Sunday, August 02, 2020

Fortnightly Book, August 2

The next fortnightly book I had thought about doing this past fortnight, but it hadn't arrived yet; it will be Brendan Hodge's If You Can Get It. I had read it in the first early draft, but look forward to reading it in its polished and published form.

Jen Nilsson has it all, career-wise, but things get a bit more complicated when her sister Katie comes to stay....

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Alphonsus Liguori

Today is the feast of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church. From his work, Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ:

The mistake is, that some indeed wish to become saints, but after their own fashion; they would love Jesus Christ, but in their own way, without forsaking those diversions, that vanity of dress, those delicacies in food: they love God, but if they do not succeed in obtaining such-and-such office, they live discontented; if, too, they happen to be touched in a point of esteem, they are all on fire; if they do not recover from an illness, they lose all patience. They love God; but they refuse to let go that attachment for the riches, the honors of the world, for the vainglory of being reckoned of good family, of great learning, and better than others. Such as these practice prayer, and frequent Holy Communion; but inasmuch as they take with them hearts full of earth, they derive little profit. Our Lord does not even speak to them, for he knows that it is but a waste of words....

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


Opening Passage:

My dear Wormwood,
I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together in his head.... (pp. 7-8)

Summary: The Screwtape Letters is best known for its character satire, but as an epistolary novella it does have a plot that prevents it (unlike some of its imitators) from just being a series of wittily framed opinions. Since we are not these days very used to epistolary forms of writing, it's worthwhile to get an overview of how they all fit together, particularly since there is actually a lot of plot (epistolary forms are capable of building a lot of story in a relatively small space). Letter I opens the correspondence with Screwtape, an undersecretary in hell, writing to his nephew, Wormwood, a tempter, about his 'patient' (never mind, because devils don't care about our names; we are cattle to them), who is thinking about becoming a Christian. Screwtape recommends focusing on what his patient takes to be 'real', since humans are likely to treat the familiar as 'real life' and the unfamiliar as 'unreal'. Unfortunately for Wormwood, the patient becomes a Christian (Letter II); the devils focus on the irritations and frictions between him and his fellow Christians (II) and between him and his mother (III-IV). The latter requires some coordination with Glubose, her tempter. In the meantime, Wormwood is excited because the humans have begun won of their words -- the Second World War -- and Screwtape has to counsel him to keep sober about it (V), although it does provide some opportunities for temptation (VI-VII). The patient's conversion enthusiasms begin to fade, which is useful for the devils, but, as Screwtape notes, a matter to be handled very carefully (VIII-IX). The Letters to this point can be regarded as the Introduction, in which we learn about how this world works and we have set the two major recent life-changes for the patient, conversion to Christianity and the beginning of the War, that will set in motion a chain of events leading to the end.

With Letter X, the devils find an opportunity to unleash their first major campaign, the attempt to corrupt by way of the World. The patient meets "some very desirable new acquaintances" who are "rich, smart, superficially intellectual, and brightly sceptical about everything in the world" (p. 45). This provides an opportunity for the devils to try to slowly slide the patient into betrayal of his newly found faith and, more generally, his moral principles, by playing on the human desire to belong to a special group, an inner ring, a circle of insiders. This works very well (XI-XII). However, Wormwood makes the mistake of allowing the patient time to experience both some real enjoyment and some real reflection, which leads to a major setback as the patient repents, and has a second conversion settling him into an even more firm attachment to his faith (XIII); even worse, he has become more humble, which makes him more resistant to temptation (XIV).

A lull in the War, however, gives the devils room to regroup by launching a new major campaign, the attempt to corrupt by way of the Flesh. They consider whether to encourage anxiety or fear (XV) and which church they should encourage him to go to so as to neutralize any danger from that quarter (XVI), and Screwtape scolds Wormwood for not appreciating the value of gluttony (XVII). The major offensive, however, will be by way of lust (XVIII-XIX). Wormwood's direct temptations are foiled, but the offensive continues as Screwtape notes that the patient can still be got at indirectly (XX) and the devils consider how best to use sexual temptation as a way to aggravate the patient's temperamental peevishness and irritability (XXI). Things go very badly (for them), however, when the patient falls in love with a girl, and exactly the wrong sort -- one who is Christian, who takes her moral responsibilities seriously, and, almost worse, is good-humored, pleasant, and also in love with the patient (XXII). She is, in short, perfect for him in the sense that she will almost certainly help him become a better person if they don't do anything about it. We also learn in passing that Wormwood has been reporting on Screwtape's letters to the Secret Police of hell; Screwtape manages to wriggle out of that trouble, but makes very clear to Wormwood his view on that matter by providing Wormwood with a pamphlet "on the new House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters" (pp. 100-101). Nonetheless, Screwtape is so enraged by Wormwood's incompetence (particularly exacerbated by the brush with the Secret Police) that he accidentally transforms into a large centipede and has to finish his letter by dictating to his secretary, Toadpipe.

The World and the Flesh have failed. But there is a third type of campaign, the more direct route of spiritual corruption, corruption by way of the Devil. The patient's Christianity must itself be twisted. The weak point, given the social and political consciousness of his new Christian friends, is the relation between Christian faith and politics (XXIII). In the meantime, consultation with Slumtrimpet, the tempter for the patient's new love, leads to the recognition that much of her Christianity, while sincere, involves a naive and innocent sense of superiority; and while that doesn't help much in dealing with her, it may perhaps be useful in corrupting the patient by encouraging in him a non-naive and non-innocent sense of superiority, one that will yield the sin of Spiritual Pride (XXIV-XXV). In the meantime, their courtship provides the opportunity for planting seeds that, apparently unproblematic now, will really fester until they become hatred years later (XXVI). The courtship turns out to be more of a problem than the devils could hope, since it leads the patient to pray more (XXVII).

The third campaign, however, runs into complications and gets derailed due to the War, which brings us to the Conclusion of the Letters. Wormwood keeps getting distracted by the excitement of so much human suffering and anxiety, and there is real danger of the patient getting killed before the tempters have succeeded in corrupting him, particularly now that it is likely that there will be air raids on the town where the patient lives (XXVIII). They consider how they are going to handle the fear for optimal temptation (XXIX), but when it actually happens, the patient responds in the worst possible way for the tempters: he was terrified, so he thinks of himself as a coward, and yet he did his duty and more, which means he was actually courageous (XXX). Screwtape again has to recommend that they focus on what the patient thinks of as 'real', thus bringing their temptations in a sense in a full circle, although one in which they are now worse off than when they began. However, it all comes crashing down when the bombs hit again and the patient dies, eluding their grasp forever (XXXI). Screwtape looks forward to the opportunity to devour Wormwood for his failure.

One of the things that struck me on this reading was the importance of words. One of the most important parts of the devilish bureaucracy (the 'Lowerarchy') is its Philological Arm. Screwtape's fallback temptation is to maneuver with what the patient calls "real life" or "the real world"; misapplication of words is a way the tempters encourage dishonesty without making it clear that they do so; a major play is confusion over the possessive pronoun 'my', which has many different senses that can be conflated in temptation; Screwtape suggests that one of the Philological Arm's successes is getting humans to say 'Unselfishness', a negative term, rather than 'Charity', a positive one. The same arises in "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", in which Screwtape in a dinner speech sets out how to fulfill the directives of Lower Command in the area of education; a major element of his proposal is that the tempters should confuse humans with the word 'democracy', muddling whether 'democratic behaviour' is "the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy" (p. 161). Much of temptation, as it is described by Screwtape, consists in misclassification.

After I began reading, I remembered that there was a dramatic presentation of The Screwtape Letters put out a few years ago by Focus on the Family, so I grabbed a copy and listened to that. I enjoyed it, although there were a few decisions I thought questionable. The most obvious was naming the humans, which I think was a narrative and structural mistake. A much more subtle one, which I thought both serious and wholly gratuitous, was the dropping of Boethius's name in Letter XXVII, substituting the more generic 'writers in ancient times', or something like that. What makes that such a problem is that in context the whole point is that the devils have arranged such a thing so that people take the 'Historical Point of View' rather than reading old books as a part of the conversation of ages. Dropping the name of the author who is in fact in view in the immediate context is bad enough, since part of the point was to give a recommendation to Boethius, but taking out any actual names arguably plays into the 'Historical Point of View' that is being praised by Screwtape (and thus condemned by his praise). Being able to clump ancient writers as a group under the label 'ancient', and treating that as more important than whether any of them has said anything true, is precisely one of the things Screwtape praises, since that is how you dismiss them all as a group.

A dramatic presentation can't be done entirely in epistolary style (although they do try to keep a few); thus most of Screwtape's letters become conversations between Screwtape and Wormwhood. This was, I think, quite well done; they manage to stick fairly closely to the content of the letters while adding the sort of variety that a dramatic presentation needs. One potential worry is adding new material (which you'd have to do); I was very pleasantly surprised. This was done very sparingly, and most of the instances in which it is done are either purely illustrative of the point at hand or are an occasional extra joke as part of restructuring the Letters dramatically, like when Wormwood receives a package from Screwtape through the infernal postal service and to receive it has to sign for it in twelve different places for no reason at all.

Dramatic presentations tend also to be, well, dramatic. And it's interesting in this light to contrast Andy Serkis's Screwtape in the dramatic presentation with John Cleese's famous Screwtape. Cleese was doing an audiobook, not a dramatic presentation; thus his Screwtape comes across as world-weary and dry, very business-like, occasionally biting but only becoming really emotional in direct anger at Wormwood (e.g., when he transforms) or when he becomes gloating and greedy at the thought of devouring Wormwood. Serkis's Screwtape is always suavely malicious, has a quick temper, and tends quite easily to gloating. Of these, I think Cleese is much closer to what Lewis himself intended. It is a point explicitly made by Lewis that Screwtape is a very practical devil, and it is essential to the world-building that when we look around us these days, truly great evil doesn't enter with melodramatic flair but "in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice" (p. x), as Lewis puts it. Not that Serkis's Screwtape is not as enjoyable as you would expect a Screwtape played by Andy Serkis to be! Some of the insults of Wormwood that his Screwtape causally drops into the conversation are quite hilarious. It works well in other cases, too, perhaps not better than Cleese's but sometimes at least as well in its own way. One very noticeable difference is with Letter XXXI. Cleese's Screwtape remains poisonously smiling to the end, only more so; whereas Serkis's Screwtape ramps up the gloating to the point that you are reminded, at the last, that devils are very, very dangerous creatures. Both work in their own way, the quietly biting and the wrath blending with glee; which you'd like most would, I think, depend on your mood.

Favorite Passage: From Letter XXV:

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere "understanding." Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey. (pp. 117-118)

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.


C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Collier (New York: 1982).

Friday, July 31, 2020

Dashed Off XVII

kinds of resources
- working stock: now being extracted
- reserve stock: extractable with minor adjustment
- resource stock: known but extractable only with major adjustment
- hidden stock: suspected/estimated but not known
- surprise stock: unknown and unsuspected

The only value of schooling as such is learning how to make things, whether they are discourses, experiments, mathematical models, or machines, or anything else.

finance-for vs finance as that which tends toward the limit of endless revenue for no work
the two corruptions of trade: that which tends toward endless return for no work, that which tends toward endless work for no return

normal fluctuation inequalities
persistent inequalities
compounding inequalities

Tools are generally constituted in the context of traditions; one sees this in the case of explorers dying in environments in which natives thrive.

Tradition by nature is a kind of living with others.

As a kind of living with others, tradition is for the sake of others.

Tradition possesses what it receives as an anticipatory possession, that is, as a receiving so as to give.

silence as a mode of magisterial teaching

The 'ontology' of common sense is constructed as one goes, although it is constrained by precedent.

Mk 5:7 -- the practice of evil in trying to get good to bind itself against acting with authority against evil

rabbi = didaskalos (Mk 5:35)

When we have a concept like 'infinite wisdom', this is not a conjunction of 'infinite' and 'wisdom' but a modification of 'wisdom' so that it will be take as infinite; the 'infinite' part indicates something that is as it were higher-order.

Moral obligations are characterized by what can be done to fulfill them.

A lot of what goes by names like 'one's political position' is a political aesthetic, with the actual politics being substantially 'might makes right'; people pick out the flavors they prefer aggressive power to have.

"The only hope of attaining amity lies, not in ignoring boundaries, but, on the contrary, in respecting them." Chesterton

ascetic practices as fonts of freedom

"Every badge of power is not immediately beneficial, but it is certainly helpful if it is carried well; and it is well carried when it benefits the subjects over whom the worldly honors are placed." Isidore
"Rulers easily either edify or subvert the life of their subjects by their own behavior, and therefore it is not right that a ruler should sin, lest by the unpunished license of his sin he establish a pattern of sinning." (cp. Confucianism)

Every form of autonomy presupposes a form of authority.

All human authority is situated; social location influences our experience and development, giving a shape to our minds and character so that authority arises from a particular location. Of these locations, some give a superior authority, namely those capable of communicating power, wisdom, or goodness, such as an office of command, or old age, or martyrdom for the good and true.

When most people are criticizing 'capitalism', it is often clear that they are criticizing oligarchy. Defenses of capitalism are sometimes defenses of capital-based economic structures and sometimes praises of democracy.

'provoking men to repentance by their preaching' (Mk 6:12)

Mk 6:1-6 shows a parallel to the state of things in a modern secularized society: overfamiliarity with the superficial leads the cultural hometown/household of Christ, people who should know Him, to have no faith in the carpenter. And thus the Church has no great works, except at times some healings and the like.
-- How does Jesus respond? He expands His ministry to form a circuity (Mk 6:6) -- notice that he does not merely expand but expands and keeps returning in order to consolidate. And he seds missionaries forth (Mk 6:7) on special missions.

A general council has both formal authority (being the most complete form of the teaching mission of bishops) and representative authority (thus carrying common consent as well as mission).

Both Pope and general council have both formal authority and representative authority, but the Pope most clearly represents formal authority and the Council most clearly expresses representative authority; thus the general council confirmed by the Pope is the most manifest expression of the authority of the Church.

The Pope can participate in a council by legate, but can only confirm a council himself.

diligence : magnanimity :: continence : temperance

complete justice in supreme governance
the common good united to the highest good

A just regime requires (1) virtue, or at least decency, in the people, (2) forgiveness of sins and correctness of them, and (3) the assistance of divine providence.

Hope prays rather than presumes.

A question to ask for each philosophical problem: What general features of language are required for formulating the problem to be possible at all?

Mk 7:24-30 as type of vicarious intention in infant baptism (see Bede)

modes of potentiality
(1) composition
(2) incompleteness
(3) limitation
(4) change
(5) division
-- each of these has a corresponding actuality
-- from each of tehse there is a possible argument to pure act

If reason could only work on distinct ideas, it would never begin

status inequality between academics and non-academics, imposed by the former

a quasi-Liebnizian conjecture: All determinisms rule out infinites.

Merleau-Ponty: the living body is already intentional in character

Jn 1:18
Sinaiticus: only begotten God in the bosom of the Father
Byzantine: only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father
Jn 3:8
Sinaiticus: of water and of the Spirit
Byzantine: of the Spirit
Jn 6:69
Sin: the Holy One of God
Byz: the Christ, the Son of the living God
Jn 7:8
Sin: not going
Byz: not yet going
Lk 8:40
Sin: looking for God
Byz: looking for Jesus
Mk 7:4
Sin: pourings
Byz: immersions
Mt 28:17
Sin: they worshiped
Byz: they worshiped Him

On Jn 1:18
only begotten Son: Hippolytus, Hilary (de Trin), Ambrose, Augustine (Tract in Io), Chrysostom (Hom 15), Athanasius
only begotten God: Basil (De spir), Epiphanius, Cyril of Alexandria (Comm in Io), Gregory of Nyssa, Peshitta, Origien (Commo in Io)
- NB Irenaeus seems to use both 'only begotten God' (Adv Haer 4:11) and 'only begotten Son' (Adv Haer 4:6, 3:5-6_. Clement of Alexandria may have both as well: Strom 5:12 quotes 'only begotten God', but Rich Man 37 and Strom 1:26 seem clearly to allude to 'only begotten Son'.
- Ephrem in his commentary seems to suggest his ms. only had 'only begotten', which seems confirmed by Aphrahat (Dem 6).

The role of people in science and the like whom we are likely to identify as the discoverers are in general the people who gave the idea a form such that it could become common wisdom, often reorganizing loose speculations and scattered evidence into something substantial, or finding the way to make something's significance clear.

'Autoethnography' originally referred to the expressed self-understanding of the informants, not the ethnographers themselves, to recognize that some of the ethnographical work was in fact already done by the people themselves, independent of the ethnographer.

Darwin concludes that he should perhaps have used 'natural preservation' rather than 'natural selection' (letter to Lyell, 28 Sept 1860).

"It is the very function of the Christian to be moving against the world, and to be protesting against the majority of voices." Newman

the characteristic graces of different saints

Traditions need to be refreshed according to times and places.

names said of God
-- negatively
-- affirmatively
-- -- relatively
-- -- simply
-- -- -- properly
-- -- -- metaphorically

The intellectual given is given by the agent intellect.

All of beauty is a sort of tradition from God (cp S. Thomas In IV DDN, lectio 5).

Most of the time when we assign probabilities in evidential reasoning, it is based on our *prior* recognition of them as evidence.

metaphors for sin, each capturing a different aspect
(1) weight (burden)
(2) debt
(3) illness
-- there needs to be more work done on the relationships here

Between natural religion, properly speaking, and revealed religion is customary religion.

Scripture guides the Church, but the sacraments build it.

Church as (Christological) mystery → Church as institution → Church as congregation → Church as (eschatological) mystery

the Eucharist as priestly (hence the need to be baptized)
the Eucharist as royal (hence the need to be shriven)
the Eucharist as prophetic (hence the need to approach in truth and charity)

Christianity, bringing a higher life, brings a higher juridicality.

sacramental penance and penance of desire (cp. Quodl IV.7.1, SCG IV.72.13, ST III.86.6ad3, In IV Sent d17a3q1a2ad1)

The sacrament confession requires a connection to the Apostles, and especially Peter, who were given the keys.

Note that the exorcism of Mk 9:14-29 is (1) sandwiched between Jesus's discussions of his death and resurrection, and (2) put in terms of reminiscent of death and resurrection (he falls like a corpse, Jesus raises him up).

"Honor means a sort of testimony of someone's excellence." Aquinas ST 2-2.103.1

Without the four cardinal virtues, there can be very little progress.

Every body is many distinguishable quantitative structures.

Hume's galley effect implies that the external world would have the appearance of a teleology, however minimal: what we seens seems to have a tendency to what we do not sense.

Almost all business affairs involve some form of begging, whether for attention, or time, or the like, for the purpose of receiving money.

"'Body' expresses a being in so far as it carries out in us an action having a given mode." Rosmini

Constancy and coherence are not merely features of the world as perceived but also of the world as inferred.

Heidegger explicitly links 'thrownness' to 'that it is' (B&T I.5, H135), which is no doubt why Edith Stein links it to creatureliness.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Højrødt, med et Mørkeblaat

There are days when it seems the stupidity of people knows no bounds:

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Bed and breakfast Nordic Pineapple in Saint Johns has removed their Norwegian flag after dozens of people confuse it for the Confederate flag.

Greg and Kjersten Offbecker moved into the historic mansion two years ago and turned it into a bed and breakfast. As decoration, they hung a Norwegian flag next to the American flag at the front entrance of the inn, but dozens of guests and people driving by have accused the couple of flying a Confederate flag.

“They are the same color, but there are no stars on the Norwegian flag, and the Confederate flag is a big ‘x’ and the Norwegian flag is part of the Nordic countries, they’re all crosses,” Offbecker said.

Flag of Norway


Today is the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church. He was appointed by St. Sixtus III to the See of Ravenna. Ravenna at the time was an extraordinarily important city, since it had replaced Rome as the capital of the Western Roman Empire (it had a much better climate), but Peter seems to have been an almost complete unknown at the time; according to legend, Sixtus appointed him because he had a dream in which he saw him singled out by St. Peter and St. Apollinaris (first bishop of Ravenna), and then when the delegation from Ravenna arrived, Sixtus recognized him immediately as the man in the dream. It is said that Peter received his nickname, Chrysologus, from the empress, Galla Placidia, and he and she seem to have gotten along well, mutually supporting each other in a long series of projects for the poor.

Whoever is free from captivity to this mammon, and is no longer weighed down under the cruel burden of money, stands securely with his vantage point in heaven, and from there looks down over the mammon which is holding sway over the world and the worldly with a tyrant's fury.

It holds sway over nations, it gives orders to kingdoms, it wages wars, it equips warriors, it traffics in blood, it transacts death, it threatens homelands, it destroys cities, it conquers peoples, it attacks fortresses, it puts citizens in an uproar, it presides over the marketplace, it wipes out justice, it confuses right and wrong, and by aiming directly at morality it assails one's integrity, it violates truth, it eviscerates one's reputation, it wreaks havoc on one's honor, it dissolves affections, it removes innocence, it keeps compassion buried, it severs relationships, it does not permit friendship. And why should I say more? This is mammon: the master of injustice, since it is unjust in the power it wields over human bodies and minds.

[Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, Volume 3, Palardy, tr. Catholic University of America Press (Washington, DC: 2005). Sermon 126, section 5. ]

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Maybe-Saint Felix II

Today is an interesting feast, the feast of St. Felix. There are several things that make him interesting. First, the Felix that was usually meant was an antipope; he was illicitly installed as pope by the Emperor Constantius II while the actual pope, Liberius, was still alive. This is not unheard of; St. Hippolytus was an antipope, so it is entirely possible for an antipope to be on the calendar of saints, although it is certainly unusual. But more than that, he seems to have been an Arian bishop.

What we know, more or less for sure is that Emperor Constantius demanded that Pope Liberius condemn St. Athanasius; the Emperor supported the Arians. But Liberius did not, and he refused to cooperate. He was exiled for about two years to Thrace. We are not quite sure what happened; Liberius seems to have partly given in to the imperial demands and signed a compromise formula. This fact is why Liberius is the first pope who is not listed as a saint in the Roman calendar. It's not perfectly clear that Liberius did really give in, nor under what circumstances; and if he did, it was not by affirming Arianism but by accepting a compromise formula, i.e., one that could be read either in an orthodox way or in an Arian way. It was enough of a failure to get him left out of the Roman Martyrology and calendar, but he is on some Eastern calendars of saints, because there's no question that he himself was orthodox and he did suffer quite a bit for his orthodoxy. But in any case, during Liberius's exile, Constantius attempted to install Felix as pope. Given the circumstances, that seems to suggest that Felix was an Arian bishop, and indeed, there is some reason to think he was ordained by Arians. Constantius only recalled Liberius because the Roman population forced his hand, but once Liberius returned, Felix was forced out.

However, 'Felix' is a very common Roman name. There is at least one martyr named Felix, who seems to have been executed for opposing Arianism, and there's good reason to think that Felix II was confused with that martyr, about whom we know almost nothing else. For one thing, there's some reason to think that Felix II died in November, and at a time when there wasn't much in the way of persecution going on, so it's otherwise quite baffling why he was celebrated in July as a martyr. But the confusion, if so, goes way beyond this, because he was listed in calendars as 'Pope and Martyr'; and he was listed in lists of popes as Pope St. Felix II, successor to Pope Liberius. Rather hard on Liberius, I think, that after all his defense of orthodoxy, including two years of hard exile, he got counted as a disgrace, whereas the bishop illegally installed in his place by a heretical emperor went down in the books as a saint. Since it's pretty clear that Felix was in fact never at any time the Pope -- Liberius never resigned and continued to be regarded as the bishop of Rome both during and after his exile -- Felix II messes up the numbers; in the line of actual popes, there is a I and a III, but no II.

Nothing about this, of course, is theologically any problem; there was a Felix who was a martyr, and whose feast day has plausibly been July 29 for centuries, and nothing rides on our getting the biographies of saints right. There are certainly many examples of people becoming confused about which John, James, or Mary was being talked about in any particular context, so it's not surprising to find a case of confusion over Felix. However, there is a bit more to this. First, while Constantius did install Felix, we don't know for sure that he was actually an Arian; he could very well have been orthodox himself, despite being ordained by Arians. Even if he was Arian, he could well have ceased being so at some point. And in 1582, a grave was found claiming to hold the body of Felix, Pope and Martyr, who condemned Constantius. Gregory DiPippo discusses it here. So the fact of the matter is that we don't know, and probably never will on this side of death.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Raven Paradox

In Hempel's raven paradox, we start with looking at a generalization,

(1) All ravens are black.

It is standardly held that a single black raven is evidence for (1).

(2) This is a black raven

would then be evidence for (1). But (1) is, by contraposition, logically equivalent to:

(3) All nonblack things are nonravens.

Then, by parallel, the evidence for (3) would be

(4) This is a non-black non-raven.

For instance, a white shoe would be evidence for (3). But since (3) is equivalent to (1), a white shoe would then be evidence that all ravens are black, which seems absurd.

There are, of course, many solutions proposed to this paradox -- the whole combinatorial gamut, in fact. My own preferred solution is to deny that (2) is, on its own, evidence for (1), and likewise that (4) is directly evidence for (3). There is a common error that assumes that evidence is just out there to be identified, but in reality nothing is evidence until you know what to do it. 'This is a black raven' tells us nothing about the truth of 'All ravens are black' unless we make a further assumption, namely, that there is nothing preventing other ravens from being relevantly similar to this one.

Consider this case. I ask a hoaxer whether all ravens are black; he shows me this black raven. Is this black raven evidence for 'all ravens are black'? Given the circumstances it seems not, because the fact that I'm getting it from someone known to make hoaxes raises the question of whether what I can learn from this black raven anything about other ravens -- the conditions suggest that even if this raven is black, it is perhaps being used to fool me into thinking that all ravens are black. This is an unusual situation, but it suffices, I think, to show that 'this is a black raven' only serves as evidence for 'all ravens are black' with further assumptions, and it is those assumptions that allow me to generalize. These assumptions are assumptions that let me say that this is not a freak case, or a case that problematizes the generalization.

We see something analogous to this in testimonial evidence. John says X happened; this is evidence that X happened if I can rule out, or at least assume to be ruled out, that John has incentive to lie, that John is delusional, etc. Testimonial evidence, and I would suggest other evidence, is evidence because we eliminate defective causes, causes that introduce a defect in the adequate causal chain that lets us infer one thing from another.

In the case of the ravens, 'This is a black raven' is evidence for 'All ravens are black' with the assumption that nothing prevents other ravens from being like this raven in color. Likewise, 'This is a non-black non-raven' is evidence for 'All nonblack things are nonravens' with the assumption that nothing prevents other non-ravens from being like this non-raven in color. But while the assumptions are structurally similar, they are not equivalent. Thus even when 'This is a non-black non-raven' is evidence for 'All nonblack things are nonravens', it is not thereby evidence for 'All ravens are black'; for that to be the case, in fact, we need to assume in addition that nothing prevents there being black things (since otherwise, it could instead be evidence that everything is non-black, whether raven or otherwise), or that nothing prevents there being ravens. (Likewise, 'This is a black raven' is not evidence for 'All nonblack things are nonravens' without the assumption that nothing prevents there being nonblack things, or that nothing prevents there being nonravens.)

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Proper Politics

...[E]very policy which boasts too much of its "specific, clearly stated objectives, achievable by specific, clearly defined means" and which is "the essence of previous (political) experiences" can be assumed in advance to be wrong, or at least suspicious, without us having to examine its objectives and means too closely. It is mere arbitrariness, a mere effort to reshape the community according to one's own ideas and one's own image.... The proper politics however means exclusively service to the community, service to a society of free citizens; the service does not consist of the imposition and enforcement of one's own ideas about what is good for another (one can perhaps raise small children by such a method; or better, keep watch on prisoners), but rather of attentive listening and deep respect towards that which the others consider good for them.... Politics is not distillation of previous experiences, but rather the will to go on learning; it is not a prepared program but rather the search for a path in complicated and rapidly changing conditions. In my opinion politics cannot, either today or tomorrow, do without humility (for the politician to be good and also successful, more of course will be needed--acumen, good fortune, the ability to catch the right moment), without humility with regard to reality, to the dignity of our neighbors (even the worst of them), and to their opinions (even the craziest).

[Václav Benda, The Long Night of the Watchman, St. Augustine's Press (South Bend, IN: 2017) p. 202.]

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires

I have now read and discussed some version or other of all fifty-four Voyages Extraordinaires that Jules Verne published in his lifetime, either as fortnightly books (F) or as brief notes (N):

1. Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1863): N
2. Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras (The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, 1866): F
3. Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864, revised 1867): F
4. De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865): F
5. Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (In Search of the Castaways, 1867–8): N
6. Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas, 1869–70): F
7. Autour de la lune (Around The Moon, 1870): F
8. Une ville flottante (A Floating City, 1871): N
9. Aventures de trois Russes et de trois Anglais (The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa, 1872): N
10. Le Pays des fourrures (The Fur Country, 1873): N
11. Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days, 1873): F
12. L'Île mystérieuse (The Mysterious Island, 1874–5): F
13. Le Chancellor (The Survivors of the Chancellor, 1875): N
14. Michel Strogoff (Michael Strogoff, 1876): N
15. Hector Servadac (Off on a Comet, 1877): N
16. Les Indes noires (The Child of the Cavern, 1877): N
17. Un capitaine de quinze ans (Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen, 1878): N
18. Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum (The Begum's Millions, 1879): F
19. Les Tribulations d'un chinois en Chine (Tribulations of a Chinaman in China, 1879): N
20. La Maison à vapeur (The Steam House, 1880): F
21. La Jangada (Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon, 1881): N
22. L'École des Robinsons (Godfrey Morgan, 1882): N
23. Le Rayon vert (The Green Ray, 1882): N
24. Kéraban-le-têtu (Kéraban the Inflexible, 1883): F
25. L'Étoile du sud (The Vanished Diamond, 1884): N
26. L'Archipel en feu (The Archipelago on Fire, 1884): N
27. Mathias Sandorf (Mathias Sandorf, 1885): N
28. Un billet de loterie (The Lottery Ticket, 1886): N
29. Robur-le-Conquérant (Robur the Conqueror, 1886): F
30. Nord contre Sud (North Against South, 1887): N
31. Le Chemin de France (The Flight to France, 1887): N
32. Deux Ans de vacances (Two Years' Vacation, 1888): N
33. Famille-sans-nom (Family Without a Name, 1889): F
34. Sans dessus dessous (The Purchase of the North Pole, 1889): N
35. César Cascabel (César Cascabel, 1890): N
36. Mistress Branican (Mistress Branican, 1891): N
37. Le Château des Carpathes (Carpathian Castle, 1892): F
38. Claudius Bombarnac (Claudius Bombarnac, 1892): N
39. P’tit-Bonhomme (Foundling Mick, 1893): N
40. Mirifiques Aventures de Maître Antifer (Captain Antifer, 1894): N
41. L'Île à hélice (Propeller Island, 1895): F
42. Face au drapeau (Facing the Flag, 1896): N
43. Clovis Dardentor (Clovis Dardentor, 1896): N
44. Le Sphinx des glaces (An Antarctic Mystery, 1897): N
45. Le Superbe Orénoque (The Mighty Orinoco, 1898): F
46. Le Testament d'un excentrique (The Will of an Eccentric, 1899): N
47. Seconde Patrie (The Castaways of the Flag, 1900): N
48. Le Village aérien (The Village in the Treetops, 1901): N
49. Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin (The Sea Serpent, 1901): N
50. Les Frères Kip (The Kip Brothers, 1902): F
51. Bourses de voyage (Traveling Scholarships, 1903): F
52. Un drame en Livonie (A Drama in Livonia, 1904): N
53. Maître du monde (Master of the World, 1904): F
54. L'Invasion de la mer (Invasion of the Sea, 1905): F


Outside the Main Series

Paris in the Twentieth Century & The Lighthouse at the End of the World: F

(Both of these, while not strictly in the series, are near-misses; Verne intended Paris to be one of the Voyages, but it was declined by the publisher, and Lighthouse was intended for the series and almost finished, although it was published posthumously with some slight editing by Verne's son.)

Voyages Extraordinaires #49: Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin

Eh! Captain Bourcart, do you not set out today?...

- No, Monsieur Brunel, and I'm afraid we won't be able to leave tomorrow...or even in a week....

- That is annoying....

- And above all, disturbing, declared M. Bourcart, shaking his head. The Saint-Enoch should be at sea since the end of last month in order to arrive in good season on the fishing grounds.... You will see that it will be left behind by the English and the Americans....

- And it is always these two men that you lack?...

- Always...Monsieur that I cannot do without, the other that I would do without if it were not for the regulations that impose it on me....

- And doubtless that one is not the cooper?... asked M. Brunel.

- No...have the goodness to believe me, no!... On my ship, the cooper is as essential as mast, rudder, or compass, because I have two thousand barrels in my hold....

(My translation.) The Saint-Enoch, a top-notch French whaling ship, needs a cooper, so the captain reluctantly asks Jean-Marie Cabidoulin. Cabidoulin is extraordinarily good at what he does, but he also has a fault: he likes to tell stories, and his stories, about the disasters and the terrors of the seas, are not good morale. Cabidoulin himself darkly suspects that, having seen terrors, this might be the voyage on which he sees the dreaded sea serpent, and that they might not make it back alive, but nonetheless he agrees, and the Saint-Enoch sets sail.

The voyage starts out very well, with unusual success in superabundant waters, although the ship soon finds itself in heated competition with an English whaling ship, the Repton. But as the voyage continues, and the competition with the Repton becomes more serious, strange events begin to mount up. Local fishermen tell stories of a giant sea monster. The whales and even the fish soon become impossible to find. They find an unusual amount of debris from ship-collisions. Then, strangest of all, the Repton is destroyed before their eyes by causes unknown and the Saint-Enoch seems to run aground on a reef where no reefs should be.

Judging by the reviews, most readers of Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin, perhaps misled by the common English title, The Sea Serpent, find it a disappointing tale. It is mostly just the story of a whaling voyage; and, indeed, for about three-quarters of the story the primary interest lies only in the day-to-day business of whaling. And many, I think, expect something like the giant squid in 20,000 Leagues, one of the most memorable scenes in fiction; you will find nothing like it here. We never directly see the sea serpent -- if it is even a sea serpent. This is quite clearly a deliberate choice by Verne, whose narrator keeps insisting (along with the doctor of the ship) that nobody has ever found any scientific evidence of a sea serpent. All we get is one mystery after another. I actually enjoyed this aspect of the tale. We are not privy to a great revealing; we are not given some insight the sailors lack; we are only faced, as they are, with the sea itself. And as Cabidoulin says, it is full of things we do not yet know.

Deeds of High Emprise

To Madame Curie
by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

Oft have I thrilled at deeds of high emprise,
And yearned to venture into realms unknown,
Thrice blessed she, I deemed, whom God had shown
How to achieve great deeds in woman’s guise.
Yet what discov’ry by expectant eyes
Of foreign shores, could vision half the throne
Full gained by her, whose power fully grown
Exceeds the conquerors of th’ uncharted skies?
So would I be this woman whom the world
Avows its benefactor; nobler far,
Than Sybil, Joan, Sappho, or Egypt’s queen.
In the alembic forged her shafts and hurled
At pain, diseases, waging a humane war;
Greater than this achievement, none, I ween.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Music on My Mind

Shirley Manson, "Samson and Delilah". It's an old song; Blind Willie Johnson seems to have been the first to do a well-known cover of it, but the most famous cover is that of the Grateful Dead. But I recently finally got around to seeing the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and found Manson's cover, which is used once, quite memorable, particularly the last stanza.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Winged Words

As the Monad does not go beyond its own definition but remains One once for all (which is why it is called 'Monad'), whereas the Dyad is an indefinite principle of diversity (for it immediately loses its identity by turning into plurality by the process of doubling), so a word that rests with its first possessor remains truly secret, but once it passes to another, it becomes common talk. Homer speaks of 'winged words': it is hard to catch such a creature with wings once you let it out of your hands, and impossible to grasp and control a word that you have let slip from your lips; it 'arches its swift wings' and is off, spreading from one group of people to another.

Plutarch, "Talkativeness", from Selected Essays and Dialogues, Russell, tr., Oxford UP (New York: 1993) p. 213.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Lucretius on the Fear of Tartarus and Death

One of the major selling points for Epicureanism, as seen by the Epicureans themselves, was that it eliminated the terror of death and the afterlife. Indeed, this is often presented as the primary reason to be Epicurean, the reason why we need to be Epicureans. This is generally recognized, but it is sometimes forgotten that this line of thought requires Epicureans to hold that human beings almost naturally are terrified of death and the afterlife; that, in fact, at least as a general rule the only way this can be eliminated is by the practice of Epicurean philosophy. This is a part of Epicureanism that often had criticism, and one way to criticize it is by arguing that many people do not fear death and the afterlife in the way that Epicureans assume.

Lucretius handles the problem in Book 3 of De rerum natura with a series of arguments that, whatever people may say, they do in fact generally fear "Tartarus and death", and (again, whatever they may say) this is true as well of people who claim to be materialists and say "that they know the mind to be composed of blood, or even of wind if that happens to catch their fancy" (p. 69). Lucretius thinks that this is obviously posturing for public consumption, and that if we look at their practice in adversity, we see clearly that people act in a way that is most reasonably described as fearing death and the afterlife:

For the same people, though banished from their homeland, driven far from the sight of other human beings, branded with stigma of some foul crime, and afflicted, in a word, with every kind of tribulation, continue to live.

Indeed, such people often will still engage in sacrifices to the underworld, etc.

However, there are further reasons, Lucretius thinks, for thinking that dismissal of the afterlife is just a show. There is a more indirect reason in looking at how well "avarice and blind lust for status, which drive wretched people to encroach beyond the boundaries of right" (p. 69) and "envy that before their eyes another possesses power" (p. 70) and other bad behaviors are often explained by fear of death and Tartarus; it is a general blight. Lucretius does not develop the full character of this argument, but one way to interpret it is as trying to argue that (1) this is a very general fear that people clearly often have difficulty overcoming even when it would be in their interest and according to their moral principles to do so; (2) the supposed reasons why people claim they lack such a fear are relatively superficial opinions (in contrast to Epicureanism, which is a philosophical discipline one practices throughout the whole of one's life); (3) and therefore it's implausible that such a superficial remedy could thoroughly cure a problem which the evidence tells us runs very deep.

We have the claim made by this person that they don't fear death and the afterlife because of their materialism, or whatever, but we have evidence (from the first argument) that even people who make claims like that are often seen, in their practice, to act contrary to what they say, and we also have evidence (from the second) that their explanation for why they don't fear death and the afterlife is entirely inadequate. Unlike the Stoics, the Epicureans did not regard rigorous abstract demonstration as an important goal, instead insisting on the importance of evidence rooted in sensible experience. Thus the issue is not whether there could be some hypothetical situation in which this line of thought could turn out wrong, but what our sensible evidence says; due to Epicurean epistemology, Epicurean arguments are framed in such a way that counterexamples are not easy to build against them -- they have to be real cases, not hypothetical ones, and cases where the question can be determined on the basis of actual experience. (One of the things that is very interesting about this argument.) It wouldn't be impossible to find such a case -- after all, Epicureans like Lucretius think they have the evidence of experience that Epicureanism cures the fear of death and the afterlife. But it would have to be an actual case.

[Quotations from Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, Smith, tr., Hackett (Indianapolis: 2001).]

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Doctor Apostolicus

Today is the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church. He was born Giulio Cesare Russo on July 22, 1559 in the Kingdom of Naples and became a Capuchin. He had an extraordinary facility for languages, and therefore began life as a missionary through Italy and Germany. He was appointed the military chaplain to the army of Archduke Matthias, and so found himself tending souls on the battlefields of Hungary. On a mission to Phillip III of Spain, he died in Lisbon on July 22, 1619, his birthday.

Italienisch - Bildnis des Lorenzo di Brindisi - 3377 - Bavarian State Painting Collections
Sixteenth-century Italian painting of St. Laurence, by an unknown artist.

A New Poem Draft and Three Poem Re-Drafts

Sermon Against Censoriousness

None are pure beneath heaven's vault;
those who wish to find, may find a fault
and sins in droves, in endless herds,
like schools of fish, thick flocks of birds.
None have always hit the target right
or fought in forceful blaze the flawless fight,
and all who walk on earth have failed
at something; and none have ever sailed
across this sea remaining wholly dry --
no, not you, and surely never I --
and all have stumbled on the stony path.
Those who wish it may justify some wrath,
or sneer, or scorn, or burning-cold disdain.
But look around. We all are slain,
we all are bleeding on the battlefield
from wounds uncounted, our broken shield
and broken sword upon the ground;
immortals none of us are found
to be, however much we wish or dream.
Mere dream we are. Our glories gleam
like firefly-glimmers in the darkening night,
too soon to pass, and all too weak of light.
None are pure who, dying from the womb,
have ever-closer drawn to gaping tomb;
yes, look around. Where is the one
whose virtues brightly blaze like sun?
We all are faded, grimy, dark and dim,
with not one wing like the seraphim
or burning angels; if you hate
another's failing, you have but to wait
and you will find a worse in you;
I know it, for I live this, too.
No hypocrite with prance and preen
has ever proven true; the shine and sheen
to which they polish their outer face
will rub away and leave disgrace,
dishonor, the greenish, sickly pale
of one whose life is owed to hell.
Judge lightly, friend, judge lightly; who judges most
will surely find the devil in his boast;
still seek to split the right from wrong
and let none gull you with a song,
but know: we all are doomed to fall,
our splendor smashed, at trumpet-call.

Anton Wilhelm Amo

Spirit is purely active;
the senses do not bind it.
The passions do not chain
the undivided mind.
Who can bow to fate is wise,
having an inkling of God;
his words will be remembered
to everlasting ages.

Star of Ghana, Axim's child,
rising in all-circling sky
above the lands of the earth,
shine splendidly! None may doubt
your contribution of light
which, joined to uncounted stars,
lights the night of human life.

This World of Woe, So Wonderless, So Bland, So Sad

This world of woe, so wonderless, so bland, so sad,
blasé in worldly wisdom, yet unwise,
will blather words of love, for words are all it's had,
and never will have else, for love it must despise.

The worldly sages sigh in unfulfilling dreams;
they build up vanities to light a raging blaze.
Their meanings are banal, no matter how they seem,
for love is flame so bright it would their vision daze.

Amen, I say to you, they have their one reward.
The only love they have is symbol of their hearts,
a snake that eats its tail, a self-inflicting sword,
a legacy soon lost to folly, part by part.

But you -- take care to love, not love as madmen rave,
but love that seeks the good, that by the good can save.


The roads to Zion softly mourn, her women raped beside;
within the sanguine city square the dandled infant dies.
In streets the ruthless sword unties the husband from his wife;
in every house and every home it strips away all life.
With fury and with burning wrath the Lord became our foe,
to ruin every standing wall and render every woe
until the sabbaths come to end, and all the feasts have failed,
and law as coward flees away before the whip and flail,
and prophet's visions surely cease (their lies the Lord detests),
and babies' blood pours gushing out upon their mothers' breasts.
The joy of all the endless earth has vanished in the flame.
Completion of all beauty's life became a jeering name.
A gnawing, biting, hungry void a ruthless need now gives
as mothers boil bonny babes that other babes might live,
and women eat their children sweet, the ones for whom they care,
for none the aching famine leaves, and none the famine spares.
On holy temple precinct steps are priest and prophet slain;
on street and porch and burning field the people fall like rain --
the young, the grown, the sagely old, all bloody dusty ground,
and maid and gentle youth are wed among the corpses found.
Our end drew near, relentless, sure, like beat of constant drum;
our days like coins were numbered small -- and now our end is come.
But though I fall in tears aside, yet still my tongue might say
his love endures forever and aye, is new again each day,
and he is yet our portion sure, whatever fickle fate,
and he is good with gloried grace to those who for him wait --
But, Lord! You reign forever on your everlasting throne!
Do you forget your children now and leave us all alone?
Return us to your bosom, Lord, that we may be restored!
--Are we cast off forevermore, in wrath to be ignored?

Monday, July 20, 2020

Two Approaches

I've noted before that you can generally group ethical approaches on the basis of whether they treat consequence-based reasoning, obligation-based reasoning, or character-based reasoning as fundamental -- an ethical approach could use any and all of the three, but maintaining consistency generally requires treating one as more direct and definitive than the others. This is not a mere matter of classification; it has some practical relevance.

In the United States, our discourse and vocabulary for handling ethical issues concerned with racism has historically shown a clear and obvious deontological bent, treating obligations and rights as fundamental. This is largely due to the fact that most of the major and influential figures in the Civil Rights Movement, despite their many differences from each other, tended to frame their own work in deontological terms. The resulting vocabulary is a bit mixed -- it doesn't descend from a single kind of deontology -- but it clearly suggests both a deontological understanding of racism and a deontological approach to addressing it: human and natural rights, dignity, a focus on intent, an emphasis on the importance of coming up with rules and guidelines that everyone in every circumstance can follow to fulfill their duties to each other.

However, the U.S. (and much of the West) has a culture that naturally tends consequentialist. It's a future-looking culture that emphasizes choice, harms and benefits, and consumption measured by satisfaction and dissatisfaction. In the U.S., even people who are definitely not consequentialist will tend to slip into consequentialist-sounding ways of describing ethical situations, and consequence-based arguments in practice tend to serve as a lowest common denominator for everyone: when people find themselves in apparently intractable arguments, they tend to shift to talking in terms of consequences on the assumption that this will make more sense to their interlocutors than whatever the arguments were in which the discussion getting bogged down. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, we have seen an increasing tendency to talk about ethical issues of race in consequence-based terms. This is clearly what is behind a lot of the increasing emphasis on 'systemic racism', which in practice tends to be defined in terms of harms and lack of benefits. Likewise, it's clearly involved in the usual 'equity, not equality' slogans, when you press people to explain what they mean. It's also seen in the revolt -- sometimes quite intense -- against focusing on intent in the traditional Civil Rights manner. Perhaps the most obvious example of the attempt by consequentialists to seize the discourse on race from the deontologists is the tendency to hold that 'color blindness' is itself racist. From the traditional deontological perspective, this is obvious insanity -- even if you wish to qualify it (and some would), it is the right kind of thing to aim at when you are interested in upholding standards that apply the same to everyone and treat each person simply as a person, a decent first approximation of how to oppose racism. But it's obvious why a consequentialist would want to get rid of it: 'color blindness' will directly block most consequence-based reasoning about racial issues, and those kinds of consequence-based reasoning it lets pass it will subordinate entirely to a focus on intentional treatment of others. Likewise, the practical approaches consequentialists often prefer instead of color-blind rules have many of the features that deontologists have historically seen as associated with racism.

When deontologists argue with consequentialists about racism, there is no direct reconciliation; the fundamental accounts of the central issue will differ in such a way that the two sides will inevitably be using terms differently. And since both sides tend to regard this is an area of life filled with non-negotiables, the argument is not going anywhere.

Of course, this is complicated by the fact that neither consequentialism nor deontology is the right approach to ethics! But character-based approaches are mostly minor players in our current disputes.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Fortnightly Book, July 19

I have been going back and forth all weekend about what to do for the next fortnightly book; I'll likely be busy with both of my courses, so it makes sense to do a re-read or something quite short, but I hadn't wholly settled on anything. But someone (the Darwins, I think) mentioned that they had recently been re-reading The Screwtape Letters, and it was there on my shelf staring me in the face, so I think re-reading The Screwtape Letters is what I'll do. It's been a while, in any case.

The Screwtape Letters was originally serialized in 1941 in The Guardian (the major Anglican newspaper that closed doors in 1951, very definitely not to be confused with the periodical today called The Guardian, which only took that name in 1959). "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" was published in 1959, and is usually added to the original 31 letters. Lewis consistently held that it was one of the easiest books to write but also one of the most unpleasant, and, despite the popularity of the Letters, refused requests to write more. The work touched off a minor literary genre of its own, as there are now dozens of 'letters from hell' works that use the format of 'demonic ventriloquism', as Lewis called it.

John Cleese did a very famous audiobook version of it; I have it recorded somewhere so I will have to see if I can dig it up. Cleese captures the urbane satirical malice of Screwtape almost perfectly. There was also a dramatization of the work a few years back through Focus on the Family; I think I'll try doing that as well. In any case, my schedule for the next two weeks looks very much like I could do these at least as audio-in-the-background while doing other things that need to be done, like preparing for next term, routine grading, and the like.

Voyages Extraordinaires #52: Un drame en Livonie

The man was alone in the night. He passed like a wolf between the blocks of ice piled up by the chill of a long winter. His lined trousers, his "khalot", a sort of rough cafetan in cow's hair, his cap with folded down ear flaps, only imperfectly defended him from the harsh winds. Painful cracks split his lips and his hands. The edge of his fingernail gripped the tip of his finger. He was traveling through deep darkness, under a low sky whose clouds threatened to turn to snow; it was already the first days of April, but it was at the high latitude of the fifty-eight degrees.

He refused to stop. After a halt, perhaps he would have been unable to resume walking.

Around eleven in the evening, he stopped, however. It wasn't because his legs were failing him, nor because he was short of breath, nor because he was succumbing to fatigue. His physical energy was equal to his moral energy. And, in a loud voice, with an inexpressible accent of patriotism:

"Finally ... the border ... he cried, the Livonian border ... the country's border!"

(My rough translation.) Un drame en Livonie (in English translation, A Drama in Livonia) is based loosely on the Dreyfus Affair. The Baltic state of Livonia (modern day Estonia and Latvia) is at the border of the Russian Empire, existing in a territory that has long been contested by the powers on either side. Because of this, it is heavily split in two directions, one German and one Slavic. To try to solidify the border, the Russian Empire is subjecting Livonia to a process of forced Russification, and, as one might expect, the tensions are very high. Things boil over when a promising young bank boy, Poch, is murdered at an inn while escorting a significant sum of money to the bank. Dimitri Nicolef, a major voice for the pro-Slavic community in Riga, is at the wrong place at the wrong time, and he is accused of the murder. The accusation is amplified by the Johausens, the powerful banking family on the pro-German side of the divide, and as word spreads, so does mob anger. And what can a professor with money problems do when evidence, wealth, and mob are against him? Nothing at all.

Since Verne was publishing in a family-friendly periodical, he has to tie this all up in a way that makes it less dark than the direction it is heading suggests. Nonetheless, vindication does not always arrive swiftly enough to save the innocent.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes


Opening Passage: From "A Scandal in Bohemia", which opens The Adventures:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

From "Silver Blaze", the first story in the The Memoirs:

I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go,” said Holmes, as we sat down together to our breakfast one morning.

“Go! Where to?”

“To Dartmoor; to King’s Pyland.”

Summary: The Adventures contains twelve stories:

(1) "A Scandal in Bohemia"
(2) "The Red-Headed League"
(3) "A Case of Identity"
(4) "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
(5) "The Five Orange Pips"
(6) "The Man with the Twisted Lip"
(7) "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"
(8) "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"
(9) "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb"
(10) "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"
(11) "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet"
(12) "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

Of these, "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Red-Headed League", "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Blue Carbuncle", and "The Speckled Band" consistently make favorites lists, with "The Red-Headed League" and "The Speckled Band" usually competing for the top spot. In his own list of twelve favorites, Doyle listed "The Speckled Band" and "The Red-Headed League" as #1 and #2, respectively, and also put on the list "A Scandal in Bohemia" (#5) and "The Five Orange Pips" (#7). Thus it seems fairly conclusive, between readers and the author, that the best of these are "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" and "The Red-Headed League". I think this makes considerable sense, because they are easily the most memorable. I've read all of these before, although it has been some years, and these were the two I remembered most, and whose details came back to me most quickly as I read.

"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is one of the great locked room mysteries of all time. Helen Stoner fears that her life is in danger from her stepfather, Grimsby Roylott, a doctor who had practiced in Calcutta who already has a record of violence. Helen's twin sister had died a couple of years earlier in a locked bedroom just before she was to be wed; Helen had heard her last words: "The speckled band!" Helen is now engaged to be married herself, and there is enough suspiciousness about to make her worry that she may be subject to the same fate, particularly as it has been arranged for Helen to move into the bedroom in which her sister died.

In "The Red-Headed League", Jabez Wilson, a pawnbroker with vividly red hair, comes to Holmes with a puzzle: his assistant had urged him to answer an advertisement for The Red-Headed League, which offered pay for easy work for men with red hair. Wilson gets the job, but finds that it primarily consists of copying the Encyclopedia Britannica, beginning with A, supposedly because it was just a matter of nominal compliance with the conditions of a will, but suddenly one day he shows up and finds a sign on the door: "THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE IS DISSOLVED—Oct. 9, 1890."

The Memoirs continue The Adventures directly, being just more Adventures that needed another name for their collection; in most later editions, there are eleven stories:

(1) "The Adventure of Silver Blaze"
(2) "The Adventure of the Yellow Face"
(3) "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk"
(4) "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott"
(5) "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual"
(6) "The Adventure of the Reigate Squires"
(7) "The Adventure of the Crooked Man"
(8) "The Adventure of the Resident Patient"
(9) "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter"
(10) "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty"
(11) "The Final Problem"

Of these, "Silver Blaze" is easily the fan favorite, with "The Musgrave Ritual" (my personal favorite) and "The Final Problem" also regularly making favorites lists. Doyle put the "The Final Problem" (#4), "The Musgrave Ritual" (#11), and "The Reigate Squires" (#12) on his list of twelve.

"The Adventure of Silver Blaze" is an interesting enough story, of course, as Holmes looks into the theft of the thoroughbred horse and the death of its trainer, but I suspect one of things in its favor is that it contains one of the most famous passages in all of detective fiction, one completely perfect passage beyond all peer that sums up all of the charm and joy of detective fiction:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

It is the Holy Grail of detective fiction gimmicks, the obvious bit of evidence, but somehow easily missed, that changes the nature of all the other evidence, and here put into a form that cannot but be remembered.

"The Musgrave Ritual" is unusual in that, while the tale is told by Watson, the story in the tale is narrated by Holmes, with Watson only providing the frame. The young Sherlock, only just starting out his career, is visited by an acquaintance from university, Reginald Musgrave, from a very old family, who is worried about the disappearance of two members of his domestic staff, the butler and a maid, after Musgrave dismissed the butler for snooping around the family papers, in which he had been reading the question-and-answer ritual that had been passed down from father to son in the Musgrave family since the seventeenth century. The tale gives us a treasure-trove of things that make a detective story interesting: old traditions in scenic context, a riddle, disappearances, an actual treasure. It is some of Doyle's most enjoyable work, I think, an adventure-story in miniature that works on its own terms.

And, of course, "The Final Problem" gives us the end of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes has collected all the evidence required to take down the organization of his nemesis, Professor Moriarty. (In this story, his first name is never given, although it is mentioned that his brother is Colonel James Moriarty. This is one of the famous puzzles of Sherlockiana and the Great Game, because in "The Adventure of the Empty House", Watson tells us that Professor Moriarty's name is James. In a later stage play based on the Holmes stories, Doyle gives his name as Robert.) Naturally, Holmes is now in danger of his life. He and Watson speed out of the country in an attempt to shake a vengeful and pursuing Moriarty, and come to Reichenback Falls in Switzerland, where, of course, the Adventures and the adventure of Sherlock Holmes meets its end. I was particularly struck by how well Moriarty, easily one of the most memorable figures in the Sherlockian canon, was handled. Except for brief mentions in "The Empty House" and The Valley of Fear, this is the only time we really encounter him, and we only encounter him through Holmes himself -- Holmes tells the story of his brief conversation with Moriarty, which gives us almost all of what we know about Moriarty's personality, and Watson never meets him -- the closest he ever comes is seeing in the distance a man who, it turns out, may have been Moriarty. Knowing him only by glimpses is immensely effective; we get just enough to know that he is every bit as dangerous as Holmes thinks and only enough to keep him shrouded in mystery. (I was also struck in this reading by the fact, perhaps an accident but nice nonetheless, that the story pairs well with the tale that comes before it in The Memoirs, "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty". "The Naval Treaty" gives us the Holmesian sense of the goodness of the world, which prepares us very well for Holmes's fight with evil in "The Final Problem". I wonder, though, if it's deliberate, and that Holmes's discourse on the rose is Doyle's way of preparing him for his fate.)

One thing that is easy to catch when reading all the tales together is that Holmes's role in each tale is immensely variable. Watson even notes this explicitly in "The Resident Patient":

In glancing over the somewhat incoherent series of memoirs with which I have endeavoured to illustrate a few of the mental peculiarities of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have been struck by the difficulty which I have experienced in picking out examples which shall in every way answer my purpose. For in those cases in which Holmes has performed some tour-de-force of analytical reasoning, and has demonstrated the value of his peculiar methods of investigation, the facts themselves have often been so slight or so commonplace that I could not feel justified in laying them before the public. On the other hand, it has frequently happened that he has been concerned in some research where the facts have been of the most remarkable and dramatic character, but where the share which he has himself taken in determining their causes has been less pronounced than I, as his biographer, could wish. The small matter which I have chronicled under the heading of “A Study in Scarlet,” and that other later one connected with the loss of the Gloria Scott, may serve as examples of this Scylla and Charybdis which are forever threatening the historian.

However, I think the variability gives a patina of realism to Holmes that many other cleverly written fictional detectives lack; the stories do not settle into a single pattern. Holmes is not always able to tie everything up in a neat package; the extent of his involvement differs from story to story; the way in which he solves the mystery varies; even Watson's contribution differs quite a bit from case to case.

As I noted, there are far too many adaptations to go through even a fraction of them. But with older works, it is nice to look at adaptations, because sometimes doing so draws out something in the story that you might not otherwise have noticed. What I decided to do was pick a tale that I don't particularly find memorable but that has often been adapted, and look at several adaptations of it, so that I'd get the tale in a new light. The story I picked was "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches". Holmes is a bit down (and for the moment a bit down on Watson's being his Watson) because it has made him popular for all the wrong reasons, with the low point being a young woman asking to call on him to get his advice on whether she should take a job as a governess. As it happens, though, the young woman, Violet Hunter, has an interesting case. She was offered a job by Jephro Rucastle, for extremely good pay but with several very strange conditions, which of course, suggest that there is more going on, and indeed there is. I looked at three adaptations of this work.

The first was the 1912 silent movie, with Georges Tréville as Holmes. Doyle had personally supervised a series of eight silent films based on Holmes stories, and this is the only one to survive in complete form. The connection with Doyle obviously makes it interesting in its own right, but it also makes some interesting narrative choices. It does not give us the same narrative order as the short story, starting with Violet Hunter bringing her problem to Holmes, but goes through the story from the beginning, with the result that Holmes doesn't show up until halfway through. They changed everyone's motivations a bit. And even more startlingly, there is no Watson.

(One thing that somewhat surprised me -- perhaps it's just because I have not watched many silent films -- was that the characters at several points punctuate the narrative by talking directly to the camera, despite the fact that we can't hear what they are saying. The movie plays more naturally, incidentally, if you set the playback speed to 0.75.) I also listened to the 1940 radio adaptation in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with Basil Rathbone as Holmes, which I think was well acted but mostly unmemorable, and watched the 1985 television adaptation in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, with Jeremy Brett as Holmes. I didn't gain any huge insights from these, I think, but it did underscore two things about the story.

The first is that a lot hinges on Hunter and Rucastle. One of the very great strengths of the TV episode was Natasha Richardson's Violet Hunter, who came across at once and throughout as a very charming and sympathetic character in whose situation the viewer could be immediately invested. Rucastle was played by the great Joss Ackland, who makes a very good villain; his Rucastle was a very creepy Rucastle -- definitely creepy enough that it's clear why Violet's alarm bells are ringing, but almost so creepy that it's difficult to explain why she took the job even given the need for money. The Rucastle from the radio adaptation seemed more odd than creepy, but this also weakened him somewhat as a villain.

The second is that there are parts of the story that greatly benefit from visual presentation and parts that really work better on the page. Almost everything Holmes actually does in the story is more interesting and exciting if seen, whether it's in the symbolic and hyperbolic action of the silent film or the attempt at realism in the television episode. (The attempt at realism mostly works, although they apparently had the considerable difficulty that the mastiff was actually a very friendly dog who was puzzled at why he was supposed to be pretending to be mean when he would rather play with everyone. They do an OK job working around this, but it's pretty clear that the mastiff was supposed to be a more exciting element than it turned out to be.) On the other hand, Violet sitting in front of the window works much better on the page than when seen; on the page it sounds like an odd thing, but when seen it seems not only odd but extraordinarily implausible.

Favorite Passage: From "The Musgrave Ritual", in The Memoirs:

An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that I am in the least conventional in that respect myself. The rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has made me rather more lax than befits a medical man. But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs. I have always held, too, that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air pastime; and when Holmes, in one of his queer humours, would sit in an armchair with his hair-trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was improved by it.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.

Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes

Construction on the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes was begun in 1434; it was completed in 1891. It was somewhat damaged by bombing in 1944, but nearly burned down in a fire in 1972; it survived, but its interior needed a considerable amount of reworking. This morning it caught fire again. The church organ is irreparably damaged, but the fire was caught soon enough that the church is not anywhere near as damaged as Notre Dame had been. (It probably also helped that after the 1972 fire, the wooden roof was completely replaced with a mostly concrete structure.) The fire is still being investigated, but as the evidence currently indicates that it had three distinct points of origin, it's almost certain to be a case of arson.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Dashed Off XVI

the multiple realizability of Catholic Social Teaching

Mihaela Popa: In ironic metaphors, the irony presupposes the metaphorical, not the literal, meaning.

being present at a meeting at which one is not located

the state as super-capital

We should really limit 'executive authority' to the execution of law, distinguishing it from pre-executive or praeter-executive authority like pardon power, font of honors, commander in chief, which are often also veste din the office exercising executive authority.

(1) power of particular action
--- (a) special sovereign action (e.g., pardons, honors)
--- (b) execution of general action
--- (c) action of directive magistracy
(2) power of general action (laws and regulations)
(3) power of ceremonial personation
(4) specially vested ownership

moments/phases of problem of external world
(1) videtur: appearance
(2) an sit: causal requirement
(3) quid sit: nature

Without concepts of the good and the beautiful, no critique is possible. One can have variants on these, but one must have them in some form to have any critique at all.

Critique by its very nature implies normativity; the kind of normativity, and the way it implies it, constitute the kind of critique.

Modern money is a way for the state to create dependencies on the state.

Iconoclasm is always depersonalizing.

hieratic: baptism, confirmation, orders
medicinal: eucharist, penance, unction
both: matrimony

We have the concept of other because we first know ourselves as others.

Where Tolkien excels is in naming, and all Middle Earth grows out of that.

What we usually call liberalism tends to go wrong by privileging means of freedom over the ends that actually make us free.

The most important ways to resist usurpations of power successfully, in most situations, involve mutual support, solidarity, and common sense -- nothing flashy, certainly, but we still know of nothing more generally effective.

a politics of small things done well

What can be known a priori or a posteriori obviously depends on the account of knowledge; what is analytic or synthetic depends on the classification being used; and what is necessary or contingent depends on the universe of discourse.

Nothing could deter unless it were first intelligible as retributive. We do not change our behavior for unrelated bad happenings.

Every argument against the death penalty has a counterpart argument against euthanasia, although the reverse is not true. (The reason for the disparity is that life is a more intimate concern of medicine than of law.)

manifestness, straightness, firmness, faithfulness
evidentness, rightness, steadfastness, trustworthiness

meaningfulness and manifestation
presence and revelation
availability and disclosure
there and through

Communism is essentially based on an analogy: that as the burghers did with the lords, so the laborers will do with the burghers.

Capitalism by its nature is structured to subordinate the rural to the urban, the local to the global, the natural to the artificial without regard to good or bad, and thus in both good and bad ways.

By its presence in the world, the Church reflects as in a mirror the Godwardness of both the world and the human beings around it.

In a sacrament, which exists in the context of the Church and concerns the sanctity of those who partake, a sanctity that is of and from Christ, we are related to Christ by the sacrament's relation to Christ; in each of the seven sacraments, by serving as a means to indicate such an end, the sacrament serves as a means to accomplish that end.

Liberty requires an infrastructure.

occasional, eclectic, and systematic almsgiving (there is need for all three)

Most arguments for credences and the like are really about the actionableness of belief rather than belief itself.

People regularly confuse 'matching of subjective probability with objective probability' and 'taking objective probabilities as they are'.

Every transfer of rights presupposes shared rights.

The medieval traditio instrumentorum seems to be based on an analogy between ordination and contracts involving transfer. Think about this.

Practical politics is to political philosophy as cartoons to treatises; but we must not forget that the latter do not replace the value of the former.

core values of civil service: impartiality, honesty, integrity
- principle of selection on merit through fair and open competition

creation, covenant, Christ, Church

'being in the clear' as a more fundamental concept than any specific right

Note that in Mk 1:8, John the Baptist explicitly makes Christ the principal agent of baptism (he himself will baptize you).

When Mark says 'immediately', he means 'directly connected with that'. When he says 'in those days', it is a storyteller's expression; even today when a storyteller says 'in those days', it is not for chronological rendering but to set up a narrative frame.

Mk 2:2 "he was speaking the logos to them"

Rights bring the world within our ambit.

All arguments for requiring violations of the seal of the confessional are arguments for using ethically and procedurally inadmissible evidence, and they all fail for the same reason the latter do.

legal evidence
(1) real: actual object directly involved in event in the case
(2) demonstrative: illustration or pictorial representation (e.g., map of crime scene, medical diagram)
(3) documentary: linguistic representation
(4) anecdotal: evidence taken from witnesses

hypercumulation of small, local improvements as an imitation of genius

Experimentation is a luxury dependent on availability of resources (including time and labor).

"The formulation of any physical theory has always been preceded by a series of retouchings which from almost formless first sketches have gradually led the system to more finished states." Duhem

Van Bendegem (1992): The determination of Newtonian models depends on four finitist assumptions -- no infinite forces, no infinite masses, no infinite accelerations, no infinite velocities. If only singularities threaten determinism, these four suffice to rule out singularities in the only two cases, collisions and near-collisions, that could introduce them into the Newtonian cases. (Thi sis not true of general relativity, but analogous principles do similar work in special relativity and electrodynamics.)

pramanas as causal channels (ways we are caused to be right)

Issues and problems are constituted within philosophers.

It is an error to think that there is any society in which scientific research or intellectual study would be wholly free from any possibility of censure.

the fromness of perception and the toness of attention within perception

Phenomenology is a pursuit of invariances.

Love by its very nature creates sacred precincts.

rights from gift vs rights from extrinsic denomination

posse comitatus, hue and cry, shopkeeper's privilege, citizen's arrest

Evidence is a particular kind of causal connection to what is actual.

"True civility speaks not merely about limits but about a vision of the civitas." Richard John Neuhaus

familiarity : good taste :: knowledge : wisdom

Three reasons logical laws cannot be reduced to ways the mind works (Husserl):
(1) Logical laws are too precise.
(2) Logical laws can be known a priori.
(3) Logical laws are not structured as if they have psychological referents.

philosophy workshop → philosophy showcase → philosophy museum

transmodal analogy

"To what alternate *meanness* and *rashness* do the passions lead, when reason and self-denial do not oppose them!" Burney, Evelina

Insititutions built only on utility will not last, because each generation thinks it can achieve what the previous generation could not, and shifts its standards of utility to convince itself that this is so.

In political matters, example speaks more loudly than guidelines; the norms and expectations are precedential.

Regulations do not operate alone but within a system of regulations and norms.

All legislation depends on assumptions about right and wrong.

rights as claims on the sovereign
condign vs congruous claims

a common two-step: arguing for a liberal regime on deontological grounds, structuring the regime on purely consequentialist grounds

Hume's account of constancy raises the problem that we might never be able to know when an idea is simple.

States create the classes and groupings that maintain their power.

"Originality may perhaps be defined the power of abstracting for oneself, and is in thought what strength of mind is in action." Newman

It is a mistake to confuse tradition with things that have been around a long time; tradition must be handed down, and is intrinsically opposed to preservation by mere inertia or from lack of an alternative.

Human concepts apply to things of which they are concepts not all in the same way, but in varying degrees. For instance, Confucius and a bumbling tutor are both teachers, but Confucius is more perfectly a teacher; the concept 'teacher' is a more perfect fit to him than to the bumbling tutor.

"As literal madness is derangement of reason, so sin is derangement of the heart, of the spirit, of the affection." Newman

Every argument can be translated into a challenge to disprove at least one premise.

the Parable of the Sower as a parable about parables

Large regions of medical ethics collapse if there is no distinction of moral significance between doing and allowing.