Saturday, April 07, 2018

Jules Verne, The Kip Brothers; Travel Scholarships


Opening Passages: From The Kip Brothers:

At that time--1885--forty-six years after its occupation by Great Britain, which had made it part of New South Wales, and thirty-two years after its independence from the Crown, New Zealand, now self-governing, was still devoured by gold fever.... (p. 3)

From Travel Scholarships:

"First place, ex aequo, goes to Louis Clodion and Roger Hinsdale," proclaimed the director Julian Ardagh in a resounding voice. The two laureates were welcomed by loud cheers, multiple hurrahs, and a big round of applause.

Then, from atop the platform raised in the center of the Antillean School's main courtyard, the director continued to read the list before him.... (p. 3)

Summary: As I noted in the Introduction, these were the two last books in the Voyages extraordinaires to be translated into English (2007 and 2013), so they are virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, which is a pity, because they are actually quite good. The Kip Brothers takes us to the South Seas, mostly in and around New Zealand and the Bismarck Archipelago. It's gold rush days, so it's difficult to keep crews on ships in the area, because the temptation to desert and try for a fortune is so great. The need for sailors that this causes means that ships sometimes cannot be picky about the ones they sign, and this will cause problem for the brig James Cook, as a faction on board is able to put people into place to enact a plan for seizing the ship and using it for very lucrative piracy. Before the plan is enacted, however, the brig takes on two Dutch brothers, Karl and Pieter Kip, who had been stranded after shipwreck. The brig's captain is murdered, and the brothers Kip are framed for it, successfully, and sentenced to hard labor in a prison colony. The big question is how they will be saved from their predicament. In a case like this, there is always something being overlooked, and you just have to have the eyes to see it.

The introduction, by Jean-Michel Margot, which is quite good, notes that The Kip Brothers is a very vision-focused novel. The sciences that are key to the tale are photography and ophthalmology, which together provide the very limited science-fictiony aspect of it (the resolution of the tale depends on state-of-the-art photographic methods allowing unusually sharp photographs and on the theory of forensic optography). But it's not really any more science-fictiony than any number of crime dramas today, which almost always take some license with the real capabilities of forensic investigation, and we probably should classify the book in this genre. Like many crime dramas, it has much of the structure of a mystery tale, but there is no actual mystery, since we know almost everything about the crime; the suspense arises not from the question of how the crime was committed, or who did it, but from the question of how justice will manage to be served. The book is vision-focused not just in the sense that it relies on sciences of vision but also in the sense that it is concerned with the separation of how things seem from how they really are, which is partly why it has the mystery-like structure despite not being a mystery story. This mystery-like contrast between appearance and reality allows the book to explore some very serious issues, including raising questions about the nature of British penal colonies and British handling of political opposition (Verne is always sympathetic to the fight for freedom, and so is quite explicit in his admiration of Irish rebels).

The book was also published at an important turning-point in book illustration, as photography became more useful for the purpose. Thus the work was also itself a physical expression of its concern with vision, and included woodcuts, photographs, and maps; one of the excellences of the Wesleyan UP edition is that it recognizes that these, although often themselves only selected at the last minute, are not optional extras given the themes of the book, but important parts of how it is telling its story.

Travel Scholarships, a much shorter and more light-hearted work, tells the story of a group of young men from the Antillean School in London, founded specifically for the purpose of education boys from wealthy families associated with the European colonies in the Windward Antilles. A wealthy resident of Barbados, Mrs. Seymour, has offered the top students of the school a free tour of the Antilles, which will allow them to visit the places they were born and family that they have not seen in years, and in addition a substantial scholarship once they actually reach Barbados at the end of their tour. Enthusiastic, as you might imagine, the boys and their chaperone, the meticulous and well-meaning but buffoonish Horatio Patterson, board the Alert, which has been hired for their voyage. Unbeknownst to them, but known to the reader, the crew of the Alert has been massacred by escaped criminals hoping to take the ship; the criminals masquerade as the crew to effect their escape and intend to murder all their passengers once they get out to sea.

Like The Kip Brothers, Travel Scholarships has something of the structure of a mystery story without any mystery. We largely know what's going on at every stage. There some ways in which the story would have benefited from an actual mystery -- why are Captain Paxton and his crew, despite being competent, a little 'off' of what you'd expect? -- but I'm fairly sure that Verne was making a hard choice. Verne's works are geographical fiction; what he really wants to tell is an interesting story about touring the Antilles. But this tour needs to be more than a travelogue; it needs to be integrated into a narrative that makes it exciting -- and in this case the most obvious option is a suspense story about the boys and their chaperone being in the shadow of a danger on the Alert to which they are, in one of Verne's deliberate ironies, not alert. Suspense, of course, differs from mystery in that it depends crucially on the reader knowing things that the characters do not; this makes it more difficult to build properly. Verne does a fairly good job with this, in part because he carefully thinks through the problems that escaping the danger actually would involve, and in part because he clearly sought to keep the story simple and straightforward, with nothing like the layered complications that he uses to build the more abstract suspense of The Kip Brothers. (It's possible also that Verne was taking time constraints very seriously, and so had to choose not to keep working on the story -- Verne decided to publish it when he did because the United States was on the way to ruining the structure of his story by trying to negotiate the purchase Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas from Denmark. As it happened, it took a few more years before they became the U.S. Virgin Islands, but, of course, Verne had no way of knowing that. Incidentally, an interesting aspect of Travel Scholarships is that the United States at the time had thirty-eight stars on its flag, but Verne anticipates its having fifty -- for him, a somewhat sarcastic comment on the increasing imperialism of the U.S. in his day, but for us, one of those Vernian prophecies.)

While The Kip Brothers and Travel Scholarships are both suspense stories, The Kip Brothers is serious suspense while Travel Scholarships is mostly humorous suspense. Travel Scholarships is at times hilariously funny, and probably the most comic Verne novel I have read. That it is humorous does not prevent it from touching on serious issues, in this case the issues of colonialism and bad behavior of the European powers with regard to their colonies. Verne also recognizes that, through the European squabbling, the Windward Antilles have the character of being a kind of more promising representation of Europe than Europe itself. The comradeship of the boys, with their diverse European backgrounds that are nonetheless linked by their Antillean roots, forms a sort of United Nations of Europe, representing the rich potential of the colonies should they ever unite together. Verne represents this by a reflection on how time can change the geographical landscape, even to the degree of turning an archipelago of little islands divided from each other by sea into a single continent of untold resources.

Favorite Passages: From The Kip Brothers:

O'Brien and Macarthy never wanted to identify their accomplices. They alone took upon themselves the responsibility of this conspiracy. The court dealt with them with excessive severity. It condemned them to life imprisonment at hard labor, and they were sent to the penitentiary of Port Arthur.

These men, however, were not the only political prisoners. Port Arthur already had many under lock and key when Dumont d'Urville visited it in 1840. The French navigator, in teh name of justice, protested against this barbarous practice when he cried out: "The penalties received by thieves and counterfeiters have not been deemed severe enough for the political prisoners, who have been judged unworthy of living among them and, as rogues deemed incorrigible, have been cast among murderers."

It was there then, in 1879, that the two Irishmen O'Brien and Macarthy had been transported and had remained for eight long years. They were subjected to the penal colony's regulations in all their rigor, in the middle of that foul peat bog. (p. 316)

From Travel Scholarships, in which are given the first humorous description of the very meticulous Mr. Patterson -- a good example of something often lost in translations, namely, Verne's willingness to experiment with his craft, as witnessed by the very meticulous long sentence:

Mr. Patterson, lifting his glasses up to his forehead, answered the servant who was standing at the door, saying:

"I will go to the director's office without wasting a single moment."

And, putting his glasses back in place, Mr. Patterson picked up his pen once more to finish the leg of a "9" that he was writing at the bottom of the expenses column of a large book. Then, with his ebony ruler, he drew a line under the column with numbers whose addition he had just completed. Then, after having lightly shaken his pen over the ink well, he dipped it several times in the lead jar that kept it clean, dried it extremely carefully, placed it near his ruler on his desk, turned the inkwell's pump to put the ink back in, placed the sheet of carbon paper on the expenses page, taking special care not to alter the leg of the nine, closed the register, placed it inside its special case inside the desk, put back in their box the eraser, the pencil, and the rubber band, blew on his blotting paper to chase away some dust, stood up while pushing back his armchair with the leather seat, took off his oversleeves and hung them on a peg near the fireplace, gave a quick brush to his frock coat, his vest, and his pants, grabbed his hat, which he shone with his elbow, secured it on his head, put on his black leather gloves as if he were making an official visit to an important person at the University, looked one last time in the mirror, verified that everything was irreproachable in his appearance, took the scissors and cut a strand of his sideburns that went over the allowed line, checked that his handkerchief and his wallet were in his pocket, opened his office door, passed over the threshold and closed it carefully with one of the seventeen keys that rattled on his key chain, went down the stairs that lead to the main courtyard, crossed it diagonally with a slow and steady step to arrive at the building that housed Mr. Ardagh's office, stopped in front of the door, pressed the electric button that made a warbling ring inside, and waited. (pp. 18-19)

Recommendation: Both Highly Recommended. The Wesleyan UP editions (Early Classics of Science Fiction) are themselves nice, and add to the pleasure of the reading.


Jules Verne, The Kip Brothers, Evans, ed., Luce, tr. Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CO: 2007).

Jules Verne, Travel Scholarships, Evans, ed., Hernández, tr. Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CO: 2013).

A Poem Re-Draft and a New Poem Draft

A Meditation on Reading the Analects

Princely authority, wind-like;
petty authority, grass-like:
wind blows, grass bends.

Not to govern self,
not to govern others:
to be ungoverned is not to govern.

Prince as prince,
minister, minister:
that is government.

Untiringly to remember,
unwaveringly to practice:
that is government.

Promoting the right,
subordinating the crooked:
that is government.

Accepting wise counsel,
exalting good character:
that is government.

Cherishing virtue,
loving law:
that is government.

Blessing the near,
luring the far:
that is government.

Not hasty, not niggling,
pardoning with ease:
that is government.

The unturning star
turning all stars:
that is government.

Days Already Past

My heart is fanned open,
like bird-wings, as I lie in bed.
Sleep, my dear; dream well!
Listen to my breath, a love melody.
The half-sun of this late afternoon
shines upon the garden;
the clouds like vineyard leaves
doubly thick,
gather sad tales into piled masses
as I rest, the breeze fanning me.
The shadows lengthen on the trees,
like months of pain.
On my arm rest your head;
let me listen to your heavy sigh,
the melancholy as it falls.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Dashed Off VI

2 Sam 5:1-3: David is made king by agreement with the elders and according to divine promise.

externality of the world & being a part locatable in a whole

hope-sharing and solidarity

Confusing obstinacy with pride is a serious error; they are different failings.

The Apostles did not descend from a mountain with tablets written by the finger of God; they carried Christ in their hearts, and wrote their books from that, or rather, preached from that, and preached by way of written text from that when they deemed written means to be appropriate.

If the indispensability argument works for mathematics, it works for axiology.

That we can know mathematical things establishes conclusively that they are either causally active or involved in some way in other things' being causally active.

Px : x is a part
Pxy : x is a part of y
Pxyz : x is a part of y at z (e.g. time)
Pxyzw : x is a part of y at z at w (e.g., place and time)
(nullary notion of part perhaps universal part?)

There is no one kind of thing that is a state of affairs; and this appears to be so because it is an extrinsic denomination.

A people without honor cannot uphold traditions.

Voting works best as a consensus-building method. It becomes corrupted when it becomes about overpowering one's opponents. This is inevitable, but in a proper election system the design will include ways to limit the effects of it.

dimensions as relations between orderings

color as quasi-geometrical (betweenness & dimensions in the color space)
what would 'relativistic' color-geometry be?

virtue in the people, honor in the elites, respect for law in the rulers

Whewell's Principle of Order seems naturally to suggest a natural law.

In a hypothetico-deductive/covering-law model of causal explanation, abstract entities are the only things that are causal.

moral taste & moral regularities

rule utilitarianism // best systems account of laws of nature

the three elements of moral principles: rules, relations of perfection, dispositions

fallacies // goods of fortune
(Think Boethius CP 2: the imprint of the real good in the appearance of the fake good, combined with the recognition of what makes the fake to be fake)

the courtliness required for the full intimacy of marriage

number (mapping?), symmetry, continuity

permanent possibility of sensation, permanent possibility of intellection, permanent possibility of being

the analogies between various virtues that allow us partially to model a virtue in terms of other virtues (virtues at least loosely reflect each other)

symbol grounding: arbitrary symbols are an advanced feature of reasoning; the ability to construct them arises out of symbols inherent in perception itself (or perhaps rather perceptual experience, accumulated out of perceptions)

ideal gas as a mathematical object

In dealing with natural language, we do not pre-know the relevant logical structure required for reasoning; we reason across many possible logical structures and refine.

Christ as first cause of the Church (apostolicity), as conserving cause of the Church (catholicity), as final cause of the Church (sanctity)

Counting in a full and proper sense is primarily a matter of *recording*. (This is often overlooked in philosophical accounts.)

geometry : space :: arithemetic : population

If we know that X does not err under some interpretation of X, this serves to establish X as a ground of reasoning, even if we do not know the precise interpretation under which it is unerring.

Note that Irenaeus says that Gnostics cannot discover truth from Scripture because they do not have Tradition (Adv Haer I.II.c2n2)

Synoptic summary is a major philosophical skill (think of aphorisms, for instance).
integral parts of prudence & their involvement in synoptic summary

The capacity of physical events to be signs of other physical events is essential to experimentation.

When we have reason to regard an argument as probably right, and it would be useful for it to be so, we have what Ward calls the wish to believe or wish for truth (a wish for conviction that what seems probable is true) -- we are reluctant to throw it all over unless we must, and we look for ways to strengthen it, entirely reasonably.

Paradise is that where in there is no gap between present possession and eschatological fulfillment.

the relation between exemplar causation & conserving causation

Modern press is essentially expected to exercise a prophetic function (speaking truth to power, guiding national conversation) but given its structure and the play of incentives in modern society, it is inevitable that it will usually do it poorly.

ingratitude as subgratitude vs ingratitude as anti-gratitude (Manela, based on Aquinas)

Phantasms underdetermine abstractions. Abstractions underdetermine conceptions.

The history without legend is itself merely a legend.

Who violates the right of one, in some sense violates the rights of all; the right of each is in some way part of common good.

squares of opposition:
evidence-for, evidence-for-not, not-evidence-for-not, not-evidence-for
proof-of, proof-of-not, not-proof-of-not, not-proof-of

'suggestive of' as 'possible evidence of'

square of opposition as sign of modality

Boxed terms have distributed supposition; Diamonded terms have determinate supposition.

common law // casuistics

Sometimes the most rational response to an argument is to go away and think about it.

numeral system : arithmetic :: diagram : geometry

Hume often talks about association as if it only applied to ideas and impressions, but his explanations regularly require that associations also be associated -- resemblances of resemblances, resemblances of causations, etc.

It is strange how many universalist arguments seem to require some kind of tutiorism. Think about this.

reciprocity and the question of when one should avoid giving risks to others

A proof proves to the wise and suggests to those who cannot follow it fully.

Any account of scientific explanation that does not account for mathematical explanation, especially for the kinds of mathematics actually used in the sciences, is defective.

What is true of an idealization is approximately true of what approximates the idealization.

Zero is better understood as equilibrium or rest than as nothing.

sets as possible answers to particular questions (empty set as corresponding to question that returns no answer)
- obv. the particular kind of question is important to this kind of account

introspective, endoxastic, and philosophical approaches to critical thinking

The poet moves language as the beloved moves the lover.

The poetic art is in a way excellence of language.

mathematics as concerned with the immutable in the material

1 Tim 6;20 and the task of a bishop

"The true doctrine is that, though the people are indeed sovereign, they are so only as civil society, in which the sovereignty, under God, inheres; that is, the sovereignty vests in the civility, not in the popularity, and popularity must be civility before the people are sovereign." Brownson

history as a long discourse on the Image of God and the Fall of Man

2 points by Ross that deserve more consideration than they usually get:
(1) the general sense that sometimes things are right because of what has happened, not what will happen
(2) the general sense that one duty may be 'more of a duty' than another

In a strict sense, prima facie duties shouldn't be seen as conflicting -- they just have different forces of application in different circumstances.

prima facie duties // officia

realist vs anti-realist interpretations of myths (e.g., euhemerism vs nature allegory)

mutual personation in marriage (note that mutual personation indicates a flaw in Hobbes's understanding)

The will of the people is not expressed by adding numbers. It is expressed by their causal agency through civil instruments.

"When the idea of family becomes vague, indeterminate, and uncertain, a man thinks of his present convenience; he provides for the establishment of his next succeeding generation and no more." Tocqueville

"The most natural privilege of man, next to the right of acting for himself, is that of combining his exertions with those of his fellow creatures and of acting in common with them. The right of association therefore appears to me almost as inalienable in its nature as the right of personal liberty." Tocqueville

voluntary representative sorting (e.g., the voting part of the population as representing politically the whole population)

"The idea of right is simply that of virtue introduced into the political world." Tocqueville

unifier arguments for God's existence
unity (Plotinus)
cosmic (Jaki)
temporal (Whitehead)
spatial (Newton-ish)
epistemic (Malebranche)
sensory (Berkeley)
- a particular kind of cosmological argument
- related to Box and to mereological whole (condition for the possibility of a certain kind of Box or whole)

association and abstraction as the two routes of symbol-grounding
association : constancy :: abstraction : coherence ??

Nostalgia takes endlessly many creative forms.

To fail to provide the laity the means for self-governance in their own contribution to Catholic life is a terrible episcopal error.

A Church that cannot dialogue within itself cannot dialogue with the world.

Vincent of Lerins & consensus of doctors (Comm. ch 38)

All necessary truths have a penumbra of probable truths approaching them.

The Fathers of the Church teach by their diversity as well as by their unanimity.

the Epoch of the Fathers, the Epoch of the Enlighteners, the Epoch of the Defenders (each overlaps at beginning and ending)

Sayings of the Fathers may be more or less obscure, more or less safe, more or less appropriate to various purposes, more or less thorough, more or less loose or strict, without being in any way unequal in intrinsic propriety or orthodoxy.

Even the wicked may pleasantly surprise you.

Fascism is a statist attack on popular governance that treats violence for state interest as a means of progress in order to make the state the central pillar of society.

Church architecture is an expression of the royal authority of the Church (indeed, all ecclesial patronage, including of arts and charitable organizations, is).

The philosophical principles of an experimental science are the conditions making its experiments possible.

A general sense of honor among the people is the surest shield against despotism.

Risibility is a potential part of rationality.

three kinds of skepticism
(1) doubt modulating acceptance
(2) suspension of judgment
(3) doubt expressed in rejection

plan-sharing and group intentionality
instrumental causation and group intentionality

the common and constant opinions of the scholastic saints as a compendium and summation of the teaching and preaching of the Fathers and the Church, especially when the reasons are shared

traditio instrumentorum as a specification of the significance of imposition of hands

Could one think of minor orders (or at least some kind of possible minor orders) as granting delible character? (As opposed to being only an office of support.)

The relative authority of one ecumenical council compared to another is partly a matter of the explicit affirmations of relations by the councils themselves (recognition and dependence), partly a matter of topic, partly a matter of the kinds of actions exercised by the council, partly a matter of the kinds of responses the council affords.

sacramental character 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13

Sola Scriptura effectively makes Scripture invisible -- no reading of Scripture is Scripture itself, but only an attempt to conform to it, as the notion of an invisible Church makes the visible Church not the Church itself but an attempt to conform to it.

Politics is regimented by principle, but principle is not its substance.

computers as subordinate logical agencies
software as instrumental skill

Argument-objection-response is positional like Go.

The picturesque often arises out of the ruin of the sublime.

One thing feelings do in reasoning is flag possible sorts and kinds of biases -- for instance, a man of irritable temper can learn when his settled habits of mind might be leading his reasoning astray, by his sense of irritation. This is not always straightforward; since each person has a different temperament, it must be learned anew by each person what his or her own feelings are likely to be conveying. But doing so is utterly necessary for serious rational thought.

The history of Israel shows that God works through both an ordinary and an extraordinary ministry.

the history of philosophy as intrinsically aporetic

the planned obsolescence of pop intellectualism

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Hume and the Paradox of Fiction

The paradox of fiction is the apparent inconsistency that occurs when you try to combine three commonly accepted claims: that it is irrational to have feelings for what does not exist, that we reasonably have feelings for fictional characters, and that fictional characters do not exist. But it's always worth looking not just at the abstract scheme of an argument but at how it actually grows in the wild, so that one can, first, be sure that you are not overlooking something, and, second, be sure that you are not importing something that need not be there. This is why, for instance, I always compare claims about divine command theories with the divine command theory of William Warburton -- most of the schematic presentations of divine command theory are incorrect for a theory like Warburton's, and his account already addresses many of the objections that people raise against divine command theories in general. One might say that the anatomical diagrams of the theory regularly do not fit the actual natural history of it. For similar reasons it would be nice to find someone who actually holds all three of the major claims in the paradox of fiction; is there anyone whose position, at least in appearance, involves the inconsistency?

With the paradox of fiction, it is not particularly easy to find a case. Obviously people in general do not affirm all three claims; there are many people who definitely affirm one or two, but it's harder to find someone who is actually committed to something like the paradox itself. And, of course, the claims in question would naturally tend to be scattered even in author who was committed to the paradox, since no one would just baldly affirm all three members of what seems like an inconsistency without some qualification. But a good candidate for someone who is committed to all three claims in the paradox of fiction is David Hume, and so it makes sense to look at Hume's claims on fiction in order to see, first, what makes it plausible that he could be committed to all the claims in the paradox and, second, whether there are any qualifications or nuances that give him a way out.

(1) It is irrational to be moved to feel for what we know does not exist.

One might think that Hume avoids this, because Hume holds that for the most part the passions can't be either rational or irrational. But in fact he makes two exceptions:

...passions can be contrary to reason only so far as they are accompanyed with some judgment or opinion. According to this principle, which is so obvious and natural, it is only in two senses, that any affection can be called unreasonable. First, When a passion, such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition or the existence of objects, which really do not exist. Secondly, When in exerting any passion in action, we chuse means insufficient for the designed end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and effects. (T

We can set aside means-end irrationality as not relevant to our concern. But we do clearly have a statement that passions can be called unreasonable when they are accompanied by a judgment that something exists when it really does not.

(2) We are moved to feel for fictional characters.

It's not straightforward to attribute this claim to Hume, either, because many times when Hume is talking about our responses to fiction, he is primarily concerned with our responses to the eloquence of the discourse, which is distinct from our responses to the characters. But he does occasionally say things that are naturally interpreted as at least including responses to characters. For instance;

A spectator of a tragedy passes through a long train of grief, terror, indignation, and other affections, which the poet represents in the persons he introduces. As many tragedies end happily, and no excellent one can be composed without some reverses of fortune, the spectator must sympathize with all these changes, and receive the fictitious joy as well as every other passion. (T

Thus when we watch a tragedy, we certainly experience responses to it; these Hume attributes to sympathy with the passions as represented in the characters of the tragedy. This sympathy is much the same kind as that which we experience with real people.

A complication is that Hume is insistent that the power of a fiction to elicit response is closely tied to belief in existence -- it is the latter (truth or reality, as Hume occasionally calls it) -- that gives force enough to the idea that it calls up significant passional response. But he does not quite commit to this being universally true, and in at least one example identifies something that is put in the place of this belief in order to fulfill the same function:

Poets have formed what they call a poetical system of things, which though it be believed neither by themselves nor readers, is commonly esteemed a sufficient foundation for any fiction. We have been so much accustomed to the names of MARS, JUPITER, VENUS, that in the same manner as education infixes any opinion, the constant repetition of these ideas makes them enter into the mind with facility, and prevail upon the fancy, without influencing the judgment. (T

Similarly, tragedians will sprinkle their works with bits and pieces of truth, without doing so in a way that suggests that the the rest is true, in order to siphon off, so to speak, some of the forcefulness of the belief to evoke an emotional response.

(3) We know that fictional characters do not exist.

The same passages serve to establish the third point, namely, that this can all happen in contexts in which we recognize that we are considering something that does not exist. Neither the poets nor their readers think that Mars and Jupiter are real; the tragedians do not even pretend to be giving us the truth.


Thus we can find in Hume some reason for affirming all three prongs of the paradox. Are there reasons to think that this is merely apparent, however? There are a few passages which you could point to if you wanted to argue that Hume in fact rejects (2). For instance, Hume thinks there is a palpable difference in the 'feel' of ideas that are connected with the belief in existence and those that are not. One passage in particular is especially relevant to our topic:

If one person sits down to read a book as a romance, and another as a true history, they plainly receive the same ideas, and in the same order; nor does the incredulity of the one, and the belief of the other hinder them from putting the very same sense upon their author. His words produce the same ideas in both; though his testimony has not the same influence on them. The latter has a more lively conception of all the incidents. He enters deeper into the concerns of the persons: represents to himself their actions, and characters, and friendships, and enmities: He even goes so far as to form a notion of their features, and air, and person. While the former, who gives no credit to the testimony of the author, has a more faint and languid conception of all these particulars; and except on account of the style and ingenuity of the composition, can receive little entertainment from it. (T

Thus Hume thinks that it matters materially whether you are reading a work as history or as fiction: it doesn't change the ideas, but belief involves a greater forcefulness of ideas, and thus we 'enter deeper' into the passions and concerns about which we are reading; without this it is primarily "the style and ingenuity of the composition" that elicits emotional response.

However, even this is not quite so straightforward, because Hume does still recognize the phenomenon of "poetical enthusiasm" -- i.e., the experience of being carried away by a fiction, and this does involve emotional responses of exactly the sort we are considering. To be sure, the lack of belief means that the response cannot be as intense, but the poetical enthusiasm can still stand in, as noted above, for the belief, even if it does so inadequately:

The mind can easily distinguish betwixt the one and the other; and whatever emotion the poetical enthusiasm may give to the spirits, it is still the mere phantom of belief or persuasion. The case is the same with the idea, as with the passion it occasions. There is no passion of the human mind but what may arise from poetry; though at the same time the feelings of the passions are very different when excited by poetical fictions, from what they are when they are from belief and reality. A passion, which is disagreeable in real life, may afford the highest entertainment in a tragedy, or epic poem. In the latter case, it lies not with that weight upon us: It feels less firm and solid: And has no other than the agreeable effect of exciting the spirits, and rouzing the attention. (T

Whether or not we recognize that a character exists, in other words, will affect the kind of emotional response we have; but even if we take the character not to exist, we can still have some kind of emotional response: an excitement of interest, an arousing of attention. Poetry and madness are alike in this kind of emotional response; poetry is just much more restrained.

Another claim Hume makes is relevant to (3):

It is however certain, that in the warmth of a poetical enthusiasm, a poet has a counterfeit belief, and even a kind of vision of his objects: And if there be any shadow of argument to support this belief, nothing contributes more to his full conviction than a blaze of poetical figures and images, which have their effect upon the poet himself, as well as upon his readers. (T

Poetical enthusiasm, therefore, involves a "counterfeit belief" or even (at its strongest, and no doubt this is why Hume calls it "enthusiasm", which in his day doesn't mean just eagerness but suggests the ecstasy of the visionary, someone who feels that God is speaking to him or sees visions) "a kind of vision" of it. As he noted in passing above, the emotion given by poetical enthusiasm is associated with a "phantom of belief or persuasion". Thus one might also argue that Hume only accepts a qualified version of (3).

Is there any way to nuance Hume's acceptance of (1)? It is true that he never says, flat-out, that passions connected to the false judgment that something exists are always unreasonable, so perhaps this gives some wiggle-room in interpretation. But it is very natural to interpret this as being the import of Hume's claim, particularly when one compares it to what he says about existence and nonexistence elsewhere (for instance, in his discussion of analogical reasoning). And he never gives us any further criterion on the matter.

So after this crude, preliminary survey of Hume's account of poetry, we seem to have the following possibilities for how Hume's theory of poetry could be interpreted with respect to the paradox of fiction.

[A] Hume is in fact committed to all three claims, and thus to the conclusion that our emotional responses to fictional characters are irrational. As Hume is not afraid in other contexts to attribute irrationalities to the human mind, one cannot rule out the possibility that he would be perfectly happy with this.

[B] Hume qualifies (2), so that while we have emotional responses to fictional characters in some sense, this is not necessarily in the sense that is intended in (1). Hume repeatedly indicates that the feel of the passions in the poetic case is very different from that which is found elsewhere, so the kind of passional response we have in this case is not a response-to-truth passion but a response-to-fiction passion. This alternative is related to quasi-emotion or pretense solutions to the paradox of fiction. The most obvious problem with such accounts is that the 'quasi-emotions' or 'pretend emotions' seem to work exactly like emotions. But Hume doesn't run into this problem: we can have passional responses of some kind to fiction, but the kind of passional response we have is just a palpably different kind of passional response than the passional response we have to reports of real events, and the difference is precisely that the latter is connected with judgment of existence and the former is not -- and Hume is only committed to (1) if we are, in fact, talking about judgments of existence.

[C] Hume qualifies (3), so that we can in fact have something like belief that a fictional character exists, and it is this that brings in the emotional response. This gives us a quasi-belief or illusion solution to the paradox. In the grip of 'poetical enthusiasm', we have a 'counterfeit belief' -- something that is not a belief in the strict sense, but sufficiently belief-like to have a similar effect. Thus, for instance, Hume thinks that belief is just a very vivid, vivacious, forceful idea; but vivacity is a spectrum, and so there can be cases where the vivacity is not enough for belief, but still enough to be significant, particularly given that vivacity is Hume's means of explaining how ideas give rise to emotional response in the first place. We can have an "illusion" or "kind of vision" that has similar effects to believing that something exists. Of course, Hume is very clear that this is only partial; there is a definite difference between the two cases. But he does often talk as if there is a kind of illusion arising from poetry that can give rise to passional response.

All of this is, as noted above, somewhat rough and preliminary, so there may be evidence in Hume relevant to deciding which of these three interpretations is most appropriate to Hume. By looking at how the paradox of fiction can arise in a real-life case like that of Hume's theory of belief, one gets a better sense of the topics and ideas with which the claims involved may be associated.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Love Begins from Two

Today is the memorial of St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor of the Church, popularly regarded as the patron saint of the Internet. He was the Archbishop of Seville, and is most famous for his Etymologies, an encyclopedic summary of classical culture. A passage I've quoted before from him:

And there are three things required in religion for worship of God, that is, faith, hope, charity. In faith, what must be believed; in hope, what must be hoped; in charity, what must be loved. Faith ("fides") is that whereby we truly believe what we are not able at all to see. For believing is of what we are not able to see. And 'faith' is said in the proper sense if everything is done ("fiat") that is said or promised. And it is called faith, from the fact that what has been done ("fit") is that which was agreed between two, as between God and man; therefore it is also covenant ("foedus"). That is called hope ("spes") which is a foot going forward ("pes progrediendi"), as in "It is a foot" ("est pes"). Thus also for the contrary desperation: the foot is lacking ("deest pes") there, and there is no ability to go forward, because as long as someone loves sin, he does not hope for glory. Caritas in Greek and love ("dilectio") is understood as that which binds two in itself ("duos in se liget"). Indeed, love begins from two, which are love of God and neighbor; as the Apostle says (Rm 13:10), "Love is the fullness of law."

[Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, Book VIII, Section 2.]

Bright Aurora Now Demands My Song

An Hymn to the Morning
by Phillis Wheatley

Attend my lays, ye ever honour'd nine,
Assist my labours, and my strains refine;
In smoothest numbers pour the notes along,
For bright Aurora now demands my song.
Aurora hail, and all the thousand dies,
Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies:
The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
On ev'ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays;
Harmonious lays the feather'd race resume,
Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.
Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display
To shield your poet from the burning day:
Calliope awake the sacred lyre,
While thy fair sisters fan the pleasing fire:
The bow'rs, the gales, the variegated skies
In all their pleasures in my bosom rise.
See in the east th' illustrious king of day!
His rising radiance drives the shades away—
But Oh! I feel his fervid beams too strong,
And scarce begun, concludes th' abortive song.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Rosmini on Error

In general, error can be reduced to the following formula: it is a 'consequence that does not come from the premisses'. The consequence is fabricated by the understanding and, through a likeness or relationship which it has with the premisses, is declared to be contained in them.

Antonio Rosmini, Certainty, Cleary & Watson, trs., Rosmini House (Durham: 1991) p. 170 (sect. 1293).


by Arthur Rimbaud

One lovely morning, among a very gentle people, a beautiful man and woman shouted in the public square: "My friends, I want her to be queen!" "I want to be queen!" She was laughing and trembling. He was speaking to his friends of revelation, of trial overcome. They swooned against each other.

In fact they were king and queen a whole morning, when the carmine hangings rose up on the houses, and all the afternoon, when they processed in the direction of the palm gardens.

My translation. The French is here. Another translation by Bertrand Mathieu is here.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Music on My Mind

Patty Gurdy, "Over the Hills and Far Away". A cover of the epic Nightwish cover of Gary Moore's classic 80s original.

This is a very good tune for the hurdy gurdy, given the violin and steel guitar elements of its precedents. If you don't know much about the hurdy gurdy, she has a video about the basic components.

Hutcheson's Constitutional Criteria

'Tis obvious that when by any plan of policy these four advantages can be obtained, wisdom in discerning the fittest measures for the general interest; fidelity, with expedition and secrecy in the determination and execution of them, and concord or unity, a nation must have all that happiness which any plan of polity can give it; as sufficient wisdom in the governors will discover the most effectual means, and fidelity will chuse them, by expedition and secrecy they will be most effectually executed, and unity will prevent one of the greatest evils, civil wars and seditions.

Francis Hutcheson, A System of Philosophy, Book III, Chapter 6 (p. 244). In context, Hutcheson is talking about constitutional issues. 'Secrecy' is a somewhat odd characteristic on such a foundational matter. He does not give any explanation of what he means, but he does note later that aristocracies (governed by councils) and popular democracies (governed by citizen assemblies) have a particular problem with secrecy, since nothing can be done without many people knowing. A brief comment he makes on democracy makes me think he probably has in mind the danger of every decision being exposed to public view for demogogues to attack.

Then Wake Without a Sigh

Easter Monday
by Christina Rossetti

Out in the rain a world is growing green,
On half the trees quick buds are seen
Where glued-up buds have been.
Out in the rain God’s Acre stretches green,
Its harvest quick tho’ still unseen:
For there the Life hath been.

If Christ hath died His brethren well may die,
Sing in the gate of death, lay by
This life without a sigh:
For Christ hath died and good it is to die;
To sleep whenso He lays us by,
Then wake without a sigh.

Yea, Christ hath died, yea, Christ is risen again:
Wherefore both life and death grow plain
To us who wax and wane;
For Christ Who rose shall die no more again:
Amen: till He makes all things plain
Let us wax on and wane.