Saturday, July 28, 2018

A New Poem Draft and Two Poem Re-Drafts

The Tree of Knowing Good and Evil

Ages rise in splendor, born with tumult to be free,
Given good and evil by the serpent on the tree:

Apple for your tasting, dear, a wisdom God may fear,
Taste the peach of higher sight that makes the cosmos clear.
Swiftly all the schoolmen are a jape one might despise,
Mocked by haunted engines that are daring to be wise.

Peasants, unenlightened, are made free to serve the rod,
Money for their chaining seized from altars raised to God.
None can for them speak because the king has lost his head,
priests are turned to bureaucrats, and saints are lying dead.

Homebound wars of faith must all the peaceful nations flee!
Fight instead for cotton and for gold across the sea,
Fight instead for oil, for which the highways rise;
Call it 'cost of freedom' whene'er a soldier dies.

Freedom shall be given; no longer under heel,
All may follow reason, or be slaves to what they feel;
Freedom to be counted, to rise and speak your say:
Be as free as e'er you please, as long as you obey.

Babel rose in glory as the railroads ran on steam,
Bearing stones of science quarried from the land of dream,
Bearing hopes and horrors such as gods alone can make,
Weapons for the grasping hands that from the rajahs take.

Close the plains and commons; there's profit there to find;
Push the peasants off the land when they speak their mind;
Bring them, though they kick, to the progress of the age,
Teaching all that liberty is working for a wage.

'Prince of powers of the air' you thought was but a name;
Rumor broadcast on the air is power just the same:
Do your part and buy with thanks the gifts we advertise:
Factories, plastic, cars, and silver planes to fill the skies.

Life is like tradition; it is something handed down,
Being as you were before, heritage as crown;
Thirsting to be like the gods, we break the ties of past.
Ages born of breaking, though, unbroken cannot last.

Each solution to a problem will a newer problem form;
Never will the lightning-fire save you from the storm.
Yet you shall be mighty, as wise as gods on thrones,
Ruling land and sea and air till darkness takes your bones.

Greater shall you be, day by day, and year by year,
Greater in accomplishment for which you pay so dear;
Greater than the gods of old will ever men arise;
Greater till they are no more and every wonder dies:

Every age in splendor has a doom, that it must pass;
Every age of might reveals the serpent in the grass.


How small the world is,
and how far;
a million miles away I stand,
a weary endless void between,
and stretch my hand,
and stretch my hand,
and, God have mercy, stretch my hand,
again for this,
again for that,
again, again, for this, for that.
As though beneath a heavy sea,
as though I sat a million years,
as though the hours tar-like moved,
as though all talents went to waste,
again for this,
again for that.
The pointless thing must still be done,
the goal to reach an empty end,
again for this,
again for that.
Like sorrow without chance for tears,
like boredom without rest for need,
like hunger with no taste for food,
like weariness that cannot sleep,
again, again, for this, for that.


With old sepulchral light the moon,
harsh and vivid, plenilune,
stares with glaring eye on all
marked by traces of the Fall;
the night is dark, the night is bright
with unilluminating light,
with unchromatic, pristine white.

Standing stars look sadly down
on stark and shade-infested ground;
the eye is witched, its vision lies,
the light from every corner shies;
a primal sin, like stain, o'erlays
the compline earth as it prays:
O present help, assist our ways.

The moon resides in orbit high,
but higher orbits yet may fly;
the stars that in the evening wake
but gems of diadem now make
for regnal glory, light most sweet,
that spans the world and night defeats,
the moon itself beneath her feet.

A Quick Trip to Scotland, Miscellanea III

Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle

Mostly various views from around the Castle.

Edinburgh: The Georgian House

Looking at the Castle from New Town:

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dashed Off XVII

the natural, sacred-historical, and miraculous types of the sacraments

Ontologism with occasionalism is a more serious theological problem than ontologism with a robust notion of secondary causation.

Ayn Rand reduces reason to an internal sense, integrating and sorting sensory data.

Distinction among alethic modalities tends to be most important in addressing Why questions. Blanshard suggests that when you arrive at a necessity, Why? is no longer in order. This is not wrong, but somewhat misleading -- arriving at necessity, some particular relevant kind of Why? is no longer in order; but other kinds may not yet have received their answer.

explanation as reduction to Box (Box maximization)

accuracy : truth of premises
adroitness: validity
a + a : soundness
aptness : relevant soundness

Ventura notes that traditionalists have an easy explanation of notions like 'age of reason' -- in terms of adequate social instruction. This seems a strong argument worthy of some attention.

It is a great and consistent sin of modern theologians to treat their task as speculation and not recognize that it is elucidation of facts of revelation and tradition.

natural religion as rational scheme
natural religion as humanitarian tradition

sui juris churches as liturgical deferences

To say, as Canon 36 of the Quinisext does, that Constantinople has 'equal seniority with Rome' appears to mean in context that it has the same jurisdictional authority over its geographical area -- thus extending to Constantinople what had already been extended to Alexandria and Antioch by canon 6 of Nicaea. Note, too, that all of these are reflections of what already was the practice with regard to Rome -- Roman-style authority is being extended outward.

We do not experience acts of understanding or will generally as acts of the body, but we do experience some acts of the body as acts of understanding and will.

separability principles in Autrecourt and Hume

"God alone is Possest, because He actually is what He can be." Cusanus

"Knowledge and human power come to the same thing." Bacon Instauratio magna, Pt2, 1.3

Baconian doctrine of idols : interpretation of nature :: sophistics : common logic

In forming any classification, the intellect can in principle recognize the limitations of that classification.

our capacity to think of spiritual things as a motive of credibility

Language is an ordering of reason to communication of truth, presented in signs by a rational being insofar as it is social.

A language must have rules, be public, learnable, intelligible, able to distinguish true from false, able to express possibilities, be stable enough to use, and be capable in use of having communicated truth as its end.

mereological fusion as thinkable together regardless of relevance

the Note of Extent and the conditions for the liturgical commonwealth of the Catholic Church

three conditions for sacrament: distinctness, institution, meaning
or: (distinction, principiation, manifestation) (remotion, causation, eminence)

power : cause :: wisdom : sufficient reason :: goodness : ?

All formal systems are partial abstractions from natural language.

durability and extent as tests of common sense

A view of the evidence is not, in and of itself, a belief.

We can simultaneously entertain opposing views of evidence (by memory and by attention).

Treating 'do ut des' as the principle of sacrifice itself overlooks sacrifices that are purely celebratory or for social signaling.

Tallies are related to successor functions, except a tally has in itself no order.

Political freedom does not arise out of state guarantees, but is something the state must be restrained from intruding too much upon.

a Planckian argument against manipulability accounts of causation (failure to remove anthropocentrism)

Evidence is not straightforwardly additive: (1) circumstantial evidence; (2) diminishing returns; (3) shifts in kinds of evidence that are important; (4) shifts in evidential evaluation due to changing theoretical frameworks.

'the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father' (Jn 15:26) as a Trinitarian formula

"miracle" argument in phil sci // fine-tuning argument

An author of a fictional story has a 'first-person knowledge' of his characters, but not as about himself.

instrumental good -> intrinsic good -> exemplar hierarchy of intrinsic goods --> first intrinsic good
instrumental good --> goods both intrinsic and instrumental --> first intrinsic good
accident --> substance --> first being
indicative good --> intrinsic good --> exemplar hierarchy of intrinsic goods --> first intrinsic good
indicative good -> goods both intrinsic & indicative -> first intrinsic good

Everything that is has a valuing-ground.

The cooperation of a prisoner with his own punishment should be seen as a presumptive expression of civic responsibility. (Good behavior in prison is a civic activity, and not a particularly easy one.)

An irony of Spinoza's rejection of final causes is that the Ethics is itself structured as if teleologically.

Hugh of St. Victor on the history of sacrament of expiation and justification: oblation -> circumcision -> baptism

examples of sacraments of natural law (Hugh): decimas, sacrificia, oblationes
(cp. Aquinas Sent d1q1a2qc3c)

of natural law = umbra veritatis
of Old Law = imago vel figura veritatis
of New Law = corpus veritatis

The sacraments of natural law are the aspects of the virtue of religion and the rites (in something like the Confucian sense) associated with that virtue that can serve as 'hooks' for the later sacraments.

Morality is itself clearly a matter in which we have an obligation to believe.

"God is Himself Law, and therefore law is dear to Him." (Mirror of the Saxons)

In answering a question about the law of divorce in Mt 19, Christ responds not with points of law but with the first principles of marriage for which the law is an incomplete protection.

Human rights are images, like flat paintings, of the rights of God, as humans are images of God, and for that reason.

Kant's ethics fails to treat God as an end in Himself; it treats Him as a means to Humanity in ourselves and others.

"All right principles that philosophers and lawgivers have discovered and expressed they owe to whatever of the Word they have found and contemplated in part." Justin

circumstantial, pedagogical, concessional, typological, and confirmatory laws of Torah
(1) circumstantial: given for handling a particular set of circumstances (Tabernacle, Temple)
(2) pedagogical: give for purposes of teaching, especially to turn away from idols and to God
(3) concessional: given to guide to less bad ways in matters of weakness (divorce)
(4) typological: sacramental signs of holiness and salvation (sabbath, circumcision)
(5) confirmatory: republication of natural law (Decalogue)

practical syllogism
major: synderesis
minor: reasoning from experience
conclusion: drawn by conscience

St. Albert's favored definition of law: Lex est ius scriptum asciscens honestum prohibiensque contrarium.

Reasoning about consequences is only useful in practical decision-making when the ends of the decision are already established. We do not reason about just any kinds of consequences.

As Xunzi describes it, rite (li) has an intrinsic reference to common good.

affectio commodii & affectio iustitiae, evening and morning knowledge

solidarity: firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to common good

Labor should be such as is appropriate to the formation and cultivation of family.

The purpose of a properly run union is not to negotiate contracts but to protect the vital interests of workers -- the guarantee the recognition of workers as living human beings.

quasi-figurative uses of tools (e.g., using a screwdriver as a hammer or a lever)
adaptation of an instrumentality to another domain of instrumentality

'ordinary use' in OLP as 'common acceptation' (Malcolm certainly commits to this; I think Ryle may be committed to it being only one form)

perverse use of language: the use of it for an end directly contrary to its character as an instrument of communication (e.g., using 'black' to mean 'white' in a context in which people would understand black). Obviously for language this will require regard for context, since communication itself requires such regard.

Austin: ordinary language as embodying 'the inherited experience and acumen of many generations of men'

vocabulary synopsis, linguistic phenomenology, speech-act taxonomy, descriptive metaphysics (conceptual cartography)

marriage and the dwelling-with-another suitable to animals whose social nature is rational

Sacraments of natural law are not divinely instituted except in the sense that they fall under natural law as things appropriate to it, as sages could recognize.
The sacraments of natural law, being essentially imitations of the wise, have no intrinsic efficacy, but are morally salutary and may have efficacy where God grants faith, as with the patriarchs.
Gen 28 and sacraments of natural law (specifics arise as a personal vow of devotion)
'God is to be given first honor' as a general principle of the sacraments of natural law

Torah provides remedy to the obtenebration of natural law by human custom, and sharpens or focuses its signification for purposes of faith.

"fact is richer than diction" (J. L. Austin)
"words are our tools, and, as a minimum, we should use clean tools"

misfire : invalidity
abuse (1): illicitness
abuse (2): licit but with inappropriate intent

While we can and must recognize ourselves as distinct persons from others, we do not, and should not, regard our personhood as sharply distinct from that of others. Children grow up in the ambit and ambience of their parents' personhood, and friends of the closest kind are other selves, and husbands and wives join as one, and even strangers may be met in such a way that we sympathetically mingle.

Sometimes the word 'self' indicates a kind of subject, and other times a property of nature, and yet other times a tapestry of habits and acts.

the Door: Baptism
the Light of the World: Confirmation
the Bread of Life: Eucharist
the Good Shepherd: Orders
the Resurrection and the Life: Unction
the Way, the Truth, the Life: Penance
the True Vine: Matrimony
(note the links between the vine image and that of the Body of Christ)
-- this is a much better fit than one would expect. Think about this.

Planck's phantom problems are all cases in which one slips from one viewpoint to another in the middle of reasoning; thus they are illusions arising by a sort of contextual equivocation. But there is a danger in thinking that this recognition relieves on of explaining the relation between two viewpoints. (And one may even give a Planckian argument for this since ignoring this requirement makes it impossible to eliminate anthropomorphic elements from physical ideas.)

"There is a dialectic in Christian sacred art which impels it to stress, from time to time, now the eternal, and now the temporal elements in the Divine drama." Sayers

If a society does not recognize the priority of rights over statutes, it is absurd to regard it as either liberal or popular governance. But this is precisely the case with societies that fail to recognize conscientious objection, which is an expression of such primacy.

The effective power, as distinct from the authority, of the papacy derives from six sources:
(1) the (defeasible and wavering) tendency of Catholics to avoid direct conflict with the Pope
(2) curial support
(3) alliances with other Catholic leaders (monarchs, patriarchs, etc.)
(4) good reputation in Catholic press and Catholic public opinion (note that this, unlike the first, is active support)
(5) respect from those outside the Church, in the form of concession or cooperation
(6) unpredictable providential favor, in the form of new opportunities and good fortune in attempted undertakings

"Now the power of each corporeal creature is determined for finite effects, but the power of free will is directed toward infinite actions. Hence, this very fact attests to the power of the soul to last into infinity." Aquinas

"It is not the essence of man to be a being who can bear witness?" Marcel

joy and the feeling of something inexhaustible

Our mortality limits our fidelity.

"The most grievous wounds the Church has had to suffer have always been inflicted on her by her own unnatural sons, not by her enemies outside the fold." Ludwig von Pastor
"The greatest and most mysterious feature of the Church of Christ is that the periods of its deepest humiliation are also those of its greatest power and unconquerable strength. For the Church, death and the grave are symbols not of extinction but of resurrection."
"All great things are born in quietness and obscurity."

The Rock is
St. Peter: Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Leo
St. Peter's Faith: Hilary, Ambrose, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Leo
Christ: Tertullian, Ambrose, Cyril of Alexandria, Jerome, Augustine

Professional obligations arise only from contract, from reason, or from tradition.
Professional obligations qua professional are formed by professionals, not descended from heaven, and what constitutes them are practical ways of building a fence around moral obligation; they are not themselves oracular sources of obligations, but specifications of obligations.
Professional obligations are, by their very nature, instrumental to other obligations.

the obligation to exercise moral agency as a foundation for the right of conscientious objection

We can learn nothing from a sign if we are not properly disposed to it.

the immediate object of a sign: that which it expresses/represents
the dynamic object of a sign: that which it targets/indicates
An icon of a saint has as its immediate object the saint and as its dynamic object Christ in its fullness.

Hume's principles of association work really well for certain kinds of music (although Beattie would still be right about the need for contrariety).

being, tending, expressing

the Ineffable Name as rehmatic indexical legisign
- Peirce takes all proper names to be such, but this is arguable. Rather, it seems the pure functionality of proper-naming has this structure, but proper names are not necessarily purely indexical even in being used as proper names. Contrast proper names with demonstrative pronouns on this.

Peirce's theory of signs is an indirect theory of inquiry. This is one reason for later explosion -- the link between semiosis and inquiry leads to an attempt to characterize the former in a way adequate to the wonderful richness of the latter, and thus to fully describe signs-in-inquiry.

What is the subject-matter of philosophy? (families of answers)
1. some particular kind of thing
2. in some sense everything
2.1 as ideal system (system of reasons)
2.2 as real world (system of causes)
2.3 as unity of real and ideal
2.3.1 in the One: Pagan Neoplatonism
2.3.2 in the All: Absolute Idealism
2.3.3 in God: Christian Neoplatonism or Personal Idealism, depending on emphasis

Spiritual icons
(1) as seen in space
(2) as enacted in time
(3) as conceived in thought
(4) as lived in person

Fortnightly Book Distribution (July 2018)

I was interested in seeing roughly how the authors of the Fortnightly Books I have done were distributed. There's no easy way to do it, but I picked birthplace with respect to modern-day country. This would not be particularly useful as a literary grouping -- while there is undeniably a sense in which (e.g.) Kipling is Indian as an author, there is no significant sense in which Tolkien is South African as an author. But it has the advantage of being a standard that can be applied across the board and that is usually easy to find (there are only a few cases where we don't know enough to pin down exactly what modern-day country a person was born in). Alternatives would also not be definitely better (death place would give even less plausible results, and trying to pin down a 'place of literary flourishing' would be immensely more difficult and less objective). In any case, the point is just to get a rough sense. It's unsurprising that the UK and the USA dominate, of course. I've broken up the UK into its constituent countries. I thought about doing so with the states, as well, but decided that would be too messy, and instead just settled for giving a quick abbreviation identifying the state in which the author was born. One thing I learned from doing this is that, out of the 110 identifiable authors, I have had far fewer Texan, Spanish, and Scandinavian authors than I had thought, and no Canadians at all. Also, I have never done Euripides, which is unacceptable. Something perhaps to remedy by the end of next year.


Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars


Douglas, The South Wind

Czech Republic

Werfel, The Song of Bernadette


Undset, Saint Catherine of Siena, Ida Elisabeth


--, Beowulf

--, The Complete Old English Poems

Austen, Sanditon, The Watsons, Lady Susan, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson

Brontë (Ch), Villette

Burdekin, Swastika Night

Caldwell, Never Victorious, Never Defeated

Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

Christie, And Then There Were None, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Appointment with Death, 13 at Dinner, The Tuesday Club Murders, What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!

Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Collins, The Moonstone

Cooper, The Dark Is Rising Sequence

Coward, Future Indefinite

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Eliot, Romola

Gordon (Lord Byron), Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Heyer, A Civil Contract

Jones, Dark Lord of Derkholm, Year of the Griffin

King-Hall, The Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion in the Year 1764-1765

Plunkett (Lord Dunsany), The King of Elfland's Daughter

Renault, Fire from Heaven

Sayers, Have His Carcase, The Man Born to Be King

Shakespeare, Histories

Shelley (P), Prometheus Unbound

Waugh, Edmund Campion, Brideshead Revisited, Helena

Williams, Many Dimensions


Lönnrot, The Kalevala, The Kanteletar


Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes

Balzac, Eugenie Grandet, The Wild Ass's Skin, The Quest of the Absolute

Bédier, The Romance of Tristan & Iseult

Dumas, The Three Musketeers (with Maquet)

Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Hugo, Les Misérables

Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera

Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

Stendhal, The Red and the Black

Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Mysterious Island, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, From the Earth to the Moon, Around the Moon, The Kip Brothers, Travel Scholarships, The Self-Propelled Island, A Castle in Transylvania, Journey to the Center of the Earth


Goethe, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship; Faust

Schiller, William Tell


Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

Sophocles, The Theban Plays of Sophocles


--, Njal's Saga

--, Saga of the Volsungs

--, Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok

--, The Poetic Edda


Kipling, Kim


Shaw, Two Plays for Puritans, Man and Superman

Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Stoker, Dracula


Danta, Purgatorio

Eco, The Island of the Day Before, The Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum

Manzoni, The Betrothed

Tomasi (di Lampedusa), The Leopard

Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters


Endō, Silence

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji

Sono, Watcher from the Shore

Northern Ireland

Lewis, Till We Have Faces


Joaquin, Cave and Shadows, May Day Eve and Other Stories


Asimov, The Foundation Series, The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr

Chekhov, Two Plays

Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

Rand, Anthem

Solzhenitsyn, August 1914, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Zamyatin, We


Brown, Magnus

MacDonald, Lilith

MacInnes, North from Rome

Scott, Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Waverley

Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae, Kidnapped

South Africa

Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, Roverandom, The Hobbit


Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (St. Teresa), The Life, The Interior Castle

Unamuno y Jugo, San Manuel Bueno, Mártir


Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson


Conrad, Nostromo


Alcott, A Long Fatal Love Chase [PA]

Brown, Storming Heaven, Shadows of Steel [NY]

Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, Return of Tarzan [IL]

Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop; My Ántonia [VA]

Cooper, The Deerslayer; The Spy [NJ]

Crichton, Jurassic Park [IL]

Dodson, Away All Boats [WA?]

Donlon, Outpost of Freedom [NY]

Douglas, Magnificent Obsession [IN]

Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass [MD]

Ferber, Cimarron [MI]

Gilman, Herland [CT]

Harte, Tales of the Gold Rush [NY]

Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, Twice-Told Tales [MA]

Haycox, The Adventurers [OR]

Herbert, The Santaroga Barrier

Howells, The Big Company Look [LA?]

Hyman, No Time for Sergeants [GA]

L'Amour, Sackett, The Sackett Brand [ND]

London, The Sea-Wolf [CA]

Markle, The Teka Stone [PA]

Marquand, Think Fast, Mr Moto [DE]

McIntyre, The River Witch [GA]

Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz [FL]

Morrison, The Devious Way [MA?]

Ormonde, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba [ID?]

Powers, Declare [NY]

Price, The Beloved Invader [WV]

Slaughter, Sword and Scalpel [DC]

Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events [CA]

Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Court [CA}

Straczynski, Demon Night [NJ]

Tarkington, Monsieur Beaucaire [IN]

Terry, Tom Northway [TX?]

Twain, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte, The Innocents Abroad [FL]

Washington, Up from Slavery [VA]


--, The Mabinogion


First, Second, Third, and Fourth Maccabees

The Book of a Thousand Nights and A Night Volume I, Volume II

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Epicurus's Old Questions

Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered.

Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?

[Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part X.]

It has been noted by quite a few people before that this is not actually found in Epicurus; in fact, it is inconsistent with everything Epicurus actually says about the gods in the extant texts we have, such as the Letter to Menoeceus.

The origin of the trilemma seems ultimately to be Cicero, De natura deorum III, 39:

Either, therefore, God is ignorant of his powers, or is indifferent to human affairs, or is unable to judge what is best.

This is perhaps not surprising, given that Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is very heavily influenced by De natura deorum. But noticeably, the trilemma in Hume is not exactly what you would expect from that in Cicero. It is serving different ends (which is perhaps not surprising), but, more importantly for assessing influence, in Cicero it is not treated as Epicurean; Cotta, the speaker, is an Academic skeptic, although he is speaking against Stoic ideas, having previously spoken against Epicurean ones. It's also very improbable that Hume, a close reader of Cicero writing in a dialogue heavily influenced by the very work in question, would have simply misremembered it and never caught it in the dialogue's extensive revision over time.

A very likely suggestion is that the original of Hume's trilemma is from Lactantius, De ira Dei XIII:

But if this account is true, which the Stoics were in no manner able to see, that argument also of Epicurus is done away. God, he says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? Or why does He not remove them? I know that many of the philosophers, who defend providence, are accustomed to be disturbed by this argument, and are almost driven against their will to admit that God takes no interest in anything, which Epicurus especially aims at; but having examined the matter, we easily do away with this formidable argument.

In some sense, this just moves the puzzle back, since Lactantius was also a close reader of Cicero and is quite clearly following along with Cicero at this point in his work -- indeed, he just quoted Cicero a couple of chapters before. It seems likely that Lactantius is using 'Epicurus' as a representative name for Epicureans generally rather than as a strict historical matter, but if so, it isn't clear what he would have in mind. When he says 'Epicurus' he often really means Lucretius, but I don't think he's getting this argument in particular from Lucretius. It is sometimes suggested that the attribution arises through a (probable scribal) confusion between 'Epicurus' and 'Empiricus'; it is virtually impossible for this to be Lactantius's own confusion, so it would need to be in some source he was using, and we have no idea what that would be. It is true, though, that Sextus Empiricus has a very similar argument in Pyrrhōneioi hypotypōseis III, 3.

Hume almost certainly did not read Lactantius directly. Rather, he is getting Lactantius second-hand from Pierre Bayle, in particular, the article in Bayle's Dictionary on the Paulicians, which is, not surprisingly, on the problem of evil, and contains the passage from Lactantius in Note E.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Music on My Mind

Julie Fowlis (with Mary Chapin Carpenter), "‘A’ phiuthrag ’sa phiuthar’". ‘A’ phiuthrag ’sa phiuthar’ is Scots Gaelic for "O sister, dear sister". It tells the story of two sisters, one of whom is stolen away by fairies; the other searches for her -- but in vain. That's a Scottish tale for you; all the best songs in Gaelic are sad ones. And this is a lovely animation style for it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Poem Re-Draft


I walked in city-darkness underneath a stormy sky,
Dreaming of the echoes of a God condemned to die,
Dreaming of the words of a convict lifted high:
It is done; it is finished.

The darkness all around me was the blackness of my heart,
With tendrils, living death, that entered every part;
Down I fell, straightway, as wounded by a dart:
It is done; it is finished.

Then in a moment's clearness, I saw me as I am,
An endless sea of failings with denial like a dam--
And off in thorny bushes was the bleating of a ram:
It is done; it is finished.

No guilt within my heart and no burden on my back,
No torment by my demons or a conscientious rack,
Just safely well-defended from darkness and attack:
It is done; it is finished.

Hardly am I better than the way I was before
And yet a change as vast as a realm from shore to shore,
As simple and momentous as a sudden-open door:
It is done; it is finished.

Though I fall again I may never be alone
And wait to be restored in resurrected flesh and bone--
For the tomb in which I dwell is no longer sealed by stone:
It is done; it is finished.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Evening Note for Monday, July 23

Thought for the Evening: Quasi-Property

There is an interesting artifact of social life that is property-like but are really marks or signs for something that is not particularly property-like and, indeed, may not be anything definite at all. Consider, for instance, 'intellectual property', like patents and copyrights, which function very much like property but are symbolic counters for various things, or a shell corporation, the 'corporation that exists, but only on paper'. Or, a very different case, Aboriginal dreaming stories in Australia, which are treated as a peculiar kind of intellectual property.

Quasi-property is a mechanism for making certain things in life easier, and I think it arises in particular in two ways.

(1) Residuation. Legal systems inevitably have quirks. They create signs and titles that work within that particular legal system. These signs and titles are often taken as representing something in particular in the real world, for the purposes of law. But nothing about the sign or title itself necessarily requires that it actually correspond to anything; if it is acknowledged by the legal system, it works within the legal system exactly the same way whether it corresponds to anything or not. So it can happen that the sign or title that once corresponded to something detaches from reality but continues, ghost-like, in the legal system. This is how shell corporations developed, those corporations that only exist on paper; given how the legal system determined what counted as a corporation, it was possible for there to be a corporation that was properly and legally registered but had residuated down to nothing but the bare bundle of corporation rights that came with being legally registered.

Manorial titles provide another example. (Something that always messes Americans up is that manorial titles are not the same as titles of nobility. The latter are part of the peerage; the former are part of feudal law. They are not the same legal system. Peerage titles are in fact not quasi-property, but something entirely different.) A manor under feudal law basically has three elements: the title itself (the lordship of the manor), the manorial (the actual estate), and the seignory (the bundle of rights associated with the title and the manorial). But this is a bundle, and sometimes there might be reasons why the bundle breaks. This gives rise to incorporeal hereditaments: the title gets inherited or bought and sold like property, but there is no manorial or seignory that goes with it any more due to some legal accident or confusion or shenanigans somewhere along the line.

There are lots of ways in which residual quasi-property could arise. Here is a fictional scenario that gives one way it could happen. Suppose we were invaded and had to flee, but we had reason to think that we might eventually be able to push the invaders out and return. In such a case we might then think it important to keep track of our deeds and titles to property that we owned, even though we were not in actual possession of it. To do this, we would have to recognize them as the sort of thing that could be inherited. And the property rights of buying and selling would still be in effect in our property-system-in-exile. But it could very well be that we never were able to return. Even if that were the case, though, we'd still have incentive to keep buying and selling these traditional deeds and titles that correspond to no actual possession of property -- it's part of our ordinary economic exchanges, part of our traditions and laws, and so forth. And thus we would have a phantom property system involving deeds and titles, a purely residual form of property without property you can actually possess. (This is similar to the origin of titular sees in the Catholic Church, although titular sees are not residual quasi-property but residual quasi-jurisdictions, in effect entire legal systems in their own right that have dwindled to a nub because they became detached from any actual territory and people to which they originally applied.)

(2) Virtual Approximation. Legal systems are very flexible, but every legal system runs into things that are beyond its ability to capture perfectly. Often it just ignores them, but sometimes it cannot, for political or social reasons, and then it has to do something to accommodate these things it cannot accommodate. So the natural thing to do in a legal system is to look at something analogous and use that as a model for dealing legally with this extralegal matter for which there is no straightforward legal place. When the model is property law, you get virtual quasi-property, an attempt to simulate in property-law terms something that is in some way different from property. Patents and copyrights, indeed all intellectual property, arose through the attempt of law to capture certain moral expectations by treating uses of a thing as if it were property. Patents are a good example of why you need some kinds of virtual quasi-property; once the British, to clear up some legal difficulties, started treating economic privileges granted by legal patent as if they were a kind of property, it became a natural solution for any other system that had similar legal difficulties, and given that the resulting patent system was integral to obvious economic successes of Britain and its colonies, it was inevitable that everyone wanted a property-like patent system of their own.

A very different kind of virtual quasi-property can be found in the case of Aboriginal dreaming stories. A 'dreaming' has nothing to do with dreams (it's an old mistranslation that historically happened to stick); it's a religious system of symbolisms (narrative, artistic, and practical) that is unique to a particular Aboriginal tribe. It's obviously not property. But dreamings customarily have a very exclusive character -- using symbols from a tribe's dreaming without permission is a serious form of disrespect. I mean, it's an extraordinarily serious issue. So Australia has a serious incentive to accommodate this exclusivity. But Aboriginal dreamings are very unique and distinctive; they are a homegrown development specific to Aboriginal religious and tribal life, and there is nothing outside that religious and tribal life that is very like a dreaming. But legal systems of British origin have very strong property laws, so if you wanted to find a way to convey how serious the infringement was, entirely in the terms of those legal traditions, one way you could convey it is by saying that the infringer was stealing the dreaming, which is the possession of the tribe. Taking that as an analogy, one can then adapt certain principles of property law to give recourse and remedy. This will not capture all the nuances and complications of a real dreaming, most of which will be ignored or added in by hand as needed; but dreaming-as-property is a possible representation in legal systems of certain features of something that is really sui generis.

You can imagine all sorts of variations. One can imagine a society in which people became almost obsessive about their 'honor', a set of expectations about their social rights; accomodating this might be done in lots of ways, but if you do it by analogy to property law, you start developing a legal concept of honor as virtual quasi-property. The legal concept would be a rough-but-useful model for legal purposes. Honor is not in fact is very much like property at all; but you can treat it as if it were a very weird kind of property. In reality, you wouldn't want to develop as virtual quasi-property anything too weird; the purpose of it is really to simplify things, not to make them more complicated (although sometimes the latter inevitably happens anyway). The weirdest forms of virtual quasi-property we usually deal with in the real world are probably all financial instruments; because profit is a massive incentive, banks and investors are always looking out for new things existing only on paper that can be bought or sold like property. Residuation in a sense happens just by ordinary accident, arising out of the technicalities of the legal system itself; you need some pressure for virtual approximation to happen because it's a creative re-thinking. But certain kinds of historical contingencies (like the sudden interaction of two very different legal systems, or a situation for which a legal system has literally no precedent) can force the need for a virtual quasi-property, however weird it would have previously been to think of it in property law terms.

Various Links of Interest

* John G. Brungardt, The Action and Power of the Universe

* New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room

* Beth Preston, Artifact, at the SEP

* Jennifer Fitz discusses the Cardinal McCarrick scandal

* Martha S. Jones on the history of the Fourteenth Amendment

* The Ethics of Powerlessness: An Interview with Béatrice Han-Pile

* Brian R. Glenney, Philosophical problems, cluster concepts, and the many lives of Molyneux's question

* Raymond Chandler and the Invention of the Hardboiled Detective Novel

Currently Reading

Jules Verne, The Begum's Millions
Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel
Edmund Husserl, Ideas
John C. Wright, The Vindication of Man

Fortnightly Book, July 22

I'm a bit behind, of course.

With the next fortnightly book, I continue looking at works of Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires. In particular:

#18 Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum, published in 1879

#29 Robur-le-Conquerant, published in 1886

#53 Maître du monde, published in 1904

Some of the Voyages are chained together by explicit statements in the text, and these are an example; #53 is about the character in #29, and #29 explicitly refers to events in #18, albeit mostly in passing. All three are concerned with the potential of technology for war and crime, albeit in different ways.

The Begum's Millions, which I will be reading in the translation by Stanford L. Luce put out in 2005 by Wesleyan University Press, is something of a peculiar work in the series. It's harsher about misuse of technology than any of the previous works, and long after Verne's death it came out that the original idea for the book was not from Verne himself. Jean François Paschal Grousset was a brilliant Corsican socialist who participated in the Paris Commune; when the Commune collapsed, he was first deported and then fled to the United States, where he taught French. After the amnesty of 1880, he returned to France, and French politics, but he often needed a little more to make ends meet and wrote fiction under the pseudonym, André Laurie. Pierre-Jules Hetzel started buying manuscripts from him, for a decent price, while he was in exile -- a necessarily clandestine transaction, since Grousset's life would be endangered by any sort of paper trail. Hetzel, in turn, could do anything he wanted with the manuscript. He thought there were serious problems with the first manuscript he bought, L'Héritage de Langévol, so to get what money he could out of the investment, he turned it over (under the Laurie pseudonym) to Verne, a popular author who also wrote sciencey things and had a major ongoing series that could draw readers to it. Verne would do three works along these lines -- Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum, L'Étoile du Sud, and L'Épave du Cynthia.

For The Begum's Millions, we do not have Paschal Grousset's manuscript, and so we do not know the exact relationship between it and Verne's reworked version, but from Verne's correspondence with Hetzel we can gather that he was not impressed at all by the manuscript. Some of the criticisms are given in the introduction to the Wesleyan UP edition: he thought it was poorly plotted, that its structure nullified the small number of genuinely interesting ideas in the work, that its depiction of life and society (and particularly Frenchmen) was implausible, that its emotional scenes were tedious, that its science was inaccurate, and that its ending was too abrupt. It probably didn't help that while they both wrote science-romances, Grousset, despite having a better scientific education than Verne, was really interested in what we would call science fantasy, and Verne was not. Hetzel, who had of course spent a fair amount money on the manuscript and so it needed to be workable, pushed back against some of Verne's criticisms, but gave Verne the right to rework it how he thought best. The result seems to have been a set of compromises. We know that Grousset's manuscript had a French and a German city in an arms race; Verne thought the French city too American, so he seems to have relocated them to America while coming up with the Begum in order to keep them French and German (which was the political aspect that Hetzel thought most promising). Hetzel and Verne both agreed that the story needed to be condensed. We know that Verne came up with the idea of the shot that never hits the ground, and that the ending and the title are Vernian. We do know exactly what theme Verne thought important for the book: force does not bring happiness.

For the other two, I'll be using older translations. Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World tell a story of heavier-than-air flight, the former seventeen years before Kitty Hawk (but two years after the dirigible flight of Krebs and Renard which inspired the book) and the latter a year after, and in some ways they are more like Verne's famous early works than other later books in the series are, although, like other such works they are very concerned with the abuse of technology. I suspect this is why Master of the World is one of the easiest of the late Voyages to find today. In any case, it's the only one of the three I've read before; I discussed some of its religious imagery in 2005. I think I've read it once since, but it will be interesting to re-read it in the context of the prior works.

There's a Vincent Price movie based on Robur and Master; since I like Vincent Price, I might see if I have time to watch it.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery


Opening Passages: From Douglass's Narrative:

I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland. I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it. By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant. I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday....

From Washington's Up from Slavery:

I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia. I am not quite sure of the exact place or exact date of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I must have been born somewhere and sometime. as nearly as I have been able to learn, I was born near a cross-roads post-office called Hale's Ford, and the year swas 1858 or 1859. I do not know the month or the day. The earliest impressions I can now recall are of the plantation and the slave quarters--the latter being the part of plantation where the slaves had their cabins.

Summary: The tale laid out in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a tale of education. Slaves are people who are denied truth in an often explicit attempt to degrade their humanity; they cannot speak honestly and they are allowed to learn nothing but what will keep them in chains. Douglass first gets his glimpse of "the pathway from slavery to freedom" when his master, Mr. Auld, lectures his wife on why she should stop teaching the young Douglass how to read: denying that education was part of how slaves were kept in line. Douglass thence set out to learn how to read, coming up with often ingenious solutions to do so. But reading alone was not the end of it; in teaching himself to read, Douglass was setting out on an ever-deepening to journey to unravel the central problem of slavery: what gave white men the power to enslave black men? Understanding that was indeed the path from slavery to freedom for Douglass, and would become the heart of his abolition work when free.

Up from Slavery is also about education. Washington, freed at an early age by the Emancipation Proclamation, goes to the Hampton Institute to study and thence is put in charge of the Tuskegee Institute. Starting with almost nothing -- there was some money appropriated by the legislature, but it could only be used for salaries, not buildings or supplies, of which there was none -- he built up the Institute into a major educational hub. (Hence the epithet often given to him, The Wizard of Tuskegee.)

One thing on which Douglass and Washington both agree is that there is no freedom without labor, both of mind and of body. Douglass has a very famous speech, "Self-Made Men", in which he makes the point vividly:

The lesson taught at this point by human experience is simply this, that the man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down. This rule may appear somewhat harsh, but in its general application and operation it is wise, just and beneficent. I know of no other rule which can be substituted for it without bringing social chaos. Personal independence is a virtue and it is the soul out of which comes the sturdiest manhood. But there can be no independence without a large share of self-dependence, and this virtue cannot be bestowed. It must be developed from within.

The major steps to freedom for Douglass were to find ways to be educated in reading, to push back rather than to give in, and, when the opportunity arose, to escape to freedom and do what he needed to do to survive in it. Freedom is not just given to us; it is especially not given to slaves, who are stripped of the kind of power that makes it possible; it must be built for oneself, or it will not really be had. And Washington has much the same view; as he says, "Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having, except as the result of hard work." A result of this is that both of them see the primary problem in racial relations as being a lack of fair play; freedom must be built, and cannnot be merely given, so the primary thing to do is to let it be built. The actual building can only be done by education and hard work, and freedom can only be built by those who are to have it.

Washington in particular has taken a lot of beating over the years for his statement of this idea in the Atlanta Exposition Address (discussed in Chapter XIV of Up from Slavery), which was originally generally hailed as a step forward, but eventually became criticized as the 'Atlanta Compromise', with Washington himself labeled, by W.E.B. Du Bois and others, as 'the Great Accommodator'. This comes in part of over-interpreting a particular statement in the Address:

The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremest folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all the privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing. No race that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized. It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercises of these privileges. The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house.

To this day, you can find people treating the Atlanta Exposition Address as a statement that blacks will not agitate for voting rights or push back against racist activity, and would limit their participation in society to ways congenial to the lifestyle of whites. This is not only inconsistent with Washington's own views as stated elsewhere, it misses the point entirely of the Address, which is, again, that freedoms must be built step-by-step through hard work and cannot merely pushed into place by "artificial forcing" (terms that he elsewhere associates with Reconstruction policies). My suspicion (I should say it is just a suspicion, and not any sort of rigorous account) is that Du Bois's eventual reaction against Washington had less to do with any racial issue than with the fact that Du Bois was a socialist and Washington is about as far from being a socialist as you can possibly get. Both of them essentially agree on matters of race, and, what is more, both of them agree that freedom requires, among other things, an economic foundation for it. But there is no possible way that they could ever agree on the economic foundation.

I knew going in that I would enjoy Douglass's Narrative, since I've liked other work by Douglass. I was less sure of what to expect from Up from Slavery, but having read it, I think I do not exaggerate in saying that it is one of the most important works ever written on the philosophy of education. And the scope of what Washington was trying to do was simply astounding. He was not merely trying to build a school; he was trying to seed an entire system of education, building it literally from the bottom up. This is part of the reason why he emphasizes vocational education so much, another thing that has elicited unmerited disdain, particularly from academics. But Washington himself addresses this point explicitly; for him, it is about maintaining the necessary order, not merely in educating oneself but in building an entire system of education:

One man may go into a community prepared to supply the people there with an analysis of Greek sentences. The community may not at the time be prepared for, or feel the need of, Greek analysis, but it may feel its need of bricks and houses and wagons. If the man can supply the need for those, then, it will lead eventually to a demand for the first product, and with the demand will come the ability to appreciate it and to profit by it.

And the educational system was itself to be the beating heart of an entire industrial system, self-supporting, self-developing, contributing so much to the "markets of the world" that the ever-growing freedom it would bring to the black community would not depend on good intentions or mere political promises and policies -- it would be something so overwhelming in its practical benefits that no one would dare even try to strip it away. Since I've been thinking a lot about Scotland this summer, what Washington was aiming at reminds me a bit of what happened on a smaller scale to the Scots after the Union: an originally marginal nation that by force of education and practical aims became a significant economic force. And it was all to start with the Tuskegee Institute, an educational institute that Washington explicitly designed to be self-replicating in its effect. It is a breathtaking vision, of immense scope, yet put together with an attention to practical details. I've sometimes noted that one of the reasons for the success of Plato is that he has a talent for philosophizing simultaneously at the level of the argument and at the level of an entire scheme of civilization, whereas the rest of us have to oscillate between the two, if we ever manage to encompass both at all. Washington has interests very different from those of Plato, but he has that rare talent of being able to think of things simultaneously as a solution to an immediate problem and as a component in an entire system of civilization. The best thought on education will inevitably include both. And this easily characterizes Washington's thoughts on education in Up from Slavery, whether one agrees with his emphases and solutions or not.

Favorite Passages: From the Narrative:

Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters. Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further, he said, "If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now," said he, "if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy." These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom....

From Up from Slavery:

Several of these festivals were held, and quite a little sum of money was raised. A canvass was also made among the people of both races for direct gifts of money, and most of those applied to gave small sums. It was often pathetic to note the gifts of the older coloured people, most of whom had spent their best days in slavery. Sometimes they would give five cents, sometimes twenty-five cents. Sometimes the contribution was a quilt, or a quantity of sugarcane. I recall one old coloured women who was about seventy years of age, who came to see me when we were raising money to pay for the farm. She hobbled into the room where I was, leaning on a cane. She was clad in rags; but they were clean. She said: "Mr. Washin'ton, God knows I spent de bes' days of my life in slavery. God knows I's ignorant an' poor; but," she added, "I knows what you an' Miss Davidson is tryin' to do. I knows you is tryin' to make better men an' better women for de coloured race. I ain't got no money, but I wants you to take dese six eggs, what I's been savin' up, an' I wants you to put dese six eggs into the eddication of dese boys an' gals."

Since the work at Tuskegee started, it has been my privilege to receive many gifts for the benefit of the institution, but never any, I think, that touched me so deeply as this one.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended, both; Up from Slavery should in particular be read by anyone with an interest in education.