Saturday, June 01, 2013

'Worst Philosopher'

Tyler Cowen asks "Who is the worst philosopher?" The comments section is a remarkably amusing pile of utter ignorance in a state of pompous pontification. Cowen himself restricts it to philosophers of renown, which is a somewhat vague set, and concludes Husserl. I'm not a huge fan of Husserl, but this is, frankly, an absurd answer, even granted that the question is something of an absurd question. We don't even really get an explanation why, or any actual analysis of Husserl in comparison with other philosophers; in the comments, Cowen dismisses without much explanation the obvious reason to refuse to label Husserl 'worst', namely, his extensive influence on people who are obviously themselves not the worst, and the esteem in which they held him. Cowen suggests Plato or Hume as the greatest philosopher, and Aristotle and Nietzsche as the most overrated philosophers. I say this as very much a fan of Hume, but, if we were going this direction, it would be extraordinarily easy to argue that Hume is overrated: his current popularity is demonstrably Zeitgeist-driven and for the wrong reasons, having very little to do with Hume's actual philosophical activity, since it is very easy to find people attributing positions to Hume that are far less limited than he actually asserts. Plato is the obvious candidate for greatest philosopher, but it is an uphill battle to argue that Aristotle is overrated; the Prior Analytics and Nicomachean Ethics alone would still give him a serious claim to being one of the greatest philosophers in history on the basis of (1) substantive influence, (2) important argument and discovery, and (3) fruitful ideas. But saying that Aristotle is overrated as a philosopher is almost certainly like saying that Shakespeare is overrated as a playwright, or that Dickens is overrated as a novelist; we are dealing with a level for which 'overrated' could only possibly have an idiosyncratic meaning.

In reality, of course, it's a mistake to rank philosophers on a single scale; as Karl Jaspers pointed out, philosophers do very different things that are not all commensurable. Jaspers himself divided the field of philosophical greatness into six areas*:

(1) paradigmatic individuals, who provide by their practice extraordinarily influential models for philosophizing, namely, Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, and Confucius;
(2) seminal founders, who establish new large-scale traditions, namely, Plato, Augustine, or Kant;
(3) intellectual visionaries, who are the great philosophers whose excellence resides in a sort of conceptualization, like Spinoza or Leibniz;
(4) great disturbers, who are the great philosophers who excel at criticism, like Hume or Nietzsche;
(5) creative orderers, who are the great philosophers who excel at system-building, like Aristotle, Aquinas, or Hegel.
(6) specialists who excel at a particular area (e.g., aesthetics, or philosophy of law).

But it is clearly impossible to grade all of these different functions according to a single criterion. Critical problematics is a very different kind of activity from conceptual construction, for instance, with different ends, means, patterns of influence, and so forth, so greatness along one axis won't necessarily be relevant to greatness along the other, and weakness along one axis won't necessarily translate into weakness along another. People will of course end up answering such questions based on a mix of their (necessarily limited and flawed) understanding of the two and a half millenia history of philosophy and their own subjective taste.

If we're talking about taste, though, taste is only as good as its cultivation, which requires extensive experience, discriminative capacity and the ability to express it, and careful comparison. And that means only us historians of philosophy are competent to answer questions like this. The answer, of course, is that all major philosophers are underrated, taken absolutely, and you can't talk about about worst philosophers without asking specifically "worst at what philosophical activity", since there are provably many, and that Plato and Aristotle are the primary sources of philosophy in the West, and the Western philosophers who have been regarded as the most important philosophers by the most people who are serious candidates for being considered great philosophers, and such people are obviously the people whose opinion forms the standard of good taste in philosophy.

* Jaspers's scheme is, of course, only one of several possible. It's perhaps worth pointing out, however, that it is not arbitrary, since this criticism occasionally comes up. Paradigmatic individuals, great thinkers (2 through 5), and specialists have very different roles in the history of philosophy, and this can be traced fairly objectively by recognizing that the patterns of influence for each of these groups is very different. Among great thinkers, we have the vital activity of philosophy as conceptualization (3), analysis (4), and synthesis (5), and then unusual cases that combine these in ways that make it possible to build complex traditions on the basis of them (2). The problem with the scheme, if one wants to criticize, is not that it is arbitrary, or even wrong, since there is a great deal to be said in its favor, but that it is a scheme: if you take a philosopher like Berkeley, for instance, there is no way to capture both his chessmaster-like critical argumentation and his innovative theory of vision. Or, if we take Hume, how does emphasizing criticism really do justice to one of Hume's very great strengths, psychological observation, or the fact that Hume is quite deliberately system-building? Setting Aristotle down as a creative orderer simply doesn't do justice to his critical acumen -- Aristotle's entire systematic ordering is based on a thorough critique of previous philosophers -- or the extent to which Aristotle was inventing entirely new vocabularies for talking about entirely new fields of thought. In reality, of course, all philosophers do something of (3), (4), (5), and (6), so we must be dealing with proportions rather than set classes. And that, in fact, is certainly right.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Brief Introduction to Natural Law Theory IV

Part IIIc

IV. Natural Law and Human Law

Natural law, again, consists of fundamental principles of practical reason, without which practical reasoning is not possible, insofar as these principles can be regarded as having the force of law, or obligatory force; and these principles do, in fact, have the force of law insofar as they concern the common good of human beings as rational animals. It is a common misconception that 'natural law' is called 'natural' because it gets its law from 'nature', either external nature or internal biology; but this is manifestly false, historically and etymologically: it is called 'natural law' because it is the law natural to us as rational animals. Natural law theory is not a theory of biology, nor is it properly a theory of metaphysics; it is not, in other words, a theory of nature or natures, but an account of practical reason, which is appropriate to human nature. This is absolutely essential to understanding how natural law relates to human-made law.

Natural law itself requires the development of human law, precisely because it is the foundation of practical reasoning. The fundamental precepts of natural law, such as good is to be sought and done, and bad avoided, which is the practical equivalent of the principle of noncontradiction, are universal in their scope. But it is also quite clear that they are general and consistent with any number of possible societies and ways of life, and it would be unreasonable to try to argue that it covers every aspect of them, even when some other common good (such as the common good of the political society or dominion or community of nations in which we live) cannot be had without additional requirements. Sometimes we can get specific requirements by reasoning things out carefully and precisely enough, but this is very difficult, and practical reason often requires, by its very concern with the practical, a degree of approximation that makes it impossible to be this precise. When we added empirically discovered facts to these general principles, we can sometimes also get specific requirements, but these are only as discoverable as the facts they presuppose.

Moreover, when we look at the precepts of natural law, we find that some of the precepts are not primarily concerned with the individual. For instance, children and productive labor are two very obvious examples that involve many precepts that are about what human beings as a society should do, rather than anything specific for the individual human being to do. The precepts that concern what we should do with children -- i.e., that deal with issues like how we should treat sexual partnership insofar as it makes children possible, how we should run society so as to make it good for raising children, or how we should handle things like inheritances -- are in general concerned with human beings as a society. It is a precept of natural law that the human race propagate itself: human beings should have children so that there will be human beings in the next generation. But no given person has a particular obligation to breed. The force of the precept is that we should take generation seriously and that if it were ever the case that the human race could go extinct, we should as a society look for reasonable means to remedy this situation, where 'reasonable means' are means that do not violate some other precept of natural law. Likewise, it is a precept of natural law that human beings should engage in sufficient productive labor to support themselves, in terms of food and resources. But as Aquinas argues at quite considerable length, this is not a precept that everyone should do the manual labor required to feed themselves. It is reasonable, and consistent with the precept, if some people do not do this labor if they provide some real benefit in exchange. That is, it's perfectly fine for only some people to be doing the manual labor required to feed, clothe, etc., the entire population, as long as everyone gets something out of it. Aquinas's example is teachers: teaching is an extraordinarily great social good, so it makes sense for there to be a section of the population that instead of spending all its time feeding itself, devotes its time and effort to good teaching in exchange for food or money for it. The thrust of the precept is that productive labor should be treated seriously and with respect, and that we should as a society make sure that it is done. While other precepts, like those concerned with justice in exchange, will affect what means are acceptable in different circumstances, this precept itself is really just a precept for human beings as a society, and not a rigid requirement for every individual. Other examples could be given from these and other areas; the point is that large parts of natural law are practical reasoning about human society, and thus do not dictate what the actions of an individual should be.

In many such cases, liberty will be in possession, and it will make sense just to leave it up to the individual. But there will be plenty of cases where this will make no sense. Under certain conditions, it is irrational to have no traffic laws; but traffic laws will tend to require specific decisions in matters where it doesn't matter what the decision is, as long as some decision is made. Natural law does not say whether we should drive on the right side or the left side, or whether we should allow right turns on red, but if you are going to have orderly traffic in order to avoid needless death, you will have to have some kind of decision about things like this.

In such cases, these decisions themselves have the authority of law, because they receive that authority or force of law derivatively. This gives us human-made law. It follows from this, of course, that human law can have no force of law unless it is consistent with natural law. We could easily put the matter in other terms. Nothing proposed by a human being can have obligatory force for others if it is not the sort of thing a rational person can accept as obligatory. But what determines what a rational person can accept as obligatory? The fundamental principles of practical reason, which are the basic precepts of natural law. We accept human laws as having force because reason shows that they should; and it does so by natural law. Another way to put it is that all human-made law must be a means to the common good of a given society; but the common good of any given human society includes the common good of all human beings, which is precisely what is articulated, explicated, and specified in natural law.

This has an interesting corollary that I think is not often taken as seriously as it should be. The most natural and fundamental form of human-made law is not statute but custom. In any given society, there are things you just don't do, whether or not anyone tells you that you can't, and in any given society, there are presumptions about what can be expected and what can't. Even when we have statutes, it is customary law that tells us how we should be interpreting and applying them. Different societies will have different customary laws, so that in one society custom might require that we construe a statute very broadly while in another society custom might require that we construe an apparently similar statute very narrowly; but no society can legally cohere except insofar as it builds on customary law.

There are large areas of life where customary law would suffice in principle, but in practice we need some common reference point that has to be more precise or more enduring than custom alone can be. One can go beyond custom in many different ways. (It should be noted, however, that in a sense no human law goes beyond customary law. Statutory laws get their force from natural law through customary law, so all statutory laws are just specific ways we continue the customs of our people, and even when they are brand-new or require a change of specific customs, they must at some level be continuing more fundamental customs of our society.) One possible way to start doing it is by common law. Anglo-Saxon common law is customary law given greater precision and organization by extensive court precedent; in a sense, it is a 'customary law of the courts'. Another way it can be done is by mutual agreement on the basis of shared customs. This is how the law of nations or international law grows up: on the basis of overlaps in their customary law, nations agree to abide by certain specific provisions, which become international law. Early discussions of jus gentium are very little more than discussions of customary law itself as it relates to nations; but as nations interact treaties, alliances, and agreements grow up that require more explicit statement. A third way it can be done is by legislation in the strict and proper sense. Citizens are the natural legislators of a given society, and they get together and create law, or else, for practical convenience and efficiency, they delegate their legislative authority to someone who creates law for them.

Another corollary of the principle that human-made law, from the barest customs to the most sophisticated regulatory systems and schemes, is subject to natural law, is that civil disobedience is sometimes legitimate or even obligatory. This is an important feature of natural law theory that has been part of it from the very beginning, because it follows from the fact natural law draws the line between legitimate authority and usurpation of power. Historically, natural law theorists have been very cautious about it, so that most natural law theorists have tended to argue that civil disobedience should usually be the civil disobedience of magistrates in the face of the usurpations of higher magistrates. However, there is no way to eliminate a more general kind of civil disobedience, because the natural magistrates of any society are the citizens themselves, and any other magistrates are merely delegates of the citizens at large. (This sounds very modern, but it is important to remember that this is the way natural law theorists talked even about monarchies and principalities: kings have authority from customary law, by means of which they are given the role of taking care of the common good of their people, who are nonetheless still the natural and primary caretakers of their own common good.) Thus laws that violate natural law have no particular authority and on their own need not be obeyed. It still may be necessary to obey them, but if so it will only be because disobeying them would also require violating natural law. For instance, a law may be illegitimate and without authority, but just given the accidents of circumstance, you can't disobey it without doing grave harm to innocents, whereas obedience doesn't do much harm at all. In these cases, though, obedience is just a matter of tolerating something in order to avoid worse things. In other cases, obedience may itself require violating natural law, and in these cases the law not only has not authority but must be opposed. The natural law approach to civil disobedience is laid out with admirable accessibility and practicality in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

On the legislative side, one useful guideline for recognizing the bounds of legitimate legislation, the kind of legitimate that has the authority requiring civil obedience, is that given by Isidore of Seville in the Etymologies (5.21): "Law shall be virtuous [honesta], just, possible, consistent with nature [sometimes the phrase is punctuated so that the previous two are one item, 'naturally possible', and sometimes it is read as also combined with the next, so 'possible according to nature and national custom'], consistent with national custom, appropriate to time and place, necessary, useful; clear, lest by its obscurity it contain sophistry [captio, which can also mean 'deception' or 'trick']; not framed for private convenience but for civic common good [pro communi utilitate civium]."

A third corollary is the doctrine of toleration. It is simply not reasonable to try to handle every problem, every bad thing in society, by law, whether that law be customary or statutory. Human beings are imperfect, and you have to allow for normal failings and error. Further, sometimes it happens to be the case that enforcing a law, even one quite good in the abstract, would cause serious harm to others, in which case we should ask the question of whether the good of the law really merits doing this harm, and if the harm is serious, we shouldn't have that law, even if we still hope that people act as if it were in force. As Aquinas says (ST 2-1.96.2):

Human law is put forward for the human multitude, in which the greater part are not completely virtuous. And for this reason human law does not prohibit all the vices from which the virtuous abstain, but only the most serious, from which it is possible for the greater part of the multitude to abstain; and particularly those that are a nuisance for others [nocumentum aliorum], with regard to which, if not prohibited, human society could not be preserved, as when human law prohibits homicide and fraud [furta, which can also mean 'theft'] and such like.

Human law, then, must be such as can be reasonably applied without violating natural law, and this will require accepting in every society some imperfections that cannot be completely eliminated, but must simply be tolerated as the cost of continuing to exist as a society. Thus natural law governs human law, but not only does it not require utopianism about laws, it is actually inconsistent with it. This is ultimately due to the fact that natural law theory is a theory of practical rationality.


And that's the brief introduction. It could have been briefer and more introductory, because the basic idea of natural law is quite simple, but I find that people are impatient when it comes to natural law theory. Both critics and supporters often show by their actions that they don't actually care about the structure of the theory; they are only interested in rushing to whatever their pet topic is. This has always been a problem faced by natural law theory, although the topics change from society to society; in ours sexual topics tend to predominate, but there have been times and places when the all-devouring topics were economic or matters of international law. This is not a reasonable way to approach the matter, but it is inevitably human. Preventing misconceptions at this level requires getting into rather more complex issues than would be necessary if people were content to get a strong foundation in the basics and then slowly work out from there.

It is, however, brief and introductory. I haven't even looked at all the issues that are raised by Aquinas, whose questions on Law in the Summa Theologiae should be read closely by anyone who is interested in the subject. I haven't looked at the precise relation between natural law and a true commonwealth, which was Cicero's major concern in De Re Publica. While I've touched on a few historical disputes, I've steered clear of a number of important ones. For instance, Scotists and Thomists have considerable agreements in the area of natural law theory, since Scotus's account of natural law is very similar to Aquinas's, differing mostly in emphasis (largely due to the Franciscan/Dominican difference), but there are important disagreements between the two approaches, most particularly in the theory of dispensation of natural law (dispensation occurs when a law can be set aside for very rare but genuinely possible circumstances), which I've avoided entirely, because it is a very complicated issue. I've gestured at some of the classic texts, but haven't looked in detail at arguments or specifics. Anyone interested in natural law theory needs to have read Vitoria's De Indis, in which he sharply criticizes Spain's treatment of the native populations in South and Central America; King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which is mentioned above; and Maritain's Communication with regard to the Draft World Declaration of Human Rights (PDF). In addition, there are plenty of discussions, both from a classical and a New Natural Law perspective, of modern issues that are worth reading, whereas I have deliberately avoided the pet topics of our own day like the plague. No matter how important issues may be for a society or even in general, our view of reason itself, which natural law theory primarily considers, should not be forced to bow to the tastes and arbitrary assumptions of any particular Zeitgeist, but should be taken seriously in its own right first. Historically, the single most important issue in natural law theory was usury, and that is a complicated, and easily misinterpreted, history; but it is certainly the sort of thing that a serious student of natural law theory needs to look at. Many more issues could be added. Natural law theory is not the sort of thing that can be put in a short space: it is a massive tradition of inquiry into the most fundamental aspects of human life and practice. And that is a very big field indeed.

Aquinas for May XXXI

Qui in caritate vivit, particeps est omnis boni quod fit in toto mundo.

"Who lives lovingly shares in every good that is done in the whole world."

In Symb. art. 10

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Aquinas for May XXX

Christus promittit et donat spiritualia; et ut ostendat contemnenda temporalia, et speranda aeterna, noluit temporalem liberationem secundum rationem, et tamen aliqui in novo testamento sunt temporalibus liberationibus liberati, et in veteri testamento aliqui sunt spiritualibus afflictionibus eruditi, ut ostendatur Deus auctor esse utriusque testamenti.

"Christ promises and gives spiritual things; and in order to show that temporal things are to be scorned and eternal things are to be hoped for, he does not will temporal liberation according to reason, although some in the new testament are liberated by temporal liberation and in the old testament some are taught by spiritual afflications, in order to show that God is the author of both testaments."

Super Psalmo 21 n. 4

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fractal, Part I

This is the first part of a fictional short story draft.

The worst part of being here is the routine. From cell to cafeteria to gym to cell, again and again. If you let yourself fall too much into it, it starts to feel like something inside you is dying. The body can survive imprisoned, but the mind lives only when free.

To keep the routine from becoming too oppressive, I find myself living to a great degree in my imagination. Sometimes I try to imagine what she might be doing now. I always imagine her on a beach. I do not know whether she is anywhere a beach, but that is where I imagine her. I picture her walking, an endless line of footprints behind her, the wind blowing in her hair, sometimes looking out to sea, sometimes picking up a seashell and examining it closely, perhaps for the first time. There is a salt tang in the air. It sometimes makes my eyes water.

Sometimes, even though I try not to do so, I end up imagining what might have been done differently. Where would my life be if I had never met Becky or David, if, for instance, I had gone to a different college, or if I had never agreed to be Becky's roommate? What if David and I had never become friends? What if Sparky had never existed, or I had seen the warning signs earlier? The questions leave me baffled and depressed.

Most often, though, I find myself imagining what it must have been like for her, that first day, all the blooming and buzzing confusion. I try to put myself in her place. I imagine that it must be like waking up. It is never like flipping on a switch; there are too many facets to our conscious life for that. Perhaps she first had a dim sense of breathing, of feeling the currents of air in the room, or, perhaps even more likely, of sound, first dim and far away, the humming of the machines, the babble of voices.

Then her eyes opened and she looked around, not knowing where she was. She started, afraid, but David was right there, soothing her. I doubt that at that point she understood a word he said, but she became more calm. David was always like that, and I suspect it is why Becky was first attracted to him. There was always an air of calm around David. And she seemed to recognize his face.

It felt like forever, because I think we were all holding our breath, but it must have been just a few moments later that she closed her eyes and drifted into sleep. David sat back as if stunned.

"We did it," I said. It was in a whisper, because I did not want to wake her. But I think I would have whispered even if she had been awake.

"We did it," he replied, also in a whisper, shaking his head as if he could not believe his own words. He let out a long, shaky breath. "Becky would be proud."

I could not help but look at the table. It was a bit eerie. She looked so young, exactly as I remembered Becky in college, years and years ago, slightly awkward but girlishly beautiful. As I watched, she shifted slightly, with the slight moan of sleep, and breathed out. It made her seem very child-like.

Very life-like.

I looked over at David, and he too was looking at the table. But I do not think he was looking at the girlish woman on it. I think he was staring into the past, trying to grasp how we had come to be here.


David eventually married Becky, but I was his friend before she even knew him. Becky never would admit it, because she was like that, but I am very sure that they first met through me. David and I met in R/O Week, the very first day, in fact. He just stuck out with that pool of calm around him, and I needed a bit of calm. We got along well from the very first moment. Becky came later. I think I first met her during some SWE event. She stuck out a bit, too, an awkward but nonetheless lovely girl, looking out at the world with dark eyes that seemed set in a look of suspicion. At first I thought she was shy, but that turned out to be completely wrong; far from shy, there was an occasional brashness to her, an utter refusal to be trampled on, even if it meant trampling other people first. Being quiet myself, I admired that, and I think that is why I agreed when she asked me to share an apartment. I never knew why she asked. Perhaps I just seemed the reliable type, and as good as anyone. I do not think she had any friends before David and me.

Looking back I can see that she set her eyes on David at once. David, of course, was oblivious. He was never stunningly good-looking, but he radiated intelligence and had that ineffable calm, a sober, confident seriousness that seemed sometimes to be melancholy but could just as easily flash into a bright smile or a quiet laugh. And I admit that I myself was not immune to thinking that David had uncommonly nice eyes when he was smiling. It seems so long ago; it's almost embarrassing to have been a silly girl once.

I do not know who came up with the idea first. I am fairly sure it was not Becky, although she certainly had an ambitious enough mind. It could have been me. I do remember that I started working my way through neuroscience journals before we were ever talking about it. But I cannot imagine myself, even as a silly girl, having such an ambitious idea. The first definite memory I have of it is David laughingly saying that if we called it 'fractal metaprogramming', no vice presidents of marketing in the world would be able to resist it. But I am certain we had been talking about it long before then. Perhaps it just grew. However it came about, by the end of sophomore year we were all obsessed with it. Evenings, weekends, early mornings. We never went to parties. It was just classes, and internships later, and our project, and even the classes and internships we drew into it, by treating them as merely further research for our obsession.

It was definitely David who had the first major breakthrough. Becky always said she came up with the biopolymer first, and David let her get away with it, but she was always like that. It was definitely David. I remember him talking about it, laying out the precise method, the method we still use, as if it had somehow sprung up in his brain over night, and I remember being more excited than I had been perhaps in my entire life, because as he spoke I could see in my mind that very first glimmer of the platform it would require. We were awhirl with ideas at the time, and an idea one of us had would spark the solution to another's problem.

Not long after that, Becky came home with her polymer and a plan, and it sounded good, and, almost miraculously, by the end of another year we had it. David and I worked out a presentation together, a good, solid, cautious presentation.

Becky, who had been off somewhere, came home and, after taking one look at what we had pulled together, said, "Neither of you have any clue, do you?"

She made us start over again, supervising us the whole way. Becky was the kind to do what she wanted, although David and I together could rein her in. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we had refused, but it's a futile counterfactual. We went along with it, of course. David was having difficulty saying no to Becky even then, and I, well, I suppose I was no better. And it sounded so good at the time.

So we gathered everything up and found ourselves in a meeting room at Trisagion.

to be continued

Of Asceticism and Infanticide

I have an essay at First Things on Jeremy Bentham's criticism of asceticism. Despite its short length, it had to be put together and revised piecemeal around a number of other projects, because this May has been unusually jampacked with things, and it shows to some extent. But it does what it was supposed to, namely, provide a general comment on occasion of some recent writings made available.

I should say, incidentally, that the title is not authorial but editorial, so no weight should be put on it as to the general thrust or tone of the argument; my taste in titles is acidic sarcasm or bland statement rather than puns. But it too does what it is supposed to do.

Aquinas for May XXIX

Cuiuslibet naturae est aliquod ultimum assignare, in quo eius ultima perfectio consistit.

"For every nature there is some ultimate allotted in which its ultimate completion consists."

De veritate, q. 18 a. 1

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cynical Thought for the Day

Smart people and stupid people are equally likely to come up with stupid ideas; the major difference is that smart people are clever enough to find ways to implement them.

Aquinas for May XXVIII

De Deo non est fides quantum ad illud quod de Deo naturaliter est cognitum, sed quantum ad illud quod naturalem cognitionem excedit.

"Faith is not concerned with God with regard to that which is naturally known of God, but with regard to that which exceeds natural cognition."

De veritate, q. 14 a. 9 ad 5

Monday, May 27, 2013

Music on My Mind

Richie Havens, "All Along the Watchtower". A Bob Dylan song originally, with its most famous cover by Jimi Hendrix, which in turn is being adapted here. At least according to Dylan, the song is backwards: the last stanza happens first, and the first stanza last, so that we are actually thinking backwards through the events.

Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink:
arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.
For thus hath the Lord said unto me,
Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen,
a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels;
and he hearkened diligently with much heed.
And he cried, A lion:
My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime,
and I am set in my ward whole nights:
And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen.
And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen;
and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
(Isaiah 21:5-9)

Aquinas for May XXVII

Tota Trinitas in nobis habitat per gratiam; sed specialiter alicui personae appropriari potest inhabitatio per aliquod aliud speciale donum, quod habet similitudinem cum ipsa persona, ratione cuius persona mitti dicitur.

"The whole Trinity dwells in us by grace; but indwelling can be appropriated specifically to some Person by some other specific gift that has a likeness to that Person and under whose notion the Person is said to be sent."

De veritate, q. 27 a. 2 ad 3

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fortnightly Books, May 26

I've taken a bit of a break from the fortnightly book, but I think it's a good idea to get back into it. For this time around, I'll be doing two, because they look like relatively manageable reads, by the same author. They aren't a genre I read much in, so we'll see how it goes. The two books, by Dale Brown, are (with their summaries from Wikipedia):

Storming Heaven - The absence of an air-defense network on US soil prompts terrorist Henri Cazaux to use airliners covertly equipped with bombs in attacking many airports. When the danger goes national, Hammerheads protagonist Ian Hardcastle, now an admiral, is tasked to get the network up and running to stop Cazaux's activities.

Shadows of Steel - In May 1997, the US initiates covert operations to stop Iran's new carrier task force from controlling the Persian Gulf sea lanes. Now running a diner in Sacramento after the fiasco depicted in Day of the Cheetah, Patrick McLanahan is recalled to active duty to fly a B-2 mission over Iran.

Beyond the author, they don't have much to do with each other, being in two distinct series. They just happen to be paperbacks that were in my grandfather's library that I've never actually read. And I've been doing some military reading recently, and this keeps up the theme, so they seemed good candidates.

Aquinas for May XXVI

Homo, secundum diversa cognita, habet diversas cognitiones, nam secundum quod cognoscit principia, dicitur habere intelligentiam; scientiam vero, secundum quod cognoscit conclusiones; sapientiam, secundum quod cognoscit causam altissimam; consilium vel prudentiam, secundum quod cognoscit agibilia. Sed haec omnia Deus una et simplici cognitione cognoscit....Unde simplex Dei cognitio omnibus istis nominibus nominari potest....

"Man, with respect to diverse objects of cognition, has diverse cognitions; thus according as he cognizes principles, he is said to have understanding; knowledge, according as he cognizes conclusions; wisdom, according as he cognizes the highest cause; counsel or prudence, according as he cognizes do-able things. But God cognizes all these by one simple cognition....Wherefore the simple cognition of God can be named by all of these names."

Summa Theologiae Iª q. 14 a. 1 ad 2