Saturday, March 06, 2021

The Gift of Day

The Gift of Day
by Wilhelmina Stitch

The very minute I awake,
I find, and this is every morn,
A precious gift for me to take
The gift of Day, newborn.

A bowl, translucent, glowing, bright,
Is this great gift God proffers me,
My hands stretch forth with keen delight
And clasp it eagerly.

O gift, O precious gift of Day!
O vessel rare for me to fill!
Let me not stumble on the way,
I would not use you ill;

But I would fill you to the brim
With things befitting God's own bowl,
With first a song of praise to Him
From my most grateful soul.

With all the beauty I can find,
With flowers that grow along the way,
With tender little deeds and kind,
With songs and laughter gay.

O heart, be gentle! do not slight
This gift 'tis yours to use at will;
Then when the shadows fall to-night
It will be lovely still.

'Wilhelmina Stitch' was the most successful pen name of Ruth Collie. She was a newspaper poet, writing daily poems for newspapers, and became one of the most wildly popular poets of her day. She died on March 6, 1936.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Dashed Off V

 Truth is the seed of freedom.

"angels take part in all our good works" (Aquinas)

Politics is healthier when it is about cooperation than when it is about persuasion, and healthier when it is about persuasion than when it is about compulsion.

"The ruler must not reveal his desires; for if he reveals his desires, his ministers will put on the mask that pleases him." Han Feizi
"When names are correct, things stay in place; when names are twisted, things shift about."
"The best rewards are those which are generous and predictable, so that the people may profit by them. The best penalties are those that are severe and inescapable, so that the people will fear them. The best laws are those which are uniform and inflexible, so that the people can understand them."

experiment // theatrical performance
-- this is confirmed by the actual history of experimentation, which is heavily linked to anatomical, chemical, and electrical demonstration
-- it might be worth considering Carroll's erotetic theory of movie comprehension here, since experiment is also erotetic

logic as a realm of whimsy

interestingness as aptness for attention

cuteness as protection-inspiring

Novelty is often beauty to the glad and cheerful heart.

That which perfects our nature also serves as penance for it.

St. Joseph, last and chief of the Patriarchs

The intellect, in itself indeterminate with respect to its own act, elicits that act and through that act specifies the will's options.

The intellect can determine itself with respect to levels and foci of understanding.

Inquiry is structured by suspecting.

The intellect can understand a thing positively or negatively, as it were in true color or as a photographic negative.

the correctness of loving God as included virtually in the concept of God (Scotus)

If one assumes that 'moral standing' is based on sentience, it is virtually impossible to prevent the account from implying the that things that *might* be sentient have moral standing, and difficult to prevent it from implying that things that *will* be sentient have moral standing.

"every willing-against presupposes some willing" (Scotus)
Nill assumes prior will.

The spatial counterpart to our sense of temporal flow is our sense of spatial spread. (They are in fact related.)

In manual grasping, the hand and the object are partially assimilated; the same is true of intellectual grasping.

After all is said and done, the argument for the claustrum as the center of consciousness is no different from the argument for the pineal gland being so.

All encryption presupposes a decryption situation.

No one is more inclusive and welcoming than a scammer; con games are welcoming and inclusive indeed.

naming as a form of gift-giving

"Some first principles we see by induction, some by perception, some by a kind of habituation, and others in other ways." Aristotle, NE 1098b

Virtue extends and intensifies virtue.

Law has no authority to compel acts of vice.

Equity requires understanding the assumptions of the law, not just the law itself.

Rational choice requires not merely thought but character.

"Every skill has to do with coming into being, and the exercise of the skill lies in considering how something that is capable of either being or not being, and the first principle of which is in the producer and not the product may come into being." Aristotle NE 1140a

sophrosyne & sozein phronesis (NE 1140b)

You can show your skill by failing to hit the target; this is not true of virtue.

Virtue produces eudaimonia not as medicine produces health but as part of health produces health.

Safe interfaces must be: determinate, prominently visible, and spatially oriented.

"No reasonable person can believe that we are obliged to treat the moral and immoral, the prudent and the imprudent, the law-abiding and the criminal with equal consideration." Kekes

"In mathematics, it is not reason that teaches first principles, nor is it actions; rather, it is virtue, either natural or habituated, that enables us to think correctly about the first principles." Aristotle NE 1151a

virtue, skill, taste

Kings and shepherds care for those in their charge with a view to their well-being. NE 1161a
Fathers and ancestors confer existence, nurture, and education.

Common good is sustained by friendship.

the need for laws not to dissolve reasonable friendships

"Argument and teaching, presumably are not powerful in every case, but the soul of teh student msut be prepared beforehand in its habits, with a view to its enjoying and hating in a viable way, like soil that is to nourish seed." Aristotle NE 1179b

To know God as God, we must love God.

In coloring, a child must have a sense of space and of cause (crayon making color on a surface).

"Many more principles than you think are required to demonstrate what no one doubts." Malebranche

When people say they don't like organized religion, they most often mean either that they don't like politics or that they don't like ethics -- or, in other words, that they don't like working with people at their worst or that they don't like being told that they themselves are in the wrong. Neither dislike is surprising, but neither provides much of a good reason.

The serious pursuit of justice will often require sweetening a bitter pill. To expect people to swallow without resistance a severe penalty or massive inconveniences, even for manifest justice, is not love of justice but a sign of stupidity.

Inclusiveness is a purely procedural concept, not a substantive one.

The deontic structure of parenting is such that the obligations of children gestate within the obligations of the parents.

All human action posits at least a minimal deontic structure based on ends and means.

methods as articulations of principles implicit in skills

PSR & the fact that there must be some difference between the actual and the merely possible

No state can have authority unless there is a moral order higher than it, whence its authority can be derived.

modalities given
(1) only general invariance
(2) relations of differentiation
(3) metric with respect to a reference point

"The essential enunciation of an equation is always this: that a certain number is zero." Schrodinger
Only entities of exactly the same type can be added or subtracted or put equal."

current & charge as densities

gravitational field: geometry + affinity (constraint on motion)

possibilities in excess of representability (these would seem to be introduceable as limit-concepts)

'but' as exceptive conjunction

Tying possibility to representability makes it like the picturesque.
representability as involving a frame and a composition

apostolicity as an inherent quality, as a causal relatedness, as a communal system
-- these are related to three ways of being one
-- there are analogues for sanctity & catholicity, as well

effect as nondifferent from cause, accident as nondifferent from substance

cases of conscience // geometrical diagrams

catechetics, ascetic, and heroic phases of philosophical training

The existence of the mirandum establishes the possibility of the sublime.

victory as an attribute of God

People take coolheaded capacity to distance oneself as a sign of competence, whether or not it is.

the nature of the obligation incurred when someone saves your life: obv. gratitude is an issue, but there is a sacredness/solemnity issue as well -- something analogous to pietas

(1) Freedom being founded on truth, civil society must uphold truth in order to uphold freedom.
(2) Civil and social authority are obligated to defer in an appropriate way to divine authority.
(3) Revelation cannot be treated as irrelevant to political and social life without effectively denying it to be revelation.
(4) Legislation depends for its wisdom on divine wisdom.

Vocation is not like choosing a cable subscription.

Marriage is the natural perfection of the person, and vocation to priesthood only transcends this by transfiguring that in the individual which marriage perfects. To be a man is to have a natural vocation to be husband and father; to be a priest is not different except that this natural vocation is stamped with a new Christlikeness, as something to be sublimated to a higher calling. And the same is true of religious life in general.

No form of moral discourse is immune to being highjacked by vainglory, envy, and wrath.

We are to immerse all nations, by baptism, by preaching, and by practice.

Thursday, March 04, 2021


* Josiah Neeley, The Texas Blackout Blame Game

* Jessica Hooten Wilson, Misdirected Passion, discusses Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter

* Elizabeth Jackson, Faithfully Taking Pascal's Wager (PDF)

* Charles Goldhaber, The Humors in Hume's Skepticism (PDF)

* Monte Johnson, Why did Aristotle invent the material cause? (PDF)

* John Dyck, Spatial Music (PDF)

* Pat Smith, The Moral Rule Against Retroactivity

* Danté Stewart, Witnesses to the Miracle of Blackness

* Mary Astell is Oxford University Press's Philosopher of the Month for March

* Philippe Lemoine, The Case Against Lockdowns

* Patrick J. Deneen reviews Michael J. Sandel's The Tyranny of Merit

* Hailey Branson-Potts, 'Whoa! What's happening? Horny toads are disappearing. Can they be saved?' The Texas horned lizard, occasionally known as the horned frog and most often known by the name 'horny toad' is a truly remarkable animal, and probably rivals the armadillo in popularity. (The horny toad is the Texas state lizard.) Alas, as with the armadillo, urbanization is very bad for it. And the horny toad has the additional problem that it's a small creature with purely passive defenses -- it has its spiky skin and it puffs up when cornered in order to look bigger (hence its folk association with frogs and toads). They also have the misfortune of the having harvester ants as their primary food -- historically that has been a safe bet for a food source, but the invasion of fire ants from the south has ended up being a problem, because fire ants aggressively destroy other ant colonies. They are such a sweet and harmless animal, the very best of all lizards; I hope the breeding programs work to help stabilize some of the declining populations.

Federal horned toad pic crop.jpg
By Steve Hillebrand/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public Domain, Link

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Mount Some Bold Eminence

Leave, then, the prison of your own reasonings, leave the town, the work of man, the haunt of sin; go forth, my brethren, far from the tents of Cedar and the slime of Babylon: with the patriarch go forth to meditate in the field, and from the splendours of the work imagine the unimaginable glory of the Architect. Mount some bold eminence, and look back, when the sun is high and full upon the earth, when mountains, cliffs, and sea rise up before you like a brilliant pageant, with outlines noble and graceful, and tints and shadows soft, clear, and harmonious, giving depth, and unity to the whole; and then go through the forest, or fruitful field, or along meadow and stream, and listen to the distant country sounds, and drink in the fragrant air which is poured around you in spring or summer; or go among the gardens, and delight your senses with the grace and splendour, and the various sweetness of the flowers you find there; then think of the almost mysterious influence upon the mind of particular scents, or the emotion which some gentle, peaceful strain excites in us, or how soul and body are rapt and carried away captive by the concord of musical sounds, when the ear is open to their power; and then, when you have ranged through sights, and sounds, and odours, and your heart kindles, and your voice is full of praise and worship, reflect -- not that they tell you nothing of their Maker, -- but that they are the poorest and dimmest glimmerings of His glory, and the very refuse of His exuberant riches, and but the dusky smoke which precedes the flame, compared with Him who made them. Such is the Creator in His Eternal Uncreated Beauty, that, were it given to us to behold it, we should die of very rapture at the sight.

John Henry Newman, "The Mystery of Divine Condescension".

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

The Purest Fountains of Natural Reason

We may say that the Morals of this Philosopher are infinitely Sublime, but at the same time, pure, sensible, and drawn from the purest Fountains of Natural Reason. Certainly, a Reason destitute of the Lights of Divine Revelation, has never appear’d with so much Illumination and Power. And as there is not any Duty omitted by Confucius, so there is not any besides those here mentioned. He greatly extends his Morals, but not farther than needs must; his Judgment ever telling him how far he must go, and where he must stop. In which he has a very considerable Advantage, not only over a great number of Pagan Writers, that have Treated of Things of this Nature, but likewise over several Christian Authors, who abound with so many false, or over-subtil Thoughts; who almost every where surpass the Bounds of their Duty, and who give themselves up to their own Fancy, or ill Humour; who almost always digress from that just Mean, where Virtue ought to be plac'd; who, by their false Pourtraitures do render it impossible to our Practice, and consequently make few Virtuous Men....

...Every Thing herein is Solid; because that right Reason, that inward Verity, which is implanted in the Soul of all Men, and which our Philosopher incessantly Consulted without Prejudice, guided all his Words. Thus the Rules which he Prescribes, and the Duties to which he Exhorts, are such, that there is no Person which does not immediately give his Approbation thereunto. There is nothing of Falsity in his Reasonings, nothing Extream, none of those frightful Subtilties, which are observ'd in the Moral Treatises of most Modern Metaphysicians, that is to say, in Discourses where Simplicity, Clearness, and Perspicuity ought to prevail throughout, and make itself Sensible to Minds of the lowest Rank.

From The Morals of Confucius, a Chinese Philosopher. This book, originally published in 1691, is an English translation of an earlier French work generally attributed to Jean de Labrune (a French Protestant minister better known for his historical works, who died in 1743), and somewhat more probably attributed to Louis Cousin (a royal censor through whose hands a number of Confucius-related works, including the Sinarum Philosophus, which is the Latin translation of Confucian texts on which this book is based), but in reality we just don't know who wrote it. The particular examples of moral treatises of 'Modern Metaphysicians' that the author has in mind when he talks about "frightful Subtilties" are Nicole's Essay on Morals and Malebranche's Treatise on Morals.

The Balm, the Tears, the Fragrant Charity

by Maurice Baring

You healed the sore, you made the fearful brave,
They bless you for your lasting legacy;
The balm, the tears, the fragrant charity
You sought and treasured in your living grave.
The gifts you humbly took you greatly gave,
For solace of the soul in agony,
When through the bars the brutal passions pry,
And mock the bonds of the celestial slave.

You wandered in the uttermost abyss;
And there, amidst the ashes and the dust,
You spoke no word of anger or of pride;
You found the prints of steps divine to kiss;
You looked right upwards to the stars, you cried:
“Hosanna to the Lord, for He is just.”

Monday, March 01, 2021

The Humean Account of Scholastic Philosophy of Nature

 In Treatise 1.4.3, Hume gives his account of broadly Aristotelian and scholastic philosophy, and it's an interesting insight into early modern views of the 'schools'. (Early modern philosophers often don't really elaborate much on what they see as the problems with the schoolmen, so it's nice to have an actual account.)

Hume takes Peripatetic philosophy to be fundamentally motivated by two problems.

(1) the problem of how a composite thing can be one (simplicity)
(2) the problem of how a changing thing can be the same (identity)

These are not minor problems; Hume thinks they are genuine and quite serious, and that there is no easy solution to them. We do in fact face apparent contradictions in both these cases, since we psychologically tend to elide similar and related perceptions but are at the same time able to recognize them as distinct. The 'ancient' way of handling this has at least an initial promise, although Hume thinks it ultimately fails: "feign something unknown and invisible" which remains the same through the variations and one in the composition. 'Feign' is a semi-technical term for Hume; the result of feigning is a fiction in something much like the sense of a 'legal fiction' and the original meaning of the Latin term: a thing made, a construct. We construct this unknown invisible something and suppose it to exist. This unknown invisible something is substance or prime matter. (Hume is not alone among early modern critics of scholastic philosophy in not making a sharp distinction between substance and matter.) This does have the apparent advantage of navigating the contradiction:

The peripatetic philosophy asserts the original matter to be perfectly homogeneous in all bodies, and considers fire, water, earth, and air, as of the very same substance; on account of their gradual revolutions and changes into each other. At the same time it assigns to each of these species of objects a distinct substantial form, which it supposes to be the source of all those different qualities they possess, and to be a new foundation of simplicity and identity to each particular species. (T, SBN 221)

This line of thought naturally leads to the notion of 'accidents'. We never find colors, sounds, tastes, shapes, and the like in isolation, which means that, if we are supposing substances, we always find them associated with substances, and "The same habit, which makes us infer a connexion betwixt cause and effect", that is, on Hume's account custom based on constant connection, "makes us here infer a dependance of every quality on the unknown substance" (T, SBN 222). Once we have accidents, though, we have room for 'occult qualities' and 'faculties' or causal powers, which are accidents that are themselves only supposed and not known or ever experienced. And the tendency to attribute human psychological movements to the world around us leads from there to things like 'sympathy' and 'horror vacui' to top it all off.

All of this, on Hume's basic empiricist principles, is untenable. We get unknown somethings piled on unknown somethings. Because of the copy principle, if we don't ever have any experience of something, we have no actual idea of it. Assigning words to these unknown somethings gives us the illusion that we know what we are talking about when in reality, we don't. And by the separability principle, anything that can be conceived of distinctly can exist separately, so the entire justification of substance and accidents, and the notion of 'inherence in a substance' becomes completely unworkable. 

Hume's actual criticisms depend almost entirely on these two principles, so rejecting them both (which any Aristotelian would) will evade the objections he specifically identifies. It is, however, an interesting (and unusual) attempt actually to give an account of basic ideas in Aristotelian philosophy and explain why they would be initially attractive.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Fortnightly Book, February 28

 Maurice Baring (1874-1925) was born into an extremely wealthy banking family, and had an excellent education; he had a facility for language, and so went into the diplomatic service, which he found he hated. He did discover that he loved all things Russian, though, and first began to get a name by reporting on the Russo-Japanese War. He converted to Catholicism in 1909, and served with distinction in World War I. The end of the war led him to experiment with drama and novels (he had before then primarily written poetry, essays, and the occasional short story), and it was as a novelist that he became truly famous. He spent the last years of his life suffering from Parkinson's disease and other incidental illnesses.

For the next fortnight I will be reading two of Baring's novels. The first, The Coat Without Seam (1929), is the tale of a man who is haunted by the tale of a relic, the seamless robe of Christ, which keeps popping up in his life; the second, In My End Is My Beginning (1931), is a historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots. I'll be quite busy this week and next for a number of reasons, but Baring has a very readable style, so it shouldn't be difficult to do them both.

The Original Blast and Miracle

The Magician is the Man when he seeks to become a God, and, being a usurper, can hardly fail to be a tyrant. Not being the maker, but only the distorter, he twists all things out of their intended shape, and imprisons natural things in unnatural forms. But the Mass is exactly the opposite of a Man seeking to be a God. It is a God seeking to be a Man; it is God giving his creative life to mankind as such, and restoring the original pattern of their manhood; making not gods, nor beasts, nor angels; but, by the original blast and miracle that makes all things new, turning men into men.

G. K. Chesterton, "Magic and Fantasy in Fiction".