Saturday, October 17, 2020


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

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

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

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

Dashed Off XXIII

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

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

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

inventive in idea, rigorous in execution, rich in appeal

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

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

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

Intellectual discovery has something of the character of a gift.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every theory of necessity has a corresponding theory of parthood.

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

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

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

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

All analysis is against a backdrop.

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

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

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

By grace, law is made a sign of grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

fuzzy parthood and poorly integrated parts

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

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

volatility fuzziness vs permeability fuzziness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the cherry-orange sunset blooming in the field

Philosophy by its nature circles back on itself.

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

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

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Doctor Orationis

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Two Poem Drafts


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

Winning and Losing

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Wishing Someone Harm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2020

Evening Note for Monday, October 12

Thought for the Evening: TRS Triads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Various Links of Interest

* James Hankins, Pietas, at First Things

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

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

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

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

*  Emrys Westacott, The Venerable Prejudice against Manual Labour

* John Marenbon, Why Read Boethius Today?

Currently Reading

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

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Fortnightly Book, October 11

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

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

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

Revolution and Intelligentsia

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

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