Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fortnightly Book, October 25

 George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier was born in Paris in 1834, but he made his career in England, where he had settled with his wife, Emma Wightwick (with whom he would end up raising a famously literary and artistic family). He started as an illustrator for Punch magazine and became one of the foremost illustrators of his day. Bad eyesight, however, forced him to retire from professional illustrating in 1891; he used his remaining few years to write a few novels. The most famous of these would be Trilby in 1894, but arguably that novel only became possible because du Maurier's first novel, Peter Ibbetson, our next fortnightly book, was moderately successful. 'Moderately successful' is as well as it did at the time, but the novel has proven unusually adaptable: a play was made in 1917, an opera in 1931, and a film in 1935, all of them quite successful. And the book itself has endured, never so flashy as Trilby, but always charming new readers.

Usually I have at least a rough idea of the content of the classics I pick up for the first time, not always right but usually in the neighborhood of right. But I have only the vaguest notion of what I'm in for with this story, so that will be interesting. I do know that the story is narrated by the titular character as memoirs written while in the lunatic asylum for having killed a relative.

I'll be reading a Heritage Press edition, which has a preface by Daphne du Maurier (George's granddaughter, who tells us that the family called him, "Kicky") and pen-and-ink illustrations by the author himself. It uses a 12-point Scotch Roman type, chosen to pair well with the line drawings.

CT7D: Pazar

 The final day of Conversational Turkish in 7 Days covers general conversational topics. For instance, occupations (meslekler). I went over fairly quickly how agreement of pronouns and case endings works, but this is a good point at which to look in a little more detail. The Turkish word for 'to be' is imek. Imek's conjugation for present tense is like so:

Ben im : I am
Sen sin : You  (familiar, singular) are
o dur : He/she/it is
biz iz : We are
siz siniz : You (formal or plural) are
onlar dırlar : They are

This is directly relevant to case endings, because you use the conjugations for 'to be' as case endings (allowing for vowel harmony). This takes some getting used to, but is wonderfully logical. So, for instance, to say 'I am an Englishman', you say, Ben bir İngilizim. The -im links the object with the appropriate pronoun (ben); it does the same thing (with some additional complications) with verbs. This carries over to discussion of occupations. Some examples:

Ben bir mühendisim : I am an engineer

Ben bir doktorum : I am a doctor

Ben bir müdürüm : I am a manager

O bir diş doktorudur : He/She is a dentist

Eşim bir bankada çalışıyorudur : My spouse works at a bank

Siz bir hastahanede çalışıyoruz : You work at a hospital

If you want to ask what someone else's occupation is, you say, Sizin mesleğiniz nedir?

Weather is also a universal chatting topic. To ask what the weather is like, you say, Hava nasıl? Various possible answers:

Hava sıcaktır : It is hot

Hava güneşli : It is sunny

Hava rüzgarlı : It is windy

Hava bulutlu : It is cloudy

Hava yağmurlu : It is rainy

Hava karlı : It is snowy

Yağmur yağıyor : It is raining

Kar yağıyor : It is snowing

Yağmur yağacak : It will rain

Kar yağacak : It will snow

Another way to chat is comment on hobbies. Since hobbies are ongoing activities, they tend to use the aorist -rim in first person, e.g.:

Golf ayarım : I play golf

Ben piyano çalarım : I play piano

Piyano dersleri alırım : I take piano lessons

Resim çizerim : I draw

Well, I haven't given everything, just little samples of the lessons, and anyway I'm sure you wouldn't be fluent in seven days, although, if you are a more adept conversationalist than I, you might be able to stumble your way through basic conversation. But it does make a handy way to see how the language works.


Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Ahmet Midhat Efendi, Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi


Opening Passage:

Have you heard of Felâtun Bey? You know who I'm talking about, old Mustafa Meraki Efendi's son! Doesn't ring a bell? Well now, he's a lad worth meeting.

Mustafa Meraki Efendi lives in a district near Beyoğlu, in the Tophane neighborhood. There is no need to provide the name of this district. You know the neighborhood, right? Well, that's all you need to know. (p.1)

Summary: The novel sets up a contrast between two young men, the Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi of the title, although in practice it spends much more time on Râkım -- deliberately, I'm sure, since part of the point is that Râkım would inevitably have a more interesting life. Felâtun Bey comes from a very wealthy family whose father has pretensions of cosmopolitanism. He thus raises his son for the alafranga life, the life of a Western European (which in this period still primarily means French, hence the word alafranga, although English customs are also a significant influence). This is seen even in Felâtun's name; 'Felâtun' is the Turkish form of the French version of a Greek name, Plato, and it's clear that Felâtun himself, picking up the pretension from his father, sometimes goes by the name Platon Bey, and monographs his suitcases, French-style, with a P. It's important to the story that Felâtun is not in any way stupid or malicious. He is not a hypocrite, nor is he faking his French manners -- how can you be faking something that is the only thing you have ever learned? But his life has a shallowness to it, as indeed it must, for he is a Turk who has not really learned to be a Turk due to his father's misguided notions of what a sophisticated education is, and to be alafranga is not actually to be French or English, but rather to be somebody who has picked up the most shallow customs of the French and English without having really grown up as French or English. We know his type very well even today, even in our own country -- the people of the world who are ignorant of life a few counties over and preserve no real family traditions but who count themselves (and are accounted by other people of the world) sophisticated and educated because they eat ethnic food and have a socially respectable education and have been tourists in Paris. And while you do get people like that who are like that partly because they are stupid and malicious, in reality most of them are like that just because they were raised to be people who were ignorant of their own traditions and customs, on the misguided assumption that this is what it is to be educated.

Râkım Efendi, on the other hand, grows up in a very poor Turkish family. Because of this, his education is not handed to him; he has to work for every single bit of it. What this means is that, while Felâtun and Râkım both have real talents, only Râkım's talents are properly cultivated. Ironically, growing up in a wealthy household has guaranteed that Felâtun's talents go to waste, because that wealth was used to pry him out of ordinary, run-of-the-mill Turkish life. Râkım has a facility with languages, so besides Turkish, he learns Arabic, Persian, and French. He actually has an enthusiasm for French literature, and this is quite important. The contrast between Felâtun and Râkım is not that the former is educated in French culture and the latter in Turkish. In reality, of course, Felâtun is a Turk, he lives in Istanbul, most of the people with whom he interacts are Turks. His life is an alafranga life, but an alafranga life is one way to be Turkish. And while Râkım lives an alaturka life, this is not a matter of repudiating Western ideas, customs, or arts. Quite the opposite: Râkım has close friendships with both English and French;  he is as fluent in French as Felâtun, and, if anything, he is far more enthusiastic about French literature than Felâtun is. But he lives life as a thoroughly Ottoman Turk who loves French literature. The point of the contrast is not that the Ottoman Empire should close itself up within an isolationist bubble but that it should learn, exchange, and interact freely with French and English culture without making the mistake of treating its own culture as defective for not being French or English.

There's a nice episode early on, when Felâtun is introduced to the Ziklas family, a well-to-do English family whose daughters Râkım is tutoring in Turkish. Felâtun repeatedly bungles minor issues of Turkish literature and language that even the English girls can easily see, because he is, so to speak, a cradle Turk who has never had to convert to being Turkish. The narrator points out that this is not because he is stupid or even really ignorant, but that he doesn't know how he has learned the Turkish culture he has learned:

Come on now! How is it possible that Felâtun didn't know the alphabet?

Well, it wasn't that he didn't know but there are some men who don't know how they learned the things they know. Especially in our country, most people who know don't know how they learned. Felâtun Bey was one of those people. He didn't know how he learned what he knew. Why does this surprise you? We even knew a clerk with beautiful handwriting who connected every letter when composing formal ministry documents. And yet he wasn't able to explain the rules of his own handwriting! (pp. 23-24)

This seems to me quite insightful. There are things we know because we understand them, but there are things we know only because we have become familiar with them. Felâtun has learned Turkish customs and language through osmosis; he was never given an education that would lead to understanding any of it. It's not something to be understood; it's just the arbitrary way things happen to be. He doesn't know any of the reasons, because his education didn't ever cover any of the reasons, and he never had to force himself to learn the reasons. This is a compact summary, I think, of how cultures deteriorate.

Felâtun eventually engages in the very alafranga practice of having a fancy mistress and gambling. Needless to say, this is not going to turn out well. Râkım has a more complicated story, because living the alaturka life in part means paying much more attention to personal connections than the social-appearance-obsessed alafranga life. Râkım will buy a Circassian slave, Janan, and eventually the two will fall in love and marry. It's a quiet life, without all the glitz and glamor of the alafranga lifestyle, but also without all the dissolution and dissipation. And in the end, it's a better way to be an Ottoman Turk.

Favorite Passage: 

Yes, this time the medicine had a stronger effect! The patient who could barely move in her bed started wandering around the room. Now, can you refute what Molière said about doctors? The most scientific aspect of being a doctor is understanding if a patient is dead; otherwise even if they can diagnose the specific disease, since diseases have many types, they can never discern its type. The books on pathology say there is no medicine for tuberculosis and all the medicines that are being prescribed are experimental. In fine print, however, the last two lines war, "There are people who survive this illness on their own." Now, when our Doctor Z-- saw that Jan was returning to life, he thought, "So this last remark in the pathology book is true!" Feeling surprised and after observing that the girl would definitely recover, he pranced around like Luqman the Wise. "If my mother-in-law were with me now, even she would pass herself off as Hippocrates," he thought to himself. (p. 144)

Recommendation: Recommended.


Ahmet Midhat Efendi, Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi: An Ottoman Novel, Levi & Ringer, trs., Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY: 2016).

CT7D: Cumarseti

When traveling, you want to have some fun as well as business, so that's what the lessons turn to today: sports and entertainment. Sports terms tend to be easy in Turkish:

sporu : sports

tenis : tennis

golf : golf

basketbol : basketball

masa topu : table tennis (literally, 'table ball')

yüzmeyi : swimming

koşmayı : jogging

yelkenciliği : sailing

yürümeyi : walking

spor seyretmesini : watching sports

If you want to say that you like doing any of these things, you say Ben...severim; e.g., 'I like walking' is Ben yürümeyi severim. If you need sports locations, some examples are:

stadyum : stadium

tenis sahası : tennis court

yüzme havuzu : swimming pool

If you need to ask where something is, you always use nerededir, e.g., Basketbol sahası nerededir?

It's not sports if you don't have interjections! Something about athletic contests requires them. Some common Turkish interjections and exclamations, with loose English approximations:

Aman! : Oh dear!

Maşallah! : Wonderful!

İnşallah! : God willing!

Aferin! : Well done!

Çok güzel! : Very good!

If song and dance are more your thing, 'song' is şarkı and 'dance' is oyun. When people say Susalım!, that means 'Hush!' and Program başliyor means that the show is starting. A belly dancer is a dansöz; 'to dance' is dans etmek.

If you want to take an active verb and make it passive, you do so by adding -il-/-ıl-/-ul-/-ül- to the stem, as vowel harmony requires, unless the stem ends in -l, in which case you use -in-/-n-. Thus sevmek, to love, becomes sevilmek, to be loved; görmek, to see, becomes görülmek, to be seen; almak, to take, becomes alınmak, to be taken; okumak, to read, becomes okunmak, to be read.

Conditional is a particular mood in Turkish that gets an -se- suffix to the stem. So in Ben böyle dans edersem, çok kilo kaybederim, 'If I dance like this, I will lose a lot of weight', the 'dans edersem' starts with the infinite, dans etmek; the -r- indicates an aorist tense, the -se- indicates a conditional, and the -m indicates first person.

If you want to say "Let's....", you do this in Turkish with the interjection Haydi and adding -(y)alim/-(y)elim at the end of the verb:

Haydi, lokantaya gidelim : Let's go to the restaurant.

Haydi, yüzelim : Let's swim

Haydi, bir kayık kiralıyalım : Let's rent a boat.

And that's enough for a taste of Turkish today. We have one more to complete the week, when tomorrow, Pazar, we cover chatting topics: saying what you do, talking about the weather, and so forth.


Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).

Friday, October 23, 2020

Of Things Beyond Our Reason and Control

The Sound of the Sea
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain's side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul:
And inspirations that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.

CT7D: Cuma

I haven't done any of the dialogues from CT7D, but this is a good day to give an example.

Kiralık oto ofisinde / At the car-rental office
Jill and Daniel have some free time in the morning. They rent a car to drive to the Anatolian plateau.  
Daniel: İyi sabahlar. Bir araba kiralamak istiyorum.
Ofis yetkilisi: Hay hay efendim. Kaç kişi için? Küçük bir Peugeot ve büyük bir Ford Granada var. Ford Granada'da rady ve kaset çalar da var.
Jill: Fiyati nasıl oluyor? Günlük vey kilometre başina mı?
Ofis Yetkilisi: Gün başina.
Daniel: Peki Ford'un fiyatı nedir?
Ofis yetkilisi: İşte fiyat listesi ve sigorta ücreti.
Jill: Biz Peugeot'u istiyoruz bir gün için.
Ofis yetkilisi; Lütfen bana İngiliz ve uluslararası sürücü ehliyetinizi veriniz. Evet, her şey tamam. İşte arabanın anahtarı. Lütfen benim ile geliniz, arabayı görünüz.

İyi sabahlar is 'good morning' (literally 'good mornings'). Araba is 'car'; kiralamak is to 'to rent; so Bir araba kiralamak istiyorum means 'We want to rent a (one) car'. Yetkilisi means someone in authority, so here it means 'manager'. Hay hay is 'of course' and efendim is 'sir' or 'mister'. The office manager next says, "For how many people? There is (or, in this context, 'we have') a small Peugeot and a large Ford Granada. The Ford Granada has a radio with cassette player." (It's the early 90s!) Jill wants to know how the price (fiyat) is calculated (literally 'happens', from olmak, 'to become, to happen, to occur'); in particular, she wants to know if it is per day (Günlük, from gün, 'day') or by the kilometer. The manager replies, "By the day." Peki is roughly like 'OK'. Daniel asks how much the Ford costs; the manager shows the price list and the insurance (sigorta) cost. Evet, her şey tamam means, very literally, "Yes, every thing is complete." İşte is 'Here', anahtar is 'key'. And the manager ends by saying, "Please come with me and see the car."

Other useful car terms: benzin is 'gasoline' and oto park is 'parking lot'. Arabamı bozuldu is 'Our car has broken down'. Onarabilir misiniz? is 'Can you fix it?'.

In this lesson we get the past tense, which we already saw with Arabamı bozuldu, from bozulmak, 'to break down'. you use the affix -di-/-dı-/-du-/-dü- according to vowel harmony, although the d becomes t immediately after some consonants. Thus yapmak means 'to do', so 'I did' is Ben yaptım. We rented a car is Bir araba kiraladık. Ne istediniz? means 'What did you want?'

Sometimes you get into various kinds of accident; you might even need to go to the hastahane (hospital) or the eczane (pharmacy). Hastayı means 'I am ill'. Bir doktor gerek var means 'A doctor is needed'. Midem bulandı is 'I have been sick' or 'I was sick'. If you need to notify someone that you are pregnant, that is Ben hamileyim. Other useful phrases:

Karakol nerededir? : Where is the police station?

Acil hastahanesi nerededir? : Where is the emergency hospital?

Sizin hatanızdı. : It was your fault.

Yardım! : Help!

Tehlike : Danger

Kayboldum : I am lost

Kaybetmek, to lose, seems particularly useful:

Biletimi kaybettim : I have lost my ticket.

Pasaportumu kaybettim : I have lost my passport.

Fotoğraf makinemi kaybettim : I have lost my camera (literally: photograph machine).

Anahtarımı kaybettim : I have lost my key.

And so that's the taste of Turkish for today. Tomorrow, Cumartesi, the topic is leisure and fun.


Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).

Thursday, October 22, 2020


Today is the feast of Pope St. John Paul II. From Veritatis splendor:

The Church has often made reference to the Thomistic doctrine of natural law, including it in her own teaching on morality. Thus my Venerable Predecessor Leo XIII emphasized the essential subordination of reason and human law to the Wisdom of God and to his law. After stating that "the natural law is written and engraved in the heart of each and every man, since it is none other than human reason itself which commands us to do good and counsels us not to sin", Leo XIII appealed to the "higher reason" of the divine Lawgiver: "But this prescription of human reason could not have the force of law unless it were the voice and the interpreter of some higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be subject". Indeed, the force of law consists in its authority to impose duties, to confer rights and to sanction certain behaviour: "Now all of this, clearly, could not exist in man if, as his own supreme legislator, he gave himself the rule of his own actions". And he concluded: "It follows that the natural law is itself the eternal law, implanted in beings endowed with reason, and inclining them towards their right action and end; it is none other than the eternal reason of the Creator and Ruler of the universe".

Man is able to recognize good and evil thanks to that discernment of good from evil which he himself carries out by his reason, in particular by his reason enlightened by Divine Revelation and by faith, through the law which God gave to the Chosen People, beginning with the commandments on Sinai. 

CT7D: Perşembe

 When you travel, you sometimes have financial needs and need to talk to the banka memuru (bank teller) or kambiyo memuru (currency exchange clerk). Some banking terminology: 

Çek kartım var : I have a check card

Banka kartım var : I have a bank card

Kredi kartım var : I have a credit card

Amerikan doları : US dollars

ödermek : to pay

para yatırmak : to deposit

para çekmek : to withdraw

This is a fairly grammar-heavy lesson. We learn the genitive case, which consists of adding -(n)ın, -(n)un, -(n)in, or -(n)ün, depending on vowel harmony. Thus 'hotel's' would be otelin. Personal pronouns are similar, although first person pronouns use -im instead. Thus from ben, I, we get benim, my. Possessive pronouns agree in case endings with their nouns (Turkish is very rational in linking pronoun endings to the endings of nouns modified by them): benim bavulum, my suitcase; onun pasaportu, her passport.

We also get the future tense. Ne kadar bozduracaksınız?, from bozdurmak, to change (in the financial sense of exchanging), means "How much will you change?" What makes it future is the -acak- or -ecek- affix that connects the stem with the second-person plural ending.

You could also end up at the postahane, and need to talk to the posta memuru, the post-office clerk. Some post office vocabulary:

mektup : letter

paket : package

adres : address

Posta kutusu nerededir? : Where is the mailbox?

You may also need a telefon. 'To dial' is çevirmek.

If you want to send or call to something, say England, you use the dative case: İngiltere'ye, to England, Londra'ya, to London. If you want to receive something from somewhere, you use the ablative case: İngiltere'den, from England, Londra'dan, from London.

To express duty, necessity, or obligation, you often use a -malı-/-meli- affix. So if you want to say, "We must send this package to London", you say, Bu paketi Londra'ya göndermeliyiz. There are also words like gerek and lazım that will express the same idea as the necessity affix.

And that's just another taste of how Turkish works. Tomorrow, Cuma, the topic is cars and emergencies.


 Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Impulse Against the Cabal

 I've complained about the conspiracy-theory thinking that people have sloppily let pervade their political thinking, but it's also important to have a sense of proportion about these things -- you're not going to eliminate conspiracy-theory thinking (it arises from natural features of human mental and social life), and the problem with it is when you start handing it the keys to the car. I've seen a lot of people characterize QAnon as dangerous in the past few months. It probably would be if it had any real power, but in practice QAnoners seem usually to be participating in it from the fun of the social interactions, and QAnon is not an activist conspiracy theory (like Russiagate or 9/11 Trutherism sometimes are), because it is the central message of QAnon that the Satanic pedophile cult running the world is unraveling on its own.

In any case, proportion is called for, which brings me to the Anti-Masonic Party. We take political third parties for granted, but we tend not to ask what they have been. The first 'third party' -- and by any third party standards, a quite successful one, one of the most successful third parties in American history* -- was the Anti-Masonic Party. In 1826, a former Mason who had become a sharp critic of Freemasonry vanished. To this day nobody knows what happened to him, but as he vanished shortly after a bunch of Masons denounced him and a few people had tried to burn down his newspaper office**, it was very widely thought that the Masons had murdered him. Thus began the Anti-Masonic movement, out to save the world from the secret murder society that was trying to control the world behind the scenes. The Anti-Masonic Party was formed in New York in 1828 and took the political position that secret societies governing America was a violation of the principles of republican government, which you have to admit is quite true. It got a significant amount of support from Protestant churches -- the Masons were widely seen as an anti-Christian society -- and they were supported by John Quincy Adams and his supporters; Adams, who was not well supported in his own party, needed external allies, and many of his opponents were in fact Masons, most notably Andrew Jackson. The party had a successful populist message, because it took off. For a while it became the major opposition to the Democrats in New York; it spread to Pennsylvania and Vermont, each of which elected an Anti-Mason to governor in the 1830s. They often got people into state legislatures, although always as a minority -- but a stable minority party is a swing party, and they played a very significant role in a number of states. They also did moderately well with getting candidates into the House of Representatives. They eventually drifted apart, in part because the Whigs were more attractive to more people, but the migration of the Anti-Masons into the Whigs strongly imbued the Whigs with a populist strain that stood them well (for a while) against the Democrats. They also brought in some things they invented as part of their populism -- like party conventions.

Despite the problems with conspiracy-theory thinking, anti-cabal-ism -- an absolute abhorrence of the idea of someone manipulating things from behind the scene, of backroom deals, and of underhanded violence on the sly -- is an undeniable American tradition, and one that has influence well into the mainstream. (I suspect, in fact, that one reason President Trump does relatively well among some parts of the population is that absolutely nobody thinks he could manage to keep anything behind the scenes or on the sly.) If it sometimes experiences an algal bloom on the margins, that's not really surprising, either, and for the most part is not dangerous. It's not as if there's something morally problematic with being opposed to murder societies or pedophile cults; all reasonable people are. The problem here is just in the over-reading of facts, leading to an occasional over-reaction. You keep an eye on it and it usually burns itself out eventually without all that much damage -- not ideal, certainly, but manageable. Far more serious are revolutionary movements like nativism, anarchism, or Communism, which are often as conspiracy-theory-ridden but add the more serious problem of being willing to do violence for morally wrong ends.


* The Republican Party, of course, is the most successful third party in American history because it became one of the two major parties and has managed to stay there; it was the anti-slavery party that leveraged the political force of abolitionism to replace the Whigs. The American Party, also known as the Know Nothings, is another highly successful minor party, and had some decent success in Congressional elections in 1854 and 1855 on an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, anti-slavery populist platform. It began to fail when it lost its more moderate members to the Republicans, in part because the Republicans were more actively abolitionist. The Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, is the party after the Republicans that has had the best showing in a Presidential election, under Theodore Roosevelt, but they never did all that well in other elections. While others have occasionally done well, my guess is that these are probably the best candidates for 'most successful third parties in American history'.

** The attempt to burn the newspaper office may seem particularly damning, but trying to burn down newspaper offices was surprisingly common in the nineteenth century and makes an interesting history of its own. People setting up newspaper offices would often fireproof them, to the extent possible, in anticipation of someone trying to burn them down over something or other printed in the newspaper.

CT7D: Çarşamba

 The morning lesson for Çarşamba, Wednesday, is about travel. So we learn a little about the dolmuş, which is like a taxi except it has a regular route and specific stops and is always shared, and the minibüs and otobüs, the tren and the uçak, plane. But the primary concern, of course, is places and times. Some notable place words: 

merkez : downtown

banka : bank

postahane : post office

otel : hotel

hava alanı : airport

istasyon : train station

Times are important for travel, too, and you need to know numbers:

0 sıfır

1 bir

2 iki

3 üç

4 dört

5 beş

6 altı

7 yedi

8 sekiz

9 dokuz

10 on

11 onbir

12 oniki

If you want to ask what time it is, you say, Saat kaç? If you want to ask at what time something else is, you say Ne zaman? If you wanted to say, "Ten o'clock", you'd say, Saat on. Minutes after the hour up to the half-hour are marked by geçiyor, minutes before the hour back to the half-hour are marked by var:

Saat onu on geçiyor (It is ten past ten)

Saat ona on var (It is ten to ten)

Time, of course, is always a complicated feature of language, but that's enough to get a sense of how Turkish handles it. There are also, of course, adverbs of time:

şimdi : now

sonra : later

bugün : today

dün : yesterday

yarın : tomorrow

önce : before

bazen : sometimes

For places, Turkish has a locative case, which is -da/-de or -ta/-te depending on the letters that come before. If you say otelde, that means 'at or in the hotel', and masada means 'on the table'.

That gives a taste of how Turkish handles times and place. Tomorrow, Perşembe, we get to the business side of travel: banking, mailing, phoning.


 Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).

Music on My Mind

The Hound + The Fox, "The Paradox".

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Evening Note for Tuesday, October 20

 Thought for the Evening: Peirce's Neglected Argument

In "A Neglected Argument for God's Existence", C. S. Peirce attempts to argue for the importance, value, and reasonableness of a nonformal kind of reasoning. That is the 'Argument' of the title -- Peirce is clear that by 'Argument' he doesn't mean what we would usually mean by an argument (premises resulting in a conclusion), which he calls 'Argumentation', but a "process of thought reasonably tending to produce a definite belief" (p. 435). It's a process of thought that can be had by anyone, regardless of their level of formal training or their ability to articulate premises in sequential steps. The paper is an explicit attempt to show that there are reasonable Arguments that are not Argumentations; that, in fact, philosophers have overlooked a kind of reasoning that is reasonable, simply because it did not fit the tools they often use.

The key concept in the Neglected Argument is Musement, which Peirce opposes to "vacancy and dreaminess" on the one hand and reasoning in attempt to get a particular conclusion on the other (p. 436). It is a free play of mind (one of several), a kind of reflective thought about the world in which you consider the interplay of possibility, actuality, and representation in your experience, with an interest in asking why they have the interplay they do. If you've ever tried to figure out something, and in doing so improvised diagrams or new kinds of description or simple experimental tests, played around with looking at something from different perspectives, wondering about things this way and that, you've been engaging in something like what Peirce calls 'Musement'. If we muse about how possibility, actuality, and signification interrelate as a whole, Peirce holds that this naturally raises the hypothesis of God's real existence, not because there aren't other possible hypotheses, but because it's a hypothesis that does not end up trying to 'explain away' obvious parts of experience. This hypothesis will necessarily be vague, but if you continue on to consider different things in light of this hypothesis, in light of the Idea of God, you eventually begin considering things like its beauty, its sublimity, its potential value for ethical life, and -- despite not having gone beyond hypothesis yet, you can start responding to the loveableness and adorability of this hypothetical God. This stage of the Argument is 'humble'; it makes no pretensions, anyone can do it, it's reasonable because it's a natural flowering of a healthy part of the life of thought.

In the second stage, we get the 'Neglected Argument' in a strict sense: the mind reflects on this line of thought itself and develops a "vindicatory description" (p. 446) of the reasonableness of the humble stage of the argument, showing that it is not artificial but natural and closely tied to the experiences that start the whole process, as well as to practical life in general. This is 'neglected', because Peirce says that while theologians and philosophers can't present the humble stage -- that everyone has to go through themselves -- they should have done more to try to describe, delineate, and defend it as a reasonable and natural line of thought.

The third stage is a logical 'methodeutic', in which we recognize that the stages so far are in fact the same kind of stages that underlie scientific and other kinds of discovery: we start with pondering the facts of experience, reflectively and freely, and we develop hypotheses out of this through which we view the world in order to see what we find, and come out with beliefs that are capable of blossoming into action.

[C. S. Peirce, The Essential Peirce, Volume 2, ed. by the Peirce Edition Project, Indiana University Press (Indianapolis: 1998).]

Various Links of Interest

* An interesting discussion about a highly cited paper that turns out not to exist: The phantom reference and the propagation of error.

* Samuel H. Baker, Aristotle on the Nature and Politics of Medicine

* Juan Miguel Suay and David Teira, Kites: The Rise and Fall of a Scientific Object

* Samuel Hughes, In praise of pastiche

* C. C. Pecknold, False notions of the common good

Currently Reading

Ahmet Midhat Efendi, Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi
Rex Stout, The Second Confession
Declan Finn, Deus Vult

CT7D: Sali

 The morning lesson for Tuesday, Sali, opens with breakfast (kahvaltı), giving standard words for common Turkish breakfast items;

ekmek : bread

tereyağı : butter

beyaz peynır : feta cheese

zeytin : olives

And, of course the standard beverages, Turkish tea (Türk çayı) and Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi). There's also standard table vocabulary;

bıçak : knife

çatal : fork

kaşık ; spoon

bardak : glass

tuz : salt

biber : pepper

We also learn a little about imperatives, with the polite request, "Please bring me the check":

Lütfen, bana hesabı getiriniz

Lütfen is similar to 'please', bana is 'to me', and the -iniz ending is the imperative.  And we get demonstratives for this (bu), that (şu), and that over there (o), which also gives us the words for here (burada), there (şurada), and over there (orada).

For evening lesson, we get shopping terms, like the all-important shopping phrase, "How much?" (Kaç lira?).

In Turkish, you don't always need an article, but bir, which can either precede or succeed its noun, can mean 'a' or 'the' depending on context.

If you want to say that you can do something, you use the aorist present tense. So görmek means 'to see'; if we say görebilmek we mean 'to be able to see', and 'I can see' is görebeilirim.

While it's not necessary unless you are being specific, you indicate the accusative with a -(y)i  or -(y)ı, as is appropriate.

And that's a quick taste for Tuesday. Tune in tomorrow for travel.


Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).

Monday, October 19, 2020

Hume and Berkeley

At "Daily Nous", they are discussing Felix Waldmann's "David Hume in Chicago: A Twentieth Century Hoax", in which Waldmann, one of the top experts on early modern philosophical correspondence in English, argues that the 1934 letter from Hume to Ramsay is a forgery. As far as I can tell, Waldmann's case is not definitive, but he focuses on the mention of Pluche in the letter and argues with considerable plausibility that this raises problems for thinking it authentic. While good, it is not an earth-shattering argument (contrary to what Waldmann seems to want it to be); the letter does not provide much that we did not know from elsewhere (the primary thing of interest would be the early date), and in the last several years it's pretty clear that skepticism about the letter has been on the rise for entirely independent reasons. But it's a good time to update my 2011 post that used the question of Hume's reading of Berkeley to discuss how evidence works in history of philosophy.


In 1959 Richard Popkin touched off a heavy debate with his article, "Did Hume Ever Read Berkeley?" Much of what Popkin was trying to do was shake up a common historical narrative, one that was too easily taken for granted (and, indeed, is still often taken for granted): the narrative that British empiricism ran a certain course, in which Locke began building the empiricist approach, Berkeley took it farther so as to dissolve the material world and leave only the mind, and Hume took Berkeley's developments even farther to dissolve even the mind, thus making the British empiricist tradition a straightforward chain and Hume the natural terminal point in it. Popkin suggested that the actual evidence for the key idea here, that Hume knew anything specific about Berkeley, was very slight. Hume obviously knew of Berkeley, since he's mentioned in footnotes in a number of places (the Treatise, the Enquiry, the Essays). But the question Popkin put on the table was this: What evidence was there that Hume had the opportunity to become acquainted with details of Berkeley's arguments?

This is a very good question, and it remains a very good question to ask despite the fact that Popkin's question has pretty much been answered several times over. This is one of the things that historians of philosophy do: we establish topographies of evidences. Even if you know that Hume had reading knowledge of so-and-so, it's still worthwhile to know exactly what supports the claim that he did so. One reason, obviously, is that you can't actually know that Hume had reading knowledge of so-and-so without knowing the evidence for it; but another reason is that the evidences sometimes highlight features of Hume's work that might go unrecognized if you don't realize that the evidences are there in the first place. This is precisely what happened: Hume scholars went to work answering Popkin's question. Actually, almost no one thought that Popkin was right in suggesting Hume's ignorance, but forcing scholars to lay out in a clear and articulated way why he was wrong led to all sorts of discoveries about Hume's work.

There are a number of internal evidences for Hume's real acquaintance with Berkeley. For instance, Hume footnotes Berkeley in a passage in the Treatise  (1.1.7, on abstract ideas) that has close connections to the Principles. You might not put much emphasis on the footnotes, although Hume is so stingy when it comes to acknowledging influences (this is not unusual in the period) that one could reasonably argue that a footnote acknowledging the importance of someone is more than just a casual mention in passing. But one definitely does want more, and there are internal evidences aplenty. In the essay "Of National Characters" he paraphrases a passage from Berkeley's Alciphron (and attributes the idea to Berkeley in a footnote); the passage is buried deep in Dialogue V of Berkeley's work, so that suggests it was not from a light reading. More than this, however, it is possible to find what are likely echoes of Berkeley in Hume's discussions of our knowledge of bodies, sensible minima, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, his account of mind, and others. Careful sifting by scholars still turns up new plausible cases even today.

The internal evidence, then, is quite good; much better than Popkin had suggested, although Popkin was quite right that most of it is not on the immediate surface. To find it you have to identify echoes of phrasing, parallel structures of argument, and ideas original to Berkeley that are also found in Hume. This takes quite a bit of comparative work to do properly, and, indeed, much of it has taken decades of serious work and considerable debate. But an additional problem with internal evidences in general is that they admit of alternative explanations. Berkeley's main works were talked about quite a bit; it's always possible that genuinely Berkeleyan ideas were the topics of conversation and thence made it into Hume. In this sort of case, Hume would have known genuinely Berkeleyan arguments and ideas, but the kind of transmission would be different. This would be important to know, because secondhand oral transmission of philosophical ideas and arguments works rather differently than transmission by direct access to philosophical texts. Other explanations also can arise: sometimes ideas are 'in the air', i.e., due to common environmental or social causes; sometimes common ideas in two authors indicate not influence between them but influence from a common source (who may or may not be already known); and so forth. Given the extent of the internal evidence that Hume was acquainted with details of Berkeley's work, the scale on which one would have to deploy these alternative explanations would be extraordinary and implausible. But the internal evidences themselves don't fully rule them out.

What one needs is a direct link, and in the Berkeley-Hume case, the first real direct link was the purported discovery of a letter from Hume to Michael Ramsay dated August 31, 1737; for purposes of Hume scholarship, arguably the most important letter from Hume ever discovered. In this letter, Hume, who is about to publish the first book of the Treatise of Human Nature recommends some background reading for Michael Ramsay to understand the metaphysics of the work. He recommends, specifically, Malebranche's Search after Truth, Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge, the more metaphysical articles in Bayle's Dictionary, such as the articles on Zeno and Spinoza, and, if Ramsay could at all find it, Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy. Since Hume is quite clear that he was directly influenced by these works, it is, as one might say, a 'smoking gun'. The Ramsay letter is one of those far-flung lines of evidence that are often found in the history of philosophy. A Polish princess, Princess Izabella, had acquired it. She was actually Scottish herself, Isabella Fleming by birth, but had married to Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryska. At some point the princess had met David Hume the younger -- the nephew of David Hume the philosopher and historian -- and she made a serious effort to obtain manuscripts of the original Hume. In 1790 she acquired five letters of Hume, one of which was the Ramsay letter. Thus the direct evidence for whether the Scottish philosopher had ever closely read the Irish philosopher was hanging out in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland. Tadeusz Kozanecki published three of the letters in a Polish journal in 1963; Popkin became aware of this and in 1964 conceded the point in the article, "So, Hume Did Read Berkeley".

In 1973, Michael Morrisroe published a potentially even better 'smoking gun' evidence. In another letter to Michael Ramsay, this one dated September 29, 1734, Hume explicitly says that he was re-reading Berkeley's Principles and Locke's Essay. You can't get plainer than that. Unfortunately, things get a little complicated. Morrisroe tells us that he was given the opportunity to make a typescript, but that the letter was auctioned off and its location unknown. He did not say what he did to establish authenticity, although the letter (about ten sentences long) sounds broadly Hume-like. As far as I know Morrisroe's source has never been rediscovered. It was generally accepted as legitimate, but the circumstances put it in a very different category of evidence than the 1737 Ramsay letter. Hume scholars have generally been cautious with it; it primarily only gets mentioned in biographical contexts, and in recent years there has been some more skepticism about it. This letter from Morrisroe is the letter that Waldmann has argued, based on its mention of Pluche, cannot be authentic. 

In 2011, while preparing a 1709 edition (which was he second edition) of Berkeley's An Essay Toward a New Theory of Vision for an exhibit, Donald Kerr at the University of Otago discovered that the book had a David Hume bookplate. Peter Anstey discussed it online not long after. This gives us a different kind of evidence from a letter. We have here a book with a bookplate. The bookplate establishes at the very least that the book was in the library of one of the two David Humes (the philosopher or his nephew); and the bookplate in question is one of two different David Hume bookplates. If we add to this the Hillyard-Norton hypothesis that the State A bookplate is that of the original David Hume, we get the result that Hume had this work in his library, and thus had at least the opportunity to have read it; and given Hume's penchant for reading, it increases the likelihood that he read this particular work. This of course has a certain tenuousness to it. There are good reasons to accept the Hillyard-Nortan hypothesis, but they are all indirect; and merely having the book on the shelf isn't an automatic guarantee of having read it. (I mean, I am a voracious reader, usually reading several books a week, and I've had books on my shelf for ten years that I have still not gotten around to reading.) But, as I noted before, one of the topics on which internal evidence suggests that Hume was influenced by Berkeley is the topic of sensible minima, so this discovery immediately suggests the project of looking more closely for parallels, echoes, and the like connecting this particular work with Hume's discussion of that topic.

Of course, when we are talking about whether Hume read Berkeley, we really mean several different works by Berkeley, and this needs to be taken into account. The result we actually have is, roughly:

(1) Hume certainly read the Principles, and very early on; the internal evidence supports this very strongly already, and if even one of the Ramsay letters mentioned above is genuine, the evidence establishes this as much as anything of this sort can be established. 

(2) Hume may have read the Three Dialogues at some point, but this is only suggested by occasional internal evidence -- passages in Hume's works that are reminiscent of things in the Three Dialogues.

(3) Hume very likely read the Alciphron, on the basis of the fact that he paraphrases and refers to a particular passage in it in the essay "Of National Characters"; this, the strongest of the internal evidences, would put the reading of the Alciphron before 1752, when the essay began to be published in Hume's essay collections. Unfortunately, as the passage in question is a pretty trivial passage and is incidental to Berkeley's overall argument, it doesn't tell us much at all about how closely Hume read this dialogue, beyond the fact that he seems at least to have been struck by a figure of speech in Dialogue V. It does, however, establish that he cracked the book and read some of it. Possible lines of further study are links between the Alciphron and Hume's economic essays and links between it and the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

(4) Hume could well have read the New Theory of Vision, since he likely had it in his library, due to the bookplate evidence; some internal evidence is at least consistent with this, and a closer look at internal evidences relevant to the topics in this work is thus warranted.

(5) People have argued that there is some internal evidence of the influence of Berkeley's Querist on Hume's economic essays, although I don't know how strong some of the suggested evidence actually is.

(6) Of a number of Berkeley's other works -- Siris, the Theory of Vision Vindicated, etc. -- there is currently no evidence (so far as I know) of influence, although , of course, new evidence could always turn up. Hume was at least aware of the basic idea of Passive Obedience, i.e., passive obedience, since he mentions it, but I don't know of any work done on direct links or influences, and this is very much one of the ideas that would have been talked about anyway.

All this is somewhat simplified. Getting this far really involves a great deal of argument back and forth among scholars as they try out the various ramifications of looking at the evidence this way and that. But it serves to give an idea of how the finding, sorting, filtering, and integrating of evidence works in historical approaches to philosophy.

CT7D: Pazartesi

 Some time ago, I took a number of language classes, just whichever ones were available and could fit into my schedule, my idea being that while I wouldn't be likely to become fluent in any of the languages, I would at least get a better sense of how the language works, and, through them all, how languages in general work. One of the classes I took was introductory Turkish, done by the local Turkish cultural center. When I was taking that class, I picked up a book from Half Price Book called Conversational Turkish in 7 Days. I never got around to using it. But I'm currently reading Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi, and the Turkish language itself is used as a sort of symbol or emblem of Turkish culture. So why not pick up Conversational Turkish in 7 Days again, to go with the fortnightly book? And I might as well do some posts about it. The lessons are quite large (and divided into sabahleyin, in the morning, and öğleden sonra, in the evening, sub-lessons), so I won't be doing the whole lessons here -- just a little taste of Turkish to go with the fortnightly book.

One way in which we have it much easier than a Turkish learner in Ahmet Midhat Efendi's days: Turkish in his day used an Arabic alphabet; modern Turkish uses a Roman alphabet with 21 consonants and 8 vowels. There is no q, w, or x. The additional consonants are: ç, which is pronounced like ch; ğ, which is not so much pronounced itself as indicating that you should increase the length of the previous vowel; ş, which is pronounced like sh. Two potentially confusing letters for English speakers are c, which in Turkish is pronounced like the English j when pronounced strongly, and j, which in Turkish is pronounced more like zh sound. The eight vowels are a (pronounced uh), e (pronounced eh), i (pronounced halfway between ih and ee, like the i in 'pin'), ı (pronouned halfway between uh and ih, like the e in butter), o (pronounced oh), ö (pronounced halfway between uh and oo, like the u in 'fur'), u (pronounced like the oo in 'foot'), ü (pronounced halfway between ee and oo). Because of the distinction between the dotted and dotless ı, the capital letter for the dotted i also has a dot. The vowels are quite important in Turkish, because Turkish is a vowel harmony language -- the vowels change to agree with vowels in associated words.

So let's dive into Monday, Pazartesi, when we arrive at the airport. In the morning lesson, we learn a number of important basic phrases, of which the following are just a small sample.

İyi günler : Good day

This is a handy occasion for lesson, because in Turkish it's literally 'good days': -lar and ler endings indicate plurals.

Merhaba : Hello, for informal situations

Hoşça kalınız : Good-bye

Hoş geldiniz : Welcome, and its response, Hoş bulduk (roughly, a pleasure to be here)

These last two are really important; when I took my Turkish class, they were literally the first phrases learned, and Turks use them liberally.

If you want to say 'My name is Brandon', you say: Benim adım Brandon.

Ben is the first person pronoun. The word for 'name' is ad.  Benim is 'My'. Turkish links the possessive to the noun by suffix (Turkish uses a lot of suffixes), so you get -m suffix; the vowel that goes with that suffix is determined by vowel harmony. (This goes beyond what the lesson here says, but I think it's worth a comment or two out of place here, because vowel harmony is the sort of thing you need to start getting used to immediately:The soft or ince vowels (e, i, ö, ü) go together and the hard or kalın vowels (a, ı, o, u) go together. The way to think of vowel harmony is to think that you are blurring the former vowels over the suffix. So the Turkish word for 'school' is okul. If you want to say 'My school', you'd say Benim okulum.) 

In the evening lesson, which is all about hotels, I learned something very new to me (I'm pretty sure it never came up when I took the Turkish class): the Turkish word for waiter is garson, from the French, of course. 'I want to drink' is Ben .... içmek istiyorum. (The word 'içmek' is 'to drink' and 'istemek' is to want or need'.) So add some beverage words and you can order at the bar:

bira : beer

şarap : wine

çay : tea

kahve : coffee

Notice that the object goes before the verb, not after.

If you wanted to say, 'I am drinking tea', the present tense is a suffix -yor or -iyor (to prevent y from butting up against a consonant) that goes directly to the verb root, and then you add the pronoun suffix to that. So içmek is 'to drink'; we drop the infinitive ending 'mek', and add -iyor to indicate present tense and -um for the pronoun: içiyorum. And, we add the object to get: Çay içiyorum.

Tune in tomorrow, Sali, for breakfast and shopping.


Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Four Sources of Human Error

The dead abstract notions of the intellect, the dialectical disputes of the reason, the purely subjective and one-sided apprehension of objects by a deluded fancy, and the absolute will, are the four sources of human error. Considered apart from the aberrations of passion, special faults of character, and prejudices of education, as well as the false notions and wrong judgments to which the latter give rise these four are the springs from which flows all the error of the soul which makes itself the centre of the terrestrial reality, and which, springing out of this soil, is nourished and propagated by it. To what then are we to look to dispel these manifold delusions but to a closer and more intimate union of the soul with God as the source of life and truth?

[Friedrich Schlegel, The Philosophy of Life, Morrison, tr. Bohn, (London: 1847) p. 105.]

Saturday, October 17, 2020


 Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Martyr, also known as Ignatius Theophorus. He was bishop of Antioch, almost certainly the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who succeeded St. Peter. If Theodoret of Cyr is right, he may have been hand-selected by Peter to succeed Evodius. He was apparently arrested and transported to Rome. Presumably that means he was a Roman citizen -- otherwise it's difficult to explain why he was sent to Rome to be tried rather than tried locally -- but there are features of his transportation that violate the usual protocols for when a Roman citizen was transferred to Rome for trial (e.g., unless he was speaking figuratively, he was put in chains, and the route taken, while well established is an oddly indirect one), so we don't know for sure what the reason was. We do, however, have letters he wrote to various churches while en route. Tradition says he was martyred in Rome under Trajan, probably around 107. From the letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians (chapters 14 &15):

None of these things escapes your notice, if you have perfect faith and love toward Jesus Christ. For these are the beginning and the end of life: faith is the beginning and love is the end, and the two, when they exist in unity, are in God. No one professing faith sins, nor does anyone possessing love hate. The tree is known by its fruit; thus those who profess to be Christ's will be recognized by their actions. For the work is a matter not of what one promises now, but of persevering to the end in the power of the faith.

It is better to be silent and be real than to talk and not be real. It is good to teach, if one does what one says. Now there is one teacher, who spoke and it happened; indeed, even the things that he has done in silence are worthy of the Father. The one who truly possesses the word of Jesus is also able to hear his silence, so that he may be perfect, so that he may act through what he says and be known through his silence. Nothing is hidden from the Lord; even our secrets are close to him. Therefore let us do everything with the knowledge he dwells in us, in order that we may be his temples, and he may be in us as our God--as, in fact, he really is, as will be made clear in our sight by the love that we justly have for him.

[Michael W. Holmes, tr. The Apostolic Fathers, 3rd edition, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI; 2007), p. 195.] 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Dashed Off XXIII

(1) There is a world that is continuing, independent, and external. (2) It is changing, where change is the act of the potential insofar as it is potential.
(3) It can be measured temporally by units of change.
(4) It is composite, where composition is the potential of the actual insofar as it is actual.
(5) It can be measured spatially by units of division with respect to a boundary.

Everything in the category of quality concerns ordering in some way.

belief in external world is?
(1) natural/innate
---- (a) brute instinct
---- (b) rational principle
(2) acquired
---- (a) from practice
---- (b) from reasoning

inventive in idea, rigorous in execution, rich in appeal

"Introspection of our intellectual operations is not the best means for preserving us from intellectual hesitations." Newman

playing it straight as a pacing technique in comedy (Margaret Dumont)

"It is not absurd that the actualization of one thing should be in another. Teaching is the activity of a person who can teach, yet the operation is performed in something -- is not cut adrift from a subject, but is of one thing in another." Aristotle
"There is nothing to prevent two things from having one and the same actualization (not in the same being, but related as the potential to the actual)."

Intellectual discovery has something of the character of a gift.

"The most precious goods should not be sought but waited-for." Simone Weil

Doctrine is the framework of devotion, and devotion expresses itself according to its framework in good works.

In the Beatific Vision, understanding includes love and love includes understanding.

When love moves toward something and grasps it, it does not begin inside a mental inner sphere; it is such that it is already working out toward what is loved.

Every virtue covers the whole world from a certain point of view.

acceptance-based group belief vs. commitment-based group belief

Much of what is valuable in 19th-century Anglican theology is its passionate devotion to the Incarnation.

Arguments that redemption is not the primary purpose of the Incarnation tend to make certain mistakes:
(1) conflating 'the Incarnation' with 'an Incarnation'
(2) conflating the Incarnation with a more abstract purpose
(3) assuming that if Adam had not sinned mere glorification would have been the end of creation, whereas we really do not know the range of options available to omnipotence
(4) conflating the Word being the end of creation with the Word as Incarnate being the end of creation

Absolute non velle is not possible for us, only relative non velle.

"Inscape is species or individually distinctive beauty of style." Hopkins
"all things are upheld by instress, and are meaningless without it"
"design, pattern, or what I am in the habit of calling 'inscape' is what I above all aim at in poetry"

not yet judging vs suspension of judgment (the former expresses intellectual freedom, the latter volitional freedom)

Spatial location enters into the discussion of parts only insofar as 'part' has a functional aspect, and that function also has in a given case a dependence on spatial location.

We can say a cancerous tumor is part of the body and also say it is not a part of the body.

The discipline of mereology cannot slect out literal usages of 'part' without studying figurative usages as well.

Every theory of necessity has a corresponding theory of parthood.

Many short stories in modern style are really character sketches with story elements.

trinitarian traces in being, in knowing, in making, in saying

A scenario: I am putting together a table and you pick up the table leg on the other side of the room, asking, "What is this?" And I say: "It is part of this table."

Both justice and injustice are committed in the name of justice.

All analysis is against a backdrop.

A pen-cap is part of its pen even when off for the moment.

the danger of conflating being-in with being-a-part-of

act of the actual insofar as it is actual: existence or operation/action, act as such
act of the potential insofar as it is potential: change
act of the potential insofar as it is actual: state of change
act of the actual insofar it is potential: disposition?
potential of the actual insofar as it is actual: composition
potential of the potential insofar as it is potential: prime matter, potential as such
potential of the potential insofar as it is actual: passion?
potential of the actual insofar as it is potential: matter

By grace, law is made a sign of grace.

the indissolubility of marriage and marriage as an end in itself (Meyendorff)

"For indeed the family is a little church." Chrysostom

Nothing constituted by what people believe, want, decide or intend is wholly constituted by these things, for all these things look outside themselves.

cognitivist accounts of law
-- laws qua laws never express truths: illusionism (e.g., laws are dressup for coercive impositions
-- laws qua laws express truths
-- -- about human opinions (laws are regularized public opinion)
-- -- about more than human opinions
-- -- -- laws as cooperative artifacts
-- -- -- natural facts
-- -- -- -- law as a special natural fact about human populations
-- -- -- -- reducible to more basic natural facts
-- -- -- -- -- law as a synthetic description of connections
-- -- -- -- -- law as an analytic description of connections

Believing does not having an additive structure; to assign numbers to strength of belief is simply to identify an order.

A word gets a stable meaning because many fibers of meaning are twisted together, as in spinning, vast numbers of partial redundancies.

fuzzy parthood and poorly integrated parts

Treatments of the devil as merely a symbol inevitably confuse the devil with the flesh or the world.

fuzzy objects as getting their identities from anchoring features
-- these are often related to the classifiers we use (allowing for idiomatic quirks): a stick of cotton candy, a tuft of hair, a glob of honey, etc. -- in each case, the classifier facilitates our finding the anchoring feature.

volatility fuzziness vs permeability fuzziness

"If we look upon the world as appearance, it demonstrates the existence of something that is not appearance." Kant, Opus Postumum

Life adapts so as to appear in a world that actively appears.

To say that philosophy is the handmaiden of theology, while a crude statement of a sophisticated relation, is not a denigration of philosophy but an assertion that it has a value higher than human utility, one that makes it worthy to serve what springs from the primal font of truth itself.

"there is no sentence of Heraclitus that is not taken up in my logic." Heraclitus

Friendship arising from charity begins in Christ, is preserved according to the Spirit of Christ, and tends toward Christ as its completion. (Aelred)

"The best medicine in life is a friend." Aelred

Sacra doctrina uses philosophy because human teaching and learning is intrinsically philosophical.

the cherry-orange sunset blooming in the field

Philosophy by its nature circles back on itself.

By prayer we are prepared for what we need to do. But the value of prayer lies in itself.

Philosophy is the handmaiden of theology in much the same sense that man is the servant of God. But as Christianity introduces a new aspect into the latter, so it does into the former: philosophy becomes the adopted daughter of theology.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Doctor Orationis

 Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Ávila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. From The Interior Castle:

Oh, my sisters, how forgetful of her ease, how unmindful of honours, and how far from seeking men’s esteem should she be whose soul God thus chooses for His special dwelling-place! For if her mind is fixed on Him, as it ought to be, she must needs forget herself: all her thoughts are bent on how to please Him better and when and how she can show the love she bears Him.

This is the end and aim of prayer, my daughters; this is the reason of the spiritual marriage whose children are always good works. Works are the unmistakable sign which shows these favours come from God, as I told you. It will do me little good to be deeply recollected when alone, making acts of the virtues, planning and promising to do wonders in God’s service, if afterwards, when occasion offers, I do just the opposite. I did wrong in saying, ‘It will do me little good,’ for all the time we spend with God does us great good. Though afterwards we may weakly fail to perform our good intentions, yet some time or other His Majesty will find a way for us to practise them although perhaps much to our regret. Thus when He sees a soul very cowardly, He often sends it some great affliction, much against its will, and brings it through this trial with profit to itself. When the soul has learnt this, it is less timid in offering itself to Him.

François Gérard - St Theresa (detail) 
François Gérard, Sainte Thérèse

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Two Poem Drafts


Like glimmers on the waters
reflects a mighty sun;
cannot be wholly captured
by mere slice.
Beware an over-eager
to worship as we must requires
God with man imperfect
Nor disrespect God's great
the light that shines with ceaseless
see, in shimmer-glimpsing,

Winning and Losing

This truth I know, my gentle friend,
a truth as old as thinking man:
if quiet folk conceive no plan,
the course of things can only end,
however well its way begins,
in chaos where the loudest wins.

If cooler heads enforce no law,
the lawless will not stay his hand;
if gentler souls make no demand,
they leave the world to violent maw;
if decent folk rebuke no sins,
the boldest sinner always wins.

Like entropy or wear-and-tear
the wicked prosper as the rules
will of the honest make right fools
if honest men will not beware:
in world of clash and noise and din
the loudest voices surely win.

The vicious virtue always cheat;
their aim is cunning in its way:
convince the good to flee the fray,
that they must nobly seek defeat,
that use of means is work of sin,
that they must let the loudest win.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Wishing Someone Harm

Justin Weinberg argues that wishing harm on someone is not morally wrong. This is, of course, wrong, as general common sense (people would generally regard themselves as wronged if they discovered that someone had been wishing that they would die, for instance) and most ethical theories would suggest, but it's interesting to look at the steps of the argument to see how he ends up with a conclusion that would so often be regarded as absurd enough to use in a reductio ad absurdum of any ethics that implied it.

(1) Obviously, a key concept here is 'wishing'. Weinberg says:

The first thing to note is that a wish is a kind of desire. As we’ll see later, wishes are different from other kinds of desires, but for now what matters is what they have in common with other desires: they are not chosen.
Here is an obvious potential problem: this is not how people in general talk about wishing. We usually talk about wishing something as if it were a deliberate act, not an unchosen desire. If I wish you a happy birthday, it (one hopes) is true that I am wanting you to have a happy birthday, but that is not what is meant by wishing someone a happy birthday, or joy in life, or anything like this.

The natural way to explain this is that 'wishing' in fact covers multiple things that are different but related. We use 'wish' to cover a certain kind of desire, deliberate internal expressions springing from desires, and external expressions that are signs of desires. We use it to cover velleities, longings, and fantasies.

The real question, then, is not, "What kind of thing is wishing in general?" but "In talking specifically about wishing someone harm, what kind of thing is meant?" That so many people think it wrong is in and of itself evidence that, in this context, Weinberg's analysis of it as an unchosen desire is incorrect; it's certainly a sign that this should be seen as a highly controvertible claim.

(2) Are desires unchosen? Some immediate desires are unchosen. But is it really true that all desires are unchosen? Weinberg himself pulls back, later saying that "most desires are unchosen". I'm not sure this is true, either, but the 'most' raises the question of whether wishing (in the context of wishing someone harm) is a kind of desire that is, in fact, chosen, a desire you cultivate in yourself by deliberate actions. Well-wishing and ill-wishing are, again, things we talk about as if they were cultivated, or at least directed.

(3) This relates to another point. What we do, and the desires we have, are, when those desires can be cultivated or directed, expressions of character, and even involuntary desires (in the sense of desires we have spontaneously without choosing to have them) can be expressions of bad character. If an adult goes around having spontaneous feelings of wanting babies to come to harm, for instance, there is something wrong with them; and if they could reduce them or redirect them in less troubling directions or at least struggle against them, but instead deliberately indulge them, their feeling these things is an expression of bad character. There is something wrong with their ill-wishing, and it is a moral wrongness, even if it is not so in the same sense of 'wrong' that we use when we apply to actions.

(4) Weinberg's second reason for thinking that wishing someone harm is not morally wrong is that wishing is disconnected from reasons for action. I confess I am completely unclear why Weinberg thinks this is always the case. Mere wishes are wishes that don't issue into any kind of action, but wishing in fact regularly leads to action. If I wish you good luck as you go off to college, I might buy you a greeting card to that effect. I am not even sure what it would mean to say that wishing someone luck never gives a reason for expressing to them that you wish them luck. Perhaps the reason-relation here is oblique -- that is, expressing that you wish someone luck has a different relation to a desire for luck than somehow giving them luck -- but it's a reason-relation, nonetheless.

And it does seem that people do sometimes act out of wishing for harm for someone; at least, it seems reasonable to suggest that if A wishes harm for B, A would be more likely actually to harm B if the opportunity ever arises than he would be if A wishes B well. Again, perhaps wishing as a more generic desire deals with more generic reasons, and thus doesn't give us a specific reason to do specific things -- but there is no reason to deny that we can have generic reasons that, while not specific reasons themselves, combine with other reasons in particular situations to become specific reasons. We must be wary of any overly simplistic account of how desires interact to issue in action.

If it is the case that wishing is not disconnected from reasons for action, but only more obliquely or indirectly connected to them (which seems to fit our way of describing it better), then Weinberg's second reason doesn't seem to work.

(5) And likewise, although it may seem strange, it causes a problem for Weinberg's third reason. The third reason is that wishes aren't magic, but what this means in context is that wishing someone harm doesn't make it more likely that they will in fact be harmed. But as previously noted, this is not true: wishing someone harm can increase the likelihood that they will be harmed. If you don't come into contact with the person to whom you wish harm, and if all indirect influence is swamped out by other things, it is true that harm is unlikely to result; there is no causal channel available for it. But who is more likely to try to assassinate someone, the person who wishes them harm or the person who does not wish them harm? If you wish someone harm, you may harm them if you have the opportunity, and even if not, you may fail to do something that would keep them from harm, and even if not, you may influence others in a way that will make it more likely for those people to harm them or to fail to prevent harm to them. Wishes may not wash the dishes, but if you keep wishing that the dishes were washed, you might end up doing something about it, like buying a washing machine, or even just expressing your wishes for clean dishes -- which, as we know from birthdays and Christmas, sometimes increases the chance of someone else acting on your wish. Even if you don't express the wish, having the wish repeatedly, dwelling on it, etc., may lead you to act in such a way that it changes other people's behaviors in ways relating to dishes.

Wishes play such an obvious role in our social relations with other people, it's just too obvious that they influence results somehow. If by 'magic' you mean a direct influence, it's clear that this is often not the case; but wishing feeds into our social interactions in ways that clearly shift the results of those actions. This is very obviously true with wishing someone well, so why wouldn't it be true with wishing someone harm?

(6) There is plenty of reason to think that wishing someone well or wishing them harm is not usually a spontaneous desire. You can imagine a situation in which you might spontaneously wish someone harm for entirely understandable reasons -- for instance, if someone is torturing you right now, or if you have a vivid memory of being tortured by them in the past. But certainly wishing someone harm when you don't know them personally is not usually like this; it usually happens because you dwell on thinking about them in a bad light. This dwelling-on is mostly under your control. And even if the wishing itself didn't originally arise in this way, we can consent to and indulge ourselves in the wishing, and this is under our control. One of Weinberg's is to think that if we can't control our desires, that ends the story; but this is not true. We not only desire, we consent to or struggle against our desires. And this can very definitely be a kind of moral action, much more closely intermingled with the desire itself than any outward expression. Indulging yourself in wishing someone harm is a good sign of a character that is in some way malicious, and is itself often malicious, often selfish, often arrogant.

It is generally wrong, outside of extraordinary cases, to wish someone harm; it is wrong to indulge at length in wishing someone harm; it is wrong simply to let yourself be the sort of person who easily wishes another harm rather than work to be a better sort of person.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Evening Note for Monday, October 12

Thought for the Evening: TRS Triads

A recurring pattern in the history of Western philosophy is what might be called a Term-Relation-System  (TRS) triad, a collection of three in which the second and third member 'build' on the one(s) before. The oldest TRS triad is found in logic: Term, Proposition, Argument. Logical terms are put in relation to each other to make propositions; propositions are put together into a system that we call an argument. 

Term, Proposition, Argument is the root triad for most of the TRS triads in the history of philosophy, although we should perhaps keep an open mind for finding TRS triads outside of the family. One very different triad that could perhaps be seen as a TRS triad, but which is surely not related historically, is the old liberté, fraternité, egalité. One could very plausibly see this as identifying something pertaining to the individual, thus liberty as a term, which interacts with other liberties of other individuals to get fraternity as the relation, and then fraternity is structured into a system, equality. Certainly the equality in the slogan is intended to be systematic, not just a happenstance of equality between individuals, but a system in light of which individuals are equal.

There are no doubt others; it would be interesting to go through Bonaventure's endless triads and see which, if any of them, count as TRS triads and which don't. (Could one, true, good, for instance, be considered a TRS triad? How about number, weight, measure? Does faith, hope, love admit of an account that makes it a TRS triad, or is it some other kind of triad?) But the real heyday of the TRS triad in Western philosophy begins with Kant, who makes significant and deliberate use of them. The reason is that Kant sees our grasp on the world as structured by judgment, and the three kinds of judgment are Categorical, Hypothetical, Disjunctive, and Kant quite clearly characterizes these in a TRS way (which is, I think, entirely consistent with how they had been understood throughout the history of the theory of judgment). Because judgment is so important and Kant thinks of it as involving a TRS triad, TRS triads keep showing up in Kant's work. For instance, Kant gives twelve pure concepts of the understanding, which are, so to speak, the map for how we understand the world:

Quantity: Unity, Plurality, Totality 
Quality: Reality, Negation, Limitation
Relation: Inherence, Causation, Community
Modality: Possibility, Existence, Necessity

When you look at the characterizations of these, Quantity and Relation are both quite clearly understood in TRS terms. Because of Relation, we can consider something like Substance, Law, System as a TRS triad, because in a sense relation establishes these as features of our understanding of the world; this makes a lot of sense, given how Kant understands each. Quality and Modality are trickier, but I think there's at least an argument that they should also be understand as a building triad.

But there are other cases in Kant. I think there's a very strong argument that Kant's three major formulations of the categorical imperative -- the Law of Nature formulation, the End in Itself formulation, and the Kingdom of Ends formulation form a TRS triad.

Kant, however, is not the only one who makes important use of TRS triads. Peirce does, as well. Peirce likes triads in general, and often discusses logic, so it is not surprising to find TRS triads in his work, but he very definitely builds them.  The most obvious example, derived directly from Term, Proposition, Argument, is the Rheme, Dicent, Delome classification of signs; Peirce pretty clearly intends this to be a more general form of Term, Proposition, Argument, applicable to every kind of sign, and even will often use 'Argument' instead of 'Delome'. Given the analogies between this triad and the other two important triads of Qualisign, Sinsign, Legisign and Icon, Index, Symbol, these classifications seem to be TRS triads as well. If we can read Possibility, Existence, Necessity as a TRS triad for Peirce as well as Kant, this would clinch the argument, since many of Peirce's triads are structured in such a way as to be Possibility, Existence, Necessity triads of one form or another. 

(One could, however, argue that Possibility, Existence, Necessity is a distinct kind of triad which can overlap with TRS triads. It's easy to relate Possibility as a Term-modality and Necessity as a System-modality, because that is closely tied to how we explain them to begin with -- the necessary is that which is found in all possibles -- but it's much harder to get a grasp on Existence as a Relation-modality, because Existence doesn't seem obviously reducible to just possibilities in relation. Existence is not really in between Possibility and Necessity; it is more fundamental than either, at least in how we think of them. Perhaps we are being too literal, though, and the real middle here is something that might be more accurately called Truth, in the ontological sense, as a relation between possibles.)

Various Links of Interest

* James Hankins, Pietas, at First Things

* Ashok discusses Gerard Manley Hopkins's "As Kingfishers Catch Fire"

* John Farrell reviews Mark Shea's The Church's Best-Kept Secret

*  Patrick O'Donnell, Introducing the concept of rasa in Indian aesthetics and philosophy of art, at 

* Barbara Castle, Awakening to Virtue: Confessions of a Well-Read, Unlucky Good Girl

*  Emrys Westacott, The Venerable Prejudice against Manual Labour

* John Marenbon, Why Read Boethius Today?

Currently Reading

Ahmet Midhat Efendi, Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi
Declan Finn, Crusader

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Fortnightly Book, October 11

Ahmet Midhat Efendi (1844-1912) was an immensely prolific Turkish author during the Tanzimat period of the Ottoman Empire. He spent most of his career as a journalist, but, having a very large family, he had to do a considerable amount of extra work in books, stories, and the like to keep them all in food and clothes. In 1873 he was exiled to Rhodes by Sultan Abdülaziz for an article he wrote that attracted negative attention. Abdülaziz was deposed by his ministers in 1876 and Midhat Efendi returned to Istanbul, although he was more careful to avoid too direct an involvement in political affairs after that. He eventually came into imperial favor, receiving various government offices and then a university professorship.

In 1875, he published one of his most famous works, Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi, which is the next fortnightly book. (In Turkish, the dotless i is pronounced ih and the i with a dot is pronounced ee, roughly speaking.) As the title suggests, it follows the contrasting lives of two young men in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi, and the complications of Turkish life at that time, always torn between the European and the Turkish, the alafranga and the alaturka kinds of life. Felâtun is a young man from a rich family, Râkım from a poor family; Felâtun has had a rich man's education, which has prepared him for nothing, while Râkım has had to scrape together every fragment of education he has been able to find even to get by. And both, whether they realize it or not, are faced with the fundamental question of Turkish society at that time: What is the best way to be Turkish in an age dominated by Western Europe?

The work was only translated into English a few years ago, in 2016, by Melih Levi and Monica M. Ringer, and that is the edition I will be reading.

Revolution and Intelligentsia

 Gary Saul Morson, Suicide of the Liberals, discusses the role of the intelligentsia in the Bolshevik revolution:

Most important, and of greatest concern, was how intelligents thought. An intelligent signed on to a set of beliefs regarded as totally certain, scientifically proven, and absolutely obligatory for any moral person. A strict intelligent had to subscribe to some ideology—whether populist, Marxist, or anarchist—that was committed to the total destruction of the existing order and its replacement by a utopia that would, at a stroke, eliminate every human ill. This aspiration was often described as chiliastic (or apocalyptic), and, as has been observed, it is no accident that many of the most influential intelligents, from Chernyshevsky to Stalin, came from clerical families or had studied in seminaries. For Struve, the mentality of the intelligentsia constituted a cruel parody of religion, preserving “the external features of religiosity without its content.”

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Arthur Conan Doyle, His Last Bow; The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes


Opening Passages: From "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge", the first tale in His Last Bow

 I find it recorded in my notebook that it was a bleak and windy day towards the end of March in the year 1892. Holmes had received a telegram while we sat at our lunch, and he had scribbled a reply. He made no remark, but the matter remained in his thoughts, for he stood in front of the fire afterwards with a thoughtful face, smoking his pipe, and casting an occasional glance at the message. Suddenly he turned upon me with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“I suppose, Watson, we must look upon you as a man of letters,” said he. “How do you define the word ‘grotesque’?”

From "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client", the first story in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

 "It can't hurt now," was Mr. Sherlock Holmes's comment when, for the tenth time in as many years, I asked his leave to reveal the following narrative. So it was that at last I obtained permission to put on record what was, in some ways, the supreme moment of my friend's career.

Summary: In his list of twelve favorite toward the end of his life, Doyle lists only one story from His Last Bow, "The Devil's Foot" (at #9); he does, however, also mention "The Bruce-Partington Plans" as a possible candidate, and that story is probably the one most widely enjoyed by readers. So let's look briefly at both.

In "The Devil's Foot", Holmes and Watson are in Cornwall for a health-vacation, when a case happens to find them. Mortimer Tregennis and the vicar, Mr. Roundhay, come to ask their help with the sudden and mysterious death of Mr. Tregennis's sister and the madness of his two brothers. Tregennis had visited them for a game of whist and then left, but when he returned, he found them sitting exactly where they had been, his sister dead and his brothers singing and laughing, both clearly out of their minds. Things get more complicated when an African explorer and hunter, Leon Sterndale, shows up, demanding answers. This being Cornwall, the locals suspect the Devil; Holmes sets that hypothesis aside and traces the problem to a root called Radix pedis diaboli, the Devil's-Foot Root.

 For an adaptation, I looked at the old 1921 Stoll production silent adaptation of it, which is interestingly very wordy, almost an illustrated text adventure:

This adaptation is really well done, and Eille Norwood, who plays Sherlock Holmes, is very much to be credited for it; he approached the role with die-hard seriousness, and in so doing captured the textual Holmes very well. They simplify the beginning of the story considerably, but despite the fact that the silent adaptation requires a fair amount of further simplification, they manage to keep it quite faithful otherwise.

In "The Bruce-Partington Plans", Holmes is suddenly visited by his brother Mycroft, who, as we all know, never deviates from his routine except for matters of gravest consequence. A man working for the government, Arthur Cadogan West, has been found dead, with seven out of ten pages of a highly confidential document giving the top-secret designs for a new submarine. The other three pages -- the most important pages -- are still missing. Holmes is able, with Mycroft's help, to identify someone who is likely involved, Hugo Oberstein. Holmes and Watson do a bit of burglary (something they do with remarkable frequency in the later stories); this will give Holmes what he needs to set a trap to catch the thieves and murderers and retrieve the missing pages.

When Doyle gave his list of favorite Holmes tales, The Case-Book was still quite new and not everywhere available, so he did not include any stories from it on the list. He did, however, mention two in particular as candidates: "The Lion's Mane" ("the actual plot is among the very best of the whole series") and "The Illustrious Client". Stories from this anthology rarely make it very high on lists of fan favorites ("Thor Bridge" seems to be the one that most consistently does best, and it never does better than middling well). I have elsewhere discussed the infinitely baffling "Lion's Mane", so I will say nothing more about it here, except to point out that Christopher Lee's reading of it is very, very good:



In "The Illustrious Client", Sir James Demery comes to Holmes with a case from an 'illustrious client', who is never named. A young woman, Violent, has fallen in love with the dangerous seducer and possible murderer, Adelbert Gruner. Holmes and Watson work out a plan to prove his wrongdoing to Violet, a plan that nearly goes wrong.

These stories are more experimental than previous tales, and I think it's a very safe opinion to say that the experiments by and large do not work. This is not to say that the tales don't have their moments -- there are some very good passages, and some of the stories are quite interesting on their own. But the best tales in these collections are usually either very similar to much better tales in previous collections ("The Bruce-Partington Plans" is good, and would fit perfectly well into the earlier collections, but "The Naval Treaty" is far better; "The Three Garridebs" has its charms, but the previous tale that it is most like is "The Red-Headed League", which is absolutely and in every way superior), or else they are gimmick-tales ("The Dying Detective", "The Lion's Mane", "The Devil's Root", "The Sussex Vampire", "Thor Bridge") that do well as interesting side-lanes but don't really capture what people have tended to like about Holmes. One of the stories in The Case-Book is just bad: In "The Three Gables", every character seems a caricature and Holmes continually acts in ways that are entirely out of character. Other stories, like "The Creeping Man" or "The Mazarin Stone" aren't so much bad as weird. I think the only experiment that works well as an experiment is "His Last Bow", and that's less because it can stand on its own than because it can serve pretty well as a kind of epilogue to the entire Holmes canon.

The fundamental thing I think missing is fun. None of these stories are really fun in the way earlier ones were, except for "His Last Bow", or even apparently trying to be, except for "The Three Garridebs" and "The Lion's Mane". When Doyle recommended "The Devil's Root", he said it was "grim and new", and that sums up most of the works. I think this is why "The Bruce-Partington Plans" always ends up doing fairly well on fan lists -- the grimness, the relative lack of fun, doesn't hurt it because it's a saving-the-Empire kind of story. The same grimness on a smaller scale makes for tales that are dark and sometimes unpleasant. The crimes are often nastier, the dangers are more sensationalistic, Holmes and Watson break the law more frequently, the solutions less often depend on deduction rather than on other things (perhaps the most egregious example is "The Veiled Lodger", which has an interesting gimmick and starts out with an interesting set-up, and then Holmes and Watson go to visit the lady involved and she tells them the solution). They have their humorous passages, their interesting moments, their points of cleverness, but they don't have them in layers the way the earlier stories often did. It's a curiosity of the Holmes canon that we have its Golden Age, its Silver Age, and its Iron Age all in a series from one single author, and these are very much the Iron Age tales. They are readable, they are interesting, there are often great in parts, and I would even say they still for the most part do very well in comparison to most detective stories ever written. They are not, with the exception of "The Three Gables", usually bad, but they are for the most part a decline. We have gone from great works that exhilarate to minor diversions that provide some interest. 

 Perhaps the last word should be Doyle himself, in a preface from the first edition of The Case-Book:

I fear that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary....

And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your past constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape of that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of thought which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.

Favorite Passages: From "His Last Bow", which takes place as the First World War is in the process of beginning:

“There’s an east wind coming, Watson.”

“I think not, Holmes. It is very warm.”

“Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared. Start her up, Watson, for it’s time that we were on our way. I have a check for five hundred pounds which should be cashed early, for the drawer is quite capable of stopping it if he can.”

From "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" in The Case-Book, a passage that, whatever criticisms the later Holmes stories may justly receive, nonetheless almost justifies their existence on its own:

"You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!"

It was worth a wound—it was worth many wounds—to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.

"It's nothing, Holmes. It's a mere scratch."

He had ripped up my trousers with his pocket-knife.

"You are right," he cried, with an immense sigh of relief. "It is quite superficial." His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face. "By the Lord, it is as well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive. Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?"

Recommendation: Recommended. Despite the reasonable criticisms leveled against them, these collections are still well worth reading.