Saturday, July 11, 2020

Two Poem Drafts


The world is waiting; I'm at home;
through endless hours, I am alone;
but all my thoughts are in the sky
where sings the sun its songs of light,
and there my soul will gently float
above great lands no man has known
as I am holding one simple truth,
that I am waiting for you.

When evening shadows grow long and dark
there shines within one blazing star;
the sun's light fades and day will pass,
but I remain and I will last
for my eye seeks the distant line
to find the one I have in mind --
and so I look, with hope imbued:
for I am waiting for you.

Present Tense

the present is not an instant
but a blur
not a note but a whir
not near but ever distant
and something we defer

when we are future
it is past
on it runs

when we are passing
it will last
it is mere portent
when we endure

all unstable
ever sure
and in the doing it is done

Catcher in the Rye

Twitter is mostly useless, and everybody on it usually sounds stupid, but as I pretty much have to force myself occasionally to wade through the Twitter accounts of my colleagues in order to see (amidst many very groanworthy jokes, pointless memes, and uninformed political opinions that are exactly like everyone else's uninformed political opinions but stated in a much more lecturing and indignant tone) what people are reading and recommending -- since I have to do this anyway, I have to take time to enjoy the rare great tweet I come across. This tweet was the one that made today's Twitter-skimming bearable.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dashed Off XV

There is no argument for pleasure being a good that does not make survival a greater good.

the principle of benignity: "in penal matters the more benign interpretation must be followed" (Regula Iuris 49)

idea -- diremption -- conciliation

personal identity argumentsarguments for immortality of soul
experience of continuitynear-death experience
I (substantiality)simplicity
priority of personimmateriality
moral lawmoral law
natural desirenatural desire

The administrative state is the child of colonial empire.

In a modern republic, every consensus has a built-in obsolescence.

the dedication of a a church as teaching the graces of baptism (symbolic baptism)

"the work of the ministries of God should be rational" (Hugh of St. Victor)

If you won't let people be honest, you get lies, not conversions.

"The heart of man is not compound of lies, / but draws some wisdom from the only Wise, / and still recalls him." Tolkien

Human freedom can only reach its complete form cooperatively, and not in a vague and abstract cooperation -- one person with another.

It is in human nature to share autonomy.

having less suffering vs. enjoying less suffering

The ultimate absurdity of mental epiphenomenalism is that it tries to be dualistic and materialistic simultaneously.

Intent is often the only difference between sin and tragedy.

Will is the subject, but reason the cause, of freedom.

One must always oppose the notion that only the individual is natural.

classification → order → final causes

"perceived order proves intention, and unperceived order does not exclude it" Maistre

The errors of the modern age repeatedly come to wreck on this solid rock, that there are holy things.

"Every day one says, this is a hypocrite; but why therefore, when it suffices to say, this is a man?" Maistre

to do one's best and pray to God for the rest

The Zeitgeist doesn't need to organize to propagandize; its propaganda is part of ordinary interaction.

the underbabble of language, implicit in the more-or-less common corpus known by speakers

All adjectives imply a reason.

Dvaita: God and soul are distinct; Shuddhadvaita: They are not both independent, but God has absolute primacy; Dvaitadvaita: The union is intimate without eliminating distinction; Achintya Bheda Abheda: God works in and through creation; Vishishtadvaita: the relation of creature-united-to-God is found in devotion.

As milk unaware works to nourish the calf, the physical works to support the intellect.

Stare decisis implies that change should be justified by the appropriate authorities, and not much else.

Randomness is relative to unit chosen -- e.g., random series vs. random element in series vs. random selection from a group of series.

articulable familiarity

Every genius has something of the ploddingly tenacious.

defensive self-victimization

A common problem with etiological theories of biological function is that they require an etiological theory of health (i.e., adequate functioning).

adequation of organ to function

Any argument for rejecting skill as an efficient cause (as Aristotle makes it) would be an argument for rejecting software (an imitation of skill) as an efficient cause.

temperance : self :: friendliness : others

symbol consequentialism

the 'hypercompetent bad man with one morally good reason' pattern in action movies

To say a sacrament works ex opere operato is to say God is operatively present in it.

In the sacrament, grace proceeds from the res through the sign.

fight choreography in movies as symbolic competence

Poets can make use of deviations because, seeing the whole, they can correct back and thus can both selectively deviate and selectively return.

Economic planning by the government tends to solidify the status of the laborer as a commodity. There are things that can compensate for this, but it does not change the underlying tendency to make workers subserve exchanges.

State economic planning turns the whole economy into a factory-system for producing abstract nubmres, and the laborer a cog in that number-producing machine.

Economics-based politics is not generally about money but about the use of money to redistribute status according to some antecedent scheme.

the alienation of human self-governance

the Consolation of Philosophy as a study in the alienation of happiness

You can only be fulfilled in your work if the working expresses appropriately the tendency to happiness and if through the working one acts in union with that which constitutes happiness.

The point of infallibility is not certainty as such but protection from dangerous error.

"the reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist" Francis, Evangelii gaudium

The purpose of a cross-examination in court is to display the argument, not get answers from the witness; the latter is only the means, and the best cross-examinations are structure so that it doens't matter what precisely the witness says.

a planning counterpart to PSR: everything can be taken into account in some kind of planning

"Boredom is the demonic pantheism." Kierkegaard

holy water : penitence for past :: holy salt : caution for future (Hugh of St. Victor)

As Christian life has faith, hope, and love, so Christian marriage has fidelity, hope of progeny, and sacramental bond.

Vainglory makes God to be among our enemies; envy makes all our neighbors, even those with good will to us, to be our enemies; wrath makes us enemies to ourselves. Sloth makes us slaves to what is unpleasant; avarice, gluttony, and lust make us slaves to what is pleasant.

"Nirgunam means that the attributes which relate the Infinite to the finite are not necessary to His being. For example, Creatorhood is not an intrinsic attribute of the Divine Nature." Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya
"He is Sat -- existing by Himself; He is Chit -- self-knowledge, knowing Himself without any external intervention; He is Anandam -- supremely happy in His self-colloquy."
"The knowing God is mirrored as the kown God in the ocean of Chit."
"When we have a dream, we make the objects an events we dream about to be possessed of independent existence, whereas they are merely the product of our brain. In like manner, when perceiving this external world through the sense we imagine it to be an independent reality, existing by itself and not as the product of the Divine Mind and Will, then verily our perception of the world may be fitly styled a dream. And it is exactly in this sense and only to this extent that the Vedanta likens the world to a dream."

Love emanates joy by reflecting on itself.

maya as being-from-will

The rich will always capture some portion of any advantage one tries to give the poor, because the rich are always in a better position to play the game for advantages than the poor are.

In Kipling, the Gods of the Market make three false promises: Peace without force; Life without restraint, and Prosperity without work.

Thinking politically and factionally comes so easy to human beings that we cannot consistently transcend the political and the factional without the four cardinal virtues.

Our actions are not merely affected by our desires but by the inertia that has to be overcome to pursue them.

three signs of tyranny: forcing people to violate the laws of religion; imposing taxes arbitrarily; preventing the political participation of the people

to participate in humanitarian traditions in such a way that the participation is a prayer

Christianity is
(1) corporate: Our
(2) familial: Father
(3) spiritual: who art in heaven
(4) directed to God: hallowed by Thy name
(5) evangelistic: Thy kingdom come
(6) historical: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
-- our petitions as individuals and small groups always occur within this context and with this understood

The fetus (a) belongs to the mother as part of her and from her; (b) belongs to the father as from him; and (c) has personal rights in his or her own right.

overlapping personal spheres and shared rights

self-harm // self-deception

Human beings do not merely have capabilities, they use them for ends according to the exercise of their rational capacities.

'Capitalism' is not itself a cause; when effects are attributed to it, they are always the effects of particular institutions or practices that are being classified as capitalistic, or else people are just making things up for rhetorical effect.

Societies are layers of classifications of activities.

the negotiation interpretation of logic and the impartial middleman

the ironic standpoint as the indefinite negative

Kirkegaard's Philosophical Fragments is an argument that any conception of truth beyond the Socratic starts to look Christian.

A truth can be viewed aesthetically, ethically, politically, religiously, etc.

an ethical commonwealth not merely governed by moral law but adequate to its sublimity

articulated premises + unarticulated/loosely articulated premises = probable inference
- the residual as capturable in terms of tendency (final) vs in terms of structural analogy (formal)
- the asserted vs the expected

"Bad poetry is false, I grant; but nothing is truer than true poetry." Peirce

The experience of the present is permeated by past and future; nothing is experienced as present except in light of memory and anticipation.

intelligibility ( referentiality ( functionality ( purpose

The ruling class in every epoch steals their ruling ideas from elsewhere. They do not arise from the material relations of the ruling class to others, which is why more or less the same groups are so often in the ruling class both before and after ideological revolutions. They assimilate the justifications of the invaders, or of the most stable institutions, or of whatever is convenient.

"No conclusion is trustworthy which has not been tried by enemy as well as friend; no traditions have a claim upon us which shrink from criticism, and dare not look a rival in the face." Newman

Feminist philosophy is a branch of history of philosophy as a discipline.

-- Charles Williams's suggestion that post-Reichenbach Falls Holmes is really Moriarty (in his review of Roberts's Dr. Watson)

Poetry is the preeminent form of language as mediation.

The primary purpose of courts is to provide public record of reasoning in decisions about law.

like Heimdallr
the human mind has nine mothers,
a shining god
upon a steed of burning gold

the liturgy as the symbolic depiction of the true common good

social media as general 'consciousness-raising'
-- never-ending 'clicks of recognition'

Everybody is put upon by somebody.

Inference to the best explanation requires prior establishment of possibility and of ability to explain.

"The great instrument of propagating moral truth is personal knowledge." Newman

"It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless." MLK, Jr.

Autonomy is something that must be grown into.

"The Catholic saints alone confess sin, because the Catholic saints alone see God." Newman

The test of whether you are really acting in righteous indignation rather than mere wrath is the golden rule.

in Euthyphro, the link between piety and making others better before the gods

superlegal, contralegal, and preterlegal forms of acting in a legal context

The indelible character makes us channels of grace.

the sacraments as templates of holiness

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Shame in the Gorgias

Shame plays a significant role in Plato's Gorgias. After Gorgias is backed into a corner by Socrates, Polus diagnoses Gorgias's mistake as one of shame (461b): Gorgias was ashamed to say what he actually thought, so he conceded things to Socrates that led to inconsistency. This leads to discussing whether oratory is admirable or shameful, with Socrates arguing that oratory is a kind of flattery, and therefore shameful. This in turn leads to discussing whether getting what you like is admirable or shameful, and Socrates' extremely important claim that doing bad is always worse than enduring it. Polus denies this, but as Socrates is able to get Polus to concede that doing wrong is at least more shameful, he is able to back Polus into a corner as well.

Callicles then diagnoses Polus's problem (482c-e): Polus also was too ashamed to say what he thought. More precisely, he claims there is a difference between natural justice and conventional justice, and Socrates is oscillating back and forth between the two in order to create awkward situations in which someone would have to say something that sounds shameful. And in natural justice, it is more shameful to endure evil than to do it; Polus, however, was stymied because in conventional justice the reverse is true. Socrates is really the one who should be ashamed, because practicing philosophy as a man is shameful (485b). The proof of Socrates's shameful state, in fact, is that somebody could bring him to trial and get him put to death, and he wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

The way Callicles had argued had suggested that he was putting himself forward as someone who could not be made ashamed of what he said. Socrates is able to prove that this is not true (494e); Callicles again tries to use shame as a weapon for herding Socrates, but Socrates isn't turned aside; Callicles cannot, in fact, maintain his distinction between natural justice and conventional justice. More importantly, he argues that while Callicles is right that his philosophy will lead to his death, this is not a matter of which to be ashamed. Only one thing is shameful: doing what's unjust (522e).

Thus there's a fundamental difference between how Socrates and how the orators see shame. For the orators, shame is a way to manipulate people, to herd them into a corner. This is why Callicles assumes that Socrates is trying to do this. But the orators come up against a wall in Socrates, because Socrates cannot be herded by shame. Believing that nothing is shameful except wrongdoing -- real wrongdoing, not even apparent wrongdoing -- Socrates cannot be manipulated. And it is also the secret to Socrates' consistency: only injustice is shameful, and therefore Socrates, who never stops considering justice and injustice, is really the man who can say what he really thinks.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Four Poem Re-Drafts

Holy Dormition

A man in dream may fall asleep
and dream dissolve away,
for sleep may fade to waking light
as glory fills the day;
the dream within the dream will flow
to some bright, wakeful joy
as sleep itself will fall asleep
and, sleeping, be destroyed.

Faithless Summer

Fly from me, faithless summer, fly,
and give me no more alibis,
but flee my wrath, and take your lie
to some sad soul more like to cry.

You shall not turn me, though you try;
I care not for your whats and whys;
your soft, persuasive arts go ply
on some sad soul more like to cry!

You said you'd love me till you died,
but sought to give me cuckold's sighs;
now fly, you trothless summer, fly,
to some sad soul more like to cry!

Half Asleep in a Thunderstorm

I lie in bed at night,
a fan above my head;
my mind whirls round and round.
I dream that I am dead.

Darkness all around me
is a blanket on the brain,
my heartbeat in my ears
is the pounding of the rain;
I watch the world go by,
mere leaves upon the gale,
visions of lost time
untallied by a tale.

Darkness thunders softly
as I drift here in my bed,
half in the world and of it,
half out of it and dead.

Ashes and Clay

When the wordly wise seem to conquer,
when they scoff at the words on your tongue;
when they treat as though they were nothing
the chants your forefathers had sung;
when they speak as if Delphi's oracle
had told them of all secrets and ends,
as if each word their forked tongues were hissing
did from great Apollo descend;
then cast off their sophists' deductions
and of their white noise learn to say:
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses, defenses of clay.

They may take for their fashion the pompous,
or the dismissal of every decree,
or lace every word with a scorning
of things they don't bother to see.
They may boast of their goodness and virtue
or rejoice in their love of the poor
(whom they ignore every day in the passing
but as an abstraction adore).
They may contrast your life with disfavor,
but remember when hounds start to bay:
their maxims are proverbs of ashes;
their defenses, defenses of clay.

They will speak at great length of true justice;
they will condemn you for faults beyond ken;
they will hold you to standards of greatness
beyond the attaining of men.
And when it is done will they love you?
No, they hold you alone to the blame;
for you never did think as they think,
and your name was never their name.
When they do this, be strong and have courage;
a mirror hold up to their way,
for their maxims are proverbs of ashes,
their defenses, defenses of clay.

But beware when you speak to another;
beware of your word and your thought.
For you are not so wise in your knowledge
as never unwise to be caught.
You may speak with great understanding;
you may speak with the wisdom of years,
or know all the paths that the world takes,
or the grounds of each hope and all fears;
but always be mindful of danger,
how someone might face you to say:
"Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses, defenses of clay"!

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Their Head in Their Own Footprints

Moreover, if people suppose that knowledge of anything is impossible, they do not even know whether knowledge of the impossibility of knowledge is possible, since, on their own admission, they know nothing. Against such people, who have planted themselves with their head in their own footprints, I disdain to argue. However, if I were to concede that they do have this knowledge, I would put the following questions to them. Since they have never before encountered anything true, how do they recognize knowledge and ignorance? What has given them their conception of truth and falsehood? What proof have they that the doubtful differs from the certain?
[Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, Martin Ferguson Smith, tr., Hackett (Indianapolis: 2001) pp. 112-113.]

Monday, July 06, 2020


I see that people have started actively demanding that the Scots stop commemorating Dave Hume due to his racist footnote, as a petition has been put together for the University of Edinburgh to rename David Hume Tower. Given how thoroughly ugly David Hume Tower is, I'm not sure it isn't already an insult to Hume to have named it after him, but so it goes; it was inevitable at this point. The rumor going around is that some people are thinking that the Hume statue on the Royal Mile should be removed, too, although I've seen no formal proposal for it.

Of course, Scots have no moral reason to be ashamed of memorializing an important Scot to whom all Scotland and Edinburgh in particular owes a debt; but, also of course, the motivations behind the dememorialization are not themselves primarily moral either, as I have previously argued.

There has been a lot of bold prophesying in recent years about the death of the modern liberal society, about how liberalism, whether in its left or right varieties, is on the verge of being replaced, but (s I have noted before) the modern liberal society often handles threats not aggressively but passive-aggressively, by co-option and deflection, and I have been almost in awe at the efficiency with which both have been achieved, again and again, the past several months. What precisely is it that renaming David Hume Tower will contribute to police reform? Not a single thing. How much will racial equality be furthered by it? Not one iota. Early recognition that it is the politicians and the courts that are most responsible for the kind of situation that led to the death of George Floyd has completely evaporated, deflected into an increasingly tenuous memorial hunt which many politicians have then co-opted themselves by pretending that they were not the people being protested but somehow entirely on the side of the protesters -- a co-option that seems largely to have worked. It has been remarkable. It also has the unfortunate side effect that almost nothing will actually be done that is not purely symbolic -- if even that. A number of things just seem to be designated as relevant by fiat.

Faithless Electors

The Supreme Court has upheld the rights of states to punish "faithless electors" in the Electoral College; this is a bad idea in general. It is not necessarily disastrous in itself, but depending on state laws governing how pledging to vote a certain way works, it could end up being so at some point. The actual breakdown of faithless electors historically is something like this, assuming I haven't missed or double-counted any:

63 (in 1872) were due to when Presidential candidate Horace Greeley died after Election Day;
30 (in 1832) were protest votes against Martin Van Buren;
23 (in 1836) were protest votes against the Vice Presidential candidate Richard M. Johnson;
8 (in 1912) were due to when Vice Presidential candidate James Sherman died after Election Day;
7 (in 1828) were protest votes against John Calhoun;
6 (in 1808) were protest votes against James Madison;
5 (in 2016) were protest votes against Hillary Clinton;
4 (in 1896) were due to the fact that two different parties, the Democratic Party and the People's Party, endorsed the same Presidential candidate but different Vice Presidential candidates, and some People's Party electors decided to vote the Democratic slate for the latter office;
3 were protest votes against Richard Nixon;
3 (in 1812) were protest votes against Vice Presidential candidate Jared Ingersoll;
2 (in 1832) were protest abstentions against Henry Clay;
2 (in 2016) were protest votes against Donald Trump;
1 (in 2016) was a protest vote against Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence;
1 (in 1820) is supposedly because the elector believed that giving the votes unanimously was not usually reasonable;
1 (in 1948) was due to the fact that the Tennessee Democratic Party had a schism;
1 (in 1988) was to draw attention to the fact that electors could vote for someone other than the person who won the popular vote for the state;
1 (in 2000) was a protest for the lack of Congressional representation for the District of Columbia;
the remaining 4 were for reasons unknown.

Of all the 165 faithless electors, seventy-one were only 'faithless' in the sense that they had to decide who to vote for when the candidate for whom people had voted had died; naturally, they switched their votes to the next party choice. As I've noted before, almost all of the others mark elections in which there was widespread discontent with at least one of the candidates, so that the Electoral College is actually capturing a sense of the people that would otherwise be ignored. This registering of discontent at the circumstances of the election itself is not something most election systems do (in general, I think, only elections with 'none of the above' options do better at it), but it is quite valuable for taking the measure of the election. And as far as I am aware, the Electoral College is the only election system that has registered the fact that there are people who don't like the election system itself. But the poorly written state laws requiring Electors to follow the state-certified popular vote (and they seem generally to be poorly written) do not adequately take into account these kinds of situations, or indeed, any situations that the mediocre and not-notably-creative minds who usually make up state legislatures cannot foresee.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Fortnightly Book, July 5

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, they were well received but little more than that. Holmes may have been born in the novel but he was made in the short story. A new magazine, The Strand, started up in 1891, and Doyle sent in two submissions; the editor, Herbert Greenhough Smith, saw immediately that he had lucked out in getting the interest of such an excellent short-story writer so early in the game, and thus was begun the partnership that gives us Sherlock Holmes as more than an interesting character in a couple of novels. A deal was struck, and Doyle was paid a quite reasonable amount for one Holmes story a month for a year. They were extremely popular. These twelve stories were collected together in 1892 as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a ready-made bestseller. The Strand naturally renewed the offer, and Doyle continued for another year. These were serialized in the magazine as just a continuous series, entitled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but obviously they needed a different name when they were collected together at the end of 1893, so were given the title, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. This series, with its two collections, in a sense give us the Sherlock Holmes; they have always been the center of the Holmesian canon.

There is one quirk, though. If you count the stories in The Memoirs, you will usually find only eleven stories, despite the fact that twelve were serialized. The reason is "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box". This story has a weird publication history. It was not included in the first British edition, but was included in the first American edition; in later American editions it was suppressed. Then later British editions started including it again; but as it had by that point been included in American editions of His Last Bow, it continued to be left out of the American editions. In the meantime, when the story had been left out of the original British edition, a passage from it was put at the beginning of "The Adventure of the Resident Patient". In any case, as it happens my omnibus edition leaves the adventure out of The Memoirs and puts it with His Last Bow, so that's what I'll be going with.

As these are the classic Holmes stories, a number of them were adapted to radio -- far, far too many for me to listen to them all while also reading the stories, particularly given that my second summer class begins tomorrow (while my first continues). But I might do a few of those as well.