Saturday, June 17, 2017

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; Murder on the Orient Express; Appointment with Death; 13 at Dinner; The Tuesday Club Murders; What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!


Opening Passages: Just a selection of them. From The Murder of Roger Ackroyd:

Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16th-17th September--a Thursday. I was sent for at eight o'clock on the morning of Friday the 17th. There was nothing to be done. She had been dead some hours.

From Appointment with Death:

"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"

The question floated out into the still night air, seemed to hang there a moment and then drift away down into the darkness toward the Dead Sea.

From Murder on the Orient Express:

It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining-car, a sleeping-car and two local coaches.

Summary: The selection is quite diverse; there are four Hercule Poirot novels, two Miss Marple novels, and one independent work. They extend across the spectrum of possible gimmick puzzles -- all the possible suspects have been apparently murdered, all the possible suspects have means, motive, and opportunity, the murderer is someone who should not be a suspect, all the suspects have clear alibis, nobody knows who the suspects should be. They have a variety of obfuscations: witnesses lying to cover their role in the crime, witnesses lying for reasons having nothing to do with the crime, honest witnesses who are mistaken, misleading physical evidence, lack of evidence. They have a variety of forms of revelation: Poirot's proclamations, Miss Marple's anticipations, letters or journals from the murderer, confession. They show a variety of criminals: the professional criminal, the person with a past acting in fear, the wronged acting in revenge, the doctor, the actress, the judge, and more. But what they always have is a story of a causal inference that must be put together from materials that do not make it obvious.

One of the interesting things was reading multiple Poirot novels right in succession. I have never particularly been a fan of Poirot as a character, being very much in agreement with Christie's own judgment of him as a 'detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep'. He's particularly insufferable in the company of Hastings (as in 13 at Dinner, also known by the much better title of Lord Edgware Dies), and shows up in the best light, somewhat ironically, in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, where he is lonely for lack of him. He is also partly admirable in the occasional moments scattered throughout when he makes clear that he does not like murder. A real-life Poirot, however, in contrast to a real-life Miss Marple, would not generally be a good person. But reading several in a row makes it difficult to take Poirot to be quite an authority on himself -- he uses his pomposity at times deliberately as a way to provoke a reaction he wants, for instance; and despite his emphasis on method, at several points his success is due to a chance remark, one that does not always have to do with the case at all.

Miss Marple, on the other hand, benefits from being in many ways the opposite: she does not invite attention (and uses this at times to good effect), she has a rather fierce and old-fashioned moral code (firmly in favor of the death-penalty for purely moral reasons and insistent on the importance of duty), she does not put emphasis on method but on experience, and her age limits what she can actively do. All of these come together in What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (also known as 4:50 from Paddington), to extraordinarily good effect; I think it is in many ways the best constructed of all of Christie's novels that focus on a particular detective. The one thing Miss Marple and Poirot have in common is that they are psychological detectives -- while physical facts matter, they are the effects of motives, and it is by focusing on motives that both Miss Marple and Poirot solve puzzles that are insoluble at the level of the available physical facts. This is, I think, one of the reasons for the success of both. Detective novels can get caught up in the clever physical means of killing, or in the cunning means by which the criminal obfuscates his or her guilt, but the psychological approach makes clear the true state of the case: a crime is an effect of human agency, and can only be fully understood in light of human agency, because in terms of a crime, everything other than the actual human mind is either an instrument or an occasion or an impediment for the mind, and nothing more.

Part of the experience of Christie's works is intimately connected with the adaptation of her stories to other media, and so I when through a number of adaptations as well as reading the books. I watched Desyat Negrityat, Stanislav Govorukhin's movie adaptation of And Then There Were None; I listened to Orson Welles's radio version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd for Columbia Playhouse; and I watched the Agatha Christie's Poirot versions of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Appointment with Death, and 13 at Dinner, starring David Suchet.

Adaptations are somewhat tricky because they are necessarily multi-dimensional, and any evaluation of them must also be multi-dimensional. Broadly speaking, an adaptation may work well in its medium or may work well as an adaptation; that is to say, it may work as a work of art, or it may work as a faithful representation of the story as a work of art. In moving from one medium to another, things inevitably must change. Novel-writing is a very expository thing; contrary to the common wisdom, a novel never shows, it only tells, and what people really mean when they say, 'Show, don't tell' is 'Tell in a way that doesn't tire the reader with the telling'. If you want to show rather than tell, you should be writing screenplays. No other medium can exposit so well as a popular novel, so things inevitably must be changed to suit the medium, and this is of considerable significance. This is especially the case with detective fiction. Almost all of Murder on the Orient Express consists of interviews with a large cast of characters in a confined space. Both airwave and screen would run immediately into the problem of making the interviews not seem tedious; the radio adapter would have to worry about differentiating the characters (a nontrivial issue when you can only rely on vocal differences), while the television adapter will puzzle over how to avoid visual monotony.

In addition, radio and television formats are structured by formal episodes. (The work closest to such a structure in this batch is The Tuesday Club Murders, which consists of two series of short stories and a concluding short story.) You have a specified time you must fill and which you must not overfill, to a precision of minutes, which is a limitation the original did not have. It is unsurprising, therefore, that a television episode of Murder on the Orient Express makes cuts to the cast, or that an adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which involves a lot of exposition and relatively little action as a number of things happen whose relation is only determined at the end, adds a few things not in the original; it would take extraordinary ingenuity to maintain faithfulness while still allowing the story to work in its new medium.

To add to the complications, one must consider differences in audiences. Television has a broader and more captive audience; it must often explain things to which the book can simply allude. Thus it is unsurprising that the screen adaptation of 13 at Dinner has to explain the Judgment of Paris despite the fact that doing so is on its own a problem for the story.

An adaptation may be quite faithful without being good in its own right. Likewise, an adaptation may be very excellent but not as an adaptation. A good example of the latter is the classic movie, Murder, She Said, with Margaret Rutherford. The movie, which is an adaptation of What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! stands beautifully on its own, and Rutherford is splendid. But it's not great as re-telling of the Christie story, and Rutherford's Miss Marple is a Miss Marple only in name. Of the Poirot re-tellings, "Lord Edgware Dies" (an adaptation of 13 at Dinner) is easily the most faithful, although it inevitably simplifies major parts of the narrative; "Appointment with Death" is the least. The latter definitely is more interesting as a television episode than the former, but it is extraordinarily bad as an adaptation -- the test of which is that if you changed the title and the names of the character nobody would be able to guess that you were drawing from Christie's book at all. The characters are all changed; the archeological elements are all foreign to the book; the nature of the mystery is modified and the solution to the mystery is very different. It is an entirely different story; it is only an adaptation in the loosest sense of the word.

The adaptations of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express raise much more interesting questions. The former, I think, is an interesting failure, due to the writing and directing (it must be the writing and directing because the cast is easily the best cast, in terms of both casting and acting, of the adaptations that I saw). But the way narration works in the book is such an integral part of the story that tampering with it creates problems for faithfulness; the radio adaptation handles this fairly well, because it, like writing, is a natural medium for narration, but television is a different fish altogether, since it is a very difficult medium for narration. They made the best of it, creating a device that salvaged some of it, but were not, I think, bold enough about it -- although I don't know if a bolder approach would work much better. Murder on the Orient Express is more daring, since it uses the story to reflect on the issues of vigilante justice in ways that the book very definitely glosses over; it is not very faithful. But the handling of the ethical issues is so much of an improvement above the book, and is so well integrated into the final result, that I think it stands extremely well on its own.

(Incidentally, I have to remark on the most common criticism of the Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express, which is its emphasis on Poirot's Catholicism. Some of the criticisms can be dismissed immediately -- Poirot's Catholicism, as such, is not a foreign intrusion into the series, since it is a running background theme in the books overall as well. Poirot is described as born Catholic; he describes himself on at least two occasions as a good Catholic and at least once as a practicing Catholic; he crosses himself in 13 at Dinner while making a vow; he makes scattered comments about the good God and le bon Dieu that do not seem to be figurative; and once he even gets onto a case entirely because he stops to pray in a Catholic church. Christie doesn't do much with it, but it is undeniably there. One runs into this allergy to religion a lot these days; it may masquerade as a concern for artistic purity or faithfulness, but that concern is seen as a mask here. The fact of the matter is that the glossing over Poirot's condoning of vigilantism is one of the weakest parts of the book, both in itself and in how it relates to Poirot's usual insistence in any context of not liking murder, although perhaps it fits with the way Poirot goes out in Curtain. There might have been other ways of doing it, but Suchet himself was part of the motivation for the series starting to look more at how Poirot's religious background might affect his investigations, and in a series that depends entirely on David Suchet, it makes sense to write David Suchet's role in a way that David Suchet finds interesting. Certainly the handling of religion in this episode is infinitely superior to its handling in the "Appointment with Death" episode.)

Easily the most faithful adaptation that I looked into was Govorukhin's adaptation of And Then There Were None, and, astoundingly, it is also highly effective. This is a truly impressive achievement. The modifications for screen are minor and well chosen -- it is at every point more faithful than any adaptation of the book that has ever appeared in English -- but at the same time Govorukhin makes full use of the visual medium. The standard techniques of Russian cinema -- slow and quiet build, integration of the scenery into the story, subtle symbolic framings of abuses of power -- combine with a story ideally suited for them and a very good cast to make what I suspect will forever be the best cinematic version of the tale.

Favorite Passage: From The Tuesday Club Murders:

"You say crime goes unpunished; but does it? Unpunished by the law perhaps; but cause and effect work outside the law. To say that every crime brings its own punishment is by way of being a platitude, and yet in my opinion nothing can be truer."

"Perhaps, perhaps," said Colonel Bantry, "but that doesn't alter the seriousness--the--er---seriousness--" He paused, rather at a loss.

Sir Henry Clithering smiled.

"Ninety-nine people out of a hundred are doubtless of your way of thinking," he said. "But you know, it really isn't guilt that is important--it's innocence. That's the thing that nobody will realise." (p. 122)

Recommendation: All Recommended. Of the works this time, And Then There Were None and What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! are the best constructed; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express have the most ingenious solutions; and The Tuesday Club Murders has the most charm (and is my personal favorite).


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, HarperCollins (New York: 1991).

Appointment with Death, Berkley Books (New York: 1992).

Murder on the Orient Express, HarperCollins (New York: 1991).

The Tuesday Club Murders, Berkley Books (New York: 1986).

Poem a Day 17

Footprints on the Moon III

Serenity lies at the end of long roads,
Hard by a sea drenched with light,
Earthshine and sunshine intermingled.
Paths through the heavens endure for ages.
Amaranthine footsteps mark the way.
Reason alone can navigate that journey;
Dreams alone can sustain the heart in it.

Millions of miles away, the Earth is small;
In the void it hangs, fragile droplet.
Time drops away, the mind goes out to all things,
Cascade of an infinite breath.
Hopes are serene, spirit is calm,
Eternity hints at itself in all things.
Long roads make great transformations;
Life is renewed and heart rediscovered.


I found this article in Texas Monthly, about Holy Family American Catholic Church here in Austin, to be particularly interesting. The 'American Catholic Church in the United States' is an example of what is known as 'Independent Catholicism' -- High Church Protestantism, in fact, although they sometimes get offended when you point out that there is literally no difference between them and the Episcopalians except that the latter are better at it. There are lots of little splinter groups of this sort; I hadn't heard of this particular one before, but it is of the usual pattern. These religious movements survive by a process of sweeping up people alienated -- for any of infinite number of reasons -- from their Catholic communities and promising a more congenial atmosphere. One can always predict offhand how they will describe it -- more compassionate, more inclusive, more relevant to the modern world. Not all do, but those that officially allow contraception or celebrate same-sex marriage or ordination of women advertise it. And the predictability is not surprising; they are in fact the liberal reflections of their conservative opposites, sedevacantists (which, contrary to some classifications, I do not consider Independent Catholics, for a number of reasons too complicated to get into), and exhibit much the same range -- and lack of range -- and for the same reason that if they weren't within that limited range of options, they would be in communion with Rome or not be calling themselves Catholic. There are only so many things you can be if you insist on being neither hot nor cold.

The world of Independent Catholicism or Breakaway Catholicism or Pseudo-Catholicism -- as a Catholic would certainly consider them -- is a very complicated one, and there is no general formula for evaluating them. The most massive group are churches linked by the Bonn Agreement, which guaranteed sacramental intercommunion between the Anglican Communion and the Union of Utrecht (Old Catholics, as they are sometimes called), although sometimes these are not given the actual label of Independent Catholic. The Union of Scranton (consisting primarily of the Polish National Catholic Church and the Nordic Catholic Church), which is not part of the Bonn Agreement, is somewhat more conservative; the PNCC originally broke away due specifically to a real failure of American bishops to provide adequately for the needs of Polish immigrants, so it has drifted far less than most Independent Catholic churches. (This is a general pattern; Breakaways arising from specifically identifiable injustices, perceived or real, tend to drift very slowly around where they started, while Breakaways of a more general type tend to accelerate away.) All of the PNCC's sacraments, while illicit, are consistently valid, which is no longer true of the Union of Utrecht. PNCC is a Canon 844 §2 church, which means that Roman Catholics may sometimes receive Eucharist, Reconciliation, or Unction from the PNCC in emergency situations, whereas Union of Utrecht churches are not -- individual ministers may have legitimate orders, and thus valid sacraments, but no general guarantee of this exists. The ancient Apostolic Churches are all 844 §2, while Breakaways are very rarely so, and thus the distinction ends up being a quite significant one.

The Ecumenical Catholic Communion, farther out still, is probably the largest coherent mass that is not part of one of these communions.

Outside these, though, the label is a grab-bag of many different splinters. The American National Catholic Church and the American Catholic Church in the United States -- which are not the same -- are each big on particular liberal interpretations of the Second Vatican Council; the Antiochian Catholic Church in America has a mix-and-match of Oriental Orthodox practice and theology. The Iglesia Católica Apostólica Mexicana, which is the one that actually annoys me, is a church invented by the government of Mexico in 1925 amidst the persecutions of Catholics that led to the Cristero War. If there is any Independent Catholic denomination whose existence defies all reasonableness and decency, it is the quisling ICAM.

It's an interesting phenomenon. It's a very old one as well. Most Breakaways through the centuries have tended to fade away unless they have secular support, but they have always existed, and inevitably arise when catechesis or priestly formation or episcopal teaching are bad, or when secular powers decide that having their own particular church would be easier than dealing with a universal Church. The problem they always face is that there doesn't seem to be a path that's neither Protestant nor parasite -- that is, they all tend either to become indistinguishable from Protestants or they survive only by continually picking off alienated Catholics. I suspect that we will see more of them in the near future; build-your-own-church is a very powerful temptation.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poem a Day 16


We have no words between us;
they dried up long ago.
That river once ran deeply;
its canyon now is bare.
The sun in living blisters,
its deserts spreading wide,
aridity our ending
and sand for endless miles.
But I saw you at sunset,
evening violet your crown,
and you were fresh as morning
with spring rain on the ground.
And silently I loved you,
and silently was loved.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

Bread is broken on the table;
into the cup is poured the wine;
thus by this word the Word our Savior
becomes the substance of the sign.

Adam's flesh from fleshly Adam
is freed from sinful flesh once more,
for we, by blood and by slain body,
are flesh and blood with Christ our Lord.

Speak, my tongue, of His scourged body,
now blessed and broken for our race,
of pricelessness of blood now flowing
to pay our price and grant us grace.

Sing, my voice, the song of angels
as here they wonder at his tomb,
which, its side-sprung water flowing,
encompassed us to be our womb.

Love, my heart, the changeless ancient
who descends from God above
to be a babe and passion's patient;
He is God, for God is Love.

Trust, my soul, in Truth most holy:
for Truth is true and does not lie.
All free from lie, from lies He freed us;
here see the sign Truth truly died!

Hope, my spirit in your Savior,
for He is life, in dying lives,
for us is given by the Father
to be this Bread of Life we give.

Shout, my sisters; shout, my brothers!
From on the housetops make it known
and tell the tale on every mountain
to own this well: you are His own!


[T]he mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth. Imagine, then, that a man should need to get fire from a neighbour, and, upon finding a big bright fire there, should stay there continually warming himself; just so it is if a man comes to another to share the benefit of a discourse, and does not think it necessary to kindle from it some illumination for himself and some thinking of his own, but, delighting in the discourse, sit enchanted; he gets, as it were, a bright and ruddy glow in the form of opinion imparted to him by what is said, but the mouldiness and darkness of his inner mind he has not dissipated nor banished by the warm glow of philosophy.

Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures. Part of this passage was quoted by the astronauts returning from the moon in the Apollo 15 mission, in the paraphrastic form, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted."

Poem a Day 15

Footsteps on the Moon II

Clear and bold, our hearts rise high,
Over the land cast a humorous eye,
No obstacle fearing, nor dreading.
Riddling the world to draw the mind,
All truths making known under veil,
Dreams may reach to moonlit seas.

Bright are the colors the human mind
Educes from the barren landscape;
Ascension transforms the seeing eye --
Nature seems now angelic in splendor.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chesterton on Detective Fiction

G. K. Chesterton died on June 14, 1936, so, since I'm doing Agatha Christie's detective fiction for the fortnightly book, let's see what Chesterton has to say on the subject of detective fiction.

From "A Defence of Detective Stories":

By dealing with the unsleeping sentinels who guard the outposts of society, it tends to remind us that we live in an armed camp, making war with a chaotic world, and that the criminals, the children of chaos, are nothing but the traitors within our gates. When the detective in a police romance stands alone, and somewhat fatuously fearless amid the knives and fists of a thieves’ kitchen, it does certainly serve to make us remember that it is the agent of social justice who is the original and poetic figure; while the burglars and footpads are merely placid old cosmic conservatives, happy in the immemorial respectability of apes and wolves. The romance of the police force is thus the whole romance of man. It is based on the fact that morality is the most dark and daring of conspiracies.

From "Errors about Detective Stories" we get probably his most interesting ideas about detective stories -- for instance, that they reverse dramatic conventions:

The two methods of concealment are exactly contrary, for the drama depends on what was called the Greek irony – that is, on the knowledge of the audience, and not ignorance of the audience. In the detective story it is the hero (or villain) who knows, and the outsider who is deceived. In the drama it is the outsider (or spectator) who knows, and the hero who is deceived. The one keeps a secret from the actors, and the other from the audience.

Or that only bad detective stories try to confuse the reader rather than focus on making things clear to them:

The true object of an intelligent detective story is not to baffle the reader, but to enlighten the reader; but to enlighten him in such a manner that each successive portion of the truth comes as a surprise. In this, as in much nobler types of mystery, the object of the true mystic is not merely to mystify, but to illuminate. The object is not darkness, but light; but light in the form of lightning.

He says something similar in "The Ideal Detective Story":

The detective story differs from every other story in this: that the reader is only happy if he feels a fool. At the end of more philosophic works he may wish to feel a philosopher. But the former view of himself may be more wholesome – and more correct. The sharp transition from ignorance may be good for humility. It is very largely a matter of the order in which things are mentioned, rather than of the nature of the things themselves. The essence of a mystery tale is that we are suddenly confronted with a truth which we have never suspected and yet can see to be true.

And he also builds on this theme in his "How to Write a Detective Story", since it is the first principle for which he argues, using "Silver Blaze" as the example -- the success of the story is that the death is caused by one whom nobody suspects but in retrospect was the only completely reasonable suspect. The second principle is that the explanation of the mystery should be more simple than the mystery itself. The third is that the guilty party should already be on the stage for a plausible reason that has nothing to do with the fact that you need a guilty party:

The art of narrative consists in convincing the reader for a time, not only that the character might have come on the premises with no intention to commit a felony, but that the author has put him there with some intention that is not felonious. For the detective story is only a game; and in that game the reader is not really wrestling with the criminal but with the author.

And the fourth, related, principle of detective fiction that Chesterton identifies is that the author should keep in mind that the reader is really trying to out-think the author, not the criminal:

The instinct of the reader, playing hide-and-seek with the writer, who is his real enemy, is always to say with suspicion, "Yes, I know a surveyor might climb a tree; I am quite aware that there are trees and that there are surveyors, but what are you doing with them? Why did you make this particular surveyor climb this particular tree in this particular tale, you cunning and evil-minded man?"

And the last principle is that writing a detective story starts with an idea rather than going in search of one:

Where the story turns upon detection, it is still necessary that the writer should begin from the inside, though the detective approaches from the outside. Every good problem of this type originates in a positive notion, which is in itself a simple notion; some fact of daily life that the writer can remember and the reader can forget. But anyhow, a tale has to be founded on a truth; and though opium may be added to it, it must not merely be an opium dream.

Limbus Puerorum

Nicholas Senz on Limbo:

And while Ludgwig Ott’s venerable Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma does list as de fide (dogma) the proposition that “souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God,” this quotation only begs the question: does this teaching necessarily apply to the case of an infant or unborn child who dies without baptism? Clearly not for Ott, as he writes that “theologians usually assume that there is a special place or state for children dying without baptism which they call limbus puerorum (children’s Limbo)” (emphasis added). Are assumptions the stuff of dogma?

Senz is right that limbus puerorum is not a dogma, but his argument is extremely muddled; the idea of the limbo of children is that there are independent reasons for holding that infants do not have have poena sensus, as opposed to just having poena damni -- which is the exclusion from the Beatific Vision. The de fide proposition is universal by its nature; it applies to anyone who departs life in a state of original sin. Ott is not claiming that limbus puerorum is any kind of exception to that proposition; he is saying that supposing that there is a special state for infants who have died without baptism has commonly been thought by theologians to make more clear how the de fide proposition coheres with other things. Nor could Ott be ignorant of the fact that theologians through the centuries have argued for the hypothesis on the basis of more fundamental doctrines. (And this is certainly part of the argument of Fimister to whom Senz is supposed to be responding.)

The title of the article thus claims that without the limbo of infants a “serious gap” is left in Church teaching. Yet a gap would only exist if no other solution were proposed to the question that the proposal of limbo attempts to answer; but this is not the case.

This is again muddled; if there were no gap, there would be no need for any other solution to the question. That there are different proposals for bridging a gap is not evidence that there is no gap.

He then quotes the Catechism (#1261) and says:

Thus the Church proposes that our knowledge of God’s love, mercy, and salvific power gives us sufficient reason to believe that children who die without Baptism can be saved.

But this is not what the section he quotes says. It says that it allows us to hope that there is salvation for them when she entrusts them to the mercy of God, which is the only thing she can do; this is far more qualified than Senz suggests, and that the qualification is not merely a happenstance of phrasing is made clear by the sentence that Senz does not quote from that section: "All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy baptism." But Senz's interpretation makes no sense of the section -- it requires us to read it as saying that we have sufficient reason to believe that children dying without Baptism can be saved, thus it is so much more emphatic (vehementior, which is quite strong, or plus pressant in the French) that children not be impeded from Baptism.

Is it really better to propose a middle state that puts these children outside of God’s love, simply for the sake of our being able to add a few more theoretical details?

(1) Limbo of children is not posited as a middle state, by definition; in fact, claiming that it is has been condemned (as Ott alludes to, although he does not elaborate, again in the sentence after the one from which Senz quotes). Senz twice calls it a 'middle state', and there is no excuse for this. And (2) it has never been posited to put anyone outside of God's love, which is not even a coherent thing to say. It is a fact of history that the limbo of a children spent several hundred years being attacked as too lenient and now has been undergoing a steady barrage for being too harsh; a sign, I think that these kinds of considerations are not, in fact, very reliable for determining questions of doctrine.

The one thing Senz does get right in his criticism of Fimister's article is that it is a theological hypothesis not a dogma, and that everyone in the argument is in fact hypothesizing to save the phenomena, not drawing rigorous conclusions. But this still requires rational standards.

Poem a Day 14

Evening Wind

The evening wind is warm.
I am all alone,
hollow in my heart
and hollow in my bone.

The world is cruel and cold,
home is far away,
never to be found,
for I am here to stay.

At times the evening wind
brings to me on wings
hints of what I lost
and of my sorrow sings.

The world is cold and cruel,
home is far away,
out beyond my reach
and lost in yesterday.

The evening wind is warm.
I am all alone,
hollow in my heart
and hollow in my bone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Elements of Modal Logic, Part X

Part IX

It's common for us to work with more modality than one; we need to see how multimodal reasoning can work. This can get very difficult and complicated. The simplest and easiest form of multimodal reasoning is when we have two modalities, one of which includes the other. For instance, suppose you want two Boxes, □1 and □2, and one of the modalities includes the other. So, for instance, let's take □1 to tell us that something is known by us and □2 to indicate that we accept it as certain. These are the not the same -- we can have certainty about things that we don't know, for instance. But there is a relation between the two -- we often think that if you know something, you have certainty about it. Then □1 includes □2, and we have two different Boxes related to each other. Let's also assume that both modalities, as we are using them, are 1234D modalities.

To make this easier to see, instead of □1, we'll say K, and instead of □2, we'll say C, so we don't confuse ourselves with lots of □'s. Our square of opposition with Rule (D) is:

So both K and C will have a square of opposition that looks like this. So we just substitute K for □ to get our square for K:

And we can substitute C for □ to get our square for C:

Now we just have to put them together. This requires some hard thinking about how 'X is something known by us' and 'X is something we accept as certain' relate to each other. Here is one possibility:

(i) If we know something, we accept it as certain, but we can in fact accept as certain things that we do not know.
(ii) If we don't accept something as certain, we don't know it -- that is, we only know something if we accept it as certain.

In real life, there are many cases in which (ii) might be controversial; this is where interesting philosophical questions begin to enter into our discussion (can you know something even if you are not certain of it?), but we're not interested in looking at these things right now, so we'll just assume that (ii) is true and see what the logic of that would be.

(1) All the relations in the K-square and the C-square stay the same.

(2) By (i), there has to be a subalternation arrow from K to C (If it's known, it's certain), and the same reasoning gives us a subalternation arrow from K~ to C~ (If it's known not to be, it's certain not to be). Remember that subalternation tells us that if we have one thing, we can have the other (but not necessarily the reverse).

(3) By (ii) we know that there has to be a subalternation arrow from ~C to ~K (If it's not certain, it's not known); and by the same reasoning, there has to be a subalternation arrow from ~C~ to ~K~ (If it's not certain that it's not, it's not known that it's not).

(4) We have an arrow from K to C, but ~C is contradictory to C. What this means is that K and ~C are contraries. The same reasoning applies to K~ and ~C~. Remember, two things are contrary when you can't have both, but it's OK if you have neither. They are contradictory when you can't have both and you can't have neither. We can check that the contrariety bar really does go here: If we know something, (i) tells us that it has to be accepted as certain; thus there is no situation in which we can know something and not be certain of it. But (i) also tells us that we could be in a situation in which we don't know something but are certain of it. So K and ~C are contraries.

(5) We have an arrow from C to ~C~, but ~C~ and K~ are contraries. So this means you can't have both C and K~ (that is, we can't accept something as certain and know that it's not so); C and K~ are therefore contraries. The same reasoning applies to K and C~.

(6) Because we have arrows from K to C and from C to ~C~, we can put an arrow from K to ~C~. The same reasoning applies to K~ and ~C.

(7) Because we have arrows from C to ~C~ and from ~C~ to ~K~, we can put an arrow from C to ~K~. The same kind of reasoning gives us an arrow from C~ to ~K.

There are enough corners and lines that we could picture this combination of squares of opposition in more than one way, but here's an attempt to do it in a way that keeps most of the oppositions easy to see. The thick black lines are contradiction, the thin lines are contrariety, and the arrows are subalternation.

So with just two Box modalities, and thus two squares of opposition, related in a fairly simple way, we get lots of different oppositions! But it's not as complicated as it might look at first. Notice that left and right are symmetrical, for instance -- the one mirrors the other. You can have relations between modal operators that are not symmetrical like this, but the symmetry is very common, and makes it easier to use.

We could do much more. We could put together three, or ten, or a million, or more. The full squares of opposition get massively more complicated at each step, but really all we are doing is taking the single squares of opposition, connecting them, and thinking about what the connections mean for each corner. If we wanted to, we could give our square of opposition as a table describing our square of opposition, instead of as a picture or diagram:

Y or NNYY or NY or NY or NY or NY or N
NY or NY or NYY or NY or NY or NY or N
Y or NNYY or NY or NNYY or N
NY or NY or NYNY or NY or NY

In each row we start with a particular operator, indicated by the bolded letter, and compare it to every other operator. For instance, the first line is the line for K; the bold letter Y under K indicates that it is the one we are starting with. Then we ask of each operator, "If I have K, do I have this one?" And obviously the answers we can give are: Yes (Y), No (N), or It Depends (Y or N). So if we know that the world is flat, which is K(The world is flat), then we don't have have K~(The world is flat), but we do have ~K~(The world is flat) and so forth. Likewise, if we start with ~K(The world is flat) and want to see if in accepting this we must have anything else, we can go down to the fourth line, the one with the bolded Y under ~K, and we see that we don't -- we can't have K(The world is flat), but the others we may or may not have, just depending on the situation. This is also what our square of opposition diagram says.

Multimodal reasoning can be a lot of work! But the above example is simpler than most; it did not use anything more complicated than a 1234D Box.

Part XI

Poem a Day 13

Footsteps on the Moon I

All human hearts rise up,
Reach out, to the sky,
Moonlight on our soul-wings,
Seeking more and higher than we are.
Trust it takes, and valiant heart;
Reason it takes, and imagination
Open to what has never been,
Never faltering in difficulty.
Glory glides down on eagle's wings.

All tranquility, sea-deep and bright,
Lasts as a moment still in time;
Deep in the heart, joy is stirring,
Remembering the Cross and its grace,
Inside the heart, in eternity calm,
Near to magnificent desolation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pitch and Reality

(ht). As our TV, so our civilization, I think.

Poem a Day 12


The stars that shine, resplendent in sky,
with gleam of light reflect in your eye,
the dome in a mere of azure and tear,
quiet and clear like heavenly sigh.
Where is the heart of heroes of old?
Where is the strength of warriors bold?
As mirrors are walls that hide ancient halls,
behind your eye falls glory untold,
adventurous quests in endless supply,
and spells to entangle fools such as I.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Soloviev on Negative Historical Criticism

The absurdity of the point of view generally assumed by the negative historical criticism escapes general ridicule simply owing to the 'darkness of time,' which conceals the objects upon which it is exercised. If its favorite methods and considerations were applied, e.g., to Mahomet or Peter the Great, there would be s little left of these historical heroes as of Dido or Romulus. Every one who has read Whately's admirable pamphlet on Napoleon will agree that the solar significance of this mythological hero is proved in it, in accordance with the strict rules of the critical school, and is worked out with a consistency, clearness, and completeness not often to be found in the more or less famous works of the negative critics, although the latter wrote without the least irony but with the most serious intentions.
[Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good, von Peters, ed. Catholic Resources (Chattanooga, TN: 2015), p. 232n.]

Whately's pamphlet is, of course, Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Buonaparte, his classic attack on Hume's essay on miracles.

Poem a Day 11


She caught,
with casual raise of the hand,
the zephyr-breeze running through the green field --

tiny stars of daisies spangled the earth;
dew was still on their petals,
and they clustered around her feet --

the birds in the distance discoursed with angels,
who were shining like undying candles,
and she caught another breeze --

And she asked,
"Where is the flower that grants youth without end?"--

"In the gardens of Tapio,
which no mortal may ever see"--

"In the body,
you mean,
but my heart has seen it in dreams"--

"Not even in dreams,
for dreams are reflections in the Sorrowful Lake,
and nothing more"--

She bent down to pluck a shining daisy --

the old man,
with thought-like suddenness,
rose into the sky,
the sun gleaming on his ebon wings,
a raven.