Saturday, September 10, 2022

Optimum in Gubernatione

 Again, the best thing in any government is to provide for the things governed according to their own mode, for the justice of a regime consists in this. Therefore, as it would be contrary to the rational character of a human regime for men to be prevented by the governor from acting in accord with their own duties—except, perhaps, on occasion, due to the need of the moment—so, too, would it be contrary to the rational character of the divine regime to refuse permission for created things to act according to the mode of their nature. Now, as a result of this fact, that creatures do act in this way, corruption and evil result in things, because, due to the contrariety and incompatibility present in things, one may be a source of corruption for another. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine providence to exclude evil entirely from the things that are governed.

[Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 3.71.4. 'Due to the need of the moment' seems a little weak to me here; I would have translated 'except, perhaps, sometimes on occasion, because of some necessity'. That is, Aquinas seems to be emphasizing the rareness, not qualifying the necessity.]

Friday, September 09, 2022

Dashed Off XXII

 Attingitur inattingibile inattingibiliter. (Cusa)

phantasms as preambles to understanding (Un. Int. 4, Comm. Div. Nom. 4.9)
synderesis as preamble to virtuous act (DV 16.2 ad 5)

It is often easier to be courageous for someone than simply courageous; the same is true of many virtues.

The purpose of even realistic painting is not to approximate the photograph but to suggest more than a photograph does with less than a photograph needs.

modes of scholarship: auctor, scriptor, compilator, commentator

The first principle of productive intellect is: The beautiful is to be made and conserved; the ugly is to be avoided in those ways.

If we take the Merricks condition for truthmakers, X is a truthmaker for Y only if Y is about X, then the principle of noncontradiction is about being, and God (subsistent being itself, whence all other beings have being) is its truthmaker.

truthmaking as a form of participation (or, more precisely, communication, since it goes in the other direction)

"the juxtaposition of doctrines, by comparison, saves the truth, from which follows knowledge" Clement of Alexandria

Bezaleel and the gifts of the Spirit (Ex 31:2-5)

A difference of truth requires a difference in particular possibilities.

Every particular possibility is defined with respect to some truth.

whimsical classification, artificial classification, natural classification

simple games (like simple machines in physics)
-- match A with B
-- find A in this group
-- position A with respect to B
--guess A (but perhaps this is a kind of find)

-- -- FIND games
-- -- -- -- REMEMBER games
-- -- -- -- GUESS games
-- -- MATCH games
-- -- -- -- STATIC MATCH
-- -- -- -- DYNAMIC MATCH
mode of relation
-- -- POSITION games
-- -- IMITATE games

metric vs nonmetric position games: pushpin is metric (positioning is measured), paper football is nonmetric (positioning is yes/no)
-- metric vs nonmetric find games: 52 Pickup and scavenger hunts are metric (find enough o rmost to win); these are many, sometimes very many, cumulative nonmetric find moves find this, find this, find that)
-- metric games in general seem to be layered nonmetric games -- e.g., pushpin is position with respect to this needle, with respect to that needle, etc.) But it seems you can layer nonmetric games nonmetrically -- e.g., obstacle course

ludiformic invariance: consisting wholly of the same structure of simple games regardless of the material embodiment
-- obvious examples are the same game with difference in size (e.g., tic-tac-toe on paper vs on football field) or with different symbols; or playing a two-person game by oneself. Tabletop paper football is ludiformically invariant with fieldgoal kicking, a subgame in American football.

contiguity-goal vs resemblance-goal vs avoidance-goal games

discrete vs continuous layering of games -- e.g., capture the flag seems a continual positioning? But perhaps this is not structurally relevant -- distance or curviness of path is not important. But capture the flag is not pure positioning; it is obstacle course with moving obstacles, and it is this that is perhaps the continuous layering.

serial vs parallel combinations of simple games

FIND games require: (1) field of search; (2) means of search; 3) means of identification

A full theory of simple games would bring us very close to a complete theory of basic cognition.

Pierre Johanns regards the saccidananda as equivalent to the Tat tvam asi: sat // tat; cit // tvam; ananda // asi with the former as objective and the latter as subjective.

"The Lord who is thus established by sacred testimony and by inference is directly seen by some people, since he is an object of experience, like a pot." Udayana

In "Philosophical Studies on Christianity", Brownson collapses the consensus gentium argument into the traditionary argument.

In the long run, ideology always devours action.

There is a kind of wishful thinking that confuses the tragic and the unjust; it takes many forms.

What is called 'progress' is sometimes just a movement from one vice to another.

thanks of relief vs thanks of gratitude

certifying proofs (that) vs grounding proofs (why)

There needs to be a category for mathematical inference less than proof that amounts to something like, 'a counterexample has not been discovered and there is no likely chance that one would be discovered by guess and check'. (semi-security, perhaps)

Simpson's paradox establishes that how one analyzes data depends on causal assumptions.

undermine: default premise
undercut: default inference
rebut: default conclusion

skill/justice convergence fantasies in action movies (the hypercompetent assassin/thief/hacker/grifter/outlaw, but in a situation in which we can cheer their hypercompetence because in that situation it converges on what is approximately just)

Parents when they name their kids aren't giving them bare labels but entries in a sort of social directory.

the plenitude of possibility

Christ's critique of hypocrisy treats it as spoiled promise or potential.

marriage as a freedom-building institution

A larger population of philosophers diversifies philosophical positions but also arguably medocritizes them to more easily defensible and less sophisticated forms.

the self-awareness / self-knowledge of the Demos as the fundamental problem of democracy

convergent vs eminent forms of greatness of nobility

We recognize structure by semiotic comparison, constructing signs to correspond to that which has the structure we are examining.

It is not any arbitrary inequality that matters for justice, but inequality with respect to human dignity. It is not unjust that some are tall and some are short, or that some are liked and some are not; it is unjust that some are treated as inherently to be despised.

marriage as a seed of the ethical commonwealth.

(1) To be a commonwealth, the ethical commonwealth must be enduring.
(2) To be enduring, it must be from generation to generation.
(3) Therefore it must be structured by means of reproduction and education.
(4) These means must be organized in a way appropriate both to the ethical nature and the endurance of the ethical commonwealth.
(5) Therefore there must be a formal institution for reproduction and education in which there are moral safeguards and recourse for all involved.

'Choose life so that you and your descendants may live' & baptism of vicarious desire

the Additions to Esther as a sort of literary commentary

Tanakh ends with Chronicles: the rebuilding of the Temple
Old Testament ends with Malachi: the return of Elijah

When God speaks from the whirlwind, He makes clear that He has no need or obligation to justify Himself at all, for indeed He is God.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Notables and Linkables

* Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) has died, at the age of 96, having recently greeted the 15th Prime Minister of her reign. When she became Queen, Truman was still the President of the United States; she was queen for almost a third of the US's existence. She was the longest reigning queen in all of recorded history. She is succeeded by King Charles III. (There was some question as to whether Charles would use 'Charles' as his regnal name, but it has been confirmed.) He will have big shoes to fill.

* Kevin Vallier, The Moral Imperative of School Choice

* Michelle Cyca, The Curious Case of Gina Adams looks at another case of someone pretending to be a member of an Indigenous tribe to collect benefits

* Suzy Weiss, Hurts So Good, looks at the strange phenomenon of teenage & college-age girls self-identifying as Sick

* Jessica Keating Floyd, Making Pregnancy Safer, at Commonweal

* Thornton Lockwood, Aristotle on Intra- and Inter-Species Friendships (PDF)

* Ed Condon, Is the Order of Malta still 'sovereign'?, at "The Pillar"

* Brendan Hodge, The (papal) saints come marching in, at "The Pillar"

* Wyatt Emmerich looks into the causes of the Jackson Water Crisis, noting in particular that the water treatment plants have been running extremely short-staffed since at least May.

* Joshua P. Hochschild, Porphyry, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas: A Neoplatonic Hierarchy of Virtues and Two Christian Appropriations (PDF)

* Francisco Toro, How Not to Write a Constitution, looks at the recent defeat in Chile of a proposed constitution. The thing was apparently 170 pages long, 388 articles, a very large portion concerned with nebulous matters rather than specific procedures.

* Conor Casey, Constitutional Design and the Point of Constitutional Law (PDF)

* Rosina Filippi, Duologues from Jane Austen's Novels. Filippi is usually credited as the first person to attempt to make dramatic adaptations of Austen; her adaptations became very popular for drawing-room entertainment. It's interesting to see the passages she picked.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Reading Philosophy

 Charlie Huenemann has an article up at "Psyche", How to Read Philosophy. It's not bad, but if you get ten philosophers together and ask them how to read philosophy, you'll likely get twelve completely different approaches; Huenemann's approach is the adversarial method. My own view, to put it in a nutshell, is that while you might use such an approach for narrow specific purposes, as a general approach it is highly detrimental and often leads to very poor reasoning, so I thought I would say something about his claims.

He notes:

The point is that each giant of philosophy was a human being trying to figure out life by doing just what you do: reading, thinking, observing, writing. Don’t let their big words intimidate you; we can insist that they make sense to us – or, at least, intrigue us – or are left behind in the discount book bin. They must prove their worth to us.

This comment captures, I think, a problem with almost all of Huenemann's argument, which is confusion between the individual reader, humanity as a whole, and the philosophy profession as a whole. The 'we' here is unclear, but 'we' do not read philosophy texts -- that is, if there is reading going on, the individual readers doing it -- and individual readers are not what determines whether philosophy texts "are left behind in the discount book bin". The giants of philosophy don't have to prove their worth to each individual reader. They strictly speaking don't have to prove their worth to anybody, but we can say that they have to prove their worth to 'us' in the sense that some kind of 'we' (the kind varies) is responsible for carrying them forward, teaching them, discussing them, building on their ideas. The fact that we are talking about 'giants of philosophy' means that they have already done so. Individual readers can decide whether they themselves want to read, or keep reading, this or that philosopher, but this is a matter of personal taste and circumstances, and has nothing to do with the worth of the philosopher or their texts. The best general approach is not to come to them demanding that they satisfy your tastes and interests but to come to them willing to learn, if you can. Sometimes this might involve objecting to and arguing with them and trying to think through how they would respond; more often it won't.

Huenemann then gives specific advice on reading philosophy:

(1) "Reconsider your expectations of philosophy." Huenemann wants to distinguish philosophy from self-help. This would surprise both Socrates and the Stoics, I think, but is probably a common view among academic philosophers.

(2) "Philosophy requires active, adversarial reading." In reality, sometimes it does but more often it doesn't. A lot of philosophical reading is just trying to understand what is going on and how it relates to other things, which is not adversarial at all. Good philosophical reading is usually active, but sometimes it's not; there's a lot to be said for occasionally just letting yourself be guided through a line of thought. For a lot of texts (Kant, for instance), I recommend that students just read through the first time -- no stopping for notes or comments or objections, just take a stroll through without stopping or letting yourself be bogged down. Many philosophical texts need to be read multiple times; some, like those of Plato, are famous for the fact that you can read them hundreds of times and still be discovering new things. You can usually afford to read them in lots of different ways, and it's usually beneficial to do so. But the thing with active, adversarial readings is that they only really work properly if you've already developed a good idea as to what is going on in the text. Adversarial reading without prior understanding is almost always shallow.

It's also the case, I think, that adversarial reading is harder than most academic philosophers seem to think it is. Academic philosophers over time develop tricks for doing it that non-academics often have never developed. In addition, it's always easier to do adversarial reading if you know the lay of the land, the various possibilities on the table, and as a lot of academic philosophy is specifically about that, so academic philosophers are usually better prepared for adversarial reading by being able to compare what they are reading to other things. For instance, it is easier to read adversarially an argument for nominalism if you already know something about different families of nominalism and about various alternatives to nominalism. 

This is quite universal. I've often complained that academic philosophers read and reason about certain things very, very poorly. Divine command theory is a consistent example -- and the reason is not difficult to find. Academic philosophers are almost always reading the relevant texts adversarially, but very few academic philosophers have training that covers the history of divine command theory, with the result that they don't understand the possibilities available to divine command theorists or how various divine command theories are related to possible alternatives. Therefore their adversarial reading mostly just results in useless trash. This is not because divine command theory is particularly resistant to objection; it's because reading adversarially in a fruitful way requires already understanding the abstract field of philosophical positions within which it is situated and to which it is relevant. Adversarial reading is hard. You have to have a lot of scaffolding in place to do it very well. And it has to be the right kind of scaffolding, too, or you are just going to be misreading. 

There might, again, be particular reasons why you might even so read a text adversarially, in a limited way for a specific purpose -- to help think through a particular argument, for instance, you might approach it adversarially as one of the ways you try to think through it, without putting much weight on the adversarial reading itself. But there are many easier ways to read a philosophical text that have many valuable benefits.

(3) "Philosophy is dialogue." This is probably the point on which I most agree with Huenemann. Philosophy is dialogue, but this is in part because most learning of anything is dialogue, and all reading is dialogue.

(4) "Philosophy is about you." And so it is, except when it is not.

(5) "Make use of secondary sources." This is not, I think, essential to philosophical reading itself, but it is true that there are many resources to aid in philosophical reading, and it is sometimes absurd the extent to which even professional philosophers fail to make use of them. This is particularly true since we live in the twenty-first century and entire research libraries with free access (or free access through library subscription) are literally only a few keystrokes away. Some of the resources are good, some not so good, but all are potentially useful to the thoughtful reader. And Huenemann is right, of course, that friends are sometimes the very best resources for thinking through anything.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

A Scatter'd Drop of His O'erflowing Day

Seraphic Love
by Elizabeth Rowe

 I. Thou beauty's vaft abyss, abstract of all
My thoughts can lovely, great, or Splendid call;
To thee in heav'nly flames, and pure desires,
My ravish'd foul impatiently aspires. 

 II. With admiration, praise, and endless love,
Thou fil'st the wide resplendent worlds above;
And none can rival, or with thee compare,
Of all the bright intelligences there. 

 III. What vapours then, what short-liv'd glories be
The fairest idols of our sense to thee?
Before the streaming splendor of thine eye,
The languid beauties fall away, and die. 

 IV. Farewel then, all ye flat delights of sense!
I'm charm'd with a sublimer excellence,
To whom all mortal beauty's but a ray,
A scatter'd drop of his o'erflowing day. 

 V. How strongly thou, my panting heart, dost move
With all the holy ecstasies of love!
In these sweet flames let me expire, and see
Unveil'd the brightness of thy deity. 

 VI. Oh! let me die for there's no earthly bliss
My thoughts can ever relish after this;
No, dearest Lord, there's nothing here below,
Without thy smiles, to please, or satisfy me now.

Monday, September 05, 2022

Nel Noddings (1929-2022)

 Nel Noddings, a notable philosopher of education, apparently died on August 25. I touch on her views in my Ethics class; she's a major figure in what is usually called the Ethics of Care.

Noddings takes education to arise fundamentally out of care relationships. These care relationships are characterized by three features:

(1) The carer devotes close, careful attention to the needs, wants, and actions of the cared-for. Noddings calls this engrossment.

(2) Out of this engrossment, the motivations of the cared-for become part of the motivations of the carer. This is motivational displacement.

(3) So far, we only have the carer's side, but a care relationship by its nature needs to be a relationship. However, we can't assume that the care relationship is symmetrical. For instance, babies can be in a care relationship with their mothers, but babies don't have the kind of understanding of what is happening that would be required for engrossment and motivational displacement. Babies can't care for their parents, they can only be cared for. There are many analogous situations. Nonetheless, even babies are responsive to care; they adapt how they communicate their motivations, they make clear what they like and what they do not like, and they even, as they develop, return attention to the limited extent they can. This response suffices for a relationship.

This is what is involved in caring for something; but Noddings notes that there is a secondary and derivative kind of caring, caring about something, in which we have a first step, so to speak, in a care relationship, but the attention and displacement are relatively perfunctory, as when you donate a given amount of money to a charity -- you've paid attention, and taken into account what was needed, and acted upon that, but then you just move on. This is more important than it might sound (it plays a significant role in the working of society, and caring-about can facilitate the development of caring-for); but we ultimately learn how to care about things from our caring-for relationships.

Noddings's view is that many of the things that we think of as moral guidelines and rules are actually things that develop out of our experience with care relationships -- learning from care relationships we have had with parents and teachers of various kinds, we develop a sense, and sometimes articulate accounts, of what is required to make care relationships sustainable and constructive. What is more, it's care relationships that give us a sense that morality matters; we want to be moral to enhance our caring relationships and see ourselves as competent carers. Thus there is no real distinction between 'ought' and 'is'; oughtness, as she puts it, is part of our isness, because 'ought' arises to facilitate relationships we cannot actually do without. This is a purely descriptive point; many of our 'oughts' just are, as a matter of all actual human behavior, things we use instrumentally to be in certain relationships.

She also holds, and this is where the account of care plays a role in her philosophy of education that care relationships of various kinds form the natural soil for teaching and learning. In an ideal educational situation, teachers (of whatever kind) model a certain, perhaps limited, caring; this is expressed in a sort of dialogue, a give-and-take, between teacher and student; students are given practice in at least caring about things, and reflection on what is involved; and students are given encouragement and tailored advice in this dialogue and practice.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Look in the Sea and Deep

 Human Nature
by Edward Doyle

The ocean, holding pure the azure's blue,
 Laughs at the tempests, with one empire's dust
 After an other, to round out Earth's crust.
 Ah, so does Human Nature hold the hue
 It takes from heaven, its conscience, and laughs, too,
 At madness, wrecking life and with its gust
 Forming new islands, where Pride, Greed, or Lust,
 Welcomes the crater's glare, in sun-light's lieu.

 Look in the sea and deep, what scattered rock,
 The islands which at dusk, the tempest piled!
 Ere rose a star, they sank with crews, beguiled.
 O Tempests that with world formations, mock
 The good Creator, how, as ye grow wild,
 Earth quakes and no live thing survives the shock.