Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dashed Off

Bits and pieces from my compulsive note-taking. The usual caveats apply.

The opportunity costs of vices are always extraordinarily great.

"...we mount up to the knowledge of men's inclinations and motives, from their actions, expressions, and even gestures; and again, descend to the interpretation of their actions from our knowledge of their motives and inclinations." Hume ECHU VIIIpar9

Modern society is a chaos out of which a new cosmos can be born.

It is important in inquiry not to confuse illuminating forms of description with fundamental explanations; and it is one of the most difficult things as well.

We do not produce knowledge but conditions for coming to know.

grammar: ars recte loquendi et ennaratio poetarum

Aristotle's Rhetoric as a work preparatory to the Ethics & the Politics

drawing out the damp of vice

- a religious order of lawyers (cf. Summa Theologiae II-II.188.3 ad 2)

A constitution may be violated through neglect, through greed or ambition, or through contempt for the constitution itself. The first two are less bad, but frequent occurrences of them inevitably lead to the third.

A thing is contained in a constitution in two ways. First, as to its end, so that, for instance, it makes no sense to understand a constitutional obligation in such a way that it would always or for the most part conduce to civil unrest and the destruction of society. Second, as to its being established by custom as proper outward practice, such as due procedures and required writs.

necessities of nature
necessities of coercion
necessities of liberty (e.g., deontic)

A person may not only do something virtuous but also do it as a gift to another, without ceasing to do it because it is virtuous.

"The goods of the churches should be employed for the good of the poor." ST II-II.185.8

"Isaiah who, wishing to be sent, knew himself to be already cleansed by the live coal taken from the altar, shows us that no one should dare uncleansed to approach the sacred ministry. Since then it is very difficult for anyone to be able to know that he is cleansed, it is safer to decline the office of preacher." Gregory Pastor. 1.7

The perpetual danger in politics is that the politics itself will begin to be treated as a substitute for deliberation and virtue.

The active life & the contemplative life are two ways of being instructed by God through scripture. For we learn by doing and considering, and we learn the truths taught in Scripture by action in the world and prayerful contemplation.

The folly that is a sin arises chiefly from craving.

Just as the wine connoisseur is capable of discerning features of wine, so the wise are discerning of things and causes.

It is in the interests of male power to break down and hem in female virtue, i.e., the moral excellence of particular women; and htus one finds an immense amount of energy and time devoted to doing both.

We craft or articulate compositions of words, written or spoken, in order to do X, Y, Z; it is the doing of X, Y, Z that we call 'meaning'. The word on the page is not a 'vehicle' of meaning any more than a nail is the vehicle of being by a hammer.
What many people call 'meaning' is merely the propsoing of something; and things that are not essential to this proposal are treated as having nothing to do with meaning. But this is a quite arbitrary and artifical convention, useful, no doubt, for certain purposes, but hardly worthy of the privilege of general deference.

"Nature is as free as air; art is forced to look probable." Chesterton

Hume's account of belief as a sort of utilitarianism of assent

All true freedom tends toward community in common good; liberty, true liberty, is the seed of unity in friendship.

In intellectual matters it is quite common for the work of years to be undone in an extraordinarily swift instant.

Sensitive imagination is solitary; only intellectual understanding is ever really shared.

A system, like a rainbow in the sky, is seen when the light of the intellect strikes a cloud of prismatic arguments and claims.

Every moment in time is an infinite tangle of extraordinary things.

In order to maintain their power, men allow women the power to free men from burden and responsibility: contraception, abortion, etc., and they oppose these where they think they will be more burdened by allowing them. Lose-lose, the very problem itself.

Shulamith Firestone's Technological Mode is still given superiority over the Aesthetic Mode, because she treats it as the productive power. But it is precisely this that is the problem. The Technological Mode is instrumental by nature; it does not produce, and cannot produce, whatever the Aesthetic Mode envisions, any more than the ability to craft a pen can produce a poem. To pretend otherwise is in fact a perversion of proper order.

To be a parent is to be part of a community with a common good and, what is more, to be steward of that common good.

needles in haystacks of infinite size

"Wisdom will not enter a malicious soul." Wis 1:4

Modern celebration of Christmas is an odd mixture of haphazard Victorianism and systematic commercialism.

The gift of understanding perceives; the gift of knowledge judges according to human ideas; the gift of wisdom judges according to divine ideas.

sympathetic understanding of divine things

Energized and activated by divine wisdom, the wise in God live divinely and thus judge wisely.

God's grace, like rain, is sometimes gentle and nourishing and sometimes torrential and devastating. It is grace either way.

In matters of war, 'last resort' indicates that no further tribunal with the authority to redress rights and wrongs is available, and that therefore no further authority can protect the common weal.

Not everyone who despised our Lord would have had the stomach to shout, "Crucify!" Those disposed to be contemptuous were contemptuous, those disposed to flatter with lies flattered with lies, those disposed to stone stoned, those disposed to kill killed, and in every way was the Lord's anointed rejected, regardless of the refinement and civilization of those who rejected him.

llaneza / candour

the ingenuous and innocent indecencies of the nuptial bed

Virtue is an immunity to self-destruction.

parenting as spiritual formation

Who argues must cultivate an indifference to losing the argument, but an intentness on honor & virtue in the arguing.

Achieving balance in argument is one part of achieving balance in life.

the teleologies of fatherhood and motherhood, of marriage and citizenship

Parental authority has a double source, the common good of the family and the common good fo the society of which the family is a part.

Civil society bubbles up from domestic society.

Parental consent for a child is only legitimate and meaningful where there are in place recognized and stable familial norms against which the act of proxy consenting can be measured in each case.

If philosophy should, in Hume's phrase, contribute to the "entertainment, instruction, and reformation of mankind," it is clear that much academic philosophy is deficient in the first and last aspects.

Strategically speaking, law is an inefficient and clumsy instrument of change except where it merely has to provide a bit of organization to means already available.

simple solutions that are hard to find

As long as Job's friends merely sat in grief with him, they did no wrong.

a second, and more corrupt, Reformation

Physics is a modeling according to quantity of changes effected by secondary causes.

general forms of moral taste

Saying that religion gives comfort is like saying that weather is convenient.

ecological intercessions
- private property & regulated commons as stage one ecological intercessions
- this naturally raises the question of coherent, feasible, & effective stage two intercessions, in response to failures at stage one

Technical failures in medicine are easy to accept; it is moral failures that are disastrous.

Part of rational medicine is teaching the limtis of our bodies, and how to respect those limits.

pseudo-salvific institutions

the moral division of labor in pursuit of common good

Truth shines on the just and the unjust, the prudent and the imprudent, the wise and the foolish, all alike, and rains on them all alike.

Authority makes possible common participation in great and worthy endeavors.

an apologetics of reverence and gentleness and clear conscience

Without prudence good interferes with good and inquiry with inquiry.

Some of the things -- many things -- that come into our minds do so as candidates for thought, formed by imaginative association, rather than as things to which we actually assent. And it is a good thing; much of our social life requires entertaing possibilities that we do not believe.

idleness : carefulness :: sloth : joy

A purely formal dialetheism would be acceptable as an account of equivocation.

A: Responsibility is grounded in relational being.
B: No doubt; when I try to murder someone, I am in relation to him, and so have the responsibility to murder him effectively.

Authority is acquired by moderation.

The defenders of the faith often fail in their task by conceding what has no business in the discussion beyond the fact that their opponents insist upon it because it is convenient from them to do so. The battlefield must always be determined from the nature and truth of the subject, not from a desire to fight only on one flank.

sketches of philosophies that may never be

urgency, impact, trend

They play as if it were tic-tac-toe a game infinitely more complex!

Hume's counterpoise theory, & more generally the vivacity theory, can be seen as an attempt to give an account of 'the ring of truth' (or of falsehood).

What in a categorical proposal of an argument is an inference, in a hypothetical proposal is an implication, the inference being different.

Socratic politics: It is better to endure the wrongs of the world than to do them.

Societies need some conception of the good in matters of law in order to distinguish real harms from merely apparent harms.

There are many cases where it may be rational to praise people who do not strictly deserve it -- e.g., encouragement.

congruous vs. condign praiseworthiness

Laws are more like premises than like conclusions.

There are, perhaps, as many different meanings to 'mind', 'thought', and 'belief' as there are to 'gene' or 'species'.

Fraternal correction presupposes forbearance with the weak.

We ought to give alms to many, in order that many might be profited.

the fruits of repentance: the righting of wrongs, protection of the poor, and a new, God-pleasing life

The dead are the most ruthless rivals.

the nascency & coalescency of things

jangles of history & apocrypha

Fear and hope are dangerous in politics, being the fuel of tyranny.

What is the context for Enlightenment? According to Kant it is benevolent despotism: allow people to argue as much as they please and hold whatever views they please, but make them obey.

Superstition is quackery of the soul.

Reading the Talmud is like reading a Summa if it consisted entirely of objectiones and sed contras.

The study of Torah is not work but rest.

the logistical lines supporting the front line of argument

It makes no sense to speak of commensurability (or lack thereof) without at least some notion of the type of unit of measure involved.

The phrase "that than which no greater can be thought" is constrained by the context of Christian prayer & meditation whence Anselm explicitly derives it.

Rational postulates are free judgments conducive to practical purposes and harmonizing with theoretical requirements of reason, which thereby may be assumed as a foundation for further reasoning; they thus function as practically sanctioned permissions for reasoning.

If we genuinely ought to promote an end, that end must be possible or the means-end reasoning required for promoting the end becomes incoherent.

things that assure us without giving us knowledge

solving problems by nibbles

quibbles for a good purpose (e.g., clarification)
quibbles without purpose

Validity is really necessity-preserving; truth-preservation and possibility-preservation follow trivially from this.

A considerable part of human learning is using what is learned to discipline our use of images, to regularize and correct the way we imagine. But this is much harder than it sounds.

That an unexamined life is not worth living does not on its own imply that an examined life is worth living. Examination is naturally seen as a remover of impediments.

Love as an act of will widens our understanding, giving us a perspective that allows us richer and deeper thought about the good loved. It does not in itself guarantee such thought or richer understanding, because that requires intellectual activity beyond love itself; but it does make it possible.

the exordial function of proverbs

'Analytic philosophy' is a rhetorical approach to persuasion that emphasizes logos-relevant inventio and treats lucidity as the primary feature of an ideal style, and was originally chiefly applied to topics of speculative grammar.

Topics is that whereby one disputes and reasons not by chance or trial and error but by art and skill.

four orders of argument: Every argument takes the subject and attributes one of four things to it:
(1) a definition (or part thereof)
(2) a proper & convertible predicate
(3) a predicate that assigns the subject to a kind
(4) an incidental predicate

People reward the virtue of those who are free, not those who are slaves.

The living body is the soul interacting the with the physical world.

It is contrary to the evidence of experience to say that we only judge things good because we want them.

Rationality is a way of pursuing the good.

None can be enlightened who cannot be enthused.

The only legitimate way to do polemics is to know what your opponents are talking about better than they do.

What is bad for the unjust is merely difficult for the just.

newspaper editorials as a source of information about popular philosophy

One can imagine a process of taking 'ice cores' in the history of philosophy: rather than following the circulation of ideas, picking a static point (e.g., a university) and following the shift of ideas over time at that point; and then comparing these various samples.

The one and only mark of a good philosopher is doing well and believing well.

Hope is effective of love, productive of joy, perfective of works.

the liquescent neumes of thought

No one has a properly Christian view of omnipotence unless in that view the most perfect expression of omnipotence is mercy.

Fighting a war is like breaking bones: you may reasonably break a bone to reset it, and you may fight a war to fix a defective peace; but it is absurd to claim that every breaking of bones is a medical resetting of them.

Benevolence is embryonic friendship.

three forms of theodicy
justification defenses
reasonable doubt defenses
procedural defenses

Algorithms are only as substrate neutral as they are designed to be.

Science is taught in two different but interconnected ways: imagistically & doctrinally. For reasons related to this, it is very difficult for scientists to counter the popular tendency to make scientific concepts they have been taught more local & practical, deviating from scientific correctness. And even those who know the science doctrinally may (and often do!) slip back into thinking with the images.

instantiation & generalization of arguments

Nonrational animals have more in common with us than angels do.

To love oneself rightly one must see oneself rightly.

Love is a good that we desire for those we truly love.

Every virtue is an extension of the range of free choice, as every athletic excellence is an extension of physical feats that might be performed.

The virtue of the blessed entirely fills their potential for it; thus it has become inseparable from them. But our virtue does not fill our potential for it.

Drawing false conclusions from true principles disposes us to accept false principles.

What kindles charity quenches craving.

The more charity increases the more its ability to be increased increases.

The vyapti relates pervader and pervaded, but doesn't localize it; this requires paramarsha.

economics as logical analysis of human action in matters of exchange

Reason, to be healthy, must breathe; and the breath of reason is love for the good. Without this love we have not reason but corpses of reason, patterns of thought settled into a sort of death-like rigidity, distractions without warrant, reasonings without purpose, claims without grounding, games of words that have no soul, zombies of true thought, animated not from within but marched upon a stage like puppets. It gives to rationality its warmth and its force, its power and its grace, its seriousness and its joy.

It is pointless to follow an argument wherever it leads if youa re nto then willing to check the result you get against what you know and understand.

praising God with well-wrought stories and pure reasonings

Probabilities are cause-dependent; change the underlying causal system and you change the probabilities.

We determine what is extraordinary not on the basis of probabilities, but by contrast with the ordinary class for which we have some account.

reminders, threats, and promises as precepts

restraint as a symbol of respect

Filial fear makes possible two acts, on pertaining to dread of separation from God, which the blessed do not have, and one pertaining to trembling wonder at the manifestation of His glory, for which they in some sense have greater occasion than we. Thus the fear of the Lord is always holy, enduring from age to age.

respect : justice :: mercy : hope

the arduous superintelligible

the acts of hope: to trust, to pray, to love

Trust is an ambiguous term, insofar as it may be acceptance of the true or of the good.

There is a love that is an act of hope, a sort of love of God as desirable for oneself, an incomplete love that only finds completion in charity, which loves God in Himself and for His own sake, as a friend.

All moral virtues are natural symbols of the virtue of charity, but justice is especially so.

the First Rule unruled by other rules

To trust, to pray, to befriend: this is the threefold task of the saint.

Prayer is the most natural expression of hope. To hope is not to wish but to pray.

A consumerist society is a society of people with leaky jars, terrified of resignation and restraint, which they cannot distinguish from the quiescence of stones and corpses.

to learn, to teach, to meditate, to remember.

"Every human act is good that attains reason or God Himself." ST II-II.17.1

philosophy as a remedy for three vices:
(1) culpable ignorance
(2) mental blindness
(3) dullness of mind
But clearly it is not mere argument that provides treatment for any of these; rather, it is genuinely philosophical dialectic. Genuine philosophical dialectic is (1) rational (2) communal and (3) concerned with truth and goodness.

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