Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year!

by Dorothy Parker

Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe. 

Four be the things I'd been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt. 

Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne. 

Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

Evening Notes Index 2022

 Evening Notes seems to be a format that works best when my schedule is quite regular; since this has been a chaotic and unpredictable year, it was unsurprisingly light on Evening Notes.

November 28: The Logical Argument from Evil and the Free Will Defense

October 22: Pseudoplots

April 5: Canons of Elegance

March 14: A Natural Law Theory of Human Rights

February 6: Postulates of Civil Theology

Evening Notes Index 2021
Evening Notes Index 2020
Evening Notes Index 2019
Evening Notes Index 2018
Evening Notes Index 2017b
Evening Notes Index 2017a

Benedict XVI (1927-2022)

 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today, on the feast of Pope St. Silvester I. St. Silvester was the pope who confirmed and began the Western implementation of the First Council of Nicaea; Benedict XVI was a major figure in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, first as a reformer participating in the council as a peritus, then as an academic in the thick of the debate over its interpretation and application afterward, then as its primary enforcer under St. John Paul II, then as pope himself from 2005 to 2013. 

He was, I think, first and foremost an academic intellectual, a highly competent one, although lacking the brilliance of John Paul II, who was also in many ways first and foremost an academic intellectual. As a pope, I think he largely failed to do both what he needed to do and what he hoped to be able to do. I remember reading a story in which someone was talking to him when he was a pope about some possible reform or other, and the person talking to him said that as pope he could now implement it; and, according to the story, he shrugged sadly and said that in reality his authority as pope ended at the door. I don't know how apocryphal that story is, but it very much fits both his behavior as a pope and advice he is said to have given to Pope Francis about the need to cooperate with the cardinals. Perhaps 'failure' is too strong, since he did have some important successes; but he was a very, very weak pope. This is, it should be said, probably true of most popes. It is very hard to be pope. I always think of it as playing chess with the devil; it doesn't really matter how talented you are, how clever you are, or even how holy you are, you are mostly going to lose, and the times you win will not be the ones you most want to win. The truly great popes are those like St. Leo the Great, or St. Gregory the Great, or Benedict XIV, or Leo XIII, who even in such a losing game manage to provide a great and useful heritage to the Church. Benedict XVI was not one of the truly great popes. But he did well enough, and that's really all a pope is required to do: hold the office, restrain some things, encourage some things, pray. It is God and not man who decides the ultimate result of that.

He seems to have handled it very well, but he always seems to me to have had a sad life. Ratzinger was a quiet academic who liked quiet academic things and was hated for it all his life, his little academic quirks like enjoying participating in some of the history of the papal office, precisely because it was part of the history, being often interpreted in highly malicious ways. He was a competent bishop who was basically used by John Paul II to do unpleasant things like tell other bishops 'No', deflecting criticism away from John Paul II to Ratzinger; because of this, despite a quiet and irenic temperament, he became a symbol in some parts of the Church for everything they disliked. As pope he seems to have hoped that he could now put his life as an enforcer behind him, but his reputation was already set, and everything he did was interpreted in that light. On the other hand, much of this was because he was not hesitant to spend his life defending others in the ways he best knew how, and because he was willing to do his duty, and very few of us could really say the same.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Dashed Off XXXII

 "In politics, as in mechanics, the power which is to keep the engine going must be sought for *outside* the machinery; and if it is not forthcoming, or is insufficient to surmount the obstacles which may reasonably be expected, the contrivance will fail." John Stuart Mill
"One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests."
"A bureaucracy always tends to be come a pedantocracy."

Many things are permissible in particular cases that nonetheless set bad precedents for general patterns.

'Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil' as a key element of Christian political theology

Democratic succession always works by overthrow, and thus the key constitutional issue is how to make this peaceful and nondisruptive.

Free verse is, at least usually in practice, verse as-if-translated-literally-from-a-foreign-language.

The life that is most lovely
is a life that none can live.

the intrinsic pageantry of ghost stories

fiction as a moral early warning system

monument-presence, proclamation-presence, telepresence

All very ancient historical writings have allegorical elements.

solidarities of similiarity vs solidarities of convergence

(1) In the same eternal act God predestines Christ and us.
(2) In respect to that to which we are predestined (sonship), Christ's predestination is the exemplar of ours.
(3) In respect to the means to that end (grace), Christ's predestination is the exemplar of ours.

commemoration : liturgy :: Platonic reminiscence : knowledge

Christ is the source of all priesthood. Pagan priesthoods arise out of a human need for which He is the adequate satisfaction. The Jewish priesthood was the figure of Him. The Christian priest is His minister, working in the person of Christ.

"Those who heard the preaching of Peter received the effect of confirmation miraculously: but not the sacrament of confirmation." Aq (3.72.6 ad 3, on Acts 10:44-48) -- this is confirmation of desire
NB ad 1: "Just as none receive the effect of baptism without the desire of baptism, so none receive the effect of confirmation without the desire of confirmation. And man can have this even before receiving baptism."

One receives in confirmation a power of excelling oneself.

From the fact that baptism is an adoption into the household of God, it follows that there must be something like a sacrament of confirmation, in which a child of the household receives the power of speaking and acting on behalf of the household, not merely as a sort of indulgence, but in right and authority. For in every family there is a distinction between being in the family and holding something of the authority of the family, by which one oversees some of its essential affairs, even where (as they might in adoption) they might be received together.

"'A people' is not a logical category; no, it is a mythic category. To understand this we must approach it as we approach a mythic category." Pope Francis, Address to the International Theological Symposium on the Priesthood (17 Feb 2022)

Aquinas against ubiquity: SCG 4.49.5

The most serious problem with emergency powers provisions in constitutions is that they guarantee not only the bypassing of rights and laws but of customary safeguards against abuses.

The idea of other minds is implicit in the idea of our own mind.

A felicific calculus always runs into problems at very small and very large scales. (This is true as well of probabilistic approaches to evidence.)

All rights can be held either actively or passively.

Syllabus-making (e.g., choosing readings for a course, balancing assignments &c.) is a heavily aesthetic enterprise.

When we ask, "Is the future like the past?", part of the answer is, "What else could it possibly be like for us?"

All communication tends toward and converges on the true, the good, and the beautiful; the more true, the more good, the more beautiful, the more communicative it is.

Every formal argument is like a planar figure from which one extrapolates the volume of reasoning it represents.

j'adoube actions in friendly and romantic interactions, in which something is done that would otherwise not be allowed, with explicit noting of the violation, with the purpose of setting something right to facilitate the interaction or its excellence

States generally justify their freedom-destroying acts by painting their victims as threats to freedom.

direct experiential example, example of associated experience, example of experience used as symbolic representation of another experience

liminalization as hieratic/sacral act: separation, transition, transfigurative return

Every liminal boundary can metaphorically be seen as a point of death.

We have exited from God, both by creation and by fall, although we make our feeble efforts to give some small return. But with Israel, first, and then in an even greater way with the giving of Torah to Israel, God begins a massive return.

Lv 11:44 -- Sanctify yourself and be holy, for I am holy
Lv 21:8 -- I who sanctify you am holy
Lv 22:32 -- You shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel: I sanctify you.

Individual human reason is, by its nature, cooperative; on its own it is weak, for it is meant to be exercised in union with all human beings, a union we can only have very imperfectly in our fallen state.

remotion as the foundation of religious symbolism

God gives Scripture to the Church, but a gift by its nature continues in a secondary way to belong to the giver, insofar as it is a gift, and therefore must be treated accordingly.

mutual self-giving -> mutual gratitude
the dual gratitude of Christian marriage: to spouse and to God
-- this dual gratitude provides a template and framework for learning love of God and neighbor

In intellectual acts, the distinction between operation and production is not very sharp; intellectual doing and intellectual making share the same acts, and are distinguished by our focus.

Every great philosopher is already an implicit school; a philosopher is already a dialogue in one, and a great philosopher is many dialogues in one.

"Esse capax convenientiae." Gilbert Narcissae

Keeping in mind reverence to God, supposing no contradiction or inconsistency with Scripture, the grace God has given to the Church must be measured not by human expectation but by divine omnipotence.

Some sacraments require an act of the recipient for validity, namely a kind of self-presentation, which we see in matrimony and reconciliation, and others do not, such as baptism and confirmation.

In sacramental theology, one should not reject an ancient rite of wide custom on the basis of a scheme, and likewise must not in practice be a tutiorist about rites, demanding the safe view even where there is no defined law or direct spiritual danger.

"It is grounded from all eternity in God that no man cometh to the Father except through the Son, because the Spirit by whom the Father draw His children to Himself is also from all eternity the Spirit of the Son, because by His Spirit the Father does not call anyone except in His Son." Barth

Handing down is a kind of giving; what is received by tradition is received as gift.

three distinctions between Head & members: dignitas, gubernatio, influentia
three conformities between Head & members: natura, ordo, continuitas
-- this works in generalized form for hierarchy
-- gubernatio or direction has two aspects: principium and plenitudo of virtutes et sensus.

Every kind of causality that Christ's humanity has in our salvation is expressed in the sacraments, modulated for the particular ends of each sacrament. For the major sacraments have Christ's causality in their signs.

Every effect is a natural sign of its cause.

The liturgy is a cosignification performed by God and man, a duet of holy signs.

Regular exposure to the liturgy, to Scripture, to the sacraments and sacramentals, builds in us a safeguard against heresy by giving order to our imaginative association of sign with sign, so that we come to recognize when there is a discord among signs, raising our guard before we even consider the meaning. It is important to grasp, however, that the world leads us astray in an analogous fashion, which is why Christians must deliberately immerse themselves in orthodox signs and, at times, keep a distance from the message of the world.

cultures as built out of capacities of precedent, of juxtaposition, and of moral influence

Narration is the mother of explanation.

Bayesianism confuses partial assent and provisional assent.

Liturgy done well enlightens the understanding, pleases the imagination, moves the passions, and influences the will.

"Sublimity elevates, beauty charms, wit diverts.' Campbell

God gives to us that He might give with us.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Music on My Mind

Grace Lokwa, "Kumama Papa". 

This is a fairly recent hit by Congolese Gospel singer Grace Lokwa, but it seems to have exploded through the African Gospel scene; you can find covers and variations all over the place.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Klauthmos Kai Odyrmos Polys

 When they had retired, see! The messenger of the Lord is appearing in a dream to Ioseph, saying, When you have awakened, take up the childling and his mother and escape into Aigyptos, and be over there until I command, for Herodes seeks the childling to annihilate him.

And awakening, he took up the childling and his mother by night and retired into Aigyptos. And there he was until the death of Herodes, so that there might be completed the uttering spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt I have summoned my son.

Then Herodes, having seen that he was mocked by the Magians, was very enraged, and having sent out, murdered all the children that were in Bethleem and its whole area who were two years old and under, according to the time he had determined from the Magians. Thus was completed the uttering through the prophet Ieremian, saying, Noise in Rama was heard,  much weeping and wailing, Rachel weeping for her offspring, and she has no wish to be comforted, for they are not at all. 

When Herodes had died, see! The messenger of the Lord is appearing in a dream to Ioseph in Aigyptos, saying, When you have awakened, take up the childling and his mother and journey into the land of Israel, for they have died who have sought the life of the childling. 

And awakening, he took up the childling and his mother and entered into the land of Israel. Having heard that Archelaos is ruling over Ioudaia in place of his father Herodes, he feared to go there. Now, having been warned in a dream, he retired into the region of Galilaia and, having come, he settled in a city called Nazaret. So thus to be completed that uttering through the prophets, that a Nazoraios will be summoned.

[Matthew 2:13-23, my rough translation. There is some interesting use of the contrast between Jesus being in Egypt and the Innocents not being in Rama. There was, of course, a significant Jewish population in Egypt, especially around Alexandria; there was even a secondary Jewish Temple at Leontopolis, dating from the time of the Maccabean revolt. There are clear parallels between this passage and the passage in which the angel appears in a dream to Joseph to tell him not to put the Virgin away. As is well known, this section is also part of a set of passages that have a repeated structure of {happening}{prophetic saying that the happening completes}.]

Monday, December 26, 2022

A Glorious Band, the Chosen Few

 St Stephen's Day
by Reginald Heber 

 The Son of God goes forth to war,
 A kingly crown to gain;
 His blood-red banner streams afar;
 Who follows in his train?
 Who best can drink his cup of wo,
 Triumphant over pain,
 Who patient bears his cross below,
 He follows in his train. 

 The martyr first, whose eagle eye
 Could pierce beyond the grave;
 Who saw his Master in the sky,
 And called on him to save.
 Like Him, with pardon on his tongue
 In midst of mortal pain,
 He prayed for them that did the wrong.
 Who follows in his train? 

 A glorious band, the chosen few,
 On whom the spirit came;
 Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Doxa en Hypsistois Theou

 It happened in those days that there went out an edict from Kaisar Augoustos to enroll the whole empire. This enrollment happened principally when Kyrenios was ruling Syria. And everyone was journeying to be enrolled, each to their own city. Ioseph went up also then from Galilaia, out of Nazareth, to Ioudaia, to David's city, which is called Bethleem, because he was from the family and lineage of David, to register with Mariam his betrothed, who was with child.

It happened then, in their being there, that the days of her producing were completed, so she produced her firstborn son and swaddled him and laid him in a trough, for there was no place in the guest room. And shepherds were camping in the same area, keeping guard at night over their flock. And a messenger of the Lord befell them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they feared with great fear.

And the messenger said to them, Do not fear! For see! I evangelize you with great joy that will be to every kind of people! For today a deliverer has been produced for you, who is Lord Christ, in David's city. And this is the sign to you: You will discover a baby swaddled and lain in a trough.

And suddenly there was with the messenger a throng of the heavenly army praising God and saying: 

Glory in the highest
to God;
and on earth,
peace in glorified men!

And it happened as the messengers went away from them into heaven, the shepherds were saying to each other, let us travel until Bethleem, and let us see this word that has come to be, which the Lord has declared to us.

And they went hastening, and discovered Mariam and Ioseph and the baby laid in the trough. Having seen, they thus declared the utterance that had been told them about this childling. And everyone having heard, wondered about the things told them by the shepherds. And Mariam was collecting these utterances, conversing in her heart. 

And the shepherds turned back, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told to them.

[Lk 2:1-20, my very rough translation. Katalyma, which is often translated as 'inn' but which I have translated as 'guest room', is found in another place in Luke -- Luke 22:11, describing where His last passover would be held. The praise of the heavenly host is very hard to translate, but it is more structured than most translations make it. We start with doxa, glory or fame or splendor, and we end with eudokias, an unusual adjective from the same verb; there is also the parallel with glory being in the highest (the Highest or Most High, Hypsistos, is very often a name for God, translating the Hebrew Elyon, so the first part may well have the meaning, 'Glory in God to God') and peace being in men. I also think it's noteworthy that the shepherds simply assume that what the angels proclaimed has come to pass; they don't go to see whether it's true, they go to see the fact that God declared to them. The series of actions is: fear, hear, go, see, proclaim, return.]

Friday, December 23, 2022

All 'Glory Glory' Given to Thee

A Christmas Carol
by Christina Rossetti 
The Shepherds had an Angel,
The Wise Men had a star,
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together
And singing angels are? –

Lord Jesus is my Guardian,
So I can nothing lack:
The lambs lie in His bosom
Along life's dangerous track:
The wilful lambs that go astray
He bleeding fetches back.

Lord Jesus is my guiding star,
My beacon-light in heaven:
He leads me step by step along
The path of life uneven:
He, true light, leads me to that land
Whose day shall be as seven.

Those Shepherds through the lonely night
Sat watching by their sheep,
Until they saw the heavenly host
Who neither tire nor sleep,
All singing 'Glory glory'
In festival they keep.

Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heaven:
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their 'Glory glory'
For my sake in the height.

The Wise Men left their country
To journey morn by morn,
With gold and frankincense and myrrh,
Because the Lord was born:
God sent a star to guide them
And sent a dream to warn.

My life is like their journey,
Their star is like God's book;
I must be like those good Wise Men
With heavenward heart and look:
But shall I give no gifts to God? –
What precious gifts they took!

Lord, I will give my love to Thee,
Than gold much costlier,
Sweeter to Thee than frankincense,
More prized than choicest myrrh:
Lord, make me dearer day by day,
Day by day holier;

Nearer and dearer day by day:
Till I my voice unite,
And I sing my 'Glory glory'
With angels clad in white;
All 'Glory glory' given to Thee
Through all the heavenly height.

Dashed Off XXXI

 convention (Hume)
(1) sense of common interest
-- (a) felt in own breast
-- (b) remarked in others
(2) carrying in concurrence with others into a general plan, or system of actions
-- (a) which tends to public utility
[Note that you get a very different definition depend ing on whether you take 1a, 1b, and 2a to be components of the definition or clarification of the components.]

obsessio-epiphania structure in cinema

divine prime mover -> God is a precondition for both time and space

The whole universe is built on little things.

Number-words are often not used univocally.

"that which is the very essence of the passions -- subjection to the power of others." Stael
"Everybody imagines he has been in love, and almost everybody is mistaken in this opinion."
"The spirit of party is the only passion which erects he destruction of all the virtues into a virtue, which lays claim to glory from all those actions which men would labour to conceal, if they were performed from motives of personal interest."

If an institution fails, then either
(1) it was designed incorrectly;
(2) it was operating outside appropriate conditions;
(3) it was not properly maintained;
(4) it was sabotaged in its operation.

Locke's idea of substance, despite its limitations, still has the function of indicating that there could be more to something than the ideas we have about it. This is an essential function without which we can make sense of very little.

potential, virtual, and actual arguments
HoP and the eduction of virtual arguments

The People is a special moral/juridical person, one that specifically has to be a person of persons.

Zech 9:12 // Is 61:7

humanitarian respect, civil friendship, neighborliness (hospitableness)

PSR in reasoning itself (e.g., superfluity arguments, parsimony, etc.)

Hegel thinks that divine omnipotence commits one to Spinozism.

Liberal societies often begin deteriorating because of the difficulty of guaranteeing equal rights -- e.g., everybody has to have the same right to protest, but people don't actually want everyone to have equal right to protest, preferring that the right kinds of groups have more of a right to protest, and this becomes corrosive because people don't agree about what the right kinds are.

"Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." Madison (Fed #55)

Episcopal gradation is a gradation of communities.

humanity as a family of peoples

household, civil society, realm

Act according to the maxims of a philosopher king in a just society.

Many things are attributed to democracy that are more correctly attributed to subsidiarity.

Liturgy of Hours as heartbeat of the Church

effect -> cause inference failures
(1) impossibility of cause in itself
(2) defect of proportionality in this case
(3) defect of implication

not-Diamond, False, and not-Box approaches to arguing for atheism

What Scotists call univocity indicates participation or co-participation.

courtesy exchanges
(1) purely symbolic exchanges
(2) favor exchanges
(3) token exchanges

evidence inventories as part of probable inference

Instruction grows to knowledge within the soil of belief.

The notion of 'a reasonable chance of success' is more causal than probabilistic -- it is primarily about implementability.

the domestic aptitude for working with other families

It is important to understand that the devil can imitate an angel of light better than you can, and that the wicked are better at faking goodness than the good at being good.

faith in reasoning, trust in evidence, cooperative inquiry

atheism as a kind of transhumanism, building man without a trace of God or religion (cf Del Noce)
-- of course, this would not be quite right for Comtian or Feuerbachian forms of atheism

"Truths of the natural order cannot be drawn as pure consequences from the truths of the gospel either in the scientific, philosophical, or political fields. Otherwise, if it were a matter of pure and mechanical deduction, how easy the Christian's life would be." Del Noce
"It is impossible to explain Marx's own doctrine through historical materialism."

Trinitarianism is what you get when you immerse yourself in Scripture in communal prayer with the Church. The same is true of Chalcedonian Christology.

law enforcement vs citizen security approaches to policing

Good statesmanship is inherently polymathic.

analogization between humanitarian traditions as a source of moral progress
-- indeed, humanitarian traditions are a source of moral analogies generally (e.g., nonlegal uses of 'due process', nonmedical uses of 'triage', etc.)

Liebniz's view of infinitesimals is similar to the view that takes them to be relative nothings (nothings secundum quid) -- negligible as if nothing relative to a given level of analysis but not at their own.

the three aspects of literal sense
(1) plain meaning
(2) sense under canons of construction
(3) intertextual sense

caused differences that are not changes
(1) existence vs. nonexistence
(2) difference in kind
(3) difference in space
(4) difference in being signified

arguments against creation itself being delegatable
(1) proportionality: Creatio ex nihilo bridges infinite gap between being and nonbeing and thus requires a power that is not in any way finite.
(2) instrumentality While instruments move through a higher power, they achieve the effect through their own. But the power of creatures is to actualize potential; thus creation is wholly outside their power.
(3) primacy: the more widely a principle underlies something, the more directly it proceeds from a higher cause; secondary causes presuppose something caused by the first cause, but creation is cause of the whole being itself. Thus the only cause that can properly have caused being itself as its effect is the first.

the underdog trope as the central trope of American cinema

Interpretation of revelation is one form of interpretation of testimony.

What the more composite does more compositely, the more simple does more simply.

Tribes are expansive domestic societies, with incipient elements of civil society, that can function as juridical persons.
Tribal authority is juridical patria potestas. This means that the tribe has (among other powers) inherent educational authority that cannot be trampled on by the civil state, and a right in some kinds of matters to act in loco parentis for children, arising from its nature as a unified greater family. Likewise it has authority associated with its right to pass down the tribal inheritance.

deep fuzzy repetitive: woof-woof-woof
high sharp repetitive: eep-eep-eep
deep sharp repetitive: whap-whap-whap
high fuzzy repetitive: eegh-eegh-eegh

You are a supporting character in many more stories than you are a main character. One of the things one learns in both family and friendship is that the supporting role is sometimes more important to one than the main role, a more precious performance.

When we talk about good overbalancing evil, we are not talking addition and subtraction, but contextualization: an evil is overbalanced by being part of a framework that is good.

The universe suggests both order and boundlessness, both unity and hierarchy.

hummocks and flarks

Equality is always either interchangeability or sharing an order in a hierarchy. Interchangeability cannot ground worth; we have a specific worth in a hierarchy, and equal worth *as something* in such a hierarchy: human beings under God, or above uncivilized beasts, or united beneath a higher cause, or some such. It is the hierarchical contrast that gives equality a substantive content rather than treating equals as indifferent tokens.

If we were not born equal, we could not become equal; all equality springs form our natural equality.

In the divine nature, there is no confusion, no change, no division, no separation.

After-the-fact accountability is often not accountability at all, particularly in political situations.

remotion as an intellectual expression of the fear of the Lord

alienable right -> inalienable right -> divine moral order

quasi-causality as instar-causality

categorical real substance: human person, tree, etc.
transcendental real substance: God
categorical rational substance: partial substance, genus, species
transcendental rational substance: juridical person?

Thursday, December 22, 2022


And as Elisabet heard Mariam's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb and Elisabet was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a great shout and said, "You are to be praised among women, and the fruit of your belly is to be praised. And why should the mother of my Lord come to me? See! For as the sound of your greeting entered my ears, the infant leaped exultantly in my womb. And she is to be blessed who has believed that there will be a completion to what the Lord has spoken to her."

 And Mariam answered: 

My soul greatens the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my Savior.
For He has concerned Himself
with the lowliness of His servant-girl.
See! From now on, all ages will bless me
because the Mighty has done great things in me,
and His name is holy,
and His mercy to generations on generations
to those in awe of Him.
He exercises strength with His arm,
He has scattered the reasonings of haughty hearts.
He has deposed mighty men from thrones
and elevated the lowly.
The needy He has filled with goodness,
and the rich He has dismissed empty.
He has aided Israel His servant, remembering mercy,
as He said to our fathers,
to Abraham and his descendants perpetually.

[Luke 1:46-55, my rough translation. Megalynei is an interesting word; it literally means to increase or make great. The word can figuratively mean 'extol', i.e., 'expound the greatness of', as it certainly does here, but the repeated play on 'great', 'lowly', and 'mighty' through the song shows that the word was very deliberately chosen as a figure of speech due to its literal meaning: The Virgin makes the Lord great in her soul because He has done great things in her.]

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Gem of the Counter-Reformation

 Today is the feast of St. Pieter Kanis, usually known as Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church. He was born in 1521 and joined the then-new Society of Jesus after having met St. Peter Faber. He became a major figure in the Jesuit response to the Protestant Reformation and is largely credited for slowing and at places stopping its spread in Germany. He was temperamentally averse to polemic and had the opinion that most German Protestants were in honest error, so his approach was to avoid personal attacks on the Protestant Reformers and to focus instead on providing clear discussions of Catholic doctrine. His catechisms became immensely influential; in some places, 'knowing Canisius' became an expression for being properly catechized. He died in 1597.

How many parts and actions are there for the Sacrament of Penance? 

 There are three. Firstly, Contrition, or the sorrow of the soul, the detesting of one's sins, and the aspiring toward a better life. Secondly, Confession, or the explication made of one's sins in the presence of the priest, and thereupon Satisfaction, or taking up the restitution and punishment for one's crimes in order to furnish worthy fruits of Penance. 

 [St. Peter Canisius, A Small Catechism for Catholics, Grant, tr., Mediatrix Press (2014), p. 64.]

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Links of Note

 * Christopher P. Miller, Contra-Bartholet: Rights of Children vs. Rights of the State

* Paul Symington, Powerful Logic: Prime Matter as Principle of Individuation and Pure Potency (PDF)

* Giorgio Lando, Metaphysical Modality, without Possible Worlds (PDF)

* Matilda Gibbons, Andrew Crump, MeghanBarrett, Sajedeh Sarlak, Jonathan Birch, Lars Chittka, Can insects feel pain? A review of the neural and behavioural evidence

* Michelle Mason, Moral prejudice and aesthetic deformity: Rereading Hume's "Of the Standard of Taste" (PDF)

* Uriah Kriegel, The Poetic as an Aesthetic Category (PDF)

* Brian Kemple, Re-Thinking Education

* Nabeel Hamid, Physicotheology in Kant's Transition from Nature to Freedom (PDF)

* Levi Durham, Beauty as a Guide to Truth: Aquinas, Fittingness, and Explanatory Virtues (PDF)

* Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, The Contradictions of Adam Smith, interviews Glory Liu on her recent book about Adam Smith; contrary to what one might expect from the title, the interview is really about how contradictions attributed to Smith are often artifacts of assumptions made by interpreters.

* Elena Comay del Junco, Aristotle on Comparison (PDF)

* Peter Totleben, The Palamite Controversy: A Thomistic Analysis (scroll down)

*  Roosevelt Montás, Anika Prather, Aeon J. Skoble, and Jennifer A. Frey, Why Read the Ancients Today?

* Joshua Kelsall, 'Trusting-to' and 'Trusting-as': A qualitative account of trustworthiness (PDF)

Monday, December 19, 2022

Peer Review

 There has been quite a bit of discussion about peer review and its disappointments in the past few years, some of it good, some of it bad. (For a recent example of a good discussion, see Adam Mastroianni, The rise and fall of peer review.) However, there is an error that commonly arises in many of these discussions, whether good or bad, and it is the view that peer review was ever supposed to indicate a high quality of research or argument, or that it was supposed to 'catch bad research', or anything like it. Even a little common sense would show the absurdity of this -- how could it possibly do any such thing, given that it is not even structured in a way that could give reasonable guarantees of such a result? If you want a filter to indicate very good research, or even to eliminate bad research, you would very obviously have to design it to work in a very different way from the way peer review has ever worked.

When you publish formally in a peer-reviewed journal, the point is not that you have reached the top tier of research quality -- very few formally published works are that -- nor is that you have even reached some kind of satisficing threshold. Publication is itself never supposed to be the end of the process, but a particular kind of beginning to a public process of discussion and further examination. The point of pre-publication peer review was always to make sure that published papers had done certain things (exactly what might vary according to the field) that would facilitate further discussion and examination of the research or argument presented in the paper. To the extent that it served as a filter at all, it was because journals used it to narrow down the number of papers they received; but even so, the whole point was to narrow it down to papers that had done what was needed and appropriate to make further discussion, rebuttal, refutation, etc., easier.

I find it odd that so many academics don't seem to have ever learned this. But I'm often surprised in this way; I think there was a period of time during which early Boomer-era academics simply assumed that new graduate students would pick up all the details by osmosis, so nobody actually learned the reasons for why things are done the way they are done. (Certainly, looking back on my own graduate experience, I think it was indeed common for faculty to just assume that graduate students would pick up most things by proximity.) The result is that we get a lot of cargo-cultism about academic matters that is, frankly, more dangerous than any problem with peer review as such.

It is not at all surprising that peer review fails to guarantee quality of research; if that were the standard, it was always going to fail to do that. Nonetheless, I do think that the argument that pre-publication peer review (which is not very old) has largely failed to do what it actually is supposed to do -- facilitate discussion and response -- is a very good one. Perhaps some of the problem is the cargo-cultism -- it's certainly the case that it's a rare pre-publication reviewer whose assessment is a judgment of whether the paper has done what would be useful for public discussion -- but I think it's also the case that having had the system in place for a while, we've discovered a lot of non-obvious ways in which it tends to be self-defeating. It is slow, for one thing. It clogs up communications very badly; in many fields (like philosophy) it regularly leads journals having only out-of-date papers because the actual discussion, through other channels, has already gone well beyond the paper by the time the paper is even OK'd for publication. It is also tedious, requiring academics to do a large amount of mostly uncredited professional service for it even to work as it currently does. It is very inconsistent, and it often leads to authors having to modify papers in ways that are arbitrary or pointless. There's no real way for peer reviewers themselves to be held accountable to standards that are in any way consistent across the entire field. Just considering the idea of pre-publication peer review, none of these were obvious, but they recur again and again, no matter what anyone tries to do to reform the process. There is indeed a very good argument that pre-publication peer review is a failed idea, starting from peer review's actual purpose.

We also don't live in the twentieth century any more, a fact that some academics seem to have difficulty with. There is no longer any need to keep paper costs down for journals -- even if you have a paper journal, you can have a web-only set of papers -- and journals themselves are no longer the easiest way to keep up with research in many fields. After a review to make sure it fits the house format and perhaps a few other very basic standards (e.g., providing the raw data for scientific research papers), pretty much everything can be published, and a system of post-publication peer review can do far better than any system of pre-publication peer review at facilitating discussion and examination.

Light and Darkness

 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have stared at with eyes, what we have observed and our hands have handled, about the Reason of life -- and the life was manifested, and we have stared at and witness and announce to you the perpetual life which was with the Father and manifested to us -- what we have stared at and what we have heard, we also announce to you so that you also may have communion with us. And our communion is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. And we write these things so that our joy might be fulfilled.

And this is the message we have heard from Him and we announce to you: that God is light and there is no darkness at all in Him. If we should say that we have communion with Him and should walk in darkness, we deceive, and do not do the truth. If however we should walk in the light as He is in the light, we have communion with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son purifies us from every kind of sin. If we should say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we should confess our sins, He is faithful and just, so He may forgive our sins, and might purify us from every kind of injustice. If we should say that we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His Reason is not in us.

My darlings, I write these things to you so that you might not sin. And if any should sin, we have an intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ the Just. And He is reconciliation for our sins, nor for our sins alone, but for the sins of the whole universe. And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we are vigilant with His commands. The one saying, "I know Him," but not being vigilant with His commands, is a liar, and in him there is no truth. But whoever may be vigilant with his reason, in him devotion to God has been completed. By this we know that we are in Him: The one claiming to remain in Him ought to walk in just the way that He has walked.

O you to whom I am devoted, I am not writing to you a new command, but an ancient command, which you have possessed from the beginning. The ancient command is the reason you have heard. On the other hand, I am indeed writing to you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is departing and the true light even now shines. The one claiming to be in the light but hating his brother is even now in the darkness. The one devoted to his brother remains in the light, and there is no stumblingblock in him. However, the one hating his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and he does not know where he is going because darkness has blinded his eyes.

I am writing to you, darlings, because your sins have been sent away through His name. I am writing to you, elders, because you have known the one who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, youths, because you have conquered the evil one. I am writing to you, children, because you know the Father. 

I have written to you, elders, because you have known the one who is from the beginning. I have written to you, youths, because you are mighty, and God's Reason remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one.

[1 John 1:1-2:14, my very rough translation. Note that I translate 'logos' as Reason throughout; it is usually translated, due to the influence of Latin translations, as Word.]

Sunday, December 18, 2022

And We Look for Our Crown

The Fourth Sunday in Advent
by Reginald Heber

 The world is grown old, and her pleasures are past;
 The world is grown old, and her form may not last;
 The world is grown old, and trembles for fear;
For sorrows abound and judgment is near. 

 The sun in the heaven is languid and pale;
 And feeble and few are the fruits of the vale;
 And the hearts of the nations fail them for fear,
 For the world is grown old, and judgment is near. 

 The king on his throne, the bride in her bower,
The children of pleasure all feel the sad hour;
The roses are faded, and tasteless the cheer,
For the world is grown old, and judgment is near. 

 The world is grown old,-but should we complain,
 Who have tried her and know that her promise is vain?
 Our heart is in heaven, our home is not here,
And we look for our crown when judgment is near.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

When We Come to the Complete

 If I talk in human and angelic languages, but do not possess devotedness, I have become a reverberating gong or clanging cymbal; and if I possess prophecy and recall all of the secret things and all knowledge, and if I possess complete confidence so as to remove mountains, but do not possess devotedness, I am nothing; and if I dole out all my belongings and if I surrender my body in such a way that I might be proud, but do not possess devotedness, I have benefited not at all.

Devotedness is bold, serviceable; devotedness is not jealous; devotedness is not boastful, not inflated, not formless; it does not seek its own, it is not exasperated, it does not keep track of injuries, it does not take joy in injustice but rejoices with the truth. It covers all, confides all, anticipates all, endures all.

Devotedness never at all collapses; but prophecies will be superseded, languages will end, knowledge will be superseded, for we know by part and prophesy by part, but when we come to the complete, what is by part will be superseded. When I was an infant, I was talking as an infant, I was judging as an infant; when I became man, I superseded the infantlike. We see for now through a mirror in obscurity; but then, person to person. Now I know by part; then I will recognize as I am recognized.

And for now remain confidence, anticipation, devotedness, the three; but greater than these is devotedness.

[1 Corinthians 13, my very, very, very rough translation, at Cat's request. This is an immensely difficult passage! Agape is a Christian term of art, rarely used outside of Christian texts; related words mean things like, 'to prefer', 'to esteem', 'to show esteem'. 'Charity' and 'love' are good translations, except colloquial English misuses both, treating 'charity' as the same as alms-giving (the 'doling out' that is contrasted with agape in this passage) and just making up meanings of love that are completely foreign to this passage. In any case, when I do these things, I am often looking less for ideal translation (which is well beyond my ability even with all the resources I use) than for a translation that breaks out of the prison of familiarity while still being more or less in the vicinity. So faith, hope, and love/charity are given different translations here. But there are lots of other tricky bits here -- particularly the somewhat brain-breaking last line, in which we are literally told that agape is greater than pistis, elpis, and agape. Most translations take the comparative to be a loose usage, and translate it as superlative. A solution for which I have quite an affection, without much confidence in its being the best translation, however much I would like it to be, reads it as 'Now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but greater than these is the love [i.e., the divine love]'. It's not absolutely impossible that a distinction is being made between agape without a definite article and he agape, the love; but it doesn't seem particularly likely given the way Greek uses articles, and accepting this requires rethinking the entire passage, since it opens with the former but the middle part is all definite-article love. Perhaps one should read it is as continuing what went on immediately before: For now [in the infant/partial period], the enduring things are faith, hope, and love; but [complete/adult] love is greater. That is, we are in our infancy, our partial period; the things that endure now are faith, hope, and love. But when we have the whole, love will be greater than all these infant/partial things -- i.e., it is the one thing that will not be superseded even when completed. This is something like how it was traditionally interpreted.

In any case, everything here should be read as just a possible different way of looking at the whole passage rather than necessarily the best way to translate it, which I don't have the competence to say.]

[ADDED LATER: I forgot I wanted to say something about the attributes of love here. Makrothymei literally means 'great-spirited' or 'greatly driven'. Your thymos is the part of you that likes overcoming challenges, so 'patient' and 'long-enduring' are certainly right, but the whole thing could also be loosely paraphrased as 'love loves challenges'. Likewise, the usual 'kind' is a reasonable translation of chresteuetai, but the word literally indicates being useful. 'Patient and kind' are easily susceptible of a very sentimentalist reading, in which love is a kind of passive benevolence; but the Greek is the reverse: love is very active. Love seeks out challenges and makes itself useful.]

Friday, December 16, 2022

Dashed Off XXX

 The point of communicating is not to change the behavior of others but to have something in common with them, at which one aims for a wide variety of reasons (one of which may be influencing behavior).

Knowledge of being is itself an expression of being; knowing is an implicit possibility of being.

As Hume notes, honor is a powerful check on individual, not concerted, action.

the book of Job as about the problem of argument

Prolific and productive are not the same thing.

cresme (chrism) -> cream
biddan (to pray) -> bead

the sacraments as civic participation in the Kingdom of God

the productive idea of the artisan as pre-representative

Through sacramentals we catch the world in a net of grace.

John the Baptist as a symbol of minor sacraments (sacramentals), making ready the way
-- the heraldic character of sacramentalia

Utile, lex, humile, res ignorata, necesse,
Haec quinque solvunt anathema, ne possit obesse.
-- the traditional list of things that excuse from interaction with excommunicates
(1) utile -- humanitarian advice or assistance, either spiritual or temporal, in either direction
(2) lex -- marital interactions
(3) humile -- subjection as pupil, ward, servant, employee, or subject
(4) res ignorata -- being unaware of the excommunication
(5) necesse -- unavoidable
-- a distinction grew up between tolerati (no obligation to avoid) and vitandi (obligation in force, usually for serious cases due to notoriety of fact, in which the excommunication was nominal, i.e., by name or other clear identifier, and by public denunciation in accordance with canon law)

Everyone's knowledge of ritual is impressionistic.

It has always been the case, and because of original sin, will always be the case, that some portion of most people's pursuit of justice will include some kind of injustice.

Gn 19:24 -- 'The Lord rained down fire from the Lord in heaven'
Ps 109:1 -- 'The Lord said to my Lord'

willing suspension of disbelief as playing an important role in our interactions with other people

Aristotle thinks that there are natural slaves because he takes it to be obvious that there are people who cannot participate fully as citizens (in making decisions and holding office), contributing to civil society rationally as a society based on reason, and thus who can only contribute physical good, not rational good, to the city as such. It is easy to find people rejecting the name of the doctrine of natural slavery, but more difficult to find people accepting that every healthy person without exception is capable of fully fulfilling responsibilities like holding public office in a rational civil society. 

Pr 31:10 // Rth 3:11

Obligations get their force and applicability within a hierarchy.

necessity of participating in humanitarian traditions -> right to legal, medical, and spiritual counsel

Intentional act flows into intentional act.

Much of the world repeats other parts of the world, so one experience under good conditions gets you much further than merely what you experience.

consensus gentium explanations
(1) traditionary
(2) innatist
(3) convergentist

"The methods applied in extreme democracies are thus all to be found in tyrannies." Aristotle

Aristotle on the aim of tyrants (1314a)
(1) break the spirit of subjects
(2) breed mutual distrust
(3) make subjects incapable of action

"There are two causes which are most responsible for attacks on tyrannies: hatred and contempt. Of these, hatred is something all tyrants are bound to arouse, but contempt is often the cause by which tyrannies are actually overthrown." Aristotle

A great deal of success in society is knowing when and under what conditions cheating is accepted or tolerated.

There is Passion, Death, and Resurrection in all of the sacraments, but in different ways.

artificial design -> art/skill -> divine art

To hear the voice of reason requires recognizing that it is not merely your own voice.

thinking the actual through the lens of the possible and the necessary through the lens of the actual

the expressionward elements of a scene -- these are part of the picturesque

the brain as an instrument of prayer

Seeking a good more and greater than common good, we ruin even our private good.

the modern age as the age of running away from oneself

-- the largest known black hole is TON 618; it has 66 billion solar masses, making it more massive than the entire Milky Way, and has a Schwarzschild radius of 1300 AU (Sun to Pluto is about 39 AU). It is about 18.2 billion ly from Earth, in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is believed to be the nucleus of a galaxy, but as a hyperluminous quasar, it outshines the whole galaxy, making the latter impossible to see -- it is one of the brightest objects in the known universe.

True peace takes a valor that is harder to see than the valor of war.

hieratic fictions ('fiction' as in legal fiction) -- often happens in matters of sacred time and sacred space, as well as with ascetic practices -- distinct from canon-legal fiction; hieratic fictions arise specifically for ritual and liturgical purposes, e.g., counting a given time as if it were another time for ritual purposes

Pleasure alone does not suffice for friendship even in a friendship of pleasure.

the homeless as domestic refugees

The artisan's idea is more properly that in which than that through which the work is done.

progress as that transcendence that is also involution

"Those who have worshipped their own kings as gods have deserved as their penalty to lose all knowledge of deity." Salutius

A well-designed legal code will tend toward specifying common sense.

Christ is the wisdom of God to us
(1) as justice: meritorious cause of salvation
(2) as purification: efficient cause of salvation
(3) as ransom: moral cause of salvation

The atonement is simultaneously moral, jural, and sacral.

atonement < adunamentum = reconciliatio

adversarial collaboration projects as essential to the health of republics

The natural tendency of people is to define by synonymy, i.e., to locate a word in a constellation of similar words.

the three acts of teaching
(1) correcting error
(2) assisting the student's own thinking
(3) supplying the missing pieces

Chrysippus' df of fate: "Fate is a sempiternal and immutable series and chain of things, rolling and unravelling itself through eternal sequences of cause and effect, of which it is composed and compounded." (Aulus Gellius 7.2.1)

It is not impossible for there to be something that both is non-evident and yet appears, as in subtle appearances, dim appearances, brief and flickering appearances, and peripheral appearances.

Between the non-evident and the self-evident is the evident.

Zeno's argument for rational cosmos:
The rational is better than the nonrational; nothing is better than the cosmos; therefore the cosmos is rational. (He gives the same argument for intellectual and animate.)
Alexinus's response:
The poetic, grammatical, etc., is better than non-, therefore &c, which is absurd.
Stoic response:
'Better' here is in an absolute sense, not relative; e.g., poetic Archilocus is not better than nonpoetic Socrates, etc.
[see Sextus Emp., Adv MAth 9:109ff; cp also On God, 138]

(1) We have independent reason tot think that virtue requires something at least like religio.
(2) Religio bears the marks of a virtue.
(3) If there is nothing divine, religio should be neither required by virtue in general nor bear the marks of virtue.
(4) Therefore there is something divine.

Free will is reason expressed outward into behavior.

Human beings can trade without shared language, but it is difficult to handle trade disputes without shared language.

Drawing and painting seem to arise as a sort of visual storytelling.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Power and Wisdom

 For the word of the cross is, to the annihilated, stupidity; to us, being saved, it is God's power. It is written: For I will annihilate the wise man's wisdom, and the intelligent man's intelligence I will set aside. Where is the wise one? Where is the literate one? Where is the debater of this era? Has not God made stupid the universe's wisdom? For as in God's wisdom, the universe through wisdom did not know God, so God was pleased through the stupidity of the proclamation to save the faithful. Now Jews request signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, to the Jewish very much a stumblingblock but to the nations stupidity -- but to the invited, Jew and also Greek, Christ, God's power and God's wisdom.

For God's stupidity is wiser than humanity and God's weakness stronger than humanity. For examine your invitation, brothers, how not many fleshly-wise, not many powerful, not many well-born, but the universe's stupid have been picked out by God that he might disgrace the wise, and the universe's weak have been picked out by God that he might disgrace the strong, and the universe's low-born and ignored have been picked out by God, and the substanceless, that he might neutralize the substantial, so that no flesh at all may boast before God. Because of him, you, however, are in Christ Jesus, who has been made wisdom from God to us, justice, and also holiness and ransom, that it may be as it is written: Who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.

[1 Corinthians 1:18-31, my rough translation.]

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

El Doctor Místico

 Today is the feast of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. From his Ascent to Mount Carmel (Book I, Chapter VIII):

Desire blinds and darkens the soul; for desire, as such, is blind, since of itself it has no understanding in itself, the reason being to it always, as it were, a child leading a blind man. And hence it comes to pass that, whensoever the soul is guided by its desire, it becomes blind; for this is as if one that sees were guided by one that sees not, which is, as it were, for both to be blind. And that which follows from this is that which Our Lord says through Saint Matthew: Si caecus caeco ducatum praestet, ambo in foveam cadunt. ‘If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.’ Of little use are its eyes to a moth, since desire for the beauty of the light dazzles it and leads it into the flame.And even so we may say that one who feeds upon desire is like a fish that is dazzled, upon which the light acts rather as darkness, preventing it from seeing the snares which the fishermen are preparing for it. This is very well expressed by David himself, where he says of such persons: Supercecidit ignis, et non viderunt solem. Which signifies: There came upon them the fire, which burns with its heat and dazzles with its light. And it is this that desire does to the soul, enkindling its concupiscence and dazzling its understanding so that it cannot see its light. For the cause of its being thus dazzled is that when another light of a different kind is set before the eye, the visual faculty is attracted by that which is interposed so that it sees not the other; and, as the desire is set so near to the soul as to be within the soul itself, the soul meets this first light and is attracted by it; and thus it is unable to see the light of clear understanding, neither will see it until the dazzling power of desire is taken away from it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Three O'Clock on Friday III

 This is the third part of a short story draft. Part I, Part II.

Howard woke with a start on a bed. What bed it was, he did not know. There was no bed that was his own, properly speaking, since it was dangerous to spend the night too often in one place; but this bed was most definitely not his own, as he could not recall having ever seen it before. It was a four-poster with an elaborate headboard. The columns were ornately carved in a most ugly fashion, like badly designed totem poles, with a vertical series of gargoyle heads. At least, Howard assumed that they were gargoyles. The headboard had some kind of carved design on it, and that was as clearly as Howard could make out what it was; it was heavily worn, as if it had survived, but only barely survived, a long struggle with time. The curtains around were dull, thin, and had unidentifiable flowers on them. It was, for all this, a decent enough bed. Howard could not remember waking in a better one.

The room in which the bed was found had large windows and sunlight was dustily glittering through those windows and across the floor. Howard did not recognize the room, either. This bothered him greatly. He did not know he had come to be in the room, either, but this bothered him less, since he never knew how he had come to be wherever he was when he awoke. 

As he sat up, the door opened and a woman entered. She was short and somewhat plain of face, but had a truly enviable mass of auburn hair somewhat messily adorning her face and shoulders in a way that had a certain minor charm. She was wearing barely anything, and ignored him. she went to a mirror on the other side of the room and began brushing her hair in a leisurely way.

Howard breathed a sigh of relief, because the woman, at least, he knew.

"Good morning, Ronnie," he said.

Veronica looked back at him briefly with a sardonic look, then returned to her mirror and the brushing. "Tough night, I suppose, Howie?" she said.

"Like every other," Howard replied. He got out of bed and sorted through his clothes, which were piled pell-mell upon the floor. He dressed, and, as he put on his shabby fedora, dug in his pocket for money, which he then put on the dresser.

As he left, Ronnie said, "There's a party somewhere on the Riverfront today; are you going?"

Howard paused. "I don't know," he said. "I guess I will."

"The passphrase is, 'Sticky wicket'," she said. He thanked her and, after cautiously peering out into the hall, left as quietly as he could.

The apartment that Ronnie was using was just around the corner from Our Lady of Sorrows, and as Howard left, the church bell let out a long tone. It was the old recognizable note that said that it was three o'clock in the afternoon on Friday. He wondered what in the world had possessed Ronnie to take room so near the church; it was not a safe neighborhood. But he supposed that the rooms were always available there, and probably not heavily used. Most places to stay in the city were heavily used and in consequence heavily worn; others, like those near the Duke's casino, were well maintained but always crowded.

Howard skirted around the church as quickly as possible, slouching down into his trench coat in the hope that it would make him more nondescript, then made his way to the Riverfront. It had been a long time since he had been in that part of the city.

The city had a Riverfront, but no river. There must once have been, since there was a dusty riverbed, rocky and very broad. Standing on one of the cliffy sides, one could barely see across. Howard had never been across, but he had heard a rumor that if you did cross the riverbed, you found that the land you could see was in fact a sort of island; if you crossed it, you saw more riverbed. Howard had no idea whether that was true, but it had certainly not inspired him to see if it were. There was no cover if you crossed the riverbed; anyone could see you, and it would not have been worth being seen just to satisfy a curiosity about the other side, even if Howard had had any curiosity about the matter at all.  The bank of the non-river was lined with buildings of many different kinds. Down one way there were great mansions and estates of every kind. There were parties in them occasionally, because they were all usually empty. A mansion on Riverfront would be a very conspicuous place to live. Thus they all stood in a dust-gathering silence, their windows looking out blankly like the eyes of a man in a fit of distraction. Down the other were office buildings of what was probably once an impressive architectural style. They had a run-down, disreputable air; parties were sometimes held in them, too, because they too were usually empty. What possible value could there be in having an office overlooking a dry riverbed, an office in which one could do nothing except wait for the day your presence there drew the attention of the Ducal Guard?

Howard hesitated a moment, trying to decide whether it was more likely that the party would be held in one of the office buildings or one of the mansions and, flipping a mental coin, decided to try the offices first.

As it happened, the mental coin toss was right. The party was not difficult to find; it was obviously in the only office building with lights blaring out of every window. That alone almost made Howard turn around. He looked around, almost expecting the Ducal Guard to be arriving. The street was empty, as far as he could tell. But what really led him to go inside was the question: What else would you do?

The building on the outside had been shabby and drab, but inside was breathtaking and gaudily ornate. The whole building was three stories tall, and ever story was the same, brightly lit and filled with ornaments and food and drink and people mixing and mingling. It was overwhelming, and Howard hugged the wall, making his way around to get a drink.

He found himself near a Cardinal talking to a small crowd of people. At least, he looked like a Cardinal. Perhaps the man was insane, though, because Howard could not imagine the mentality of someone going around the city in unmistakable red robes. Everybody would always be seeing you.

"Well, yes," the maybe-Cardinal said, "it's progress, is what it is. All our history, humanity has sought to find peace, and now we have it, as well as community of goods. And I dare say, more than that; this is an age in which people are really seen as people. Everyone is welcome in the city; no one is excluded. Tolerance for all, because we are bound together by a solidarity constituted by mutual accompaniment, arising from the lived encounter of person with person. A community of goods, and people are the most important goods; we all have each other in common....."

The Cardinal kept talking, but Howard was already getting twitchy about being so near someone who was so flagrantly dressed and attention-drawing, so he sidled away and began making his way along the wall to the other side of the room. 

He did not make it, however, because he soon ran into a familiar, very sarcastic face.

"How are you, Tom?" he said.

"Quite well," said Tom, his sarcastic face under his red hair becoming somehow even more sarcastic. "How are you, Howard?"

"Well enough," said Howard. He took a sip of his drink and Tom did the same.

After a moment, Tom said, "I'm glad you got away, Howard,"

As was usually the case with Tom, Howard could not tell if he was being sarcastic. Tom probably was. But Howard said, "Thank you. I am glad you got away, too." He looked narrowly at mocking-faced redheaded man. He did not like ginger men at all; too untrustworthy, or something. Actually, Howard did not know any other redheaded men, as far as he could recall, so he probably just did not like Tom, but when he thought of other, hypothetical, redheaded men, he did not like them because of their Tomlikeness. It just seemed like there was something indecent about reminding other people of Tom.

Howard merely waited, and, unsurprisingly, Tom broke the silence. "I think Sam may have turned us in," he said.

"I don't think so," said Howard. "He accused me of doing it and stabbed me."

Tom laughed. "Well, I know you did not do it." He somehow made it sound like an insult, as if he was certain of Howard's innocence because he thought that Howard was too stupid to merit suspicion. "Huh," he said. "John. Who would have thought? He always seems shifty and smarmy, but you'd think you could frighten him with a feather. I hope he someday gets carried off to the Castle for it."

Howard endured Tom's company for a while. It prevented him from looking alone at the party, which might have made him stand out, and Tom did most of the talking, as Tom always did, making sarcastic comments, or at least comments that sounded sarcastic when made by Tom, on the minor happenings of the party around them. Finally, Howard detached himself by saying he needed to get some fresh air. Tom seemed relieved, and Howard was startled a moment with the recognition that Tom had only been enduring his company, as well, probably for the same reasons.

Howard had only said he needed fresh air to get away from Tom, but having committed himself on the point, however vaguely, he continued on that vector, and made his way to a side door which was propped open and opened out to an alleyway with dumpster bins. He breathed deeply. The air was not refreshing; it was warm and dry and stale, and had perhaps a hint of rottenness to it from the dumpsters, but it was the idea of fresh air more than any actual freshness of the air that motivated him, in any case. 

There was a sound further down the alleyway, and Howard peeked cautiously around the nearest dumpster to see what it was. It was the Cardinal, talking to someone where the alley met the street. The Cardinal's stance was strange, as if he did not want to look at the person to whom he was talking. Then the interlocutor stepped into view and Howard's heart froze in terror inside him, because the other erson was not a person at all but one of the Ducal Guards. 

"Yes," said the Cardinal. "The building is full. There are plenty of pickings if you want them. Mostly drunk, too, so they should be easy enough to catch."

Howard did not hear the Ducal Guard say anything, but the Cardinal apparently did, because he replied in a voice that took on a whining tone, "No, I am totally apolitical; the faith should have nothing to do with politics. I am a loyal subject of the glorious Duke, I tell you; I am only here to do my duty and do a service to him. I find troublemakers for your benefit. I should be rewarded."

There was a pause, and then the Cardinal said again, "Yes, but sir, surely I deserve something for my services?"

Again there was a pause, and the Cardinal said, "Yes, that would be lovely, thank you. All glory to the Duke!"

The Ducal Guard left, and Howard, released from his freeze but not from his terror, rushed back inside. He could not escape down the alleyway, because he might be seen, but he needed to find another exit, something not in the alley and not the front door. He cursed his folly of not having first checked all the exits to the building as he rushed from room to room trying to find another door. 

Rushing into one room, he ran smack into Ronnie, almost knocking her down.

"Howard!" she said. "Have you lost your mind?"

"I can't talk," said Howard, "I think the Ducal Guard is about to raid the party."

She said nothing at this, but turned and fled. Howard continued searching for exits and cursed his luck when he encountered Tom again. When he saw Howard's face, however, Tom asked, "What's wrong?"

"I think the Ducal Guard is outside."

Tom said, "I know an exit. Follow me." Howard did, and, true to Tom's word, they were soon outside.

"Good luck, Howard," said Tom as he broke into a run.

"Good luck, Tom," Howard said automatically. Whether Tom heard him or not, he did not know; Howard, too, broke into a run and was running as fast as he could. He ran and ran and ran, until he could not run any more, using a nearby wall to hold himself up as he gasped huge breaths.

In the distance, the bell of Our Lady of Sorrows let out its dull note. It was three o'clock in the afternoon on Friday.

to be continued

The Foe of Every Cruelty (Re-Post)

This is re-posted, with some revisions, from 2011.


Today is the feast of St. Lucy of Syracuse, Virgin Martyr; she is one of the saints who is often easily picked out because she is usually represented as carrying her eyes on a plate, like so:

Saint Lucy by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

The reason is that the stories of her martyrdom tell that her eyes were gouged out during the Diocletian persecution, although this is not in the earliest layer of legends we have. She was killed with a dagger or short sword, which she also usually holds. She is also often represented with a lamp, because her name is related to the Latin word for 'light'.

She was extraordinarily popular. She has an important, although mostly offstage, role in Dante's Divine Comedy (Dante, who had eye troubles, was highly devoted to her); she is the saint that the Virgin Mary sends to Beatrice, telling her to send Virgil as Dante's guide through hell; or so we are told by Virgil himself:

" 'That Lady called on Lucia with her request
And said: "Your faithful follower has now
Such need of you that I commend him to you."

" 'Lucia, the foe of every cruelty,
Started up and came to where I was,
Sitting at the side of the aged Rachel.

" 'She said, "Beatrice, true credit to our God,
Will you not help the man who so loves you
That for your sake he left the common crowd?

" ' "Do you not hear his pathetic grieving?
Do you not see the death besieging him
On the river which the ocean cannot sway?"

She is also conspicuously mentioned in the Paradiso, where Beatrice confirms Virgil's story:

"And opposite the eldest family father
Lucia sits, who stirred your lady when
Your head was nodding downward, to your ruin."

Thus in the Mystical Rose of Heaven she is directly across from Adam.

John Donne also has a famous poem on St. Lucy's Day:

A Nocturnall upon St. Lucie's Day, Being the Shortest Day
by John Donne

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

This poem is usually thought to have been written in 1627, a year in which Lucy Donne, his daughter, and Lucy, Countess of Bedford, a close friend, both died. The reference to the 'year's midnight' is to the fact that St. Lucy's feast was at one time more-or-less the Winter Solstice (in England in Donne's day, and for quite some time before it, St. Lucy's would have been the closest major saint's day to the Winter Solstice -- you need to keep in mind, of course, the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendar). St. Lucy's as liturgical Winter Solstice creates an interesting series of juxtapositions given that her name is derived from the word for 'light'; exactly suitable to the poetic conceits of a metaphysical poet like Donne.

Monday, December 12, 2022


 * Murray Shanahan, Talking about Large Language Models (PDF)

* Urban Hannon, Last Supper Metaphysics: The Causality of the Vine and the Branches

* Elissa, Journaling as a Means of Research, at "Women in Theology"

* Mark Windsor, Not Circular: Hume's "Of the Standard of Taste" (PDF)

* Luis Oliveira, Defending the Free Will Defense: A Reply to Sterba (PDF)

* Kevin Cawley, How to become wise, on Korean philosophy, at ""

* J. H. Lesher, On the Role of Guesswork in Science (PDF)

* Jennifer A. Frey, Get Real, on Anscombe, at "First Things"

* Justin E. H. Smith, Walking, Seeing, Thinking

* Elena Comay del Junco, Aristotle on multiple demonstration (PDF)

* Johanna Winant, A Century of Serious Difficulty, on modernism in art, in "Boston Review"

* Marta Jimenez, Empeiria and Good Habits in Aristotle's Ethics (PDF)

* Elliot Samuel Paul, Cartesian Intuition (PDF)

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Fortnightly Book, December 11

I decided to get started on a fortnightly book, although I have no idea exactly how long this 'fortnight' will last; but it should give me a running start for 2023. The book that I'll be doing is Sigrid Undset's The Winding Road, which was published in two volumes, The Wild Orchid (1931) and The Burning Bush (1932). The novel follows a young man, Paul Selmer, who is raised in a freethinking household before World War I and attempts to navigate the chaos of the world as the Great War expands and the rebuilding afterward begins, particularly with the difficulties (with which Undset herself was very familiar) of his own conversion to Catholicism. Other than that, I know very little about the novel, beyond the fact that it is a novel about loves. The wild orchid (gymnadenia) symbolizes a kind of love that is attractive in idea but is fairly empty and disappointing in hand; the burning bush symbolizes a love both true and perfective.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Music on My Mind


Southern Raised, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". Very hard to beat bluegrass versions of traditional carols.

On the Structural Difference Between the First Way and the Second Way

 It's naturally very tempting to assimilate Aquinas's First Way and Second Way to each other. They both are arguments to the existence of God as first cause uncaused, both are based on originating causes (in the first way, moving cause or cause of change, following Aristotle; in the second way, making cause or cause of existence, following Avicenna), both proceed by eliminating the possibility of an infinite regress. And one could indeed assimilate them -- that is, we can easily run an efficient-cause argument that is structurally like the First Way, and we can easily run a moving-cause argument that is structurally like the Second Way. But the First Way and the Second Way as Aquinas presents them have important structural differences.

When Aquinas introduces the First Way, he says it is taken from change (sumitur ex parte motus). This is what we find. It begins not with the cause but with the result of the cause, in this case, being changed, as something we find in the world. It then concludes all being-changed requires a distinct changer on the basis of the Aristotelian account of change as the act of the potential insofar as it is potential. Since moving causes can nest, the only question is whether the resulting series stops (first mover) or doesn't (infinite regress). Infinite regress is eliminated because change requires a changer, that is the outcome requires a cause, and due to the nesting character of moving causes, an infinite regress gives you an outcome without a cause.

When Aquinas introduces the Second Way, however, he says it is from the notion or nature of the efficient cause (ex ratione causae efficientis). Thus before we even are given the argument, we have a difference between the First Way and the Second Way: the First Way is from the nature of the result; the Second Way is from the nature of the cause. And this latter is exactly what we find in the second way. The Second Way does not, as one might have expected, begin with effects. It begins with the order of efficient causes (ordinem causarum efficientem). We do not find an order of efficient causes in which an efficient cause is in any way ordered to cause itself to exist, because this is not possible based on the account of efficient cause as prior in being. Thus 'nothing is efficient cause of itself' is derived (exactly as Aquinas said) from the notion of efficient cause, which contrasts with 'whatever is changed is changed by another', which was derived from the notion of being changed. The argument for eliminating infinite regress has often puzzled philosophers recently, because it can easily be read as saying that we cannot have an infinite regress because there must be a first, which is opaque at best and easily interpreted as question-begging. But this is because it's read as if it were an argument from the effects. In fact, the argument for eliminating infinite regress is based, again, on the order of efficient causes, and very explicitly (in omnibus causis efficientibus ordinatis). Aquinas's argument is that, given that it is intrinsic to the notion of an efficient cause to be prior, an order of efficient causes has to have the structure of first-middle-last, however complicated the middle might be. (And notice again that the ultimate term here is not the effect but the last cause in the series.) Therefore, given that efficient causes nest in an order, an infinite regress of efficient causes would be an order of efficient causes in which the foundation of efficient-cause ordering, priority, breaks down, since the infinite middle-last series cannot be efficient cause of itself and yet would have nothing prior that could be efficient cause. The middle and last in an order are defined relative to a first, which is removed in the infinite regress. 

The Second Way, in fact, doesn't talk about effects directly at all, except insofar as one efficient cause can be the effect of another in an order of efficient causes. It's all about the causes. Whereas the First Way gets the unmoved first moving cause from infinite regress causing a contradiction in the outcome, the Second Way gets the uncaused first efficient cause from infinite regress causing a contradiction in the order of causes.

This, incidentally, perhaps explains a peculiarity of the Third Way, as well, namely, that it explicitly refers to the Second Way, the only one of the Five Ways that relies on another of the Five Ways. But the Third Way is, like the second way, an argument in which we find efficient causes; efficient causes are causes of being and the Third Way depends explicitly on the principle that things possible-to-be-and-not-be begin to be from things that have being, which is an efficient-cause principle. Nonetheless, the Third Way does not mention efficient causes explicitly until it refers to the Second Way. This is because the emphasis in the Third Way is on the effects -- we start with effects that are possible-to-be-and-not-be, and get to something that is necessary; if it is not an effect, we are at a being having its own necessity and not receiving it from another, but if it is an effect, the same argument that was used in the Second Way gets us to such a being. Thus the Second Way and Third Way have a lot in common; but the Second Way is based on the nature of causes and the Third Way is based on the nature of effects.

Thursday, December 08, 2022


 Now in the sixth month the messenger Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilaia, named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Ioseph, of the family of Dauid, the name of the virgin being Mariam. And having entered, he said to her, Grace to you, grace-given! The Lord is with you! You are to be praised among women!

And at this saying she was agitated and was debating what kind of greeting this was. And the angel said, Fear not, Mariam! You have found grace from God. And see! You will conceive in the womb and produce a son, and you shall call his name Iesous. He will be great and will be called Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of Dauid his father, and he will rule over the family of Iakob in perpetuity, and his rulership will have no end.

Then Mariam said to the messenger, How will this be, as I am not knowing a man?

And the messenger responded to her, The Holy Spirit will arrive upon you and the power of the Highest will envelop you; thus the Holy One born will also be called the Son of God. And see! Elisabet your kinswoman has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her, who was called barren. For with God there is no incapability for any claim whatsoever.

Then Mariam said, See the servant girl of the Lord! May things happen to me as you have claimed.

And the messenger went away from her.

[Luke 1:26-38, my rough translation.]

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Ambrosius, Episcopus!

 Today is the feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church. He was made bishop of Milan against his will, by popular acclaim; when as governor he went to the Church to make sure that the selection of a new bishop would be orderly, the people started shouting, "Ambrose, bishop!" He fled and locked himself in his house, but it was too late; rumor travels swiftly, and the Emperor, having heard that he had been chosen as bishop, sent him congratulations and selected his replacement as governor, so he didn't have much else he could do. He was a catechumen, so he had to be baptized, confirmed, ordained, and raised to episcopal office all in one week. But having thereby been made a victim of his own extraordinary competence, he handled being bishop with the same intelligence and ability that had made him popular as governor. From his criticism of Arianism in De Fide (Book V, Chapter 11):

But we have sufficiently proved by examples from Scripture that it is a property of the unity of the divine majesty that the Father should abide in the Son, and that the Son should seem to have heard from the Father those things which He speaks. How else can we understand the unity of majesty than by the knowledge that the same deference is paid to the Father and the Son? For what can be better put than the Apostle's saying that the Lord of glory was crucified?

 The Son then is the God of glory and the Lord of glory, but glory is not subject to creatures; the Son therefore is not a creature. 

The Son is the Image of the Father's Substance; but every creature is unlike that divine Substance, but the Son of the Father is not unlike God; therefore the Son is not a creature. 

The Son thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but no creature is equal with God, the Son, however, is equal; therefore the Son is not a creature. 

Every creature is changeable; but the Son of God is not changeable; therefore the Son of God is not a creature. 

Every creature meets with chance occurrences of good and evil after the powers of its nature, and also feels their passing away; but nothing can pass away from or bring addition to the Son of God in His Godhead; therefore the Son of God is not a creature. 

Every work of His God will bring into judgment; but the Son of God is not brought into judgment; for He Himself judges; therefore the Son of God is not a creature. 

Lastly, that you may understand the unity, the Saviour in speaking of His sheep says: No man is able to pluck them out of My hand. My Father Which gave them to Me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one.

Class Assignments in an LLM World

 There has been a lot of discussion recently of OpenAI's recent ChatGPT-3, a significant improvement over previous iterations of GPT-3, and its possible implications for college pedagogy (for instance, here). GPT-3 is often called 'AI', but this is somewhat misleading in this particular context; suffice it to say it's more accurately called a large language model (LLM), a program that uses machine-learning algorithms and a very, very large training set of texts to process and generate blocks of natural language on the model of the texts in its training set. ChatGPT-3 does very well at this; you can get some plausible passages in a variety of genres out of it, without much difficulty. On the basis of this, some people are worried that the college essay is dead and it will become impossible to assess student writing properly. A few thoughts on this.

(1) I hate to break it to you, but if this is your worry, your approach to writing assignment design is twenty years out of date. For my entire professional career it has been easy for students to get unique papers from a paper mill, and the expense of this relative to the usual expense of failing a class has grown so small that the expense itself is not a significant deterrent even for relatively poor students. These papers are generally higher-quality than anything GPT-3 and the like can currently produce and (given the limitations of the model) than it is likely to be able to produce even for the near future.

This problem can be handled in a number of ways that, while not perfect safeguards (there are no perfect safeguards against cheating), do provide some obstacles. For instance, chained assignments -- an assignment that leads into another assignment that leads into another assignment, as when one requires a series of drafts, or a preparatory and a main assignment, or a main assignment and an outline or presentation assignment -- provide some measure of protection, as do assignments tied to things specifically discussed in class that are based on one's own research, as do in-class writing assignments (when feasible) and highly atypical writing assignments or assignments that are structured to assess obliquely rather than directly. There are lots of other things. 

This sort of thing has been known for ages; many of them pre-existed the cheap paper mill. But academics are very weird about these things. All my writing assignments have always been structured with this kind of thing in mind, but it has frankly sometimes been a struggle. Faculty evaluation processes, which often require samples of grading, are often not set up to accommodate these kinds of features; it's a lot easier to do a grading sample portfolio if your assignments are all of the straightforward, easily cheatable kind. My taste for indirect assessment -- for example, having students explain how they would select and use a field trip to teach a unit of the course, or having them turn in an illustrated paper -- has on more than one occasion gotten me dinged on faculty evaluations ('busy work' was one of the complaints, once). Admittedly, the things that make it hard to cheat an assignment do often make it harder to evaluate for faculty evaluation purposes, and indirect assessment is tricky business, and I certainly would not say that my attempts have always been successful. But the point is that there has really been no excuse for simply doing "Write on this" assignments for a very long time; academics do them because they are bureaucratically legible and because academics tend to be obstinate people who like to do things the way they have done them. (I am not an exception to the latter, of course; it's notable that I still do weird indirect assessments despite the fact that it's one of the few things I know might get complaints when I submit my evaluation portfolio. Obstinacy is a survival skill in academia, and selective obstinacy is part of how the academic game is played.)

(2) Ah, you might say, but the big game changer is that this is free! Not really. In this sense, it's like translation programs; instead of just saying, "Translate this", you have to find a way to design an assignment that is more like, "Translate this and then do such-and-such", where the latter component is something the translation can't or won't do, and which requires the student to do something they are inclined to shove off on the translation program. It's not that it's always easy, but you should already be designing writing assessments in view of the fact that students sometimes try to cheat, anyway. And we should never underestimate the superhuman ability of most students to fail completely to use resources that are freely available, an extraordinary ability that extends to means of cheating as much as it does to means of research. If it's not showing up on the first page of Google, they often have no idea how to access or use it, no matter how free it is. I'm old enough to remember when you had to go to the physical library to do research, and while databases were already very common, depending on the library it was sometimes still easier to use the literal card catalog for some kinds of research. Students today can call up libraries on their phone -- still not quite good enough for graduate or professional research, usually, but easily good enough for undergraduate, and getting better every year -- and it would never occur to most of them on their own to use these resources, even when they know they exist. Cheating we always have with us; most of it is much easier to catch than you would expect given the resources that are available for doing it; and one can often put a wrench into even a more competent use of cheating resources just by a well placed twist in the assignment. It won't handle everything; but it's always been remarkable how much you can impede cheating just by a few minor tweaks.

(3) Nonetheless, we are at a stage where it's probably best to de-emphasize ordinary writing assignments, even setting aside cheating concerns: students often don't know how to write, and assessment by writing requires that students be able to write at least well enough that they can be assessed on what they are writing. I don't know what's being taught in high school English classes these days, but whatever it is, it's usually not working. Combinations of writing + presentation seem to do better, as do multiple-revision assignments. Writing assignments are not eliminable -- relevant use of writing is one of the things students need to learn, and is sometimes important to assess in its own right -- but it makes sense to diversify the nature and structure of assignments in ways that don't entirely lean on writing itself. Alas, I think. It is a sign of deterioration, one of a great many. But in teaching you have to work with what you have, even if it sometimes seems like students have been actively made less prepared for succeeding in college.