Saturday, April 20, 2019

And All Alone, Alone, Alone

Easter Night
by Alice Meynell

All night had shout of men, and cry
Of woeful women filled His way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display
Smote Him; no solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.

Public was Death; but Power, but Might,
But Life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shutter’d dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.

Holy Saturday

As Christ's death wrought our salvation, so likewise did His burial. Hence Jerome says (Super Marc. xiv): "By Christ's burial we rise again"; and on Isaiah 53:9: "He shall give the ungodly for His burial," a gloss says: "He shall give to God and the Father the Gentiles who were without godliness, because He purchased them by His death and burial."

Thomas Aquinas, ST III.51.1ad2

Friday, April 19, 2019

Dashed Off VII

It is one of the wonders of the modern age that its ethics manages to be both subjectivist and sanctimonious.

"And they will go out and see the corpses of the guilty men who rebelled against my word, for their soul will not die and their fire will not be quenched and the wicked will be judged in Gehenna until the righteous say of them, 'It is enough'." (Targum Isaiah 66:22-24)
- "It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." Mk 9:47-48
- NB that Jesus quotes Is 66:24, but adds, like the Targum, the reference to Gehenna.

Aeonic life in Scripture is associated with immortality (Rm 2:7; 1 Tim 6:16); it is that which is in Christ (Jn 10:28; Rm 5:21; 1 Jn 1:2; 1 Jn 5:11).

The supreme judge by which all controversy in theology is to be determined can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scripture as it is prayed and proclaimed by the Church.

"Men's fondness for trifles is the necessary effect of their ignorance of things excellent." Daniel Bellamy
"There are some follies, which none but wise men can commit."

The good of a satisfying story is not something that can happen all at once.

Prophetic prediction is not bare telling of the future but the identification of signs under which the future takes significance.

determining that a claim is out of the way of guess // determining that an event is out of the way of coincidence

hospitality norms as likely source of the notion of sacred precinct

Augustine vs. the harm principle: De Civ Bok II, ch. 20

the conditions required for cultivating a populace both hardy and humane

Cyril of Alexandria on original sin, In Jo. 1:32-33 (Book 2, ch. 1)
"he conveyed his penalty to the whole race"
"Since the first Adam did not preserve the grace given by God, God the Father planned to send us the second Adam from heaven."
"just as through the disobedience of the first we came under God's wrath, so through the obedience of the second we might escape the curse"

All sciences (in the rigorous sense of the word) are normative for that to which they are directly relevant.

etiquette & moral safety in minor matters

Modern representative systems impose the dual demand that representatives represent their constituents and that they maintain reliable and consistent positions. This is possible if the representative represent the rationally identifiable good of the constituents, but there is a separate demand, arising from broader culture, that representatives represent the overall subjective preferences of their constituents, in which case the whole thing is incoherent.

Charity gives to virtue meritoriousness.

components of a brand (Keller): name, logo, slogan
-- in this conception slogans are somewhat analogous to captions

Propaganda often masquerades as critique.

The state's having some kind of right to exclude is a condition for its having a full right to defend.

Buffier's three qualities of first truths dictated by common sense: (1) nothing more clear; (2) universally received; (3) basis of action in the conduct of life.
Buffier insists on common sense so that he may be agnostic about almost everything else.

Our sense that the world is independent of our minds is partly social.

the partness of the body in its environment

The usual way of showing that something is possible is showing that it is actual.

strict sameness of kind
same in respect to type
(loose) sameness = resemblance
sameness for practical purposes

X-for-practical-purposes as involving extrinsic final cause // conformity to exemplar as involving extrinsic formal cause

The existence of probability as something beyond possibility is itself something that should make us suspicious of the principle of indifference.

Floating point arithmetic is obviously arithmetic, but it does not strictly obey the standard rules of arithmetic -- association may fail, some numbers are indefinable, some operations (e.g., cancellation) return answers not strictly correct, distribution may fail, equals may be represented divergently, long strings of operations can be chaotic so that one has to consider the 'safety' or stability-under-tiny-perturbations of a result.

naive philosophizing (original participation) -> critical event (point of wondering) -> forced reflecting -> enriched philosophizing

Education is either by faith or by trial-and-error.

Human beings are not satisfied with the speaking of the truth; we want it spoken with authority.

The will to truth is a will to unity.

The answer to 'why' is not always a cause, but it is always cause-related.

You could make up some kind of artificial moral theory that doesn't require solipsism to be false, but the existence of other people is essential to morality, and being moral really requires belief in other people's existence, and if you are a solipsist, whether you are being mroal is measured by a moral standard that takes other people to exist.

In mathematics, zero is not a successor except when it is.

Leibniz's law of continuity: "In any supposed continuous transition, ending in any terminus, it is permissible to institute a general reasoning, in which the final terminus may also be included."
- in letter 1702 to Pierre Varignon: "the rules of the finite are found to succeed in the infinite"
- Note similarity to Whewell.

"The imitation operates always with less force than the object imitated." Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria X.2; quoted in Du Bos, Critical Reflections, Part I, ch. VI).
-- Hume certainly had read Quintilian -- had he read Du Bos early on as well?

Deus ex machina is associated with spectacle, and thus its misuse is linked to misuse of spectacle.

obscure beauty, delicate sublimity

Nietzsche errs in thinking fear & pity harmful to life.

Once you allow a special actuality operator, you can't have all possible worlds being equally possible.

Democratic values in their modern forms mimic Kant's kingdom of ends, but supposedly for the here and now (not 'merely possible'): a society of people, each legislating wholly for themselves, all legislating in harmony, everyone treated as the most valuable thing. It is unsurprising that it degenerates into people attacking other people for not playing the way they think they should.

A weakness in Shepherd's account of causation is the lack of a causal similitude principle -- she does have a principle analogous to this (linking variation in effect to variation in cause), but this gives a very limited set of results, since it is about the weakest you can get in terms of how cause & effect share *some* resemblance.

Shepherd seems to accept something like Newton's view of the relation of God to space (Essay XI).

One thing modern liberalism gets roughly right is the human need for a space that is one's own.

"The greatest heresy in the Church is that there is no such thing as heresy." Thomas Petri

Pain is an evil in that it is a privation of good, but a good insofar as it is ordered as an appropriate means to an appropriate end. This is not quite being 'an instrumental good'. It is itself good in an appropriate context.

tip-of-the-tongue experience as knowing one could say it at another time (e.g., that one had said similar things)

A telepath would have to be very good at distinguishing entertaining and aserting

Maintaining family networks and relationships is an integral part of genuine care for health.

The inability to see the value of pastiche and nostalgia to architecture is the inability to see the value of celebratory architecture, architecture that celebrates human life rather than just itself.

Langton: Kant's phenomenal distinction as really and extrinsic/intrinsic distinction

Our nature is such that our intuitive cognition is both sensible and intelligible.

Most puzzles about vagueness seem to confuse universal claims with near-universal particular claims.

'Common sense' generally does not yield strictly universal claims. (The only plausible cases are self-evident principles, which are more fundamental than common sense.)

'Ignorance is no excuse' can only be true relative to a promulgation by which one can deem people to be in a position to know.

A danger of republics is their tendency to try to make law for the entire world.

There is a sense in which philosophy requires progress on all fronts simultaneously.

The use of formal methods is primarily guided by analogy.

The Flame Imperishable: "It refers rather to the mystery of 'authorship', by which the author, while remaining 'outside' and independent of his work, also 'indwells' in it, on its derivative plane, below that of his own being, as the source and guarantee of its being." Tolkien
-- Note that Melkor sought the Flame but (1) could not find it because (2) it is with Ilüvatar.

the enokion (rent) that the soul pays to the body (Theophrastus)
practical wisdom as house-steward to theoretical wisdom (Theophrastus)
anger as the whetstone of fortitude (Crantor)

"In my studies of totalitarianism, I tried to show that the totalitarian phenomenon, with its striking anti-utilitarian traits and its strange disregard for factuality, is based in the last analysis on the conviction that everything is possible -- and not just permitted, morally or otherwise, as was the case with early nihilism." Arendt "The Concept of History"

Factional politics naturally tends toward being realm of theorizing without moral accountability.

Moderation is not a matter of willpower; it must grow rather than be forced.

Third-party forgiveness is impossible without behalf-authority, either natural (e.g., divine) or delegated, and the attempt to exercise it is a corruption of mercy where such authority is lacking.

Political apology has very little to do with forgiveness, being concerned with the minimization of harm.

The people cannot give governments authority over something if the people themselves do not have authority over it.

Nm 11:25 & holy orders

unity of virtues -> virtues as unconditional goods

There are times when a slight itch is more unwelcome than a hard hit, and a hard hit may be unwelcome at times and welcome at others. This variation in the (un)welcomeness of the painful or unpleasant is important and wholly overlooked.

All preferences are comparatives; one can only identify one thing as 'preference-satisfying' in cases in which our preferences are clearly circumscribed.

Ecclesial customs should be exercised in such a way that, whether those customs were of the whole Church or of only a tiny remnant, they would in some manner still contribute to manifesting the Notes of the Church.

the microbiome as inhering organic instrumentality

Rieger: K5c as the weakest doxastic logic avoiding Moorean paradox (5c being B~Bp -> ~Bp).
no commissive Moore: Bp -> ~BB~p
no ommissive Moore: Bp -> ~B~Bp
K5c = KDNom

K is a source of problems for doxastic logic, unless we just mean that to which one is committed in principle.

stories as quasi-doxastic ventures

obligationes and Topics viii.3 (159a15-24) and Posterior Analytics 1.13 (22a18-20)

Arrogance is often indistinguishable from a kind of stupidity.

trial-balloon believings
(we have a tentative something or other that certainly fills this kind of role)

As natural knowledge of God is indirect and based on created effects, natural lvoe fo rGod is indirect and based on created benefits. But charity is our participation in divine love, which is thus for God Himself, and transfigures this natural love.

Study requires planning, fairmindedness, persistence, and restraint.

In romantic love, one may love someone's beauty as a good in itself and also love it as a way to love that someone, as a good that this beauty manifests.

Good can manifest other good, so that one may love that other good in and through it.

"The likeness we have to God precedes and causes the likeness we have to our neighbor." Aquinas

We sense with our bodies, measure with our bodies, simulate with our bodies, use our bodies as calculating devices, analogize other things to our bodies.

When I count with my fingers, the counting is not an act that can be solely in my brain.

broadcasting vs narrowcasting tradents
preserving vs conserving vs exemplative traditionary acts

Our being to the image of God means that God's creation of human beings is also an act of tradition.

Moral authority arises not from being a victim but from being a hero.

In the final analysis, dealing with sophists requires being battle-seasoned; there is no method, just a sense of what to expect and the skill to adapt in light of it.

The three things the public needs to see from law enforcement are respect, honesty, and participation in the community.

What Gulf Was This?

The Crucifixion
by Alice Meynell

“A Paltry Sacrifice”—Preface to a Play

Oh, man’s capacity
For spiritual sorrow, corporal pain!
Who has explored the deepmost of that sea,
With heavy links of a far-fathoming chain?

That melancholy lead,
Let down in guilty and in innocent hold,
Yea into childish hands deliver├Ęd,
Leaves the sequestered floor unreached, untold.

One only has explored
The deepmost; but He did not die of it.
Not yet, not yet He died. Man’s human Lord
Touched the extreme; it is not infinite.

But over the abyss
Of God’s capacity for woe He stayed
One hesitating hour; what gulf was this?
Forsaken He went down, and was afraid.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Poem Draft

Holy Thursday

Over the sea the storms are cast,
the lightning strikes, the winds unfold,
and we are heavy-laid with past,
though once in youth we journeyed bold.

The clouds are dark, the stinging rain
upon the cheek is laying scars.
The heroes of the age are slain
and high in sky we see no stars.

The thunder riots through the earth,
its shudders piercing to the bone.
Of belfry-grace we feel the dearth
and in our cities hide alone.

Yet Holy Thursday hints at more.
The traitor's kiss is not the end.
A boat is nearing to the shore
and through the clouds one ray descends

to crown with pearl the little sail;
and in the boat there shines the Grail.

Index for Lenten Posts on the Sacraments

For this Lent's quote posts, I did something different and rather than just loosely unifying it by author or theme, I gave it some rough structure. Here is the index for the posts, along with brief precis of the contents.


I. Sacraments are sensible signs divinely instituted as remedies; they represent by likeness, signify by institution, and convey grace by sanctification. (Bonaventure)
II. In the sacraments the Holy Spirit works as it were in a secret way. (Isidore)
III. Sacraments in the proper sense are signs of holy things insofar as they make things holy. (Thomas Aquinas)
IV. A sacrament is a sign of Christ's Passion, of present grace, and of future glory. (Thomas Aquinas)
V. A sacrament is a stable sign signifying sanctity that has its effect simply from being done. (Alphonsus Liguori)
VI. Sacraments have divine institution as their efficient cause, sensible sign as their material cause, sanctification by grace as their formal cause, and medicinal healing of humanity as their final cause. (Bonaventure)
VII. The sacraments only have efficacy through Christ's humanity and His Passion. (Thomas Aquinas)


VIII. The Seven may be understood on analogy with physical life. (Thomas Aquinas, Robert Bellarmine)
IX. The Seven may be understood by considering human defects in need of remedy. (Bonaventure)
X. The Seven may be understood by considering aspects of sinful action that are in need of remedy. (Thomas Aquinas)
XI. The Seven may be understood by considering their connection to the seven Christian virtues. (Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas)
XII. The Seven may be understood by considering what is needed for the spiritual fight. (Bonaventure)
XIII. The Seven may be understood in terms of essential acts of spiritual hierarchy. (Thomas Aquinas)


XIV. Baptism is the first and most necessary sacrament, by which we are adopted as children of God. (Peter Canisius)
XV. Baptism is a great thing, but to achieve it one must pass the serpent. (Cyril of Jerusalem)
XVI. By His Baptism, Christ makes our baptism His own. (John Damascene)
XVII. We baptize infants because no one may attain to heaven without baptism or desire for it. (Robert Bellarmine)
XVIII. In baptism and chrismation, the people of the Church support the assent of faith of those who receive with their own assent of faith. (Cyril of Alexandria)
XIX. Baptism shows that the power that restores us is the power of the whole Trinity. (Bonaventure)


XX. Confirmation is a sacrament, given by the bishop, that strengthens us so that we may firmly believe and when necessary freely confess Christ. (Peter Canisius)
XXI. By chrismation we are made Christs, receiving the Holy Spirit as He did in His Baptism. (Cyril of Jerusalem)
XXII. Just as bread in the Eucharist becomes the Body of Christ, so oil in chrismation becomes the gift of Christ's grace, imparting the Holy Spirit. (Cyril of Jerusalem)
XXIII. By baptism we are sealed as part of the household of Christ; by confirmation we are sealed as soldiers in the army of Christ. (Robert Bellarmine)


XXIV. Through the Eucharist we partake of Christ's Body and Blood and thereby come to bear Christ in us, partaking in His divine nature. (Cyril of Jerusalem)
XXV. The bread and wine truly become the very Body and the Blood of Christ. (John Damascene)
XXVI. As baptism is the sacrament of faith, so the Eucharist is the sacrament of charity. (Thomas Aquinas)
XXVII. In communion, we say 'Amen' in order to affirm that the Eucharist is truly the Body and the Blood and therefore should believe what we say we believe. (Ambrose)


XXVIII. As we are united with God through baptism, after sinning we are re-united, reconciled, with God through penance, which is a kind of self-punishment. (Isidore)
XXIX. The three parts of penance are contrition, confession, and satisfaction. (Peter Canisius)
XXX. Penance manifests the justice of Christ as Judge, and anticipates the Final Judgment. (Bonaventure)
XXXI. The principal effect of a sacrament can be had without the sacrament or derivatively through another sacrament, but not without the relevant desire for that sacrament; thus, even though extreme unction remits sins, we should still seek confession as well. (Thomas Aquinas)


XXXII. The effects of unction are to remit the remainders of sins, to refresh the sick, and, when expedient for the health of the soul, to heal the body. (Robert Bellarmine)
XXXIII. Unction is given that we might be adequately cleansed for heaven, regardless of anything that may prevent our complete purification. (Thomas Aquinas)


XXXIV. Order is a sacrament given so that the dispensation of the sacraments may be done in a distinctive, effective, and orderly manner. (Bonaventure)
XXXV. The priestly ministry represents the ministry of angels, so that even while on earth we may contemplate heavenly things. (John Chrysostom)
XXXVI. While priests may be tainted and corrupt, the gift received through them, being from God, is always pure. (Peter Damian, Augustine)


XXXVII. In matrimony, those who marry hand themselves over to each other for fellowship, for raising children, and for curing concupiscence; its matter consists in the consent that gives and its form in the consent that receives. (Alphonsus Liguori)
XXXVIII. Matrimony imitates the Passion of Christ insofar as it imitates Christ's love for the Church. (Thomas Aquinas)


Although matrimony is not likened to the Passion of Christ as regards pain (poenam), it is likened to it as regards the charity by which He suffered for the Church who was conjoined to Him in marriage.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent. 4 d26 q2 a1 ad3, my translation. See also Summa Theologiae Supp.42.1ad3.]

All sacraments, of course, have to link up to the Passion of Christ; the objector notes that matrimony concerns the pleasant ,not the painful, so can't link up with the suffering of Christ. Aquinas responds by saying that matrimony shares with the suffering of Christ not pain but love.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Our Turn Must Come Next

...For months I have struggled hard against the unwelcome truth, and though reason, probability, and events have all urged it with increasing force, hope was stronger still; but now I strive no more. It was not even his words, though they confirmed his recent sayings, that brought conviction to me. It was his manner; that spoke plainer still. The stern glance he had fixed upon me died away almost as he began to speak, and gave place to a mournful, inward certainty, and settled resignation. He sees it all before him. He has yielded in the contest with the ruling powers. He is content to seal his mission with his life.

And what becomes of us, his followers? Our turn must, must come next; they will not spare us long. When the shepherd is smitten the sheep will fall an easy prey. Arrest, imprisonment, trial, death; was it for these I entered his service? Did he not expressly promise us a great reward? Were not his own words: 'Ye which have followed me in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory; ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'

Where is that promise now? Is this its fulfilment, an accepted defeat? a resigned submission? not even safety by flight. And does he think that we must follow him in blind obedience unto death?...

[James William Tasker Hart, The Autobiography of Judas Iscariot: A Character Study, p. 120.]

I know practically nothing about James W. T. Hart, who published The Autobiography of Judas Iscariot in 1884; it seems to be the only thing he's known for. As he describes the work in the preface, "It is a book upon the character and motives of the False Disciple," and Hart's procedure in trying to give a description of the mentality of the False Disciple is based on a fundamental assumption: "no man ever reached the highest point of excellence, or sank to the lowest depth of degradation--suddenly."

The book has a very striking ending:

Farewell, my secret friend; thou hast been dear to me. I leave thee in this wretched room where I lie hidden from the gaze of men. If it should chance that other hands unfold thee, other eyes peruse these lines, may they, at least, gather from thy records that Judas of Kerioth, however deeply he had sinned—sinned past the hope of pardon—knew and confessed his sin. Too late, too late!

The night is dark, the streets are still and lonely, though the Paschal moon should shine, clouds darken her face; so is my life darkened for eternity. The time is fitting; no more delay.

I go to seek swift Death: to close a life I can no longer bear.


[Matrimony] is the sacrament between the baptized in which a man and a woman by lawful exchange give [tradunt] their own bodies for perpetual fellowship of life, of support of children, and for cure of worldly craving [remedium concupiscentiae]. The proximate and original [ex qua] matter is mutual consent expressed in external sign, insofar as it has the character of giving [traditionis]. And the form is the same consent, insofar as it has the character of receiving [acceptationis]....The minister is not the priest, but the very ones uniting, because they combine the matter and the form.

[St. Alphonsus Liguori, Theologia Moralis 6.2.1, my translation.]

Materia ex qua, from-which material, is a technical term for that which has the potential to become a new thing; to say that something is the materia ex qua et proxima is to say that it is specifically that which becomes a new thing.

There has, for much longer than I've been alive, been a reaction in academic theology against the use of the form and matter terminology in discussing sacraments; it's criticized as being too Aristotelian, too pedantic, etc. This is, unfortunately, all nonsense, and based on a completely incorrect notion of why it was used in the first place. The terminology is (very, very broadly) Aristotelian, but the point is not to be Aristotelian but to insist that the sacraments involve real change, and not a mere renaming. In a real change, there is something that in some sense stays the same, the material of the change; and there is something that is newly acquired, the form that makes it possible to say that there has been a transformation. That is all. In this case, the spouses make the sacrament by taking each other's expressed gift (the matter) and, by accepting it (the form), transforming that gift into something new.

Incidentally, although St. Alphonsus doesn't mention it, it is worth noting that "mutual consent expressed in external sign" is the general principle of the entire sacramental economy. As a sacrament, matrimony represents the union of Christ and His Church, which also occurs by mutual consent expressed in external signs, which signs are, of course, the sacraments themselves.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Aesthetics and Ethics

I think one of the major problems with the modern teaching of ethics is the tendency to divorce ethics from aesthetics. Yes, they are distinct; they are nonetheless closely interlinked. And sharply severing ethics from aesthetics falsifies most of the history of ethics, and most of the major historical positions in ethics. The argument for this can be made long indeed, but a few basic considerations that show why aesthetics sometimes needs to be brought in if we are to properly understand certain historical ethical positions that are commonly taught in Ethics classes:

(1) One of the things I've occasionally had a problem with when discussing utilitarianism is that even utilitarians often don't grasp that utilitarianism can be -- and classical utilitarianism was -- applied quite broadly, so as to include aesthetics. This is rather obvious even a priori -- if you are genuinely concerned with maximizing utility or the greatest happiness of the greatest number, you have to be concerned with art, which provides utility (in the utilitarianism sense of a factor conducive to subjective happiness) on a massive scale, and likewise with the beauty of nature, which does the same. And the classical utilitarians did. This is especially true of Mill, who made Aesthetics one of the branches of the Art of Life and whose criticism of Bentham in the Essay on Bentham is in part that Bentham does not do enough justice to the aesthetics of human actions themselves:

Every human action has three aspects,---its moral aspect, or that of its right and wrong; its aesthetic aspect, or that of its beauty; its sympathetic aspect, or that of its lovableness. The first addresses itself to our reason and conscience; the second to our imagination; the third to our human fellow-feeling. According to the first, we approve or disapprove; according to the second, we admire, or despise; according to the third, we love, pity or dislike. The morality of an action depends on its foreseeable consequences; its beauty, and its lovableness, or the reverse, depend on the qualities which it is evidence of.

(2) But it is also in a way true of Bentham, despite the fact that Bentham himself has a reputation for lacking much in the way of aesthetics. In his Chrestomathia, under the extraordinary curricular name of Hedonistic Aplopathematic Pathology (the arts that concern aggregation of pleasure), he includes the fine arts, thus at least recognizing their direct concern to the matter he considers most important. Bentham himself was actually an enthusiast for literature (although not a fan of literary critics), and considered all aesthetic matters to have a utilitarian account. Indeed, it's actually from such a discussion in Rationale of Reward that Mill drew the famous comment about pushpin and poetry, and shortly after making the point (which is primarily to argue that lesser arts like heraldry or coin collecting get their value in the same way the fine arts do), he says:

All the arts and sciences, without exception, inasmuch as they constitute innocent employments, at least of time, possess a species of moral utility, neither the less real or important because it is frequently unobserved. They compete with, and occupy the place of those mischievous and dangerous passions and employments, to which want of occupation and ennui give birth. They are excellent substitutes for drunkenness, slander, and the love of gaming.

(3) Kant makes a sharp distinction between ethics and aesthetics (in the sense of being concerned with sublimity, beauty, and the like), but this is not to say that he thinks they have no relations to each other at all; while pure morality stands above anything that can be called aesthetic, in actual human life we have to combine the sensible and the moral, and this brings us up directly to aesthetics. Thus, we have Kant's famous argument that beauty is the symbol of the good, in the sense that, while beauty and good are themselves very different, our experience of the good involves things that are broadly like our possession of the moral Idea, albeit in a limited form. And, of course, the moral law turns out to be the thing that most truly inspires awe. Cultivation of taste is for him part of moral cultivation -- not the only thing, but a genuine part.


If, in fact, the brightness of the visible sun is not affected by the gloom and darkness of the grave, if it is not defiled by filth from the sewers, is there any wonder that the most high and infinite Spirit should touch ever so lightly with his splendor the dark and squalid hearts of certain men, only to remain clean and unsullied in his own purity? Anyone who ordains, therefore, and is guilty of any crime--whether he is proud, or lustful, whether he is a murderer, or even a simonist--he is, indeed, tainted and undoubtedly steeped in deadly leprosy, but the gift of God that is passed on through him is defiled by no one's corruption, nor infected by anyone's disease. That which flows through the minister is pure, and passes to a fertile soil, clean and limpid. Holy Church, to be sure, is a garden of delights, a spiritual paradise, watered by a river of heaven's choicest gifts. Let us assume, therefore, that wicked priests are like channels made of stone; in channels of stone water makes nothing grow until after flowing through them it pours out on fertile, cultivated fields. Even though the passing years should successively produce many unworthy priests, so that both they that ordain and they that are ordained are found equally corrupt, this living fountain is, nevertheless, is not restrained from flowing through the glade of the Church to the end of time, and from this fountain not only the ranks of the priesthood but all who are reborn in Christ raise to their lips the cup of salvation. Through priests, to be sure, baptism and holy oil come to us, as well as every dispensing of the sacraments of the Church.

[St. Peter Damian, Letter 40, Peter Damian: Letters 31-60, Blum, tr., Catholic University of America Press (Washington, DC: 1990) pp. 139-140. This letter is more commonly known as the Liber gratissimus, a title given it by St. Peter himself, and it is the most important Latin discussion of ordination prior to the thirteenth century.]

The image of stone channels is drawn from St. Augustine, although St. Peter is deliberately generalizing the point, since Augustine in context is only considering the integrity of baptism. Whereas Augustine was addressing people who were insisting on rebaptism of those who had had Christian baptism, Peter is addressing people who were insisting on reordination of those who had become ordained through simony; earlier in the work he argues that baptism and orders are closely connected in how they distribute grace. From Augustine's Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 5.15:

[H]e who is a proud minister is reckoned with the devil; but the gift of Christ is not contaminated, which flows through him pure, which passes through him liquid, and comes to the fertile earth. Suppose that he is stony, that he cannot from water rear fruit; even through the stony channel the water passes, the water passes to the garden beds; in the stony channel it causes nothing to grow, but nevertheless it brings much fruit to the gardens. For the spiritual virtue of the sacrament is like the light: both by those who are to be enlightened is it received pure, and if it passes through the impure it is not stained. Let the ministers be by all means righteous, and seek not their own glory, but His glory whose ministers they are; let them not say, The baptism is mine; for it is not theirs.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Fire of Notre-Dame de Paris

The crown jewel of French Gothic architecture is burning to the ground today; the causes are as yet unknown. The spire has collapsed, and the wooden frame is likely unsalvageable. The church was nearing the end of a long restoration; a number of statues from the spire are unharmed, because they were taken down for renovation. It's unclear whether anything else will survive. The famous stained glass is certainly gone. Nobody seems to know yet whether the Crown of Thorns or anything else was evacuated.

[ADDED LATER, 3:30 pm Central Time: The current word is that in fact a great deal was evacuated, including all of the relics. Firefighters are currently focusing on trying to prevent the art at the back wall of the cathedral from being entirely destroyed.]
[ADDED LATER, 5:05pm CT: It seems that the frame was less damaged than was thought -- an astonishing thing if you've seen just how serious the fire was -- so it may be salvageable.]

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame:

Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of ages. Art often undergoes a transformation while they are still pending — -pendent opera interrupta (the interrupted work is discontinued); they go on again quietly, in accordance with the change in the art. The altered art takes up the monument where it was left off, incrusts itself upon it, assimilates it to itself, develops it after its own fashion, and finishes it if it can. The thing is done without disturbance, without effort, without reaction, according to a law natural and tranquil. It is like a budding graft—a sap that circulates—a vegetation that goes forward. Certainly there is matter for very large volumes, and often for the universal history of humanity, in those successive weldings of several species of art at different elevations upon the same monument. The man, the artist, the individual, disappear upon those great masses, leaving no name of an author behind. Human intelligence is there to be traced only in its aggregate. Time is the architect—the nation is the builder.


For the priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks among heavenly ordinances; and very naturally so: for neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, instituted this vocation, and persuaded men while still abiding in the flesh to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in the heavens themselves in the midst of those powers. Fearful, indeed, and of most awful import, were the things which were used before the dispensation of grace, as the bells, the pomegranates, the stones on the breastplate and on the ephod, the girdle, the mitre, the long robe, the plate of gold, the holy of holies, the deep silence within. But if any one should examine the things which belong to the dispensation of grace, he will find that, small as they are, yet are they fearful and full of awe, and that what was spoken concerning the law is true in this case also, that "what has been made glorious has no glory in this respect by reason of the glory which excels." For when you see the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshippers empurpled with that precious blood, can you then think that you are still among men, and standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought from the soul, do you not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven?

[St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, Book III.4. The quotation is from 2 Corinthians 3:10.]

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Anselm's Account of Satisfaction

There has been some discussion recently of this interview with Elizabeth Johnson; it was actually done late last year, but has been getting more attention now, since 'tis the season. Much of the interview is more a matter of provocative phrasing than substantially wrong claims, but some of it goes very awry. And pretty much all of the discussion of Anselm's view on satisfaction in Cur Deus Homo is wrong. It's wrong in entirely avoidable ways; but, I find, ways that are often not avoided, so it is worthwhile to say a few things about them.

Let's start with the basics. Johnson says, in response to the question of how Anselm came up with his position:

Very simply, the way all of us come up with our ideas: from his own experience in his own world. Anselm lived in a feudal society, where there was no police force nor armies. The word of a lord was law, and this kept the civil order. If you broke a law that disturbed the order of the society in which you lived, you had to pay back something to the lord in order to restore that order. That payback was called satisfaction. You had to make satisfaction when you broke a law in order to restore the honor of the lord, on which all civic peacefulness rested.

Anselm took that political arrangement and made it cosmic.

This is a bad start, because it is all completely wrong. There's been some work in past decades showing that it is, in fact, wrong. Nicholas Cohen's Feudal Imagery or Christian Tradition? (PDF) and David Whidden's The Alleged Feudalism of Anselm's Cur Deus Homo and the Benedictine Concepts of Obedience, Honor, and Order are good examples, and develop parts of the argument at length. But we can summarize the points for our purposes here, and say that

(1) 'Feudalism' is too vague a term to do the explanatory work it is supposed to be doing here;
(2) but if we take the 'political arrangement' Johnson and others assume when they appeal to it, such political arrangements did not have practices of the sort that is suggested, which seem to be an imaginative fiction;
(3) and even so, Anselm didn't live in an area of the world that had that sort of political structure yet;
(4) and Anselm also rarely if ever uses any terms that can be given any feudal gloss at all;
(5) and when he talks in ways definitely shaped by his society, it is the society in which he actually spent most of his life, namely, the Benedictine monastery, not any secular political arrangement.

Anselm held that to be a monk was to go part of the way to being the way a human being should be; monks are not the only ones who are saved, but to be a monk is devote oneself to a life of loving God and neighbor, without being weighed down by the ways in which the world interferes with these. To love God is in part to serve and honor, i.e., respect or revere, God in His goodness, a service God does not need but that we do. And the whole of monastic life consists precisely in practices that are for honoring God. This is the model that Anselm is generally held to have in mind: we human beings can only be just by loving God, which requires serving and honoring Him. (Likewise, we can only be just by loving our neighbor, which requires honoring our neighbor, which is also a way of honoring God.) But there is a problem: we have, in fact, failed to serve and honor Him. Sin is sin because it is a dishonoring of God; this can only be fixed by restoring honor.

This is why God's forgiveness does not answer the question of how the problem of sin can be resolved -- the problem of sin is not that God has failed to forgive us but that human beings have sinned and keep sinning. Divine forgiveness on its own does not address that problem at all. Thus the problem of sin, by its very nature, requires that there be some way that leads to human beings honoring God, and to do so justly requires that we not only honor God but that, because we have sinned, we somehow honor God even more to make up for it, which is satisfaction -- the difference between unjust and just people is that the just, when they have done wrong, do what is required for satisfaction. This is where the basic dilemma in Cur Deus Homo comes from: to counter sin, for their own sake human beings have to honor God in a way that is beyond the ability of human beings to do; God alone can render honor to God in that superabundant way; so the only way we can honor God as we have to honor Him is if there is a Deus Homo, a God-Man, so that human beings are by Him so exalted that we can render the honor we owe to God and make up for what we have failed to render before. And what does Anselm say the honor we owe to God is? The service to God that constitutes justice and makes us just people. The honor we owe to God is to do what is right so that we may be truly just.

Satisfaction in a sense restores the order of the universe, but Anselm is very clear that it restores the order and beauty of the universe because it restores us so that we are just people acting in just ways. And on Anselm's account, we are not merely restored by Christ; we are exalted, so that we will become in a way the equal of the good angels. And, of course, we cannot be the equal of the good angels if we continue to sin; only by satisfaction can we be made the equal of holy beings. (In reading Cur Deus Homo, I think, people often just skip by the discussions of how human beings will complete the number of angels, but it is, I think, quite important to Anselm's actual argument, since it is his way of discussing what it means to be made holy, to become saints.)

Thus Anselm's argument is not that Jesus had to die for God to be merciful; God is always merciful. But the problem that is specifically in need of addressing is that we are sinners and need to stop being sinners. This we cannot do by except by becoming just people; but just people do not only do what is right, they make up for wrong that they have done. So divine mercy gives us a way to make up for wrong that we have done. God becomes Man, and therefore He can be a man who will honor God as we need to be able to honor God, that is, to give God the honor we need to make to Him and to give him the satisfaction for our failures to honor Him, as we also need to do. And Christ does this by giving His sinless life to God, even dying in God's honor, which latter went beyond what He Himself owed, and so took human honoring of God to the next level. What is more, it is not God who demands the death -- it's actually essential to Anselm's argument that God does not demand Christ's death, because if God did demand it, it would be owed and not supererogatory. Anselm is clear that it is human beings who decided to kill Him. But God foreknew that this would happen, and also that, because His death was made a gift to God, it would be a gift that could make up for even the sins of murderous human beings, and, further, would serve as an example of love for others to follow. And Anselm argues that a just person's satisfaction can, through the bonds of love, be satisfaction for another; so Christ's give can be ours, if we are united with Him in love.

Johnson, I think, sees herself as following in the line of Thomas Aquinas; she usually thinks of herself as a sort of Thomist in a broad sense of the term, and mentions explicitly in the interview that, "People, including Thomas Aquinas, criticized Anselm for making it necessary that Jesus do this, for taking away God’s freedom to be merciful." But while St. Thomas does deny that divine forgiveness depends on satisfaction (God's justice and mercy, unlike our justice and mercy, do not require that there be satisfaction; see, e.g., ST 3.46.2), I don't think this can actually be read as a criticism of St. Anselm, either in reality or in intent. As to intent, I think St. Thomas is really just defending an idea he finds in St. Augustine, and not particularly thinking of St. Anselm at all, although, granted, one could perhaps dispute this. But as to reality, Anselm is also quite clear that divine justice and mercy don't depend on our satisfaction -- our justice does. As Anselm at one point puts it, God had no need to conquer the devil; we did.

Johnson later notes that Anselm doesn't mention the Resurrection, which is true (although some things he says can be said to hint at it); but it's clear from both Anselm's comments at the beginning and Boso's comments in the final chapter, that the whole point of the dialogue is to argue to the God-Man as we find him anticipated in the Old Testament and depicted in the New Testament, and not to assume anything from those more than was strictly required to discuss the problem. Johnson is right that there would be no Christianity without the Resurrection, but Anselm is not explaining Christianity; he's arguing that the Incarnation is a reasonable doctrine. And far from what she suggests, it does not follow from his account that we need only one chapter from each gospel (i.e., the Crucifixion itself); it is essential to Anselm's whole argument that Christ's life was holy so that His death could be a matchless honoring of God.

Fortnightly Book, April 14

I have quite a bit going on the next two weeks, so I thought I'd pick something short, and that is Gunnar's Daughter, by Sigrid Undset.

The first, and always greatest, literary love of Sigrid Undset's life were the Icelandic sagas. She was introduced to Njal's Saga one day, and it changed her life. So when she started writing, she tried to write new sagas, something that would capture the spirit of the sagas in a way that would be more accessible to modern readers. She polished and polished, and in 1905 sent it in to be published, and received a rejection from the publisher that she should not try writing any more historical novels. She went on to write ordinary modern novels, which did well enough, but she didn't let go of the idea. She published Gunnar's Daughter in 1909 and Kristin Lavransdatter in 1921 and 1922, and finally in 1925 reworked her original attempt into The Master of Hestviken. Gunnar's Daughter, though a short work, made her major masterpieces possible by showing that it could be done.

Undset did not become Catholic until 1924. Gunnar's Daughter does not have the increasingly Catholic sensibility her later sagas do, but it does have the same interest in the clash between pagan and Christian views of the world. It takes place in Norway in the late tenth and early eleventh century; Christianity is only just on the scene, and is mostly regarded as a foreign weakness. Haakon the Good had tried and failed to introduce it to Viking society; Olaf Trygvasson has converted to Christianity but is mostly receiving resistance because of it; St. Olaf has not yet started his rocky career. Norway is still very much a pagan society, and it sees the Christian notions of mercy and humility and compassion as subversions of honor. The tale is told in saga style, but Undset is usually thought to have a modern movement in her sights, represented by the literary great of her day, Knut Hamsun, and the various volkish movements, which she saw as a return to the worst features of paganism. The story of Vigdis as she tries to navigate such a pagan world is a story of violence, and rape, and vengeance, and love irrecoverably blasted in its bloom by the frost.

I Also Had My Hour

The Donkey
by G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.