Saturday, May 21, 2022

William Goldman, The Princess Bride


Opening Passage: The book is deliberately structured so as not to have a definite beginning. We could start with the first part of the story that is called "The Princess Bride" in the table of contents:

This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it. (p.1)

Or we could start with the beginning of the story that occurs within the frame story:

The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette. Annette worked in Paris for the Duke and Duchess de Guiche, and it did not escape the Duke's notice that someone extraordinary was polishing the pewter. The Duke's notice did not escape the notice of the Duchess either, who was not very beautiful and not very rich, but plenty smart. The Duchess set about studying Annette and shortly found her adversary's fatal flaw. (p. 39)

Or we could start with the 25th Anniversary Introduction or the 30th Anniversary Introduction, each of which is presented as part of the frame story, thus pushing back the frame story's beginning, although I won't quote them here.

Summary: 'William Goldman', i.e., the character in the book rather than the author, grew up enjoying, as his favorite story, a book by S. Morgenstern, called The Princess Bride. Morgenstern was an author from a place in Europe called Florin, and Goldman's father had been a Florinese immigrant, and read the book to him when he was boy. Naturally, at some point Goldman decides to give it to his son, Jason, with whom he does not have a particularly close relationship. (Again, this is the son of the character, not the author; the author William Goldman had only daughters.) It turns out to be extremely difficult to find a copy, and when he does find a copy, it falls flat as a gift; Jason can't get past the first chapter. Disappointed, he starts reading it himself -- and discovers that he can't get past the first chapter, either. He had never actually read it, himself; his father had always read it to him, and what he discovers is that his father skipped large sections of the book, which were satirical passages extending over many pages on various features of Florinese history and politics. Because of this, he decides to abridge it; it's clear that he wants to keep this connection with the story of "true love and high adventure" because he has none of either in his life.

You'll notice that so far, everything in the story is a (fictional) account of making the story. In fact, the fictional William Goldman is one of the main characters of the story, and keeps popping up in editorial notes and footnotes. The other main characters in the novel are the main characters in the story-within-the story. Thus it's only on page 39 in my edition that we get to Buttercup, and only on p. 42 that we get to Westley, and p. 45 when we reach the primary antagonists, Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen. The frame is not merely a frame; it is structured as the primary story, interacting with the subset secondary story, S. Morgenstern's The Princess Bride. And that book could perhaps be considered another main character. This is in part a story about our connection to stories.

Buttercup is a farm girl in Florin; she is even when young one of the most beautiful women in the world, and will eventually, for a while, become the most beautiful woman in the world. She spends her days riding her horse, named Horse (Buttercup is consistently presented as not having much imagination), and teasing the hired farm boy, whose name we eventually learn is Westley. They eventually fall in love, but Westley leaves for America. He never makes it; the ship is seized by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never takes prisoners. Meanwhile, Prince Humperdinck chooses her to be his bride -- he does not particularly want to marry, because he would much rather be hunting, but practically speaking needs to do so, and Buttercup by this point has reached the top position among the most beautiful women in the world. However, as we discover, he has more to his agenda than this suggests. Before her marriage, Buttercup is kidnapped by three criminals: a Sicilian, named Vezzini; a Spaniard, named Inigo Montoya; and a Turk, named Fezzik. However, as they are escaping with her, they find themselves pursued. Long story short (which after all the very conceit of this book), Westley will have to team up with Inigo and Fezzik, at least after he comes back from being mostly dead, to rescue Buttercup from a terrible fate.

The book, written in 1973, was adapted into a 1987 film, The Princess Bride, which is rightly considered one of the great classic movies of the 80's. It's interesting as an adaptation; allowing for occasionally slight modifications and abbreviations, it follows the subset story quite closely (except in one regard, which I will note in a moment), although it massively simplifies and modifies the frame. This means that the movie is both very like and very unlike the book. As I noted in introducing it, one difference is that the book is pitched to a narrower audience; it is not a children's book. A further difference is that the frame in the book puts a much greater distance between the reader and the "true love and high adventure" than the movie puts between the audience and the same. This difference culminates in the one significant change that I mentioned: the movie deliberately gives a fairytale ending, and the book deliberately denies that it can give one (although it doesn't give a definite unhappy ending, either). The movie tells us that true love and high adventure exist and triumph; the book tells us that we can at least tell stories about them, and maybe they even do exist and triumph sometimes.

Given that the book and the movie are doing different things, it perhaps doesn't make much sense to say which is better, but the book as a book is a good book; the movie as a movie is an excellent movie. The movie benefits from a much cleaner structure. Although the subset story is billed as an 'abridgement', the actual story we get is not abridged; William Goldman (the character, again) has just replaced S. Morgenstern's digressions with his own, although to be fair to him, he is apparently much less verbose. But the movie is also almost the Platonic Idea of a movie adaptation; all of the changes that are made make sense, the casting is practically perfect, and the screenplay written by Goldman (the author, not the character) strikes a near-perfect balance in what to show and what to imply offstage. I suspect that this is because of a convergence of a number of factors. Goldman (the author) was a professional screenwriter; the novel is clearly written to be adaptable to the screen; the screenplay was written by the author of the novel; the director, Rob Reiner, was very committed to bringing it to the screen, despite the legal obstacles that had developed due to the screenplay's languishing in 'production hell' for a number of years; and the casting was done well. The movie actually did only OK when it came out; but it was a perfect kind of movie for the VCR generation, and it did extremely well on home video, and it consistently makes Top 100 lists for movies. Rightly so, I think; I've watched it several times in my life, including the year it first came out on video, and re-watching it again for this fortnightly book, it was quite fresh.

The anniversary editions of the novel have additional frame material. We learn that Goldman, the character, divorces his wife and develops a better relationship with his son, and eventually has an even better relationship with his grandson, also named Willy. Goldman and Willy visit Florin, because Goldman is interested in abridging Morgenstern's sequel, Buttercup's Baby, but it's unclear whether the latter will ever happen, because Morgenstern's estate wants Stephen King (in the novel, he is of Florinese heritage) to do it instead. We get a peek of a 'first chapter' in which a number of things happen to the characters, but in such a way that it's clear that we don't actually know what will happen to them, and that is that. And I suppose that is the fate of all fictional characters; we follow them for a why, but outside the bounds of the story, anything could happen, and we can only guess.

Favorite Passage:

I'm not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all. (p. 358)

Recommendation: Recommended. The book is genuinely good. But also, in honesty, given a choice between the book and the movie, the movie is still the choice to make.


William Goldman, The Princess Bride, Harcourt (New York: 2007).

Friday, May 20, 2022

Dashed Off XI

 To know logical truths is not to know a list of propositions.

cause: (1) diversity of substance (2) dependence of one on another

conjoined instrumental causes
A. Entitative
-- (1) by contact (pen in hand)
-- (2) by real union (hand of man)
-- (3) by immediate presence (sense for intellect)
B. Causative
-- (4) by action (telephone wire by use)

forces as instrumentalities for eduction of material forms

effect in cause
-- (1) in that the effect is encompassed by the action of the cause
-- (2) in that the effect is like the cause
-- -- -- (a) according to natural being and in some specific nature: univocal
-- -- -- (b) according to natural being but not the same specific nature: equivocal
-- -- -- (c) according to spiritual or intentional being as in rest: idea
-- -- -- (d) according to spiritual or intentional being as in motion or deflux: instrument

"All Vedantic texts proclaim with one voice the majesty of the Supreme as a storehouse of numberless auspicious attributes and free from all imperfections. Of these, (1) some represent it as endowed with attributes as omniscience, lordship of creatures, control of beings from within, and other excellences; (2) others describe it negatively as free from such blemishes as sin and suffering and liability to material embodiment; (3) yet others speak of it as being beyond the reach of mind and words, in order to bring home to us its comparative inaccessibility; (4) many others depict it as the only one that exists so as to make it clear that man must seek it to exclusion of all else; and (5) a few more proclaim it as the Self of all, so that it may be realized as conferring on all else their existence, knowability, activity, etc." Jayatirtha (Nyaya Sudha)

Sacrifice cries out to be interpreted allegorically.

Communities cannot be constituted solely by consent.

God as the always-already-there

"I do really assert that thought is made for being as the eye is made for light." Marcel

In every part of Christ's life there is an aspect of deep mystery, and you err if you think you wholly understand it.

practice-work vs. evaluation-work in pedagogy
-- practice-work requires feedback; evaluation-work requires explanation
-- practice-work needs to be multistage; this is not true for evaluation
-- these are not exhaustive-- e.g., reflection-work (but reflection-work could more easily be integrated with practice-work and evaluation-work than they can with each other)
-- practice-work often tends toward, is instrumental for, evaluation-work

shoddy brilliance

Critical thinking is something more earned than taught.

Liberalism as a political philosophy works well for persons qua citizens, but it often errs by ignoring other aspects of persons, and the relationship of citizenship to them.

the nostalgia for paradise and the drive for symbolization (cf. Barfield)

the wish for paradisial reason

We are capable of mixing and remixing mathematical properties at will, but any given mix commits us to the consequences.

"Amongst the many benefits to be expected from it will be the great benefit of drawing the minds of men to liberty, fraternity, and equality of right; not such as the Freemasons absurdly imagine, but such as Jesus Christ obtained for the human race and St. Francis aspired to.' Leo XIII (Humanum genus 34)

universal destination : private property :: global scope of episcopal authority : diocesan jurisdiction

By reading and hearing Scripture, we take part imaginatively and figuratively with the salvific work of Christ; by the sacraments we take part in it really and symbolically.

Christ as the Torii, the Sandoo, and the Musubi

sacraments as media for exemplar causes; in being the exemplar for the sacraments, Christ is exemplar for us through the sacraments

Love purifies, illuminates, and perfects.

cooperation -> compromise -> persuasion -> manipulation -> coercion

'freedom and friendship applied with good judgment'

Christ's entrusting His mother to John as a symbol of the Church being entrusted to the priests

Liberty is, or should be, an accumulating inheritance, with each generation building new frameworks to make possible new, stable, fulfilling liberties.

A market only exists within a system of mutual communication.

good and bad approaches to tradition & the parable of talents

The Church is not a capitalistic institution; it does not exist to get its membership numbers up but to provide the grace that flows not from itself but Christ, by means it did not invent but received and maintains.

As Christ's physical body ascends in miracle and glory, so His mystical body ascends in sacrament and hope.

faith's commemoration, hope's anticipation, love's union

The sacraments must be in the form of signs because we are sensitive beings, and they must be rites because we are rational and therefore social beings.

propaganda-laundering through the press

"The family is natural preparation for communion with God; this is why the devil attacks it." Robert Cardinal Sarah

(1) If there are actual things, there is something actual that explains those actual things.
(2) Take the totality of actual things. Then, by (1), one of these actual things must explain the totality of actual things.

Claims that the PSR entails necessitarianism seem to confuse different kinds of Boxes. Think about this more.

sufficient reason for x requires Box-for-x, not necessarily a general Box

It is impossible to have a proposition that states the whole contingent truth about the actual world.

groups that are explained by one of their members

necessary randomizations

diffusion of ideas as like diffusion through a mass of cells or compartments

pursuits that are part of common good: art, science, religion, politics, education, medicine, law

out of divine silence / angel-song is born

Scripture as an instrument the Spirit uses to give us a usefulness to divine providence vs. Scripture as an instrument we use to progress toward God

There is no genuine progress except progress toward God.

Hierarchy is the infrastructure for progress; it allows you both to scaffold and to filter rather than just to wander. Human beings, however, can only implement and exemplify it in a limited way.

'Deplatforming' is just the modern version of running people out of town.

(thing -> object) -> value

mycelial networks as economies of survival resources

Scripture comes forth from God through the prophets and apostles, but it returns to God through us.

property rights as ritual connection rights

natural, stipulated, and customary rites

Means of production are always by their nature received.

vis cogitativa as sense of classification

Mutual interaction presupposes the agent/patient distinction; otherwise there is no way to identify mutuality.

causal powers partnering with causal powers in mutual/cooperative effect

The tendency to deny causal asymmetry is usually due to confusing causation and its measurement.

the dignity of the social medium

metaphysics as ancillary to sacred doctrine: (1) propaedeutic (2) supplementary (3) instrumental

strophe : dialectic :: antistrophe : rhetoric

A lottery is still designed. All attempts to understand chance through probability theory start from highly structured, rule-following closed systems, like urns with colored balls.

the church edifice as itself an icon

three conditions for an apta
(1) direct cognitive connection
(2) integrity
(3) adequate communication

"He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman." Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.9

Shankara recognizes two kinds of change with respect to the 'material cause': parinama (change of substance), like milk into cheese; vivarta, like silver into the shape of a ring. The world is said to be related to Brahman like the latter.

Vasubandhu's argument against the world having a single cause:
If things were produced by a single cause, they would arise all at once; but they arise successively.
-- If you appeal to distinct desires, these are not one cause.
-- If you appeal to cooperation with other causes, these are not one cause, and the other causes have infinite regress.
-- If you appeal to divine desire being all at once but its effect successive, there is no reason why a desire not efficacious now should be efficacious later.

Families are both civil and religious entities.

cause ( hierarchical act ( rite ( sign

The poet sometimes gets closer to philosophizing with the many than the philosopher does.

logos-, ethos-, and pathos-grounds for trust

Rhetoric is essential to the rational life because there are cooperative matters on which we must deliberate for which we have no technique or method for determining the choices we must make.

What analytic philosophers usually call induction is what Aristotle called argument from example.

justice/injustice, honor/shame, benefit/harm
-- because all of these are considered in rhetoric and persuasive speeches concerning behavior, they are liable to be confused
-- politicians often take advantage of this confusion by shifting from one to another as convenient

"Wealth as a whole consists in using things rather than owning them; it is really the activity -- that is, the use -- of property that constitutes wealth." Aristotle (Rhetoric 1361a)

gifts as tokens of honor

Thursday, May 19, 2022

On Howard-Snyder and McKaughan on Faith

 Daniel Howard-Snyder and Daniel J. McKaughan have a forthcoming paper, The Problem of Faith and Reason, in which they try to propose an account of faith. Unfortunately, the argument is a bit of mess, and I think falls very short of establishing what they hope to establish. Because it's a bit of a mess, it's hard to get a single grip on it, so I'll break up my comments into a few basic components.

(1) Before getting to the argument of the paper itself, I want to comment on the interpretation of Aquinas, who is used as a contrast case. There are several serious flaws in the depiction of the Thomistic account by Howard-Snyder and McKaughan, and this causes problems for their overall argument, which is in part an argument that their account of faith is superior to the Thomistic account. They say:

According to Aquinas, the object of faith is God, but since we have no immediate awareness of God, strictly speaking the object of faith is propositions about God, such as the proposition that God exists or the proposition that Jesus is God incarnate. Faith, then, is an act of intellectual assent to propositions about God. (p. 17)

This is not correct. Aquinas is very clear that, strictly speaking, the object of faith is God as first truth. Propositions are not the object of faith. What Aquinas says is that the object of faith is aliquid complexum per modum enuntiabilis. While God is simple in Himself, as an object of the human intellect, He is thought of in a manner appropriate to the human intellect, which naturally knows by composition and division (by judgment). We think even of simple things in complexifying ways. This 'complexification' is by way of enunciables. 'Proposition' is in many cases a perfectly fine translation, but an enunciable is an articulation of a more fundamental act, judgment, using concepts; it is not an abstract object but a possible expression of thought in an actual context. (This fact, incidentally, is one of the things that leads to medieval logic working somewhat differently from modern logic, as, for instance, when medieval logicians insist that enunciations can change truth value over time.) The point is that the object of faith is something complex by way of its intellectual expression in us. Aquinas flat-out denies (ST 2-2.1.1 ad 2) that the object of faith is enunciables, however; enunciables are means the intellect uses to think; they are not (setting aside purely reflexive cases as found in, say, the study of the logic of propositions) the object about which the intellect is thinking.  (We often find similar confusions when people discuss concepts; for Aquinas, concepts are not what we primarily know, they are the means created by the intellect for the purpose of knowing other things.) The 'per modum' is very important. Aquinas does not think that propositions about God are the object of faith; he thinks they are the tools of faith. (And he would point, as he explicitly does, to the Creed, which articulates the object of faith into propositions, not so that we can have faith in propositions, but so that we can by means of them have faith in God.)

The authors go on to note Aquinas contextualizes faith by comparing and contrasting it with other postures of the intellect, as we might call them, to things that are true and false. Like knowledge in the proper sense, faith is certain. However, knowledge is certain on the basis of proof, which excludes the opposite, while faith is not. Faith thus also has features in common with opinion, suspicion and doubt, which do not exclude the opposite. The reason is that, unlike knowledge in the strict sense, the postures of faith, opinion, suspicion, or doubt are all postures the mind takes in deliberating or investigating. I don't blame Howard-Snyder and McKaughan for missing this, because most people miss it, and it's not always particularly relevant to what people are looking at in Aquinas's account, but it is relevant to the argument in this paper. In the course of deliberating or inquiring, you can take different postures to the things that come up in inquiry, and one of these postures is faith, which is to incline firmly to accepting it because it is taken to be good to do so (which Aquinas calls assent). In the case of the faith that we are primarily talking about here (and this is important for the argument in the paper), this involve three kinds of goodness-to-believe, so to speak: God, the object of faith, is good to believe about; divine authority, which is that which makes it possible for us to have faith, is good authority on which to believe; and God, as the end of faith, is good to direct oneself towards. In Aquinas's account of faith, we believe God by means of God's authoritative revelation so that we may be united to God, at the conclusion of our inquiring, which conclusion is the Beatific Vision, in which we will not merely have faith in God but know God. Thus when the authors characterize Aquinas's account of faith as "believing a proposition about God with certainty, on inadequate evidence, by an act of will, due to an attraction to its being true" (p. 18), this is not correct. Aquinas does not hold that the evidence for faith is inadequate, simpliciter; he thinks it is inadequate for knowledge, because faith is a posture taken in the course of ongoing inquiry that has not reached the point of knowledge. It is not 'believing a proposition about God'; it is believing God about God for the sake of God, which we do (again in our course of inquiry) by using propositions as an instrument for believing, not as what we believe.

It's also worth pointing out, as relevant to what the authors will argue, that Aquinas says that faith is consistent with occasional doubt (ST 2-2.4.8 ad 1). This is inevitable, in fact, because, again, Aquinas takes faith to be a posture of inquiring, and in inquiring we haven't yet proven, and in the course of inquiring we will often shift around a bit, without necessarily changing the dominant posture in which we are inquiring. To take a very common experience of philosophers, you can have a stable opinion that something is true (e.g., that there is a world independent of your mind) and in the course of inquiry, a puzzle comes up that throws you into confusion (perhaps you read an apparently excellent skeptical argument against a key element of your opinion), so that you can be in doubt about your opinion without its ceasing to be your opinion (as people have often said, skeptical arguments don't necessarily change your view even if you find them unanswerable). This is one of the things you work out in inquiry, and working it out is one of the ways -- not the only way, by any means, but one of the ways -- that inquiry enriches our minds.

(2) The view put forward by Howard-Snyder and McKaughan is that faith is what they call 'resilient reliance':

For you to have faith in someone for something is for you to be disposed to rely on them to come through with respect to it, with resilience in the face of challenges to relying on them, because of your positive stance toward their coming through. (p. 4)

This is frankly a little baffling, and while the authors do provide some clarifications, I think they fall short of what would be required to understand what this is supposed to mean, much less how it differs from any other account of faith. But first, I'd like to note an oddity of the structure here. Faith according to the authors has three variable components: you having faith in someone for something. The 'for something' is peculiar, not because you couldn't have faith in someone for something, but because it's quite clearly not true that all faith in someone is for something. If a husband has faith in his wife, it's not for something, it's just faith in her. Now, in particular situations it might lead to faith in her for something, for instance, that she will be able to handle some particular problem well (can be relied on to come through with respect to the problem, as the authors put it), but this is different from having faith in one's wife. You can have faith in a friend without being disposed to rely on them to come through with respect to something particular, because a lot of our faith in our friends is not about them 'coming through' at all. Now perhaps the 'something' is not intended to imply 'something particular', but if we're allowing something general (e.g., having faith in them for reasonableness), it's unclear what 'relying on them to come through' is supposed to mean. It seems like you're just relying on them, not relying on them 'to come through', whatever that would mean here. Indeed, they seem to think that 'coming through' is an intuitive idea rather than (as it is) a somewhat vague metaphor that applies to very different things but also seems not to apply to a lot of situations. 'Coming through' seems to apply only to doings, not (e.g.) to being, or to being present, or to knowing what one is talking about, all of which are things that come up when people talk about religious faith.

It's also notable that Howard-Snyder and McKaughan think that faith is necessarily connected to challenges. That is, on their account, you can't have faith in someone unless it is in principle possible for it to be difficult to rely on them. Thus we can never determine whether someone actually has faith unless we can determine what kind of challenges would make it difficult for that person to rely on them. This is not, I think, intuitive. People of course commonly take faith in someone at its best to be resilient in the face of challenges that come up, but I don't think people generally take such resilience to be constitutive of faith rather than one effect of it.

Another way to consider the point is this. In my Ethics classes, I used to have students write a short essay on a particular virtue, in which they would have to analyze the virtue. One way to analyze virtues that we discussed was to relate it to a major virtue, and in practice we always looked primarily at moral virtues, because it was an Ethics class. A popular virtue to pick was faith, and one way that some students tried to analyze it was to place it in the fortitude family of virtues. The view given by the authors is the same kind of analysis, although strictly speaking they analyze it as a habitus and not as a virtue; their argument is that faith is related to fortitude, which is preeminently the virtue of resilience in the face of challenge. Now, one problem with this as an analysis of faith is that it means that you can't have faith about things that are easy to believe -- apparently at all -- and that you can never know that anything is faith unless you have established that it really is this fortitude-like virtue, which always will require first finding the difficulty it is resilient against. A further problem with it is that it threatens to split faith into a thousand different things. If you think about things that could lead someone in some way to question whether they should rely on someone, they are legion, and can be very different. Some of them are purely intellectual. Some of them are emotional. Some of them are social. It seems you would have to have different faiths for significantly different kinds of difficulties. Both patience and fortitude involve resilience in the face of difficulties, but particular difficulties, like death in the case of fortitude proper. The resilience that people associate with faith seems to handle pretty much any kind of difficulty, which is a sign that the resilience itself is not a single kind of thing, but very different things that are united by whatever it is that faith is.

(3) The previous point is an issue in the authors' analysis of some of their examples, because they regularly assume that there were challenges even when (as with the Canaanite woman) we don't actually have evidence that it was a challenge for the person's own reliance. Nonetheless, their argument is on much stronger ground when we do have a clear notion of the possible challenges -- as with Abraham or Mother Teresa. What they don't really address, though, is the deliberately paradoxicality of these kinds of cases. When Mother Teresa uses the phrase, "to live by faith and not to believe", she's not trying to characterize a constitutive feature of faith in general; she's using a deliberate paradoxical and unintuitive expression in an effort to capture a particular feature of her own struggle. That is, we again are left with the problem that the authors treat as constitutive what could be interpreted instead as an effect in certain kinds of situations.

It's also worth noting, perhaps, since this issue of faith-without-belief is a central pillar of their account, that in the strict sense Aquinas's account of faith does not rule out the possibility of having faith and not belief, because for Aquinas faith is a disposition and belief is an act. Dispositions do not always issue in acts; they can be impeded, or quiescent, or something similar.

None of this should be taken as suggesting that I disliked the paper; I think it's a nice first sketch of something interesting. It's just that, as I said, I think the argument as it stands is a bit of a mess.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Renaissance Popes XIV: Iulius III

 Birth Name: Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte

Lived: 1487-1555

Regnal Name: Julius III, in honor of Julius II, who had elevated his uncle to cardinal.

Regnal Life: 1550-1555

Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte was born in Monte San Severino in Tuscany and studied law in Perugia and Siena. He became Archbishop of Manfredonia when Julius II made his uncle, who previously occupied that post, a cardinal. An excellent canonist, he soon became extremely useful to the papal court and served in a number of administrative functions. When Rome was sacked, he was a treaty hostage given by Clement VII to the Imperial forces as part of the exchange of hostages to guarantee the treaty; since Clement ended up not being able to pay the required amount, he and the other hostages were twice literally led publicly by the Imperial army to the gallows as threats, and likely only avoided death because they managed to get their captors drunk and escape.

He continued to work for the Curia, and in 1536, Paul III made him a cardinal. He was recognized as quite competent, and reasonably pious, but he also developed the reputation for being unrefined and coarse. Part of this was perhaps his peasant-farmer appearance, but he was also not very tactful and not very polite, and had a reputation for telling jokes that were occasionally inappropriate. He was also somewhat nervous in disposition, leading to awkward social interactions, and prone to sudden bouts of anger. Nonetheless, he was also recognized as being quite genial, not inclined to hold a grudge, and occasionally jovial. Paul made him one of the three legates to the Council of Trent, along with Cardinal Pole and Cardinal Cervini. 

When Paul died in 1549, a crisis developed, as seen in the fact that the conclave began November 29 and did not end until February 8 of the following year. The fundamental problem was the ongoing dispute between France and the Holy Roman Empire, which seemed irresolvable and had everything at loggerheads. Charles firmly wanted a pope would reconvene the council on terms favorable to Germany. Henry II of France vehemently opposed any such council, which he thought would favor the Empire. And the Imperial and the French factions  in the College of Cardinals split the college almost exactly down the middle. Both Charles and Henry helped themselves to instructing their cardinal delegates, and continued to do so throughout the conclave. Pole was highly favored to begin with; he had the support of almost all of the Imperial faction and fell just short of the minimum required for election. The French faction, worried that the Imperial faction might dig up the extra votes, made up a story about some of the absent French cardinals being on their way, at Corsica, and dropping strong hints that the French king might not accept a vote if they were left out. So the conclave waited, but when the cardinals never arrived, they went ahead, although not without the French throwing up various procedural obstacles. In a new ballot, Pole fell one vote short of being elected. But by that point there seemed to be no way to dig up the extra vote. His being a foreigner made it difficult to sway an Italian vote; his being young made it difficult to sway some of the older cardinals; and some of the cardinals, like Cardinal Carafa, suspected him of having Protestant sympathies. The Imperialists tried to support Cardinal Toledo instead, but when it became clear that this would not get better results, they went back to supporting Pole. Henry and Charles, seeing the deadlock, began to be much more active, and increased their lists of cardinals who were to be excluded from the papacy at whatever cost, with the result that neither faction had much room to negotiated, because almost all of the major candidates were ruled out, and with the French faction and the Imperial faction being evenly balanced, there was nothing that could be done. Over sixty ballots were held, all of them to no avail. The college established a reform committee to deal with various abuses and violations of conclave rules that had sprung up, and one of the things they did was attempt to restrict communication with the outside world, which was clearly causing problems. At the same time, sickness began to go around. Thus finally, the candidature came around to Cardinal Del Monte. In a sense, he was not even a compromise candidate, which might suggest that he was just an agreed second-best. He was on nobody's preferred list, and strictly speaking, both Henry and Charles had excluded him. It's just that he was not a high priority compared to some of the other exclusions, nobody was absolutely against him, and someone had to be elected. Cardinal Guise and Cardinal Farnese, two of the leaders of the factions, hammered out a deal to elect him, and with some wheeling and dealing managed to get the votes. He took the name Julius III, and it is notable that Julius, under no illusions, as his first act as pope had an official record drawn up and recorded so that nobody would question his election. Henry and Charles were not at all pleased, and all of the cardinals involved had much apologizing to do. 

Julius is a somewhat unusual character. He was sincerely resolved on reform, promising several, starting a few commissions. But he is not at all what you would expect from a reform pope. He really enjoyed big public festivals and large banquets, and these became regular features of his papacy. He spent lavishly on them and was indulgent to any excesses involved in them. This was his most visible feature. It garnered sour looks from the strict reformists in the College of Cardinals, most notably Cardinal de Cupis and Cardinal Carafa, but he basically just ignored them. He enjoyed hunting. He enjoyed gambling, and in particular gambling with high stakes. He enjoyed attending the theater, which was widely regarded as not an appropriate entertainment for a pope. He held parties. He employed quite a few court jesters. He hosted bullfights. And he built a lavish house, the Villa Giulia, which became a social center in Rome. Yet he was undeniably sincere in working for reform.

As soon as he was elected, Julius began negotiations with France and the Empire to reopen the general council. Despite Charles's initial misgivings about the pope, he was soon favorably surprised that the pope was willing not only to open the council but also to do so on terms very favorable to Germany. Julius created a commission of cardinals to begin preparing for the council, which was planned to open in Trent and not, as the Emperor had feared, in Bologna or some other city in the Papal States. The French, however, continued to be opposed to the council, and at one point threatened to hold an opposing French council. Nonetheless, the council opened on May 1, 1551, with Marcello Crescenzio serving as Julius's papal legate. Very few bishops were in attendance, so after some discussion they set the next meeting of the council for September. They became working on decrees on the Eucharist, penance, and extreme unction, but work was very slow, and several of the bishops began to be frustrated with the council's failure to address the kinds of reform that they deemed particularly urgent. Nonetheless, work did continue. At these sessions the bishops began to consider Calvinist as well as Lutheran criticisms, and, significantly, in January 1552 the first Protestant delegation to the council arrived. To be sure, the Protestants did very little but make demands; in particular, they insisted that the council would not be a 'true council' unless Protestant theologians had equal voting power with the bishops and that everyone would agree that the pope would be subject to any decrees of the council. Julius had instructed Cardinal Crescenzio not to admit the Protestants unless they agreed to submit to the council, but Crescenzio, partly under pressure from Charles (represented by Cardinal Toledo), allowed them to have an informal hearing. The Conciliar Fathers were willing to give way on some things. They granted the Protestants full safe passage and delayed any further votes until more Protestants could arrive. They were given permission to address the council itself as long as they did not attack the Catholic faith. Thus far they were willing to go in trying to remedy the German schism, but that is as far as it went. The Protestants had no real leverage in these matters; they were making demands and offering nothing. Nonetheless, it's not that they were insincere; Melanchthon and a number of other German Protestant leaders had already prepared to attend the council, and were literally just waiting around in Nuremberg for permission to go. Charles was trying to enforce his own version of a settlement on the Protestants, and there were plenty of Protestants who honestly thought that they might get a more reasonable hearing at the council, as long as certain conditions were met. But politics here intervened.

Maurice of Saxony had been one of Charles's most important allies in the previous war against the Schmalkaldic League, and because of this he was made Elector of Saxony. But this did not mean that he was sympathetic with the Imperial cause, and while Trent was negotiating with the Protestants, Maurice was signing treaties with France and the Protestant princes. The combination was effective, in part since Charles was not expecting it, and because of it Maurice and Henry were able suddenly to achieve multiple significant victories against Charles in a short period. The Emperor himself was forced to flee. Maurice marched into Tirol, and suddenly Trent was no longer a safe place for a council. In April 1552, Julius therefore suspended the council for two years. Later, in August, Maurice switched sides again, and signed the Peace of Passau with King Ferdinand I, Charles's brother, which gave additional concessions to the Lutherans. Both the possibility and the pressure for Protestants and their opponents to negotiate at an actual council collapsed.

Julius was more successful elsewhere. In 1551, Ignatius of Loyola founded the Roman College (which eventually became the Pontifical Gregorian University). It was an immediate success, and so St. Ignatius, with the support of Cardinal Morone, conceived of a more ambitious educational project, the Collegium Germanicum. Julius liked the idea and chartered it in 1552, promising further support -- although this was something of an empty promise since multiple tolls on the papal purse meant there was not much support to give. It would have a very rocky career, but also would play a significant role in the post-Tridentine Catholic Reformation. Unsurprisingly, the party-inclined pope was more obviously and immediately effective in his patronage of art. For his own house, Julius built the Villa Giulio, which was designed by a team of architects led by Giorgio Vasari; Michelangelo was hired for some of the work. But most importantly, Julius, lover of music, saw immediately the talent and potential of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, whom he made the magiser capella for St. Peter's. Julius could hardly have planned it, but his support for polyphony would add music to the repertoire of the highly effective but by now somewhat flagging Renaissance books-and-buildings approach to evangelism. It probably helped that music is usually much cheaper than architecture; this allowed a considerable expansion of the audience who could be reached.

Some good news happened in England; Mary Tudor came to the throne in 1553 after the death of her teenaged half-brother, Edward VI, and inaugurated the Marian Restoration of the Church in England. In response, Julius sent Cardinal Pole, who knew her (he was the son of Mary's governess). He arrived in 1554. He was eventually, in 1556, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, and became chancellor of the universities at both Oxford and Cambridge. Pole, seeing that Henry's Dissolution of the Monasteries had messed things up in a dangerous way, negotiated a papal dispensation in which those who now owned the property would be allowed to keep it; this further gave him the leverage to negotiate the repeal of some of the laws passed under Henry and Edward. In everything in which we find Pole directly involved, we find a fairly lenient approach taken to English Protestants; however, his health began to fail, and as Mary herself preferred a more rigorous approach, the Marian Restoration took a somewhat harsher turn. However, all of this happened later; by 1555, when Julius died, the Marian Restoration seemed clearly on its way to success in returning England to the fold, and Julius never knew anything different.

Julius tended not to give in to relatives demanding positions, only giving a few to those he thought were able to do the job, but one of the great mysteries of his career is his extraordinary favoritism to Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte. Innocenzo was a street urchin, born of a beggar-woman and an unknown father. He somehow eventually got a position in the Del Monte household. There is no consistent story about how that happened. The pope had hardly become pope when he made the teenaged Innocenzo cardinal. This got considerable pushback from the cardinals (especially strict reformers like Carafa), who noted that he was very young and uneducated for such an honor and, what is more, was barred due to his illegitimacy. So Julius had his brother Baldovini adopt him. And it wasn't just the red hat; Julius showered the boy with lucrative positions and made him Cardinal-Nephew so that he essentially functioned as the pope's chief of staff. The boy was completely incapable of performing the tasks; he was a minimally educated young man, perhaps even just only barely literate, serving as the primary secretary in one of the most sophisticated bureaucratic correspondence systems in the world. So Julius more or less invented a position for him that had a fancy title and no responsibilities by taking a minor position, secretarius intimus, and giving it all sorts of honors and precedences. What is more, Innocenzo was not discrete in his behavior; he did not regard common decencies and at one point had a notorious affair with the poetess Ersilia Crotese. In the gossipy atmosphere of the Renaissance, there was no way that any of this would not be remarked, and since Julius never explained himself at all about any of this, speculations floated freely. There were two very common guesses. The first, and minority speculation, was that Julius was Innocenzo's unknown father. It has the advantage of explaining a great deal, and has the disadvantage of having no direct evidence at all, and no unambiguous indirect evidence, either. The more popular supposition was that Innocenzo was Julius's lover. It's difficult to determine how seriously this should be taken; we have no direct evidence of it, and spreading rumors that someone was having a homosexual affair was practically a Renaissance sport, and such rumors often floated free of any evidence or even any practical possibility. Nonetheless, it was a widespread view, and a common one among ambassadors to the papal court, who would be most likely both to see things out of common view and to give when writing their reports to their sovereigns an at least honest, and not merely tale-telling, account of how things seemed to be. To say that Innocenzo is a blot on the record of Julius's papacy is an understatement. He would long outlast the pope who gave him the red hat. As just some examples of further problems he would cause: in 1559 he murdered a man; in the papal conclave of 1565, he was caught smuggling information in and out in violation of the rules; and in 1567, he was accused of raping two women. When he died in 1577, he was universally despised. He was in mess after mess. He seemed to have had a talent for stopping just short of what would give someone a clear case against him, which is why, despite repeatedly getting in trouble, he kept his red hat and was always eventually released from prison -- the evidence was always a little short of what was legally required (as with the rape accusation), or the situation suggested the possibility of extenuating circumstances (as with the murder conviction), and he was always very good at promising to be better. And it is all because Julius showered him with favors, for reasons we can only guess, and actively ignored any criticism of his doing so.

On March 23, 1555, Julius died. In his last few years he had suffered from gout -- almost certainly a byproduct of his enthusiasm for big banquets, but his end seems unrelated; he stopped eating and had difficulty swallowing. Some have suggested he had cancer of the esophagus, but nobody knows. 

Julius III has a reputation for being a failure, and is often accused of having done very little in the way of church reform. This is not fair. He reconvened the council, which had to be suspended due to no fault of his own; he tried to work out a way to negotiate with Protestants, which failed due to no fault of his own; he supported the Marian Restoration, which collapsed after his death due to no fault of his own; he created quite a few commissions on various matters of reform, some of which even managed to get usable drafts to him before he died. Some of what his contemporaries attribute to a lack of interest in reform was really a willingness to work indirectly by supporting the work of others, which was perhaps most successful in the case of his firm support of the Jesuits and the musical arts. But it is true that Julius's tenure seems something of a lackluster disappointment. It was excellent in very little, its genuine achievements were mostly small and uncertain, and even its flaws were mostly petty and unimpressive. Say what you will about Alexander VI or Julius II, their strengths and their failings tended toward the impressive; you can admire even when you cannot approve. There is nothing at all impressive about Julius III, and this does not seem to have been due only to bad fortune. The papacy was largely sidelined in European politics; most of the reforms were heavy on activity and light on achievement; many of his achievements were mostly just continuing what his predecessor did. And it is difficult, when he spent so much time hunting and gambling and hosting entertainments, to argue that he would not probably have achieved more if he had put more energy and focus into it. It is absurd to say that popes should never relax, and absurd to say that they should never step back and let others work, but it very much seems that there was a wide range of actions that he could have pursued but never did. When almost everything is a day late and a dollar short, it is hard to argue that the man in charge is not at fault, particularly if he's spending large portions of his time in entertainments.

Whatever the reason, by the end of Julius's papacy nothing much had changed; Europe was still deadlocked between France and the Empire. The cardinals would have a bit more luck in finding a candidate than they had for the 1549 conclave. Then again, perhaps they were not quite so lucky.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

How Beautiful, How Fair, How Amazing!

 Who is this blessed one? For his hope is in the Lord his God. But who is He? Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. My brethren, we have a great God; let us bless His holy Name, that He has deigned to make us His possession. As yet you see not God; you can not fully love what as yet you see not. All that you see, He has made. You admire the world; why not the Maker of the world? You look up to the heavens, and are amazed: you consider the whole earth, and tremble; when can you contain in your thought the vastness of the sea? Look at the countless number of the stars, look at all the many kind of seeds, all the different sorts of animals, all that swims in the water, creeps on the earth, flies in the sky, hovers in the air; how great are all these, how beautiful, how fair, how amazing! Behold, He who made all these, is your God. Put your hope in Him, that you may be happy.

St. Augustine, Enarrationes in Ps. 146 (Ps. 145 in modern numbering).

Music on My Mind


BEHM, "Päästä Varpaisiin". The title means "From Head to Toe"; you can get a sense of the song from the last stanza and couplet, which one might translate as something like:

I am very tender, but still sometimes
everything slaps my face with open palm;
I will not let anyone close, and so
no one can know me from head to toe.

But mostly I would like 
for someone to know me head to toe.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Karahan Tepe

 About twelve years ago, I mentioned relatively recent discoveries at Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey, and the strong suggestion arising from them that a common anthropological narrative -- that agriculture is the seed of civilization -- may be wrong. The evidence is that the people who built Gobekli Tepe were hunter-gatherers, and the site predates the known beginnings of agriculture, but the site also of course proves that they had stone buildings and monuments and fairly sophisticated carved art (mostly sculptures of animals), and there is no sign that the buildings were for habitation, which is usually pretty easy to establish, which means that they were ritual buildings of some kind, probably religious. The argument was also made that, given the orientation of the buildings, the builders were deliberately building with a view to the Winter Solstice.

Since then more excavations have been done in the area, known as Taş Tepeler, and the most important, which only really began to be publicized last year, is Karahan Tepe. Like Gobekli Tepe, it is from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A era, but the evidence indicates that it is  likely older than Gobekli Tepe. While there are a number of differences, Karahan Tepe has a number of features, including similar stone building and similar stone carving. The plethora of skull carving suggests association with a skull cult, of which we have much later attestation in the area; the considerable representation of phalluses and statues with their hands over their phalluses suggest some ritual association; and the orientation of the buildings may confirm the Winter Solstice hypothesis. All of those, of course, confirm that the use of the buildings was religious.

This leads to the suggestion that civilization and agriculture arose out of ritual and religion, and the buildings made for such purposes, rather than vice versa. We have to be careful about generalization; the reason the Taş Tepeler sites survived is that they were stone sites at some point deliberately buried, so they reach back to a point from which most other evidence has been destroyed by time. We don't know any details of the rituals that went on there (although there is some evidence of deliberate collection of rain water and of feasting, and speculation has been made, given all the skulls, that they practiced at least occasional human sacrifice), and we also don't know if these people were typical in practice for that time or weird and aberrant, even for the region, much less for humanity generally.

Sean Thomas reports on the site and its significance for The Spectator.

Here's a travel write-up that gives a better sense of how the area looks.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

And the World Is Awake with a Shout

 Night Coming Out of a Garden
by Alfred Douglas

Through the still air of night
Suddenly comes, alone and shrill,
Like the far-off voice of the distant light,
The single piping trill
Of a bird that has caught the scent of the dawn,
And knows that the night is over;
(She has poured her dews on the velvet lawn
And drenched the long grass and the clover),
And now with her naked white feet
She is silently passing away,
Out of the garden and into the street,
Over the long yellow fields of the wheat,
Till she melts in the arms of the day.
And from the great gates of the East,
With a clang and a brazen blare,
Forth from the rosy wine and the feast
Comes the god with flame-flaked hair;
The hoofs of his horses ring
On the golden stones, and the wheels
Of his chariot burn and sing,
And the earth beneath him reels;
And forth with a rush and a rout
His myriad angels run,
And the world is awake with a shout,
“He is coming! The sun! The sun!"

 Currently in the tedium of end-of-term grading.