Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dashed Off

Bits and pieces from my constant note-taking. As always, to be taken with a grain of salt.

A big deal is often made about pistis being trust; but the medievalshad already recognized this, for fides involves trust of an authority, although not necessarily only that. And, indeed, if you wanted a single English word to cover what the scholastics meant by "formless faith," 'trust would often do.

We only really come to understand philosophy by recognizing sophistry for what it fundamentally is and seeing our way out of it.

people who try to substitute false certainty for faith

"Nature is not prodigal of genius and the church makes do with what nature gives her." Flannery O'Connor

God is primary cause in the order of knowing as in the order of being.

Through the light of the agent intellect we abstract universals from particulars, intelligibles from sensibles, quiddities from existing things. (These three are related, and closely so, but should not be conflated.)

It is necessary for us to rely, to some extent at least, on the judgment of others, for those times when our own is compromised and we are unable to tell this on our own.

Many things that are not terms may have intensions & extensions -- lists, for instance.

The praise inherent in faith bursts forth in confession and love.

It is the existence of good moral taste that allows for supererogation.

We may rationally wager on what we believe not to be the case, namely, when we also believe that it is really possible we are wrong, and what is risked is not massive, and we would be delighted to be wrong.

Heresy results from desire for an undue end, or from an illusion of the imagination, or both. And as it seems clear that the first is worse than the second, we should make a distinction among heretics between those who are heretics from willfulness and those who are heretics from imagination. For in intelligible and spiritual matters we all have imaginations that may lead us astray in this or that.

people whose prejudices are pernicious and ineradicable because they are unable to recognize any prejudices short of bigotry
- Patronizing is often harder to overcome than hating because it clothes itself as tolerant and benevolent.

One thing can be truer than another because truths can be related as primary and secondary.

While Hume overshot in claiming that all morals were a sort of taste, it is certianly true that much of morals is. Thus there is nothing wrong with a group of people banding together to live a life according to a system of honor and shame not actually required. There will in such cases be instances of good taste and bad taste, but even where there is only good taste it is absurd to expect everyone's to be exactly the same. Homogeneity in taste is neither sufficient nor necessary for a standard of good taste.

When we talk about the vice of unbelief, we do not mean that lack of belief is a sin, for it is rather an unfortunate condition deserving compassion. Rather, we mean the act of despising or having contempt for the faith is a sin, for it is presumption against sound understanding and hatred of a good. Thus it is that Aquinas says that no one is damned merely for lacking faith. But unbelief is wrong when it is a hardening of their heart against it out of a sort of arrogant perversity, or malice toward believers, or attachments to bad things it would exclude. Nor doe sit in the least require the possession of faith to recognize that these are bad; although one without faith will not recognize them as bad under the very notion of lacking faith, just as non-Christians may have solidarity with Christians on this or that thing,b ut not under the notion of their being Christian.

The best way to understand the word 'sacred' is ardently to pursue justice.

To defend the truth is merely to uncover the truth's own defenses.

Mathematical physics is formally a branch of mathematics, but materially about things that are not merely mathematical. Or to put it in terms of Lady Mary Shepherd rather than Aristotle, it is in its nature mathematical reasoning that depends on suppositions that are not arbitrary but drawn from experimental reasoning about phenomena and their causes.

"A sage in any branch of knowledge is one who knows the highest cause of that kind of knowledge, and is able to judge of all matters by that cause." Aquinas, ST II-II.9.2

We may form judgments in many ways, but sure judgments are formed by finding the causes and reasons fo rthings.

No one can be said to take marriage seriously who does not recognize what an honor their spouse has bestowed upon them. And recongizing such an honor, can they with honor treat it lightly?

Of all states of life in the Church, two especially are charged with the fight of the Church against death, and they are the states of marriage and ordination. Thus the married are the vanguard of Christian life in the world, and the ordained the vanguard of life in the spiritual heights. And nothing is more harmful than a falling away of either from this calling, just as nothing disarrays an army more than the collapse and betrayal of its front lines, just as nothing enervates a people more than the spread of corruption among its chief representatives and heroes.

Assent completes the activity of the mind in two ways: first, in that the thing assented to is grasped or apprehended, and second that it is judged to be so.

Understanding is a sort of cleanness of mind; who truly understands has thought clear form error in the areas he or she understands.

To do any good deed requires some sort of right estimation of the end sought.

Rational dialectic is always from understanding to understanding.

Faith, even initial faith, excludes the error of wishing to measure divine things by the rule of sensible things; other errors are excluded when it is combined with other virtues and gifts.

Faith purifies intellect and will, but not fully on its own; it does so by initiating a movement of intellect and will to purer and more noble things, a movement other virtues must complete.

Since a religious order is a sort of teaching and learning of charity, it must have a formal and a material object.

The fecundity of arguments is not merely additive; putting two arguments together is a multiplication, not an addition, because the results they have spearately interact when together. (It is the same with premises, for similar reasons, & thus the failure of Mill's criticism of the syllogism.)
- this seems to presuppose relevance, i.e., sharing or at least plausibly sharing a universe of discourse

Analyzing things in only one way is a way to increase the likelihood of analyzing them incorrectly.

There is room to argue that usury, like prostitution, is an evil sometime to be politically tolerated to prevent worse evils.

Usura solum in mutuo cadit (San Bernardino de Siena)

Private property protects common use from neglect, fraud, and discord.

three components of value
virtuositas (effectiveness)
raritas (scarcity)
complacibilitas (enjoyableness)

Conditions for failure rarely parallel conditions for success; limbo conditions usually throw off the symmetry.

the art of extrapolating approximately correct conclusions from data that is misleading & incomplete

The history of an intellectual creature is a history of ideas and illuminations.

beauty as the promise of goodness

If philosophy fails to interfere with the actual use of language, it has failed to follow up on its own potential.

production geared to satisfaction of human needs
production geared to indefinite consumption

Economics, medicine, and ethics are the three fields without which no good politics and no good government is possible.

Policies must not only avoid harming those for whom they are applied; they must also be such that those who implement them are nto made worse by the fact of implementing them.

Every government policy should contribute to the fight, directly or indirectly, of one of these three: poverty, disease, injustice. For these three are defects that are capable of massively impeding pursuit of the common good, although not each in the same way or to the same degree.

We cannot manifest that which subsists over all subsistence insofar as it is over all subsistence, for it is ineffable, unknown, beyond all manifestation, surpassing unity itself; but we may hymn the creative act by which God, producing all being, proceeds into all beings, to hymn as above all beings that which is above all beings, through removal of all beings, though it itself is beyond every name and beyond even removal of names, for it overarches all.

Postulates, suppositions, speculations, and guesses, like beliefs, can be justified.

being as known in presence
being as known in essence

It is at the level of intelligibility that all things are beautiful.

Dialectic
1. Zetetic
1a. Disputative: eradicating false opinions
1a1. indirect: identifying difficulties
1a2. direct: confuting errors
1b. Inquisitive: developing true opinions
1b1. hortatory: exciting to search
1b2. maieutic: assisting in the search
2. Dogmatic
2a. Critical
2a1. analytic
2a2. synthetic
2b. Authoritative
2b1. magisterial
2b2. traditional

things contributing to appearance of 'degrees of belief': certitude, promptitude, devotion, confidence

Saints are not at all made by always being right; so why devote so much effort and time to something that contributes so little to sainthood?

Not every kind of trust is trust in things not apparent.

Hell is full of people who thought themselves good and decent, just as the Nazi party was full of people who thought themselves good and decent. You are not judged by your own evaluation, but by the lives of the people you harmed and the excellence of the people you despised and the magnitude of the problems you ignored.

Virtuous faith is consistent with occasional doubt because in faith our hold on what is believed is imperfect, for it is a thing unseen and believe on authority. This is true of even natural belief: transient movements of doubt do not dissolve one's trust in testimony or expertise, but are, indeed, occasions where it may be most useful, if the trust is well-founded. For it is foolish to trust every doubt on a matter over someone you have good reason to trust.

To trust rightly you must love rightly.

Faith without charity is only the material for the virtue of faith, just as moderation without prudence is only the material for the virtue of temperance, just as courage without prudence is only the material for virtuous courage.

In faith we recognize the convergence of the true and the good, not merely in abstract but by experience.

"There is nothing commendable in making a public confession of one's faith if it cause a disturbance among unbelievers, without any profit either to the faith or to the faithful." Aquinas II-II.3.2

People may be persecuted by arguments; as with those strange people who cannot give feminists rest on any point, but must argue with them without cease, or those who use arguments to attack blacks or others and impose the bonds of humiliation and contempt on them. The mere fact that one uses arguments does not make one's behavior rational or virtuous.

Faith being an intimation or first bit of hoped-for beatitude, it establishes for us as credible what will be established in beatitude as known.

Thought is completed by concepts.

stripping sweetness from the idea of sin

It is so natural to us to know by composition and division that we are restless even with things simply understood unless we can compose and divide them.

"It appears that the want of money can never injure any state within itself: For men and commodities are the real strength of any community." Hume, 'Of Money'

All capacities of will and thought must be developed through charity, intensified in charity, preserved as charity.

What good are your questions if you will not question yourself?

the Volk of God vs. the Volk of man

teaching English to speak philosophically

citizenship in philosophy

3 basic errors in experimental interpretation
(1) inadequate division of possibilities
(2) deficient conception
(3) false presumption of facts

'Thought experiments' are interpretations of experimental results where those results are presumed rather than established.

(1) conversion to the phantasm
(2) illumination of the phantasm
(3) abstraction from the phantasm
(4) understanding in the phantasm

suffering as negative (natural evil)
suffering as occasion for self-discipline (trial)
suffering as part of self-discipline (correction)
suffering as the forge of heroism (endurance for the good of others)

A single letter informs; that doesn't mean it signifies.

The mind's an oyster; from its irritation, pearls.

The human mind thrives on being given vastness of view.

Prudence is the architect and engineer organizing the bricklayers, electricians, plumbers, etc that are the other moral virtues so that they produce a usable building rather than (say) a well-designed but isolated and useless plumbing system standing alone in a waterless desert.

Human wickedness tends to be materially diabolical but formally petty.

Charity is a virtue of human beings not qua human but qua divinized.

I am inclined to think that St. Thomas's pedagogical choice in ST II-II to include gifts and beatitudes in with the discussion of particular virtues was, all things considered, a less than optimal one. It is true that "if we were to treat of each virtue, gift, vice and precept separately, we should have to say the same thing over and over again." Thus it makes sense to treat vices as subtopics of their opposing virtues, and also to include with them the precepts, which are to encourage virtue and discourage vice. But the beatitudes and gifts go beyond (so to speak) the virtues, and thus it would have been better to consider them on their own afterward (although both together, for beatitudes are to gifts somewhat like precepts are to virtues). Then we can get a better sense of the gifts as a whole, as we can of the virtues as a whole. And in this way also no matter pertaining to morals would be overlooked.

Charity merits the increase of charity, for the work of God's grace merits more working of God's grace, as the manifestation of God's glory merits even greater manifestation of God's glory.

Mercy allows people to request what they are not due.

In continuous time, instants are not such as to precede or succeed each other immediately, but in discrete time they are.

The real dynamic is never supply and demand, but supply, demand, and feasibility.

Those who wish to evaluate the logic of arguments must first understand them.

True forgiveness requires more than not hating the offender; one must have special good-will toward him or her. Thus Christ does not say, "Avoid hating your enemy," which anyone may do when their self-interest lies in that direction, but "Love your enemy and bless those who persecute you," which is a graciousness beyond any self-interest.

We can know something, and yet not know that we know it, if we have the thing known but not its proper principle. For it is the principle that rules out error. So if, for instance, we know something 'conjecturally by signs' we have knowledge of it, albeit imperfect & probabilistic knowledge that admits of a sort of limited uncertainty, but we do not know we know it, because we know it by a sort of diagnosis of symptoms or reflection on effects rather than seeing the underlying reason why it must be so. But some things can be known more perfectly by sign, namely, when we know by proper principles that an effect must be from such-and-such cause or it could not exist.

St. Francis hugging the leper is more graceful than the most elegant dandy; this can be seen in that a society of Francises is more beautiful than a society of elegant dandies.

The human person is said to be of rational or intellectual nature not because it has reason or intellect but because it has a nature that manifests most fully in the exercise of reason or intellect.

The creature God graces becomes an instrument as graced, & thus has a power to act in something like the way the pen, taken in hand, has the power to write poetry.

Motion is the act of the mover in the moved.

journalims as colligation of views
journalism as presentation of facts
journalism as a form of doing justice (just review)

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