Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bright Flames from the Heavenly Portals

Ode for the Coming of the Holy Spirit
by Gregory of Narek
translated by Abraham Terian

A sudden blast, effluence from the Father,
Streaming like fire, a path marked by bright flames from the heavenly portals,
Separate flames (driven) by blasting wind, many flames of assorted languages.

Celestial silence amid the multiplicity of sounds
Bringing good news to the sad assembly,
Invitation to good things for the Petrine company.

To the One who cleanses with fire we raise
A balanced song (of praise) in nine lines,
For the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Spirit of the Father, coming from his very presence,
Spirit of God, Spirit of might, Spirit of meekness,
Spirit of knowledge (and) wisdom, Spirit of counsel and understanding.

I beg you not to convict me, ever.
Abide within me, a temple built by you.
Your will is an accomplished act.

You, whose will is good, show your benevolent act within me, a manifold sinner,
That by your will I may sing songs of praise to you who are Existent,
And renew me unto glory.

[from The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek, Terian, tr., Liturgical Press (Collegeville, MN: 2016) pp. 89-91.]

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dashed Off VIII

Dashed off notes, to be taken with a grain of salt.

canons of advisability for precedent

to metrion, to prepon, to kairon, and to deon in dialectical reasoning
to metrion, to prepon, to kairon & to deon as aspects of prudential judgment, as aspects of illative sense

All political constitutions depend for their day-to-day legitimacy and effectiveness on the exercise of unenumerated rights.

extended mind // relics of saints

the sublimity of the starry sky as a principle of the history of science

the moral teaching of the Church
(1) preparation for communion
(2) consistency with sacraments
(3) consistency of witness for Christ

bhakti as likely a ripple in Hinduism resulting from Islam

the solidary and meritorious works of charity
(1) preparations for further grace
(2) satisfactions
(3) interpositions on behalf of others

As the Ark of the Covenant was an instrument of union between God and His people and a pledge of divine help, so too is Mary.

the importance of prolegomena and groundwork-laying to long-term philosophy

rhetorical use of pathos to poison or correct philosophical reasoning

philosophical encyclopedia (survey) as a training ground and resource bank for philosophical inquiry

The preservation of destructible good in accordance with its nature is itself a good.

immutable & mutable data in arguments

To ask well is the first step in receiving.

sealing an argument (related to cognition of truth of premises)

attention as the seed of planned action

argument forensics -- e.g., restoring an argument to its original context, considerations of authenticity relevant to interpretation, etc.

Plato's dialogues as memorials and as anticipations

The purpose of the office of the bishop is to preserve the integrity of the sacramental economy.

confirmation character & curation of Christian heritage
the sacrament of confirmation as the binding thread of the liturgical commonwealth

assessing the utility of actions when one considers not merely the consequences of one's actions but one's actions as consequences
maximizing good causes rather than good consequences

Intelligence and final goals are not, pace Bostrom, orthogonal; that would require a bizarrely wide separation of speculative and practical reason.

cognitive anticipations or presentiments

general beneficence, special beneficence, pietas, justice, honesty, mercy, magnanimity as preconditions for society without which it begins to break down

The difference between philosophical strategy and military strategy is the Socratic principle of the former that the truth and the just must win, even at the cost of one's own loss in the dispute. This is not necessarily foreign ot the latter, but it is certainly not integral and essential to it, either.

solidarity as dampening for bad consequences

marriage as foundation-work for society

Even prophets do not always listen to themselves.

Laws protecting marriage can guarantee neither friendship of virtue nor friendship of pleasure, only friendship of use.

two forms of violence/violation: against will and against nature

Politics in every age is often a system of curing symptoms so as to ignore the diseases; this is a problem both Plato and Xenophon tackle.

St. Isidore's etymologies are a kind of approach to phenomenology.

Eleazar in IV Macc. and the death of Socrates

Every vice can be analyzed into a formal aspect, which is to be understood as active disorder, usurpation, arrogation, or pride, and a material aspect, which can be regarded as passive disorder, craving, or concupiscence.

Utopias tend to be stronger as criticisms than dystopias because relative to utopias we are already the dystopia.

sacraments involving promises made to God: baptism, confirmation, matrimony, orders

Philosophy itself is a sort of death, or anticipation of death (Phaedo 67e), in which one separates body from soul through the cardinal virtues (69b-c).

recollection is semiotic (Phaedo 73c)

reason as universal test
reliability specs for reasoning

Some insoluble problems are made insoluble by the state of the problem-solver.

means as defined by circumstances and ends

the instruments of argument
probe arguments
symptom-tests & use-tests

Plato uses analogies, dramatic elements, and contextual juxtapositions to get arguments to perform more than one function at once.

superposition of guesses

intemperance as the chief corruptive of prudence

philosophies of science analogous to might-makes-right in ethics

deus scientiarum dominus est

problem, diagnosis, solution
- problems as always under an at least partial diagnosis
- problems occur within a structure; depending on how the diagnosis relates the problem to the structure, the appropriate kind of solution may be:
reform (consistency-improving)
transformation (reworking structure)
separation (structure-creating)

the fundamental vein of philosophy of language: how one may teach by means of language

first principle of practical reason
for individual good: private taste and convenience
for weakly common good: good taste
for strongly common good: custom and law
for most common good: moral principle

clinamen, antinomy, and anomaly relative to a given model
clinamen & the empirical residue for a model

envy as the most orc-ish vice

abstract pattern vs. narrative pattern in dance

Error has no rights, but sometimes it must be tolerated for the sake of the rights of truth.

Poetic flow under immense pressure becomes rigorous rational structure.

Clitophon as establishing that even if philosophy begins in wonder (thaumaston) it is not enough to have wonder (407e)

the priest in confession as a defender of common good (Alphonsus Liguori)

The confessor must help the penitents dispose themselves to absolution, not just try to absolve them.

Nonfulfillment of preferences is not identical to frustration of preferences.

The Church as Mother, in union with Christ, brings forth souls unto salvation and light.

A symbol requires a frame within which its symbolism can be seen.

Decadence makes stagnation look like peaceful prosperity.

health, power, safety, usefulness, prosperity, refined by Socratic elenchus to reality of Good as such (cp. Republic, Gorgias, Eryxias)

general differences between indefinite quantities

(1) the corruption of the idea of triage
(2) the deterioration of the understanding of medicine as a humanitarian tradition
(3) the collapse of the moral economy of medicine as a moral economy

modal logic as following naturally from kinds of hypothetical reasoning

philosophical tasks requiring many contributors


Ex 40:34 // Lk 1:35

the miracle of loaves & fishes as teaching about faith & the gospel

locative operators that work like epistemic and doxastic operators (e.g., localizability from a reference point0

Peirce & workable-in-a-tradition

to thaumaston & miracles
the poetics of miracles

development of ascetic practice -> generalization of ascetic practice in qualified form for larger audience -> new development of ascetic practice
(but this is complicated by the fact that ascetic practices, being difficult, are constantly deteriorating)

Catholicism is not a theory but a civilization: the universal civilization of the Word made flesh.

To say that there is an external world is to say that our minds are potential to an actual independent of us.

Stable trade requires stable ceremony.

Military disasters arise by convergence of many factors; rarely if ever through some single great mistake (but many small mistakes, or a great mistake as a contributing factor, are not uncommon).

"The pain that gnaws at the heart as a result of sinning against love is sharper than all other torments that exist." Isaac the Syrian

philosophy as attention to the soul (and its part in all else)

latreia to the god (Apol 23c, 30a)

principles of reasonable deference
- seem to require a notion of fields of (presumptive) authority and to be related to principles governing that authority
- note that one defers to judgment, qua exercise of authority / expertise / right of determination

Hume's account of property & exchange as an account of ceremonial interaction

causal, public trust as essential to the health of society

fear as sense of vulnerability

kami in Shinto as manifestations of natural affinity

Human beings themselves are the evidence of ethics.

sublimity as a ground of hope

remotion, causation, & eminence in understanding the external world

postulates of deliberation: free decision, universal concepts, ground of possibility

the sublimity of the first principles of speculative reason

Sensible affinities presuppose intelligible affinities.

God as first principle or ground of affinity

prose as indefinitameter

arguments formed from mists of aphorisms

Ruth : Gentile :: Naomi : Jew

The difference between suggestive and conclusive evidence is everything else.

Natural law as the general structure of human society: people surviving, reproducing, educating, living in society, seeking truth about the most important things, as human beings.

The miracles of Christ practically beg to be used to generate a vocabulary for rightly framing life.

Snark shades into spite with dangerous ease.

"Freedom can never yield its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen." James Garfield

'is part of' vs 'is a part of'

time as the metric mereotopology of clocks

ordinary language philosophy as ordinary evidence philosophy

The concept of evidence is clearly separable from that of justification.
(there needs to be a proper analysis of 'respect for evidence')

breach of loyalty vs conflict of interest vs abuse of position

obligation // proof

tradition, personal experience, and chance circumstances as joint determinatives of what counts as a live option, a forced option, a momentous option
scientists guiding inquiry according to assessments of live, forced, and momentous paths

Mk 2:27-28 is a fairly daring interpretation of Gn 1.

resurrection and fiat lux Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1 (cf Justin Martyr 1 Apol 67)

the structure of Sunday
(1) natural law: distinct identifiable time for the community to recognize the universal beneficence of God
(2) customary law (apostolic tradition): memorial of Resurrection as surpassing Sabbath (Sabbath as type)
(3) positive law: precept of Church

Marriage is itself a specific manifestation and form of ecclesial communion.

piety and friendship as two grounds besides legal justice for corporate action (but all virtues associated with justice contribute something to corporate life and solidarity)

voodoo refutation using toy model arguments

We see people through our sentiments.

three grounds of healthy customary law (cp Laws VIII): reverence for divine things, love of honor, preference of noble attributes of soul over goods of body

Baptism : baptism :: Transfiguration : confirmation :: Passion : orders
(But note, of course, that our understanding of each already depends in some ways on each of the three parts of the Life of Christ)

the sacrament of confirmation strengthened by the witness of Moses (Law) and Elijah (prophets)

Baptism ; faith :: Transfiguration : hope :: Passion : charity

All of Bostrom's existential risks are only limit cases of things we deal with all the time in institutions.

Jus ad bellum criteria, properly understood, are also jus in bello criteria, and both, properly understood, are just post bellum criteria. This is because the criteria are specifications of issues arising from the very structure of large-scale policy actions.

equity, benevolence, and prudence as concerned especially directly with the good of persons considered as persons.

The more essential lawyers are to a society, the weaker the poor and the outcast are.

The cultivation of stable goods is a key element of good citizenship.

The witness of the Church is an act of the Holy Spirit.

Strategies are not mere conglomerations of tactics and operations, but higher standpoints.

Jacob's Ladder and Christ Ascended

li & the Urphenomenon

Just cause must directly pertain to common good.

HoP as guard against equivocation

The calendar of saints helps to guarantee that, in the long run, the philosophy that assists teaching is not merely theoretical but is rooted in the practice of Christian life.

the panoply of Jewish heritage: adoption (election), Shekinah, covenants (patriarchal and Davidic), Torah, Temple worship, Divine promises, patriarchal history, Messiah

All genuine criticism involves teleological analysis, some examination of means and their relations to ends.

aridity in light of the cross as a purification from pride and a study of humility

When suspension of judgment is required, the rational response is to develop all branches, not to stop. Suspension of judgment is not a stopping rule but a change of strategy.

The altar signifies (1) the human heart (2) the Church, including the Virgin Mary (3) the Incarnate Word (4) the table of the Last Supper (5) the throne of God

John the Baptist & icons as pedagogical

metonymic and metaphoric quasi-definitions

points of eminence (Durandus)
baptism - efficacy
eucharist - sanctity
matrimony - signification
confirmation & orders - ratione conferentis

original, mortal, venial
of cognition, of locution, of perpetration
of fragility (weakness), of simplicity (ignorance), of malignity (malice)

sacramental guardians & curators of the sacraments

philosopher as witness

(1) We can experience a world outside us.
(2) To be able to experience a world outside us is to be potential to something actual that is not ourselves.
(3) We experience a world outside us.
(4) To experience a world outside us is to be actualized in some way because of something that is outside us.

There is nothing wrong with ad hoc reasoning as an exploratory strategy; but it cannot substitute for principled reasoning.

attestation -> affinity

The rule of law is founded on regard for virtue, for only virtue can find genuine common good.
rule of law as friendship-building

Catechesis is a practical endeavor whose ends are drawn from those of the whole Church.

Both the Election of Israel and the Incarnation imply that contributions will inevitably be extraordinarily diverse, in all the natural hues of human life.

The abstract structure of civilization is the same as that of prudence.

eucharistic communion as communion with martyrdom

Pragmatism always must presuppose a received context.

orders the sacrament of tradition

Our capacity to think of possible alternatives is of itself a reason for thinking determinism false.

'the madness, the Bacchic frenzy of philosophy' (Symp 218b)

the personation of philosophical ideas (Socrates, Confucius, etc.)

gifts of ideas laid at the altar

To understand the excellence of work of a genius artisan one must first understand the competence of a good artisan.

the intrinsic link between eros and fecundity: Symposium 206c and following.

Reasons to Learn Philosophy

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Converting Kant into Natural Law

The categorical imperative, according to Kant, is:

[1]Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

Kant, of course, spends considerable time explaining how this should be understood. But let's suppose a scenario: you are a natural law theorist and don't think Kantianism is right, but you think there's a lot that is good in it. How do you 'translate' Kant into natural law with minimal distortion so as to establish that more rigorously in natural law terms?

Well, everything in natural law theory depends on two things: the theory of practical reason and the theory of law (or obligation). Because Kantianism also has the structure of a certain conception of practical and a theory of obligation, it will actually translate fairly easily.

So we start with law. Taking Aquinas's famous definition, law is an ordering of reason to common good as promulgated by one who is caretaker of the community. So suppose we understood "universal law" in a Thomistic rather than Kantian way? What's universal about it in Kant is that it applies to all rational beings. And a maxim is just the rule you make for yourself in a decision, so:

[1b] In your decisions, act only according to that rule that could be a rational ordering to good common to all who have reason.

But a more common way of saying this, rather than talking about maxims or rules in decision, would be simply:

[1c] Seek and do what is appropriate to what is common good for all rational beings.

But let's stop a moment and think about how we get precepts of natural law in the first place. According to Aquinas, the most general principle for reasoning about practical decisions of any kind is:

Good is to be sought and done, bad is to be avoided.

There's nothing inherently moral about this; it's the general principle which makes it possible to say that tying your shoes before running up and down stairs is rational. Whether the law of natural law comes enters into the question depends on the kind of good involved. Aquinas's definition of law requires common good -- note that this is literally what it says, good shared in common, and that it is any kind of good shared in common, not (as in utilitarianism) only good consequences. So the first principle of practical reason becomes the first precept of natural law when the good in question is the common good of human beings.

So if Kant's categorical imperative is understood according to the Thomistic account of what a law is, it is very like a close specification of the positive clause of the first precept of natural law. This actually makes sense. The first principle of practical reason is to practical matters what the principle of noncontradiction it is in theoretical matters: it distinguishes the rationally incoherent from the rationally coherent, and Kant's categorical imperative is entirely concerned with rationally coherent action. And the first principle of practical reason becomes a precept of natural law when it concerns the common good of rational animals, while the categorical imperative specifically concerns law appropriate for all rational beings, so if you add to the categorical imperative the Thomistic notion that law is an ordering to common good promulgated by its caretaker(s), you get something very similar to the first precept of natural law. They are functionally and structurally analogous to begin with.

You can do this, incidentally, with all the formulations of the categorical imperative. The Law of Nature formulation works the same way as the above. The End in Itself formulation converts when you add to the above the idea of human nature itself (our nature as rational animals) as being a necessary part of the common good of all human beings, and then you get a precept to seek what is appropriate to human nature. The Kingdom of Ends formulation can be converted by adding the idea that a kingdom or realm is constituted by friendship, and that human beings are caretakers for the common good of the human race, and then you more-or-less get a precept to act in a way consistent with friendship with all human beings.

Of course, Kant doesn't have a natural law theory. But by converting Kant in this way, it becomes more straightforward to sort out what a natural law theorist could regard as right and wrong, good or bad about Kantianism. And none of this is to claim that the converted precepts, as merely converted, are flawless or have the same role in natural law theory as the categorical imperative in Kant's account. But it is, in fact, of the very nature of natural law to seek what is appropriate to the common good of all human beings, and it is, in fact, a matter of natural law that we should seek the good appropriate to human nature, and it is, in fact, a matter of natural law that we should seek what is required in order to make possible friendship among all human beings. (The most interesting difference is that these are not all equivalent precepts in natural law theory, despite being all very general and exceptionless precepts. This is because Kant's formulations just use three vocabularies human beings use in moral matters to restate exactly the same categorical imperative, but the analogous vocabulary in natural law theory cannot cover exactly the same ground.)

You could do the same thing in the reverse, but this is less interesting, because from a natural law perspective, this is in a way what Kant did in the first place, and from Kant's perspective, all moral vocabulary can be conformed to the categorical imperative to show either its incoherence or its true form. Natural law theorists have tended not to be so bold.

Which is unfortunate, as it contributes to a common error in understanding natural law theory, that there are distinctive classes of 'natural law arguments'. If natural law theory is true, all good moral arguments are natural law arguments. You can no more have a distinctive category of 'natural law arguments' than you can have a distinctive category of 'arguments using the principle of noncontradiction', and for exactly the same reason. To be sure, you can have arguments that are more explicit about using it than others, but all good arguments are principle-of-noncontradiction arguments, and (if natural law theory is true) all good moral arguments are first-precept-of-natural-law arguments. Thus the natural law theorist should be able to say, of any moral argument, what in it is good in terms of natural law.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Libanius and the Praise of Widowhood

An interesting passage in Chrysostom's Letter to a Young Widow:

For once when I was still a young man I know that the sophist who taught me (and he exceeded all men in his reverence for the gods) expressed admiration for my mother before a large company. For enquiring, as was his wont, of those who sat beside him who I was, and some one having said that I was the son of a woman who was a widow, he asked of me the age of my mother and the duration of her widowhood, and when I told him that she was forty years of age of which twenty had elapsed since she lost my father he was astonished and uttered a loud exclamation, and turning to those present "Heavens!" cried he "what women there are among the Christians." So great is the admiration and praise enjoyed by widowhood not only among ourselves, but also among those who are outside the Church.

The sophist who taught John Chrysostom was Libanius, who was friends with Julian the Apostate and perhaps the greatest teacher of rhetoric of his day (and in his day, rhetoric was king). Libanius's Funeral Oration for Julian is perhaps the last great expression of the political vision of pagan Imperial Rome.

Diversifying the Philosophical Curriculum

Jay Garfield and Bryan Van Norden have an article arguing that if American philosophy departments only offer courses on philosophy from Europe and America, they should be called "Department of European and American Philosophy" rather than "Department of Philosophy". Unfortunately they rather muddle things up at several points in ways that are rather worrisome.

(1) They repeatedly slide between talking about American philosophy departments and talking about the discipline. Thinking that the former is somehow constitutive of the latter is itself precisely a form of arrogance; the discipline already includes all actively working philosophers, even if Americans don't recognize it.

This is of some significance. One of the worries with curricular expansion is that if its logic is really taken to the limit, the result is that you end up doing far more than you can actually do well. You can't have a pantraditional philosophy department. This is distinct from the possibility of philosophers acting and setting up their departments in such a way that they recognize that there are multiple traditions, thus increasing the ways in which philosophers globally and cooperatively work together in their discipline regardless of background.

(2) They muddle together the teaching of non-European traditions, the teaching of non-European texts, and the teaching of non-European figures. As a historian of philosophy, I assure you that they are very, very different things. The rhetoric would be really overheated if all they are saying is that teaching a text from Augustine (who was, of course, from North Africa) would satisfy them. They want a diverse selection of something. How diverse? Should the diversity be measured by tradition (which is the most intensive thing to teach), or by text in the canon, or by figure (the easiest)? In my Intro course I say explicitly on the first day that we will be focusing on Western philosophy and they still briefly get Avicenna (always in talking about Aristotle on cause, and usually also in talking about Descartes on the cogito, and sometimes also in talking about Descartes on the existence of God). It's still obviously about Western philosophy, though. Averroes and Maimonides were from Cordoba; one might assume that they would count, but it has to be admitted that if you just added them, you are still only including Europeans.

I do not say this to quibble, but to point out that, for all of the vehemence with which they are engaging in their advocacy, they never actually give any definite thing for which they are advocating except diversity in the curriculum, and vaguely more of it. It seems obvious that there is a level that would, obviously, not really be changing anything (as if you could just solve the problem by mentioning Confucius in passing, or assigning a reading by Augustine, or looking at one argument from Avicenna in light of its relevance to the history of Western epistemology). And the mixing together of all sorts of different ways in which we could have curricular diversity leaves us with no sense of what it would be.

(3) And it is actually precise ways of doing it that are really needed. In general, large curricular expansion requires large expansion of resources. Anyone can add a snippet of Confucius to an ethics class; a Confucian philosophy section in a course requires preparation time and resources dedicated for the subject; a stable Chinese philosophy course requires a specialist or semi-specialist slot dedicated to it in the department. You can cut down on these costs by replacing rather than adding (and similar moves), but this will only get you so much. While you do get ignorant loudmouthed jackasses who go around dismissing Mencius as 'not really philosophy, not in the way that counts' (in general they are the same jackasses who would dismiss the study of, say, Plotinus), in general pushback on these things is really due to this: you are demanding a significant expansion of time, work, and money from departments. Merely demanding 'more' in an open-ended way is not to grasp the actual root of resistance, which is that academics are reluctant to commit to something that will increase competition for resources that are often already dwindling, and lay a claim to their own time, the thing almost every academic, by the nature of the profession, considers more valuable than gold.

In short, this is not a false-advertising problem, it is a resource problem. It's not that there are no resources that could not be diverted precisely this way; the problem is by what reasonable path you can get people actually to do it in a state of limited and often dwindling resources. Garfield and Van Norden don't have any plan; they seem to be under the impression that this is just something you can up and do, since it's the right thing to do, and nothing in the argument gives any sense that they grasp the expense -- mostly in time and effort, but also in increased competition for limited positions -- that the right path involves.

But, on the other side, I think it is at least good to consider the ways in which we are limited, and I think we must oppose, vehemently, any notion by parochial idiots that they somehow get to define 'philosophy' as whatever they happen to do, and the article does press the point well on both of those fronts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Poem Draft, New Poem Re-Draft

With a picture from Wikimedia commons, for any who have never seen a firewheel = Indian blanket = sundance = blanketflower = Gaillardia pulchella. They grow in legions here in Central Texas, and, of course, Texas spends quite a bit of money to seed its wildflowers along the highways, so you can see them turn a hill to fire.


You, O Empress of daisies, fire
spark on verdant hills,
blazing defiance, strength emblazoned,
upward in these high-domed halls;

and cool with dew, soft blanket,
you receive languid lovers
with gentlest hospitality.
Reddest ruby heart enhaloed gold,

you are the simplest queen, a maid
enthroned on grassy pillow,
rejoicing in the earth,
but sunlight crowned -- like ardent love.

Crystal River gaillardia02


Not suspense but dwelling makes for peace;
to live at home upon a little plot
alone can quiet give that will not cease,
alone can bring to rest the restless thought.
Not doubt nor balanced judgment makes for calm
but cottage made of reason's little joys,
with splendid view and garden full of balm
to give shalom that nothing can annoy,
in Sabbath-rest and Sunday with the rose
that flowers by the house in vivid hue,
made music by a stream that softly flows
amid the grassy hills in morning dew,
when morning breeze blows scented, soft, and cool,
and you, in pleasant chair, drink tea and sigh
that all around is yours, though small it be,
and full of joy beneath an endless sky
that somewhere wraps around an endless sea.

Not suspense but dwelling makes for peace,
not judgment in suspense through skeptic's ploy,
but lovely truth to count your own small piece,
in which you spend your days in quiet joy.

Music on My Mind

Nick Lowe, "Cruel to Be Kind". It's the last week of term. Students are taking tests. I am grading an endless river of things....

This is one of the first music videos ever to play on MTV (number 66, to be exact). It consists entirely of footage from Nick Lowe's wedding to Carlene Carter; they used the wedding cinematography for the video cinematography and vice versa.

Monday, May 09, 2016

A Most Curious Council

Since I've been doing various things with the Maronite liturgical calendar this year, and I did the same for the Council of Trent, I thought I would note that today is the memorial for the Fathers of the Holy and Ecumenical Second Council of Constantinople in the Maronite calendar. II Constantinople (553) is the fifth of the councils recognized as ecumenical by both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Convoked by the Emperor Justinian and presided over by St. Eutychius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, it attempted to resolve the controversies over the previous council at Chalcedon, and failed completely to do so.

Justinian had tried to force an end to post-Chalcedon problems arising from the Oriental Orthodox (who accept the first three Councils but not Chalcedon) by condemning a body of works that seemed to fit the Oriental Orthodox view, which became known as the Three Chapters. (There are more than three works in the Three Chapters, but it gets its name from the fact that there were three authors involved -- Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyr, and Ibas of Edessa. All three were already dead.) He began to get the bishops to agree to it, by more than a little pressure and occasionally by a bit of roughing up. Many of the Latin bishops, even those who were in the East at the time, refused to do so -- some out of sympathy for the works, but most for the eminently reasonable reason that they didn't read Greek and so had no idea what the books actually said. What they did know was that all three authors were highly respected by other highly respected authors.

The Council did not start on a good footing at all, at all. Pope Vigilius was on his way to Constantinople, in part because Rome was not a particularly safe place at the moment; his journey went through precisely the territory that was most vehemently opposed to the condemnation, so he must have heard about it in negative terms from virtually every bishop on the way. At Constantinople, he started excommunicating people who had signed off on the condemnation. Then he issued a judgment condemning the Three Chapters himself. (It's usually thought that someone had given him actual translations.) Then he withdrew it. Then he met with Justinian and agreed that they would resolve it with a council. Justinian then went and issued another condemnation on his own authority, which led Vigilius to issue an encyclical complaining about Justinian's behavior. Another agreement to have the matter decided by a council was reached. Then Vigilius decided against it and issued a letter to everyone telling them that he would not recognize any council that proceeded without him.

The Council proceeded without him. The Three Chapters were officially condemned. And in the Third Session, the Council ordered Pope Vigilius's name struck from the diptychs -- effectively this means that it ordered the liturgy to proceed as if he were no longer bishop of Rome. (Sometimes it's treated as a 'deposition' or an 'excommunication'; these terms are both too strong, as is seen by the suspiciously common excuse in much later days that a pope's name was left off the diptychs entirely by mistake. If someone can get out of it by saying, "Oh, wow, how did that happen?" it's an exaggeration to treat it as being in itself an excommunication.) The emperor then had him imprisoned. After about six months in prison, Vigilius reversed himself again, claiming that he had been misled by his advisors, and condemned the Three Chapters again -- but very notably he did it on his own authority and without any mention of the Council. Unfortunately, a lot of Latin bishops were still in the same position they were. Very important Western sees like Milan (arguably the second most important see in the West) broke communion with him over it. News of the council did not travel very widely in the West, which is why for a very significant part of the early Middle Ages the Spanish numbering of the councils skips over Second Constantinople.

In the East, the Council failed utterly to do what it was supposed to do, namely, eliminate the schism that had developed over Chalcedon. Not only were the Oriental Orthodox not inclined to pay attention to it if they did not have to do so, the entire East was beginning to be inflamed with war, first from Persia and then from the sudden rise of Islam, and everyone in the far east of the Empire had more immediate things on their mind.

It was not a shining example of an ecumenical council; it was in many ways exactly what you don't want in a Church council. It was not a shining example of papal wisdom and fortitude; Vigilius was certainly no Leo. It was not a shining example of Imperial defense of the faith; Justinian managed to flop massively at this point. Emperors and popes, saints and bishops, managed to do almost everything in the most stupid way available. But the Council did become a major element of Byzantine theology. And acceptance of it as an ecumenical council slowly spread over the next several centuries, at least in the West. The Second Council of Constantinople has the distinction of being perhaps the least immediately effective ecumenical council ever. But when it became secure, it became very secure.

From the Sentences against the Three Chapters issued by the Council:

Our great God and saviour Jesus Christ, as we are told in the parable in the gospel, gives talents to each one according to his ability, and at the proper time asks for an account of what has been done by each one. If the person to whom only one talent has been given is condemned because he has not worked and increased it, but has only preserved it without diminishment, how much more serious and more frightening must be the condemnation to which the person is subjected who not only fails to look after himself but scandalizes others and is a cause of offence to them? It is clear to all believers that when a problem about the faith comes up it is not only the heretical person who is condemned but also the person who is in a position to correct the heresy of others and fails to do so. To those of us to whom the task has been given of governing the church of the Lord, there comes a fear of the condemnation which threatens those who neglect to do the Lord's work. We hurry to take care of the good seed of faith protecting it from the weeds of heresy which have been planted by the enemy.

It's perhaps worth noting that Second Constantinople occasionally pops up in unusual places as people rediscover it. It has been argued for instance, that Thomas Aquinas shifted his account of prophecy in the Psalms (one of the things that comes up incidentally in the discussion of Theodore of Mopsuestia) after having come across a better translation of the condemnation. When Nikodemos the Hagiorite insists that Augustine of Hippo is a saint, it's on the basis of the fact that the Second Council of Constantinople treats him as such -- and indeed, among those Eastern Orthodox who have since come to recognize Augustine as a saint, it is a combination of the authority of Second Constantinople and the Hagiorite himself. And it occasionally shows up again in theological discussions of synodality and episcopal collegiality. A most curious council in both its manner of proceed and its effects.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

A Poem Draft and a Poem Re-Draft

For more about the ode of Horace I am non-translating, see here.

Non-Horace, Odes Book I, Carmen V

What stripling, blossomed in roses,
liquid and scenting, urges himself on you
in sweet grotto, Pyrrha golden-tressed,
your hair dressed in wreaths,

artfully simple? Cry he will
of changeful faith and gods, wondering,
astonished, by roughening seas,
by black wind of tempest,

who tastes of you in golden now, credulous,
ever-open and ever-friendly
hoping you, not knowing the gale
of treachery. Hapless are they

who heedless are blinded. And I? My votive,
my still-dripping clothes,
on temple wall hangs, pendant,
to the god who rules the sea.

Susan Pevensie

We once saw beyond the thing to the Thought
in the Mind of the Maker of all,
and visions of light in snow-laden wood
almost came at our bidding and call.
And the light of the gods was bright in all things
and their songs on the wind were still heard
while mer-people chanted the music that rang
in the echo of water and bird.
Doors we would find that, more than mere doors,
were the gates to the gardens of grace,
and paintings could lead to ships that were fair:
on the storm-laden waves they would race.
The horn of a train might call us to war,
where we valiantly took up our sword:
of Thoughts in the One we yet were aware,
and of power that fell from the Word.

(And that was the thing that made us mature,
giving freedom of thought to the child;
and that was the thing that God made to endure,
the thing that preserved us from guile.)

But children are free in their thought, not their will;
our paths by the world were then ruled,
and we all were then bound to wishers who wished
but the best; but some wishers are fools.
And now? We are grown; our wills are our own,
but our minds have no vision to see,
and dreams are all dreamed in the darkness alone
with a thought that is no longer free.
Now all of our graces are dollars and names,
all our worries are cold and mundane,
and words are just marks; no Pentecost flame
gives them power to brighten the brain.

(But once all the marks were emblems of truths,
like a language the world itself spoke,
and once we saw through the thing to the Thought
that the angels in morning invoked.)

And Susan was there! Her eyes were our own,
but more gentle, like soft summer sea.
She was crowned in bright gold, and on her fair throne
she was utterly, perfectly free.
And Susan saw through the thing to the Thought
in the Mind of the Maker of all.
She passed through the door, with the darkness she fought,
and her horn with salvation would call.

But now? No sign can capture of her
in the realms of the Upward and In;
of Susan the dryads still carry no word
of the paths where her footsteps have been.
But you and I went in days long ago
on this path of the burden of men,
and a Susan behind this face that I know
in the mirror reminds of my sin,
how I, who had seen past the thing to the Thought
in the Mind of the Maker of all
and felt the desire for goodness from God
(to which all this creation still calls),
now toil in the dust from which we all came,
with sweat and with thorns in my side,
and slave for a mark made of gold from which comes
the one freedom in which I have pride.

(But you, once when you with a suddenness wept --
in your face I saw Susan return.
Her sadness was there, and tears in the depths
that are liquid, but nonetheless burn.)

As Susan is lost, so we too are lost,
and her loss is the loss that we bear --
but Susan may find the pearl of great cost
and a chance beyond courage to dare
to see through the thing to the glorious Word
that is spoken by He who made all;
and the horn of salvation may someday be heard
as Susan sounds out the great call!

Learning by Addressing

Grasping the meaning of the terms “almighty” and “creator of heaven and earth” comes in degrees, as does grasping the meaning of most terms. One has a better grasp as an adult than as a child; one adult has a better grasp than another adult. The better one understands the meaning of the addressee-identification terms used when addressing God liturgically, the deeper one’s knowledge of God – assuming that the terms fit God. A liturgical neophyte learns to employ the term “creator of heaven and earth” in addressing God. At first the knowledge of God that he acquires thereby is very shallow. As he understands better what he is saying, his knowledge of God as creator of heaven and earth deepens.

Must one already know God in order to address God? Is addressing God the expression and application of knowledge of God acquired in some other way? No; one can come to know God by learning to engage God in the mode of addressing God and by learning to do so in certain ways.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Knowing God Liturgically, Journal of Analytic Theology, Vol. 4, May 2016 [10.12978/jat.2016-4.130818221405b].

Maronite Year XLVI

Seventh Sunday of the Resurrection
Ephesians 1:15-23; John 13:31-35

May You, O God, Father of glory,
enlighten the hearts of Your people,
grant to them the Spirit of wisdom,
that they may hope with a sure hope.
Your Son is seated at Your right hand,
having truly risen from the dead;
all things have been put under His feet,
and we, His Body, share in His rule.

At Your name, O Christ, all things kneel down;
in heavenly heights, on firm earth,
in the realms of the dead all things kneel,
proclaiming You their Lord and ruler.
By Your humility, You obeyed,
even unto death on the cross,
reconciling even us, Your foes.
Your rising sealed Your atoning death,
a pledge of resurrection and life.
You made us heirs of life eternal
and were exalted above all else.

As our Head, You save us in water,
You raise us up in heavenly fire,
that we may sing Your praise with one voice.
The Son of man has been glorified,
and God has been glorified in Him,
glory upon glory glorified,
and He has given a new command,
to love each other as He has loved,
that in us He may be glorified!