Friday, June 29, 2007

A Poem Draft


Soft spiration, emblematic gift,
through which one anoints another
and both are bound together
in peace, in truth:

all are called by glory
to set themselves in order,
to set the world in order,
to utter the word of truth
and through it breathe philosophy.

Notes for Noting and Links for Linking

* Everyone knows Natalie Portman as an actress. But did you also know that she's done collaborative work in cognitive neuroscience? (ht) This means she has an Erdos-Bacon number. There are, I believe, less than 20 in the world who have been identified; she's in the company of people like Stephen Hawking, Richard Feynman, Bertrand Russell, and Carl Sagan.

* Perhaps the only full-time actress besides Portman to have such a number is Danica McKellar, best known for her role on The Wonder Years. McKellar co-authored a paper (PDF) in mathematical physics and has written a book, due out in August, called Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail, directed a middle-school girls. It looks decent, so you might consider getting it for any middle-school girls you know. On her official web site, she also regularly answers questions about mathematics. They range from practical questions to quirky trivia to advice on how to handle math in general.

* There seems to have been an outbreak of Francis Schaeffer misinterpretation recently.

* PZ Myers has a few choice excerpts from Ken Miller's review of Behe's recent book.

* At "Holy Heroes" Gabriel McKee looks at the "utopian problem" in superhero ethics. I think the problem boils down to this: superpowers are technology, or equivalent to it. You can do with superpowers what you can do with exceptionally advanced technology, and these superpowers can deal with the problem to the extent that it is a technological problem. But this doesn't resolve the matter. Yes, a superhero might be able to overcome the technological problem in (say) growing enough food to feed all the world's hungry, and seeing to it that it is distributed to them. But in so doing he runs the danger of glutting the market and putting out of work all those who do their own hard labor in growing food and distributing it, and other things like that. (The result, of course, is snowball effect: you get the problem of having to swallow the dog to catch the cat you swallowed to catch the mouse you swallowed to catch the spider you swallowed to catch the fly; and at some point, we'd just have to say, "I guess you'd die." A technical fix isn't always a genuine remedy; sometimes it just trades your old problems for new problems.) What would be needed is the ability to find the perfect balance. But this requires superwisdom, not superpower. And that's a harder thing even to imagine.

* Daniel Mitsui has a post on iconoclasm and perversion. It includes, among other things, a link to this essay by Frederica Matthewes-Green, on the horrible Pitesti Experiment, a Communist attempt to break religious men in order to make them good Communists. It also discusses the case of Eric Gill, sculptor, engraver, printer, typographer, Catholic intellectual, and also psychopathic practitioner of adultery, rape, incest, bestiality, and the like. Part of the issue with Gill, I think, is that iconography is not like art in the secular world; its purpose is to be not merely art but pictorial prayer and preaching of the Word made flesh. You cannot take this seriously and put a sharp divide between the artist and his artistic work. You cannot be a genuine iconographer in your art and an iconoclast blaspheming the image of God in your life. It is true that human failure to measure up to Christ, the Icon of the Father, is universal, that we all to some extent fall to that iconoclasm called sin; but the inconsistency can only be tolerated so far, and only where it is healed and overcome by a penitent heart. Beyond that it ceases to be iconic and becomes perverted. It might pass for secular art, only surface-deep and for pleasing the eye according to one's tastes; but it is not an icon, which is supposed to be something much, much more.

* Brevard Childs died on June 23 at age 83. His The New Testament as Canon and Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context are in many ways lovely works; I read them with great benefit in my undergraduate days.

* Advice, from philosophy Ph.D.'s, for philosophy students considering graduate study in philosophy (ht). It is generally quite good. I would add four things, all of which fit into categories already there.

(1) It is one thing to warn students that getting a job after a graduate study can be difficult; people do that quite a bit. I think, however, that people rarely remember to warn entering students of how expensive the job search can be. And it certainly can be, particularly in philosophy.
(2) Also, every experience in the job search is different, so you can rarely trust anyone's advice about it. What you can do is listen to it, act according to your best judgment, and learn from your mistakes.
(3) When choosing a graduate program, remember that you aren't just choosing the program, but your living conditions for the next several years. If you're dedicated, you can power through under almost any conditions; but things like vacancy rate and rent and public transportation and crime rate in the place you'll be living can make an immense difference to your study. No matter how good it will look on your CV, or how easy it is to get into, or how nice the financial aid package, we all prefer not to study in hell. So think through not only the program but the place; it's not the most important thing by any means, but it shouldn't be ignored, either.
(4) It's true in most fields, but especially true in philosophy, that you don't have to be an academic to do good philosophical work, to interact with people in academia doing philosophical work, or to reap some of the benefits of academic institutions. Academic philosophy is not philosophy as such; it is an infrastructure for it, and it can serve that function whether you are in it or not. That's what it's there for, to provide an infrastructure for philosophy in the world. Academics themselves sometimes forget that, and talk and act as if the purpose of academic philosophy were to propagate their own form of academic life rather than to support philosophy as a fundamental aspect of human civilization. But (and to everyone's credit, it is very widely recognized in principle among academic philosophers) academic life does not subserve academic life, but everyone's enrichment. And you can be part of that even if you can't get an academic position.


* Chris has begun the first of a series on the basics of statistics, with a particular view to its use in cognitive psychology: normal distribution.

* An interesting discussion of dualism at "Philosophy, et cetera".

* A Turkish court has ruled that the Patriarch of Constantinople has no legal standing as Ecumenical Patriarch. The reasoning is a little puzzling; besides being the Patriarch for the local Orthodox community in Istanbul, the Patriarch Bartholomew is surely the Patriarch for the Greek Orthodox Church abroad. What it really is, of course, is yet one more way in which Turkey can impose arbitrary legal restrictions on the Orthodox in Turkey on the grounds that, as they have been "allowed to remain on Turkish soil" (the court's own words), they are subject to whatever stupid laws Turkey wishes to place them under. It's Turkey's newest bit of the legal chain it has been using to choke out the Orthodox in the country.

* What Aquinas means by saying truth is adaequatio intellectus et rei, at "Just Thomism".

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Irenaeus on the Proper Order of Knowledge

Preserve therefore the proper order of thy knowledge, and do not, as being ignorant of things really good, seek to rise above God Himself, for He cannot be surpassed; nor do thou seek after any one above the Creator, for thou wilt not discover such. For thy Former cannot be contained within limits; nor, although thou shouldst measure all this [universe], and pass through all His creation, and consider it in all its depth, and height, and length, wouldst thou be able to conceive of any other above the Father Himself. For thou wilt not be able to think Him fully out, but, indulging in trains of reflection opposed to thy nature, thou wilt prove thyself foolish; and if thou persevere in such a course, thou wilt fall into utter madness, whilst thou deemest thyself loftier and greater than thy Creator, and imaginest that thou canst penetrate beyond His dominions.

Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, Book II, chapter xv.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eight Meme

I've been tagged by The Little Professor.

The Rules:

  • I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
  • Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  • At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  • Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

The Eight:

1. For most of my early school years what I wanted to be when I grew up was a chemist.
2. My favorite public broadcasting show is Keeping Up Appearances.
3. When I took the exams for AP English my senior of high school, one of the themes for the essay part of the test was "epiphany." So I wrote about epiphany in Jane Eyre.
4. I did not have a driver's license until very late. Last year, in fact. (Never needed one before then.)
5. I have difficulty finishing papers and other writing works because I am never satisfied with them; I always think they could, and should, be better. So I always have to force myself to stop revising them.
6. Between first and twelfth grade I lived in the following states: Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and New Mexico again.
7. My last year of undergraduate I lived in the party wing of the party dorm. Since I had the single room on the floor and I spent most of my time at the library or visiting friends at the much nicer all-girls' dorm across campus, most of the kids in the wing who weren't seniors only knew me as That Guy.
8. The first book I ever clearly remember reading was Tales of Mr. Pengachoosa, by Caroline Rush. A convalescent girl discovers that her pet hamster can talk; he tells her stories of his uncle, Mr. Pengachoosa. I have very vivid recollections of the last story, about Mr. Pengachoosa giving the four seasons a ride on his bicycle. The book deserves to be much more widely known.

I'll play the outlaw and ignore rules four and five. But, by all means, if you're reading this and want to join in, count yourself tagged.

Holy Cyril on the Holy Spirit

As he is by nature the proper Spirit of the Son, existing in him and coming forth through him, so he is proper to the Father; and if the Spirit is common to them, surely the other aspects of their substance will not be divided. And let not the habitually impious use the arguments of ignorance to lead us toward what it would be wrong for us even to think: that the Son is playing some subordinate role when he supplies creation with the Spirit who comes from the Father -- for some, in their ignorance, have not been afraid to say even this! The consistent thing, rather, is to believe that it is because [the Spirit] is proper to him, as of course he also is to God the Father, that [the Son] sends him on his holy disciples for their sanctification.

Cyril of Alexandria, In Jo. 15:26-27 (Pusey vol. 2 p. 607); qtd in Brian E. Daley, SJ, "The Fullness of the Saving God: Cyril of Alexandria on the Holy Spirit," The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation, Weinandy and Keating, eds. T & T Clark (New York: 2003) p. 135. In the first sentence, 'existing' translates huparchon and 'coming forth' translates proion. What is interesting here, however, is the importance placed on the community of the Spirit for recognizing the unity of the Trinity. Cyril actually seems to do this quite a bit; it seems to be an important aspect of his teaching on the Trinity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Notes and Links

* The Philosopher's Carnival is up at "Tales of Modernity"; it's short, but the posts are all fairly interesting.

* A renovation plan for the Vatican Library has put academic scholarship all over the world in disarray; the library is shutting down for three years to address structural problems. Since it is one of the most important manuscript archives in the world, a great many academics are going crazy trying to get in their research before it closes down.

* The Chinese province of Henan will be destroying a major Christian pilgrimage site.

* Johnny-Dee summarizes Bertrand Russell on the subject of mathematical intuition.

* Truth commissions are formed in order to encourage reconciliation among divided nations. James L. Gibson considers whether truth really does lead to reconciliation (PDF) by looking at the case of South Africa. The answer, as one might expect, turns out to be immensely complicated. I find the discussion interested because it is closely connected with the question of the vindication of the innocent, from which, however, it differs in important respects.

* For Thomas More's feast day, the Thomas More Institute launched Thomas More Studies 1: Utopia online. (Thanks to MTM who left a note in the comment box to my recent More Links post pointing this out.)

* Xavier at "Summa Philosophiae" discusses the grounding objection to Molinism. It's a good discussion; my own difference from it lies merely in the fact that I don't think the grounding objection requires a metaphysics of truth-making -- it's most natural, of course, to put it in terms of 'what makes a proposition true'; but you don't need to do so. I've suggested before that the grounding objection is really just one way of stating a more general concern about middle knowledge, namely, that we need a reason to think that there really is a separate, coherent middle ground between natural knowledge and free knowledge. It's one version of the worry that middle knowledge is proposing an incoherent tertium quid; to deal with such a worry we need a reason to think middle knowledge's tertium quid is legitimate.

* Carmelite coffee (ht).

* Nathanael Robinson has a post worthy of close reading and reflection on historical memory, looking at the case of Poland and the Holocaust. The general issue is especially important, but I think the issue of Poland and the Holocaust itself is an important issue, in part because I think Polish historical memory of the Holocaust has had, for various reasons, a rather massive influence on how much of the West views it; or, at least, one notices that (memory of) the Polish experience keeps coming up as a reference point, whether one regards it as an influencing factor or a symptom of something else.

* Chris discusses how children reason about wishes coming true and, in particular, how this compares to their ordinary causal reasoning.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Via Volokh I came across this interesting passage from the decision in the notorious Genarlow Wilson case in Georgia.

In Valenzuela v. Newsome, 253 Ga.793, 796, 325 S.E.2d 370 (1985), the Georgia Supreme Court decided not to define "miscarriage of justice." Instead, the Supreme Court stated that a miscarriage of justice should be determined on a case-by-case basis, "and will depend largely upon the sound discretion of the trial judge." Id. "Hence, on rare occasion, the writ must pass over procedural bars and the requirements of cause and prejudice, when that shall be necessary to avoid a miscarriage of justice." Id. The fact that Genarlow Wilson has spent two years in prison for what is now classified as a misdemeanor, and without assistance from this Court, will spend eight more years in prison, is a grave miscarriage of justice. If any case fits into the definitive limits of a miscarriage of justice, surely this case does.

If this Court, or any Court, cannot recognize the injustice of what has occurred here, then our court system has lost sight of the goal our judicial system has always strived to accomplish...Justice being served in a fair and equal manner.

It sounds like a case of an exercise of the virtue of equity, or epieikeia (Aquinas always spells it epikeia):

As stated above (I-II, 96, 6), when we were treating of laws, since human actions, with which laws are concerned, are composed of contingent singulars and are innumerable in their diversity, it was not possible to lay down rules of law that would apply to every single case. Legislators in framing laws attend to what commonly happens: although if the law be applied to certain cases it will frustrate the equality of justice and be injurious to the common good, which the law has in view. Thus the law requires deposits to be restored, because in the majority of cases this is just. Yet it happens sometimes to be injurious--for instance, if a madman were to put his sword in deposit, and demand its delivery while in a state of madness, or if a man were to seek the return of his deposit in order to fight against his country. On these and like cases it is bad to follow the law, and it is good to set aside the letter of the law and to follow the dictates of justice and the common good. This is the object of "epikeia" which we call equity. Therefore it is evident that "epikeia" is a virtue.

As he goes on to note in response to an objection, by setting aside the letter of law and regulation for particular cases, the virtue of equity does not involve setting aside what is just, but setting aside a strict interpretation of the rules in order to preserve what is just. The virtue of equity or epieikeia governs the application of legal justice or, in other words, the observance of the law, by allowing a less strict regard to law in a given case. This, of course, depends heavily on the particular contingent circumstances of the case at hand.

Lucy Crane on Household Furnishing

One day, after I had been making some such remarks as these, an old lady said to me, " I have been furnishing my house for the last thirty years : you do not expect me to begin all over again." I assured her indeed that I did not. I think the fact of her having kept alive her interest in it for so long proved that there must have been a great deal in it, both beautiful and useful. I find it is generally thought that such ideas as these of mine are meant to bring about wholesale destruction of household goods, and immediate purchase of new ones of a different kind. Nothing would be farther from my wishes. The greatest sacrifice I would desire is the carrying-out of the axiom, " Keep nothing in your house but what you know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." This done, and then in every future purchase the principles exercised that I have suggested, I should feel that much will have been gained, much simplicity, much comfort, much beauty. And there is a way of arranging a house and its furniture, with regard to natural function and habit and convenience, so that it produces a certain charm and harmony of effect, and the comfort and hospitality of a home. Houses have their character, their physiognomy, as well as people ; it is by studying their peculiarities, suppressing this or that defect, and bringing out this or that good quality, that we can inhabit and enjoy them to the best advantage. In this way can they be brought into harmony with the divine order of nature, instead of being, as they often are, discordant with her simplicity and economy.

Lucy Crane, Art and the Formation of Taste, Chautauqua Press (Boston: 1887) pp. 58-59.

William Morris refers to a similar maxim in Hopes and Fears for Art (1882), in the version: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." Lucy was the sister of Walter Crane, the famous illustrator of children's books. They had collaborated on what is perhaps the most famous work of each, the Household Stories from the Collection of the Brothers Grimm. The Cranes, significant members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, were acquainted with William Morris; Lucy quotes some of the lectures on which the work is based at several points.

One of the things that makes this very interesting is that in Lucy we find a clear cross-fertilization of serious philosophical work on taste and the more popular artistic work of the Arts and Crafts Movement. My guess is that the particular strand of philosophical work on taste that influenced Lucy is Archibald Alison's Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste (1790); but it would bear further inquiry. In any case, a general theory of taste is used to undergird the Arts and Crafts Movement, making Crane's book an interesting primer on the theoretical side of the movement, as well as an interesting example of the practical influence of philosophical discussion of the notion of taste.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Jottings on How We Teach Induction

It is a crazy peculiarity of the way we talk about inductive reasoning these days that we virtually never talk about induction. For instance, this is the sort of thing given as an example of induction:

Duck #1 has webbed feet.
Duck #2 has webbed feet.
Duck #3 has webbed feet.
Duck #4 has webbed feet.
Therefore all ducks have webbed feet.

But this is not, in fact, an inductive argument; it is an analogical argument, in which we extrapolate from all ducks we've considered to all ducks we haven't by taking the latter on the analogy of the former.

The reason for this confusion of inductive and analogical arguments, I think, comes in part from thinking entirely in terms of simple enumeration, and in part from thinking incorrectly that any sort of argument from particulars to universals is inductive. Both of these come, I think, from missing the fact that the key moves in genuinely inductive arguments are the circumscription and division of possibilities. For instance, if you wanted to do an induction by simple enumeration on the above model, you'd need to circumscribe the possible ducks. For instance, I could circumscribe it to the sixteen ducks in the pond. Now, the key distinguishing feature of simple enumeration is that it is a division to individuals, so in induction by simple enumeration, I would simply go through all the ducks in the pond and verify that, in fact, they all have webbed feet. And I would conclude, rightly, that all the ducks in the pond have webbed feet.

It is easy to see why induction by simple enumeration is so much less interesting than analogical inference from particular cases. It is much more important, of course, since we could hardly get along without it, but it doesn't get you anything surprising. Of course, other forms of induction can be a bit more robust, and this will be because they circumscribe and divide things differently. Things get more interesting if our division is into kinds rather than into particular individual instances. For instance, Aquinas has an inductive argument that everything that is moved is moved by another: circumscribing the field of possibilities to cases where something is moved, he divides that field into what is supposed to be an exhaustive division of these possibilities according to kinds of motion, and argues that for each kind of motion there is operative a version of the principle that everything that is moved is moved by another. The conclusion then follows. It does not follow 'deductively'; this is not a deductive argument:

Type A of Domain D has property p
Type B of Domain D has property p
Type C of Domain D has property p
Therefore all of Domain D has property p.

It's common enough to say that any argument is deductive if the conclusion adds no information to the premises; this is even at the most optimistic assessment confused, since in every non-trivial deductive argument the conclusion adds information to the premises, if only in the form of the link between subject and predicate, which was not in the premises. This is why we do not consider conjunctions of premises to say exactly the same thing as conclusions that can be derived from them. They are different constructions. What is meant, I suppose, is that the result(s) of the construction on the left-hand side (the premises) includes the result of the construction on the right-hand side (the conclusion); which is simply a truism, and one that tells us nothing about deduction.

Another way to put the matter is to say that deductions deliver their conclusions with absolute certainty whereas inductions do not. This is not, in fact, equivalent to the former claim, although it often is treated as if it were. If taken rigorously, this criterion would get us absurd results, since what would count as deductive would depend entirely on the formal system you are using. For instance, in Heyting's system, which lacks any rule for elimination of double negation, the conclusion of an inference making use of double-negation elimination does not follow with any certainty in the system. In classical systems, however, it does, since they allow us to move from not-not-p to p. The same inference would be deductive in one case and not deductive in the other; and of two people making the same inference in the same circumstances, one could be deducing and the other not simply on the basis of what background rules they were assuming.

Another common criterion is that induction reasons from particulars to universals and deduction from universals to particulars. If stated with the proper qualifications, this is no doubt true, but in unqualified form it is manifestly false. For instance, I can infer from the particular, "The pope said yesterday that all true Catholics dance a merry jig" to "All true Catholics dance a merry jig"; this is not an inductive inference, but an argument from authority. It is, however, an argument from a particular claim to a universal claim. In any case, this criterion would put inductive inferences of the sort I describe above clearly on the inductive side, not the deductive side.

An interesting side question arises, as to whether mathematical induction is a genuine form of induction. The common consensus, based as far as I can see on no good reason, is that it is not (although people who hold that induction is from particulars to universals and deduction the reverse can't, as far as I can see, hold this consistently). But, of course, if the view that I give above is true, or, indeed, anything remotely like it is true, it looks very much like it is a form of inductive inference. In a typical instance of mathematical induction, you have a class of cases related by a successor relation; and you prove something of the minimal case, and then prove that all the cases related to it by that successor relation would have to have the same property. Looks inductive to me.

My point here is not that there is a fundamental issue about the terms, deduction and induction. In fact, it seems that there are several senses of 'deduction' in which you can make any inference you please deductive, simply by making the right premises explicit; everything becomes a proper deduction or an enthymeme, i.e., an abbreviated deduction. Likewise, there are several senses of 'induction' in which you can make any inference you please inductive, simply by suppressing the right premises; inductions turn out to be nothing but enthymemes. Similarly, it is clear that many people mean by 'induction' nothing more than an analogical argument. But this, I would suggest, is not a useful way to consider the matter. There are perfectly good reasons for calling 'mathematical inductions' inductive; the fact that they don't look like analogical arguments arbitrarily labeled as 'inductive' is not one of them. The real difference between induction and deduction, which is to say, the most useful way to distinguish the two labels, is found, I would suggest, in the obvious differences between their abbreviations, i.e., examples and enthymemes. Regardless, you don't have to hold this to see that the way we talk about 'deduction' and 'induction' to undergraduates is simply muddled. (I haven't even scratched the surface. For instance, there's another way of talking about induction, in terms of probability, that, if used consistently, would imply that any result in probability theory is obtained by induction. Again, this makes the label virtually useless for classifying reasoning. Many, many other cases could be educed.)

More Links

* Patricia Demers's Margaret Roper and Erasmus discusses Thomas More's eldest daughter in her role as a translator.

* The Center for Thomas More Studies has a lovely library of writings by and about Thomas More.

* Karl Kautsky's 1888 work Thomas More and His Utopia is a brilliant Marxist analysis of More's Utopia, arguing that it is a biting critique of exploitation. It is not, I think, wholly right in all its particulars, or, indeed, even in all its general points (since it seems clear that More does not merely reserve his irony for societies unlike that of the Utopus but also wields it against the Utopian society itself); but it is still a key starting-point for understanding the importance and value of More's Utopia as a critique of human folly.

* Gerald Wegemer discusses Integrity and Conscience in the Thought and Life of Thomas More.

* William Roper's The Life of Thomas More at Modern History Sourcebook.

* The Franciscan Archive has an interesting collection of links on More. More, of course, was a Third Order Franciscan.


* It is heartwarming to find that Sir Thomas More breaks the Google Hot Trends top 20 list for June 24 (coming in at #12).

* This looks like an interesting work: Sir Thomas More and the Art of Dialogue.


Online Dating



Although it appears that this is unusually racy for me, and due in recent times entirely to a single post. (It only looks at your main page, so will change over time. [i.e., the rating will change over time if you take the test again--ed.])

Hume and More

The 22nd was the memorial for Thomas More and John Fisher, so I thought I'd repost this old reflection on David Hume's treatment of him in the History of England.

I thought it would be interesting to look at Thomas More through the eyes of someone who admires him even despite a stern disapproval of his Catholicism, namely, David Hume. From his History of England:

After the prorogation, Sir Thomas More, the chancellor, foreseeing that all the measures of the king and parliament led to a breach with the church of Rome, and to an alteration of religion, with which his principles would not permit him to concur, desired leave to resign the great seal; and he descended from his high station with more joy and alacrity than he had mounted up to it. The austerity of this man’s virtue, and the sanctity of his manners, had no wise encroached on the gentleness of his temper, or even diminished that frolic and gaiety, to which he was naturally inclined. He sported with all the varieties of fortune into which he was thrown; and neither the pride, naturally attending a high station, nor the melancholy incident to poverty and retreat, could ever lay hold of his serene and equal spirit. While his family discovered symptoms of sorrow on laying down the grandeur and magnificence, to which they had been accustomed, he drew a subject of mirth from their distresses; and made them ashamed of losing even a moment’s chearfulness, on account of such trivial misfortunes. The king, who had entertained a high opinion of his virtue, received his resignation with some difficulty; and he delivered the great seal soon after to Sir Thomas Audley....

The oath regarding the succession was generally taken throughout the kingdom. Fisher, bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, were the only persons of note, that entertained scruples with regard to its legality. Fisher was obnoxious on account of some practices, into which his credulity, rather than any bad intentions, seems to have betrayed him. But More was the person of greatest reputation in the kingdom for virtue and integrity; and as it was believed, that his authority would have influence on the sentiments of others, great pains were taken to convince him of the lawfulness of the oath. He declared, that he had no scruple with regard to the succession, and thought that the parliament had full power to settle it: He offered to draw an oath himself, which would ensure his allegiance to the heir appointed; but he refused the oath prescribed by law; because the preamble of that oath asserted the legality of the king’s marriage with Anne, and thereby implied, that his former marriage with Catherine was unlawful and invalid. Cranmer, the primate, and Cromwel, now secretary of state, who highly loved and esteemed More, entreated him to lay aside his scruples; and their friendly importunity seemed to weigh more with him, than all the penalties attending his refusal. He persisted, however, in a mild, though firm manner, to maintain his resolution; and the king, irritated against him as well as Fisher, ordered both to be indicted upon the statute, and committed prisoners to the Tower....

John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, was a prelate, eminent for learning and morals, still more than for his ecclesiastical dignities, and for the high favour, which he had long enjoyed with the king. When he was thrown into prison, on account of his refusing the oath which regarded the succession, and his concealment of Elizabeth Barton’s treasonable speeches, he had not only been deprived of all his revenues, but stripped of his very cloaths, and, without consideration of his extreme age, he was allowed nothing but rags, which scarcely sufficed to cover his nakedness. In this condition, he lay in prison above a twelvemonth; when the pope, willing to recompense the sufferings of so faithful an adherent, created him a cardinal; though Fisher was so indifferent about that dignity, that, even if the purple were lying at his feet, he declared that he would not stoop to take it. This promotion of a man, merely for his opposition to royal authority, rouzed the indignation of the king; and he resolved to make the innocent person feel the effects of his resentment. Fisher was indicted for denying the king’s supremacy, was tried, condemned, and beheaded.

The execution of this prelate was intended as a warning to More, whose compliance, on account of his great authority both abroad and at home, and his high reputation for learning and virtue, was anxiously desired by the king. That prince also bore as great personal affection and regard to More, as his imperious mind, the sport of passions, was susceptible of towards a man, who in any particular opposed his violent inclinations. But More could never be prevailed on to acknowledge any opinion so contrary to his principles as that of the king’s supremacy; and though Henry exacted that compliance from the whole nation, there was, as yet, no law obliging any one to take an oath to that purpose. Rich, the solicitor general, was sent to confer with More, then a prisoner, who kept a cautious silence with regard to the supremacy: He was only inveigled to say, that any question with regard to the law, which established that prerogative, was a two-edged sword: If a person answer one way, it will confound his soul; if another, it will destroy his body. No more was wanted to sound an indictment of high treason against the prisoner. His silence was called malicious, and made a part of his crime; and these words, which had casually dropped from him, were interpreted as a denial of the supremacy. Trials were mere formalities during this reign: The jury gave sentence against More, who had long expected this fate, and who needed no preparation to fortify him against the terrors of death. Not only his constancy, but even his cheerfulness, nay, his usual facetiousness, never forsook him; and he made a sacrifice of his life to his integrity with the same indifference that he maintained in any ordinary occurrence. When he was mounting the scaffold, he said to one, "Friend, help me up, and when I come down again, let me shift for myself." The executioner asking him forgiveness, he granted the request, but told him, "You will never get credit by beheading me, my neck is so short." Then laying his head on the block, he bade the executioner stay till he put aside his beard: "For," said he, "it never committed treason." Nothing was wanting to the glory of this end, except a better cause, more free from weakness and superstition. But as the man followed his principles and sense of duty, however misguided, his constancy and integrity are not the less objects of our admiration. He was beheaded in the fifty-third year of his age.

That's a bit long, but I think it's interesting enough to warrant it. Jennifer Herdt, in her wonderful Religion and Faction in Hume's Moral Philosophy, notes that this appraisal of Thomas More is something of an anomaly for Hume's view on the psychology of religion. Generally speaking, Hume holds that (monotheistic, and particularly institutional monotheistic) religion induces an 'artificial life' -- an unnatural way of living -- that is characterized by gloom, hypocrisy, and irrationality. These make sympathetic understanding impossible; they interfere with an outsider's ability to put themselves in the religionist's shoes. The only understanding available is to identify causes external to the religious viewpoint (supposedly) leading the religionist to the behavior and assertions put forward in that viewpoint: secret motives, passions, political factions. The religious viewpoint in itself is incomprehensible. None of these apply to More, however. As Herdt notes:

The virtues of constancy and integrity are hardly those which Hume should in theory discover in a theist, even the most sincere. So Hume in this instance seems to give the lie to his own assumptions about the nature of theistic belief and therefore to the limits of sympathetic understanding of a theist by a non-theist.

[Jennifer Herdt, Religion and Faction in Hume's Moral Philosophy. Cambridge (1997) p. 214]

So Hume's account of religion has no place for people like More. Of course, as Herdt goes on to note, Hume's account of religion, insofar as it is directed at anybody, is directed at the very narrow Scottish Calvinism that Hume knew growing up; and seen in this light a lot can still be said for Hume's account. The anomaly of More isn't a counterexample for the account, strictly speaking; it just marks a way in which it is limited.