Saturday, August 15, 2015

Some Links of Note

I have been in Montana the last week, visiting family, doing some whitewater rafting on the Gallatin River, as well as some light hiking on the edge of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness up to Sioux Charley Lake and back. Substantive posting will likely be light over the next week as well, though, due to preparation for the Fall term. Some interesting links I've come across recently:

* Philosophers on the Decriminalization of Prostitution -- setting aside Demetriou's embarrassing bluster, there is a good deal of interesting thought here.

* Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind.

* Yohan John has an interesting post trying to think through the way the brain might work in terms of the metaphor of an economy.

* John Gray on Friedrich Hayek

* Syriac language resources

* Thony Christie looks at the history of sozein ta phainomena and how it relates to Duhem's positivist account of mathematical astronomy.

Rosmini for August XV


On the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption we ought, in the first place, to congratulate her upon the glory and happiness which she enjoys in heaven; secondly, we ought to excite within ourselves a great confidence in her powerful patronage, resolving to invoke her aid at all times in our needs; thirdly, we should beg of her to save us by her intercession, that we may see her and praise her for all eternity as she deserves.
Catechism no. 763 [SC]

Friday, August 14, 2015

Rosmini for August XIV

All Christianity is summed up in these solemn words In Christ, because they express the real mystical union of man with Christ, in which union and incorporation real Christianity consists.
Introduction to St. John's Gospel p. 179 [SC]

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hobbes and a National Church of England

I have been re-reading Benson's By What Authority? off and on recently, and the arguments for the Church of England as a national church have very much put me in mind of Hobbes. And it leads me to something that I don't think I've ever really talked about here, which is that in my view Hobbes's Leviathan is, in fact, through and through an argument for a National Church -- that is to say, that the whole point of the book seems to be to argue for it. This is, I suppose, not any sort of original view, but it's an aspect of the book that tends to be lost entirely when discussing it in the context of political philosophy, despite the fact that it unifies the work. Thus it's worth noting explicitly at times.

Hobbes's basic argument for a National Church is quite easy to state: "they that are the Representants of a Christian People, are Representants of the Church: for a Church, and a Common-wealth of Christian People, are the same thing" (Leviathan, Chapter XLII; cp. Chapter XXXIII). In Hobbes's account of authority, authority involves personation or representation -- that is to say, for the community to act as a whole, its power to act must be invested in a person who can act for it. He holds, of course, that the authority of a commonwealth is personated in a Sovereign, making that person nothing less than the entire commonwealth in one person. But if church and commonwealth are the same people, then the church is already personated in the Sovereign, who is therefore Sovereign of the church as well as the commonwealth. This is why the book ends with an out-and-out attack on the Catholic account of the Church. As Hobbes sees it, Catholic ecclesiology is the diametrical opposite of this, since it makes of the Pope a Sovereign for the church, and therefore from the fact that the church and the commonwealth of Christian people are the same thing, claims for the Pope temporal power. But his aim is larger than this, since while he devotes his attention primarily to the Catholic position, scattered comments show that he also takes Calvinist ecclesiology to be an enemy. We see this, for instance, as he finishes up his criticism of Catholic ecclesiology (Chapter XLVII):

It was not therefore a very difficult matter, for Henry 8. by his Exorcisme; nor for Qu. Elizabeth by hers, to cast them out. But who knows that this Spirit of Rome, now gone out, and walking by Missions through the dry places of China, Japan, and the Indies, that yeeld him little fruit, may not return, or rather an Assembly of Spirits worse than he, enter, and inhabite this clean swept house, and make the End thereof worse than the Beginning? For it is not the Romane Clergy onely, that pretends the Kingdome of God to be of this World, and thereby to have a Power therein, distinct from that of the Civil State. From this consolidation of the Right Politique, and Ecclesiastique in Christian Soveraigns, it is evident, they have all manner of Power over their Subjects, that can be given to man, for the government of mens externall actions, both in Policy, and Religion; and may make such Laws, as themselves shall judge fittest, for the government of their own Subjects, both as they are the Common-wealth, and as they are the Church: for both State, and Church are the same men.

For Hobbes, as for Milton, new presbyter sometimes turns out to be just old priest writ large.

Sovereigns, therefore, are the supreme pastor of their national churches, with authority "to ordain what Pastors they please, to teach the Church, that is, to teach the People committed to their charge" (Chapter XLII). Hobbes takes this all the way, going so far as to argue that the Bible gets its authority for Christians due to its imposition by the Sovereign (Chapter XXXIII):

It is true, that God is the Soveraign of all Soveraigns; and therefore, when he speaks to any Subject, he ought to be obeyed, whatsoever any earthly Potentate command to the contrary. But the question is not of obedience to God, but of when, and what God hath said; which to Subjects that have no supernaturall revelation, cannot be known, but by that naturall reason, which guided them, for the obtaining of Peace and Justice, to obey the authority of their severall Common-wealths; that is to say, of their lawfull Soveraigns. According to this obligation, I can acknowledge no other Books of the Old Testament, to be Holy Scripture, but those which have been commanded to be acknowledged for such, by the Authority of the Church of England.

Reading Leviathan directly as an argument for the Church of England as a National Church is needed to make sense of the entire work in multiple ways. For instance, it clarifies what Hobbes is doing in his endless Scriptural exegesis throughout. It also explains the structure of the work, rising from general considerations of man, to the nature of commonwealth, to the notion of a Christian Commonwealth, and ending in a culminating attack on Catholic ecclesiology, the most extensive and obvious threat to the idea of the Church of England as a National Church governed by the Crown of England.

Rosmini for August XIII

Love correction, and receive it with a grateful heart and serene countenance, being mindful of those words of our divine Master, Jesus: "He that is of God, heareth the words of God."
Letters 4436 [SC]

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Jeanne-Françoise Frémiot de Chantal

In the United States, today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, Jeanne-Françoise Frémiot, Baronne de Chantal. I say "in the United States" because a series of mishaps has led to her date being moved around. In the Extraordinary Form calendar, it is August 21. St. Jeanne died on December 13, so when the Ordinary Form calendar was developed, they moved it to December 12 -- December 13 already being occupied by one of the oldest and most important of the Roman saints, the virgin martyr St. Lucy. But in the U.S., the patronal feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe occurs on December 12, so the U.S. bishops got permission for the U.S. to commemorate her on August 18. But in 2001, Rome changed its mind and decided it should be August 12. And so we find her here.

Jane Francis was born in 1572; at the age of 21 she married the Baron de Chantal. They had seven very good years together, but in 1580, the Baron was killed in a hunting accident, and the Baroness found herself widowed at age 28 with four children. Despite being heartbroken at the loss, she took things in hand and became famous for the business savvy with which she managed the estates she had inherited from her husband as well as for the generosity with which she supported the poor. She considered becoming a nun. In 1604, however, she fatefully met Francis de Sales, and they hit it off marvelously; he became her spiritual director. St. Francis argued that a person of her capacities needed a vocation that was more active than that of a nun would usually have been. He eventually recommended that she might instead form a sort of society of women who were not bound by vows; they would only be in cloister for their early formation, and afterward would be out in the world helping the sick and poor. This eventually grew into a formal religious order, the Congregation of the Visitation, which, because of the unusually flexibility built into its structure, was able to take in women who could not, for one reason or other, join another religious order. St. Francis and St. Jane found considerable resistance to the Visitationists, however, and under considerable pressure from the bishops of the day were forced to turn it into a more conventional religious order. But the order nonetheless thrived, in part due to outside support arising from Jane's continuing reputation for good money management. After the death of Francis de Sales, Jane's spiritual director was St. Vincent de Paul. Thus the Visitationists were a major part of the expansion of what has come to be called the French School, which in great measure dominates Catholic culture throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. St. Jane died in 1641, leaving behind an extensive correspondence that has always made her one of the possible candidates for Doctor of the Church (which she has not, however, been given). The Baroness is a saint who went through every state of life that was possible to a woman in her day -- daughter, wife, mother, widow, nun -- and excelled at them all due to her very practical approach to life, which allowed her to combine a playful spirit with profound priorities and to infuse everyday life with an intense religious devotion.

The first Visitationist convent in the U.S. was founded in 1799, and it is still up and running.

Rosmini for August XII

Holy souls do not suffer temptations to pride and vainglory when God visits their souls with extraordinary supernatural favours and communications of light and grace, for during such times the sense of Christ's presence is most vivid. They experience, on the contrary, a feeling of the deepest humility, and are irresistibly prompted to give all the glory to God, as we see from the writings of the saints, especially of St. Teresa.
Introduction to St. John's Gospel p. 159 [SC]

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Rosmini for August XI

The constancy of the good never fails them; because in that spiritual good which is neither obtained nor lost by violence, they have an inexhaustible store of spiritual strength, which renders them contented and invincible in their meekness.
Theodicy no. 882 [SC]

Monday, August 10, 2015

Philosophers' Carnival #178

Welcome to the newest iteration of the Philosophers' Carnival! As is always the case when we host the carnival here at Siris, where the golden chain is of a truly universal scope, we have a well rounded set of posts on a diverse selection of topics, any one of which is worth a bit of your time. If you find a topic dear to your heart not represented, though, please consider writing up a post on it and submit it as a suggestion for the next Philosophers' Carnival, which you can do through the link above.

* Throughout July, Catarina Dutilh Novaes blogged on the dialogical account of reductio ad absurdum:

Part I -- Problems with reductio proofs: cognitive aspects
Part II -- Problems with reductio proofs: assuming the impossible
Part III -- Problems with reductio proofs: "jumping to conclusions"
Part IV -- A precis of the dialogical account of deduction
Part V -- Dialectical refutations and reductio ad absurdum
Part VI -- Reductio arguments from a dialogical perspective: final considerations

* Sandrine Berges calls attention to an early analytic philosopher, Eleanor Bisbee. Has anyone read her papers in analytic philosophy or her dissertation on instrumentalism in Plato's philosophy? If so, comment at Feminist History of Philosophy to get a discussion going!

* Also at Feminist History of Philosophy, Emily Thomas discusses the British Idealist Hilda Oakeley, discussing her notion of 'creative memory' as an example of her insights.

* Deborah Mayo takes the anniversary of Jerzy Neyman's death to reflect on the philosophy underlying Neyman's statistical work, particularly with respect to hypothesis testing.

* Guy Longworth argues against a particular way to draw an analogy between telling and promising.

* At Sardonic comment, Hilary Putnam reflects on Davidson's "A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs", giving his answer to the question, "The truth-evaluable content of a sentence on a particular occasion is given by its truth-condition, as specified by a passing theory that does WHAT?"

* The Carnap Blog argues that "Carnap’s pluralism was consistently linguistic."

* In the aftermath of the recent Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which cited Confucius as part of its account of the moral underpinnings of marriage, an extensive discussion of what Confucian moral philosophy might have to say about same-sex marriage took place among Confucian scholars. At Warp, Weft, and Way, Max Fong summarizes some of this discussion, looking at various arguments that have been put forward.

* Jacob Archambault discusses the way in which much history of philosophy research is constrained to trying to interact with past philosophy in ways that conflate it with present concerns or expectations of the future, as contrasted with recognizing it as (one's own) past.

* A discussion at The Indian Philosophy Blog considers the relationship between metaphysics and ethics in Śāntideva (and more generally), using Amod Lele's open-access The Metaphysical Basis of Śāntideva’s Ethics as the starting point for discussion.

* Eric Schwitzgebel, at The Splintered Mind, argues against intellectualism about belief, where that is understood as the position according to which "what we really believe is the thing we sincerely endorse, despite any other seemingly contrary aspects of our psychology."

* At Certain Doubts, Ralph Wedgewood argues that "if the notions of a belief’s being “justified” or “rational” are normative at all, then the permissibility of a belief is sufficient for the belief’s being justified or rational."

* Terence Blake reflects on the fortieth anniversary of Feyerabend's Against Method and on a number of oversimplifications and myths that have grown up around Feyerabend's work.

* At wo's weblog, Wolfgang Schwarz discusses the difficulty of constructing appropriate cases of transition between non-skeptical and skeptical scenarios for investigation of evidentialism and conservatism.

* Kirsten Walsh investigates the relations between Newton's and Bacon's philosophical approaches to scientific inquiry by examining whether Newton makes use of Bacon-like crucial instances in book 3 of the Principia -- a question that could go either way, depending on exactly how one interprets the evidence. How would you interpret the evidence?

* At Philosophical Percolations, Jon Cogburn raises a worry, drawing from an idea in Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos, for David Roden's Speculative Posthumanism (the view that descendents of current humans could cease to be human through technical alteration): Can it avoid collapsing into some form of trivial posthumanism?

* Alex Pruss argues that the kind of chance with which fear is concerned is an epistemic probability.

* Elisa Freschi uses Jorgensen's dilemma as a jumping-off point for thinking about the various ways in which schools of Indian philosophy approached questions of deontic logic.

* Richard Yetter Chappell argues that "any moral theory will have fittingness implications, even if they aren’t explicit in canonical statements of the theory."

* Tristan Haze gives an account of the analytic/synthetic distinction in order to consider the question of how the analytic relates to the a priori.

* M. A. D. Moore draws on the Theaetetus for clues as to how Plato's dialogues were composed -- in particular, the oral aspect of the dialogue form is likely not to be a mere literary conceit.

If you are in the mood for something a bit lighter, you might try some philosophical poetry, like James Beattie's "The Modern Tippling Philosophers", recently noted at The Mod Squad, or some comics, like one portraying Star Trek but with philosophers, from Existential Comics.

May your summer have a gentle -- but thoroughly philosophical -- landing!

Rosmini for August X

The first effect of the new life which man receives by his union with Christ is a moral power whereby he despises his natural life, physical and intellectual, and feels himself superior even to the fear of death.
Introdcution to St. John's Gospel, p. 169 [SC]

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Fortnightly Book, August 9

It will be some time before I have a chance to finish the Arabian Nights, so we move on to something else in the meantime: Ivanhoe: A Romance, by Sir Walter Scott. A work of historical fiction published in 1820, the novel is arguably one of the most influential novels ever written in the English language, contributing to the nineteenth-century renaissance of interest in the Middle Ages and contributing in a major way to the course of the Romantic movement in England. Probably the strongest rival candidate is the novel that started the series of which Ivanhoe is a part, namely, Waverley.

Sir Walter Scott was a poet, particularly interested in Scottish ballads, whose reputation was established by the highly popular The Lay of the Last Minstrel, published in 1805. He ventured into novel-writing as a different way of using the material he had collected about Scottish oral culture -- but novel-writing, unlike poem-writing, was not particularly respectable. So he published his novels anonymously. As time went on, it became obvious to those who happened to read both that Sir Walter Scott was the author of novels like Waverley, Rob Roy, or The Bride of Lammermoor, but Scott continued to publish in official anonymity even when it was unofficially obvious who he was. The author listed on the title page of the first edition of Ivanhoe was "'The Author of Waverley' &c." Only in 1827, thirteen years after Waverley had come out, could anyone get him to admit in public that he was indeed the author of the Waverley novels, possibly because he was undergoing severe financial hardship. He died heavily in debt in 1832, but his novels sold well enough that they covered everything he owed shortly after his death.

Highly popular in his day, his reputation underwent a slow decline in the late nineteenth century and a nearly complete collapse in the early twentieth. Since then his reputation has slowly increased, with the past few decades restoring a fair amount of critical interest in him and his place as a major and influential innovator of the novel.

He is, incidentally, one of the Scotts behind the expression "Great Scott!" The expression seems to have started independently, although knows for sure the original, and would often be applied to others named Scott, but there was a period during which it was heavily associated with him. Mark Twain, for instance, repeatedly uses it in this sense as part of any number of jokes puncturing Scott's reputation -- most famously in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which is a satire of exactly the kind of medieval historical romance Scott made famous.

Rosmini for August IX

A good heart is to be preferred to great talents. Men of unusual power of mind are distrusted even by the world and as a rule have many enemies, whilst the good are loved by all.
Letters 598 [SC]