Saturday, September 03, 2016

Dashed Off XIX

the alchemy of analogy

Most arbitration in human life is just arbitration by strength and skill; other forms, while common enough, are islands in a sea of negotiation by force and ingenuity.

Although Richard II says, 'Is not the King's name twenty thousand names?' it is Henry V whose name actually shows it to be true (2 Henry VI). Note too that Henry V does not make Richard's mistake of indulging false advisors.
Note Richard III's comment on the King's name (RIII Act V, Scene 3).

As Jewish Torah is to natural religion as square is to line, so Christian Christ is to Torah as cube to a square. Thsu any great public revelation after must be as tesseract to Christ, which none have been, and none shall be until Christ Himself be shown in His own exponentiation in His wedding feast of glory, united to His Bride, the New Jerusalem, the Mystical Body, in full revelation. Thus we may say of any supposed improvement on Christianity: Does this really take Christ, the Word Incarnate, as manifest in the Gospel, and raise Him to a power?

Richard III (in 3 Henry VI) & purely positivistic accounts of oaths

'And what makes robbers bold but too much lenity?'

the 'love which virtue begs and virtue grants'

Culture is a cooperative venture.

the role of vestment in dance
Dance is more properly a context than a (bare) motion, despite the importance of the latter. Because of this it has a curious affinity to architecture. (But music for the performer also has something of this quality.)
Dance must be made, produced; otherwise it is just a fidget.
the factibility of dance
the imitaiton of dance by breath, of breath by dance

conditions for public accessibility of service
(1) affordability (money)
(2) flexibility (time)
(3) proximity (place)
(4) preparation (preconditions)
(5) existence
(6) visibility (knowledge)

The gloomy sky on verge of tears
may smile with rainbows;
so too, my love, take heart,
have hope, look up, take cheer.

the series of lapses in Genesis as recapitulating various aspects of the Fall

evangelizing as an act of Tradition

Purgatory presupposes true repentance and love of God.

protection of Eucharist as an especial duty of the Pope (Feed my sheep)

Confirmation and disconfirmation are both just reasoning about the aboutness or intentionality of theories and hypotheses.

To have a rational certainty that one is right one must first consider what could make you wrong.

The general structure of most naturalistic accounts:
(1) We know naturalism is true by clairvoyance.
(2) Everything else follows.

How one knows something cannot be ignored in argument because the status of premises (and thus the evaluation of arguments) partly rests on it.

Many forms of analogical reasoning are also comparative forms of causal or structural analysis.

Knowing that fire is a form of oxidation is for many people little more than recognition of the analogy between rust and flame. Popular understanding of the sciences is largely a system of analogies warranting inference. (For that matter, scientists themselves often fall back on such analogies, particularly in discovery and in pedagogy.)

Faith, completing reason, completes its social aspect as well.

museums as structures of subsidy -- 'draws' like the Mona Lisa make possible the protection and display of much more, so that hte prestige of the 'draw', and its capacity aon that basis to draw money from visitors and governments, subsidizes much more

Eliminativism about intentionality entails solipsism; there is no way to get out of the head unless we can think about things outside the head.

virtual quantity as quality -- work, force, etc., are measured as virtual quantities

concupiscence as twisting what it craves into itself (Albert the Great) -- but as Aquinas notes one may have non-self-regarding concupiscence

experience as analogous to saccades

passions are marking thoughts for practical classification

Note how common it is to think of death as requiring toll payment -- Styx, Sanzu, the tollbooths of Orthodox tradition) -- and as hazardous (Totpenpasse, Tibetan Book of the Dead, Vaitarna)

the counter-coercive powers of citizens
The freedom of a society is protected less by the official limits of the government than by the power of the citizenry to enforce those limits.

'the King must be himself' (found in Richard II, 1 Henry IV, and 2 Henry IV) -- cp. the 'the warlike Harry like himself' in Henry V

If something seems to be X, then there is at least something that is evidence of X, even if it is misleading evidence.

Subordinating reasoning in general to persuasion cuts out anything that does not appeal to the stupid and the prejudiced.

sex as consent to parenthood

the mereological structures of government
note that overlap, while occasionally found, is not especially natural -- governments tend to be structured by proper parts

things so good that trying for them is worthwhile even at risk of failure or loss

It takes a lot to beat dancing out of a human being. Remarkably, though, it is sometimes done.

Every marriage is an act of godlike ambition.

internal emulations of the Great Philosophical Conversation

ritual as philosophical compression

Intelligence increases the ability to see one's own errors, and even foresee them, but only so far.

the image of the Free Society as the 'teaching picture' of our age

the battle between the world and its future

Artificial intelligence requires group intentionality.

4 causes of scientific inquiry:
intentionality (mind), measurement, sensible phenomena, finality (intellectual ends)

body as sub-subject, as co-subject, as extra-subject

In the Mass we proclaim the Life of Christ, in both type and antitype, in both Himself and in the Church His sign, and then participate the Life of Christ so as to be the Church His Body.

monogamy as the first step in rule of law

distraction-based society (cp. Pascal)

absences as quasi-signs
related to negation-as-failure

Purgatory is completion of penance, for purification is completion of repentance.

4 kinds of certitude
(1) demonstration
(2) authority
(3) interior illumination
(4) external persuasion

Three things can carry one's inquiry into sublime matters: perversity, study, and love.

The illumination saints give by word and example implies a source that illuminates by nature.

"Truth slightly hidden becomes more acceptable once it becomes clear." Bonaventure

the Life of Christ as the norm for sacramental economy

Self-examination is necessary before correcting and after punishing.

Reforming and rushing never go well together.

mercy as subcreation

Insinuation signifies manifestation of will by telling without ordering.

the Church itself as the pragmatic vindication of sacred doctrine

Through art in its artistic inspiration we can know our smallness before god; and by this inspiration, like a magnetic field, we are joined together.

the magnet metaphor in ion and the nature of tradition

finality, functionality, proper intentionality
compositions of finalities into functions

Theory of intentionality is linked to theory of external world.
conceivability, causality, historical-contextuality, and instrumentalist structures of the external world
(external world as conceptual role, as causal role, as etiological history, as useful idea or stance)
-- the obvious desideratum is that these be unified

the indeterminacy of the empirical with respect to the external world

first person perspective and external world (relating to external world as intersubjective medium)

Guilt and contrition are not the same.

Calvin on Ps 72, and the liturgical commonwealth

relics as 'a piece of history'

The questionableness of a research practice is generally related to the failure to include it in the causal reasoning of the research.

Scripture as internal repair system

Faith is an assent not to articles but to a whole truth that may be articulated, i.e., to that of which articles are the anatomical diagram.

Some evidence becomes recognizable as evidence only through careful reflection.

the tendency of liberal societies to use 'free speech' or 'free expression' as a substitute to compensate for the lack of a substantive notion of justice

One of the things that ontological arguments show is that whether an argument can be classified as begging the question depends on the theory of knowledge that is assumed.

The existence of a meaningful average is something that must always be established never assumed.

the notion of a crime scene
decomposable into evidential signs
this seems to involve a distinction between the nomically regular and usual, on the one hand, and the anomalous and atypical on the other
crime scene analysis as the reverse-engineering of the effects of machines in a space (angle of entry, etc.)

love as not confusing the superficial and the substantial

Reasoning qua method is always instrumental to reasoning qua skill.

conditions for just wage
(1) dignity of work
(2) integrity of worker's family
(3) security of worker
(4) freedom of worker (from what creates a degrading dependency)

parallels between different accounts of time travel and different approaches to consistency in argument
the root of the parallel is obviously directional forms of modal logic
raises question of Since and Until functions in consistency contexts

proofs in diagnostic mode vs proofs in persuasive mode

ceremony as lived calendar

Error, merely considered as such, is less dangerous to inquiry than might be thought, because the erroneous would have to be considered anyway; part of understanding the significance of the true is knowing the implications of its false alternatives.

Father of Christian Worship

Today is the feast of Pope St. Gregorius I, also known as St. Gregory the Great and, in the East, St. Gregory the Dialogist. He was a member of a Roman senatorial family and, in fact, served as the Prefect of Rome early in his career. When his father died, he converted the family villa into a monastery (there is still a Camaldoese monastery on the location, San Gregorio Magno al Celio). In 579, Pope Pelagius II appointed him apocrisiarius -- essentially an ecclesial ambassador to Constantinople. He got along well with the aristocrats, but was largely ineffective as apocrisiarius. He tried to go back to his monastery in 585, but was elected pope in 590. To say he did well in the role is an understatement. He made a number of reforms of the Roman liturgy and, while he does not seem (as traditional attributions suggest) to have actually composed the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Byzantine rites, he is the first person to describe them in detail, and thus his description has been the primary reference point for that liturgy ever since. He was an excellent administrator who developed an extensive charitable network for the poor at a time of economic crisis, and an extensive corpus of his works have survived as major influences on theology (especially moral theology).

From his Moralia in Job, Book II, section 1:

Holy Writ is set before the eyes of the mind like a kind of mirror, that we may see our inward face in it; for therein we learn the deformities, therein we learn the beauties that we possess; there we are made sensible what progress we are making, there too how far we are from proficiency. It relates the deeds of the Saints, and stirs the hearts of the weak to follow their example, and while it commemorates their victorious deeds, it strengthens our feebleness against the assaults of our vices; and its words have this effect, that the mind is so much the less dismayed amidst conflicts as it sees the triumphs of so many brave men set before it. Sometimes however it not only informs us of their excellencies, but also makes known their mischances, that both in the victory of brave men we may see what we ought to seize on by imitation, and again in their falls what we ought to stand in fear of. For, observe how Job is described as rendered greater by temptation, but David by temptation brought to the ground, that both the virtue of our predecessors may cherish our hopes, and the downfall of our predecessors may brace us to the cautiousness of humility, so that whilst we are uplifted by the former to joy, by the latter we may be kept down through fears, and that the hearer's mind, being from the one source imbued with the confidence of hope, and from the other with the humility arising from fear, may neither swell with rash pride, in that it is kept down by alarm, nor be so kept down by fear as to despair, in that it finds support for confident hope in a precedent of virtue.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Links of Note

* The 2016 Best Illusion of the Year Contest. I actually think the best one is the one that got second place, Kokichi Sugihara's Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion, a perspective illusion that really has to be seen to be believed:

Here are instructions for doing a simple version of the illusion yourself.

* A Physics World podcast on Robert Grosseteste

* Whewell's Gazetter, Year 3, Vol #02, for your history of science pleasure

* Jonathan Gaisman on Scruton on Wagner.

* The Austen Family music books (ht: MrsD)

* Jeremy Holmes on Aquinas's commentary on Job. It is indeed a very good commentary; I think only Saadia Gaon's is in the same league.

* The current case that Charles Dawson is probably the one responsible for the Piltdown Man hoax.

* Clare Coffey, No Ordinary Place, on public libraries

* Joseph Ryan Kelly interviews Eleonore Stump on her book The God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers.

* Otto Neurath's stint as a happiness consultant.

* The works to which C. S. Lewis refers in An Experiment in Criticism

* Martha Nussbaum on anger

* Rachel Aviv on Martha Nussbaum

* An interesting series on the Transfiguration and hermeneutics at "Alastair's Adversaria"

* Two major sources for the history of liturgy: The Gelasian Sacramentary and the Verona Sacramentary

* A podcast panel on the Confucian uses of hierarchy at "microphilosophy"

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Voting and the Lesser of Two Evils

David Ottlinger considers a question about voting:

In my experience, conversations in which people make the titular statement generally have the same form. The person who makes the claim names some reasons that they contend eliminates one candidate from consideration and then do the same for the other candidate. For instance: “I can’t vote for Trump because of his racist comments, but I can’t vote for Hillary because of her corruption.” Now, it is worth pausing over this kind of thought process. Implicit in such a train of thought is the idea that a candidate can be eliminated from consideration by considering them completely in isolation, that is to say, totally apart from any consideration of their opponent.

There are always, of course, more than two candidates in a Presidential election, but we can set that aside and just consider the general point. I also think it is in fact false to think that this kind of behavior always involves eliminating candidates from consideration without considering the others. Consider this kind of situation: I consider a candidate, and that candidate is utterly awful, an Abyss of Corruption. If I were a consequentialist, this would be a good reason to incline me to vote against them. In fact, it sets up a sort of threshold -- I would not vote for them unless their opponent were at least such-and-such awful. Consequentialist reason always in principle allows for exceptions, so I haven't simply eliminated them out of consideration -- there are hypothetical situations in which I might vote for them. But in practice, it can very well arise that the conditions required for any exceptions are so extreme that I can reasonably hold, for practical purposes, that they will almost certainly not occur. A definite and certain conclusion would require considering all of the factors, including the other candidate, but for practical purposes, I can consider them one at a time without a problem. And people can allow for the bare abstract possibility of changing their minds on learning more about the rival, while still not having any reason to think that they will ever actually change their minds.

In reality, too, it's worth remembering that almost no one actually does consider political candidates in isolation -- by the time we get any political candidate, we almost always know at least some of the rivals, or at least know what the candidates for rival candidate are.

But is there really any problem with eliminating a candidate out of hand without regard for the other candidate? Ottlinger thinks so:

I believe the deontic logic of many who refuse to vote for either candidate is misapplied, and I am inclined to think it gets something very wrong about the nature of politics. We may — and I tend to think we do — have a moral obligation to vote and to vote as intelligently as possible. As a corollary, we may have an obligation to keep informed and make the appropriate effort to be fair-minded. But moral compromise inheres in the nature of politics. Almost any candidate will hold some position the enactment of which I find seriously immoral, be it abortion, drone strikes, military interventions, anti-poverty initiatives, taxes etc. It would seem strange to say that voting for virtually any candidate would be immoral.

If this is the problem, however, I don't think there is a problem; it's just not true that moral compromise inheres in the nature of politics. Compromise on means, arguably so; but one of the colloquial names for what Ottlinger calls "moral compromise" is "political corruption". As Ottlinger himself has already noted by this point in his argument, in practice people will vote for candidates who hold some positions the enactment of which they might find immoral for the very obvious reason that how these positions are held matters. Sometimes positions are held, but there is a good reason to think that a candidate would not be able to do anything about them, or that they are at least open to negotiation on the point, or that it's incidental enough to their main focus as to be endurable. None of this is actually compromise; it's just taking into account the fact that in practical terms not everything will need to be opposed with equal vehemence and in every way at all times, so there can be judgment calls about how best to oppose things, and which oppositions to prioritize, even without ceasing one's opposition. But none of this tells us about whether it is ever reasonable to conclude that a candidate is simply intolerable based on the facts about that candidate, and it's not really obvious from anything he says why it couldn't be. If Ottlinger has been out of the loop and sets out to research who is running, and discovers of the first candidate he researches that the candidate's platform argues for the extermination of anyone except whites, would his response really be, "Well, I am still keeping an open mind since I haven't seen what the other candidate says"? That's really what he's committed to saying -- if he doesn't, then he's admitted the line beyond which one can eliminate candidates without considering their opposition, and the only argument is about how extreme you have to get in order to reach it.

(Ottlinger tries to get around this by saying that he would only refuse to vote for any candidate if they were both equally unacceptable to such an extent that they could be expected to deprive the state of its legitimacy. But this won't fly; the scenario requires that you be able to tell, from looking at each candidate, that the candidate is unacceptable in this way, which concedes the whole point against which Ottlinger is arguing. The only question then is whether it's reasonable to have higher standards for politicians than Ottlinger does.)

In reality, when people do this, they are rarely considering the candidate, except incidentally -- it's not chiefly a question of what the candidates do or say, but of what they themselves can in good conscience do or say. This is the reason why not wanting to bear responsibility comes up. Nobody thinks that voters have responsibility for everything politicians do. But they do bear responsibility for voting for politicians when they know what they intend to do (what else is the point of trying to vote well in the first place?), and as with any other case of bearing responsibility, there is going to be a point beyond which they honestly and in good conscience don't think they can bear that responsibility.

Of course, much of Ottlinger's argument is predicated on the assumption that we may have a moral obligation to vote. I don't think this is in fact true, either, but that would be another post entirely.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Conscientious Objection

I was interested to read this statement on conscientious objection in healthcare, particularly since I think it assumes a theory of conscientious objection that is completely untenable. Some of the issues arise immediately, with the very first principle in the statement:

1. Healthcare practitioners’ primary obligations are towards their patients, not towards their own personal conscience. When the patient’s wellbeing (or best interest, or health) is at stake, healthcare practitioners’ professional obligations should normally take priority over their personal moral or religious views.

There are a number of things very notable about the structure of this claim, each of which involves something at least highly controversial.

(1) It opposes professional obligation to obligations of conscience as if they were different rather than overlapping things. But conscience is historically understood as that whereby we discern and judge what our obligations are in a given case in the first place, so a question arises as to how one can have a full account of professional obligation without taking professional obligation also to include at least high-level obligations about acting on your conscience. Surely it's a professional obligation to act conscientiously toward one's patients? And if not, why would one take professional obligations generally to take priority over acting conscientiously?

(2) It orders obligations without examining their content. How is it even possible to do that? A look at a different kind of case might help highlight the issue here. If we take the most discussed cousin of this kind of obligational conflict, the case of a priest and the seal of the confessional (for which there are entire tomes of discussion spanning centuries), the 'professional obligation' is taken to override obligation of conscience only because the 'professional obligation' to uphold the seal of the confessional is taken to be divine law instituted for the salvation of souls, so that if your conscience tells you to do otherwise, your conscience is guaranteed to be wrong. Because of this, one has a moral obligation to make sure that one's conscience doesn't tell one otherwise, and a moral obligation to uphold the seal of confession overrides the obligation to uphold one's conscience only because the latter is wrong in such a way that you are also morally obligated not to follow your conscience into error. But this kind of structure is unique to the case; it arises from the content of the obligation. Nobody claims a pharmacist's professional obligations are divine assessments incapable of being wrong, or that pharmacists have a moral obligation to form their conscience so that it never conflicts with their professional obligations.

(3) It assumes that it is possible to assess "wellbeing (or best interest, or health)" entirely independently of whether one is following one's conscience or not. The only possible argument that could be given for the priority of professional obligation over obligation of conscience is that this is somehow required for what is at stake -- in this case, apparently this vague and ill-defined good of "wellbeing (or best interest, or health)". But surely, whatever it may be, this good is not cordoned off from matters of morality? The wellbeing and best interest and, in a broad sense, health of patients seems to require that they be treated with at least a certain basic morality and decency by doctors who can be trusted to act conscientiously.

(4) It assumes that we can morally take external obligations to have priority over our best judgments about morality itself. Things can get a little complicated when we factor in our recognition that we can be wrong, but one's personal moral views are precisely what one takes morality to be, to one's best estimate. How can anyone morally take something inconsistent with morality to have priority over what in your best judgment is morality?

(5) It assumes that there is a well-defined body of professional obligation. Obviously there will be families of things that come up. But, for instance, why should we consider one's professional obligation as a doctor, generically considered, and not (say) one's professional obligation as an American doctor, or one's professional obligation as a Catholic doctor, or one's professional obligation as a doctor participating in the local community, or one's professional obligation as a decent and morally upstanding doctor, to be the right way of grouping the obligations? This is related to (2), but deals with a serious problem -- it assumes that "personal" (it seems really to mean 'private') views do not qualify your profession. But when we are dealing with religion and morality, this is surely at least highly controversial.

(6) How do we get professional obligations in the first place, if not by starting with obligations of conscience of actual doctors and abstracting? What makes something a genuine professional obligation? This is surely relevant to the question of whether such an obligation overrides what people think is moral?

We can also see the problem by looking at a different kind of case. A citizen's primary obligation is to uphold the good of society; so, one might say, when matters important to society are involved, one's obligations as a citizen should normally take priority over one's moral and religious views. But one's obligations as citizen include maintaining a society in which people can, to the extent possible, fulfill their moral and religious obligations as best they can. Someone consistently sacrificing their conscience to civic obligation is not actually acting as a good citizen. Many of our civic obligations are extrinsic and positive -- they are not, in and of themselves, required for moral living, but only for convenience and smooth functioning of society. So one wouldn't expect to be able to make a general claim about what obligations take priority without looking at the specifics of the obligations. The good upheld by one's civic obligations cannot be completely assessed, nor requirements for it completely determined, without considering the goods protected by obligations of conscience. No civic obligation can take priority over morality itself, so if a civic obligation conflict with your best assessment of what is morally obligatory, you have a moral obligation to violate the civic obligation, not a moral obligation to violate the moral obligation. And our civic responsibilities are not generic; our obligations are not merely those of citizens considered generically but conscientious citizens, Catholic citizens, Jewish citizens, citizens participating in particular communities. So the analogue of (1) doesn't seem to make much sense for civic obligations -- but many civic obligations are far more serious and important, as obligations, than many and probably most professional obligations.

There are other problems with the statement. One that is especially serious is its later emphasis on sincerity (which it's getting from the fact that it has become common to smuggle the concept into various laws):

4....The burden of proof to demonstrate the reasonability and the sincerity of the objection should be on the healthcare practitioners.

5. Accordingly, in such countries, the reasons healthcare practitioners offer for their conscientious objection could be assessed by tribunals, which could test the sincerity, strength and the reasonability of healthcare practitioners’ moral objections to certain medical services.

It makes sense to require conscientious objectors to state (as point (3) demands) why, exactly, they are objecting; but if your conscientious objection protections depend on being able to sort out the sincere from the hypocritical in general, you are not really protecting conscientious objection. How does one actually prove sincerity? Beyond continuing to insist on something even in the face of negative consequences, you can't. It's a matter of subjective motivation, and anything a sincere person can do, a hypocrite can also do -- even in the case of negative consequences, we are reasoning that a hypocrite wouldn't be motivated to continue the hypocrisy, not that a hypocrite couldn't endure those negative consequences if they thought they still could get something out of it.

Thus we can't be talking about real sincerity; tribunals are not competent at assessing real sincerity. In practice, when sincerity comes up in law, what courts really look at are history and consistency. This will obviously lead to some sincere cases being treated as 'insincere' -- for instance, if I have only recently had the moral epiphany leading to my conscientious objection and I am still sorting out what the implications of it, which is not a so very uncommon situation. And nice and sharp though 'consistency' might sound, it's a matter of degree here, because nobody is perfectly consistent in moral matters; that's one of the most blatantly obvious empirical facts about moral matters. And it's unclear why consistency should be an issue, anyway -- for instance, if someone is an inconsistent backsliding member of a religious community whose moral objection to blood transfusions is well known, why isn't their membership in that community in and of itself sufficient? It's obviously relevant; conscientious objection is not, contrary to the way the statement phrases it a matter of "personal" moral views but a matter of participating in a moral community as a member of a moral community. This may or may not have a religious tinge, but membership in a community that voices a moral objection, regardless of personal consistency with that moral principle, is sufficient to establish that the person in question is not simply making up the objection, and to establish that there is a real moral issue here. Obligations of conscience are not merely private or personal; they are things that can be shared by participation in a community.

Another issue that comes up:

7. Healthcare practitioners who are exempted from performing certain medical procedures on conscientious grounds should be required to compensate society and the health system for their failure to fulfil their professional obligations by providing public-benefitting services.

Here again we have the assumption that you can actually have a professional obligation to violate what seems to be your moral obligations. This misses the entire point of protecting conscientious objectors of any kind, which is that conscientious objectors are sometimes the ones who are right about the state of obligation, and that even when they aren't, they have an obligation to put moral obligations above other obligations. Conscientious objection is not civil disobedience unless it is prohibited; it is a protected right because there is something very important about it for society. People who conscientiously object are doing what they should be doing -- as citizens, certainly, and, yes, as professionals. They aren't doing anything wrong that requires compensation. Yes, it's fairly standard for conscientious objectors to do other things (for instance, a conscientious objector to fighting in a war might instead fulfill his civic obligations by serving in the cafeteria or as a janitor), but this is not 'compensation' for 'failure to fulfil one's obligations' -- it's a way of fulfilling those obligations in a more morally acceptable way.

Even if we did confine ourselves to talking about conscientious objection in matters where it involves civil disobedience, this kind of idea is absurd. If someone conscientiously objected over a fugitive slave law, refusing to turn over a runaway slave due to moral objections, we might call this 'failure to fulfil their legal obligations', but we could just as easily say that they haven't failed to fulfill their legal obligations at all, because no one can be legally obligated to do what is morally evil. The statement is sneaky about it, but in fact it keeps smuggling into its claims a controvertible theory of obligation -- one in which obligations can conflict, one in which you can have immoral obligations. The conscientious objector in the fugitive slave case does not actually need to 'compensate' us for refusing to do it. We might settle on some such compensation as a compromise deal, but if they are morally in the right, we owe them something because we're the ones harassing them for doing the right thing, not they us. I mean, seriously, take the provisions of this statement and apply it to conscientious objection of citizens in racial matters -- conscientious objection in enforcing segregation laws, for instance. The analogues of the statement in such a situation would often be morally atrocious. The legal system should be getting the matter right in the first place, or, failing that, taking into account the possibility that it is not getting it right, not sanctioning those who refuse to go along with what they see as evil or wrong.

Just as all citizens by the very nature of citizenship have a civic obligation to recognize that there are higher things than the laws of a society, and that these laws themselves must be subject to moral standards, so all professionals in any profession have a professional obligation to make sure that their standards of professional ethics are consistent with higher moral standards. If we were all angels, this might be easy enough. Human beings, however, sometimes misjudge in creating standards of professional ethics, just as they do in making laws or in enforcing customs, and these standards, even when right, will not capture everything important, or even everything essential, just as laws don't capture everything important or even essential about a society. Because of this, we allow room in controversial matters for conscientious objection, whether it be in our legal system or in our standards of professional ethics, and if we are not complete idiots, we will allow explicit room for it. Conscientious objection, according to any sensible standard of professional ethics, is not a violation of professional ethics, but a fundamental part of professional ethics. Any account of professional ethics that does not clearly recognize this is defective at its core.

'Goodbye.' -- 'Good-bye.'

In the Round Tower at Jhansi
by Christina Rossetti

A hundred, a thousand to one; even so;
Not a hope in the world remained:
The swarming howling wretches below
Gained and gained and gained.

Skene looked at his pale young wife:--
'Is the time come?' -- 'The time is come!'--
Young, strong, and so full of life:
The agony struck them dumb.

Close his arm about her now,
Close her cheek to his,
Close the pistol to her brow--
God forgive them this!

'Will it hurt much?' -- 'No, mine own:
I wish I could bear the pang for both.'
'I wish I could bear the pang alone:
Courage, dear, I am not loth.'

Kiss and kiss: 'It is not pain
Thus to kiss and die.
One kiss more.' -- 'And yet one again.' --
'Good-bye.' -- 'Good-bye.'

One doesn't normally think of Christina Rossetti as a war poet. In 1857, an uprising swept through the Indian province of Jhansi. Captain Alexander Skene and a large number of others retreated to Jhansi Fort, where they were besieged. They eventually negotiated an end to the siege on June 8, Captain Skene thinking that the local Raj was guaranteeing the safety of the prisoners -- but in fact the prisoners were massacred. Rossetti herself notes, in a footnote that she later appended, that her portrayal is not historically accurate -- it was written in response to first rumors of what had happened, and thus gets much of the actual situation wrong -- for instance, the natives never breached the defenses and the Skenes do not seem to have committed suicide. It's possible that the suicide element of the poem was controversial -- when it was first published, it was published without the third stanza.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Fortnightly Book, August 28

(Again, slightly delayed because of everything else in my schedule crashing together at the same time.)

The next fortnightly book is Umberto Eco's second, and second greatest, novel -- some would say greatest, but I think The Name of the Rose simply works better as a novel -- Foucault's Pendulum, one of the great postmodern novels, with its Templar legends and conspiracy-theory speculations and a game that, Borges-like, begins to eat reality. But it also (as one might expect from a great postmodern novel) puts postmodern thought, with its infinite play of signs and 'psychosis of resemblances', to question.

In the height of the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, it was often referred to as a "thinking man's Da Vinci Code" -- one of those absurd money-driven moves by which a great novel is treated as if it were a derivative version of a weaker novel published a decade and a half later. As Eco satirizes the publishing business in the novel, no doubt he was capable of appreciating the absurdity of it. In any case, Eco himself gave the definitive response to it. Asked if he had read the novel, he replied that Dan Brown was a character from Foucault's Pendulum.

The title refers to the replica in the Musée des arts et métiers of León Foucault's pendulum, which he used to show indirectly the rotation of the earth:

Pendule de Foucault du Panthéon de Paris

If it is properly launched and kept moving, the pendulum's swing varies over time in such a way that its swing rotates through all the positions of the circle. Given that Eco goes out of his way to deny explicitly that there is any punning reference to Michel Foucault, there is probably also a punning reference to Michel Foucault.

Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon come together as employees of Garamond Publishing, a vanity publishing house, and, because of all the kooky manuscripts they are getting, they start playing a game, "The Plan", to construct the ideal version of these kooky conspiracy theories that almost always end up incorporating the Templars. Unfortunately, the game is like a cancer, spreading through the mind and into the real world until it becomes impossible to tell what is real and what is merely a completely fictional association....

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


Opening Passage:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Summary: The story of the Bennet girls is well known, but the strength of Pride and Prejudice is found in the fact that there is always more to discover in the story. It has a tightly woven plot, rich characterization, and the humor is varied and abundant. (You know you have hit the sweet spot in reading Pride and Prejudice when you find yourself laughing on almost every page. There is always more to it than mere jokes, but it is a very humorous work.) Indeed, the difficult thing in writing about Pride and Prejudice is that there are so many things one could talk about.

A consistent theme throughout the work is that first impressions are often misleading, but that we must work with them nonetheless. Note that the idea is not that first impressions are often wrong. The way people impress you may be just however they happen to impress you; there's nothing necessarily right nor wrong about that. But we often need more than just the bare first impression, and it's the inferences we draw from the first impression that often land in error. This can often easily be corrected, but it's when the inferences we make are close to the truth, and to the extent that they are close to the truth, that they can lead us very astray. Mr Darcy is indeed reserved, and pride is one element in that reserve; Wickham is indeed handsome and agreeable and gentlemanly in manner. There is more to be seen, even on first impression, than this, but this is where prejudice enters into the picture: our presuppositions affect how we interpret. Elizabeth, for instance, is inclined to believe Wickham's claims because of his agreeable manner and also because she has prejudged Mr Darcy. This leads her in the interpretation of her first impressions to focus on what fits with her expectations (Mr Darcy's pride) and ignore what does not (his friendship with Mr Bingley, for instance); it also leads her to overlook the question of what first impression her family might make on others. Only when her first impressions are conquered by new information, and new impressions of Mr Darcy's good taste, does her estimate of him begin to take on something like a true form. Mr Darcy's estimate of her goes through a similar process, although, of course, we know of that only indirectly.

The title as it now exists, Pride and Prejudice, is sometimes thought to be a reference to Fanny Burney's Cecilia, in which a character explains that pride and prejudice kept the lovers apart and yet it was pride and prejudice brought them together again. A question raised in the comments of the introductory post was whether this was true with regard to Pride and Prejudice as well -- and I believe that it is. Pride separates Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, but it's also true that Lady Catherine's pride and prejudice drives them together, since, ironically, her arrogant insistence that they cannot possibly be allowed to marry, as she has heard rumored that they intend, leads Elizabeth to declare that there is nothing to prevent the marriage if he would ask; and her pride leads Lady Catherine to tell Mr Darcy, which encourages him to approach Elizabeth once more and try again.

There is an interesting diversity of views on marriage throughout the work -- Mr Bennet is disappointed in marriage, Charlotte Lucas sees it as a matter of financial situation, Lady Catherine as a family matter. Lydia's, of course is frivolous, and opens her completely to the likelihood of being misused; and, having reached marriage, she does not have any sense that she has gone about anything badly. Lydia, indeed, like Wickham, expects others to deal with the consequences of her mistakes; which, being family, they will, although not always to her liking.

Favorite Passage: It's hard to choose one when every page has gold, but this one jumped out at me this time around:

As he quitted the room, Elizabeth felt how improbable it was that they should ever see each other again on such terms of cordiality as had marked their several meetings in Derbyshire; and as she threw a retrospective glance over the whole of their acquaintance, so full of contradictions and varieties, sighed at the perverseness of those feelings which would now have promoted its continuance, and would formerly have rejoiced in its termination.

If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth's change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise—if regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged, nothing can be said in her defence, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill success might, perhaps, authorise her to seek the other less interesting mode of attachment. Be that as it may, she saw him go with regret; and in this early example of what Lydia's infamy must produce, found additional anguish as she reflected on that wretched business. Never, since reading Jane's second letter, had she entertained a hope of Wickham's meaning to marry her. No one but Jane, she thought, could flatter herself with such an expectation. Surprise was the least of her feelings on this development. While the contents of the first letter remained in her mind, she was all surprise—all astonishment that Wickham should marry a girl whom it was impossible he could marry for money; and how Lydia could ever have attached him had appeared incomprehensible. But now it was all too natural. For such an attachment as this she might have sufficient charms; and though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in an elopement without the intention of marriage, she had no difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.

Recommendation: It's Jane Austen; of course it's Highly Recommended.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Maronite Year LXIX

Sixteenth Sunday of Pentecost
Romans 8:18-27; Luke 18:9-14


O Lord, we glorify your resurrection-day,
singing with glad voices alleluias of praise.
Teach us the exercise of justice and virtue,
strengthen our hearts in holiness and in prayer,
that our lives may be praise to Your holy Father,
and our deeds express the splendor of Your Spirit.
For all of us You were buried in the dark tomb;
by Your resurrection, You broke the bonds of death.
Count us, O Lord, among the children of Your light.


  Two men went up to the Temple to pray,
  one a Pharisee, one a publican.
  The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself:
  'I am thankful not to be like the rest,
  without greed or lie or adultery,
  and, because I fast and tithe my income,
  I am righteous, unlike this publican.'
  But the publican bowed heart and eyes down,
  beating his breast and crying to the Lord,
  repenting his faults and asking for grace.


  The publican went home in righteousness,
  as a free man, not a slave to darkness.
  The world groans for reconciliation;
  only through the Spirit can we pray well,
  only by praying well do we find grace;
  only with God's grace are we reconciled.
  Pharisees receive the reward they seek,
  to seem righteous in their own estimate,
  to have goodness in their imagining,
  and not through humility to have God.


O Light from Light, You endured death and yet You live;
on the cross by humility You give us hope.
Through Your resurrection turn us from sin and shame;
You humbled Yourself unto death to give us life,
For three days You were buried in the tomb for us;
but there Your victory broke the bonds of death.
Break us free from the bonds of sin that plague our souls;
clothe us with holy incorruptibility;
count us, O Lord, among the children of Your light.