Saturday, June 23, 2018

Baptismal Obligations

Ireland more and more these days just seems to be thoroughly intellectually bankrupt.

McAleese told the newspaper that by baptizing children before they have reached the age of reason, the Church is creating “infant conscripts who are held to lifelong obligations of obedience.”

“You can’t impose, really, obligations on people who are only two weeks old and you can’t say to them at seven or eight or 14 or 19 ‘here is what you contracted, here is what you signed up to’ because the truth is they didn’t,” she said.

(1) It is extraordinary that someone could say this and not grasp that this would make it impossible to be an Irish citizen, or any other citizen, from birth. (The parallel is in fact quite close, because baptism is not a contract but an initiation into allegiance like citizenship.) Ireland itself imposes obligations like this; it is useless for an Irish nineteen-year-old to protest that Ireland has no authority over him just because he never explicitly contracted to be Irish. One can always repudiate citizenship; but, of course, one can always formally apostatize, as well.

(2) The theory of obligation involved in McAleese's claim is simply incoherent. You can't make contracts without prior obligations imposed by society; these obligations, being presupposed by all contracts, are imposed without contract, and involuntarily. These customary obligations themselves presuppose natural obligations of reason. Some of these obligations, both natural and customary, give parents and others operating in parental capacity a power to impose obligations -- again, obligations imposed by parents on their children are not contracts. In addition, everyone has a natural obligation to draw from the heritage given them by previous generations; this, in and of itself, even with no other consideration, would give reasons at least to respect baptismal obligations, even if there were no other reason, and even if some other obligation interfered, and even if one decided not to regard oneself as strictly obligated by them.

(3) Parentally imposed obligations are particularly relevant, because the authority of the Church to impose obligations is generally seen as a sort of spiritual parenthood.

(4) What, precisely, are baptismal obligations? They are of three kinds:

    (a) natural obligations specified by baptismal context;
    (b) positive obligations received by divine revelation;
    (c) positive obligations imposed by the Church.

The general positive obligations imposed by the Church are what are known as the precepts of the church, and there are somewhere between five and seven of them (depending on how they are broken up). The five you always find are:

1.You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.

2.You shall confess your sins at least once a year.

3.You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least once during the Easter season.

4.You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.

5.You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

Precepts 6 and 7, when they are added to the list, are to observe the laws of Matrimony and to participate in the evangelization of the Church; they are arguably just positive republications of natural or divine obligations. It is generally understood that children, not being in full authority, are not strictly obligated to these (although their parents and godparents have a responsibility to train them to follow them as part of their way of life). What is function of these? It is to outline a minimum participation, and to provide a minimal guideline to the Catholic way of life. Beyond these, all the Church does is give local specifications of these, or certify that other obligations are natural or divine, or exhort to better behavior.

(5) Baptism confers rights in the Church; rights carry with them obligations for their proper exercise and use, just by being rights. If we only had obligations by contract, we'd only have rights by contract. (And, of course, contract rights, like contract obligations, presuppose non-contract rights and obligations.)

(6) The direct implication of McAleese's comment is that the Church has no power to impose law, and thus that canon law is not actually any kind of law. This is somewhat remarkable given that she has written a book on canon law but in fact is exactly in line with other comments she has made about canon law. But the problem is that, if the real problem is very existence of Church law, then it is immensely glib and facile to pretend that it is a simple matter of contract.

McAleese justifies herself the way it has become common to do so, in a vague and uncritical appeal to conscience:

In her interview with the Irish Times, she said, “My human right to inform my own conscience, my human right to express my conscience even if it is the case that it contradicts the magisterium, that right to conscience is supreme.”

The right of a well-formed conscience is supreme; an erroneous conscience, on the other hand, obligates, since that is the function of conscience, but does not itself excuse in any way. Everyone has the natural obligation to educate their conscience properly. Part of educating your conscience properly is recognizing that you have obligations to your parents, your forebears, your nation, and those with whom you are in society, regardless of whether you made an explicit contract to accept such obligations. If you regard yourself as a practicing Catholic and yet regard your conscience as having supreme veto over the practical obligations of being Catholic, the name for that is 'liar'.

George MacKay Brown, Magnus


Opening Passage:

One spring morning all the peasants of Birsay were out on the bishop's land, ploughing behind their oxen.

The land went in a gradual fertile sweep from the hill Revay to the shore of Birsay. Just off the shore of Birsay. Just off the shore was a steep green island, with a church on it, and a little monastery, and a Hall. A sleeve of sea shone between the ploughlands and The Brough of Birsay (as this island was called). Occasionally the peasants could hear the murmur of plainsong from the red cloister. (p. 1)

Summary: Magnus Erlandsson is destined for greatness -- he is one of the candidates for being Earl of Orkney, and even his name signals that he is born to be great. But to be a claimant for the title of Earl of Orkney is to be destined for battle. The King of Norway has a vested interest in keeping the Earls of Orkney weak, and so the claimants for the title are regularly set against each other, leading to a cycle of civil war, which Norway fosters so that it can just as regularly swoop in at the right time to set things right and keep Orkney dependent. Thus it is unsurprising that the King of Norway names both claimants, Magnus and his cousin Hakon, joint Earls; it is unsurprising that, after an initial attempt to work together their unity falls apart and they are at war; and, given that Magnus is a much more peaceable person than Hakon, it is unsurprising that it ends with Magnus's death.

The book is an experimental novel, and thus we don't get a straightforward story of Magnus; we see him at key parts, but much of the book is concerned with others. We get something of how Magnus and Hakon look from the perspective of Mans and Hilda, peasant farmers, and how things look from the traveling tinkers, Jock and Mary. More jarringly we get bits of the story translated to modern journalese and others transposed to World War II. The book, while highly lauded, is usually criticized for the unevenness and visible seams that this approach causes. But in some ways one should read the book less as a straightforward novel and more as a prose poem. This fragmentary approach is really an exploration of how a historical event entirely within time can also be a symbolic and moral event transcending time, and as we approach the event, the Martyrdom of Magnus, the time-blurring and time-shifting of the narrative highlights that we are dealing with something that is not just something that happened once.

The Martyrdom is presented as in some sense a world-shattering event for Norse society. It could look just like a weaker claimant for Earl being outfoxed and destroyed by a stronger one. But it is not so. Scandinavia is in the grip of a notion of Fate, and of resignation to it: the cycles of war are inevitable, the bloodshed inevitable, death inevitable. There seems no way out. The Catholic Scandinavia that is beginning to emerge does not throw this notion out. But, as one of the characters mentions in a letter, "we who stand at the altars of Christ see history across a broken tomb" (p. 31). Fate is not strongest. Fate can have all its sway and still be broken in the end. And it is sacrifice that does it. Magnus is killed in what could very well seem an ordinary political game. The book's fascination with the timelessness of symbolism -- the meaning that rises above the inevitable cycle of things -- is precisely a fascination with how his death is not just a murder but a martyrdom, not just an assassination but an allegory, not just a slaying but a sacrifice. What makes something a timeless event?

One of the more famous time-experiments in the novel blurs together the death of Magnus and that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is not, in itself, particularly plausible -- Bonhoeffer and Magnus are radically different people, and St. Magnus would certainly have been horrified by almost all of Bonhoeffer's theology. But there is at least one point of contact -- I don't know that it's brought out all that successfully in the book, but it does provide something of a tie between the two. One of Bonhoeffer's criticisms was of a 'pious indulgence' that hides from the world rather than engaging it; it withdraws, not to bear the cross but to evade it. One of Magnus's five temptations is precisely this: the Tempter tries to get him to give up the notion of defending his claim -- just let Hakon have the earldom and retire to a monastery, a life he certainly would prefer and that would save a great many lives. It is a temptation that Magnus, at least, must overcome. It is precisely because Magnus does not succomb that his death can be the sacrifice that changes how the Orcadians see the world, so that the cycle of war changes and a people that has become blind to higher things recapture -- however ungratefully -- something of their sight. Magnus was not called to the monastery, which for him would have been but a pious indulgence to evade the cross; he was called to be a saint in the midst of the muddy and bloody and sometimes impossible situations of the world.

Favorite Passage:

...A certain king made a marriage feast. 'Magnus, thou art bidden now to the marriage.' ... 'No, but I cannot come, for that I am myself to be a bridegroom soon.' ... 'Magnus, thou art bidden to the marriage feast of Christ with his church.' ... 'No, but I cannot come, for that I have to study statecraft and the duties of a ruler; but I wish well to the ceremony and the guests.' ... 'Magnus, thou art summoned.' ... 'No, but I have no suitable clothes to put on. See what I wear on my body -- a garment scorched and stained with the burnings of desire.' ... 'Magnus, there is a coat being woven for thee for the wedding. I have told thee.' (p. 56)

Recommendation: Recommended.


George MacKay Brown, Magnus, Polygon (Edinburgh: 2008).

Scottish Poetry XXIII

A Song
by Charlotte Lennox

In Vain I strive with Female Art
To hide the Motions of my Heart;
My Eyes my secret Flame declare,
And Damon reads his Triumph there.

When from his fond, his ardent Gaze,
With Frowns I turn aside my Face;
My Cheeks with conscious Blushes glow,
And all my Soul's Disorder show.

Or when with seeming Scorn I hear
The Youth his tender Vows prefer;
From my fond Breast reluctant steals
A Sigh, and all the Truth reveals.

Oh Love, all-powerful o'er the Mind,
Art thou to rigid rules confin'd?
And must the Heart that owns thy Sway,
That Tyrant Customs' Laws obey?

Oh! Let me break the cruel Chain,
And freely own my tender Pain:
By harsh Restraint no longer sway'd,
Confirm whate'er my Eyes have said.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Dashed Off XIV

a possibility: every argument against empiricism can be adapted to some kind of argument for God's existence.
- note, of course, that some counterarguments to arguments against empiricism are theistic (for instance, against 'miracle' arguments); thus there are two directions here -- empiricism-preserving and empiricism-rejecting. How are they related?

a possibility: every argument against innate ideas can be converted to an argument for the existence of the external world.
- a possible counterexample: Locke's unconscious proposition argument

man is the measure of all: Theaetetus 152a2-3
sage is the measure of all: Theaetetus 179b2
God is the measure of all: Laws 716c4-6

Dance is more like vocabulary-making than proposition-stating. (The same can be said of music.) It is the creation of something that can be a metaphor.

The expressiveness of dance is connected to, and an extension of, the natural expressiveness of the body.

Doubt is something that only arises socially.

being puzzled vs doubting

Many studies of belief are in fact studies of rhetorical commitment.

Arguments for God's existence in the ancient world tend to be intersubjective; in the medieval world tend to be objective; and in the modern world tend to be subjective. This may in part be due to general ambience, but also may be due in part to major doctrinal sources/models -- legislators in Greece and Rome, Aristotle in medieval Europe, and Descartes in modern Europe.

practicing disciplina arcani with ourselves

empiricism's Box problem

The starting points of reason must be both rational and natural. The temptation to avoid is trying to split the rational and the natural, as if the former were always arbitrary/artificial and the latter always arational.

Idea: eclecticism :: Energy : systematicism :: Power : ?
- perhaps more occasional approaches

It is the consistent view of the Fathers that monasticism is a philosophical movement in the Church, concerned with moral truth and proceeding by practice rather than by argument.

nature having determined us to judge -> principles of reason

Explanation is always the identification of some kind of whole for a part. Finding evidence is always th eidentification of some kind of part for a whole.

Contracts are legislation by the people.

voluntary associations as key to self-governance

verbal pauses as 'still talking' markers

just war criteria applied to evaluation of legislation and regulation (esp. burdensome legislation and regulation)

It is impossible to pray without ceasing except by having charity.

rahamim & Toledo's 'womb of the Father'

It makes very little sense to separate the ministry of lectors from the ministry of catechesis.

The writings of the apostles were but one part of the work of the apostles.

Gentile's paradox of education is derived from Fichte.

In general we assume a 'translative invariance' of sorts between arguments when they pass from person to person. Because arguments do not float in hermetically sealed groups, this invariance cannot, in fact, always be guaranteed (e.g., meaning of terms may shift due to differences in background assumptions). Part of the issue, too, is that arguments do not actually move between people; we are really talking about one person constructing an argument in some ways isomorphic to the argument constructed by another person.

Virtue should be glorified, but whenever there is a vocabulary glorifying virtue, there are always people more interested in the glory than the virtue.

traditionalism as linguistic (semiotic) rationalism
rationalism: (1) strong, by pure reason; (2) weak, by reason using signs.
The difficulty with a semiotic or weak rationalism is walking the line so that it does not simply collapse into strong rationalism on the one side and empiricism on the other.

Eucharist as epiousios: (1) what is needed in order to be; (2) for what is to come

The unconditioned totality of the object of pure practical reason can only be good itself; harmony of happiness (in the sense of reward) with virtue can only be a sign of this.

We have a natural responsibility to contribute in such a way as we can to the harmony of happiness (in the sense of reward) and virtue. This can only be by temperance, by customary dealings, and by law.

A possibility for Kant: The higest good, qua harmony of happiness and virtue, is built already into the categorical imperative; this is brought out by the law of nature formulation, in which, effectively, we are willing a world (including a distribution of worth and happiness) -- What is willed as universal law is part of what is required for that harmony. NB that in CPR Kant introduces the notion of a highest good through the notion of a moral world: conformity with all moral laws (cp again the law of nature formulation) in which virtuous agents form a corpus mysticum (cp. kingdom of ends formulation) [A808/B836]

Justifying faith is faith in Christ, not in one's own redemption.

Repentance without self-denial is not real repentance; repentance involves unlearning false loves.

People do not just want to have good in life; they wish to have a development of good throughout life.

War is rooted in desire for more.

The structure of algebra, in practice, derives from that of writing, as the structure of geometry from drawing. In neither case is the field tied to that, but it is anchored to it -- it is our 'in' and our check, the way we use a kind of order to guide us in dealing with very abstract ideas.

formal cause as internal method

pregnancy as the basic act of trust in a society (receiving trust, being trusted, trusting, striving to be trustworthy)

Writing requires not only speech and the recognition of speech as speech, but also the recognition of memory of speech and of instruments of memory.

Liberalism easily tends to the weaponization of language where there is power imbalance.

Factional politics is in practice an endless pursuit of excuses for doing what one already wishes to do.

We test whether ideas are clear and distinct by using maximal propositions.

Rule of law and respect for citizens qua citizens are two aspects of one thing.

Christ's Passion as pledge, means, and price

Fitch's paradox for visibility

An army without discipline is easily routed and a church without discipline is easily corrupted.

the 'age of reason' as the threshold of sophistication for being complicit in one's own temptation (no longer merely led wrong by extrinsic reasons but letting oneself by led wrong)

The principle of sanctuary served to drive wrongdoers to places concerned with reformation.

The temporal punishment of a sin is primarily the withholding of graces beyond the essential; where appropriate to the sin it may also include the burdensome consequences of the sin, and where appropriate to the sin or to the good of the whole it may include withholding, at least temporarily, of graces essential to salvation.

The grace of final perseverance is merited only by continual prayer in the Holy Spirit.

prevenient pleasure of X as a taste for X

apostolicity Anglo-Catholics, catholicity Anglo-Catholics, perhaps also sanctity Anglo-Catholics
- Newman was an apAC, Ward a cathAC. Newman, looking at the history of the Church, found that a lot looked Catholic and ultimately Roman Catholic, while Ward, looking at the 'whole Church', found that the Roman Catholics did some things better than C of E, even by C of E professed standards.

It is generally assumed that early diversity is a sign that a practice is not of Apostolic institution, but this involves a certain ambiguity. Every Apostle had the authority to institute practices, and some of these may have been particular institutions for particular cases. That is, 'Apostolic' can mean 'instituted by an Apostle' or 'instituted by all the Apostles'. Both are authoritative, but early diversity is only an argument against the latter.

Acts 10:$ & fitness to receive grace

varieties of traditionary argument for theism
(1) deficiency of empiricism: (a) ideas of infinity, necessity, etc.; (b) truths of history; (c) morality
(2) necessity of language: (a) for understanding; (b) for communication
(3) need for teaching
(4) result: (a) language as such; (b) some forms of language
Note that you can run a traditionary argument for Scriptural revelation, Church, etc.; these will be of varying quality given the differences in strength of the relevant deficiency of empiricism argument

the mutation objection to the traditionary argument: rejection of the need for teaching step: While the usual course that explains is teaching (inheritance), it can also arise through random variation.
-The strength of the mutation objection is that it fits some appearances and hits the traditionary argument at a point tricky for the latter: diversity of languages.
- obviously the next question is: What what would the mechanism of such variation be?
- and note that the objection requires that the potential already be there, thus setting up questions like infinite intelligible. May not address language issue directly, but only move from palaetiological to exemplary/Platonic.
- The issue is in part that any deficiency of empiricism argument raises problems for mutation objection -- empirical and selectional explanations are analogous in structure, and the question is how finite mechanisms yield knowledge of the infinite, etc. So if we keep def-emp, mut-obj seems to push us to strong rationalism.
- NB that the cause of the mutation would in this context *need* to be specified.

Arguments for rationalism cause problems for design arguments (although not necessarily fatal ones) -- they show that such arguments only get to indefinite attributes, not infinite ones. (Humean arguments from evil are concessions of this, which raises interesting questions of its own.)

Probability theory (PT) is not powerful enough to capture all evidential relations.
(1) PT is an extension of propositional calculus. It does not extend predicate calculus or many other of the more powerful logical systems. But these logical systems capture evidential features propositional logic cannot, and in ways unaffected by PT's extension.
(2) PT requires adequate information and perfect precision (else axioms fail). But we can reason evidentially without these.
(3) To determine how the real world should be interpreted probabilistically already requires evidential reasoning.
(4) A close look at attempts to show that PT covers all evidential relations shows that they very often use PT + other things, and the other things are often doing the most important work.

It is essential to the nature of philosophy both to recognize that wisdom is better than philosophy and that philosophy is our way of partaking of wisdom.

a term as a relevance and its expectancies

'A dyad of earth, etc., has a maker because it is an effect, as with a pot.' (The Manual of Reason)
Dharmakirti's objection: an ant-hill (arises from collective operation)
Dharmakirti's restriction: we can infer a maker only when we have seen other things of teh same kind being made.
(Obviously it all depends on what is meant by 'same kind'.)

Peirce (EP2: 241): elements of concepts enter at the gate of perception and leave at the gate of purposive action -- Thus concepts are a sort of teleologizing of sensory experience, and conceptulaization is itself teleological in character.

- a reading of pragmatism as a theory of classification (rather than truth or belief as such)

By rejecting the method of tenacity, Peirce is also in a sense rejecting a 'natural selection' theory of belief-fixing.

Scottish Poetry XXII

Gude Nicht, and Joy Be Wi' Ye A'
by Carolina Oliphant

The best o' joys maun hae an end,
The best o' friends maun part, I trow;
The langest day will wear away,
And I maun bid fareweel to you.
The tear will tell when hearts are fu';
For words, gin they hae sense ava,
They're broken, faltering, and few;
Gude nicht, and joy be wi' you a'.

O we hae wandered far and wide,
O'er Scotia's lands o' firth and fell,
And mony a simple flower we've pu'd,
And twined it wi' the heather bell.
We've ranged the dingle and the dell,
The cot-house and the baron's ha';
Now we maun tak' a last farewell,
Gude nicht, and joy be wi' you a'.

My harp, fareweel, thy strains are past,
Of gleefu' mirth, and heartfelt wae;
The voice of song maun cease at last,
And minstrelsy itsel' decay.
But, oh! whare sorrow canna win,
Nor parting tears are shed ava,
May we meet neighbour, kith and kin,
And joy for aye be wi' us a'!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Augustine and Aristotle's Categories

Fred Sanders has a nice post on a passage in Augustine's De Trinitate V about how God should be understood, whose Latin he provides:

sine qualitate bonum,
sine quantitate magnum,
sine indigentia creatorem,
sine situ praesentem,
sine habitu omnia continentem,
sine loco ubique totum,
sine tempore sempiternum,
sine ulla sui mutatione mutabilia facientem,
nihilque patientem.

As he notes, Augustine is going through Aristotle's categories: God is to be understood as good (without quality), great (without quantity), creator (without need), present (without position), containing all (without having), wholly everywhere (without place), sempiternal (without time), acting on changeable things (without being changed), in no way affected. Thus Augustine is saying that God transcends the categories.

It's noteworthy, though, that Augustine does not here mention the category of substance, and he mentions only part of the category of relation or relatedness (instead of mentioning relatedness as such, he mentions indigentia, need or lack). This can scarcely be an accident; a significant portion of the De Trinitate is concerned with how substance and relation terms apply to God, since you need those kinds of words to talk about the Trinity. (He does not, of course, think they apply to God in the way they apply to creatures, which is why he has to discuss them at such length.)

This is not the only passage in which Augustine talks about the categories; the topic comes up in his Confessions (Book IV, Chapter XVI), as well:

And what did it profit me that, when scarce twenty years old, a book of Aristotle's, entitled The Ten Predicaments, fell into my hands — on whose very name I hung as on something great and divine, when my rhetoric master of Carthage, and others who were esteemed learned, referred to it with cheeks swelling with pride — I read it alone and understood it? And on my conferring with others, who said that with the assistance of very able masters — who not only explained it orally, but drew many things in the dust — they scarcely understood it, and could tell me no more about it than I had acquired in reading it by myself alone? And the book appeared to me to speak plainly enough of substances, such as man is, and of their qualities, — such as the figure of a man, of what kind it is; and his stature, how many feet high; and his relationship, whose brother he is; or where placed, or when born; or whether he stands or sits, or is shod or armed, or does or suffers anything; and whatever innumerable things might be classed under these nine categories, — of which I have given some examples — or under that chief category of substance.

Here we learn that, at about the age of 20, Augustine read (in Latin translation, probably that of Marius Victorinus) Aristotle's Categories themselves, and that despite being warned that it was a difficult book, thought it was fairly straightforward and obvious. The book has some significance for Augustine's theology, as he goes on to say:

What did all this profit me, seeing it even hindered me, when, imagining that whatsoever existed was comprehended in those ten categories, I tried so to understand, O my God, Your wonderful and unchangeable unity as if Thou also had been subjected to Your own greatness or beauty, so that they should exist in You as their subject, like as in bodies, whereas You Yourself art Your greatness and beauty? But a body is not great or fair because it is a body, seeing that, though it were less great or fair, it should nevertheless be a body. But that which I had conceived of You was falsehood, not truth — fictions of my misery, not the supports of Your blessedness.

Augustine, of course, tells us elsewhere that he had difficulty overcoming the idea that God is a like a body, and this gives one way in which he did have this difficult -- thinking that everything fell under the categories, he tended to think about God as if God were a subject that participated in goodness, greatness, etc., rather than being good and great simply by being God.

Scottish Poetry XXI

To Dr. Samuel Johnson
...-Food for a New Edition of His Dictionary
by Robert Fergusson

    Let Wilkes and Churchill rage no more,
    Though scarce provision, learning's good:
    What can these hungries next explore?
    Even Samuel Johnson loves our food.

Great pedagogue whose literarian lore,
With syllable on syllable conjoin'd,
To transmutate and varify, hast learn’d
The whole revolving scientific names
That in the alphabetic columns lie,
Far from the knowledge of mortalic shapes;
As we, who never can peroculate
The miracles by thee miraculiz’d,
The Muse, silential long, with mouth apert,
Would give vibration to stagnatic tongue,
And loud encomiate thy puissant name,
Eulogiated from the green decline
Of Thames's banks to Scoticanian shores,
Where Lochlomondian liquids undulize.

To meminate thy name in after times,
The mighty mayor of each regalian town
Shall consignate thy work to parchment fair
In roll burgharian, and their tables all
Shall fumigate with fumigation strong:
Scotland, from perpendicularian hills,
Shall emigrate her fair muttonian store,
Which late had there in pedestration walk'd,
And o'er her airy heights perambuliz'd.

Oh, blackest execrations on thy head,
Edina shameless| Though he came within
The bounds of your notation; though you knew
His honorific name; you noted not,
But basely suffer'd him to chariotize
Far from your towers with smoke that nubilate,
Nor drank one amicitial swelling cup
To welcome him convivial. Bailies all!
With rage inflated, catenations tear,
Nor ever after be you vinculiz'd,
Since you that sociability denied
To him whose potent lexiphanian style
Words can prolongate, and inswell his page
With what in others to a line's confin'd.

Welcome, thou verbal potentate and prince!
To hills and valleys, where emerging oats
From earth assuage our pauperty to bay,
And bless thy name, thy dictionarian skill,
Which there definitive will still remain,
And oft be speculiz’d by taper blue,
While youth studentious turn thy folio page.

Have you, as yet, in per'patetic mood,
Regarded with the texture of the eye
The cave cavernic, where fraternal bard,
Churchill, depicted pauperated swains
With thraldom and bleak want reducted sore;
Where nature, colouriz'd, so coarsely fades,
And puts her russet par’phernalia on?
Have you, as yet, the way explorified
To let lignarian chalice, swell'd with oats,
Thy orifice approach P Have you, as yet,
With skin fresh rubified with scarlet spheres,
Applied brimstonic unction to your hide,
To terrify the salamandrian fire
That from involuntary digits asks
The strong allaceration?–Or can you swill
The usquebalian flames of whisky blue
In fermentation strong? Have you applied
The kilt aerian to your Anglian thighs,
And with renunciation assigniz'd
Your breeches in Londona to be worn?
Can you, in frigour of Highlandian sky,
On heathy summits take nocturnal rest? o
It cannot be :—You may as well desire
An alderman leave plumpuddenian store,
And scratch the tegument from pottage dish,
As bid thy countrymen, and thee, conjoin'd,
Forsake stomachic joys. Then hie you home,
And be a malcontent, that naked hinds,
On lentiles fed, could make your kingdom quake,
And tremulate Old England libertiz'd!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Scottish Poetry XX

by Alexander Anderson

In my boyhood time long years ago,
When life was half divine,
I read, with a horror you may not know,
The story of Frankenstein—

That student wild and deep who wrought
Alone in his silent room,
Till the monster-man of his midnight thought
Took shape in the ghostly gloom.

Then when life woke up in each heavy limb,
And the pulses began to play,
And its dull, blank eyes open'd up on him,
He rush'd from his work away.

But still through his life, when Hope held high
Her cup full to the brim,
The demon whose life was his came by
And dash'd the bliss from him.

Ah! fearful story it was and seem'd
To wear little purpose then;
But its deeper truths have upon me gleam'd
Since I look'd as a man on men.

For still in the hurry and fret of life,
When I see the brow bent down,
And the hand stretch'd out for the straws of strife,
Instead of the golden crown,

Then I whisper—Here is one who moulds
In his heart, and knows it not,
A monster that yet will burst its folds,
And haunt him from spot to spot—

Haunt him till life's frail powers grow weak,
And the hopes we keep to cheer
Turn away from the deathlike brow and cheek,
And come no more anear.

Ah me ! what wisdom this might teach,
If we lent but our ear and will;
What inward things would rise up and preach,
For our better guidance still!

But this working world rolls on, and we shape
All things but the high divine;
And still, far down in our heart, we ape
The story of Frankenstein.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Inquiry and Metaphor

I previously noted problems with a version of Howard-Snyder's "Panmetaphoricism" (the final version of which is here), namely, that his criticism of the position seems to depend on an absolutely untenable theory of metaphor. His objection is very much like taking "Medieval Latin can only talk about black holes metaphorically" to be self-refuting; it manifestly is not. Black holes and their distinctive properties are simply not envisaged in the vocabulary of medieval Latin as standard meanings. One can talk about black holes in medieval Latin, of course; one would have to do what we in fact do in colloquial modern English, namely, use metaphors. Howard-Snyder consistently makes a mistake (it is a common one) of thinking that 'literally' and 'really' are synonyms, which they are not if we are talking about the distinction between the literal and the figurative. 'Literal' applies to how we are using words; it does not have any special alethic or ontological status.

But I want to look at a slightly different (although related) issue here. Howard-Snyder says:

We wonder why water moves downhill, speaking literally. We are told that it seeks the lowest point it can find. That might be a start at gaining understanding, but we should not be satisfied. Why? Because water does not ‘seek’ the lowest point it can ‘find’, speaking literally. Those are metaphors. We want more. Fully successful metaphysical enquiry–in theology as elsewhere –ultimately demands the stone-cold sober truth, spoken literally.

This claim that Fully successful metaphysical enquiry ultimately demands to be expressed literally is one that I suspect has a lot of plausibility to people. However, I think one should ask what this 'demand' is. And I think when one does, one finds that the claim is probably not true. I mean, Howard-Snyder can't even formulate it without doing so metaphorically; 'stone-cold sober' is a metaphor when applied to truth, as is 'ultimately demands'. His own principle would require us not to be satisfied with this characterization.

The real reason why 'water seeks the lowest point it can find' is not completely satisfying is that it only improves on 'water moves downhill' by clarifying that water's moving downhill is not a matter of chance but due to something about water itself. It does not tell us anything else about this something-about-water-itself; 'the lowest point' is arguably nothing more than a minor clarification about what we take the direction 'downhill' to mean, i.e., toward the lowest point. There is obviously a lot of room for more specification here, and that is what leaves us unsatisfied -- we haven't moved very far in the inquiry. Our next question would be something like 'what is involved in this seeking', but this is not due to its being metaphorical. Suppose the claim had instead been, 'Water is such that it flows coherently in the direction of the lowest point'; we would still want to know exactly the same thing, namely, what is involved in this flowing-coherently-in-a-direction? What's unsatisfying is that there is still obviously so much to know. It has nothing to do with the language in which we are expressing it. A physicist can perfectly well use 'black hole' to describe black holes, even in a fully rigorous and precise discussion of black holes, despite the fact that 'black hole' is a metaphor. His discussion will not be less satisfying merely because he didn't use a more literal expression. One notices, in fact, that physics gets more metaphorical the more rigorous it gets, as long as they are not simply speaking in equations. This is because the metaphors actually have a use in helping to describe things rigorously when our vocabulary is limited. If you look at other fields -- ethics, even mathematics, one finds a similar process. There is no reason to think this will not be generally true.

In any case, there is a straightforward reason to reject the claim that fully successful metaphysical enquiry ultimately must be expressed literally. The distinction between literal and figurative is entirely an artifact of how we set up our vocabulary. We see this with dead metaphors. 'Black hole' is metaphorical to us; but a hundred years from now, people might use 'blackhole' to describe the same thing and not see the metaphorical components; to them it could well be just the word for a black hole, and not convey any notion of 'hole that is black'. One also sees in history cases of fluctuation -- 'light' is perhaps one of the most important examples, since the word (and its cognates in other languages) has wavered all over the place. Is it a metaphor to call reason 'light'? Well, if you mean by 'light' primarily sensible, physical light, then obviously it would have to be; but the word 'light' has not always been taken so narrowly, and if you take it to mean 'source of action that makes something evident', which it has often meant, then calling reason 'light' is not a metaphor. And as it turns out, nothing fundamental hangs on the difference; 'light' (and its cognates) has applied to essentially the same things for centuries regardless of whether we were taking it literally or metaphorically. You can say the same things about the same things, as long as you are consistent. Indeed, unless you are actually talking about the meaning of the word itself, there needn't be any difference in the words you use. This all follows because the literal/figurative distinction is a distinction in how we are using words; and nothing is really harmed as long as we aren't switching back and forth.

The Notes that Men Have Sung Going to Valorous Deeds

Happy Juneteenth!

O Black and Unknown Bards
by James Weldon Johnson

O black and unknown bards of long ago,
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel’s lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long,
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?

Heart of what slave poured out such melody
As “Steal away to Jesus”? On its strains
His spirit must have nightly floated free,
Though still about his hands he felt his chains.
Who heard great “Jordan roll”? Whose starward eye
Saw chariot “swing low”? And who was he
That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
“Nobody knows de trouble I see”?

What merely living clod, what captive thing,
Could up toward God through all its darkness grope,
And find within its deadened heart to sing
These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope?
How did it catch that subtle undertone,
That note in music heard not with the ears?
How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown,
Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears.

Not that great German master in his dream
Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars
At the creation, ever heard a theme
Nobler than “Go down, Moses.” Mark its bars
How like a mighty trumpet-call they stir
The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung
Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were
That helped make history when Time was young.

There is a wide, wide wonder in it all,
That from degraded rest and servile toil
The fiery spirit of the seer should call
These simple children of the sun and soil.
O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed,
You—you alone, of all the long, long line
Of those who’ve sung untaught, unknown, unnamed,
Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine.

You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings;
No chant of bloody war, no exulting pean
Of arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings
You touched in chord with music empyrean.
You sang far better than you knew; the songs
That for your listeners’ hungry hearts sufficed
Still live,—but more than this to you belongs:
You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ.

Scottish Poetry XIX

O, Summer Day
by Alexander Anderson

Summer day, pour down your love,
That I may idly lie
And watch the happy clouds that move—
The Mercuries of the sky;

Who, sent by God on some sweet task,
Will loiter on their way,
As if they gently paused to ask
His sanction to their stay.

I hear the birds—I see the flowers
From their cool places peep,
And odorous as the purple hours
That hush the sun asleep.

I hear each breathing of the wind,
Each whisper of the tree,
That, taller than its branchy kind,
Bows down and speaks to me.

A languor creeps throughout my blood,
Whose happy workings move
The heart to its sublimest mood
Of all-embracing love.

I feel no idle purpose roll
Its restless freak in me;
But one vast wish to shoot my soul
Through everything I see,

And be a part of this sweet light
That warms the breathing day;
To sink from aught of mortal sight,
And dream myself from clay.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Scottish Poetry XVIII

A Thanksgiving
by George MacDonald

I Thank Thee, boundless Giver,
That the thoughts Thou givest flow
In sounds that like a river
All through the darkness go.

And though few should swell the pleasure,
By sharing this my wine,
My heart will clasp its treasure,
This secret gift of Thine.

My heart the joy inherits,
And will oft be sung to rest;
And some wandering hoping spirits
May listen and be blest.

For the sound may break the hours
In a dark and gloomy mood,
As the wind breaks up the bowers
Of the brooding sunless wood.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Scottish Poetry XVII

When Truth and Humanity
by Robert Allan

When truth and humanity hang on the lip,
To give and to take—what a treasure I
As the bee on the flower, there I ever could sip,
And bask in the sunshine of pleasure.

'Tis ever a sunshine with virtue and love,
Giving life and delight to the bosom;
These are banquets here spread by the spirits above,
Fair flowerets, for ever in blossom.

Yes, life is a sunshine—a world of flowers,
If mortals would please so to make it;
From her horn Nature freely her benison pours,
And gives all a welcome to take it.

Away, then! ye fools and ye bigots, away!
And drink of your gall and your bitters:
If Reason's bright mandate you will not obey,
Leave the world alone to your betters.