Saturday, June 18, 2022

Modal Collapse Again

 John William Waldrop has an interesting paper (PDF) in which he argues that Christopher Tomaszewski's argument that modal collapse arguments (such as those of R. T. Mullins) are generally invalid. Unlike Mullins, he rightly recognizes the importance of rigidity, but I think he still commits similar mistakes. For instance, he proposes this as a modification of Mullins's argument that is valid (with its formalization):

(1) Necessarily, God exists.
(2*) God is identical to the actual divine creative act.
(3*) Necessarily, the actual divine creative act exists. 

Which can be formalized as follows:

(1) ◻∃x (x = God)
(2*) God = ℩x@Cx
(3*) ◻∃x (x = ℩y@Cy)

As I've noted before, classical divine simplicity is not formulated in terms of logical identity but in terms of noncomposition, but setting that aside, a problem with this is that, unless I am missing something important, Waldrop's formalization of (2*) doesn't say "God is identical to the actual divine creative act"; it says "God is identical to that which at the actual world is the divine creative act". Likewise, (3*) doesn't say "Necessarily, the actual divine creative act exists"; it says "Necessarily there is something such that it is identical to that which at the actual world is the divine creative act." There is no modal collapse here unless you assume that what at the actual world is the divine creative act is the divine creative act at every possible world -- that is, unless you already assume modal collapse.

Trying to splice an actual world operator into standard possible world semantics as used in modal metaphysics (in which possible worlds usually take the interpretation 'ways the actual world can be') is tricky business in any case. The way it's usually done, @ doesn't really mean 'actual world'; it merely locks a possible world in as your reference point. That is, there's nothing about the formalism that ties it to the actual world; it just treats one possible world as a reference point, and this then can be interpreted (if you want) as 'the way the world could be that (for whatever reason) we are taking to be the way the world is'. Thus if you took the above argument to imply modal collapse, any necessary existent would lead to modal collapse, because you could use @ to pick out any possible world as your reference point, and every necessary being would have to be identical to itself under some description that obtains at that possible world, so you can always have analogues of (1) and (2*). 

Indeed, it doesn't just affect necessary beings. There are many Box operators, so for any subset of possible worlds you can define a Box operator restricted to those possible worlds (i.e., that would mean 'in every one of those possible worlds'). Every contingent being is 'necessary' if you restrict yourself entirely to those possible worlds whose description includes the proposition that it exists. But every contingent being can be identical to that being which has some descriptive property only in some of those possible worlds. For instance, I am identical to that being who writes this post, but as there are many other choices I could have made, I am not identical to a being with the predicate 'writes this post' for all the possible worlds in whose descriptions I am found. I am only so in this one (or perhaps this one and some very close neighbors). But then you can substitute 'Brandon' for 'God' and 'writes this post' for 'C' in the above premises, and for that restricted Box operator the argument will be valid. Modal collapse! I necessarily write this post for all the possible worlds to which I can be attributed! No, not really; the modal collapse was assumed by thinking that if 'Brandon' is intersubstitutable with what at the actual world is 'the person who writes this post', then 'Brandon' must be intersubstitutable with 'the person who writes this post at the actual world'.

Now, Waldrop to his credit considers something along these lines, although he muddies the water by trying to characterize it in terms of essentiality. He suggests that modal collapse arguments assume the following (and that this is what is really in dispute):

(E) Necessarily, something is a divine creative act only if it is essentially the unique divine creative act.

But this would make all modal collapse arguments question-begging; 'essentially' here has to mean ' in every possible world' and 'unique' has to mean 'one and the same', so this implies that there is one and only one possible world whose description includes a divine creative act. Waldrop tries to argue that (E) is plausible because if it is false, "there could have been something that would have been a divine creative act but would only accidentally be such". Since 'accidentally' here can only mean 'in some possible worlds and not others', Waldrop's argument for the plausibility of (E) is just that he thinks divine simplicity implies modal collapse. The way he tries to fill this out is "I am mystified at the suggestion that a divine creative act, an act that in fact makes the difference between a world in which God alone exists and a world in which God coexists with Richard Nixon and the rest of creation, could be other than a divine creative act." But Waldrop has made the same slip again: the claim, even in terms of identity, would not be that a divine creative act could be other than divine creative act, but that something that is identified with a divine creative act with respect to one possible world would not be identified with a divine creative act with respect to a different possible world. This is not baffling; it just means that 'divine creative act' is a relative term anchored by a contingent relatum, which we already know that it is ('creative' is relative to 'created'). If you assume that it is not, then of course you get modal collapse; you've just assumed that this term applies necessarily to anything to which it possibly applies.

A Poem Draft


As I am clothed with sorrow
I walk this road,
still looking for tomorrow,
when I can lose this load,
but underneath this burden
there is strength to spare
and I can hope to see you
at my journey's final end.

The weight is growing heavy
from a past of tears;
the burden of this levy
consists of doubts and fears;
but as I walk this highway
I can look ahead
and I can hope to see you
at my journey's final end.

My inside, feeling hollow,
is an empty ache
as in this life I follow
the paths that I must take,
but through this bitter journey
my spirits rise aloft
and I can hope to see you
at my journey's final end.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Dashed Off XIV

 rites that recognize vs rites that cause

co-ritualization as the threading together of society

solutions to the problem of being a fallible people with a divine revelation:
A: fallibility is restricted in some respect
--- (1) divine illumination
--- --- (a) prophet (some cults and sects)
--- --- (b) spiritual illumination of each heart (some forms of Protestantism)
--- (2) divine constraint
--- --- (a) part or all of community has authority protected from some error (Catholicism & Orthodoxy)
--- --- (b) community can err but over time receives providential correction without infallible magisterium or prophet (some kinds of liberal Protestantism)
B: full fallibility
--- (3) build a fence out using tradition (Judaism & Islam)
--- (4) reject direct divinity of the revelation (some kinds of liberal Protestantism)

the Church itself as the primary unwritten tradition

The Bible is an intrinsically translatable sacred book because it has a spiritual sense.

prudence as the completion of moral maturity

States designate enemies in order to expand powers.

All legal systems have to presuppose a normal and reasonable way of doing things.

"Revolutions are diseases of rich people." Donoso Cortes

possession of right by immediate title vs by participatory title

The proper counterpart of the Church is not the State but the Civil Society. The counterpart of the State is the Clergy.

human rights as the image of the rights of God (human beings as juridically to the image of God)

"The first axiom and precept in democracy is to trust the people." Maritain

the Mohist account of sacrifice: to make clear that Heaven governs even the Son of Heaven (Mozi 26)

The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in God; this sovereignty alone is wholly one, indivisible, inalienable, and imprescriptible.

social contract as crude substitute for customary law

Customary laws are established by the people, although they may also b given explicit recognition by the state.

'constituent parts of the national sovereignty' (Federalist 32; cp 34)

Chisholm v Georgia (1792): The US is sovereign as to powers of government surrendered, States are sovereign as to powers reserved.
Ware v Hylton (1796): States retain internal sovereignty, Congress has rights of external sovereignty.

C. E. Merriam's division of the senses of 'sovereignty'
(1) the position of constitutional superiority held by a monarch in a State
(2) a relation of State to individuals and associations in its territory
--- (a) either as a power with no governmental or constitutional superior in a constitutional order
--- (b) or as a power to determine the constitutional order
--- (c) or as that power the will of which is ultimately obeyed
(2) a relation of State to State, involving independence or self-sufficiency, international autonomy

When people talk about the sacramentality of creation, they generally mean its liturgiesque aesthetic character.

the text as lectional person
Given a text, we posit a person.

reading as an integration of signs into coherence

past counterfactual -- alt history
far past -- historical fiction
near past -- realist recent
present counterfactual -- realist present
near future -- tomorrow fiction
far future -- standard science fiction
future counterfactual -- space opera

Our sense of what counts as evidence is always affected by what we think will be good for the life of the mind.

archeology fantasy as a genre

holidays as customary signs vs. as imposed signs

"The phenomenon always appears in itself as something more than a mere sensible given. The sound that is just heard appears intuitively as a car horn; what is seen outside the window appears as a pine tree." Hiromatsu

X appears as Y to S qua A
a thing is an object relative to a cognitive power

Note Vermigli's attempt (Eth. Nic 1.10) to reduce instrumental causes to material causes, albeit allowing for differences.

obediential potency as complete capacity for being an instrument

unit of account, mode of payment, medium of exchange

money as a symbol of rule

One's conception of syntax is entirely a matter of one's conception of 'well-formed structure', which is an abstraction out of semantics and implies semantics as an end: it is well-formed for actual meaning.

"Potentiality can be understood only from the viewpoint of actuality." Stein

To have accountability, you must first form community.

A. science fiction of society
--- 1. scientists as society
--- 2. scientists in society
--- 3. society affected by technology
--- 4. history of society in light of technology
B. science fiction as philosophy fiction
--- 1. the sublimity, mystery, or terror of the unknown universe
--- 2. the unknown universe as a realm of intellectual adventure and discovery
C. science fiction of the alien
--- 1. how to kill a strange alien
--- 2. how to avoid being killed by a strange alien
--- 3. how to make common cause with a strange alien
--- 4. how a strange alien becomes human
--- 5. how a human becomes strangely alien

No matter how brilliant you are, there are some things you can do only with vast amounts of information.

the Church as the etimasia of Christ (visible sign of His invisible presence)

jargon // notation

Technical terminology and notation are pedagogical devices, and should be held to pedagogical standards.

Much of theoretical progress in the sciences arises from the attempt to teach the thing better.

Languages, as such, do not encode things; encoding is something done within a language or between languages already existent.

The lex nata is discussed ex intima philosophia.

"In fact we can perceive the difference between good laws and bad by referring them to no other standard than nature." Cicero

"Historians of philosophy, unfortunately, sometimes mistake emphasis for novelty." Rommen

elative vs delative principiation

illative vs allative inference

natural human impulses to institution: religion, family, property, marriage, courtesy, funerals
(all where the practical need for stability and recognizability intersects natural law)

The status civilis occurs within the status naturalis.

State is prior to contract and promise is prior to both.

God alone is truly lex viva.

two common assumptions that interfere with natural theology: all action is incomplete act; all actual being is composite being

"The law of purpose is: *no volition*, or, which is the same thing, *no action, without purpose*." von Jhering
"An act without a purpose is just as much an impossibility as an effect without a cause."
"Nature herself has shown man the way he must follow in order to gain another for his purposes: *it is that of connecting one's own purpose with the other man's interest*. Upon this principle rests all our human life: the State, society, commerce, and intercourse."
"Exchange may be defined as *economic providence*, which brings everything (object, labor, power) to the place of its destination."
"The institution of succession is the condition of all human progress; succession, in the history of culture, signifies that the successor works with the experiences, with the spiritual and ethical capital, of his predecessor -- history is the right of inheritance in the life of humanity."
"A calling which brings only honor but no bread is closed to the man of no means."
"Coercion is effective only so long as the whip is in sight; remuneration works continually."

The ancient principle of the lawgiver (Solon, Lycrugus, etc.) recognizes human law itself as a sort of gift.

Natural law is law in itself; positive law is law-in-gift.

Private organizations and corporate entities that become sufficiently powerful and integral to society drift upward into the state.

Force without law expands; law without force deteriorates.

In a broad sense of law, no force is without law, and the question is just one of the quality, source, etc. of that law. (Force is not accidental shock but a rational thing in some sense.

"Modern totalitarianism is an end product; it is not the opening period of a new era. It is indeed the final outcome of positivism as a general philosophy, as an intellectual atmosphere, as a scientific method raised to the level of the absolute and divine." Rommen

Rule of law is a goal, not a system.

"Human rights are *means*, the minimal conditions for the pursuit of the common good." Michael A. Smith

rights : justice :: values : temperance

Oppression historically is generally grounded on claims about what is safe, not on claims about what is normal.

Naval warfare is a warfare of the hunt.

Nothing is repressive except relative to human nature.

finite capacity to be as the root of entropy?

Determinism is always and only within a boundary.

mutual interaction as a sign of a higher cause of change bringing the interacting things together

PSR as the general form of dialectical maxims.

exchanges (cp. von Jering):

OBJECTpurchase, barterdonation
USE of objectlease (usufruct, ordinary)commodatum, precarium
USE of capitalloan on interestloan without interest
PERFORMANCE of serviceservice contract, involuntary servitudemandatum, negotiarum gestio

presentation of need: offer (in business contracts), request (in gratuitous contracts), begging (in charitable contracts)

law as the owl of Minerva

Thursday, June 16, 2022

The Sacrament of Chivalry

 The seven sacraments of the Holy Church are these: baptism; confirmation; the Eucharist; the penitence that one does for his sins; the orders that the bishop makes when he ordains priests, deacons, and subdeacons; matrimony; and anointing of the sick. By means of these seven sacraments shall we be saved. And the sacrament of Chivalry is obliged to honour and comply with these seven sacraments, and it therefore pertains to every knight to know his office in such matters as he is obliged to.

[Ramon Llull, The Book of the Order of Chivalry, Noel Fallows, tr., The Boydell Press (Rochester, NY: 2013), p. 64.]

Llull is quite serious in calling chivalry or knighthood a sacrament. He does make a distinction (as is clear here) between chivalry and the salvific sacraments of the Church. But it's an essential part of his argument throughout the book that there is an analogy between the temporal Order of Chivalry and the spiritual Order of Clergy. Clerics (which would be minor orders) and knights are the two great orders of service, the clerics serving spiritually and the knights serving temporally. Not all clerics would have full-blown holy orders, and there is probably a closer connection between knighthood and minor orders (ordained lector, subdeacon etc.) than between knighthood and the major orders (deacon, priest, bishop), but the word used in Latin, ordo, would just be used for all of them. In Latin, you don't generally say something like 'the sacrament of holy orders', you just say 'the sacrament of Order'. Thus Bl. Ramon conceives of receiving knighthood as a form of being ordained -- you receive Order of a particular kind -- and receiving spiritual orders, conversely, as receiving a kind of spiritual knighthood. Clerics, whether minor or major, are inducted into this spiritual knighthood; like temporal knights they bring peace to society, but rather than the peace of justice through the sword, it is the peace of mercy and grace through the sacraments.

Knighthood, however, is not holy orders; it is a temporal office and not a sacrament that is either directly or indirectly necessary for salvation. The sacrament of chivalry is a sacrament (or sacramental, as we would usually say today) for laity. What has happened in the priesthood, if I understand Llull's view correctly, is that God has taken something we naturally do -- we give people Order so as to structure society in ways that allow for peace and justice -- and put forward a higher version of it (an Order that gives grace in and of itself); after which Christian knighthood becomes possible. Such Christian knighthood involves bringing one's temporal Order into alignment, value-wise, with the kind of divine and spiritual Order in the sacraments of the Church.

The Book of the Order of Chivalry, which Llull wrote at some point in the 1270s, was an extremely popular work through the rest of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, and thus was a major influence on how knighthood was conceived throughout the period.

Logres III

 Book I continued

Chapter 7

Hearing Merlin's words, Vortigern summoned his men and withdrew to Caerwynt, known to the Romans as Venta Belgarum; but most of the men did not know why, and speculated freely and fruitlessly about the cause. 

Merlin went his own way. Before he went, however, he spoke to Ulfius. "The world changes," he said. "If you aid those who are coming, you will no longer be sent through the land seeking children to kill, a task with which no knight should sully his hands, but will instead have glory whose memory shall last long."

The child then went to the lands north of the Humber, to the place he had sent his teacher Blaise. There he told Blaise all that had happened, and much of what would. He spoke of battles, and Blaise wrote in his book the way the battles would go.

In less than three months, as Merlin had said, Ambrosius and Uther arrived, with Ector son of Kyner at their side; ten thousand knights from Brittany, which the Romans called Armorica, were with them. Vortigern commanded the arms, to defend the ports, but the people were astonished when the boats coming into the haven unfurled the banners of Duke Constans. They sent a message under flag of truce, asking who came, and they received the response, "Ambrosius and Uther, sons of Constans, to retake the lands that were stolen from them and to punish Vortigern who had stolen them." Then, seeing the size of the host under the banners of Constans, and having no great love for Vortigern, the people in charge of the ports exacted a promise of good treatment, and let the fleet disembark. Many of the people there joined the host, including even some who had been Vortigern's men, and Ulfius was among them. Others were sent by Ambrosius, Uther, and Ector as messengers to the various tribes and chieftainships of the land.

As he began to understand that the people would not fight for him, and had turned against him as an enemy, Vortigern withdrew to his unfinished castle, which he called Caer Guorthigern, sending at the same time messengers to Hengist. Ambrosius and Uther came against him and laid siege to him there, but the castle, still unfinished, had many gaps in its defenses. Ambrosius cast fire into it; the castle took to flame; and Vortigern was burned alive.

The people then celebrated, but Ulfius came to Ambrosius, Uther, and Ector and the other leaders of the men as they sat in council, and said to them, "Your war has not ended with the death of Vortigern; it has only begun."

"It is not the time for riddles," said Ector. "What is your meaning?"

Then Ulfius said, "To fight his enemies, Vortigern hired the Saxons and the Jutes, giving them first the Isle of Thanet, then many lands besides. They have brought terror and flame to all of the peoples of Britain, and their host is larger than yours. They march under Hengist, a dangerous warrior, and to have the protection of the Saxons Vortigern married Hengist's daughter Rowena. Now that Vortigern is dead, Hengist will doubtless attempt to seize all that Vortigern ruled in the name of his daughter and in vengeance for Vortigern. In truth, I do not believe Hengist cared at all about Vortigern; but you can be sure he will use this as an excuse to come against you."

Another, Eldol, who was known as the Count of Glevum Nervensis, and who had once been allied to Vortigern, agreed, then said, "Hengist will certainly do anything he can to have the supremacy. In the wars between Vortigern and the Saxons, Vortigern was gravely overmatched, but he received a message from Hengist inviting him to discuss peace at the plain near Sorbiodunum. An agreement was made that both sides should meet without arms, so that friendship might be properly sealed. But Hengist had his mean conceal long knives in their clothing. At the conference, Hengist spoke like a friend, but thinking like a wolf, at the common meal he had the Saxons fall upon the Britons, except for Vortigern. By great good fortune, there was next to me a stout wooden stake, and by means of it I alone escaped the treason of the long knives, as brother and friend fell around me. What Ulfius has said is certainly right; Hengist will seize power in whatever way he can."

"Then we must make preparations at once," said Ambrosius.

Hengist gathered together all the Saxons and Jutes his summons could meet and as it happens, the armies of the sons of Constans and of Hengist met at a place known as Maesballi, where there had long been a Roman fort. Both armies had set out to seize it as a strategic location, but as they had drawn near, their scouts made them aware of each other. One hundred thousand men were in Hengist's army, and only ten thousand in that of the sons of Constance, but the Armoricans were better armed and better prepared, and Hengist chose to withdraw to a place the Saxons called Cunungeburga, where he had a castle. The sons of Constance laid siege, but the castle was well fortified and there were rumors of a gathering Saxon host.  Then the sons of Constance took council with Ector and a number of the British barons, and as they had been rightly warned by Ulfius, they summoned him too to council.

Then Ulfius told them of all that he had seen and heard with respect to the child Merlin, and the British barons confirmed his words. "He is the best diviner, save God himself," said Ulfius, "and I truly believe there is no riddle he cannot solve."

Then Ambrosius said, "If he is anywhere in the land, we will find him."

Chapter 8

Ambrosius sent messengers throughout the realm to find Merlin, and the boy, knowing this, told Blaise of what had trespassed and went directly to the nearest town where such messengers were. However, he appeared to them in the form of a stern-faced beggar, with a long tangled beard for gray, dressed in a torn cloak.

"You are seeking Merlin as your master has commanded," he said. 

They were astonished, saying, "Who has told this carl our business?"

Then Merlin laughed, and responded, "I can find Merlin faster than you can find him." When they questioned him further, he said, "I have known him, and he gives a message for you, that your labor is for nothing, for he will not go with you. But go to your prince and say, first, that he will never win the castle until Hengist is slain, and second, that he should send messengers asking aid from the kingdom of Rheged and Gorre, and third, that if he wishes to find Merlin he should seek him himself in the forests near here."

When he had left, the messengers looked at each other. "We have spoken with the devil," said one. But the others said such a strange event touching on their mission should be reported to Ambrosius, so they returned and told Ambrosius and Uther all that the carl had said. 

Then Ulfius, hearing it all, said to them, "My lords, this carl was surely none other than Merlin."

"Did you not hear?" Uther said. "They met an old beggar and not a young boy."

"Truly, my lords," said Ulfius, "I have no doubt that there is no limit to what the boy can be, if he wants it."

Ambrosius reflected long, then said, "We shall do what was asked. We will send messengers to Rheged and Gorre. I will leave the matter of Hengist in the hands of Uther my brother and Ector my foster-brother, and I will seek Merlin myself."

Then Ambrosius went to the forests of Northumberland. In every town and village they asked of Merlin, but they could find none who knew of him until they came upon a shepherd, who said, "I am merely a servant and have never met such a man, but yesterday I saw a man who said that a great lord was seeking a man named Merlin in the country round about."

"This is true," they said. "Can you tell us where to find this man?"

"If this matters so much," said the shepherd, "I should tell the king myself."

"Let us go, then," they said.

But the shepherd replied, "I have my sheep to keep. But if the lord will come to me, I will tell him of this man."

They returned to Ambrosius and told him of this, and he bade them to bring him to the shepherd, which they did.

The shepherd said to him, "You are seeking Merlin, but you will not find him unless he first finds you. Take lodging in a nearby town and he will find you."

Ambrosius would have asked more, but the shepherd and all his sheep vanished. So he rode to the next town and stayed at the house of the headman.

While Ambrosius was seeking Merlin, Hengist came with his army against Uther and Ector, and many reserves he had drawn up in stealth. Then, as Uther lay sleeping at night, a messenger came into his tent, a blond-haired man brown of eyes.

"Awake, awake," said the man, and Uther woke. 

"Who are you?" Uther asked.

But the man did not answer the question, instead saying, "Hengist comes to murder you in the night. You must rise to fight." Then he gave Uther an accounting of Hengist's army, the men and their equipment, and vanished.

 All happened as the blond-haired man said. The Saxons and Jutes came against the Armoricans, who were hard-pressed in the field, because the Saxon numbers were still greater than those of the Armorican host, and they had the advantage of high ground, although the Armoricans were better armed and better skilled. Back and forth, back and forth, tipped the weight of the battle. But when it was a little past mid-day, horns rang out, and both armies saw another army rapidly drawing near. They were both uncertain of their luck, but soon they could see unfurled and waving in the wind the raven banners of Rheged and Gorre. 

"The Welshmen are coming!" shouted the Saxons to each other, and their lines began to waver.

The Welsh band drove against the Saxon flank, and as the Saxons began to flee, Uther rode hard with his men against Hengist. Eldol of Glevum Nervensis, boldly and at great risk to himself, slew Hengist on the field, thus avenging the treason of the long knives. Then Uther and Ector met with the leader of the warband, who was a youth barely in beard named Urien, son of Cunomarcus the Cold. He had but newly been named chieftain of their tribe when the message had come asking for help against the Saxon.

"Then we rode here with all swiftness," said Urien, "that we might share in the glory of destroying the Saxon. But we would not have arrived when we did, were it not for that we met a beggar on the road. We would have passed him by without regard, except he called out to us, saying, 'If you seek the battle against the Saxons, you will not arrive in time if you keep on this road.'

"'On hearing this, we stopped and asked him his meaning. Then he replied, 'I mean what I mean. The first step in battle is to arrive, and you will miss it. Take instead the side-path up ahead, narrow though it might be, and go straight when it runs out, and you will come directly to the field.' Then he vanished from sight."

Uther and Ector marveled, but Urien said, "Perhaps it is different across the water in Brittany, but in this country, such things are not uncommon."

In the battle, Ulfius had saved Uther from a lucky stroke by a Saxon. They were ever after close friends.

As for Ambrosius Aurelius, staying at the headman's house, the next morning, a handsome man, black of hair and piercing blue of eyes, came to Ambrosius.

"You are seeking Merlin, but he was the man you met yesterday. He has this message for you: You have no need of Merlin, for Uther your brother has slain Hengist."

"May it be so," said Ambrosius Aurelianus. "How does he know this?"

"Merlin gave no more message, but if you do not trust him, you are foolish." And the handsome man vanished.

Ambrosius sent out two messengers to ask Uther if Merlin's message had been right, and they met on the way two messengers from Uther, seeking out Ambrosius to tell him of all that had been done. The messengers returned with the news, and Ambrosius went to church in thanks for it. 

When he was coming out of the church, he met a tall man, red of hair and green of eyes, who asked, "Why does such a great lord as you stay so long in this town?"

"I am awaiting a man named Merlin," said Ambrosius.

"Would you know him if you found him?" said the man. "They say that he is a shape-changer and a lover of illusion, and often walks about in disguise."

"What else do you know of him, good sir," asked Ambrosius.

"As much as a man may know of himself, which is both little and much," said the red-haired man, "for I am he, as I was the shepherd and the dark-haired man." And then, right before the eyes of Ambrosius he took his boyish form.

"What is the meaning of all of this charade?" Ambrosius asked.

"Those who fought Hengist needed to be those who would survive the battle against Hengist," said Merlin. "You have other battles to fight."

Then Ambrosius asked Merlin to return with him to Uther, but Merlin said, "I will come to Uther soon, but until then tell no one but Uther of me."

Merlin then took his leave and went to Blaise, telling him everything that happened, and it had all happened as Merlin had already told him.

"With your insight," said Blaise, "you could surely just tell me the whole tale and would have no need to keep returning to me."

But Merlin said, "I cannot visit my mother, lest the attention drawn to her should destroy her. If I did not visit you, I would be truly alone in the world."

Chapter 9

Ambrosius returned to his brother Uther and his foster-brother Ector, and met Urien of Rheged, and together the four set about on the smaller bands of Saxons and Jutes who had still not withdrawn from the region, or who had arrived to reinforce, as they thought, the army of Hengist. Their success was great, and the Saxons were almost wholly scattered for a time.

In the wake of so great a victory, the armies of Ambrosius and Uther acclaimed Ambrosius the Duke of Britain and Uther the Count of the Saxon Shore. They wished to give to Ector similar honor, but Ector, a modest man, declined. He said to them, "It is to Urien that this honor should be given, for who has done more to aid us." As this seemed good to all, Urien was then acclaimed the Count of the British, an office that had fallen into desuetude in the time of Vortigern. Eldol, who continued to fight with great courage, was acclaimed the Mighty, and all the leaders made a pact to aid each other in time of need.

Now Uther was a man much given to women, and shortly after all of these things, he was visited by a boy whom he recognized as a servant of one of his paramours, bearing a letter. He read the letter, a missive of sweet nothings, and as it was late, he gave the boy a meal. The boy told him many things about his paramour's doings, and in return Uther told him of the many remarkable things that had happened.

"This is truly marvelous," said the boy. "But strangest of all is that this Merlin promised to speak to you soon, but does not seem to have done so."

"Who knows what 'soon' means?" said Uther. "But strange things seem to be in the very air around him."

"Indeed they do," said the boy.

In the morning, Uther broke fast with Ambrosius, for they were both not far from a castle they were besieging, and Ambrosius, hearing about the boy, began to wonder. He begged his brother to bring the boy to him, which Uther did. Then Ambrosius said to him, "Shall you tell him who you are, or shall I?"

"As you wish," said the boy.

Then Ambrosius said, "Brother, this is none other than Merlin, the shape-changer, and the wisest man in the world, who spoke to me in several forms and directed the army of Urien to your aid." Merlin laughed and took again his proper from. Then they begged Merlin to become their counselor.

"I will be with you many times," said Merlin, "though I will come and go, and I will give you such counsel as a I may."

"Then tell us how this castle may be taken," said Uther.

"It is less difficult than you might think," said Merlin. "Since the death of Hengist, many of the Saxons have wished to withdraw, and among them are Octa and Eosa, who hold this fortress. Simply send them a message that you are willing to give them safe conduct to settle at the mouth of the River Vedra, near Alba, on the condition that they make peace with you and do not aid the other Saxon armies. They are men honorable enough to uphold such an agreement."

This Ambrosius and Uther did. Octa and Eosa departed in peace, along with all their men, and the armies of the brothers occupied the castle. Then Merlin told them of a gathering of Saxon forces to the south, bloodthirsty for vengeance for the death of Hengist.

"But do not go to meet them," said Merlin. "Rather, retreat, because a disease from bad water will spread through their camp. Although they are a great host, if you do not fight them before the third day after you first meet them toward the end of June, they shall be weakened and one of you will have victory over them."

Ambrosius, puzzling over this phrase, 'one of you', asked Merlin if one of the brothers would die in the battle.

"Nothing that begins can fail to have an end," said Merlin. "Nor should men be surprised that they may die, and at any time. But swear to me that you will follow my counsel and fight this battle regardless, and I will tell you." This they did. Then Merlin said, "You have sworn to be strong and of good courage in this battle, to be true to God and yourselves. But none may be true to themselves who are not first true to God. Therefore find yourselves a priest to hear your confession, because you go against an army to fight against those who do not believe in the Trinity. Shriven, you shall resoundingly overcome the pagan host, but it is set that one of you shall die, and therefore you must prepare to be summoned before your Lord."

The brothers, stouthearted, then did all that Merlin had counseled, and they gathered a great army on the plain of Sorbiodunum at Pentecost. And the brothers gathered, too, all the prelates and priests that they could, to shrive the men and themselves, so that none might go to battle without having forgiven his fellow and restored himself to charity and clean life. Feasts they had too, and many gifts, until the Saxons arrived in the last week of June. But at Merlin's advising, Uther rode with half the army. There he prevented the Saxons from reaching their boat to sail up the river and did so until the third day and a sign in the sky that Merlin had predicted, a dragon flying the air. When the Saxons saw the dragon, they were greatly dismayed and Uther set upon them vigorously. 

Many died on both sides, for the Saxons fought with vengeance and desperation in their hearts. Ambrosius fell by a spear, but Uther carried the victory. Not a single Saxon escaped.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

'Tis Fearless, Because Pure; and Therefore Strong

 True Valour
(June Fourteenth)
by John Holland

“If thou desire to be truly valiant, fear to do any injury: he that fears not to do evil, is always afraid to suffer evil; he that never fears, is desperate; and that always fears, is a coward. He is the true valiant man that dares nothing but what he may, and fears nothing but what he ought."- Quarles. 

 Nay, tell me not a scoundrel can be brave;
 Howe'er he seems to act a gallant part,
 He bears a craven desperado's heart,
 Who is to lust of gold or flesh a slave:
 All selfish sins the spirit will deprave;
 And though the man may not at shadows start,
 He feels in conscience, a deep rankling dart,
 Keener than sword-wound. Thus doth not behave
 True Valour's impulse, working in a breast
 That knows no crime—that hides no motive base:
 'Tis fearless, because pure; and therefore strong:
 Daring or Reason, or Religion's test;
 Humanity's ally in every place;
 And shrinking but from death, when danger leads to wrong.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Links of Note

 * Nicholas Aroney, Christianity and Constitutional Law (PDF)

* Daryl Ooi, Hume's Fragment on Evil (PDF)

* Douglas Walton, Can an Ancient Argument of Carneades on Cardinal Virtues and Divine Attributes be Used to Disprove the Existence of God? (PDF)

* Thony Christie discusses Sir Kenelm Digby

* Alex Priou, Plato's Republic in Its Thucydidean Context

* Aaron Hughes, Judah Abrabanel, at the SEP

* Valerie Stivers, Cooking with Cyrano de Bergerac

* Katherine Dee, Mass Shootings and the World Liberalism Made

* Stefano Bacin, Kant's Lectures on Ethics and Baumgarten's Moral Philosophy (PDF)

* Thaddeus Metz, Meaning and Medicine: An Underexplored Bioethical Value (PDF)

* David S. Systma, The Logic of the Heart: Analyzing the Affections in Early Reformed Orthodoxy (PDF)

* The open access journal Methodos has an online issue on Argumentation and Arabic Philosophy of Language.

Doctor Evangelicus

 Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church. From a sermon on contrition of heart:

The Psalmist shows what contrition should be like when he says: 

A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. [Ps 50.19] 

In this verse there are four things to note: compunction of the spirit afflicted for its sins; the reconciliation of the sinner; the universal contrition of all sinners; the continued humbling of the contrite sinner. So he says that the spirit of a penitent which is afflicted and pricked for sins by so many trials is a sacrifice to God. It makes peace between God and that sinner, and reconciles the sinner to God; and because sorrow for sin should be all-embracing, the words a contrite heart are added. The word used means, literally, not just ‘bruised’ but ‘broken’. Both these words should be true of the sinner. His heart should be bruised by the hammer of contrition and split open by the sword of sorrow, divided into enough pieces to cover each and every mortal sin, weeping and mourning over them. The sinner should grieve over one mortal sin he has committed, more than for the loss of the whole world and everything in it if he were their lord. By mortal sin he has lost the Son of God, who is mightier, dearer and more precious than all creatures; so he should have a contrite heart, broken altogether, to be sorry for every single thing he has done, neglected or forgotten. 

 The completion of every good action is humility, so in the fourth and last place we hear that God will not despise a humbled heart. Indeed, as Isaiah says: The High and the Eminent that inhabiteth eternity... dwelleth with a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite. [Is 57.16] 

[St. Anthony of Padua, The Sermons of St. Anthony of Padua, Paul Spilsbury, tr. ]

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Fortnightly Book, June 12

 Josephus, son of Matthias, was born to  a wealthy priestly family in Jerusalem; he studied for priestly duties, but eventually seems to have grown tired of them. He went on a diplomatic mission to Rome to negotiate with Nero for the release of some Jewish prisoners, which he was able to obtain by the favor of Poppaea, who had an interest in Judaism, and, after staying in Rome for a while, returned to a nation that was beginning to rise in rebellion against Rome. Josephus was opposed to any such thing, but it came nonetheless; he was appointed military governor of Galilee by the rebels. He was quite competent at this, but was constantly having problems with other rebel factions, which the Romans put to an end by invading. This could have ended very poorly, but he was eventually captured by (or surrendered to) the Romans, and remarked to the general, Flavius Vespasian, that he would be emperor one day. Vespasian was intrigued enough that he kept Josephus for two years instead of sending him on to the emperor for punishment, and Josephus's fortune was made when Vespasian actually did become emperor. He was freed, but stayed generally attached first to Vespasian, then to Vespasian's son, Titus; he accompanied the latter on his campaign against Jerusalem. His service to Titus on that mission -- repeatedly trying to get the Jews to surrender -- branded him a traitor among his own people, but raised him in the favor of the Flavians. They showered him with real estate, and eventually Roman citizenship, at which he took the name Flavius in honor of his patrons. 

He is one of the reasons we have an unusually extensive knowledge of the Jewish role in the Roman empire of his day, something we lack for most other ethnic groups in the empire. The fortnightly book is The Jewish War, the original title of which in Greek was something like 'Books of the Narrative of the Jewish War Against the Romans', which Josephus wrote in part from his own experiences and in part from other sources, in order to correct previous accounts that he thought were false. Supposedly he wrote it originally in Aramaic, but translated it into Greek for the Romans, but we only have the Greek. 

I'll be reading the Penguin Classics version, translated by G. A. Williamson.

Baroness Emmuska Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel; I Will Repay; The Elusive Pimpernel; The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel


Opening Passages: Orczy does beginnings very well, so it's worth indulging in some longer quotations. From The Scarlet Pimpernel:

A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation’s glory and his own vanity.

During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at this late hour of the day because there were other more interesting sights for the people to witness, a little while before the final closing of the barricades for the night. 

And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Grève and made for the various barricades in order to watch this interesting and amusing sight. 

 It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men, women, and children, who happened to be descendants of the great men who since the Crusades had made the glory of France: her old noblesse. Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former masters—not beneath their heel, for they went shoeless mostly in these days—but beneath a more effectual weight, the knife of the guillotine.

From I Will Repay:

"Coward! Coward! Coward!" 

 The words rang out, clear, strident, passionate, in a crescendo of agonised humiliation. 

The boy, quivering with rage, had sprung to his feet, and, losing his balance, he fell forward clutching at the table, whilst with a convulsive movement of the lids, he tried in vain to suppress the tears of shame which were blinding him.

From The Elusive Pimpernel:

There was not even a reaction. 

On! ever on! in that wild, surging torrent; sowing the wind of anarchy, of terrorism, of lust of blood and hate, and reaping a hurricane of destruction and of horror. 

On! ever on! France, with Paris and all her children still rushes blindly, madly on; defies the powerful coalition,—Austria, England, Spain, Prussia, all joined together to stem the flow of carnage,—defies the Universe and defies God! 

Paris this September 1793!—or shall we call it Vendemiaire, Year I. of the Republic?—call it what we will! Paris! a city of bloodshed, of humanity in its lowest, most degraded aspect. France herself a gigantic self-devouring monster, her fairest cities destroyed, Lyons razed to the ground, Toulon, Marseilles, masses of blackened ruins, her bravest sons turned to lustful brutes or to abject cowards seeking safety at the cost of any humiliation. 

That is thy reward, oh mighty, holy Revolution! apotheosis of equality and fraternity! grand rival of decadent Christianity.

From "Sir Percy Explains", the first short story in The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel:

It was not, Heaven help us all! a very uncommon occurrence these days: a woman almost unsexed by misery, starvation, and the abnormal excitement engendered by daily spectacles of revenge and of cruelty. They were to be met with every day, round every street corner, these harridans, more terrible far than were the men. 

 This one was still comparatively young, thirty at most; would have been good-looking too, for the features were really delicate, the nose chiselled, the brow straight, the chin round and small. But the mouth! Heavens, what a mouth! Hard and cruel and thin-lipped; and those eyes! sunken and rimmed with purple; eyes that told tales of sorrow and, yes! of degradation. The crowd stood round her, sullen and apathetic; poor, miserable wretches like herself, staring at her antics with lack-lustre eyes and an ever-recurrent contemptuous shrug of the shoulders.

Summary: When The Scarlet Pimpernel opens, it is late 1792. The French Revolution has created the First Republic of France; the Reign of Terror is slowly beginning to take form, and any ci-devant (i.e., former) aristocrats ("aristos"), or their sympathizers, who are deemed to stand in the way of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, are in danger of the guillotine. However, Revolutionary France is ablaze not just with upheaval but also with rumors of a man, known only under the nom de guerre of the Scarlet Pimpernel who, in almost supernatural ways, has been whisking ci-devants away from the threat of the Madame le Guillotine to the safety of England.

Needless to say, the Scarlet Pimpernel is all the talk in England, as well, where the extraordinarily beautiful and intelligent Frenchwoman, Marguerite St. Just, has married Sir Percy Blakeney, an extraordinarily wealthy and foppish Englishman. They had married for love, but after the marriage, Sir Percy had discovered that Marguerite had denounced an aristocrat, the Marquis de St. Cyr, to the Revolutionary government; she had background personal reasons, but when Sir Percy learned of it, their relationship chilled, with Sir Percy treating her in the same inane, foppish way he treats everyone else, and Marguerite, unhappy, responding by mocking him in public with an art at which only a Frenchwoman can excel. At this point, a new player enters the scene, Citizen Chauvelin, a representative on the Revolutionary government now in England as an envoy, who knew Marguerite before her marriage. Chauvelin has evidence that Marguerite's brother Armand is in contact with the Scarlet Pimpernel, and uses it to blackmail Marguerite into getting information that can lead to identifying the mysterious man. It is not much of a spoiler to note that Sir Percy is in fact the Scarlet Pimpernel; Chauvelin figures it out relatively quickly, and Marguerite not long after. (Indeed, it is a peculiarity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, at least for those of us who know comic-book-style characters who inherit some of his features, that while his identity is a secret, he does not really rely very much on keeping it secret. The secret identity is the least important tool in his kit, and, in fact, he uses it more to build a reputation around what he is doing than to protect himself.) Chauvelin hatches a plan to capture him. But he has not reckoned with the sheer audacity of the man he is hunting.

I Will Repay tells of Juliette de Marny, who had been made to swear as a young girl to avenge the death of her brother, seeking out her vengeance against the man who killed him, Paul Déroulède. It is August of 1793 when Juliette puts her plan into motion; revolutionary tribunals have been set up to try people on suspicion of aristocracy and bad citizenship, and there is an ongoing push to expand who counts as a suspect. She tricks her way into Déroulède's household, where she finds that he is going to be appointed Governor of the prison that is holding Marie Antoinette, and more particularly overhears him discussing with his friend, Sir Percy Blakeney, a plan to free her from prison. In the meantime, the Law of Suspects has been passed, which makes even being a suspected opponent of the Revolution -- defined in a fairly broad way -- a crime. But Juliette realizes a bit too late that she has fallen in love with the man she has essentially sentenced to the guillotine, and no one can extricate them from the mess except the Scarlet Pimpernel.

With The Elusive Pimpernel we get the return of Chauvelin. Chauvelin was somewhat disgraced by his failure to capture the Scarlet Pimpernel before, but, a cunning man, he has used the fact that he is the only one in the Revolutionary government who knows who the Scarlet Pimpernel is to save himself from a harsher fate. Now he is out to redeem himself for the past failure and revenge himself on the Scarlet Pimpernel. He arranges for a French actress living in England to wear a set of distinctive jewels once belonging to the de Marny family to a party hosted by the Blakeneys for the Prince of Wales. He does this knowing that Juliette de Marny has been staying with the Blakeneys, and he uses to instigate a situation in which he and Sir Percy, as a matter of honor, are pledged to a duel in France on a certain day. Chauvelin, of course, does not intend to duel Sir Percy but to seize him, knowing that Sir Percy cannot back down from a duel he was pledged to fight in the presence of the Prince of Wales, but he has also given himself insurance this time by tricking Marguerite so that she becomes his prisoner and hostage. In addition, Robespierre and the Revolutionary government have added a layer of insurance of their own, holding the entire city of Boulogne hostage, threatening to kill the breadwinner of every family if Marguerite St. Just escapes. This was, I think, very well done; Chauvelin's plot covers all bases very well, and the problem of how the Scarlet Pimpernel will save not only himself but also Marguerite and the entire city of Boulogne is one with no obvious solution. But it does have a solution. Chauvelin, here and elsewhere, is always portrayed as an extremely intelligent villain, someone who can plan a brilliant trap, but he is always outmatched by the Scarlet Pimpernel, whose plans are always audaciously simple, precisely because the latter's plans are audaciously simple, and Chauvelin's well-designed plans unravel around actions of the Scarlet Pimpernel that are so impudently bold that Chauvelin could not have anticipated them.

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel is a collection of short stories, generally taking place throughout 1793, that give us a greater insight into how the Scarlet Pimpernel uses one of his tools, the League of the title, and also lets us see his actions from different perspectives. We also see additional dark sides of the Revolutionary Terror, such as the stealing and degradation of aristocratic children, the September Massacres, and endless layers of entrapment. The antagonists are various, but Chauvelin appears in three of these: "Sir Percy Explains", "Needs Must--", and "A Battle of Wits". As the title of the last of these indicates, in each Chauvelin seems to come within a hair's breadth of outwitting the Scarlet Pimpernal, but each time finds himself outmatched.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is primarily able to accomplish what he accomplishes by four things: boldness, a lot of wealth to spread among a very bribable populace, an extraordinary talent for disguise, and a profound knowledge of human nature. The combination of these are very well depicted; the sheer extent of Blakeney's ability to disguise himself is perhaps at the edge of believability, but only at the edge, and everything is brought together in a plausible way in a fantastic feat. I particularly liked how the Scarlet Pimpernel is consistently able to turn the Revolution against itself. For instance, despite the Revolutionary talk of liberty, in Revolutionary France you don't ever want to be seen as standing in the way of government business, because that leads to the guillotine, so someone who can pass himself off as the right kind of government official at the right time can get away with almost anything. Likewise, the Revolution makes a fuss about equality, but in fact people with a certain kind background are, if not quite above suspicion, nonetheless protected in ways that other people aren't. And the Revolution may speak of fraternity, but in a society of informers where you can be killed just for associating with the wrong people, mutual suspicion and enmity provides chinks in what seems otherwise to be an impressive state apparatus. Meanwhile, who is actually representative of liberty, equality, and fraternity, if not the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel?

I also watched the 1934 and 1982 film adaptations of The Scarlet Pimpernel, or rather re-watched, since I had seen both before. (Strictly speaking, the film adaptations mingle The Scarlet Pimpernel with elements of other Scarlet Pimpernel books, most notably Eldorado.) Of the two, the 1934 version (with Leslie Howard as Sir Percy, Merle Oberon as Marguerie, and Raymond Massey as Chauvelin) is the better adaptation. It has a tighter story and better pacing. The 1982 adapation (with Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy, Jane Seymour as Marguerie, and Ian McKellan as Chauvelin) does have some nice features. But, as I said, I had seen both of these movies before, and whereas I had vivid memory of some of the 1934 scenes, I didn't even recall that I had seen the 1982 version before, until I started watching it again. In any case, I don't have much to say about them, beyond the fact that I saw the 1934 version when I was a teenager, and have never forgotten the scene in which Sir Percy first delivers the lines which weave in and out of the stories:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? -- Is he in hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel?

Favorite Passage: There are remarkably many good passages. Some of the humor is very well done. From The Elusive Pimpernel:

“Ah!” said Chauvelin with a sigh of satisfaction, “I see that we are about to understand one another.... I have always felt it was a pity, Sir Percy, that you and I could not discuss certain matters pleasantly with one another.... Now, about this unfortunate incident of Lady Blakeney's incarceration, I would like you to believe that I had no part in the arrangements which have been made for her detention in Paris. My colleagues have arranged it all... and I have vainly tried to protest against the rigorous measures which are to be enforced against her in the Temple prison.... But these are answering so completely in the case of the ex-queen, they have so completely broken her spirit and her pride, that my colleagues felt that they would prove equally useful in order to bring the Scarlet Pimpernel—through his wife—to an humbler frame of mind.”  

He paused a moment, distinctly pleased with his peroration, satisfied that his voice had been without a tremor and his face impassive, and wondering what effect this somewhat lengthy preamble had upon Sir Percy, who through it all had remained singularly quiet. Chauvelin was preparing himself for the next effect which he hoped to produce, and was vaguely seeking for the best words with which to fully express his meaning, when he was suddenly startled by a sound as unexpected as it was disconcerting.

It was the sound of a loud and prolonged snore. He pushed the candle aside, which somewhat obstructed his line of vision, and casting a rapid glance at the enemy, with whose life he was toying even as a cat doth with that of a mouse, he saw that the aforesaid mouse was calmly and unmistakably asleep.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.