Saturday, January 07, 2012

Three Gifts They Bring, Three Gifts They Bear Away

The Epiphanye
by Robert Southwell

To blase the rising of this glorious sunne,
A glittringe starre appeareth in the Easte,
Whose sight to pilgrimm-toyles three sages wunne
To seeke the light they long had in requeste;
And by this starre to nobler starr they pase,
Whose armes did their desired sunne embrace.

Stall was the skye wherein these planettes shynde,
And want the cloude that did eclipse their rayes;
Yet through this cloude their light did passage finde,
And percd these sages' harts by secrett waies,
Which made them knowe the Ruler of the skyes,
By infant tongue and lookes of babish eyes.

Heaven at her light, Earth blusheth at her pride,
And of their pompe these peeres ashamed be;
Their crownes, their robes, their trayne they sett aside,
When God's poore cotage, clowtes, and crewe, they see;
All glorious thinges their glory nowe dispise,
Sith God contempt, doth more then glory-prize.

Three giftes they bringe, three giftes they beare awaye;
For incense, myrrhe and gould, faith, hope and love;
And with their giftes the givers' hartes do staye,
Their mynde from Christ no parting can remove;
His humble state, his stall, his poore retynewe,
They phansie more then all theire ritch revenewe.

I just realized that St. Robert was pretty much my age when he was hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. A little sobering, that. This Southwell poem doesn't seem to be one of the more quoted poems, but I think it works very well. Southwell is usually considered the first of the Metaphysicals, and works of metaphysical poetry can be a bit gymnastic (as it gets sometimes with John Donne), but here all the metaphysical conceits are relatively mild and the paradoxes delineated with some subtlety, and the wit never obscures the point, and Southwell displays here his usual knack for not letting the didactic overwhelm the lyric.

Even with the original spelling, it's very readable if you read it aloud ('clowtes' is 'clothes'), and, really, you should always read Southwell aloud.

Two Poem Drafts


Blackly lovely Shulammite
Bringing peace and perfumed night,
Lily nested deep in thorns,
Purity your heart adorns!
Can I measure all our love?
Worlds you are, my grace, my dove,
Plains of glory, mountains high,
Flawless color, sculpted thigh,
Majesty with woman's face:
Let us paths to vineyards race,
Never any moment wasting,
Ever choicest passion tasting.


War among the gods, they say, anciently shook the world.
Mountain thrust back sea, sea swallowed islands whole,
wind uprooted mighty stone, monsters fought in boundless deep.
Can any imagine, can any dream, the mighty convulsions of gods at war?
But even divine wars fall to quiet, even gods know harsh defeat.
Battles ended. The darkest god, who brings the darkness dark night fears,
a starless lightlessness that burns, to his knees fell. His crown broken,
his mighty form chain-encircled, he was driven across the wastes,
and brought to judgment by the gods. Cany any imagine, can any know,
the rite and law of that ancient court? But once I traced an errant strand
of darkest darkness in my dreams, a cord of lightless thread.
At its end spread out like glass a silent sea that knew no wind
was sorrowing at the world's end. Within its quiet depths were stars.
Across that sea the darkness rolled in blanket fog, wisps of cloud,
from which my lightless clue had come. Upon the lapping shore a boat
with mighty prow had been moored. In it I crossed that glassy sea,
for, windless, nonetheless it moved, into the center far from shore.
There upon a mighty stone, where it rained and water dripped,
a form of darkness sat in bonds, a mountain up it, towaring, rose,
and from it darkness poured, a darkness blind of light.
There in brooding the darkest god in links of iron sits engloomed.
I quailed and fled; but I had seen and know too well the end.
In all this world the darkest dark is but a night that knows the stars,
or else that darkness in the earth that fire knew, and light of sun.
Only here and there in impure strands we find a darker darkness.
But on that island made of stone sits the darkest god. The rain
will slowly rust his iron chains until they weaken, twist, and break,
until the end of sentence comes, and on the earth, with mighty form,
the darkness walks again.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Six Hundred Years of Joan of Arc

This year is the sexcentennial anniversary of the birth of Jehanne, la Pucelle. We're fairly sure that she was born in 1412, although it's entirely possible she was born slightly earlier or slightly later -- since she was a peasant in a time when peasant births weren't really recorded and lived in a culture that was not as obsessive about birthdays as ours, she herself could only estimate her own age, although it was probably a pretty accurate estimate. We do not know the exact date of her birth, and Jehanne almost certainly didn't either. There is one contemporary source, Boulainvilliers, who claims that she was born on January 6, the Feast of Epiphany. This is certainly not impossible; but it's also possible that Epiphany was just a notable feast near her birthday, and it's equally possible that this idea grew up as a pious association. Nonetheless, it's the only date we have. And while her true birthday for liturgical purposes is the date of her martyrdom, it's as good a day as any to say something about her in this six hundredth year of Johanna Puella.

Contrary to common English usage, the "d'Arc" or "D'Arc" should probably not be translated as "of Arc" since it was just her father's name (Jacques d'Arc), but it's a bit late to do anything about it now. Likewise, I doubt she would have often used the name herself, if at all; surnames were a very inconsistent thing in this period. Joan d'Arc was born in the little village of Domrémy to two peasants, Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle de Vouthon, who, however, were doing fairly well as peasants. Jacques d'Arc had about fifty acres of decent land and held the important local post of doyen, in charge of collecting taxes and organizing local defense. Joan was one of five children; we know very little about the rest. We know, on the other hand, an extraordinary amount about Joan, perhaps more than about any other person in the fifteenth century, because so much information was recorded about her by contemporaries, at her heresy trial, and at the nullification trial at which she was vindicated.

All of this began when the Maid was 13; she began having visions of the Archangel Michael, of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and of Saint Margaret of Antioch. Both Catherine and Margaret were virgin martyrs; it is perhaps also significant that St. Margaret was, like St. Michael, a dragonslayer, but the connection with Margaret seems to be more immediate, since she was represented in the chapel at Domrémy. For the next four years she continued to have visions, and then in October of 1428 everything changed through an event that seemed to have nothing to do with a little peasant girl: the English, allied to the Duke of Burgundy, laid siege to Orleans. And from then on we have history: Joan the Maid went to the court of the Dauphin and told him that she had been sent by God to free Orleans. Which she did, even to the point of returning to the field after an arrow wound in the neck in order to urge her men on. Then she captured Jargeau, again continuing to urge her men on after being hit on the head with a rock and falling off a siege ladder. Then victory after victory after that, in a matter of three months completely turning around what had seemed an almost hopeless situation.

She was captured by the Burgundians in 1430, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. She was nineteen years old. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. Her story had become legend, and she had begun to be regarded as a saint, well before then. Mark Twain wrote a book, which he claimed was his favorite and considered his best, called Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, his last finished novel. It has not been very widely accepted by others as his best work, because it's not a very Twain-like book (and, indeed, he originally published under a different pseudonym). What humor is in it is largely subtle, and book overall is rather serious in tone; instead of being put together largely on the fly, he spent about a decade researching it. Despite critical reluctance to accept such an un-Twain-like book, it is actually quite a good read, and I would not be surprised if time were eventually to bear out Twain's own assessment. Everybody knows that Twain can write teenage boys; but he gets Joan's teenage-girl-ness almost exactly right (it is said that he modeled her partly after his own daughter in her teenage years, and one can believe it). Twain also wrote an essay, sometimes appended to the Personal Recollections, called "Saint Joan of Arc" -- it is well worth reading, and summarizes the feeling of a great many people when it comes to the Maid of Orleans.

George Bernard Shaw, also wrote a well-known play about her, Saint Joan; it's notable for trying to do justice to the English and Burgundians as well as Joan and the French. Shaw's Joan tells us more about Shaw than about Joan, but it's a good piece, a tragedy in which everyone is sincere and well-meaning.

For those who have the French, Christine de Pizan's Ditie de Jehanne d'Arc is exquisitely good -- it was the very first literary work with Joan of Arc as a subject, written while she was still alive, by one of France's great writers in the period.

Discernment and Dithering

Michael Hannon has an excellent post on the current Catholic fad of "discerning one's personal vocation." For those of you who are not Catholic, "discerning your personal vocation" is Catholic-speak for "dithering about what you should do with your life." I find this bit of faddish Catholic-speak largely exasperating, because in fact almost everything that goes into what's known as the 'discernment process' really is just trying to make people dither. The point of true discernment, as opposed to this fakery, is to come to a clear decision on the basis of the kind of information that's needed for a good decision. For some people this will take some time, yes, but for others it won't. What people don't need are stupid exercises and long drawn out excuses; they need good, clear information in the form in which they can best understand it. That's it.

The fact of the matter is that every Christian already knows how to discern their vocation; every Christian has the vocation of their baptism, which is to be Christ in the world, to love God and neighbor, and to stand for the faith and all else that is good, true, and beautiful. (The three properly understood come to the same thing.) All other vocations are merely secondary extensions of this. As Hannon says,

The Christian ought to make major life decisions as he ought to make all decisions: by evaluating how he can serve God, by choosing a course of action accordingly, and by having the courage to follow through and do it.

Here's a checklist on how to decide if your vocation is marriage:

1. There's no fundamental impediment to getting married.
2. You've met someone really great.
3. You think you'd like to be married to them.
4. They think you're really great.
5. They think they'd like to be married to you.
6. You could meet your responsibilities as a married person and they could meet theirs.
7. It wouldn't be an act of stupidity in general or a harm for yourself or the other person for you to marry them.

Here's another checklist on how to decide if your vocation is priesthood:

1. There's no fundamental impediment to ordination.
2. You are interested in being a priest.
3. You could fulfill the responsibilities of a priest without scandal.
4. You are willing to commit to putting other people's good above your own, and especially God above yourself.
5. It wouldn't be an act of stupidity in general or a harm for yourself and others for you to become a priest.

Of course, these aren't even universal; there have been arranged marriages and there have been times and places where congregations forced promising young men to be priests. But, again, it's really not that difficult to make decisions.


Given this discussion, I should probably clarify:

(1) The checklists are not really intended to be rigorously reductive, since they are really intended to be checklists for finding out what one needs to know in order to make a decision and not algorithms for making the decision itself (I don't think any possible checklists would suffice for that). Taken this way I think that at a very general level they cover all that's usually necessary, barring special interventions by God, rare circumstances, and deliberate human perversity. I am afraid I was being somewhat sarcastic, though, in making the point that discernment of vocation is perfectly ordinary practical reasoning, albeit about a very important thing; and this no doubt obscured the intention.

(2) Strictly speaking it is possible to be Catholic and have both a vocation to marriage and a vocation to priesthood; it happens fairly commonly among Eastern Catholics (they only have the celibacy requirement for bishops), who are, of course, Catholics in good standing. And the discernment of both could overlap; I know at least one person for whom I think this was the case. It is, of course, not possible for Roman Catholics (and Eastern Catholics, to avoid confusion, avoid it in areas dominated by Roman Catholics), because of Roman canon law, except under unusual dispensations arising from conversion (usually from Orthodoxy or Anglicanism), which wouldn't be relevant to Catholic discernment. So the incompatibility is not a general one, but depends on the Catholic tradition to which one belongs and the canon law governing it. It is certainly true that if the checklist is not taken to cover this already under its weasel clause of "act of stupidity or harm" then it would have to be amended to include it as something you would need to find out if you didn't already know. This is a good example, actually, of how 'discernment of vocation' is concerned with practicalities. What one 'feels God is calling them to' may well be such a practicality, as one's own interest certainly is; but most of real discernment deals with things like whether it's legal or whether it would cause confusion, matters that require clear information and objective analysis.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Remote and Proximate Objects of Measurement

Perhaps the single most important concept for both scientific reasoning and scientific literacy is what I would call the distinction and comparison of remote and proximate objects of measurement. It is very common in serious scientific reasoning, although, of course, not usually put in those terms. The basic idea is this. Every act of measurement has an object, namely, what we want to measure. But measurement in a practical sense is very often not direct: what I want to measure and what I can directly measure are often two different things. For instance, I may need to use a device for the kind of measurement I am making -- a Geiger counter, for instance. This introduces a sort of hierarchy of objects of measurement. For instance, if it's a very simply Geiger counter, I may just count clicks; these clicks in turn measure pulses in the circuits of the device; these pulses in turn measure brief events of electrical conductivity in a tube full of inert gas; and the whole device is being used to measure ionizing radiation in the device's environment. None of these objects of measurement are simply equivalent, though, and being able to conceive of a Geiger counter requires at least some basic recognition of this fact. Ionizing radiation doesn't go around inducing audible clicks; I need to know that these clicks measure something that measures something (and so forth) that measures ionizing radiation. Getting to this point required recognizing that one thing can measure another thing under certain circumstances, and assessing the quality of Geiger counter measurement (whether it is being used properly, whether it is working properly, whether it works at all as a measuring device) depends entirely on work that established a channel from the most remote object of measurement (ionizing radiation) to the more proximate objects of measurement (like electrical pulses or audible clicks) so that the more proximate objects of measurement are adequate to the more remote objects of measurement in the channel.

The reason this sort of thing is important is that massive portions of scientific inquiry depend on establishing proxy measurements. This is fundamentally why we have experiments, in fact. If one could always assume that there was no disparity between remote and proximate objects of measurement, so that all you ever needed to collect precise data was to go and look, there would be no need for experiment. Experiments become more important than mere observation to the extent that we need to establish rather than assume the adequacy of proximate objects of measurement to remote objects of measurement. Because of this, it is always important to determinate the proximateness and remoteness of the objects of measurement in an experiment in order to determine what kinds of conclusions you can draw from it.

Consider, for instance, happiness studies. Getting precise measurements of happiness by any direct means is obviously out of the question. So we need some proximate object of measurement which can be adequately linked (probably through other objects of measurement) to our remote object of measurement, which is happiness itself. One proximate object of measurement you might choose is subjective a response to a set of survey questions. Another you might choose is some measurement of activation of this or that part of the brain. There are, in fact, many you might choose; the big question is how adequate they actually are for measuring what you are trying to measure. What you're aiming for is practical equivalence. It need not be strict equivalence; you don't need to say that happiness just is having certain answers on a particular kind of survey. But you do need it to be the case that the one can be substituted for the other for the purpose of reasoning about the remote object of measurement. Achieving this substitutability requires determining (1) whether the reliability of this kind of measurement depends on specific conditions; (2) whether the measure is a partial or total measurement (i.e., whether other things need to be measured); (3) how it relates to other objects of measurement in the same channel; and (4) how it relates to other useful proximate objects of measurement that are not in the same channel. And, of course, with happiness studies people constantly worry about the adequacy of the most proximate objects of measurement to the most remote object of measurement. People who support happiness studies obviously think they can overcome such challenges; but the important thing here is that they are rational in thinking this precisely to the extent that they have good reason to think that the more proximate objects of measurement are adequate to the remote object of measurement about which they are trying to draw conclusions. Reasons to think the one object adequate to the other are a precondition even for considering the experiment relevant to the subject you are trying to talk about.

Whenever we are assessing experiments or drawing conclusions on the basis of them, then, we really are asking how the proximate objects of measurement in the experiment are related to most remote object of measurement.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Music on My Mind

Bosshouse featuring Amanda Abizaid, "A Place in Time (The 4400 Theme)". I've just gone through a 4400 marathon, so it's very much in my head. The 4400 is one of the better science fiction series in recent memory; highly recommended if you've never seen it. One of its strengths is characterization; it's the series since Babylon 5 that best managed to have character arcs that were both plausible (given the premises of the show) and central to the story.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Less Ambitious Books

One of the topics that various Twitter People (who are Pod People, but briefer) have been playing around with is that of #lessambitiousbooks. Some of my favorites so far:

The Adequate Gatsby

Where the Mild Things Are

The Facebook Profile of Dorian Gray

Love in the Time of the Common Cold

Room with a Loo

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Commerce*

Being and Somethingness

War and Peace Process**

* Rowling starts getting dangerously close to something like it in Goblet of Fire.

** It really would take a Russian novelist to write a book that long.

Counterfactuals as Descriptions of the Factual

A post at Arminian Chronicles comments on an old post of mine about interpretation of counterfactuals of freedom in Scripture:

Steve also posted a link to Brandon’s post suggesting that in Matthew 11:21-23, Christ uses a figure of speech meaning Capernaum is more hard-hearted than Sodom. Unquestionably Christ is teaching Capernaum is more hard-hearted than Sodom, but how is He teaching that? Are we looking at a divine guess? No way I am buying that. Is it exaggeration? Rhetorical exaggeration works if the person knows you are exaggerating. If I tell my kids, have some of this salsa, but not that one or smoke will come out of your ears, it works, because they know I am exaggerating. But is it obvious Christ is exaggerating? No, what He is saying is plausible. Besides, His point is better made with the truth.

I'm not hugely committed to this particular interpretation of the passage, but this misses the point, and it is worth pointing out how it does so. There is no need for any additional figure of speech beyond the counterfactual itself; and such counterfactual conditionals, while they can be combined with hyperbole (as someone would be if they said, "If Charles were here, I'd strangle him"), are not themselves rhetorical exaggerations. Rather, using a counterfactual conditional as an indirect description of the factual is an entirely normal, and virtually universal, way of using counterfactual conditionals. We see this particularly in the fact that one kind of (very common) counterfactual is the per impossibile counterfactual: we use counterfactual conditionals that refer to impossible situations and say what would happen in those impossible counterfactual situations. ("If God did not exist, life would have no meaning"; "If basic counting arithmetic were inconsistent, our entire view of the world would be wrong"; "If contradictories could both be true, we wouldn't be able to make sense of anything"; "If Martin Elginbrod were God and God were Martin Elginbrod, Martin Elginbrod would have mercy on God"; etc.) Obviously such counterfactual conditionals are not statements about what would be true if the impossible were true, since no sense can be made of what would happen if the impossible were true; they are statements about what must be true for the actual situation to be possible or actual. And here I quote Brian Ellis arguing that we find the same thing in causal counterfactual conditionals (of which counterfactuals of freedom are one kind). Unless we are specifically elaborating the counterfactual scenario for its own sake, we are almost always using counterfactual claims to describe the way the world is in fact. In particular, we are indirectly describing how two things are related in the world as it actually is.

There is actually some research in cognitive science that confirms this point; it's rather old (about seven years old now), but this post by Chris from Mixing Memory briefly summarizes thinking in cognitive science about counterfactual conditionals (as far as I am aware, current thinking has not made any massive revisions to the idea).

The question is simply this: What are you actually committing yourself to if you use counterfactuals, especially counterfactuals of freedom? And the answer is that it simply depends on whether the context requires us to take the counterfactual situation as the subject of discussion or whether it requires us to take the actual situation as the subject of discussion. If, in describing someone's joy over a gift, I say, "If Charles were here, Diana would kiss him," I am in no way committing to its being true that in the counterfactual situation she would actually kiss him; anyone who responded to this by saying, "No, she would probably would still restrain herself," is either making a joke or missing the point. The claim is counterfactual if read literally but is in fact a figurative factual claim about Diana's state of mind. And what is important to understand is that this figurative use of counterfactual conditionals is more common than the strictly literal reading; the figure of speech arises all the time in colloquial contexts, whereas the literal reading usually only becomes important in technical discussions although on rare occasions it can be important in colloquial contexts, too.

Thus, faced with any counterfactual conditional, we simply can't go about interpreting it on the assumption that it is probably about the counterfactual scenario unless we have already established that the point of mentioning it is to tell us something about the counterfactual scenario rather than to tell us something about the relation between two things in the factual scenario. At the same time, it is true that we can't automatically rule out that the point of the statement is to talk about counterfactuals; this, too, has to be determined by context. The result is that there is no easy rule for interpreting counterfactual conditionals; we have to assess each in its own context. It does mean, though, that we can't assume that the most natural reading of any given counterfactual of freedom is the one that the Molinist would prefer; it has to be argued for each and every single case. Indeed, we can't even assume that the counterfactual is intended to be taken as literally telling the truth about counterfactual situations, rather than figuratively telling the truth about the factual situation. It must be shown. This is nothing peculiar to counterfactuals of freedom; that a counterfactual claim can be read both counterfactually and factually is a general problem for the interpretation of any kind of counterfactual claim.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Saints Basil and Gregory

Today was the Feast of Saint Basil of Caesarea and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, two of the three major Cappodocian Fathers (the other being St. Gregory of Nyssa, Basil's brother), and also two of the Three Holy Hierarchs (the other being St. John Chrysostom).

Basil is a saint I have always found interesting. He was raised in a family of saints. His grandmother on his father's side was Saint Macrina the Elder; she and her husband -- whose name seems to be unknown -- were confessors who survived the Galerian persecution. His father was Saint Basil the Elder and his mother was Saint Emilia, who was herself the daughter of a martyr -- whose name also seems not to have survived history. Basil and Emilia had either nine or ten children, five of whom were canonized as saints: Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Peter of Sebaste, Saint Naucratius, and Saint Macrina the Younger. You can learn a little about them in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina, which is one of the great classics of Christian theology.

Basil himself was something of what we could call a Forceful Personality. He was the sort of man who gets things done, and in the course of getting things done gets his way. In his long disputes with the Arians, he got a reputation for being the sort of person who could not be budged; Emperor Valens, who was an Arian, repeatedly tried to banish him -- and repeatedly failed. When he became bishop of Caesarea, he was essentially in charge of a region large portions of which were allied against him, and so, being Basil, he set about shoring up his position. He appointed his brother Gregory to be bishop of Nyssa, and he maneuvered his best friend, also called Gregory, into being bishop of Sasima. Now, this was no favor to either Gregory; Nyssa and Sasima were not exactly prime locations. We have letters from Gregory Nazianzen complaining vociferously about how Basil had stuck him in an awful backwater; he really and truly hated the place. When his father was dying, Gregory Nazianzen went back to Nazianzus and there he began to help run the Nazianzen diocese. Basil insisted that he return to Sasima; Gregory refused. They never stopped being friends, but they were never quite reconciled, either. It was all very much a Basilian thing; it is not for nothing that he is known as Basil the Great. He did not merely administer, he ruled; he did not merely maneuver, he conquered; he did not merely argue, he won. He was just that sort of person. But precisely because of his strategic and tactical mind, an immense amount of good was done for the people of his diocese: the list of things that Basil managed to accomplish for the poor in only nine years as Bishop of Caesarea is extraordinarily long, on top of his theological work, his episcopal duties, and outmaneuvering more enemies than you can count on the fingers and toes of a crowd. He was prodigiously competent at everything he did, almost more a force of nature than an ordinary man.

Gregory was no less interesting. He was also from a family of saints, albeit a slightly less prodigious one. His mother, Saint Nonna, married a Hypsistarian named Gregory -- Hypsistarians were pagans who, impressed by the Jews, had become monotheists and practiced some Jewish customs without actually converting. She converted her husband to Christianity. He was eventually made bishop of Nazianzus, and has become known as Saint Gregory the Elder of Nazianzus. They had had three children, Saint Gorgonia, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, and Saint Caesarius of Nazianzus. Gregory Nazianzen continued on his career after Basil's death. He was persuaded by fellow bishops to become Patriarch of Constantinople in order to try to counter the spread of Arianism there. He became popular enough that an Arian mob tried to kill him; he survived. But he was soon betrayed by one of his friends, Maximus the Cynic (called so because of his interest in philosophy), who managed to get himself appointed Patriarch in Gregory's place. Basil would never, ever have been outmaneuvered in this way, but Gregory was no Basil. Precisely one of his complaints at Sasima was that he really just wanted to lead a life of prayer; he was not well-suited for ecclesiastical and imperial politics. In any case, Gregory was only barely convinced by friends not to resign; and for a while there were two people claiming to be the legitimate Patriarch of Constantinople. Gregory's claim was eventually upheld by the First Council of Constantinople, but almost immediately after this victory he resigned and went back home. Also a very un-Basilian thing to do; but it was a very Gregorian one.

Experience and Object

We presume that Plotinus' encounter with the One had its subjective correlative, its phenomenological aspect. His was what we might call a "mystical experience." On the other hand, if we take "to become one with the divine" in its strictest sense, then perhaps such a thorough identification with the One, resulting in a radical de-identification and separation from the physical, will leave no trace on the conscious mind. Plotinus himself wrote that the soul when unified cannot distinguish itself from the One and so can neither recognize nor relate the event. Unification gives rise, not to knowledge, but to a presence beyond knowing (6.9.3-4).

Plotinus evinced no interest in trying to describe his experience (nor did Porphyry after his vision; nor Aquinas later). In any case, whether or not unification has a phenomenological correlate, the subjective aspect is secondary, derivative, beside the point. This is the premodern attitude. For modern man the subjective experience is everything. For the premodern the object of the experience is all that really matters.

[Mark Anderson, Pure: Modernity, Philosophy, and the One. Sophia Perennis (San Rafael, CA: 2009) 26-27.] The reference, of course, is to the Enneads.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I generally find New Year's resolutions to be rather silly, but I've decided to have one this year. My resolution for 2012:

To be even more awesomely me.

I feel good about this resolution.

ADDED LATER: Other resolutions that would be good:

To be at least as amazing as myself.

To do things that are at least as good as the things that I will do.

To avoid being right and being wrong at the same time and in the same way.

To do a few things sometimes.