Saturday, November 14, 2020

Dashed Off XXX

natural simplicity, enlightened self-interest, prudence, holiness

NB that Kant equates metaphysics with the pure a priori principles of physics in their universality (CPrR 5:138).

"But it is impossibly through metaphysics to proceed *by sure inferences* from knowledge of this world to the concept of God and to the proof of his existence, for this reason; that in order to say that this world was possibly only through a *God* (as we must think this concept) we would have to cognize this world as the most perfect whole possible and, in order to do so, cognize all possible worlds as well (so as to be able to compare them with this one), and would therefore have to be omniscient." Kant CPrR 5:138-139
→ this is a very interesting argument
-- Note the Leibnizian rationalism implied here as the target (Perhaps Wolffian in particular?).

"Doing things at the whim of human beings is not a safe standard (i.e., a safe rule), since the human will is often unreasonable and unjust." Aquinas

"Within the 'we' of the family emerges the 'I' of the child." Lonergan

Snow falls, and is white;
the falling is a process,
the whiteness is too.

"There is experience and a fortiori distinction from experience must be admitted: Nobody experiences an experience of a pillar, a wall, etc.; rather people have experience of objects of experience, as a pillar, a wall, etc." Shankara

the indefinite mineness of the world

'Two supreme authorities cannot without contradiction be subordinate one to the other' -- but Church and state are not absolutely supreme, but only each in a certain respect, and both are subordinate to God, the Church more eminently so.

To be non-aliud is to be intellectual and volitional.

"The Triune God is definition defining itself and all things." Cusanus

three forms of History of Philosophy: occasional, eclectic, systematic

design & layered multifunctionality

If there is no progress in philosophy, there is no such thing as human progress.
(1) Since we do not have an innate idea of what progress is, to recognize anything as progress requires that we make philosophical progress in understanding progress.
(2) Progress requires ends; in human life, ends are understood and clarified by philosophical inquiry.
(3) Philosophy is the progress of the mind to the point of being able to set in order, which progress requires.

- a logic with a removing rather than a positing operator

Nicholas's terms for the Trinity; This, It, Same. (Cp: This is the Same as It/That.) More abstractly: Oneness, Equality, Union.

* freedom as inherent (power); freedom as causality; freedom as interaction
* freedom as integrity; freedom as alternativity; freedom as selection from a whole
* freedom as act; freedom as lack of impediment; freedom as boundary of self
* freedom as permissible-or-impermissible; freedom as willing-or-nilling; freedom as obligation-or-nonobligation

We cognize ourselves as intelligible, not merely sensible.

Kant's postulate of immortality would be better grounded if he based it on the nontemporality of moral law, without the intermediary of endless progress. But the latter can work if one thinks not of bare conformity but of a good (God) that moral law requires us always to seek, and which is inexhaustible.

By virtue of their baptism and confirmation, the motherhood of Christian mothers is a type of the motherhood of the Church; the typical mulier fortis symbolizes the archetypal mulier fortis. And especially in terms of their confirmation, each Christian mother is co-mother with Mary, the highest type of the motherhood of the Church, and themother of all Christ's disciples by Christ's assignment on the Cross, so that each Christian mother assists Mary in her work as Mother of the Church. (We see in all human motherhood that one of the works of motherhood is to draw on assistance for help in the work of motherhood.)

In the Church we see the power, wisdom, and goodness of Christ who made her.

the picturesque sublime (compositional sublime in a frame)
the picturesque as a particular species of the striking
the picturesque as especially conducive to memory

the beautiful grotesque (Sagrada Familia, the growing cave)

the moral law considered theoretically rather than practically (as evidence for that which one postulates for it)

Kant's challenge to the natural theologian at CPrR 5:138 boils down to a challenge to do natural theology, and is thus question-begging for Kant's purposes.

Therapeutic conceptions of philosophy drastically overestimate the importance of skepticism.

Liberalism as practice is often impressive; liberalism as theory is often fan fiction: liberal theology is theology done as fan fiction, liberal political theory is political theory done as fan fiction, etc.

intrinsic hierarchy of holiness (based on sanctity as such) vs instrumental hierarchy of holiness (based on performing a role or function as a means to holiness)
-- the split between these is quite important for the history of the Church
-- the ecclesial hierarchy is an example of the latter

the continuous and the periodic, the plotted and the episodic

The primary and proper meaning of persistence (as in persistence through time) is stability of final cause; other senses are derived from this by analogy.

The creation is part of God only in something like the sense that the child is part of the parent, or the painting is part of the painter.

"The word 'light' can be used for Brahman, which manifests the world even as light manifests objects." Shankara (Brahm. Sut. 1.1.24)
"The assignation of a definite locality to the all-pervading Brahman only serves the purpose of meditation."
"If the individual soul is something different from Brahman, then the knowledge of Brahman would not give knowledge of the individual soul. Therefore the individual soul is different, yet not different, from Brahman." (1.4.20)
"Everything in the world is, and this quality it gets from Brahman, which is being itself. Again, the intelligence of Brahman lights the whole universe." (2.1.6)
"The effect exists in the cause before its origination as well as after it. It can never exist independent of the cause either before or after creation. Therefore the world exists in Brahman even before creation and is not absolutely nonexistent." (2.1.7)
"The effect is not experienced in the absence of the cause, which shows that the effect is nondifferent from the cause.' (2.1.15)

Where translations of Shankara say 'material cause', substitute 'principiating substance' -- i.e., a substance in its aspect of quasi-material cause, as the scholastics say, not material cause in the ordinary sense, despite the lump of clay metaphor.

"Someone who, a hundred years from now, falsely repeats something evil about me, injures me right now." Kant

In "If X, do Y", we usually take X to be indicative, as it seems to be; but perhaps it should be seen as an implicit imperative (a test- or check-imperative).

living assent vs bookish assent

"Only the descent into the hell of self-cognition can pave the way to godliness." Kant

The defects of Kant's ethics are especially seen in his discussions of humility and friendship.

the duty to associate the graces with the virtues

the Church as effect of Christ
the Church as quasi-inherent in Christ (Body, branches)
the Church as in community with Christ (Bride, flock)

All natural rights are transfigured by Christianity, so that each has a new aspect.

Even in peace, states need something like unto victory.

the Church as a domestic society, as a society of friends, as a liturgical commonwealth, as a complete society

Nobody exercises virtue solely as an individual, but always as a participant in a community.

'Slob' began as a word for muddy land or mire; it began to apply to people through the metaphor 'slob of a man' in the late nineteenth century.

A robinsonade is like an equation:[wealth of prior knowledge] + [wealth of external resources] + [wealth of local resources] = [survival requirement] + [further benefit]. Each individual variable can be more or less, but the equation must plausibly balance. Robinson Crusoe has a fair amount of PK, ER, and LR; the Swiss Family has a superabundance of all three; those stranded on the Mysterious Island have a superabundance of PK, a very minimal amount of ER, and a fair amount of LR; the variations give different flavors to the stories, but the equation structures it. A significant factor is how much FB you get, since SR is roughly the same in most cases. The Swiss Family finish with the FB of an incipient colony, whereas The Martian doesn't need to have any FB left at the end, because he's leaving it all behind anyway.
-- Time is also a significant factor and needs to be considered (the equation is different for different allowed times).

Friday, November 13, 2020

Confusion of Ideas

 A common diagnosis of problems with various kinds of reasoning is that they involve a confusion of ideas. What exactly is going on when we say that two ideas are confused? On Hume's account, the primary explanation of confusion of ideas is an easy transition between two separate ideas. This is not the most obvious way of understanding the problem. One could very well think, as the very term 'confusion' suggests, that confusion of ideas involves some sort of blurring of different ideas together. Another possibility that fits some of the ways we talk about this confusion is that it involves ideas that are by their nature interrelated in some way so that we have to distinguish them at a more abstract level. Another possibility is that ideas themselves can be unclear, so that they don't provide enough information to admit of a definite distinction. Explaining confusion of ideas in terms of facile transitions doesn't fit many of the ways in which we talk about confusion of ideas. And an obvious problem is that transitions between ideas are extremely common, so it's not exactly clear how much the transition theory explains to begin with.

However, Hume needs something like a transition account, because he can't accept any of the more plausible candidates. Two key principles of Hume's method are the copy principle and the separability principle. According to the copy principle, all of our ideas are copies of impressions from which they derive. According to the separability principle, everything distinct is separable. These two principles together sharply restrict what explanation we can have for confusion of ideas.

If all of our ideas are copies of impressions from which they derive, we can't attribute confusion to ideas themselves being unclear; each idea is just a copy of what it derives from, and there is no identifiable information loss. Hume thinks ideas are less vivid or forceful than impressions, but his entire method requires that we only genuinely have a kind of idea if we can identify the kind of impression it exactly copies. Impressions themselves, however, can't be vague or indistinct. There are no vague ideas in Humean empiricism. We can have words that are vague in the sense that it's unclear to what ideas they refer. Ideas themselves, however, don't admit of any internal vagueness.

If everything distinct is separable, we can't explain any confusion of ideas by the internal interrelation of ideas; as Hume repeatedly says, no ideas imply the existence of any others, all ideas are separable from each other. They only have relations in experience and custom.

Given both the copy principle and the separability principle, ideas can't 'blur' together, they can't fuse, they can't meld. Simple ideas are indivisibles of mind; they can't be related by overlay or by blending.  So in confusion of ideas, we can't be blurring them together. And it follows from both principles together that we can't distinguish distinguishability of ideas from their actual distinction (this plays an important role in Hume's account of space).

Thus Hume has a transition theory of confusion of ideas because he doesn't have many other options, and the big thing he has to explain is how the kind of transition involved in confusing two ideas is different from other kinds of transition. Hume tells us (T (SBN 60-61)),

I shall therefore observe, that as the mind is endow’d with a power of exciting any idea it pleases; whenever it dispatches the spirits into that region of the brain, in which the idea is plac’d; these spirits always excite the idea, when they run precisely into the proper traces, and rummage that cell, which belongs to the idea. But as their motion is seldom direct, and naturally turns a little to the one side or the other; for this reason the animal spirits, falling into the contiguous traces, present other related ideas in lieu of that, which the mind desir’d at first to survey. This change we are not always sensible of; but continuing still the same train of thought, make use of the related idea, which is presented to us, and employ it in our reasoning, as if it were the same with what we demanded.

This 'imaginary dissection of the brain' to some extent doesn't require the brain; that is, the point of it is that the when there is an easy transition between two ideas with respect to their objects, due to resemblance, causation, or contiguity, there can develop an easy transition between the two ideas with respect to our habit of having and using them. As he puts it more clearly in a later passage (T (SBN 202-203)), using the most obviously confusion-relevant association, resemblance, as an example:

Nothing is more apt to make us mistake one idea for another, than any relation betwixt them, which associates them together in the imagination, and makes it pass with facility from one to the other. Of all relations, that of resemblance is in this respect the most efficacious; and that because it not only causes an association of ideas, but also of dispositions, and makes us conceive the one idea by an act or operation of the mind, similar to that by which we conceive the other. This circumstance I have observ’d to be of great moment; and we may establish it for a general rule, that whatever ideas place the mind in the same disposition or in similar ones, are very apt to be confounded. The mind readily passes from one to the other, and perceives not the change without a strict attention, of which, generally speaking, ’tis wholly incapable.

Neither dispositions nor acts of mind have a particularly well-defined place in Hume's account of mind, but this does give us an account of confusion of ideas that is consistent with the copy principle and the separability principle, and which at least gives us some kind of answer as to what distinguishes easy transitions that involve confusion of ideas from other easy transitions: the relevant easy transitions are those that allow us to think of two different ideas in the same disposition or attitude or manner of thinking.

It's a clunky account for what generally is taken to be a fairly simple phenomenon; it has the curious feature that you can never, strictly speaking, be confusing two ideas at a single time (there needs to be a transition), and another curious feature that you cannot confuse two ideas due simply to their newness or lack of familiarity, because the only confusion of ideas it allows is that which arises from already having developed a habit of moving from one idea to another. But it is perhaps the simplest possible account for someone who accepts both the copy principle and the separability principle.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Two Poem Drafts


Powers born of sea and sky,
cloud and current, surge and tide;
let my hope be not denied:

Thought I cast upon the sea,
foam and wave, wind and rain,
cast my thought and secret pain--
may it not return to me!

Let my sadness fall away,
bring again the sunny day,
light that will not dim or fade:

Thought I cast upon the wave,
spray and shower, rush and roar,
never let it ail me more--
may I be from sorrow saved!

Hall of Bones

Here we sit in a hall of bones,
cold and damp and all alone,
all alone, where stones had wept,
no sun had shone,
and darkness crept,
down in the cold,
the trickle-cold that flows down walls,
chill and wet in the sunless halls,
black as night and darkness-old.
Black as night and darkness-old,
the chill is deep in the cavern-fold,
crease of time, and it smells like grave,
alone as death, with none to save,
alone as night when darkness falls
where no beast sings, where no bird calls,
down in the depths of the deathly halls.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Cistercian Number System

 Numberphile recently had a fun video on the number system developed by Cistercian monks, primarily for dates, page numbers, and things like that:

On Spiegel on Anti-Hypocrisy

 A short while back, Susanna Spiegel had an op-ed critical of hypocrisy-focused criticisms in politics. I've long had the view that most hypocrisy-hunting in politics is counterproductive, so expected to agree with it, but I find I don't. I think part of the problem is that by the end of the article it has become clear that what Spiegel is in fact doing is accusing anti-hypocrites of hypocrisy on very thin grounds; that is, Spiegel can't get through even a short op-ed on the importance of skepticism about anti-hypocrisy without engaging in some very un-skeptical anti-hypocrisy. This is because, I think, of a failure to recognize the reason why hypocrisy-hunting is so entrenched in modern politics: namely, broadly democratic or liberal social norms force people to argue on an ad hominem (in Locke's sense of 'on the opponent's principles', not the fallacy sense) basis, rather than on the basis of established principles or of authority, and doing this guarantees that the most effective criticism will usually be pointing out your opponent's inconsistency. In recognizing the real problem is usually not hypocrisy as such but what one is being hypocritical about, Spiegel comes close to recognizing this, since what she gives is effectively an argument for the superiority of (to use Locke's terminology again) ad iudicium argument, but the fact of the matter is that Spiegel has no actual means or mechanism for making ad iudicium more effective than ad hominem. And how could there be any such means or mechanism? It would require a non-democratic society to guarantee it. In a democratic society you have to accept divergence and disagreement from the beginning, and thus can't always appeal to a mutually recognized framework, whether of principle or of authority, rising above the disputing mass.

Spiegel regularly appeals to 'democracy' (which she opposes to 'authoritarianism'), by which (as far as I can tell) she means her own preferred politics. As she puts it:

But anti-hypocrisy can be hacked. It can present hypocrisy itself as the problem. Instead of being a tool for opposing violations of valued democratic principles, charges of hypocrisy can be a tool to confuse or paralyze, creating a set of options only an authoritarian could love.
This is a second problem with her argument, namely, that everybody in a democratic society thinks their opponents a threat, or at least more of a threat, to democracy. A democracy is a society in which people accuse each other of abetting the slide into tyranny practically every day. The people Spiegel criticizes in her op-ed are not going about cackling maniacally about usurpation of power; they appeal to 'the people', they appeal to 'democracy', they appeal to the need to 'overturn corruption' which is robbing people of their 'rights'. Thus it's no good to try to present the contrast like this; it ends up looking very much like an argument that Spiegel should be allowed to be against the hypocrisy of her opponents and nobody should be allowed to be against her own. It's a common problem with academics talking politics: they are always tempted to rationalize the politics of their social circle as if it were the One True Political View, the universal politics whose perspective should be assumed in diagnosing others. And it's easy to forget that other people are not assuming your One True Political View, but their own.

There is a more complicated problem with the core idea in the argument, which is that criticizing hypocrisy leads to indifferentism:

These remarks divert attention away from the vices of social inequality and political murder, and redirect it to hypocrisy. “Don’t criticize my side, because yours is no better.” If both parties endorse racism, then there can be no basis for criticizing racism — we are simply stuck with it. If everyone is a killer, there can be no basis for criticizing killers. If purported democracies act like autocracies, there is no real difference between these regimes.

 I'm usually regarded as a cynic about people in politics, but I am apparently more optimistic about people than Spiegel is. I don't think it's usually the case that the point of the hypocrisy allegations is "Don't criticize my side, because yours is no better". Rather, I think the point is, "I know that you are only criticizing my side on this because you are trying to slime me, not because you want to address the actual problem. Show that you are genuinely serious about the same problem on your side at the same time if you want me to treat it as more than just a rhetorical tactic; I'm not going to take your criticism as a real issue in this argument until you show that you are treating it as a real issue yourself." If everyone is a killer, you can still criticize killing; what you cannot do is treat killing as if it were a ground for treating yourself as superior to other people. If we are all killers, it's pointless to try to attack anyone for being a killer; since it's a common problem, the only reasonable solution is to try to work with people to solve it rather than use it to score points in debate. If I am attacking you for being racist, treating your views as views to be dismissed because you are racist, that pretty clearly suggests that I think I am not a racist; and it is a reasonable defense at least to try to show that, by my own standards or at least common standards, I am as racist as you. In short, Spiegel is confusing 'no basis for criticizing racism' with 'no basis for trying to disadvantage me in this argument specifically on the grounds of racism'. Indeed, the anti-hypocritical argument would usually assume that racism is criticizable; the claim is usually more that the mote in my eye does not make you righteous given the beam in yours.

 Again, Spiegel comes close to recognizing this:

If we can’t choose sides on the basis of what either party does, we must instead choose on the basis of loyalty: With whom do we identify? And if you don’t identify with either figure, you won’t be motivated to choose at all. As one glum undecided voter from Maine put it recently, slouching toward apathy: “It doesn’t matter who we choose, we’re pretty much screwed either way.”

 What Spiegel is not, I think, seeing, is that the anti-hypocritical defense is operating precisely on the assumption that the other side is already only acting on the basis of loyalty. If I don't think you are a partisan hack, we can sit down and give our reasons for our views; if you start attacking my party for things I think your party does, I'm not going to see you as giving reasons for choosing but as trying to smear me through a blind loyalty to your own party. And yet again, this is an assumption that will turn out true quite often in a broadly democratic or liberal society, where you overcome opposition by seizing the rhetorical advantage.

It is possible that Spiegel is right about anti-hypocritical arguments being something that can be high-jacked by authoritarianism. I'm myself inclined to the Platonic view that all democratic rhetoric and argument can be twisted in an authoritarian direction; the reason why people in democratic societies end up obsessing so much about authoritarianism is not that they are opposites but that democracy easily tips over into authoritarianism. It's a recurring problem: tyrants rarely take over in the name of tyranny but often take over in the name of 'the people'. And it's certainly possible that anti-hypocritical arguments contribute to this. But anti-hypocritical arguments are pretty clearly an unavoidable feature of democratic politics, and nothing in democratic politics makes it so that only one side can use them. Everything Spiegel criticizes is just how democratic politics will usually work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Lion of Rome

Today is the feast of St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church. From his Sermon 95:

The nature then of Christ's teaching is attested by His own holy statements: that they who wish to arrive at eternal blessedness may understand the steps of ascent to that high happiness. Blessed, He says, are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It would perhaps be doubtful what poor He was speaking of, if in saying blessed are the poor He had added nothing which would explain the sort of poor: and then that poverty by itself would appear sufficient to win the kingdom of heaven which many suffer from hard and heavy necessity. But when He says blessed are the poor in spirit, He shows that the kingdom of heaven must be assigned to those who are recommended by the humility of their spirits rather than by the smallness of their means. Yet it cannot be doubted that this possession of humility is more easily acquired by the poor than the rich: for submissiveness is the companion of those that want, while loftiness of mind dwells with riches. Notwithstanding, even in many of the rich is found that spirit which uses its abundance not for the increasing of its pride but on works of kindness, and counts that for the greatest gain which it expends in the relief of others' hardships. It is given to every kind and rank of men to share in this virtue, because men may be equal in will, though unequal in fortune: and it does not matter how different they are in earthly means, who are found equal in spiritual possessions. Blessed, therefore, is poverty which is not possessed with a love of temporal things, and does not seek to be increased with the riches of the world, but is eager to amass heavenly possessions.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Consequentialism and Victimhood

 We live in a consumerist society, which means that we are primed, so to speak, to think of good and bad in terms of consequences. Let consequentialism be understood as the following:

(1) Things are good and bad wholly insofar as they result in overall good or overall bad consequences.

We also have a tendency to think of social problems in terms of faction or party, broadly understood. Partisanship works on polemic, which involves assertion in advance of proof, presumptive evaluation according to one's faction's standards, and the attempt to achieve practical results despite opposition from other factions. To achieve practical results requires getting support for what one regards as good and resisting the opposition of those who try to prevent one from doing so. On the basis of these characteristics of partisanship, we can say that the following is going to be treated as true in a highly partisan context:

(2) The opposing factions are deliberately doing bad things.

From (1) and (2) it follows:

(3) Therefore, the opposing factions are deliberately achieving bad consequences.

But bad consequences are bad consequences for people, which can be called harmThus:

(4) To achieve bad consequences is to do something that harms someone.

From (3) and (4) it follows;

(5) Therefore, the opposing factions are deliberately doing things that harm people.

Now, we often make a distinction between doing something that harms someone and harming someone; but we do this when we are assuming that intention, not consequences, are the essential problem. If (1) is true, then there's no difference in badness between deliberately doing something that harms someone and deliberately harming them -- what makes something harming is the result, not the intention. And in partisanship, asserting in advance of proof and evaluating presumptively on one's own standards, not the opposing party's, (5) easily slides into

(6) Therefore, the opposing factions are deliberately harming people.

But who are they harming by being opposing factions? We got here by focusing on the fact that as partisans we are aiming at what we deem good and resisting the opposing faction's attempt to stop us from achieving good. This good may be for ourselves or for others. So:

(7) Therefore, the opposing factions are deliberately harming either us or people we are trying to help.

But we have a name for being the target of deliberate harm:

(8) People who are deliberately harmed by someone are victims.

Therefore from (7) and (8) we get:

(9) Either we or the people we are trying to help are victims of the opposing factions.

Now, of course, all of this is still in advance of proof; it is in the air; it is hypothesis without confirmation. So what do we do as partisans? We look for bad consequences, either for us or the people we are trying to help, which we can pin on the opposing factions, because we are resisting those opposing factions who are trying to stop us from doing good and achieving very good goodness.

Thus it seems that when we combine two things, a consequentialist view of good and bad, and partisanship or factionalism, we naturally get an incentive to start classifying people as victims of the opposing factions. Providing consequentialist justifications for partisan positions in a manner usable in practical politics inevitably involves simplification, so finer distinctions by which one might avoid the slide from (1) and (2) to (9) are hard to maintain; and the simplest consequentialist justifications for anything in politics are those that appeal to grave harms. It's not generally going to be sufficient to insist that the people opposing you are insisting on slightly inconvenient things. And in a factionalist context, you aren't waiting for proof of harm; faction works by polemic, and polemical assertions are in advance of proof. It is not proportioned to evidence by any strict standard, but asserts freely on the basis of what the evidence can seem to suggest.

The consequentialist can indeed avoid all this; and, for that matter, partisanship does not automatically head in this direction, either. The combination of the two is a bad recipe for society. Factionalism is hard to stamp out; it is much easier to reject consequentialism. So, all other things being equal, in politics one should reject consequentialism.

Of course, there are genuine victims; but victimhood is going to be understood in a different way on a non-consequentialist approach; non-consequentialists will generally put more emphasis on intent and kinds of action, for instance, which makes the slide between (5) and (6) harder. 

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Fortnightly Book, November 8

 Whenever our family had to make a long journey in the car, I used to tell stories to my two little girls. Some of these were stories that everybody knows, such as Cinderella and Jack the Giant Killer; but a lot of them were stories that I made up myself, and my daughters particularly liked these, because they felt that they were their own stories and no one else's, made up for their own enjoyment.

One day, when we had to make a journey of over one hundred miles, they asked for a long story "which we have never heard before." (p. xii)

Thus began the first draft of Watership Down, by Richard Adams; it would undergo about two years of revision from there. It was rejected seven times before finally being published by Rex Collings in 1972 (it was Collins who settled on the title); it was a considered an immensely risky gamble, because it was a novel about rabbits, some of whom are psychic. While the work is often described as an allegory, Adams always denied this: it was just a story about rabbits that began to entertain children during a car ride. But it is inevitable, of course, that Adams's own experience with the world would show through in various ways; Adams was in the British Army during World War II, and while he never saw any direct action, his experiences would inform many of the characters in this, his most famous tale.

Set in Hampshire in southeastern England, the young rabbit Fiver has a terrifying vision of doom to come; he, his brother Hazel, and a small band of other rabbits set out to try to find a new home....

[Richard Adams, Watership Down: A Novel, Scribner (New York: 2005).]

Subtle Doctor

Today is the feast of Bl. John Duns Scotus. From the Ordinatio (III, D. 27, Q. Un).:
...loving God above all else is an act that conforms to natural right reason, which dictates that what is best should be loved the most, and consequently the act is right in and of itself. Indeed, its rightness is self-evident, as the rightness of a first principle in the domain of possible actions. For something should be loved the most, and that is nothing other than the highest Good, just as nothing other than the highest Truth should be most firmly held as true by the intellect. And this argument is confirmed by the consideration that moral precepts belong to the natural law; consequently, "You shall love the Lord your God," etc. belongs to the natural law, and thus the fact that this act is right is known [naturally].

From this it follows that there can be a virtue that naturally inclines to that act--and it is a theological virtue, since it has to do with the theological object: that is, it has to do immediately with God. And not only that, but it also depends immediately on the first rule of human acts and has to be infused by God; for this virtue is apt to perfect the highest part of the soul, which receives its full and complete perfection in only one way: immediately from God.

[John Duns Scotus, Selected Writings on Ethics, Thomas Williams, ed. and tr. Oxford UP (New York: 2017) pp. 162-163.]

R. Jonathan Sacks

 Rabbi Jonathan Sacks died of cancer yesterday at the age of 72. He was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, and probably one of the most widely recognized and influential rabbis in the world. From his 2013 Erasmus lecture:

I believe Jews and Christians can and should work together to promote the values that we share and that we believe truly are universal: the sanctity of life as the gift of God, the dignity of the human person as the image of God, the covenantal virtues of tzedek, umishpat, chesed, ve-rachamim; fairness, justice, love, and compassion. Let us stand together in defence of the ecology of human freedom: the loving, stable family uniting parents and children in a bond of loyalty and care and supportive communities built on the principle of chesed, or caritas.

 A 2013 profile at The Tablet, in which he talks briefly about his previous bouts with cancer.

A YouTube video in which he discusses what it is to be Jewish: