Saturday, November 03, 2018

Dashed Off XXVI

Charm is in part a skill of reasonable and selective distraction.

A problem with Humean accounts of laws of nature is that counterfactual prediction requires different conditions entirely from simple prediction. (Indeed, Hume's own argument exploits what on analysis turns out to be this very distinction, and thus the distinction is not generally avoidable.)

auspicial, formulaic, and reputational expressions of authority

forms of state/Church regime
(1) integral (Immortale Dei 21): state accepts own limits and respects explicit rights of the Church
(2) ralliement (Au milieu des sollicitudes 22): state has no protective role, but a Catholic people make laws in accordance with Catholic teaching
(3) influenced secularity (Au milieu des sollicitudes 28): state rejects protective role but legislators influenced by acceptable principles and tolerate the Church
(4) persecution (Vehementer Nos 15)

A healthy society needs a stable heritage, a sound view of progress, and a living spirit animating both.

ontological arguments as establishing that God's existence is not less than that of mathematical objects

To be genuinely Catholic requires being infinitely Catholic.

the five aspects of sacrifice: consecration, oblation, immolation, consumption (nihilation), participation

(1) Either a thing has a direction to effects in itself or it does not.
(2) Direction to effects is a cognitive act.
(3) Lacking direction to effects makes effects a chance case-by-case affair -- causal regularity requires direction to effects.
(4) Noncognitive things have causal regularity.
(5) Therefore noncognitive things have direction to effects.
(6) Therefore noncognitive things have direction to effects from another.
(7) Therefore noncognitive things get direction to effects from a cognitive source.

forms of inquiry regime
(1) cumulative progress: clear desiderata indicate a particular tree of possibilities that presuppose each other
(2) broad diffusion: many trees of possibilities being explored simultaneously
(3) random exploration: field of possibilities has no clear trees, or at least none that have yet been discovered

"...marriage emerged as the first kind of friendship in the world." Vico
"...the true natural friendship is matrimony, in which are realized the three final goods: the honorable, the useful, and the pleasant. Husband and wife by nature share the same lot in all the prosperities and adversities of life, just as by choice friends have all things in common (amicorum omnia sunt communio), and Modestinus therefore defines matrimony as a lifelong lot sharing (omnis vitae consortium)." Vico

The common view that we take things as metaphorical because we have assessed that taking them literally would require them to be false, is absurd; it sits poorly with the pervasiveness of metaphor, with the fact that the line between literal and metaphorical sense often takes profound analysis to trace, with the fact that shifts of language often leave unclear where to draw the line (e.g., 'light'), and with the practice of poets, who do not typically go around hunting for falsehoods in their descriptions.

social relativism // polytheism

deterioration of public spirit:
(1) idleness and lassitude with regard to liberties
(2) overreliance on command
(3) indifference to usurpation
(4) ignorance of commonweal as if it were alien

There are no rules for devising literal speech as such because what counts as such depends on common usage and expectation. There is no test for literal sense that does not involve a sort of social sense.

No literal meaning can be assigned to words apart from contexts of use.

There is no limit to what language calls to our attention, and much of what we thereby notice is not propositional in character.

Literal statements are often not easily amenable to literal paraphrase in terms other than those they use.

All historical reasoning must use the principles of causation, remotion, and eminence: from this evidential trace, we work back through the causes, removing what cannot be true of them, recognizing that what was, was such as to exceed the trace that came from it.

To be a unified diversity is to be an effect.

truth, stability, and purity as features of knowledge

Phaedo 107d-108c The soul is guided to Hades by its daemon
Republic 620d Each soul has a guardian daemon
Symposium 202d-203a Daemons intermediate between gods and men (cp also Epinomis 984b-985c)

Seneca, Letter 41 to Lucilius, and sublimity as the mark of divine action

the inherent tendency of the notion of philosophical inquiry to the notion of human moral equality (cp. Seneca to Lucilius, letter 44)

Idle hands will break an army.

Apaideusia is a failure to cultivate what is required for being part of a community of inquirers; thus, for instance, those who demand demonstration of first principles do so out of apaideusia, cyclopean barbarism of intellectual habits, an inability to be in genuine intellectual conversation or dialogue.

"Some need persuasion, some need hard knocks." Aristotle Met 1009a17-18

Stories are constructed out of things about which one wonders.

It is important to be merciful, but you need God's mercy more than anyone needs yours.

forms of evidence for function
(1) apparent aptness
(2) comparison of actions
(3) analogy to other kinds of actions
(4) structural constraints

Pascal's Wager is not concerned with utility functions but with having practical reasons under conditions of uncertainty.

laws of nature as divine ideas (the explanatory role of laws of nature as exemplar in character)
-- an exemplar account of laws of nature can allow for both necessary and contingent laws

"No collection of facts can constitute a law; for the law goes beyond any accomplished facts." Peirce

(1) There is no sentence meaning in the sense usually meant; it is all speaker's meaning or else expectations about speaker's meaning.
(2) The distinction between literal and metaphorical is not sharp, and it is possible to understand a claim and not know whether it is literal or figurative.
(3) Metaphorical statements may be true.

In matters of religion, what is different is not always contrary.

Hume overestimates both the extent to which non-Christian religions make miracles a matter of importance and the extent to which miracles have as their direct scope the establishing of religion.

[responding to] : [appropriate response]
argument : argument
declamation : analysis
inconsistency : exposition

Works of classical Chinese are clearly not meant to be read outside an already existing tradition of teaching and learning; thus their allusiveness and indirectness, as if one were always walking into the middle of a conversation.

As far as everyday experience is concerned, minds are less in need of explanation than other things, because we have direct, everyday experience of (1) minds as having the feature of explaining other things; and (2) minds as directly involving necessities in their operation. In everyday experience, nothing is more explanatory, and less in need of any immediate explanation, than mind.

Phil's Arguments in Hume's Dialogues
(1) His power is infinite; what He wills is done; neither man nor animal is happy; therefore he does not will their happiness.
-- possible response: Anselmian recognition of ambiguities of 'to will'
(2) His wisdom is infinite; He flawlessly chooses means to ends; nature does not tend to human or animal felicity; therefore nature is not established for that purpose.
-- possible response: Butlerian recognition of partial tendency and possibility of probationary means
(3) Therefore, from (1) and (2), His benevolence and mercy do not seem to resemble human benevolence and mercy.
-- possible response: human benevolence does not seem to work in the way this assumes.
(4) the Epicurian questions: If He is willing to prevent evil, but not able, He is impotent; if He is able, but not willing, He is malevolent; if He is able and willing, there should be no evil.
-- possible response: All three of these are hyperbolic, and thus not to be trusted as a strict guide.

Most reasons for rejecting cosmological arguments have analogues in arguments rejecting realism about laws of nature.

(1) the Trinitarian invocation
(2) various divine attributions to the Three
(3) the absolute distinction between Creator and creature
(4) the unity of God
non-Trinitarian positions are not really possible.

The rights of children grow up within the rights of their parents.

Experience and testimony are not commensurable evidences, although at a very abstract level we can compare them. (Note that Campbell explicitly argues this.)

By testimony we use the minds of others as instruments; thus there is a close link between evaluation of testimony and evaluation of instrumental results (e.g., in experiments).

While the evidence of bare sense is more forceful than the evidence of bare testimony, our interpretation of sensory evidence is heavily influenced by testimonial evidence.

The testimony that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood is not, pace Tillotson, a testimony that one is sensing wrong.

Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus Inciderit. (Horace)
-- 'God of the gaps' and similar is an issue for narrative explanation in general.

internal structure of ideas + drift due to imperfect transmission and chance psychosocial interactions + sifting of ideas through the structural pressures of political and social institutions and practices

To flourish a religion must stimulate communal feeling and a sense of mission, build a unifying structure, appeal to sense and intellect both, maintain a continutiy from which to develop; it also must involve a simplicity ramifying into great variety, and a boldness that does not cease to venture.

the confusion between rights and life-ideals

By mercy we often reach a greater justice.

the passions as natural educations

The power to punish too often leads those who wield it to assume their own rightness.

A common trick of modern government is to rule without appearing to rule by indirectly forcing corporations to impose policies for them. Thus a government itself restricted from (e.g.) limiting freedom of speech may limit it indirectly by requiring employers to have policies that stifle certain forms of speech. Thus also governments have historically enforced secularization, party loyalties, economic activities, and symbolic obeisances. Sometimes its effects are good, sometimes bad, but in all these cases it is a government coercing intermediaries to coerce in ways that it cannot.

God and His saints do endlessly many things in the Church; it is neither necessary nor possible fo rthe Church to certify the authenticity of them all.

Without honesty, political deliberation begins to collapse; only what is honest in it maintains it as real deliberation.

Above the Grief and Languor of the Dying Lands

In November
by Clark Ashton Smith

With autumn and the flaring leaves our love must end-—
Ere flauntful spring shall mock thy tears and my despair
With blossoms red or pale, some April bride may wear:
Now, while the weary, grey, forgetful heavens bend

Above the grief and languor of the dying lands,
In one last kiss shall meet and mingle and expire
The muted, last, remembering sighs of our desire;
And on my face the flower-like burden of thy hands

Shall rest a little, and be taken tenderly,
And, ah, how lightly hence! And in thy golden eyes,
Thy love, and all the ashen glory of the skies,
Shall mingle, and as in a mirror lie for me.

Friday, November 02, 2018

All Souls

When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,
The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart,
All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.
Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,
And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,
That one so sweet should e’er have placed Himself
At disadvantage such, as to be used
So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes
Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.
And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though
Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinned,
As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire
To slink away, and hide thee from His sight;
And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell
Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—
The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—
Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.

-- from The Dream of Gerontius, by John Henry Newman.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

All Saints

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us.

Gianna Beretta Molla

Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta, near Milan, Italy, in 1922, to a very active Catholic family. Her mother and father were Third Order Franciscans, and there were a number of priests in the family. For various reasons, her family moved around Italy quite a bit, but she returned to the area of Milan in 1942 to study medicine. She completed her studies in 1949 by obtaining a degree from the University of Pavia and began pediatric practice. She originally hoped to join her brother, who had become a priest in Brazil, to offer medical services to poor women there, but these plans fell through due to her own health issues. She continued with her own medical work, and with furthering her medical education, and actively participated in her church and in Azione Cattolica. She married Pietro Molla in 1954 and they had several children. In her fourth pregnancy, however, it was discovered that she had a fibroma on her uterus. The path to dealing with the problem that had the greatest chance of saving her own life involved aborting the child. If, on the other hand, they tried to focus on saving the child, they could do a Caesarean section, but her chances would be uncertain. Molla, as mother and doctor and Catholic, chose the latter route. The daughter, Gianna Emmanuela, survived. Molla, however, spent a week in pain and died of septic peritonitis on April 28, 1962. Her daughter would go on to become a geriatric physician. Molla herself was beatified in 1994 and canonized in 2004 by St. John Paul II. Her feast is April 28.

Margaret of Scotland

Margaret was born to the exiled English prince, Edward Ætheling, while he was in Hungary, so she grew up in the Hungarian court of King Andrew I. She returned to England when her father was recalled in 1057; she would have been somewhere around 12 years old at the time. Her father died almost immediately after his arrival, but the family stayed in the English court for a while until, after the Battle of Hastings, Edgar was declared King of England by the Witengamot. Alas, he was never crowned; William the Conqueror invaded and the nobles of England just handed Edgar over. Margaret and the rest of her family had to flee northward to Northumbria. They would eventually end up in Scotland. The story is that they had decided to return to the continent, but their ship was blown off course to a place that is today called St. Margaret's Hope, near North Queensferry. There they met King Malcolm III Canmore (the same Malcolm who is fictionalized in Shakespeare's Macbeth), a widower with two sons; Malcolm was intrigued by Margaret. That she was one of the last surviving members of an English dynasty was probably one of the reasons, although it may not have been the only one. They married in 1070. It was not the kind of marriage one would expect to be successful -- Malcolm was a very rough man and seems not to have had a religious bone in his body -- but they actually thrived together. He seems to have liked the polish she brought to the court and actively encouraged her to do whatever religious work she deemed appropriate. He did not participate in her regular prayer and religious devotions, but he did not at all stand in the way of them. He seems to have particularly liked having a literate wife (he himself could not read); despite his lack of interest in religion, he often had her read Bible stories to him, and he had gold and silver covers made for her devotional books. In order to facilitate pilgrimage to Dunfermline Abbey, Margaret established a ferry across the Firth of Forth, which gives the towns of South Queensferry and North Queensferry their names. She also did extensive charitable work for the poor. Malcolm died at the Battle of Alnwick in 1093; St. Margaret died on November 16 of the same year, just a few days after having received word of his death. She was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV; her feast day is November 16.

Yu Tae-chol Peter

Born in 1826 in Korea, Peter was raised by his father to be Catholic, but his mother was not Catholic. When his father was killed for his faith, his mother, fearing for her son, tried to stop him from engaging in Catholic practices. He insisted, however, that to honor his mother as he should required first honoring his Father in heaven. When a new persecution targeting Catholics broke out, he turned himself in to the government. He was found guilty of being a Catholic from a Catholic family and thrown in prison, where he was often beaten or whipped. He became well known in the prison, however, for always maintaining a cheerful demeanor, no matter how the guards treated him. Peter was eventually given over to be beaten to death, but the beating took so long that he was eventually just strangled. He died in October of 1839, at the age of 13. His feast in the Roman Martyrology is October 21, and he is also celebrated with the Holy Korean Martyrs, of whom he is the youngest, on September 20.

Justa and Rufina of Seville

Justa and Rufina are said to have been sisters living in Hispalis, modern day Seville. They sold fine pottery and were known for their aid to the poor. Because of their reputation, the local authorities attempted to buy their pottery for a pagan festival. When Justa and Rufina refused to sell their wares for pagan purposes, a mob broke into their store and smashed all their works. The sisters, being somewhat fiery in temperament, responded by smashing a statue dedicated to Venus. They were arrested and tortured, then thrown into prison, where they were not given sufficient food and water. Justa died from malnutrition. According to the legend, Rufina lasted longer and was thrown to the lions. But as the lions did not harm her, she was killed by strangulation. The two came to occupy an important role in the Mozarabic liturgy and have long been a favorite subject of Spanish artists.

Giuseppe Moscati

Born in Benevento in 1880, Giuseppe Moscati spent most of his early life in Naples. His family became friends with St. Caterina Volpicelli, who would be a major influence on him. He became interested in medicine, particularly physiological chemistry, and graduated from the University of Naples in in 1903, after which he joined the staff of the Ospedale degli Incurabili, Naples's most important medical institution. He was a very busy man, taking on a heavy administrative burden while also continuing his medical research, and his general experience and competence rose to the occasion when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906 and he successfully evacuated a nearby hospital primarily devoted to paralytics, and again when a cholera epidemic broke out in 1911. He was active in helping Italian soldiers in the First World War. He regularly attended Mass, regarding prayer as an essential part of his medical work, and took a vow of chastity. Moscati became well known for helping patients regardless of whether they could pay, as well as for his prodigious ability to diagnose illnesses correctly. Rumors that he could work miracles began to circulate even before he died. He died on April 12, 1927, having spent a busy day rising early for Mass, finishing administrative work in the hospital, and seeing patients. Feeling unusually tired, he sat down to rest, dozed off, and never woke up. He was beatified by Bl. Paul VI in 1975 and canonized by St. John Paul II in 1987. His feast is November 16, the anniversary of his beatification.

Kazimierz Jagiellończyk

Second son of King Casimir IV Jagiellon and Queen Elisabeth of Hungary, Casimir became heir to the throne when his older brother Vladislaus was elected King of Bohemia. He spent most of his days in princely duties, but his reputation for good deeds spread. He contracted an illness, apparently tuberculosis, although he continued to be active in helping others, and died on March 4, 1484. Stories of miracles at his tomb in Vilnius became widespread, and a canonization cause was eventually opened for him. It seems to have been interrupted by the death of Leo X, since there is no documentation of the process's completion, but St. Casimir was eventually written into the Roman Martyrology. The lack of any surviving documentation of his canonization complicated the spread of his feast, but he was eventually added to the universal calendar by St. Pius V, and his feast is March 4.

Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghaţţas

Soultaneh Maria Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in 1843 to a poor Palestinian family in a poor Palestinian community. She joined the Congregation of St. Joseph of the Apparition, which had been founded by St. Emilie de Viliar for mission work, and there took the name Marie-Alphonsine. She became a catechist and spent some time in Bethlehem doing this but in the 1870s she began to have visions of the Virgin Mary that she should found a religious community, the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary. She wrote about the visions in her journal, but told no one except her spiritual director about the visions at the time, and no one else knew she had had them until after her death. She patiently worked to get official permission to leave the Sisters of St. Joseph and to found the new community, and eventually received them. The new congregation was founded under the patronage of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Marie-Alphonsine spent the rest of her life quietly running schools for girls and helping parish ministries, and died on the feast of the Annunciation in 1927. She was beatified in 2009 by Benedict XVI and canonized by Francis in 2015. Her feast is November 19.

Salomone Leclerq

Born in 1745 in France, Guillaume-Nicolas-Louis Leclercq lived a quiet life, joining the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in order to teach; it was there he took the name 'Salomone'. After some years as a teacher, he rose to become provincial in the Institute, and would likely have simply continued quietly living in that position, were it not for the French Revolution. The Institute, like many other religious societies and orders, was outlawed in 1790, when it refused to accept the conditions of the new oath of loyalty that the revolutionary government required. After the dissolution, Salomone's correspondence was monitored by government spies until he and a number of other religious were arrested in August 1792; they were all summarily executed on September 2 of that year. He was beatified by Pius XI in 1926 and canonized by Francis in 2016; his feast day is September 2.

Arnulf of Metz

Arnulf (Arnoul, Arnold) was born into a wealthy noble family, said to have descended from the Roman consul Flavius Afranius Syagrius, in Lorraine in the latter part of the sixth century, during the Merovingian dynasty. He became part of the court, for which he performed a number of missions and had considerable success both as a military commander and as a civil governor. After the death of the king, the king's grandmother, Brunhilda, took the reins of power as regent; she was quite competent, but seems to have had both a ruthless manner of governing and an extremely abrasive personality. The major nobles of the realm, most particularly Arnulf and Pepin of Landen, gave their support to Chlothar (Clotaire), one of her longstanding enemies, and Chlothar seized power and had Burnhilda executed. In reward, Chlothar offered Arnulf the see of Metz, although apparently on condition that he would also continue in court as Chlothar's steward. Pepin became Mayor of the Palace, and Pepin's daughter, St. Begga, married Arnulf's son, Ansegisel. Toward the end of his life, Arnulf retired to a hermitage. According to legend, he had begun to have qualms about some of the things he had done while trying to survive the feuding Merovingian court, and threw his ring into a river, asking God to return it to him if absolution was granted. Many years later an honest fisherman came to him with the ring, which had been found in the belly of a fish, and Arnulf took it as a sign that it was time to retire and devote his life to better things. He died some time in the 640s. Arnulf's oldest son, St. Chlodulf (Cloud, Clou) would eventually succeed his father as bishop of Metz. His younger son, Ansegisel, became Mayor of the Palace; before St. Begga would retire to the convent of her sister, St. Gertrude of Nivelles, she and Ansegisel would have a son, Pepin of Herstal, whose son would be Charles Martel, whose son would be Pepin the Short, whose son would be Charlemagne.

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez

Born in 1917 in El Salvador, Romero had an early interest in the priesthood. After becoming a priest, he was eventually assigned to the diocese of San Miguel, where he proceeded to have what was in many ways quite an ordinary priestly career, obtaining a reputation for being quite conservative. He made his way up the hierarchical ladder and was eventually appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, against the complaints of more progressive priests. Shortly afterward, one of Romero's friends, Fr. Rutilio Grande Garcia, was assassinated by Salvadoran security forces in retaliation for a homily he had preached criticizing the government. Romero responded by taking a more active stand, both for the vulnerable and against government corruption. He started a radio program to broadcast the human rights abuses, and especially the anticlerical human rights abuses, of the regime; but throughout his career, he always insisted that social change required interior reform of one's own heart. It eventually came to a head in March 1980, when, during a Mass, having just finished his homily and stepped to the altar, a gunman came to the door of the church and shot him in the heart. He was beatified in 2015 and canonized in 2018. His feast is March 24.

Frumentius of Tyre

Born to a Syro-Phoenician family in Tyre, Frumentius and his brother Edesius (or Aedeius) were still young boys when they accompanied their uncle on a trip and were kidnapped and enslaved. They were eventually brought to the court of the King of Aksum (probably in the reign of King Ella Amida), and after the king's death became tutors to the new king, Ezana, who was still a boy. They used their influence to help Christians throughout the country. Edesius eventually returned to Tyre, but Frumentius only went as far as Alexandria in order to meet the Alexandrian Patriarch, St. Athanasius the Great, requesting the patriarch to send him a bishop and some priests as missionaries. Athanasius had a better idea: he consecrated Frumentius as a bishop, and sent him back as the missionary. King Ezana converted to Christianity, and the Church in Aksum thrived. In the Arian controversy, the Emperor Constantius II tried to pressure King Ezana to replace Frumentius with an Arian bishop, but Ezana refused. Frumentius died around 380, still the head of the Church in Aksum. As the Illuminator of Ethiopia, St. Frumentius is one of the most important saints in the calendars of northeastern Africa, and his feast is celebrated in the Catholic Church on October 27.

Jeanne Jugan

Jeanne Jugan was born in 1792 in Cancale, Brittany. During the anti-Catholic persecutions of the French Revolution, her mother, Marie Jugan, secretly made sure she was catechized. Jeanne did various odd jobs until she joined the Congregation of Joseph and Mary, where she spent a number of years as a nurse and as a live-in attendant. But in 1839, she started assisting poor women with disabilities or with age-related difficulties, and this started to develop into a community as more women lent a helping hand. She wrote a simple rule of life for them, and thus was founded, almost incidentally, the Little Sisters of the Poor. It was quite difficult at first -- at times she had to beg in the street to make ends meet -- but the community grew until it was quite thriving. At that point, however, a jealous priest removed Jeanne from her position as the head of the order; she was no longer allowed to have any say at all in the working of the order. But for more than a quarter of a century she continued to assist the other sisters -- although by the time of her death in 1879 most of her fellow sisters didn't even know that she was the one who had founded the order. It was only after the priest who had removed her was investigated for independent reasons that the truth became widely known. St. Jeanne was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009; her feast is August 30.

Joseph Zhang Dapeng

Born in China in 1754 to a Buddhist family, Zhang Dapeng led a quiet life, eventually moving to Guiyang as part of his work in the silk business. There, however, he came into contact with Christians and was baptized at the age of 46. He became a lay catechist and began preaching the gospel. The times, however, were troubled; a tax protest by the quasi-religious movement, the White Lotus Society, became an active rebellion, which was put down harshly by the Qing government. To reduce the chances of it happening again, the government began to crack down hard on people who were even rumored to be part of a marginal sect, and the activities of Zhang Dapeng were known enough that he was an easy target. They arrested his son; his son died shortly afterward and he fled to Sichuan. He was, however, eventually captured, and was executed by strangling on March 12, 1815, at the age of 61. He was beatified by St. Pius X and canonized in 2000 by St. John Paul II. His feast is with the Holy Chinese Martyrs on July 9.

Maroun and Abraham of Harran

Maroun (Maron) was a Syrian priest in the late fourth century; he may have studied at Antioch with John Chrysostom, but we know that he decided eventually to become a hermit in the Taurus Mountains, near the city of Cyrrhus. There he transformed an abandoned pagan temple into a church and began a regimen of open-air asceticism, living without a roof over his head, which was not a minor feat in the winter months. He preached to all travelers who happened to pass nearby, and an increasing number of people began to join him. One of the first of those who did was a man from Carrhae (modern Harran), by the name of Abraham. Apparently under the influence of Maroun, Abraham tried the ascetic life in the desert of Chalcis, but had found it untenable and returned to being a fruit-seller. While he was in this occupation in a village in Lebanon, he helped to pay the taxes of a village. They asked him to stay with them as a teacher, and he did, on condition that they would build a church. He became a priest for them for a few years, then returned to the ascetic life; others flocked around him. He was eventually made bishop of Carrhae. He was summoned at one point to Constantinople to consult with the Emperor, but died shortly after he reached the city. Because of his missionary work, St. Abraham has become known as the Apostle to Lebanon. The groundwork laid by Maroun, Abraham, and their students, would become the Maronite ascetic movement, and eventually the Maronite Catholic Church. St. Maroun's feast day is February 9 and St. Abraham's is February 14.

Magnus Erlendsson

Grandson of Thorfinn the Mighty, Magnus followed his grandfather and father as the Earl of Orkney. He was a peaceful and very religious man, which made his life and career quite difficult because he ruled Vikings, who saw both as a sign of weakness, and he repeatedly had to fend off both family members and other Norse powers. At one point he was taken hostage by King Magnus of Norway, and at another time he was forced to flee to Scotland. Eventually under the evenhanded King Eystein I of Norway he was restored to power, and shared the earldom with his cousin Haakon. (The earldom of Orkney was often shared.) He and Haakon seemed to rule amicably, mostly staying out of each other's way, but fights started breaking out between the partisans of each. To end the matter, the two Earls agreed to meet at Easter on the Isle of Egilsay, where each was to bring only two ships. Magnus came with his two ships; Haakon brought eight. Haakon's forces overwhelmed Magnus's, and Magnus was forced to take refuge in the church. He was dragged out and offered Haakon to go into exile or even prison, but he was condemned to death. This may have been generally agreed on by Haakon's men, but when it came to actually being the person to kill Magnus, Haakon had difficulty getting anyone to volunteer, and his standard-bearer refused to do it even when commanded. So Haakon summoned his cook, Lifof, and had him cut off Magnus's head as Magnus prayed for the soul of his executioners. His death occurred on April 16 after Easter, and thus is usually thought to have occurred in 1117. The story of Magnus the Martyr was recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.

Callixtus I, Hippolytus, Urban I, Pontian, Anterus, Fabian

Pope St. Callixtus lived his early life as a slave, and while he was still a youth, he was put in charge by his master, Carpophorus, of a fund that was collecting donations from Christians in order to distribute them to orphans and widows. He lost the money, and fearing the punishment, fled; he almost escaped, but was finally cornered and taken back to Carpophorus. The people who had donated the fund advocated on his behalf that he be given a second-chance to make back part of what he had lost, but he botched this too when he was arrested for starting a fistfight in a synagogue where he was trying to collect money from a Jew who owed him a debt. Because he was a Christian, he was sentenced to the mines of Sardinia, where he spent quite some time; he was eventually released, but was in such bad health, his fellow Christians had to take care of him, and it is said that Pope St. Victor I, as part of his charities, gave him a small pension to do so. Eventually he was ordained as a deacon by Pope St. Zephyrinus, and was given the task of managing the Christian cemetery on the Appian way, which would eventually become known as the Catacombs of Callixtus. (According to Tertullian, Callixtus got his position in part by bribes, but this may well have just been malicious gossip; Tertullian had incentive to dig up dirt on Callixtus.) After the death of Zephyrinus, he was elected Bishop of Rome, and as Pope quickly became very controversial. He became notorious for leniency, not requiring the usual penitential period for schismatics returning to the fold, and insisting that he had the authority to absolve even the sins of adultery and murder. He also gave special dispensations that under certain conditions recognized concubinage as valid marriage. This resulted in an intense reaction, and the man who came to the forefront of the anti-Callixtan party was one of the Roman Church's most brilliant men, Hippolytus of Rome.

St. Hippolytus was no stranger to controversy; he had been sharply critical of various statements of Trinitarian doctrine that had been made by St. Zephyrinus. The reaction against St. Callixtus became so intense that a group of dissidents tried to elect Hippolytus, who was a priest, as Bishop of Rome, thus making him an anti-pope. He continued his opposition beyond Callixtus's death (the cause of which is unknown, but he is one of the popes for which we have the earliest direct evidence that he was regarded as a martyr), as Callixtus was succeeded by Pope St. Urban I. Urban's tenure as pope was relatively peaceful except for continual back-and-forth between the two opposing parties of Roman Christians. After Urban's death came Pope St. Pontian, and St. Hippolytus and St. Pontian continued to be at loggerheads. However, when the Emperor Maximinus began cracking down harder on Christians, both Hippolytus and Pontian were arrested and sent to the mines of Sardinia, where they both were martyred. Fortunately, Pontian had had early indications that his arrest was imminent, and so he had resigned the papacy (the very first papal renunciation). Pontian's successor was Pope St. Anterus, about whom very little was known except that he, like Callixtus was a freed slave; but Anterus was followed by Pope St. Fabian. It was actually a surprise that Fabian was elected; he was a noble-born deacon from well outside of Rome who was visiting for the papal election. As the electors were discussing in the presence of the congregation who should be the next pope, a dove happened to land on Fabian's head, and the whole congregation took it as a sign that he should be the next pope. By this point, the government persecutions were dying down, and as Fabian was a good negotiator, he was able to negotiate the return of the bodies of both Pontian and Hippolytus. He had both buried with honors (although Hippolytus was buried with the honors due to a priest, not a bishop), and allowed both to be venerated as martyrs. When government persecutions heated up again under Emperor Decian, Fabian was one of its earliest victims, dying in prison in the year 250.

The feast of Pope St. Callixtus is October 14. That of Pope St. Urban I is May 25. Pope St. Pontian is celebrated on August 13, while Pope St. Anterus is commemorated on January 3. Pope St. Fabian is remembered on January 20. And St. Hippolytus of Rome, the only saint in the calendar to have been a schismatic anti-pope, is commemorated with St. Pontian, the enemy with whom he was martyred, on August 13. According to later legend, St. Hippolytus and St. Pontian reconciled in the mines, but this may well have been a hypothesis to explain why an antipope was being commemorated to begin with -- we don't have any independent way of knowing how accurate the legend is. But ever since St. Fabian's irenic ending of the old disputes, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus have been commemorated together.

Jean de Brébeuf

Jean was born in Normandy in 1593, and joined the Jesuits in 1617. He became a teacher, but contracted tuberculosis in 1620, which almost put an end to his work for the Jesuits. However, unlike most tuberculosis patients of the day, he survived. In 1625, he was sent to New France, that is, Quebec, as part of the mission to the Huron. While he became fluent in the language and culture, he made very slow progress. He would eventually turn the mission over to another and devote himself to teaching the Wyandot, which is the Huron language. His translation of Ledesma's catechism became the first printed work in Wyandot, but the most famous Wyandot work attributed to him is "The Huron Carol", the first Christmas carol of the New World. In 1649, the Iriquois attacked the Huron and the Huron mission. The priests, including Brébeuf, were captured, tortured, and killed, in Brébeuf's case by having a red-hot iron thrust down his throat. He was beatified in 1925, canonized in 1930 and became a patron saint of Canada in 1940. His feast day is September 26 or October 19, depending on the calendar.


2017 All Saints Post
John Ogilvie, Leo IV, Andrew Stratelates and the 2593 Martyrs, Theodore the Studite, The Martyrs of Gorkum, Margaret Ward and John Roche, Mesrop Mashtots, José María Robles Hurtado, Genevieve of Paris, Pedro Calungsod, Isaac of Nineveh, George Preca, Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa, Anthony of Padua

2016 All Saints Post
Theodore of Tarsus, Nilus the Younger, Anne Line, Mark Ji Tianxiang, Maria Elisabetta Hesselbad, Sergius of Radonezh, Anna Pak Agi, Jeanne de Valois, Vigilius of Trent, Claudian, Magorian, Sisinnius, Martyrius, Alexander, Euphrasia Eluvathingal, José Sanchez del Rio, Andrew Kaggwa, Roberto Bellarmino

2015 All Saints Post
Margaret Clitherow, Kaleb Elasbaan of Axum, Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin, Gertrude of Nivelles, Pius V, Clare and Agnes of Assisi, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Scholastica, Vinh Sơn Phạm Hiếu Liêm, Thorlak Thorhallson, John Damascene

2014 All Saints Post
Marie Guyart, Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, John Neumann, Hildegard von Bingen, Pedro de San José Betancurt, Benedict the Moor

2013 All Saints Post
María Guadalupe García Zavala, Antonio Primaldi, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse and Augustine Zhao Rong, Josephine Margaret Bakhita, John Chrysostom

2012 All Saints Post
Jadwiga of Poland, Kateri Tekakwitha, André Bessette, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

2011 All Saints Post
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Celestine V, Olga of Kiev, Cyril of Jerusalem, Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga

2010 All Saints Post
Moses the Black of Ethiopia, Micae Hồ Đình Hy, Katherine Mary Drexel, Robert Southwell, Lojze Grozde, Andrew Kim Tae Gon

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Evening Note for Wednesday, October 31

Thought for the Evening: Prima Facie Duties and Humanitarian Traditions

In high school -- junior year, I think -- I picked up a cast-off book from the library free book bin, Ethics by Charles Baylis. I would not regard a book like it as good now for studying ethics, but it seems to have been good at discussing issues of concern to ethicists in its day (it was published in 1958), when the entire lay of the land consisted of Sidgwick and Moore, with probably a dash of Prichard and Joad, and when 'applied ethics' meant talking about how we could avoid nuclear holocaust or further democracy around the world, and not, as it often means today, coming up with weird arguments about killing people. I certainly would regard it as a much better discussion of that ethical world than Shafer-Ladau's Fundamentals of Ethics or Rachels's The Elements of Moral Philosophy are of the current state of the ethical landscape. And, regardless, I did learn quite a bit from it, for all that (and perhaps partly because) I agreed with very little in it.

One thing that very much caught my interest was Baylis's discussion of W. D. Ross's account of prima facie duties from The Right and the Good. I remember being struck by it as something that would make a very plausible explication of the notion of 'honor'. I still think this is true. But I think the reason for this is a more fundamental one than I realized at the time, one that I don't think really came through in Baylis's account, namely, that Ross's account is really an account of moral reasons.

Ross never gives a perfectly clear definition of prima facie duties, and spends a fair amount of time apologizing for his terminology. Prima facie duties aren't, in a strict sense, duties at all, but something related "in a special way" to duty. And they also aren't themselves prima facie, since that suggests that they are apparent, but they are in fact intended to identify objective features of the moral situation. So if prima facie duties are neither duties nor prima facie, but only something related to duties and in some way like things that are prima facie, what are they? From Ross we learn that they are features of acts that would make that act a duty if there were no other similar feature to complicate the situation; a prima facie duty does not make something your duty, but it makes something tend to be your duty. But that's about as close as we get to a clear account from Ross.* In reality, though, what Ross is describing is a topics, a set of commonplaces for reasoning, and in particular a topics identifying kinds of reasons that we use in moral reasoning to determine if something is morally required. 'Deontic grounds' might be a better label.

Ross lays out a number of things that he has in mind when he talks about prima facie duties, in a famous passage (bolding is mine):

1. Some duties rest on previous acts of my own. These duties seem to include two kinds,
    A. those resting on a promise or what may fairly be called an implicit promise, such as the implicit undertaking not to tell lies which seems to be implied in the act of entering into conversation (at any rate by civilized men), or of writing books that purport to be history and not fiction. These may be called the duties of fidelity.
    B. Those resting on a previous wrongful act. These may be called the duties of reparation.

2. Some rest on previous acts of other men, i.e. services done by them to me. These may be loosely described as the duties of gratitude.

3. Some rest on the fact or possibility of a distribution of pleasure or happiness (or of the means thereto) which is not in accordance with the merit of the persons concerned; in such cases there arises a duty to upset or prevent such a distribution. These are the duties of justice.

4. Some rest on the mere fact that there are beings in the world whose condition we can make better in respect of virtue, or of intelligence, or of pleasure. These are the duties of beneficence.

5. Some rest on the fact that we can improve our own condition in respect of virtue or of intelligence. These are the duties of self-improvement.

6. I think that we should distinguish from (4) the duties that may be summed up under the title of 'not injuring others'. No doubt to injure others is incidentally to fail to do them good; but it seems to me clear that non-maleficence is apprehended as a duty distinct from that of beneficence, and as a duty of a more stringent character.

He apologizes for some of these labels (again), and makes clear that he does not consider a complete or unrevisable list. It is, he says (with irony, I suppose), a prima facie classification of prima facie duties. But more to our point, in a response to an objection that these might conflict, he replies that something could very well be our duty for more than one reason, and if the kinds of reasons end up being irreducible to each other, that's just something that must be accommodated. We recognize that we should keep promises; we recognize that we should prevent harm; if we sometimes break a promise to prevent harm because we think our duty lies that way, we nonetheless still regard promises as reasons to think ourselves obligated. How then do we determine our actual duty? Ross denies that we have any definite rules for doing so; we use our prudential judgment in the context. And this is exactly how a topics works: topoi or commonplaces don't tell you what conclusion you should draw, they tell you what kinds of arguments might be considered, the lines of reasoning that might be relevant.

I think it makes sense to see these deontic topoi or prima facie duties as naturally becoming relevant within humanitarian traditions. This is presumably not the only context in which they can become relevant, but it is, I think one of the most influential contexts. A humanitarian tradition grows up in order to do help people in some matter, to do good to people in some way, and it seems to be common among humanitarian traditions that they develop some kind of ethical code or codes, some standard of ethical behavior in the pursuits found in that tradition. Thus, to take the most famous and obvious example, medicine cultivates the Hippocratic Oath and various quasi-Hippocratic moral standards. How do these arise? We have the attempt to help people, which by its very nature involves responsibility to them, and we are put in situations where we are required to ask ourselves, "What is our specific responsibility in this context?" And what kind of reasoned answer can we give? Something like Ross's list seems to capture the kinds of reasons that will inevitably come up for saying this or that is your responsibility. In medicine, reasons that fall under beneficence and nonmaleficence ("Do no harm") will obviously be primary, but you'll also have to do things that involve contracts and payment or things you promise patients not to do, and thus have fidelity-type reasons for acting a certain way; you'll have training and self-education that you need in order to help people well, and this gives room for reasons of self-improvement, etc. And none of the reasons will be random. It's not like you are searching around for fidelity-type reasons; you are in an actual situation of helping someone, where a promise has been made, and the fact that a promise has been made is relevant as a reason to the act of helping you are doing. Given the promise, fidelity is one standard to which your act of helping can be held, so 'X will be a better way of keeping my promise' is a reason to think you should do X. Or someone comes to you to help because of a serious condition; that Y will make their condition better is a reason to do Y, given that you are trying to help them. And so forth. And we see here how they are not really duties themselves -- they're just reasons to do something that are relevant to your work of helping people.

So these prima facie duties become relevant in a humanitarian tradition; they are a classification of the kinds of reasons that become relevant in a definite activity in which you are trying to be responsible to people, like in a humanitarian tradition, and humanitarian traditions are elaborate and stable enough that the reasoning is not just something that leads to a passing judgment but something that contributes to an elaborate body of ethics based on long experience through the generations.

Incidentally, thinking in terms of humanitarian traditions shows some weaknesses in Ross's formulations. For instance, beneficence is certainly a kind of moral reason for doing something in medicine; but Ross says that beneficence becomes relevant when you can make someone's condition better "in respect of virtue, or of intelligence, or of pleasure". (These are the three things Ross thinks are intrinsic goods.) None of these are really in view in medicine; medicine is concerned with health. But health is a certainly a way in which people's conditions can be better, and beneficence is certainly possible with respect to it. Likewise, Ross takes fidelity to be promise-related, but a look at how fidelity works in law (where it is arguably as important as nonmaleficence is in medicine) shows that this is too narrow. Promises are one way you get fidelity reasons, but lawyers, for instance, have fidelity reasons that are not concerned with promises. For instance, lawyers have the responsibility to be candid -- it is a severe ethical violation deliberately to lie in a legal context to a client or a tribunal, or deliberately to let one's client lie to a tribunal, and if you are ever caught red-handed doing it, your career as a lawyer is immediately over. It's not quite honesty -- honesty is a reason to avoid lying, but this is a different kind of reason. This kind of reasoning is not based on promises; you may or may not have made a promise, but there is a reason to avoid lying to judges regardless of what your promises have been. The reason is quite simply tied up in what you are doing: you are, at least in principle, supposed to be helping people in matters of law, and the whole tradition and system for doing that begins to break if people try to manipulate it by directly lying to clients or tribunals. Now, you could try to get this under promises (as Ross does) by appealing to implicit promises, but it's not clear that this is even necessary.

In any case, we could see the ins and outs of Ross's account better by looking at how these topoi, these 'seats of argument', work in the context of humanitarian traditions.

* People have argued that Ross should have used 'pro tanto' rather than 'prima facie', but I don't think this is any sort of improvement. 'Prima facie duties' at least has the merit of suggesting that they are not necessarily duties, which thus far is at least not wrong; 'pro tanto duties' suggests that they are partial duties, which is certainly not right. Nor does it help to switch to 'pro tanto reasons', because (while they would certainly be more accurately called 'reasons' than 'duties'), they are not 'pro tanto' as reasons; they are just reasons. At least, if we call them 'pro tanto' they aren't so in any sense that they don't share with most of the things we call 'reasons'.

Various Links of Interest

* There has been, for a number of years a baffling mystery in Europe -- large quantities of toads turned up dead, their little corpses looking like they exploded. Nobody could figure out the reason for a long time, despite the fact that it was spreading. They recently solved the mystery -- the toads really were exploding, and the reason that they were exploding, and doing so in increasing numbers, is that crows are dangerously clever birds and capable of learning clever things from other crows.

* Speaking of which, crows have recently been observed constructing multi-part tools. That crows are tool-users has been known for a while -- one of the famous experiments was when some food was put at the bottom of a bottle whose neck was too narrow for the crow to reach into; the crow picked up a wire that was nearby, bent it into a hook, and fished out the food. But this is the first definite example of crows putting together different parts to make a single tool.

* Bernard M. Levinson, The Metamorphosis of Law into Gospel: Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church

* A school in New Zealand recently relaxed its recess rules to allow students to do riskier things, and the results were much better than anyone expected.

* Nathanael Blake, Why 'Mansfield Park' was Jane Austen's Best Novel

* Abdoulaye, Allison, Baxter and Niang, Boy Scouts in a War Zone is a very interesting report on how Boy Scouts in the Central African Republic have been doing things like investigating possible Ebola outbreaks or mediating peace talks. Ironically, the Boy Scouts of the Central African Republic are under suspension from their world scouting organization because they are not in compliance with more recent policies.

* Cardinal Zen, unsurprisingly, is not impressed with the Vatican's recent deals with China, but urges Chinese Catholics not to try to kick up resistance when they can avoid it.

* Post-Reformation Digital Library has a vast number of texts from both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.

* Alex Nevala-Lee, Dawn of Dianetics: L. Ron Hubbard, John W. Campbell, and the Origins of Scientology

* Adrian McKinty, Collected Letters of Flann O'Brien review: The missives of a brilliant mind

* Mary Rezac, Polish priest, martyr and hero: Remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko

* The awesome worstness of the awesome Tim Curry performing the worst Halloween song in the history of the world:

Currently Reading

Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
John of St. Thomas, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Tim Button and Sean Walsh, Philosophy and Model Theory
Umberto Eco, On Literature
Jules Verne, Mathias Sandorf

Like the Laughter of the Moon

The Witch with Eyes of Amber
by Clark Ashton Smith

I met a witch with amber eyes
Who slowly sang a scarlet rune,
Shifting to an icy laughter
Like the laughter of the moon.

Red as a wanton's was her mouth,
And fair the breast she bade me take
With a word that clove and clung
Burning like a furnace-flake.

But from her bright and lifted bosom,
When I touched it with my hand,
Came the many-needled coldness
Of a glacier-taken land.

And, lo! the witch with eyes of amber
Vanished like a blown-out flame
Leaving but the lichen-eaten
Stone that bore a blotted name.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Grail and Not the Gleam

The White Witch
by G. K. Chesterton

The dark Diana of the groves
Whose name is Hecate in hell
Heaves up her awful horns to heaven
White with the light I know too well.

The moon that broods upon her brows
Mirrors the monstrous hollow lands
In leprous silver; at the term
Of triple twisted roads she stands.

Dreams are no sin or only sin
For them that waking dream they dream;
But I have learned what wiser knights
Follow the Grail and not the Gleam.

I found One hidden in every home,
A voice that sings about the house,
A nurse that scares the nightmares off,
A mother nearer than a spouse,

Whose picture once I saw; and there
Wild as of old and weird and sweet,
In sevenfold splendour blazed the moon
Not on her brow; beneath her feet.

The Nethermost Unknowable Abyss

by Clark Ashton Smith

There is no peace amid the moonlight and the pines;
Deep in the windless gloom the lamplike thought of you
Abides; and ah, what burning memories pursue
My heart among the pallid marbles! . . . Night assigns

Your silver face for wardress of the doors of sleep;
Beyond the wilder bourns of dreamland flown, your eyes
Are amber planets on the ultimate lost skies;
Moonlike and dim, you wander ever in the deep

Which is the nethermost unknowable abyss
Of my own soul, and in its night your spirit lives.
Shall I not find the very draught that Lethe gives
Salt with your tears, and sweet with savor of your kiss?

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Wind Whereby the Stars Were Disenthralled

Averted Malefice
by Clark Ashton Smith

Where mandrakes, crying from the moonless fen,
Told how a witch, with eyes of owl or bat,
Found, and each root maleficently fat
Pulled for her waiting cauldron, on my ken
Upstole, escaping to the world of men,
A vapor as of some infernal vat;
Across the stars it clomb, and caught thereat
As if their bright regard to veil again.

Despite the web, methought they knew, appalled,
The stealthier weft in which all sound was still. . . .
Then sprang, as if the night found breath anew
A wind whereby the stars were disenthralled. . . .
Far off, I heard the cry of frustrate ill,
A witch that wailed above her curdled brew.

The Medieval Symbol

The medieval symbol is a way of approaching the divine, but it is not the epiphany of something numinous, nor does it reveal to us a truth that can be articulated solely in terms of myth and not in terms of rational discourse. Rather, it is the preamble to a rational discourse, and its duty is to make clear, at the point when it seems didactically useful and appropriate to its role as preamble, its own inadequacy, its own (almost Hegelian) destiny to become real by a subsequent rational discourse.

[Umberto Eco, On Literature, McLaughlin, tr., Harcourt (Orlando, FL: 2004) p. 147.]

Voyages Extraordinaires #38: Claudius Bombarnac

Special Correspondent,
“Twentieth Century.”
Tiflis, Transcaucasia.

Such is the address of the telegram I found on the 13th of May when I arrived at Tiflis.

This is what the telegram said:

“As the matters in hand will terminate on the 15th instant Claudius Bombarnac will repair to Uzun Ada, a port on the east coast of the Caspian. There he will take the train by the direct Grand Transasiatic between the European frontier and the capital of the Celestial Empire. He will transmit his impressions in the way of news, interviewing remarkable people on the road, and report the most trivial incidents by letter or telegram as necessity dictates. The Twentieth Century trusts to the zeal, intelligence, activity and tact of its correspondent, who can draw on its bankers to any extent he may deem necessary.”

Verne usually does not have punchy beginnings, but he gets to the point here: Claudius Bombarnac, a special correspondent for the Twentieth Century is asked by his paper to do a people-oriented feature on the Grand Transasiatic from the Caspian Sea to Pekin (Beijing). Doing so, he meets a number of people from all over the world. He worries, though, that he might not find sufficiently exciting material to keep his readers interested. But he needn't worry; there is the mystery of the man in the crate, and a new armed car gets added to the train, purportedly carrying a Mandarin's coffin to Pekin, and it becomes clear enough that bandits are out to seize the train. Not everything is what it seems, and, among the odd people on the train it is harder than usual for a special correspondent to figure out what is real and what is not.

Claudius Bombarnac, also known in English as The Adventures of a Special Correspondent, has a few passing callbacks to other works by Verne. One of the people on the train is trying to beat the world record for going around the world, which allows Verne to give some nice tribute to people who tried to do a trip like that in Around the World in Eight Days -- Nellie Bly, Elizabeth Bisland, and George Francis Train all get special mention. In addition, the stage version of Michel Strogoff is mentioned in passing. The characters on the train often have definite similarities to characters in other Verne works, so some have seen this as Verne poking light fun at some of his more distinctive creations.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fortnightly Book, October 28

Perhaps the most famous of all Verne's works, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (or, in a slightly stricter translation, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas) was first serialized in 1869 and 1870. The Nautilus was likely inspired by the Plongeur, the first mechanical submarine, which had first been tested in 1863, and had appeared in the Exposition Universelle in 1867, where Verne is known to have been. The name itself is a tribute to one of the earliest sucessful submarines, Robert Fulton's Nautilus, which had been built in 1800. The 20,000 leagues is about 80,000 kilometers.

I'll be reading Lewis Mercier's translation, from 1873. It is notorious for not being great as a translation, but it happens to be the hardcopy I have on hand. I have another, more modern translation, somewhere, but for some reason I cannot find it. I will, however, be comparing with F. P. Walter's well regarded modern public domain translation from the original French.

Favorite Story and Family Theater both did adaptations of the tale to radio, so I will try to fit those in if I can.