Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kenneth Dodson, Away All Boats


Opening Passage:

The first time MacDougall saw the Belinda was the night before her launching. He was master in the Roamer then, his ship in Moore's dry dock at Alameda after a voyage to the Coral Sea. It was late at night; restlessly waiting for word from Nadine, who was coming by train from Seattle, he was alone in his cabin. Near midnight, he went down into the floating dry dock and walked along the bilge chocks, looking up at sea grass and barnacles on the Roamer's bottom, and checking her propeller for nicks. One of the workmen down there mentioned a new Navy ship to be launched next day.

"A cruiser?" he had asked.

"No, one of these new attack transports."

Summary: Away All Boats is the story of the Belinda, a World War II attack transport. She represents a new kind of warfare, a highly maneuverable invasion-by-sea force packaged into one ship, and she and her sister ships will play an utterly important role in the island-hopping campaign of the Pacific -- a role perhaps second only to, perhaps in some ways even more than, the role of the aircraft carrier in importance. And since she was written by Dodson to represent all such attack transports everywhere, she sees the full gamut of action, from her shake-down cruise, to practice dry-runs, to minor island invasion, to assault on Okinawa.

The book is quite realistic, as one might expect from the fact that the author himself served aboard an attack transport. There are some grisly scenes, although they are told quite well, and we get an excellent sense of the psychology of the U.S. Navy -- all the petty rivalries and competitions, the complications of having to work around the personal quirks of one's captain, the strange obsessions that come from being stuck on a ship all the time, the cracks that start to show under stress and strain, but also the camaraderie, the sense of being bound together in an important cause that transcends one's likes and dislikes, the famous sense of Navy accomplishment (the difficult is done immediately, the impossible just takes some time). There are lots of little details that bring the Belinda to life. One of the ones that caught my eye was the importance of the chaplain, who is not in any of the main action, and who is not a major character in the book, but who ends up playing a role again and again. Some of it is the obvious, of course -- there are men dying in sickbay who need someone to talk to, and the doctors, much as they might wish otherwise, have far too much to do. But much of it is the sort of thing that would only be obvious to someone who actually had served at a ship at sea. The chaplain, for instance, is in practice a back-up supply officer, because he is the one who receives and keeps track of donations that do not come through the logistical supply chain -- all sorts of odds-and-ends trumpets, or bottles of red ink, or boxes of tissue. It is the chaplain whose phonograph and records play what is in effect the background song for much of the book: "Red Sails in the Sunset". But we get these glancing bits about many others in the crew: the self-important and widely detested Ensign Twitchell, the spiffy but unpracticed executive officer Quigley, the original captain, Gedley, and the captain who succeeds him, Hawks, and many others. Although MacDougall will be our guideline character, the book often swings away from him: the protagonist of the book is the Belinda herself, and all these sailors aboard her just express different facets of her personality.

Favorite Passage:

MacDougall had put his ear to her hull, cautiously at first, then, forgetting half dried anti-fouling paint, had held his cheek snug to the bilge. Sound there all right: rustling of autumn leaves, distant surf, sounds she had never heard before, restless whisperings, voices in pain, voices thrilling with eagerness, mixed chattering in some unknown tongue, calling to far off places. MacDougall knew what it was; could explain these sounds in cold, scientific terms; why then was his spine tingling? He took his ear away and looked down at the old man, who was carefullly refolding a yellow telegram. "Those are locked-in stresses working out. They come out slowly in a part-welded hull."

"I know, son. Each part is trying to be free again, but they'll soon settle together; she's going to be a good ship, I tell you."

Recommendation: You probably can skip it otherwise (or watch the 1956 movie instead), but if you have any interest in naval history, this is an interesting and at times gripping fictional account of what it was like actually to be there in the Pacific.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Traditional EC vs. NPV

I keep an eye out every election-cycle in the U.S. for attacks on the Electoral College; this time around things have been rather quiet, but Steve Chapman recently had a column criticizing the Electoral College and advocating the National Popular Vote plan. Now, his criticisms of the EC have no cogency, but his advocacy of the NPV -- which is not to be confused with an actual national popular vote, which the plan does not provide -- is especially egregious.

(1) Chapman brings up the argument, which one gets every single time, that the EC is to blame for the fact that candidates focus on only battleground states. This is manifestly not true -- non-EC election systems do not avoid the battleground problem because it arises not from the election system but from the way campaigning works, so the most one could do is shift the emphasis from states to geographical regions. In a nation the size of the United States it will never be economical or even possible to campaign everywhere; people will campaign strategically. In the United States it is most natural to campaign by state anyway -- state boundaries are quite clear and fixed, it is relatively easy to get information about states as a whole, and political organizations, including parties, most naturally work at the state level -- but even if this were not so, active campaigning is necessarily confined to relatively few areas, leaving the rest to passive campaigning (national television appearance, local party organizations, etc.). This is, again, a necessary structural feature of campaigning, and this is intensified by the demand to campaign nationally in one of the world's largest countries -- fourth largest by area and third largest by population. We are by every metric huge -- there are too many people spread over too much of the globe for any evenhandedness to be genuinely viable at that level.

(2) Chapman also makes the common mistake in this area: he assumes we have actual national popular vote numbers. We do not. When people put together a 'popular vote', they are going on what states have turned in. But there is no standardized way of counting votes from state to state -- for instance, felons can vote in some states but not in others, some states use vote-gathering methods that are not accepted in other states, etc. This becomes relevant to the whole NPV idea: in order to have a genuine national popular vote you have to have a genuinely national way of collecting and counting them, so that what makes you eligible to vote in one place makes you eligible in another and that what counts as a legitimate vote in one place counts as a legitimate vote in another. The national numbers for the popular vote depend on treating the numbers turned in by the states as all commensurable, which they are not. We can know state popular vote totals; but we cannot compare across state lines except in a highly approximate way.

(3) Chapman: "Only for the most important office does that custom get cast aside — in favor of an antiquated system that the framers created without a clue how it would function." Since the Electoral College is less 'antiquated' than straight popular vote, and since the Framers actually had a pretty good idea how it would work (it was an adaptation of election systems that they knew quite well; the main sources of uncertainty were simply whether it could be made sustainable from election to election in the context of a republic), this is all empty rhetoric.

(4) And then we get to the National Popular Vote idea, which, again, is not a national popular vote. It is, in fact, just a form of the Electoral College system in which state election laws have gone insane. On the NPV system, states would be committing themselves in the Electoral College to preferring votes elsewhere to those cast by their own citizens. If State A doesn't allow felons to vote and State B does for civil rights reasons, then on the NPV plan, State A is committed to accepting as legitimate felons voting in in State B despite the fact that people in A exactly like those in B don't get to vote, and State B is committed to accepting as legitimate the election numbers coming out of State A, despite knowing quite well that the numbers are derived in part on what people in State B regard as a civil rights violation, and that there are potential voters in A whose votes are not getting counted despite the fact that they would count in B. This is an absurd situation. Moreover, NPV guarantees that states with well-thought-out election laws and well-run election systems are held hostage to those without. When, for instance, we had the problems with the Bush v. Gore election, the problems were all with the popular vote count of Florida. It only affected the Electoral College because Florida's own method of determining Electors is tied to its own popular vote count. Numbers can't be established for a 'national popular vote' (even one based on a fiction) under a state-by-state system like ours unless all the states have their act together. We know for a fact that this can't be guaranteed, and that a state can make a complete mess of things by poor collection methods, inconsistent vote-counting, and loopholes for voting fraud. And we also know for a fact that nobody can actually fix these problems except citizens of that state.

The point, in short, is that the only rational alternative to an Electoral College system -- which is highly effective as a state-by-state method of election -- is a genuine national popular vote system, which in our case requires taking election law out of the hands of the states and putting it entirely into the hands of a Federal agency. Bastardized systems like NPV are just not a serious option: they are EC reforms that fail to reform anything significant because they simply don't consider the actual logic of the system they claim to reform, elaborate symbolic gestures that talk about the importance of a national popular vote and do nothing to get one.

UPDATE: And in the comments below we see another reason to despise NPV advocates, beyond their complete inability to grasp basic facts about electoral process; as you can see in the comments, advocates just spam long passages of prepared text without serious regard for any actual argument. This is a tactic they've been trying for years now: boilerplate slimed over every post they can find that mentions the Electoral College or the National Popular Vote. Virtually all of the boilerplate, of course, is irrelevant to the argument given here (indeed, most of it is not even particularly relevant to election reform today), and much of the rest makes precisely the mistakes noted above. There is an additional mistake added: precisely the whole point of the Electoral College is that it is an aggregator that converts distinct state policies into commensurable Electoral votes -- Electoral College votes are commensurable because the Electoral College is structurally designed to make them so -- how they are arrived at is no more relevant than whether voters in the voting booth pick their candidates by deliberation or by coin-flipping. State popular votes are only structurally designed to be commensurable within a given state, and therefore any treatment of the additive sum of those vote totals as a 'national popular vote' is artificial and, as noted in (4) above, requires states to give preference to the laws of other states over their own. As I said: NPV doesn't fix anything in the Electoral College; it's just the Electoral College with insane state election laws.

Nonetheless, I'm glad the NPV spammers showed up: they show exactly what NPV is (which is why I'm not erasing it). It is a spammer's con, and has as much to do with serious election reform as Viagra spam has to do with serious health care reform.

The Lustre as of Olives

by Hilda Doolittle (H.D.)

All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives
where she stands,
and the white hands.

All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments
and past ills.

Greece sees, unmoved,
God's daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.

Fiddlesticks and Washboards

One nice thing about living in the age of YouTube is exposure to kinds of music that are hard to find otherwise. Here, for instance, is some great fiddlesticks playing:

Dewey Balfa and Tony Balfa, "J'ai eté au bal". Of course, fiddlesticks are from an era in which music was more participatory than it is today. Only have one fiddle between two people? Grab some knitting needles and you've made your fiddle a percussion instrument as well as a string instrument.

And here we have a percussion instrument you don't see often enough, the rubboard or (if you want to be fancy) vest frottoir, which is, of course, an adaptation of washboard music, and is usually played with spoons (using the handle) or bottle openers or thimbles or something similar. Whatever one might expect, the frottoir is a percussion instrument whose quality of sound is quite hard to beat:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Music on My Mind

Francis Cabrel, "Je t'aimais, je t'aime, je t'aimerai". I'm not in general a fan of songs in French, which has always been anemic and is increasingly inbred, and has a smarmy smile on top of that; but when it turns just the right way, as here, and lets itself be simple and heartfelt, it can still be splendid, recalling something of the spirit of ancient troubadors that still haunts its vowels and glides.

Philosophers' Carnival #144

The 144th Philosophers' Carnival is up at "Sprachlogik". The Carnival hadn't adjusted well to the changes in blogging over the many years of its operation, so Tristan Haze, the new coordinator for it, is taking it a new direction. The original point of the Carnival, eight years ago, had been mostly just to contribute to the development of connections and community among online philosophy blogs, in the ancient days of yore when such activities were common among bloggers generally. Early on, people made an active effort to contribute, and, while it still required some hunt-and-seek to bring in a good variety of posts, you could always guarantee that the submissions would turn out several interesting ones, and even that you'd have some room for selectivity, and so could guarantee that there would always be something of quality. But a lot of the real go-getters had been undergraduate and graduate students, and as their situation changed, most of us ended up drifting away a bit, thus leading to the whole thing languishing more and more over time. And there were obviously lots of reasons for this. I, for instance, was one of the early founding participators -- I did Philosophers' Carnival #2 -- and used to do a post precisely for the Carnival, aiming for at least every other edition, and every edition when I could. But I was a graduate student then, in front of a computer at least half the day most days, and it was a welcome relief from dissertation monotony. But slowly other things began to push it out, and it became difficult even to remember the Carnival was there. The blogosphere also changed: community and blog-neighborliness became much less important, and there is less of a sense of experiment and adventure than there once was -- we were looking at the possibility of blogging as a new kind of intellectual interaction, and so were eager to see what could be done with this Carnival idea. Thus there was definitely a need for some revitalization. The new idea is to focus less on the old participatory element, at least in the way it used to be participatory, and focus more on providing a way of making known to people where interesting philosophical work is being done in the blogosphere -- thus letting any community build up around that. It's a good idea, and I hope it works -- a lot of the old mainstay philosophy bloggers are still around doing their own thing, even if not as regularly as before, and new philosophy bloggers are out and about who need to be pointed out to others. And philosophy blogs tend to be scattered around a bit, so it can be easy to overlook good philosophy posts. The change means that one will have more technical posts, but this doesn't, of course, mean fewer good posts pitched at a more popular level. Go over and see if you see anything interesting! They have my recent post on Whewell, but I recommend particularly Helen De Cruz's post on evolutionary debunking arguments, which will be interesting whether you do philosophy or not, and there are several posts of interest for those of us interested in modal logic. And one early sign of the reform's success: I already see a couple of bloggers in the list who I hadn't even realized were still blogging.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Study of Beauties

...nothing is so improving to the temper as the study of the beauties, either of poetry, eloquence, music, or painting. They give a certain elegance of sentiment to which the rest of mankind are strangers. The emotions which they excite are soft and tender. They draw off the mind from the hurry of business and interest; cherish reflection; dispose to tranquillity; and produce an agreeable melancholy, which, of all dispositions of the mind, is the best suited to love and friendship.

David Hume, Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion. Hume is arguing for Ovid's maxim, Adde quod [or Scilicet, as it's often quoted] ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes / Emollit mores nec sinit esse feros, which is usually translated, "Therefore [or: Add to this,] to have studied faithfully the liberal arts softens behavior, not letting it be savage." Francis Bacon also discusses this maxim in The Advancement of Learning (1.8), and so does Joseph Addison in The Spectator No. 215 (6 November 1711). Owing in part to its use in Latin grammar exercises, it seems to have been a remarkably popular proverb in nineteenth-century Britain. The second half of it, incidentally, is also the motto of the University of South Carolina.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Plum, Bell, Rat, Cat, Frog, Log

I was reading some of Christina Rossetti's poems and came across this one, which somehow seems to have slipped by me before:

A City Plum Is Not A Plum
by Christina Rossetti

A city plum is not a plum;
A dumb-bell is no bell, though dumb;
A party rat is not a rat;
A sailor's cat is not a cat;
A soldier's frog is not a frog;
A captain's log is not a log.

A captain's log, or log-book, is an official journal and record of the ship's progress; it was called such because you would take measurements with a block of wood at the end of a rope. A sailor's cat is an instrument of punishment, a whip, a cat-o'-nine-tails; it was also known as the captain's daughter. A soldier's frog, also known as a sword-frog, holds your sword or knife to your belt. A dumb-bell is not what you think: it is practice equipment for changeringing -- that is, the English practice of ringing church bells. Changeringing is hard work, so requires practice to develop your skills, but you don't generally practice on the bells themselves for obvious reasons. You use weights on ropes -- hence the word 'dumb', i.e., mute, and 'bell'. Our use of the term to apply to weight equipment seems to be a transferred use of this term.

What, then, is a city plum or a party rat? I don't know for sure; but this says a party rat is a politician who deserts his party and a city-plum is a rich person, which are plausible (but at the same time its claim that a soldier's frog is an ornamental fastening is quite implausible).

Whewell on Newton's Laws III: The First Law

Tucked away in the introduction to a (now) little-read book, On the Motion of Points Constrained and Resisted, which was actually the second volume of his most developed physics textbook (an active advocate for the ineliminable importance of science in a liberal education, he wrote many), we find what is perhaps Whewell's most straightforward comment on the relation between the causal axioms that describe the Fundamental Idea of Cause, and how this Idea relates to Newton's Laws. For the first, he isolates the first causal axiom:

It is the object of science to reduce phenomena to their causes: the fundamental principle of science is

PROPOSITION I. No change can take place without a cause. (MPCR ix)

The cause relevant to motion is that of force, and in some sense Newton's First Law, Every body perseveres in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, except insofar as it is compelled to change that state by an impressed force, is just the causal axiom applied to forces: we have a change, namely, deviation from state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, and we have identified the relevant cause, impressed force. However, this obscures an absolutely essential element of Whewell's discussion; capturing this element requires us to think a bit more about the issue of the modal disparity that Whewell's account of induction addresses.

On the one hand, there is excellent reason for regarding Newton's Laws as something derived from experience. They have not, for instance, always been accepted, and, indeed, there were plenty of proposed principles of motion prior to Newton that are not strictly consistent with Newton's Laws. This does not, in and of itself, guarantee that the Laws must be derived from experience, because not all intrinsically self-evident truths are obvious to everyone -- mathematics and logic are both full of self-evident principles that cannot be recognized as such unless one has done considerable conceptual work. But when we look both at the kinds of errors that prevented people from developing the Laws and at the work that had to be done in order to clarify the principles of motion, we find that a considerable amount on both sides is experimental in character. So, for instance, to stick with the First Law, Aristotle failed to have anything like it for obviously experimental reasons. As Whewell says in the second volume of his Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (PIS2, 589), giving just one example,

Thus with regard to the first law of motion, Aristotle allowed that natural motions continue unchanged, though he asserted the motions of terrestrial bodies to be constrained motions, and therefore, liable to diminution. Whether this was the cause of their diminution was a question of fact, which was, by examination of facts, decided against Aristotle.

Likewise, recognizing that an object moving uniformly in a straight line would continue to do so unless something intervened required some clever experimental work for handling things like friction. Similar things can be said about the other two. So the history of science shows a clear experimental component in the Laws. And this is confirmed by the fact that many disciplines -- chemistry, biology, psychology, history, in short, since we distinguish what is real and what is not causally, all fields that deal with understanding the real world -- use causal reasoning, but they can't simply draw things like Newton's Laws directly from the relevant causal axioms.

On the other hand, the Laws cannot be mere descriptions of experience. For one thing, any such description is by its very nature merely a description of past experience, and on its own gives us no reason to think that things will continue. The Laws simply do not function in scientific reasoning in the way that, say, a report of what happened in a series of observations does. When people draw conclusions using the Laws, they aren't merely saying what will happen if the trend continues; they are stating as a fact what will happen on the information given, and can identify precisely what would have to happen in order to change that fact. Further, one can recognize immediately that there is something abstract about them: there has never been an empirical situation the exact empirical description of which exactly matched Newton's three laws, because no empirical description could guarantee that nothing essential was left out, nor an it agree complete precision and unrestricted statements.

Whewell therefore stakes out a middle way between two distinct positions on Newton's Laws, both of which had advocates in his day. On the one hand, there are those who hold that Newton's Laws are self-evident truths; Whewell doesn't think this position does justice to the actual history of their development, and he rejects out of hand any account of scientific discoveries, laws, or postulates that cannot properly place them in their actual historical context. Descartes had argued that experiment had a place in scientific inquiry, but the place he had given it was only as a crutch, a way to make conceptual clarification easier. Whewell insists throughout that experiment is not merely an adjunct to conceptual clarification; it is a fundamental contributor to scientific progress, and was a fundamental contributor to the development of Newton's Laws, and these two points are historical facts. This is an ongoing concern for Whewell; in the preface to another one of his physics textbooks, An Introduction to Dynamics, he says (ID, x):

It is a peculiar feature in the fortune of principles of such high elementary generality and simplicity as characterise the laws of motion, that when they are once firmly established, or supposed to be so, men turn with weariness and impatience from all questionings of the grounds and nature of their authority. We often feel disposed to believe that truths so clear and comprehensive are necessary conditions, rather than empirical attributes, of their subjects: that they are legible by their own axiomatic light, like the first truths of geometry, rather than discovered by the blind gropings of experience. And even when the experimental foundation of these principles is allowed, there is still no curiosity about the details of the induction by which they are established.

On the other hand, we do have people who claim that Newton's Laws are merely economical summaries of experience; Whewell doesn't think this position does justice to the powerful role they actually play in scientific reasoning, and since his project is in some sense laying out the conditions for the possibility of successful scientific reasoning as we actually find it, he obviously rejects any position that gives the Laws, or any other scientific principles, a weaker character than they actually have in the standard scientific arguments in which they are used. Further, as a matter of history, Newton's Laws were not simply read off of experiment; developing them required considerable conceptual refinement -- indeed, they were a major advance in conceptual refinement themselves, and ultimately made possible further conceptual clarifications that had never before been possible. There is a purely rational element to the development of the Laws, and the history of inquiry into forces shows this quite clearly. As he says in the beginning of yet another physics textbook, An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics (ETM, 1):

The appearance and occurrences of the material world suggest to us the conception of motion, and of changes of motion. Moreover, we find that we can often, by our own volition and exertion, influence the motions of bodies, and occasion changes of motion. We perceive too, that bodies appear to influence each other's motion in the same manner. By considering these occurrences in a general and abstract manner we obtain the conception of Force. Force is conceived as that general and abstract property by which one body causes, changes, or prevents motion in another body.

Abstraction is ineliminable.

Thus the reality, according to Whewell, is that each Law is a union of an abstract necessary principle (derived from the Idea of Cause) and an empirical specification. They therefore do exhibit necessity and universality, but it is a conditional necessity and a conditional universality; the condition itself is determined empirically.

In the First Law, for instance, we start with the causal axiom that no change can take place without a cause. But in order to apply this to the relevant field we first need (1) a reasonably clear conception of a particular kind of change, which requires that we already have done a considerable amount of work making sense of phenomena, identifying stable patterns that can be reasoned upon -- in this case the conception of motion and changes of motion mentioned above. Even this is not sufficient, however. Given a well-formed conception of a kind of change, (2) we can apply the causal axiom to recognize that there must be a cause. Given that we conceive of forces as a particular kind of external cause of change, we begin to get something recognizably like the First Law on this basis, but we can only get to the First Law if (3) we eliminate internal causes of the change. In this case, we need to know (to quote a paper that Whewell appended to later editions of the Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences), "that there is not in the mere lapse of time any cause of the retardation of moving bodies" (PIS2, 579). This requires various kinds of experimental set-up. What one can determine this way is that all discernible retardation effects are due to external causes, and therefore do not depend on time-lapse alone. Strictly speaking, this leaves open the possibility that we could have missed something. It could be, for instance, that the purely time-based change of motion is so subtle it cannot be detected with the instruments we have. It could also be that a time-lapse can only have this effect under very specific conditions that we have not yet discovered. This is element of the Law is one "which we can, in our imagination at least, contradict and replace by others, and which, historically speaking, have been established by experiment" (PIS2, 593); as such, it is potentially revisable. In effect, Whewell is beginning to identify the limits of Newtonian physics, the conditions under which it would have to be revised; interestingly, he began doing it at a time in which there were no serious limits in sight, just research problems, and in which the fundamental principles of Newtonian physics seemed to many to be on the order of logical truths.

Nonetheless it is important to recognize that this intrinsic revisability does not mean that Whewell is giving up the necessity of the First Law taken as a whole. This does not do justice to the power of experiment. While experiments and observations cannot guarantee of themselves that there is nothing left out, they can guarantee that nothing is left out within a certain range of possibilities to a certain degree of precision. Take, for instance, one of the earliest scientific theories to be well-established by observation, the basic astronomical system of Hipparchus, which was put in its canonical and paradigmatic form by Ptolemy. We have gone well beyond this. Nonetheless, the system did establish things that are recognizably still true, for instance, certain features of the apparent motions of the planets, and yet other things that are necessary, for instance, that the apparent motions of the planet can be described, to any degree of precision practical purposes may require, entirely in terms of equable circles. In fact, since the major figures in the Ptolemaic tradition were fully aware that they were only accounting for apparent motion, there's a very real sense in which the Ptolemaic theory is true in the same sense it ever was -- we superceded it not by proving it false in the sense that its advocates accepted it, but by establishing quite precisely its limits so that the whole of the Ptolemaic model of the apparent motion of the planets became yet one more phenomenon to explain, and by developing a theory of the real motion of the planets powerful enough to explain that phenomenon. Whewell, in other words, has a much more robust notion of scientific progress than even many people in his day had, and certainly much more robust than most people have today: it is impossible to imagine Whewell being impressed by Karl Popper or his claims that theories are only falsifiable. On the contrary, they are strictly provable; it just happens that they are only strictly provable for certain conditions and up to certain limits, and perhaps the most important experimental discoveries are those that allow us to discern exactly what these conditions and limits are. So with the First Law. The Newtonians, on Whewell's view, established it for all time. At the same time, it is still revisable, as experiment shows that there are conditions attached to it that we did not realize, conditions which mean that it is only true and established for a certain range of phenomena to a certain degree of precision. There is no need to choose between a scientific inquiry that can establish things with rigor and certainty and a scientific inquiry that is tentative and capable of revision: you can have both at once.

The history of the development of the First Law is very long, with some interesting episodes, but of the three Laws, it is far and away the least interesting, both historically and philosophically. Principles of the same general structure have been around for almost as long as we have records of people trying to explain changes of motion; it took a long time to work out the details, in large part for experimental reasons, but, aside from issues about uniform motion in circles and lines, there's really nothing extraordinary about the course of its history. Likewise, and for much the same reason, it is the least philosophically interesting of the Laws, not really capable of shaking much up: we're used to explanatory principles of this general sort, having had them practically as long as the human race can collectively remember. The Second and Third Law are more interesting on the historical and philosophical fronts, and since Whewell's approach to the Laws of Motion cannot be properly grasped without taking into account both of these fronts, we will in the next post look at some of the interesting features of these two, although we will not by any means be able to do justice to the more complex details.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Doctors of the Church

St. Juan de Avila and St. Hildegard von Bingen have been officially declared Doctors of the Church, so this is an updated post.

'Doctor of the Church' is a special, officially given, liturgical title in Rome's Universal Calendar: it indicates (1) saints in the universal calendar who (2) were doctors (i.e., theological teachers) and who (3) have left theological writings that (4) are of extraordinary quality and considerable value for the whole community of the faithful. It originally grew up on its own as applied to a small group of especially important theologians (Athanasius, Basil, Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great). It was later conferred on Thomas Aquinas, and shortly afterward, Bonaventure, in order to recognize that these theologians were, in their own ways and according to the formats of their time, teachers of the Church of the same caliber as the prior Doctors of the Church. It has since been extended outward by official recognition of a theologian as being in the same class. Because of (2) it is traditional not to consider martyrs for the title, despite a number of notable theologians in that category who fit all of the other criteria, because 'martyr' is a higher liturgical title than 'doctor' -- martyrs would never be liturgically given a Mass for doctors, only for martyrs, and thus the title would be otiose. Likewise (3) is pretty restrictive; there have been some excellent theologians who don't qualify because we know of their work only indirectly and not from any writings they left (Saint Macrina comes immediately to mind). And, of course, there are extraordinarily important theologians who aren't saints in any calendar (Tertullian, Origen, Theodore Abu-Qurra). What follows are various lists in which kinds of theological periods and overlaps can be observed.

I. By Death Year
(sometimes approximate; year in parentheses is the year they were officially recognized as Doctor of the Church; to show gaps, asterisks indicate approximate length of intervening interval between death years, each asterisk indicating approximately a decade)

368 Hilary of Poitiers (1851)
373 Athanasius
373 Ephrem the Syrian (1920)
379 Basil of Caesarea
387 Cyril of Jerusalem (1883)
390 Gregory Nazianzen
397 Ambrose of Milan
407 John Chrysostom
420 Jerome
430 Augustine
444 Cyril of Alexandria (1883)
450 Peter Chrysologus (1729)
461 Leo the Great (1754)
604 Gregory the Great
636 Isidore of Seville (1722)
735 Bede (1899)
749 John Damascene (1883)
1072 Peter Damian (1828)
1109 Anselm (1720)
1153 Bernard of Clairvaux (1830)
1179 Hildegard von Bingen (2012)
1231 Anthony of Padua (1946)
1274 Thomas Aquinas (1568)
1274 Bonaventure (1588)
1280 Albert the Great (1931)
1379 Catherine of Siena (1970)
1569 John of Avila (2012)
1582 Teresa of Avila (1970)
1591 John of the Cross (1926)
1597 Peter Canisius (1925)
1619 Lawrence of Brindisi (1959)
1621 Robert Bellarmine (1931)
1622 Francis de Sales (1877)
1787 Alphonsus Liguori (1871)
1897 Therese of Lisieux (1997)

II. By Birth Year
(often approximate, especially for earlier figures)

293 Athanasius
300 Hilary of Poitiers
306 Ephrem the Syrian
313 Cyril of Jerusalem
329 Gregory Nazianzen
330 Basil of Caesarea
337 Ambrose of Milan
347 Jerome
349 John Chrysostom
354 Augustine
376 Cyril of Alexandria
380 Peter Chrysologus
400 Leo I
540 Gregory I
560 Isidore of Seville
672 Bede
676 John Damascene
1007 Peter Damian
1033 Anselm of Canterbury
1090 Bernard of Clairvaux
1098 Hildegard von Bingen
1195 Anthony of Padua
1206 Albert the Great (although perhaps as early as 1193)
1221 Bonaventure
1225 Thomas Aquinas
1347 Catherine of Siena
1500 John of Avila
1515 Teresa of Avila
1521 Peter Canisius
1542 John of the Cross
1542 Robert Bellarmine
1559 Lawrence of Brindisi
1567 Francis de Sales
1696 Alphonsus Liguori
1873 Therese of Lisieux

III. By Year of Recognition

[Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great all received it by organically developed custom]

1568 Thomas Aquinas
1588 Bonaventure
1720 Anselm of Canterbury
1722 Isidore of Seville
1729 Peter Chrysologus
1754 Leo the Great
1828 Peter Damian
1830 Bernard of Clairvaux
1851 Hilary of Poitiers
1871 Alphonsus Liguori
1877 Francis de Sales
1883 Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, John Damascene
1899 Bede
1920 Ephrem the Syrian
1925 Peter Canisius
1926 John of the Cross
1931 Albert the Great, Robert Bellarmine
1946 Anthony of Padua
1959 Lawrence of Brindisi
1970 Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila
1997 Therese of Lisieux
2012 John of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen

IV. By Number of Years from Death to Recognition
(Color Code, very rough: Patristic Era, Scholastic Era, Counter-Reformation)
[Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great all received it by organically developed custom]

1547 Ephrem of Syria

1496 Cyril of Jerusalem
1483 Hilary of Poitiers
1439 Cyril of Alexandria

1293 Leo I
1279 Peter Chrysologus

1164 Bede
1134 John Damascene

1086 Isidore of Seville

833 Hildegard of Bingen

756 Peter Damian
715 Anthony of Padua

677 Bernard of Clairvaux
651 Albert the Great
611 Anselm of Canterbury

591 Catherine of Siena

443 John of Avila

388 Teresa of Avila
340 Lawrence of Brindisi
335 John of the Cross
328 Peter Canisius
314 Bonaventure
310 Robert Bellarmine

294 Thomas Aquinas
255 Francis de Sales

100 Therese of Lisieux

84 Alphonsus Liguori

V. Various Miscellaneous Lists

Because of the split between East and West there are no Eastern Doctors after Damascene, making eight in total (Hilary, Athanasius, Ephrem, Basil, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Cyril of Alexandria, John Damascene).

There are three Carmelites (Teresa, John of the Cross, and Therese), two Jesuits (Canisius and Bellarmine), three Dominicans (Thomas, Albert, Catherine (Tertiary)), four Franciscans (Anthony, Bonaventure, Lawrence, Francis de Sales (Tertiary)), one Redemptorist (Liguori), and six Benedictines (Isidore [it is thought], Bede, Anselm, Bernard, Hildegard, Peter Damian). There are four women (Hildegard, Catherine, Teresa, Therese), three of whom were nuns (Hildegard, Teresa, Therese). There are nineteen bishops, of whom two were Patriarchs of Rome (Leo, Gregory), two Patriarchs of Alexandria (Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria), two Patriarchs of Constantinople (Nazianzen, Chrysostom), and one Patriarch of Jerusalem (Cyril of Jerusalem). That's actually very nice balance, although notably Antioch is missing, with no plausible candidate (interesting, given how important the See has been theologically). There is one deacon (Ephrem).

Some notable and influential theologians who possibly meet all the criteria but haven't yet received the designation: Gregory of Nyssa (whose absence is very noticeable), Epiphanius of Salamis, Jeanne de Chantal, Jean Eudes, Louis de Montfort, Bernardino of Siena, Veronica Giuliani, Birgitta of Sweden, Gertrude of Helfta, John Bosco, Lorenzo Giustiniani, Antonino of Florence, Thomas of Villanova, Ignatius of Loyola, Vincent de Paul.

Some notable and influential saints who possibly meet all the criteria except being on the Universal Calendar: Clement of Alexandria, Isaac the Syrian (Isaac of Nineveh), Gregory Palamas, Symeon the New Theologian, Nerses Shnorhali.

Some notable and influential saints who would be good candidates except that they are martyrs: Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Boethius, Maximus the Confessor, Thomas More, Edith Stein.

Some notable and influential theologians who will possibly at some point be given the designation if their canonization process is ever completed: John Duns Scotus, John Henry Newman, Antonio Rosmini, Julian of Norwich.