Saturday, December 14, 2019

Juan de la Cruz

Today is the feast of St. Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, better known 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 starting 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 Dark Night of the Soul (Book I, Chapter III)

Many of these beginners have also at times great spiritual avarice. They will be found to be discontented with the spirituality which God gives them; and they are very disconsolate and querulous because they find not in spiritual things the consolation that they would desire. Many can never have enough of listening to counsels and learning spiritual precepts, and of possessing and reading many books which treat of this matter, and they spend their time on all these things rather than on works of mortification and the perfecting of the inward poverty of spirit which should be theirs. Furthermore, they burden themselves with images and rosaries which are very curious; now they put down one, now take up another; now they change about, now change back again; now they want this kind of thing, now that, preferring one kind of cross to another, because it is more curious. And others you will see adorned with agnusdeis and relics and tokens, like children with trinkets. Here I condemn the attachment of the heart, and the affection which they have for the nature, multitude and curiosity of these things, inasmuch as it is quite contrary to poverty of spirit which considers only the substance of devotion, makes use only of what suffices for that end and grows weary of this other kind of multiplicity and curiosity. For true devotion must issue from the heart, and consist in the truth and substances alone of what is represented by spiritual things; all the rest is affection and attachment proceeding from imperfection; and in order that one may pass to any kind of perfection it is necessary for such desires to be killed.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Dashed Off XXVI

same distinct from one by added note of relation (Suarez)
"one implies a negation of division in itself, whereas same implies a negation of division from itself, or from that object with which a being is said to be the same"

certum est pars veri as the foundation of positive governing authority

the fit between questions and answers
questions as means to answers

poetry as first history

prudence & seeking divine advice

Being responsible is related to the ability to take responsibility and to the ability to hold responsible.

episcopal ordination as itself a sacrament: Pius XII, Sacramentum ordinis; Vatican II, Lumen Gentium no. 21

Both St. Albert and St. Thomas are skeptical of the notion that episcopacy is a distinct sacramental order from the priesthood because distinctions between sacramental orders should be distinguished according to their relations to the Eucharist, the final cause of the sacraments.

establishing seal vs perfecting seal

All great achievements are at the cost of a sacrifice.

Justice is something intrinsically linked to evidence.

"Homer would never have been so great if he had not often nodded." Vico

"Besides the principle of Divine Providence, and in accordance with it, I advance the principle of the free choice of good and evil on the part of man; without these philosophical principles one could not in any sense speak of justice, of what is right, and of laws." Vico

A consistent pattern in the relation between theology and philosophy is that a theological doctrine will condense into a concentrated form a large number of philosophical doctrines, or at least designated families of philosophical doctrines.

the right to endow churches and charitable foundations, to feed, clothe, and shelter the poor, to guard the land, and to enforce justice

If every truth has a truthmaker, God is the truthmaker for the principle of noncontradiction.

textual vs commentarial interpretations of philosophers (not absolutely opposed)

Love yearns to be eternal, but it is only eternal when it is also grace.

As Socrates practices the true politics of the city, so the saints practice the true politics of the Church.

"Sympathy or solidarity may very well promote the uncovering of truth, especially in situations when people who divulge information are rendering themselves vulnerable in the process." Narayan

the four solaces of the Kalama Sutta & the Platonic argument that nothing bad happens to the good man

knowledge as justified vs as justifiable

faculty psychology as an analysis of the way things can appear/seem.

When people say that faith is not mental assent, they show that they have a defective concept of mind.

the 'mathematical person' as calculating potential
- how is the 'mathematical person' related to the mathematical account of the computer (abstract machine)?
- The Turing machine idea was developed as a mathematical person in process of computing a number according to effective method (marker, markable, eraser, strict discipline). In this way it is like construction with straight edge & compass in geometry.
- Consider Godel on intuition in this light, as well as oracle, etc., in hypercomputation

Due process is a guard against moral panic.

"No one should desire something that exceeds his powers, and is not proportion to them; otherwise he would be a fool." Aquinas

The practical aim of the Magisterium is to cultivate charity and to weed out counterfeits of charity.

"That a prelate is hated by the laity comes about if he neglects the worship of divine praise." Aquinas

deacon : faith :: priest : hope :: bishop : charity

"When two virtues are such that one contains the other, that which is per se for the superior virtue belongs per accidens to the inferior." Aquinas

correction theories of punishment vs rehabilitation theories
- rehabilitation is (1) an end-state and (2) a global state; correction is (1) a focused act connected with the wrong and (2) not concerned with broader issues.

Anything that can be done with propositions can be done with questions and answers.

The same person facing the same evidence in a different order would not necessarily evaluate it the same way, not merely due to subjective ordering effects but also because some evidence gets its character from ordering (e.g., the difference between predictive confirmation and retrodictive confirmation).

ground of desire/volitionprinciple of acting
subjectiveincentive maxim
-- Kant's account requires a disanalogy between these.

"The word *sensation*, as commonly used, is defined not by introspection but by causation." C. D. Broad

It is a standing feature of human moral life that we can be penitent for others.

"Each one offers to the Tabernacle of God what he is able."

"...if there was no divinity, there could be no possible existences, and consequently no truths concerning them." Cockburn

Suspension of judgment presupposes judgment.

"The very notion of reward and punishment implies merit or demerit arising from a compliance with or neglect of some end, which moral agents were *previously* obliged to have pursued; so that obligation must be founded on some principle prior to all consideration of reward and punishment, otherwise there could be no ground for them." Cockburn

the social character of private happiness
moral sentiment as a feel for relations of perfection
relations of perfection that are promulgated by divine will
private happiness and moral sentiment as ultimately rooted in divine will

conscience, moral sentiment, love of humanity, and respect for oneself as four overlapping grounds for treating oneself as being obligated
every obligation as having a fourfold face
- some religious sense poss. needs to be added

The Kantian argument that rational nature/person/humanity is an end in itself is essentially right, but the argument also works for transcendental pure perfections (the true, the good, the beautiful).

treating humanity/rational nature as an end in itself (1) qua rational nature (2) qua social (3) qua embodied in animal nature (4) qua participant in divine providence

modalities as modes of givenness

For there to be a gift there must be a kind of reciprocity.

Gift naturally calls forth return; giving is a transforming circle, an egress and regress, like creation itself.

The system of exchange presupposes giving; to exchange, one must first give.

The return for which gift calls is not repayment of what is given, nor does it call for a definite path of return.

Giving establishes a sharing.

In marriage, each person is acquired as a person.

Quotation is (at least vaguely) attributed reiteration. Notably, most theories of quotation ignore both the repetition and the attribution to some source from which it derives.

It is obvious that most quotation in real conversation is not merely mention, but either witness to original use or else itself derivative use.

When we quote we may repeat the words alone or the use of them as well.

Respect for persons requires respect for rationality, and respect for rationality requires respect for evidence.

helpfulness & unhelpfulness of answers (obviously a kind of fit between means and end)

Every book as a splay of possible interpretations.

Every beautiful story has many possible ugly stories that could have been by mutilation of it.

To respect moral law properly, one must receive it as gift.

In giving the gift, by the attitude in which we give it we choose our reward for the giving.

As Christ is the Word made flesh, so too the unchanging truths of the Faith take cultural flesh.

That only can be truly willed as fully moral that is coherent, discernibly good, universal, and in accordance with divine will.

Kant's discussion of autonomy doubles as an account of the autonomy of philosophy (explicitly, see the discussion of the need for an a priori proof of the cat. imp. in the Groundwork).

From the LoN and KoE formulations together, you can get a divine will formulation: Act according to that maxim that (whether God exists or not) could by its nature be treated as a universal command of God.

beauty as a criterion for theories vs beauty as a criterion for inquiry

simplicity, naturalness, elegance
unifying, nonarbitrary, engaging the essential

Experiment, like photography, requires a frame, a boundary that demarcates, within which occurs what is of primary focus, selected out of the greater whole.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A New Poem Draft

I've been reading Jackson Crawford's The Wanderer's Havamal, so my head is full of all things Nordic. I wrote this while my students were doing their Ethics tests yesterday and today; there are a few poetic licenses, whether for the odd rhyme scheme or to fill in a bit what the norns do (our information is patchy, and, for instance, the norns perhaps were not weavers like the Greco-Roman fates), but most things in it have at least some foundation in sources.


The air is cold, the sun is bright, and I
am waiting for the night;
the leaves are rustling, crisp and winter-dry;
the boughs look strange and bent.

The ash of worlds is swayed by gale from home
of elves to shadowed Hel,
but roots go down within the sand and loam;
the tree of realms will stand.

The caverns down below with darker ways are filled,
the caves that know no days,
where live the beasts no god, no soul, has willed,
with eyes as black as coal.

Beneath the tree, the steed where rides the god,
the fateful threefold hides;
they rule with might more sure than ruthless rod;
their word is bitter truth.

The waters trickle down the stony stair
to world untouched, alone;
where Urth is weaving golden thread the air
is weighted thick with dead.

The well of Urth is deep and cold; its maw
is like a dragon bold.
By Urthabrunn the ancient fates make law
devoid of love and hate.

Those waters holy heal, their dew the tree
of realms can make as new;
to taste that water is to wholly be,
and be made fresh of soul.

There too the swans a whiteness sure receive
from water hale and pure;
the draughts of truth all wounds and griefs relieve,
and fair are those reliefs.

The three who know all things there speak in thought;
all secret lore they seek.
Their turning thread they wove; their net has caught
the passed, the now, the yet.

Verthandi speaks the word of nornish doom
and men are slain or born,
and Skuld will consecrate the blooded gloom
and set aside the good.

Verthandi writes the runes on graven wood,
this man to free or save,
and Skuld the valkyrie in verdant maiden's hood
will sort each soldier-shade.

But Urth in law beyond all law is great;
around her head is awe,
for being is as she will deem its fate
and as her maidens dream.

Around a crowd is formed, with norn on norn
for every creature born,
to oversee the birth when babe from womb is torn
and fix its someday tomb.

Your birth is fated; fated too your death,
your fortunes old and new;
a good or evil norn has given breath
to you, and thus you live.

The waters trickle upward full of force,
in spirits form and pool
each Urthabrunn is echoing as source,
to shape each living thing.

From deepest sand and stone the roots go up
and give off greening shoots.
The tree of worlds is rising high and fair.
Its breezes gently sigh.

The boughs are vital-lovely, blooming worlds,
defying mortal doom;
every stem is blowing, dreams uncurled,
with bright and dewy gleams.

It overarches earth and even sky,
a fair and mighty eave;
upheld by fate, its leaves are bright, and I
am waiting dawning light.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Queenliest Flower

The Lotus
by Toru Dutt

Love came to Flora asking for a flower
That would of flowers be undisputed queen,
The lily and the rose, long, long had been
Rivals for that high honour. Bards of power
Had sung their claims. "The rose can never tower
Like the pale lily with her Juno mien"—
"But is the lily lovelier?" Thus between
Flower-factions rang the strife in Psyche's bower.
"Give me a flower delicious as the rose
And stately as the lily in her pride"—
"But of what colour?"—"Rose-red," Love first chose,
Then prayed,—"No, lily-white,—or, both provide;"
And Flora gave the lotus, "rose-red" dyed,
And "lily-white,"—the queenliest flower that blows.


There have been many, many kinds of saints. One of the interesting classes is that of the Stylites. The stylitic movement was begun by St. Simeon Stylite the Elder, who at some point in the early fifth century got kicked out of his monastery for being too weirdly ascetic; his fellow monks told him that he was not suited for life in a community. So he became a hermit, but in his eremitic life he continued his weirdness; at one point his ascetic discipline was to stay standing as long as possible, which some people were beginning to try out at the time. Extreme ascetic devotions were popular in Syria at the time, and word of him spread, so that pilgrims started going out of their way to see him and get his blessing, and then he became pilgrimage destination in his own right. That really started exasperating him as crowds started interfering with his prayers. So he came up with an ingenious solution: having discovered a pillar in some nearby ruins, he built a little platform on top it, climbed up, and stayed there. It definitely improved things, although he eventually had to move to a taller pillar, and he eventually had to have people build a wall around to control the crowds. Passing shepherd boys would pass him food. The crowds still came -- more than ever, in fact, to see the monk on the pillar -- but visitors could climb up part of the way to talk to him if they needed, he'd often preach to the grounds, and he started corresponding with people who sent him messages. You'd think living on top of a pillar all the time would reduce your social interactions, but in fact, while the interactions became more manageable, being on his own terms, St. Simeon's interaction with the world increased massively. However weird pillar-life might sound, it was a very effective and balanced ascetic approach, allowing for a little of everything. St. Simeon, too weird to accommodate life in the communities he found, climbed a pillar and found a community coming to accommodate him.

Thus the stylitic movement was born, with a long list of stylites following in his wake, many of whom became saints: St. Simeon Stylites the Younger, St. Symeon Stylites of Lesbos, St. Luke the Younger, and so forth. And that brings us to St. Daniel the Stylite, whose feast is today. He visited St. Simeon Stylite the Elder in his travels from monastery to monastery, and it inspired him to imitate the saint. He found a great place for a pillar, the ruins of a pagan temple north of Constantinople; he climbed up, and did the standing asceticism as much as possible. Unfortunately, he never asked the owner of the land for permission. The owner tried to convince him to go, and couldn't, so the owner appealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Gennadius. St. Gennadius couldn't convince him to leave, and St. Daniel managed, somehow, to convince the Patriarch that he shouldn't have to leave. He stayed there over thirty years until his death in the 490s, preaching against monophysitism and encouraging people to pray, and it was widely said that people who touched his pillar were cured of their illnesses.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Conscientious Objection of Interpreters

Nathan Emmerich and Christine Phillips raise an interesting conscientious objection question at BMJ:

Whilst our engagement with this question no doubt has generalizable implications, it first arose as a result of an experience one of us had when an interpreter terminated their participation in a consultation because the issue of abortion had arisen....

Interpreting is an unusual profession, not least because there is a sense in which the interpreter does not act independently. Insofar as their duties extend to relaying the words of others, they do not engage in any de novo speech acts. Thus, even if an interpreter knows that A is lying to B, it is their professional duty to convey that lie in the same way as it is uttered. Indeed, if that lie is subsequently believed it would be unethical for them to take it upon themselves to point this out. As such, interpreters adopt a morally neutral stance as to the content of the communications they facilitate and with regard to the situations they find themselves.

Contrary to what they suggest, this is a common kind of problem for professionals. Every doctor, every lawyer, every minister, every teacher regularly has situations in which their job is to pass on things with which they do not agree, because it is important for the lines of communication between the client and the system to be clear. But it is also necessary for the professional to be able to judge when they might not be the best way to do this. Emmerich and Phillips argue that Interpreters do not have the right to object conscientiously in these cases. They are assuming in the background the AUSIT Code of Ethics. It's impossible, however, to get the result they want while doing so -- the AUSIT Code of Ethics (rightly) holds up the standard that Interpreters should avoid or should attempt to withdraw from assignments in which their impartiality or detachment might be difficult due to personal beliefs. The idea of Emmerich and Phillips, that because an Interpreter has a duty to convey what is uttered that they therefore have no choice but to accept any assignment and to continue with it regardless of their judgment about whether they are able to remain unbiased and detached in their task, is a non sequitur and absurd on its face -- and there is no way to get from point A to point B here without assuming the conclusion they want. The attempt of Emmerich and Phillips to deny Interpreters a standard right of conscientious objection fails at the starting gate.

It's not essential to the point, and as I say the AUSIT Code of Ethics recognizes a standard according to which Interpreters might engage in conscientious objection if anyone attempts to force them to interpret in a condition that they deem dangerous for their unbiased detachment, but Emmerich and Phillips also show signs that they are overly influenced by an all-too-common superstition about what it is to be a professional:

However, to be a professional is to adopt a particular and socially defined role. To be or act as a professional is, in a sense, to adapt one’s individuality so as to conform with broader, collectively determined, professional responsibilities.

Professional responsibilities are not determined 'collectively'; there is no 'adaptation' of one's individual to the collective. Professional responsibilities are determined individually and refined cooperatively. All professional ethics arises from the actual work of professionals approaching their own work conscientiously; to be part of a profession is not to be part of a 'collective', but is instead to be a worker in a community with other similar workers, sharing what they know and have learned so that the work itself may be done well. The top-down view of professional ethics as descending from 'The Profession' -- I call it the Totalitarian view, because in practice it is used by people trying to deny all sorts of human and professional rights -- is gibberish; professional ethics does not descend from on high, it grows from the soil of actual practice, which is done by individuals and not by collectives. The purpose of codes of ethics put forward by professional organizations is to establish stable reference points of general agreement, to publish what professionals by and large regard as the standards and that people therefore can reasonably expect, not to dictate terms.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Spell Eva Back and Ave Shall You Find

Our Ladies Salutation
by St. Robert Southwell

Spell Eva backe and Ave shall yowe finde,
The first beganne, the last reversd our harmes;
An angell's witching wordes did Eva blynde,
An angell's Ave disinchauntes the charmes:
Death first by woeman's weakenes entred in,
In woeman's vertue life doth nowe beginn.

O virgin brest! the heavens to thee inclyne,
In thee their joy and soveraigne they agnize;
Too meane their glory is to match with thyne,
Whose chaste receite God more then heaven did prize.
Hayle fayrest heaven, that heaven and earth dost blisse,
Where vertewes starres, God sonne of justice is!

With hauty mynd to Godhead man aspird,
And was by pride from place of pleasure chasd;
With lovinge mind our manhead God desird,
And us by love in greater pleasure placd;
Man labouring to ascend procurd our fall,
God yelding to descend cut off our thrall.

As sung:

Sunday, December 08, 2019

A Great Tract of Time

Of all men only those who find time for philosophy are at leisure, only they are truly alive; for it is not only their own lifetime they guard well; they add every age to their own; all the years that have passed before them they requisition for their store. Unless we have no gratitude at all, those glorious fashioners of sacred thoughts were born for us, for us they laid the foundations of life. By the efforts of other men we are led to contemplate things most lovely that have been unearthed from darkness and brought into light; no age has been denied to us, we are granted admission to all, and if we wish by greatness of mind to pass beyond the narrow confines of human weakness, there is a great tract of time for us to wander through.

[Seneca, "On the Shortness of Life", from Seneca, Dialogues and Essays, Davie, tr., Oxford UP (New York: 2008), p. 155.]