Friday, December 11, 2020

Dashed Off XXXII

 religious cultural traditions vs. devotional traditions vs. Holy Tradition

Given the existence of God as ultimate, universal, and inexhaustible good, we may postulate immortality and freedom of will as conditions for seeking Him. Given immortality, we may postulate freedom of will as the ability to choose that is commensurate with it.

the womb as the natural catechumenate of life

Birth is something that must be prepared for, and thus in some sense begins well before we are born.

'Veridical perception' is a satisficing notion, not an optimizing notion. To see truly is to see well enough.

the mirandum as object of the intellect
the mirandum as that which is known to exceed what we know
truth becomes more valuable to us qua mirandum
being qua mirandum becomes that which, on being seen, we desire to know, that to which our mind attempts adequation

to relate to the world as from God
to relate to the world as a whole
to relate to what is in the world

the world as a postulate of practical reason

Without festival there is no leisure.

"secureness of sitting sheweth endless dwelling" Julian of Norwich

glorifying God in one's body (1 Corinthians 6:20)
apostereo in 1 Cor. 7:5 usu. means stealing or defrauding (cp 1 Cor 6:7, Mk 10:19)

the sacrifice that transfigures

Isosthenia can only be relative to a context.

Pyrrhonism presupposes an idea of truth.

Pascal's 'mutual annihilation' of skepticism and dogmatism is to make a path for what is outside the realms of both proof and doubt.

"Often things that are obscure and confused appear clear and distinct to men who are judging rashly." Leibniz

Evidence always underdetermines medical treatment in some way (manner, kind, or structure); the gap is bridged by extrapolation and analogy from experience, by guess, by patient preference, and by ethics.

the casuistry of medicine

Treatment in medicine primarily proceeds from an ethical principle, namely prudence.

paideia: learning the reasoning appropriate to the subject

conscientious objection on behalf of bodily integrity, on behalf of mental integrity, on behalf of social integrity, on behalf of higher allegiance

"Virtue seems the true basis of human dignity." Ronald Polansky

To die to the world is to gain the patience of the dead.

Kant on grace
(1) Conflict of the Faculties: grace as moral predisposition, unmerited and suggestive of divine source
(2) RBRA: grace as faculty available only through supernatural help
---- (a) independent of human agency (possible, but cannot be incorporated into practical maxim because it would be uncognizable)
---- (b) cooperative with human agency (must be accepted that good may be imputed)

development of doctrine and reduplicative guises of doctrines

Law of Nature formulation of categorical imperative : God :: End in Itself : Christ as Son of God :: Kingdom of Ends : Church

Kant as treating God and the best world merely as means (Lubkin)

Church as incipient (not *merely* possible) kingdom of ends, as incipient messianic community, as ethical commonwealth

Kant's entire critical period consists of discovering gaps in the critical philosophy and trying to fill them.

Morality must be possessed symbolically and by signs; but this creates the danger of using the symbolism and signs to get the appearance of morality without the substance of morality.

The judgment of taste is not entirely independent from the concept of perfection.

hell & the providence of fragile goods

science-infrastructure fiction vs science-furniture fiction

Replacing traditions with fads is not an improvement.

acquired justice to another
acquired justice to another on behalf of / with regard to God
infused justice
divine justice as that to which we are instrumental

Distributive justice is perverted when material good is given priority over moral good.

Sometimes we give to another because of his merit, sometimes because of benefits of which he is the source; sometimes we give to another that he might have the opportunity to benefit or to merit.

Male and female reproductive faculties are partial by nature; it is their union that reproduces.

the false consciousness of the world

Where the psychologist says 'happy', read 'diverted'.

therapy as the opium of the people

God as union of authority and truth

Note that in the wager in Infini rien, Pascal reminds the agnostic that he has *two* things to seek (the true *and the good*) and *two* things to avoid (error *and misery*) and *two* means to do it (reason *and will*). The agnostic had demanded nonbelief solely on the basis of the first of each pair.

Evidence only become evidence within a willingness to infer and inquire.

It's easy to focus on the proof in Socrates' discussion with the slave boy in the Meno. But the most important element is that the discussion was with an uneducated slave.

We talk of owning land, but in general the practice is to own estates in land.

politics & the art of finding acceptable remediable problems to stand in for irremediable ones

One does not need, prior to experience, to know what an experience will be like in order to make a rational decision about it; estimates, advice, practical requirements are all often sufficient, and we never in decision are considering only what experiences are like.

Zhong's Confucian principle of obligation: It is morally obligatory for agent A to Phi in context C iff a fully virtuous and relevantly informed person V would feel xiu-wu (disdain) for A's not Phi-ing in C.

"One action, or one conversation with a man, may convince us of his integrity and induce us to believe his testimony, though we have never, in a single instance, experienced his veracity." Richard Price
"The conscience of a man is the man; the reflecting principle is our supreme principle."

Arguments convince not by causing a feeling of being convinced but by connecting with other lines of thought.

To be a historian of philosophy is to be mistaken often.

(1) There is evil.
(2) Evil brings penalty in and with itself.
(3) Without contrition for evil there can be no release from continuing penalty linked to the evil itself.
(4) There is a death to contrition, at which it ends.
-- Obviously the major questions concern (4). But universalist arguments are not always sufficiently focused; the attacks are often wild and would hit (1), (2), or (3).

historical scholarship as using heuristic templates

sexual mores as one resistance of a population to sexually transmitted disease (analogy to vaccination)
--  (This is accepted in some form by pretty much everyone, including 'safe sex' advocates. The questions are about the mores.)

To accept on testimony is to accept from testimony that something ought to be considered or taken into account.

Moral deference is essential to politeness.

disjunctive attenuation responses to skepticism (X is put into doubt; therefore move to X-or-Y)

Galileo's sketches of the moon in Sidereus Nuncius are pictorial thought experiments -- i.e., they aren ot descriptions of observations but illustrations for a point in his argument.

Reasons for choice are not separate from the choice, but are incorporated into it in various ways.

"Hear your Father's instruction" in Scripture and "reject not your Mother's teachings" in the Tradition of the Church.

sexuality as self-symbol

Universalism causes problem for all the major allegories of baptism: the Flood, the Crossing of the Red Sea, the Crossing of Jordan after the wandering in the desert, etc. -- none of them have an equivalent to universalism.

Those who base their universalism on God as ultimate end often err on the nature of that end, taking 'ultimate' to indicate a destination down the road. But God is our ultimate end now, and always had been, through all our sin and wrongdoing.

juridical sainthood in the Kingdom of God

Every person is a realm of rights, and to be a person is to have a jurisdiction.

'Being virtuous to' is a more general moral regard than any which regards rights.

Much of learning consists of small steps.

Common good is more divine than private good.

"The power in charge of unifying common action through rules binding for all is what everyone calls authority." Simon
"Hierarchy results from the association of the principle of authority with that of autonomy."

the four kinds of legislative assemblies in the US Constitution: the People, the legislatures of States, the House, the Senate

"Teachable minds have the privilege of understanding that a provisional belief often is the best, or teh strictly indispensable, way to science." Simon

'Now' is a peculiar form of equality.

sacramental reconciliation as making satisfaction a compassion, a co-Passion, with Christ

"...the more surely you know yourself loved, the easier you will find it to love in return." Bernard

Newman's Principle: Our duty is not to abstain from the exercise of any function of our nature, but to do what is in itself right rightly.

"We cannot assent to a proposition without some intelligent apprehension of it; whereas we need not understand it at all to infer it." Newman

'Go to the ant, thou sluggard' as a principle of spirituality and religion
-- Note that ants don't work alone, even though each one usually just does its own task.

Marriage is often a discipline of learning to prefer a person to an idea.

extrinsic vs. intrinsic interest in a story

the events of the Life of Christ as the diagrams of sacramental theology

Reality exceeds what can be articulated in a definite form.

Newman's 'chronic vigour' and aptitude for devotion

The Kantian error of linking existence strictly to sensation is seen qua error most clearly in Cohen's RoR 1.15.

Cohen links Shekhinah with immutability (RoR 1.18)

substance as what makes causality possible

the divine energies as norms of the created world

Ps 51:13 -- divine presence // holy spirit
Lv 22:32 -- "I will be hallowed among the children of Israel."
Is 8:13 -- "Him shall ye sanctify."
Is 5:16 -- "God the Holy One is sanctified through righteousness."

Ex 12:49 as a type of the unity of the Church
(cp also Nm 15:15,16; Lv 24:22)

the needy (Dt 15:4) vs the poor (Dt 15:11)

Man taken individually has the liability of guilt; man taken plurally has the liability of debt; but in the Son of Man, Man taken totally has a suprlus of merit.

humanity taken as The Adam, humanity taken as genealogy, humanity taken as a community

Fallen man is a dis-integrated Adam.

exempla & the moral picturesque

The problem of hell consists mainly of comfortable people trying to find a metaphor for sin's awfulness and just deserts that cannot terrify, and failing in a wild flurry of handwaving.

(1) Professional ethics is rooted in conscientious performance within a profession.
(2) Conscientious performance within a profession is essential to the health of that profession.

Conscientiousness is a precondition for professionalism.

Conscientious objection within a profession is an exercise of professional judgment.

dispositional, structural, and final accounts of laws of nature
laws of nature as powers of the universe as such

Thursday, December 10, 2020


 Reading E. Randolph Richards's Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, I was introduced to the concept of philophronesis, which Richards attributes to Heikki Koskenniemi's studies of letter writing. The idea is that private correspondence tends to have at least one, sometimes more, of three purposes:

(1) philophronesis: the maintaining of friendly relations
(2) parousia: being present even when not physically so
(3) homilia: carrying on an ongoing conversation, each letter being one-half of a dialogue.

In effect, philophronesis in this context means the use of correspondence to establish, strengthen, or restore good personal relations.

'Philophronesis' is itself an interesting word; the Greek is often translated as 'showing kindness'. It's also the name of a rhetorical approach, known in Latin as 'benevolentia', in which you use gentle speech in order to pacify an angry interlocutor. We might perhaps gloss it as taking thought for friendship (or friendliness). 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Symbolical Destiny in a Symbolical World

As at present constituted, man feels that his state is pre-eminently symbolical : he sees in symbolism a necessary requirement for his earthly pursuits -- a substitute for those immediate powers of cognition which he has lost. And all this is true, independently of any use he may freely choose to make of symbols for the higher purposes of spiritual life.

Man, at the beginning, was placed on this earth as its firstborn son, in the midst of the telluric universe, or in other words, in the centre of a planetary world akin to and similar to his own. Now whatever may be the case, or whatever it may be allowable to think of any other of the starry spheres though in the invisible world of spirits all perhaps is more immediately full of and instinct with essence, and is not veiled in material emblems, this is not the case with this earth. Terrestrial nature, in all its organic productions and warring elements of life, is throughout symbolical. Man, therefore, viewed from this position of his earthly habitation, is surrounded by a symbolical world of sensuous emblems. And if we can, or rather, if we will, believe the grand intimation with which revelation opens, the first and highest destination of man is even symbolical—to be the Divine image.

Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophy of Life, Morrison, tr., p. 269

Two Poem Drafts

 Stranger in This World

God is found in a thousand clues,
lure and ruse,
hints preparing for bright good news.

The sea upon the rocks may crash and foam
but I am unencumbered by their rage,
and though I stood alone,
as the world may think alone,
with God's help I will conquer this age.

Every thought that does not follow its staff like foolish sheep,
every prayer that I make that it will never hear,
is a wall against the sea,
is a battle's victory;
though the wind may blow, the waters fall in sheets,
yet nothing shall I fear,
for nothing need I fear,
and I need never fall to dark defeat.

As moonlight falls around us
like a darker shade of pale,
a white found in the night
when the stars the heavens sail,
as breezes softly murmur beneath the vestments white
of a moon that ever wanders, but never falters with its light,
I think a little hope is merited;
In all that we have inherited,
the little things that matter
are the things that conquer most.

The sea upon the rocks may crash and foam,
but always am I safe at home,
for if I hold my homeland in my heart,
none can my own inside-myself from my possession part.

A pilgrim in the world,
a seashell on my staff,
at frowning faces of the world
I am free to laugh;
and if the storms that stir the world
rise against me in a gale,
yet, though I may be weak,
I know I will not fail;
there is a promise given
that withstands the gates of hell.

And you, yes, you, can have all the worldly things you sought,
for I will cast them all aside to see the face of God.

Parallel Reality

The stars may shine,
the moon may rise,
the breeze may blow,
the mist may curl,
in your eyes.

The deer are feeding in the wood,
you and I are sitting by the lake,
a cabin on the hill,
and all is good,
and day then dawns --

Beneath the tree
the breeze is cool;
I look up, the sky is blue;
the birds in chatter
flirt and play
and life is good.

The world is vast;
I know this well,
From mountain heights
the sight spreads out;
the clearest seer meets mist and thought,
and life is good.

The waves may rise and fall,
the lakebirds chirp and call;
I hear it, I see it, I feel it, and all --
all is good.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Evening Note for Tuesday, December 8

 Thought for the Evening: The Diorama and Lady Mary Shepherd

Louis Daguerre is most famous for his development of the daguerrotype process of photography, but he is responsible for other interesting innovations in the visual art, one of which is the diorama. (We use the word 'diorama' for a somewhat different kind of artwork than Daguerre's.) In 1821, he partnered with the painter, Charles Bouton, to create a new kind of theater, one that would strike audiences with wonder. You'd be in a room with two huge translucent canvases painted in highly realistic style, one an architectural scene and the other a natural landscape, each painted on both sides. The light was cleverly managed by a system of shutters to increase the realism (light shining through windows or leaves, for instance), and to create a 'second effect' as the light shifted and the audience could begin to see something of the painting on the other side shining through; this allowed you to create night and day versions, for instance.. Because the canvas had to remain stationary, the audience revolved around the screens. The Diorama theater opened in Paris, but during its brief popularity other Diorama theaters were opened in other cities, including London and Edinburgh.

Lady Mary Shepherd has a passage in Essays on the Perception of an External Universe discussing the illusion of external objects that can be created by putting colors in particular relations to each other. She uses the Diorama theater as an example of the effect:

If this proposition were not capable of proof by abstract reasoning, the exhibition of the Diorama now before the public (of a scene of natural size from nature, and another from art,) would be enough to prove that colouring is placed in proportion to the position of things among themselves; and such positions are as the capacities of distance, and the powers of motion in relation to us, as well as among themselves : The scene, independent of the understanding, is a scene of mental sensation; for when the mind is for a moment deluded, (of which I speak from experience, knowing that this extraordinary fac-simile of nature and art has the power of effecting a complete delusion,) and forgets the place in which it is--the relation of place being forgotten, the scenes are conceived of as real; i.e. the colouring is symptomatic as a quality of beings, which will fulfil the remainder of the qualities belonging to their definitions upon trial, and thus be equal to their whole definitions. But when we recollect where we are, the mind perceives these thoughts to be illusory, and the colouring is not then conceived to be a quality of such objects as will fulfil their whole definitions. (pp. 186-187)

R. Derek Wood has a nice article from 1993, The Diorama in Great Britain in the 1820s, in which he provides a handy summation of the Diorama scenes that were shown in Great Britain. He notes that the Lothian Road Diorama in Edinburgh was opened in December of 1827 and closed in 1839. However, given that the publication date for the Essays is 1827, she is probably not talking about the actual theater (which would have had ties to Daguerre himself). There was a special exhibition in Edinburgh in 1825, however, that had what seems to be a Scottish imitation of the Diorama that had already been shown in London; it was on display from January 11 to February 19. If we assume that Shepherd saw the Diorama in Edinburgh, this pins down quite precisely when she wrote the passage (note the claim that the exhibition is "now before the public"). It's perhaps not impossible that she had actually seen at some point the real Diorama in London, which opened in 1823, although that was a real Diorama theater and not an exhibition; but it is far more likely that she saw the Edinburgh one.

Shepherd conceives of the Diorama as a kind of analogue of dreaming; in dreaming we also forget the relation of place, but by habit we take the color-presentation to be a sort of sign of a real object; when we wake, we realize that the color-presentation was missing things like the relation of place, and thus recognize its illusory character. We see this played out as well in the Diorama, in which we seem to be transported to an actual place due to the realism of the paintings and the cleverness of the light effects, but then recollect ourselves as being in the theater.

Various Links of Interest

* Vatican City in LEGOs

* Gabriel Paletz, Deflating myths about Orson Welles

* Malcolm Keating on the Nyaya philosophy of debate 

* Taylor Patrick O'Neill, Self-Destruction and the Sin of Heresy

* Ed Feser, Augustine on divine illumination

* Damien Storey, What Is Eikasia? (PDF) discusses the least-discussed part of the Divided Line

* Mary Townsend, Little Women, Rebel Angels, discusses Simone de Beauvoir's enjoyment of Alcott's representation of Jo March.

* Richard Marshall interviews Martin Lin on Spinoza.  

* Glenn Geher, Politics in Academia: A Case Study.

 * Justin E. H. Smith, What Are the Humanities?

* Chad Denton, The Anguish of Academia

* Oliver Traldi, The Truth is Not Enough, discusses the purpose of universities

Currently Reading

Cat Hodge, Unstable Felicity
E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing
Michael Flynn, Falling Stars

Monday, December 07, 2020

Known to the Whole World as Among the Best of Men

 Today is the feast of St. Aurelius Ambrosius of Milan, Doctor of the Church. (The description in the title is Augustine's description of him from the Confessions, Book V.) From his De officiis (Book I, Chapter 10):

A man wishing to undergo a warlike training daily exercises himself with his weapons. As though ready for action he rehearses his part in the fight and stands forth just as if the enemy were in position before him. Or, with a view to acquiring skill and strength in throwing the javelin, he either puts his own arms to the proof, or avoids the blows of his foes, and escapes them by his watchful attention. The man that desires to navigate a ship on the sea, or to row, tries first on a river. They who wish to acquire an agreeable style of singing and a beautiful voice begin by bringing out their voice gradually by singing. And they who seek to win the crown of victory by strength of body and in a regular wrestling match, harden their limbs by daily practice in the wrestling school, foster their endurance, and accustom themselves to hard work. 
Nature herself teaches us this in the case of infants. For they first exercise themselves in the sounds of speech and so learn to speak. Thus these sounds of speech are a kind of practice, and a school for the voice. Let those then who want to learn to take heed in speaking not refuse what is according to nature, but let them use all watchful care; just as those who are on a watchtower keep on the alert by watching, and not by going to sleep. For everything is made more perfect and strong by exercises proper and suitable to itself.

Officia are the responsibilities or duties that arise from exercising virtues in an appropriate way in a reasonable role. As Ambrose notes, his De officiis is in some ways modeled on Cicero (who himself was writing in the genres of a work by a Stoic, Panaetius, that was incomplete in Cicero's day and is now lost), although (as he also notes), Cicero was writing for his physical son and the roles he would have in this life while Ambrose is writing for his spiritual sons, the clergy of his diocese in particular, and with a view not to this life but to the next. Cicero had divided his work into the honestum or decorum (the noble/right/decorous/seemly), the utile (the expedient/useful/helpful/advantageous), and the union of the two. Ambrose also continues to see officia as consisting of honesta, utilia, and their union, but he is not trying to synthesize Ciceronianism and Christianity; he is very emphatic about the significant differences that come when you have a higher end in view: Christian officia are not and cannot be exactly the same as non-Christian officia. He only accepts from Cicero what he can give some reason from Scripture for accepting, he regularly contrasts pagan and Christian exemplars, and he argues that the honestum and the utile ultimately converge in light of the Christian aim at Christlikeness.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Trumpet and the Song

Second Sunday in Advent
by Samuel John Stone

  Patience and comfort of the Scriptures. -- Rom. xv.4.

The time draws on : the dread sweet day is near :
So for Thy graces, Paraclete, we plead,
For powers of work and waiting, in our need,
Patience and Comfort -- grace to persevere,
And grace of sunshine amid doubt and fear.
O that these twain may tend us: this, to speed
On to devoted will and living deed
Our languid pulses; that, to soothe and cheer.
We need to hear Thy twofold music, Lord!
This, stirring nobler life within the breast,
That, softly singing of the final rest:
The clarion and the harp notes of Thy Word.
For souls that hear the trumpet and the song
Can be in striving still, in stillness strong.