Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Chambers in the House of Dreams

by Francis Thompson

The breaths of kissing night and day
Were mingled in the eastern Heaven:
Throbbing with unheard melody
Shook Lyra all its star-cloud seven:
When dusk shrunk cold, and light trod shy,
And dawn's grey eyes were troubled grey;
And souls went palely up the sky,
And mine to Lucidé.
There was no change in her sweet eyes
Since last I saw those sweet eyes shine;
There was no change in her deep heart
Since last that deep heart knocked at mine.
Her eyes were clear, her eyes were Hope's,
Wherein did ever come and go
The sparkle of the fountain-drops
From her sweet soul below,
The chambers in the house of dreams
Are fed with so divine an air,
That Time's hoar wings grow young therein,
And they who walk there are most fair.
I joyed for me, I joyed for her,
Who with the Past meet girt about:
Where our last kiss still warms the air,
Nor can her eyes go out.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Dashed Off XII


Everything we perceive has modal structure -- possibility, impossibility, necessity, non-necessity are part of perception itself.

mathematics as an abstraction from causal reasoning

"Beauty has the mode of being of light." Gadamer

Criticisms of Marion regularly conflate the phenomenal feel of excessiveness and Marion's 'excess beyond the concept'. Saturation is not a matter of intensive feel but of manifestation of that which eludes full objectification.

phenomenal poverty
(1) quantitative: too little information
(2) qualitative: too much obscurity
(3) relation: too tenuously subtle
(4) modality: too regardable
-- An example of (4) might be found in the experience of not being able to tell if something is due to oneself or not.
--Think of a murky night and seeing a shape in the darkness. What is it? It is not clear or manifest enough (2), it is seen only in outline (1), I cannot get a clear idea of how it is situated with respect to me (3); is it a dog or a tree stump or a trick of my eyes, I do not know (4). It is weakly given, so weakly I do not know how to conceptualize it very well, I do not know what it is.
-- the impoverished phenomenon will have a sort of analogy to the saturated phenomenon, as blind darkness to blinding light, as confusion from lack of information to confusion from too much information at once.

The phenomena are always already interpreted, but they are also always already uninterpreted. That is to say, it is a mistake to think phenomena and interpretation are always exactly adequate to each other; that they are distinguishable at all arises from the fact that they are not.

That saturated phenomena exceed concept does not imply that no concept is applicable to them for any purpose. (This mistake is repeatedly found in Gschwandtner's discussion of Marion.)

Much of contemporary theology of the Trinity is merely the invention of Trinity-sounding mythologies.

Love is the fulfilling of the law because love is the Spirit dwelling in us.
life-giving as a mode of love
Love is like breathing.
Loving is expressed in giving (Jn 3:16).

"To be sent is to be known as from another." Albert

All signification is poetry in training.

"Maria est echo Verbi Divini." Caramuel

Political faction is part of how people offload their thinking to others.

four primary modes of Church teaching: Scriptural, iconic, hagiological, and liturgical.

Although the human community by tradition may teach various things concerning God and His works, it cannot teach us things sufficient for saving union with God, which requires the teaching of a supernatural community. That this teaching of a supernatural community might be constant and unmoved, the community must in some way be preserved whole against human weakness. The authority of the Church depends on its origin; as it is from God, it is authoritative and divine, and this is confirmed by tis wonderful preservation against powerful and hostile enemies who have sought to destroy it in every way, and also in the candor of the saints, who confess their sins in glorifying God, and also by its martyrs who have shown its character by their union with the Christ's Passion and the seal of their blood; it is seen again in the sublimity of its doctrine and its sacraments, often going beyond the acuteness of human reason, and its power of showing holiness in every state of life. The providence of God does not will that the Church it has established for the salvation of the human race could become so corrupt as to fail in that purpose.

Architecture by its nature fails if it is not both cooperative and done with regard to what the community will see.

One of the more important ideas the post-medieval era has added to philosophical analysis of skill/art/craft is the concept of the 'end user'.

Abstract end user, style-governed produce; concrete end user, function-governed product.

The tinker is the seed of the engineer.

Marriage gets its character-like aspect from the fact that it is a natural and supernatural state of life.

sacramentalia associated with different states of life in the Church (kingship, religious consecration, catechumenate, etc.)

"Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse." Jonathan Swift
"As the best law is founded upon reason, so are the best manners."

Swift: good manners as an artificial good sense given that good sense itself is rare

"God is friendly; we are estranged." Eckhart

Each sacrament contributes something to our picture of glory.

Uniting human nature and divine nature hypostatically, Christ goes on to unite human persons and divine persons sacramentally.

delegate vs. trustee models of elected representation

The Tenth Amendment clearly envisages a delegation model of representation.

1 Kg 10:18-20 // 2 Chr. 9:17-19 as type of Maria Sedes Sapientiae

Quran 3:42 -- "O Mary, God has chosen you and purified you; He has chosen you above all the women of creation."
Surah 66:12 calls Mary Qanitah (the Obedient) and Siddiqah (the Faithful)

A persuasive argument is generally one that enables those following it to contribute their own evidence.

proof qua logical structure vs proof qua narrative following of logical structure

the Christology of Babai
-- kiana (pl. kiane): nature in the abstract (corresponds to definition)
-- qnoma (pl. qnome): individual kiana existing by itelf, e.g., one out of many, but only as it can receive individuation
-- parsopa (pl. parsope): the totality of features making it possible to identify this one rather than that one.
-- the Church of the East holds that God is one kiana, three qnome, and three parsope; the parsope are paternity, filiation, and procession. Christ has the parsopa of divine filiation, the qnoma of being the Son, and a human qnoma. He is two qnome with a single parsopa of divine filiation. He does have human parsope of color, height, etc., but human filiation is not one of those.

Mary as the dispositive cause of the Incarnation

The importance of Mary's physical conception of Christ should not be minimized. Christ takes flesh from and in the body of the Virgin; she is the locus of, and physical cooperator with, the very act of the Incarnation. She bears the Word of God, and this physical act is part, not separate from, her belief, her consent, her hearing the word of God and keeping it. Contemporary Mariology is overly squeamish about the Son of God becoming incarnate by a pregnancy, about His being physically part of a pregnant woman. The embryonic Word was implanted in the uterine wall; through the placenta the fetal Word received nutrients and oxygen, fed by His mother's body even before birth. Even from the beginning she mediated between Christ and the world. Through the whole of His life, she tended His body, in all the ways the body can be tended, carrying Him in the womb and dressing Him for the tomb.

The logical conception of set presupposes the notion of truth.

"The alternative to theism is not atheism but idolatry." Kreeft

The Notes of the Church are the preconditions for a community of salvation.

Baptism, confirmation, ordination, and marriage form states of life. Penance and unction deal with conditions that can interfere with the ends of those states of life. Eucharist contributes to achieving the ends of those states of life.

A community requires a genealogy, even if only one that is a fiction of customary law.

Head, Cornerstone, Door emphasize Christ as necessarily united principle; Vine as including principle; Shepherd, King, and High Priest as ordering principle.

David as the Shepherd King Prophet

"Don't judge me" is the motto of modernity; the refusal to be judged is related to the conflation of self-identification and identity.

Christ the torii on whom the Dove dwells
-- torii is literally related to 'door'; comes from Indian torana
-- torii can be read as 'bird perch'; some relate it to toori-iru (pass through and enter)

Mary as both shrine and shrine maiden

yorishiro (lit. approach substitute): physical instrumentality through which kami become accessible

Christian martyrdom gives an advantaged perspective on matters of faith and salvation because of its union with Christ's passion, the source of our salvation; this advantaged perspective is like that a virtuous person has of virtue, and constitutes it as authoritative in comparison to others; we participate in the martyr's perspective through the liturgy of the Church.

Danto's transfiguration and Caramuel's moral transubstantiation

interstate highway as urbanization trellis

Insistence on expertise is all too often an attempt to build a rank above the peasantry.

Much of literacy historically seems to arise and develop in a sort of inter-relation with military life.

Oral cultures with writing are often related to writing in somewhat like the way ours is related to computer programming.

decadence as aimless unstable dependence

Things like pan-Celtic identity are not so much inherited as congealed out of analogies between inheritances.

the phenomenon of policy-based evidence-making

"The significance of Hegel in the History of Philosophy is to be found in the fact that he unites in one system the Aristotelian and Kantian movements in thought." William Torrey Harris

All non-artificial religion is nature-relation *and* art-religion *and* a religion involving some kind of revelation.

Teleology is the concept that makes mechanism an intelligible concept.

There may be something to Dante's close association of Purgatory with art -- satispassion and purification in art.

the system of indulgences as a reflection in the Church Militant of the Church Patient, and a sort of training for Purgatory

Ministry of Christ : Church Militant :: Passion of Christ : Church Patient :: Resurrection & Ascension of Christ : Church Triumphant
-- Christ Militant, Christ Patient, Christ Triumphant

The unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of the Church Militant looks forward through the unity, etc., of the Church Patient to the unity, etc. of the Church Triumphant.

adstratal influence of one philosophical system on another

the triple communion of the Church in Eucharist (Albert)
(1) universal Church (Te igitur)
(2) the living (Memento)
(3) saints in heaven (Communicantes)

One of the major motivating elements for an orthodox angelology is the recognition that the angels play a role in liturgy.

Angelic life is liturgical.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

On Climenhaga and Rubio on Molinism

 Nevin Climenhaga and Daniel Rubio have an interesting paper arguing against Molinism. While I've often been very critical of Molinism myself, I don't think their argument works at all, although they make a number of valuable points in the course of their discussion. Their argument is:

(1) If Molinism is true, then there is some set of facts Γ that fully explains Eve’s sinning and everything Eve does that influences whether she sins. 

(2) If Γ fully explains S’s φ-ing as well as everything S does that influences whether S φ's, then S does not φ freely. 

Therefore, (3) If Molinism is true, Eve does not freely sin.

The problem with the argument is that (2) is obviously false, despite the efforts of Climenhaga and Rubio to argue that it should be accepted by advocates of free will. Part of the problem is that 'S freely chooses to phi' is itself a fact; therefore there is always some set of facts that fully explains S's phi-ing, as well as everything S does that influences S's action, because you can always have a set that includes the influences and S's free choice itself. (2) is not, contrary to the claim made in the paper, a libertarian premise; all libertarians hold that there is a set of facts that fully explains somebody's freely doing something, namely, the set of facts that gives the influences and their free choice to do it. 

Moreover, Molinism itself can be seen to reject (2) outright. On the Molinist view, there is a divine middle knowledge between God's knowledge of all possible things and God's knowledge of all actual things; God not only knows what all things can do, He not only knows what all things do, He also knows what all things would do in any given situation. On the very traditional versions, such as those found in Molina himself, God knows this 'would' by supercomprehension; God knows your individual nature very, very well, so that He knows what you would do. This is related, I think, to the idea that God knows you not only in the abstract but also insofar as you could play a role in any particular order of nature that God might create. Later Molinists do a lot more handwaving, but my point is not about this issue in particular but the fact that it shows that Molinism is already a rejection of (2): All Molinists are committed to there being facts that fully explain your free action, by the very idea of middle knowledge. All the authors have done is beg the question against Molinism.

(It doesn't help their argument that they try to push (2) by arguing that it is superior to a more standard principle of alternative possibilities, based on Frankfurt cases. But as I've been arguing almost as long as I've had this blog, Frankfurt examples are all based on a sleight of hand in which a scenario is first described in terms of alternative possibilities and then re-described as not having any. Ironically, I think this is pretty much what Molinism itself does -- what it describes as middle knowledge is sometimes described in a way that would make it knowledge of possibles and sometimes in a way that would make it knowledge of actuals, and by oscillating back and forth the illusion of a middle ground is created, just as the double description in a Frankfurt example creates the illusion of a free choice with no alternative possibilities. Thus (2) is not, in fact, superior to the principle of alternative possibilities, but the point is irrelevant anyway, since no thinking Molinist would accept (2) in the first place.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Harp of the Spirit, Sun of the Syrians, Crown of the Arameans

 Today is the feast of St. Ephrem the Syrian, Doctor of the Church. Born in Nisibis (modern-day Nusaybin, Turkey), there's some confusion about whether his family was pagan or Christian, but he was baptized at an early age and became what in the Syrian Church of the day was called a 'son of the covenant'. Monasticism was not yet part of the Christian culture in that part of the world; what they had instead was a group of men and women who would 'covenant' to engage in basic ascetic practices and serve the local church community through charitable practices. At some point he became a catechist and a deacon. By tradition, he is regarded as the founder of the School of Nisibis, one of the most important institutions in early Syrian Christianity, but we don't know whether this is literal or just a figurative expression of how important he ended up being for it.

The area in which Ephrem lived was highly contested between the two major powers of the day, the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. For Ephrem's early life, Nisibis was under the authority of Rome, which had recently seized it, but after the death of Constantine in 337, Shapur II of Persia laid a series of campaigns to reclaim it, with Rome engaging in counterclaims. The definitive shift was with the death of Julian the Apostate in battle against the Persians in 363; the next emperor, was forced to negotiate a truce in which Nisibis was handed over to Persia and its Christian population (who were seen as having ties that were too close to the Romans) were expelled. Ephrem ended up in Edessa (modern-day Urfa, Turkey); he would have been somewhere around the age of fifty. Edessa was a riot of opposing philosophies and sects, so Ephrem set out to defend Nicene orthodoxy and oppose a number of major heresies, which he did by means of doctrinal hymns -- theological summaries in the local Aramaic dialect that could be sung to Syriac folk tunes. He is generally thought to have died about 373 from a plague in which he was nursing the sick. He is one of the most influential theologians in history, being a major influence on churches in the Syriac traditions.

The following is from the Hymn Against Bar-Daisan. Bar-Daisan was one of the most brilliant minds in Edessa from the century before Ephrem, an extraordinary polymath. He was Christian, at least originally, but he blended Christian ideas with ideas from Babylonian astrology, giving his theology a Gnostic structure. We don't know all the precise details of his doctrines, though, although it seems fairly certain that he denied the resurrection of the body. He founded his own sect on these ideas, and it spread like crazy. Ephrem had some temporary success against it, but it survived  and was still going strong in Edessa several centuries later. It lasted at least until the twelfth century in its own right; it also was a major influence on other heretical sects like Manichaeism (Mani was in the next generation after Bar-Daisan).

There is One Being, who knows Himself and sees Himself.
He dwells in Himself,
And from Himself sets forth.
Glory to His Name.
This is a Being who by His own will is in every place,
Who is invisible and visible,
Manifest and secret.
He is above and below.

Mingling and condescending by His grace among the lower;
Loftier and more exalted, as befits His glory, than the higher.
The swift cannot exceed His swiftness,
Nor the slow outlast His patience.

He is before all and after all,
And in the midst of all.
He is like the sea,
In that all creation moves in Him.
As the waters beset the fish in all their movements,
The Creator is clad with everything which is made,
Both great and small.
And as the fish are hidden in the water,
There is hidden in God height and depth,
Far and near,
And the inhabitants thereof.
And as the water meets the fishes everywhere it goes,
So God meets everyone who walks.
And as the water touches the fish at every turn it makes,
God accompanies and sees every man in all his deeds.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Music on My Mind

Nancy Sinatra, "Bang Bang".


 We can distinguish two different kinds of aesthetic concepts. Some are what we might call 'natural aesthetic concepts'; examples would be beauty, sublimity, harmonious, well-designed, and so forth. Others, while not precisely artificial, include within themselves the selection of a particular human art, especially a fine art, or skill or style, despite not being directed to that art itself. I sometimes call these esque concepts.

The esque concept for which we have the most developed theories is the picturesque. The picturesque has by its nature a reference to painting, but it is not a concept that is restricted to painting; rather, it is applied to other things using painting as a reference point. The picturesque in nature, for instance, is that which would make a good subject of a painting, having a composition, coloring, or striking quality that would go well within a frame, or that would at least suggests something in a painting. We can, of course, extend this by analogy to other visual arts, like photography. Another esque concept in this family is that of the cinematic, applied to things other than just movie scenes themselves, which takes cinematography as its reference point.

But you can have esque concepts for any kind of art. One that is well-known is the epic, where this refers not to epics themselves but things that would make good material for the epic; lesser known but still important is the novelesque. But there are others for which we have no handy name; we might say that the birds have a symphony-like sound, or that a happening is vignette-esque, or the like.

Esque concepts fundamentally arise because by appreciating the production and product of the arts, especially the fine arts, we learn to see the whole world in a new way, insofar as it is suitable or unsuitable to provide material for them; we also learn to recognize ways in which the world by nature achieves what we achieve by artistic design. To invent an art is to invent a new way to see the world.

Monday, June 07, 2021

The Maybe-Apostate Maybe-Martyr

 In certain Orthodox calendars, today is a commemoration for Pope St. Marcellinus. (In the Roman calendar his feast day is April 26.) He is an interesting figure in some ways. He was Pope during the Diocletian persecution. Diocletian seems not to have had much interest in Christians, but his son-in-law and co-emperor Galerius seems to have had a vendetta against them, which led to sporadic but intense crackdowns. Marcellinus's course of life during the persecution is almost impossible to pin down; he may or may not have sacrificed to idols to avoid persecution and he may or may not have been martyred in the persecution -- we have stories in practically every combination, none of them reliable. The Donatists insisted that he had committed apostasy to avoid persecution; Augustine seems to have thought the charge nonsense. But the Donatists are not the only ones among whom the story seems to have circulated, and it's true that Marcellinus, although he ends up venerated as a martyr (and possibly not very long after his death), is not generally listed on the early lists of martyrs; in fact there are curious cases where he's not even listed as a pope in lists of papal succession. These points may indicate that this story of apostasy was circulating in Rome, as well. Later legends try to reconcile all of this by having him first give in and then repent and be martyred; this may even be true, although we don't know. But it's also weird, if he did apostatize, that we don't know it for sure; all we have are accusations of the Donatists -- not exactly the most scrupulous of people in their ad hominems -- and some suggestions that there might have been rumors to that effect elsewhere. It's not as if it would have been a small thing. Johann Peter Kirsch's Catholic Encyclopedia article on him notes that the Roman clergy got through the Diocletian persecution with relatively few casualties, and speculates that Marcellinus may have made some deals to get exemptions, deals of which not everyone approved, which was exaggerated in some quarters to a full-blown apostasy. That would explain everything, but we don't know. All we know is that he is listed as a martyr in the calendar of saints.

Art of Reason

 In the beginning of his Metaphysics, Aristotle states that the human race lives by art and reasoning. He seems to touch here on something properly human, which distinguishes man from the other animals. For while the brute animals are moved to their actions by natural instinct, we direct our actions by rational judgments. To enable us to carry out these actions easily and in an orderly way, we have invented many arts. For an art is nothing other than a certain ordering of reason by which human acts achieve a suitable end through determinate means.

Now reason is able to direct not only the acts of inferior faculties, but also its own acts. For the capacity to reflect upon itself is proper to the intellectual power; the intellect understands itself and, similarly, reason can reason about itself. Now, if by reasoning about the acts of the hand, we discovered building, and this art enables us to build easily and in an orderly way, then, for the same reason, we need an art to direct the acts of reason, so that in these acts also we may proceed in an orderly way, easily, and without error. This art is logic, the science of reason.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, Berquist, tr., Dumb Ox Books (Notre Dame, IN: 2007) p. 1.]

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Fortnightly Book, June 6

 Having done several heavy tomes for the fortnightly book so far this year, I'm feeling the need for lighter fare. So I've decided to do some re-reading of some of Isaac Asimov's works, a bit like I did for Agatha Christie a few years back -- that is, there will be some I will definitely read, and then, since I'm liking to get through them quickly, I will just add another to the stack. I've already done the Foundation novels and Lucky Starr; I think I'll set aside the Robot novels (but not short stories), as well. I'm inclining against adding any mysteries (although I'll possibly do them at some point, since Asimov is a greatly underappreciated mystery writer), but we'll see. The works that I will definitely read are:

The End of Eternity

The Gods Themselves

The Complete Robot

Asimov is generally seen as having a very optimistic view of science; this can be exaggerated even for the works with which it is true, but both The End of Eternity and The Gods Themselves deal with pitfalls in the scientific process. In the first, an organization called Eternity, having a monopoly on time travel, changes reality, and Asimov explores the way in which such a power would alienate one from one's humanity. The second, which I think in some ways is Asimov's single best science fiction work, considered as science fiction, is based on a particular translation of a line in a play be Schiller (which it has made famous): "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." This is indeed the theme of the work -- the role of stupidity, in a wide variety of forms (self-aggrandizement, credit-stealing, public lionization of particular figures for superficial reasons, academic string-pulling and politicking, petty personal resentments, political tensions, recklessness), in scientific progress. The Complete Robot, of course, is an anthology of robot stories, grouped by theme, with some comments by Asimov; contrary to the title, it is not strictly complete (there are, I think, six stories that were written after), although it covers thirty-one stories from 1939 to 1977. It basically includes I, Robot (without the framing) and The Rest of the Robots with a few others.

Others that might get added, as time allows, are The Currents of Space, Pebble in the Sky, The Stars Like Dust (if I can find my copy of it), and Nightfall and Other Stories.

'Tis a Sad Love

A Thousand Beauties that Have Never Been
by George Santayana

A thousand beauties that have never been
Haunt me with hope and tempt me to pursue;
The gods, methinks, dwell just behind the blue;
The satyrs at my coming fled the green.
The flitting shadows of the grove between
The dryads' eyes were winking, and I knew
The wings of sacred Eros as he flew
And left me to the love of things not seen.
'Tis a sad love, like an eternal prayer,
And knows no keen delight, no faint surcease.
Yet from the seasons hath the earth increase,
And heaven shines as if the gods were there.
Had Dian passed there could no deeper peace
Embalm the purple stretches of the air.