Thursday, May 13, 2021

Episozomene

 Today is the Feast of the Holy Ascension. Episozomene is an occasional Eastern epithet for the feast, and means the completion of salvation.  From the Maronite Book of Offering:

O Christ, by your ascension you ended your stay on earth, completed your plan of salvation and returned to the Father to prepare a place for us, so that we may be where you are. You taught us the way to the place where you were going and told us to follow you.

When Thomas asked you: "We do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" You answered: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

[Prayer of Forgiveness (Hoosoyo) for the The Ascension of Our Lord, The Book of Offering According to the Rite of the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church, (2012) p. 399.]

The Ascension SAAM-1981.160.2 1

Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord

From everlasting Your throne endures;
Your name alone, O Lord, is exalted.
Your majesty is above the earth,
Your glory is high above the heavens,
and You have lifted up Your people.
May all who draw near You praise Your great name,
for You ascended to the heavens,
thus to send to us Your Holy Spirit,
the Spirit of Truth, the Life-giver.

From the Father You entered the world;
when You returned again to Your Father,
You brought all creation to His throne.
In You and through You we come to heaven;
You give us a place in Your kingdom.
As we travel, pilgrims in this strange land,
send us the Holy Spirit of truth,
send us the Spirit of consolation,
that we may ascend to God with You.

You ascended but did not leave us;
You are with us in the great sacraments,
remaining till the end of the age.
Grant that by faith we may know Your presence,
and see You face to face in heaven,
as You sit at the Father's right hand.
By faith, steady our feet on Your path.
By hope, give us victory in all things.
By love, bring us to glorious dawn.

Down to the depths and up to the heights,
O Lord, You compassed all of creation,
always perfect God and perfect man,
knowing all human humiliation,
exalted far beyond creation.
May we find true humility in You,
thus to be exalted to great height;
send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us,
to teach us the truth that leads to joy.

Heaven and earth unbreakable bonds
now share through Your headship and mystery.
Lord, You are the Way, the Truth, the Life;
no one reaches the Father save through You.
You ascended to His right hand,
and Your ascent is the path of ascent.
Only Your body can take that path,
but we are Your body through sacrament.
Through You and with You we come to Him.

From age to age Your great throne stands firm;
Your name alone is exalted on high.
Your kingship is great above all things,
and You have lifted us up to heaven.
Greatly all people praise Your glory,
for You ascended to the heavens
and thence You send us the Holy Spirit,
the great Spirit of consolation,
and distributer of truth and light.

Poem a Day 13

Death's Little Brother

Death's little brother, Boredom,
carries no scythe or gown
but a pillow with which to smother
and a cup with which to drown.

As a man may choke on droplets,
so the mind may drown in time:
a minute leaves it gasping
from lack of the sublime.

And who will be our Sisyphus?
And who undoes the tomb
into which Death's young brother
can turn a quiet room?

And who will be our Sisyphus?
In miniature we die
from sip of grave and devil-hell,
slack jaw and glazing eye.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

We Show but What One Happy Moment Saith

The Power of Art
by George Santayana


Not human art, but living gods alone
Can fashion beauties that by changing live,--
Her buds to spring, his fruits to autumn give,
To earth her fountains in her heart of stone;
But these in their begetting are o'erthrown,
Nor may the sentenced minutes find reprieve;
And summer in the blush of joy must grieve
To shed his flaunting crown of petals blown.
We to our works may not impart our breath,
Nor them with shifting light of life array;
We show but what one happy moment saith;
Yet may our hands immortalize the day
When life was sweet, and save from utter death
The sacred past that should not pass away.

Poem a Day 12

The Shieldings

On earth for long aeons
neither king nor wise counsel ruled,
no song or psalm broke cold darkness.
Shadows haunted mount and moor
with death and dread of night.
Then a ship came sailing, sea-shine bright,
unmasted, unoared, majestic on wave.

On the island of Skani, men gathered, crowds grew;
they looked within the wave-rider.
In the boat was a boy, asleep;
fair-faced and golden-haired he slept.
Weapons of war were arranged around him.
The wood about him was worked with gold
and his hand was on a cunning harp.
His head was resting on a wheaten sheaf
and Sheaf they named him.
Charmed he was beyond all other children;
he was crowned by ancient rite as king
and his followers called him the Fruitful Lord.
Laws forgotten he restored to life;
the hurts of the people he healed.
On need he had pity, but wrongs he punished.
A man might lose a ring on the road
and receive it again when returning that way.
Prosperity's gates he opened to the people;
great were the gifts he gave with his hands.

A son Sheaf begat, whose name was Shield,
who grew strong. And when the son was of age,
Sheaf took the sea; his ship did not return,
and Shield Sheafing was crowned king.
He fought for the people; enemies feared him;
he raised a great hall where heroes drank mead.
He ruled the people wisely with his words.
King Shield a son begat, whose name was Barley;
great grew his glory, even when young.
But Shield bowed beneath his burden
and nobly died, having done splendid deeds.
They bore him down to a boat,
placed their lord Shield on a ship,
laid him to rest with rings and riches.
Weapons of war they laid around him
and, sighing, sent him away on the sea.

Then Barley Shielding, beloved of men, ruledd,
and form that lord the Lombards came.
he was father to Clever, and when he died,
the people laid him on a mighty pyre
hung with shield and helm.
The fire blazed, the flame burned his body
as maidens sang songs of his deeds;
then they made a great mound
over the fire's remains for his long rest,
piling the tomb with treasures bright,
returning fair gold to the ground
as a dirge  was raised for the death of their lord.

And all these are the customs the kings have kept.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Praiser of Generous Thought and Noble Deed

Charles Dickens
by Harriett Stockall


He lived among us, holding in his hand
The heart of England like an instrument,
From whose great strings his absolute command
Drew mingled sound of sobs and laughter blent.
He lived among us, weaving subtler spells
Than grey magician of the bygone days;
Wearing by turns the jester's cap and bells,
The mourner's cypress wreath, the scholar's bays.
But evermore, in every changing mood,
We found him faithful to a lofty creed,
Prophet and preacher of the power of Good,
Praiser of generous thought and noble deed,
Lover of Nature, beautiful and free,
Priest of the sacrament of Charity!

He died among us -- straightway through the land
Swept moan instead of music all that day,
Because from England's great enchanter's hand
The pen -- his magic rod -- had dropped away;
Because that busy life's rich, golden prime,
In the mid-strife of battle had gone down;
Because from throbbing brows before the time
Were reft the laurels of an earthly crown.
We wept for him as we but weep for those
Who dearest, nearest to our hearts have lain;
He seemed of kin to us, by sweet and close
And holy ties of human heart and brain.
A friend, a brother, well-beloved alway,
Lay dead among the Kentish bills that day.

He sleeps among us -- England opened wide
Her grandest sepulchre to give him room,
So with the great and holy ones who died
For England's glory, he has found a tomb.
But in our grateful hearts for evermore
Must live the best memorial of his worth,
Those hearts that bless him for the goodly store
He gave to us of beauty and of mirth.
Sweet as the music of our island birds
His stories are, and deathless is their fame,
'Familiar in our mouths as household words,'
While England owns a language and a name;
Dearer and sweeter as the years go by,
Till human lips no longer smile or sigh!

"Familiar in our mouths as household words", from Shakespeare's Henry V, was the motto for Dickens's magazine, Household Words, in which Hard Times was serialized.

Poem a Day 11

Lintukoto

The birds are flying along the Milky Way,
the bird-path leading to the lands of day,
the warm lands of summer and light
at the edge of the world, far from cold night.
The birds bring the soul as it draws its first breath;
the birds take the soul as it stumbles on death;
the birds guide the soul through the labyrinth of dream,
the fields of illusion where the will o' wisps gleam;
and they come in the winter to the edge of all lands
to chatter and play on the summer-warm sands.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Evening Note for Monday, May 10

Thought for the Evening: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

The phrase "liberty, equality, fraternity" has had a rocky history. It is usually associated with the French Revolution, in part because Robespierre used it, but it was simply one of many slogans and mottos in that slogan-obsessed period. It became more closely associated with the Revolution after the Revolution than during. Nonetheless, it has had an enduring appeal that many of the other slogans and mottoes of the day failed to have.

Chesterton in discussing Dickens's Hard Times has an interesting passage making use of the phrase:

The English people as a body went blind, as the saying is, for interpreting democracy entirely in terms of liberty. They said in substance that if they had more and more liberty it did not matter whether they had any equality or any fraternity. But this was violating the sacred trinity of true politics; they confounded the persons and they divided the substance.

What I'd like to do is to focus on and press this idea, merely thrown out here, a little more. Let's suppose, as a hypothesis, that the formula captures at least something about "true politics", and, what is more, that it is a trinitarian triad.

Sense can be made of this. One triad often considered in trinitarian terms is 'power, wisdom, goodness'. It's a triad that is also associated historically with authority. And it's not difficult at all to think of 'liberty, equality, fraternity' as associated with it, particularly if you think of the latter triad as summing up the political authority of a citizenry. Then the liberty of a citizenry can be regarded as the power of the citizenry as such; equality qua citizens can be seen as a standard of action, and thus associated with wisdom; and fraternity can be seen as the goodness inherent in a citizenry qua citizenry.

If we take it as trinitarian then we get a standard against which various political 'heresies' can be identified, in which the politics of the citizenry go wrong. Three are particularly notable (although they can overlap).

(1) Approaches to politics that confound the members.

(2) Approaches to politics that divided the unity of the members.

(3) Approaches to politics that err as to the ordering of the members.

Examples of (1) would be cases where, in the civic life of a society, one of the members absorbs at least one other -- for instance, in a society in which liberty is treated as valuable, but equality or fraternity only to the limited extent that they can be seen purely as expressions of liberty. Chesterton in the above quotation accuses the English prior to Dickens of this. The Jacobins, and many leftists since, have often been accused of trying to absorb everything into equality. I don't know if anyone has been accused of trying to make all of politics a modality of fraternity, but no doubt they exist and as history goes on we will discover them.

Examples of (2) are cases in which at least one of the members is treated as if it could be understood wholly independently of the other two. Thus any approach to civic politics in which any of the three are understood as conflicting would be an example of this.

(3) are in some ways the most interesting, and probably the most controversial. Trinitarian triads have an ordering; although all members are equal in some way, there is an order of first, second, third in terms of the relations between them. Thus we would expect, in the true politics (on the hypothesis that the formula describes it), that liberty is the source of equality which in a way is the image and expression of it (equality as a sort of reciprocal liberty), and that fraternity arises from liberty through equality, binding them together. It's a little difficult to know how far to take this -- trinitarian triads that are not The Trinity are always limited in some way, so there can be principled ways in which the ordering can somehow fail for these lesser trinities. But you could argue that equality-first and fraternity-first approaches to civic life at least tend toward perversions: equality-first approaches are sometimes criticized for obliterating liberty, for instance, by making it depend on an insatiable standard of equality. Liberty, equality, fraternity is clearly what I have previously called a 'TRS triad', i.e., a triad in which each member builds on the previous ones and each member as it were prepares for the next; disrupt that (logical, not axiological) order, you throw each into confusion.

Human beings being imperfect in the ways they are, we would expect even the best societies to be imperfect in their expression of liberty, equality, fraternity -- to have, to borrow Dorothy Sayers's phrase from The Mind of the Maker, scalene trinities, not deliberate confusion, division, or disordering, but simply imperfection. Such is life in a fallen world.

In any case, if we think of 'liberty, equality, fraternity' in this way, we could perhaps say with Chateaubriand toward the end of his Memoirs from Beyond the Grave:

Christianity is the most philosophical and rational appreciation of God and the creation; it encapsulates the three great universal laws, the divine law, the moral law, the political law: the divine law, God united in three persons; the moral law, charity; the political law, that is to say liberty, equality and fraternity. 

 The first two principles have been discussed; the third, political law has not been furthered, because it cannot flower while intelligent belief in infinite being and universal morality are not solidly established. Now, Christianity has first to clear away the absurdities and abominations with which idolatry and slavery have encumbered the human race.

***

François de Chateaubriand, Mémoires d'Outre Tombe, A. S. Kline, tr., 2005.

***

Related Evening Notes
TRS Triads
A Jacob's Ladder of Triads


Various Links of Interest

* Christa Lundberg on Early Modern Philosophical Letters

* Brian Treanor, Gabriel Marcel, at the SEP

* Jake Neu, Trademarks and Free Speech

* Why Community Is Dangerous, a very good interview with Stanley Hauerwas

* Daniel A. Kaufman, Twenty-Five Things Everyone Used to Understand

* MrsDarwin discusses John Paul II's approach to theater in Pope St. John Paul II, Modernist (theatrically speaking)

* Sascha Settegast, Good Reasons and Natural Ends: Rosalind Hursthouse's Hermeneutical Naturalism (PDF)

* Ryan Miller, Perennial Symmetry Arguments: Aristotle's Heavenly Cosmology and Noether's Theorem (PDF), looks at the role of symmetry-based arguments in very different physical theories

* Ross Inman, Retrieving Divine Immensity and Omnipresence (PDF)

* James Chastek, On Great Books curricula

* Karen Swallow Prior, The Emergence of Remix Culture

* George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

* Julian Baggini, The Paradox of Hume. While an interesting argument, this is oddly framed. For one thing, there's no paradox about brilliant people having stupid or atrocious ideas; most of the stupid and atrocious ideas you come across are from intelligent, brilliant, or creative people, because these are the kinds of people who get carried away by ideas. And, as I've always said, being intelligent doesn't mean that you don't have stupid ideas; it means you're clever enough to come up with arguments and implementations of them. In addition, it's odd to frame this in terms of 'being conservative', because the term is being equivocated on throughout -- many of things attributed to Hume qua conservative would not have been considered particularly conservative in Hume's day, and, in any case, political conservativism, ethical conservativism, and intellectual conservativism are all 'conservative' in very different senses.

Currently Reading

Charles Dickens, Hard Times
J. R. R. Tolkien, Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary
Richard Courant & Herbert Robbins, What is Mathematics?
Owen Barfield, Worlds Apart

Apostle of Andalusia

Today is the feast of St. Juan de Ávila, Doctor of the Church. From one of his letters:

The first thing by which to attain great sanctity, is to consider that you are wicked and that God is infinitely good, and that it is only by His graces that sinners are made good Christians, and that good Christians become better still.

You must be most loyal to our Lord Jesus Christ by giving Him the glory for any virtues you possess. This is the matter, above all others, on which He is susceptible to injustice, and He leaves those who defraud Him of these His claims without honour or graces. You must also love Him fervently, if you would be perfect, for holiness comes from love, and the greater the love, the greater the saint. The best proof we can give of our love for Christ is to obey His commands and bear the cross for Him; the greater the mortifications and hardships this entails, the more does it bear witness to the genuineness of our love.

Contempt for self and abnegation of our will are also signs of this love, for our Lord says: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.” (St. Matth. XVI. 24.) A truly devout soul is at enmity with its own judgment and self-will, and is grateful when it receives insults or annoyances, as they give it the opportunity of conquering these vices. Until a man has obtained from God this self-hatred, so that he takes vengeance on himself by penance as far as possible, and is glad that other men should avenge Christ's cause on him, he has not travelled far on the way of that perfect love of our Lord which causes the soul to have a holy hatred towards self, so that it may have a true love of God and of itself.

Another outcome of deep love of our Lord is a perfect charity towards our neighbour, which grows as our love for God increases, making its possessor as much at one with his brethren, as if they were members of the same body; it moves him to pray fervently for others, and do penance for their welfare when it is possible. May your heart for ever be wholly given to Christ.

Poem a Day 10

 The Six Realms of Metaphysics

A change
is made,
arranged
by mind.

To be
is found
in gift
and ground.

The world
can last;
what holds
it fast?

The less
and more
implies
the pure.

Not chance
but law
is formed
for all.

The mind
is vast;
no end
its cast.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Fortnightly Book, May 9

The next fortnightly book will be Hard Times for These Times, or Hard Times, as it is most commonly known, by Charles Dickens. It is Dickens's shortest novel, and unlike other Dickens novels takes place almost entirely in a fictional city, Coketown, rather than in London. Dickens at the time was putting out a magazine, Household Words, which was struggling a bit, so he wrote Hard Times to help drum up sales. When it was serialized in the magazine from April to August 1854, it succeeded reasonably well. (Enough that he followed it up by serializing another novelist's work, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, from September to January; it did not succeed so well at increasing sales.)

Chesterton's comments on it are interesting. He suggests that in some ways it is the harshest of Dickens's novels -- i.e., the least moderated by sentimentalism -- and that it is very focused on equality. We shall see; I've read parts of it, and know of course a bit about Gradgrind and Bounderby, but I've never actually read the story all the way through.

I'll be reading in a Heritage Press edition, published 1966. It has the same Joseph Blumenthal design as most Dickens HP editions, with gray, red, and gold linen binding. Unlike most editions of Hard Times, it is illustrated, with fifteen wash drawings and a number of line drawings by Charles Raymond. The type is eleven-point Baskerville. You can actually see pictures of a version of the edition I am using at "The George Macy Imagery". (I agree with the author's comment that Raymond's work here seems a little lifeless.)

Poem a Day 9

(This is a sort of precis and adaptation of a truly beautiful fourteenth-century poem of the same name, probably written to commemorate a re-building of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.)

St. Erkenwald

Erkenwald was bishop, under Augustine, of London;
a holy man, he taught Christ's path and the truths of New Law.
The Christians in his day tore down a temple of old ways
that they might build a church in which Christ's Temple might worship.
The rough and merry masons sang hymns as they hewed the stones.
The pick-men in plenty bent their backs without stopping,
and, as they mined, a murmur went up at a great marvel:
their picks found an ancient tomb and a coffin of marble,
like that of a king, lettered around with strange script in gold.
Astonished, a crowd soon gathered and grew to catch a glimpse,
laborers, lads, maidens, the mayor and the sacristan,
all amazed at this ancestral splendor brought to their sight.
Curious but cautious, they carefully lifted the lid,
eager to see what splendor might under that cover lay.
All the sides were gold, but at the bottom was a body,
a man in suit of pearl and gold with a bright golden belt,
a miniver mantle, and on his head a crafted crown.
He held a scepter, and the cloths were of brightest colors.
But the greatest wonder was that his flesh was clear and fresh,
ruddy with life as if he had just lain down or fallen.
The people said, "A king he must be, but what is his tale?
We have not heard it told; it is not in our traditions."
Then Erkenwald, hearing the story, came down to that place;
beside the body, all night, the primate knelt in prayer.
The next morning the holy man prepared to sing the Mass,
then after the liturgy processed with the town's mayor
and a great mass of people to the great ancestral tomb.
"By ourselves we surely cannot know the truth of this tale,"
the bishop said; "we must to God, whose wisdom knows no bounds."
Then he spoke to the corpse; that it would give answer he bade.
Then the body stirred and spoke with a reply deep and sad:
"Bishop, you adjured me by Christ; His command I will serve.
I was but a lawyer who spoke the law; I was made judge,
and then master of judges. I sought to render justice
according to the pagan laws of my pagan people,
even though a great war arose then between the princes.
I kept the forms and held the rites; I sought to teach virtue.
Many great harms I endured when the people turned vicious.
My conscience I would never turn aside for any man,
but tried for rich and poor to judge each case on its merit.
At my death, the people of New Troy with bitter tears wept,
and they clothed my corpse like a relic to honor my ways:
gold cloth for honesty, crown for eminence, and for right
they set in my hand a scepter like that of one who rules."
"This is not the whole tale," said the bishop; "the cloth remains,
pure and untattered, and your skin is glowing and ruddy,
and the colors in your coffin are like none we have seen."
"You know, O bishop, that this is God's work," the body said,
"for God loves a just man greatly, and thus has let me last."
"This is not the whole tale," said the bishop; "what of your soul?
The just and incorrupt rise to God, says the Psalmist,
and surely to the just he will give some measure of grace,
so tell us what was given to your pagan soul by God."
Then the man moaned, and said, "O God, great is your high mercy!
A heathen in a heathen age, I did not know your might.
The Lamb's blood did not redeem me; I did not have Christ's help,
but could only hold to the right with a strength merely human.
When Christ harrowed hell, I was left to wander in limbo,
rewarded but damned, and pining in never-ending dark,
unilluminated by baptism in life and in death."
The people wept, and, unspeaking, sobbing, the bishop wept.
Then after prayer, he said, "I will bring holy water
and baptize you with proper rite and form and holy words;
perhaps God has kept you that you might now enter his way,
and if not, there is no harm; at least you have our prayers."
Sprinkling the corpse with water and word, the holy primate
continued to weep; his tears also baptized the body.
Then the corpse said, "O holy Erkenwald, may you be blessed!
By word and water and tears a sacrament was given,
and from the first drop I received the endless grace of God."
With that, he spoke no more, and he crumbled to dust.
The people all marveled that God had granted them this deed;
they lifted praise and sweet worship to God with hands held high
and, weeping but merry, they returned to their own houses.
In honor of the new stone in Christ's Temple they rejoiced
and in thanks the bells of the city were loud and ringing.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Stories; The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

Introduction

Opening Passages: Sagas and thaettir (short stories) are often masterly in their to-the-point openings, so it makes sense to give a taste of each. From Hrafnkel's Saga:

It was in the days of King Harald Fine-Hair that a man called Hallfred brought his ship to Iceland, putting in at Breiddale east of the Fljotsdale District. On board were his wife and their fifteen-year-old son Hrafnkel, a handsome and promising youngster. (p. 35)

From Thorstein the Staff-Struck:

There was a man called Thorarin who lived at Sunnudale; he was old and nearly blind. He had been a fierce viking in his younger years, and even in his old age he was very hard to deal with. He had an only son, Thorstein, who was a tall man, powerful but even-tempered; he worked so hard on his father's farm that three other men could hardly have done better. Thorarin had little money, but a good many weapons. He and his son owned some breeding horses and that was their main source of income, for the young colts they sold never failed in spirit or strength. (p. 72)

From Ale-Hood:

There was a man called Thorhall who lived at Thorhallsstead in Blawoods. He was a wealthy man and getting on in years when this story happened. Thorhall was small and ugly, with no particular skills except for being a good carpenter and blacksmith. He used to make money at the Althing brewing ale, and through this he got to know all the important people, who bought more ale than most. As often happens, not everybody thought much of the ale, and the man who sold it wasn't always well liked either. Thorhall wasn't open-handed -- indeed he was said to be rather stingy. His eye-sight was poor, and he used to wear a hood, particularly at the Althing; and since the people there couldn't always remember his name, they started calling him Ale-Hood, and the nickname stuck. (p. 82)

From Hreidar the Fool:

There was a man called Thord, a small, good-looking man. He had a brother, Hreidar, who was ugly and so stupid he could scarcely take care of himself. Hreidar was an exceptionally fast runner, very strong and even-tempered. He stayed at home, but Thord was a sea-going trader and a retainer of King Magnus who thought very highly of him. (p. 94)

From Halldor Snorrason:

Halldor Snorrason had been with King Harald in Constantinople, and came with him west from Russia to Norway. He was thought highly of and favoured by the king, staying with him the first winter in Norway at Kaupang. As winter wore on and spring was coming, traders started early preparations for their voyages, as there had been little trade between Norway and other countries because of hostilities with Denmark. (p. 109)

From Audun's Story:

There was a man in the Westfjords called Audun; he was not well off and worked as a farmhand for a kinsman of his, a man called Thorstein. (p. 121)

From Ivar's Story:

A man called Ivar was staying at the court of King Eystein. Ivar was an Icelander, well-born and intelligent and a good poet. The king thought highly of him, and his fondness for Ivar is borne out by the following episode. (p. 129)

From The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki:

Here begins the Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, and first is written the tale of King Frodi.

A man was named Halfdan and another Frodi; the two were brothers. They were the sons of a king and each ruled his own kingdom. King Halfdan was mild-mannered and easygoing; he was quiet and good-natured, but King Frodi was the harshest and greediest of men. King Halfdan had three children: two of them were sons. The third, a daughter named Signy, was the eldest. She was married to Jarl Saevil. At the time of these events Halfdan's sons were young; one was named Hroar and the other Helgi. Their foster-father was named Regin, and he loved the boys deeply. (p. 1)

Summary: In Hrafnkel's Saga, Hrafnkel is a ruthless bully and an enthusiast for the god Freyr; he has a horse, Freyfaxi, half of the ownership of which he has given to Freyr, and about whom he has sworn a sacred oath: if anyone rides Freyfaxi without Hrafnkel's permission, Hrafnkel will kill him. One of Hrafnkel's men, Einar, in an emergency rides Freyfaxi, and the violation of the rule is soon made obvious; Hrafnkel to some extent sees where this is going, but his oath is on the line. He kills Einar, which naturally leads to bad blood with Einar's family; Hrafnkel refuses to pay wergild on the grounds that he pays wergild to no one, but he concedes that this killing is the worst thing he is ever done, and so is willing to give support for Einar's family. What Hrafnkel offers is, in monetary terms, far more than the wergild would have been, but this is of course not the point of wergild, the real point of which is honor as recognized by law. The deliberate refusal to render the legal due and recognize Einar and his family as equals is an active insult, and Einar's family is furious over it. They set out to get justice by bringing a lawsuit against Hranfkel, but it's tricky. Because Hrafnkel is a powerful chieftain, they will need chieftains to support their side, but Hrafnkel is both powerful and notorious for being a vindictive bully, so nobody really wants to get into an unnecessary fight with him. By great luck, however, they meet up with Thorkel, a man of powerful family who has been away from Iceland for some years; Thorkel, who is usually away, does not have the worries about facing down Hrafnkel that others do, and he manages to maneuver his family into supporting the family of Einar. With that help, Hrafnkel is declared outlaw -- that is, literally outside the protection of law, so that if anyone kills him or takes his property, there is no legal recourse. He is surprised by Einar's family, and given a choice by Einar's cousin Sam, to die or become Sam's subordinate. Hrafnkel chooses to live, although Thorkel warns that it is entirely a mistake to let Hranfkel live. Being so humiliated will mellow Hrafnkel and break his devotion to Freyr, but that is not the end of the story; Hrafnkel will get his revenge.

In Thorstein the Staff-Struck, Thorstein gets involved in a horse-fight (like a dog-fight but with horses, a popular medieval Scandinavian sport) with a man named Thord, one that goes very wrong when Thorstein strikes Thord's horse with his staff and Thord strikes Thorstein (hence is derogatory nickname). Thorstein recognizes that this can get bad quickly, and is willing to pretend that Thord's strike was an accident, but Thorstein's old viking father, Thorarin, is furious that his son is such a coward. He presses the matter until Thorstein kills Thord. Thord was the servant of another man, the chieftain Bjarni, and Bjarni, also seeing where this is going, tries to minimize the matter by having Thorstein declared outlaw but not pursuing the matter any further. People will not let this rest, though -- as chieftain, one of Bjarni's major responsibilities is protecting those under him -- and so inevitably has to go after Thorstein. After Thorstein kills two more of his servants, Bjarni decides that his only real option is to go against Thorstein himself, one on one. With some very clever thinking, Bjarni is able to use the duel bring the matter to a happy conclusion, but it's dicey business.

Ale-Hood is the story of a lawsuit (a perennially interesting subject for medieval Icelanders) over an accidental fire and how the (very disliked) title character managed to get justice by a stroke of luck. Halldor Snorrason is about the deteriorating friendship between the title character and King Harald, who start as close companions and end up hardly being able to stand each other. The rest of the 'other stories' in the collection are making-one's-fortune tales. Hreidar the Fool is a comedic tale about a good-natured idiot who manages to become extremely successful by doing everything wrong. Audun's Story is a charming story about a clever poor man who, seizing an unexpected opportunity to buy a polar bear (a major luxury item in medieval Scandinavia) despite its costing him everything he has, manages to get a pilgrimage to Rome out of it, as well as the respect of two feuding kings whom he brings closer together. Ivar's Story is about how King Eystein helps the title character get over having lost the woman he loved to his brother.

And this brings us to The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, which in our modern vernacular is a story about superheroes. The ruthless Frodi murders his brother Halfdan. Halfdan's sons, Helgi and Hroar, are hidden by a clever farmer with knowledge of magical arts, and therefore survive despite Frodi's attempts to use every magical means to track them down; they will eventually succeed in avenging their father and set out to become kings, with Hroar moving to Northumbria (he is the King Hrothgar of Beowulf) and Helgi, the wilder of the two, trying to woo Queen Olof of the Saxons. Helgi's attempt, which is far too rough, goes very wrong; Olof humiliates him, in response to which he eventually returns the humiliation on her by kidnapping her and raping her. She bears a daughter, whom she spitefully names Yrsa after the name of her dog, and rather than raising her in court sends her to be raised by shepherds. Helgi, in the meantime, after an extended period of exciting adventures has decided to see what other adventures can be found in Queen Olof's lands. He disguises himself as a beggar and while venturing about comes across a teenaged shepherd girl and falls in love with her. You can see where this is going. Helgi and Yrsa marry, not knowing that they are father and daughter, and they have a son, Hrólfr or Hrolf, whose destiny will inevitably not be that of normal men. Olof eventually gets further vengeance against Helgi when she busts up his otherwise happy marriage by letting Yrsa know the real story; Yrsa flees and eventually marries King Adils (Adhils) of Sweden, a powerful and dangerous king who likes to dabble in dark arts. Helgi tries to reclaim her, but is killed by Adils; Hrolf, still a young man, succeeds his father as king and, as he is brave, open-handed, and trustworthy, champions begin collecting around him. 

Most of the saga consists of the tale of how the most important of these champions end up in Hrolf's court. Svipdag is an extraordinary warrior who attempts to make his fortune in the court of King Adils, but coming to regard Adils as stingy, leaves and ends up with King Hrolf, along with his almost equally impressive two brothers. The star of the show, though, is Bodvar Bjarki. His father Bjorn (whose name means 'bear'), having repudiated the love of a queen, Queen Hvit, was cursed by her to be a a werebear, turning into a bear every day; his mother Bera (whose name means 'bear'), who is the reason Bjorn refused Hvit's seduction, discovers this but stays with him anyway. Bjorn eventually is killed, but not before prophesying that she will bear him three sons, but she must not eat any bear offered to her by the queen. Bjorn is killed, but Bera is not able to avoid eating one morsel and tasting another, and the result is that her first two sons are visibly beast-men. The third, Bodvar (whose name means 'battle'), is, however, handsome and human-looking, although there is more to him than meets the eye. Bodvar avenges his father, and then makes his way to Hrolf's court, where he shows himself to be an unstoppable warrior, able to take on multiple strong men simultaneously. There he meets a puny wimp named Hott, who is mocked and mistreated by the warriors. He discovers that an evil dragon-like winged monster preys on Hrolf's hall each winter, and sets out to kill it, forcing the frightened Hott to go with him. After Bodvar kills the beast, he forces Hott to drink its blood and eat its heart. He then picks a fight with Hott, in the course of which Hott sees what Bodvar has done: the monster's heart has given Hott extraordinary strength. They beat each other up a while as only good friends can do, and the result is that Hott now has confidence as well, since he can almost match the superhuman Bodvar. When another monster menaces the hall, Hott kills it and is renamed by the king Hjalti ('hilt'), after the king's own sword. He eventually becomes known as Hjalti the Magnanimous because, despite his previous mistreatment, he doesn't hold it against anyone. Thus we get the key champions:

The hall was now arranged in the following manner: Bodvar, who had become the most esteemed and the highest valued, sat at the king's right. Then came Hjalti the Magnanimous....On the king's left hand sat the three brothers -- Svipdag, Hvitserk and Beygad -- so important had they become. Next came the twelve berserkers. All the other heroes were then seated on both sides the length of the stronghold, but they are not named here. (pp. 54-55)

Hrolf sets out to avenge his father. This is not an easy task; Adils has only grown more powerful. As they are heading to fight Adils, they meet a one-eyed farmer named Hrani and stay at his house. There is something strange about him, because despite continuing and making progress, they keep meeting him, and end up staying at his house three nights in a row. Each time he gives them some kind of advice, which they take; in particular, Hrolf sends most of his men home, keeping only the twelve best men. They make it to the court of Adils, and manage to survive despite the deceptions of Adils; when they are attacked, the wreak havoc on Adils's court, and he is forced to flee. Hrolf and his men meet Hrani again; Hrani tries to give them some weapons, but they decline the gift because the weapons are so ugly. Hrani is furious and kicks them out; Bodvar later realizes that they have made a potentially fatal mistake, because Hrani is Odin, and thus if they keep pursuing Adils, their luck will not hold. They return home and Hrolf attempts to stay out of trouble.

But it's not so easy to stay out of trouble when you are a Scandinavian king. There is a king, Hjorvard, who is Hrolf's vassal, but only because Hrolf had early on managed to trick him. Hjorvard is married to a woman named Skuld, who is an immensely powerful sorceress. She is in fact Hrolf's half-sister (and, I suppose, also his aunt), being the daughter of Helgi and an elfin woman from the sea. Hjorvard and Skuld rebel against Hrolf, and it is civil war. But arrayed against Hrolf and his champions is Skuld and Odin, and they are not fighting just an ordinary army but also a host of trolls and, what is worse, the warriors they kill do not stop fighting. Hrolf and his champions are more than a match for any human army, but it's another story when it comes to fighting eldritch creatures and the undead. Nonetheless, in the great battle that follows, they do extraordinarily well. At one point, they find that a great and indestructible bear is fighting along with them, and none of Skuld's creatures or the undead can stand against it. But Hjalti notices that Bodvar is missing and finds him sitting alone in a room; Hjalti, bewildered, protests his avoidance of battle, but when they return to the battlefield, they discover that the bear has vanished (it was, of course, a sort of dream-form of Bodvar himself), and the tide of battle is turning against Hrolf. Hrolf and his champions die, the end. Well, not quite the end; there's always an avenging.

I often look at adaptations, usually movies or radio, but this time, I looked at a literary adaptation, Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga. The book is essentially an adaptation of the saga as a fantasy novel; this is actually relatively easy to do, allowing for the shift from the dry spare narrativity of the saga to the more psychologically lush and chatty modes of novel, so it is a very faithful retelling. (Of course, as Anderson notes in his foreword, one major difference is that all of the characters in the saga are much more brutal and ruthless than you would expect in your typical fantasy novel.) There are some differences. Anderson has his version told by a tenth-century Englishwoman; this frame doesn't really affect the story much, except it gives Anderson an explanation of the shift of style, and it also allows him to bring in closely related English material without having to worry about anachronism or the fact that some of his names are Anglo-Saxon and some are Norse. There are some differences in the ending; a completely ordinary guy named Vogg manages to attach himself to Hrolf and his champions, promising to be faithful and to avenge the king if the king is ever killed; Hrolf obviously finds this funny, and notes that other men are more likely to do that. Both the saga and the novel let Vogg fulfill his promise (after all, all the champions are dead by that point), but they choose very different ways of doing so. And one very noticeable difference is that Anderson all the way through calls Bodvar Bjarki, 'Bjarki', treating 'Bodvar' as a nickname he gets from his excellence in battle. The saga actually does exactly the opposite, calling him Bodvar almost all the way through, and treating 'Bjarki' as the nickname. I suspect Anderson does this based on scholarly speculation -- some scholars speculate that the character's original name was Bjarki, which, like the names of his father and mother, means 'bear'.

But one thing even faithful adaptations do, perhaps especially do, is bring out aspects of the original, including aspects that don't get adapted. And one of things that I think really shifts between the saga author and Anderson is related to the saga author's explicit Christianity. Looking around, it seems common for people to treat the author's occasional Christian remarks (e.g., about Odin as an evil spirit) as Christian intrusions into an essentially pagan tale. But comparing the saga with Anderson's paganized version, I think it's clear that this is not true at all. The entire structure of the ending of the saga depends precisely on the things that saga author is pointing out when he makes his Christian comments. It is in fact integral to how he builds up to the end of the tale that Hrolf and his champions are (1) noble in such a way that their paganism is merely due to their ignorance and (2) doomed to fail because they are not Christian and therefore have no means of achieving victory against demonic powers. On the basis of this, the author is able to magnify both their nobility and their achievement, in a way that can't be done in a more pagan telling of the tale. Hrolf and his champions take on dark powers no human, however gifted, is equipped to fight, but through bravery, intelligence, and noble brotherhood they do astoundingly well. And what is more, despite the fact that they fail, only they could have done as well as they do; the only way they could have succeeded was with the help of God. As the author puts it, calling to evidence a learned authority:

'And events turned out as expected,' said Master Galterus. 'Human strength cannot withstand such fiendish power, unless the strength of God is employed against it. That alone stood between you and victory, King Hrolf,' said the Master; 'you had no knowledge of your Creator.' (p. 78)

Favorite Passages: 

From Thorstein the Staff-Struck:

One evening after Bjarni and his wife Rannveig had gone to bed, she said to him, 'What do you think everyone in the district is talking about these days?'

'I couldn't say,' said Bjarni. 'In my opinion most people talk a lot of rubbish.'

'This is what people are mainly talking about now,' she continued: 'They're wondering how far Thorstein the Staff-Struck can go before you bother to take revenge. He's killed three of your servants, and your supporters are beginning to doubt whether you can protect them, seeing that you've failed to avenge this. You often take action when you shouldn't and hold back when you should.'

'It's the same old story,' said Bjarni, 'no one seems willing to learn from another man's lesson. Thorstein has never killed anyone without a good reason -- but still, I'll think about your suggestion.' (p. 77)

From The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki:

Then Hott went boldly against the beast, thrusting at it as soon as he was within striking distance. The beast fell down dead.

Bodvar said, 'See, Sire, what he has now accomplished.'

The king answered, 'Certainly he has changed greatly, but Hott alone did not kill the beast; rather you did it.'

Bodvar said, 'That may be.'

The king said, 'I knew when you came here that few would be your equal, but it seems to me that your finest achievement is that you made Hott into another champion. He was previously thought to be a man in whom there was little probability of much luck. I do not want him called Hott any longer; instead, from now on he will be called Hjalti. You will now be called after the sword Golden Hilt.' (p. 52)

Recommendation: All Highly Recommended, including Anderson's novelization.

****

Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Stories, Hermann Pallson, tr., Penguin Books (New York: 1971).

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, Jesse L. Byock, tr., Penguin Books (New York: 1998).

Poul Anderson, Hrolf Kraki's Saga, Baen Books (New York: 1973).

Poem a Day 8

Quetzalcoatl

The sky with cracking rumble growls,
rain showers down, the wind howls,
gray darkness overshadows all,
crackle-lightning sparks, thunders fall,
winds to every war-torn compass-point
rush and hurry. Worlds are out of joint,
wild, wavering, swept away by storm.
Rolling shadows with electric whips
across the roads and highways rip,
dripping drops of splattered rain in rush,
carve rivers, fill them, push them, make them gush.
The clouds like feathered serpents crackle, dance,
twist and writhe in mists by cunning chance,
dream-begotten in the darkened virgin sky,
emerald-green and arrow-pierced by days gone by.
The dawnstar-serpent, wise of ways,
clocks the turning time, the cycling days,
fury-storms over heavens high,
bleeds for men, in blazing burning dies.
The second sun in wrath will gust,
terror to wicked men, hope to just;
rumble-laden heavens ripped with lightning-flame
speak submission and the precious serpent's name.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Teaching Online

 It's been a complicated end of a term, in part because this term was even more hectic (and continues to be even more hectic) than last year's terms. I was interested to see the results of a recent survey by Thomas Nadelhoffer on online philosophy teaching. I often don't have the same perspective on teaching as my colleagues, but in this case, my own experience matches the survey results fairly well. I didn't take the survey, but I thought I would give my own answers to some the questions here, since it makes a convenient summary.

(1) During pandemic -- Did you teach partly or fully online during the pandemic? YES -- fully.

(2) Before the pandemic, had you ever taught a course that was either partly or fully online? YES -- I have taught several hybrid Introduction to Philosophy courses.

(3) Which of the following formats for teaching did you adopt -- fully online asynchronous, fully online synchronous, fully online asynchronous + synchronous,  hybrid? FULLY ONLINE SYNCHRONOUS, in the sense that I was assigned courses that were fully online synchronous courses. But I'm not sure it's quite a well-formed question; a synchronous course, properly speaking, is one that requires in-person class meetings, but they will often have an asynchronous component. For that matter, my in-person classes always have an asynchronous component, since I often assign learning modules.

(4) Which course levels have I taught online? 100-LEVEL (Intro) and 200-LEVEL (Ethics), mostly the latter.

(5) When you first started teaching online, did you expect to ever teach online again after the pandemic? YES. 

(6) How much time and energy did you spend preparing in advance for the courses you taught online? A GREAT DEAL. Online courses require a great deal of frontloading -- a lot has to be set into place already for it to work properly during the term.

(7) How much time and energy did teaching online require during the semester relative to your normal in-person courses? MORE. (That was only to be expected.)

(8) What's the best way to describe your expectations before you started teaching online? SOMEWHAT PESSIMISTIC, since it was originally all done in a scramble.

(9) Did your experiences match your expectations? More or less.

(10) Do you plan to teach online after the pandemic? MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT. 

(11) Now that you have taught online, do you view teaching philosophy online more or less favourably than before? SOMEWHAT LESS FAVORABLY. Frankly, this really brought confirmed to me all the reasons why I never went through the process to certify with the Department for teaching online-only courses.

(12) Based on your experiences, how confident are you in your ability to teach philosophy online in a way that is engaging and effective? CONFIDENT. Students regularly tell me that they find me engaging, so I have confirmation there. 'Effective' is always a trickier thing to assess.

(13) Based on your experiences, how confident are you in other people's ability to teach philosophy online in a way that is engaging and effective? CONFIDENT. I actually think many instructors over-worry about their ability to handle this kind of situation.

(14) What do you think the biggest challenges are when it comes to teaching philosophy online? The single biggest challenge is maintaining student motivation and momentum, far and away. But I think one of the common answers -- in-class engagement -- is also a complicated issue. It's not so much that students don't participate as that participation is massively more variable and inconsistent than it would be in a classroom. Part of this, I think, is that online interaction is evidence-impoverished; everyone has less information about the reactions of everyone else than they would in person, so it's easier to miss nuances and to miss key points, and, more than that, it is more difficult for most people (including myself) to communicate, since there is less feedback in doing so. I also have sympathy for the 'there's no chalkboard' answer; there are workarounds, but there is really no substitute for having something you can easily write and diagram on, which physically stays visible the entire time, no matter what else you are showing, which you can point to as needed for emphasis and clarification.

(15) If you were to give advice to someone who was about to teach their first online philosophy class, what would it be? I would say that they should definitely incorporate interactive components, have scheduled meetings one-on-one with students (even just one during the term, I find, does an immense amount of good), and be flexible. As for the actual teaching, I am a big believer at all times in the position that the teacher should teach in the way they can teach; that is to say, except in matters of explicitly required policies, you should just do what makes it possible for you, yourself, to teach. However, one of the common answers -- require videos on during class -- I think identifies a common problem, which is trying rigidly to press teaching one medium into the mold of teaching in another medium. There are just going to be differences between in-person and synchronous online, and one of them is that you're going to have to have a more flexible understanding of what counts as paying attention in class. There will certainly be more distractions; the lack of personal presence changes how attention works; and you will need to adjust to that. Really, I think the best way to think of this kind of situation is as more like a call-in program (one in which, of course, you can call them, as well). One of the things I decided to do early on was try to handle things in such a way that it might still work if the students have to keeping an eye on kids or cooking dinner or some other such thing while class is going on. (As far as I can tell, anything like this is in fact rare -- most students make an effort to shed anything that could distract them -- but also sometimes unavoidable.) The obsession with seeing students is, I think, usually counterproductive -- although of course, there are many different particular kinds of activities and situations in which it would in fact make sense to require that videos be on.

But I think there's also a general tendency to focus on peripheral matters; there are better or worse ways to arrange your LMS or your recordings, or breakout groups, or what have you, but I think people often put far too great an emphasis on these things. This is a crutch. In reality, there's the teaching, there's the interaction with the students, and everything else is just one of a million ways you could do things. Losing sight of this is not exclusive to online teaching. The thing nobody wants to admit is that nobody knows how to teach. How could you? All the success of teaching lies entirely in what the student does with it. You can have methods and technologies up to your ears and it is all, at best, a convenience, a way of reducing the time and effort; none of it is actually the teaching. That just happens. Everything else is just there to set things up in a way that you think makes its happening more likely -- and that is a lot of guesswork and hard knocks.

Poem a Day 7

Books on Stairs 

The books are laid in stacks upon the stairs;
each step has two tall piles, both left and right,
They seem to multiply as they lie there;
perhaps they do from secret trysts at night.

Prince, I shall beat you with my knuckles bare,
though you be born of flame and endless might,
because you tempt me with more books and dare
to multiply them all before each dawning light.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Poem a Day 6

Tryst

The deep night looms,
soft though gloomy;
no doom awaits.

The stars are bright,
the world lighting
with white silver.

I look for you;
night is brewing
our due meeting.

Lay your head down,
watch the town lights
and crown my heart.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Music on My Mind


Eric Gillette, "Immigrant Song". A Led Zeppelin cover, of course, one which Robert Plant wrote after the band did a concert in Iceland; since I'm reading sagas, it seems an appropriate time to press play on this informal Scandinavian anthem. I like the guitar on this cover.

Poem a Day 5

The Road to Emmaus

You see, this is faith, to be walking a long road,
dust on your feet and heavy the load
of grief on your heart, the burden of death
of a friend, and the prick of a goad

in your soul, but puzzled by word
that you have recently heard
of strange happenings done and seen,
talking it over with a fellow and a third,

when the third man says, "Do you not see
that this is as the course of things should be?
Why are you surprised when you were already told
with already certain guarantee?"

Then he walks you through what you knew,
each clear claim and each subtle clue,
and your heart is lightened, amazed,
and you see the world as if it were new.

But the best is next, for all along,
he was right beside you, and like a gong
the truth goes off in your unprepared head
like a sudden exposure to angel-song.

By rumor you had heard of strange sights
while all along, through the dull, dusty day,
the strangest thing walked with you, going your way.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Unreal in Sentiments and Crude in Judgments

We grow up from boyhood; our minds open; we go into the world; we hear what men say, or read what they put in print; and thus a profusion of matters of all kinds is discharged upon us. Some sort of an idea we have of most of them, from hearing what others say; but it is a very vague idea, probably a very mistaken idea. Young people, especially, because they are young, colour the assemblage of persons and things which they encounter with the freshness and grace of their own springtide, look for all good from the reflection of their own hopefulness, and worship what they have created. Men of ambition, again, look upon the world as a theatre for fame and glory, and make it that magnificent scene of high enterprise and august recompence which Pindar or Cicero has delineated. Poets, too, after their wont, put their ideal interpretation upon all things, material as well as moral, and substitute the noble for the true. Here are various obvious instances, suggestive of the discipline which is imperative, if the mind is to grasp things as they are, and to discriminate substances from shadows. For I am not concerned merely with youth, ambition, or poetry, but with our mental condition generally. It is the fault of all of us, till we have duly practised our minds, to be unreal in our sentiments and crude in our judgments, and to be carried off by fancies, instead of being at the trouble of acquiring sound knowledge.

In consequence, when we hear opinions put forth on any new subject, we have no principle to guide us in balancing them; we do not know what to make of them; we turn them to and fro, and over, and back again, as if to pronounce upon them, if we could, but with no means of pronouncing. It is the same when we attempt to speak upon them: we make some random venture; or we take up the opinion of some one else, which strikes our fancy; or perhaps, with the vaguest enunciation possible of any opinion at all, we are satisfied with ourselves if we are merely able to throw off some rounded sentences, to make some pointed remarks on some other subject, or to introduce some figure of speech, or flowers of rhetoric, which, instead of being the vehicle, are the mere substitute of meaning. We wish to take a part in politics, and then nothing is open to us but to follow some person, or some party, and to learn the commonplaces and the watchwords which belong to it....

John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University, Part 2, "Discipline of Mind"

Poem a Day 4

Ruins

The ruins were falling into the dusty ground;
the sun was dipping low on hill that knew no age.
Their story I knew not, an old palimpsest page
scrubbed dry, with its letters nevermore to be found.

Old maps had shown their place, but not even a name
remained of their old pride; all memory was gone.
Centuries they had seen in which dawn followed dawn,
every night like the next and every day the same.

Yet here the stones remain; they resist their long death,
and they shall be standing when my corpse is interred.
I have no stable stone, only my woven word:
written, a spot of ink; spoken, a puff of breath.

But though I one day die, words crumble slower still,
and you may read this verse like ruins on a hill.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Pain's Biological Function

 Laurenz Casser has an interesting article on the function of pain, which argues that a common view of the biological function of pain, that it exists to inform the organism about damage to the body, is wrong. It's an interesting idea, and nice to have a clear, clean argument about it, even though I think the argument fails completely.

There are quite a few different accounts of biological functions, but they primarily tend to fall into two broad schools, the aetiological (or etiological, if you're American) and the consequentialist (or physiological, as it is also sometimes called). On the aetiological view, to attribute a function to a biological organ or element is to identify a general feature of its overall natural history; on the consequentialist view, to attribute a function to a biological organ or element is to identify a role it currently normally plays in the organism. Or to put it in other words, on the aetiological view, a function is what an organ has historically been selected for by the evolutionary processes, and on the consequentialist view, a function is what currently contributes to the organism in a non-freak-accident way. It's perhaps worth nothing, since it is sometimes forgotten, that in both ways there is a difference between 'a function' and 'the function'. For instance, it's possible that a function of the heart is to make thumping noises -- all it takes is for there to be (on the aetiological view) a history to the heart that makes it so that noise-making contributed to its existence in organisms today by increasing the likelihood of surviving and reproducing or (on the consequentialist view) a role it normally plays in the health and reproduction of the organism today. But even if this were true, we would generally not say that this is the function of the heart, as opposed to circulating blood, because neither of these views requires that all functions are equally central -- that will just depend on the history it has or the role it plays.

Casser's strategy is to argue that neither the aetiological nor the consequentialist approach can adequately deliver an account in which pain's function is to inform of bodily damage. The argument on the consequentialist side looks at the pain modulation system -- i.e., the aspects of organismic function that reduce sensitivity to pain. The claim is that this creates a challenge to the consequentialist that has not been answered: to explain "why a system would purposefully prevent system-relevant information from transmission if it is the system’s function to perform such very transmissions." I confess I don't understand what this is supposed to mean. Casser hasn't established that the system is "purposefully" preventing system-relevant information from transmission, and on the consequentialist view this can't in fact be established until you know how the system's doing this is contributes to the health and reproduction of the organism. On the consequentialist view, there may in fact be no 'why'; this might be an inefficiency or a functional defect rather than a function. And if we do identify a role it plays in the organism's health and reproduction -- Casser mentions in passing the possibility that it may facilitate escape from damaging situations -- then we already have our answer: that is why. The consequentialist is not committed to organisms having a perfectly consistent design, in the sense that organs never work at cross-purposes, even in the normal operation of the organism, and even with themselves. Thus it's entirely possible that the actual pain-giving part serves to inform and that the pain modulation serves to prevent an effect of informing, and that there is a range of situations in which the one is foiling the other; there is no contradiction in this, as long as the two don't balance each other out. But it's not clear that there even need be a cross-purposes here; if System A has a function F and Subsystem B has an opposing function X, the natural hypothesis is that System A's function is F except insofar as some effect of F needs opposition (and, of course, A may fulfill this qualified function more or less badly in a given case). It's unclear why this is not supposed to be enough; Casser's explanation at this point becomes almost wholly metaphorical: the system is "purposefully" not informing, we are considering whether pain is "meant" to have that function, "the pain system isn't primarily interested in informing". Casser does note that consequentialists who have even considered the pain modulation system seem to regard it as irrelevant, but prima facie, the consequentialists seem to be right: it just doesn't seem to be relevant to whether in fact pain has a non-accidental role in which it contributes to the health and reproduction of organisms today.

On the aetiological side, Casser wants to argue that there is no biological evidence that pain has historically been selected to have the function of informing of bodily damage. Casser goes so far as to try to argue that there couldn't be such evidence:

One issue is that one would have to consider the evolutionary pressures at the time pain originated – but when did pain originate? What is the phylogenetic tree one could draw which maps back to the first organisms to feel pain? How would we find out? The other issue is a non-trivial problem of defining pain as a trait we could trace. Is pain simply a phenomenological episode, a hurting experience? Is pain the nociceptive system and relevant brain regions including all relevant subsystems? Is it both? How would we decide what the evolutionary relevant unit is? If one wants to champion AET, one better have some good responses to these questions.

However, this argument makes no sense, because none of these are particularly relevant to the question of gathering evidence. We don't need to know 'when' pain originated; the aetiologist is not committed to there being a particular moment when pain got its function. (This is a common error by critics of such accounts.)  The aetiologist is only committed to there being at some point a sufficient stretch of history such that pain's doing a certain kind of thing could affect survival and reproduction enough that that action through that period is a reason for its being common in the population now. It's easy to think of the aetiologist as concerned about the past and the consequentialist as concerned about the present, and in a sense it is true; but, if the consequentialist is interested in the current organism, the aetiologist is equally concerned with the current population (they ask, "Why is this common in the population?"). Aetiologists don't need a time machine to gather their evidence; they just need evidence for what actually spreads or maintains the trait in the population. And contrary to Casser's claim, we do have quite common biological evidence that damage-information is a candidate explanation here; for instance, we know that organisms that lose the ability to feel pain are at massively greater risk of fatal infection from bodily damage. That's how leprosy kills, for instance; the disease itself is not fatal, but lepers in advanced stages don't catch wounds as quickly in ways that are very detrimental to their survival. They might put their hand in a fire without realizing that they've done so until they smell themselves burning. They may cut themselves and never know it, and indeed what usually happens is that lepers, subject to normal wear-and-tear such as we all face, end up with cumulating wounds that are infected by gangrene and similar infections. We see that here is direct evidence that not having the ability to feel pain in cases of bodily damage contributes to dying -- and thus we have evidence that having the ability to feel pain increases the chances of organisms' survival in environments in which bodily damage occurs. As it happens, if we ask what kinds of environments are they in which bodily damage occurs, the answer is 'all of them'. So while the precise historical details are worth studying (e.g., so that we can refine our views), they are less relevant here than you might at first think, because the features that are being discussed (pain, bodily damage) are quite common for a very large variety of organisms and environments. What it all comes down to are the following three questions:

(1) Do we have reason to think that pain-feeling has been in organisms for a long time? The answer to this question is, 'Yes'; the physiologies have not changed so radically that we would have reason to think otherwise.

(2) Do we have reason to think that bodily damage is common in environments in which the relevant populations have been through their history? The answer is, 'Yes', because bodily damage is an immensely common feature of the relations between organisms and almost any environment.

(3) Do we have reason to think that pain-feeling changes operation and behavior with respect to bodily damage in ways that facilitate survival and reproduction in a way sufficiently identifiable that it could spread and be maintained in a population? This is a much trickier question in many ways, but we do have evidence: we know that pain is sometimes associated with bodily damage, and there are situations in which the relevant systems are damaged, and we know that these greatly increase the chances of death through fatal infection, due to failures to take corrective action to bodily damage.

This is surely enough to establish the claim as having some scientific plausibility, not merely armchair plausibility. It is, admittedly, not a proof. It could be that the problems in the case of leprosy and similar things are due in part to something else, which, if it weren't involved in those particular cases, would change the result (e.g., perhaps it's really damage to the sense of touch, not to the sense of pain in particular, that is the real culprit); it could be that we might discover that the effect is easily swamped, so that overall pain in fact has no real statistical influence on survival and reproduction, even if it seems to, or even actually does, in some marginal cases; it could be that we discover that actually the association of pain with bodily damage is generally after-the-fact, so that except in rare cases it is discovering the bodily damage that leads to the pain, rather than vice versa. If the argument were merely that these need to be considered, then of course they should; we need at least to check to get our evidences in proper order. But we do, contrary to Casser, have some evidence for (3), the evidence for the alternatives at present runs from weak to nonexistent, and the damage-information view of pain has become more likely, rather than less, over time, because of these points. It all could be wrong, to be sure, but that would be a matter of actual experimental and observational evidence, not abstract philosophical considerations about whether we even could have such evidence -- we already do have such evidence, however limited and even however misleading it might turn out to be.

Poem a Day 3

The Thunder Rumbles

The thunder rumbles; time is slow,
and I am reading in my room.
Through wondrous lands my journeys go.

The thunder rumbles, rivers flow,
but I the ancient deserts know,
the snowy waste, the cavern gloom.

The thunder rumbles, but words will show
the blue-sky sun on laughing bloom.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Pillar of the Church

 Today is the feast of St. Athanasius the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church, although, of course, liturgically Sunday takes precedence. From his Against the Heathen, Part III, section 42:

The holy Word of the Father, then, almighty and all-perfect, uniting with the universe and having everywhere unfolded His own powers, and having illumined all, both things seen and things invisible, holds them together and binds them to Himself, having left nothing void of His own power, but on the contrary quickening and sustaining all things everywhere, each severally and all collectively; while He mingles in one the principles of all sensible existence, heat namely and cold and wet and dry, and causes them not to conflict, but to make up one concordant harmony. By reason of Him and His power, fire does not fight with cold nor wet with dry, but principles mutually opposed, as if friendly and brotherly combine together, and give life to the things we see, and form the principles by which bodies exist. Obeying Him, even God the Word, things on earth have life and things in the heaven have their order. By reason of Him all the sea, and the great ocean, move within their proper bounds, while, as we said above, the dry land grows grasses and is clothed with all manner of diverse plants. And, not to spend time in the enumeration of particulars, where the truth is obvious, there is nothing that is and takes place but has been made and stands by Him and through Him, as also the Divine says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.

Poem a Day 2

 Ilion

In Ilion I went my way.
My face was cold from bitter wind;
the air was tanged with blood of men,
the rust of life, the flame of myth,
in which were blazing handsome youths,
so strong, so dead, though yet so young.
The fire was painting their bodies red
with liquid fury; its cousin devoured both hall and road.
A village with well-built wall
where god-descended women wept,
its mud-hut palaces and fanes
had known the world's most haunting face;
yes, in this proud but little town
had lived the matchless for a time,
but greater yet was the prince born first
who by his splendid eye held fast
a land besieged; what merit or worth
has ever been like him in all the world?
The night never seems to end its rule;
their shades will never again know brilliant ray;
they look up at us (their eyes are glazed),
up at us who still on earthen roads go.
In Ilion I went my way,
and Ilion was the world.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

A World Made Merciless

The Modern Manichee
by G. K. Chesterton

He sayeth there is no sin, and all his sin
Swells round him into a world made merciless;
The midnight of his universe of shame
Is the vast shadow of his shamelessness.
He blames all that begat him, gods or brutes,
And sires not sons he chides as with a rod.
The sins of the children visited on the fathers
Through all generations, back to a jealous God.

The fields that heal the humble, the happy forests
That sing to men confessed and men consoled,
To him are jungles only, greedy and groping,
Heartlessly new, unvenerably old.
Beyond the pride of his own cold compassion
Is only cruelty and imputed pain:
Matched with that mood, a boy's sport in the forest
Makes comrades of the slayer and the slain.

The innocent lust of the unfallen creatures
Moves him to hidden horror but no mirth;
Misplaced morality rots in the roots unconscious,
His stifled conscience stinks through the green earth.
The green things thrust like horrible huge snails,
Horns green and gross, each lifting a leering eye
He scarce can call a flower; it lolls obscene,
Its organs gaping to the sneering sky.

Dark with that dusk the old red god of gardens
Still pagan but not merry any more,
Stirs up the dull adulteries of the dust,
Blind, frustrate, hopeless, hollow at the core;
The plants are brutes tied with green rope and roaring
Their terrible dark loves from tree to tree:
He shrinks as from a shaft, if by him singing,
A gilded pimp and pandar, goes the bee.

He sayeth, 'I have no sin; I cast the stone',
And throws his little pebble at the shrine,
Casts sin and stone away against the house
Whose health has turned earth's waters into wine.
The venom of that repudiated guilt
Poisons the sea and every natural flood
As once a wavering tyrant washed his hands,
And touching, turned the water black with blood.

Poem a Day 1

A Poem Is Not for Sale

A poem is not for sale,
so it must be stolen.
Surveil the inroads and outroads
and bide until the silent night.
Mark your visage in soft black,
put sneakers on your feet.
With diamond slice the glass,
through the hole stretch your hand,
and undo the securing latch.
Turn the combination on the safe,
and all throughout, remember: Shhh.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Evening Note for Friday, April 30

Thought for the Evening: Officia

An important aspect of traditional Western virtue ethics that gets very little discussion in post-medieval discussions of virtue ethics is the entire field of officia. Officium is usually transliterated as 'office' or translated as 'duty'; either works, although we have to be careful of any distorting baggage that might get attached to either. Some (although not all) uses of the word 'norm' overlap with the idea of offices, as well.

If you take the excellent or virtuous life of a human being to be the heart of ethics, then there's a question of how obligations fit into such an approach. There are different ways; for instance, one way is what is covered by natural law theory, another by positive jurisprudence, and so forth. But if you only focus on these, you get a very limited understanding of obligations. Natural law theory primarily offers a general framework for obligation; positive jurisprudence, of course, is focused on human law-making. But there are many other kinds of obligation. Officia are probably the most important kind. To put the matter roughly, officia are obligations that arise in the context of trying to fill legitimate roles virtuously.

The essential idea was heavily influenced by the Stoics, but the primary conduit that leads to discussion of office historically is Cicero's De officiis. Cicero, who was partly building on and partly criticizing an older work (no longer extant) by the Stoic philosopher Panaetius, argues that offices need to be understood in light of moral goodness, and thus organizes his discussion in terms of the cardinal virtues -- prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance. These are human excellences we all need to achieve. But the sort of thing that is needed in order to achieve the virtues will shift depending on the roles you occupy in life. Someone may need to be prudent as a student, as a mother, as a professional, as a citizen. The virtue is fundamentally the same, but the virtue is responsive to role, taking into account its conditions and circumstances, and because of this our duties or responsibilities or offices in that role may differ in a number of important ways from those we would have in another. As Cicero puts it, "For no phase of life, whether public or private, whether in business or in the home, whether one is working on what concerns oneself alone or dealing with another, can be without its duty (officium); on the discharge of such duties (officia) depends all that is morally right, on their neglect all that is morally wrong in life."

Cicero distinguishes two kinds of offices, honesta and utilia, although they are not equally important and he also recognizes that their relationship means that often both are relevant to our particular actions. Honesta, which we could translate as 'nobilities', are more strictly linked with virtues. They are concerned with acting nobly or decorously in the role. Utilia, which we could translate as 'expediences', are more loosely linked to virtues, and are about acting advantageously for oneself and others in a role. To put it roughly, while nobilities are directly required by virtue in a role, and so are properly moral in the strict sense, expediences are what are required for effectively acting in a role in a manner consistent with virtue, so are things that make the moral life one that prospers, and thus are moral responsibilities in a looser sense. In English we sometimes cover the latter in terms of 'enlightened self-interest', although expediences also include what is in the interests of other people. If you are a legislator, refusing to take bribes is a nobility; getting important legislation passed for your constituents by negotiating reasonably with other legislators is an expedience. But, as noted before, while we can consider nobilities and expediences distinctly, in actual life they can be interwoven in complicated ways. And, of course, there's a sense in which in the long run, the big picture, all things considered, nobilities tend toward being expedient and expediences tend toward being noble.

St. Ambrose of Milan also gives us an extensive discussion of offices, with a particular concern for the offices of the priesthood, in his own De officiis. In a broad sense, Ambrose's account is modeled on Cicero's. But there are important differences, arising from the fact that Cicero is writing his book on offices for the benefit of his physical son, whereas Ambrose as bishop is writing his book on offices for the benefit of his spiritual sons, and there are a number of distinctive features of the role of being a Christian priest that inevitably affect how the offices are understood. The biggest difference that Ambrose notes is that for a priest, expediences in the usual sense are largely irrelevant, since the important measure is not success in this world but preparation for the next. Because of this, Ambrose generally prefers to distinguish offices using another distinction mentioned by Cicero, namely, media and perfecta, which, as he understands it, is heavily influenced by the theological distinction between counsels and commands. However, he still organizes his treatise like Cicero's by dividing it into three, with the first book on nobilities, the second on expediences, and the third on their union; it's just that he primarily seems to think of these things as different aspects of the same offices rather than different kinds of office. Perhaps because of Ambrose's arguments, later discussions will tend to keep their primary focus on the virtues, although consideration of offices will often come up (e.g., Aquinas takes a brief moment to discuss them in ST 2-2.183). But they do get a little crowded out in terms of the actual discussion, so it is perhaps not surprising that discussion of them vanishes almost entirely in the early modern period.

Almost, but not quite. They do still come up here and there in discussions of casuistry or cases of consciences. And wherever Cicero is read, you can see some influence from the idea, especially when people discuss duties. The topic of offices comes up in the interaction between David Hume and Francis Hutcheson. Hume, who is the early modern philosopher (other than the Baroque scholastics) with the most sophisticated grasp of virtue as second nature, develops a virtue ethics that is heavily influenced by Cicero. Hutcheson, who is heavily influenced by Cicero as well, at one point will criticize Hume's account for conflating virtues and offices. (It is definitely true that Hume to some extent does so; Hume organizes his virtues in ways that are clearly influenced by Cicero's organization of offices, with immediately agreeable virtues corresponding to nobilities and useful virtues corresponding to expediences, and many of Hume's virtues are things that Cicero would have considered kinds of offices.) We can also see the influence of the ideas on Mill's discussion of the relationship between Right and Expedience in Utilitarianism, and on discussions of imperfect duties and perfect duties that will eventually influence Kant's uses of the same distinction, although in both of these cases we have left any kind of virtue ethics behind.

Unlike virtues, which are necessarily consistent with each other (they are unified by reason and prudence in particular), offices can seem to conflict, both within a role and between different roles one person might have. (I say 'seem' because historically a lot of people have been uncomfortable with the notion of having conflicting moral responsibilities given that virtues on which moral responsibilities depend don't conflict. Cicero, for instance, is opposed to the notion of a real conflict among offices. Ambrose, I think, can be read as taking this only to be strictly true of Christian offices, which are further unified by charity.) Obviously, nobilities should generally be preferred to expediences; offices that affect others should usually be preferred to offices that affect oneself alone; offices for more fundamental roles should generally be preferred to offices for less fundamental roles; and so forth. But while the guidelines are easy enough to recognize, there are no hard and fast rules for weighing offices; the weighing of offices is something done by the virtue of prudence. Virtues operate in roles, but virtues are not confined to roles, and therefore provide the platform by which you are able to determine what is actually appropriate to your own case. This is why the criticism of Hume as conflating office and virtue has some bite. Virtues are more fundamental than offices, and they are what make it possible for us to fulfill our offices in a confusing world.


Various Links of Interest

* Becca Rothfeld, Sanctimony Literature 

* Michael Cuenco, America's New Post-Literate Epistemology

* Lee Alan Dugatkin, The Botanist Who Defied Stalin

* Miguel J. Romero, Aquinas on the Happiness of "Those Who Lack the Use of Reason"

* Brendan Case, The Brain Resides in the Soul (Not the Other Way Around), discusses Berkeley's idealism

* Suki Finn & Sasha Isaac, Evaluating Ectogenesis via the Metaphysics of Pregnancy (PDF)

* Aemlia Soth discusses the contribution of the Claude glass to the development of the concept of the picturesque

* Brendan Hodge, Paying and Praying: Is there a link between parish devotions and weekly collections?

* Joseph Bendana & Eric Mandelbaum, The Fragmentation of Belief (PDF)

* Tamar Newar, Augustine's Master Argument for the Incorporeality of the Mind (PDF)

* Dan Kemp, Created Goodness and the Goodness of God: Divine Ideas and the Possibility of Creaturely Value (PDF)

* Joshua Harris, Collective Action and Social Ontology in Thomas Aquinas

* Colin Marshall, Hume versus the vulgar on resistance, nisus, and the impression of power (PDF)

* Stefanie Rocknack, Constancy and Coherence in 1.4.2 of Hume's Treatise: The Root of "Indirect" Causation and Hume's Position on Objects (PDF)


Currently Reading

Hafnkel's Saga and Other Stories
Richard Courant & Herbert Robbins, What is Mathematics?
Guha, Dasti, & Phillips, trs., God and the World's Arrangement: Readings from Vedanta and Nyaya Philosophy of Religion

Dashed Off IX

Human traditions are imperfectly wise, but this is very far from saying that they are wholly foolish, or, at times, even foolish at all.

Uncertainty can simplify problems in the sense that things can cease to be options at all when uncertainty is too high.

censure due to import
censure due to expression
censure due to consequences

logic as part of the examined life vs. as a formal system

Krier: civitas = res publica (monuments without streets & squares) + res economica (streets & squares without monuments)
-- the idea is that there should not be single-use zoning but interactive blending at city-level (two systems that overlay each other

"If we were asked for what end, above all others, endowed universities exist, or ought to exist, we should answer -- To keep alive philosophy." Mill

General skepticism of miracles is usually based not on rigorous argument but on a particular myth of progress.

directives, tentatives, and correctives in design

Only transubstantiation gives to God a worship adequate to God.

Aristotle's magnanimity is a virtue that strives to make every situation better because of itself -- e.g., the magnanimous man, receiving a benefit, gives to the benefactor more than he has received; he is selective about projects so that he can do the ones most deserving of honor; he stands on his own two feet rather than being a burden; he is ready to confer benefits and give help; he holds himself to higher standards.

Analytic philosophy all too often turns into very smart people arguing with their own lack of imagination.

four survival needs that are done well in human beings only by converging on the cardinal virtues
(1) paying attention and acting accordingly
(2) interacting with others stably
(3) risk-taking
(4) handling distractions

etiquette and 'justifiability to others on grounds they could not reasonably regret'

Evangelical truth is not merely possessed by the Church; it pervades it, the Church is steeped in it.

The heart's disposition to observe our moral duties as divine commands tends naturally to dogma and observance.

Every enduring community requires handing down, i.e., a tradition.

To conceive the ethical commonwealth as a people, one must conceive morality as handed down. It must in fact be doubly handed-down, both synchronically and diachronically.

There is a human propensity to religion of divine service and thus to faith in statutory divine laws.

The preservation of faith is only adequately provided for through Scripture and Tradition together.

The faith of a religion of service may be servile or it may be filial. Children seek to please their parents with actions and tokens having value only in being proffered for their parents' sake.

It is essential to Christianity that Christ is not just the founder of the Church but, as God, of the very impulse to religion that is found in every human heart.

Every statutory system is a sign and symbol of something beyond itself.

Everywhere in experience we recognize the supersensible object of the world itself.

To say that we cannot be well-pleasing to God unless our service is moral, is true enough; to say this moral aspect of our service is separate from or does not involve our symbolic and ritual acts is a delusion. That something must be done morally does not imply that the bare morality is all that is required, even in light of morality itself, which requires symbolic and social expression.

Ecclesiastical service must be a transfigured and greater temple service.

one : one :: holy : good :: catholic : true :: apostolic : beautiful (or perhaps being itself or res?)

Augustine and inner dialogue as a philosophical method
-- soliloquy vs confession

Moral evil does not arise from the necessary limitations of humanity as a finite nature.

'it seems to S that p'
There is a gap here between the seeming and the 'that p'; the latter is not in the seeming but an articulation of it into the judgment that p.

Sol LeWitt on conceptual art: "The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."

Pejoratives may be made up on the spot; slurs are only formed over time.

possible relations between grace and nature
(1) grace and nature work separately
(2) grace disrupts nature
(3) grace supplements nature
(4) nature supplements grace
(5) grace transfigures nature

The problem with characterizing science as 'what scientists do' is that science is only what scientists do when they are doing science.

pejoration, compliment, and information as the three modes of linguistic communication

three kinds of synthetic proposition: resemblance, contiguity, causation

sublime : numinous :: beautiful : graceful? :: picturesque : cinematic?

the experience of holiness as suggestive of divine simplicity

One matter that Hume does not consider in his account of miracles is the role of flattering oneself that one is more knowing than other people.

conceptual art as philosophical sketchwork

Kant does not sufficiently consider that if reason legislates universally, we (qua sensible creatures) can be said to get the moral law from the reason of other people as well as from our own reason. (This is, however, suggested by the Kingdom of Ends formulation.)

Evidence is recognized as evidence within a story of intellectual progress.

Theoretical confirmation is an effect of how evidence converges.

physiological end, populational end, ecosystemic end, cosmic end

There is no liberty without teleology; every kind of liberty is defined by its teleology.

the vignettesque -- that which expresses that peculiar kind of beauty agreeable to a literary vignette -- that which pleases from some quality capable of being expressed in a vignette
-- literary sketches : vignettesque :: pictorial sketches : picturesque
-- basic sketch (like in a journal entry), adorned sketch (polished up)
-- memoirs : vignettesque :: travelogues : picturesque
-- vignettesque : time :: picturesque : place
-- the spot: that which, without being a story, suggests a story; a germinal vignette
-- memorability : vignettesque :: composition : picturesque
-- a few connected details : vignettesque :: line : picturesque
-- 'intimate strikingness'
-- striking : vignettesque :: rough : picturesque

'Mechanistic' accounts of human action are virtually always idealisms of motives and impulses.

pets as fictive minors/wards

"A world of corporate persons is a world of free association: it is the antithesis of collectivism, which imposes a world of conscription, where all association is centrally controlled, and all institutions are things. Collectivism involves a sustained war, not on the individual as such, but on the *person*, whether individual or corporate." Scruton

'Cognitive bias' is not the same as 'cognitive error'; most common biases have situations in which they would be biased toward right answers.

It takes an effort not to read behaviors as evaluations.

propositions implying the intelligibility of questions
(1) by term, e.g., 'John is kind' implies the intelligibility of "Who is kind?", "What is John?", "Is John kind?"
(2) by presupposition, e.g., "John is kind" implies the intelligibility of "Does John exist?", "Are these kind people?"
(3) by analogy, e.g., "John is kind" implies the intelligibility of "Is Mary kind?" given an appropriate similarity under comparison

An idea is a seed of a whirlwind of ideas.

So much of philosophy consists of trying to achieve tasks for which there are no adequate instruments.

Christ underwent baptism of blood as well as water (cp. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 39).

writeable-as (in mathematics, e.g., algebraic representations of numbers) as a binary modal operator?

Every obligation must be specified by something that is distinct from itself but sufficient reason for it.

"Just as the perfections of all natural things preexist in God as their exemplar, so was Christ the exemplar of all ecclesiastical offices." Aquinas
"A priest represents Christ in this, that He fulfilled a certain ministr per se, but a bishop in this, that He instituted other ministers and founded the Church."
"...the episcopate is an order in relation to the Mystical Body."
"Orders are sacraments from their relationship to the greatest of the sacraments...."
"The episcopate is more a dignity than it is an order."
"...in relation to the Real Body of Christ there is no order above the presbyterate; but in relation to the Mystical Body of Christ the episcopal order is above the sacerdotal order."
"Since the episcopate does not add anything to the presbyterate in relation to the Real Body of Christ, but only in relation to the Mystical Body, the Pope by reason of being the greatest of bishops does not have the plenitude of power in relation to the Real Body of Christ but only in relation to the Mystical Body of Christ."

Holtum: episcopacy pertains truly to orders, not per se like priesthood, but propter aliud (because of the priesthood and with it); it is a complement of the order of priesthood.

Christ works in the Church through two ordered instrumentalities: the sacramental (structured by reference to the Eucharist) and the social (structured by reference to the Mystical Body). These are themselves ordered: sacramental grace in the Mystical Body comes from the Eucharist, which organizes the Church as a Mystical Body.

--the bishop has a more sublime elevation than priesthood (Peter Damian)
-- "the power which has already been given is amplified" (Bonaventure)
--the bishop's power respect to the Mystical Body has a power hierarchically related to conferring sacraments and sacramentals (power of orders in a broad sense) and a power of ruling (power of jurisdiction)

Durandus: episcopacy both sacrament and order, but forms one sacrament with priesthood, as imperfect and perfect; just like consecration of both bread and wine make one sacrament.
Capreolus: analogy to bread and wine too loose -- they have one end, priesthood & episcopacy have distinct ends; and by virtue of what is episcopacy actually more complete -- the episcopacy adds a power ordered to a less perfect act than the act of priesthood.

Aureolus: bishop receives neither new power nor augmentation of power but removal of an impediment to power
Capreolus: this is contrary to the words used to consecrate, which refer to conferring power and not to impediment removal

Gonet: Episcopal consecration completes and extends the priestly character by causing a new, real, natural, modal entity, which is indelible like the character // power to absolve -- a modality of the character, indelible, directed to the Mystical Body

-- the episcopacy contains the priesthood both eminenter and essentialiter-formaliter; the priesthood contains the diaconate eminenter

Weak roles, confused duties.

It is difficult to have a coherent consequentialist account of repentance as a moral good.

prohairetic // operative

origines gentium of Genesis 10 as teaching the unity of humanity (Saadia, Maimonides)

the articulation of extensive and intimate familiarities

PSR (requirements) --> PSR (obligations) --> PSR (rights)

laws of nature as forms of unity