Saturday, November 28, 2020

Friday, November 27, 2020

Dashed Off XXXI

 Beauty in mathematics and physics usually has to do with 'depth' of adequacy rather than adequacy as such; the beautiful theory or proof is marked by at least apparent insight, by at least striking people as potentially powerful or probably not superficial, and thus pleases the properly trained mind when seen.

reasoned, responsible, reliable, and restrained

Prudence mobilizes skills.

Discipline is the root of ingenuity.

* God as first possible source of possibility, as first existent source of existence; as first necessary source of necessity
* God as self-subsistent subject, as omnipotence, as omniscience
* God as source of unity, as source of plurality, as source of cosmos
* God as most real, as not other, as infinite

Everyone is in favor of democracy and of populism when these things agree with them.

the electoral, honorary, utilitarian, protective, and onerous rights of the citizen

One Church is both holy and apostolic, and thus both invisible and visible.

'souvenir' as an aesthetic category

Every honest human effort at religious devotion has liabilities to degeneracy and something in it that may be purified to a right spirit.

The argument of Hawkins's "Dissertation upon the use and importance of unauthoritative tradition"
-- "the value of unauthorized tradition, not so much in the confirmation or interpretation of Christian doctrines, but as intended to be the ordinary *introduction* to them"
-- "...why may it not have been the general design of Heaven that by early oral, or traditional instruction the way should be prepared for the reception of the mysteries of faith; that the Church should carry down the *system*, but the Scriptures should furnish all the *proofs* of the Christian doctrines, that tradition should supply the Christian with *arrangement*, but the Bible with all the *substance* of divine truth?"
-- not a claim of an independent authority, nor of infallibility or incorruptibility, but only a claim that this is the normal intended course
-- the NT epistles all imply previous oral teaching, as does the Gospel of Luke
-- there is a continued existence of such tradition as an aid for teaching, thus creating a presumption that it was intended
-- there is an apostolic provision for it, in the succession of ministers and teachers
-- thus we may explain why doctrine is so often taught indirectly in Scripture, which is for proving and establishing as the authoritative rule of faith; such system as is needed is through unauthoritative tradition
-- Every Christian is a keeper of tradition in this senses.

In coming to believe, one needs only genuine authority; in judging dispute, one needs authority in a more robust sense.

the reflection of sacred Tradition in domestic traditions

Real growth can never match the on-paper growth of compound interest.

"In sociology...we must treat every real force as being at once material, intellectual, and moral--that is to say, as concerned with, at the same time, action, speculation, and affection." Comte
"Men will recognize separately material force, intellectual superiority, and moral authority, but they will not frankly yield to any of them until they are all harmoniously united."

the impressive vs the sublime

Kant's law of nature formulation of the categorical imperative requires that nature be at least possibly a teleological system.

trading sordid luxuries for luxuries of devotion

providential men & women ; nature :: saints : grace

disability as resource cost

sophistry & the building of usurping discourses

"...people regularly comment on well-made products that nothing could be added or subtracted, since they assume that excess or deficiency ruins a good while the mean preserves it. Good craftsmen also, we say, focus on what is intermediate when they produce their product." Aristotle

"The Rights of the Person are the Rights to Safety, Security, and Free Agency, which, as we have said, are requisite for the peace of Society and the human and moral character of man's actions." Whewell
"Marriage and Property are termed *Institutions*, inasmuch as they imply the establishment of General Rules, by which, not only the special parties are bound (as in Contracts); but by which the whole Society is also governed. These two Institutions are the basis of Society."
"The Right of Personal Security is requisite, in order to preserve man from hour to hour, and from day to day; the Institution of Property is requisite, in order that man may subsist on the fruits of the earth from year to year; the Institution of Marriage is indispensable, in order to the continuance of the community from generation to generation."
"The Laws, with their Sanctions, are a part of the Moral Education of each citizen's mind."
"The *Idea* of the Course of the World, according to Natural Religion, is that it is directed by God's Providence so as to be in harmony with his Moral Government. The *Fact* which corresponds to this Idea is supplied to us by the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament."
"The Character of Jesus Christ, while upon the earth, was a Human Character of the highest Benevolence, Justice, Truth, Purity, and Obedience to Law. In his Character, we have the moral perfections, which we conceive in God, embodied and realized in man. Hence, the *Image of God in Christ* is the summit of the Moral Progress, which it is our Duty to pursue: and this object is presented to us by Christian teaching, as the aim and end of our moral career."

the obligations of the Church
(1) proclamation of Gospel
(2) maintaining of sacraments
(3) self-preservation
(4) repudiation of heresy

legitimate grounds of religious practice
(1) natural piety
(2) Jewish example
(3) Catholic & Apostolic usage

infant baptism
(1) circumcision
(2) Holy Innocents
(3) baptism of households

Our Father who art in heaven: Baptism
hallowed be thy Name: Orders
thy Kingdom come: Confirmation
they will be done on earth as it is in heaven; Matrimony
Give us this day our daily bread: Eucharist
forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us: Reconciliation
lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: Unction

the cooperative power of the Crown

thought itself as a speech act

analogy as the principle of Anglican theology

One of the effects of original sin is Wasting of Time -- not leisure, not rest, not recreation, not endurance for virtue or learning, not unavoidable delay, but actually wasting time.

Pace Kant, moral proofs about duty, like geometrical proofs, involve constructions. (Spinoza correctly recognizes this.)

it is right in your case that X : you have a right to X :: propositional modality : predicate modality

WA Butler asks, "Can one infallibly authorized document rank higher than another?" -- But there is nothing about infallible authorization that rules out different ranks in what is authorized.

By denying that there are rational duties *to* God, Kant effectively denies that God has rights over us. But it is impossible to conceive of God as having no rights, for divine nature is first title presupposed by every other title.

What Kant's characterization of natural religion as 'the sum of all duties as divine commands' misses is vow and rite as the necessary means to this.

(1) duties to God
(2) duties with regard to God
(3) duties to self and others in light of God
(4) duties on behalf of God

law → rights → powers of sanction or recourse

An aspect of obligation not considered sufficiently: we have the ability to obligate other animals (this clearly happens with pets and farm animals) by positive obligations.

continued, independent, externality as condition of experimentability

experimental replication & readiness to appear

The rational by its nature has an ordering to the super-rational.

A consumerist society is unsustainable because it is based on the principle that you must consume more to save more, centralize more to get more equality, work more to get more relaxation, secularize more to be more religious, etc.

Whately's argument from omissions (KCD Essay 2) is for the conclusion that specifics were left out in revelation to give later ages freedom; but one could just as easily conclude that specifics were left out because Christ established an authoritative structure to handle them, and all the more so given that this is exactly what we see later.

Christianity came into the world as a Person.

Origen criticizes the view that the Church is built on Peter alone as if that were something commonly believed that needed to be resisted.

Scripture is not merely a book but an instrument of the Holy Spirit.

Popular progressivism tends toward a conspiracy-theory structure because that is the most natural way of evaluating problems of power.

creation : conservation ;: apostles : bishops
primac of reason/conscience : natural religion :: primacy of person : revealed religion

Holy Scripture has its ordinary instrumentality for the Holy Spirit in the context of the Church, which has its instrumentality for the Holy Spirit in itself.

The development of doctrine is more like rotation into view than like novel production, more like magnification of a set of relationships than like the building of new relationships, more like an involution than an evolution.

"The Church is the historical continuation of the life of Jesus Christ in the world." Nevin

"All human beings are equal to one another, and only he who is morally good has a superior inner worth." Kant
-- Kant gets his egalitarianism from Rousseau (20:44, 20:176)

catechetic, ascetic, and heroic phases of training in virtue

(1) Duties may overlap.
(2) One duty may have multiple grounds.
(3) Duties to self may also be duties to others, and vice versa.
(4) Duties arise from conscience, from authority, and from virtues interacting with roles.

Debate is not a foundational element of intellectual life, but an instrumental one.

The moral law must be such as to be loved as well as respected, must be beautiful as well as sublime.

'Either it is raining or it is not raining' rules out the possibility that 'raining' is gibberish.

The difference between bare sensing and perceiving is integration into a more powerful kind of activity. In cases of sensory perception, we consider how much is due to the more powerful activity:
sensing surface features
sensing a unified object
sensing a body
sensing a tree
sensing an oak
sensing that the oak is about to fall
-- There also seem to be differences in the precise kind of higher activity (e.g., whether it is more classificatory or more causal or more a matter of grouping things by associations in memory and imagination).

The modal ascent principle: The explanans must involve a more powerful modality than the explanandum.
-- have to be generous with modalities, since alethic Box is more powerful than temporal Box, etc.
-- would explain why covering-law approaches sometimes seem to work and sometimes seem weird
-- possible counter: ontological arguments. possible response: where legitimate, the Diamond is of a more powerful/fundamental modal kind than the Box.
-- obviously a big issue is determining the power of a modality

aesthetic Box -- if Kant is right, or even in the vicinity, there is one
-- the corresponding Diamond is perhaps a bit tricky (not-ugly, perhaps) -- definitely need to take some care with negations given the quirk of aesthetic 'necessity'
-- Does the M/T axiom apply? This seems particularly important.

moral law as showing uniformity amidst variety

Byerly's Pantheism Argument
(1) That which most continues to elicit awe under critical scrutiny is most divine.
(2) The cosmos is thus. Therefore, etc.
-- Note that he has to deny that we can experience awe at persons (we only so, he claims, at in-principle producible objects beyond our productive powers that exhibit complex functioning in teh production of a valuable end)
-- what he calls 'awe' sounds a lot more like simply being impressed
-- He does not think, however, that this rules out something beyond the cosmos.

I am pent with passion; its penalty is pain,
misfortune made of misery beyond the lot of men.

The Humean Circle

 Hume argues that causal principles cannot be established on the basis of reasoning (E 4.18, SBN 35):

All reasonings may be divided into two kinds, namely, demonstrative reasoning, or that concerning relations of ideas, and moral reasoning, or that concerning matter of fact and existence. That there are no demonstrative arguments in the case seems evident; since it implies no contradiction that the course of nature may change, and that an object, seemingly like those which we have experienced, may be attended with different or contrary effects. May I not clearly and distinctly conceive that a body, falling from the clouds, and which, in all other respects, resembles snow, has yet the taste of salt or feeling of fire? Is there any more intelligible proposition than to affirm, that all the trees will flourish in December and January, and decay in May and June? Now whatever is intelligible, and can be distinctly conceived, implies no contradiction, and can never be proved false by any demonstrative argument or abstract reasoning à priori.

He holds instead that they are based on experience, and in particular custom or habit. Lady Mary Shepherd has a very large number of arguments against almost every step in this reasoning (e.g., she rejects the idea that because we can imagine something we can be sure it could really happen), but she also argues that the reasoning as a whole is circular (ERCE 87):

Now shortly the whole of this reasoning concerning the possibility of nature altering her course, is but a circle! for the argument is invented to show that CUSTOM and not REASON, must be the only ground of our belief in the relation of Cause and Effect.--But it is impossible to imagine such a change in nature, unless reason were previously excluded as the principle of that relation;--and it is impossible to exclude reason as the principle of that relation, except by supposing that nature may alter her course.

The particular course of the circle, as she sees it, seems to be the following;

(1) The idea of causation is founded only on experience.

(2) That this must arise due to custom and not reason is seen in the fact that we can conceive an uncaused change in nature without contradiction.

(3) This uncaused change in nature is only without contradiction if we suppose causal inference to be based only on custom.

Whether or not it is a contradiction to assume an uncaused change in nature presupposes an answer to the question of whether our causal inferences are based on reason or custom. If they are based on reason, then there is in fact a contradiction in a change of nature occurring without a cause. It's true that something looking visibly like snow can fall from the clouds and have the taste of salt and the feeling of fire, but it would be a contradiction to hold that what we generally call 'snow' can have the taste of salt and the feeling of fire -- anything, however snow-like in appearance, that had other properties too un-snow-like would not be snow. (You can make Crisco look like vanilla ice cream, but it does not follow from this that vanilla ice cream can taste like Crisco while still having all the other features of vanilla ice cream. Good eggs and bad eggs look alike, but that doesn't mean that you could have a good egg and a bad egg exactly alike in every way except that one happens for no reason at all to be good and the other happens for no reason at all to be bad.) It's possible to have our trees flourishing in December, but it is not possible for them to do so while everything about trees and seasons remains exactly the same. So we can make sense of saying that it is contradictory for nature to alter its course in these ways; the only reason whatsoever why we would deny it is if we are already assuming that the inference is not a rational requirement, for instance, by just assuming that it is something based on habit rather than reason.

Shepherd elsewhere argues that Hume is inconsistent on how causation interacts with his empiricism, sometimes treating all sensible qualities as effects as bodies and sometimes treating sensible qualities as effects of other sensible qualities. This is perhaps connected to the question of circular reasoning here, since if you treat sensible qualities as the causes of other sensible qualities it's easier to see how you would make Hume's argument. If you assume that snow-whiteness is the cause of snow-coldness, then the fact that you can obviously have snow-whiteness without snow-coldness, and indeed, with a feeling of heat, would show that there is no contradiction in deviation from the usual causal course. But of course, nobody thinks that snow is caused to be cold by being white; the fact that you can have one without the other is not any kind of deviation from the course of nature at all, but only a reflection of the fact that snow is not the only possible white thing. 

When I was a young boy, I asked my parents if we could have the orange in the refrigerator. They replied that there was no orange in the refrigerator. I opened the refrigerator and showed them the orange. They replied it was not an orange. Finally, my dad cut it and gave me a slice. It was very, very sour. (He made me eat the whole slice, too.) Now, that fruit looked exactly like an orange: it was not elongated like a stereotypical lemon, but fairly round, and it was not brilliantly yellow like a stereotypical lemon, but I saw it as light orange (and remember it as light orange to this day). But it was not an orange that inexplicably tasted like a lemon; I had simply identified the wrong kind of cause. Looking like an orange is not the same as being an orange.

We don't expect roses to bloom in New York in January; but we don't take this to be because it is a certain month of the calendar, but because of cold and the internal structure of rosebushes. If you go to Texas, sometimes roses do bloom in January; but the obvious reason is not that the course of nature changes between New York and Texas but that Texas, being positioned differently relative to the sun and the arctic, is less consistently cold in the same month that New York is very consistently cold. We can imagine what looks like ordinary roses blooming in the midst of what looks like a lot of ice and snow; but this is only the same as imagining actual ordinary roses to be blooming in the midst of actual ice and snow if we ignore a lot of other things that are found in roses and snow. We simply can't imagine to a level of detail that includes all relevant qualities of both roses and icy snow. What we can imagine is that you could at least have a magic trick or illusion where it looked like it happened, just like there are situations in which you could make a lemon look like an orange, which is a very weak result. At least, this is all true unless you assume that the causes and effects here are just the imaginables themselves; our association of one sensible quality with another is due to the fact that we are familiar with their conjunction in experience, so then you would take this to apply to the causes and effects as well.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

National Prosperity

The only true basis of national prosperity lies in a constitution founded on just principles—in just laws—in an educated, moral people, who will do and defend the right—in good magistrates, who will do justly at any expense; who will flee a bribe as they would the coiled reptile. When, with these, the people are educated into simple, prudent, temperate habits, the prosperity of a nation will flow on like a majestic river, which gathers strength and depth as it flows. A nation with such a constitution—with such laws and magistrates—with an intelligent, moral, simple people, will be united at home--will be respected abroad. It knows its rights, and will assert them; it is just, and will withhold no right from others. Doing justly by all nations, it will be respected by all. There will be no cause of resorting to the last argument of kings; and when that argument is rendered necessary, it will have the sympathy of the world, and will be sustained by the united energies of its citizens. The very things that tend to the prosperity of an individual, or a family, are those which form the true basis of national prosperity.

Nicholas Murray, American Principles on National Prosperity: A Thanksgiving Sermon Preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Elizabethtown, November 23, 1854.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Today is the feast of Queen St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Great Martyr, patron saint of philosophers.

Giovanni Cariani (c.1485-1547) - The Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph and Saint Catherine of Alexandria - 1420362 - National Trust
Giovanni Cariani, The Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph and Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Four Poem Drafts

Shankara Sings in Kedarnath

As the name to the thing,
as the ring to the gold,
as the shimmer to the mother-of-pearl,
so the soul to the supreme;

as the blue to the sky,
as the mirage to the sand,
as the face in the wood-grain,
so the universe to Brahman;

as the ghost in empty space,
as the city in the clouds,
as the doubled moon in the night,
so the world to Brahman;

and Brahman appears through the world
as water shows in waves,
as copper shines in pans,
as clay is named by 'pot',

and the universe is in Brahman,
this possible because that actual,
this effect because that cause,
this appearance because that substance,
this seen and therefore that known.

Brahman is not in the world,
but the world's beginning is in Brahman,
and the world's enduring is in Brahman,
and the world's dissolving is in Brahaman,

for the world is all modification
and Brahman is without modification,
and the world is all variation
and Brahman is changeless and unchanged,
and the world is all appearing,
but Brahman is being and is knowing.

Knowing Brahman, the world fades
like dreaming in the waker,
like bubbles in the water,
like shape on flawless fire-living gold,

for the flame of being lights the darkness,
for the flame of knowing burns off ignorance,
for the flame of bliss rises forever
from Brahman unto Brahman. 


The People We Never Met

You walked in the rain, umbrella-bold,
the rivulets streaming, the clouds above thundering,
and I think you and I would have plenty to say--
but I never met you,
you never knew me.

They were laughing in sunlight,
the freshly cut grass an incensing perfume,
listening to children play in the park--
but we are not there,
we never knew them.

An endless mass of lives, roads that never meet,
untouched hands, unseen rainbows,
unfelt breezes, words that find no sentence,
sands on ocean-distant shores--
I never met them;
we never knew them.

Sing for those who never hear it,
laugh with those we never saw or heard,
and perhaps in some far un-Euclidean heaven
parallel lines will finally come to touch.

Floating Dream

In ancient day of misty yore
I met the floating dream;
through book and scroll my eye would pore
until she came who none ignore
and gave my eye a gleam.

It seems at times the world is small,
a poor, unrising earth,
but in a marble-laden hall
where echoes born of footstep fall
I found the crown of worth.

It hurts, this old and aching wound,
it calls with sorrow's voice;
as sailor on far sand marooned,
my heart with loneliness is runed
against my will and choice.


The Conversion of St. Damaris

The city is full of unknown gods,
unknown thoughts strange and odd,
unknown paths to unknown ends,
philosophers groping like blinded men
after brilliant light too bright to see,
like caged birds dreaming of flying free.

In busy forums are the arguing men;
which of them is to truth a friend?

Hetairai chat of modish fads
and strange experiences they have had
as truths and beauties are sold at fairs--
the subtle merchants sell subtle wares!

This city is full of unknown gods;
its thought alludes to more than thought.

But now the unknowing season ends
and revelation, bright, begins,
and you, O holy woman wise,
did not the given word despise,
but, given faith, like heifer led,
believed that Christ rose from the dead,
with faith like Tamar's reached your hand
to grasp the truth most sought by man,
and, like a halo on your brow,
wear godly penance like a crown.

Monday, November 23, 2020


 It should go without saying -- but quite obviously cannot -- that no one can be 'President-elect' until they have actually been elected President, and that in the United States nobody can be elected President until the Electoral College elects them. The Electoral College meets on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is December 14. Indeed, arguably no one is formally President-elect until Congress counts the Electoral College votes and declares the results, which occurs on January 6, although unless there are controversial slates this is just the final stamp. There is currently no President-elect; Biden is projected by unofficial sources, based on still-being-finalized official information, to become President-elect, which is significant but not the same thing. There would be no point in saying this, and people might be allowed their sloppiness, except that in a republic the actual process of the election matters, and it continues to matter regardless of how much anyone might want to short-circuit it.

This pet peeve of mine is particularly irritated right now because the GSA recently opened the transition process for the Biden campaign. This does not represent any kind of status change for Biden, nor does it represent any acknowledgement of Biden as President-elect; it is purely an administrative procedure by which Biden gets access to certain funding and administrative resources that are set aside to facilitate transitions. But of course there were reporters who were shocked, shocked, that the letter starting the process didn't refer to Biden as 'President-elect'. It's not surprising that it wouldn't -- 'President-elect' is not an official title of the United States, and there is in any case no President-elect yet, so there's no requirement that it would have to do so -- but such is the genius of some reporters that if an entirely routine administrative process takes place they can invent a scandal out of it.

Anchored Cross

 Today is the feast of Pope St. Clement of Rome, one of the Apostolic Fathers. He is traditionally regarded as the fourth bishop of Rome (after Peter, Linus, and Anacletus) and to have been consecrated a bishop by St. Peter himself. He is associated with the symbol of the cross shaped like an anchor, a reference both to hope (Hebrews 6:19) and to legends of his having been martyred under Trajan by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. From the forty-second chapter of I Clement, his letter to the church at Corinth:

The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith."


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Fortnightly Book, November 22

 The next fortnightly book is one that I've been intending to do for a while, the seventh century The Life of the Virgin, the first extant hagiography devoted specifically to the Virgin Mary, and one of the most influential hagiographies of all time. It is attributed universally in the manuscripts to St. Maximus the Confessor; modern scholars have occasionally attempted to question this attribution, but beyond the fact that it would be the only extant hagiography written by Maximus, whose other works are more technical works in theology, there's not really any reason to deny the attribution.

Unfortunately, the original Greek version of the work no longer exists; the extant version is a translation of the Greek into Old Georgian. So I will be reading an English translation (by Stephen Shoemaker) of the Old Georgian translation of Maximus's original Greek work. Despite the Greek being missing, the work would have considerable influence on the course of Mariology, and is perhaps the single most influential early work on the Virgin Mary. As a fortnightly book, though, I will be reading it less as a mariological work and more as a story. This is in any case as good a time to read it as any; yesterday was the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary and a fortnight will take us to December 5, just before the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8; between two Marian feasts, one ancient and one more modern, seems a propitious time for reading it.