Saturday, February 05, 2022

That Not Any Flesh Might Boast

 For the foolishness of God
is wiser than men,
and the weakness of God
is stronger than men.

Consider your calling, brethren,
how not many wise according to the flesh,
not many powerful, not many nobleborn,
but the foolish things of the world
God has chosen
to bring to disgrace the wise,
and the weak things of the world
God chose
to bring to disgrace the mighty,
and the lowborn of the world,
and the despised,
God chose,
and things without substance,
that things with substance He might abolish,
so that not any flesh might boast before Him.

Because of Him, however,
you are in Christ Jesus,
who has been made to us wisdom from God,
justice, and purification, and ransom,
that, as has been written,
'Who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.'

[1 Corinthians 1:25-31, my translation.]

Friday, February 04, 2022

Dashed Off III

 "When a sign produces an effect, it is never insofar as it is a sign." Maritain
"The craftsman's creative *idea* is in no way a *concept*, for it is neither cognitive nor representative; it is only generative, it does not tend to make our mind conformed to things, but to make a thing conformed to our mind." Maritain

moral causality & coins 'containing' value

gift: aptitude for being given; what is given has aptitude or relation both to the giver and to that to which it is given; implies something belonging to another through its origin (must belong in a way to the giver); not called from actually being given but from the aptitude to being given; properly an unreturnable giving, i.e., what is given but not with intention of return of that thing (contains the idea of gratuitous donation); the reason of donation being gratuitous is love, so love has the nature of first gift through which all free gifts are given. [ST 1.38]

sacrament as power of grace, as relationship with (relating to) God, as membership/participation in divine society (Kingdom of God)

facts & states of affairs as beings of reason

'depends on reason'
1. as effect on cause
--- a. as from efficient cause (e.g., art)
--- b. as maintained by quasi-material cause (e.g., habits)
2. as object cognized (ens rationis)


"For a lover's first gift is his own heart, and when this gift is received and deeply appreciated by his beloved, it joins the two by an intense inner bond." John of St. Thomas

(1) intrinsic denomination
--- (a) by identity
--- (b) by inherence
(2) extrinsic denomination
--- (a) by extrinsic relation (urine is healthy as a sign of health)
--- (b) by extrinsic foundation of relation (ground is sunny from sunlight)

By beings of reason, the intellect makes what is not directly knowable as being into something indirectly knowable on the model of being, thereby coming to a richer understanding of what can be known directly as being.

The basis of gratitude is that the gift in some secondary way remains the giver's; qua gift it retains the relation of its being from the giver.

using being as a diagram for lack of being (negative impress); using one being as a diagram for another being

A hole can be understood either negatively (what would fill it but does not)  or relatively (with respect to nonhole context, e.g., as a passageway).

liberal arts as facilitating the formation of useful beings of reason

Classics as a field is concerned with literary (and, when taken in a broader sense, artistic) treasures pertaining to the common good of the human race itself.

Thing as Existent (A) | Thing as Intelligible (B) ||| Intellect as Formally Signifying (C) | Intellect as Power (D)
--- B + C = Understanding

The sacraments as signs are unions with the mind; the causal work of the sacrament makes use of this union.
-- the perfecting causality uses the semiotic causality as part of its disposing in the full causal act itself

"The *object* is one with the thing and differs from it only by a virtual distinction of reason." Maritain
" one single and identical act, the mind *conceives* (gives birth to) the thing in the concept and *perceives* it as object." 

Concepts are simultaneously the purest form of sign and the purest form of means.

waterless clouds carried by winds, fruitless harvest trees, doubly withered, uprooted, fierce sea-waves foaming their shameful deeds, wandering stars detained in the murk of perpetual shadow

Jude 21 as Trinitarian

sacraments as distributions of the merit of Christ

Christ's miracles as symbols of the sacraments

Gal 3:27 and baptismal character

real presence -> real holiness

The sign 'produces' knowing not as efficient cause but by taking the place of the object in such a way that it is related to what is known through it.

The sacraments are occasional causes for certain kinds of effects, although not their primary ones; in particular, they are occasional causes for certain kinds of cooperation between God and the soul in reception and edification.

moral causality: coin containing value, sack of money containing price of freedom
Cano: rememorative instruments of the pact by which God promised the application of Christ's merits by bestowing grace when the rite is applied

Insofar as we consider the sacraments only in their working by semiotic causality, they do not reach to causing grace but to disposing for it. However, this semiotic causality is in the sacraments of the New Law transfigured and used by God instrumentally; qua used as divine instruments, the signs cause grace.

The pactum theory of sacramental causality is not a fiat theory.

intention with respect to sacramental rite
(1) jocose
(2) external
(3) internal
-- 'internal' here means the internal nature of the sacrament, not a secret intent on the part of the minister; when the minister has the internal intention, he aims at the Church's sacrament, not merely the appearance or caricature of it.

Berkhof claims that the sacraments of the OT are not essentially different from the sacraments of the NT on the basis of 1 Cor 10:1-4, Rm 4:11, 1 Cor 5:7, and Col 2:11, but in fact all of these only establish that the sacraments of the OT are genuinely sacraments and that the look forward to those of the NT.
Berkhof claims that there were only two OT sacraments: circumcision and passion (sacrifices and purifications he calls 'other symbolical rites').

Every small pain can in some context be a pleasure, without ceasing to be a pain, thus showing that pain and pleasure are not direct opposites.

"It is those that do nothing that lack the time to do anything." Manon Roland

quasi-existing nonentities (cracks, holes, imaginary time)
pure nonentities (nothing)
impossibilities (square circle)

proxy uses of entia rationis vs scaffolding uses of entia rationis (two different ways they can be used to simplify reasoning)

a hole/gap/crack may be *used*

jokes as verbal magic tricks (and magic tricks as sensible jokes)

theories of truth as theories of (our knowledge of) the external world

quasi-existing nonentities as involving both negation and relation: mere negation gives us something indefinite; relation can give us something particular, so you need the latter to specify a particular nonentity

the juridical external world

three purposes of contract: to resolve or prevent dispute, to achieve mutual benefit or mutually to avoid harm, to facilitate acts of virtue

Kenelm Digby's account of grace in the postscript to "Observations upon Religio Medici" conflates it with providence.

distinction as negation of identity-relation

negation, relation, negation of relation, relation of negation

titles: (a) claims (b) rights-to

Marian assent in the Eucharist

"We may say that all eating and drinking is an attempt to reach towards the communication we will find only in Christ." McCabe

"To the degree that man's understanding of the transcendent is weakened, so also is weakened his self-consciousness and his ability to experience the perspectival structure of time." Dooyeweerd

Nouns signify things as if subsisting according to some qualification; verbs signify things as if operating according to some qualification.

Baber's account of the Eucharist seems to be a moral impanation.

"All theological theories of the Sacrament agree that its meaning lies in the fact that while it is performed as a repetition in time, it manifests an unrepeatable and super-temporal reality." Schmemann

"The Sacrifice of Calvary, as a great supra-temporal reality, enters into the immediate present." Karl Adam

The sacrifice on the Cross, qua sacrifice, cannot itself be clocked in the way Christ's physical suffering and dying on the Cross can.

"The sacrifice of Christ subsists under three different modes. It is the same priestly action which took place in a precise moment of history; which is eternally present in heaven, and which subsists under the sacramental appearances." Danielou

The divine idea of sacrifice has the Crucifixion and the Session and the Mass as exemplates.

connoisseurship of translations like connoisseurship of wine

descriptive vs evaluative wine judging

A purely individualistic society would be one in which every individual is exposed like a raw nerve.d

"The understanding naturally seeks and bursts out into manifestation." John of St. Thomas

We all, by reason itself, have a moral responsibility to listen peaceably to honest arguers. The difficulty is that honest arguers do not wear a divinely given sign that says 'Honest'. And what counts as 'peaceably' can vary considerably, as well.

configurative signs

"Every finite spirit believes either in God or in an idol." Scheler

Republic Bk II on the errors of the poets indirectly establishes three things about the Good: it is one, it is self-diffusive, and it is immutable.

usury as sophistry of finance

The Jewish shepherds were spoken to directly by the angels; the Gentile Magi had to follow a star based on their own skills, and then get further information from the Jews, who, even when not seeking Christ, had by prophecy and Scripture more specific information about Him than the Gentiles.

Memory is not about storage and retrieval, which, to the extent they are involved, are a means, but about turning and returning oneself to what was.

The Church feeds by signs as well as by alms.

Natural rights are participations of rational creatures in divine authority, as providence for oneself and others.

The state is a conjoined, not a separate, instrument of civil society.

The modern world tries to dissolve everything into formless matter, in an attraction to a kind of false infinity.

Both the End in Itself and the Kingdom of Ends formulations require that maxims be judged by appropriateness and inappropriateness as well as universality; which is in fact recognized by Kant himself in his ethical discussions.

journalism as a sort of historical fiction, putting the reader into the event

The Devil tempted Christ with three temptations: to make bread from stones, to avoid death by the power of God and the angels, to receive the kingdoms of the world. Christ's miracles in His ministry are a rebuke of these three. Christ makes bread from bread; He dies to rise in power; and He does not receive the kingdoms of the world except by ascending to receive them from God. The reason for the difference is that the temptations are to do flashy things for His benefit, but Christ's ministry is to act for our benefit.

Zechariah 3:8 -- 'men symbolic of things to come'

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Regretful Lilies

 Vanessa Brassey has a very nice short essay at The Philosopher's Magazine, How Do Monet's Water Lilies Convey Regret?; it gets into deep issues without being in any way technical or difficult. I did want to comment on one point of it:

A first answer riffs off central cases. The picture looks regretful just as people do. But this doesn’t work for obvious reasons. When we see Jane as joyful, or Roger as regretful – we are connecting their look of joy or regret with a belief about them feeling joy or regret. But Water Lilies does not feel anything. We see the regret but we don’t believe the painting feels regretful.

This seems to confuse expressiveness with actual expression. We know that when we see Jane as joyful that this cannot be reduced to connecting her look of joy to a belief about her feeling joy because there is an entire profession, acting, that consists of people cultivating things like looks of joy that do not lead us necessarily to believe that they feel joy; and because there are fields of art, like cartooning, that depict things like looks of joy on characters that do not exist; and because there is a common act that we can discover, deception, in which people have things like looks of joy that we recognize don't go with feeling joy. Our navigation of these matters at the very least has an element of thinking of the actual through the lens of various possibilities, including at times counterfactuals or uncertain possibilities. 

This perhaps ties to Brassey's larger point, though. Monet's lilies can convey regret because actual lilies under certain conditions can. We find landscapes as expressive as paintings of landscapes -- perhaps more expressive, at times. This would cause problems for Brassey's suggestion that "regret cannot manifest independently of a regretful somebody" but recognizing that we think the actual through counterfactuals and mere possibilities in landscapes means that we can recognize landscapes as also expressive in reference to 'somebody' (this landscape could be used to express regret, this landscape is as if a person is using it to express regret) without having to introduce a very complicated account of how this would work.

Other posts I've done that are relevant to this topic: Theories of Musical Expressiveness, Joyful Meadows and Sad Skies.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022


 There's a general nervousness in the Austin area today because tomorrow we get hit with our first winter storm since last February's winter storm disaster, which shut down large portions of the state. It's an interesting sort of nervousness -- everybody's better prepared in general, there have been extensive improvements, nobody thinks that it's likely that we will have a similar disaster or, indeed, even be very inconvenienced, but everybody's still a little bit short of confident.

We often talk about doubt as if it were purely cognitive, but this seems rarely to be the case. Descartes was, I think, right that a purely intellectual doubt is something you have to work at, practice, to achieve. Our doubts in any area of life are generally due to broader motivations, which may be of endlessly many kinds. One bad incident may make us wary even if we know it to be a fluke; one bad association may weaken a trust that you thought unshakeable. But it's also the case that a lot of these motivations are transient or condition-dependent. This was recognized by Pascal. There are many situations in which doubts are primarily based on the passions and emotions you are feeling, and in such cases doubts are resolved not by answers but by changing how you do things. Your doubts about God might vanish just from going to church more often; your doubts about your spouse or your friends might disappear just on spending more time with them; your doubts about your society or your nation might cease if you stopped being on Twitter. It will just depend on the situation.

Likewise, sometimes all you need to handle doubts is to succeed at a test you failed before. And I suspect that this is probably related to the kind of nervousness in central Texas right now. On the one hand, everybody dreads it a bit. On the other, it's probably exactly what's needed, which is why people also have an attitude of, "OK, here we go....", like the one you have right as the roller coaster is getting to the top.

Lumen ad Revelationem Gentium

 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Raphael Presentation in the Temple

Raphael, The Presentation in the Temple

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

There Are Suns Beneath My Floor

Morning Song of Senlin
by Conrad Aiken

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.
Vine leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chips in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face!—
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea. . .
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me. . .

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.
Vine leaves tap my window,
The snail-track shines on the stones,
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
Repeating two clear tones.

It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, I tie my tie.
There are horses neighing on far-off hills
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with rains. . .
It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor. . .

. . . It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know. . .
Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

This is the poem that gives the title to the third book of L'Engle's Time Trilogy, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. The poem's interweaving of the very mundane, the cosmic, and the spiritual captures a great deal of the mood of the series, I think.

Monday, January 31, 2022

The Kindly Gift of Rain

Ballade of Rain
by M. A. B. Evans 

With patter soft and still,
The rain falls, day by day;
The street becomes a rill,
The dust a mound of clay.
The children, at their play,
Are stopped, in field and lane;
They doubtless would gainsay
The kindly gift of rain. 

The mists across the hill
Show ne'er a sunny ray.
The waters of the mill
Flow like a torrent gay.
The wind, with gentle spray,
Wipes off the earth all stain,
And clears the dirt away,
The kindly gift of rain. 

With fresh new strength we thrill;
O'er tasks we ne'er delay.
All duties we fulfill
With vigor, as we may;
And, eager for the fray,
We plan a week's campaign
At something,--'neath the sway,
The kindly gift, of rain. 

Not sun alone makes hay;
That proverb is quite vain.
Both time and strength repay
The kindly gift of rain.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Fortnightly Book, January 30

 Madeleine L'Engle and her family were traveling from rural Connecticut to New York City in 1959 when suddenly she thought of three character names: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which. The story of A Wrinkle in Time began falling into place almost directly, until it became, as L'Engle described it, 'a psalm of praise to life'. L'Engle had considerable difficulty finding a publisher, however; publishers were baffled by a book that seemed to use the tropes of a children's book but was so much more advanced than their conceptions of a children's book. The literary agent L'Engle had hired actually gave up on it and returned the manuscript. So it would all have ended, except that L'Engle threw a small Christmas tea party for her mother and one of the guests, hearing the story, connected her to the publisher John C. Farrar. Farrar did not publish children's books at all -- but he liked the story and agreed to publish anyway. It was an instant success.

In 1970, L'Engle wrote a short story in which Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which send Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace to a school on another planet; it was in a sense just a quick bit, but as it intersected reading about mitochondria, which raised the idea of a work not about the macrocosm, like Wrinkle, but about the microcosm, it became A Wind in the Door. The third work in the series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, followed in 1978.

There are two other works that are often bracketed with the first three, Many Waters and An Acceptable Time. I don't have An Acceptable Time -- which gives a story of a later generation -- but I do have Many Waters, so I'll add that to the mix, to make the 'Time Quartet', as it is called, the reading for the next fortnightly book.