Saturday, November 20, 2021

Music on My Mind


Clamavi De Profundis, "De Profundis".

Friday, November 19, 2021

Dashed Off XXV

 "As God He was the motivating principle (kinetikos) of His own humanity, and as man He was the revelatory principle (ekphantikos) of His own divinity." Maximus Confessor

No virtue can be had without some kind of contemplation of good.

rationalization vs pretextualization

"We can love evil things but not as evil, finite things but not as finite, so love as such is of an infinite good." James Chastek

Possession is natural to the human being; property as a jural concept is instrumental to this.

being (ousia) : creation :: motion (kinesis) : providence :: difference (diaphora) : judgment/distribution [Maximus Confessor]

The human body is hierarchical by nature; and thus skill in using it is experienced as hierarchical, the higher illuminating the lower.

the importance of posterity as a concept in constitutional jurisprudence

Consequentialism inevitably corrupts all scientific inquiry because there are always good and bad consequences that can interfere with the integrity of inquiry, and force manipulation of the inquiry in a supposed good cause.

aion as "time deprived of motion, whereas time is the aion measured by motion" (Maximus)

persons as self-symbolizing

Pharaoh is always setting the Israelites to make bricks without straw; it is the structure of all oppression and persecution, religious or otherwise. People are kept down by demanding impossible tasks and punishing those who fail them. Honest people may punish failures or by accident set impossible tasks, but the one who demands the impossible and, rather than apologizing for it, punishes you when you fail to reach it, is your enemy.

Divine truth both is given to us and must be sought.

Doctrines are usually proposed by the individual and proven by the Church.

The Creeds are capable of being both professions and protests.

The idea that one may only use in argument evidence and reasons the interlocutor would accept, inevitably favors those with the most restrictive and unyielding account of evidence and reasons, regardless of whether those restrictions are reasonable or the lack of yielding mere obstinacy.

The Thirty-Nine Articles are articles of surrender, even if they are called 'articles of peace'.

In the long run, only the Catholic Church will preserve even Protestant things.

Faith is the divine gift to the individual soul, but not merely such, for faith is also a confidelity given to the Church.

Animal loyalty is not the greatest thing, nor even always a great thing at all, but it has kept many people from any number of depravities and corruptions, and it has ameliorated many situations in which it has survived such depravities and corruptions.

principle, content, nexus triads

power, wisdom, goodness // miracles, doctrine, saints (grace)

Philosophical topics are only as boring as you are stupid enough to make them.

Formal arguments shortens processes by which one understands, as medicine does the physical processes of healing.

traces & vestiges : God :: relics : saints

Analytic philosophy is a philosophy of 'here's an idea'; its rigor is of trying to be precise, not a rigor of reasoning itself; even its formalized arguments are cases of just trying to be clear about what they are rather than full reasoning.

Any theory of meaning has to allow for 'close enough' meaning, like when we call an unknown kind of animal by the closest known kind of name, perhaps with a clarificatory qualification ('red dog' for fox, 'striped horse' for zebra), and are wholly understood.

misindication vs misrepresentation

To identify something as a benefit or harm is an appeal to teleology.

selected-effect functions vs selected-structure functions

Freedom is the human form of order.

the search for truth as the structure of moral probation

death as the unfinishing of business
-- but note the 'It is finished'

Consistency is more powerful a test of truth than it seems in the abstract because everyone believes at least some truths on good grounds.

If we respect Christian truth, we must respect things analogous to it, not in blurring the boundaries but in caution, lest disrespect of the analogues might start carrying over to truths to which they are analogous. If we respect the Church, we must respect things that are like it, not in conflation, but to prevent our disrespect of the mere analogues from bleeding back into the aspects of the Church to which they are analogous. What counts as respect enough in such cases will, of course, depend on circumstances.

real memory vs abstract & notional memory
(remembering it vs remembering that we experienced it)

regarding the world
(1) qua simple present (sense)
(2) qua qualified/ampliated present (memory)
(3) qua absent (imagination)
-- experiencing, having experienced, supposing the experience to be such
-- note that this does not always match to common classification (e.g., hallucination is not imagination but sensing what should be imagined)

If Descartes draws everything from doubt, Malebranche draws everything from attention.

'nothingness has no properties' and the existence of substances

The difference between Mass and televised Mass shows that what we do in communion is something involving place and time, co-location and contemporality with the present Christ.

our sense of the resistance of ideas (Malebranche, DMR 1.8)
-- note that Malebranche takes the sense of intelligible resistance to differ from the sense of physical resistance in that the latter is confused and unreliable, but the former clear and reliable.

the danger of attempting to splice a deontological account of liberty to a consequentialist account of equality

three ways to perceive a circle (Malebranche DRM 1.10): conceive, imagine, see

Consumerism reverses the appropriate relationship between desire and enjoyment.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

As It Will Be in the Future, It Was at the Birth of Man

The Gods of the Copybook Headings
by Rudyard Kipling 

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all. 

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind. 

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome. 

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things. 

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know." 

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death." 

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die." 

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more. 

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man;
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire; 

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Like Burns's "Address to the Unco Guid", this seems perpetual wisdom.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Professional Obligations

 One of the baffling quirks of academia as a profession is that academics have a tendency to manufacture professional obligations. All professions have obligations that go beyond contractual requirements; that's one of the things that makes them professions rather than ordinary occupations. But academics are the only professionals I know who seem to make up completely fictional professional obligations and treat them as if they were real. Three cases that I have come across just in the past few months on Twitter, when I do my meanders on Twitter to try to find reading recommendations:

* There was a philosophy professor who got into some kind of argument with some other philosophy professor, and as a disparaging remark he noted that the other had no publications; to which he snidely commented something like 'You have an obligation to publish.'

* There was a physics professor who, in response to a complaint about the heavy dependence of so many job searches on letters of recommendation, said something like 'Faculty, stop complaining about writing letters of recommendation; it's your job.'

* There was an economics professor (I think he was in economics, at least) who said graduate students should not turn down requests for them to review papers without a 'reasonable explanation'.

All three of these supposed obligations are nonexistent, and what is more, they are obviously so. (The third one is very obviously not an obligation of graduate students, who don't fully have professional obligations yet, but it's not even an obligation of full-time professors.) You can refuse to do any of these things perfectly well, and still be an academic and, indeed, even a very effective one, fulfilling your professional obligations. An academic, as a professional, has a general obligation to the profession, to contribute to its research, its teaching, and its functioning. You could do that by publishing (a very popular route), you could do that by writing letters of recommendation, you could do that by refereeing papers, you could do that in a lot of ways. But here's the thing: as a professional, it's a matter of your judgment. You could, of course, have contractual obligations on top of these general obligations, arising from your institutions, and even when not an obligation at all, you might want to do something like publishing in order (for instance) to get a job at certain institutions because that is part of their requirements for whether they will hire. But the particular form the fulfillment of your professional obligations takes is a matter of your own professional judgment. You can in fact be bold and decide whether it is appropriate or worthwhile.

I wonder, sometimes, if many of the problems that plague academia are aggravated by precisely this tendency to make up fictional professional obligations, which leads to academics not taking responsibility for the judgments that structure their professional careers. Academics complain about all sorts of things in academic life. Some of these things they are required to do by contract. But for a great many of them, the question arises as to why anyone needs to put up with them at all. Many of the recognized ills of academic publishing for philosophy, for instance, arise from the fact that philosophers keep doing things that sustain them. You don't actually have to judge job candidates on their publications; you could, for instance, actually take the trouble of investing in young scholars rather than trying to poach those who have already been invested in by other people. You don't actually have to keep giving away material free or at a pittance to academic publishers who then turn around and charge libraries and independent scholars exorbitant amounts; you could just stop doing that, and confine yourself to open-access publishers or in-house journals of philosophical societies, even if that meant less publishing, or you could even just not publish except when you judge the occasion to be right and appropriate. I could increase the list quite a bit. For a lot of things, you could just not do them. Unless you've signed a contract that requires them, or they are required to comply with some kind of law, or you are trying to get a kind of position that requires them, you can in fact exercise your own professional judgment as to whether it is a good use of your time, talent, and effort.

Some such things might still be valuable for you to do, of course; that's something you might judge to be the case. But academics often seem not to think that they have any room for professional judgment about the form taken by their professional activities at all, and keep doing things because they think they somehow have to do so. I don't know what the reason for this is.

Links of Note

 * Daniel Korman & Dustin Locke, On Debunking Color Realism (PDF)

* The most important device in the universe looks at a prop that famously shows up again and again in science fiction shows

* Reginald Mary Chua, Aquinas, Analogy, and the Trinity (PDF)

* Aaron Smuts, The Paradox of Suspense, at the SEP

* Bruce Langtry, Perception and corrigibility (PDF)

* Marcus Berquist, Wonder and Skepticism

* Anne Newstead, Cantor on Infinity in Nature, Number, and the Divine Mind (PDF)

* An interview with Cale Cohoe on spiritual exercises

* Nakul Krishna, Is goodness natural?, discusses Philippa Foot

* Owen Matthews, Where the Russian Gulag once thrived, life remains isolated

* Tristram Shandy, but just the punctuation

* Ethics Finder, a curated search engine for articles on topics relevant to Catholic moral theology (not all from a Catholic perspective)

* Keshav Singh, Sikh ethics sees self-centredness as the source of human evil

* has several channels of 24/7 old time radio programs, drawn from the Internet Archive

* Brendan Hodge, Why Catholics leave; why Catholics stay, at "The Pillar"

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Abyss & Sea 14


Autumn was wet and winter was very dry. When by winter solstice there had been not even a flake of snow, this touched off a debate among the old-timers. Some said it was an omen of a summer drought. Others said it meant there would be late snow and flooding. Whichever turned out to be right, in the meantime it was good weather for ship repair and made it possible to prepare for an even bigger surge of shipbuilding in the spring. New supplies of jute and canvas were laid in, supplies of sail-silk and pine tar, which had been severely depleted despite continual purchases, were restored. Ships were stocked with their appropriate furnishings, barrels and chests and nets and replacement parts. The great ships that had already come out of the shipyards had been given their first test-sailings and were out on their maiden voyages to give the final seal on their quality. Most of these were to the Chipou tribes to the east, but Disan expanded the routes to many lands with which they had previously only had occasional trade. As they began to return, they carried in their holds furs and metals and woods and spices, all in high demand in the Great Realm, and between that and the first pre-payments from the High King for the ships even before they had been delivered, the Sorean treasury, already impressive, grew very rich at a very fast pace.

Baia, in addition to everything else, devoted her attention to the formation of a foundation for foundlings, but very little came of it. Why she had such difficulties with it, she did not know; she suspected that people were more ashamed to be associated with foundlings than with exposure to children, but why that would be she could not say. Disan continued to have recurring nightmares about past battles, about the sky falling, about many things, some of which he could not remember very clearly when he awoke.

As the snowless winter began to pass and the vernal equinox grew nearer, Baia remarked to Disan, "I find it strange that among all the proposals that have been suggested for the Great Council, the High King has not made one with regard to this shipbuilding venture."

"Yes," said Disan thoughtfully. "It should be the sort of thing brought before the Great Council. I suppose he could be intending to do it by piecemeal approval of the kingdoms, the way the expedition to aid the Chipou was."

"It is a good example of how little we know of the High King's actual intentions."

"Hmm," Disan replied, and said nothing further.

Not long after, there was an important visit from the oldest prince of the kingdom of Ezrym, Prince Adven, son of Envren. When they received notice of it, there was the usual flurry of gathering gifts to give, shining bolts of silk in Sorean black, barrels of the finest rhodomel, a casket of teardrop-shaped pearls, rare pelts from the Chipou trade, a tapestry depicting Maia of the Pearls that Baia had originally intended to hang in her office. To greet the prince, Baia wore a cloak of red silk over a dress of blue silk and a net of pearls on her hair; Disan was in Sorean black with his ceremonial orikhalh armor and a pearl-studded orikhalh circlet on his head. Adven arrived on a lean bay stallion and silk of green beneath his riding cloak, and a small entourage of knights behind him. Adven was a tall man, more handsome than his father, and it was a very striking image.

"You are welcome, O Adven, son of Envren, son of Envren," said Disan, "to all of my hospitality and to all of the hospitality of my queen and of my people."

"I thank you, King Disan, son of Rezan, son of Belan," said Adven with a bow of his head, "and I account myself blessed to receive the hospitality of Your Highnesses."

There was a welcoming feast that night, with shrimp soup and roasted seabass and steaks of lion, with rhodomel and melomel. The next day, they held lunch with Adven in the inner gardens, as they had done before with Envren his father. The meal was a large one, in the Sorean fashion for lunch, with tuna and squid ink rice and pepper-spiced ostrich and dandelion salad, and specially spiced rhodomel to drink. They mostly chatted of weather and family and the like, but as the meal wound down, Adven had a small chest brought and asked to speak to the king and queen of Sorea privately.

"My father sent me here with a very specific set of instructions that he made me swear to follow," said Adven. "This," he said, opening the chest with a silver key, "is a gift he wished you to have." He pulled out of the chest something like a fur cloak made of squirrel-pelts. It was quite old and worn, and Baia received it with some confusion.

"Is there some meaning to this?" she asked.

"It is easier to show it than to say it," said the Ezryman prince. "If you will indulge me, Your Highness, please put it on, as you would an ordinary cloak."

Baia threw it over her shoulders, and Disan involuntary cried out, because there was suddenly no Baia there. Instead, where the queen had been was a black squirrel of the kind that is common in many parts of the Great Realm. The next moment, the squirrel was gone, and Baia was there again, taking off the cloak. Speechless, she handed it to Disan, who put it on and vanished in the same way, replaced by a red squirrel. Baia waved her hand where he had been, but it encountered only air. The red squirrel bounded around a bit, and then the squirrel was gone and Disan was there again, taking off the cloak, a look of complete astonishment on his face. He opened his mouth, then closed it, and finally managed to choke out, "How is this even possible?"

Adven shrugged. "It is something my grandfather brought back from the war against the Court of Night. It is a secret we have guarded closely, and it is a sign of my father's good opinion of you that he gives it to you."

Baia shook her head. "It is remarkable," she said.  "I have never heard of such a thing."

"It was like in a dream, when you are both yourself and something else," said Disan.

Adven smiled at their amazement. Then he grew sober and almost grave. "This is only part of the fulfillment of my promise to my father. I also have a verbal message, which I was told I must repeat word for word. That message is this: 'This is a gift to allow you to see what would otherwise be hidden; keep it secret. Beware the Honey Witch, for she has a power from the Court of Night to bend the mind.'" Adven sighed, and then said, with some hesitation, "I feel honor-bound, in light of this message, to warn Your Highnesses to be wary of anything that my father says. His behavior has become quite erratic over the past few years. He disappears for long periods of time and when he is home, he is obsessed with the idea that someone is attempting to poison him. Given that he has also become obsessed with the doings of the Tavran household, I can well guess who the 'Honey Witch' is supposed to be. But my father is not well. I would not have played the messenger here if he had not demanded my promise. Proceed with caution."

"I thank you," said Disan. "Your father is fortunate to have a son as honorable as yourself."

"You are kind," said Adven. "In any case, I hope I can trust Your Highnesses to discretion in this matter."

"Of course." said Baia.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Universal Doctor

 Today is the feast of St. Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church. From his eucharistic work, On the Body of the Lord, Distinction 1:

This is the sacrament of sacraments, the Eucharist, containing every grace, food giving growth for eternal life, viaticum strengthening us to complete the journey of our exile, and the pledge of eternal salvation, and the communication of all holiness.

I say, therefore, that this sacrament is placed in six genera because of the innumerable graces that it contains. Nor is there one genus that is able to contain so many graces. For it is in the genus of grace, gift, food, communion, sacrifice, and sacrament.

[Albert the Great, On the Body of the Lord, Surmanski, tr.,  The Catholic University of America Press (Washington, DC: 2017) p. 31.]

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Fortnightly Book, November 14

The first American novelist to make a significant splash on the world stage was Charles Brockden Brown. Born in 1771 in Philadelphia, his parents wanted him to be a lawyer, but he found he had no taste for it and spent time instead trying to build a career out of writing. His early worked did not sell particularly well, but Brown's extensive narrative experimentation caught the interest of other authors, so that his novels were the first American novels to be translated into various European languages. He was especially influential on English Romantics -- he was a favorite of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, and was widely recommended by some of the great literary names of the day.

His novel, Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale, was published in 1798.  It has sometimes been criticized as a gimmick novel -- spontaneous combustion and ventriloquism (which Brown often calls by the older name 'biloquism', to get the play on words of 'double tongue') both play a significant role. The story of uncanny happenings and murder is often read as a criticism of naive and over-idealized views of democracy, as it focuses on the features of real life that disrupt democratic life: lies, illusions, misrepresentations, superstitions, secrets, religious fanaticisms, utopian zealotries, intellectual obsessions, use of scientific knowledge to manipulate people.

The version I have also has Brown's sequel-fragment, Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist, so I will be reading that as well.