Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dashed Off XXI

Kant's postulates as postulates of inquiry: possibility of inquiry (freedom), unified and consistent domain of possible objects (God), possibility of success in inquiry (immortality)

Curie's Principle: Asymmetric result requires asymmetric cause.
Extended Curie Principle (Stewart and Golubitsky); A symmetric cause produces one effect from a symmetrically related set of possible effects. (The idea is that an asymmetric effect might be the result of a symmetric cause if the asymmetric effect is symmetric in its relation to other possible effects.)
- S&G give the example of the milk droplet splash: the crown of the splash is a case of symmetry breaking (circle -> 'clumps' or tines of the crown), with the tines of the crown being located arbitrarily. There are endlessly many variations, equally possible; but only one effect can arise, so we have an asymmetric effect arising from symmetric cause because of the perfect symmetry of the relations of all possible effects. Think coin: two sides are symmetrical,but one comes up, so the actual coin toss explains the breaking of flip symmetry even though it is symmetric with respect to the effect. "the actual breaks the symmetry of the potential"
- But, on the other hand, it seems precision often introduces CP: Why H rather than T? Imperfections in coin, difference in air molecules, divergences in exertion of force, down to quantum fluctuation (cf. Kastner)
- Asymmetric boundary conditions are symmetry breaking.
- Ruth Kastner: "The picture that emerges is the following: symmetrical physical laws describe potentialities, not actualities. In order to have actual events in an actual world, the symmetries of those laws must be broken by the imposition of constraints in the form of boundary conditions. Such boundary conditions may not always specify which actual event or form will exist--often that event will arise from spontaneous symmetry breaking -- but they serve to precipitate that actuality."
- Curie's key points
(1) If certain causes yield known effects, the symmetry elements of the causes should be contained in the generated effects.
(2) If the known effects are missing certain symmetry elements, the dissymmetry should be contained in the causes generating the effects.
(3) The reverse is not true; effects might have higher symmetry than the causes generating them.
- What is the role of the medium in Curie's account of symmetry-breaking?

constitutive blessings and invocative blessings
- baptismal character and invocative blessings ('every baptized person is bless')
- priests, bishops, and even deacons bless some things by making them stable parts of the prayer and liturgy of the Church

approaching one's labor in a spirit of charity

Happiness is happiness-with.

rhetoric as giving an appropriate roundedness to the two-dimensionality of bare logical structure, in order to convey on a page or in words the living work of reason (like artist's impression working with bones and deductions from bones)

traffic systems as loosely cooperative ventures

Every family is a vision of society.

prostitution // bribery

the natural shift of near-future SF to alternate timeline SF

respite as part of the business of the mind

media as vectors of temptation

laws of nature always possibilities of a kind of causation

Articulation is more than just a diagramming; it is itself an expression, as a judgment expresses ideas.
analytic & synthetic articulation
a priori & a posteriori articulation
development as systematic articulation

the carnivalesque character of childhood (cp Le Grand Meaulnes)

Every sacrament is a discourse.

Despite the common view that music expresses emotion, it is noticeable that most songs are emotionally ambiguous.
musical performance as participation in form

movies as snippet narratives

Salvation begins with creation.

procedures of confirmation as safeguards against evidence contamination

Bentham on asceticism & the problem this causes for taste (note, e.g., that it requires evaluation entirely in terms of satisfactory experience, thus leaving nothing to integrity of the work or artistic process itself)

"unpoetical natures are precisely those which require poetic cultivation" Mill

Hume's causal theory is really a theory of evidence.

The declamatory mode of the Creed seems derivative of the interrogatory mode.

Things are always reasonable or unreasonable in light of some good.

customary law as good taste intersecting with social utility

Living the heavenly life on this earth is like trying to play Mozart on a kazoo -- and yet this is not the same as saying it cannot in some way be done.

The past cannot be recaptured, only completed.

Pascalian wagers & universalism

Reliability of communication does not depend wholly on reliability of medium.

Sexual morality begins with our shared responsibility for the tradition of human life.

the sadness of animal stories & the problem of evil (in some cases, e.g., Where the Red Fern Grows, the connection is made explicit)

All scales can be multiplied by a constant without change of function. If constant can be added without change of function, the scale is not ratio; if values can be squared or cubed without change of function, the scale is not interval; if any two values can be interchanged without change of function, the scale is not ordinal but nominal.

relics of saints and the Church as Temple
relics of saints as anticipatory of the resurrection
relics of saints & holy pilgrimage

Arguments properly developed interlace with other arguments. To keep them isolated is to stunt them.

Through major sacraments God comes to us, through minor sacraments (sacramentals), He draws us to Him.

tragic pity in Aristotle and the pitiable as linked to philia (esp. familial: we pity that which breaks the ties of home)

solidarity, deference, fair division, negotiation

entanglement as knowing the whole but not being able to know the parts

accuracy tested in light of several guiding concerns: Is it true? Is it error minimizing? Is it consistent with standards? Is it confirmable? Is it appropriate to end?

pleasure as natural reward -> we should avoid it when we do not deserve it (Malebranche LO 308)

the mind-body relation in Malebranche is deontic (LO 309)

prevenient pleasure as anticipatory sign of good.

Rational good must be conceived as capable of including other goods intact; otherwise most goods are irrational.

Every measurement involves a form of test.

central market, circuit market, and periodic market forms of teaching

secularization as an incidental result of intensive centralization and functional specialization in religious institutions

the tendency of all intellectual practitioners toward either metaphysics or parametaphysical evasions

skill as manipulation of probabilities
- a proper account of skill would certainly have to be modal in structure

the ethics of care is based on a particular form of solicitude

the relation between shame and inner chaos

thymos and our need for not mere pleasure but significant victory

If there were nothing at any point, there would be nothing by virtue of which anything would be possible; thus it is not possible for there to be nothing.

analogies as constant through some change to concepts introduced by some intellectual operation

begging the question & temporal loop in temporal modal logic when it is applied to argument
Within a temporal loop, all events are Diamond in both directions (P & F) and dependencies are Box in both directions (G & H)

"Evil always takes advantage of ambiguity." Chesterton

Serious research often requires taking the long way around.

the Turing Test as tending toward panpsychism

the solidarity of creatures: offering creation back to God

nature, procession, completion

Wis 2:23-24 // Rm 5:12
Wis 5:17-20 // Eph 6:13-17

five kinds of self-harm (Marcus Aurelius Med II)
(1) rebellion against God
(2) harm against neighbor
(3) slavery to pleasure and pain
(4) hypocrisy
(5) not directing all to God

unintended consequences in plotting of romance and novel

Mereology requires relations among parts before it can become metric.

Utilitarianism (standard) involves a fairly flat mereology of good. (all parts on a level, one whole consisting of all parts)
Kantianism as monism of obligation

exposition, depiction, critique

The historical-grammatical sense of Scripture is a model of the data, not the data.

gunky, gappy, and atomistic obligations

Every sui juris church in the Catholic communion just is the Catholic Church in a particular mode. Thus, e.g., the Armenian Catholic Church is the Catholic Church itself, in its Armenian style.

lupine and lapine strategy

Modesty is the freedom of beauty.

martyrs coram Deo & martyrs coram Ecclesia

To consider: Environmental conditions can affect the format and even at times the content of philosophical discussion by (1) changing available leisure (2) shifting saliences.

In every sacrament, matter, form, and union of both are all symbolic already.

Prudence & its parts can be communicated; justice & its parts interlock with the justice/parts of others to build systems; fortitude and temperance and their parts model for others.

Prayer is strengthened by fasting and almsdeeds.

Normality is not a purely arbitrary thing; it is constrained by things like health and living together, etc.

The habit of cheerful giving requires practice in giving without expectation of return.

archive as philosophical function/activity (memory for philosophical work)

Other peoples' stories become part of our own story by inspiration (example), commemoration, shared elements (e.g., material continuities), etc.

faith, hope, and charity each a proof of God's activity and existence (but it does not follow that it is easy to see this -- in particular, we need to see things on a larger scale and in a more diverse way than we usually do, to break out of the relevant biases that obscure and mislead in these matters)

Good links to good to form new good.

Christ on cross as sign of Trinity, Incarnation, and grace.

the effectiveness of prayer related to its generosity and appropriateness to God as Light, Life, and Love

intercession of the saints as an expression of the goodness of God

Holy Catherine, pray for me
in mazement of philosophy.

"To know the goodness of God is the highest prayer of all." Julian of Norwich

One of the curious things about wisdom is that when you truly reach wisdom in some matter, the wisdom does not seem like your own; it seems to put itself together, or to rise on its own out of the situation like a mist, or to blow in from elsewhere.

Richness of scene makes characters seem richer. - this is likely related to objective correlates

Marriage is essential to religious community because it is one of the natural restraints on the growth and dominance of self-interest.

the analogue of n-body problems in association of ideas

One of the most important things we must learn from growing up is how to recover from the emotionally damaging; and we must do it without undergoing irrecoverable damage.

(1) diversity of minds
(2) intensity of intellectual activity
(3) communication networks

collapse, stagnation, and mergers of traditions

the consistent tendency of universalist arguments toward claims that really suggest that there is no real sin or moral responsibility at all

Causal necessity in Malebranche's occasionalism is interpreted deontically; but the relevant agent (God) is such that deontic Box implies True.

deontic causation and rational sentiments

algorithm as explanation of something qua result or consequence

Friday, September 16, 2016

Murdering Rastari, Part IV

This is the last part of a redraft of an old short story draft from 2007. Part I, Part II, Part III

Out into the woods Rastari fled. Max pursued, occasionally pausing to shoot at him and then swearing because he missed yet again. I followed, only catching up to Max as he caught up to Rastari on the muddy bank of a rocky little stream.

By this point Max had fired all of the ammunition that he had grabbed before leaving the cabin, and he had begun swinging the gun as a makeshift club, hitting Rastari with it twice. Rastari managed to catch it, an the fight became a struggle to wrench the gun from the other's grasp.

"What are you doing!" cried Rastari, panting -- I think he was taunting us maliciously, because he knew very well what Max was doing. "What is wrong with you?"

I grabbed the gun as well, but the force of the struggle made us slip together in an awkward tangle into the stream. All three of us splashed for some minutes as we tried to gain a foothold. The gun was lost in the mess, and soon Max and Rastari were in a closer struggle as Max had his hands around Rastari's neck and Rastari was trying to pry them apart. I finally made it to my feet and looked for an opportunity to and help Max.

But the opportunity never came. Rastari in a sudden fit of strength pulled Max's hands from his throat, and with such force that Max lost his balance and fell, flailing, backwards. Down he went and his head hit a rock with a gut-wrenching wet thwack. The water around his head began to turn dark with blood. He stopped moving.

I screamed and grabbed Rastari. We wrestled, but he soon broke free and began scrambling to the bank. As he did so, I too slipped and hit my head on a rock. I saw red and black, but it cleared immediately, and I scrambled after Rastari, screaming over and over again, "You murdered him! I'll kill you for murdering him!"

As we crawled through the mud, I grabbed him, but he shook me off with force, and almost the last thing I remember before all went dark was hitting my shoulder hard against something sharp.

Somehow Rastari in the midst of being shot at had had the presence of mind to use his phone to call for help. An emergency crew found us hours later. I was barely alive, and Rastari, somehow, was in a much better condition. I have been in this hospital, closely watched, since. But I am still considering how to eliminate the terrible blight on the world that is Danny Rastari, and more firm than I ever was before that it must be done. I said that almost the last thing I remember was the sharp pain in my shoulder, but it is was the very last thing I remember from that moment in the mud that brings home to me the malicious evil of the man.

I was screaming, "You murdered him! You murdered Max!" And the last thing I remember as I looked over was his fat, ugly face looking at me with an expression of bafflement that was no doubt feigned, and as if in slow motion he opened his mouth and said with a plaintive tone that was also no doubt feigned:

"Who is Max?"

I hate Danny Rastari. There is nothing in the world worse than he is. Someone needs to make sure he dies.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Murdering Rastari, Part III

This is a redraft of an old short story draft from 2007. Part I, Part II

We couldn't just hop off to a hunting cabin with Rastari in the state he was in. So we waited patiently nearly three months before we could even broach the subject. In the meantime, I visited Rastari two or three times a week. It was difficult, coming in every time to Rastari's "Hullo-hullo-hullo," his ugly, smiling face simultaneously stupid and evil, but discipline is the better part of virtue. I soon came up with a way to endure Rastari's endless laughter and annoying jokes. I would imagine his face turning blue, slowly deepening to black, and his laughing mouth contorting to a sheer agony, as the poison did its work to rid the world of the man and save all that was good and holy. It was a relief to think of such things, and there is no way I could have endured as much of Rastari as I did if I had not hit upon it.

As Rastari grew better, I began to broach the subject of getting away to the cabin for a good weekend's hunt. Since he is a complete idiot, he agreed it would be fun, and he soon began actively talking of it whenever we met, with a lot of blah-blah blather about how good I'd been as a friend coming to see him all those weeks, yadda, yadda.

So it was that we eventually found ourselves in a hunting cabin with Danny Rastari, watching with a certain amount of abstract pleasure as he wolfed down the poison-laced food we had prepared for him. It was only a matter of time before moral progress would be victorious and the world would be in a better state. We settled in for a short wait.

The short wait began to stretch out into a long wait. He just sat there by the fire humming stupid songs and occasionally burping, then laughing like a moron at himself. Finally, Max took me aside and said, "I don't think it's working."

"I thought you were sure it would."

Max shrugged. "I don't know what happened. Perhaps he's immune."

"Well," I said, trying not to panic at the thought of having to endure even more time with Rastari, "do you know of any other poisons we could use?"

"I think we need to move beyond poisons," Max replied. "Poison is too fickle. We need a more effective method. Something quicker."

As he picked up a heavy log from beside the fire, a chill went down my spine. "No, no, no," I whispered as forcefully as I could without alerting Danny. "We can't murder him; we just want him dead."

"The only thing that will kill him is the trauma to the back of his head. I'll just be helping it to start," Max replied, and, before I could stop him, he had rushed up on Rastari and, wielding the log like a baseball bat, hit him with full force across the back of the head.

The sound the log made when it hit the man's head was sickening; I expected Danny to fall like a stone. Apparently his skull was harder than even I had thought, though, because he only staggered back, holding his head. He shouted something I didn't quite hear in the confusion; but Max was already swinging the log again. It missed as Rastari scrambled out of the way.

For the next minute or two they played what looked almost like a gruesome game of blind man's bluff, with Max swinging recklessly and Rastari dodging like a madman. Finally Rastari managed to fling the door open and sprint out into the woods.

Exasperated, Max threw the log aside and grabbed his hunting rifle.

"I owe you an apology," he said as he made sure the rifle was loaded, "for setting us on the poison trail. You had the right idea originally. It will have to be a hunting accident."

"Wait," I said. "Surely it won't be an accident if you do it this deliberately?"

"I won't be deliberately doing anything but aiming the gun and pulling the trigger. The bullet will do the rest," Max replied, and before I could stop him he bolted out the door after Rastari.

After a moment of shock at the violent turn of the night's events, I followed. There was really nothing else I could do. If the world was to be made a better place for virtue, Rastari had to die.

to be continued

Moral Judgment

In "The Nature of Moral Obligation", Whewell argues that what we call moral judgments are in fact a complex judgment involving four strands.

(1) The first judgment is about the intention or will, and it is the judgment that some choice or intention is right or wrong.

(2) The second judgment is that it ought to be done or ought not to be done; this is the kind of judgment we associate with conscience. Note that it is not the same as (1); this judgment is action-oriented:

This judgment, inasmuch as it is not constituted by the mind, but announces and imposes itself as a determining principle for the will, that is, as a principle of action, is called the Moral Law, the Law of Reason or the Law of Conscience. With reference to the subject, that is, to the mind that passes it, this judgment is spoken of as a conviction of Obligation or of Duty.

Thus the idea seems to be that in addition to our sense that something is wrong, we have a sense that we are obligated not to do it, or, to put it in terms that he later uses, that something's being right is a reason to do it, and something's being wrong is a reason not to do it. (Whewell's terminology in describing this judgment is from Francis Wayland's The Elements of Moral Science, which he quotes later.)

(3) The third judgment is of the merit or demerit of the agent who performs the action.

(4) The fourth element is actually an emotional response, analogous to the emotional response we get with our sense of beauty: we regard good acts as pleasant, and with admiration or respect, and bad acts as unpleasant, and with disapproval or disgust.

This seems related to a similar idea in Dugald Stewart's The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers of Man, which argues that "the state of our minds, when we are spectators of any good or bad action performed by another person, or when we reflect on actions performed by ourselves" has three components:

On such occasions we are conscious of three different things:

(1.) The perception of an action as right or wrong.

(2.) An emotion of pleasure or of pain, varying in its degree according to the acuteness of our moral sensibility.

(3.) A perception of the merit or demerit of the agent.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Murdering Rastari, Part II

This is a redraft of an old short story draft from 2007. Part I

"Hullo, hullo, hullo, hullo" Rastari said in that gratingly loud voice of his. He looked quite as ugly and ordinary as he always did, almost as if he had never fallen from the top of the First International Bank building at all. "I can't remember what we did, but it must have been one wild night!"

"What happened to you?" I asked, trying to keep calm.

"I already told you," he said, laughing. I noticed with some pleasure that he winced as he did so. "I can't remember anything about last night. Partial amnesia, or something like that. But whatever happened, I broke two ribs and my arm, cracked my collarbone, and bruised my side pretty badly."

I tried to assimilate this. "How could you possibly have only broken your ribs and your arm?"

"Only broken my ribs and arm?" Rastari said, laughing (and wincing) again. "What were we doing, if you expected me to be more banged up than this?"

"No," I said, "I meant, what could you have done to break your ribs and your arm, given that we didn't do anything. We were just strolling around, and you wandered off, and nobody saw you for hours. Max and I were worried."

Rastari looked at me doubtfully a moment. "Max?"

"Yes," I said impatiently, "Max. You and I were with Max last night."

The doubtful look became a surprised look. "Who is Max?"

I felt myself on the verge of a rant, but then I remembered the comment about partial amnesia, and just changed the subject. We engaged in some idle chitchat about football and chess and amnesia, with Rastari shouting or laughing that odious, unbearable, fingernails-on-chalkboard laugh every few minutes. In my head, however, I was thinking about Max, whom I'd be meeting for lunch the next day. We were going to have to do some more planning if the world was ever to be rid of that morally detrimental state of affairs called Danny Rastari.

"He didn't remember me at all?" Max asked when I met up with him at our favorite cafe and told him about the encounter in the hospital.

"Not in the least. But he says that a lot of things are fuzzy. Look on the bright side, though: he doesn't remember what we did to him."

"Perhaps," Max said, but I could see he was bothered by it. He was never one to let anything keep him down, though, and in a moment he said, "Well, it means that we can start over again. No harm, no foul."

"Maybe," I said. "But won't we just be pushing it? After all, we pushed him off a bank building once; it seems a little too deliberate to do it again. And what if he survived again?"

"There's no way he could survive again," Max said. "It had to have been a fluke the first time."

"Still, I don't like the idea of trying to kill someone twice; that makes it seem a little too much like murder. It makes us too involved."

"We are aleady involved. We pushed him off the bank building."

"Yes, but we were just helping gravity rid the world of a morally bad state of affairs. Gravity, as it turned out, was incompetent at its job. Unfortunately. Even if it weren't murder to keep pushing someone off a bank building, it's sloppy. We need a better plan."

"He's been talking about hunting recently," Max said.

"Yes!" I replied, snapping my fingers and startling the people at the next table. "Max, you're a genius. Hunting makes accidents easy. It should be easy enough to find something that will accidentally kill him."

"That wasn't really what I had in mind," said Max. "We had better keep it simple. That's what was nice about the bank building plan in the first place. Let's just take him out to your hunting cabin as soon as he gets well. Convalescent recreation, or something. And then we can poison him."

"No, no, no," I replied. "Have you forgotten the whole point? We don't want to murder him. We just want him to die."

"I understand that. But, really, is it murder when someone is poisoned to death? After all, we won't be the ones killing him. He'll just die because his body shuts down in response to a particular chemical compound."

"I suppose so," I said, frowning down at my plate a moment. Then I brightened. "And because we'll be out in the middle of nowhere, we can actually try to get help without fear that he'll be saved. That's great! One thing I never liked about the bank building was the worry about being responsible for his death through negligence if he didn't die on contact. But since we can try to get help, we won't be responsible for his death at all!"

"If you say so," said Max. "I think we should just keep our minds on the goal. Let's just focus on poisoning him."

"Keep in mind that we aren't the ones poisoning him. It's the poison that will do that. That's important. We can't be murders; we can't kill him. We're just helping the poison do so. But what poison would do the job?"

"I know just the thing," said Max. "Leave that to me."

We were silent a moment, then I said, "But what if the poison doesn't kill him?"

"It will kill him."

"That's what we thought about falling from the top of the bank building."

"I already told you that was a fluke. But if it's any consolation, we'll have guns."

"But we can't shoot him. That would be murder."

"Look," he said with some impatience, "you were the one who pointed out that accidents happen when people hunt. Those guns are going to go off at some point or another. All we'd be doing is helping them to go off in the direction that most improves the world."

"True," I said slowly. "And, really, if you think about it, it's the trauma that kills people who are shot, not the shooter. But I still like the poison idea better. There's less ambiguity there -- more separation from the effect. Let's hope that works."

"Very well then," he replied, raising his glass. "Here's to hoping that it works."

We clinked glasses. And that was how the new plan was set: we were going to find a way to let poison rid the world of that odious Danny Rastari.

It was a beautiful plan. It's a pity that poison was as incompetent as gravity.

to be continued

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Murdering Rastari, Part I

This is a redraft of an old short story draft from 2007.

I hate Danny Rastari. His very presence makes me angry. His very existence is morally loathsome. I have always prided myself on the serious pursuit of virtue, and, as Rastari was clearly a moral temptation, I engaged in some evaluation of moral risks and drew the only rational conclusion: for the sake of my own virtue, I would have to kill Danny Rastari. Very difficult, though -- how do you deliberately kill someone without murdering them? I would need help at something like that, and help came in the form of Max Sanders, another of Rastari's many enemies.

Our plan was simple. I would lure Rastari to a high place, and Max and I would push him off. It was a beautiful plan. All Max and I would be doing is assisting the order of nature; gravity, not us, would kill Rastari; gravity would be responsible for his death. So I set out to lure Rastari to the top of the First International Bank building so Max and I could push him off.

It was easy; the man is not only morally contemptible but as gullible as can be. I told him that Max and I had found a great place to view the city at night, we took him to the top, and pushed him off. Down he went. It was a beautiful happening on a beautiful night, and we spent some time watching the stars afterward, before making our way down.

We found, however, that it was not so easy to destroy a cause of morally bad states of affairs. By some strange miracle Danny Rastari did not die on hitting the ground, and when Max and I finally reached the ground floor, Rastari's body was nowhere to be found.

Max and I wandered around trying to find the body for at least an hour. But after trying, without success, to puzzle this, we decided on our next course of action. I called Danny's wife.

"Caroline, have you seen Danny?"

There was a moment's silence on the other end. "I thought he was with you."

"Well, he was," I said, "but then he...well, he sort of wandered off by himself. I thought he might have gone home."

"No," she said slowly, "he isn't here."

"Well, it's probably nothing," I said. "Who knows with Danny? I'll look for him. Text me if he comes home so we know he's okay."

I decided to continue looking for the body; Max went home to bed. A few hours later Caroline called. I called up Max, who had been sleeping and was not happy to be awake. For my part, I couldn't help but admire how calm he was. I certainly couldn't have gone to sleep after everything that had happened.

"Hmmnnhfnn," he said when he answered the phone. Or something to that effect.

"Max, I found out what happened to Danny."


"Danny checked himself into the emergency room."

There was silence. Then clearly and distinctly: "How did he survive?"

"I don't know. We might be safe, though; Caroline said something about amnesia. But you can never tell with that woman." And you can't, either. What sort of crazy woman would marry Danny Rastari? "I'll have to check it in person. You just stay put, and I'll let you know what's happening."

And that was how I ended up in a hospital room, face to face with Danny Rastari, the horrible person I had just pushed off the bank building. He was infuriatingly cheerful.

to be continued

The Stoic's Grander Portion

Stoic and Hedonist
by Archibald Lampman

The cup of knowledge emptied to its lees,
Soft dreamers in a perfumed atmosphere,
Ye turn, and from your luminous reveries
Follow with curious eyes and biting sneer
Yon grave-eyed men, to whom alone are sweet
Strength and self-rule, who move with stately tread,
And reck not if the earth beneath your feet
With bitter herb or blossoming rose be spread.
Ye smile and frown, and yet for all your art,
Supple and shining as the ringed snake,
And all your knowledge, all your grace of heart,
Is there not one thing missing from your make
The thing that is life's acme, and its key
The stoic's grander portion Dignity.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Music on My Mind

Elastinen, featuring Johanna Kurkela, "Oota Mua". 'Oota mua' means 'wait for me'.

Infinite Desires

Ever stirring in the depths of the heart is the desire for Well-being, for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness—the aspiration after some, thing more blessed, true, beautiful, and good than can be realized here below. This is that longing after something absolute and sufficient—the immensum, infinitumque—which is so often breathed forth with passionate earnestness in the pages of the thoughtful men of every age of the world. With nothing finite can this longing after blessedness be quenched; restless and unsatisfied, we turn from every good which this world, which this life, can yield. We aspire; we seek; we gain the objects in which we hoped to find full repose and contentment; but ever with their possession we fail to find that perfect rest of heart. This world and all that it contains cannot fully bless the human soul. There never was a human being who found in the world a happiness fully corresponding to his desires, a well-being answering to his ideal; and in the nature of the human soul it never can be found. Ever at the end of the longest search, of the widest experience of what this world can give, has burst forth the yearning cry: Who will show us any good? a cry that must be ever one of hopeless yearning until we raise our minds to God, the Absolute Substance and Source of Truth and Beauty, of Goodness and Blessedness. Then we cry with hopeful faith :— Lord, lift thou up upon us the light of thy countenance. Admit the being of a God who implanted these infinite desires in the human heart, and then we may find a ground of hope.

William Whewell, "The Moral Argument for the Existence of God", On the Foundations of Morals, (pp. 147-148). The quotation is from Psalm 4:6 (KJV). Whewell goes on to add the yearning for the permanence of this blessedness (i.e., immortality).

This is the fourth of the four strands of Whewell's moral argument. I have given representative passages for the other three, dependence, gratitude, and conscience, already. Each of the four is an inductive argument in Whewell's sense of the term -- given phenomena for explanation, we 'superinduce' a concept on them to explain them. The reason for doing a multi-strand argument is (arguably) that one of Whewell's marks of progress in inquiry is consilience -- that is, the 'jumping together' of different kinds of phenomena under one explanation. Progress in knowledge, in Whewell's philosophy of science, consists in great measure in rising up to more and more architectonic concepts that unify more and more of the phenomena we experience and conceptualize. Each strand merely suggests; but the fact that one explanation can harmonize the various strands makes it inductively strong (again, in Whewell's sense of induction). This is probably why he also treats the moral argument as something that goes with physical arguments: just as this explanation harmonizes and accounts for physical nature, so too it harmonizes and accounts for the sentiments, dictates, and desires of our moral nature. The moral argument is not made to stand alone, but as a major element in a larger cumulative argument.

It's notable that the gratitude and the conscience strands clearly trace back to Kant, although since Whewell has a somewhat different epistemology and metaphysics than Kant, we should perhaps not overassimilate the two. Whewell's conception of conscience also owes more to Butler than it does to Kant. I suspect that the dependence argument has roots in German Romanticism; Schleiermacher's On Religion is a genuine possibility, in terms of arguments that clearly do appeal to a sentiment of dependence in this context and that Whewell stands a chance of having known either directly or indirectly. I do not, however, know of any evidence that clinches that matter.

The infinite desires strand above is almost certainly rooted in Plato. Whewell will later bring out a work called The Platonic Dialogues for English Readers, which are an interesting experiment, in which he tries to make the dialogues more intelligible by mixing translation, paraphrase, and commentary in a unified way. That he put so much time into doing this is a certain indication that he rates Plato as a very important ally in his struggle with the utilitarians, just as his active work in supporting Butler does the same for Butler. The discourse on the moral argument is so early in Whewell's career, though, that it is difficult to be more precise.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fortnightly Book, September 11

There are so many things wrong and difficult in the world, that no man can be great—he can hardly keep himself from wickedness—unless he gives up thinking much about pleasure or rewards, and gets strength to endure what is hard and painful.

The Fortnightly Book this time around is a re-read, George Eliot's Romola. Serialized in Cornhill Magazine in 1862 and 1863, it's George Eliot's fourth novel. It's fairly long, so we'll see if I get quite through it in two weeks.

The novel opens in Florence in 1492. Lorenzo de' Medici has recently died, and Tito Melema, a Greek, comes to Renaissance Florence at the height of shipwreck. I've always thought Tito Melema one of the more interesting villains in literature, because he truly is a villain only because he does not do what is "hard and painful". In any case, Tito is introduced to a scholar Bardo, whom he comes to assist, and falls in love with and marries Bardo's daughter, Romola. Florence over the next several years will be in a state of great agitation. Girolamo Savonarola is preaching doom; the First Italian War will begin in 1494; the Florentines will overthrow the Medicis and found the Republic of Florence. And Tito Melema will always, without exception, do what it takes to navigate to the top. Romola, in the meantime, will become a supporter of Savonarola and increasingly work at cross-purposes with Tito....

Maronite Year LXXII

There can be an eighteenth Sunday of Pentecost in the Maronite year, but the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is on September 14, and it is one of the few feasts that is often transferred to the previous Sunday, so instead of the last Sunday in Pentecost Season, it will in practical terms usually end up being the first Sunday in Holy Cross Season, the last season of the liturgical year.

It might at first glance seem odd to tack on commemoration of the Cross after Pentecost, but in fact Holy Cross Season is very focused on the Cross not in the sense of Good Friday but in the sense of the victory of the Church. Thus rather than a reversion to before Pentecost in the Life of Christ, it is actually the next step after Pentecost in the history of the Church. In a sense, we are in the historical period of the exaltation of the Cross ourselves: the ever-expanding after-effects of Pentecost and Apostolic mission, as the Cross is taken to all the world.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross itself is associated with St. Helena and Constantine, and indeed, St. Helena plays a remarkably important role in the Maronite liturgical year. According to the traditional story, St. Helena, approaching her 80s, went in 326-328 to discover Christian relics in Palestine. At one point, she had a temple of Venus (or perhaps Jupiter) torn down and excavated, and they found in a cistern the remnants of three crosses (or, to be more accurate, the cross-bars of three crosses), along with their nails. Obviously, the immediate idea was that these might be the three crosses of Calvary, but according to the story, St. Helena was somewhat more practical and skeptical than most people, and she insisted that they could only say this if it was proven that they really were -- and, of course, even if these were the three crosses, there was no way to tell by just looking at them which one had held Jesus. A woman near death was brought to the site and touched each of the three; on touching the third, she was healed. St. Helena declared that one the True Cross, and the most important church in the Holy Land, the Church of the Holy Speculchre, was built over the area where the discoveries were made.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 12:20-32

We celebrate with hymns of praise
the finding of the Cross, our light,
the sign of surest victory.
Queen Helen found it through her faith,
and faithful kings were astounded.
We boast only in the Cross of Christ,
the sign of our true salvation.
Truly, the Cross shines with great light.

Martyrs and confessors rejoice;
this is the reason for battle,
this is the route of victory.
Who bears the Cross will overcome!
It is our sure exaltation,
our completion and protection.
Through this Cross we participate
in the Father and the Spirit.

We proclaim the Cross to the world;
the world thinks it but foolishness,
but to us who are being saved,
it is the power of our God.
Its light shines over creation,
and by it the Lamb shields His Bride.
The Church bears the Cross through the world.
Truly, the Cross shines with great light!