Wednesday, December 26, 2007

See You Next Year

Off to Baltimore. I doubt I'll have a chance to post anything while there. Some things to keep you occupied until I get back:

* Roxanne Marcotte's Suhrawardi entry in the SEP. Suhrawardi is very, very important, and not well known in the West.

* The latest edition of the Basic Concepts in Science list.

* Buffon the Enlightenment Sensation at TLS (ht)

* This article on Abraham Joshua Heschel has stirred up some interest in the important Rabbi. This is another good, quick introduction to his thought.

* Some good discussion of Henry of Ghent on the Trinity.

And, of course, I have some great weblogs on my blogroll. I might start posting again on New Year's Eve; but, then again, you might have to wait till the new year.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, and God Bless

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

--Phillips Brooks, 1868. Here it is sung by Sarah McLachlan; another version by Susan Paree; another by Elvis Presley.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Linkables and Notables

* A course in Chaldean Catholic theology, and a good one, although the accents and the occasional casual introduction of Aramaic phrases sometimes require close listening.

* I've been doing some reading on theories of cultural evolution:

Henrich and McElreath, The Evolution of Cultural Evolution (PDF)

Henrich and Gil-White, The Evolution of Prestige (PDF)

Henrich, Boyd, and Richerson, Five Misunderstandings about Cultural Evolution (PDF)

Nicolas Claudière and Dan Sperber, The Role of Attraction in Cultural Evolution (PDF)

Kim Sterelny, The Evolution and Evolvability of Culture (PDF)

István Czachesz, The Emergence of Early Christian Religion: Toward a Naturalistic Approach (PDF)

* Danny Garland discusses the development of the doctrine of papal infallibility.

* The science fiction path to luxury: instead of oppressing human beings, create a class of society that exists to be oppressed. Here's the rub: the more human-like robots become, the less ethical it becomes to treat them as mere instruments, precisely to the extent that they are human-like, because otherwise you are devaluing human life, even if only by proxy. (A portrait, for instance, is not a human being; it doesn't even act like one. But precisely because it pictures one there are serious ethical issues with my deliberate acts toward it as a portrait of a human being. Writing 'Die Die Die' in red ink over someone's portrait, or making child pornography of children that don't actually exist by creating composites, are ethically problematic. So with any human simulacrum, and the better the simulacrum, the more serious the problems.)

* Alexander Pruss has a good post on humanity, personhood, and the Incarnation.

* Apolonio Latar has a post on the Incarnation and hospitality.

* This is a bit older, but I just came across it; Minnesota Atheists published a series of rebuttals to "34 Unconvincing Arguments for God," which PZ Myers put up at his site at the beginning of December. It gives one some idea of what sort of reasoning about religion passes as good among many people; the shallow analysis and weak reasoning of a number of the rebuttals should go without saying, but in a number of cases they are saved from being useless by the shallow analysis and weak reasoning of the arguments to which they are the stated responses. Perhaps it should be called 34 Unconvincing Atheist Responses to Unconvincing Arguments for God. I had started to do what I often end up doing with atheists, namely, pointing out places where they can find the arguments they should be making to be as much of a rational challenge as they think they are; but given that it's Christmas, I have more pressing priorities.

* This is rather interesting: a face-averaging demo. Studies have shown that we have some sort of preference for averaged faces, although this is apparently not the only factor.

* I always like this song around Christmas.

* This and this are good ones too, for those who like their songs in a rather different style.

* A Norwegian Christmas carol.

* Stephen Law on atheists and Christmas services (ht).

Bérulle on the Birth of Jesus

As we contemplate the birth of Jesus we proceed from grandeur to grandeur. For this human birth is a mystery of life. For the one who has life from the Father, and who is begotten as living by the very nature of his emanation; the one who is true life and who gives himself without reservation the name of life; the one who is life and source of life within himselfand outside himself wishes to take on life in this mystery in order to be our life eternally.

It is a mystery of light. For the one who is light of light, who comes forth from the Father of lights, who emanates from him as light and who, in the very nature of his Person, is the splendor of the Father, being light in his Essence and in his Person, comes into the world through this mystery to be the light of the world....

This birth is a mystery of holiness, according to the angelic words, your offspring will be holy (Lk. 1:35)....

Pierre de Bérulle, Discourse on the State and Grandeurs of Jesus in Bérulle and the French School, Thompson, ed. Glendon, tr. Paulist (New York: 1989), 152-153.

Christmas Eve

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The song is a translation by Neale. It's become a favorite. Here's a version by the The Clark Sisters; another by Boyz II Men; another by Whitney Houston; another by Rebecca St. James (that's a good one). Here are the original Latin words.

Predicate Quantity

In the nineteenth century Sir William Hamilton caused some controversy by suggesting that the predicate as well as the subject term should be understood as quantified. Thus, we should understand "All dogs go to heaven" as saying "All dogs are some things that go to heaven". This gives the following schedule of propositions

Afa U All S is all P
Afi A All S is some P
Ifa Y Some S is all P
Ifi I Some S is some P
Ana E No S is any P
Ani η No S is some P
Ina O Some S is not any P
Ini ω Some S is not some P

The three-letter names at the beginning are Hamilton's own; the letters in bold immediately afterward are Thomson's (who rejected η and ω), which became more widely used in discussing predicate quantity.

Predicate quantity quickly fell out of favor, in part because the new propositions are very difficult to interpret, and the proponents of it never developed a consistent account of it, in part because they kept getting tripped up by the particular quantification of the predicate. If we take 'some' in the predicate to work the same way as 'some' in the subject, we can link each of the new propositions to information conveyed classically in the following way:

U = (SaP and PaS)
Y = PaS [i.e., Only S is P]
η = PoS [i.e., Not only S is P]

ω turns out to be a bit of a puzzler. It has no ordinary contradictory, and would have to be true, always, except where the P in question is the very same S we find in the subject (in which case it would say that that S is not that S).

Adding these propositions, therefore, doesn't convey more information than we could convey with the ordinary forms (with the possible exception of ω, which seems difficult to find a use for); and it complicates the rules of syllogism a bit, since the standard rules with U propositions will fail to rule out some syllogisms as invalid. The new propositions are messing with the distribution of terms; which complicates matters quite a bit, and for very little gain. There are, in fact, only two points of note: it allows us directly to handle U and Y propositions, which do show up in ordinary discourse quite often, without treating them as exponible; and (although this was not, as far as I recall, discussed at the time) it makes it easier to do some things if we are predicating singular terms. Singular terms are curious because they are predicable but also seem to carry their quantity around with them, so to speak. For instance, if I say,

Tully is Cicero,

I am predicating a singular term; and it is crucial for understanding what I intend that we recognize that 'Cicero' is a singular term. This is, in fact, the root of a number of longstanding puzzles about singular terms: unlike other terms, they seem always to be quantified. You can, in fact, treat them as always quantified and get viable (if sometimes confusing) results; I have done so in the past. For instance, in discussing singular terms in my series on Sommers-Englebretsen term logic, I treated singular terms as always quantified. This is not quite orthodox, and reading over the posts again I should have been more clear than I was that it wasn't (since I find that I didn't indicate at all that it wasn't!); but it simplifies discussion of singular terms quite a bit, because the only place it can cause problems is with interpretation, since in SETL singular terms have wild quantity. But while this has its conveniences, I have become less satisfied with it of late, and have begun to think it should be handled differently. In SETL, subscripts makes more sense, I have come to think; and, outside SETL, it seems reasonable to treat propositions with a predicate that apparently has singular quantity (however one understands singular quantity) as exponible.

But I don't know for sure. And there is a (small) part of me that hopes that someone will come up with a better account of quantified predicates for categorical propositions than Hamilton's; it was an ingenious idea, and worth trying, although it seems, having done the experiment, to be more trouble than it could possibly be worth. (It would have been better, I think, to conceive of quantity not as attaching to the subject or the predicate but as being the quantity of the proposition, and arguing that the quantity of the proposition is actually the proposition's pattern of distribution. Then quality becomes simply affirmation and negation, having nothing to do with distribution at all. But this doesn't seem to solve all the problems with predicate quantity.)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Genealogy Sunday

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:1-17. In my view, the genealogies are never given quite the theological credit they deserve; like the Holy Family itself, they are a key part of the doctrine of the Incarnation that tends to be overlooked. The Son of God does not merely become flesh; He is descended from David (Rm. 1:1-3). He does not merely share our nature, He is part of our family. And many, many generations, providentially guided, have gone into this, so that the promises of the prophets might be fulfilled and God and man should be joined together in the solidarity of kinship.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

One More Journalistic Oddity

A mystifying headline and subtitle. What is remarkable is that there is no evidence for anything said in the title or the subtitle of this article; the article itself not only provides no evidence for it but provides the evidence against it, namely, that what the title attributes to the Pope was actually said in an editorial of L'Osservatore Romano, not written by the Pope (who has weightier responsibilities than to edit the Vatican newspaper).

In newspaper journalism it's often the case that the headlines are editorial decisions, so the bizarre titles shouldn't be attributed to the reporter for the piece, Erin McWhirter.

Newton's World

Normal Levitt has a critical review of Steve Fuller's Science v. Religion. In the course of the review he makes a number of good points against Fuller; but, as is absurdly predictable with people who write for skeptical magazines like this, he takes the liberty of making claims that go well beyond the evidence:

Newton, no less than his frankly materialist or Deist successors, was well aware that the cosmological picture flowing from his own achievement left little room for an interventionist God — an activist, miracle-working being whose constant attention is necessary to the steady functioning of the universe. He sensed that his own brilliant ideas constituted an argument for the deus abscondatus, a conceptual innovation that was soon to become a standard item of skeptical Enlightenment thought. But Newton’s religious traditionalism, unconventional as it was in some respects, found this notion abhorrent because the impersonal God it cautiously endorsed was a far cry from the Biblical Ancient of Days embedded in his own theology. This led him to argue that his own system of the world must be incomplete and that it must indeed be modified to allow a role for an interventionist God whose intermittent action is necessary to keep planets and comets in their orbits. The key point is that this line of thought did not follow from the mathematics of Newton’s mechanics, nor from any sound new physical insight. It was dictated, rather, by the psychological necessity of reconciling his scientific achievement with his pre-existing religious dogma.

We have, of course, no evidence whatsoever that Newton "sensed that his own brilliant ideas constituted an argument for the deus abscondatus," in part because Newton's ideas don't constitute any argument for a deus absconditus, which can't be pulled out of any bit of the mathematics of Newton's mechanics, nor from any of his sound physical insights; and in part because Newton shows no indication of associating any aspect of his system with a notion of deus absconditus or anything like it. The brief discussions of the 'divine sensorium' seem to indicate the very opposite. To the extent that Newton's God could be regarded as distant or hidden, this appears to have more to do with what is usually called Newton's Arianism than his sense of his system. Newton's system of the world was incomplete, which is why we could later have people like Laplace; and Newton, taking his mathematics as accurate, noted that (1) it couldn't explain the first origin of things; and (2) it couldn't account for the long-term continuance of the system. Levitt is right that his conclusion, divine intervention, does not follow from the mathematics or from physical insight; the considerations Newton gives (in the Optics or the letters to Bentley) are teleological. Indeed it is often forgotten that one of the points associated with Newton's famous claim not to feign hypotheses was that hypothesis-feigning was what was done to avoid appealing to teleology (he makes this point explicitly in Optics, Book III, Query 28 -- it also seems to be why the discussion of analysis and synthesis occurs in the context it does later on); in making the claim Newton is, among other things, rejecting the notion that science is merely the study of natural mechanisms. Descartes and Boyle constructed suppositions that allowed them to proceed as if nature were purely mechanistic in character; Newton rejects this approach, and does not assume that an accurate account of the phenomena will be mechanistic. Thus (and it is a 'thus', although the line of reasoning is not simple) Newton affirms design arguments because he thinks design arguments are the sort of thing in which scientific work culminates. The degree to which this depends on pre-existing religious dogma is difficult to determine; it would not have been a widespread religious view at the time, since the rise of the design argument as the most popular argument in natural theology is largely post-Newton (being to some degree spurred by Newton himself), but, then, many of Newton's religious views were not widespread religious views at the time, because there was no real sense in which Newton could be considered guilty of "religious traditionalism," deviating as he does from traditional religious views on many, many points.

There is something a bit odd, given Newton's actual comments and the Leibniz-Clarke debate, in thinking of Newton as the great (if inconsistent) anti-interventionist forebear. I would agree that Newton's interventionism is a bit of intellectual blunder, as Levitt characterizes it; but this is not because Newton was being inconsistent but because Newton had a different view of his scientific work than people came to have later.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Poem Draft

This came to me today. It doesn't really represent a particular event; but it's pretty clear that among the influences are the famous stories about the Christmas truces that arose spontaneously between British and German soldiers in 1914.

Christmas on the Warfront

Christmas on the warfront
when all the world's at war:
soldiers, trenched, all shiver
at the cold and things in store.
The guns have now gone silent
and silence has grown to dread,
while the air is heavy with the scent
of smoke and of the dead.

Some are drinking their coffee
to fight off weary sleep,
but one there is who, off alone,
cannot the silence keep.
"Stille Nacht," he softly sings;
the air carries it away.
From the other side a "Silent Night"
comes softly, but plain as day.

One moment of two as brothers,
compatriots, and friends,
until commanders hush them down
and silence falls again.
But though the bodies be at war,
by the manger of Christ's birth
Christian hearts together dream
the song of peace on earth.

Seven Random Things

Janet tagged me for the seven random things meme, so here goes.

The rules:

Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.

Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.

Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

(1) Books currently on my desk: Theodore Abu Qurrah, John C. Lamoreaux, tr.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature
David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals
The New American Bible
Ephraim Radner, Spirit and Nature: The Saint-Médard Miracles in 18th-Century Jansenism
Nicolas Malebranche, The Search after Truth
Pierre de Bérulle, Oeuvres Complètes, vol. 6: Cortes traites
Bérulle and the French School: Selected Writings, Thompson, ed., Glendon, tr.
Orson Scott Card, Xenocide

(2) Most recent movie watched: Layer Cake

(3) Number of end of term projects that were not picked up by students after grading: 26 (and I had to lug them around half a day!)

(4) Usual drink at Starbuck's: tall Chai

(5) Earliest book I clearly remember reading: Caroline E. Rush, Tales of Mr. Pengachoosa

(6) I came home from work this afternoon to look this song up on YouTube.

(7) One of the philosophical works that was never finished but that I wish had been is William Whewell's story on the earth and the moon (you can find part of it in Todhunter, Chapter XX). It's early science fiction (probably early 1860s).

I tend not to tag, but anyone who wants to jump in should feel free to do so.

(And Joe takes up the challenge.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The One Overlooked Thing

A parable. Once there was a great and ancient monastery, a pillar of civilization and Christian life; but it had begun to go into a great decline. There were ever fewer monks and ever fewer supporters; the monks were becoming lax and indifferent; and the monastery seemed to contribute less and less to the religious life of the outside world every year. During this time a new abbott came to be in charge of the monastery, and he took himself to thinking about how he could remedy the situation. But nothing he tried seemed to work.

One day the abbott heard of a hermit in the nearby mountains who had come to have a great reputation for wisdom and holiness and true prophecy, and, not knowing what else to do, he journeyed to see this man and ask his advice.

"It is easy enough," the hermit said. "Indeed, it is so easy that I wonder that you did not see it before. You have done many great things in your monastery, and many noble things trying to reform it. But you have overlooked one thing. The reason your monastery has begun to fail is that Christ is not honored there."

"But we pray daily," said the abbott.

"Yes," said the hermit, "and many people pray, even Pharisees. But you misunderstood me. It is easy enough to honor Christ in the abstract. But Christ is among you, in person, in disguise, as though it were a masquerade. Or else his angels are, and that is much the same, for the honor given the messenger is honor given to the one who sent him. And yet no honor is given to Him; and there is your problem. I tell you truly, Christ is among you, unbeknownst to you, and in a disguise you cannot pierce, and you are inhospitable to him."

The abbott returned to his monastery, deep in thought, and when he arrived he called together all the monks and told them of the hermit's words. They were all taken aback, and did not know how to proceed; for the hermit always spoke truth, but how could they honor Christ if they did not know who he was?

There was only one way. They treated everyone with love and honor. When they gave someone a drink, they gave it as if it were to Christ or his angel. When they gave someone a meal, they gave it as if it were to Christ or his angel. When they prayed and sang the psalter together they prayed and sang as if Christ or his angel were the person next to them.

And the monastery flourished as it never had before.

Some More Notes and Links

* I will be hanging around Baltimore for the Eastern APA; so if anyone will be there and wants to meet up for coffee or lunch or something, let me know.

* I don't think I've ever mentioned it before, and I haven't seen it praised elsewhere, but I think that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has, hands down, the best religious website I've ever come across. I use it fairly regularly. It's clear, information rich, and beautifully designed. The liturgical calendar is exquisite, it has a nice icon gallery, and much more. There's something for everyone. I wish that other websites were more along these lines.

* An online book about Saint Charles of Mount Argus (ht)

* How self-refutation paradoxes are too quick at "Just Thomism"

* An educational hero

* Apparently scientific research funding has taken a huge hit in the budget this year. I sometimes get rather passionate about scientific issues, but this is one for which I have no sympathy. What does everyone expect will happen when scientific research becomes dependent on the politics of government spending? Deals with the devil always have a catch.

* I just recently came across this Frank Miller quote about the comic book superhero Daredevil: "I figured Daredevil must be Catholic because only a Catholic could be both an attorney and a vigilante."

* Johnny and the Sprites teaches about the common good. (ht)


* Mark Colyvan, The Philosophical Significance of Cox's Theorem (PDF); Is Probability the Only Coherent Approach to Uncertainty? (PDF)

* Currently reading: da Costa, Bueno, and Volkov, Outline of a Paraconsistent Category Theory (PDF)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What You Can Get Me for Christmas

From Loome Books:

Book #AR272

MALEBRANCHE, NICOLAS (1638-1715). De la recherche de la veritè ou l'on traitte de la nature de l'esprit de l'homme, & de l'usage qu'il en doit faire pour éviter l'erreur dans les Sciences. Paris: Chez André Pralard, 1674. First Edition. The first and most important work of Malebranche, "De la recherche de la veritè" established him as the premier Cartesian philosopher of his day. 12mo, xl + 420pp. Newly rebacked in blind-tooled calf preserving original sprinkled calf boards, gilt lettering on spine, five raised bands. Small tear to lower center of title-page, two library stamps on title-page, library stamp on page 137, lacking diagram.

Price: $1,800.00

But 420 pp. seems short; I don't have any critical apparatus with me, but as I recall the Search was published in two parts; if it's a one-volume first edition from 1674, it isn't the full Search after Truth but just books 1 to 3. Then you'd also have to hunt down and buy me the 1675 edition, of books 4-6, to match, and that just doesn't seem fair to ask. ;)

Pop Quiz

This is a selection of questions from the (take-home) quiz for the feminist philosophy section of my recent intro course. How would you have done?

Multiple Choice

1. The visual presentation of objects, especially but not exclusively women, in such a way that the viewer is forced into a distinctively 'male' point of view is known in feminist aesthetics as:

a) sexism
b) the male gaze
c) gendered viewing
d) visual harassment.

3. In the ethics of care, which of the following would be the most accurate description of 'engrossment'?

a) a method for understanding, involving lovingly attentive and open reflection on others
b) obsession or infatuation, particularly to a dangerous degree
c) motivational displacement
d) caring that is reciprocated by the person cared for

4. Which of the following is most likely to be accepted by someone who believes that all knowledge is situated knowledge?

a) Nothing is really known because 'knowledge' is a relative term.
b) While some things are known, everything that is known is constructed by the mind rather than found in the world.
c) All knowledge has a place in a universal and objective system of knowledge.
d) All knowing is from a particular and partial perspective, and shaped by the character and context of the knower.

8. Which of the following is a key element of epistemology for standpoint theory?

a) the conditions for saying that a belief is justified
b) marginalized experience
c) direct, intuitive understanding
d) the impossibility of genuine knowledge

Short Answer

1. In a few sentences, summarize the Hegelian story of the Lord and the Bondslave (also called the master-slave dialectic) and how some standpoint epistemologists have adapted it.

Tom's Types in Literal Diagrams and Welton Diagrams

Tom has argued for eight types of categorical propositions rather than the traditional four. In this post I want to develop his idea a bit in order to show diagrammatically what his eight types of propositions are. Since in logic everything nice is worth doing twice, I'll use two (related) methods of diagramming here: Carroll's literal diagrams and Welton diagrams. I've talked about Carroll's diagrams before; but I only recently came across Welton diagrams, when reading J. Welton's 1896 Manual of Logic. The two are related, in that you can think of Welton diagrams as being literal diagrams for lines rather than squares. Our biliteral diagram consists of the following squares:


I will use an X to indicate that a box is definitely empty; and an O to indicate that it is definitely full.

Welton's diagrams are similar, but they are along a line:

| S P | S-P |-S P |-S-P |

(I have rearranged Welton's cells so that the similarities to the biliteral diagrams are more obvious.) Welton proposed an unbroken line to indicate presence, a blank to indicate absence, and a broken line when the matter is undecided. I'll use Os and Xs again instead, just because it is easier.

Tom's types are then diagrammed in the following ways:



| X |   |   |   |



|   | X |   |   |



|   |   | X |   |



|   |   |   | X |



| O |   |   |   |



|   | O |   |   |



|   |   | O |   |



|   |   |   | O |

From this the character of the eight types is visible.

Tom suggests that the following holds true:

-[-S+P] = (+S-P)
-[-S-P] = (+S+P)
-[+S-P] = (-S+P)
-[+S+P] = (-S-P)

It can easily be seen from the diagrams that he's right. To negate [ ] you switch out your X's for O's; to negate ( ) you switch out your O's for X's.

More can be said on this; and I'll probably say a bit more in a future post (I don't know when it will come out) on using Welton diagrams for propositional logic.

Schopenhauer on Women

I happened to come across Schopenhauer's Essay on Women recently. It is full of claims like these:

You need only look at the way in which she is formed, to see that woman is not meant to undergo great labour, whether of the mind or of the body. She pays the debt of life not by what she does, but by what she suffers; by the pains of childbearing and care for the child, and by submission to her husband, to whom she should be a patient and cheering companion.

The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and slower it is in arriving at maturity. A man reaches the maturity of his reasoning powers and mental faculties hardly before the age of twenty-eight; a woman, at eighteen. And then, too, in the case of woman, it is only reason of a sort -- very niggard in its dimensions. That is why women remain children their whole life long; never seeing anything but what is quite close to them, cleaving to the present moment, taking appearance for reality, and preferring trifles to matters of the first importance.

Hence it will be found that the fundamental fault of the female character is that it has no sense of justice. This is mainly due to the fact, already mentioned, that women are defective in the powers of reasoning and deliberation; but it is also traceable to the position which Nature has assigned to them as the weaker sex. They are dependent, not upon strength, but upon craft; and hence their instinctive capacity for cunning, and their ineradicable tendency to say what is not true.

The natural feeling between men is mere indifference, but between women it is actual enmity. The reason of this is that trade-jealousy -- odium figulinum -- which, in the case of men, does not go beyond the confines of their own particular pursuit; but, with women, embraces the whole sex; since they have only one kind of business. Even when they meet in the street, women look at one another like Guelphs and Ghibellines. And it is a patent fact that when two women make first acquaintance with each other, they behave with more constraint and dissimulation than two men would show in a like case; and hence it is that an exchange of compliments between two women is a much more ridiculous proceeding than between two men.

Try to think up in one sitting more stereotypes about women than you will find in this essay. You will fail. Although the subject is women, the essay's target isn't women but what Schopenhauer calls the "Teutonico-Christian stupidity", that is, the notion of a lady, i.e., a woman who is to be honored and respected in a system of courtesy and gallantry, which he regards as a fundamental flaw in our social scheme. Instead, he argues, women should be regarded as the second sex.

The whole provides a pretty good argument for the need for feminist critique.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Links and Notes

* Carnivalesque XXXIV is up at "Cardinal Wolsey's Today in History".

* Philosophers' Carnival LIX is up at "Buffalo Philosophy".

* A lovely online edition of Augustine's Confessions (in Latin), with detailed commentary (in English).

* David Corfield and Alexandre Borovik have established a blog for a research project on philosophical and mathematical aspects of infinity, called A Dialogue on Infinity.

* Currently reading: Minhyong Kim, Mathematical Vistas (PDF)

* Recommended for those interested in logic and natural language: Ronald Cordero, Subcontraries and the Meaning of "If...then".

* An interesting philosophy weblog in Portuguese: Mente, Cérebro e Ciência, by Miguel Amen. As you can tell from the title, it primarily discusses issues in philosophy of mind. My Portuguese is a bit weak, but there are some interesting-looking posts on Frankfurt dilemmas that I'll be working through. (I became aware of it because he quotes my sidebar in an early post and I noticed the link in my pageload logs.)

* I had someone reach my site the other day by searching for Brandon is the Son of God. That I'm not is something for which we all should be thankful.

* There needs to be some better word than 'elevated' for this:

Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the ancient Chaldean Church, celebrated the two-hour Mass three weeks after Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the top ranks of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

I've seen it used half a dozen times in this connection. Usually people who are made Cardinal are indeed elevated; they are Roman Catholics who have been elevated to the College of Cardinal. But Mar Emmanuel III Delly is not a Roman Catholic; he's Eastern Catholic. Moreover, he is an Eastern Catholic patriarch, which means it's inaccurate to describe his entry into the College of Cardinals as an 'elevation', just as it would be inaccurate to describe as a 'promotion' a situation in which the Prime Minister of Canada were knighted by the Queen of England. A patriarch of a sui generis Church is already top rank in the Catholic Church, and exceeds in rank any mere Cardinal; the only real 'elevation' would be to Pope. But, in any case, it's a bit misleading to call the College of Cardinals the 'top ranks' of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, even though it is often true. For one thing, it's possible for Cardinals not to be part of the hierarchy at all; lay Cardinals used to be quite common (although under current canon law, which requires papal dispensation for it, they are not). Further, no priest or deacon outranks a bishop in the hierarchy, but there are Cardinal priests and Cardinal deacons. Moreover, ever since the Pope has started giving the red hat to Eastern Catholic patriarchs as a sign of respect, Cardinals need not even be part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Rather the College should be seen as one of several papal instruments whereby the work of the papal see is carried out.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Sixteenth-Century Wassail

If Wikipedia is to be believed (although the article is inconsistent with itself on a number of points) this is one of the oldest Christmas wassail-songs:

Wassail, wassail, sing we
In worship of Christ’s nativity.

Now joy be to the Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
That one God is in Trinity,
Father of heaven, of mightes most.

And joy to the Virgin pure
That ever kept her undefiled
Grounded in grace, in heart full sure,
And bare a child as maiden mild.

Bethlehem and the star so shen,
That shone three kinges for to guide,
Bear witness of this maiden clean;
The kinges three offered that tide.

And shepherds heard, as written is,
The joyful song that there was sung:
Gloria in excelsis!
With angel’s voice it was out rung.

Now joy be to the blessedful child,
And joy be to his mother dear;
Joy we all of that maiden mild,
And joy have they that make good cheer.

Wassail, wassail, wassail, sing we
In worship of Christ’s nativity.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Let Him Reply, If He Dares'

John Farrell:

One expects this kind of depressing swill from murmurantes like Bethell and Gilder. (I couldn't resist that one, I've also just rediscovered one of St. Thomas's gems: "There is no contradiction in affirming that a thing was created and also that it was never non-existent" from De aeternitate mundi contra murmurantes. You gotta love St. Thomas: "Hey you. Yeah, you, murmurante, what the hell are you talking about?")

That reminds me of one of my favorite passages in Thomas's works, from the end of De unitate intellectus:

This then is what we have written to destroy the error mentioned, not by the documents of the Faith, but by the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves. If anyone glorying in the name of false knowledge wants to say anything in reply to what we have written, let him not speak in corners nor before boys who do not know enough of such difficulties to judge them; but let him reply to this in writing, if he dares. He will find that not only I, who am the least, but many others zealous for the truth, will resist his error and correct his ignorance.

That's a trumpet-blast.

Standard Conclusions from 'Vague' Sets of Premises

A thought about tentative arguments. Suppose we have a pair of premises like the following:


That is, "All S is M" and "All P is M". These can't directly render the conclusion +S+P, "Some S is P". In fact, the barriers are pretty serious here: trying to draw +S+P directly from the premises commits the fallacies of undistributed middle, illicit major, and illicit minor at one time. Nonetheless, there are cases where, given the information in the above premises, we would want to draw the conclusion +S+P as at least a tentative conclusion. (One would prefer to draw the conclusion +S+P, as being weaker, rather than the even more dubious -S+P, "All S is P".) What conditions govern these cases?

One would often say that -S+M, combined with -P+M, allows for no conclusion. But this is not strictly true; each premise contributes genuine information, and from this information conclusions can be drawn. For instance, given these premises there can be no SP that is not M. So the premises given restrict the possible conclusions that can be drawn. The following pairs of conclusions are therefore possible given the premises (if we are 'presupposing existence', as they say):

-S+P and +P+S
-S+P and -P+S
+S+P and +P+S
+S+P and -P+S
-S-P and -P-S

Other combinations are ruled out. So we can draw a (tentative) conclusion if we have a principle that allows us to prefer one of these pairs over all the others. The most plausible such principle is a principle of simplicity, namely, if we should prefer the conclusion that allows for the simplest characterization of the world. Of the above pairs there are two that are candidates for this: +S+P with +P+S and -S-P with -P-S. Knowing that we can reach either member of the pair from the other by immediate inference, we can completely characterize each by just one member, e.g., +S+P or -S-P. That reduces the choices to two; but it leaves us no way of choosing between "Some S is P" and "No S is P", which is unhelpful. But we can choose between them if we accept the possibility of subalternation as an immediate inference. This allows us to recognize that the original premises, -S+M and -P+M, also tell us that +S+M and +P+M. In that context we can read +S+P as saying:

It's a world where some S is P.

But -S-P has to be read as saying:

It's a world where no S is P, and some S is non-P and some P is non-S.

This is very clear if we diagram it using Carroll's literal diagrams. Thus +S+P is the simplest characterization of the world among the choices. Thus, if -S+M and -P+M, and we have a rule for tentatively accepting the simplest conclusion containing all the information of the premises but not ruled out by them, we can conclude +S+P. The only question left would be when it is legitimate to have such a rule.

The reason we can do this, I suppose, is much the same reason why Carroll is able in Symbolic Logic to dismiss, mockingly, the common claim that negative premises do not yield a conclusion, and also why Tom is right that we can have legitimate parasyllogisms (and here also). It's actually rather absurd to say that the premises allow no conclusion; for the premises to allow us to draw no conclusion they would have to be contentless, and carry no information about the domain. If they do carry information about the domain, they at least rule out some conclusions, and the fact that they rule out some conclusions means that we can draw conclusions about the domain from them. What we actually mean is that the conclusions that can be drawn directly lack certain desirable characteristics (they cannot be expressed in a form that is taken to be standard). Thus our premises above, for example, leave us with a conclusion about the domain that is not expressible in a single standard form, because they leave open the possibility of several different states of the domain that are each expressible in mutually exclusive standard forms. They are, in that limited sense, vague. This is the result of assuming that none of the possible states is to be preferred to the others; no 'standard' conclusion can be drawn. But if we reject this assumption and provide some rule for preferring one over the others, we can go even further and draw standard conclusions from such premises -- tentatively, of course, since we are restricted by how much confidence we can place in the reliability of our rule of preference.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Vote for Woughoughaught

"w00t" (with zeroes) was recently voted Merriam-Webster's word of the year. James G. Poulos, the Postmodern Conservative, replies:

Let me be blunt. Online gamers are not cool people. Making up the word 'w00t' is not cool. Making up the word 'w00t' is like being in eighth grade and writing the word 'WaReZ' on stuff. This should not be emulated in the real world, much less actively recruited into it. A more efficient way of representing the alphabet is texting '4' instead of 'four', or '2moro' instead of 'tomorrow'. That's cool. What's not cool is writing in public correspondence or a class paper -- because that's what you do with words -- the phrase h0LLaZ @ ya 8itChz. That's hella stupid. That's not 'simply a different' form of dictionary English -- at least not until Merriam-Webster gets its trite, self-abasing hands on it. What real word are you more efficiently representing with the letters 'w00t'? Woot? Woughte?

Dictionaries have come a long way since Johnson. It's a long way towards pointlessness, but a long way.

UPDATE: Fixed a link.

A Puzzling Sentence

A somewhat puzzling sentence in Diggins's recent review of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age:

Descartes could scarcely break free from the Calvinist conviction that the will, rather than exercising sovereign control over the body, remained in bondage to the sins of the flesh.

Puzzling, because Descartes didn't need to break from any Calvinist convictions; he was Catholic, and seems to have had no interest in Calvinism. And the sovereignty of will had a longstanding Augustinian pedigree. There are a few other slightly puzzling claims in the review, although for the most part I think they arise because I read Taylor somewhat differently than Diggins seems to read him. But that one stood out.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Triads and Julian of Norwich

I came across the following some time ago when going through some papers; it is a short essay written in the summer of '98 (the date on the paper is 15.7.98), my sophomore year of college, for a course on women and literature in the later Medieval and Renaissance periods. Needless to say, there are a number of things I would do differently now, and it's all very clumsily expressed, but in the main it is right, and I thought it would be interesting to put it up.

Use of Triadic Form in Julian's Revelations of Divine Love

With careful examination one can find many literary, as opposed to theological or philosophical, qualities in Julian's Revelation of Divine Love. One such literary characteristic is Julian's use of syntactic features, such as parallelism or repetition, to further the themes of her work. This is perhaps most easily seen in her continual use of the triad to emphasize the Trinitarian aspects of the message of the Revelation.

By far the most common triad in Julian's work is that of might, wisdom, and goodness. The first instance of this occurs in the first chapter, in her summary of what will follow in Revelation XIII. The sense of the usage is that, just as God has made everything with might, wisdom, and goodness, everything will be made right again by means of the same might, wisdom, and goodness (1:38-40). This is shown to be a good preparatory summary in the fact that this same triad is mentioned in Revelation XIII in a context that elaborates on this very thought (35:26-35). In these passages, however, Julian is not speaking of might, wisdom, and goodness as general characteristics of the Godhead, but of the three together, functioning as a unity, being the very Godhead. Each of the three characteristics, might, wisdom, and goodness, are [sic] proper to one of the three Persons of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. THus, when Julian says in Revelation XIV that it is neither in the might of God, nor in the wisdom of God, nor in the goodness of God to be wrathful (46:33-35), she is saying that the very substance of God, threefold yet one, is not in any way wrathful. That this is the case is given in a passage later during the same Revelation. In this passage she gives the identification very clearly: "And thus in oure makyng god almyghty is oure kyndly fader, and god all wisdom is oure kindly mother, with the loue and the goodnes of the holy gost, whych is all one god, one lord" (58:12-14). Here are found the elements of might, wisdom,a nd goodness, each identified with one Person of the Trinity. Thus, might is the characteristic of God the Father; wisdom is the characteristic of God the Son, who is also referred to in Julian's works, as here, as the Mother; and goodness is a characteristic of God the Holy Spirit. For Julian, therefore, human interaction with the Godhead is highly Trinitarian. When a human being experiences God, it is an experience of "souereyne myghte, souereyne wysdom and souereyn goodnesse" (68:12-14).

Another triad is found on multiple occasions in the Revelations, which is sufficiently similar to the previous to be considered a variation, to wit, might, wisdom, and love. In matter of fact, the two triads are identical in their referents and interchangeable; what this new triad, the second most common in the work, does is to give an idea of what Julian means the reader to understand the work of the Holy Spirit to be. This is shown by Julian's assignation of the characteristic or property of love, along with the characteristic of goodness, to the Holy Spirit in the quotation from Revelation XIV above. The relationship between love and goodness as seen by Julian is even more clearly brought out in a passage that occurs earlier in the same Revelation. In this passage, Julian, speaking of how God created humanity, speaks of "loue made of the kyndly substanncyall goodnesse of the holy gost" along with the might of the Father and the wisdom of the Son (53:36-39). Love and goodness are, as was said, interchangeable in the triad, since they have the same referent, but in Julian give a somewhat more active implication than does goodness. Thus, one finds that when Christ in Revelation III speaks of himself as the one who leads all things to the end he has ordained, he uses this triad (11:53-56). In the same place the soul is said to be "examynyd" in the vision "myghtly, wysely, and louyngly" (11:56-57). This is an elaboration of the theme summarized for this Revelation in the first chapter, where Julian uses this triad for the first time (1:10-13). Might, wisdom, and love are also brough together in Revelation XIV, in a passage in which Julian speaks of the way in which God keeps the souls of the believers (62:5-10). Perhaps the most important use of the triad occurs earlier in this same Revelation during the discussion of how God has no wrath. In one sense, what is used here is not a triad but a tetrad, since it has four members: might, wisdom, charity, and unity (46:31-32). It can be easily seen, however, that unity does not function at the same level as the other three, because it is that which joins the other three together. The conclusion is obvious: here Julian is emphasizing the Trinity, not merely as the Godhead of Three Persons, but also, simultaneously, as one God. At times the property of goodness also serves as this function; one example of which can be seen at the end of Revelation I.

There are several lesser variants of these two primary triads that fulfill the same function of further Julian's Trinitarian theme. Some of these triads are similar in that they refer to God the Father with the property kind. These are often less obviously Trinitarian than the triads given above, but the Trinitarian trace can still be found in them. In a pssage found in the long Reverlation XIV, Julian uses the triad kind, mercy, and grace, in a way that, upon investigation, can be seen to refer to the Trinity: "For in kynde we haue oure lyfe and oure beyng, and in mercy and grace we haue oure encre and oure fulfyllyng" (56:43-44). Kind, or nature, is reserved to God the Father, whos it he beginning point of the Trinitarian procession of Persons, and so is, in a sense, the very substance of the Godhead. In mercy one can immediately see the saving action of God the Son, who died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, while grace is a characteristic of God the Spirit, who is the gift given by God the Father and God the Son to the Church, as, for example, at Pentecost. A similar triad is found later on, when Julian is discussing the nature of Motherhood in the Godhead, which is, she says, nearest, readiest, and surest: "nerest for it is most of kynd, redyest for it is most of loue, and sekerest for it is most of trewth" (60:14-16). Kind, as has been seen, is a characteristic of the Father, and love, of course, of the Spirit. The relationship between wisdom and truth, should be obvious, particularly in how, if one applies to the Second Person of the Trinity, the other can also reasonably be said to apply.

Other variant triads refer less to the substance of the Persons of the Trinity and focus more on their operations. An example of this is found in Revelation I, where Julian says that God made human beings to himself, restored them by his Passion, and keeps them in his love (5:44-46). God the maker, God the restorer, and God the keeper are, in fact, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as any sharp eye might perceive. In the same Revelation Julian speaks of how no one can know the homeliness of the Father in this life unless they receive it by a special showing from Christ or by an inwardly given grace of the Holy Spirit (7:55-58). These are just a few instances that show how dominated by the Trinity Julian's theological thought is.

Perhaps one of the most interesting uses to which Julian puts the triad to further her Trinitarian emphasis is in speaking of the human being. In Revelation XIV Julian says that "oure soule is a made trynyte lyke to the unmade trynyte" (55:40-41), an integral part of Julian's anthropology that could have been discovered from a study of her use of the triadic function. In several places Julian uses triads in describing the human being in such a way as to leave no doubt about how important the Trinity is in her view for understanding humanity. In one place, speaking of human nature when apart from God, she says that it is "vnmyghty and vnwyse of hym selfe, and also his wyll is ovyr leyde in thys tyme he is in tempest and in sorow and woe" (47:17-19). In this can be seen the transformation of the human soul, made in the image of the Trinity, into the reverse of the triad of might, wisdom, and love or goodness. Similarly, she says that the Christian's willing assent to the presence of God involves loving Him with all one's heart, soul, and might (52:23-26), in which one can also see the human type of the Trinitarian antitype. Further on she says, "Oure feyth comyth of the kynde loue of oure soule, and of the clere lyghte or oure reson, and of the stedfaste mynde whych we haue of god in oure furst makyng" (55:14-16). Here is shown the exact manner in which Julian conceives the human being to be made in God's image, once again Trinitarian in form: humanity has "stedfaste mynde" like the Father, reason like the Son, and love like the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps more important than these, however, is her assertion in Revelation XVI of the three ways in which God is worshipped and human beings are "sped, kepte and savyd," namely, one's own reason, the teaching authority of the Church, and the experience of the interior working of the Spirit (80:1-8). Each of these three are given to use by God and are, as a result to be respected and used. The human reason, in a sense, proceeds from God the Father, who created it. The teaching authority of the Church proceeds form God the Son because He is both the Head of the Church and the subject matter taught by the Church's gosepl. These two, when added to the graces bestowed through the Holy Spirit, constitute what might by [sic] called Julian's theological epistemology. By means of these three gifts, which the Christian must continually use, one come [sic] to know oneself and God; because from these three sources come the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, in which the entire Christian life is grounded (7:58-65).

So rich is Julian's work with triads, it is soon seen to be far beyond the capability of a short essay to investigate the entire depth of meaning Julian is able to place in her words by means of this simple syntactic device. It is certain, however, that she uses the mechanism with ease and mastery, giving every triad a use that is more than merely rhetorical. Nor can one say that it is only the Trinitarian aspects of Julian's revelations that are shown by her use of the triad; as was seen above, some of her most obviously Trinitarian triads further anthropological, ethical, and epistemological themes as well. Given this, and the wealth of other well-used syntactic devices found in the Revelations of Divine Love, one can truly say that Julian of Norwich is a masterful writer.

Notes and Links

* John Heard on Spe Salvi:

This sense that Christianity is not just a demonstration - not only the sort of thing that might please a secular academic or a scientist - but also a performance, is a rebuke to pagan, secular and other urges that seek to replace hope with nihilism.

If what we do in faith is not just philosophy but also an encounter and relationship with reason and meaning Himself, if human beings are, by hope, clicked into some new way of living, Christians "know in general terms that…life will not end in emptiness."

* Biblia Clerus is a great website, run by the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, that allows you to look at what Church Fathers and Doctors have said on various passages of Scripture. It takes a bit to figure out how to navigate it, and it still needs some work (particularly with regard to the amount of content offered in different languages) but it's worth it.

* On the daughters of sloth, Michael Gilleland gives the Latin for Isidore's list. It seems reasonable to give the Latin for Gregory's list as well:

Assignat autem Gregorius, XXXI Moral., sex filias acediae, quae sunt malitia, rancor, pusillanimitas, desperatio, torpor circa praecepta, vagatio mentis circa illicita....

* St. Photius's Mystagogy, which I've argued before should be taken more seriously in the West. (ht)

* I am currently reading Lamoreaux's translations of the works of ninth-century Melkite theologian, Theodore Abu Qurrah (PDF). It's good stuff; you can expect a post or two on it in the coming weeks.

* Please keep GoodSearch in mind as an easy way to raise a bit of pocket money for your favorite charities.

* Bent Flyvbjerg, Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research (PDF)

* Mark Wilson, Duhem Before Breakfast (PDF). A problem with the article is that Duhem is not an anti-realist, in any general and meaningful sense of the term; he is, rather, a positivist about physical theory, and the two positions are not the same. But the paper does a good job of noting a type of argument in Duhem that is often overlooked, and the problems that can be posed for it.

* Michael Pakaluk notes a connection between the White Rose Society and Plato.

* Must One Believe in God Before Miracles? at "FQI"

* Atheist Sunday schools. I actually think it's a good idea for atheists to consider this sort of thing (the Unitarian Universalist approach to atheism, so to speak); but I confess I can't imagine a bunch of people singing "I'm Unique and Unrepeatable" to the tune of "Ten Little Indians" without finding it hilariously funny, in a way that, say, the lovely "Die Gedanken Sind Frei" or even the overrated "Imagine," which put solidarity front and center, are not. Perhaps next they can sing "I'm Special" or "I Am Special".

* Speaking of which, YouTube has a good selection of songs from one of the best cover bands out there, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

Juan de la Cruz

We must remember that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden in essence and in presence, in the inmost being of the soul. That soul, therefore, that will find Him, must go out from all things in will and affection, and enter into the profoundest self-recollection, and all things must be to it as if they existed not. Hence, St. Augustine says: "I found You not without, O Lord; I sought You without in vain, for You are within," God is therefore hidden within the soul, and the true contemplative will seek Him there in love, saying,

"Where have You hidden Yourself?"

O you soul, then, most beautiful of creatures, who so long to know the place where your Beloved is, that you may seek Him, and be united to Him, you know now that you are yourself that very tabernacle where He dwells, the secret chamber of His retreat where He is hidden. Rejoice, therefore, and exult, because all your good and all your hope is so near you as to be within you; or, to speak more accurately, that you can not be without it, "for lo, the kingdom of God is within you." So says the Bridegroom Himself, and His servant, St. Paul, adds: "You are the temple of the living God." What joy for the soul to learn that God never abandons it, even in mortal sin; how much less in a state of grace!

From the Spiritual Canticle of soul and the Bridegroom Christ (stanza 1).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On Trying Not to Scream Unduly Loud

Elliot at "Claw of the Conciliator" has a post on Robert Hugh Benson. I like Benson's preface to Lord of the World:

I am perfectly aware that this is a terribly sensational book, and open to innumerable criticisms on that account, as well as on many others. But I did not know how else to express the principles I desired (and which I passionately believe to be true) except by producing their lines to a sensational point. I have tried, however, not to scream unduly loud, and to retain, so far as possible, reverence and consideration for the opinions of other people. Whether I have succeeded in that attempt is quite another matter.

Robert Hugh Benson.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

La Morenita del Tepeyac

It's a big religious holiday today. A bit of trivia for you: what is the most visited pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere? If you guessed this church, you're right.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Daughters of Sloth

Horace Jeffery Hodges of "Gypsy Scholar" has recently had a series of posts on Western views of curiositas (discussing various aspects of Hans Blumenberg's discussion in The Legitimacy of the Modern Age). The most recent post is an especially interest on Aquinas's discussion of the link between acedia, the vice of sloth, and curiositas, the vice of curiosity. Aquinas's whole discussion of sloth is interesting, and so I thought I'd put up a post on the 'daughters of sloth'.

Acedia, the shunning of difficult good, is a 'capital sin', that is, it serves as the fountainhead of other sins, which are called its 'daughters'. Aquinas addresses two lists of daughters of sloth, one by Isidore and one by Gregory the Great.

Isidore's List

Isidore (De Summo Bono ii, 37) distinguishes between sorrow and sloth. In sorrow a man shuns difficult good because he finds it difficult or burdensome; in sloth he shuns it because he is overly inclined to rest and repose. From sorrow come the following:

spite, faint-heartedness, bitterness, despair

From sloth come the following:

idleness, drowsiness, uneasiness of the mind, restlessness of the body, instability, loquacity, curiosity

Aquinas will reject the view, found in Isidore and Cassian (De Instit. Caenob. x, 1), that these are distinct vices, and so will treat them as one list.

Gregory's List

Gregory, whose list is the one from which Aquinas will primarily draw, lists the daughters of sloth as follows (Moral. xxxi, 45):

malice, spite, faint-heartedness, despair, sluggishness in regard to the commandments, wandering of the mind after unlawful things

Aquinas defends Gregory's listing by distinguishing two steps by which someone fails with regard to some unpleasant good: first he comes to withdraw from, or shun, the good itself, and then he comes to pass it over in favor of something more pleasant. Likewise, when someone shuns the unpleasant, there are two steps: first he begins to avoid it, then he begins to struggle actively against it. "Despair" is then the avoidance of spiritual good considered as an end in itself; "faint-heartedness" is the avoidance of spiritual good that is the reasonable means to the end in matters of genuine difficulty; "sluggishness about the commandments" is the avoidance of spiritual good that is the reasonable means to the end in matters of common righteousness. These are all cases where we shun spiritual good by trying simply to avoid it. When our vice becomes aggravated, we move on to struggling against it. When our struggle against unpleasant spiritual good leads us to attack those people who lead others to that good, we have descended into "spite," and "malice" arises when we descend to detesting the good itself. This leaves the last step by which the vice of sloth generates other vices, namely, where we pass over the difficult or unpleasant good in favor of something easy and pleasant, such as when people devote themselves to fleshly pleasures because they find no joy in spiritual or intellectual things. This is "wandering after unlawful things."

The Combined List

How are the two lists related to each other? Thomas argues that the elements on Isidore's lists (both the list for sorrow and the list for sloth) reduce to elements on Gregory's list. This leads us to the full list of the daughters of sloth:

Sloth involves shunning the unpleasant good:

A. By avoiding it
  1. Considered as an end: despair
  2. Considered as a means in difficult matters: faint-heartedness
  3. Considered as a means in matters of common righteousness: sluggishness
    3a. By omitting it altogether: idleness
    3b. By pursuing it negligently: drowsiness

B. By struggling against it
  1. Indignation against those who lead us to it: spite
  2. Detestation of the good itself: malice

C. By passing on to more pleasant things
  1. In matters of intellect: uneasiness of mind
  2. In matters of imagination: curiosity
  3. In matters of speech: loquacity
  4. In matters of physical motion: restlessness of body
  5. In matters of purpose: instability

Strictly speaking, Thomas gives two different possible accounts of Isidore's "instability," not deciding between them (i.e., either in matters where the body moves from place to place or in matters of purpose). All of the five under C are various ways in which people exhibit a mental unsteadiness, a lack of dependability and self-control wherever difficulty may be involved, a pursuit of pleasant distractions rather than genuine good.

One of the interesting things about this list of the daughters of sloth is how easily it could be turned into a ringing indictment and critique of our contemporary society. A modern-day Dante, looking for examples by which he might people the slothful ring of hell, would find plenty from which to choose. It is one thing, for instance, to criticize this or that move by Theresa of Calcutta; it is another, as is sometimes done, for people to try to spin every action by which she tried to exhort people to good as somehow evil. That is spite; and, what is more, it is spite that tends to malice. If an archangel were to look out on all our society, would he issue the following judgment?

This is a slothful nation, desperate and faint-hearted, idle and drowsy in pursuit of goods that are difficult, spiteful and malicious towards goods that are unpleasant, drowning itself in trivialities, in words, in frivolous and useless pursuits.

I think he might well do so. We do very little to discipline our reason so that it does not consent to "the dislike, horror and detestation of the Divine good, on account of the flesh utterly prevailing over the spirit"; without such discipline it becomes difficult to overcome the temptation when it arises. The only remedy is to chase it out by its opposite: which is charity, in its aspect of joy in the good, regardless of its difficulty or pleasantness. We need more celebration of the good for which you have to labor and sometimes toil; more celebration of it as good, as worthy even of the labor and toil required, as in some sense transfiguring that labor and toil into a worthwhile task of its own.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Balder the Beautiful

"There is always a thing forgotten
When all the world goes well;
A thing forgotten, as long ago,
When the gods forgot the mistletoe,
And soundless as an arrow of snow
The arrow of anguish fell.

"The thing on the blind side of the heart,
On the wrong side of the door,
The green plant groweth, menacing
Almighty lovers in the spring;
There is always a forgotten thing,
And love is not secure."

G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse, Book III.

So on the floor lay Balder dead; and round
Lay thickly strewn swords axes darts and spears
Which all the Gods in sport had idly thrown
At Balder, whom no weapon pierc’d or clove:
But in his breast stood fixt the fatal bough
Of mistletoe, which Lok the Accuser gave
To Hoder, and unwitting Hoder threw:
’Gainst that alone had Balder’s life no charm.

Matthew Arnold, Balder Dead

I heard a voice, that cried,
"Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!"
And through the misty air
Passed like the mournful cry
Of sunward sailing cranes.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tegner's Drapa

Various Links

* The Prince Caspian trailer

* You can also see The Golden Compass trailer (you'll have to click the link yourself), if you haven't yet. It's apparently not doing well in the North American box office, although it is doing somewhat more respectably elsewhere. Unless its fortunes improve, it may struggle to reach profit, which will be a major factor in determining whether the sequels are put on screen.

* Pullman's interview with Peter Chattaway.

* A good post on the myth that Kierkegaard advocates a 'leap of faith', at "Bosphorus Reflections".

* "Self and World" has a post on a myth about Hegel, namely that his dialectic is in terms of thesis-antithesis-synthesis.

* Currently reading: A Review of Extended Probabilities (PDF; ht)

Toby Ord, The Scourge (PDF) (This argument seems to me to involve the same dubious moves as Bostrom's dragon story; and, moreover, it makes the mistake of taking 'moral status' to be a serious moral category rather than a colloquial phrase that can summarize a number of completely different issues. It is noteworthy, in any case, that people who are worried about the 'full moral status' of embryos tend to be pro-choice; pro-lifers tend to worry instead about whether the embryo is human enough to have rights.)

Anna Christina Ribeiro, Point-of-View Shots, Symbolic Perspectives and Imagining from the Inside (Word)

* Facts, Ideas, & Logic is an interesting website for reading about philosophy in the news and online.

* Daniel has an interesting post on Kant and transcendental realism at "SOH-Dan".

* John Wilkins has placed Gosse's Omphalos online at the Internet Archive.

* Incidentally, I find that St. George Mivart is well-represented at the Archive.

* I was amused by this news story and even more by the campaign on which it reports. Yes, that's a real issue with global warming: all those Jews lighting the menorah. I very much like Rabbi Lau's response to it, about tikkun olam. In any case, I think a more sensible campaign would have been to advocate more use of olive-oil based menorahs (olive oil is a potentially carbon neutral fuel) plus some program for developing and increasing olive orchards (a potentially carbon negative practice) plus serious observance of some of the restrictions of the Hanukkah Sabbath (potential emissions reduction) plus information about Jewish approaches to linking Hanukkah with environmental activism (consciousness raising). It would still be a little silly, as a matter of overall priorities, but it would be a much more competent statement of concern and action on the matter of global warming.

Birth of the Baptist

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, "No; he is to be called John." They said to her, "None of your relatives has this name." Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, "What then will this child become?"

Friday, December 07, 2007


Now this is the declaration of our Faith, that we say that God is One, neither dividing His Son from Him, as do the heathen, nor denying, with the Jews, that He was begotten of the Father before all worlds, and afterwards born of the Virgin; nor yet, like Sabellius, confounding the Father with the Word, and so maintaining that Father and Son are one and the same Person; nor again, as doth Photinus, holding that the Son first came into existence in the Virgin’s womb: nor believing, with Arius, in a number of diverse Powers, and so, like the benighted heathen, making out more than one God. For it is written: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God."

Ambrose, Exposition of the Faith 1.1.1

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


We, therefore, both know and confess that God is without beginning, without end, eternal and everlasting, uncreate, unchangeable, invariable, simple, uncompound, incorporeal, invisible, impalpable, uncircumscribed, infinite, incognisable, indefinable, incomprehensible, good, just, maker of all things created, almighty, all-ruling, all-surveying, of all overseer, sovereign, judge; and that God is One, that is to say, one essences; and that He is known, and has His being in three subsistences, in Father, I say, and Son and Holy Spirit; and that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in all respects, except in that of not being begotten, that of being begotten, and that of procession; and that the Only-begotten Son and Word of God and God, in His bowels of mercy, for our salvation, by the good pleasure of God and the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, being conceived without seed, was born uncorruptedly of the Holy Virgin and Mother of God, Mary, by the Holy Spirit, and became of her perfect Man; and that the Same is at once perfect God and perfect Man, of two natures, Godhead and Manhood, and in two natures possessing intelligence, will and energy, and freedom, and, in a word, perfect according to the measure and proportion proper to each, at once to the divinity, I say, and to the humanity, yet to one composite persons; and that He suffered hunger and thirst and weariness, and was crucified, and for three days submitted to the experience of death and burial, and ascended to heaven, from which also He came to us, and shall come again. And the Holy Scripture is witness to this and the whole choir of the Saints.

John Damascene, De Fide I.2

Monday, December 03, 2007

Philosophers' Carnival LXVIII

Richard Brown hosts the 58th Philosophers' Carnival at "Philosophy Sucks!"

I have been and will be fiddling a bit with the blogroll; it hasn't been changed in months and months and months and so it needs a bit of an overhaul.

Crummell on Elevation of Mind

And so I say to you, if you wish to become men of might and effectiveness,--"Lift up your minds." However humble any of us may be, however ordinary and common-place in mind, our nature is prefigured after the universal; all the cardinal facts of the universe are the common heritage of humanity; all the prime ideas which pertain to the Godhead and to humanity, all the ground ideas and principles which abide in the realms of mind and spirit!

Alexander Crummell, "Right-Mindedness," in Civilization and Black Progress: Selected Writings of Alexander Crummell on the South. J. R. Oldfield, ed. University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville: 1995) p. 151.

The Humpty-Dumpty Game of Logic

I have previously noted that it is possible, with a few suppositions, to do propositional logic with Lewis Carroll's Game of Logic, which uses a board consisting of a literal diagram. Once propositional connectives are defined, each sentence in propositional logic can have a corresponding configuration of the board. The Game of Logic understood in this way is truth-functional; all the truth-functional relations and equivalences between propositions are expressible in the relations between configurations of the board, because every configuration of the board is logically isomorphic to a truth table. Thus this is the biliteral configuration of (P & Q):


This is the biliteral configuration of (P v Q):


And so forth; we can see immediately, for instance, that (P v Q) is weaker than (P & Q), and how.

But this is the Game of Logic, and not only can we have configurations of the board, we can move from configuration to configuration. There are three types of operations that allow us to move from configuration to configuration: information-adding, information-preserving, and information-subtracting. We can, for instance, use an information-subtracting operation to move from:


to the (P v Q) configuration noted above. When you look closely at these operations, you begin to realize that they are rather familiar; and this is because they are applications of inference rules. When we realize this we find some obvious patterns. Assumption of premises are information-adding operations; elimination rules are all information-subtracting. The standard introduction rules are all information-preserving, with the exception of addition, which we usually take to be disjunction introduction. If we used Tom's suggested candidate for disjunction introduction, this anomaly would be eliminated, and the elegance of the Game would be greatly increased.

What has happened, though, is that the rules of inference, on the one hand, and the truth-functional relations between sentences in the system, on the other hand, have come apart; while the Game is truth-functional, the rules and the sentences are represented by different aspects of it. The truth-functional relations between sentences are found in the relations between possible configurations of the board; the rules of inference are found in the movements from configuration to configuration. On seeing this, we can start playing with the rules of inference. The possible configurations of the board remain what they are; the truth-functional definitions do not change. But movement from configuration to configuration can be modified. The roads remain the same; only the traffic is diverted.

The same can be said of the propositional logic that the Game is here modeling; implication, for instance, is not inference, or vice versa, as the Tortoise taught us, so the fact that a sentence is in a certain truth-functional relation to other sentences doesn't make it a rule of inference. As a matter of fact, for most purposes we take derivable sentences in propositional logic to correspond to rules of inference. The reasons for doing this are rather obvious: it allows us to have derived rules of inference, which can immensely simplify things. But our doing this is not intrinsic to the truth-functional relations among sentences, but the result of a rule-forming rule that allows us to convert sentences into rules of inference. This is so useful that we sometimes don't make much of a distinction. Thus, for instance, we sometimes use 'derivation' to indicate a truth-functional relation among sentences, in which case sentences no one has ever or will ever derive are 'derived', and we sometimes use it to indicate actual derivation. In other words, we sometimes mean a truth-functional relation between configurations, and we sometimes mean actual operations on one configuration to make it other configurations.

Thus the truth-functional relations among configurations do not establish our rules of inference; they merely indicate that there is no truth-functional impediment to them, when we are interested in truth functions (which we virtually always are). That A implies (A v B) may be in the relevant truth-functional relation to other sentences in the system, but that does not follow that we have to reason, "A, therefore A or B." We can simply deny its usefulness as a rule of inference, derived or otherwise, if we have reason to do so; we can accept it but only under restrictions (e.g., that it not be immediately followed by certain sorts of eliminations); we can accept it wholeheartedly. There is no reason, further, why we can't (as Russell has for the Principia, if I recall correctly) have a rule of inference that has no exactly corresponding sentence in the system (although perhaps a particular instance of it, e.g., modus ponens, might); likewise, there is no reason why we have to accept as a rule of inference each one that corresponds to an implication in the sentence-system. There is strictly speaking no truth-functional reason why we have to have only inference rules that pay attention to truth functions at all. Trying to represent tonk in the Game makes for strange and rather pointless play, but play you can (since tonk is simply defined by rules of inference, it's not necessary to change the way the board can be configured in order to introduce it, but only how you move from configuration to configuration).* We can do these things systematically and consistently; we aren't confined merely to allowing or disallowing rules of inference for particular proofs unless we want to be so confined. And through all of this the truth-functional definitions of the connectives remain exactly what they were, the whole truth-functional system remains exactly what it was. All that changes is the rules of inference, and these can be whatever we have reason to make them. It's a Humpty-Dumpty world.

Of course, from this it doesn't follow that we have good reasons for making them this way rather than that. There are very good reasons, reasons that fit very many circumstances, for making the assumptions we normally make.

* In a sense Prior's tonk argument at least suggests the other side of the point I'm making here. We might say that regard for truth-functional relations without regard for rules of inference is useless; while regard for rules of inference without regard for truth-functional relations is pointless. This does not require a conflation; relations among sentences are not inferences, and inferences are not relations among sentences. Of course, we may deliberately allow movement in one or both directions. But you need both the possible configurations of the board and ways to move among them; and they are not the same. (In actuality, Prior's tonk argument goes farther than this and holds that even these together are not perfectly adequate for telling us what we are doing in logic, and I would agree with Prior; but that is not relevant here.)

Visit to Elizabeth

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."