Saturday, November 29, 2014

No Shade, No Shine

by Thomas Hood

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -

Thomas Hood is mostly known for his comic poetry, if you hadn't guessed.

Dashed Off

Various scattered notes; I am still almost a year behind on uploading these.

per se (substance)
per accidens
-- simple
---- material (quantity)
---- formal (quality)
-- relative
---- principiated by substance
-------- material (passion)
-------- formal (action)
-------- composite (relation)
-------- part to whole (position
---- extrinsic to substance
-------- proximity (place)
-------- motion (time)
-------- addition (habitus)

category of habitus as being extrinsically affected without being measured (analogous to categories of time and place but involving no measure)

end, end salience, means restrictions, means availability conditions, circumstantial conditions, expressivity conditions, expressive salience

Note that Peirce argues that in an unlimited universe of discourse, every nontautologous universal proposition is false and every nonabsurd particular proposition is true.

Note that Peirce limits excluded middle to determinate individuals

the True modality as the Phemic Sheet

solicitude, rectitude, moderation, and constancy in inquiry

free indirect discourse as analogous to the voice of conscience

All genuine Christian reform is at least partly an improvement of catechesis.

Civility is always relative to a civilization.

confusions of tolerance and sloth

Law's foundation is in sacrament (=sign of allegiance).

"All the Commerce and Intercourse of the World is manag'd by Equivalents, conversation as well as Traffick." Astell
--> middle terms and their economy

incidental almsgiving vs solidarity-building almsgiving

The line between virtue and vice must always be drawn by virtue, not vice; by prudence, not by false simulacra.

Plato tends to attack not rhetorical acts but taking rhetoric to be a skill.

Envy is a narrative vice; it builds stories.

Gifts are not destroyed by recompense, or equivalence, or even the desire for it, but by demand rather than hope.

Nothing can be a genuine gift that is completely unopen to countergift; such unopenness is the mark of imposition rather than gift.

symmetries as ways of being selfsame (with respect to rotations, reflections, etc.)

Sameness always has a mode of sameness.

Aristotle's account of wealth defines it relative to the common good of a polis or a household.

'Limitless, yet utter limit; utter limit in activity generates yang, yet at the limit of activity is still; in stillness it generates yin, yet at the limit of stillness is active. Yin and yang are utter limit; utter limit is limitless.'

The end and structure of true teaching is love of the good.

Three Dialogues opens with Hylas and Philonous agreeing to take common sense as the standard.

Witness credibility in the context of courts is not just a matter of testimonial evidence but also of acts of cooperation with society, and courtesy to the court.

the object of a passion vs the target of a passion (we see in anger especially that they can come apart)

Music is the mathematics that touches the human heart.

Peirce's Thirdness as the category of narrative

the Gospels & Epistles as themselves first-century devotional practices

the account of exemplar causation implicit in Hume's discussions of testimony

exemplary causation in testimony, design, measurement

design arguments // testimonial arguments from miracles

resemblance and contiguity as causal notions

procession | solemn greeting | Christ's presence
Introit | Kyrie | in synaxis
Gospel | Alleluia | in word
Sanctus | Sanctus | in sacrament

'The path that can be laid out is not the ongoing path.'

Interrogations are structured by penalties.

self-correction, redundancy, cooperation, and continuity as intrinsic defenses of a tradition

the role of revisitation in argument

It makes no sense to talk about trade-offs unless you know why you are trading off in the first place.

There is no vocation without covenant.

Hume's general account of sympathy makes it so that it is not necessarily sympathy with anyone.
Humean sympathy works like a reverse copy principle, making impressions from ideas.

material culture as witness to oral tradition

pain as a warning of deprivation

The Paternoster makes explicit what is implicit in all genuine prayer.

Ridicule is the test of seriousness more than truth.

the history of philosophy as a source of seed crystals

A fundamental failing of much Biblical criticism is in positioning itself as giving True Scripture rather than what it could and should be: an accounting of tradition and traditions precisely insofar as Scripture, as writing is a testimony to or evidence of it.

No evangelization can really succeed unless it is true witness; and true witness is even unto death.
three models of evangelization: Stephen the Protomartyr, John the Evangelist, Holy Innocents

A significant portion of predictive competence is having a sense of natural process times.

swift-action arguments (like planes: probe, discover new issues, open lines, close options, support, etc.)
main-action arguments (like infantry, cavalry, light artillery: provide key refutations, key argumentative support and large-but-easy confirmation, occupation of main questions, etc.)
heavy-action arguments (like heavy artillery, bunker defenses, etc.: establish borders, provide fallback support, intimidate by setting high refutation standards, engage and refute other heavy-action arguments in a general way by position strategy, cover lighter arguments, etc.)
link-action arguments (like logistical transport, communications: connect issues and arguments, allow arguments for other positions to be modified for new service, etc.)

Sense and Sensibility chapter 33 & false simulacra of sense
-> related to the notion of real and intrinsic worth
-> the link to liberality and civility
-> also note link to improvement and the picturesque

Failure is the school of ingenuity.

language as the vestment of the mind

Good judgment is linked with dispassion -- we see good judgment in children, the simple, etc., linked with their lack of artificial incitements of passions, and in the prudent with their capacity to transcend passions.

In showing what one believes one already begins to show why one believes it.

As a rule, systems persuade more than isolated arguments, schools more than systems, and civilizations more than schools.

explanations for resemblance of ideas, positions, arguments, etc.
(1) artifact of presentation
(2) chance
(3) similar structural constraints
(4) independent development from shared source
(5) one influencing the other

God does not deny grace to those who do what is in themselves, for what is in themselves is also of God.

dharma as that which uplifts and sustains life

The real question of skepticism is not 'Can we know truth?' but 'Can we rest with what is called truth?' (Rosmini)

first principles as the common good of intellectual society

translation of text as exemplar causation
defective causation in translation

The nature of freedom depends on the mode of cognition.

Gifts are for use or enjoyment; the use or enjoyment of some gifts involves or suggests return, with new gifts, so that gifts may multiply.

Giving is self-diffusing; for gift is itself a diffusion of good, and good is self-diffusing.

the doctrine of justification as an implicit ecclesiology

To take dikaioun as merely 'declare righteous' seems to require a very positivistic view of law. Look into this.

The divine court is not merely exterior but even more than that interior.

Any epistemology worth having will be an account of virtuous trust, whatever else it may be.

assents as resistances to cascades; inferences as cascade channels

Hume's Dialogue and Cheyne's Philosophical Principles (note that Cheyne explicitly makes the analogy, takes the analogy to be the foundation of natural philosophy, considers the Epicurean hypothesis)

Top as nullary conjunction

A just society requires a free citizenry that respects what has been handed down to them.

forms of negotiation: philosophical (reason-based); honor-based; profit-based; passion-based (rhetorical)

Everyone must go back to basics often.

Scripture is Scripture even in translation because Scripture has the function of Scripture as preached, practiced, and prayed by the Church.

authority as sign of the good (e.g., common good, or true under aspect of good for intellect)

wisdom literature as concerned with interior culture

It is a bizarre feature of the history of form criticism that so many of its proponents dismissed allegorization of the parables while so many (on occasion the same ones) allegorized the miracles.

the anagnorisis or perpeteia of a parable is that of the hearer of the parable; and thus in some ways very different from that of drama

The right to private property is not merely an individual right but a familial one.

'viewiness' as a feature of the post-medieval epoch; everyone has to have their view

In every field there is knowledge of facts, knowledge of signs, knowledge of relations and laws, and knowledge of the material factors in the relevant judgments of good taste.

an argument from Hume ECHU IX for a very non-Humean claim: while animals learn many parts of their knowledge from observation, there are many parts that they derive from the original hand of nature; this we share in common with beasts because we share experimental (empirical) reasoning with them; thus there are parts of our knowledge derived from the original hand of nature; thus there are innate ideas of some kind, without which experimental reasoning is impossible

music and architecture as intrinsically suggesting the supermaterial
-> note relation of each to sublimity
-> also to pure mathematics

As everyone is ignorant of some things, criticizing someone for ignorance can only be justified in terms of a prior moral evaluation indicating negligence.

The mind is enlarged not by passive reception but by active reflection.

Every uncertainty is with respect to a certainty.

the role of narrative voice in Luke/Acts (the first-personal character is surely significant)

Austen's use of block characterization

Liturgical law is the translation of dogmatic truths into practical norms of worship.

"An instrument is that with which the active agent is active and the passive patient is passive." Llull

The institution of a sacrament is the consecration of its signs.

The sacraments by grace illuminate the hidden possibilities of the ordinary and quotidian.

"The drama, in its very idea, is poetry in persons." Newman

Persuasion may be an end of communicating an argument, but never directly an end of the argument itself.

Nature does not tend toward change as such.

patristics as the civil theology of the liturgical commonwealth

free citizens in thriving families, befriending each other

conscience : natural religion :: magisterium : revealed religion

A significant part of Newman's argument in DD is an extension of Butler: natural religion // revealed religion in principle // revealed religion in development. A similar line of analogical reasoning seems implicit in EM: phenomena of nature // Scriptural miracles // ecclesiastical miracles.

Newman's seven notes of development are intended to indicate seven ways a doctrine and its issue may be regarded as the same.

the seven notes of development as corresponding to notes of apostolic succession

the Holy Innocents as martyrs, as showing infant baptism

Purgatory is for those who have not yet achieved the spirit of the martyrs.

the pilgrimage system as one of the channels of life for the Church

the implicit networks in the Pauline epistles: correspondence, donation, missionary, etc.

One of the features of the true virginal life is that it exalts rather than denigrates matrimony.

Deflationary approaches to Scriptural interpretation one and all require taking Scripture piecemeal; start putting those piecemeal scraps together again, bringing out structural tendencies, juxtapositions, parallels, intertextual allusions, variations on themes, and the deflation turns out to be for nothing, for all that you can accept each deflated interpretation of each fragment -- the interpretations interlinking again become more and more robust the more you put them together, not just Mark and Q, but Four Gospel, not just Genesis, but also Revelation, not just Old Testament, but also New.

the development of the liturgical commonwealth and its infrastructure as the temporal prosperity of the Church

an issue Hume's essay does not consider -- the tendency to see regularities even when they are not there, prejudices in favor of the familiar, fear of the unknown, etc.

the system of miracles (it is a system of signs)

Deterrence does not strictly require that the potential offender know (directly or indirectly) of the deterring factor, although this is obviously the most probable channel; for instance, it may deter the potential offender by affecting his environment, e.g., changing the behavior of people who are not likely to offend, in ways reducing the probability of offense (it might, for instance, raise public consciousness of the possibility of the offense, thus leading to more security, leading to a deterrent effect).
Deterrence does not require that the potential offender bring knowledge of the deterring factor to bear on immediate context -- e.g., there is habit formation.
Deterrence does not require that the potential offender compare expected costs and expected benefits of the offense, again because of habit formation.

The best arguments take centuries to build.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Characteristic of Truth

The characteristic of truth is to be intimately related with a supreme unity out of which it evolves into plurality. Each unit of this plurality also gives rise to a further plurality of more limited truths, which in turn produce an abundant crop of truths that germinate further rich crops. So the seed of immortal truths, which continues to extend ever more widely, is classified into species and genera and develops into various branches of knowledge, art forms and intellectual disciplines. The characteristic of truth, as I have already mentioned, is to flow into other truths, in which it is renewed and continually increases its number, without losing its primal unity and simplicity. It is so incorporeal and divine that, as I said, it finds no satisfactory likeness or representation anywhere amongst material, sensible beings.

Antonio Rosmini, About the Author's Study, Murphy, tr., Rosmini House (Durham: 2004), p. 20.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Poem Re-Draft

A Bit of Thanksgiving

I thank you, Lord, for cheerful sun
that rises every dawn,
and that my students learn to hide
the sound and sight of yawn,
that education is a joy
that overflows with awe,
and, on those crazy grading days,
that there are murder laws.

And thank you for your mercy!
It saves us from the brink;
and thank you, Lord, for righteous wrath --
we need more of it, I think.
But thank you for all gentle souls
who always tempers keep;
protect them, Lord, from the rest of us,
lest we kill them in their sleep.

I thank you that we live here free
in houses without bars,
that there are things that we can own,
that no one owns the stars,
that joy and virtue freely flow
without a market price
while we have markets fully full
of grain and fruit and spice.

I thank you, Lord, for fruitful fields,
for wide and healthful skies,
and for the hopes that we can have
that are not marred by lies.
And thank you, God, for mysteries
still left for us to solve
upon this awesome floating ball
that rotates and revolves.

I thank you, Lord, for politics,
for presidents and such,
that they work so hard to get their way,
that they never get it much;
yea, for the limits you have placed
on corruption, fraud, and spite,
that we need only deal with them
a dozen times each night.

Thank you, Lord, for infant smiles
and children bright at play,
for all the crabbed and silly souls
who annoy us every day.
(We appreciate those most, O Lord,
those crosses that we bear,
and we thank you that we're not yet bald
from pulling out our hair.)

Thank you, Lord, for critics harsh
who attack with whip and flail;
because of harsh reviewers,
thank you, Lord, for hell.
And thank you, Lord, for stupid folk,
that we can clearly see
in blatant view the foolish things
from which none of us are free.

And thank you for those shocking times
when we pedants who lecture all
on every foolish folly
into those follies fall,
for it teaches us the wisdom
of gentleness and restraint
lest we in turn be painted
with the brush by which we paint.

Thank your for your graces,
the good of little things,
which even in the hardest times
can make us laugh and sing.
And thank you for all wonders
that stimulate the mind --
no matter the occasion,
we may true learning find.

Thank you for absurdities --
they overflow the bank,
so if I thank you for each one,
I'll never cease to thank!
And thank you for sweet irony;
it gives the wit to see
that all the things we moan about
may be thanksgiving's seed.

But most of all, I thank you, Lord,
that long before we die,
we can see ourselves with wry regard,
and laugh until we cry.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Over the River and Through the Wood

Thanksgiving Day
by Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
To grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting-hound!
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
And straight through the barn-yard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow,—
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood—
Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

Lydia Maria Francis Child (1802-1880) was a rights activist. She fought against slavery, worked for the protection of women, and defended the rights of Native Americans. She wrote tracts, novels, how-to books, and poems. But this is the work most people remember.

One of her books that is interesting to look through is The Girl's Own Book, which was published in 1833, and which is filled with crafts, games, activities, and puzzles for girls in that day. The games are particularly interesting; some of them would make good party games even today. One of the riddles: Why is Ireland likely to become very rich? Because its capital is always Dublin.

On an Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Theory

John Danaher has a very interesting post at "Philosophical Disquisitions" on the epistemological objection to divine command theory. It gives good material for looking at a number of weaknesses in how analytic philosophers have tended to approach the subject. He presents the argument as follows:

(1) According to DCT, for any given moral agent (S), an obligation to X (or to refrain from X) exists if and only if God commands S to X (or refrain from X).

(2) A theological stateist theory of moral obligations fails to account for the existence of obligations unless the moral agents to whom the obligation applies have knowledge of the relevant theological state.

(3) DCT is a theological stateist theory of moral obligations.

(4) Therefore, DCT fails to account for the existence of an obligation to X (or to refrain from X) unless S has knowledge of God’s commands (from 1, 2 and 3)

(5) If there are reasonable non-believers (i.e. people who don’t believe in God and who do not violate any epistemic duties), then they cannot have knowledge of God’s commands.

(6) There are reasonable non-believers.

(7) Therefore, on DCT, moral obligations fail to exist for reasonable non-believers (from 4, 5 and 6)

(8) DCT cannot be a satisfactory theory of moral obligations if it entails that moral obligations do not exist for reasonable non-believers.

(9) Therefore, DCT cannot be a satisfactory theory of moral obligations.

There are a number of problems with this kind of objection. As long-time readers may know, although not a divine command theorist myself, whenever I face what is supposed to be a general objection against divine command theory (as opposed to an objection against this or that particular form of it), I always ask, "How do the assumptions about divine command theory in this objection compare with the divine command theory laid out in one of the classic texts on divine command theory as a philosophical account, William Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses?" And as long-time readers may also know, the answer that usually comes up is that they don't align -- Warburton in the eighteenth century had often already formulated his divine command theory in a way that is immune to the objection.

So let's start with (1) itself. Warburton would regard (1) as false, at least as stated. Obligations on his account do not require that God command S to X (or refrain from X). Any genuine authority with good and informed power of sanction can obligate. The obligations that require divine command on his account are only the obligations that require a universal authority. That is, Warburton's account calls on God for moral obligations in a strict and proper sense, as applying to all rational beings whatsoever. This is actually quite important for divine command theory generally, because one of the often overlooked strengths of a divine command theory is that if you are (unlike me, but like a lot of people) inclined toward a positivist theory of law, then it offers you a unified theory of obligation, moral as well as legal. The divine command theorist simply holds that we should take a positivist approach to law as correct for all obligations, including the most universal. (Legal positivists in general tend to want to have a sharp separation between moral obligation and legal validity that would block this. But the divine command theorist, of course, will simply argue that we talk about law in moral terms and morality in legal terms, and we do tend to talk about legal obligations created by legislators, and we can still make a perfectly reasonable distinction between your legal obligations and moral obligations by simply taking the latter to be more universal.) Thus (1) as stated is too broad.

I'll look at premise (2) in a moment, which brings us to (3). 'Theological stateism' here means: "The view that particular moral statuses (such as good, bad, right, wrong, permissible, obligatory etc) depend for their existence on one or more of God’s states (e.g. His beliefs, desires, intentions, commands etc)." It is in fact unclear that commands in general are 'states' in the sense that beliefs, desires, and intentions are. They certainly don't have to be states of mind. If Congress passes a law, we don't need to know the states of mind of Congress; we need to know what the command is, which is not a state of mind, but an actually promulgated standard. Now, it does seem to be true that commands depend on something we might call a 'state', somewhere in the chain, in the sense that a full explanation of a command will appeal to the agent commanding it. But it is quite clearly an indirect matter, and it is not clearly that the state itself is all that significant a factor in determining what is in fact commanded. Thus, while we can grant (3), we will have to be very careful about what kind of dependence is being assumed, throughout the rest of the argument, whenever 'theological stateism' is mentioned.

Premise (2) is too strong. The basic rationale for (2) is derived from an argument by Robert Adams, based on contracts. However, it is stronger than Adams' argument actually requires. (At least the one actually given -- I don't have Adams' work with me at the moment, but nothing Danaher says on his view strikes me as implausible based on what I recall.) If you have a contract, your actual knowledge of the terms of the contract is not generally relevant to the question of your obligation. If you sign a contract without looking at it, then, assuming there was no fraud, you are still obligated. The reason is that the contract was available in such a way that there is no particular excuse for not knowing. But we can even intensify this. Consider a different, and more analogous kind of obligation-making: legislation. No one regards your legal obligations as dependent on whether you have knowledge of it; all that matters is whether it was properly promulgated. Given this, it doesn't matter whether you know; it doesn't matter whether it was easy for you to come to know; it might even have been impossible for you, in particular, in your practical circumstances, to know. What does matter for promulgation is whether people who need to obey the law could generally come to know it through some standard channel. Thus (2) at least needs qualification -- it holds a 'theological stateist' account of obligation to a standard no one in practice regards as necessary to any theory of obligation.

Thus we are already running into problems getting (4). The fact that (1) is stated too broadly ends up not being a problem, because (2) and (3) both narrow things down to moral obligations. But (4) quite clearly requires that we have the full strength of (2), and (2) is much too strong for most obligations -- we can be obligated without knowing exactly what we are obligated to do, e.g., through our own negligence, when the obligation could generally have been known, or was commonly known by typical citizens. We only require that laws be broadcast, not that they be narrowcast to every person subject to them; and yet we take laws to obligate even people who missed out. At the same time, no one takes obligations to require knowing the states of the legislator; if no one were obligated by laws of Congress unless they knew the states of minds of the legislators, it would be very difficult determine what purported laws we should obey. In reality, no one ever cares about the state of Congress, except sometimes courts for interpreting difficult cases; all they usually want to know is what, in fact, was promulgated.

As Danaher notes, (5) and (6) are also controversial; I won't discuss them here.

We can sum up all of the problems above by looking at the argument in a different way. One of the big questions that always needs to be asked when assessing any argument against divine command theory is this: Does the argument make any sense if we lower the authority in question from universal to particular? Divine command theory is a form of moral positivism in which the acts of an authority with universal scope of sanction are taken to be the only thing that establishes fully moral obligations. But divine command theorists have historically tended to see obligations on a scale, as noted above in discussing (1), with fully moral obligations as just the obligations of most general authority. So let's consider the argument for a lower authority: a human legislature and the legal obligations it creates.

(1) At this level, for any given citizen (S), an obligation to X (or to refrain from X) exists if and only if the legislature passes a law for S to X (or refrain from X).

(2) A legal stateist theory of moral obligations fails to account for the existence of obligations unless the citizens to whom the obligation applies have knowledge of the relevant legal state.

(3) This theory is a legal stateist theory of legal obligations.

(4) Therefore, it fails to account for the existence of an obligation to X (or to refrain from X) unless S has knowledge of the laws passed by the legislature (from 1, 2 and 3)

(5) If there are reasonable noncompliants (i.e. people who are citizens, but don't know about the legislature and who do not violate any epistemic duties), then they cannot have knowledge of the laws passed by the legislature.

(6) There are reasonable noncompliants.

(7) Therefore, on this account, legal obligations fail to exist for reasonable noncompliants (from 4, 5 and 6)

(8) This account cannot be a satisfactory theory of legal obligations if it entails that legal obligations do not exist for reasonable noncompliants.

(9) Therefore, This account cannot be a satisfactory theory of legal obligations.

I don't think the account in question would make a satisfactory theory of legal obligations; but none of this argument makes any sense as a reason for saying that. There's no obvious reason to think that the account's 'stateist' in the sense required; and (2) would be an unreasonable standard even if it were, because it seems to require assuming that the dependency of the command, qua command, on the state is much closer than it actually is. It is true that the explanation of the laws passed by the legislature requires consideration of the state of the legislature; but knowledge of that state is not required for knowing the laws themselves. And that's even assuming that one strictly needs to know the laws in order to be obligated by them, which is not how we generally handle laws -- we hold that laws need to be promulgated, but as long as certain basic conditions of promulgation are met, we can still be obligated by them. If our failure to comply really is due to innocent and honest ignorance, we may well take that into account when determining sanction (or whether to suspend sanction in this case), by taking it as exculpatory, but we don't in fact hold that the obligations do not exist at all -- and it is at least not obvious that they don't.

It's also worth noting that the reverse is true, as well: one can be in compliance with one's obligations without knowing what they are. This is blatantly obvious in the legal case. If we return a moment to Warburton, Warburton argues that we are in fact set up so that, all other things being equal, we will tend to comply with our obligations, because God has given us two things that do not constitute our obligations but tend to converge on them -- a moral sense of appropriate and inappropriate that can be cultivated into good moral taste, and a rational ability to identify better and worse in the abstract. But we are also set up in such a way that thinking in terms of obligations is relatively easy for us, so it's not surprising that even atheists tend toward thinking of moral life in these terms -- particularly, since, as Warburton also insists, atheists tend in general to get at least significant portions of their morality, directly or indirectly, from a broader culture that usually includes a great many theists. He just doesn't think they can do this coherently, since he argues that all obligation requires an obligating authority with adequate scope of sanction, and the scope of sanction for moral obligations would have to be universal. And it's worth noting, perhaps, that Warburton doesn't hugely care whether atheists themselves are obligated; what that ultimately means is just that atheists have no coherent theory of moral obligation, so all their actual moral life is really just moral feelings and calculation, so any time they say 'murder is wrong' they are saying, at most, 'murder is bad taste and poor sense'. This is entirely true, Warburton holds, but neither the 'bad taste' nor the 'poor sense', nor any combination of the two together, gets us an obligation of universal scope.

There are issues with promulgation when it comes to divine command theory; but to try to understand these issues in epistemic terms, as this argument does, just seems to get everything all wrong.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Great Martyr

Icon of Saint Catherine

Today is the feast of Queen St. Catherine of Alexandria, Great Martyr and Virgin, patron saint of philosophers, orators, teachers, jurists, theologians, librarians, scribes, schoolgirls, milliners, lacemakers, potters, wheelwrights, and virgins. Patronage always conveys a history of signs. She's the patron of so many intellectual professions because according to legend she argued with philosophers and rhetoricians, and refuted them all. As a result she became closely associated with university life in the Middle Ages. She's the patron of potters, because she was tortured on a wheel and has the wheel as one of her iconic symbols; wheelwrights make wheels and potters use wheels, so potters and wheelwrights share symbolism with her. And she is the patron of milliners and lacemakers because of an old custom in which unmarried women on St. Catherine's Day would have their own celebration, complete with finery, so those groups became closely associated with her festivities.

Oil of Whelps

There's an interesting guest post by Katherine Aske at "Early Modern Medicine" on the use of puppies in early modern cosmetics. (ht) She even gives a standard recipe for oil of whelps, from Nicholas Culpeper:

Takes Sallet Oil four pound, two Puppy-dogs newly whelped, Earthworms washed in white Wine one pound; boil the Whelps til they fall in pieces then put in the worms a while after strain it, then with three ounces of Cypress Turpentine, and one ounce of Spirits of Wine, perfect the Oil according to Art.

The oil could be used for treating bruises. Boiling puppies for oleum catellorum was not the only cosmetic use of puppy; they also made puppy water, which consisted of putting dead puppy, cut as if for a roast, into a still, then adding wine, unsalted butter, snail-shells, lemon, the distillation of which was to be mixed with sugar and gold leaf. Moisturizes the skin!

The history of cosmetics is a history of doing weird things. We are not, in fact, any different. It may seem odd to put snail-shells in a moisturizer; but in fact it is not an uncommon practice even today to use snails in cosmetics -- snail slime, for instance, is a natural source of elastin, and you can buy snail slime at high-end cosmetic stores. You can also get high-end hair conditioners using bull semen. If a cosmetic says it uses guanine, the standard source for that is fish scales. You can buy hair products that use placenta and skin products that use embryonic stem cells -- although the latter, being controversial,tend to be quite expensive. Some anti-wrinkle creams use human foreskin. All of it has had some study that says it works; and some of it actually works. You can have no doubt that, if a scientific study of any kind somewhere tied puppy oil to a cosmetic benefit, within a year you could find make-up with oil of whelps.

Behold the Wrecks of Ages

The True Basis of Power
by Sir Aubrey De Vere

Power's footstool is Opinion, and his throne
The Human Heart: thus only Kings maintain
Prerogatives God-sanctioned. The coarse chain
Tyrants would bind around us may be blown
Aside, like foam, that with a breath is gone:
For there's a tide within the popular vein
That despots in their pride may not restrain;
Swoln with a vigour that is all its own.
Ye who would steer along these donbtful seas,
Lifting your proud sails to high heaven, beware!
Rocks throng the waves, and tempests load the breeze:
Go, search the shores of History—mark there
The Oppressor's lot, the Tyrant's destinies:
Behold the Wrecks of Ages; and despair!

Aubrey De Vere's son, Aubrey Thomas De Vere, is the more famous poet of the two.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fortnightly Book, November 23

Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm, best known simply as Max Beerbohm, gives us the next fortnightly book, Zuleika Dobson. He was known as a humorist and a dandy, and also as the Incomparable Max, a nickname he got from George Bernard Shaw.

Zuleika Dobson is his most famous work and only full novel; it has had its fans since it was published in 1911. It is subtitled, An Oxford Love Story, and is the story of Zuleika Dobson, a beautiful woman who manages to get admitted to an all-male college. She has a very unusual problem: all men fall in love with her at first sight. The result is, inevitably, bedlam. Humorous works that I've done for the Fortnightly Book have not generally thrilled me, but we'll see how this one goes.

I'll be reading the Heritage Press edition (from the New York era), with a preface by Douglas Cleverdon and illustrations by George Him, a pioneer of graphic design. The full-page illustrations are quite gorgeous. It is unusual in shape -- the cover is 6 1/4 by 11 1/8inches. The typeface is Bulmer and the paper is an unusual gray-toned vellum-finish laid -- at least, that's what The Sandglass calls it.