Saturday, March 20, 2021

Stay'd and Constant Never

by Thomas Corrigan
March, March, March !
Month of boisterous weather:
Storm, storm, storm!
For whole weeks together:
Rain, and sleet, and hail;
Hail, and rain, and sleet,
Sweeping hill and dale,
Alley, lane, and street:
Sunshine for a moment, then the storm again;
Loud the hailstones rattle on the window's pane.

Wind, wind, wind!
Ever, ever blowing:
Change, change, change!
Moving, coming, going:
Blowing from the north,
South, and east, and west;
Ever breaking forth,
Ne'er a day at rest:
For a moment silent,--then a rush and roar,
Tossing high the billows on the pebbly shore.

World, world, world!
Full of noise and bustle:
On, on, on!
Turmoil, struggle, justle:
Christian, Jew, or Turk--
Worldlings, if you will--
Business, pleasure, work,
This their motto still:
Now a ray of sunshine darts upon the brain;
'Tis heaven for a moment,--then the world again.

Mind, mind, mind!
Ever changing, ever:
Rove, rove, rove!
Stay'd and constant never:
Shifting as the wind,
O'er the earth abroad:
Hardly can it find
Passing thought for God:
For a moment upward,--then away, away;
Still uncurbed and headstrong, loving far to stray.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Dashed Off VI

 "These are those who cause divisions, animal men, unspiritual." NB v. 18: "follow their own desires for ungodliness"

"The world is not an accident of divinity, for in it conflict, privation, and alteration, all contraries of the determinations of divinity, are encountered." Kant

artistic adaptations as interpretive analogies

"It may be said then that the three main senses of 'grace' are first 'beauty', secondly 'favour', and thirdly 'gratitude'. But these are not equivalents: the word 'grace' combines these meanings in itself, and it has an aura that is all its own." Paton

"The specific cause of history is nothing but the hylomorphic composition of spatio-temporal beings." De Koninck
"If all is absolutely predetermined, there is no history proper. On the other hand, if all is absolutely novel, then all is pure chance. To remain within reason, we must hold that historical situations be both different and similar."

A remarkable number of attempts to develop atheistic arguments from evil imply that benevolent totalitarianism is the social ideal.

the human race as a sui juris entity

Violation of the rights of children violates the rights of their parents as well.

"All hypothetical propositions assert what would be or what would not be if something or its contrary were posited; and consequently, they assert that the simultaneous assumption of two things in agreement with one another is possible or impossible, necessary or indifferent, or they assert that one single thing is possible or impossible, necessary or indifferent." Leibniz

Leibniz's infinite analysis account of contingent propositions thinks of them along the lines of real numbers compared to rational numbers. Contingency is based on incommensurability of concepts, shown in the inability to reduce to identities.

the necessary truth that not all possible truths are necessary

New Testament exegesis regularly talks about NT communities as if they were isolated rather than (as the NT actually shows them) in active correspondence.

To be wrong often is the human method of learning.

Performance art works by structuring the leisure time of its audience.

Historians are often inclined to underestimate the difficulty of getting good information as things are happening, and the more they veer toward moralism, the more they seem to underestimate it.

There is nothing shameful or wrong with sometimes reasoning for reasoning's sake, nor with sometimes following a line of reasoning just to follow it or see how it goes, on any topic.

A great many social improvements fundamentally depend on a general environment of well-wishing.

"extension is the order of coexisting possibilities and ...time is the order of inconsistent possibilities." Leibniz
- while this would be nice and neat, there are serious problems. Perhaps instead substance as the order of coexisting possibilities and relation as the order of inconsistent possibilities.

force as principle of action and passion

"A substance is a being capable of action." Leibniz

the PSR as structuring the nature of possibility
What is a particular possibility? Something such that if it is there can be a reason for it rather than otherwise; the reason is how the character of this possibility is identifiable and how it is distinguishable from other possibilities -- the 'can be' is the possibility itself.
-- It seems very plausible that this can be generalized to all Diamond modalities.

What are archeologists call 'culture' is in general an artifact-complex, a classified bunch of associated artifacts.

'Knowing what X is like' is a causal notion.

expressive punctuation (xoxo, emojis, lol, ugh) and interjections

Experiments in living can only concern means; they must presuppose ends so that one can interpret the result of the experiments.

learning as evidence of angels

rhetoric as rational defense-in-depth

within living tradition // within living memory

"There is no one of any nation at all who cannot arrive at virtue, when they have found a guide." Cicero

'Putting cruelty first' inevitably leads to having no adequate context for understanding and responding to cruelty.

To be charitable to all is not the same as to be a busybody in everything.

love of neighbor : love of God :: image of God : God

materialism as a thesis about the medium of thought

Leibniz's account of actions and passions (Monadology 49-52) arguably describes how we take ideas to act on other ideas.

rational/real/artifical as a transcendental disjunction (cp Caramuel)

Proof is deduction resulting in ordered knowing.
We take ourselves to have ordered knowing without qualification when we think we know that one which a thing depends, precisely as it depends on it.

Art, science, wisdom, prudence, and understanding each capture an aspect of the true, and any theory of truth not capturing them all is incomplete.

The more clearly soldiers are able to see their activity as protecting their homes and households, the better they are able to endure it. Likewise, the better the public understands those activities, the better the soldiers are able to reintegrate into society afterward.

To dabble is a good way to find things, but eventually you must find something for which you can buckle down.

A language like Latin or Classical Greek or the like is not really a dead language; there is a continuing and continual life in them, but the living activity has subsided to a low level. This contracts with wholly reconstructed or rediscovered languages, which really are dead.

That someone is unjust does not cancel your obligations to them.

respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, in the treatment of workers
respect for the judgment of the worker (deriving from subsidiarity) -- includes recognizing the authority of the workers over their own time so long as they fulfill the requirements of their employment
respect for the safety of the worker

Reichenbach's common cause principle goes from probabilities to causes, but it would perhaps be more right to say that assigning a certain probability to sets of events requires positing a common cause to screen things off properly.

We identify common causes in part to sort out the accidental from the real.

"This is, indeed, the metaphysical significance of the erotic gaze that it is a search for knowledge - a summons to the other person to shine forth in sensory form and to make himself known." Scruton

Great literature in a sense arises above all likes and dislikes.

A canon is always relative to a tradition.

Foreseen unintended consequences are always relevant to the evaluation of an action; but they don't specify the action itself.

positions on human dignity
1. positivist (externally conferred)
-- -- divinely conferred
-- -- socially conferred
2. naturalist (intrinsic)

hope as a power of focus

Conscience is properly formed by the cultivation of virtue.

eternal recurrence // universalization
(They differ, however, on (1) the interpretation of the Box modality and (2) the aspect of the action to which they are applied.)

We cannot understand an experiment without understanding the human actions of the experimenters.

It's remarkable how many attacks on 'civility policing' are forms of civility policing.

Ornament is a leaflet that always requires organic growth from a stem.

Discussions of consent need to distinguish cases that are consensually dispensable and those that are relatively indispensable.

ex convenientia and convergence at the limit (this would be a broadly Leibnizian account)

three kinds of 'consumer loyalty': (1) habit of use (2) habit of liking (3) active participation

Virtues are capable of being symbols for virtues.

Our relationship with the external world is mereological; we recognize ourselves as part of a larger system.

A problem with many discussion of dreaming and skepticism is the assumption that there is no veridical dreaming. But nothing prevents a dream from being at least partly veridical (it is a common experience, in fact) and the only question is how far this can go.

Dreaming is partly built on the vague feeling of one's own body interacting with its immediate environment (pressure, temperature, texture, falling).

variables as unfilled lists, constants as filled lists

world-building as a system of problem-solutions

"The Church moves as a whole; it is not a mere philosophy, it is a communion; it not only discovers, but it teaches; it is bound to consult for charity, as well as for faith." Newman
"Slowness in decision, tenderness for weaker brethren, are first principles in the exercise of Ecclesiastical authority."

All skepticism grows in the soil of a particular tradition.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Music on My Mind

Loreena McKennitt, "The Highwayman". It's a poem by Alfred Noyes, first published in 1906.

Augustine on Teaching and Learning

All instruction is either about things or about signs; but things are learnt by means of signs. I now use the word "thing" in a strict sense, to signify that which is never employed as a sign of anything else: for example, wood, stone, cattle, and other things of that kind. Not, however, the wood which we read Moses cast into the bitter waters to make them sweet, nor the stone which Jacob used as a pillow, nor the ram which Abraham offered up instead of his son; for these, though they are things, are also signs of other things. There are signs of another kind, those which are never employed except as signs: for example, words. No one uses words except as signs of something else; and hence may be understood what I call signs: those things, to wit, which are used to indicate something else. Accordingly, every sign is also a thing; for what is not a thing is nothing at all. Every thing, however, is not also a sign.

Augustine, On Christian DoctrineBook I, Chapter 2. It's often forgotten that Augustine immediately goes on to specify 'thing' or res as being of three kinds: enjoyed, used, and both used and enjoyed. This is, I think, fundamental for understanding how Augustine thinks teaching and learning work: they are not merely a sort of trade in signs, but always relate to what the mind rests in (like divine things) and to what the mind uses to reach that point.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021


 The primary vehicle for philosophical reflection in ancient Egypt was the sebayt or 'instruction', an aphoristic collection of advice. Some of them, like the Instruction of Ptahhotep, have a considerable importance. But there is no question whatsoever what the most important example of the genre is: The Instruction of Amenemope. Generally assigned to the Twentieth Dynasty (twelfth/eleventh century BC), the instruction purports to be the advice of Amenemope to his son; unlike many Instructions, it is much more focused on what we would think of as ethical matters rather than material success. It's usually considered a masterpiece in its own right, but it is important for another reason: it is provably linked to, and probably an influence on, the Biblical book of Proverbs.

The evidence of the link begins with Proverbs 22:20: "Have I not written for you thirty sayings of admonition and knowledge?" That's a little puzzling in context, because there's no obvious set of thirty sayings. But it makes much more sense when we recognize that the Instruction of Amenemope has thirty clearly delineated chapters, and in chapter 30 says, "Look to these thirty chapters, which inform and educate." And many of the pieces of advice in the Instruction have clear parallels in that section of Proverbs (22:17-24:22). On the basis of this, it's generally thought that the Proverbs gives us, in this particular section, a loose Hebrew paraphrase and rearrangement of some Egyptian version of the Instruction. (Strictly speaking, there are other possibilities. For instance, it could be that both Amenemope and Proverbs are adapted versions of another, non-extant, thirty-sayings collection, or that there was a whole genre of thirty-sayings text that promiscuously borrowed sayings from each other, and that these two are perhaps different original compositions in that genre, with no single common link. It's even possible that Amenemope is based on an earlier version of the Proverbs text, although that direction of influence is somewhat less likely. But as the version of Amenemope we have certainly predates the version of Proverbs we have, and as the book of Proverbs is quite open about the fact that it collects from other sources, it's usually easiest to suppose that Amenemope is the original text and that Proverbs loosely paraphrases and reorganizes its sayings, as long as we recognize that there are other possible variations.)

 A few of the sayings of the Instruction:

Fill yourself with silence, you will find life, and your body will flourish upon the earth. (ch. 5)

Better is poverty in the hand of the god; better is bread with a happy heart. (ch. 6)

Do not fraternize with the hot-tempered man, nor approach him to converse. (ch. 9)

When gold is heaped on gold, at daybreak it turns to lead. (ch. 16)

You do not know the plans of god; you cannot perceive tomorrow. (ch. 21)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Poem Draft and a Poem Re-Draft


The sun is shining high above,
its light is but a word below:
this world will never know of love
nor ever know it does not know.
It speaks a word that does not mean,
a puff of air, a pompous gasp,
while love remains for it unseen,
forever out of reaching grasp.
The sacred hides from mind profane.
What they call 'love' is but facade;
it never was on altar slain,
it does not pave a path to God.

The Covenant-Breakers 

 Along the winding, misty roads now littered with the years
(the hedges are our human loves, the stones, our human fears)
the Sleepers walk their silent way, with a ceaseless marching beat,
unstopping and yet weary with an aching in their feet.
In the beginning of The Adam Covenant was made,
a strand between the sea and land, at which the wave was stayed;
The Adam broke the Covenant, but cannot breach the sea
that covers the whole mortal world as cold infinity.
Of that ancient time and distant, yet present and so near,
no vision meets unsighted eyes, but it is felt in fear.
The Spirit moves on waters that are formless with their void,
but laden with the promise of worlds made, preserved, destroyed;
the world is brought to being in the Covenant of Light,
which makes the world be manifest within the Ocean-night.
In the garden of our living, the God has spoken plain
with words of endless power whose echoes must yet remain:
"I give you all creation as a place to rule and play
with Galahad of witness where I make the sea to stay,
and this the Compact's mark, which shall endure like deathless sky,
and this the sign of Covenant, that every man shall die.
For death is the translation, the surmounting of the sea
that has no end but heaven and divine eternity.
As the worm from forth its tomb bursts out with wings of soul,
so mortal man shall ever die, in dying become whole.
But this gift can turn to curse; if from death you would be free,
you must make no acquaintance with the bitter destiny --
you must not know  within yourself the evil in the good,
for death will come forever if it thus be understood.
If you seek your life in glory, such life is found in death:
in dying you shall be immortal by God's holy breath;
but when good with evil mingles, and truth is meshed with lie,
then one fate alone can wait you: in dying you shall die.
The longest death, the endless death, is when a man thus dies;
then death is no translation, but a fear beneath the sky,
and beyond the far firmament, in the byssal depths unfree,
your souls shall wander lost and beneath an endless sea."

We are the wandering Adam, a sea-surface our sky.
In life we never know the shore; in death we surely die.
We are lost ocean-creatures, and all drowning, drowned, and dead;
our path is endless marching on the sandy ocean-bed.
Sad we are, and silent, save with the grumblings of our soul
driven mad by surest death and dissolved in every whole;
eternity within us, in the blessing of the breath,
but we lost our sacred sign and sold our one rightful death.
As Esau with his potage, we sold our one thing of worth
and sleep the sleep of the dying dead, hopeless of rebirth.
We dream in dying slumbers, doomed to certainty of death,
of translation of our bodies, transfiguring of breath,
in pictures strange and much confused by our enslaving sea,
and by our ceaseless fear of dying, never to be free,
of a time beyond the seafoam when we are raised through air,
and on some far and distant shore (they say no sea is there)
we die no more for dying, but for birth in endless light
that cannot be held by the sea, nor quenched by ocean's night.
 But we are the Covenant-Breakers, and as legends tell, 
in dying we shall surely die and live a life called 'hell'.
We are the Faithless Adam, wandering beneath the sea;
it is endless for the faithless, its bound eternity.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Fortnightly Book, March 14

Beginning in August 1919, having recently moved to Lillehammer, Norway, and having given birth to her third child, the author Sigrid Undset set down to write a series of books about fourteenth-century Norway. The first, The Wreath, was published in 1920, and was soon continued with The Wife in 1921 and The Cross in 1922. Together these make up the three parts of Kristin Lavransdatter, which earned her the Nobel Prize in Literature. And as you might guess, Kristin Lavransdatter is the next Fortnightly Book. Although, given that it is three whole works together, making up a massive 1100 pages, it's possible that this might end up being a three-week 'fortnight', depending on how my schedule turns out the next two weeks. (I'm still dealing with the after-effects of the winter storm; everything moves slowly because everyone in the region also needs contractors, etc., so I don't know from week to week exactly how my schedule will turn out.)

I'll be reading Tina Nunally's translation. I'm looking forward to re-reading it; the last time I read it, I was dragging the tome around on vacation in Italy. And it's a big enough book to merit a second reading, for sure.