Saturday, May 03, 2014

Ferme la porte, et ne le laisse entrer

Je veus lire en trois jours l'Iliade d'Homere
by Pierre de Ronsard

Je veus lire en trois jours l'Iliade d'Homere,
Et pour-ce, Corydon, ferme bien l'huis sur moy.
Si rien me vient troubler, je t'asseure ma foy
Tu sentiras combien pesante est ma colere.

Je ne veus seulement que nostre chambriere
Vienne faire mon lit, ton compagnon, ny toy,
Je veus trois jours entiers demeurer à requoy,
Pour follastrer apres une sepmaine entiere.

Mais si quelqu'un venoit de la part de Cassandre,
Ouvre lui tost la porte, et ne le fais attendre,
Soudain entre en ma chambre, et me vien accoustrer.

Je veus tant seulement à luy seul me monstrer :
Au reste, si un Dieu vouloit pour moy descendre
Du ciel, ferme la porte, et ne le laisse entrer.

Very, very roughly translated:

I want to read in three days Homer's Iliad,
And for that, Corydon, close fast the door on me.
If anyone comes to bother me, I assure you, by heaven,
You will feel how heavy my wrath is.

I wish not even that our chambermaid
Should come to make my bed, your friend, nor you,
I wish three whole days to dwell quietly,
To frivol afterward an entire week.

But if anyone comes on behalf of Cassandra,
Open the door swiftly to them, and do not make him wait;
Enter my room instantly, and come dress me.

I only want to him alone to show myself:
For the rest -- if a God should want to descend on me
From heaven, close the door and do not let him in.

The first tristich happens to be quoted in passing by one of the secondary characters in Sayers's Have His Carcase. It's a sixteenth-century poem, Old French. Ronsard's work has a curious literary history -- French criticism has gone from adoring to deploring to adoring to deploring him. I'm not sure which it is these days, but you probably could get some consensus that he was the greatest of the poets among the early modern French humanists. It tells you something about Sayers that he's just casually thrown in as a side joke.

Pierre de Ronsard, incidentally, turns out to have a variety of rose named after him; quite a lovely one, in fact.

Dashed Off VII

Still not quite up to July of 2013. As always, they are what it says on the tin; take with a grain of salt.

Finnis's basic goods as constituents of tradition (civilizational tradition, perhaps)

Individual rights are part of common good, and this includes human dignity generally.

private good of human persons as subordinate to common good, which however itself is the good they share in common and which itself requires recognizing the value & dignity of human persons and the importance of their private good (considered generally)

The Magisterium serves Scripture by teaching Tradition. (DV 210)

the choirs of angels as being pure cases of ministries found in the Church

theology of providence : angelology : ecclesiology

Communion with Rome organizes the liturgical commonwealth as a society in the world.

Naturalizing Kant:
(1) Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become universal law.
-> Universal law in natural law theory: rational ordering to common good (promulgated by caretaker) (of all who are rational)
-> Act only according to that dictate that can be a rational ordering to good common to all who have reason.
-> Seek what is common good for all who are rational and avoid what is inconsistent with it.
(2) Act in such a way that you treat humanity whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.
-> Humanity itself (rational nature) as our common good
-> Seek the good of humanity and avoid what is inconsistent with it.
(3) Act in accordance with the maxims of a member giving universal laws for a merely possible kingdom of ends.
-> realms are constituted as such by civic friendships
-> Seek to do that which is consistent with friendship of virtue and avoid what is inconsistent with it.
[the particular concepts of autonomy and law of nature in Kant's formulations add some complications]

to seek the greatness of little things

the study of negatives -- i.e., what would be required for things definitely true to be false

Suspension of judgment is a practical matter.

Matrimony claims eternity, or at least its reflection.

Classification is not explanation, but it may be an essential component of explanation.

Poetry is based on the transformation of sign into sign, taken in their physical expressions, by associative means. This may be by significant sound, or by the look of the word, or by its bodily expression (as in ASL).

There is a continuous spectrum of arts from dance to poetry and from both to painting and sculpture, when characterized in terms of the kinds of sign they involve.

No language allowing for revision is immune to being used for dissimulation.

The time when you do well to let yourself be led by the blind is the time when your own eyes must be shut.

Human beings have thought of immortality as rebirth, or as continuing unconquered by death, or as joining with all things; but all are in some way true.

nature as this -> aesthetic -> beauty -> nature as cosmos
nature as this -> aesthetic -> sublimity -> nature as cosmos
nature as this -> teleological -> purposiveness -> nature as cosmos

Christianity in the form of free subjectivity, in the form of objective authority

Restoration after wrongdoing always requires the innocent to endure much; and forgiveness itself is an endurance of difficulty.

preparation for sacraments: personal disposition, instituted preparation

Eucharist as spiritual presence (Owen)
1. by representation
1.a. of Christ as food for our souls
1.b. of Christ as suffering for our sins
2. by exhibition
2.a. for incorporation
2.b. for nourishment
3. by obsignation (seal of covenant)

satisfaction as satiation of due or debt

In the Eucharist Christ is present both outwardly and inwardly.

"verses, however masterly, cannot be translated literally from one language into another without losing much of their beauty and dignity" Bede, Ecc. Hist. IV.24

People are inveterate rationalists; they are constantly trying to find their views written in the logic of things.

Causal considerations are necessary to distinguish epicyclical from non-epicyclical modifications to a theory.

Sustainable inquiry presupposes the coordination of common self-interest and means of discovery.

All explanation has a normative or deontic component. (We see this especially when we consider analysis of it in terms of explanandum and explanans: it has a problem-solution form of end-means structure.)

The preservation of rights and powers enshrined in customary law is the greatest and most important preventative against tyranny and oppression.

poetic eustochia
-> all the parts of prudence have their role in the poetic

common law as customary law regularized according to reasoned precedent

customary law as formative of national character

Customary law both unites and diversifies the liturgical commonwealth.

In the Eucharist the Church offers herself as sacrifice by joining with Christ as His sacramental body. (cf. Augustine De Civ 10:6)

Law not only protects common good but creates new constituents of it.

the Eucharist as signifier and signified in indissoluble unity

integral human fulfillment as ordering of good to good

the Church as itself the Temple service

baptism as the rite of liminality, eucharist as the rite of sublimity

The promise of confirmation is that God will do more with us than we know.

a natural law theory of inquiry and experiment

the Five Ways as reflected in the sacraments and in sacramental grace

vestiges of ancient truth, vague presentiments, fugitive tones, momentary flashes

Human corruptibility is necessarily as great as human perfectibility.

Schlegel's philosophy of life as a tracing of the image of God

'the threefold divine principle or moral classification of historical philosophy' (Schlegel): the Word, the Power, the Light

The method most proper to natural law theory is Socratic dialectic.

The 'sufficient reason' of the PSR can't possible be univocal.

Hypothetical imperatives presuppose a categorical imperative of some kind.

A question insufficiently considered in philosophy of science is that of large-scale cul-de-sacs. It is generally assumed that cul-de-sacs are minor, so that returning to scientific progress is relatively easy. But there is no reason to expect this to be universally the case -- there may be cases where getting any further requires going back to a much more primitive level and rebuilding from there.

All human beings are signs of God.

The standard form of argument in most politics is the political cartoon or caricature.

Note the repeated theme in Bede of people journeying to Rome and there learning things about the Church that they had no means to learn about in their own countries.

3 aspects of common good: existence, animal life, rational life

Discovery lies more in sublimity than in clarity.

liminality as the principle of practical discovery

To look forward to the resurrection of the dead is to look forward to living always with Christ in heaven and Christ with us on earth.

the Ascension as the mystery of hope

ethical monotheism as the most effective deontology
-> history at least suggests that it is the most natural form of it, and also the form with the widest persuasive appeal

The rise of the Encyclical is an important theological phenomenon that has not properly been studied; it is as significant as the Decretals, or the Glosses, or the Sentences.

a totality of consistently interacting changing things

As John leaped in Elizabeth's womb at the coming of Christ, so we leap in the womb of the Church at His presence.

Greek hyperdiversification & the cradle conditions of philosophy (cp Schlegel)

reality shows as freak-viewing packaged for the masses

The purpose of a human juridical order is to unfold human dignity.

The mere fact that some people stumble over it does not make a thing a stumblingblock; otherwise everything is a stumblingblock.

Considering new data fully requires arguing for a position.

satisfaction as the natural work of charity

Prima principia, quorum cognitio est nobis innata, sunt quaedam similitudines increatae veritatis. Aquinas DV 10.6ad 6

Happenings cannot be though without endurings.

Goodness alone is creative.

wisdom as narrative rationality

Dialectic search crystallizes into analytic structure within the field laid out by the mind's poetic play of representations; this is all applied rhetorically in communicative actions.

poetics: analogy :: topics : search :: analytics : proof :: elenchus : diagnosis

Tradition as Scripture in motion

A theology of Scripture is a pneumatology.
Scripture as an icon of the Holy Spirit (He has spoken through the prophets.)

Debates about what is 'the' species concept are debates about natural classification, and would be benefitted by a bit of Whewellian insight about the distinction between artificial and natural classifications.

We come to understand positions by recognizing prima facie problems and their deeper solutions.

The natural tendency, or a natural tendency, in argument is to try to argue for a position simply by restating it in more general or generic terms. This is legitimate, as far as it goes, but incomplete: argument for differentia cannot easily proceed this way, and it is the differentia that usually are the core of the dispute.

cladistic principles in analyzing traditions

Mutations are harmful or beneficial only relative to functions by which the organism may be harmed or benefited, which vary from species to species based on physiological differences, and sometimes within a single species based on stable behavioral differences.

Reconciliation is reintegration.

Hume's vision theory & cellular automata (cp also Berkeley)

Berkeley's divine language as operational and performative

Arguments require upkeep and updates.

Scripture as the regulatory instrument of the Spirit

the holophrastic character of liturgy

penance as the sacrament of conscience formation
penance & anticipation of the four last things

Being in the image of God, we are capable of God according to grace.

the notion of miracle (IV Sent d17 q1 a5 q1 a1)
(1) an effect above the power of the created nature of the agent
(2) where there is no natural order but only obediential potency for the effect
(3) occurring in a way outside the normal order for effects of that kind
(3 is why infusion of rational soul or justification or upholding the world are not, properly speaking, miracles)

The obediential potency of a thing is even more fundamental and natural to it than its natural passive potency. The latter is more 'natural' with respect to the agent, not the potency.

The most perfect human fulfillment requires fulfillment of our specific obediential potencies.

Numbers are things that can themselves be numbered; a great deal of mathematics hangs on this.

Sacraments all secondarily symbolize the Church itself, although matrimony in a sense does so primarily as well.

The priesthood is chiefly and primarily a symbol of the Christ, but in such a way as also to be a symbol of the whole Church as apostolic.

chrematistics, ars pecuniativa

making reason sacramental

We experience mere sensing as incomplete.

Tolkien's greatest strength is in the fact that the underling linguistic structures are themselves works of art.

sacraments as expressing the mind of Christ

Poets do not work with sound as such but the aptitude for it, and this insofar as it is a form of aptitude for beauty.

Love is the coherence of eternity.

the fruits of the Holy Spirit as the manifestation of the inner life of charity

the two dimensions of orders
vertical: Christ as appearing before God on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24-28)
horizontal: apostolic succession (Acts 1:1-11)
the Ascension as a mystery of priesthood

Military growth follows lines of commerce and trade.

For creatures, love is by as-it-were part and as-it-were whole.

The consent of the Church is the act of the Holy Spirit.

To be self is to be related as a self.

3 aspects of justification
(1) reputation (bare imputation) Ezk16:37, Rm 2:13
(2) doing what is just Rm 2:13
(3) receiving justice Rm 5:1

The Gentiles did not sin by not observing the ceremonial law; a fact recognized by the Jews themselves. But they did not receive the help and formation God gave through the ceremonial law.

Faith is given to us as the first part of justice.

Note that Aquinas says that in judgment the just will see Christ in the glory of His Godhead, the wicked in His human form.

In the Mass we relive in remembrance that which we maintain in our actions, by God's grace.

Matrimony, like orders, contributes to personal holiness entirely through service to others.

existential instantiation as construction of an individual (cp Hintikka) -- as the string version of a geometrical diagram construction
--> conversely, geometrical diagrams as existential instantiation

The exemplar cause of justification is divine justice itself; but the proper formal cause of it is also divine justice, considered as active and energizing, which we receiving within us.

intensive and extensive progress in inquiry

intuitions as first approximations
intuitions as prioritizations of conditions for inference to the best explanation (what makes the best explanation the best)
intuitions as inferences to the best explanation

detective fiction as a study in causes and causal inferences

the first principle of practical reason as structuring what it is to be a hero (or a villain)

sea commerce and fisheries as the basis of sea power
production -- shipping -- markets
(Mahan assumes too easily that 'markets' means 'colonies'.)

Bread ministers to being alive, and wine to living well.

Ordination is received, but the essence of the sacrament is to be imposed, not to be received -- imposition, not reception. It is an attaching to the sacramental ministry of Christ, as minister or assisting minister or supporting minister.

It is a perpetual temptation to advocate one barbarism as a cure for another; most barbaric things are advocated precisely in these terms.

Ordination, as a sign of sanctifying grace, is gratuitous, given.

moods of rationality
(1) free play
(2) structured search
(3) proof
(4) diagnostic check
(5) communication

Schiller's play drive as a facet of reason

challenge as imperative problem

Anything that can be negated can be modalized with Diamond or Box, because Negation is itself a basic modal operator.

the Gettysburg Address as taken up by the customary law of the United States

It is the responsibility of citizens to form the national character; perhaps the first responsibility.

To do what is required is sometimes a very terrible thing.

the computer programmer as the smith of design implementation (not wholly there yet, but we seem to be tending in this direction)

The primary limitations and constraints on a military are economic.

preserving the highest fraction of possible new discoveries (in inquiry)

challenge as search proposed as an obligation of discourse

Not just the question but also the manner of questioning is important for inquiry.

sea power as a network, maintenance or destruction of links (edges) in a graph

The whole Christ receives the Eucharist together; but husband and wife can receive it together in a special way, as directly representing the whole Christ.

laminas of reasoning

Rhetoric concerns itself with what may be suspected.

truth itself as the gadfly, midwife, etc.

Rhetoric prepares for dialectic by its capacity to engage the nuances of many perspectives.

In the realm of ideas, some seeds require long germination.

Bright as Polar Ice

Temptations from Roman Refinements
by William Wordsworth

Watch, and be firm! for, soul-subduing vice,
Heart-killing luxury, on your steps await.
Fair houses, baths, and banquets delicate,
And temples flashing, bright as polar ice,
Their radiance through the woods--may yet suffice
To sap your hardy virtue, and abate
Your love of Him upon whose forehead sate
The crown of thorns; whose life-blood flowed, the price
Of your redemption. Shun the insidious arts
That Rome provides, less dreading from her frown
Than from her wily praise, her peaceful gown,
Language, and letters;--these, though fondly viewed
As humanising graces, are but parts
And instruments of deadliest servitude!

One of the Ecclesiastical Sonnets, which with 142 sonnets in three series gives the history of the English church, from conjectural beginnings to the flurry of activity in Wordsworth's time. This one is toward the beginning, of course, being Sonnet VIII of the first series of sonnets.

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Philosopher-Practitioner

Socrates was not a metaphysician, but a practitioner, a physician of souls. His business was not to construct a system, but to make men think. This was the method by which he could best conquer a sophistry whose radical vice was not so much an error of doctrine as a deformity of the soul.

Jacques Maritain, An Introduction to Philosophy, p. 69.

Athanasius the Apostolic

Today is the Feast of St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria (c. 295-373), Confessor and Doctor of the Church, Father and Pillar of Orthodoxy, one of the most influential theologians in the history of the Church. He was a pillar of the Roman-Alexandrian alliance that constituted the most important and influential structural element of the Church in the fourth century, and which made up the bulwark of the Church in the resistance to Arianism. In his lifetime he was falsely accused of heresy, embezzlement, murder, treason, and sacrilege; he was exiled five times by four different Roman emperors (once by Constantine due to an apparently false accusation, twice by the pro-Arian Constantius, once by the pagan Julian, and once by the pro-Arian Valens) for a total of seventeen years of exile; and was deposed by Arian councils on multiple occasions. His body is currently in Venice, Italy, in the Chiesa di San Zaccaria.

From On the Incarnation of the Word 2.9:

The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father's Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required. Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all. You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death.

Athanasius I

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Worker

Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, which was established in 1955 by Pius XII. It was, however, a long time coming. Catholic opposition to Communism goes back to the earliest days of the Communist movement, and Joseph the carpenter was commonly appealed to in Catholic movements intended to better the circumstance of laborers, which were seen as providing the alternative. Pius XI consolidated this interlinking of St. Joseph and providing an alternative to Communism in 1937, by making St. Joseph officially the patron of opposition to Communism. As I recall, the official occasion for choosing May Day as the time for the feast -- it required considerable disruption of the calendar -- was the anniversary of a particular Catholic labor organization's founding; but it is, of course, no accident that the feast of St. Joseph the Worker shares its date with International Workers' Day, whose date was chosen by the Second International in 1886, and became very much a symbol of the Communist movement.

A passage from Thomas Aquinas on labor by hand (which, of course, is what 'manual labor' means):

Manual labor is directed to four things.

First and principally to obtain food; wherefore it was said to the first man (Genesis 3:19): "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," and it is written (Psalm 127:2): "For thou shalt eat the labors of thy hands."

Secondly, it is directed to the removal of idleness whence arise many evils; hence it is written (Sirach 33:28,29): "Send" thy slave "to work, that he be not idle, for idleness hath taught much evil."

Thirdly, it is directed to the curbing of concupiscence, inasmuch as it is a means of afflicting the body; hence it is written (2 Corinthians 6:5-6): "In labors, in watchings, in fastings, in chastity."

Fourthly, it is directed to almsgiving, wherefore it is written (Ephesians 4:28): "He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need." [ST 2-2.187.3]

(It's rather notable that three of the four ends of manual labor have to do with penitential practice and discipline for virtue. In context, Aquinas is walking a very fine line -- manual labor is a requirement of natural law, but manual labor was a controversial theological topic in his day, because monks were required to do manual labor to support themselves, while the mendicant orders, like the Dominicans to whom Aquinas belonged, did not have such a requirement, and this was often seen as a reason for rejecting this strange innovation of monks without monasteries. So Aquinas also wants to argue that one may reasonably and morally devote oneself to higher pursuits than manual labor -- it does belong to natural law that the human race must support itself by manual labor, but if you, as an individual, can support yourself some other way by an even more noble form of labor (like teaching), in circumstances in which manual labor is not a necessity for survival, then you do not need to do manual labor except, perhaps, as an occasional penitential practice.)

The Statues of Daedelus

In a recent comment, Enbrethiliel happened to mention the statues of Daedelus, which is a wonderful passage in Plato's Meno. This is from the Lamb translation at the Perseus Project:

Socrates How do you mean? Will not he who always has right opinion be always right, so long as he opines rightly?

Meno It appears to me that he must; and therefore I wonder, Socrates, [97d] this being the case, that knowledge should ever be more prized than right opinion, and why they should be two distinct and separate things.

Socrates Well, do you know why it is that you wonder, or shall I tell you?

Meno Please tell me.

Socrates It is because you have not observed with attention the images of Daedalus. But perhaps there are none in your country.

Meno What is the point of your remark?

Socrates That if they are not fastened up they play truant and run away; but, if fastened, they stay where they are. [97e]

Meno Well, what of that?

Socrates To possess one of his works which is let loose does not count for much in value; it will not stay with you any more than a runaway slave: but when fastened up it is worth a great deal, for his productions are very fine things And to what am I referring in all this? To true opinion. For these, so long as they stay with us, are a fine possession, [98a] and effect all that is good; but they do not care to stay for long, and run away out of the human soul, and thus are of no great value until one makes them fast with causal reasoning. And this process, friend Meno, is recollection, as in our previous talk we have agreed. But when once they are fastened, in the first place they turn into knowledge, and in the second, are abiding. And this is why knowledge is more prized than right opinion: the one transcends the other by its trammels.

Music on My Mind

Johanna Kurkela, "Avaruus". This is actually the Finnish version of a song originally written in English. The Finnish version is (perhaps a bit unsurprisingly) a little colder and more distant than the English; in the English song we are flying high about the ground, while in the Finnish song we are actually flying up to the stars through icy space.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Value of Truth Amidst the Transactions of Life

Now it is a natural consequence resulting from the experience we have of the value of truth amidst the transactions of life, that mankind will speak the truth in all cases, when it appears useful and accords with their interest to do so; as well as that in all other cases where the contrary consequences appear, men will be strongly tempted to falsehood; being only prevented from using it by observing that a superior value is contained in observing a general rule prescribing truth indifferently, whether for or against their interest. It thence follows as an axiom, that we place dependance on the veracity of men, in all cases were we cannot distinctly perceive any motive to falsehood; and in like manner that we proportion our jealousy of the truth of their assertions, according as we may suppose them influenced by any circumstance of self-interest.

Lady Mary Shepherd, Essay VIII from Lady Mary Shepherd, Essays on the Perception of an External Universe, pp. 325-345. Like Hume, Shepherd recognizes the problem of testimonial evidence as a causal one, and, also like Hume, is applying her account of causation to it. Since they have very nearly diametrically opposite accounts of causation, it's unsurprising that they get very different results when considering what we can know on the basis of someone's say-so. One of the interesting things here is that this is an abstract argument for the rationality of what is historically (and misleadingly) called the principle of credulity: that we assume people speak truth unless we have some reasons to think otherwise -- most defenses of the principle of credulity in this period are empirical rather than abstract, arguing that this is in fact what human beings will inevitably do, regardless of whether anyone considers it rational or not.

Two Poem Drafts

Late Night

The walls are weak, the battered gates
are cracking; bitter, silent streets
now testify of starving souls;
surrender grows more tempting, time
itself will conquer all for dream:

A town besieged, my mind by sleep
assaulted, seeks unhoped relief,
and hopes for saving reinforcement.

Moonlit Bay

The rain had beaten head and hand
and wept across both sea and land,
the dark was drawing near with speed
to stifle heart in dream or deed,
but dolphins swift in moonlit bay
with streaming, splashing wave did play,
and high on island steam or cloud
was crowning mountain sheer and proud,
as we who had our bodies shed
were laid to sleep in starry beds.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Justice and How to Get There

Tragedy is never far away in Pride and Prejudice, and the brilliance of Austen's heroine is that Elizabeth can see the materially disastrous consequences of acting according to conscience and the good, yet she does the right thing anyway, refusing both Mr. Collins's modest competence and Mr. Darcy's powerful consequence because both men are, among other things, self-interested and self-important. Mr. Collins is clearly ineducable; Darcy, however, is capable of improving the education of his judgment. The questions of judgment and education are not frivolous, nor is the problem of how to bring about the right kind of learning. Austen's question through Pride and Prejudice is Plato's question in the Meno: "Can virtue be taught?"

Sarah Emsley, Jane Austen's Philosophy of the Virtues, p. 86. She says later (p. 89), "What is central to Pride and Prejudice is not wish-fulfillment or fantasy, but justice, and how to get there."

As a side note, this year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, and Emsley will be hosting an extended, months-long, discussion of it, starting May 9 on her blog.

Major IE Vulnerability

According to stats, about ten to fifteen percent of the people who come here use Internet Explorer, so I thought I would pass this along:

Microsoft is aware of limited, targeted attacks that attempt to exploit a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, and Internet Explorer 11.

The vulnerability is a remote code execution vulnerability. The vulnerability exists in the way that Internet Explorer accesses an object in memory that has been deleted or has not been properly allocated. The vulnerability may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer. An attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website.

To put the matter very crudely, the bug potentially could allow a hacker to take over your entire computer. According to the security firm that discovered it, this vulnerability has been actively exploited. Most people are probably unaffected, but if you use IE you might want to reconsider your browser, at least until the patch comes out.

The Firefox family of browsers (whether made by Mozilla or not) are all unscathed, as is Chrome.

Moonlight Whisperer, Summer Air

Song of a Maid Whose Love Is Dead
by Thomas Lovell Beddoes

Merry, merry little stream,
Tell me, hast thou seen my dear?
I left him with an azure dream,
Calmly sleeping on his bier—
But he has fled!

"I passed him in his church-yard bed—
A yew is sighing o'er his head,
And grass-roots mingle with his hair."
What doth he there?
O cruel! can he lie alone?
Or in the arms of one more dear?
Or hides he in that bower of stone,
To cause and kiss away my fear?

"He doth not speak, he doth not moan—
Blind, motionless he lies alone;
But, ere the grave snake fleshed his sting,
This one warm tear he bade me bring
And lay it at thy feet
Among the daisies sweet."

Moonlight whisperer, summer air,
Songster of the groves above,
Tell the maiden rose I wear,
Whether thou hast seen my love.
"This night in heaven I saw him lie,
Discontented with his bliss;
And on my lips he left this kiss,
For thee to taste and then to die."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fortnightly Book, April 27

The vulture's maw
Shall have his carcase, and the dogs his bones.

I've no idea exactly how busy the next two weeks will be, so it seems prudent to pick a re-read for the next fortnightly book. Since Mystery is a genre that hasn't been much represented in prior fortnights, I've settled on Dorothy Sayers's Have His Carcase. It is a Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane novel, usually considered one of the weaker ones, but it was the first one I grabbed, so we go with it. The title appears to be an example of the obscure hyper-association Lord Peter inherits from his mother: 'have his carcase' is a translation of habeas corpus, and also seems to be an allusion to Cowper's translation for the Iliad, and also represents the central plot conceit of the novel, which is that a murder has been committed but nobody knows where the body is. The connection to the actual Habeas Corpus Act is obviously a joke by Wimsey, in a conversation in which almost everything he says is some kind of joke, but some readers have been confused by it. Lord Peter often skips a step or half dozen in his side comments and jokes.

Dorothy Sayers was in advertising. She worked at an advertising agency for nearly decade, and designed quite a few very successful advertisement campaigns -- most notably the Guinness Toucan. If Wikipedia is to be believed, she is the original source of the phrase, "It pays to advertise!" She would, of course, set one of her Wimsey novels in the context of an advertising agency.

But it is, of course, as the first Queen of Crime that she is best remembered, with her Wimsey novels being considered, one and all, classics of the detective fiction genre. Her books are often based on interesting puzzles, but they are never merely puzzles; like some of the other early greats, she uses the genre conventions to explore complicated ethical issues. There's a timelessness to Sayers's strongest works, and that timelessness is a function of the thoughtfulness -- not just the thought, but the thoughtfulness -- she puts into them.

An interesting side note is that Edmund Wilson, the highly respected known today for his famously bad criticism of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, also turned his not-entirely-reliable sense of taste on detective fiction at several points, panning the entire genre. Nearly all the major names of the genre were attacked by him, including Sayers; he claimed that Sayers was not a good writer, but merely the most self-consciously literary author in a mostly sub-literary genre. (The Sayers novel he selected to attack was Nine Tailors, which is widely considered to be among the greatest works in the genre, and his assessment of it is about as accurate as his assessment of The Lord of the Rings. I also have that one on my shelves; it just happened not to come to hand.)

Every Wimsey novel is structured by a number of deliberate quirks. Have His Carcase has two that are especially notable. First, every chapter has the word 'evidence' in the title. The first four chapters, for instance, are:

1. The Evidence of the Corpse
2. The Evidence of the Road
3. The Evidence of the Hotel
4. The Evidence of the Razor

And the last two chapters are:

33. Evidence of What Should Have Happened
34. Evidence of What Did Happen

The other obvious quirk is that every chapter opens with an epigraph from the works of Thomas Lovell Beddoes, one of Sayers's favorite poets. I don't know a great deal about Beddoes, but a lot of his poetry is about death and dying.

A bit of mood music -- a contemporary song that is mentioned, in passing, and somewhat sarcastically, in the book:

Marion Harris, "My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes." There are literally dozens of versions of this song from the 1930s; it was extremely popular, and, of course, popular music at the time was often still played live by bands and orchestras, rather than played everywhere in recorded versions as it is today. Debroy Somers is another famous version.