Saturday, December 10, 2016

O Hours, More Worth than Gold

I Love to Rise Ere Breaks the Tardy Light
by Anna Seward

I love to rise ere breaks the tardy light,
Winter's pale day; and, as clear fires illume,
And cheerful tapers shine around the room,
Through misty windows bend my musing sight
Where, round the dusky lawn, the mansions white,
With shutters clos'd, peer faintly through the gloom,
That slow recedes; while yon grey spires assume,
Rising from their dark pile, an added height,
By indistinctness given;—then to decree
The rising thoughts to Heaven, ere they unfold
To Friendship, or the Muse; or seize with glee
Wisdom's rich page!—O hours, more worth than gold,
By whose blest use we lengthen life, and, free
From drear decays of age, outlive the old!

This is from Letter XXVIII, to Miss Ponsonby; the letter is, as all of Seward's letters, beautifully written, and gives her account of what makes a sonnet excellent. It is a subject on which she can be regarded as an expert -- Seward is often called the Swan of Lichfield because of the quality of her sonnets.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Dashed Off XXVIII

Successful promulgations are not always successful communications.

People who, taken of a sudden, would hold to their faith in the face of death, will sometimes apostasize in the face of long and grinding poverty.

second-hand knowledge of one's obligations
maybe-obligations and their force
maybe-obligations vs. actual obligations with respect to possibilities
Maybe-obligations would require a hybrid modal logic of an epistemic Diamond and deontic Box (but perhaps the Diamond should be doxastic?). -- Complicated by the need to distinguish genuine candidates from things merely not known to be nonobligatory.

particles as moves in game

(A) primary principles of Mariology
(1) Mary as Mother of Christ, both God and Man
(2) Mary as spiritual mother of all Christians
(B) secondary principles
(1) uniqueness
(2) eminence
(3) fittingness (a) to divine maternity (b) to spiritual maternity (b1) in itself or (b2) as symbol of Christ
(4) likeness to and union with Christ
(C) singular privileges
(D) Marian mission
(1) proper
(2) of Church through spiritual maternity

methodus = artificialis consideratio

Rawlsian veil of ignorance // Cartesian ego in condition of methodical doubt

analogue clustering as primitive classification

Scripture has its primary existence in proclamation and reflection by the Church.

adapting vs nonadapting texts

Even a complete and adequate rule, however authoritative, does not have the kind of authority to apply itself authoritatively.
Authority is primarily an attribute of persons.

constancy & coherence in traditions

Consequence-based arguments often serve as a lowest common denominator in ethical discussions because even ethical morons will accept at least some consequence-based arguments.

As God gives grace that other grace may be received, so God gives authority that other authority may be accepted.
All grace is, among other things, a gift of authority.

triple encounter with Christ: in the sacraments, in the Scriptures, in the poor and vulnerable

the turn of fortune as a basic unit of narrative

rhetorical study of decoy provocations in arguments

The Vedas are ritual manuals; the Sri Guru Granth a songbook for prayer; the Qur'an a collection of prophetic recitations. The Bible, however, does not exclude any of these aspects.

Proverbs 1-9 read ecclesiologically

saint icons, episode icons, allegory icons

In the hands of a master, all things can become a philosophical argument.

Reasons do not so much add as layer.

arguments as guidelines/maps vs arguments as expressions of authority

the iconesque

In early iconography (3rd and 4th centuries), Moses, Jesus, and Peter are often depicted with a staff
On Jesus // Moses cp Clementine Rec 1:57; Ep Barn 12:5; Justin Dial Trypho 86:1-4
Peter striking the rock as Moses striking the rock a common depiction (cp. Acts of Peter 5); association with baptism
Targum of Onkelos: Kepha is used of the rock Moses smote
Acts 7:38 -- the ecclesia is the people of Israel gathered with Moses

transubstantiation as unqualified assertion of real presence
homousios as unqualified assertion of divinity of Son

The priesthood of the people of God teleologically implies the priesthood of a clergy within it.

It is not so much that the natural desire of man is to externalize his religion as that the natural desire of man is to internalize it.

two aspects of corporate almsdeeds: philoxenia & koinonia

Too many attacks on legalism have the import of 'uncircumcision availeth'.

the external world as reliable cause of communication, of knowledge, of interpretation

Genuine good taste is an attempt to reach the true delight in the world that so often eludes us through culpable ignorance, distorting craving, and perverse habit.

(1) Our wills are disposed to good as such
(2) Nothing short of good as such can dispose anything to good as such.

HoP as an n-agent logical concept

In the beginning God created covenant and promise.

baptism : Immaculate Conception :: confirmation : Annunciation :: Eucharist : Dolors :: unction : Assumption :: penance : Intercession :: matrimony : Perpetual Virginity :: Orders : Queenship of Heaven

Fortitude is the sword of prudence and temperance is its shield.

Icons are to grace as laws to providence.

Rosmini's Theodicy and its implicit account of art

the three levels of a story: what is, what is thought to be, what ought to be

If we look to the critical faults Aristotle notes & analogize to evils: impossible and improbable are not issues; thus we get: corruption, instability or inconsistency of good, and imperfection.

Wisdom's gardener parable analogizes to all realism/anti-realism disputes.

uniforms as constant communications

Lists may be analogized, just as the terms in them.

lists as proto-systems

custom // prevenient pleasure

The liturgical calendar is itself a quasi-sacrament in which the mysteries of Christ's own life (nativity, transfiguration, etc.) continue to have effect and shed grace on us. In reality, of course, the sacramentality is due to the sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ on the altar and in Heaven, entering into the prayer of the Church according to His many Mysteries and our disposition as a people. (It takes the entire liturgical year, and all its feasts, to express the basic Mystery of the Eucharist in even its major facets.)

the three primary icons of Christ in the Mass (not counting the Eucharist, which is that to which icons tend): cross, Gospel, priest

the necessarily solidary and subsidiary character of papal jurisdiction

We can easily distinguish sacred and secular aesthetics, rhetoric, poetics, politics, so it would be strange if we could not distinguish a sacred and a secular ethics. (Note, though, that sacred architecture, for instance, does not operate under wholly different principles as secular architecture, having the same material and formal principles but differing only as to end; the same would have to be true.)

healthy development of liturgy: it retains the same type, the same principles, the same organization (logical structure),; its beginnings anticipate subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earliest; it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last.
preservation of type: preserving the essentials of sacraments and worship
continuity of principles: continuity of the Mysteries that unite
power of assimilation: full Christian and thereby transfigures the culture (true inculturation)
logical sequence as internal coherence
anticipation of future, of course, we only know through time -- i.e., what is not a dead end
conservative action on the past: illustrates tradition, corroborates tradition
chronic vigor: devotion, charitable work, evangelism, and ministry (note that chronic vigor is nondecay -- a corruption may yet have vigor, so it only identifies a necessary condition)

applying the principles of Rosmini's theodicy to liturgical development
liturgical development as exhibiting the internal aspects of prudence

preservation: type, principles, coherence
growth: anticipation, conservation
relation to environment: assimilation, vigor

Newman's notes of developments can be applied to particular churches themselves (in a sense this is close to what they were designed for).

ecclesial characters of particular churches arise from
(1) charisms
(2) moral causes (structure, historical situation, historical memory)
(3) physical causes (interaction with environment, geography of shrines, etc.)

Liturgy in its development must
(1) remain the same fundamental kind of thing
(2) preserve the character of Christ
(3) remain coherent
(4) draw on its heritage
(5) encourage further forms of flourishing
(6) correct and elevate the cultures in which it is found
(7) inspire devotion and mercy.

memory: type, principles, organization
intellect: anticipation, conservation
will: assimilation, vigor

forms of corruption (broadly speaking): change of kind, disruption of principles, logical inconsistency, unanticipated introduction, failure to build means to preserve, stagnant response, mere decay

Commitment to the virtues of charity and justice naturally expresses itself in rites and music.

the peculiarities of erudite life

Education is aeviternal in the sense that the proper measure of its duration is in epochs of insight.

The perfection of fortitude requires giving of self.

Diversity that benefits a society is diversity taht contributes to unifying common good.

the analogy of flavors as the foundation of a vocabulary for gustatory aesthetics (e.g., the muscatel of second flush Darjeeling)

Conspiracy-theory thinking poisons social relations.

Printing creates a challenge for liturgy because it makes possible rates of diffusion and change not governed by natural rhythms.

All measurement in physics has a biological component (physicists and their senses).

Belief, anticipation, and desire structure inquiry and are needed for discovery. Even accidental discovery requires something of these to be a discovery at all.

the literal, tropological, allegorical, and anagogical dimensions of liturgy (compare Suger on anagogy of Church architecture)

church architecture as frozen liturgy

hospitality as a natural property of true authority

fuzzy simultaneity

simultaneity as 'A and B are not distinguished by temporal measure' vs as 'A and B are distinguished from C as having the same temporal measure' (i.e., not measurably distinguishable vs having common measure)

moral arguments for God's existence should have parallels in intellectual inquiry and aesthetics; politics as well (cp Voltaire)

family of argument for God's existence || principal principle for external world
cosmological || direct causation
eutaxiological || causation of coherence
ontological || conceptual requirement
moral || practical requirement

factors contributing to the antecedent credibility of the existence of the external world

Meaningfulness of life admits of gradation.

human dignity, messianic community, higher law

A Motte and Bailey Ambiguity

In 2005, Nicholas Shackel published an interesting exploratory paper on diagnosis of certain defective methods, The Vacuity of Postmodernist Methodology (PDF), and introduced a concept for classifying some of them that he called "Motte and Bailey Doctrines". A motte and bailey defense consists of protecting a wide, lightly defended area with a central vantage point that is easy to defend. The simplest example is of an area surrounded by a ditch with a mound in the middle; the ditch allows for basic preliminary defense, but if the enemy presses harder, you fall back to the easier-to-defend mound, and then extend back outward when the enemy leaves. You live in the bailey and fall back to the motte when you have to do so -- only to return to the bailey when you can.

On the basis of this, Shackel builds an analogy to philosophical positions. The 'motte' is a position that is easy to defend, although it's not really the important thing; the 'bailey' is the position you really want, but it may be difficult to defend against close argument. So when close argument comes, you fall back to the obvious things in the 'motte'. For instance, your outer position might be very doubtful and your fallback position might be something almost no one would doubt, so that and when your outer position is attacked, you simply argue for the fallback position. Shackel takes this, plausibly, to happen usually by equivocation.

There are a number of obscurities in Shackel's original discussion. None of them are fatal or problematic for an exploratory discussion as it certainly is, but they do sometimes complicate his stronger claims. For instance, he says:

Diagnosis of a philosophical doctrine as being a Motte and Bailey Doctrine is invariably fatal. Once made it is relatively obvious to those familiar with the doctrine that the doctrine’s survival required a systematic vacillation between exploiting the desired territory and retreating to the Motte when pressed.

But in fact this does not seem to be strictly true, because defensibility is not actually a feature that can read off a position -- it depends on available resources for defense, which can vary from person to person. Thus person A might have an understanding of how to defend the outer perimeter against you while person B does not. Thus the perimeter might be quite defensible with person A and indefensible with person B, with B incapable of doing much more than falling back to obvious basics. This is obscured by the fact that Shackel often talks about the matter in terms of an outer interesting falsehood and an inner trivial truth; but, of course, in real life positions don't come marked with tags saying 'This is false', and whether it is in fact false doesn't really affect much how defensible it is in the immediate context. The vacillation is something that occurs in an argumentative context; but Shackel regularly treats the diagnosis as being of the position as it is believed.

This is a potentially serious ambiguity given that in the abstract a highly defensible position surrounded by a region of things that are just suggested or guesstimated or practically useful is the normal state of philosophical positions as believed. There is nothing wrong with this -- it is how one explores and develops the intellectual territory in the first place, and even if it weren't people can just be honestly not aware of the exact border between the trivial and the nontrivial-but-seemingly-obvious-because-it-looks-like-the-trivial. Likewise, if someone attacks your position and you give it up and fall back to a safer position, where you stay, this is not a motte and bailey situation, because you aren't returning to the original position. Likewise, if you do return to the original position but build up the means to defend it in its own right, this is not a motte and bailey situation, either, because you then stay at the outer position. To be a diagnosis of a flaw based on differential defensibility, it needs the 'systematic vacillation' in actual defense of the position that uses this common structure of positions in a sophistical way. This is not something that happens with positions as such, but only as they are handled in actual interaction with others.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Godspeed, John Glenn

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., a Democratic Senator from Ohio, a veteran pilot with 149 combat missions in two wars, the first pilot to fly a supersonic transcontinental flight, the fifth man in space, the third American in space, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth, has died at the age of 95.

May this Republic never cease to have citizens of his caliber.

Baptized from Conception

John Henry Newman, Faith and Prejudice, Sermon 7:

As we give Him of our best, ascribe to Him what is best, as on earth we make our churches costly and beautiful; as when He was taken down from the cross, His pious servants wrapped Him in fine linen, and laid Him in a tomb in which never man was laid; as His dwelling place in heaven is pure and stainless—so much more ought to be—so much more was—that tabernacle from which He took flesh, in which He lay, holy and immaculate and divine. As a body was prepared for Him, so was the place of that body prepared also. Before the Blessed Mary could be Mother of God, and in order to her being Mother, she was set apart, sanctified, filled with grace, and made meet for the presence of the Eternal.

And the Holy Fathers have ever gathered the exact obedience and the sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin from the very narrative of the Annunciation, when she became the Mother of God. For when the Angel appeared to her and declared to her the will of God, they say that she displayed especially four graces, humility, faith, obedience and purity. Nay, these graces were as it were, preparatory conditions to her being made the minister of so high a dispensation. So that if she had not had faith, and humility, and purity, and obedience, she would not have merited to be God's Mother. Thus it is common to say that she conceived Christ in mind before she conceived Him in body, meaning that the blessedness of faith and obedience preceded the blessedness of being a Virgin Mother. Nay, they even say that God waited for her consent before He came into her and took flesh of her. Just as He did no mighty works in one place because they had not faith, so this great miracle, by which He became the Son of a creature, was suspended till she was tried and found meet for it—till she obeyed.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 2016

Not for all! For those who shine when tested in the light
are truths that pour from holy God like torrent in a gale;
none but the purified know God, in life and body pure,
who, placed in God's catharsis-flame resplendently endure.

Incorrupt, immaculate, and ever-virgin sign!
Holiest of holies, Ark on whom the Presence dwells!
Unblemished heart made splendid by the coming of the Lord!
Your flesh you shared in holy grace with new-incarnate Word.

Who is not clean in soul and flesh no holy gifts can bring;
thus Christ makes clean baptismal font to purify our hearts,
and Mary, bathed in Spirit's grace, the maid prepurified,
reflects immaculate the face of One who for us died.

Links of Note, Notably Linked

* Gregory Stackpole had a nice passage from St. Gregory the Great on the ends of power, with some discussion.

* Elisa Freschi, Analytical Philosophy of Religion with Indian Categories, makes an interesting point here:

“God” is an ambiguous term, in fact so ambiguous that I wonder why does not each study about philosophy of religion start with a discussion of what the author means by this word. I pragmatically distinguish (for instance, in my teaching) between god as devatā ‘deity’ (a superhuman being which is better than a human one, but only insofar as s/he has the same qualities of a human being in higher degree, like the Greek and Roman deities of mythology), god as īśvara ‘Lord’ (the omniscient and omnipotent being of rational theology), god as brahman ‘impersonal being’ (the impersonal Absolute of most monisms, including Bradley’s one discussed by Guido Bonino) and god as bhagavat ‘personal God’ (the personal God one directly relates to in prayers, without necessarily caring for His/Her omnipotence or omniscience, but rather focusing on Him/Her as spouse, parent, child, etc.). Within this classification, Analytical Philosophy of Religion appears to focus on the īśvara aspect of God.

* G. B. Sadler, How Hard Is It to Find an Aristotelian Friend?

* Elliott Roland on essentially ordered causal series

* Don't forget Whewell's Gazette: Year 3, Vol #16 and the many good links that ThonyC has drawn together on the history of science.

* Some discussions of the election, in no particular order:

John Michael Greer, When the Shouting Stops

TheOFloinn, It's Never as Bad as Some People Think

Malak Chabkoun, Spoiled Americans Now Want to Flee What They Created

Patrick Clark, Truth, Hegemony, and Our Need for Exemplars

John Cleese's reaction to the American election is excellently Cleesey, whatever your political inclinations.

* Sara L. Uckelmann continues her excellent discussion of the logical principle ex impossibili sequitur quodlibet in the thirteenth century: Part 1, Part 2

* I had intended to post this a while ago but never did: Nahuatl hymns for All Saints Day; Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs.

* Zachary Braiterman notes some problems with the notion that a doctrine of natural law can be found in rabbinical sources.

* Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Intellectual Yet Idiot

* An important reexamination of the famous Milgram experiment, noting its many flaws

* It's a mark of something that Bre Payton has to explain what the song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside", is really about. I was glad to see her bring in the Armstrong and Middleton version, which is hilarious.

* Jessica Leech has a very good interview on modality at "3am"

* Pauline Kaurin on the Melian Dialogue

* David Dyzenhaus on salus populi suprema lex

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Model of Apostolic Courage

Today (December 7) was the feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church. Ambrose was born in Trier, but he was in many ways the most Roman of the Church Fathers, a Roman's Roman, born to a good Roman family, educated in Rome, pursuing a career in Roman law. He became consular prefect of Aemilia-Liguria, which brought him to Milan. When the See of Milan -- one of the most important sees in the West, and closely connected at that time with the imperial court -- fell vacant, there was a big dispute over who should become the next bishop. Ambrose stepped in to keep the argument from getting out of hand -- and the people demanded that he become the bishop. He was only a catechumen, so he was baptized, confirmed, ordained, and installed as bishop of Milan all on the same day, December 7, 374. He gave his property to the Church and started reading theology -- as someone with a good Roman education, he could read Greek as well as Latin, and taught himself what he needed to know with his usual practical efficiency. (It may be that this process of having to do so much studying may have been a reason for his habit of reading silently, which Augustine mentions, although it's also possible that it is a habit he picked up earlier.) He was never one to back down when he thought he was right, and he faced down Emperor Theodosius more than once.

From Book I, Chapter I of his De fide:

Now this is the declaration of our Faith, that we say that God is One, neither dividing His Son from Him, as do the heathen, nor denying, with the Jews, that He was begotten of the Father before all worlds, and afterwards born of the Virgin; nor yet, like Sabellius, confounding the Father with the Word, and so maintaining that Father and Son are one and the same Person; nor again, as does Photinus, holding that the Son first came into existence in the Virgin's womb: nor believing, with Arius, in a number of diverse Powers, and so, like the benighted heathen, making out more than one God. For it is written: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God."

For God and Lord is a name of majesty, a name of power, even as God Himself says: "The Lord is My name," and as in another place the prophet declares: "The Lord Almighty is His name." God is He, therefore, and Lord, either because His rule is over all, or because He beholds all things, and is feared by all, without difference.

If, then, God is One, one is the name, one is the power, of the Trinity. Christ Himself, indeed, says: "Go, baptize the nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In the name, mark you, not in the names.

Music on My Mind

Robert Plant, "Ship of Fools"

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Xenophon, Ways and Means

Xenophon's Poroi e Peri Prosodon, or Ways and Means, as the title would be in English, was perhaps the last work written by Xenophon, but it has received relatively little study. It is, however, a rather unique text. It is remarkable first, for being a significant early economic text with quite innovative ideas, and, second, for ordering these economic ideas to a more general theme, which is that peace can be better for prosperity than war, and thus that the need for money is not a sufficient excuse for mistreating one's allies.

You can read Ways and Means online at the Perseus Project. Joseph Nicholas Jansen has an interesting dissertation on the work and its place in political economy.

The Thought

Xenophon opens by noting that some leading politicians (prostatai) in Athens have claimed to be interested in justice, but have used the poverty of Athenians as an excuse to treat the allies of Athens unjustly. Thus, he says, he began to think about whether it might be possible to sustain Athens on its own land. This seems possible in terms of the usefulness of the land itself, which has a number of advantages: the climate is relatively mild and good for a variety of different kinds of plants, the land has a large quantity of good stone, and, of course, there is Attica's famous supply of silver. Athens is ideally located for trade, and far from any barbarians that could cause trouble.

In addition, Athens has a large population of metics, i.e., resident aliens, who both support themselves and pay taxes. Xenophon thus recommends that some study be devoted to reducing burdens on the metics where these burdens do not clearly benefit the city; the obligation of the metics to serve in the military forces of Athens should also be abolished, but they should be allowed, if they volunteer, to fill more than just infantry positions. As there is room in Athens for houses, a system should be developed to allow them to apply for freehold housing within the city walls, which the city can then use to draw in the best of them.

Of course, Athens is also a major commercial center already, with excellent ports and a good market. Making the city more efficient and hospitable for merchants would contribute to trade, and thus of trade-based revenue. Notably, it, like better treatment of the metics, would increase revenue without requiring much more than Athens already has and the will to put them into effect consistently.

Some revenue-raising projects themselves require capital, but Xenophon argues that it should be possible to raise this capital by borrowing from the citizens themselves. Citizens in Athens already contribute a great deal to build warships, despite never having any opportunity to receive a return on the investment; it should be possible to convince citizens to invest in a capital fund that will certainly provide such a return in interest, backed by the city itself, which is far more durable an institution than any other in which they might invest. You can also enroll such investors in a list of benefactors, which might even draw foreign investors for the prestige.

Out of this capital, one can build the infrastructure for simultaneously collecting revenue and encouraging trade (3.12-13):

When funds were sufficient, it would be a fine plan to build more lodging-houses for shipowners near the harbours, and convenient places of exchange for merchants, also hotels to accomodate visitors. Again, if houses and shops were put up both in the Peiraeus and in the city for retail traders, they would be an ornament to the state, and at the same time the source of a considerable revenue.

Xenophon also considers the possibility of using the capital fund to create a merchant navy -- ships owned by the city and leased out to merchants.

Section 4 brings us to the most extensive discussion of the work, on the subject of what should be done with Athens's silver mines. The silver mines require considerable labor to tap properly, and are also an immense resource, and therefore are an opportunity for more massive economic expansion than is found in other trades. Silver, in addition, is both a precious resource and a backup currency, which means that there is a continual demand for it. Thus he approves of the Athenian policy of allowing noncitizens to participate in mining. In practice, of course, the actual laborers in the mines are generally slaves, and Xenophon advocates that Athens build a slave labor force -- three slaves for every citizen -- to lease out to those who wish to try to make a profit from mining. In addition, he advocates a system in which both Athenian demes and private interests are able to share profits by cooperative work.

All of this, as with the previous suggestions, can be implemented gradually -- as he says, it doesn't matter how many houses, ships, or slaves we are talking about, since each one begins generating some revenue immediately. He also notes that these all generate second-order sources of revenues -- for instance, an expansion of mining increases the population in that area, which would create a need for a market and opportunities for new construction, both of which can be sources of revenue.

All of this is interesting, but it seems that Xenophon has a larger conclusion in mind than just to propose some practical policies. This becomes clear in Section 5:

If it seems clear that the state cannot obtain a full revenue from all sources unless she has peace, is it not worth while to set up a board of guardians of peace? Were such a board constituted, it would help to increase the popularity of the city and to make it more attractive and more densely thronged with visitors from all parts. If any are inclined to think that a lasting peace for our city will involve a loss of her power and glory and fame in Greece, they too, in my opinion, are out in their calculations. For I presume that those states are reckoned the happiest that enjoy the longest period of unbroken peace; and of all states Athens is by nature most suited to flourish in peace. For if the state is tranquil, what class of men will not need her?

Peace, then, enriches the city. Nor does political ascendancy come entirely by war, either; the Athenians did not achieve preeminence in the Persian Wars by making wars on other Greeks but by being useful to them. After this hegemony was lost, it was restored again, and this, too, was with the cooperation of other Greek cities that found that giving Athens power resulted in benefits for themselves. Moreover, if Athens really and truly worked to uphold peace among Greek cities, Athens's own safety would be in the interest of those cities; and if she were forced to defend herself, a record of peace would mean that nobody could accuse her of doing so for unjust cause.

Having laid out his case, Xenophon summarizes the benefits and prosperity that he thinks will flow from putting his proposals into effect, and, if Athens decides to implement them, he recommends that they start by asking Delphi and Dodona which gods should be propitiated so that the gods would look with favor on their undertakings.

Additional Comments

* Poros is literally a way or path. The word seems in this context to be used to indicate a way to obtain revenue; the revenue itself is prosodos.

* Since the work seems clearly to refer to events in the aftermath of the Social War, when Athens had lost its hegemony for a second time, and to the beginning of the Third Sacred War, it is common to date the work 355/354 BC. This is tied to the book's emphasis on creating prosperity without imperial oppression.

* It's easy to focus on the economic policies, but it's worthwhile to step back and look at the whole. Doing so makes it clear that to a great degree Xenophon is really advocating a healthy operation of the city: it should be able to support itself but also exist in mutually beneficial relationships with allies, it should build up those things in the city that sustain it, it should encourage schemes and projects in which citizens working for their own benefit are also working for the benefit of the city, it should treat its resident population well, it should treat its allies well. The policies trace out major features of city life, and at each point advocate in some way that a gap be closed between private interest and public good.

The Organic American People

The sovereign in the republican order is the organic people, or state, and is with us the United States, for with us the organic people exist only as organized into States united, which in their union form one compact and indissoluble whole. That is to say, the organic American people do not exist as a consolidated people or state; they exist only as organized into distinct but inseparable States. Each State is a living member of the one body, and derives its life from its union with the body, so that the American state is one body with many members; and the members, instead of being simply individuals, are States, or individuals organized into States, The body consists of many members, and is one body, because the members are all members of it, and members one of another. It does not exist as separate or distinct from the members, but exists in their solidarity or membership one of another. There is no sovereign people or existence of the United States distinguishable from the people or existence of the particular States united. The people of the United States, the state called the United States, are the people of the particular States united.

Orestes Brownson, The American Republic, Chapter XI.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Democratic Principle

I cannot conceive a more profoundly philosophic, or more admirably devised constitution, than that of our own government, as I have endeavored truthfully to present it in my American Republic. Yet, for the lack of the moral element in the American people, for the lack of a recognition of the law of nations emanating from an authority above the people, and binding the consciences of the nation, it is practically disregarded, and its wisest and most vital provisions are treated by the ruling people as non avenues. The people have forgotten its providential origin, treat it as their own creature, as a thing they have made, and may alter or unmake at their pleasure. It is not a law enjoined on them, and has no hold on their conscience. They give it a purely democratic interpretation. Men talk of loyalty, but men cannot be loyal to what is below them and dependent on their breath; and, therefore, they violate it without compunction, as often as prompted to do so by their interests or their passions.

[Orestes Brownson, "Democratic Principle", Brownson's Quarterly Review, April 1873.]

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Fortnightly Book, December 4

Literature, like much of art, is curious in that it admits of a category of successful failure. For the artist, it is in some sense even harder to handle than failure. At least failure shuts the door sharply; successful failure is an ongoing frustration as you seem to have the means but can never quite get the ends. You make an ingenious and delicious cake, and add a light touch of icing to make that excellence even more perfect -- and everyone just licks off the icing. And the worst of it, the very worst of it, is that it can happen even when you did everything right, and the failure can be due to things over which you have no control at all.

Georgette Heyer set out to write literarily polished and meticulously researched historical novels on serious moral themes, with a touch of romantic comedy. She was successful by most standards of authorial success. Her books were widely read, sold well, and were praised. And they were widely read, sold well, and were praised for reasons that had little to do with any of the things she hoped to achieve. Her works sold not as historical novels but as romances; romance is lucrative, but in everybody's mind it means sentimental froth for throw-away reading; reviewers treated intensively researched works as light holiday fiction; her very enthusiastic readers kept demanding more of what she herself regarded as among the least important parts of what she was writing. She was the Queen of Regency Romance and yet 'Regency Romance' at the same time became a patronizing label. She was working toward a major magnum opus that she could never finish because lighter works (and need for the money they brought in) kept demanding her time. Heyer could no more stop writing than she could stop breathing, so she continued to write, and continued to do well by all of the standards she regarded as least important, but she withdrew into herself and soon became notoriously averse to any and every kind of publicity. It's not that she was necessarily always miserable over it, or even very worried; her devotion to the craft was quite intense, and the success wasn't without its consolations. But there hangs over all of her career a sense of the important things still not yet done. And it still had that air at her death, at age 71, in 1974.

Nonetheless, posterity has treated her well, even if it has not raised her to the level appropriate to her undeniable talents. She has consistently been on the shelves, and, most importantly, her works have the one and only mark that matters for great literature: they keep being read by people who love to read. And she brings us the next fortnightly book, A Civil Contract, published in 1961. Viscount Lynton, a veteran of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), returns home after his father's death to find the family finances in complete disarray. Nothing can save it but to marry into wealth, despite being in love with another woman, and it looks like it will be a miserable marriage -- but marriage itself can be an education in what really matters.