Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Notes and Links

* Currently reading: Phillip Wolff, Representing Causation (PDF). Ht: Mixing Memory.

* Wonderful: Matteo Ricci's map of the world. Hat-tip to Ralph Luker.

* James Schall on Benedict XVI on natural law at "Insight Scoop"

* This is from 2004, but, alas, I fear it's an argument that has to be taken seriously for many elections to come. Alasdair MacIntyre encourages people not to vote:

When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives. These are propositions which in the abstract may seem to invite easy agreement. But, when they find application to the coming presidential election, they are likely to be rejected out of hand.


* Bernard Williams argues for philosophy as a humanistic discipline. I tend to agree with him that the 'scientism' is a serious problem in academic philosophy: instead of trying to be good scholars people try to be ersatz scientists. We don't need ersatz scientists; we have perfectly good real scientists. What we need are people who aren't going to shirk the richness of philosophy in an attempt to pass themselves off as something that they're not. There's no question that there is much to be learned from the sciences -- they are, after all, experimental philosophy, and the only reason we don't still call them such is verbal convenience. But philosophy can't ignore things like history.

* I have recently been reading Newman's Callista. I'm enjoying it, but for a book that includes persecutions and locust plagues and lynchings and wicked witches it manages to have a remarkably uneventful plot. A lot happens, but it all seems incidental to the storyline. Wiseman's Fabiola, to pick a novel of a very similar sort, is much better in terms of both plot and characterization; Kingsley's Hypatia is better in terms of plot and dialogue; even Abbott's Onesimus, which is largely just an excuse to engage in lengthy philosophical meditations on Epicureanism and Stoicism, has a more lively plot than this work does. Part of the problem is that we spend most of the book wondering why it's called Callista when she seems such a completely insignificant part of it. But there's no shame in that; stories admit of all different forms. Newman's primary strength is description: some of his extended descriptions are quite masterful, and he often turns a lovely phrase.

* The SEP has its Friedrich Schlegel entry up.

* Mike Liccione discusses the essence/energies distinction, building on some things I said in a previous post. His mention of the doctrine of simplicity as defined by Lateran IV and Vatican I led me to go back to see exactly how they had defined it; not surprisingly, Lateran IV links it to the unity of the Trinity, and Vatican I links it to the distinction between Creator and the world He has created, which are probably the two most important areas of Christian doctrine in which simplicity plays a significant role. Rather interesting.

* This website has a number of translations of the works of Xavier Zubiri, the Spanish existentialist.

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