Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Links and Notes

* On April 22, Rita Levi-Montalcini became the first Nobel-prize-winner to reach 100. (ht) Her 1988 autobiography, In Praise of Imperfection, is well worth reading.

* The exquisite Bea Arthur recently died at age 86.

* Some puzzles arising from consideration of Peirce's view of Kant.

* Some reflections on what constitutes poetry: Part I, Part II. I'm very sympathetic to the view that 'poem' should indicate any deliberately crafted verbal artifact. There is much to be said for the view that medieval cursus has as much right to be considered poetry as metric verse does. (And should perhaps be brought back! Cursus, which is a method of prose rhythm, has almost entirely been lost. When people complain about the language of, say, liturgical documents in the past fifty years, what they are complaining about, whether they know it or not, is the lack of cursus. And it hardly needs to be said that the committee-speak coming out of bishops these days would be greatly improved by a bit of leonitas or gregorianitas. But it would be of value outside of religious documents. It is cursus that allows prose to be chanted, that allows it to be declaimed, that allows it to break free from the merely conversational and rise to the truly oratorical, without requiring that one pander to the emotions of one's particular audience.)

* Marvin has a good post on Augustine and Pelagius.

* The Daily Scroll combs the Christian blogosphere for interesting links.

* Robert Dimand, David Hume on Canadian Paper Money (PDF) -- fascinating

* Massimo Pigliucci:

But Massimo, people usually ask me whenever the f-word is brought up, don’t you have faith in anything? Nope, I say, a denial that is immediately met with both bewilderment and commiseration. Don’t I have faith in my wife, for example? No, I trust her because I know her and know that she loves me. What about faith in humanity, considering that I profess to be a secular humanist? No, I have hope for the human lot, and even that is seriously tempered by my awareness of its less than stellar record throughout history.

In other words, he does, but he likes to use other words for it in order more easily to have the convenience of attributing irrationality to others. Trust and hope consistent with the best evidence are pretty standard views for what faith is. If you don't have to deal with it regularly, you have no idea how irritating the "faith is belief without any evidence" trope is. Wouldn't you think that someone, somewhere, might start getting suspicious that it is a little too convenient, might begin to think that maybe, maybe, it was a bit of wishful thinking? But no, there's not a skeptical temperament among them. The question, of course, that should be asked is, "What is the evidence for saying that faith is belief without evidence, and what limitations do the limits of that evidence place on our conclusions?"

ADDED LATER: But Massimo Pigliucci is generally reasonable, and does sometimes have good posts; like this one. (ht)

* An interesting discussion of links between early Mormon thought and Scottish common sense philosophy -- when Mormonism was forming, of course, Scottish common sense philosophy was still a major force in American intellectual life. It had been a major part of American universities since Witherspoon became the third president of Princeton just prior to the Revolution, and McCosh was giving it its last great push at Princeton starting in 1868 (his influence having started much earlier, of course). The particular link discussed here seems a bit tenuous to me, although perhaps real; but I wouldn't at all be surprised if there were other links.

* David Corfield, in order to fill out an analogy better, recently asked me if Aquinas ever argued for angels on the basis of the imperfection of human minds (i.e., the imperfections of human intelligences require that there be more perfect intelligences). This isn't the way Aquinas usually argues. But I could think of one case where he does (here). Some of my other readers might have come across other cases, though, so put them in the comments if you have. (I also mentioned that Locke seems to argue for angels in this way in Essay Bk IV ch XVI sect. 12.)


* A clever way of saying how much $100 million dollars in budget cuts is, relative to the whole U.S. federal budget. It's supermarket-coupon budget cutting; except that all that's been promised is that one coupon will be used.

* A fascinating spreadsheet that lists how much of a given nation's citizens are resident in the U.S. Almost a third of Guyana actually resides in the U.S.; about a fifth of all Jamaicans; about 1 in 10 Mexicans; about 1% of the British; about 1 out of every 1000 Chinese and likewise one one-thousandth of India; and so forth.

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