Saturday, August 01, 2020

Alphonsus Liguori

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

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

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


Opening Passage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Passage: From Letter XXV:

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

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.


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

Friday, July 31, 2020

Dashed Off XVII

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

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

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

normal fluctuation inequalities
persistent inequalities
compounding inequalities

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

Tradition by nature is a kind of living with others.

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

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

silence as a mode of magisterial teaching

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

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

rabbi = didaskalos (Mk 5:35)

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

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

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

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

ascetic practices as fonts of freedom

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

Every form of autonomy presupposes a form of authority.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

diligence : magnanimity :: continence : temperance

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

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

Hope prays rather than presumes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the characteristic graces of different saints

Traditions need to be refreshed according to times and places.

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

The intellectual given is given by the agent intellect.

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

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

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

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

Scripture guides the Church, but the sacraments build it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every body is many distinguishable quantitative structures.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Højrødt, med et Mørkeblaat

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

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

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

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

Flag of Norway


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Maybe-Saint Felix II

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Raven Paradox

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

(1) All ravens are black.

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

(2) This is a black raven

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

(3) All nonblack things are nonravens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Proper Politics

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

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

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires

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

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


Outside the Main Series

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

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

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

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

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

- That is annoying....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeds of High Emprise

To Madame Curie
by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

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