Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Dawn of the Brightness

Praying toward the East is handed down by the holy apostles, as is everything else. This is because the comprehensible sun of righteousness, Christ our God, appeared on earth in those regions of the East where the perceptible sun rises, as the prophet says: “Orient is his name” (Zech 6:12); and “Bow before the Lord, all the earth, who ascended to the heaven of heavens in the East” (cf Ps 67:34); and “Let us prostrate ourselves in the place where His feet stood” (cf Ps 67:34); and again, “The feet of the Lord shall stand upon the Mount of Olives in the East” (Zech 14:4). The prophets also speak thus because of our fervent hope of receiving again the paradise in Eden, as well as the dawn of the brightness of the second coming of Christ our God, from the East.

From the Historia mystica ecclesiae catholicae, usually attributed to St. Germanus of Constantinople, whose feast day is today.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dashed Off IX

"Love makes us poets, and the approach of death should make us philosophers." Santayana

the Chinese five virtues as a better spirit of interpretation than a mechanically applied principle of charity

Santayana wants to put objective weight on mechanical law while holding an account on which it is more subjective than objective.

Cons Ipr3: Philosophy enters the solitude of our exile, leaping down from the center-point of heaven.

The condition of Boethius is the literal and physical expression of the moral exile of all human beings.

Cons Ipr3.11: To be displeasing to the most despicable is a guiding principle of philosophers.

Cravings and fears are the chains of cowards.

the library as the dwelling-place of philosophy Ipr4.3
but, no, the dwelling-place is the mind IPr5.6 (cp. IIPr1.5)

the sponsor of recuperation IPr6.19

the mereological analogy for practical reason (end : whole :: means : part)

A virtue, even if not expressed, is an intrinsic good.

To be such as to endure difficulty for virtue is in itself desirable.

Our desires alone do not function precisely the same as our desires when we are interacting with others.

A man who sacrificed a pleasant life for an erroneous conception of Virtue or Beauty made a mistaken choice, but not as mistaken as one who did the reverse. There is nobility even in failing in the pursuit of Virtue and Beauty.

An ultimate end must 'satisfy our imagination by its vastness, and sustain our resolution by its comparative security.' Pleasure has no vastness or security in itself.

To consider one's actual individual existence, one must recognize the point of view of a larger whole.

Good is naturally regarded as Pleasant, pleasantness being a diagnostic sign of Good, but not naturally regarded as Pleasure. That is it, it is natural to think of goodness as eliciting pleasure, but not as its being the same.

The pain of sentient being sis not per se to be avoided, but only on balance and normally.

Water can be channeled because it has tendencies not imposed from outside; so too with cultivation of human nature.

There is a relish to morality itself.

Moral goodness must be something shared in common.

If you save a child from falling into a well, you don't do it for pleasure. And if we ask in the abstract why it is good and right to do so, it is not because of pleasure. And if we discovered that letting the child fall would bring, in the end, everyone more pleasure, and the child little pain, it would not matter.

Eventually every moral matter of importance to a society is invaded by humorless, self-righteous moralizers.

invariance principles in reasoning about precedents and moral cases (person invariance, time invariance, space invariance)
modulation principles of same (how circumstantial constraints shift applications)

"A good way of testing the calibre of a philosophy is to ask what it thinks of death." Santayana

Academics have a tendency to overestimate the extent to which others have a responsibility to take them seriously.

Legitimacy of government is nothing other than consent of the people through customary means, as ascertained by reason.

The human ability to form society (qun) is interlinked with the ability to divide roles (fen).

conditions of good taste as basis for evaluation of analogical reasoning

the conditions for reasonable hyperbole

yang xin, yang wei, yang an

three aspects of intellect: xu (continual power to receive the new), yi (power to receive contraries and consider contradictories), jing (power of clarity)
- emptiness, unity, stillness

arguments in which a starting point that is Diamond requires another thing that is Box

incipit as a kind of Diamond
- in which case the corresponding Box is not-Incipit-not (which is a non-desinit)

'Act only' in an imperative can be interpreted as having 'existential import' or as not.

One violates bodily integrity by treating the body as if it were not the body of a rational being.

"The life of reason is a heritage and exists only through tradition." Santayana

One may love the ideal and still not condemn the actual that fails to meet it, and for good reason.

wisdom, tradition, calculation, and negotiation

mimesis, catharsis, and wonder as political acts

It is a psychological fact that people don't always avoid evitable pain, and, indeed, that they sometimes actively seek it.

dark utopia literature as theodicial
(false utopias are often used to explore why, for instance, free will is valuable enough that it should not be traded for peace, etc.)
-Because they aren't specifically written to be theodicies, they sometimes depend on assumptions that are not nec. theologically relevant. E.g., part of Whedon's Serenity is concerned with lacking wisdom to make that trade-off, and that's not uncommon as a theme. (Whedon's Serenity, however, also suggests a more straightforward free will defense.)

Bayesianism is a theory of analog probability calculators.

the importance of the rationalizable in political negotiation

Contractualism overassimilates ethics to sustainable reasoned discourse.

penance as partly to heal the wounds inflicted on the Church by your sins

the Lucan portrayal of Mary as the foundation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Heart (Cana is the major non-Lucan element in the devotion)

subjective credence, degree of implication (or evidence), objective chance, evaluations of propositions

In the long run, political movements are more likely to be defeated by their own corruption and incompetence than by their opponents.

Political protests are only effective when they establish that you have the power to force a choice between your proposal and something worse. For this, they require a context to which they are appropriate and within which a choice is intelligible.

Property is a defense of dignity; thus its perpetual link to honor and shame.

Tiny steps from the obvious eventually get you far afield.

Roman history as a system of ethico-political cases

planning as concerned with the convergence of the expected and the desired.

In historical reasoning, coincidences are to be expected but mistrusted.

Discussions of moral luck often confuse luck and contingency.

analyzing dialogues in terms of players, payoffs, and strategies

religious vows and priestly celibacy as ways of minimizing conflicts of interest

freedom of thought, limitlessness of inquiry, the Great Coherence

the objective beauty of intelligibility

A real determination of the sense of the people has to take some account of diversity, in particular limiting swamping by a single large subpopulation. But at the same time some consideration must be had for pluralities and majorities.

Punishments in which the state benefits create a conflict of interest by giving the state an economic interest distinct from its interest in public order.

"If you let loose a law, it will do as a dog does. It will obey its own nature, not yours." Chesterton
"There is no trysting place outside of reason; there is no inn on those wild roads that are beyond the world."

Politics is the art of getting people willingly to make sacrifices.

Effective escalation in politics requires overwhelming superiority in force or else extensive alliance-building. Those who escalate without either are incompetent and will be swept aside. Those who cannot do either, however, sometimes find that de-escalation is a more effective, if sometimes more time-consuming, path to victory.

We can surely have existence proofs in ethics analogous to those in mathematics.

'There is nothing' seems clearly to be necessarily false in mathematics. (cp Augustine on this)

The existence of goodness is an obvious candidate for ontological argument; and, in fact, this is historically the origin of ontological arguments.

Brownson on private judgment with sola scriptura: "It subjected me to all the disadvantages of authority without any of its advantages."

"...whenever you and I feel fully sane, we are quite incapable of naming the elements that make up that mysterious simplicity." Chesterton
"The age we live in is something more than an age of superstition -- it is an age of innumerable superstitions."

When a moral principle is not defended, it is forgotten. When it is not discussed, it fades away.

One of the problems with always telling people what they must do is that in every society only the worst people dare to do this consistently. One may firmly believe something is right; one may reasonably hold that it should be encouraged by law, or even that deviation should come with consequences; one may hold that in extreme or in emergency cases people must be made to comply; but in every society only evil people take this as a normal, default path, or treat themselves as having any particular right to do it all the time.

To conceive of punishment as normally a means of forcing compliance is already a corruption.

Could Hume's conception of the 'problem of induction' be influenced by Thucydides -- 'an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must be resemble if it doe snot reflect it'?

intermediary measures (e.g., rates, like speed, link to time measures and space measures, which are not mutually commensurable)

What could possibly be the unit of measure for a 'quantum of happiness'? Degree-seconds per animal?

Correct interpretation starts with being human to oneself and others in the act of interpretation, with being, so to speak, co-human.

Ways and means shape the flow of social order; virtue and honor are the wellspring of order.

As accumulated earth makes a mountain, and accumulated water makes a sea, so accumulated good deeds make moral authority. (cp. Xunzi)

Achieving authority one can achieve steadfastness.

'More probable' in ordinary conversation often means 'more trustworthy for giving you an answer that is largely correct'.

Probability theory in itself is just a mathematics dealing with relations on an interval entirely from 0 inclusive to 1 inclusive; everything else we say about it is an application that must be justified.

What are the conditions for reasonable enforcement of law by the general citizenry rather than by police?

Church and state in society
(1) classical: social institutions properly and in themselves fall under the authority of Church or of state, but not both
(2) glutty: social institutions properly and in themselves fall under the authority of both Church and state
(3) gappy: social institutions properly and in themselves are not strictly under the authority either of the Church or of the state
(4) coincidental; social institutions are properly and in themselves twofold, under each distinctly
(5) eliminativist: there are no real social institutions, just bundles of customs and conventions pertaining to the operations of the Church and the state
- each of these, of course, allows for general and specific forms

kinds of defective causation in testimony
(1) internal distortions (e.g., misinformation)
(2) distortion from internal to channel
(3) distortion from external to channel
(4) distortion in inference and interpretation

God in Whitehead is supreme rhetor.

A politicized civil service is in a pervasive state of conflicts of interest.

inside/outside formulations of CoI
public/private formulations of CoI
safety/risk formulations of CoI

CoI & theology of temptation
(a conflict of interest is indeed an occasion for temptation -- whether a proximate or a remote one)

original sin as the most comprehensive conflict of interest

MacDonald & Norman: primary problem with CoI is not immediate case but precedent

feeling offended vs being offended against

Civil freedom is a system of privileges, protected from external interference, and justified by general benefit.

Fidelissimus ad Mortem

Kováts Mihály was a Hungarian nobleman who became a noted cavalry officer, first in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then in the Prussian cavalry under Frederick the Great. And in 1777 he heard about the American War of Independence, and immediately began preparations to leave for the United States, writing Benjamin Franklin to ask for a letter of recommendation by which he could offer his services to the Congress. He didn't wait for an answer, which is perhaps a good thing; Franklin deliberately sat on Kovats's letter, worried that acting on it would offend potential allies in Europe. He introduced himself to Washington, who was wary of foreign aristocrats and declined at first to give him a commission as a cavalry officer; undeterred, Kovats worked as a recruiting officer for a while. When Congress commissioned a legion under Casimir Pulaski, Pulaski insisted on Kovats's value, and therefore he was named colonel commandant, and put in charge of the training of the cavalry along Hungarian and Prussian lines, which he did very well. Pulaski's Legion was to be somewhat ill-fated; Americans were suspicious in general of the loyalty of foreign officers, the Legion was always short on money, they were ordered here and there without always much reason, their actions were several times ruined by arriving late and thus having to fight on the enemy's terms, and on a march to Charleston, South Carolina, half of them died from smallpox. Their march to Charleston was to help lift the Siege of Charleston, which would be one of the worst defeats suffered by Americans in the entire war. But the tatters of cavalry under Kovats did wonders until, in the final series of engagements, Michael Kovats himself fell on May 11, 1779.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Mothers Tell Us So

Human will and intelligence are in act as soon as the human being exists; personal dignity subsists and cannot be violated in any way whatsoever, nor obstructed in its natural operations. But the baby can certainly be helped to carry out its actions. An infant needs this kind of help, expects it and receives it gratefully -- mothers tell us so....

...Although the condition of babies is mysterious and virtually unknown, I am convinced that human beings use their understanding an will from the very first moments of their existence; babies do indeed consent with all their will, utterly grateful for the loving care given them. I am convinced that they acknowledge the superiority and just dominion exercised over them by those who feed, govern and care for them. Finally, because morality begins with the use of the will at the first moment the human being exists, I am convinced that babies are moral beings....

[Bl. Antonio Rosmini, The Philosophy of Right, Volume 2: Rights of the Individual, Cleary & Watson, trs., Rosmini House (Durham: 1993) pp. 149, 151.]

Monday, May 07, 2018

David Hume

David Home was born on what in the modern calendar is May 7, 1711 to Joseph and Katherine Home; Britain was not on the modern calendar at the time (it switched in his lifetime) so on the 'old style' calendar he was born on April 26. He was born in Edinburgh, although his family actually lived at Ninewells; he was the second son. David never really knew his father, who died when he was one year old. He was a precocious child, and had early admission into the University of Edinburgh. His family expected him to study for law, which he kinda-sorta did, but he never really had an interest; when he was supposed to be reading books on jurisprudence, he read classics. He had significant ambitions, though, and at the age of eighteen began obsessively studying philosophy. This would eventually lead to a serious breakdown in his health. He eventually recovered, to a fair extent, but while he had been a skinny kid before his health problems, he was considerably more weighty afterward. He went Bristol with some recommendation letters in an attempt to find a good mercantile position, but failed to find anything that he though suitable. It is probably about this time, however, in 1734, that he started writing his last name 'Hume' so that the English would pronounce it correctly.

From Bristol, he went to Rheims, and then to La Flèche in France, where the famous Jesuit school was, probably in part to be close to their library. He seems to have loved it; he spent three years there, writing A Treatise of Human Nature, which he published in 1738 after having returned to London. It did not make the major splash that he had hoped. At Ninewells, he started reworking the material into a more popular, essay format, which would eventually, although not immediately, be much more successful. During the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Hume was invited to be the companion of the Marquis of Annandale in England, and spent a year there. In itself this was something of a disaster (the Marquis was mentally disturbed), but connections Hume made during the visit led him to be invited as the secretary of General St. Clair on what was supposed to be an expedition to Canada but which never got further than France; he would soon after be attached to St. Clair for a while in a military embassy to Italy.

On returning from Italy, he continued to write in the essay format, as his works slowly began to pick up interest. It was in 1752, however, that his literary career would take a major turn for improvement, when he was appointed the Librarian for the Faculty of Advocates, which paid very little but gave him full access to the library. From that well he drew much, and began writing his History of England as a study of political factions. Hume's tendency not to modify his historical account to fit standard partisan lines, and in particular his active sympathy for Charles I, shocked a great many people when the first volume came out, but later volumes did quite well, and, indeed, it was primarily his work as a historian that secured Hume's literary reputation both in his lifetime and for a long time afterward.

Having finished the History, and now reasonably well-to-do, he returned to Scotland, expecting to stay there permanently, but he was invited to be secretary to the embassy in Paris. After some reluctance he went -- and discovered what it was like to be a celebrity. Only Laurence Sterne was more popular and more widely lauded. He made many French friends while there. In 1765 he became chargé d'affaires for a brief period, and when the ambassador arrived, he returned to Scotland. Despite his great enjoyment of the French, he seems to have regarded them as a bit much. He was Under-Secretary of the Northern Department for a time, and then spent his last years in Edinburgh. He became quite sick in 1775, and died on August 25, 1776.

Radio Greats: The Brooklyn Brain (2000 Plus)

But Carl, doesn't it give you satisfaction to know that, because of our invention, there is one dog in this city that knows the Einstein theory?

2000 Plus was put out by the Mutual Broadcasting System from March 1950 to January 1952. It was the very first experiment in an attempt to design a science fiction radio program that would appeal to adults. Unlike most other such programs, it used all-original material. The series has not weathered time particularly well; out of eighty-eight episodes, we only even know the titles of less than half, and of those only about half seem to have survived.

It's a pity, because what we do have is quite excellent in quality: good actors, interesting and distinctive stories, and good effects. The series is quite entertaining, which is itself interesting since its stories are usually dystopic and skeptical about technological progress.

Of those I have heard, "The Brooklyn Brain" is far and away the best, and this seems to be a common view among others who have heard episodes from the series. I would go so far as to say that it is perhaps one of the best comic science fiction episodes ever done. It is often hilariously funny.

Joe from Brooklyn is a not-very-bright guy with little education who works in a particularly dull job. He has his eyes set on a girl, Clarice, and has proposed to her, but she's the kind of girl who likes 'culture', as she calls it. So when he discovers an advertisement for an experiment in learning things without teachers and tutors, he writes in. Scientists are going to beam knowledge of art directly into his brain by electric shocks. Everybody involved gets made fun of, from the hapless Joe, to the absurdly pretentious Clarice, to the scientists who are absolutely certain it will work but make transparent excuses for not trying it on themselves.

You can listen to "The Brooklyn Brain" at Internet Archive (#6 on that list).

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Fortnightly Book, May 6

The next several weeks will be quite busy, so a lighter read seems to be in order.

Due to the success of the run of the Lone Ranger, whose television run had begun in 1949, producers cast about for some new variation that would be suitable for television, which was still a fairly new medium. Some science fiction programs -- 2000 Plus on the Mutual Broadcasting System and Dimension X on NBC were the most obvious examples -- had been doing fairly well, so this may have led to the proposal, pitched to Isaac Asimov in 1951, for a science fiction analogue of the Lone Ranger -- a Space Ranger. The idea was to bring out a novel to build up some prior interest and then follow up with a series. Asimov, not much of a fan of what he had seen thus far on television, said he would only do it if he could do it under a pseudonym, and it was agreed. Asimov began writing, using the pseudonym 'Paul French', and finished David Starr: Space Ranger in two months. It was published soon after. The TV series fell through completely (probably because of conflict with another 'space ranger' series, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger), which in Asimov's view was the best possible result. Asimov continued to write in the series. He quickly became tired of writing under a pseudonym; when they were later put out in new editions, he insisted that his real name be on the cover. There are six Lucky Starr books in total:

David Starr: Space Ranger (1952)
Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (1953)
Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (1954)
Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (1956)
Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter (1957)
Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn (1958)

The stories get more obviously Asimovian as time goes by, with typical mysteries and even the Three Laws of Robotics showing up at one point; the tone of the stories also becomes less the Wild-West-in-Space of the first book and more suggestive of Cold War espionage.

The first Asimov works I ever read were the Norby books he wrote with Janet Asimov (Boys' Life had serialized some of the stories in comics form, which had led me to pick up the Norby books), and I enjoyed those enough that I picked up the next Asimov books I could find, which were David Starr: Space Ranger and Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus, after which I read all the rest. Some features of the former, vaguely, and of the latter, vividly, have stuck with me through the years. They are quite solid science fiction adventure stories, and from a unique period, still bearing some of the earlier optimism of science fiction, before it became clear just how utterly hostile most of the planets in the Solar System are for life, that period where Venus would have been a hot, tropical ocean, and Mercury was thought to show one side to the Sun at all times, and the other planets were probably inhabited by some kind of robust life. While Martian canals were regarded skeptically by astronomers, those astronomers had reason to think parts of the Martian surface were covered with something like algae. Asimov seems to have later been a bit embarrassed that these works turned out to be so wrong about the planets, but the stories themselves are probably the better for having been written at a time when everyone was overly optimistic.

So, since I have an omnibus edition, The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr, that will be the next fortnightly book. The entire series has some interesting ideas in common with the Foundation novels and the Robot novels of the 1950s, given some rather different twists; and they are in some ways more fun works, real adventures, that served as the germination grounds for other ideas that Asimov uses in more famous works later.