Saturday, September 05, 2020


This is charming. William Barnes's An Outline of Rede-Craft (1880) gives a summary of basic Aristotelian logic using an Anglo-Saxon rather than latinate vocabulary (it does use the latinate version when first introducing the Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, so you don't have to guess). The predicables (p. 1):

Speech-matters (praedicabilia) are

1. Kind (genus).

2. Hue (species).

3. Odds (differentia).

4. Selfihood (proprium).

5. Haplihood (accidens).

'Haplihood' for accident is good. The categories (p. 8):

Rede-matters (praedicamenta) are,

1. Thing or being (substantia).

2. Muchness (quantitas).

3. Suchness (qualitas).

4. Twin suchness (relatio).

5. Time-taking (actio).

6. Time-giving (passio).

7. Where (ubi).

8. When (quando).

9. Self-having (situs).

10. Self-having with otherwhat (habitus).

'Twin suchness' is not a particularly good choice for relatio; 'backdrawing' or 'to-ness' would probably be better. I'm also not sure why we get 'time-taking' rather than 'doing'; and while it's harder to find an alternative to 'time-giving', 'following' would probably be closer etymologically to passio. (The 'time', I think, is trying to tie the terms to change, though; if so, I think 'timing', which originally meant a happening, would be better for passio than time-giving, which sounds too active.) 'Lying' would be better than 'self-having' for situs and 'shoeing' would be better for habitus, although I like the parallel created between 'self-having' and 'self-having with otherwhat', which I think recognizes something genuine.

On syllogistic argument (p. 23):

Wrangling is mostly by syllogism, a three-stepped rede-ship, or a rede-ship of three thought-puttings.

1. The head or first step (major propositio).

2. The under or middle step (minor propositio), and

3. The upshot or last step (conclusio)....

And, of course, kinds of rede-ship are organized according to shape and to the muchness and suchness of their thought-puttings.

Various Poem Drafts

Love Is Blind

Love is blind; his cane
is tapping here and there;
tap-tap in the brain,
tracing outlines bare,

but love, though blind, can hear
a whisper, echo, sigh
with supernatural ear
that hears and does not lie.


You and I walk along
these old highways of song;
there's no need to rehash
right and wrong, right or wrong.

And time is frozen on the mountainside
but time is melting like the snow.
At the time it seemed so never-ending --
never-ending! 'Never-ending'
is coming to its close.

We talk only to argue more,
shout and slamming door;
there's no reason to keep arguing:
just close the book, end the war.

And time is frozen on the mountainside
but time is melting like the snow.
At the time it seemed so never-ending --
never-ending! 'Never-ending'
is coming to its close.

Still I remember your kiss,
the flickers of joy and bliss;
there's no grace to this ending;
how did it come to this?

And time is frozen on the mountainside
but time is melting like the snow.
At the time it seemed so never-ending --
never-ending! 'Never-ending'
is coming to its close.

Fragment on Willing

The will will will itself to will
and it will not will not to will,
but when it wills, what it will will
is to will this or that or not.

Reason's Waterdrops

Reason's waterdrops are founting
beneath a waterfall of light
that scatters rainbows in the diamonds,
and shimmers of delight.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Dashed Off XIX

Analysis of concepts is not a humble nor a modest enterprise.

Mk 12 as a summation of ecclesiology

Worries over the existence of tiny groups of skeptics is a sign that what is being described as intellectual life is in fact a system of social symbolisms rather than anything substantively intellectual.

That beauty is a sign of truth follows directly from the position that the intellect has an aptness for finding what is true, because if the latter is the case, what pleases intellectually on being understood will tend to be true or at least true-like. Conversely, denying that beauty is a sign of truth directly implies that the intellect is not truth-apt.

Modern thought is in great measure a battle between individualist skepticism and communitarian skepticism, with the former usually but not always having the upper hand.

Whether something begs the question is always contextual -- even formal cases like 'p therefore p' are actually question-begging only if actually used to prove p (rather than, e.g., as a step in a test of a logical system, or as an inference rule). Conjunction simplification is not question-begging when merely used to move from conjunction to conjunct, for instance.

natural vs historical authority (Cicero's Topica)

The Church has both natural (from institution by Christ) and historical (from saints) authority.

"The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age." Augustine

Modern liberal democracy is a system that chops up political power into such small bits that most of it goes to waste.

the three forms of legislation: general rule, particular direction, precedent

symbolic faction vs operational faction

When Antiquity is given as a note of the Church, it means deeprootedness, not age per se (although age can be a sign of deeprootedness).

Lewis's Space Trilogy as an exploration of modern devilry

the someone problem for practical reason: "Why doesn't someone do something about that?" rather than "What can I do about this?"

the practicality of charity: to do what is open to one to do (Mk 14:6)

We can reasonably argue that we directly experience that causation occurs; we cannot reasonably argue that we directly experience that causation is deterministic. That requires some rather intricate inferences and eliminations even to formulate.

We directly experience things that do things to other things; it is harder to argue that our experience of most events is direct; it is harder still to argue that we directly experience relations between events. The latter two depend on our experience of things doing things, as the primary event, so to speak. The second is probably right for simple events; the third is less certain for any events, except possibly for some events containing other events.

Compatibilism requires some form of the principle of sufficient reason.

"...if there is any word the meaning of which can be taught by reference to paradigm cases, then no argument whatever could prove that there are no cases whatsoever of what it is." Flew
-- this runs into a few problems; e.g., cases could be merely hypothetical or inferred. A better principle: If there is a term for which there can be given a paradigm case, tthis establishes that the term is meaningful and coherent for any similar cases.
-- one could take a second path, and treat the original principle as merely a prima facie or presumption-establishing principle.
-- going on that, one could take a third route: maintain the principle where there is sufficient basicality that mere hypothesis or inference would be inadequate (think Berkeley or Bouwsma on the external world).

It is a mistake to think that any concept can be 'engineered' any which way, because concepts are not created ex nihilo, must answer to ends, and are influenced by their relations to other concepts.

Marques: A speaker S perverts the meaning of a word w just in case S's use of w is presented as an enforcement or application of norms or values that w expressively presupposes, which erodes those very same norms or values by being misapplied to an unsuitable referent.
-- 'presented as' raises some questions, and 'norms or values' is too vague, as is 'unsuitable'. Perversion requires some kind of actual inconsistency intrinsic to some kind of practical action.
-- Marques's example of 'catholic' also shows a weakness -- because she doesn't understand what 'catholic was actually intended to convey, she has no adequate way of establishing perversion. One could classify any value term in actual use as perverted by proceeding so sloppily; she is already a assuming a perverted meaning to 'catholic'.
-- I also suppose that she does not realize that her characterization is so vague that same-sex marriage would count as a perversion of 'marriage', contrary to what is likely her intent.
-- in both cases, the issue seems to be failing to take into account the importance of contrasting terms -- 'catholic' opposes not 'excluding' but 'partial', 'marriage' cannot be understood without looking at what is ruled out.
-- the result is that, contrary to the way she proceeds, her account is not even the right sort to ground a method of sorting ameliorations and perversions.

'Hume's Law' as usually interpreted implies that either moral nonnaturalism or moral eliminativism is true.

The descriptive and the normative overlap, was we see in the case of precedent.

'Advice' would come closer to describing the usual aims of philosophical argument than 'persuasion' does.

"This Freedom of Choice and Action, united with conscience, necessarily implies a Responsibility to a Lawgiver, and to a Law, and has a necessary relation to Right and Wrong, to Happiness and Misery." John Adams to John Taylor 16 April 1814

Like overflowing water, the baptismal character sends forth and nourishes all, rising up to heaven's heights, a flowing spring that never dies.

medicinism: the form of scientism that treats moral questions generally as medical or quasi-medical questions.

Tradition is an activity, not a residue.

the jubilee year as a figure of resurrection (Peter Damian)

All republics waver unsteadily between democratic ills and oligarchic ills.

Terminological perversions are also often conceptual confusions. (Hell equivocates.)

"There is one sense in which every narrative is false; it dare not attempt, even if it could, to express the actual movement of time." C. S. Lewis

"All nations, under all governments, must have parties; the great secret is to controul them: there are but two ways, either by a monarchy and standing army, or by a balance in the constitution." Adams

the five pillars of aristocracy (Adams): beauty, wealth, birth, genius, virtues

'battle, marriage, priesthood, mercy, and power'

solidary, saintly, whole, traditional

aesthetic life as an immune system for ethical life

Truth is as it were the actualization of the intellect's love of being.

"National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement." Rorty

The most interesting thing about atheism is that it is wrong.

It is natural to focus on the to-ness of intentionality, but it also has a from-ness, and we are only part of that. Intentionality is shaped by us and through us, but it is not created ex nihilo by us.

Moral responsibility requires alternate possibilities because the kind of alternate possibilites is what determines the kind of moral responsibility.

Wholeheartedness is always with respect to a contrast.

wholeheartedness vs merely happening to will one thing

Ethical ideas are operationalized into political and economic ideas; and there is always a tendency to generalize political and economic ideas into ethical ones.

the use of language as a recognition of authority

Adolescent rebellion seems a byproduct of children not being an active part of social groups with older children and adults, combined perhaps with not being given enough room to make their own decisions and look after themselves over a wide range of life.

The proclamation of the Gospel to all creation (Mk 16:15) is the foundation of all Christian art, scholarship, and environmental stewardship.

Excuses and exculpations are always based on recognizing some limitation of alternative possibilities.

Reflective self-control makes no sense as 'control' unless it narrows possibilities.

A novel can contribute to philosophy (1) by containing philosophical argument; (2) by hinting at the philosophical positions of the author; (3) by trying out philosophical ideas; (4) by shedding historical light on philosophical positions; (5) by being in part a philosophical argument.

When people talk of indifference in politics, they are usually really talking about inefficacy arising from diffusion of action. Over and over again you find that people accused of indifference were not indifferent but did things that were only symbolic, or did counterproducitve things, or did quiet useful things that were not enough, or else that they acted sporadically and without plan or direciton. This is the usual state of politics among people.

Experiencing ourselves as partial, there must be a whole corresponding to our partness.

The category of vestment/habitus seems to be related in a special way to our experience of substance itself; that is, we experience substance in some cases as that which can be clothed, shod, etc. The category seems to suggest a more explicit being-had-by-substance than other accidents, and to depend on prior recognition of substance itself.

the regime of symbols administered by angelic authority

"Contemplation is the reward of faith, a reward for which hearts are cleansed through faith." Augustine

We are given grace so that God may love us for actually being what he loves us now for merely possibly being.

"The Father's doctrine is the Father's Word, who is his only Son." Augustine

genius as capable of integrating on the fly what others regard as error (cp. Herbie Hancock on Miles Davis)

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Vigilant Shepherd

Today is the feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church. The name Gregorius is from the Greek; it means watchful, vigilant. Folk etymology also connected it with grex, flock or herd. Gregorius was born into a very influential Roman senatorial family; he was directly descended from Pope St. Felix III (who had become a priest after he became a widower), his mother is Saint Sylvia and his aunts are Saints Trasilla and Emiliana. He attempted to live the monastic life, donating a family villa in Rome to be a monastery; it would eventually become the church of San Gregorio Magno al Celio. Pelagius II, however, named him apocrisiarius, i.e., the ambassador of the Roman church to the Imperial court in Constantinople. Part of his mission was to get help from the Byzantines against the encroaching Lombards; this mission was a failure, although he was mostly popular among the nobles of the court. He returned to Rome to become a monk, but was made pope after the death of Pelagius, despite not wanting the position. He reformed the monasteries, gave massive support to missions, and created a massive administrative system for giving alms to the poor -- as it turns out, he had an extraordinary talent for administration and budgeting, and is generally credited with having anticipated principles of accounting that didn't become common until the Renaissance. He also reorganized the Roman Rite, in some ways simplifying it and in some ways bringing it closer to the Byzantine rites that he had known in Constantinople. He died on March 12, 604; his current feastday is the anniversary of his becoming Pope, September 3, 590.

From the Pastoral Rule, Book I, Chapter 9:

But for the most part those who covet pastoral authority mentally propose to themselves some good works besides, and, though desiring it with a motive of pride, still muse how they will effect great things: and so it comes to pass that the motive suppressed in the depths of the heart is one thing, another what the surface of thought presents to the muser's mind. For the mind itself lies to itself about itself, and feigns with respect to good work to love what it does not love, and with respect to the world's glory not to love what it does love. Eager for domination, it becomes timid with regard to it while in pursuit, audacious after attainment. For, while advancing towards it, it is in trepidation lest it should not attain it; but all at once, on having attained, thinks what it has attained to be its just due. And, when it has once begun to enjoy the office of its acquired dominion in a worldly way, it willingly forgets what it has cogitated in a religious way. Hence it is necessary that, when such cogitation is extended beyond wont, the mind's eye should be recalled to works already accomplished, and that every one should consider what he has done as a subordinate; and so may he at once discover whether as a prelate he will be able to do the good things he has proposed to do. For one can by no means learn humility in a high place who has not ceased to be proud while occupying a low one: one knows not how to fly from praise when it abounds, who has learned to pant for it when it was wanting: one can by no means overcome avarice, when advanced to the sustentation of many, whom his own means could not suffice for himself alone.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Go Set a Watchman

I found Sandra Schmuhl Long's White People Need to Reckon With Atticus Finch’s Racism, but I'm afraid more as an example of how slipping uncritically into cliches and sloppy classifications turns everything into microwaved mush. A few points.

(1) The use of the classification 'white people' is clickbaity but dishonest. People who have never read To Kill a Mockingbird certainly have no need to concern themselves with these matters, regardless of their race. It would have to be readers of To Kill a Mockingbird, not 'white people'. Perhaps it would be white readers especially, but Long doesn't really establish this and arguably fails to do justice to readers who have reckoned with it. It's just sloppiness all around.

(2) But it goes even beyond that. Go Set a Watchman is not (as it was originally billed) a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird; the evidence has become quite clear that it was the earlier draft version. That is, you can perfectly well just read To Kill a Mockingbird; nothing about reading that requires structurally or narratively that you read Go Set a Watchman. Nothing about reading a final version requires that you read the original version from which it came. And the Atticus Finch is not (contrary to Long's fiat proclamation) "the same Atticus"; it is literally a different version of the character in a different version of the novel. There is no "character arc" over the two books. Each book has a different character arc, and Go Set a Watchman is more like an alternate history than a consequence of To Kill a Mockingbird.

(3) Nor (as Long concedes) is there any room to doubt that, of the two, To Kill a Mockingbird is the superior work in literary terms. It is even superior to Go Set a Watchman if we just look at how it addresses racism -- Go Set a Watchman has racism as a theme, but it is not about racism, but about father-daughter relations. Racism in the original vision for the book was just the crisis-producing occasion for exploring the latter. Long gets this completely wrong, saying that "It’s a book about race that tries to convince its reader it’s about something else entirely" -- no, it's a book about something else entirely that uses race as a plot device. As it was re-written into To Kill a Mockingbird, the father-daughter relationship was made less tangled, allowing for a more universally accessible portrayal of racism and the heroism of fighting it. Go Set a Watchman has some interesting features; it is, however, an awkward first attempt, and there is nothing whatsoever surprising or troublesome if people don't like it and choose to ignore it.

(4) It's ironic that, for all the pumping-up of Go Set a Watchman, Long's essay reiterates the version of progressivism that Go Set a Watchman quite clearly criticizes. Jean Louise's problem is that she affirms progressive ideals but also wants to her father's progressivism to be an eternal exemplar. This is a contradiction; the former requires that every step in the progress be conditioned, the latter does not. She has not learned the adult version of progressivism (which her father shows that he already knows) that progress eventually leaves everyone behind: the heroes of yesterday were just ordinary, flawed people who took a step, and progress will step beyond them. Progress leaves everyone behind, and a genuine commitment to progress requires fully recognizing that. What Long does in her essay is retread Jean Louise's mistake by treating Atticus's provinicialism and blindness to broader issues as a scandal precisely because Atticus does not live up to an entirely mythological version of her father (and thus civil rights heroes generally) that Jean Louise has made up in her head -- a mistake that the novel clearly depicts as a childish one that needs to be overcome for maturity.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Universal, Constant, and Immanent

Confucian rule was rule by historical examples. From the sage kings of mythical era through the ruling figures of ancient states down to more recent monarchs, statesmen, and philosophers, supposedly historical figures were held up as examples by which the sovereign should enact virtuous rule: they were none other than moral principle at work. Principle, which was universal, constant, and immanent in all things, was clearly manifest in historical events and persons. Historical examples fell into two groups--moral and hence worthy of emulation, and immoral and hence suitable only for avoidance. As flesh-and-blood variations on a theme, they provided accessible and invaluable lessons.

[JaHyun Kim Haboush, The Confucian Kingship in Korea, Columbia University Press (New York: 2001) p. 26]

Monday, August 31, 2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Fortnightly Book, August 30

All things conditioned
are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows--
like dewdrops, like a flash of lightning,
and thus shall we perceive them.

Kim Man-jung, also known as Seopo, lived during the prosperous but highly tumultuous reign of King Sukjong, in the Korean Neo-Confucian Joseon dynasty. Having been born in a well-connected but poor family, raised by only his well-educated mother, he began to achieve success when he attained the highest score on the civil service examination. It was King Sukjong's practice to maintain his power by playing factions against each other, and switching which faction he supported as it fit his aims and, sometimes, his whims; Kim Man-jung was exiled at least twice because of this, and in so doing was getting off easily, since more dangerous factional partisans were sometimes executed instead of exiled. It was during one of these exiles that he perhaps wrote Kuunmong, The Nine Cloud Dream, supposedly to comfort his mother over his fall from grace and, it is generally thought, as a veiled criticism of Sukjong. It would become one of the central works of Korean literature. I will be reading it in Heinz Insu Fenkl's Penguin Classics translation. I might compare it occasionally with the old Gale translation.

Hsing-chen is by Buddhist standards a brilliant and promising monk. But sent on a mission by his teacher, he lets himself to be persuaded to drink wine by the Dragon King and then to be distracted by eight fairy maidens, thus deviating from the Buddhist way. What is worse, he tries to hide this. As a result, his teacher sends him to Buddhist hell, and thence he is reincarnated into the new life best suited for working out his moral issues -- as Shao-yu, the boy who is destined to have everything, receiving the karmic punishment of endless talent, endless wealth, endless respect, endless success in politics and with women. And in that life he will learn that all of these things have no more substance than a dream.

Heinz Insu Fenkl discusses the work and how he came to translate it for The Korea Society: