Saturday, July 14, 2018

Evening Note for Saturday, July 14

Thought for the Evening: Humanitarian Traditions

Consider the peculiar character of medicine. Medicine as we find it is not merely a skill, like plumbing; there are in fact a great many medical skills. It is not merely a profession, although there are medical professions -- but there are, in fact, many medical professions, each with their distinctive features. Despite this plurality, medicine is quite unified. Medicine is generally seen as heavily devoted to the human person, and as tied up in treating human persons with justice and compassion; it is very natural to talk about human dignity in a medical context. Medical professionals are regularly seen as engaged in a service, not merely to clients or customers, but to humanity in general as well. And this is something that is handed down, first, in the fact that there is a significant apprenticeship component to much of medicine, in the form of bone-wearying internships and more experienced practitioners guiding less experience practitioners, and, second, in the symbolic act, very common, of passing down the Hippocratic Oath, either fully, or just in the general, but explicit, expectation of being guided by 'Do No Harm'.

Medicine cannot be adequately understood unless it is seen as a tradition. It is something handed down, and it has been handed down in one form or another for a very long time. This handing-down of medicine is tied up with the handing-down of skills, of responsibilities, of ethical subtraditions. But it's not just any kind of tradition. It is particularly focused on upholding human life, not just barely, but as human. Thus we can call it a humanitarian tradition.

Medicine is not the only humanitarian tradition, although it is easily the one that is most obviously both traditional in character and humanitarian in focus. Two fields that obviously also function as humanitarian traditions in this way are law and ministry. They are very different from both medicine and each other; traditions do not fit exact templates because they are organically grown rather than artificially built. But humanitarian traditions tend to have certain kinds of features. A few that come to mind:

(1) They all are concerned in some sense with helping people precisely because they are people, and thus are concerned with some facet or other of human dignity.

(2) They are intrinsically traditional -- because they deal directly with human beings, and all sorts of ethical issues, they have to be handed down, from more experienced to less experienced, in such a way that the less experienced can develop not just the knowledge but the practical skills required.

(3) They always and everywhere exhibit an ethical component; but this ethical component is not a set of general ethical principles but is specifically developed in response to the historic problems that the tradition has faced.

(4) Part of their ethical component is the development of what might be called deferential responsibilities to those affected by their skills. A doctor cannot do whatever he pleases; he has to work with the patient, and ultimately defer to the patient as the primary decision-maker. A lawyer has to do something roughly analogous with the client; and rabbis, priests, and pastors, all in different ways given religious differences, have to do similar things with those who come to them for help.

(5) Since helping people requires communication, and deferential responsibilities require that the participants in a humanitarian tradition work to protect those they are helping, they develop traditions of privileged communication. There are things you cannot divulge without the permission of the person you are helping. Exactly what this means will vary a bit depending on the nature of the tradition, but doctors have doctor-patient confidentiality, lawyers have legal professional privilege. Catholic priests have a complicated mix: pastoral confidentiality (which is a lot like doctor-patient confidentiality, although less rigorous), the pontifical secret (which is the canon law version of legal professional privilege, although it covers a lot more), and the seal of the confessional (which is distinctive to the priesthood).

(6) Because the tradition is seen as one of helping people there is a widespread cultivation of opportunities for work pro bono publico, either in the strict sense of unpaid professional work, or in the looser sense of accommodating the public being served in time, money, and the like.

(7) As traditions, they tend to develop specific forms of etiquette devoted to making it easier to work together in some kind of common cause, which, as they spawn particular professions, translate into various forms of professional courtesy.

Medicine, law, and the various forms of ministry tend to be quite stable as humanitarian traditions, but I think there are a lot of cases where a field might be a humanitarian tradition in some cultures and not in others, or that might have most of the materials for a humanitarian tradition but are not currently operating as one (e.g., they may once have been, but have drifted from either traditionary means or humanitarian concerns). Being a citizen, or a politician, or a teacher, may itself be a humanitarian tradition in one culture and nothing more than a formality or a career in another.

I think humanitarian traditions are quite important, because there is a good argument that they are the most healthy breeding grounds for ethical ideas. That they are breeding grounds for ethical ideas is easy enough to establish; lots and lots of our ethical ideas can be traced back historically to medicine, or to law, or to pastoral work. This is because all of these are constantly dealing with real problems of ethical importance, and have had to work out practical solutions to those problems, solutions that are often ingenious and well-adapted to the problems they are trying to solve. (The history of the concept of triage is an excellent example.) And this very practical element is also why the ideas developed tend to be more healthy contexts for development than, say, the brain of an academic in an office, as long as the practical element maintains the concern with people. This, of course, is not to say that every such idea is a good one, or that they will always be thought through. A lot of the ethical ideas that tumble around in medicine, law, or pastoral ministry are pretty obviously rigged together out of whatever was at hand. They can be distorted by cultural forces like anything else. But over time they are refined and given new forms and adapted, and, after all this tumbling, what went in as a rough stone comes out as a gem. And the results are often more creative and adapted to their situations than the ideas of any one person can have been.

It's also the case, I think, that humanitarian traditions are the major mediators of higher-level ethical concepts, and for related reasons. If you say that someone has a right to liberty, and leave it there, it's very difficult to say what that really involves in practice. To understand the right, you have to start working through how it applies to real-world problems. Thus, for instance, talk of human rights is almost useless on its own, despite the importance of what is being discussed; much of what we practically understand about human rights has been worked out cooperatively by various kinds of law professionals drawing on legal history and trying to solve specific problems. If, for instance, you are lawyers interested in upholding the people of your society as a free people, saying they have a 'right to liberty' doesn't do anything for you but set the kind of problem you are working on. You have to translate this into actual institutional and procedural processes -- things like 'relevant authority' or 'due process' -- and work out what is relevant for these particular cases, sometimes by just estimating from prior attempts and experience. As a lawyer you have to settle not just for what you are trying to get, as if the practice of law were nothing but hoping that justice would be served; you have to think about the how. It's not much use to talk about rights, or, indeed, many other ethical concepts, unless you have humanitarian traditions applying them, specifying them, and developing them. In a sense, humanitarian traditions are the only things big enough and rich enough to do any of these three things adequately.

Various Links of Interest

* Frederick Douglass's novella, The Heroic Slave

* Monwhea Jeng on the Mpemba effect -- the phenomenon of hot water freezing more quickly than cold water, which has been noted since Aristotle. It fell off the scientific radar, but continued to be a part of folklore until about fifty years ago when a Tanzanian high school student, Mpemba, kept puzzling about it and convinced a skeptical physicist to try the experiment, which, to the physicist's surprise, showed the phenomenon to be real. ('Antiperistasis', which the essay attributes to Aristotle is a word that is used by Aristotle to mean something different; the use of the term to mean the intensification of a quality when opposed by a contrary is, I think, primarily seventeenth-century.) But still nobody knows for sure what the cause of the effect is; all the theories so far proposed explain some, but only some, of the variations on the phenomenon.

* A look at some of the difficulties in translating Sun Tzu.

* Adam Young, Stalin's Political Pilgrims

* Varlam Shalamov, Forty-Five Things I Learned in the Gulag

* Steven Nemes and Jordan Wessling, The Medicine which Heals the World: Praying for Salvation with Catherine of Siena

* Colin Chamberlain, Our Bodies, Our Selves: Malebranche on the Feelings of Embodiment

Currently Reading

Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery
Antonio Rosmini, Rights in God's Church
Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel
Reginald Lynch, OP, The Cleansing of the Heart
Edmund Husserl, Ideas
Jules Verne, North Against South

To the Rice-Swamp Dank and Lone

The Farewell
Of a Virginia Slave Mother to Her Daughters,
Sold into Southern Bondage
by John Greenleaf Whittier

Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
Where the slave-whip ceaseless swings,
Where the noisome insect stings,
Where the Fever Demon strews
Poison with the falling dews.
Where the sickly sunbeams glare
Through the hot and misty air,
Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia's hills and waters,
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!

Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
There no mother's eye is near them,
There no mother's ear can hear them;
Never, when the torturing lash
Seams their back with many a gash,
Shall a mother's kindness bless them,
Or a mother's arms caress them.
Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia's hills and waters,
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!

Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
Oh, when weary, sad, and slow,
From the fields at night they go,
Faint with toil, and rack'd with pain,
To their cheerless homes again—
There no brother's voice shall greet them—
There no father's welcome meet them.
Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia's hills and waters,
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!

Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
From the tree whose shadow lay
On their childhood's place of play—
From the cool spring where they drank—
Rock, and hill, and rivulet bank—
From the solemn house of prayer,
And the holy counsels there—
Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia's hills and waters,
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!

Gone, gone—-sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone
Toiling through the weary day,
And at night the Spoiler's prey.
Oh, that they had earlier died,
Sleeping calmly, side by side,
Where the tyrant's power is o'er
And the fetter galls no more!
Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia's hills and waters,
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!

Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone.
By the holy love He beareth—
By the bruised reed He spareth—
Oh, may He, to whom alone
All their cruel wrongs are known,
Still their hope and refuge prove,
With a more than mother's love.
Gone, gone—sold and gone,
To the rice-swamp dank and lone,
From Virginia's hills and waters,
Woe is me, my stolen daughters!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dashed Off XVI

strophic vs stichic translation of poetry

The author plays a role in interpretation of texts, because classification of texts is partly authorial: that Timaeus and Laws are by Plato identifies a kind of mutual relevance, and our inteprretations of Aristotelian texts would necessarily shift if we discovered that the Physics was actually by Theophrastus. If we toy with authorial factors in classification, Borges-like, we get different interpretations.

Authority is preparation for reasoning.

The harmless perverse is more to be pitied than condemned.

incidental vs formal education
formal education requires title:
intrinsic title -- parents, child
extrinsic title -- others

strong rationalism : exaggerated realism :: weak rationalism (traditionalism) : nominalism/conceptualism

Middlemen being due to necessity, they are eliminated by the rise of new feasibility.

1 Cor 6:9-10 and intrinsically immoral acts: Veritatis Splendor 81

Ubaghs adapts Reid's attack on representation to argue for ontologism. (Essay II Ch. viii)

NB wrt to the possibility of (quasi-)potential parts of sacraments that early Orthodox lists often treat the seven (or whatever number) as genera or quasi-genera; so, for instance, baptism might be treated as including baptism proper and Epiphany water.

sacrament -- candidate quasi-potential parts (satellite sacramentals)
baptism -- holy water, exorcism, blessed salt, baptismal anointing?, funerals?
chrismation -- baptismal anointing?, royal coronation
orders -- religious consecration, minor orders, footwashing?
eucharist -- blessed bread, relics
penance -- indulgences, Lenten ashes
unction -- holy oils, funerals?
matrimony -- domestic blessings, domestic shrines, betrothals, reaffirmation of vows
-- Where do icons and Scripture fit? My instinct is to say eucharist (as notable in divine liturgy).

Scotus's pactio theory works well for sacramentalia, less so for the central sacraments, which are principally divine acts.

the subjective parts of sacrament: distinguished by rite and sacral language

canon 617 ECCL & the global catechetical authority of Eastern patriarchs

A great deal of sacred doctrine is simply classification.

the grace of the sacrament of matrimony confirms in faith, hope, love, and justice (cf. Maronite crowning rite)

the saint by prayer 'reposing in the relics'

One can build a great many arguments for theism out of the concessions of atheists.

realism : rationalism :: nominalism : empiricism

3 forms of the spread of ideas
(1) Cascade -- sudden/traumatic circumstances provide generally felt pressure in a direction it is easy to move.
(2) Conformity -- acceptance by rest of group provides pressure to be with-group on this as on other things.
(3) Cost -- penalties of other positions become too great for too long, creating exhaustion in the resisters.
-- Any of these three may be evidential or relatively evidence-free.

The usual effect and function of evidence is resistance to change. This is obvious in everyday life. Theories of evidence often miss it because they tend to focus on examples of evidential crisis (the move from uncertainty to certainty, flipping from one position to another, evidential evaluation with no prior history).

Every right is an authoritative responsibility.

poetry and warrants for effects (rhyme, line breaks, etc.) -- i.e., actually having reasons for them, or being able to have simple reasons for them that go beyond just 'trying to follow this form'
- as poetry is often written to form (or to get a form), this seems primarily to arise in revision and checking it over (review).

'X is true' and 'X ought to be judged true'

The real presence of the Spirit in baptism forms us as the Body of Christ; the real presence of Christ in communion contributes to the perfecting of that Body.

The Scotist 'signum sensibile gratiam Dei...ex institutione divine efficaciter significant, effectum ordinatum ad salutem hominis viatoris' is arguably right (taken strictly) for matrimony. Think about this.

Both the absolution of penance and the mutual consent of matrimony must be rational orderings to common good by one who has care for it, promulgated -- each in its own way.

Man and woman are the remote matter of the sacrament of matrimony.

Every sacrament gives aliquis ornatus animae; this is a kind of assimilation to Christ. In some cases this is delible and in some not.

That the seven great sacraments are moral causes can be granted; but this seems inadequate to explain them, being sufficient to explain (say) holy water or blessed rosaries but not the eucharist.
Attempts to explain the remarks of Church Fathers on baptismal water solely in terms of moral causation are utterly unconvincing; and as it cannot explain the eucharist adequately either, and these are the two pillars of the sacramental economy, it seems some notion of 'physical' or natural causality is in fact necessary. The other character sacraments will follow baptism.
The fact that the whole sign does not exist at once is a red herring; it would, if it were a real problem, be a problem for transubstantiation and baptism -- again, the moral-only account makes the former impossible and only dubiously fits the sayings of the Fathers on either. And reviviscence is useless as an objection when considering the character sacraments -- which alone give something that would explain it. Matrimony is nto the wedding ceremony but the consent under the right conditions; and the suggestions that there is reviviscence for penance and unction are implausible. 'Relatively incapable of repetition' is not 'incapable of repetition' and is thus irrelevant to reviviscence.
Unction gives an ornatus animae, like all sacraments, but it is not a 'quasi-character' as some have claimed. The restriction on repetition is obviously to prevent abuse, and is no more a sign of a 'quasi-character' than the fact that we do not churn out consecrated hosts through the whole Mass.
The objection of some, that the sacramental character does not produce grace is true as to original reception; but it is grace that unfolds and this unfolding entirely explains the reviviscence. Further, if you do not hold this, you don't get reviviscence, because it is no longe rthe baptism that is the means for the very reasons the moral-only advocates wish to argue against the natural position. But baptism is the means, so there must be an actual connection to the actual baptism, one that pertains to the baptism in and of itself. (Otherwise reviviscence is not really different from baptism by desire.)

The reviviscence of the character sacraments and of matrimony is not an issue -- they have something ongoing that acts under proper conditions. But penance and unction seem to be such that, strictly speaking, it makes no sense: you can have the grace 'revived' only insofar and in the way you can receive the grace by God's benevolence without the sacrament. (With eucharist, it may be more like receiving the graces by being in the presence without actually communing.)

An athlete may win honors for his city; thus one may merit for others.

St. Peter Damian's 12 sacraments (Sermo 69)
baptismatis, confirmationis, unctio infirmorum, consecratio pontificis, inunctio regis, dedicatio ecclesiae, confessionis, canonicorum, monachorum, eremitarum, sanctimonialium, nuptiarum
-- it's clear that this is not complete because the eucharist is not listed! (Damiani includes it as a chief sacrament at Opusc 6 Liber qui dicitur Gratissimus 9)

Bernard and Ambrose both reckon the washing of the feet as a sacrament.

The swiftness of diffusion of the septenary enumeration of the major sacraments, once laid out, and the firmness with which it established itself, East and West, clearly shows it to capture and clearly articulate something real and important about the sacramental economy.

The liturgy is the ordinary means of teaching for the ordinary magisterium.

The religious signs of the pre-Abramic period are human prayers to which God might respond, and not divine promises.

Sacraments of Old Law: (1) Circumcision (2) Sacraments of Election (e.g., Passover, sacrifices) (3) Sacraments of purification (e.g., rites of purification) (4) sacraments of consecration.
- (1) is a type of Baptism; (2) of Eucharist; (3) of Penance; (4) of Orders. Aquinas takes Confirmation to have no type because it is of fullness of grace but I think it more plausible that this actually shows that (4) is also quasi-type for Baptism and Confirmation: these are all priestly sacraments, and thus not easily typologically distinguished as such. Likewise with unction, which has (3) as quasi-type. Matrimony's type is marriage as a function of nature rather than a sacrament properly speaking. (But think about this last -- is marriage in no way sacramental under Torah? It is certainly recognized as important.)

parts of sacrament
intention : disposition of the Church (including end) :: consent : disposition of minister :: choice : sacramental act itself (matter and form) :: use : sacramental reception :: fruition : effects of grace

sacramental character as deputatio ad divinum cultum

sixfold classification of sacramentalia:
orans, tinctus, edens, confessus, dans, benedicens
sevenfold classification:
crux, aqua, nomen, edens, ungens, iurans, benedicens
-- both of these seem better as selections of eminent sacramentals than as general classifications
the threefold classification:
(1) consecratio (benedictio constitutiva)
(2) benedictio invocativa
(3) adiuratio daemonum
Note that sacramentals are properly acts, and objects only insofar as they are part of those acts.

effects of invocative sacramentals
(1) manifestation as signs (in themselves)
(2) forgiveness of venial sins (as prayers of true contrition)
(3) remission of temporal punishments (as prayers of ardent love or as indulgenced prayers)
(4) bestowal of actual graces (as prayers with the whole church)
(5) material benefits insofar as appropriate (as prayers of petition)
-- Note that all of these are also effects of major sacraments, qua prayers.

consecrations : character sacraments and matrimony :: benedictions : eucharist, penance, and unction

NB that Suarez says that priests baptizing under emergency conditions are baptizing on the basis of their baptismal rather than their ordinational character.

Baptism does not confer a metaphorical priesthood but a real priesthood of reception.

elevation of baptism in Christ's baptism // elevation of matrimony at Cana
-- the Commission is not institution but as it were a handing over or tradition, with instruction

'Baptism by unbelievers' seems simply to be, at most, public baptism of desire.

epiphenomenalism // occasionalism

immaculate conception // baptism of desire

The traditio instrumentorum signifies the meaning of the impositio manus; this function may be served by other things.
The tendency to treat traditio instrumentorum as essential orders arose from excessive assimilation of major orders to minor orders.

ordinary means, ordinary magisterium: liturgy
extraordinary means, ordinary magisterium: synod
ordinary means, extraordinary magisterium: ecumenical council
extraordinary means, extraordinary magisterium: papal definition

four forms of penance: private, canonical, public, solemn

Penances today are usually penitential redemptions -- exchanging communion-focused extended penance with other good works. The natural penance, so to speak, is recusal from communion for an appropriately extended time while one undergoes a relevant penitential discipline; this gets exchanged for prayers or (in earlier times) almsgiving -- the latter was phased out due to abuses, leaving only prayers.

Absolution is not something that stands apart on its own but includes the acts of those who are absolved, at the very least by reference; the absolution is the form of the sacrament. The only good argument otherwise is the case of the unconscious. (Appealing to absolution itself fails for the above reason, and appealing to the minister fails because the minister gives the form.) There seems good reason to take absolution of the unconscious dying as conditional, though.

Perfect contrition must be
(1) internal: with sincere resolve to amend
(2) universal: covering all sins
(3) supernatural: grounded in faith, hope, and love
(4) sovereign: recognizing sin as the greatest evil (i.e., not treating other evils as worse)

The four legitimate motives of contrition generally (Trent)
(1) charity
(2) recognition of sin's turpitude
(3) fear of hell and punishment
(4) fear of losing heaven
The latter three are typically found in attrition, but the first may also be, when it is imperfect.

Validity of indulgences depends on proper authority and just cause, and (according to some, plausibly) proportion.

Gioberti's aesthetic formula: The Sublime creates and contains the Beautiful.
(created by dynamical sublime, contained in mathematical sublime)
-- We might adapt this slightly and say, "The effects of sublime causation are beautiful, the parts of sublime context are beautiful."

"Every truth is full of mysteries which is to say that it contains a great number of other truths that escape, partly or entirely, our knowledge." Gioberti

Every argument for the immateriality of the soul analogizes to a design argument. (But whereas we have intimate knowledge of the starting point of the former, this is not always true of the latter, creating asymmetries.)

possible, verismilar, true
true, necessisimilar, necessary
(necessisimilar might plausibly work like 'at least mostly')

the history of philosophy as a concrete universal

Eucharist nourishes faith, increases hope, and strengthens charity. (Prayer after Communion, First Sunday of Lent.)

the internal subsidiarity of the body and bodily integrity

The proper functioning of checks and balances requires a general expectation -- it does not have to be universal -- of deference and a general custom of making a show of deference.

the act of refusing to believe

faculties as powers instrumental to wholes

explanation and Box-maximization

since & until // up & down

To assume that an infallible teaching authority is always and only teaching infallibly is like assuming the ability to lift 100 pounds means one only lifts 100 pounds.

accumulating errors in utilitarian calculation
(1) assessment of past in memory
(2) assessment of future by anticipation
(3) comparison across different experiencers

"...each great physical idea means a further advance toward the emancipation from anthropomorphic ideas." Planck

The shorter one's historical memory, the less it means to talk about progress.

A compatibilist can have no reason for rejecting doxastic voluntarism.

Not all acts of understanding can be reduced to judgment.

Kant's categories differ from Aristotle's because the former are concerned with judgments and the latter with terms.

Kant sees concepts solely as ways of unifying presentations and explicitly claims the mind can do nothing with them except judge; thus a concept is just an instrument of judgment for him.

We judge in order that we may form better concepts, and we reason in order that we may form better judgments.

cause - force, action, undergoing
community - presence, resistance
modality - arising, passing away, change
(derivative concepts that Kant explicitly meantions)

One's communications should be useful or beautiful.

John 9:7 more or less demands that the Pool of Siloam be seen as an icon of Baptism
Zech 13:1 and baptism

The Government-Making Animal

Man is the only government-making animal in the world. His right to a participation in the production and operation of government is an inference from his nature, as direct and self-evident as is his right to acquire property or education. It is no less a crime against the manhood of a man, to declare that he shall not share in the making and directing of the government under which he lives, than to say that he shall not acquire property and education. The fundamental and unanswerable argument in favor of the enfranchisement of the negro is found in the undisputed fact of his manhood. He is a man, and by every fact and argument by which any man can sustain his right to vote, the negro can sustain his right equally.

--Frederick Douglass, An Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage (1867)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Some Fragmentary Poem Drafts

Burning Bush

Behold this sacred ground
through which the Spirit seeps,
ever new,
ever great,
infinite and deep.

The world is a burning bush,
flaming bright,
logical with light;
its flames leap.
All see them that do not sleep
in the shadow-laden night.


I thought it enough,
living all for you,
love like forever
with nothing to lose;
but now looking back,
an inevitable end,
nothing but sigh
and breath on the wind.


Above the sea of clouds
the moon
in argent glow
its wings extends;
a path it traces
through the wisps;
on far horizon
rests a star.

No Doubt

Ah, you are a righteous man,
a righteous man, no doubt,
who murdered all the Catholics
and threw the Stewarts out;
who stole away the churches
and, with every saint you smashed,
no doubt, no doubt, you did it
to snap the tyrant's lash,
and when your Christian brother
you harassed, harmed, and cursed,
no doubt you did it justly
because they did it first.
No doubt, no doubt they started
every brawling fight
whenever they resisted
your reformation's light.
No doubt when you were burning
the icons of the Lord
they picked their fights against you
with unkind, unchristian word.
You fought, but let's be honest,
they pushed and made you do it
when you broke their sacred altar
and they took their sword and drew it.
When you sent them to the Tower
to huddle like the beast,
no doubt they made you do it
by trying to save their priest.
As you put both maid and child
to terror and to rout,
it was all on their stubborn fury,
all on them, no doubt.


I have writ with ink of stars
a poem shining near and far,
a word to whisper through the night
to crown the sky with grace of light;
but on earth none know how
to read the words I spell
and in hell --
none see the stars.

Instead of starlight, shining screen
gives off a bald, electric sheen;
instead of honor-blazing name,
no one to praise me, nor to blame,
for on earth none know how
to read the words I spell
and in hell --
none see the stars.

Once night was filled with speaking flame,
some to glory, some to shame,
but sky unseen sheds silver light
upon the blind and thankless night,
for on earth none know how
to read the words I spell
and in hell --
none see the stars.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Arguing for Self-Evident Principles

If we set aside the rookie error of thinking that 'self-evident' means 'automatically evident to everybody', we often find that we are in the position of having to argue for self-evident principles. It is impossible to give a demonstrative argument for a self-evident principle, because such principles are immediate and thus there is no middle term you could use for a demonstration. But demonstrative argument is far from being the only kind of argument, and you can in fact argue for self-evident principles in some of these other ways. Which raises the question: What kinds of legitimate argument are there for self-evident principles? Here's one possible, although very rough, classification.

Abstract arguments for self-evident principles address the principle itself and are either theoretical or practical. Each has a major kind that is positive (trying to show the necessity or reasonableness of holding the principle) or negative (trying to show the impossibility or unreasonableness of rejecting the principle).

(1) Oscillation (Theoretical Positive): One can argue for a self-evident principle on the ground of other evident principles. For instance, one could argue that the principle of noncontradiction is implied logically by some other logical principle or principles. Now, this would certainly fail as a demonstration, because it would be circular, but it has been noted (by Schlegel, if I'm remembering correctly) that this circular reasoning is not automatically wrong, and this has often been recognized. (Aristotle, for instance, explicitly notes that the problem with begging the question that makes it a fallacy is that it treats a non-evident conclusion as if it were a self-evident principle.) What this argument does is to show that a principle has a central role in a coherent web of principles.

(2) Retorsion (Theoretical Negative): This form of argument has been a standard one since Aristotle used it to argue for the principle of noncontradiction: argue that rejecting the principle is self-defeating: the rejection requires the truth of what it denies.

(3) Transcendental (Practical Positive): In a transcendental argument you show that it is inevitable that you will be using a principle anyway, and therefore that you have a practical right to use it. Although this kind of argument is most closely associated with Kant, he should really be seen as trying to build really rigorous and skepticism-resistant versions of a broader family of arguments that is quite common.

(4) Ad Hominem (Practical Negative): 'Ad hominem' is often used to name a fallacy, but as I have noted before, this is not its only use. Locke uses it to indicate a form of argument in which you appeal to your interlocutor's own concessions (either in argument or in action). Thus, you are showing that the objector has actually already granted the principle. Aristotle also uses this to argue for the principle of noncontradiction: the person who is contradicting you about the necessity of noncontradiction is already assuming the principle of noncontradiction in order to contradict you.

Concrete arguments take a more indirect approach. There are at least two major kinds: casuistic, which focus on particular applications of the principle in question, and testimonial, which appeal to the fact that others directly or indirectly recognize it. Each of these has at least two common versions; for the casuistic version, one is theoretical, one is practical. The testimonial approach doesn't categorize easily; for convenience here, I will treat one approach as positive and one as negative.

(1) Example (Casuistic Theoretical): The example approach can be thought of as taking its inspiration from geometrical diagrams -- by looking at how a given principle works in a given principle, and taking into account that what applies to one example applies to any sufficiently like it, one can make it more obvious that a principle is reasonable to accept because it is true in cases that allow you to generalize widely.

(2) Utility (Casuistic Practical): Principles are things we actually use, and so it's possible to show that use of a principle gives you good and desirable results -- e.g., allows you to build bridges, avoid misleading arguments, simplify complex theories, and so forth. This may be direct, or it may be indirect. In either case, it aims to show that acceptance of the principle is practically reasonable, as seen in actual cases.

(3) Consensus Gentium (Testimonial Positive): Once we set aside the rookie mistake of thinking that consensus gentium requires absolute universality (I, II), we can see how it it would be used for arguing in this context: one appeals to the intellects of others, either in their verbal testimony or the witness of their behavior. The point of the argument is to establish that human beings generally are already treating the principle as self-evident, thus indicating that accepting it is a normal part of human functioning and thus is reasonable. This approach is used extensively by Thomas Reid.

(4) Consensus Sapientium (Testimonial Negative): As we already noted, 'self-evident' doesn't mean 'automatically obvious to everyone'; self-evident principles are evident when understood, but some self-evident principles are really hard to understand. As Aquinas often says, some enunciations are evident only to the wise. Thus sometimes you need to appeal to 'the wise', the people whom we have some reason to think actually know what they are talking about. Locke calls this kind of argument 'ad verecundiam', the appeal to shame or bashfulness; the point of the title being, I take it, that human beings are hesitant to contradict recognized authorities because doing so recklessly is itself evidence that you are a fool. It is in this sense that I think the appeal can be seen as a negative form of argument: it works by showing that there is reason to think only a fool would reject the principle.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Quick Trip to Scotland, Part VIII

From Glasgow we took a train to Edinburgh and thence to South Queensferry, also just known as Queensferry or sometimes even just The Ferry. The name of the town comes from Queen St. Margaret of Scotland, who in the eleventh century is said to have established it in order to ferry pilgrims going to Dunfermline across the Firth of Forth; she herself was ferried over after her death in 1098 to be buried in Dunfermline, where Scottish royalty was often buried. Today it is the location of the three Forth Bridges. Here is a photograph (from the previous trip to Falkland Palace) that has all three bridges in it; you can just make out the third behind the one on the left.

Here is the Forth Rail Bridge, with a cruise ship. You can also see one of the Islands of the Forth, Inchgarvie (Innis Garbhach in Gaelic means 'Rough Island'). Inchgarvie has a long history of being fortified, originally to protect the ferry. It was refortified in the early twentieth century, but has only been in occasional use since the 1930s.

Here we see the Forth Road Bridge and, behind it,the newest of the three, Queensferry Crossing. I believe these days the Forth Road Bridge is reserved for pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and taxis.

The Hawes Pier, which once was the ferry:

One of the most famous places in Queensferry is The Hawes Inn:

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote at least part of Kidnapped there, and, indeed, it plays a major role in the story, since Davie Balfour is kidnapped just outside of it (notice that he mentions, without naming, Inchgarvie):

Just then we came to the top of the hill, and looked down on the Ferry and the Hope. The Firth of Forth (as is very well known) narrows at this point to the width of a good-sized river, which makes a convenient ferry going north, and turns the upper reach into a landlocked haven for all manner of ships. Right in the midst of the narrows lies an islet with some ruins; on the south shore they have built a pier for the service of the Ferry; and at the end of the pier, on the other side of the road, and backed against a pretty garden of holly-trees and hawthorns, I could see the building which they called the Hawes Inn.

One of the more striking buildings in Queensferry is the Jubilee Clock Tower. Queensferry was designated a 'royal burgh' because of its economic importance, and every royal burgh was required to have three things: a tolbooth (also called a town house), which would basically be what we would call a courthouse; a tron, which was an official weighing place; and a mercat cross, to mark where the open market was. This building was originally the Queensferry Tolbooth, which was built in the seventeenth century, although the steeple is from 1720. It is linked to Rosebery Memorial Hall, which was gifted to the town in 1893 by the 5th Earl of Rosebery.

From Hawes Pier we took a ferry out to Inchcolm Island. The town from the boat:

A closer look at Inchgarvie:

The primary aristocratic family around Queensferry has for a long time been the Primrose family. The family seat is Dalmeny House, just outside Queensferry, but in the eighteenth century it was Barnbougle Castle, which was the birthplace of the philosopher, Lady Mary Shepherd, née Primrose. Lady Mary Shepherd's father was the third Earl of Rosebery; her brother, the fourth Earl, built Dalmeny House. The castle was mostly left to ruin until the fifth Earl, Archibald, who became Prime Minister, basically rebuilt the whole thing in Scottish Baronial style in order to house his private library and give him a place where he could practice his speeches. Here is Barnbougle Castle in the misty distance:

Up ahead we see Inchmickery (Innis nam Biocaire means 'Island of the Vicars', and nobody knows for sure why it was called that, although it may, like Inchcolm have housed a monastic institution at one time). It was fortified and used as a gun emplacement in World War I and World War II, and famously looks like a battleship. That's probably just accidental, but the story they like to tell tourists is that it was deliberate.

Over to the right you can see Edinburgh:

One of the attractions of the ferry to Inchcolm is that you can see gray seals hanging out:

Incholm is often called the Iona of the East; its name, Innis Choluim, means Columba's Island. St. Columba is said to have visited it in 567, and it may have become a location for monastics shortly afterward. Its location near the ferry on the Dunfermline pilgrimage route likely increased its importance after St. Margaret's day. It became an Augustinian abbey in 1235, and the ruins of the abbey there are the best preserved medieval monastic house in Scotland, being saved from destruction in the Reformation by the inconvenience of getting a mob across the water to an island. It was, however, abandoned. It had only occasional uses until the twentieth century, when it became part of the Forth defenses. On the east end of the island, on the right, you can see fortifications from World War II:

Inchcolm is mentioned in Shakespeare's Macbeth:

That now
Sweno, the Norways' king, craves composition:
Nor would we deign him burial of his men
Till he disbursed at Saint Colme's inch
Ten thousand dollars to our general use.

Immediately next door to Inchcolm is a tiny island, little more than a pile of rocks. Its official name is Swallow Craig, but it has come to be known by a more unofficial title, Inch Gnome:

The Abbey on Inchcolm:

Fragments of a rood screen, and other parts of the ruins:

You can climb up the very, very, very narrow stars of the tower. Some views from the tower:

Once we returned from Inchcolm Abbey, that was about the whole trip; the next day it was a flight back to the States.

As with the Italy trip, though, I'll have a few posts with miscellaneous photos.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Voyages Extraordinaires So Far

I've been seeing this year how big a dent I can make in Jules Verne's Voyages Extraodinaires, and since the year is halfway through it seems appropriate to see how progress is coming with it. I've been doing two different things, Notes and Fortnightly Books, and the latter includes the Verne works I did before this year. Bold with link indicates all the ones I have done one of the two for; N indicates a Note, F indicates a Fortnightly Book.

1. Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1863): N
2. Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras (The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, 1866): F
3. Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864, revised 1867): F
4. De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865): F
5. Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (In Search of the Castaways, 1867–8)
6. Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas, 1869–70)
7. Autour de la lune (Around The Moon, 1870): F
8. Une ville flottante (A Floating City, 1871)
9. Aventures de trois Russes et de trois Anglais (The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa, 1872)
10. Le Pays des fourrures (The Fur Country, 1873)
11. Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days, 1873): F
12. L'Île mystérieuse (The Mysterious Island, 1874–5): F
13. Le Chancellor (The Survivors of the Chancellor, 1875)
14. Michel Strogoff (Michael Strogoff, 1876)
15. Hector Servadac (Off on a Comet, 1877): N
16. Les Indes noires (The Child of the Cavern, 1877): N
17. Un capitaine de quinze ans (Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen, 1878)
18. Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum (The Begum's Millions, 1879)
19. Les Tribulations d'un chinois en Chine (Tribulations of a Chinaman in China, 1879)
20. La Maison à vapeur (The Steam House, 1880)
21. La Jangada (Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon, 1881)
22. L'École des Robinsons (Godfrey Morgan, 1882): N
23. Le Rayon vert (The Green Ray, 1882): N
24. Kéraban-le-têtu (Kéraban the Inflexible, 1883)
25. L'Étoile du sud (The Vanished Diamond, 1884)
26. L'Archipel en feu (The Archipelago on Fire, 1884)
27. Mathias Sandorf (Mathias Sandorf, 1885)
28. Un billet de loterie (The Lottery Ticket, 1886): N
29. Robur-le-Conquérant (Robur the Conqueror, 1886)
30. Nord contre Sud (North Against South, 1887)
31. Le Chemin de France (The Flight to France, 1887)
32. Deux Ans de vacances (Two Years' Vacation, 1888): N
33. Famille-sans-nom (Family Without a Name, 1889)
34. Sans dessus dessous (The Purchase of the North Pole, 1889): N
35. César Cascabel (César Cascabel, 1890)
36. Mistress Branican (Mistress Branican, 1891)
37. Le Château des Carpathes (Carpathian Castle, 1892): F
38. Claudius Bombarnac (Claudius Bombarnac, 1892)
39. P’tit-Bonhomme (Foundling Mick, 1893)
40. Mirifiques Aventures de Maître Antifer (Captain Antifer, 1894)
41. L'Île à hélice (Propeller Island, 1895): F
42. Face au drapeau (Facing the Flag, 1896): N
43. Clovis Dardentor (Clovis Dardentor, 1896)
44. Le Sphinx des glaces (An Antarctic Mystery, 1897)
45. Le Superbe Orénoque (The Mighty Orinoco, 1898)
46. Le Testament d'un excentrique (The Will of an Eccentric, 1899)
47. Seconde Patrie (The Castaways of the Flag, 1900)
48. Le Village aérien (The Village in the Treetops, 1901)
49. Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin (The Sea Serpent, 1901)
50. Les Frères Kip (The Kip Brothers, 1902): F
51. Bourses de voyage (Traveling Scholarships, 1903): F
52. Un drame en Livonie (A Drama in Livonia, 1904)
53. Maître du monde (Master of the World, 1904)
54. L'Invasion de la mer (Invasion of the Sea, 1905)

So we are at 19/54, which is just over one-third. I literally have Begum's Millions, Robur the Conqueror, Master of the World, The Mighty Orinoco, and The Invasion of the Sea stacked in a pile and waiting in line for the Fortnightly Book, and somewhere I have Twenty Thousand Leagues, so all of those are guaranteed. Not all the works are easily found, and there are more books than weeks in the year, so I never expected to get all the way through. But it looks like I've a good chance of hitting two-thirds to three-quarters.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

A Quick Trip to Scotland, Part VII

We took a basic Rabbie's tour of Highland lakes and castles out of Glasgow, just to see the sights, and we did indeed see lakes and castles. First stop: Tarbet Pier on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Loch Laomainn means 'Lake of Elms', but it is occasionally known as the Lake of Light, and here we sit it living up to its nickname.

Loch Lomond is the largest lake in Scotland by surface area and, after Loch Ness, the second largest by water volume. It sits right on the geographical boundary between the Highlands and the Lowlands, with the hard Highland schist forcing it to be a typical deep and narrow Highland lake in the north and the soft Lowland sandstone allowing it to be a broad and shallow Lowland lake in the south.

'Tarbet' comes from 'Tairbeart' in Gaelic, which means 'isthmus'; it is on a narrow strip of land between Loch Lomond and Loch Long, with Arrochar as its sister village on the Loch Long side. For many, many centuries, it was a standard transition point for moving between inland water ways (Loch Lomond) to sea-linked water ways (Loch Long, which connects to the Firth of Clyde); they'd dock at Tarbet and carry everything a short way over the land to Arrochar, and vice versa.

From Tarbet we headed mostly westward to Glen Croe, which has a famous viewpoint, Rest and Be Thankful. Due to the Jacobite rebellions, the English realized that they needed a better road system to move troops around on, so they sent General Wade to start laying down military roads, and quite a few Scottish roads today had their first beginnings with Wade's roads. But Highland geography can be a bit challenging, so exhausted soldiers were glad to have a place to stop, and that, it is said is the origin of the name. It overlooks the Drover's Road laid down by Wade's men:

After it was all done a commemorative marker for the feat was put up, and soldiers who had been involved had 'Rest and Be Thankful' inscribed on it. The original stone is gone, but a later commemoration marks the same site:

From there we went to Inveraray (meaning 'the mouth of the Aray'), where Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Duke of Argyll and thus Clan Campbell, overlooks Loch Fyne. It's not quite a fairy-tale-pretty castle, given its dull color and blockishness, but it has a neat and tidy appearance, and the conical roofs on the turrets adds exactly the right touch.

The Gothic Revival castle, built in the eighteenth century, is probably best known today for having appeared in a Downton Abbey Christmas special. Up above the castle there is a watchtower on the peak of Dun na Cuaiche:

It seems to have had no particular use except decoration, and, later, a place where Dukes could get away from the castle, whether for their hobbies or their mistresses.

I liked the dining room in the castle:

Some of the other rooms are also lovely, and it has a good collection of war memorabilia, but the true star of the castle rooms is the weapons collection.

The castle is also famous for its large gardens, which provide the best vantage point for viewing the castle.

After Inveraray, we stopped briefly near the tip of Loch Awe to see the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, one of the first castles built in the Campbell's first push in the fifteenth century to establish their preeminence in the Highlands. It was built on an island, but whether it is on an island today depends greatly on the water levels. It has a fairy mound nearby, but for some reason I failed to get a picture of it.

From Kilchurn Castle we went to Oban, the Gateway to the Islands; An t-Òban in Gaelic means 'The Little Bay', and that's precisely what it is, a town on a little bay in the Firth of Lorn. The bay is immediately protected by the Isle of Kerrara; in the background behind Kerrara, you can just see the Isle of Mull. This is the closest we got to the Western Isles, but if you were going to Iona, you would head from here to Mull, Iona being just on the other side of Mull.

The next place we saw, briefly, was Castle Stalker on Loch Laich. Stalcaire in Gaelic means 'hunter'; it was a hunting lodge. It is generally thought to be one of the best preserved, perhaps the best, of all medieval towerhouses, and dates from the fifteenth century. It is, however, most famous today for being the castle that shows up in the final scenes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (It is remarkable how much of the tourism industry in Scotland is tied to movies and television shows; Harry Potter and Outlander are the big tie-ins that tour companies try to use, of course, but it's everywhere.)

From there we went to Glen Coe.

Glen Coe is, of course, famous for being the location of the Massacre of Glencoe on February 13, 1692. The Union government had out down the First Jacobite Rebellion, and demanded a pledge of loyalty to William and Mary from all of the Highland chiefs by a certain deadline, the first of January. They all signed. But the chief of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe got the demand late, for reasons unknown. He immediately went to Fort William to take the oath, but the local governor there didn't have the authorization to accept the oath, and so sent the chief down to Inveraray to take it before the Duke of Argyll; he was given a letter explicitly noting that he had arrived to take the oath before the deadline and that they just needed someone to administer it. He got to Inveraray as quickly as he could, and took the oath on January 6th. One hundred twenty men under Campbell leadership were sent to Glencoe with orders for free quarter: the Glencoe MacDonalds legally had to quarter the troops, which they did. They gave full hospitality for a couple of weeks. And then on February 12, the troops received orders that the Glencoe MacDonalds, having refused to take the pledge of loyalty, were to be executed as traitors. And they were. Somewhere between twenty-five to thirty-eight men were shot; women and children fled to the mountains of Glen Coe, where, in February cold, an unknown number of at least a couple dozen died of exposure.

There have been many worse massacres -- indeed, arguably worse massacres perpetrated on just the MacDonalds alone, who had often been on the worse end of a clan feud -- but it was a very modern massacre, with its complete disregard for ancient and medieval norms of hospitality and its cause being a failure to meet a paperwork deadline. To forestall criticisms that King William himself might be complicit, the Parliament took a modern approach to handling it: it held an inquiry, and as government inquiries do, it blamed some people to block blaming of more important people, gave the people blamed a slap on the wrist, and tied the whole thing up as if it were finished, with Glencoe MacDonald requests for compensation being studiously ignored. But the Massacre was never forgotten by the Highlanders, and it helped to set up the later Jacobite rebellions. Certainly the Glencoe MacDonalds had no hesitation about participating in them, and the association of the massacre with the Campbells guaranteed that they would later be referred to as 'the perfidious Campbells' because of it.

From Glen Coe, we headed to Loch Tulla, near the Black Mount mountain range.

At the Loch Tulla Viewpoint, there is a monument to Sir Hugh Munro, one of the great Scottish mountaineers of the nineteenth century. Munro put together a list of Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet tall and set out to reach the top of all of them. As there turned out to be over 300 of them, putting together the list was not a small task, and climbing them all was not a minor ambition. He came very close; by the time he died, he had just the one he had been saving for last and two or three his list had overlooked. Because of his feat, all mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet are known as Munros, and it has become a popular mountaineering project to climb all the Munros of Scotland. The monument is a cairn of stones with one stone from every Munro that Sir Hugh Munro is known to have climbed, and is dedicated to all those who have died while mountain-climbing.

And we returned to Loch Lomond. The weather had been decent, but the rainclouds were forming, so Loch Lomond apparently did not feel very much like being a lake of light on the return trip.

And that was a day.

to be continued

Fortnightly Book, July 8

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818; he never knew the actual day he was born, so he just chose February 14 to be his birthday. Having learned the first basics of reading at the age of twelve, he became an avid reader, doing everything in his power to improve his reading and writing skills. In the 1830s he escaped slavery, and he eventually chose the surname 'Douglass', based on the surname Douglas in Sir Walter Scott's poem, The Lady of the Lake. In 1845, he published Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, the first of his three major autobiographical works (the others being My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass), and in 1847 founded a newspaper, the North Star, whose success is said to have done more for the abolitionist cause than any number of abolitionist speeches. He continued to have a long and varied career. He died in 1895. The first Fortnightly Book will be his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which is generally the most highly regarded of the autobiographical works, due to its vividness and intensity.

Booker T. Washington was also born into slavery, in 1856 in Virginia. (He also did not know the date of his birth.) He was freed under the Emancipation Proclamation when he was nine years old, and, eventually learning to read, he attended school. After working in the coal industry for a while, he studied for a bit at the Hampton Institute and then Wayland Seminary. In 1881, he was recommended by the head of the Hampton Institute to take charge of a new teacher's college, the Tuskegee Institute; the school was literally built by Washington and his students, and this set much of the tone for the school, which was to teach people to teach farmers and tradesmen in rural areas. He published an autobiography in 1900, but it was second autobiography, Up from Slavery, published in 1901, that became an immediate bestseller (leading Theodore Roosevelt to invite him to the White House). The Wizard of Tuskegee died in 1915. Up from Slavery will be the second Fortnightly Book.