Saturday, April 28, 2018

Dashed Off VIII

One of the strengths of the American Founding is the tendency of the Founding Fathers to think of good government as based on axioms, maxims, self-evident truths; thus even their partisan and vested interests involve careful regard for the implications of general principles.

measures that are intertranslatable with each other, of themselves vs. measures that are diagnostic of other measures

intrinsic intertranslatability of measure due to shared scale vs. due to shared dimension

principle of conservation of measure in reasoning: violation of this is a form of ignoratio elenchi

If pain and pleasure are analogous to secondary qualities, this creates problems for utilitarian aggregation.

companionable vs awkward silence

Reasonable utilitarians can be distinguished from the junk utilitarians by the care they take on logical issues of measurement.

All comparison involves measure, so reasoning involving comparison is structured by, and limited by, the kind of measure used.

the Mician argument for spirits
(1) the eyes and ears of the many
(2) the standards of the sage kings
(3) filial and orderly conduct
- Note that (1) is closely connected with Moist anti-elitism

"The love of mankind does not exclude the self, for the self lies within that which is loved." Mozi 44.7
"When silent, think; when speaking, instruct; when acting, devote yourself to affairs." Mozi 47.6

measure using:
division, direction
division, direction, superposition

immune theory // heresiology

In philosophy, as in mission, sometimes one must simply dust off one's sandals and move on.

Human beings are not more built to live without pain than machines are made to work without friction; it is the role, not the existence, that is always the issue.

No ache in my thumb, however long it lasts, could ever 'outweigh' the pain of one's child dying in one's arms. They are not the same kind of thing, and duration is a different kind of measure from intensity.

Interpreting a text involves not just reading but also thinking in a tone -- and thinking in an inappropriate tone leads to misreading. (One sees this clearly with trying to deal with works that may or may not be satire.)

Tactics can lose everything regardless of strategy, but the right strategy sets the tactical field in one's favor.

I. The Problem of the External World
I.a Descartes
I.b Malebranche
I.c Preliminaries
I.c.1 Malebranche
I.c.2 Arnauld
I.c.3 Berkeley
II. Analyzing the Problem
II.a The Three Features
II.b Abstraction
II.c Causation
III. The Humean Account
III.a Constancy & Coherence
III.b The Vulgar and the Philosophical
IV. The Shepherdian Account
IV.a The Three Features
IV.b Dreaming and Waking
V. Act and Potential
V.a Reading Shepherd in Act/Potency Terms
V.b Act/Potency vs. Subject/Object
VI. The Richness of the World
VI.a Objectivity
VI.a.1 Primary and Secondary Qualities
VI.a.2 Scientific Realism and Anti-Realism
VI.b Extent
VI.b.1 Other Minds (including God)
VI.b.2 Abstract Objects (Mathematical and Axiological)

intensive, extensive, and protensive measures

"Every living thing contains a world of diversity in a real unity." Leibniz

the three ends of the traditional exorcism of salt
(1) that it may become a means of salvation
(2) that it may bring health of soul and body
(3) that it may drive away things of devilish deceit and unclean spirits
the ends of the traditional exorcism of water
(1) that it may put to flight all the power of the enemy
(2) that it may be able to root out and supplant the enemy and his angels

A sacramental object is an instrumental agent of divine grace in the service of the sacraments.


The wise are wary ere woe.

In practice litigation works a lot like trial by combat.

physicians as primarily providers of counsel

Nothing but principle and evidence can justify.

Law in good order reflects the reasonable person.

Not all politics must be done impartially, but this is a different question from whether it must be consistent with impartiality.

not all must <-> some need not

Fundamental questions in physics start looking like theological questions only in the sense that two mountain peaks start looking like one from a perspective distant from both. Climbing them, or on a properly surveyed map, one does not confuse them.

There is no moral accountability if there is no actual moral reckoning.

the tone of one's mind (cp Darwin on Lyell's Principles)

Structural secularization only occurs by exercise of police power.

the paradox of office: Those wise enough to be fit for the office are often wise enough to avoid it.

It is remarkable how much of Heidegger's political thought consists of abstract labels treated as agents.

contracting as the domestic diplomacy of government

virtual inferences structuring actual reason (to be distinguished from potential inferences and actual inferences)

plausibility pseudo-plots: character arcs are the most obvious -- episodic character differences given a sort of shape and direction and able to be evaluated in terms of plausibility relevant to character -- but cinema and music show that there are spectacle arcs and melody arcs likewise, and it seems plausible, although perhaps trickier, to think in terms of thematic arcs.

containers, clocks, standard candles

solidity as a field effect

models // diagrams

pain as a statistical phenomenon

One of the joys of studying logic is discovering how stupid one has been.

Classification is the foundation of measurement.

By 'dark matter' physicists simply mean 'gravitational causes', or more precisely that portion of them not detected except by holistic effect.

The scientific consensuses of an age are fraught with contradictions. It is through the resolution of those contradictions that scientific progress is had. Some of these contradictions are difficult to see because they only show up at great precision. Others are difficult to see because the contradictions are far apart -- sometimes in very different fields -- requiring their joining by deduction. Others are difficult to see because of ambiguity of evidence with respect to models and theories, which involve idealization and abstraction. Yet others are not seen simply because not one looks, due to custom and expectation. And others, of course, only arise over time due to new information.

What Popper's falsifiability correctly recognizes is the centrality of (non)contradiction to scientific progress.

mereology of theories (virtual part, overlap, etc.)

Simultaneity, being only sameness of temporal measure, can only be fixed by some sameness of what is temporally measured.

The evidence for relativity theory naturally suggests that simultaneity, where not that of self-identity, is imperfectly transitive. The same is so for sameness of length and mass, of course.

Meteorology is a surprisingly overlooked source of insights useful to a wide variety of fields.

Falsifiability as such seems often only to be precisely identifiable in retrospect. Beforehand we typically use proxies, like analogy or speculative sketching of maybe-tests.

logical analysis as generalized debugging

family as association of individuals vs family as corporate institution

the adequation of explanans and explanandum
the adequation of obligation and fulfillment

"A ridiculous likeness leads to the detection of a true analogy." Coleridge

Success is not a form of optimization, although some forms of success may have optimization as a precondition.

the notion of acceptable failure

Absence of evidence only becomes evidence of absence under conditions of relevant diligent search.

Belief and evidence are not obviously subject to a universal measure.

The Maronite liturgical year has a revelatory involution to Christ in Announcement season and a revelatory evolution from Christ in Epiphany season.

Our practical notion of temperature, used in everyday life, requires considering not only molecular activity but molecular interactivity (heat transference).

Each human being has a particular rhythm of inactivity.

"Pedantry is the unseasonable ostentation of learning." Samuel Johnson (Rambler 173)

HoP as symphilosophie (diachronic symphilosophie)

Academia is not designed to produce experts but to facilitate explorers. Explorers may of course become experts in this or that, but any academic of any competence spends most time in areas somewhat beyond his or her expertise, and only shores up his or her expertise insofar as it is useful for such exploration.

Politics requires ethico-political concepts to function properly; the primary sources of this have been ethnic traditions, religious traditions and rights discourse (a particular philosophical tradition).

God Himself gave names to Abraham, Peter, and Jesus, and their names tell us about the Church: a Church of nations, built on a rock, in which God saves.

bacterial vs viral heresies

Francis de Sales: beginning with an orderly multiplicity of spiritual practices, once they have become habitual and easy, let them coalesce into a signle, unified existence of greater simplicity.

As muscles need resistance, so minds need challenges.

"Elites without principles forfeit their claim to rule." (Adrian Vermeule)

etiquette as overlap of aesthetics and ethics

The drama of the struggle against evil is intensified, not lessened, by supernatural evil; this is recognized by the literature of many (very different) cultures.

"First principles, whose cognition is innate to us, are particular likenesses to uncreated truth." (Aquinas, DV 10.6ad6)

"The idea of making a difference between the 0 which results from one process and from another may be entirely new to the student, but we must endeavour to make him see that the distinction is as necessary as the introduction of 0 itself." De Morgan

"The march of the discoverer is generally anything but on the line on which it is afterwards most convenient to cut the road." De Morgan

error as a mode of discovery

Museums are artistic presentations of artifacts and naturifacts.

Nothing is evidence until it has begun to be understood.

"If the reasons of this world tell you that you should be afraid, you either have to be afraid, or be fearless when it is foolhardy to be fearless, or take the third option, and look to reasons not of this world. Those are the three choices: fearfulness, foolhardiness, and faith." (John C. Wright)

structures of secrecy
(1) preservation
(2) deterrence
(3) complication

Hume's account of virtue as a theory of bourgeois honor

ideational and inferential proprioception

You can tell a great deal about a society from the kind of being to which its literature attributes wondrous power.

There is not a sin that has not been committed in some form by some saint.

To live by one's passions is not to be at home with oneself.

Reason is philosophy to the extent and in the way that the domain of what it seeks is elevated to the truth itself.

philosophy as the living ethical world (not as suggested, but as explored)

the simple tale of sublime ideas

Foreign lands always have something of the fairy realms about them.

attention // preference

Beauty in the world pleases because it is an adumbration of divine attributes, to which our capacities are drawn as to ends.

It is manifestly not the case that every sensible event in nature is explained by previous sensible events, as such; the entire foundation for empiricist accounts of deterministic causation is an obvious falsehood.

The perception of the external world brings with it the kind of universality often attributed to aesthetic judgment (whatever else it may bring).

Because we can recognize defects in one's sense of beauty, we can have norms of judgment about beauty, aesthetic oughts.

We know that beauty can exist unperceived because of its readiness to appear.

As nobody of any sense confuses the beauty of a face or sunset with the pleasure taken in it, and beauty can be recognized at times abstractly without any feeling of pleasure at that particular time, beauty is clearly not pleasantness as such, nor any particular kind of pleasure, nor pleasure considered under a certain relative notion.

When you are up high on a glass floor, then you value solidity; solidity is a very great value. It is also an empirical quality, and as objective a quality as one could wish. The move from 'X is a value' to 'X is subjective' is not, at the least, an immediate one, and not one that is so very sure as some people make it.

Engineering continually concerns itself with values that are objective. This is not merely a working with things that are valued, although engineers do often work with these things. Engineers work with values and things valued for exemplifying them. Sturdiness is a value. Feasibility is a value. Sustainability is a value. Promptness is a value. User-friendliness is a value. Durability is a value. Consistency is a value.

Enjoyment of beauty is a way of avoiding evil and pursuing good.

- look at how different axiologies yield different philosophies of engineering

Subjective values are objective values pertaining to subjective perceivers.
-- but there are a number of possible counterexamples here to think about.

The attraction of sex to some extent goes on its own regardless of what presents itself to our eye and our ear, a sort of ongoing restlessness in that direction before an object is even presented. It does not do the primary driving in many cases, but it is like the motorized wheels of a mower, taking some of the burden of moving off the rest, so that not everything has to be poured into moving it.

Sexual passion, as such, does not have much to do with beauty. It links up with beauty when formed by reason, and it may also be one reason something pleases on being seen. But sexual passion is not an explanation for our sense of beauty; they intersect only very rarely.

the picturesque caravan on a sublime desertscape at a beautiful sunrise

Custodial sentences are penalties for the people as well as for the convicted.

A great deal of peace is kept by polite fictions.

humility // obediential potency

Emotions are not free-floating but context-entangled. Anger in a context of play is not wholly the same as anger in a context of perceived injustice, and neither are wholly the same as anger in a context of sexual tension, or any other context in which one may be angry. And so it is with other emotions.

the context, channel, and impulse of emotional expression.

You can be entirely within your rights and still be in bad taste.

Evidence and belief are not commensurable.
(1) They are not the same kind of thing.
(2) What even counts as evidence depends on context; this is not true of belief generally.
(3) Assessing whether something is evidence requires different tests than assessing whether something is believed, and different enough as to suggest that there is no particular connection between the two.
(4) Attempts to link them directly (e.g., through wagering behavior) obviously fail.

Analogical argument is peculiar in that its terms tend to be very concrete but its point tends to be very abstract.

Inquiry is concerned with truth as it can be manifested. The significance of the latter phrase is that sometimes inquiry is concerned with the truth only as manifested under very specific conditions. (Think, for instance, of jury trials.)

God is Troth Itself.

All the founding myths of Rome suggest a sort of super-nationality: Romulus, Aeneas, Romus, Evander.

"Symmetry clarifies, and we all know that light is sweet." Santayana

A political scheme must be aesthetically attractive to seize men's hearts.

It is less the history than the moral and aesthetic correction of history that matters for political function: myth is more easily used to structure community than bare history.

Most uses of Bayesian epistemology are simply for regimentation: the actual Bayesian features are not used to derive the conclusion but to express a conclusion already derived in some other way.

Talking about degrees of evidence is like talking about degrees of spacetime. It treats as unidimensional something that is multidimensional.

Strong protections for judicial independence incentivize the use of administrative apparatus to bypass judicial power. (Tocqueville)

"'s love for despotism is in exact proportion to one's contempt for one's country." Tocqueville

Revolutions arise more easily under light oppressions than severe.

"Government having assumed the place of Providence, people naturally invoked its aid for their private wants." Tocqueville

In politics, financial missteps have consequences for ages.

"When the French Revolution overthrew civil and religious laws together, the human mind lost its balance. Men knew not where to stop or what measure to observe." (Tocqueville)

Impatient reform is stupid reform.

respecting the wishes of the dead as a protection for the rights of the living

The people having the right of spiritual formation, the Church must have the means to protect that right.

Resistance to taxation is perhaps the most basic way people have ever forced moderation on government regimes. Governments weaken this weapon by taking loans. (Cp. Tocqueville)

Platonism gets a consistent type at the cost of an obscure relation of type to actual experience; empiricism gets an obvious relation of type to actual experience at the cost of making the type an incoherent mess.

Nominalism does not avoid the Third Man problem; it just iterates a different version of it with experiential resemblances.

Aesthetic ideals may be biased in the direction of aesthetic interest, but it is clear that it is not always so -- one may take a greater pleasure in comic books than in Austen while recognizing that Austen is in fact more beautiful.

Algebra depends on a distinction between what is immediately known and what is mediately known, and on the medium by which one gets from one to the other.

"the substitution of means for ends, which is called idolatry in religion, absurdity in logic, and folly in morals" (Santayana)

"A landscape to be seen has to be composed, and to be loved has to be moralized." (Santayana)

the impressionistic vs. the discursive aspects of painting

historical work as analogous to panorama painting vs as analogous to miniature painting

"a book is a larger sentence" (Santayana)

Whether progress lies more in the direction of discernment and precision or in the direction of emotion and reverie depends on the case.

The eye of the artist always exceeds what he can consistently convey in art.

the agent intellect & the muse

Friday, April 27, 2018

Texas, France, and the Pig War of 1841

Here in Austin, Texas, one of the more important heritage-pieces is the French Legation, the oldest wooden-frame house in Austin, sitting in a location that was chosen extraordinarily well. It is a surviving testament to the days of Texas independence, an important French landmark on American soil, and the last physical trace of the Pig War of 1841.

Texas effectively won its independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto. Sam Houston caught the Mexican army by surprise, in what is certainly a candidate for one of the most one-sided victories in history: the larger Mexican army was routed by the Texans in eighteen minutes, eleven Texan soldiers died compared to six hundred fifty Mexican soldiers, three hundred Mexican soldiers were taken prisoner, and, of course, Santa Anna himself was taken, thus blocking the ability of Urrea and Filisola, who were still in charge of the bulk of the Mexican army in Texas, from doing anything further. The 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas convened in October of 1836. The Republic had a number of complicated issues to handle in its first few years. The capital was moved around several times, and it was only in 1839, under the second President of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar, that the capital was moved to the central location of Austin.

For any young nation, diplomatic relations are absolutely crucial, and this was particularly crucial in this case, because Mexico intended to return. For exactly the same reason, establishing diplomatic relations was extremely difficult. The United States sent a chargé d'affaires in 1837. Other diplomatic recognitions were somewhat harder to obtain, although by the end the Netherlands, Belgium, and the short-lived Republic of the Yucatan had granted recognition. France signed a treaty with Texas on September 25, 1839, and was in some ways the most important, since it was the nation that was most interested in Texas's existence as an independent political state. King Louis Philippe I assigned Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, who had been attached to the legation in Washington, D.C., to be chargé d'affaires, and to establish a legation in Austin.

At the time, of course, Austin had only recently become capital and there was almost nothing here beyond a few cabins and stores. The capitol building itself was literally very little more than a large cabin. (The current, rather magnificent Capitol building is the third; the second Capitol building was not finished until 1853.) So Dubois had to rent a cabin downtown to serve as both his quarters and his headquarters until he could build a proper ambassadorial residence. He selected out the site, twenty-one acres, and started building a nice house there -- indeed, one that would easily be the most impressive building in Austin. The cabin he rented was owned by Richard Bullock, owner of The Bullock House, the only hotel in Austin, which was located at modern-day Sixth and Congress. The two seem to have taken an instant dislike to each other.

It was perhaps a disaster waiting to happen. Bullock was a frontiersman from Tennessee, rough, practical, and no-nonsense. Dubois was a more complicated fellow. History has not been particularly kind to him, and it is entirely his fault that it has not, but there are some things to be said in his favor. He had in his own way a real vision, and his vision was not entirely selfish; he did indeed have ambitions for eminence but he saw this as part of a larger project of building Texas-France relations into a matter of real importance (he had been instrumental in France's granting of the recognition in the first place). That may well have been part of the problem. He's sometimes mocked for styling himself 'Count' (he was just the son of an ordinary tax collector), but this may have been in part a way of getting more leverage in diplomatic discussions (perhaps effective in Washington but misguided in more rough-and-tumble Austin), and even at that late a date Americans tended to call most non-royal nobility 'Count' without real concern for the actual title and rank. I think perhaps the best way to think of him is indeed as a man of genuine vision, but one whose vision exceeded his actual diplomatic resources, and perhaps his competence, as well. It is certain that he came to Austin with big plans -- big for France, big for Texas, big for himself. And all these dreams were sent tumbling down by Richard Bullock's pigs.

Bullock let his pigs run free. Dubois complained about them. Bullock ignored him. Dubois insisted that the pigs were breaking into his stables to eat the food of his horses and that at one point they had managed to get into the house and start eating his diplomatic papers. One of Dubois's servants killed several of Bullock's pigs. When Bullock found out, he beat up the servant in the street and Dubois himself only barely escaped a similar beating. At this point Dubois exploded, and stormily demanded that the Texas government immediately punish Bullock for violating the law of nations and threatening an ambassador. The acting president of the time, David Burnet, seems not to have liked Dubois much more than Bullock did, and he was not the only one. The administration pointed out that Bullock had the right to due process, and Dubois took this news, or perhaps instead the tone and manner in which it was delivered, even worse. He sold the French Legation building and left Texas without the permission of the French government. He was sharply reprimanded for this, but French foreign minister filed a complaint on his behalf nonetheless, asking for an official apology and a promise that Bullock would in fact stand trial.

Meanwhile, Sam Houston became president and this official response was given in April of 1842. Dubois began to have serious health issues around this time, however, and left for France, leaving behind Jules Edouard de Cramayel as chargé d'affaires ad interim. He returned in 1844, intending to start again. He lived, however, in Louisiana, and only occasionally went as far into Texas as Galveston. He worked to keep Texas independent, but it was a lost cause and the French foreign ministry was holding him on a tight leash. Texas joined the United States in 1846 and the French Legation to Texas was dissolved.

Dubois went on to have a checkered career, rising very high in the diplomatic service during French Imperial expansion into Mexico, and crashing down as spectacularly under suspicion of financial shenanigans. A clever man, but one whose beginnings were always better than his endings.

The French Legation building had been sold to Fr. Jean-Marie Odin, a member of the Congregation of the Mission, a Vincentian religious society. The Holy See had established the Apostolic Prefecture for Texas -- essentially a pre-pre-diocese -- in 1839, and Odin had been assigned to that as Vice-Prefect. When in 1841 the Apostolic Prefecture became an Apostolic Vicariate -- essentially a pre-diocese -- he was named Apostolic Vicar. Apostolic Vicars are generally titular bishops, so he was consecrated titular Bishop of Claudiopolis in Isauria. He was not in the building very long, because the Holy See formed the Diocese of Galveston in 1847 and chose Odin to be its first bishop. The area under his jurisdiction didn't actually change much -- the Diocese of Galveston covered the whole of Texas -- but he moved to Galveston and did quite extraordinary well in that position. He would later be named Archbishop of New Orleans as the nation began to be overtaken by the Civil War.

When Odin moved to Galveston, he sold the French Legation to Moseley Baker, a war hero who had been wounded at the Battle of San Jacinto. But Baker died of yellow fever in 1848, and the house was sold again. The State of Texas purchased it in 1945. It's currently closed for restoration, but you can take a virtual tour of the grounds here.

French legation 2011

Incidentally, as you would expect, there was a Texas Legation in France, at 1 Place Vendôme, currently the Hôtel de Vendôme.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Through All the Heav'ns What Beauteous Dyes are Spread

An Hymn to the Evening
by Phillis Wheatley

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main
The peals of thunder shook the heav'nly plain;
Majestic grandeur! From zephyrs wing,
Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.
Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes,
And through the air their mingled music floats
Through all the heav'ns what beauteous dyes are spread,
But the west glories in the deepest red;
So may our breasts with ev'ry virtue glow,
The living temples of our God below!

Filled with the praise of him who gives the light,
And draws the sable curtains of the night,
Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind,
At morn to wake more heav'nly, more refin'd,
So shall the labours of the day begin
More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.
Night's leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes,
Then cease, my song, till fair Aurora rise.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Evening Note for Wednesday, April 25

Thought for the Evening: Medical Ethics and the Rights of Infants and Toddlers

It is difficult not to be a bit depressed about the current problems surrounding the infant Alfie Evans in Liverpool. Alfie was born with what seems to be a neurological condition that led to seizures when he was about twenty-three months old, when he was placed in Alder Hey Children's Hospital. He is in a "semi-vegetative state", but his condition has been up and down. The parents have been trying to get him moved somewhere that will not remove oxygen, food, and water; both Pope Francis and the Italian government have offered to pay for the expense of moving him and for all future care at Bambino Gesù. The Italian government even recognized Alfie as an Italian citizen so that he would be part of the Italian health care system. The Evans family has been blocked from doing this by both the actions of the hospital and by a court order ruling that this is contrary to Alfie's best interest, under a law that, as far as I have been able to see, seems to have been designed to give a court the authority to act in loco parentis when parents are guilty of provable negligence or abuse.

What is striking to me is the complete lack of serious medical ethics in the statements of the hospital and, to an even greater degree, in the comments of some of its defenders. There has been no serious examination of the actions of the hospital in terms of familial right over care, some form of which is the standard proxy, in most approaches to medical ethics, for patient autonomy in cases of children and those unable to make their own decisions. The parents in question are guilty neither of neglect nor of abuse, which are usually the only moral grounds nullifying the right of guardians to make health care decisions for their wards. I have seen literally no moral justification offered for this. I would be willing to accept that there is some arcane feature of British law that would make the relevant law applicable here rather than (as it very much looks) only in cases of neglect or abuse, but granted that, I have seen no indication from anybody about why this is not a moral backfiring of the law.

Every human being has a human right to palliation -- that is, every human being has a right to palliative care in non-triage cases where resources are available. This is not a triage case (the resources are not urgently needed to save the lives of others), and resources have been explicitly offered by third parties. I have seen nothing in any statement by the hospital or any defense by its defenders to show that this is not an egregious example of a human rights abuse. (Indeed, and this is very worrisome, any attempt to press for further clarification on this has been met with active hostility of the "We're Britain, we have one of the best medical systems in the world, how dare you suggest that we are violating anyone's human rights" sort. Getting this kind of response is always, always a glaring red flag that raises immediate questions.)

At one point, Alder Hey removed Alfie's oxygen on the grounds that he would die in short order. After more than half a day, they put him back on oxygen. It is unclear how this wasn't simply bungled, and it raises questions about why it is in Alfie's "best interests" to die in Alder Hey, which apparently denied him palliation and watched him gasping for breath for hours, rather than at an Italian hospital, which is willing to continue palliative care. The hospital certainly isn't informative about anything, and provides no morally useful explanation; its communications are always vague bromides and slogans like its recent one on the failure of the Evans's legal appeal: "Our top priority is to continue to provide Alfie with the care he deserves and to ensure his comfort, dignity and privacy are maintained at this time." How this claim is consistent with any of the hospital's actions is pretty much an unexplained mystery.

That both legal and medical systems will sometimes fail morally is inevitable. It is a grave misfortune and tragedy, and should not be treated glibly. But that is the most depressing aspect of it all, the glibness of all the defenses I have seen -- vacant of any serious consideration for the serious questions of medical ethics that have been raised, smug and self-righteous in the defense of what looks very much like the violation of the rights of the child to palliative care and the protection of his parents, or else an endless smokescreen of bromides and glittering generalities that show no serious critical examination of the issues. There are so many grave ethical questions raised by this case, and the hospital and the courts and their defenders seem to want to treat it all as "emotive nonsense", to use Justice Hayden's description, that will soon blow over. That's not how ethics works. That's not how people with a serious investment in ethics act.

Various Links of Interest

* David Shariatmadari on the Robbers Cave experiment

* The Charles S. Peirce Foundation is collecting funds to mark the poorly marked grave of C. S. Peirce, one of the truly great American philosophers. I'm not hugely impressed by the monument design, but it is absurd that there isn't some kind of monument there already.

* Tom Hendrickson on the value and importance of Neo-Latin.

* Eduardo J. Echeverria, Conscience, Newman, and Vatican II

* Frog and Toad Attend a Philosophy Class at "JSTOR Daily"

* I kept intending and forgetting to mention it, but MrD had a good post a while back on the liberal arts.

* Joseph Heath, Against the racialization of everything, argues that, with respect to Canadian discourse, at least, some problems are such that treating them as racial problem will not give you good solutions, primarily because racial categories are sometimes too crude and clumsy to do justice to actual people.

* Garnette Cadogan, Walking While Black

* ThonyC's discussion of Robert Bellarmine's interactions with Galileo

* Thomas Weinandy, The Four Marks of the Church

* Boxes and Diamonds: An Open Introduction to Modal Logic

* Amandas Ong on Edna St Vincent Millay

* Hannah Arendt on the time she met W. H. Auden

* Robert Pasnau on the parochialism of philosophy

* A very large quantity of copyright material in the U.S. will begin entering the public domain on January 1, 2019

* Evelyn Lamb, Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician

* Tristan Haze on what it is like to be a philosopher. I particularly like the part about the aesthetics of notation, which is an understudied field. Like much of aesthetics, there will always be matters of mere taste, but some aesthetic features of notation (elegance, simplicity, readability, power of summation, manipulability) are clearly linked what makes a notation work well to begin with.

Currently Reading

Sir Walter Scott, Waverley
Antonio Rosmini, Certainty
Magnus Magnusson, Scotland: The Story of a Nation
Dugald Stewart, Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind

Alberto Vanzo, "Empiricism and Rationalism in Nineteenth-Century History of Philosophy" (available here)
Maureen (Molly) Brady, "The Forgotten History of Metes and Bounds" (available here)
Lawrence B. Solum, "Virtue as the End of Law" (available here)
Jonathan Simon & Colin Marshall, "Mendelssohn, Kant, and the Mereotopology of Immortality" (available here)
Christopher Hom, "Pejoratives" (available here)
Gregory Johnson, "From Swedenborg's Spiritual World to Kant's Kingdom of Ends" (available here)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Music on My Mind

The Corries, "Loch Lomond". One of the great folksongs of all time. Sung often, it has many versions, but this is the one that matters. The first published version was in 1841, but it is almost certainly a fair amount earlier than that. It refers to the Jacobite Rising of the Forty-Five.

O well may I weep
for yest're'en in my sleep,
we stood bride and bridegroom together.
But his arms and his breath
were as cold as the death
And his heart's blood ran red in the heather.

As for the chorus, which is the most famous part because it is so striking, nobody has anything but speculation about what 'the high road' and 'the low road' are supposed to mean.

Monday, April 23, 2018

To Define, to Distinguish, or to Supply

In general, it is safe to suppose that, whenever any problem proves intractable, it either needs definition or else bears either several senses, or a metaphorical sense, or it is not far removed from the first principles; or else the reason is that we have yet to discover in the first place just this-in which of the aforesaid directions the source of our difficulty lies: when we have made this clear, then obviously our business must be either to define or to distinguish, or to supply the intermediate premisses: for it is through these that the final conclusions are shown.

Aristotle, Topics VIII.3

St. George's Day

St. George and the Dragon - Briton Riviere

Briton Rivière's "St. George and the Dragon": An interesting twist on standard conventions of representation, to show how exhausting it can be to fight evil.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Fortnightly Book, April 22

Sir Walter Scott originally made his name in poetry, and was in fact offered the office of Poet Laureate, although he turned it down (Southey got it instead). Scott had been researching the traditions of the Scottish Borders for a considerable time, and he seems to have toyed with putting some of it in a fictional form to make it more immediately interesting without finding, for quite a few years, anything that he thought worked. But in 1814 he published, anonymously, an attempt at this: Waverley, or 'Tis Sixty Years Since. He seems to have enjoyed the anonymity, even at times discussing with other people who could possibly have written it, although close readers who were familiar with his poetry recognized the similarity of poetry in the work, so it didn't last very long. The book has been criticized from the beginning for its unevenness, as well as the extremely gradual way in which it builds (e.g., the entire first chapter is about the title). But it became sensationally popular, and it marks a significant turning point in the wholly unexpected twist by which the laureled genre of English literature stopped being the poem and became the novel. Scott himself just liked a rousing story -- he had no pretensions to writing great art in his novels/romances and regularly compared himself negatively to authors like Maria Edgeworth. But posterity has consistently regarded Scott as underselling his talent. He was the first fantastically popular novelist who was also a widely lauded poet, and although he mostly just tossed off his novels, his sense of language was such that for the first time people started taking seriously the full potential of the novelistic romance.

Waverley takes us to Scotland in the Forty-Five. A number of Jacobite risings have already failed, but Bonnie Prince Charlie has come, and the Jacobite future is more promising than it has ever been before. Edward Waverley, a young man with dreams of glory from an English family with Jacobite sympathies, travels north and soon finds himself in the thick of it. We know, of course, that it will all fall apart, but what will happen to Edward when it does? It will all depend on a crucial split-second choice that he makes at the Battle of Prestonpans.

I will be reading Waverley in a Heritage Press (New York) edition. It's a nice-looking book, with tan cover printed with a pattern alternating thistles and crowns. The book itself uses laid paper rather than wove paper -- laid paper has more of a texture because, as the Sandglass says, "the dandy-roll which flattened the wet pulp was equipped with wires which left their impression in parallel lines that are clearly visible when a leaf of the book is held up to the light." The typeface, fittingly enough, is the Waverley typeface; the type has no connection to the novel beyond happening to share the same name, but it works very nicely. The book has illustrations from pencil, both black-and-white and colored, by Robert Ball (not to be confused with the English illustrator Robert Ball).