Saturday, July 23, 2022

Thus Let Me Live, Unseen, Unknown

by Alexander Pope 

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground. 

 Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire. 

 Blest, who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day, 

 Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixt, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation. 

 Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Dashed Off XVII

This ends the notebook that was completed August 2021. 

"The first and fundamental division of participation is into *transcendental* and *predicamental*." Fabro, "Intensive Hermeneutics"

Necessarily there are contingent truths; therefore there is a necessary such that by virtue of it there are contingent truths.

similarity -> sameness -> the self-same

Human beings use signs as scaffolding for building participation-relations with others.

Law must provide some accommodation to the practices of the people.

Modern states are powerful organizers, but they are also often toxic in their byproducts and eventually degrade whatever they touch.

Herschel's non-eternity argument:
a number of exactly similar things -> they cannot all be eternal and self-existent -> they must have a cause (cf PD sect. 78)
James Clerk Maxwell ("Atom"): "Whether or not the conception of a multitude of beings existing from all eternity is in itself self-contradictory, the conception becomes palpably absurd when we attribute a relation of quantitative equality to all these beings. We are then forced to look beyond them to some common cause or common origin to explain why this singular relation of equality exists, rather than any one of the infinite number of possible relations of inequality."

The two things of primary value in bureaucracy are regularity and recourse.

philosophy as participating wisdom -> highest wisdom (wisdom as such)

By charity, God uses our plurality to transcend our plurality.

Self-labeling is a byproduct of self-love.

Epiphenomenalism involves a confused recognition that objective causation is not efficient causation.

Unseasonable bloom often does not bode well for an idea, whatever its good qualities.

Government bureaucracy works best when it has a lot of time and resources to fine-tune solutions.

independent inroad to position
1. experience
2. testimony
positional node
1. vocabulary/anaysis
2. problems
3. solutions in terms of analysis
network channels to other nodes
1. reduction A to B
2. reduction B to A
3. overlap
4. analogy

pattern languages for traditions
- theoretical-practical intermesh
- shared diverse archive
- multiple levels of access (elemetnary, intermediate, advanced, intensive study, etc.)
- plurality of distinct subtraditions (enclosure of traditions within traditions)

A tradition of uniform agreement and emphasis is dead.

boundaries and adaptables as constituting traditions

"The force that produces, the intellect that orders, the goodness that perfects all things, is the supreme being." Berkeley

Siris 330 gives the reason for the work (cp 350)

"In the administration of all things there is authority to establish, law to direct, and justice to execute." Berkeley

beautiful : sublime :: good : holy :: true : luminous :: one : simple

Arguments, not systems, are formalized.

Systems are interconnected arguments, and the kinds of interconnection are legion and (if the system is of any use) often going to be material rather than formal.

Human products are multiply exemplate.

Difficulty is not relevant to praise except in matters in which we are already inclined to praise.

The Election of Israel is rooted in the creation of the world.

Kant's notion of religion is fundamentally just acting on the idea of highest perfection.
-- Act only according to those maxims that may be regarded as commandments of a supremely holy will.
-- Act only according to those maxims that agree with the idea of a highest perfection.

Diderot associates eclecticism with thinking for oneself (in his article on it).

integrity : one :: debita proportio / consonantia : good :: claritas : true

Public opinion is never a democracy.

(1) Sameness is relative to genus.
(2) Sameness may be contingent or necessary.
(3) Sameness may be vague or indeterminate as well as strict.

It is human nature to protect things one enjoys.

intentional, preterintentional, and unintentional factors in experimentation

Hos 2:216 as a prophecy of the Incarnation

What we know is not primarily a set of true claims; rather we primarily know things truly.

No single set of propositions can adequately express any knowledge.

Not all truths are true in the same way.

To speak of 'all truths' is an indirect way of talking about 'truth' and what 'truth' means.

To be true is to participate in truth itself, which is God.

simple apprehension: being
judgment: X being Y
reasoning: not being both X and nonX

The first form of Marian veneration we find is an angel saying, "Hail Mary, full of grace."

Dt 28:4 -- Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb
Dt 28:11 -- the fruit of your womb
Ps 127:3 -- the fruit of the womb is his reward
Dt 7:13 -- he will bless the fruit of your womb
Lk 1:42 -- Blessed are you among women, and blessed the fruit of your womb.

Note that Lk 1:42 is explicitly said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:41) -- Lk 1:45 links this to the Virgin's faith.

Psalm 1 and St. Joseph

We have divine revelation of the Virgin's blessing beyond other women; it is even doubly repeated, by angel (Lk 1:28) and by prophetess (Lk 1:42).

One reason to be cautious of appeals to efficiency is that efficiency is often the ground for eroding safeguards.

An ideal politics would be an alignment of appearances, benefits, great deeds, and wise actions.

Even malice always traces back to good gone wrong.

"The truly beautiful and noble puts its lover, as it were, at an infinite distance, while it attracts him more strongly than ever." Thoreau (Journals, 17 June 1853)

"Language is the parent of words." Edward Counsel
"An interchange of literature is the conversation of nations."
"Truth is the best advantage."
"Maxims come from any moment."

the phenomenon of the advertisement that is trying to sell you something on grounds that the thing is generally thought to lack (spin ads)

2 Chr 7:12-16 and the Church

No matter how abstract the argument, the language in which we formulate it is historically developed.

Pentecost: the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord

the modern world & pelagianism without God

Defining a problem continues until it is solved.

A good rule of thumb for inquiry is to assume that Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, and Mencius are all at least approximately right most of the time, and when they are not, the reasons for their mistakes are reasonable.

Every right as a liberty-aspect, an equality-aspect, and a fraternity-aspect.

Photorealism misses the true strength of painting, which is to make vivid by suggestion.

Like the sower going out to sow, reason casts broadly many suggestive ideas, but only some land in the right soil.

decadence as a valorization of failures

Particular arguments are always strong or weak within a dialectical context.

Formal registers of a language are required where immediate interactive correction of error or adaptation to particular circumstances is not available.

Grammatical prescriptivism follows from language being used as an artifact for particular purposes.

There is a form of authoritarian statism associated with every form of profession that directly deals with people themselves. The reason for this is that authoritarian statism typically draws its excuses for usurpation from professionals.

Democratic appeal to the people has a natural tendency to recede from appeal to the people in general to appeal to the portion of the people who can be most easily moved or manipulated by others. But the people who can be most easily moved or manipulated by others are very often wounded and broken people.

Change presupposes classifiability.

The more devout you are, the more you recognize the flawed and gappy nature of your devotion.

Change in tendency requires change in end.

Coordination presupposes subordination to something shared.

Evolutionary debunking arguments regularly conflate unreliable with anti-reliable. If my sight is unreliable, I still see, and indeed see real things, just confusedly or sporadically or waveringly, in a way that reason will have to sort out.

Christian culture as an expression of the liturgical commonwealth
Church proper || Church qua liturgical commonwealth
tradition || culture
membership || allegiance
domestic church || Christian household
sacramentality as form || sacramentality as end
solemnity || festival

Sacra doctrina is not "sectarian-based cenoscopic analysis" any more than political philosophy is "partisan-based cenoscopic analysis".

the acquired habit of philosophy vs the infused habit of philosophy
(these both are understood not in terms of doctrines but in terms of actual love of wisdom)

free verse as mosaic-work

Hope is a precondition for widespread hospitableness.

"Like all human activities, the revolution draws all its vigor from a tradition." Weil

Liberalism and consumerism are only consistent with each other up to a point.

Hegel is right that Thalesian water, Democritea atoms, and the matter of early modern philosophy function as "thoughts, universals, ideal entities, not things as they immediately present themselves to us, that is, in their sensuous singularity".

Whether anything is a waste of time is always relative to an end.

errors as fractured intelligibilities

narrative explanations as ways of integrating causal explanations

'Laws of nature' do for modern physics what 'world soul' did for ancient physics.

classification-relative transcendentals

intellect & will as the ways one thing can be everything without ceasing to be itself

Some errors are shortcuts to truths.

It is not possible for any human being to anticipate all possible objections to a proposed demonstration, but most possible objections are irrational.

Being-one-true-good is the progression in causal action. All efficient causation is from actuality expressing itself in a unified way by conformity to an end, in the action itself.

In the Eucharist, Christ practices government (zheng) by moral authority (de), and while remaining in His place, all the multitude of saints turn toward Him, the North Star around which all stars turn. Without shifting about, He brings about transformation; without speaking out, He proves trustworthy; and without compelling, He brings to completion. Holding to simplicity, He manages troubles. Dwelling in silence, He governs activity. Present to a few, He serves all.

wu as 'not' in the sense of 'beyond' or 'surpassing' (like the hyper- or super- of Neoplatonism)
wuji: beyond limit
taiji: utter limit
Zhu Xi: "It is not that there is a wuji outside of taiji."
"The principle of all things in Heaven and Earth is taiji; taiji is just the actualized principle that runs through them and unifies them."
"Calling it wuji correctly indicates its lack of form. It is prior to things, but at not time is it not established after things are. It is outside yin and yang, but at no time does it not act in things. It penetrates and connects the whole; there is nothing which it is not."
"Taiji is formless Dao; yin and yang are formed implements."

Taiji is:
jizhi (utmost), zhigao (highest), zhimiao (most mysterious), zhijing (most essential), zhishen (most spiritual)

the see of Rome as "icon of universal Christianity" (Soloviev)

"Theories of truth" are usually really theories of the purpose of propositions.

All of Kant's modalities, despite the names, are just kinds of possibilities.

freedom as nobilitative transcendental

Normativity is a form of tendency; and this is found even in the way we often speak of it.

Gen. 1 treats creation and division as closely linked.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Doctor Apostolicus

Today is the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church. From Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar (Patrick Colbourne, OFMCap, tr.) (PDF):

 The excellence of Baptism is that it turns the darkness into light, the curse of eternal death into the glory of heaven, the status of slaves of the devil into that of being children of God! The excellence of Confirmation is that it makes us soldiers of Christ, champions and like God in invincible courage and unconquerable strength in combating all the enemies of the living spirit of Christ! The excellence of Penance is that it makes sinners just, and changes them from being vessels of wrath into vessels of grace who are worthy of glory, from being God’s enemies into God’s friends! The excellence of Matrimony is that it weds our souls to God! The essence of Extreme Unction is that it that it enables us to enter the tabernacles of paradise! The excellence of Holy Orders is that it gives us the dignity, the honour and the power to almost be kings on earth! However, this most divine sacrament of the most holy Eucharist deifies us and unites us with God, transforms us into God and makes us many gods. 

The other sacraments are so many vessels of Christ’s grace, this sacrament contains Christ himself who is the plentiful source of grace, merit, glory and divinity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


 Christ loves the Childhood that he first took up in both soul and body. Christ loves childhood, the teacher of humility, the rule of innocence, the image of gentleness. Christ loves childhood, to which he directs the characters of older people, to which he brings back old age. Those whom he would raise up to an eternal kingdom he disposes to follow his own example.

So that we may be able to recognize clearly how this wonderful change might be accomplished and by what alteration we might return to the level of childhood, let blessed Paul teach us and say, "Do not be made into children with respect to your senses, but become very little with respect to wickedness." It is not to the amusements of childhood and to our imperfect beginnings that we must return, but we must extract from childhood something fitting for later years....

[Pope Leo I, Sermons, Freeland & Conway, trs., CUA Press (Washington, DC: 1996), p. 161 (Sermon 37.3-4).]

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Aristotelians and Biological Development

 From Theories of Biological Development, by Melinda Bonnie Fagan and Jane Maienschein, at the SEP:

Aristotelians followed Aristotle and without much further study of embryos interpreted the process of generation, including human development, as gradual and epigenetic. Traditional Catholicism agreed. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas both held that hominization, or the coming into being of the human, occurs only gradually. Quickening was thought to occur around 40 days, and to be the point at which the merely animal mix of material fluids was ensouled. Until 1859, when Pope Pius IX decreed that life begins at “conception”, the Church was epigenetic along with the Aristotelians (see Maienschein 2003).

This is somewhat muddled and mostly not right. The Aristotelians did in fact have further study of embryos. Obviously not every Aristotelian did a special study in the way that, say, Albert the Great did (although in a period in which people's daily lives involved much more extensively with animals than they do today, most of them would have seen plenty of embryos from eggs and the like) and obviously they did not have the benefits of later advances; but Aristotle's own conclusions are at least plausible if your means of study are limited, so what further research they did would have been taken to confirm Aristotle, at least broadly.

They did indeed think that the process of generation was gradual and epigenetic in some sense (when they talk about conception, they don't mean a specific point but an extended process in which materials are cooked together), but this is sometimes potentially misleading, since they held that there were definite stages. Talking about the whole process of generating a human being as hominization is not very accurate for Aquinas, for instance, because the earliest stages are not really hominization at all, but preparation for it, and the actual "coming into being of the human" itself happens suddenly when all the materials are prepared for it. Aquinas, as far as I know, doesn't commit to when this happens. He does mention that Aristotle held that male embryos are fully articulated at forty days and female embryos are fully articulated at ninety days, and that Augustine thinks this level of articulation happens at about forty-six days, but Aquinas himself doesn't seem to suggest any timeline at all for any of it.

Quickening plays almost no role in either Aristotelian or Catholic discussions of the matter. It arises in legal contexts, and it was not intended to convey metaphysical or biological baggage but simply to provide an easily identifiable legal cut-off (namely, when the baby recognizably moves on its own). Despite the name, it should not be confused with animation or ensoulment, which is a different concept; this is an extremely common confusion, but I have no idea why people keep conflating them, unless they just are confused by the name. In Aristotelian biology, animals have souls (that's what 'animal' means, in fact: soul-having), so on something like Aquinas's view, the preparatory stages would already have souls, just not a specifically human soul yet. 

Everyone has of course always held in some sense that life begins at conception; that's what 'conception' meant in this context, the beginning of life, although, again, before post-medieval discoveries about egg fertilization, 'conception' always meant a process over time. Pius IX did not decree that life began at conception, because that was the universal view. Abortion had always been forbidden under canon law, but canon lawyers had always recognized that there were lots of uncertainties in the generation-process, especially early on, that were not easily accommodated by law, and also that in some accounts of it, like Aquinas's, the first stages of the embryo weren't human but merely preparatory to a human being. Because of this, at some point a cut-off was established: aborting after around seventeen weeks (if I recall correctly) was subject to automatic excommunication, whereas aborting prior to then was a less serious offense. Pius IX just made abortion at any stage of pregnancy subject to automatic excommunication; again, this was purely a legal matter. There was no decree of any kind about the nature of conception or the beginning of life. He was actually reinstating a previous decree by Sixtus V from 1588 that had not lasted very long for practical reasons. We don't know for sure the reasons why Pius IX did this, although it's a common view that he thought improvements in biological science made it more obvious that the cut-off was arbitrary.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Music on My Mind


Strawbs, "Benedictus".

Marys and Marthas

 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

[Luke 10:38-42]

I've heard many, many homilies and seen many, many meditations about this passage in my life, but many homilists and meditation-writers seem not to reflect on the fact that Jesus at no point stopped Martha from going about her tasks; he only rebuked her when she demanded that he make Mary do them as well. Notably he also doesn't say, contrary to what you would often find suggested, that Martha was wrong to be engaging in her tasks, but that they were not the necessary and better part. Martha's choice -- which was basically part of her entirely good choice to welcome Jesus into her home -- was not a bad one; it is a common error, but certainly an error, to think that because one choice is better the other choice must be bad. (And this indeed fits historically with the long-lasting allegorical reading of Martha as the active life and Mary as the contemplative life.)

St. Augustine has one of the best reflections on this passage, in Sermon 103, and actually makes this point emphatically, as I discovered after I wrote the above and then asked, "What does Augustine say about it?" (It is also a truly lovely example of one of Augustine's strengths as a homilist, namely, his ability to draw the congregation into the sermon.)

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Fortnightly Book, July 17

 I'm not sure what my schedule will be like over the next two weeks, so I wanted something that would give me a bit of flexibility. I've decided to go with two works by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky: Roadside Picnic (first published 1972) and The Inhabited Island (first published in 1969).

Roadside Picnic is easily the most famous Strugatsky science fiction novel, at least outside of Russia; it was the loose inspiration for a Tarkovsky film (Stalker) and has been translated into languages around the world. Naturally, since the book was originally published in the Soviet Union, it had to pass the censors; the censors for its magazine publication in 1972 imposed only minor requirements, but the book publication was more complicated. It had originally been intended for an anthology that was eventually nixed due to the censors' doubts about the Strugatskys' soundness, and it couldn't be published when things loosened up because there was no money at the time for it. Eventually, they managed to get heavily censored versions through; the earliest English translations were of those butchered versions. My copy is a relatively new translation (by Olena Bormashenko) of the original non-butchered version, with a forward by Ursula K. LeGuin and an afterward by Boris Strugatsky. An extraterrestrial happening called the Visitation has resulted in a number of regions around the world exhibiting strange phenomena and containing artifacts with unusual properties. Nations around the world naturally try to keep a handle on these regions, but a number of people, known as stalkers, scavenge artifacts and try to smuggle them out. In fact, the Visitation was just a pit-stop, for unknown reasons, by an unknown race, and all of the artifacts are just refuse left behind, like from a messy roadside picnic.

The Inhabited Island, published earlier, also had problems with censors. The original magazine version was mauled as well when it was published in 1971. The previous English translation, published in 1977 under the title Prisoners of Power, was based on that butchered version; my copy is a newer version, translated by Andrew Bromfield, which returns in great measure to the Strugatskys' original vision, although a number of minor details from the censored version had to be kept because they became parts of later Strugatsky stories, or else because they ended up being unexpectedly memorable parts of the work. Maxim Kammerer is a space traveler who finds himself stranded on a planet he has just discovered, whose inhabitants have just come through a major nuclear war, and discovers that there is a terrible secret underlying the local population's behavior.