Saturday, February 06, 2021

The Experience of The Muse

 I am a firm believer in The Muse. This is not an uncommon belief. In artistic or poetic experience, and this can be as true of a mediocre artist or poet as any other, one sometimes has a sense of the work as not being wholly dependent on oneself, but as nonetheless coming together in a way that is not merely aleatory, as if the work were in some way flowing through one from something else -- as being inspired. This something else, whatever it may be, is The Muse.

The Muse has a fair degree of support from experience. One can experience it oneself, although it takes a certain amount of immersion in an art, and can only be had sporadically. The experience itself is not a perception of The Muse, but rather of oneself as effectuated ('inspired') in a work by something other than oneself; it is a sense of what we might call relatively dependent receptive cooperation.

(1) It comes across as a feeling of working with something. All of art, of course, is in some sense a 'working with' something, a cooperation with materials in particular. But the feeling associated with The Muse is not a cooperation with materials; indeed, it is very distinguishable from that. It is a feeling of receiving something in one's work from somewhere else. And this is not the sort of thing that would ordinarily mark out an experience of luckily hitting on the right way to solve a problem; it is a sense of something very orderly. Thus it does not appear to originate wholly within oneself, and its working is too orderly to seem like chance 

(2) It comes across as a feeling of relative dependence. What one receives seems to be higher than one's skill, and (again) not in the way of luck, but something much more structured, more ordered.

This experience is quite common. There are many different accounts of what The Muse is, but you can talk to artists and artisans and poets from many different cultures and  you can find across very different cultures those who recognize immediately what you are talking about. Thus The Muse is supported by something like a consensus sapientium; that is to say, those who know art tend to know The Muse. Conceivably there are those who could be great artists or poets without ever having the experience. But it seems a widely shared human experience among those who are at least competent in, and devoted to, their craft. What is more, belief in The Muse, in some form, is spread much more widely than just among those who experience it; taste is one with genius in suggesting at least something like it. Aesthetic experience has a sort of related experience; before great art, or reading great poetry, people sometimes have the experience that this goes beyond mere skill. It is harder, I think, for aesthetic experience to distinguish inspiration from good luck. But people who love art or literature, even if they know nothing about producing it, do sometimes have the experience of something so excellent, so breath-takingly right, that either it must have been inspired or the artist must have been astoundingly lucky in hitting on exactly the right thing to do. And if we needed further confirmation, we could perhaps go to the close association through history of religious experience and artistic experience. Indeed, of course, calling on a god or goddess to inspire one is a common literary trope, arguably (depending on how one translates and interprets certain expressions) going all the way back to the first poet whose works are extant and whom we know by name, Enheduanna, recording her songs to the goddess Inanna.

So let it be granted that it is an actual experience. Is there any particular reason to think it illusory? We have to be careful about what this means; 'The Muse' here is just a generic description for the something else moving one to greater work than skill can achieve, and the experience is actually of oneself as being so moved, not a direct experience of that something else. So for it to be illusory would have to mean that, in fact, either the experience had no connection with the art (so it is epiphenomenal mirage) or the artist is experiencing something that does not actually go beyond himself (so it is a misinterpreted experience of one's own imagination at work) or the work goes beyond skill but by mere luck and this experience is a 'filling-in' of a gap (so it is a pareidolia in which the mind treats chance as if it were more like design or order). The first of these alternatives seems to be entirely inconsistent with all evidence, and it's difficult in any case to make sense of a purely illusory experience that we have for no obvious reason, and why we would simply dismiss apparent evidence wholesale. So misinterpreted self or luck seem the two most straightforward alternatives to The Muse.

A. G. Tyson had a (not particularly good) book published in 1853 called, An Essay on the Poetical and Musical Customs of the Ancients, in which he has a section attacking the notion of poetic inspiration. He doesn't actually give much in the way of argument as opposed to abuse, but he says of Aeschylus that "his supposed inspiration was no doubt the force of his strong and fervid imagination, fixed on a particular purpose" (p. 119). This is a misinterpreted self view. Put in this form, it is not, I think, even a remotely plausible interpretation; it is part and parcel of the experience of poetic inspiration that it is of something beyond things like "strong and fervid imagination". But you could have views that would be more tenable -- for instance, if you attributed it to subconscious or unconscious processes rather than conscious ones. (The primary difficulty there would be keeping it distinguished from The Muse; the less conscious it is, the more it starts sounding like The Muse.) Luck runs into the problem of orderliness noted above, as well as the widespreadness of the experience and sometimes a consistency across sporadic experiences, but a version of it might still be viable if you held (for instance) that artists and poets are ceaselessly trying so many different things that they will inevitably hit by luck on some extraordinarily useful solutions, even if the latter are very unlikely. In any case, whether misinterpreted self or misinterpreted luck, I don't think the experience itself can definitively refute them; the problem, though, is that both require a good deal of independent hypothesis, and neither really gives much of an explanation for the feeling of causality involved.

There is a view that one could take that is in a sense midway between these and more substantive accounts of The Muse, namely, that the sense of poetic inspiration is actually a sense of self-organizing formal elements in the artistic activity. This gets the feeling of relative dependence right, and it lets one credit this as a genuine experience of something that is in some sense not oneself. But the experience is taken to be one of a kind of necessity, a sense of things having to fit together in a certain way. The primary difficulty with this is that when you look at what people attribute to The Muse, the actual alleged contribution doesn't usually seem to have this sort of necessity -- it often seems quite contingent and unpredictable and especially difficult to fit to any particular rule -- and the arts are so very different that it seems odd that we would have the same kind of experience across arts with such very different formal elements. Some things that are apparently quite plausible for one art -- e.g., language as a sort of collective unconscious (Schaeffer) -- are not necessarily so for another.

If we do accept The Muse, then as I said this is here a generic label, and there are many different things it could be, and many different things have been put into the slot: God, Forms, gods, angels, collective unconscious, world soul, or what have you. Nothing strictly requires that it be one and only one thing; you could be a pluralist about The Muse. The big divide seems to be whether The Muse is considered personal or impersonal. Tyson gives a brief argument against the view that poetic inspiration could be from anything divine ("Supposing that we had a godly inspiration the productions thereof must of a certainty be godly -- be of one uniform and specific character"), but it is not a very good argument. If we take a poem, for instance, The Muse does not write the poem; the poet does. This is integral to the actual artistic experience. The Muse is not like dictation or automatic writing. But the poet experiences the writing of the poem as something he or she does in trying to keep up with something 'flowing through' him or her -- being carried along by and trying to keep a hold of something beyond his or her skill, often very shakily. The Muse isn't usually thought of as simply handing you the poem; it moves you to make it, and the movement is itself something different from your ordinary movement. Poets very often have a sense have a sense of stumbling over their own weaknesses and limits in trying to keep up, just as you might stumble while trying to keep from falling out of control if in walking you were being pushed along in a certain direction by a force that you did not control. Whether one takes The Muse to be personal or impersonal, I suspect, will also really depend on one's broader metaphysics rather than anything that can be found in the experience itself, just as the bare experience of being pushed along is not itself really different regardless of whether the thing pushing is a current or a hand.

So from the experience itself we get a very limited conclusion: sometimes the artist is caused to do more (inspired) by something other than himself or herself, in the very activity of artistic production. The most natural reading of the experience is that this is due to an actual cause distinguishable from oneself or mere luck. Or, to put it in other words, we sometimes have an actual experience of being inspired by something beyond ourselves; the most natural inference, barring strong argument in favor of some alternative, is that this is due to at least some actual inspiring cause or causes of some sort. This is defeasible, of course, but the actual alternatives that have been proposed have tended to be quite handwavey and arbitrary. Or, to put it a third way, artistic inspiration is real, and really inspiration, whatever the precise explanation for it might be.

Our Worship Wrests but Echo of Thy Name

Helen Hunt Jackson, "Truth".

Friday, February 05, 2021

Dashed Off III

 "The man of today feels that his life is more a life than any past one, or, to put it the other way about, the entirety of past time seems small to actual humanity." Ortega y Gasset
"Yo soy yo y mi circumstancia." 

Life imprisonment is a kind of exile without actual exile.

Equations are defined only for specific kinds of cases.

'Religion' is an analogical term; applied to different religions it involves a reference to one.

the value of unchosen bonds and obligations

Greek drama & politics-as-unifying-story

"Every creature is capable, by nature, of vice and of virtue. Nor would any action of theirs be worthy of praise unless they had the power to incline to either." Justin Martyr
"...Christ, who appeared on earth for our sakes, became the whole Logos, namely, Logos and body and soul."

"Toil summons the best men." Seneca
"What is the duty of a good man? To offer himself to fate."

Kinds of Cooperation
--prior to proper intentio--
removing impediment
refusal to impede
--with proper intentio--
express consent
--posterior to proper intentio--

Counsel is contribution to another's deliberation

tacit consent vs. nonimpediment

refusal to impede
removing impediment

Motherhood is a profound participation in common good.

suspicion on the basis of
preliminary indication

suspicion & ease of story-making

Persuasion begins with listening.

literature, esp. the novel, as a quasi-substitute for casuistry (cp. Thomas Fleming)

Not all the probability theory in the world will help you if you don't have the possibilities divided correctly.

giving material to the sinner vs. giving material to the sin

participation in a sin vs co-sinning with it

the link between Alcidamas's On Sophists & Plato's Phaedrus (a reasonable evidence for the early date of the composition of the latter

"May these mysteries, O Lord, in which we have participated, profit us, we pray, for even now, as we walk amid passing things, you teach us by them to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures." First Sunday of Advent, Prayer after Communion

"By nature the mind of man is active and prone to movement." Seneca

vestiges of virtues

political boredom as one of the major diseases of civil society

'uncontroversially' as modal operator
- it makes sense for it to be related to deontic operators, since it's often used as something like a deontic operator in common discourse

mysterium tremendum as exponentialized sublimity
- tremendum's three aspects, awefulness, power/might/majesty, vitality/urgency/energy, all are elements in sublimity, and the mysterium guarantees stupefaction and fascination reather than ordinary dread, as well as beyondness
- the sublimely beyond, acting with sublime force

the ecstasy unto tranquility 

Being overwhelming, the experience of sublimity will inevitably tend to strike one as an experience of reality for the same reason that experience of resistance to will does for ordinary things.

The beauty of a sunset is ready to appear.

interior touch in mystical experience and sense of body (Paton suggests this analogy)

ligature of faculties in mystical experience and sense of reality

Romantic love clearly requires an I-He/I-She experience of some sort within which the I-Thou takes place, an experience that is both often preparatory to and often a sort of overflow from it.

Song 2:7 -- note that 'by the gazelles or wild does' has similarities to two names of God and, indeed, is very plausibly a euphemism for them (like 'gosh' in English)
-- seba'ot (gazelles) // 'elohey seba'ot
-- 'aylot hassadeh (wild does) // 'el shadday

classification as the infrastructure of reasoning

acting with honor, respecting dignity of persons, protecting the vulnerable

An insufficiently regarded problem in business ethics is the manipulation of people into obligations (obligation-pushing).

reservoir practice of traditions (e.g., archiving, preserving little-understood practices)

sublimation in the sublime

'the solidaristic system of human work' (Pesch) -- contrasted with individualistic capitalism and collectivistic socialism

"The common good of political society overall is conditioned by the good of the families which comprise the state." Pesch

the thrifty and well-conducted wage-earner in economics // the reasonable person in law

Living wage is a matter of *household* living.

The economic health of households requires at least the standing possibility of workers-in-reserve, i.e., people who can chip in when things get tight but primarily devote themselves to household goals when things go well.

The distinctness of mover and moved is not something immediately known, because what the mover does in acting and what the moved receives in undergoing are the same; one must come to recognize that this one act is the act of two things, and thus notionally distinguishable relative to each, while not erring by treating the notionally distinct as separate things.

When it is not anchored by Christ, 'universal love' as an ethic inevitably slides into 'universal subordination to my preferences'.

Holy communion is something done *with* the Church.

professions within humanitarian traditions (law, medicine, ministry) vs. profession within standing instrumental institutions of civil society (military, civil service)
-- the latter will nonetheless have analogies to the former due to subordination to common good
-- education at times has been the former but in modern times in practice tends to be treated as the latter due to the prevalence of public education
-- the spread of public medicine tends to have the same effect on medicine, but medicine's humanitarian roots are very deep, so we get something of a hybridized version
-- law is arguably also a hybrid, or perhaps has a dual face by nature. Perhaps, though, it depends on how much the legal profession maintains an independence from particular institutions
-- journalism seems to be an instrumental tradition with occasional aspirations to a humanitarian tradition
-- perhaps we should think of the border between humanitarian and civil tradition as not so much a border as a question of the role of civil society vs the role of humanity as such. Then possibly:
humanitarian: medicine, ministry
intermediate: law, journalism, education
civil: military, civil service
The latter two are civil-dominated by nature, the middle three (and others in societies in which they are strongy dominated by the state) have a necessarily humanitarian regard but may be heavily instrumentalized by civil society, as if they existed to serve civil society as such, without detriment to core functions; the first two are so bound up in humanitarian ends that instrumentalization tends easily and directly to perversion (e.g., human beings as existing for the state, states as having totalitarian control over human life, public opinion as subordinating informed conscience)

the regress of consent: consent cannot be a precondition for everything, because that is infintie regress; you would need consent to ask for consent. Thus all consent has, as precondition, something that does not depend morally on consent.

needy love → dwelling love → Love Itself

Utilitarianism is just the abstract expression of the dream of a universal panopticon.

Jesus marvels at the faith of two people -- the Centurion and the Canaanite Woman; the Centurion persists because he recognizes true authority, the Canaanite because she recognizes true grace.

Violence is a more serious issue than pain.

"I do not have the technical ability to do that" // "I do not have the moral ability to do that"

Skill must be used in good conscience.

the Iliad as an exploration of rule by many (cp. the Exhortation to the Greeks attributed to Justin)
Iliad and Odyssey revolve around the theme of woman (Discourse to the Greeks attributed to Justin)

Almost nothing that does real explanatory work in Marx is actually material; it's the dialect of groundward rather than sunward ideas.

accessible, intelligible, usable, and assessable

Drive the will one way and reasoning will bend in that direction.

contradiction explosion = there is only one impossible world
-- the relation between disjunction introduction and "All possibilities are found in every possible world"
-- the relation between disjunction elimination and discreteness of possibilities?
-- Posit impossible world (world with contradiction); Every disjunction of contradictories divides all possibilities in the world; therefore every possibility is in every possible world. Whether you get explosion or annihilation depends on how you move from possible world to possibility.

disjunction introduction // deduction theorem // arbitrary assumption introduction

four degrees of integralism
(1) incipient: the state recognizes and supports the Church for its value to the ends of the state
(2) reciprocating: the state recognizes and supports the Church as a particular benefactor
(3) direct: the state recognizes and supports the Church because it is the Church
(4) ordered: the state acts as a secular part of the Church, supportive of the Church
-- Vatican City State is an example of (4), officially Catholic countries are (2) or (3) in principle (in practice they all slide back to (1) or sometimes further).

responsibilities of civil society to individuals: food, drinkable water, housing, security, self-determination, and independence
-- note that all of these admit of many different possible degrees and means

"Of all men, only those who find time for philosophy are at leisure, only they are truly alive, for it is not only their own lifetime they guard well; they add every age to their own; all the years that have passed before them they requisition for their store." Seneca

The greater part of progress is preservation of the treasures of the past.

ancestor df. (Nyamiti): "a relative of a person with whom he has a common parent, and of whom he is mediator to God, archetype of behavior, with whom, thanks to his supernatural status acquired through death, he is entitled to have regular sacred communion"

Christ as our new ancestor
Christ as Proto-Ancestor (Bujo)

"As social beings, men and women are also generational beings." Moltmann

If self-identification were really identity, there would be much less in the way of obsessive attempt to validate one's self-identifications.

Much of the difficulty of modern political theory is that it theorizes on the basis of individuals, when in reality the basic unit of society is the family, in which individuals are formed.

right of volunary association
- right of assembly
- right to unionize
- right of shared project

Even relatively secular horror tends to have a religious edge because horror involves boundary-breaking.

professionalism & integrity of practical action

acting according to fully universal maxim
-- acting according to maxim universal to a universal role
-- -- acting according to a maxim universal to a universally required role
-- -- -- acting according to a maxim universal to a socially required role

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Moral Law and Moral Code

There is a universal moral law, as distinct from a moral code, which consists of certain statements of fact about the nature of man; and by behaving in conformity with which, man enjoys his true freedom. This is what the Christian Church calls "the natural law." The more closely the moral code agrees with the natural law, the more it makes for freedom in human behavior; the more widely it departs from the natural law, the more it tends to enslave mankind and to produce the catastrophes called "judgments of God."

Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, HarperCollins (New York: 1987) p. 9.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Oh, Such a Dawning Over Me Has Come

Daybreak in February
by William Caldwell Roscoe

Over the ground white snow, and in the air
Silence. The stars like lamps soon to expire,
Gleam tremblingly; serene and heavenly fair,
The eastern hanging crescent climbeth higher.
See, purple on the azure softly steals,
And Morning, faintly touched with quivering fire,
Leans on the frosty summits of the hills,
Like a young girl over her hoary sire.
Oh, such a dawning over me has come,
The daybreak of thy purity and love;--
The sadness of the never satiate tomb
Thy countenance hath power to remove,
And from the sepulchre of Hope thy palm
Can roll the stone, and raise her bright and calm.

A Few Words

There are always words that get used for political purposes, and the political purposes have a tendency to twist them from their appropriate use. A few that are very commonly misused in assessments of the Capitol protest and riot on January 6.

Treason: Treason is explicitly defined in the Constitution (and all other definitions are explicitly rejected): levying war against the United States or aiding and abetting their enemies. It is not something that applies outside explicitly declared hostilities, and anyone who uses it in this context is dangerously ignorant.

Sedition: Because the United States is designed to be a free society, the only actual crime of sedition is a conspiracy crime: conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or destroy by force the government of the United States, to levy war against it or oppose by force its authority, to delay by force the execution of its laws, or to take by force any of its property contrary to its authority. It is a very difficult crime to establish, because you need to establish (1) that there was an actual conspiracy (one person acting alone is not enough, a mob of people acting without joining in a plan is not enough) (2) specifically to do one of the things listed above. A number of people at the January 6 event, not all, have been charged with sedition; most of them probably will not be convicted of it. In the United States, you can go as far as calling for the overthrow of the government and it's not sedition unless in doing so you try to implement a practical plan for it. A free society is inconsistent with the very idea of easily labeling and punishing people as seditious; anyone who uses the term in any context without being very careful to argue that the evidence does, in fact, establish that sedition in the above sense occurred, is utterly dangerous and morally contemptible. No one who takes democracy or republican principles of government to be important would ever throw around the word without backing up the use, and particularly would not ever use it as political rhetoric. If you find anyone doing so, it should raise red flags.

Insurrection: Insurrection is a weird word. It sounds like the beginning of a revolution (and is often paired with either that or 'rebellion'), but it includes any armed uprising against the authority of the government. Most people involved in the protests on January 6 were unarmed; indeed, most people who actually trespassed on Capitol grounds were unarmed. A few were armed but don't seem to have made even threatening use of their arms. None of these people would count as insurrectionists. There were others, although I can't find any record of anyone from January 6 who has been charged with insurrection or similar crime, although admittedly, it's not as if the reporting on it has been very good. (Most have been charged with civil disorder and entering restricted property.) An insurrection doesn't always mean much; depending on context, a few armed people chasing federal agents off their property at gunpoint or forcibly seizing government property could be insurrection, even if there was never any impulse beyond that. It's a less objectionable word for the events in question than 'sedition', although it seems to me that it's often being used more for rhetorical effect than anything else.

Trump, of course, was impeached on one count of inciting insurrection. I'm very skeptical of the idea that anything Trump did actually meets the legal definition of incitement, which is very restricted for the same reason the legal definition of sedition is. But impeachment is not indictment; it's a political, not a legal, judicial act, and whether he is convicted will simply depend on whether Senators think he had some prior knowledge of what his comments on January 6 would lead to and whether they think it politically a good precedent to set.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Links of Note, Linked for Noting

* Jody Amable, The Murder Ballad Was the Original True Crime Podcast

* Richard Yetter Chappell, There's No Such Thing as "Following the Science"

* Christopher J. Austin, Contemporary Hylomorphisms: On the Matter of Form (PDF)

* Alasdair MacIntyre, The Fractured Metaphysics of Protests

* Peter Adamson, Yaḥyā ibn ‘Adī against al-Kindī on the Trinity (PDF)

* Michael Lind, The New National American Elite

* Julian Baggini, Midgley on Murdoch

* Frederick D. Aquino & Logan Paul Gage, On the Epistemic Role of Our Passional Nature (PDF)

* Dominic Green, Oligarchy in America

* John Tasioulas, All in One, discusses the problems with trying to overload terms like 'human rights'

* Peter Eardley, Medieval Theories of Conscience, at the SEP

* Cathy Mason, The Epistemic Demands of Friendship (PDF)

* Błażej Skrzypulec, Common Structure of Vision and Olfaction (PDF)

* Susanne Bobzien, Frege Plagiarized the Stoics (PDF)

* Oliver O'Donovan, Politics and Political Service

Monday, February 01, 2021


 One of the major mysteries of Norse mythology is the god Ullr. His name, which is related to an old word for 'glory', shows up quite often in place names, suggesting that he was extremely important. But the literary sources we have hardly mention him. The location of his dwelling is said to be in Ýdalir, Yew Valley; since yews are consistently associated with archery in the ancient world (it was a good tree for bows), this is sometimes thought to indicate his connection with archery. He is associated with an ancient oath-taking ceremony. Saxo Grammaticus, who reads myths as fictionalized history, calls him a wizard, says he had a magic bone that he could use as a boat, and that he ruled for a short time when Odin was unable to do so. Snorri in the Prose Edda says that he was the son of Sif and the step-son of Thor. Snorri also links him to archery, and says that he is good at skiing and is called upon in duels. In poetry, Snorri tells us, he can be called the snowshoe-god, the bow-god, the hunting-god, and the shield-god; shields are called Ullr's ships. And in other poems we find him used in kennings for warriors: Ullr-of-sword, Ullr-of-shield, Ullr-of-bowstring, Ullr-of-combat. He is a bit like Tyr -- once extremely important, from all that we can tell (his name is just a version of the word for 'god'), Tyr has faded somewhat into the background by the time our literary sources really get going, although his association with battle seems to have kept something of his memory alive. But a few stories about Tyr still remained and were recorded; we have none explicitly about Ullr.

Jackson Crawford had an interesting video a few years back looking at the evidence and wondering -- but only wondering, since the evidence is pretty limited -- whether he could be an earlier version of Heimdallr (who is an important god in the stories but hardly if ever shows up in place names):

Music on My Mind

Brian Crain, "Song for Sienna". A bit of instrumental music for the day.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Fortnightly Book, January 31

 The greatest name in all of Scandinavian literature is, without any doubt, Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241). Born in Hvamm, Iceland, his father Sturla arranged to have him fostered by Jon Loftsson, the most influential Icelandic politician of the day. His foster father made sure he had an excellent education. The boy grew up into a talented young man and clever negotiator, but also a quite ruthless and treacherous one, a combination of traits that worked well toward his worldly success. He soon became the wealthiest man in Iceland. In the long Icelandic winters, though, he practiced more literary pursuits. At some point, probably around the age of forty, he traveled to Norway, where he became linked to Earl Skuli, who was acting as a regent for the young Hakon the Fourth; this connection led him to performing errands for the earl all throughout southern Norway, for the next several years. This and a few well-timed dedicated poems made him even wealthier than he had been. It's usually thought (although we do to know) that it was on his return to Iceland that he wrote his major works: the Heimskringla, the Prose Edda, and Egil's Saga. Various troubles at home led him to Norway and back in later years, and eventually his ruthlessness would catch up with him; denying his stepsons a share of their inheritance led to a large band of people surprising him in the night and killing him.

Icelandic literary works were often written anonymously, and Snorri's major works were no exceptions. That the Heimskringla and the Prose Edda are due to the same person is extremely likely on the evidence; that Egil's Saga was written by the same person is very probable; there is no one we know of at the time who is better equipped to have written them than Snorri; the attributions of the Heimskringla and the Prose Edda to him in manuscripts are in later or less reliable manuscripts, although they are consistent; the oral tradition, as far as we can tell, has also consistently attributed the Prose Edda and the Heimskringla to him. It all amounts to less than a proof, but for all that, there is also no reason whatsoever to reject his authorship -- as noted, there is no plausible alternative candidate, what we know of him makes him a very plausible candidate, the whole tradition, patchy though it may be, is consistent in putting him forward.

The next fortnightly book will be the Heimskringla. The work gets its title from the first two words of the first saga, which mean something like "the circle of the earth". It traces the history of the kings of Norway from mythic origins up to the death of Magnus V Erlingsson in 1184. The sagas included are:

1. Ynglinga saga
2. Saga of Halfdan the Black
3. Saga of Harald Fairhair
4. Saga of Hakon the Good
5. Saga of Harald Graycloak
6. Saga of Olaf Tryggvason
7. Saint Olaf's Saga
8. Saga of Magnus the Good
9. Saga of Harald Hardruler
10. Saga of Olaf the Gentle
11. Saga of Magnus Barelegs
12. Saga of the Sons of Magnus
13. Saga of Magnus the Blind and Harald Gilli
14. Saga of the Sons of Harald
15. Saga of Hakon the Broadshouldered
16. Saga of Magnus Erlingsson

I'll be reading the translation by Lee M. Hollander. The work is quite large, so this may end up being one of those occasional three week 'fortnights', but I actually don't anticipate that; saga storytelling is generally smooth and easy to follow, and, except for the huge Saint Olaf's Saga (about a third of the work), most of the sagas are of very manageable size.

Completion, Correction, Balancing

I have said that all branches of knowledge are connected together, because the subject-matter of knowledge is intimately united in itself, as being the acts and the work of the Creator. Hence it is that the Sciences, into which our knowledge may be said to be cast, have multiplied bearings one on another, and an internal sympathy, and admit, or rather demand, comparison and adjustment. They complete, correct, balance each other. This consideration, if well-founded, must be taken into account, not only as regards the attainment of truth, which is their common end, but as regards the influence which they exercise upon those whose education consists in the study of them. I have said already, that to give undue prominence to one is to be unjust to another; to neglect or supersede these is to divert those from their proper object. It is to unsettle the boundary lines between science and science, to disturb their action, to destroy the harmony which binds them together. Such a proceeding will have a corresponding effect when introduced into a place of education. There is no science but tells a different tale, when viewed as a portion of a whole, from what it is likely to suggest when taken by itself, without the safeguard, as I may call it, of others.

John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University, Discourse 5.