Friday, February 06, 2009

Dashed Off

Lots of reading of St. Thomas on law shows through in this small selection from my constant note-writing.

No one sets out to be intellectually dishonest; it usually arises from lack of self-criticism in the course of criticizing others. It is worth remembering this.

It is awkward that we have no general word for the imperfect & incomplete beginning of virtue, and so often bestow on the merely initial the laudatory & positive terms that bleong properly to the complete and final. Perhaps we could call them 'decencies'? Thus continence or restraint is a decency, but temperance a virtue, and the restrained person is decent but the temperate person virtuous in the proper sense. And so forth with all the virtues, so that decent people are those who progress toward being virtuous people, although not without faults, related to the virtues being considered, that have yet to be overcome.

The sign of virtue, rather than merely progress toward it, is that good deeds are done gladly and without hesitation, not only here and there, but always.

The Gospel is chiefly the grace of the Holy Spirit itself.

death as a mitigated evil

If paternal authority is authority of admonition rather than coercion (Aristotle, Ethics X.9 1180a18; Aquinas ST I-IIae.105.4 ad 5) then it follows that while certain punishments fall under that authority, as being admonitory, nonetheless the perntal power of punishment is sharply limited, and when punishment goes beyond that limit it can only be when it is clear the common good of society at large requires it. And it follows again that parents should be reprimanded, or even sharply punished, for exceeding this limit when it is not clear that common good requires it (just as it is clear that parental power to admonish and guide, even firmly, should be carefully protected as itself belonging to common good).

moderation in pursuing the advantage of victory

Common use has two aspects
(1) to care in commmon for things, as required by their use
(2) to use in common in a reasonable way
Private property presupposes both: (2) for its existence, since it is the best way to facilitate good stewardship that benefits all,e ven when abuses are conceded; and (1) for its maintenance, so that, e.g., what is lost is cared for until the owner is found, or when the owner cannot care for it others will help to care for it.

Ps 67 & the menorah

the slow pressure of a mind working on a problem for years

the resurrectional face of Torah, the redemptional face, the Messianic face

the Psalms as the battle songs of virtue

"Anyone whose deeds are more than his wisdom -- his wisdom will endure; and anyone whose wisdom is more than his deeds -- his wisdom will not endure." R. Haninah b. Dosa (Tract Abot 3:9)

The teachers of children are the guardians of society; and the first among such teachers are mothers.

The true Land of Israel is the study of Torah (Leviticus Rabbah 34:16).

usury as a symbol of spiritual pride

Civic friendship is primarily expressed by beneficial reciprocity.

the Mishnah as collaborative philosophy
- indeed, rabbinical Judaism is arguably a very good example of symphilosophie, a case from which we could learn a considerable amount if people would take the trouble of taking it seriously as philosophical work

A marriage, like any other society, has a common good that practical reason must keep in view, a good common to those who belong to that society, simply by virtue of their belonging to it.

Only insofar as one is a good human being can one philosophize well; although, reason not being wholly lost, even bad philosophers can hit on good things.

inner conversation + thinking about thinking

The values of a people do not guarantee their greatness.

The pursuit of clarity, like the pursuit of pleasure, confuses success with our sense of being successful.

By living a virtuous life, people personify the virtues they live.

Proof analysis itself assumes principles of proof & inference.

"If we want to be fair judges of others, let us persuade ourselves of this first: that none of us is without fault. For it is from this point above all that retributive anger arises: 'I did nothing wrong,' and 'I did nothing'. No, rather, you don't admit to anything." Seneca, (De Ira II.28)

culpa est totam persequi culpam (Seneca)

tragedy as "a school of equity, and therefore of mercy" (Nussbaum)

Liberty is often understood primarily in terms of choices; but this is not really the best way to think of it. What really makes the free human person free is deliberation; and cultivation of political liberty requires creating an environment for rational weighing of alternatives, rather than mere provision of alternatives. No one is made more free, no one's liberty is more supported and protected, when they are given more types of laundry detergent from which to choose; but make the array of alternatives more amenable for reasoned deliberation and you are now into important matters. Choices seized at blindly are not freedom; one might as well be flipping a coin or slavishly obeying commands. Reason is the root of genuine choice, and the real locus of political freedom.

the link between the tragic & the normative

computer technology as synthetic imagination (artificial interior sense, so to speak)

Epistemic possibility is a consistent domain but doxastic possibility is not; more precisely, construction reaches to non-normal as well as normal domains.

in all this world that I've roamed
never did find a heart of stone
until I met it in you

properly focused contempt

"It pertains to the very notion of a nation that the mutual relations of the citizens be ordered by just laws." Aquinas ST 2-1.105.2

One of the first signs of bad reasooning is dropping qualifications & restrictions without either necessity or tests to show that they can be safely dropped.

"He who comes to you with censure is your teacher; he who comes with approbation is your friend; but he who flatters you is your enemy." Hsun-tzu

In matters ceremonial and symbolic we must have regard not only for inferences of reason but also for associations of imagination.

The measure of your rationality is not how rational you deem yourself but how much better others are in mind and life because of their interaction with you.

the grain offering of baptism

Ceremony as a protection against idolatry: the Lord does not want sacrifices but required them in order that people will be less tempted to sacrifice to baalim
- in this sense the rabbis had the right idea after the destruction of the Temple & rabbinical Judaism nicely carries forward levitical Judaism. Where there is no Temple, all of life must be a sort of Temple worship, that people not chase after false gods.
- it is right in another way, in that the Temple that is built only symbolizes the Temple that is the people of Israel; so lacking the former, the latter must be made more manifest.

Every law is given to a people, and must take them into account. This is why it sometimes happens that a law willb e good for one people, promoting virtue and assisting them to prosperity, but be ineffective or even detrimental for another, promoting resentment and rebellion.

incense as a symbol of things that are occasions for rejoicing

Every virtue has a corruptible and an incorruptible form; and the thing is for what is sown corruptible to be raised incorruptible.

Law that cannot be a good symbol of true justice is more usurpation that law. Through its code of law a nation not merely organizes itself but presents a symbolic representation of a just society; we judge laws good and bad as a whole based on how well or poorly they depict such a community of just people.

Law does not make one just, but it signifies, and disposes one to, justice.

Charity is both an obligation and something transcending all obligation: an obligation in that it is a principle of rational law to love God and neighbor, thus referring everything in our lives to God as end and seeking in everything the good of others, so that failure to do this is wrong; and something transcending all obligation in that following moral norms and principles is only perfected when they are followed charitably and lovingly, even where law or duty itself does nto strictly require this.

A law can only forbid something as undue, or as detrimental, by whatever happenstance, to something due.

"Logic makes us reject certain arguments, but it cannot make us believe any argument." Lebesgue
- the editors of Lakatos, Proofs & Refs (p. 53n4) claim that modern logic shows this is false if taken literally; we can determine, precisely, that some arguments are valid, & therefore logic can make us believe the argument even if not the conclusion.
- But what we can characterize precisely is validity for a domain; and thus we are back at Lebesgue, for one can say taht we still have the question of whether the domain is rightly chosen. The editors have slipped, either they have forgotten Lakatos for the moment or thinkk logic works differently from mathematics.
-I see by their further note on Lakato's historical note (56n) that this is their considered opinion. Disappointingly unimaginative and uncritical; what is worse, they think they can have this for free: infallible arguments without infallible principles. This is simply absurd; it is pulling certainty out of a hat.

conscientious guessing (audacious but humble)

Charity is naturally described in terms of other virtues because it initiates acts of such virtues.

Some things are obviously wrong to anyone of good sense, and some are so only to the wise and prudent and experiences, from whom the rest of us must take the trouble to learn: Rise up before the hoary head (Lv 19:32).

The kinds of laws that are good laws vary somewhat depending on the character of a community and the constitution of its government (cf. Aquinas St I-II.100.2(. Partly this is due to the fact that the mutual duties by which people live together will vary slightly from place to place, and partly because the government will be related differently to common good depending on its constitution, and partly because different kinds of communities, and different kinds of governments, will have different strengths and weaknesses. Thus a constitutional monarchy may at times have scope safely to legislate what a republic cannot, and vice versa; and a republic may require restrictions on its legislation a parliamentary commonwealth does not, and vice versa.

Particular acts of virtue are never duties except where the virtue of justice is also involved, and the act itself pertains in some way to justice as well as to its own proper virtue.

Reading mathematicians can be frustrating because it involves reading people who are constantly modifying the language in which they are speaking.

Torah disposes us to Christ as the partial disposes to the complete, and the taste to the feast.

"every law aims at establishing friendship" ST I-II.99.1 ad 2

The devious trip over the obvious.

"All rites begin in simplicity, are brought to fulfillment in elegant form, and end in joy." Hsun-tzu

Nothing is practically useless that is morally meaningful.

obligations contracted in the course of rational interaction

punishment to defend the dignity of those hurt by the offence

"Mencius said, 'Only when a man will not do some things is he capable of doing great things." Mencius IV.B.8

diminution-vitiation vs. debasement-vitiation

correlative updates of belief systems

Mercy is the heart of man and justice is his road.

Many disasters in practical thought are the result of failing to recognize that even if you have good seed and a sturdy hoe you still would do well to wait for the right season.

Totalitarianism being the antithesis of rule of law, legal stability is for it merely a convenient illusion.

analytical montage

the almost automatic general humanity of a civilized people.

The speaking of words is often the most effective deed.

Honor never lies in loyalty alone.

Human law is medicinal, but is rarely a cure for what it treats: medicine, but imperfect medicine.

We forget too easily that Thomas's discussion of 'just war' requires that war is a sin opposed to peace (it occurs in the context of vices opposed to peace, and therefore charity, of which peace is a further act). It is flanked by discord, contention, schism, on the one side, and quarrelling and sedition on the other. War is explicitly said, like schism, quarrelling, and sedition, to be a sin that opposes peace in our actions. 'Just war' theory is the argument that a very narrow class of acts that we sometimes call 'warring' are not this sin of war.

In every fault-finding we should ask ourselves, "Do I really fret about this fault because I love the one in whom it is found?" If the answer is No, our fault-finding is itself faulty.
-This is a standard that would show us how shot through with flaws we ourselves are.

No one has yet developed an adequately anti-Nazi philosophy; too many think it adequate simply to contemn Hitler and affirm a few vague things; but Nazism is a many-headed thing and consists of errors folded within errors, and we have yet to organize, regularize, and develop all the promising seeds of opposing responses (Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, &c.).

Laws should not be changed whenever anything that seems better comes along, but only when the good of changing is clearly a great one, or the evil of not changing is clearly a great one, or when the change is clearly small and would make the law easier to obey in a way consistent with common good. Laws that are in continual flux are hardly laws at all, and too great a facility in changing them is itself detrimental to common good, even if the changes themselves are largely good-- which is anway difficult to guarantee when laws are changed often. And even when it is clearly good & necessary to change the law, it is necessary not merely to change it, but to take thought for any harm to common good resulting from the change itself, and to compensate for it in whatever manner is feasible & suitable.

It only makes sense of people to choose their government if the majority, or close to the majority, of those who choose do so with a sense of moderation, of responsibility, and of vigilance for common weal. This is one reason why it is better for voting to be voluntary, fo rin such a case those who actually vote are more likely to take it seriously, if reasonable accommodation is made so that it is possible for everyone to vote who wishes to vote. This is also why reasonable steps should be taken to prevent votes from being bought or sold or coerced.

Citizens should obey the laws in such a way that it can reasonably be said that they are rationally applied; and where they cannot rationally be applied they should not be obeyed.

Laws are concerned with every virtue, but not every act of every virtue, sinc ethey concern only acts that contribute to common good, and that not even in full, but only insofar as it is feasible to do so in actual circumstances.

We construct international law by starting on one side from natural law and on the other from positive law and work to a point between. If we started from natural law alone, the result would be inadequate for use; if from positive law alone, the result would be inadequate for virtue and reason; and if we started from international law rather than concluding to it, we would lack the means for making necessary distinctions.

Positive law is only good law if it is has the following features:
(1) it is just, for an unjust law has no authority
(2) it is decent, for laws must foster rather than impede virtue
(3) it is possible according to nature, for law must take into account what those affected by it can do, and recognize distinctions in ability among them
(4) it is congruent with custom, for custom is the order of society, and law must fit the society for which it is made
(5) it is suitable for the time and place, for law must account for significant differences in circumstances
(6) it is necessary, for laws should not be arbitrarily multiplied
(7) it is useful, for laws must contribute to common good
(8) it is clearly expressed, for laws must be properly promulgated, and harm from the law itself must be minimized
(9) it is not framed for private benefit, for law pertains to the good of all
In this light we can see that our codes are filled with poor excuses for laws and, perhaps worse, miss laws they need (e.g., a Constitutional amendment protecting the rights of Native American tribes, inasmuch as history has shown that this protection cannot be trusted to treaty and statute).

ends of marriage (Liguori)
(1) intrinsic essential
(1a) mutual self-giving
(1b) indissoluble fidelity
(2) intrinsic incidental
(2a) procreation
(2b) remedy
extrinsic (pleasure, conciliation of feuds, etc.)

Movie & TV production would be a great context for looking at utilitarian analysis in miniature.

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