Friday, January 14, 2022

Dashed Off II

 To talk about a literary or scholarly canon is to talk about centrality in a network of works. This centrality is affected by (1) extent of connection / # of connections, (2) connection to other central works / centrality of connected works, (3) resource and infrastructure constraints, (4) asymmetries of influence.

network repair as a function of History of Philosophy as a field

"Who wills the end, wills the feasible necessary means to that end" as the analytic structure of skill (cp Kant on technical imperatives).

consistency with the maintenance of the species as an end, consistency with the advancement of the species as an end

The People qua populus vs The People qua plebs

lex as the criterion of ius and iniuria (Cicero) vs
lex as a species of jus (Isidore)

ius : justice :: lex : prudence (Aquinas ST 2-2.57.1)

"That surge of certainty you feel when you dismiss someone isn't a signal that you're right, it's the satisfaction of getting out of some work." Ian Leslie

You are not made to fit the world, and you cannot force yourself into a life so small as that. The human person is no more containable than an explosion.

The dispute over different interpretations of quantum mechanics is a dispute over the rule that QM plays in general causal reasoning; QM as such, being in form a generalization of probability theory to include complex numbers and in matter a set of measurements, does not itself establish what role it should play in causal reasoning.

Everything sensible is intelligible.

Seduction is always by way of a persona.

All technology in its actually developed form is an expression of values: ease of use, convenience, simplicity, pleasantness for display, accessibility, swiftness, etc.

If your interest is in increasing good behavior, you will need to coax people to it.

Prudence elevates and transfigures skills.

When we act well and rightly, we act in accordance with the providential hierarchy, cooperating with the angels above us and, ultimately, God.

deinotic vs phronetic practical intelligence

Genuine compassion is something that can only be learned through justice.

Part of good planning is knowing where and when you shouldn't be planning things.

the person as quasi-numinous, as sign of the numinous, as at home with the numinous, as the locus of the numinous

You can tell the sheer genius of design in the ordinary saw by the fact that you can give it to an orangutan and the orangutan will start sawing things with it.

divine freedom (will) as the necessary principle of necessary contingency disjunctions (X happens or X does not happen)

A postulate of (our) freedom leads to a higher-order postulate of a divine freedom giving a world within which to be free; a postulate of immortality leads to a higher-order postulate of an eternity (of world or moral order or God) with respect to which it can be); a postulate of messianic community or church leads to a higher-order postulate of divine government organizing it.

"It must never be forgotten that the same individuals constitute both the mob and the people." Nicholas Murray Butler

Possible thalers imply either actual thalers or causes capable of making actual thalers (or both).

Christ as Shepherd & divine forgiveness -- Micah 7:14-20

presence by sign: trace, emblem, gift, narrowcast, broadcast, theophany, real presence, transubstantiation

We often seek comfort when we should seek hope, and we often seek to give comfort when people need hope.

Kant's autonomy is generally misunderstood because it is interpreted as something purely individualistic. But Kant's autonomy is a co-autonomy, it is an autonomy we share with others.

There There are many correspondence relations.

contract powers as legislative self-governance powers of citizens

All critique is a posteriori.

the Logos as the point of convergence for the pursuits of the sublime, of the beautiful, and of the true

Good taste converges with good taste.

One must prepare for the Muse, not because it does not visit the unprepared, but because it is embarrassing to find oneself stumbling over how well one is doing.

music as something that incorporates human beings into itself

justified true surmise; evidential surmise-sifting

The account of 'gaslighting' in Ivy (2017) is very strange, in that it treats it as a road to credibility defeat rather than to deliberate action. (It is also strange in not allowing 'allies' any room to disagree with those to whom they are allied, which seems to be a recipe for purely superficial and merely symbolic deferences: people only have true and committed alliances with those with whom they are engaged in an actual *co*operation.)

All thoughts are merely beginnings; they reach toward their completion, which is the Beatific Vision.

the phenomenology of the brilliant
- the brilliant and the sense of design
- 'nothing in vain' 'all in moderation' 'unity with variety'
- the brilliant as so in manifestation of purpose

Standpoints are not received by being a victim but achieved by a victory.

conversation with friends as way to develop half-formed thoughts

museum-exhibit progressivism

hold, hit, scrape, reach as proto-tool functions

2 Chr 36:14-23 and the parable of the vineyard

Ephesians 2:4-10) and the Life of Christ as a picture of our salvation

Scripture in liturgy as a prayer-altar

Lk 2:19 -- the two tasks of theology, to keep and to connect

Deely (Augustine & Poinsot) gets Augustine in the De Genesis Adversus Manicheos wrong: Augustine is not here speaking of signs in general but Scriptural revelation.

Signs exist because God gives.

doubting : apparent absence :: wondering : apparent presence
(these would not be hard and fast connections, but seem relevant to typical ones)

Love is the most hierarchical thing in creation.

zombie ethical discourse & vocabularies

the connection of neisheng (inner sagehood) and waiwang (outer kingliness)

"By basing itself on its own churches, Christianity avoided becoming a wandering soul in its own domain. In stark contrast is Confucianism." Ming-huei Lee

Tian ren buei. (Heaven and humanity are not two.)

"The moral qualities of the mind of Heaven and Earth are four: origination (yuan), flourishing (heng), advantages (li), and firmness (zhen). Moreover, the principle of origination unites and controls them all." Zhu Xi

means-or-end as a disjunctive transcendental (associated with res)

and we will sing in the darkness
for a city we never knew

academia and the proliferation of relevance-narrative boilerplate

Law of Nature : Miracle :: End in Itself : mystery :: Kingdom of Ends : means of grace

The dignity of labor is linked to the dignity of leisure that labor makes possible.

To postulate x requires postulating conditions for the possibility of x.

"The cult of saints excludes the cult of success -- the veneration of those people who have got on well in this world, the snobbish admiration of wealth and fame." Sigrid Undset

Truth falls on us like rain and warms us like sunlight, upon the just and the unjust both; but not all who are drenced and irradiated are equally prepared for it.

The doctrine of the Trinity makes us to know something of the Father, the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Son, the doctrine of the Church of the Spirit; and through the Church we come to be drawn to the Incarnation and through them both are drawn back to the Trinity.

"Correct habituation distinguishes a good polity from a bad one." Aristotle 1103a34-36

"Because the Church has received the treasure of supernatural revelation in its entirety, it allows us to honor everywhere the various traces or marks or scattered fragments of that revelation." Maritain

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Athanasius of the West

 Today is the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church. From his De Trinitate, Book XI:

The Apostle in his letter to the Ephesians, reviewing in its manifold aspects the full and perfect mystery of the Gospel, mingles with other instructions in the knowledge of God the following: As ye also were called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, and through all, and in us all. He does not leave us in the vague and misleading paths of an indefinite teaching, or abandon us to the shifting fancies of imagination, but limits the unimpeded license of intellect and desire by the appointment of restraining barriers. He gives us no opportunity to be wise beyond what he preached, but defines in exact and precise language the faith fixed for all time, that there may be no excuse for instability of belief. He declares one faith, as he preaches one Lord, and pronounces one baptism, as he declares one faith of one Lord, that as there is one faith of one Lord, so there may be one baptism of one faith in one Lord. And since the whole mystery of the baptism and the faith is not only in one Lord, but also in one God, he completes the consummation of our hope by the confession of one God. The one baptism and the one faith are of one God, as they are of one Lord. Lord and God are each one, not by union of person but by distinction of properties: for, on the one hand, it is the property of Each to be one, whether of the Father in His Fatherhood, or of the Son in His Sonship, and on the other hand, that property of individuality, which Each possesses, constitutes for Each the mystery of His union with the Other. Thus the one Lord Christ cannot take away from God the Father His Lordship, or the one God the Father deny to the one Lord Christ His Godhead. If, because God is one, Christ is not also by nature divine, then we cannot allow that the one God is Lord, because there is one Lord Christ: that is, on the supposition that by their oneness' is signified not the mystery, but an exclusive unity. So there is one baptism and one faith of one Lord, as of one God.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Modal Collapse and Providential Collapse

 Joseph Schmid has a paper, From Modal Collapse to Providential Collapse (PDF), in which he argues in somewhat more detail for what he argued in his previous paper, The Fruitful Death of Modal Collapse Arguments (PDF), namely, that classical theism can avoid modal collapse only at the expense of problems with divine intentionality and providence. As I noted, his argument there was not convincing. So it's interesting to ask if this new angle improves the argument any. I'm inclined to think not.

The first problem is intentionality. As Schmid puts it:

For God is an intentional, rational agent (even if only analogously so). Surely, then, God knows and intends what he is doing in advance. It is not as though God brings something about but doesn’t know or intend in advance what he is doing, i.e., what he is bringing about. The notion of ‘in advance’ here is a bit imprecise, but we can precisify it by speaking of the state causally prior to creation.

This is already not promising; there is no "state causally prior to creation" unless you just mean God. Thus the most this can mean is that God knows and intends what He is doing in such a way as God would know and intend. In any case, Schmid continues on the basis of this idea, which he calls PRIOR:

This is where the problem manifests. For God’s knowing and intending what he will create is a contingent matter. It is a contingent truth that God actualizes our world, and hence it is a contingent truth that God knows that he will actualize our world in advance of creating it. Similarly, it is only a contingent truth that God intends to actualize our world. Had another world come about, it would have been the case that God intended to actualize that world instead....But we saw earlier that contingent divine predications are extrinsic, i.e., they characterize God not as he is in himself but rather as he connects (or fails to connect) to things ad extra. To put it differently, contingent divine predications depend on something apart from God. 

But upon what could the contingent predication of ‘intending to actualize our world’ in PRIOR depend?

This is equally unpromising. The contingent predication of "intending to actualize our world" obviously depends on the world (and on us!), who are contingent and are not God. Schmid wants to argue that this would give us a vicious circle, but this is obvious nonsense. The predication depends on our world, and does so explicitly. There is no room for question about that; "our world" is explicitly part of the predicate. But the world depends on the intending that we specify in discourse by the fact that the world is its result. It's not viciously circular to describe the cause from the effect; in fact, it is standard practice. Schmid errs in thinking that the explanation of the predication is the same as the explanation of that to which the predication correctly applies. What explains predicating "intending to actualize our world" of God is that, starting with the actualization of the world, we recognize it requires an intentional cause. But this is not what explains the actualization of the world -- that's the intentional cause itself. 

To put it in other words, Schmid's intentional collapse argument makes the elementary error of confusing "It is because our world comes about that we can predicate of God the intention for it to come about" and  "It is because our world comes about that God intends it to come about." Merely because the cause is described in terms of what the effect requires from it does not mean that the effect explains the cause.

The second argument is that the rejection of modal collapse requires rejection of providence. As Schmid puts it here,

Intuitively, though, creation’s precise contents then seem beyond God’s control, since fixing all the facts about God leaves open all possible worlds—from worlds in which an infinite multiverse co-obtains with God to worlds in which God exists by himself. Each of them could become actual, and God can do nothing distinctive in any such world to ensure any particular creation obtains.

As I noted previously, classical theism directly entails that there is no such thing as "all the facts about God", and therefore there is no way to 'fix' them. However, Schmid is also incorrect about possible worlds. No possible worlds can strictly "become actual"; a possible world is a logical object associated with a set of propositions mapped to truth-values. To say that God's existence, for instance, "leaves open all possible worlds" is just to say that 'God exists' - True is a mapping associated with  all the logical objects we are considering. So on with anything else that "leaves open all possible worlds". But since the truth values we want are those that have to do with actuality, all possible worlds together describe the actual world -- they just describe different possibilities in the actual world. 

Suppose, for instance, that David is a free agent, capable of freely making this or that. That is to say that David is a free agent. David's existence and capabilities 'leave open all possible worlds' that cover actions and effects that David can cause, just be definition. What Schmid would have to say in this analogy is an old sophism, namely, that David cannot actually do anything without ceasing to be free, because if he did anything, he would not be free at the same time to do otherwise -- if one possible world 'becomes actual', then it closes off all the other possible worlds. This, however, is simply to misunderstand what possible worlds are doing here; they are simply a way of modeling precisely the fact that David can do this or that. In this case, possible worlds are being used to describe what God's possible effects are; and that is all. They tell us nothing about what is actual or not, nothing about the actual causation that gets the actual results modeled by the lists, beyond the fact that all of God's possible effects presuppose God. 

Given this, we can see that Schmid's argument really depends on assuming that nothing can cause anything except deterministically. If things can cause things in a nondeterministic way, so that a given cause is capable of doing different things, then it will always be the case that a given cause will be modeled using multiple possible worlds that are not ruled out as possible by anything to do with the given cause. The only difference here is that God is by hypothesis the ultimate cause on which everything else depends, and therefore requires a far more vast modeling. (And, indeed, as I've also pointed out, so vast that it is an open question whether possible worlds adequate to model the possibilities available to God -- or, to put the same point another way, the possibilities that depend on God are so extensive that it is an open question whether they can all be exhaustively modeled by lists of propositions.)

Schmid does after a fashion try to get around this, in a completely inadequate passage (the third response to Objection One), in which he says that nothing in his argument affects libertarianism because attributing free will to human beings doesn't require saying that they are compatible with any effect whatsoever; this, however, is obvious tap-dancing, because this is irrelevant. The only difference between God and any other free agent on this point is that many, many more possible worlds are required to model divine freedom; structurally, the possible-worlds modeling works exactly the same. Schmid's argument is, contrary to his claim, entirely inconsistent with libertarianism. (And, indeed, with a lot more, since it requires complete determinism.) This is unsurprising, since Schmid's basic argument is that any rejection of modal collapse requires indeterminism between the relevant cause and effects, and that the latter is sufficient for rejection of modal collapse as well, and therefore his only viable path for raising serious objections to any rejection of modal collapse is to attack the possibility of indeterminism between the relevant cause and effects. This will generalize unless we have specific reason to think it doesn't; but the possible worlds apparatus that Schmid is using applies to any kind of cause and effect without any substantive differences, because it just models them in terms of possibilities.

Schmid also makes a general error throughout. His whole argument is based on what he calls he Biconditional Solution:

Biconditional Solution: Classical theists avoid modal collapse if and only if they embrace an indeterministic link between God and his effects.

This is an obviously ambiguous statement, and in fact Schmid falsely assumes that if there is an 'indeterministic link' between God and his effects, then God cannot causally determine his effects. This confuses "God does not necessarily make X happen" and "God necessarily does not make X happen". That is to say, the only indeterminism required is that God is not necessitated with regard to effects (which in and of itself eliminates modal collapse); this is absolutely not the same as saying that God cannot necessitate, i.e., make conditionally necessary, any effects.

The paper does a lot to clean up the arguments, but also, I think, makes more obvious that the arguments are nonviable.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

In Streams of Poesy

Solace Derived from Books
by Edward Moxon

Hence Care, and let me steep my drooping spirit
In streams of Poesy, or let me steer
Imagination's bark ’mong bright scenes, where
Mortals immortal fairy-land inherit.
Ah me! that there should be so few to merit
The realized hope of him, who deems
In his Youth's spring that life is what it seems,
Till sorrows pierce his soul, and storms deter it
From resting there as erst! Ye visions fair
Of genius born, to you I turn, and flee
Far from this world's impervious apathy;
Too blest, if but awhile I captive share
The presence of such Beings as engage
The heart, and burn thro' Shakspeare's matchless page.

Monday, January 10, 2022



I sometimes reflect on what must have been the sins of previous generations that have inflicted us with bishops who are more like uninspired middle-manager bureaucrats than pastors who will live and die for their flocks. I suppose at the very least I can take comfort that they did not add 'encounter' to the list, but 'accompaniment' is just as bad. 'Accompaniment' in English usually means one of two things:

1. A musical part supporting another part.
2. usually in food, something that supplements something else in a complementary way

I've no doubt that these things become theological jargon mostly due to bad translations of church documents, but there reaches a point beyond which it becomes simply embarrassing.

None of these, incidentally, are 'synodal' attitudes; the synodal attitudes, if you want to call them that, are faith, hope, and love. It's a sign of our woeful state that it would be refreshing to have bishops who actually recognized that.

A Poem Draft

 Mighty Shangdu

In mighty Shangdu, mighty khans
went back and forth in splendor bright;
upon their silken garments hemmed
were diamond stars of ceaseless light.
A man is small; mankind is great
and man who is as well mankind
has on his brow a golden crown
of golden leaves that sunrays bind--
yes, even if the crown is seized
by bloodshed thick and flooding red
or if the steps that rise to throne
are paved with remnants of the dead.

In mighty Shangdu, mighty khans
did take a pause in ruling lands
to wash the blood of endless hordes
with milk and water from their hands.
They dried their hands with finest silk,
in silver mirrors took their view,
and without qualm took up the sword
their foes in hosts to hack and hew.
The world itself could hardly hold
the treasures gathered in their halls,
yet now they gather only dust
confined in buried, crumbling walls.

In mighty Shangdu, mighty khans
had raised the glories of this life,
but never raised a single wall
that could defend from every strife;
what is a Shangdu raised today
a sad Kaiping may one day be,
the mistress of the world encrowned
to live in servitude unfree.
Thus mighty Shangdu wastes away,
destroyed by ceaseless hordes of time,
save to the relic-seeker's spade
or relic-hunting poet's rhyme.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The Two Barbara Problem

A longstanding puzzle about Aristotle's modal logic is what is known as the Problem of the Two Barbaras. It's a pretty obvious aspect of Aristotelian syllogistic that a Barbara syllogism is valid:

All M is P
All S is M
Therefore, all S is P.

What happens when we modalize some of these propositions, however? This is the context in which the Two Barbara Problem arises. If we take both of the premises and make them necessary, we can get either a necessary or merely true conclusion, as we wish, and the argument will also be valid. Things get more complicated if we only necessitate one of the premises. Aristotle is very clear that if we necessitate only the major (All M is P), we can still get a necessary conclusion by a valid argument; but if we necessitate only the minor (All S is M), we cannot.

These are the Two Barbaras. There are several issues involved with this view of Aristotle's. Most Aristotelians, in fact, accept the Theophrastian Rule: When you modalize the premises of a valid syllogism, you can still get a valid syllogism as long as the the modality of the conclusion is not stronger than the modality of any of the premises. This is a nice, clean, very powerful rule. (It would make both of the Two Barbaras invalid, if we are assuming a necessary conclusion.)

However, there are some things that do make sense about Aristotle's division. And, indeed, I think probably most of the confusion in the Two Barbara Problem is due to confusing different kinds of modality. The Theophrastian Rule is certainly right if we are talking about propositional modality -- which most people today do, and which people are often doing if they are talking about fiddling the modality of premises. But it's pretty clear that this is not what Aristotle is doing; he is assuming that we are talking about predicate modality. The major premise gives the predicate to the conclusion, so if we necessitate the major premise, its necessity-modality carries over to the conclusion; if we necessitate the minor premise, however, the predicate of the premise is the middle term, and thus the predicate modality will not carry over to the conclusion. This does not necessarily address all problems that have been raised with respect to the two Barbaras, but it's a fairly reasonable explanation of why Aristotle says there is a divergence.