Saturday, December 19, 2020

Hunnestad Monument

Hunnestadsmonumentet skåne ole worm.jpg
[By Ole Worm (1588-1654) - Worm, Ole, Monumenta Danica (1643)., Public Domain, Link]

This week saw a very interesting historical re-discovery, part of one of the lost stones of the Hunnestad Monument in modern-day Sweden. We had already known of the existence of it, due to the great Danish polymath, Olaus Wormius, who included the above picture of it in his Monumenta Danica. The Hunnestad Monument had been one of the largest and most significant Scandinavian historical monuments, going back to the tenth century, but was destroyed in the 1780s in the modernization craze that ended up destroying many of the historical monuments that had survived the earlier protestantization craze. Some parts had been rediscovered since. The newly rediscovered part, which is part of DR 286, labeled number 6 in Worm's illustration, was found while digging a sewer line; it had survived because part of it was used in a bridge, with its carved portion protected from the weather.

Jackson Crawford has a good discussion here:

O Hours! More Worth than Gold

December Morning, 1782.
by Anna Seward

I love to rise ere gleams the tardy light,
Winter's pale dawn; and as warm fires illume
And cheerful tapers shine around the room,
Through misty windows bend thy musing sight,
Where round the dusky lawn, the mansions white,
With shutters clos'd, peer faintly through the gloom,
That slow recedes; while yon grey spires assume,
Rising from their dark pile, an added height
By indistinctness given. Then to decree
The grateful thoughts to God, ere they unfold
To Friendship or the Muse, or seek with glee
Wisdom's rich page: O hours! more worth than gold,
By whose blest use we lengthen life, and free
From drear decays of age, outlive the old!

Anna Seward, known in her own day as The Swan of Lichfield, is the greatest English poet writing in Romantic style whom almost nobody remembers. The above sonnet can be found in a 1795 letter from Seward to a Mrs. Ponsonby. (Although the title I've given it here is not from there but is that given in Frederic Rowton's 1854 anthology, The Female Poets of Great Britain.) The letter is worth reading on its own; it gives Seward's own conception of the sonnet, which she does through a ruthless but amusing take-down of an article on the sonnet in Chambers' Encyclopedia.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Dashed Off XXXIII

 This finishes the notebook that was completed in March 2019.

Every form of record has a typical deterioration rate in an environment.

"Monotheism is the true consolation of history." Cohen

Evolution could not happen the way it does if things did not have benefits beyond those selected for.

Intelligence increases the field of good fortune by increasing the ability to take advantage of opportunity; education does the same.

Descartes's Meditation Four is an argument that error depends on will, not intellect, but it does so for a reason other than an intrinsic defect of will itself.

A notebook is a trace of learning.

the Mencian four shoots as identifying universes of practical reasons (with the fifth for how they interrrelate)

"...I apprehend a proposition, when I apprehend its predicate." Newman

We do ethics that we may do metaphysics.

angelic hierarchy as capturing aspects of liturgy

God qua possible is the concrete locus of the principle of noncontradiction, God qua actual is the concrete locus of the principle of sufficient reason.
-- perhaps principle of causality rather than PSR
-- raises question about other modalities. Temporal & locative would be specified (downstream versions of principle of causality. The interesting one is deontic: presumably the first principle of practical reason.

Malebranche on revelation & the external world // Descartes on immortality (Rep 2nd Obj)

the extension argument for immortality (Descartes VII: 153): death depends wholly on division or shape-change; mind is not such as to be divided or change shape.

grounds of conscientious objection: as human, as member of a religion, as citizen, as professional

"He was born and was baptized that by His Passion He might cleanse the water." Ignatius (Eph 18:2)
-- this is a complete theology of the sacrament of baptism

Talk of source and target in metaphor always makes the process sound more directed than it usually is. (Aristotle's use of the vocabulary of proportions avoids this.)

reasonableness, rightness, endurance, moderation

How often in this world does human friendship consist in saying, in word or deed, "I do not know what to do, but I am here if you do!"

The world of pleasures and pains is small, and a mere tracing of the world; utilitarianism is the ethics of a small outline of a barely-seen world.

technical teleology --> technical theology (the Muse)

The living creatures of Revelation represent the fourfold face of judgment: the ingenuity of man, the fierceness of lion, the power of ox, the inescapability of eagle.

"Our view of the Lord's Supper must ever condition and rule in the end our view of Christ's person and the conception we form of the Church." Niven
"The life of the single Christian can be real and healthful only as it is born from the general life of the Church, and carried by it onward to the end."
"A purely invisible Church has been well denominated a contradiction in adjecto; since the very idea of a Church implies the manifestation of the religious life, as something social and common."
"Outward social worship, which implies, of course, forms for the purpose, is to be regarded as something essential to piety itself. A religion without externals, must ever be fantastic and false."

Christ in praying, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do", is classifying the relevant sins as shegagah (Num 15:25-26, 28).

blasphemy against the Holy Spirit & Num. 15:30-31

Liturgy figures the moral life, but it does so not directly but by figuring that which moral life itself figures.

"Prayer is longing." Cohen
"Truth for the individual becomes truthfulness."
"God is the God of truth, and man is to be come the man of truthfulness."
"The fear of God is always sustained by love."

daily bread & Pr 30:8

Consent regularly travels across parties. Sometimes this is due to background responsibilities, sometimes due to requirements of fairness, sometimes due to dependencies in the act, but consent to do X with regard to one person will often require consent to do Y with regard to another person. It is very difficult, in fact, to have hermetically sealed consents or consensual relationships not consenting to something broader than the relationship. (This is a reason why contract law gets so complicated.)

secularization as infrastructural undermining

Doctors do not have a duty to care of just any sort, but specifically to conscientious and appropriate care.

censoriousness as the great vice of the Media Age

forms of standard evangelism
(1) massed (conversion of central institutions)
(2) ordered (religious orders and societies, etc.)
(3) immersed (small-scale apologetic maneuvers)
(4) passive (being available, with people filtering themselves in)

"That a whole nation has a right to do whatever it pleases, cannot in any sense whatever be admitted as true." John Quincey Adams

It is necessary that all necessary beings necessarily have necessary features.

rhetorical persuasion and the thin end of the wedge

Conscientious objection, generally considered, is when a person operating in a matter for which they are responsible refuses to cooperate or comply with an action that they judge to be inconsistent with the ends of that responsibility.


Every appeal to conscience requires another specific reason bringing the matter within the purview of conscience.

dharma as performance of what is enjoined

The Nyaya syllogism is not a static thing but the transformation of a claim from proposed to established.
Unestablished: There is fire on the hill.
How to establish? Smoke.
In what way would it establish it? As in a kitchen.
We can apply this here: There is smoke in that way.
Established: So there is fire on the hill.
Notice that the Nyaya school is then right that if you stop the process after the third limb, you haven't actually established the proposition for anyone -- it hasn't been changed! (With just yourself, it can be understood that you could transform, but you don't need to convince yourself.)

the Church's right to doctrinal objection in response to law and custom

"The conduct of men is much more governed by their passions than by their interests; the whole history of mankind is one continued demonstration of this axiom." John Adams

pedagogy & Aristotle's Poetics: Good pedagogy has plot, character, spectacle, etc., although thought is most important & it is partly improvised.

The intentionality of choice is partly contrastive (this rather than that).

While language is a matter of convention, it is not purely a matter of convention, because it depends on precedent and anticipated usefulness to achieve its functions.

Wordbuilding is a kind of worldbuilding.

Robin Lakoff's politeness maxims
(1) Formality: Don't impose.
(2) Deference: Give options.
(3) Camaraderie: Show sympathy.

life as such vs. organic life

sacramental unction and transmortality

law and contract as deontic instruments

instrumental causes in deontic order --> secondary principal causes in deontic order --> first cause in deontic order

wholesomeness and natural sacredness

All decision-making is affected by internal luck (what we happen to recall, what mood we happen to have, etc.).

philosophy of science vs. philosophy of science scholarship

We identify holes by travel operations. If this is generally true, then something may be a hole with respect to one kind of travel and not to another. (Is a glass window a hole? To light, perhaps, but not to rain.)

John Quincy Adams meets Bentham: Diary of John Quincy Adams 4/29/1817

A thriving republic requires a nation filled with jacks of all trades.

"Errors in reasoning are lessons and warnings, not to give up reason, but to reason with greater caution." Newman

Correspondence & coherence theories of the truth converge at the limit.

Disquotation theories cannot handle figurative, and especially not ironic, cases of truth.

Stakeholder theory suffers from the fact that, unless you take everyone in possible causal connection to be a stakeholder; the stakeholding varies according to an immense number of variables.
Stakeholder theory flattens out what are fundamentally different, and often really noncommensurable, relationships.

Contribution of a claim, not truth, is the aim of assertion as such. (Truth is an aim of reason itself.)

The principles of medical principlism are really topoi.

Something is only error in the context of a broader system that shows that it falls short.

"...our most natural mode of reasoning is, not from propositions to propositions, but from things to things, from concrete to concrete, from wholes to whole." Newman

While Hempel claims that empathic insight provides no basis for systematic prediction, it's in fact harder to argue than he suggests: There is some reason to think it contributes regularly to at least semi-systematic (better than guess) prediction of certain kinds of phenomena. And all our systematic prediction presupposes refinement of semi-systematic sources.

Edward Coke: Common law is based on reason, but not natural reason as such; instead it is based on artificial reason, "gotten by long study, observation, and experience" in the context of courts.

juries as defenders of customary law
'reasonable person' standards as appeals to customary law
judges as drawing on customary law when appealing to local histories

possibility as the "embryo of being" (Peirce)

Demand in a market is partly negotiated.

the Catholic hallowing of the sensible world, the turning of the world into prayer, the religious elevation of empirical existence, the Sabbath of the universe

Hegel's characterization of the achievement of Protestantism essentially takes it to have replaced celibacy, poverty, and obedience with sex, acquisition, and slavishness to the state (Encyclopedia 552 / Philosophy of Mind).

With the Catholic religion, the state has no primacy except in a very narrow order.

Freedom is not complete until it reaches to the holy.

"...I cannot see why one should embark on the immensely difficult social practice of treating each person as important unless there is something intrinsically valuable about personality." George Grant

All creatures, by the very fact that they are creatures, have the right to seek their Creator.

Legal positivism is a sort of emergentism, holding that laws arise out of particular collections of nonlegal facts. Natural law theory, on the other hand, takes human laws always to depend on prior laws, until one reaches what is naturally law and then (ultimately, if the theorist takes it so far) First and Eternal Law.

Tikom, sikod binom.

religion and the family as the two natural limits of civil authority, without which it would have no natural limit; thus they are always the targets of the totalitarian-minded

wholeheartedness as the correlate of dignity

On Kant's account, cognition always has two aspects, receptivity and spontaneity.

"Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance." Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Little children try to possess things; if anything, they have to be taught that they do not possess everything.

When people reasonably reject epistemologies as implausible, it is always for reasons connected to implausible physics or metaphysics.

Horror grows from memory of fear, a sort of dark nostalgia.

memory of fear : horror :: memory of joy : ?

The concept of 'due process' by its nature posits a standard of process higher than the laws constituting the process itself; the process is only 'due' relative to that higher standard.

If logic is not normative, nothing prevents taking every argument, no matter how absurd, to have its own logic according to which it should be described as logical.

Philosophy is itself an effect whose first cause is first wisdom.

philosophy : motion :: divine wisdom : first mover

Dignity admits of more and less, and participates first dignity.

demonology as giving an account of the structure of moral temptation

"No one likes bad news, no one welcomes what condemns him; the world slanders the Truth in self-defence, because the Truth denounces the world." Newman
"No one sins without making some excuse to himself for sinning."

Christ came to earth humbly and also in glory.

Love enters the tomb before purity, to see the signs of holy resurrection, the first glimmering of salvation.

"Nothing but charity can enable you to live well or to die well." Newman

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Evening Note for Thursday, December 17

Thought for the Evening: The Epistle to the Domestic Church

As Aquinas notes in various places, the New Testament epistles provide a thorough ecclesiology, although sometimes indirectly. What of the epistle to Philemon? Aquinas holds that it sheds light on grace in the Church so far as it extends to individuals, and in particular to those who have temporal responsibility in this world. There is something to this, but I think there is another way to understand Philemon that allows us to be more specific, namely, as the epistle that concerns the domestic church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the notion of the 'domestic church' in 1655-1658 and 1666, noting the important role of households in the early Church, which it characterizes as "islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world" (1655) and "centers of living, radiant faith" (1656). It links the notion to that of the priesthood of the baptized (1657) and notes that one of the functions of the Christian family or household is to be, like the Church itself, open even to those who are alone in the world. 

This is pretty general, but there are other places where the concept is discussed more fully. One is Christ, Our Pascha, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic catechism. The UGCC places a significant role on the notion of domestic churches, because it has been a church under rather severe persecution and its families are often scattered around the world because of it, so the domestic church has in many ways been one of the major means of its survival. Unsurprisingly, then, its catechism discusses the domestic church at some length, with the most extensive discussion occurring from 654 to 667. The family has a vocation to be the domestic church (655), in which the members of the family 'liturgize' by combining service to God with service to others (654). The family as the domestic church is built around the sacrament of matrimony, just like the parish church is built around the sacrament of orders (655). It is "the primary cell of the Christian community" that involves evangelizing, praying, and witnessing by example (656). It also discusses, in terms of the Ukrainian tradition, different aspects of the domestic church as a liturgical unit, such as icons, parental blessing of children, family prayer, Scripture reading, participation in traditions associated with holy days, and of course, matrimony itself.

This perhaps suffices to indicate the importance of the idea; but it has been more practiced than theorized. We can, however, think of Philemon as an epistle that gives us more insight into this familial vocation to the domestic church, particularly what it contributes to the Church at large. The letter, from Paul and Timothy, is explicitly directed to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and kat' oikon sou ecclesia, the church at your household (v. 2). Paul then says he thanks God when he hears of their love and faith toward Jesus and their fellow Christians. He then identifies what I think we can see as the two primary functions of the domestic church: the sharing of faith (v. 6) and the refreshing of the hearts of Christians (v. 7). The latter is particularly interesting and important, because we find it elsewhere. In 1 Corinthians 16, we find Paul discussing the household of Stephanas, the first converts in Achaia, and notes that they have devoted themselves to the service of their fellow Christians (16:15), and rejoices that members of that household have come "for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours" (16:18). The word here is the same as in Philemon, so we have something that is definitely connected with the role of the household as domestic church: refreshing the hearts of the saints.

Philemon gives us a bit more of an understanding of how this refreshment. A slave in the household, Onesimus, had run away and become a Christian and helper of Paul; he is returning, but Paul charges that they receive Onesimus as a brother and as they would Paul himself, and to take this as a benefit they are giving Paul himself. He then sums this all up as refreshing his heart (v. 20), where the word, 'heart', means literally something like 'innards' or 'insides', and is often a figurative expression for mercy, pity, sympathy. By generously giving their familial hospitality, they, like the household of Stephanas in 1 Corinthians, can do something that brings repose to those who need to be acting out of mercy and pity -- namely, all of us -- and by their example giving a sort of restoration to that mercy and pity. It's an experience we've all had at some point, of being refreshed in our own good works by the good works of others, and this is, I suggest, one of the key functions of the domestic church: by a sort of familial hospitality and generosity, refreshing the mercy and good works of the whole Church.

In a Church without emphasis on the family, the household, we would expect a sort of drought; individuals cannot forever do good, cannot forever act mercifully, without refreshment. The lone person eventually goes dry, eventually begins breaking down from the exhaustion of it. And I would suggest we do see such droughts at times in the history of the Church; our own time is one, I think. On the other side, we find that a revival of the household as a Christian entity, even the mere attempt of families to rise up to their vocations as domestic churches, has immense benefits. The family can perhaps never remain wholly untouched by the world around, and inevitably assimilates things from it, not all good -- but as domestic church it begins the spiritual alchemy of slowly transfiguring these things into something nobler, a process that is slow and halting at times but that is nonetheless very real. And from it we get profound devotions, great leaders, and far more good than you might expect from even the most minor household routines.

And I think as well of the fact that so often, like the household of Stephanas, the 'church at the household' has been the platform for the Church when there was no other, and how it has often remained with extraordinary durability. Some of the successes of early modern missions to China came about when a number of Chinese families recognized that some of the ceremonies of the missionaries were clearly linked to their own family traditions, their ancestors having been converted centuries before and their family practices having preserved significant elements from that time. And, of course, there were the Japanese Christians, all of their priests murdered, subject to one of the most brutal persecutions in the history of the Church, but surviving, keeping the faith as best they could in their families, reciting the prayers even though they had become garbled and praying before a Buddhist shrine with a statue of the bodhisattva Kannon, holding a child, on some part of which they had made a mark to indicate that this was not Kannon but Maria and her Child, until one day, the country having opened up again, a priest tending a church for foreign traders stepped outside and found a number of curious but cautious Japanese gathered there, Christians in a country without Christianity, because they had heard a rumor that the priest's prayers and practices were like their own. During the persecutions of the Elizabethan era or the French Revolution or any number of others, it was the families that held the Church together, that protected the priests, that took in those who had suffered, and it was the families that slowly pulled everything back when the times allowed. It is not on its own the whole Church, but it is not an optional concession; it is an essential aspect of the life of the Church, enough that there was preserved in Scripture an entire Pauline letter devoted to it.

 Various Links of Interest

 * Ulatowski, Weijers & Sytsma, Corpus Methods in Philosophy

* Robert Schneider, Uncovering Ramanujan's "Lost" Notebook (PDF)

* Scott Moringiello, More Beauty Than Our Eyes Can Bear

* Dan Nixon, The body as mediator, discusses Merleau-Ponty 

* Pat Smith on the political vision of Wulfstan of York

* Taylor Ross, Against Religious Fellow-Traveling, on Simone Weil

* Stephen Palmquist, How Political Is the Kantian Church?

* Justin Tosi & Brandon Warmke, "Shame on you!", discusses moral grandstanding

Currently Reading

 Michael Flynn, Falling Stars
John Henry Newman, Loss and Gain

Music on My Mind

Miracle of Sound, "The Tale of Cú Chulainn". For a somewhat different run-down of the Hound's life, see the Overly Sarcastic Productions recounting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Microcosm and Macrocosm

And thus, the moralist has before him a most ample field for speculation ; and one, as I have said, quite distinct from the field of speculation of the mathematician, and the physicist, and the naturalist. He has a world within for his empire, which, all within him as it is, is not smaller than the world without, to the eye of reason. The microcosm, the little world of man, is really not less than the macrocosm, the great world of nature. The moralist said what every moral thinker will feel to be true, when he declared that, great as was the impression of sublimity when he turned his eyes to the starry concave without him, he saw a spectacle no less solemn and awful, when he looked at the sphere of consciousness within.

And beyond all doubt, these two worlds affect us in a different manner, and are to be studied according to different methods. The true method, in each course, must lead, as I conceive, to a system of Truths ; but the very nature of the Truth appears to differ in the one system and in the other.

William Whewell, Lectures on Systematic Morality, p. 48. The microcosm/macrocosm comparison  is traditional and goes back to Pythagoras. The moralist mentioned at the end of the first paragraph is Kant, of course.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Presence and Location

In "Experiencing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist" by Cockayne, Efird, Haynes, Molto, Tamburro, Warman, and Ludwigs (whew!), they propose what they call an 'iconic' account of the real presence. As they put it, "On this understanding, Christ is derivatively, rather than fundamentally, located in the consecrated bread and wine, such that Christ is present to the believer through the consecrated bread and wine, thereby making available to the believer a second-person experience of Christ, where the consecrated bread and wine are the way in which she shares attention with him."

Contrasted with derivative location accounts, they hold are more common fundamental location accounts:

One way for Christ to be really present in the Eucharist is for him to be present in the consecrated bread and wine, and so be located in the consecrated bread and wine, and so be located at the place occupied by the consecrated bread and wine. This would then be a fundamental location account of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The most prominent such account is the doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which, at the consecration, the substance of the bread and of the wine are transformed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, respectively.

One obvious problem here is that the doctrine of transubstantiation is not a fundamental location account, and the root of the problem is that analytic philosophers have a tendency to over-assimilate presence to location. (I've already noted this problem with respect to Kenny's discussion of real presence.) The idea of transubstantiation does not involve Christ taking on the accidents of bread and wine (that is a heresy called 'impanation'); rather, it implies that he manifests his presence through them, having replaced the substance of bread and wine. But among the accidents of bread and wine are those that localize it; Christ does not take these on, and therefore is not located where the accidents are. Given the distinction between fundamental location accounts and derivative location accounts that the authors use, transubstantiation is not a fundamental location account.

Consider Aquinas's discussion of this point (ST 3.76.5). He makes a distinction between presence by dimensive quantity and presence by substance. To be present by dimensive quantity requires that the thing present have a measure corresponding to the measure of the dimensive quantity of its boundary. This is literally not possible in the case of Christ's body and a little bit of Host on the altar. The dimensions of the Host are foreign dimensions, not proper dimensions, for Christ's body. Likewise, he'll go on to argue, Christ does not move when the Host moves, for the same reason.

The flow of thought in the above paragraph is quite clear: present in the consecrated elements and so located in them and so located at the place occupied by them. Neither of these and so's is as sure as it might seem. Presence is an action, broadly speaking; location is a measurement. They can come apart. We see this in things like video conferencing and phone calls, by means of which you are present somewhere that you are not located. An older example would be the presence of the soul in parts of the body. Your soul is present in your hand (otherwise it would not be a living hand); however, in a hylomorphic accounts, you wouldn't want to say that your soul is located at the place occupied by your hand. Forms, of which the soul is a special case, have no particular location. 'At your hand' is a location-measurement that, however loose and approximate, is wholly inadequate for measuring the presence of your soul. Any attempt to tie presence closely with location needs to be justified, not assumed.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Second Waypoint

 As I've repeatedly had to remind people -- and not just foreigners, who understandably might be importing their own assumptions about how elections work, but Americans who should know better -- the US presidential election is a multi-stage election; it does not happen all at once, but is divided out in such a way that all three levels of American government contribute. The people voted in fifty-one distinct elections (one for each state and the District of Columbia, each of which has different election laws) on Election Day, the first major waypoint. After Election Day, we've had roughly a month, during which audits, recounts, recanvasses, and litigations that need to be done to clarify the vote may be done. Today we reach the second waypoint, the meeting of the Electoral College, chosen according to a method established by the state legislature in light of the Election Day vote.

The Electoral College in Texas just a little bit ago cast its electoral votes; all 38 electoral votes for the State of Texas went to Trump for President and Pence for Vice President. That is in itself a notable thing. Texas was not happy with Trump as a candidate in 2016. Today's meeting went smoothly and quickly, with everything essential done in less than an hour and a half. The meeting in 2016 took forever, because despite the fact that it was a Republican slate, four of the Electors refused even to show up to vote, requiring that time be taken to replace them. And, of those who showed, two of them cast protest votes rather than vote for Trump. Whether Trump's consolidation in Texas has more to do with Trump himself or with the common conviction among Texan Republicans, about which they have become increasingly vocal in the past several years, that the Democratic establishment consists of insane totalitarians, is impossible to say from the vote itself. Either way, Trump this time around has received the solid backing of Texas, the Republican-voting state that had previously been most opposed to him.

We are not yet done with the election. Once all the meetings of the Electoral College take place today and the full Electoral College votes established, we enter the final stage. The formal certificates of vote will be sent to Congress and on January 6, the newly elected Congress in a joint session will formally count the Electoral College votes. Members of Congress can protest any of the votes, as long as the protest is provided in written form and signed by members of both houses,  When that happens, the two houses break for debate and vote; the objection is accepted only if both houses vote in favor of it. Objections are rarely made, and when made are rarely accepted, although it's not without precedent. We may well get a number of objections this time around -- Electoral College slates have to be determined in a manner determined by state legislatures, and in a few states, at least one house of the legislature has formally protested in some way that the election results were not certified (and thus the Electoral College slates not chosen) in a way consistent with state election law on some point or other, which is probably enough legal cover to get an objection support from one Republican Representative and one Republican Senator -- but getting bicameral support for an objection is as tall an order as it ever would be; and even if any were accepted, it would require alternative slates from several states to tip the Electoral College vote from Biden to Trump, which is a taller order still. In any case, the Electoral College vote as counted by Congress is the absolute word on who will be President and Vice President.

Given the Texas shift, and given that Hillary Clinton lost the most Electoral College votes to protest votes of any candidate in a century, it will be interesting if there are any protest votes at all this year. If there are, I'll put them up here.

 ADDED LATER: Journalists are maddeningly lax in their responsibilities to report on what needs reporting, but it looks like there were no protest votes. The electorate in 2016 considered the hand the parties dealt it a very bad hand; whether they are doing it happily or with gritted teeth, the electorate in 2020 is much more willing to go along with this year's deal. Or perhaps they've simply gotten over the shock of Trump campaign obnoxiousness and were relieved not to have the awfulness of Clinton campaign arrogance. I don't know; I have no deep insight into the overall tendency of the electorate. But it's a big shift back to some kind of normal.

Doctor Mysticus

 Today is the feast of St. Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, better known as St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. From his work of mystical theology, The Dark Night of the Soul (Book I, Chapter II):

As these beginners feel themselves to be very fervent and diligent in spiritual things and devout exercises, from this prosperity (although it is true that holy things of their own nature cause humility) there often comes to them, through their imperfections, a certain kind of secret pride, whence they come to have some degree of satisfaction with their works and with themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn others in their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words, herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God for his own good works and despising the publican.

In these persons the devil often increases the fervour that they have and the desire to perform these and other works more frequently, so that their pride and presumption may grow greater. For the devil knows quite well that all these works and virtues which they perform are not only valueless to them, but even become vices in them. And such a degree of evil are some of these persons wont to reach that they would have none appear good save themselves; and thus, in deed and word, whenever the opportunity occurs, they condemn them and slander them, beholding the mote in their brother’s eye and not considering the beam which is in their own; they strain at another’s gnat and themselves swallow a camel.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Through Mystic Depths of Trackless Space

Coloured Double Stars
(December Thirteenth)
by John Holland

"It may be easier suggested in words, than conceived in imagination, what variety of illumination two suns—a red and a green, or a yellow and a blue one-must afford a planet circulating about either; and what charming contrasts and grateful vicissitudes—a red and a green day, for instance, alternating with a white one and with darkness—might arise from the presence or absence of one or other, or both above the horizon."-Herschel.

Hail, glorious triumph of the optic glass!
Revealing -- else unseen -- gem after gem
Ten thousand stars in night's dark diadem;
Some twin, or single, in rich tint surpass
Beryl, or amethyst, or chrysophras;
Resplendent clusters! such their lofty stem,
Unaided vision never clomb to them:
Reason in vain would grasp such mighty mass,
Of strange sidereal grandeur; Fancy, taught
By science, grows bewilder'd at the view;
For how, though heaven-plumed, can earthly thought,
Through mystic depths of trackless space, pursue
Each orb, which other, million miles outruns
A waste of worlds—a wilderness of suns!