Monday, October 18, 2010

Notes and Links

* Tim McGrew's article on miracles is up at the SEP. Big, big improvement over the Michael Levine article it is replacing (Levine's article was OK, but very limited and not very informative or thorough; and the interpretation of Hume, who was central to the argument, was wrong, although that gets into rather complicated matters), and McGrew has actually taken the trouble to investigate what has actually been said in philosophical discussions on the subject of miracles rather than merely assuming that he knows it already, as most people tend to do on the subject.

ADDED LATER: Having looked at McGrew's discussion of Hume more closely, I am very, very pleased. My only quibbles would be (1) I don't think there's anything in Campbell that really suggests that Part I, as such and on its own, is an argument (there is room for disagreement here, and I once had a long and interesting online argument with McGrew about this very point) -- although he does think that Hume's argument is for the conclusion "that a miracle story could not be believed on testimony even under the most favorable circumstances," he makes no sharp distinction between Part I and Part II at all; (2) the slow turn in Hume scholarship over the question of whether Part I is any argument against miracles at all may arise "in part from the apprehension on the part of some of Hume's defenders that if it is an argument, it is not very good," but the major reason for it is that the reading of Part I on its own as an a priori argument against miracles has never sat very well with the way Hume himself actually describes what he is doing in the essay itself; (3) crucial to Hume's argument is the fact that he really and truly does think that you can have opposing proofs (he says so more than once, and under conditions that cannot be purely ironic), and his account of what a proof is also crucial to the argument, but this really isn't addressed, despite being relevant at several points (it's a reason why Hajek's very nicely argued case for his reconstruction still fails, for instance); (4) while not essential, it would have been nice if it had pointed out that some key elements of Hume's argument are adaptations of Protestant arguments against Catholic miracles (a point which explains a number of otherwise puzzling issues in the essay) -- but, again, it wasn't essential, and the article isn't on Hume's account of miracles. All in all quite good; one of the best discussions on Hume's essay on miracles that I've read in a while.

* Jules Verne's fascination with Scotland.

* A Lakatosian paper on .999... = 1 (PDF), and in particular on the deeper mathematical points that make it unsurprising that students are often confused by it. (ht) In effect (as the author notes) it's an attempt to restart the old Analyst dispute.

* Fr. Z clears up confusion about whether Hildegard von Bingen is a (recognized) Catholic saint. The answer in short is: certainly. She was never formally canonized, but she's early enough that her longstanding veneration in respectable dioceses and orders counts. And if one wants something official, she's listed in the Roman Martyrology (not being listed in the Roman Martyrology, since it's not an exhaustive list of saints recognized by the Church, wouldn't mean anything, but being listed is as official as one could wish). If I recall correctly, she's not on the General Calendar, so regular veneration of her feast day (17 September) will only occur where she is on the local calendar (in Germany and in Benedictine communities, mostly) but because she's listed specifically as a saint in the Roman Martyrology, any priest anywhere in the world can devote a mass to her on any day in the General Calendar that does not already have a saint assigned to it (a dies non). This, of course, applies to liturgical commemoration; people can commemorate her non-liturgically in any reasonable way they see fit, at any time they see fit.

* By the same token (I mention it because I was once somewhat puzzled by it) the same is true of Boethius, who is listed in the Martyrology as a saint; Boethius is not on the General Calendar, so his feast day (October 23) is not universally celebrated, and is mostly only celebrated in Italy. But he is officially recognized as a saint, and because he is in the Martyrology, he can be celebrated on any dies non.

* Female Character Flowchart (ht)

* Something I learned recently: Philippa Foot was the granddaughter of Grover Cleveland. President Cleveland and his First Lady, Frances, had a daughter, Esther Cleveland, who met a British Army officer, Captain William Bosanquet. Their offspring was Philippa Judith Bosanquet (the 'Philippa' seems to have been after William's mother), who eventually married the historian Michael (usually known as M. R. D.) Foot and became known as Philippa Foot.

* Mike Flynn discusses liberum arbitrium.

* Yesterday there were six Catholic canonization, of which three were especially notable: André Bessette, Mary MacKillop, and Camilla Battista da Varano. Bessette is the first member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross (C.S.C.) to make it to the General Calendar. His feast day is January 6. And MacKillop, who belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph, is the first Australian to make it to the General Calendar (sainthood it seems, is not really something Australians do). Her feast day is August 8. Camilla Battista da Varano was an Italian princess who became a Poor Clare and wrote rather extensively on theological subjects; her feast day is May 31. She wrote an autobiographical work called The Spiritual Life, which is currently available online in translation (PDF).

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