Saturday, January 08, 2022


 * Alberto Vanzo, Empiricism and Rationalism in Nineteenth-Century Histories of Philosophy (PDF)

* Davis, Biber, and Kempf, Persisting Sovereignties (PDF), discusses the sovereignty of Indian tribes under US law.

* Thomas Pink, Final Causation

* Samuel Lee, Building Low Level Causation out of High Level Causation (PDF)

* Carlotta Pavese, Reasoning and Presuppositions (PDF)

* Keith Buhler, No Good Arguments for Causal Closure (PDF)

* Aribiah David Attoe, African Philosophical Perspectives on the Meaning of Life, at the IEP

* David Brink, Thomas Hill Green, at the SEP

* Fabrizio Baldassari, The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary: Renaissance Philosophy, Magic, and Botany

The Winter Is the Winter's Own Release

by Helen Hunt Jackson

O winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire,
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn
Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire
The streams than under ice. June could not hire
Her roses to forego the strength they learn
In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn
The bridges thou dost lay where men desire
In vain to build. O Heart, when Love's sun goes
To northward, and the sounds of singing cease,
Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.
Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.
Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows,
The winter is the winter's own release.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Dashed Off I

This begins the notebook initiated in February 2021. 

Every proverb has its day.

the body as organ, the body as scene

In dealing with racial injustice, one must take care not to let historical symptoms blind you to the deeper moral problems.

domestic integralism

essences as kinds of perfectibility

Anointed Office royal, priestly, prophetic), Sacrifice, and Martyrdom are all perfected in the Passion.

"Our Lord desires not merely to form friendships between Himself and every human soul, but to unite friends in divine charity to one another." Robert Hugh Benson

like gold slimed over
human souls
shine out obscurely

Abstraction admits of degree, of more and less, but it does not admit of error (although our degree of abstraction may not be suitable to our ends).

When we offend the divine majesty, we do not harm God, but we do harm ourselves, who are in the image of God; we have thus done wrong and are in need of repair.

We experience actual being, as opposed to or distinct from essence, as nonclassifiable, actively manifesting, and undismissable.

marriage as sacramental friendship

"Totalitarian power is not atheist for a random historical reason..., it is atheist because it must be so logically." Vaclav Benda

"To a certain extent, Marxism replaces religion by the cultivation of art." Masaryk

"The ceremonial law was the bond which was to connect action with contemplation, life with theory." Moses Mendelssohn

predication under condition: supposition/hypothesis, fiction
mispredication: error, lie

Seek virtue and truth will be given.

We often in practice do not distinguish essence and operative power.

"All generations of men, from the beginning to the end of the world, are morally concerned one with another." Jonathan Edwards

"When culture loses its sacred sense, it loses all sense." Kolakowski

the world is but a whisper borne
upon a wayward wind

All the primary purposes of language are social, and this is true even of purposes like 'talking about the world'.

"Homer is original this morning, and nothing is perhaps so old as today's newspaper." Peguy

In Cartesianism, disorder is treated as worse than doubt. (cp. Peguy)

Man reflecting God infinitely transcends man.

baptism: royal :: confirmation : prophetic : ordination : priestly

For every possibility, there is a reason it is possible.

Every conceptual horizon suggests something beyond it.

phenomenal sign, noumenal sacrifice

In the Eucharist, the veils point to Christ as accidents to substance, as effects to cause, and as signs to referent.

real presence of Christ via effect
(1) instrument - principal agent
(2) gift - giver
(3) medicine - physician/medical art

The opposite of love is not wrath but death.

hell as the lovelessness beyond lovelessness

The love that redeems us is not exhausted by our redemption.

Jn 4:10 and the Holy Spirit as gift

The community extends one's body.

The principle of verification fails as a criterion of meaning because there are many other meaning-relevant things we may do (analogize, practically vindicate, corroborate, reason from, etc.).

juridical modes: pardon, law, equity, rebuke

"Evil exists in the world not to create despair, but activity." Malthus

hope as the virtue-regenerating virtue

titular in pretence, in office, in exile

"Even sanctity is temporal, and it is subject to the seasons and times. It is subject to the ages of life." Peguy

Jesus has His own distinctive sanctity, but He diversifies it into all forms of sanctity in His sacramental body.

It is important that Jesus not only fulfills prophecies, but fulfills them in a way higher than could be expected. He fulfills them abundantly, in ways that illuminate connections that were easy to miss without His light. He gives that to which they point, but in a way that gives more than any pointing could have indicated; He fulfills them in a way that does not merely make them past tense but carries them forward into a new future.

Israel the Suffering Servant as type of Christ, as most perfectly fulfilled in Christ

Taxation powers are structured by record-keeping powers. The greater and more sophisticated a state's ability to keep records, the greater its ability to tax.

A sense of majesty is something into which one must mature; a little child of a king has no sense of the majesty of the kind, but must come to grasp it by maturing.

The modern world has no sense of the majesty of love.

Without genuine purity, everything becomes infected with hypocrisy.

'Fee, fi, fo, foum' as an expression used by a manflesh-eating monster is both immensely old and very widespread, enough that it may even go back to originals in Indo-European.

presence by gift

sacraments as acts of divine love, as means of grace, as manners of communion/fellowship

"All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad." MacDonald

Common sense is sometimes wrong, even very wrong, but there are always reasons why something is common sense.

Credentialism makes all things brittle.

All reasoners who are thoughtful, responsible, patient, and restrained in their reasoning will discover thoughtworthy things.

The capability for anything to be at all in any way must be necessary and eternal.

Christ *really gives* Himself in the Eucharist: real presence
Christ really gives *Himself* in the Eucharist: transubstantiation

Many can come from one through material or chance diversification, through limitations of potentiality, through limitations or imperfections in goodness, or through the ordering of wisdom. The diversity of creatures proceeds from God in the last way.

"There cannot be a lasting and sincere friendship unless it is based on Reason, on an immutable good, on a good that everyone can possess without dividing it." Malebranche

On Malebranche's view, attention *merits* clear and distinct ideas.

The young are not wooed by caution.

Human nature requires completion in and by rite and liturgy.

Defamation, backbiting, etc., are morally bad because they are attempts to injure a person's capability for even basic friendship.

Early modern philosophers in criticizing the schools often don't make much distinction between substance and prime matter.

Hume's response to the imagination objection in T (T225) is inadequate because (1) the inference to substance has already been shown to be similar to the inference to cause; (2) we would in fact "perish and go to ruin if we were unable to consistently attribute simplicity and identity; (3) it is implausible that in matters of substances and qualities we are dealing with "changeable, weak, and irregular" principles of imagintion.

Everything resembles substance in one way or another.

Perceptions refer to personal substance as to an end.

Custom involves facility and tendency; in his discussion of causation, etc., Hume can explain facility, but has nothing at all that can explain tendency, which he simply has to assume.

effect to cause // accident to substance // order to end

Much of what we conceive, we conceive relatively, and thus not in such a way that we can assume separable existence.

'the august' as a useful term for the political sublime

aesthetic life : sublime :: religious life : holy :: moral life : pure :: political life : august : life of grace : glory
-- all converge toward God

Modern classroom teaching is episodic, and students often lose both thought and plot for the episodes, the forest for the trees.

the swelling sublime vs the furious sublime

Interacting with music is like interacting with an alien intelligence, a way of thinking in some sense different from our ordinary human , suggesting without clearly specifying.

health : body :: santiy/balance : mind :: good life : whole person :: just order : society :: devotion : religious spirit

Everyone, without exception, has to be taught much if they are to do very well.

The problem of induction is based on the assumption that magic is possible.

necessary vs contingent truth-preservation

subsidiarity and the family as a fundamental unit of civil society

Scholarly interpretation of texts requires multiple interpretations of texts; at minimum it requires interpreting the text both in a very strict, restrained way and in the most expansive way the evidence allows, to capture the range the evidence allows.

"Through Reason all people become superior to all creatures when they consult and follow it." Malebranche

"Innocence is indeed a glorious thing; but, unfortunately, it does not keep very well and is easily led astray." Kant

pedagogy and turning a topic into a minimally counterintuitive narrative

Thursday, January 06, 2022


From one of St. Leo's Epiphany sermons, Sermon 33:

A star more brilliant than the other stars arouses wise men that dwell in the far East, and from the brightness of the wondrous light these men, not unskilled in observing such things, appreciate the importance of the sign: this doubtless being brought about in their hearts by Divine inspiration, in order that the mystery of so great a sight might not be hid from them, and, what was an unusual appearance to their eyes, might not be obscure to their minds. In a word they scrupulously set about their duty and provide themselves with such gifts that in worshipping the One they may at the same time show their belief in His threefold function: with gold they honour the Person of a King, with myrrh that of Man, with incense that of God.



I heard the preacher speaking,
and of miracles I heard,
the wine of revelation
from the water of our words.
I heard of men and women
in humility of ways
transfigured to the glory
of the Ancient One of Days
(first river-bathed and lustral
in the waters of the earth,
then drunken, full of Spirit,
with the Wine of heaven's birth),
of wisdom-seeking sages
who had sought the Good by star
and found it with its Mother
where the Jewish peoples are,
the True in swaddled clothing --
thus their wise philosophy
was turned, like wedding-water,
to that wine, epiphany.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Holy Name

by George Herbert

Iesu is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th'other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev'n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was I,
After, where E S, and next where U was graved.
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
And to my whole is I E S U.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Ought and Ought

 Sam Harris recently had a tweet on the claim that you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is':

There were quite a few really clumsy attempts to dunk on this. It is in fact a legitimate question. Unsurprisingly, none of the dunkers managed actually to get a coherent argument against it in tweet form. The closest, however, is interesting, because I've seen it before; it fails miserably, but it seems to have some purchase even in some philosophical quarters. The attempted response is something like this: The question is badly formed because it equivocates between the 'moral' reading of 'ought' and the 'epistemic' reading of 'ought'.  The claim that you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is' applies to moral oughts, not epistemic oughts.

It should be obvious that on its own this is utterly inadequate, since Harris explicitly asks a question about why two kinds of cases are being distinguished, and the totality of this answer so far is that it is because they ought to be distinguished. This simply takes the apparent problem (that in case A people use the is-ought prohibition and in case B they don't), describes it, and treats it as the solution to the problem. Obviously we need to know why this distinction is made in such a way that at least an analogous is-ought prohibition doesn't carry over, particularly given that we use analogous vocabulary to talk about them. And when you start pressing this, while you can distinguish 'moral' cases from 'epistemic' cases, it's very difficult to motivate a distinction that would be this sharp; the most natural distinctions between the two are purely practical, not fundamental. And, in the finest analytic tradition of explaining things that seem more clear by means of things that are less clear, there is not actually much in the way of a consensus view on how epistemic oughts work, particularly one that would really explain the disanalogy. For instance, sometimes you find people trying to build the distinction on the ground that epistemic oughts are "role ought"; but some moral oughts are role oughts, and, indeed, there are entire ethical systems in which most moral oughts are role oughts, and very few in which none are.

There are in addition reasons to worry about concluding too quickly that the two kinds of ought are so different. It's pretty clear that historically, we get 'epistemic' oughts on analogy with 'moral' oughts to begin with. Epistemic oughts don't look like every kind of moral ought, but they do look and act very much like abstract moral oughts -- i.e., moral oughts like 'People ought to get along' or 'It ought to be the case that people in need can get help'. You can model both fairly well with a D-type modal logical system, for instance. But such logical systems have deontic necessitation, in which case even at a purely formal level, before you even start talking about what 'ought' means, you get violations of the is-ought prohibition. There are plenty of ethical and also epistemological approaches in which at least some epistemic oughts are also moral oughts, and at least some moral oughts are also epistemic oughts. (This is true of classical utilitarianism, moral positivist deontologies, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, and Confucianism, to take just a few examples.) The list of reasons why the distinction, even if it can be made, is just not the right kind of distinction for answering the question could be made quite a bit longer.

It's an interesting question what social conditions lead to so many intelligent people treating as self-evident a principle that sits so poorly with logic, ethics, and perhaps universal human practice, that is not actually accepted by the philosopher to whom it is most attributed (Hume), that requires endless epicycles in order to deal with very common-sensical counterexamples, that makes it practically impossible to figure out what moral obligations are, and that no one can ever actually defend very well. People have tried to overthrow the principle of noncontradiction for less. But so it happened, and so it still to a great extent is.