Saturday, December 15, 2018

Music on My Mind

Steeleye Span, "Gower Wassail".

It's we poor wassail boys, so weary and cold!
Please drop some small silver into our bowl.
And if we survive for another new year
Perhaps we may call and see who does live here.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Dashed Off XXIX

This ends the notebook that was finished on November 8, 2017.

"The logic of metaphor is so organically entrenched in pure sensibility that it can't be thoroughly traced or explained outside of historical sciences, like philology and anthropology." Hart Crane

"The whole of the external cultus of God is preeminently ordered to this: that people may hold God in reverence." Aquinas ST 2-1.102.4 (ut homines Deum in reverentia habeant)

"Thinking is, as it were, talking to oneself." Erasmus

The kingly authority of Confirmation begins with self-rule.

From good that has been given by those who came before us, to make new good, that more good may be given to those who come after us.

God as producer (1) with respect to possibility (2) with respect to actuality
God as conserver (1) with respect to possibility (2) with respect to actuality
God as governor (1) with respect to possibility (2) with respect to actuality
exemplar : possible :: final : actual

"No being is completely self-actualized [autenergeton], since it is not self-caused, and whatever is not self-caused is necessarily moved by a cause, which is to say that it is actualized by being naturally moved by its cause, for which and to which it continues to move. For nothing that moves does so in any way independently of a cause." Maximos, Amb 15

Maximos Confessor
fire -- prudence -- John
air -- fortitude -- Luke
water -- temperance -- Mark
earth -- justice -- Matthew
-- It is surely odd that fortitude is not assigned to earth, but Maximos is thinking of the earth not as stable so much as he is thinking of it as life-giving, and air not so much as fluid as a stable atmosphere. John, of course, is the natural candidate for fire & prudence, beginning as it does with Logos.

The senses function in our mental life not merely in themselves but as symbols of higher things.

love as theopoetic virtue

divine wisdom, philosophy, reasoning in play, sophistry

The notion that Exodus 34:11-26 represents a distinctive 'Ritual Decalogue' has always rested on a false view of progress, and especially a false view of the relation of ethics and ritual with respect to progress.

The character of a political movement is never constituted by its promises.

"To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction." ST 2-2.33.4ad2
(the point is, public correction requires in addition some relevant ground of authority)
-- but note that public correction may also be justified by things like imminent danger

Part of our color terminology clearly arises from manipulability, colors as within our causal domain.

The defeasible requires the indefeasible. Suppose 'X is defeasible'. Either this is indefeasible or it is defeasible; if it is defeasible, there are conditions under which 'X is defeasible' is false.

real separation, real separability, relative distinction, intentional distinction, distinction of reason

No one has a right to insert themselves into a community arbitrarily, because communities are formed by common good; they have a moral responsibility to be sure they can in good faith engage in the cooperative venture of seeking and upholding that common good. And the community has the responsibility to make sure, to the extent that it can, that they come to do so, because all right and responsibility in the community as such derives from common good.

Colleges and universities present themselves as middlemen, but give themselves liberties (with both students and faculty) that middlemen usually wouldn't.

Sometimes you have proof,
sometimes only prayer;
either way, you proceed
one foot after another.

Every philosophical system faces the problem of rhetorical fouling -- the slow encrustation of associations and attributions, some of them quite foreign.

The acts of the virtue of religion are subordinations to God:
(1) of intellect: prayer
(2) of will: devotion
(3) of body: adoration
(4) of possessions
:::: (a) by renunciation
:::::::: (1) to God directly: sacrifice
:::::::: (2) to support ministers: offerings and tithes
:::: (b) by promise: vow

Each thing subordinated to God in religion can be unfittingly subordinated in superstition: divination, fanaticism, desecration of body, and so forth.

potential parts of justice
(1) rigorous debt without equality: religion, piety, observance
(2) equality without rigorous debt
:::: (a) to preserve honestas of virtue in society: gratitude, vindication, veracity
:::: (b) to preserve debt better: affability, liberality

money-related virtues
(1) to use moderately: thrift
(2) to give: liberality
(3) to do great things: magnificence

Whether something is warranted is always relative to an end.

testing arguments by: parity, retorsion, challenge (search-based, aporia-based), diagnostic, interrogating the grounds

We apply a term like 'being' to God and to creatures as we apply a term like 'man' to a man and his reflection in the mirror.

To behold virtue in her proper form is nothing other than to present morality as transfiguring what is sensuous, even things like desire for reward and self-love.

Instead of talking about an internal morality of medicine, we should think more specifically in terms of an internal morality of treatment, an internal morality of diagnosis, etc.

Nothing can be an error without being inconsistent with a norm.

Human beings are implementations of Turing machines; we can perform all Turing machine operations in principle. The question of significance is: What else are we?

Note Kant's claim in One Possible Basis that 'Nothing exists but something is possible' is contradictory.

For anything to be possible, something must exist; for anything to exist, something must be necessary.

We can infer from anything that can be a sign.

"All building naturally divides into two classes, the architecture of the beam and that of the arch." WPP Longfellow

Propositional inference is composed out of terminal inference.

relation of noumenal & phenomenal (By relation to mind-body)
:::: materialism -- empiricism
:::: idealism -- intellectualism
dualist -- Platonism, Kantianism
hylomorphist -- Aristotelianism

the inherent militia powers of the people

We infer from a footprint that a foot has been there; we don't need to articulate this in a proposition: the footprint, understood as such, suffices.

Atheistic superfluity arguments violate the principle of remotion. (Chastek)

Philosophy will not get you to heaven, but saints in heaven philosophize.

Virtually no conclusion of the highest mathematical certainty can be achieved in only one way.

Existence is not a purely empirical concept.

A theory of inference must recognize that we can infer 2 from 1+1, and 3 from x+1=4, and 2+2 from 4. Given an incomplete assertion one can infer the element of completion.

The potential is in the same genus as the actual, in the way in which it is potential to the actual.

We only ever know what would have happened by causal reasoning.

cats & meal-enrichment (i.e., the practice of making food something the cat obtains by solving a problem or performing a task rather than just being given it -- some kinds of cat species are more likely to eat properly if they are given the food in the context of problem-solving)

Filangieri on the need for a censorial chamber

chief-and-council structures in government

timing considerations in inquiry (patience in waiting for adequate evidence, coordination of lines of inquiry, inquiry ordering, ethical considerations about appropriate timing)

We can draw an inference from: the universe of discourse, a physical sign, a definition, a classificatory scheme, a resemblance, and so forth. All of these are in fact quite common.

"Designated matter is nothing but matter with a capacity for this quantity, and not that quantity." Cajetan

sacrifice as part of the aesthetics of the sublimity of morality (Kant)

the Fall of the devil: power :: the Fall of man : wisdom

Faith is a light not purely of intellect but of intellect-moved-by-will.

The body is included in the proper definition of the human soul.

Torah is a symbol and as it were a vestment of the Word of God.

bindingness-preserving & obedience preserving in imperative inferences (Peter B. M. Vranas)

It makes very little sense to treat all imperatives as available for imperatival inference.

Act (in some way)! as a categorical imperative
Take the true as true!/Act in a way consistent with what is true being true as a self-evident imperative

Kantian ethics requires a logic of imperatives; the entire ethics is structured according to principles in such a logic.

remotion transcendentals (one)
relation transcendentals (good, true)
correlation transcendentals (potency/act, infinite/finite)

God as principal unifier of: possibility, truth, necessity, space, time, cosmos, intellection, sensation, volition, laws of nature, moral laws, possibility of civil laws
(all of these have been proposed)

(my mind -> other minds) -> exemplar mind

vague something accounts of the external world
add supposition -> something that could be such-and-such
add pragmatic conflation -> somethign that appears to be such-and-such
add both -> broadly Humean accounts of external world

Only the Christian faith has explored the whole range of the notion of sacrifice.

The actions of bishops should be such as are consistent with willing the apostolic faith to be catholic, that is, universal.

the internal subsidiarity of the human person

NB Maximos's argument that the doctrine of the preexistence of souls is analogous to Manicheanism.
NB Maximos's argument that we have rational souls from first conception (Amb 42).

It is remarkably difficult to discover from ethical expressivists what they mean by expression.

Something can only be considered an expression if it is considered as a sign that is a possible means of communication.

"The sacrament of matrimony can be regarded in two ways: first, in the making, and then in its permanent state. For it is a sacrament like the eucharist, which not only when it is being conferred, but also while it remains, is a sacrament; for as long as married parties are alive, so long is their union a sacrament of Christ and the Church." Bellarmine

the robur of confirmation

If we take past and future to be modal operators, presentism denies the legitimacy of a kind of subalternation.

Approximate truth is a causal concept, for approximation is a causal process.

Three elements of a limit according to Whewell:
(1) hypothetical construction
(2) indefinite extension
(3) limiting property

various virtue vocabularies as artificial classifications -> convergence on the natural classification of the virtuous -> exemplar cause of virtu emaking the knowledge of the virtuous possible

God turns our very mutability into a way to save us from the failing that arose from that same mutability.

Every inference occurs within a system of classifications.

Official statements of Church doctrine are verdictives, not effectives.

A polarity (in Whewell's sense) defines a dimension.

Formalized schooling seems to arise to prevent youths in cities with free time from becoming a disaster.

"But to a language three things are necessary: it must express reason, contain reason, and speak to reason." Fairbairn

Ruth as an allegory of the 'Church of the Gentiles'

The earth is riven by the river
roving over land and hill,
roaming through the vale and forest,
never ending, ever reaching,
down to ocean's shore forever,
down to end and all fulfilled.

To say that marriage is a life-partnership is like saying that military service is a bit of adventure -- not exactly wrong, but not particularly insightful.

Sexual customs are often like jungle palaces beginning to rot.

It was three in the afternoon on Friday. In the distance, the bell of Our Lady of Shadows rang out one long, low tone.

I wished you well
by the wishing well;
it was an age and a half ago.
A wish cannot save
and your lonely grave
is draped in the fallen snow.

at times a man must whisper,
or else he blows away

the fundamental need for states of defeasible but presumptive consent

anti-natalism and the problem of evil for consequentialist atheists

half-belief as (a) belief with cautions versus as (b) nonbelief with inclinations

Halfheartedness cannot be a mere deficiency in motivation,b ecaus enot all deficiencies in motivation are halfhearted. Halfheartedness seems to require a deficiency in consent.

Belief by its nature is something that can be shared.

While belief does not come in degrees, its role in decision does, and almost all that is salvageable from the literature on the rationality of belief is due to the latter.

Rights only exist within a hierarchy capable of structuring them.

Prior probabilities should always only be set by a method of inquiry.

Note that Hilary in his commentary on Mt. 8 links justification to absolution (remission of sins): the Law cannot justify because it cannot itself absolve; faith can absolve sins. The reason is that God alone absolves, and in faith the Word of God abides in us so that our sins may be absolved.

Note that at Jericho and Ai, some non-Israelites are saved and some Israelites are condemned; the distinction between Israelite and Canaanite is not the locus of condemnation.

the lunar movement of myth, the solar movement of rational account

Our confidence with respect to a belief presupposes the belief and does not constitute it.

arguments from evil involving direct attribution (God would be author of evil) vs those that are indirect (the evil outweighs the good)
- the latter // antinatalist arguments

PSR denial is a denial that everything is either necessary or made possible; it is the claim that there are things not necessary that are not made possible by anything.

science fiction & Margaret Cavendish's three elements: romancical, philosophical, fantastical

It is remarkable how often in religious contexts 'being welcoming is in fact just an excuse for not going out to people.

We infer that arguments are valid directly from their logical structures, not by mediation of propositions.

In mercy, something good is always sacrificed for something better. There is no mercy without such a sacrifice.

Experiments are optimally described in four-cause terms: What materials are used? How are they given experimental form, and for what end? Who organizes these materials by that form for that end?

John Case: A polity is ineffectual without virtue, as seen in
(a) matter
:::: (1) of which it consists: multitude of men united by rule of virtue
:::: (2) about which it revolves: introduction of virtue in accordance with laws
(b) form: prudent administration involving justice
(c) efficient
:::: (1) remote: God, to whom virtue is referred
:::: (2) proximate: nature with virtue's bond
(d) end
:::: (1) external: peace, honor, and prosperity due to virtue
:::: (2) internal: happiness and peace arising from virtue

Plausibility seems always relative to a universe of discourse.

fine-tuning problems for physics, ethics, epistemology, and semantics (Pruss)

postmodern-ism vs post-modernism

A philosophical movement, to endure, must adapt while cohering together; thus philosophical movements vanish by either stagnating or simplifying into an inability to adapt or else by either diffusing or factionalizing into an inability to cohere.

face-structures // phonemes

Good writing should be as polytropic as Odysseus, traveling widely, figuring cleverly.

To live in the body is to live in a symbol.

Pallavicino's topics of inductive reasoning (see Knebel) and Hume's rules by which to judge of cause and effect

co-redemptrix principle (Frangipane): Mary merits congruously what Christ merits condignly.

Christ merits for us in Himself and through His Mother.

" is easy to say whatever you want, if you say it without arguments." Thomas Compton Carlton

Le Grand's three unions
mind-mind: love
body-body: local presence
mind-body: mutually dependent action

topics: dialectical enthymeme
rhetoric: rhetorical enthymeme
poetics: metaphor

A people without heroes cannot easily be free.

Charity orders the acquired virtues by means of the infused virtues.

On Mount Carmel

Today is the feast of St. Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, better known in English as St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. St. John was a Carmelite who, not quite satisfied with the Order, considered becoming a Carthusian -- until one fateful day he met St. Teresa of Ávila, who was trying to get support for Carmelite convents based on the original rather than the modified and mitigated rule that the Carmelites had come to follow; she was just started her second, and it was in the course of doing this that she happened by chance to meet St. John, who just happened by chance to have taken a trip to the town in which she was doing it. It shows what a chance meeting between saints can do. St. John was taken with the idea and after studying how it worked, founded the first monastery in St. Teresa's reform, and the Discalced Carmelites began to grow at a rapid pace from there. It would be a rocky road -- St. Teresa had to face the Inquisition and St. John was arrested several times, due to the instigations of Carmelites who were opposed to the reforms. But they survived all the trials and did not stop. St. John died of infection on December 14, 1591.

From St. John's Ascent of Mount Carmel (Book I, Chapter IV):

All the wisdom of the world and all human ability, compared with the infinite wisdom of God, are pure and supreme ignorance, even as Saint Paul writes ad Corinthios, saying: Sapientia hujus mundi stultitia est apud Deum. ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.’ Wherefore any soul that makes account of all its knowledge and ability in order to come to union with the wisdom of God is supremely ignorant in the eyes of God and will remain far removed from that wisdom; for ignorance knows not what wisdom is, even as Saint Paul says that this wisdom seems foolishness to God; since, in the eyes of God, those who consider themselves to be persons with a certain amount of knowledge are very ignorant, so that the Apostle, writing to the Romans, says of them: Dicentes enim se esse sapientes, stulti facti sunt. That is: Professing themselves to be wise, they became foolish. And those alone acquire wisdom of God who are like ignorant children, and, laying aside their knowledge, walk in His service with love. This manner of wisdom Saint Paul taught likewise ad Corinthios: Si quis videtur inter vos sapiens esse in hoc soeculo, stultus fiat ut sit sapiens. Sapientia enim hujus mundi stultitia est apud Deum. That is: If any man among you seem to be wise, let him become ignorant that he may be wise; for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. So that, in order to come to union with the wisdom of God, the soul has to proceed rather by unknowing than by knowing; and all the dominion and liberty of the world, compared with the liberty and dominion of the Spirit of God, is the most abject slavery, affliction and captivity.

Montée mont carmel jean de la croix

St. Edith Stein on reading St. John of the Cross:

"Pure love" for our holy Father John of the Cross means loving God for his own sake, with a heart that is free form all attachment to anything created: to itself and to other creatures, but also to all consolations and the like which God can grant the soul, to all particular forms of devotion, etc.; with a heart that wants nothing more than that God's will be done, that allows itself to be led by God without any resistance. What one can do oneself to attain this goal is treated in detail in the Ascent of Mount Carmel. How God purifies the soul, in the Dark Night. The result, in the Living Flame and the Spiritual Canticle. (Basically, the whole way is to be found in each of the volumes, but each time one or the other of the stages is predominant.)

[Edith Stein, Self Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Koeppel, tr., ICS Publications (Washington, DC: 1993) Letter 311 (to Sr. Agnella Stadtmüller), p. 318.]

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The World's Whole Sap Is Sunk

A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's Day, Being The Shortest Day
by John Donne

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night's festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.

St. Lucy's Day, which is today, is a fair way from the shortest day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, but in the Julian calendar it was always around the Winter Solstice. Because of St. Lucy's name, her feast was always a feast of light amid the winter darkness. In modern times Christmas, which exerts an irresistible gravitational attraction on celebrations in its vicinity, has assimilated some of St. Lucy's celebratory customs just as it has assimilated customs associated with St. Nicholas, Advent, St. Stephen, and Epiphany, but St. Lucy's Day is still quite important in its own right in Scandinavia, among both Catholics and Lutherans.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Violence and Respect

What is the exact linguistic opposite of the word "violence" if not "respect"? And everybody knows what a large role "respect" plays in the two most important works of moral philosophy of the modern age, Kant's Critique of Practical Reason and Rosmini's Principles of Ethics. Do we need to recall that according to Kant respect is a very special sentiment, because on the one hand it is awareness of our subordination to the absolute authority of the law, and on the other it is awareness of our participation in the absolute value of the law, and therefore it is what makes us recognize our own dignity? Thus, we can say that respect for the law prevents my will from becoming an absolute, and respect for the other person prevents my action from becoming violent. Likewise, do we need to recall the first principle of Rosmini's ethics, which is respect for the order of being?

Augusto Del Noce, "Violence and Modern Gnosticism", The Crisis of Modernity, Lancellotti, ed. & tr. McGill-Queen's University Press (Chicago: 2014) pp. 26-27.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Res and Aliquid

Being (ens in Latin) is a transcendental, not confinable to any single category, and a common tradition takes there to be five primary transcendental attributes of being that apply to every being in some way. The medievals used the mnemonic reubau to capture them all: res, ens, unum, bonum, aliquid, verum. (If you wanted an English mnemonic to remember the Latin words, you could use bureau instead.) Ens, of course, is being, unum is one, bonum is good, and verum is true. The usual translations for res and aliquid are 'thing' and 'something', respectively, which is how we would usually translate them in other contexts. But in this context, this is probably wrong.

Take Aquinas's account of the six. Being (ens) is first and most fundamental. We can then add the other attributes by considering being absolutely or in relation to another. Good (bonum) and true (verum) are being relative to another, good as being relative to desiring and true as being relative to knowing. These are both, however, based on correspondence -- desiring and knowing are acts that can in principle cover any kind of being. There is a different way in which being can be considered relative to another, and that is by being distinguished from another. This is aliquid, which Aquinas (and most other medieval scholastics) relates to aliud quid, more or less 'another what', i.e., something that is other than what something else is. Note that it's quite important that aliquid convey the notion of distinction or otherness, and that aliquid be related to aliud. Quite clearly neither of these are captured by 'something' as a translation. Something is aliquid insofar as it is distinct from something else.

If we take being absolutely, in itself, we can do so affirmatively or negatively. If we take it negatively, we get one (unum), that is being undivided. Res is what we get when we take being in itself affirmatively, that is, in terms of its positive content. Aquinas follows Avicenna in taking this transcendental to capture the essence or quiddity (whatness) of being. When res is a transcendental attribute of being, it is supposed to capture the quidditas, the whatness, of a thing. Now, the English word 'thing' is very flexible, which is why it's able to keep up with the very flexible res, but it does not capture the essential element here, which is the notion of positive content. And whenever you look at important uses of res in Latin, they always convey something more robust than the English word 'thing' can convey. 'Thing' captures the generality, but not the suggestion of content, the idea that we are talking about something, however generally, in a way that emphasizes what it is. Res publica is not so bland and vague as 'the public thing' makes it sound; it indicates the very content that is public, the substantively public, which is why you need something like 'the common weal' to capture it. The title of the encyclical, Rerum novarum, could be translated as 'of new things', but this anemic translation does not convey the point. It indicates the very substance of things being innovated; the correct translation of the encyclical is more like "Of Revolution(s)" or "Of Upheavals". (The first words of the encyclical, from which the title comes, are Rerum novarum semel excitata cupidine, which I would crudely translate as something like 'the now-stimulated craving for upheavals'.) Not just 'new things' but substantive novelties. And so it is with other things. Res emphasizes the very character or nature that makes it whatever it is. 'Thing', while general enough, is so general as to lose this, the key element that makes res an important concept.

Obviously we have in English no exact correspondence to res and to aliquid. But I would suggest that we would at least get closer if we translated, in discussion of transcendentals, aliquid as 'another', and res, not aliquid, as 'something'. 'Another' has the connection to otherness that aliquid has. And 'something', through the 'some', comes closer to capturing a positive notion of content. ('Substance', in the broad sense, would work better in some ways, but obviously it's always already being used in a narrower sense in these discussions from something that is not transcendental.) Possibly there are better translations, but it's certainly the case that 'thing' for res and 'something' for aliquid don't really cut it.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Jules Verne, Paris in the Twentieth Century; (with Michel Verne) The Lighthouse at the End of the World


Opening Passages: From Paris in the Twentieth Century:

On August 13, 1960, a portion of the Parisian populace headed for the many Métro stations from which various local trains would take them to what had once been the Champ-de-Mars. It was Prize Day at the Academic Credit Union, the vast institution of public education, and over this solemn ceremony His Excellency the Minister of Improvements of the City of Paris was to preside.

The Academic Credit Union and the age's industrial aims were in perfect harmony: what the previous century called Progress had undergone enormous developments. Monopoly, that ne plus ultra of perfection, held the entire country in its talons; unions were founded, organized, the unexpected results of their proliferation would certainly have amazed our fathers. (p. 3)

From The Lighthouse at the End of the World:

The sun was setting behind the hills which bounded the view to the west. The weather was fine. On the other side, over the sea, which to the north-east and east was indistinguishable from the sky, a few tiny clouds reflected the sun's last rays, soon to be extinguished in the shades of the twilight, which lasts for a considerable time in this high latitude of the fifty-fifth degree of the southern hemisphere. (p. 1)

Summary: It is always dangerous to treat novels as reflecting their author's lives, particularly when the novelist is as imaginative as Jules Verne. However, in understanding Paris in the Twentieth Century, it is perhaps relevant to know that while Jules Verne wanted to write plays, his father pressured him heavily to become a lawyer, and while he was a law student, the woman he wanted to marry was married off by her family to a wealthy landowner because her family did not think it acceptable for a young woman to marry a young student without a significant income. When Verne began collaborating with the younger Dumas, he began to pursue a literary rather than a legal career, against his father's protests. However, when he began again to consider marriage, he recognized that he would need a steadier income, and became a stock broker. He was competent enough at it, and the job got him his marriage -- but he continued to aim for his literary career. Verne knew very well the difficulty of literary ambitions in a society obsessed with practicality and profit.

Michel Dufrénoy, sixteen years old, gets a degree in Classics, and everyone thinks him a fool for it, because what can you do with Latin composition? After his graduation, Michel's uncle tells him that he must have a practical job, and gets him a position as a clerk in a banking company, where he can work his way up. Unfortunately, Michel is hopelessly impractical and turns out to have no skills useful for any clerical tasks, until he is finally assigned to The Ledger. It is exactly what the name suggests: a huge ledger in which the company's financial statement is displayed to the world in gorgeous calligraphic style; Michel will be dictating for the calligrapher, Quinsonnas, an artist of thirty years old who, like Michel, has difficulty fitting in because of his artistic ambitions. They are both barely holding on in a society that sees no value except monetary value. Michel falls in love with a girl, Lucy, and Quinsonnas sourly tells him that there are no women anymore, just female careerists; unfortunately, Quinsonnas gets so caught up in his diatribe that he spills ink on The Ledger, and just like that, the last job that either could have is gone. Michel becomes a starving artist, writing his book of poetry, which is then rejected by every publisher in Paris. And then a winter comes that is so cold that there are food shortages everywhere, and little hope becomes no hope.

The Paris in which Michel Dufrénoy lives is a city of wonders. There are electric lights everywhere, trains that run on magnets and compressed air, synthetic food, calculating machines, flexible and comfortable clothes woven out of metal, and more. However, it is also dominated by money above all other things. People have sometimes suggested that The Ledger is a sign of Verne's prophetic prowess having failed, but I think this is not true in the sense that is usually meant. Large and wealthy companies have always wasted money in gaudy and conspicuous things done primarily to impress; you have only to look at some of the more successful tech companies today to see similar things, and in the actual 1960s they were likely more brazen. If anything, the implausibility of The Ledger today is not in some company paying an artist to decorate a book in larger-than-life public view but in being that transparent about its finances. The company at which Michel works, being a monopoly in its own right, is very confident of its ability to turn a profit each day. But that just underlines the point, and makes The Ledger a memorable symbol. You learn a lot about a society from what it will devote its artistic resources to, whatever those resources might be; and what captures the attention even of Paris in the twentieth century, enough to inspire them to art, is a record of financial victories. Everything else -- including entertainment, as Michel tries, and fails, to write plays according to formula -- is industrialized; but The Ledger is alone treated as a thing of beauty and value in its own right.

Michel is over-the-top impractical; he fails at literally everything except Latin nobody cares about and poetry that will never sell. It's not surprising that Hetzel, Verne's publisher, found him exasperating and asked why he couldn't get a job delivering packages or something. But part of Verne's point, I take it, is that in a society that was more balanced, Michel would find at least some place; it's the ruthlessness of society's practicality that chases him away, its unwillingness to tolerate any inefficiency and its refusal to allow that there is anything more important than what is profitable. The Paris in which Michel Dufrénoy lives is indeed a city of wonders. But it is not a city that fulfills all of human potential, and none of those wonders prevent Michel's story from being a tragedy.

The Lighthouse at the End of the World, revised and published posthumously by Michel Verne shortly after Jules Verne's death, is a different sort of tale entirely. A new lighthouse has been built by the Argentine navy at the far south reaches of the South American continent, thus opening up passages and bays that previously were too dangerous for regular use. Vasquez, Moriz, and Felipe have been assigned as the first lighthouse keepers. Unbeknownst to them, however, the island on which the lighthouse has been built is also sheltering shipwrecked pirates who are trying to find a way to leave that does not result in their capture by the navy. Their plan involves the seizure of the lighthouse once the lighthouse keepers no longer have their naval support. They put out the light, leading to the shipwreck of the American ship, The Century, from which only one sailor survivors, John Davis. Together Vasquez and Davis will have to play a dangerous game of keeping the pirates from leaving before the Argentine dispatch ship returns with soldiers who can bring the pirates to justice. It makes a solid no-frills adventure story that lays the scene slowly in the first half so that it can be fast-paced in the second half.

Verne tends to draw on two sources for his literary effects -- the romance of geography and the romance of scientific frontiers. While both are present in both of these works to some extent, Paris is very much more focused on the scientific frontiers kind; the geography is basically just that of Paris and its environs, although it plays a substantial role at important points in the novel. Lighthouse is more focused on the geographical kind, although it does get into state-of-the-art (for the early 1900s) lighthouse technology. Likewise, Verne tends to make use of two kinds of story-interest: satire and adventure. Paris is definitely on the satire side and Lighthouse is definitely on the adventure side. Between them, these two works just outside of the ordinary Voyages Extraordinaires -- the first having been turned down for the series and the second a draft manuscript published only after Verne's death with his son's revisions -- do a good job of capturing the range of Verne's overall work.

Favorite Passages: From Paris:

"If I were absolutely free, Uncle," the young man replied, "I'd like to put into practice that definition of happiness I once read somewhere, and which involves four conditions."

"And what, without being too inquisitive, might they be?" asked Quinsonnas.

"Life in the open air," answered Michel, "the love of a woman, detachment from all ambition, and the creation of a new form of beauty."

"Well then!" exclaimed the pianist with a laugh, Michel's already achieved half his program."

"How's that?" asked Uncle Huguenin.

""Life in the open air--he's already been thrown onto the street!" (pp. 162-163)

From Lighthouse:

Without a moment's hesitation Vasquez left the watch room and hurried down the staircase into the quarters of the ground floor.

There was not a second to lose. Already the sound of the boat sheering off from the schooner to bring some of the crew ashore could be heard.

Vasquez seized a couple of revolvers, which he slipped into his belt, crammed a few provisions into a bag, which he threw over his shoulder. He then came out of the quarters and ran rapidly down the slope of the enclosure, to disappear into the darkness undetected. (p. 95)

Recommendation: Recommended, both. Paris is very good if you like the more technological side of Verne, and Lighthouse is quite enjoyable if you like the more adventurous side.


Jules Verne, Paris in the Twentieth Century, Howard, tr., Ballantine (New York: 1996).

Jules Verne, The Lighthouse at the End of the World, Metcalfe, tr., Fredonia Books (Amsterdam: 2001).