two parts: I, II.

You can also listen to Imagination Theater's "This is Christmas" episode on the Imagination Theater website. Imagination Theater usually does episodes on detective fiction lines, which I find a bit more interesting; the Christmas episode is a bit candy-cane-and-sugarplum for my taste; but it's more interesting than the sort you usually get on TV.

* Thomas Shepard on the four strait gates at "Reformation Theology".

* Chris notes that you can find Nietzsche's insanity letters online. The best one, I've always thought, is the one to Franz Overbeck:

To friend Overbeck and wife.

Although you have so far demonstrated little faith in my ability to pay, I yet hope to demonstrate that I am somebody who pays his debts—for example, to you. I am just having all anti-Semites shot.



* Clayton has a post on the possibility that the Bush Presidential Library may be on the SMU campus, and the problems with that.

* I'll be at the Eastern meeting of the American Philosophical Association briefly on Thursday and Friday of next week. If anyone is also going and would like to meet up for coffee or lunch or something, e-mail me at branemrys[at]yahoo[dot]com, and we'll see if we can work something out.


* Tim Enloe at "Societas Christiana" has a post on Revenge in the Oresteian Trilogy. Incidentally, the chain whence this weblog gets its name makes an appearance.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Carnival of Citizens II: Justice, War, and the Quest for Peace

Welcome to the second edition, and first themed edition, of the Carnival of Citizens. The Carnival of Citizens is devoted to cultivating a deliberative and reflective atmosphere on matters of politics and society. Our theme for today is JUSTICE, WAR, AND THE QUEST FOR PEACE; and our goal is to provide serious food for thought on problems related to war and peace. To this end, I've decided to discuss just war theory and pacifism. My thoughts on this are rather long, so those who are more interested in the links for this carnival can scroll down; I've marked each of the accepted submissions to the carnival with a candle for peace.

As I wrote my comments on issues related to just war theory and pacifism, they grew longer and longer -- far longer than would be comfortable reading in a single blog post. Since a hefty portion of my discussion was on just war theory, I decided to move that to a post of its own and just treat it as if it were a submission; that way people not interested in the topic can more easily find a topic that does interest them.

Candle for Peace In Two Approaches to Just War Theory I suggest that there are two approaches, different although not necessarily mutually exclusive, that are commonly called 'just war theory' -- a virtue-oriented approach and a law-oriented approach.

I think it's clear that there are serious dangers with a law-oriented approach, particular if it becomes severed from the virtue-oriented approach, as it often seems to be: it becomes legalistic and abstract. However, it must be emphasized that it was a matter of vital concern to those who first began to develop it. People like Vitoria or Grotius were not considering the problem as an abstract one to be considered in idle moments; they were considering the problem because they saw a clear and undeniable need for steps to be taken to curtail and limit the ravages of war. And to this end they did contribute something fundamentally important -- namely, a vocabulary by which people might take things done, both those leading up to war and those done in war, and examine them closely for ethical failings. This provision of a common vocabulary for ethical discussion should not be underestimated, and even those like myself who prefer a more virtue-oriented approach to these matters should, I think, be thankful that it was developed, whatever problems and limitations we might think it may have.

Given this value for public discussion, it isn't surprising that there has been some serious and worthwhile discussion of modern conflicts that make reference to just war criteria. Two of our submissions are such discussions:

Candle for Peace One of the major contemporary challenges for just war theory is how to handle the issue of terrorism and the role of civilians as collaborators and hostages on a large scale. The Rev. Dr. Kate of "Meditations from the Messy Middle of Things" discusses this issue with regard to events this summer in Qana in Because No One Will State the Obvious.

Candle for Peace Not surprisingly, there has been considerable discussion of the War in Iraq, and the larger 'War on Terrorism' in just war terms, asking similar questions. In Institutions, Iraq, and Just War Theory, Brian Berkey of "Philosophy from the Left Coast" looks at an argument by Allen Buchanan that just war theory requires reformulation in light of the 'new conditions of terrorism'. Buchanan argues for institutionalizing just war theory to limit how justifications for war can be applied, and Berkey carefully examines what's right and what's problematic about this proposal.

When we talk about just war theory, two major alternatives are usually assumed, pacifism and realism. Pacifism shares with just war theory its moral concern and emphasis on peace; however, it differs from it in thinking that just war theory makes war too viable. Particular versions of pacifism seem to differ considerably over their reasons for thinking this, or even over what precisely it means. Some pacifists would accept an argument, similar to Thomas Nagel's argument in his article War and Massacre, that any use of force to make someone comply needs (at least minimally) to be such that we can give the victim some moral justification for it; but this requires a personal element that is lost in the violence of war. We stop justifying each particular use of force against a person, and try to lump everyone together; which is an affront to human dignity. Nagel doesn't use this type of argument to argue for pacifism, since he allows for the possibility of 'moral blind alleys', i.e., cases where we can be morally committed to avoiding all of the only options we have available. People who accept the argument and reject the possibility of unavoidable moral blind alleys, however, clearly have the beginnings of an interesting and serious argument for pacifism. Most people, however, are inclined to see difficulties with pacifism. One of our submissions discusses one such difficulty:

Candle for Peace In Some Thoughts on Pacifism, Richard of "Philosophy, et cetera" makes a distinction between 'absolute pacifism' and what he calls 'epistemic pacifism'. While the latter can avoid a number of problems with the former, Richard notes a point on which it still may be weak, namely, not allowing exceptions for humanitarian intervention.

One might think that pacifism and realism are as far apart as can be. While pacifism is usually a very morally oriented doctrine, realism is not; in fact, it tends to be associated with skepticism about our ability to discern what is morally right in matters of war, and in particular with the view that moral concepts cannnot be properly applied to the affairs of nations. While pacifism rejects all war on moral grounds, realism thinks war is justifiable on purely pragmatic grounds when the necessities of state interest require it. Interestingly, however, one of the classics of twentieth-century just war theory, Elizabeth Anscombe's Mr. Truman's Degree, argues that pacifism and realism are in one sense birds of a feather, since from the just war theory they both refuse to make the same moral distinctions that just war theory insists upon.

Unfortunately, no one submitted a defense of realism, either. However, it's noteworthy that the issue of humanitarian intervention, which came up in Richard's post above, is a tricky point for all three views. Pacifism seems to accept its goals but reject it as a means. Just war theorists have never settled how much room there is for humanitarian intervention in just war theory; certainly those who insist that the only legitimate wars are defensive can't accept humanitarian intervention. Realists have no problem with accepting the legitimacy, but they have difficulty doing so for the reasons we usually want to give -- we usually want to give moral reasons for humanitarian intervention, but once we allow moral reasons to justify such actions, realism becomes distinctly less plausible. Perhaps, as some would argue, there is a need for a fourth, interventionist, position; or perhaps it is because the notion of 'humanitarian intervention' is itself none too clear.

Candle for Peace Although I decided to focus on self-submissions rather than nominations, when Timothy Burke's War and Peace, Horn of Africa Edition was nominated, I knew I had to include it. Burke looks at the possibility of intervention in the recent rise in tensions between Ethiopia and Somalian Islamists. He argues that proposals of intervention overlook just how limited the power of states is to effect the sort of change required, particularly in comparison with global social and economic institutions or local social histories.

As one might expect from as complicated a subject as war and peace, there are many issues related to the subject that don't directly relate to the central concerns of just war theory or pacifism but are important nonetheless. This is not to say that just war theorists, pacifists, or realists don't consider them; only that they are not what is at dispute in debates among the three. So it's not surprising that we have a miscellaneous category of submissions, which discuss some important problems from very diferent perspectives.

Candle for Peace In Truce that Doesn't Give Peace a Chance, Obadiah Shoher of "Samson Blinded" criticizes a recent truce negotiated by Israel, arguing that it shows a sort of schizophrenia.

Candle for Peace One of the issues that has shown itself over the years to be of far greater importance than one might originally have respected, is accurate reporting from the front. Hakim Abdullah, of the weblog "Hakim Abdullah", points to a recent project, called Unembedded, as a recent attempt to go beyond typical portrayals of the Iraq War.

Candle for Peace At "Political Dishonesty", Kevin writes an open letter in response to Ahmadinejad's open letter to Americans.

And that concludes this edition of the Carnival of Citizens. Posts that were submitted to this edition of the carnival but did not fit with the theme will be automatically sent to the host of the next carnival, which should take place on January 7 at Sportive Thoughts. Keep an eye on the Carnival Newsletter for further updates. Submissions can be sent very easily via the Blog Carnival Submission form. Also if you are willing to be a host for a future edition of the carnival, be sure to let Richard know.

Two Approaches to Just War Theory

I would suggest that we can, somewhat roughly, distinguish two very different things that often go by the name 'just war theory':

The first is what we can call the virtue-oriented approach. The 'just' it refers to when it talks about whether war can be just is the adjectival form of 'justice', understood as a personal virtue. Its major question is: "Can a person be just, i.e., virtuous, while engaging in the activities of war, and if so, how?"

The second is what we can call the law-oriented approach, although 'law' here has to be understood in a broad sense. In this form of just war theory, 'just' implies justifiability according to certain standards. Its major question is: "What are the rules and criteria for determining when activities of war are justifiable?"

Modern just war theory seems to me to be a muddling together of the two. They aren't mutually exclusive, but, as people have pointed out, there seems to be a lot of shifting from one to the other and back again without much explanation. The roots of just war theory, I think, are in the first. St. Augustine's discussions of war are scattered, but he often tends to emphasize matters of personal virtue. What often worries him is the possibility of a vengeful spirit taking hold (cf. Contra Faust. xxii, 74); it is because of this that he famously insists (1) that only defensive wars are permissible; (2) that the purpose of war is to return to peace (Ep. ad Bonif. clxxxix); and (3) that, since peace is the purpose of war, wars must be waged in ways consistent with that aim (ibid). However, Augustine has a very strong notion of peace here, and attacks the notion that 'peace' just means the absence of conflict (cf. De Civ. xix). Peace is a harmony, and a harmony is not just a lack of discord, it is a concord -- the tranquillity of order in which each thing has its special place. If Augustine is the originator of just war theory, as he is often said to be, it is fair to say that his just war theory is a small part of a larger account -- one spanning heaven and earth -- of just peace.

This characteristic is carried over, although in ways perhaps not immediately obvious, by St. Thomas Aquinas, the other figure who looms large in the history of just war theory. Thomas considers the matter in ST 2-2.40, which is usually considered on its own. That it is, is a bit unfortunate, since it overlooks the context of the discussion. The discussion of war and justice comes in the middle of Aquinas's discussion of charity, and it arises as an issue because of the connection of charity to peace. The Christian virtue of charity is in Aquinas's account an operative disposition to true friendship between self and others. It gets its name from its primary act, love; but, as Aquinas holds that we love and enjoy the good in the same act, charity disposes us not only to love but also to acts of joy, peace, and (in special cases where the beloved is in a miserable state) mercy. Joy is the delight in the good of another that follows from love; peace is the union love creates. Each of these aspects of charitable love has its opposing vices; love as such, for instance, is impeded by hatred, while joy is impeded by sloth and envy. It is in this context that Aquinas builds his account of just war. Anything inconsistent with charity is inconsistent with Christian morality, since charity is its keystone; since peace is an act of charity, anything that impedes peace is inconsistent with the way of life Christians should live. While peace is directly and properly an act of charity, Aquinas also thinks that in a looser sense it can be considered an act of justice, not because it follows directly from justice, but because justice removes impediments to peace. So, if justice removes impediments to peace, and peace is an act of charity, and charity is the most important of all the virtues, we are immediately brought to the question: to what extent does justice remove war as an impediment to peace?

Thomas's answer to this question is fairly widely known. War can itself be an act of justice in certain cases. A prince can justly engage in activities of war if he has (1) legitimate authority; (2) a just cause; (3) rightful intention. The cases in which war is consistent with justice are cases in which a particular person has been entrusted with maintaining the common good shared by all citizens and defending it against anyone who might try to destroy it. This is where legitimate authority comes in: no one can legitimately go to war who does not have a responsibility to protect the common good of a people. However, even if you have a magistrate with the authority to go to war, more is needed before one can consider war an act of justice; the cause, the goal in going to war, must itself be just. The power to war is, on Aquinas's account, a form of the power to punish: just as we give people the power to punish citizens who violate the common good by breaking the law, so we give them the power to punish those who attack the common good from without. Aquinas, taking his cue from a comment by Augustine, identifies two goals that would be just: restoring what has been unjustly seized, and to punish states who refuse to make amends for wrongs committed by their subjects. (It isn't clear whether he thinks these are the only two possible just causes, but the wording seems to suggest it.) The third thing needed, right intention, is often misunderstood. The Latin word intentio has a much broader meaning than our term 'intention'; it can often be translated by 'disposition' or 'orientation'. To go to war justly, it's not enough to have the right authority or a good cause; you also need to organize yourself and your actions in such a way that they tend to advance the good and avoid evil. Obviously, good intentions in our sense are part of this, but only part. The term as we find it in Aquinas appears to suggest our whole involvement in war should be a matter of securing peace and righting wrongs.

Stated this way, I think it's very clear that what we have in Aquinas is a virtue-oriented approach to matters of war. However, it's also very tempting to take these three elements of just warring -- legitimate authority, just cause, and right intention -- and try to work out more precisely what they involve, in order to create criteria by which one might determine whether particular cases are just or not. And thus we begin to see in Aquinas the seeds of what I've called the law-oriented approach. And, in fact, the Spanish scholastics, taking their start from Aquinas, begin to develop such an approach as part of their general interest in matters of what we would today call 'international law'; their discussion sparked other discussions, e.g., in the Protestant scholastics, and the discussion was carried further by people like Pufendorf and Grotius. There are a lot of differences among the various participants in this discussion, and I'm not going to go into any of them. Suffice it to say that the end result is a list of criteria for 'just war'. The list as we have it today varies a bit, but a fairly standard example (listed in no particular order) would be:

1. legitimate authority
2. right intention (in our usual sense of the term)
3. prospect of success
4. proportionality in use of force
5. last resort
6. discrimination between belligerants and non-belligerents
7. public declaration

As has become more clear in recent decades of discussion, though, if you are going to start listing criteria, you need to distinguish the sort of criteria to be used in starting a war from those involved in conducting a war and those involved in ending a war and restoring peace.

Living Flame of Love

Thursday was the feast day for St. John of the Cross, so this poem by him seems fitting.

O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

O sweet cautery,
O delightful wound!
O gentle hand! O delicate touch
that tastes of eternal life
and pays every debt!
In killing you changed death to life.

O lamps of fire!
in whose splendors
the deep caverns of feeling,
once obscure and blind,
now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,
both warmth and light to their Beloved.

How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart with love.