Saturday, December 30, 2023

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant


Opening Passage:

You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated. There were instead miles of desolate, uncultivated land; here and there rough-hewn paths over craggy hills or bleak moorland. Most of the roads left by the Romans would by then have become broken or overgrown, often fading into wilderness. Icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land. The people who lived nearby -- one wonders what desperation led them to settle in such gloomy spots -- might well have feared these creatures, whose panting breaths could be heard long before their deformed figures emerged from the mist. But such monsters were not cause for astonishment. People then would have regarded them as everyday hazards, and in those days there was so much else to worry about. How to get food out of the hard ground; how not to run out of firewood; how to stop the sickness that could kill a dozen pigs in a single day and produce green rashes on the cheeks of children. (p. 3)

Summary: Axl and Beatrice are an elderly Briton couple living in the days of peace imposed long before by King Arthur on Britons and Saxons. I say, "days of peace", but it's an unsettled time as well; the land is covered by a mist, there are ogres in the mist, and people seem often to be on edge and suspicious of strangers. More than this, however, there is a general forgetfulness lying on the land, which comes and goes, mist-like, across people's memories, and this imperfect oblivion leads to entire people being forgotten. Axl and Beatrice set off on a journey to visit their son's village after a series of events leads them to remember that they had a son and had been discussing whether to visit them. It's a dangerous journey, but in a Saxon village they fall in with Witan, who rescues a boy, Edwin, from ogres. Edwin, when recovered turns out to have a wound, which people assume to have been inflicted by the ogres in the mist; this leads the perpetually suspicious villagers to try to kill him, so Witan and Edwin join Axl and Beatrice on their journey, heading to a monastery. The monastery they find divided over how to treat strangers, but they are helped by a monk named Jonus. They also meet an aging knight of King Arthur, no less than Sir Gawain himself. Sir Gawain informs them that he is on a mission from King Arthur, given long ago, to kill the dragon, Querig, who is the source of the mist and the forgetfulness on the land; there is some tension in the company when it turns out that Witan is on a mission from Lord Brennus, the primary Saxon leader, to kill Querig also, which offends Sir Gawain. Nonetheless, there is something odd about Sir Gawain; his approach to finding and killing the dragon seems rather leisurely and even aimless, and he makes a number of comments suggesting a pacifist view in which massive bloodshed is to be avoided at all cost. There are also some hints (which turn out to be true) that both Witan and Sir Gawain have met Axl before, in a time that Axl doesn't remember at all and Witan only dimly remembers. Sir Gawain knows more about matters than he is letting on.

Some of the monks in the monastery conspire with Lord Brennus to murder the travelers, who escape with Jonus's help due to Witan's skill as a warrior. Witan turns out to be using Edwin to find the dragon -- the supposed ogre's bite is actually a dragon's bite, and gives Edwin a connection with Querig, and Axl and Beatrice become involved in a scheme to kill the dragon Querig by poison, which Sir Gawain grudgingly aids. And then all comes to a head.

King Arthur had imposed peace on Saxon and Briton alike; he had aimed at doing so by the Law of Innocents, in which treaties were established that women and children on both the Saxon and Briton side were not to be harmed. These treaties had been brokered by Axl in his youth, when he had been an ambassador for King Arthur. But the difficulties of keeping the peace had grown great and King Arthur had eventually broken his own treaties himself, massacring a number of Saxon villages. Then, with the help of Merlin, he had captured the dragon and placed it under an enchantment to make its breath the source of the mist and the forgetfulness. Thus the massacres were suppressed into oblivion, and Saxons and Britons no longer fought because they could no longer remember any reason for fighting. Sir Gawain's approach to killing the dragon was so odd because his mission was not to kill the dragon at all, but to keep it alive as long as possible. Sir Gawain, trying to preserve the dragon and the forgetfulness so as to maintain the peace of the land, fights Witan, trying to slay the dragon and end the forgetfulness so that the Saxons will rise up in vengeance and massacre the Britons. The dragon is slain and the mist and oblivion begin to lift; memory and vengeance have won. The forgetfulness begins to clear from Axl and Beatrice, as well, and they remember that their son has died; they also begin to remember things that will test their love for each other.

The book is often said to be about the problems of collective remembering and forgetting, but I'm not sure its conception of these is sufficiently coherent for it to be effective on that ground. The essential dilemma, however, is interesting: is it better to remember wrongs so that they may be dealt with, even if horribly, or to forget them and have a sort of peace, although with nothing ever resolved. We know that the Saxons will, in fact, massacre the Britons; but the oblivion of the dragon's breath had not actually eliminated the tensions, but just generalized them (thus the general suspicion of strangers throughout the land). And in Axl and Beatrice we see an analogous problem. They approach their death, and wish to do so assured of their true love for each other. But how can you know that you have true love without memories? On the other hand, if you remember, you will remember reasons not to love just as easily as you will remember reasons to love. Memory and oblivion are both indiscriminate; they bring the bad as well as the good, and sometimes the bad is quite terrible.

The book is written well, and the story overall is interesting, but I don't think it is an entire success. Part of the problem, I think, lies with Axl and Beatrice, who have to carry a significant portion of the story, but who on their own are dull as dishwater. There is, I suppose, something realistic about them, but the result is that portions of the story are like being stuck in a car on a road trip with an elderly couple with memory problems commenting to each other on everything that is happening. The story, including that of Axl and Beatrice, picks up considerably with the entrance of Witan and Sir Gawain, both of whom are considerably more interesting. The narrative (as opposed to thematic) link between the story lines -- the love of Axl and Beatrice on their quest to find their son and the mystery of the dragon -- is also weaker than it might be; Axl is the essential bridge, but Axl doesn't actually remember anything about his connection to the latter until very late, and even then it doesn't play much of a direct role. But again, the story surrounding Sir Gawain and Witan is itself quite interesting. The Arthurian background plays a fairly minimal role in the actual story, however; the primary narrative element it really contributes that could not easily be replaced is our knowledge that King Arthur quelled the Saxons for a time but only for a time, with the Saxons eventually overruning the Britons. 

A number of reviews have said that the book is a 'fairy tale for grown-ups'; but this does not, I think, do justice to the book. The real fairy tales for grown-ups are just fairy tales. Things marketed as 'fairy tales for grown-ups' are usually quite stupid and gimmicky, and this book is very definitely neither stupid nor gimmicky. It also does sometimes have a real fairy-tale quality, down to its brutally unhappy and melancholic ending. Where it differs is not in being 'for grown-ups'but primarily in the way novels often differ from other kinds of tale, with a much weaker emphasis on objective meaning and a much stronger emphasis on the psychological. Some of this is very interesting -- but despite its many excellences, I do at times wish that the book were more fairy tale and less novel.

Favorite Passage:

"What is it you ask, Axl?"

"It's simply this, princess. Should Querig really die and the mist begin to clear. Should memories return, and among them of times I disappointed you. Or yet of dark deeds I may once have done to make you look at me and see no longer the man you do now. Promise me this at least. Promise, princess, you'll not forget what you feel in your heart for me at this moment. For what good's a memory's returning from the mist if it's only to push away another? Will you promise me, princess? Promise to keep what you feel for me this moment always in your heart, no matter what you see once the mist's gone." (p. 258)

Recommendation: Recommended; it develops slowly, but by the end is quite interesting.


Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant, Vintage Books (New York: 2015).

Friday, December 29, 2023

Fire Serpent and Water Mountain V

Beginning -- Previous.

The Tavern was full of gods, more than Tera had known in her entire life, and the blizzard of ever-shifting possibilities that came from all of them being together took her breath away. None of them even glanced their way, beyond venturing an occasional greeting for Amaethon, but she felt that when they entered, the entire disposition of the room had changed. Nobody was looking at them, but everybody was paying attention to them.

As for Uncle Llew, being in the presence of so many gods seemed to change him physically. All of the gods seemed preternaturally real, but Llew in their presence was almost overwhelming; the rapid shifting of possibilities that she always sensed around him accelerated to the point of being almost dizzying, so that the gods, so well rounded compared to the occasional Vilim servants who flitted around the room, seemed flat next to him.

They made their way to an empty table in the back and Amaethon ordered small beer from a Vilim barmaid. Then he turned to Llew. "It is good to have you back in The City of the Gods. You have been away far too long."

Llew's demeanor, already cold, became icier still. "I did not leave willingly, if you recall. We were banished."

"You were asked to leave for a hundred years," said Amaethon, "until things could settle down. Here it is, almost a millenium later, and you only now return. You should not have denied the clan your talents."

Llew's face grew darker. "What obligations do I have to people who betrayed me and my sister?"

Amaethon's mouth set in a firm line, and it seemed to Tera like all of the tables around them tensed. "We only sought peace in a feud that was quickly growing worse. And even if it were not so, your obligations to your clan are still your obligations."

"No law binds the gods," said Uncle Llew mockingly. "Is this not the saying? There is no obligation. To support one's clan is a courtesy, in exchange for benefits received from the clan."

"You are as haughty and obstinate now as you ever were. Your clan supported both you and your sister," said Amaethon.

"Yes," said Llew, "until you betrayed us. You deserve no trust, and the loyalty you will have will be commensurate with the good you do us."

Amaethon clearly bit back something he was tempted to say. Then, after looking off into the corner of the room a moment, he said, "Very well, then. Have it your way. But you are also here. And your clan is still your clan, however the past may tangle that. We are still here for you." He looked deliberately at Tera and then significantly at Llew. "Both of you."

The small beers came at this point.

"In any case," said Llew, "I am here not for anything to do with myself, but for my niece, so that she might know something of her clan and The City before she is Enrolled."

Amaethon visibly relaxed. "We are glad of it." He smiled at Tera. "You are from a family of extraordinary ability. I have no doubt that you will be the pride of the Embiadwe."

"I doubt that I am so extraordinary," said Tera, "but I am excited to be here."

They all finished their small beers in silence punctuated only by the most inoffensively bland comments. Then Amaethon said, "The Platform at Brickanbreck has been prepared, if you wish to use the public Platform here."

"No," said Llew, "I think we will take a wagon up; this is Tera's first time, and a wagon will let her see more of The City."

"Of course," said Amaethon, "I considered that possibility, so there is one ready for you." He smiled ingratiatingly at Llew, but any charm the smile might have been throwing at him bounced off Llew's impervious armor. He thanked Amaethon and they both left the Tavern.

Outside, they find the wagon waiting. Uncle Llew immediately set about examining it closely.

"That was uncomfortable," said Tera to Llew.

Llew, engrossed in his examination of the wagon, did not look up as he replied, "Oh, Amaethon is harmless; he is not intelligent enough to be a threat." He suddenly stopped, and a smile of almost mischievous delight broke over his face. He put his finger to his lips then pointed at a portion of a beam on the under side of the wagon. 

Tera did not immediately see what Uncle Llew meant, but then she caught it. It was a wooden pin or dowel set into the wood. It was in many ways entirely ordinary. It looked like a wooden pin. It was helping to hold a board in  place. But the possibilities associated with it were subtly off. Because it was actually functioning as a pin should, those possibilities were more obvious and immediate; but there were possibilities available to the pin that would not have been available to a mere wooden pin. They were the possibilities of something with a memory, something that could record what was said around it; the pin was in fact an artificial ear, set there as a spy. She would have missed it entirely if Uncle Llew had not pointed it out, but now that she saw it, it was very obvious.

"Yes," said Uncle Llew gleefully, and very loudly and deliberately. "I've always said that Amaethon is a talentless hack who has spent his entire life failing upward. One might as well feel threatened by a monkey." He climbed into one of the seats of the wagon, and tapped the seat next to him. "Let's be off. Whatever may be said of The City, it is a beautiful place, and I want you to see it while the light is still good."

to be continued

Dashed Off XXXVI

 The theoretical and the practical are united in the personal.

1 Cor 12:3, Rm 10:9, and Phil 2:11 establish that 'Lord' is not merely a courtesy title but something very substantive.

Acts 8:26-35 Scripture is only perspicuous in light of Christ and His gospel.

canonical criticism
(1) intertextual effects of textual juxtapositions
(2) redaction criticism in reverse view
(3) forms of reception in reading community
(4) genre-functions relative to other texts or within a set of texts qua anthology

Every genuine gain of historical-critical method can be reconstituted outside it as causal inference; it is scaffolding, not the thing itself.

the Scriptural text as an artifact of liberal art

What we read, we read under a relational description.

One thing that makes genres in cinema tricky is that every genre admits of camp and noncamp versions, and the camp versions are distinct from parodies.

Human relationships tend to erode because of our passibility.

1. form object on thing qua cognizable
2. react by will to thing as object
3. reflect on reaction
4. form object on thing as object for reaction = value
5. use value to guide further action

constancy of entropy as perfect irreversibility of process

Luke regularly uses unviersal indicators (all, every, the whole world) in circumstances that clearly suggest that he doesn't mean it to be taken literally, but as generality indicators.

(1) structures as residuations of actions (traces)
(2) structures as media of action
(3) structures as instrumental extensions of action

"...just as objects are what things become in experience, so signs are what objects become...." Deely
"The objective and the physical depend upon one another without being coextensive and without being articulated in the same way."
"Objective causality occurs in anture itself wherever there are instances of relationship -- that is to say, it occurs everywhere in nature. The dinosaur, long dead, is present in the fossil bone as its extrinsic specifier, which enables the scientist -- paleontologists in this case -- definitely to classify a bone as belonging to a brontosaurus rather than a pterodactyl."
"The so-called physical world exists within the world of experience, but it is not *as* experienced that the physical world is properly called physical; *as* experienced, it is properly called *objective*."
"The partial coincidence of objective structures with structures of physical being within sensation and perception is the zoosemiotic basis and ground for all studies and experimentation properly termed scientific."

Texts are not mere strings of signs but collective signs in which sign are the means by which a unifying sign signifies.

Texts too extensive to cognize all at once must be conceived as having a beginning, middle, and end. This is either a mnemonic ordering (like a dictionary organized by alphabet), or a customary access ordering (like beginning with one physical end of the book according to the custom of which direction the scroll or codex is read), or an ordering of internal plausibility, which is narrative. A text may even have multiple such orderings, in various combinations.

imaginative: object :: estimative : value
value-saliences : value-types :: concrete : abstract

plausibility as the result of profile-fitting

The actions of the Church as Church are actions with-the-Spirit; but with-the-Spirit admits of degrees of closeness and farness.

the commens as the possibility of the universe of discourse

semiotics as the general study of disciplina and its elements

Building sign-systems adequate to the uses of intellect and will is an immense task, so this gives importance to the sign-heritage that is 'traditioned' to us and that we receive as heirs.

postulation as an act of free decision

If the intellect understands B through A, the will can will, as collative power, B through A, or it can just will B, or just A, or it it can will B and not A, or A and not B. If the intellect understands B as similar to A, the will as collative power can will B with A or just A or just B.

Linnaean classification as a system of honors

"Ens ut primum cognitum is a notion sui generis, prior to all predication as that which makes predication possible, from which all other notions of being, logical scientific, or metaphysical, are derived ab intra..., and on which all other specifically intellectual notions depend." Deely

A mind-dependent relation may denominate and be verified of things in a state of independence of cognition (e.g., 'title' in law, or 'citizen' in politics). Mind-dependent relations that denominate and are verified of things insofar as it is cognized are second intentions.

The canonical gospels regularly associate events in Jesus' ministry with towns. In this they differ sharply from apocryphal gospels.

Pain and pleasure, like hot and cold or like pressure, are experienced as boundary crossings.

Human beings have no intrinsic title to the service of another human being; the extrinsic titles are:
(1) rightful authority
(2) just contract
(3) remedial repair
(4) just punishment.

The term 'patriarch' is first used in the fifth century of the bishop of Rome, and extended out from there.

A contract is the mutual formal formation of mutually beneficial right within the overlap of the freedoms of the parties involved.

To base Christianity on experiences is to base it on what is seen.

Hobbes takes ransom contracts to be valid by default, where no law prevents them; but it is clear that they are only valid due to shared customs of honor.

Covenant presupposes right, not vice versa.

All Sherlock Holmes versions have an intrinsic reference to Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, which is the primary version of the character; they are allusive of Doyle's Holmes stories, linked in a web or network.

The acts of the Church are more Christian inasmuch as they refect the Notes of the Church; and more worldly and less Christian the less they do so.

injury as right-violation vs. injury as harm

Value is not measured by appetite but by the good to which appetite is directed.

On Hobbe's account of artificial persons, an artificial person is a natural person insofar as he is representative of other persons or things.

The multitude is naturally one as well as many, because everything identifiable as a many is in another way identified as one.

Personation is always personation *to* another.

The Son personates the Father ontically,  morally, jurally, and sacrally; this is recognized at the Annunciation, at the Baptism, at the Transfiguration, and is sealed by the Resurrection and recognized as permanent by the Ascension and Session.

powers of bishops as to office
(1) supervisory (properly episcopal, the root power)
(2) synodal
(3) custodial
(4) incidental
-- (1) is concerned with sacraments and proclamation; (2) with cooperation with other bishops; (3) with the inheritance of the see, as in custody of saints, of physical instruments, and of spiritual practices; (4) arise by secular customs or customs of Christendom that extend particular powers for various conveniences.

History shows that even schismatic sees, when the vehemence of the schismatic acts abates or the cause of the schism vanishes, tend to fall back toward communion with the Chruch, tend to assimilate to the nonschismatic sees. This tendency may be disrupated by new refreshments of the schism, by other resentments that take up the schism as a rationalization, by external meddling, by isolation, or by catastrophic preventing acts of reunion, but the tendency remains, nonetheless.

The universal Church wells up from inside the particular church.

An episcopal conference is the instrument of its synod.

the most central see

In beautiful things we learn something of our own beauty; in sublime things, we learn something of our own sublimity.

Nothing fails to work like a riot.

It takes centuries to refine a good concept properly.

Rights are expressions of the right within a community.

Every intact manuscript of the canonical gospels attributes them to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Christ on the Cross personates us all.

"Rights are made Realities in human Society by its conduct as a Society." Whewell

the Decalogue as indicating the essential institutions of civil society: religion, marriage, family, property

Gal 6:10 "the household of faith"

and we who once were of the household of fate
are now become of the household of faith

"The parts of the body which seem weaker are indispensable." 1 Cor 12:22

peace as the opposite of confusion (1 Cor 14:33)

Conscience is judicative and only incidentally legislative.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Contingency and Rationality

 The type of universe whose investigation requires the methods of modern science must, I would suggest, have two characteristics: contingency and rationality. If rationality were absent, there would be no laws for science to discover; if contingency were absent, there would be no need for empirical observation and experiment, for every truth about the world could be deduced from first principles. The combination of the two characteristics is precisely correlative to a technique which believes that there are uniformities in nature and yet that these uniformities need to be discovered. 

[E. L. Mascall, Existence and Analogy, Longmans, Green and Co. (New York: 1949) p. 9.]

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Epistemology and Metaphysics

NIECE: Elsa has magical powers.

ME: Yes, she can cover everything with snow and ice.

NIECE: Yeah, but we don't know HOW she does it, because Elsa is NOT real!

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Monday, December 25, 2023

Sunday, December 24, 2023

O Christmas Tree (Re-Post)

This is a re-post from 2021.

  As we approach Christmas, we enter one of the two (the other is Easter) periods of the year in which large numbers of people claim that all popular Christian things are really pagan things. Some of this is perhaps Puritan hangover; some early Protestants refused to celebrate Christmas because they read the symbolism as Catholics acting like pagans. If you have a religion of almost pure text and moral discipline, you naturally read any substantive symbolism as a sort of heathenry. Some of it is out-of-date anthropology still floating around. It's this that gives us the entirely unsubstantiated notion that the eggs and bunnies of Easter trace back to pagan fertility celebrations. And some of it is just an irrational taste for pissing on other people's customs; one often recognizes these people by the fact that the insist so vehemently that this or that custom is really some other prior custom, even if it is quite clear that the current custom is not practiced as a continuation of the prior custom, based entirely on superficial resemblances. And, of course, there is an enjoyment in feeling oneself more knowing than the masses, even if the feeling is entirely founded on illusion.

So let's take the Christmas tree. Decoration of trees happens occasionally in various cultures. They are easy to decorate, so that's not surprising, and this fact does not actually help us to determine how Christmas trees originated. The earliest independent confirmations we have of actual Christmas trees are from the sixteenth century in Alsace and Bremen, but these are presented as if it is obvious what they were, which strongly suggests that it was not a new custom. Prior to this, we do have occasional references to the decoration of branches or boughs for Christmas, references that go back a few centuries further, and while some of these seem to have just been hung up by rope (like we do with mistletoe, but probably in a larger display). It's unclear whether this practice is really the precursor of Christmas trees, or Christmas wreaths (which is likely), or both. There are cultures that currently today display decorated branches in a fashion somewhat like the modern Christmas tree. The most commonly noted is the chichilaki, or St. Basil's Beard, a custom that grew up along the Black Sea. As far as I know, we don't actually know the origin of this practice, but it's not impossible that it goes back quite far. Current Georgians will often have both Christmas trees and chichilaki, so they don't see them as the same thing, but that doesn't eliminate the possibility that they may be two different branches of earlier bough-decorating customs.

Actually setting up trees for the holidays seems to have developed in Germany (like a lot of our modern Chrismas customs). Usually these seem to have been used as dancing poles or as the heart of a bonfire, but we know that in the sixteenth century they were sometimes decorated and sometimes were instead decorated with candies and fruits which were then given out to children. The practice seems to have become popular among Lutherans in some German towns and cities as an alternative to the nativity scenes popular among Catholics; for this reason, Catholics in German regions only slowly started setting up Christmas trees, since it was often seen as a Protestant custom. As it spread, however, Reformed Protestants also tended not to have them, seeing them as Lutheran thing. And, indeed, it was seen as a Lutheran practice by Lutherans, as well, which is perhaps why the legend sprang up that the Christmas tree (or sometimes Christmas tree lights) was invented by Martin Luther. The legend is hard to trace, as well, but it may have done some work later in a more ecumenical time by making it easy for non-Lutheran Protestants to accept it as a generic Protestant practice rather than (as it often originally seems to have been seen) as the Lutherans misdrawing the line between Christianity and Catholic paganism again.

It's usually thought that the custom started spreading in the Franco-Prussian war, in 1870, when one of the morale-building things done by the Prussian army was to set up Christmas trees for those of its soldiers who had the custom; thus a very large number of German men had their Christmas celebrations with a Christmas tree that year. In any case, the custom did spread in Germany. In Britain, Queen Charlotte (who was German) had occasionally set up a tree for Christmas parties; Queen Victoria had liked the trees so much that she had one every year, and the custom spread in Britain the way customs like wedding dresses spread -- middle-class and upper-class women imitating Victoria. The Christmas tree was spreading in the United States as a cultural practice among German immigrants, even those who did not come from regions in Germany that practiced it. This is a common phenomenon, in which highly distinctive and noticeable cultural traditions spread among immigrants even if it was not their practice in the homeland, like Scottish immigrants with tartan, as a sort of heritage-marker. Thus it was largely practiced in Pennsylvania and New York, and it's thought that it may have started spilling outside the German immigrant communities in part due to imitation of Queen Victoria again -- at least, wealthy Americans in areas that already had Germans putting up Christmas trees may have taken Victoria's tree as a sign that this was a respectable thing to do, and thus followed along. The practiced solidified and became universal in the twentieth century in the most American fashion possible -- department stores and businesses started putting them up. From the US it has been spreading throughout the world, as everything that ends up in American movies spreads throughout the world.

Ironically, the song most closely associated with Christmas trees -- "O Tannenbaum" -- which was written in 1824, had nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas trees or Christmas. It's an adaptation of an older folk song about an evergreen fir tree. As far as I know, we don't know the exact path by which it became associated with Christmas trees, but as the standard English translations eventually all started mistranslating 'Tannenbaum' as 'Christmas tree', the association was locked in.

In any case, unless you think dancing, or bonfires, or decorating branches are intrinsically pagan, there's no evidence whatsoever that any customs pertaining to the Christmas tree are of any pagan origin whatsoever. All our earliest evidence about any specific meaning it has associates it with Christmas. All our best evidence is that it's a late medieval or early modern practice, and it spread because it is a very distinctive and visually appealing practice and the ease with which it allowed guilds, businesses, and wealthy families to mark a celebratory season.

Adeste Fidelis


Dan Vasc, "Adeste Fidelis".

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Logres XV

 continuing Book II

Chapter 16

King Arthur, having welcomed Queen Igraine, held a feast for Hallowmas, but he asked her nothing, for he feared what she might answer. Therefore Sir Ulfius at his behest pretended to grow drunk at the feast, and said loudly at the feast, where all the lords and nobles might hear, "You are the falsest woman in all the world, a traitress behind fair face."

Then King Arthur said to him, "Beware what you say, for this is a serious charge."

"And yet it is true," said Sir Ulfius. "I know whereof I speak, and I will cast down my glove against any man who will deny it. This woman is the cause of all the harm you have received from the northnern kings, because she kept silent. Had she only spoken of your birth in the days of Uther Pendragon, who would have dared to raise a hand against you? But the barons of the realm knew nothing about who your father might be. And if any man say otherwise, I will prove him wrong on his body."

Queen Igraine was at first caught in surprise and anger and could not speak, but at last she said, "I am a woman and can take up no sword, but let some good man take up my cause. Nor am I without a witness, for Merlin knows it all, and you yourself know, Sir Ulfius, that King Uther came to me at the castle of Tintagel at Trevena in the likeness of my lord, whom I only learned later had already been dead a full three hours. Thereby he begot a child on me, a son. But of this son I knew almost nothing, for although after a time Uther married me, when the child was born, he commanded that it be given to Merlin, and I never saw him ever after, and never even knew his name." 

Then Sir Ulfius said to her, somewhat ashamed, "In this, Merlin is without doubt more to blame than you." And Queen Igraine swore before them all that she had known nothing of what had happened to her son.

Then Merlin, who was at that time in the hall, although none had seen him enter, took Queen Igraine by the hand and set it in King Arthur's, and said, "Behold, O king, your mother." Then the king took his mother the queen in his arms and they wept together. Afterward, when Sir Ector came to court, he told all of his own part in the story.

Thus was Queen Igraine vindicated, and Sir Ulfius ever afterward attended her when she was in court.

Chapter 17

Morgan, the daughter of Queen Igraine and King Uther, was said by many to be the most beautiful young woman in all of Britain, and without doubt there was no woman greater in acuity of mind. She was betrothed, and had been since childhood, to King Urien of Rheged and Gor, Count of the British and son of Cunomarcus the Cold, but she was flirtatious and drew the hearts of many men toward her. And almost from the beginning she had turned her hearts on Merlin, for she was far more lustful for knowledge than she was for men.

Merlin was a striking young man, fair of countenance, his face being such as men and women alike trust, but when he was in court, he was often alone. Very few, whether man or woman, could bear his presence for long; eventually even stouthearted knights would seek to be away, for his eyes were clear, piercing into the soul, and anyone in his presence began to feel as the mouse does in the gaze of the owl, or as the lamb does when being considered by the wolf. Moreover, he never slept at all, so that those whose business took them well into the night or early in the morning would sometimes find him walking the halls or sitting at a window, and if his eyes turned toward them, they would be unsettled all the rest of the night.

It was on such a night that Morgan came upon him sitting at a window; she had sought him deliberately but pretended it was by accident.

When she had greeted him, Merlin looked intently at her, and she shivered under the force of it, as if she were at the mouth of the den of a terrible beast. Then he said, "Why have you sought me out?"

Then she begged him to teach her all that she could learn of magic and other hidden arts.

Merlin looked out into the darkness of the night in silence for a while, then he said, "What you ask is not the sort of thing that can be done lightly. I will do it, but first you must swear to do something I wish by an oath so unbreakable that if you break it, you will die, and so secret that if you ever tell it, you will die."

Morgan then was in great doubt, for she had heard that he was the devil's son, and she feared some trap. Therefore she said, "Surely I cannot swear an oath, especially one so solemn, without knowing what I will be swearing to do?" 

Then Merlin told her, and then she swore the unbreakable oath, and in days afterward he taught her many things beyond the knowledge of ordinary men. He was impervious to her flirtatious devices, however, so she turned her attentions toward Sir Guiomar of Cameliard, a young man and newly minted knight who was a relation of King Leodegrance and brother of the knight Sir Sadones.

Chapter 18

Having achieved his high throne by adventure and by grace, and having defeated many in order to retain it, King Arthur began to consider how he might better consolidate his kingdom and the strength of his position among the other kings. Therefore he came to Merlin and said, "My barons will not let me be; they demand that I should take a wife, and it seems to me that they are wise in doing so. But this seems a grave matter to me, and for that reason I will not take a wife without your counsel."

"A man of your wealth and position should surely not be without a wife," replied Merlin, "and it should not be done without an eye to the strength of the kingdom; but is there a woman you have met that you think you can love?"

"Yes," said King Arthur, "for I met in the court of King Leodegrance his fair daughter, Guinevere, and she seems to me more lovely a woman than any in the world."

"Sire," replied Merlin, "you will find few who are more fair or more valiant, although in wedding her, you will wed sorrow. If your heart were not set, I would recommend another maiden, but you cannot fool me in this matter; you wish not for my advice but for my confirmation."

Then King Arthur said, "You are perhaps right. But surely such a delightful woman cannot bring me any sorrow at all."

"Were she less delightful," said Merlin, "she would perhaps bring less sorrow. She is a woman destined to be great and renowned, and she will bring greatness to your kingdom, but she will also break what she brings. Nor can such a woman rest wholly satisfied with a mere king."

"I do not understand any of this," said King Arthur, "and I find myself even more certain that I wish to wed her than when we began to talk of this."

"As you wish," said Merlin. "And with this, all things begin to fit themselves into place, and the grounds shall be laid for the coming of the Cup of Christ and the building of a wall against the Antichrist that will last many years. But hear my counsel on this, that all things may be done well. King Leodegrance knew your father King Uther Pendragon well. King Uther formed a fellowship of knights and for it had built a round table, at which this fellowship could sit as brothers, none being more favored than any other. After your father's death, this table came to Leodegrance, but it is a table enchanted for a great purpose and he has never been able to use it himself. Therefore if you will hear my counsel, ask nothing in dowry for his daughter except his blessing and the Table Round which belonged to your father."

Then King Arthur was fired by this idea, having before his mind the vision of establishing a Fellowship of the Round Table that was greater even than that of his father King Uther. Nor was King Leodegrance averse to this, and in addition to the Table Round, he gave to King Arthur a guard of fifty men, who with Sir Ulfius and some others became the Fellowship of the Queen's Knights, the first but not the greatest of the knightly fellowships of King Arthur's realm.

to be continued

Away in a Manger


Sette Amoure, "Away in a Manger".

Friday, December 22, 2023

Do You Hear What I Hear?


CeCe Winans, "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Links of Note

 * William E. Carroll, 'Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit' and 'Creatio Ex Nihilo': Science and Creation, at "Ths Josias"

* Steinunn Liorsdóttir and Lior Pachter, The virial theorem and the Price equation (PDF)

* James Harold, On the Ancient Idea that Music Shapes Character (PDF)

* Fr. Stephen Freeman, The Tradition of Being Human, at "Glory to God for All Things"

* Jon Gabriel, University of Arizona's budget problem? It's awash in administrative bloat, at "azcentral"

* Courtney Fugate, Kant's World Concept of Philosophy and Cosmopolitanism (PDF)

* Samuel Kahn, Frankfurt Cases and Alternate Deontic Categories (PDF)

* The PNC Christmas Price Index  shows a slight increase in the price of the gifts of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"; if you count every repetition of every gift, the total cost comes to $201,972.66, up about 2.5% from last year, while the Total Christmas Price Index (the Twelfth Day) is $46, 729.86, up about 2.7% from last year, with the Two Turtledoves being the single largest surge (at 25%), and a tight labor market resulting in the Ten Lords A-Leaping narrowly beating out the Seven Swans A-Swimming as the most expensive item on the list.

* David Polansky, Tempest in a Teapot, Academic Version, at "Strange Frequencies"

* A. C. Paseau, Non-deductive justification in mathematics (PDF)

* Fabrizio Macagno and Douglas Walton, Classifying the Patterns of Natural Arguments (PDF)

* Carolyn Dever, How to Lose a Library, at "Public Books", on the hacking of the British Library earlier this year, which has left it limping with limited services ever since.

* Brian Potter, Building Apollo, at "Construction Physics"

* Daan Evers, Aesthetic Non-Naturalism (PDF)

* William Bechtel & Leondardo Bich, Organisms Need Mechanisms; Mechanisms Need Organisms (PDF)

* Brendan Hodge, 'Accommodation' or 'evangelization'? What accounts for regional differences on 'Fiducia supplicans'?, at "The Pillar

* Lyman Stone continues his discussion of the demographics of Middle Earth using standard estimation techniques for historical demographics: How Many Hobbits? 3000 Years of Middle Earth Population History

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Lord's Prayer


Andrea Bocelli (ft. Matteo Bocelli), "The Lord's Prayer".

Knowing Canisius (Re-Post)

As it is the feast of St. Peter Canisius, this is a re-post from 2021

Today is the feast of St. Pieter Kanis, better known in English as Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church. A major figure in the Catholic response to the Reformation, he is a major reason why a number of German-speaking regions stayed Catholic, for which reason he is sometimes called the Second Apostle to Germany. One of his major principles in discussions with Protestants was that attacks on them, especially personal attacks, were ultimately self-defeating; as he is said to have put it, by such attacks you are not curing anyone, just making them incurable, and therefore the best path was generally just to give an honest explanation to address any honest perplexities. He is most famous for his catechisms; 'knowing Canisius' is an old expression for having a solid catechetical education. From his Parvus catechismus (1558): 

 What does the first article of the Creed mean, "I believe in God the Father"? It shows first in the Godhead a person, namely the heavenly and eternal Father, for whom nothing is impossible or difficult to do, who produced heaven and earth, visible things together with all invisible things from nothing and even conserves and governs everything he has produced, with supreme goodness and wisdom. 

 What does the second article of the Creed mean, "And in Jesus Christ his Son"? It reveals the second person in the Godhead, Jesus Christ, obviously his only begotten from eternity and consubstantial with the Father, our Lord and redeemer, as the one who has freed us from perdition. 

 What is the third article, "Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit"? The third article proposes the mystery of the Lord's Incarnation: because the same Son of God, descending from heaven, assumed a human nature, but in an absolutely unique way, as he was conceived without a father, from the power of the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary who remained a virgin afterwards. 

 [Peter Canisius, A Small Catechism for Catholics, Grant, tr., Mediatrix Press (2014) pp. 12-13.]

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The First Noel


Nicole McLauchlin, "The First Noel".

Four Poem Drafts


The stars
were shining in the night
with cold
and everlasting light
and the sky was calm
and all was clear
in pasture-lands.

Then song
was pouring all around
with pure
and sweet angelic sound
and a splendor burst
and all was joy
in heaven's realm.

Fear not!
the holy angels said.
is not a night for dread
for the world is new,
the King is born,
in Bethlehem.

for heaven's holy peace
will rain
on earth and never cease,
so that souls are saved
and brought to God
throughout the world.

Then go!
and see the child's face
for God
made flesh His holy grace,
for you He has loved,
for He is Love,
and hope abounds.

Catullus 70

My girl claims she'd rather be joined with none
but me, not even if Jupiter himself pursued her.
So she claims! But what a girl says to a lustful lover
tneds to be inscribed on gusts and rapids.

Catullus 5

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and all of the lectures of old men
let us value at nothing more than a pence.
Suns may westfully set and return again;
for our part, when the brief western light has set,
a night ever undying then must we sleep.
A thousand kisses give me, then a hundred,
then a thousand more, then a second hundred,
and then a thousand more, and then a hundred;
then when we have done many thousands,
we'll scatter the tally to oblivion
and so avoid the envy of the wicked
lest they learn that we are so rich with kisses.


Crammed into a hurtling tube
kited on the wind,
the scent of human all around,
elbow in the ribs,
we descend;

we shake in ebullition,
in rapids of the air,
belted in,
shaken with shudders,
the wind in dancing thunder,

until with sudden swoop
we touch the ground.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Monday, December 18, 2023

Catholic Integralism

 There has been some discussion around the internet of the modern form of Catholic integralism, in part due to Kevin Vallier's recent All the Kingdoms of the World. In general it has tended to be framed in terms of 'liberalism vs. integralism', which leaves out people like myself who are neither*, but even in those terms has tended to be slippery -- integralists tend to defend not integralism but their own particular integralist preferences, while liberal critics of integralism, when they aren't spouting gibberish, erratically slide among different versions (and imaginations of what implications different versions might have) in ways that often result in their criticisms being simply incoherent.

Trying to give any kind of adequate definition of integralism (or liberalism, for that matter) is quite difficult. I'm inclined to think it needs to be characterized typologically, by identifying a pure form of it, in terms of the following set of principles:

(1) Human nature is naturally fulfilled only in a civil society, which is a society complete in itself for achieving its intrinsic ends (the old name for this is societas perfecta, and the usual description of these intrinsic ends of civil society is peace in the sense of the tranquillity of just order, although sometimes people prefer to describe it metonymically as civil friendship).

(2) Civil society forms an instrumental part of itself to coordinate and organize itself by, for the achievement of its intrinsic ends; this instrumental part is what we call the state; as instrumental to the ends of civil society, it can only be used in a manner consistent with the ends of civil society.

(3) Christians by their baptism are not merely members of civil society but have a 'dual citizenship' in another, very different, society, the Church, which is also a societas perfecta, with its end usually summarized as salvation of souls; it is organized by the hierarchy, which is very different from the state but is its analogue in the very different society of the Church.

(4) The ends of civil society and the ends of the Church (and thus the ends of the state and of the hierarchy which serve these societies respectively) are not equal; the ends of the Church, being directly received from God, have preeminence over those of civil society, without squashing or eliminating them.

(5) Just interaction between these societies requires both their distinction, because their ends are distinct, and their integration, in which the intrinsic ends of civil society are explicitly recognized as having, beyond their value in themselves, an ancillary function with respect to the intrinsic ends of the Church.

(6) The performance of this ancillary function in particular requires cooperation between state and hierarchy, but since the ends of the two are not equal, the hierarchy is the superior partner in the cooperation; this is not a general superiority, but a superiority with respect to matters directly involved in this ancillary function.

(7) In its role as superior partner in this ancillary function, the hierarchy may at least authorize the state to perform activities beneficial to the Church, where these are not inconsistent with the ends of the civil society, and may also under certain conditions prevent or veto state action that is not beneficial to the Church. (Contrary to what Vallier always assumes, different integralists disagree on the question of whether and to what extent and under what conditions the hierarchy may require the state to engage in certain activities.) 

(8) In return, the Church supports the civil society in ways that are appropriate to the ends of the Church; which may under certain conditions involve the state authorizing the hierarchy to perform certain state functions or preventing the hierarchy from directly harming the ends of civil society. (Different integralists also differ about whether and to what extent and under what conditions the state can require the hierarchy as such to do things.)

In formulating these principles, I have had to make some terminological choices that are far from universal. For instance, it is not always clear when either integralists or liberals use the term 'state' whether they use it to mean what I here call 'the civil society' or what I here call 'the state'. And as I previously noted, this is a typological rather than essential definition; different particular versions of what is called 'integralism' may recede from this (e.g., by muddling or only loosely or in a limited way exemplifying some of these) or go beyond it (e.g., by adding other substantive principles that are essential to that version). It's also possible that one could improve the statement of one of these principles. But I would argue that this is superior to a lot of the characterizations of integralism one finds. First, because it clarifies the connection of the position to Catholic theology; there is an excellent argument that something along the lines of (1)-(4) are required by Catholic theological principles, and while (5)-(8) are more controversial, in this form it's not difficult to explain why integralists, at least, might think they are also required, or at least highly preferable to alternatives. At the same time, the more controversial status of (5)-(8) clarifies the ways in which one might have a Catholic political theology that is not integralist. Second, because it is much less tendentious than most descriptions of integralism, rigging it neither in favor of or against the integralist. Third, it avoids the common 'chunkiness' which tends to plauge the discussions of both liberals and integralists; there's a bad habit, arising from how things are handled in certain liberal societies, of treating Church (ambiguous between Church and hierarchy in the above terms) and State (ambiguous between civil society and state) as if they interacted only in big-block, large-scale-policy ways, whereas in fact they can interact in all sorts of ways at all sorts of levels.

There are some complications that are not completely accounted for in the above characterization. The first is that every civil society has a civil religion, something that serves at least for ceremonial and solidary purposes. It's the flags-and-parades-and-funerals-and-marriages-and-prayers portion of society.This is sometimes an established religion (i.e., a religion that is part of the state, like a national church), but it might take all sorts of other forms; the United States has a traditional civil religion that is deliberately generic, and is celebrated by Thanksgiving and Memorial Day and Old Glory and "The Star-Spangled Banner" and 'In God We Trust', and serves both to unite citizens and to make it easier for the state to operate in a fairly religious society while being relatively neutral with respect to the major religions of the population. Exactly how to understand and treat this is an extremely difficult issue for both liberals and integralists, and ends up throwing all sorts of spanners into otherwise good arguments. In criticizing integralists, liberals sometimes forget that liberal societies have civil religions and therefore are already doing things that they sometimes criticize integralists for wanting actual Church authorization for. On the other side, integralists have a tricky line to walk and sometimes don't properly distinguish between having an explicitly Catholic civil religion and the Church itself; confusing them treats the Catholic (i.e, Universal, i.e., Not Merely National) Church as if it were a national church. At the same time, it's obvious that the civil religion would have to be a major interaction point between state and hierarchy in an integralist regime (as indeed it already de facto is in any liberal regime with a large Catholic population).

The second major complication, which is less serious, is that in reality the Church has not only a hierarchy but a state -- Vatican City State --  which is an officially Catholic state whose entire purpose is to be ruled by the Holy See for the benefit of the Church. It is neither liberal nor integralist. It is in fact anomalous in a large number of ways, in part due to the fact that it is not a natural state but a juridical state (i.e., a state formed entirely by international law) which has a juridical continuity with a now-defunct natural state (the States of the Church or Papal States) that was also ruled entirely by the Holy See. The Church has another non-territorial agency with state structure due to its being a stump of a previous natural state, the Sovereign Military Order of  Malta, which as a religious order is related to the hierarchy in a completely different way. These juridical states serve as another point of interaction, one that exists for liberal and integralist states alike, and are often forgotten by both liberals and integralists in making general claims about political frameworks.

The third complication is that, regardless of the regime, Catholic citizens can't help but act as Catholic and as citizens in any civil society to which they belong, and the two parts of this 'dual citizenship' inevitably interact in complicated ways. This intersectionality at the very level of citizenship itself is one reason why focusing only on state vs. hierarchy can be a mistake; much of the interaction between the two, in any society whatsoever, is downstream from the answers that Catholic citizens already give to questions of how to make practical sense of their 'dual citizenship'. It is also one reason why I think Vallier's preferred characterization of integralism in terms of a "natural common good" and "supernatural common good" has some problems. (Similar problems arise with attempts to put the matter in terms of "natural end" and "supernatural end", but in fact more serious, because all things have a supernatural end, they just aren't oriented to it in the same way.) Certainly a civil society has a common good and the Church has a common good; every complete society has a complete common good, a constituting and preserving good all members of that society share in common in order to be in society at all. But common goods, which form communities, are also not exclusive, and in the case of Catholic citizens, they already overlap; Catholic citizens have to try to uphold both. A liberal society with a significant Catholic population already has to make some accommodation of the common good of the Church, or it is actively unjust toward its Catholic population, deliberately imposing unnecessary hardship on them for being Catholic. At the same time, the distinction of citizenship and baptism will even in an integralist regime require some accommodation of non-baptized citizens, just on the grounds of what the ends of civil society itself require. These accommodations between civil society and Church are built in; you can't have a just society without them. This mutual accommodation in a reasonably functional and just society is distinct from the much stronger cooperations covered by (5)-(8), but its necessary existence often muddies the waters when people get into details.**

However, if these additional complications are kept in mind, the eight principles above do a good job of capturing the essential integralist idea, and the fundamental points. Let's take a simple example of one particular way this might work, depending on how the cooperation between state and hierarchy in general works. Under canon law, organizations calling themselves 'Catholic' in the sense used in talking about the Catholic Church must have the permission of the relevant bishop or ordinary; this is usually enforced quite lightly, but if the bishop explicitly denies the right of an organization to call itself Catholic, it is a violation of canon law and can subject the organization and potentially its members to canonical penalties. In the United States, the state does not recognize the hierarchy as having any authority to determine who uses the term 'Catholic'. But it would be entirely possible to have a society in which the state does recognize this authority, therefore treating 'Catholic' as something analogous to a trademark, but with the state deferring to the hierarchy's standards about whether an entity is using the term with authorization rather than (as with trademarks) applying its own standards.  We already know that the hierarchy in Catholic theology and practice has the authority to determine whether an organization is Catholic. And this fits the integralist pattern in (7), and does so even if the hierarchy only takes its judgment to apply to Catholic matters (which, trivially, it does, since the claim is not that the hierarchy owns the word 'Catholic' but that its authority applies to whether it can be used when used specifically to represent an organization as Catholic in the sense of the Catholic Church; non-Catholics using the term in another sense would be a separate matter).

If we use the eight-point characterization above, however, it is clear that many arguments against integralism are not particularly effective. For instance, Vallier has what he calls the Justice Argument, which goes roughly like this: 

(i) The Church may direct the state to enforce canon law. [Integralist assumption]

(ii) This enforcement must conform to two norms of justice: (a) coercion into the faith is unjust and (b) coercion to keep the faith is just. [Integralist assumption]

(iii) The dividing line between the application of the two norms can only be baptism. [Integralist assumption]

The above three are taken to characterize integralism; the remaining part of the argument is the actual argument against.

(iv) To serve as a dividing line between the application of two norms, baptism must function as a normative transformer, transforming religious coercion from unjust to just.

(v) Baptism cannot act as a normative transformer with respect to these two norms.

(vi) Therefore, integralism is false. [(i)-(v) by reductio]

In light of the above characterization, however, we can see that this argument, and any argument much like it, does not actually identify anything that is essential to integralism itself. (i) is not strictly required by the basic principles of integralism; what is required is that the hierarchy can authorize the state to enforce (at least to some extent and in some way) at least some aspects of canon law. (This latter follows from (7) above plus some very uncontroversial assumptions about the role of canon law in the activities of the hierarchy.) (iia) follows from principles of Catholic theology. (iib), however, does not; but it also does not strictly follow from any of the eight principles above. It might perhaps do so if one interpreted 'coercion' not as a force but as 'enforcement'; but it doesn't seem that it could have that meaning in (iia), and equivocation on the term would cause problems for (iv). (7) does allow for the possibility of the hierarchy authorizing coercive action, although it doesn't allow for the authorizing of just any kind of coercive action (e.g., they would have to be actions that the state could do in a manner consistent with its own ends). There have been people who have argued, I think, that the state can't give any differential coercive treatment of baptized and non-baptized. This is not particularly obvious (states, including liberal states, exercise at least some kinds of differential coercive treatment given some kinds of differences between the people to whom the treatment is applied, e.g., with minors vs. non-minors, adults of draftable age vs. children and non-draftable adults, citizens vs. residents, citizens and residents vs. non-resident non-citizens, felons vs. non-felons, people in their right mind vs. people not in their right mind), but even if it is assumed, this doesn't actually affect any of the eight principles; it just means that the hierarchy-state interaction will involve other things besides coercive action. Since baptism is the difference between being fully 'in the faith' (i.e., in the Church) and 'not in the faith' in Catholic theology, (iii) can be accepted if (ii) is.

But it is also Catholic doctrine that baptism is itself a normative transformer -- it changes your deontic and juridical status in the Church, and puts you in the legal jurisdiction overseen by the hierarchy on behalf of the Church (canon law, as Vallier usually puts it, although in the strict sense canon law is only one of the kinds of laws that operate in the legal jurisdiction of the Church). This is a very explicit part of Catholic doctrine. Thus any Catholic integralist would have to reject (v) as a general claim, even if they accepted (ii), because baptism's function as a normative transformer in the Church is built in. For instance, within the Church there are kinds of coercive action that can be exercised on the baptized that are not exercised on the unbaptized -- the hierarchy can under certain conditions excommunicate and impose penances on the baptized but not the unbaptized and is on the other side required to protect certain rights pertaining to the baptized but not the unbaptized in Church proceedings. The reason for this is that the baptized are in the jurisdiction of the Church and the unbaptized are not. Introducing the state does nothing to change this; all it does is raise the question whether the normative transformation introduced by baptism in the context of the Church can be recognized by the state. If it can, as integralists claim, then it is in fact capable of being a normative transformer in the context of civil society, as well, even if only by some indirect mechanism. Thus the only question is whether (at least in certain circumstances) the hierarchy can delegate certain aspects of its own coercive authority to the state, or can work cooperatively with the state in a way that uses the coercive authority of each.*** (7) & (8) allow for this at least sometimes, and thus this is just part of what integralists are saying. Therefore there are only two ways that (v) can be true: either Catholic theology is already assumed to be false, or Catholic integralism is already assumed to be false. The former already implies the latter, and therefore, either way, the argument begs the question against the integralist.


* I am a pluralist; in fundamental political matters it is pointless to optimize ('best'), so one must settle for satisficing ('good enough'), and as it happens there are quite a few very different political frameworks that meet the criterion of 'good enough'. Some possible liberal frameworks are good enough; the ones actually in place now are not, but you could have ones that are. Some possible integralist frameworks are also good enough, as are probably quite a few other political frameworks that do not fall clearly into either the liberal or the integralist camp. Roughly, all the 'good enough' frameworks share an essential principle, which is negatively describable as repudiation of totalitarian temptations and positively describable as reasonable plurality of societies; that is to say, they all (not necessarily in the same way) recognize that human persons are necessarily members of more than one society with ends fundamental to living fully as a person, and that no such society can be allowed to destroy or pervert or disregard all the others. (This is a harder condition actually to meet than it might seem; as I've noted elsewhere, many modern political views tend to converge toward having a totalitarian structure, and this is true of some things that would often be called liberal and some things that are proposed as integralist, despite the fact that this always introduces an incoherence into both.) 'Good enough' regimes would likewise share an additional feature: explicit guarantees of the rights of the Church, both as distinct human society and as a society with an essential mission (summarized in the Great Commission, and essentially having to do with its doctrinal and sacramental life) with which the state cannot justly interfere. I think (like Rosmini, who I suppose would count as a Catholic liberal) that the explicit guarantees are necessary for 'good enough' because the consistent experience of Catholic populations across a wide variety of societies is that freedoms, privileges, and rights Catholics aren't explicitly guaranteed tend to get chipped away over time, as states try to qualify, minimize, trivialize, reinterpret, or interfere with them in the name of various state projects.

** This also raises the complicated question of exactly how far apart liberalism and integralism actually are. They both by their very structure oppose totalitarian statism, so they have that in common. They are also committed as a matter of principle to some of the same means for opposing it, like some kind of due process and formal procedures. On the other side, there have definitely been attempts to blend anti-clericalism and liberalism, and in fact, almost all liberal societies have had anti-clericalist phases or cycles of varying vehemence. Likewise, there could be integralist societies that were definitely very far in custom and practice from any actual liberal society. But how far different will a well-run and consistent liberal society with an active population of Catholic citizens be from a well-run and consistent integralist society with a similar Catholic population? The liberal society would not definitively recognize its ends as being ancillary to the ends of the Church; but well-run and consistent liberal societies recognize their ends as being part of and subordinate to a larger moral order, and if the population is very Catholic, their conception of that larger moral order may well be very Catholic-tinged. The liberal state would not recognize the hierarchy as a superior partner; but if the citizens are actively Catholic, it could very well be that the hierarchy would have a significant indirect influence on the operation of the state. (This has occasionally happened, for instance, in cities like New York or Chicago or Boston in the United States, where the local bishop backed by the Catholic population has sometimes had a significant say in city policy. Liberal societies don't have any way to prevent this if the liberal state is to remain responsive to popular movements and protests.) There might not be a formalized cooperation structure; but there could very well be a lot of informal cooperation structures, and there will certainly have to be accommodations in both directions in order to have a functioning society at all. On the other side, an integralist society meeting all eight principles could have a lot of practices and customs that we usually associate with liberal societies; for instance, the hierarchy might not actually ask for very much beyond the ordinary mutual accommodation that even liberal societies have. How far apart are the maximally Catholic version of liberalism and the minimum version of Catholic integralism, really? This is relevant to one of Vallier's arguments against integralism, the Transition Argument, which argues that there is no moral way to reach integralism; this primarily seems to require that there be a large gap between liberalism and integralism, but as liberalism and integralism are not diametrical opposites, share at least some moral goals, and can both only be just with accommodations, it's unclear that this is so.

*** It's not relevant to the immediate point but it's worth noting that there is no dispute that the hierarchy can call upon the state to exercise the state's coercive authority under conditions appropriate to civil society (e.g., even in a liberal regime, the pastor of a parish can call the police and charge you with trespassing if you are asked to leave church grounds and don't, and churches can call on the state to enforce contracts that they have made, or report vandalism, or make any other call upon state authority that any other organization recognized by the state can do).

Joy to the World


The Petersens, "Joy to the World".

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Fortnightly Book, December 17

 The next fortnightly book (although given the time of year it is likely it will really take more than fortnight) is Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant.

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, but his family moved to Britain early on (his father was professional researcher in oceanography and joined the National Institute of Oceanography). As an adult, he began writing novels, which consistently did well, and in 2017, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. This makes him the eighth and most recent Laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature who has come up for a fortnightly book. (The others are Henryk Sienkiewicz, Rudyard Kipling, Knut Hamsun, George Bernard Shaw, Sigrid Undset, John Steinbeck, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.)

The Buried Giant was published in 2015 and won quite a few awards. It is set in Dark Age England, in the aftermath of the death of King Arthur. It follows two Britons, Axl and Beatrice, who are afflicted with 'the mist', a strange forgetfulness that seems to affect much of the population; they have a strong suspicion that they have a son, but cannot quite remember the details, and therefore set out on a quest to find him. In doing so, they will discover that there are secrets buried in the realm, secrets that no one wants to remember -- and yet also that are costly not to remember.

O Holy Night


Life in 3D, "O Holy Night". A very good version.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Cat Hodge, Unstable Felicity


Opening Passage:

On the first of December, Jill O'Leary -- until last week a self-possessed, self-assured career woman -- found herself up in the air, obeying her mother's order to spend Christmas in Luxembourg. (p.1)

Summary: Jill O'Leary heads back home for Christmas to small-town Luxembourg, Ohio. It's not something to which she looks forward. Her father, whom she remembers fondly, is no longer alive; she has a very rocky relationship with her mother, Regina O'Leary; and the last time she left, after a bad break-up with her boyfriend, Heath, she had run over his dog. But her father's business, the Luxembourg Inn, has an uncertain future in light of her parents' somewhat creative accounting and budgeting, so she returns if only to see if she can preserve anything of her father's legacy.

In Luxembourg, she meets a local investor, Garrett French, whom her mother gravely dislikes, who has been trying to make an offer to buy the inn. She also meets a mysterious Mr. Singh,  a man with a polish and sophistication that is undeniably far beyond anything smalltown Ohio could produce, and whose very presence here in the middle of nowhere is a puzzle. Meeting Heath again goes much better than she expected -- he has settled down well and is contrite for his mistreatment of her; while Jill had primarily been feeling guilty about the dog, we learn that her doing so wasn't quite a matter of spite, but was, as Heath himself admits, rooted in the nasty temper of the dog. Throughout she has to deal with the passive-aggressive melodrama of her mother and the drama of her two sisters, Reagan and Del. Tensions with her mother increase, and come to a pinnacle when her mother demands that her daughters express their love for her and Jill finds that she just honestly can't. Everything seems a tangle and doomed to collapse into disaster -- until the knot of the problem begins to unravel.

The book is effectively a love-story, but it deliberately (and to good humorous effect) shunts the usual Hallmark-style romance off onto Mr. Singh and Jill's friend Amita, whose fairy-tale, love-at-first-sight, impossibly perfect romance contrasts with the actual love story at the heart of the book: a story of love of family (with all of its rocky aspects) and of how love develops between two very flawed people trying to find the happiness genuinely suitable for them in a world where fate mostly only allows a very unstable felicity. 

In addition to reading it, I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Suzanne T. Fortin. I think listening to the book, and not just reading it, brings out a few aspects of the story a bit more -- I think the humor particularly benefits from the living voice, which almost naturally brings out the passive-aggressiveness of Regina O'Leary, as well as the humor of the Amita / Mr. Singh sideplot.  The family drama, I think, works somewhat better on the page, I suspect because much of the drama is actually dramatic drama, in the old-fashioned sense of 'dramatic': it arises from the complex interactions of multiple characters in a coherently framed scene, which is somewhat easier for a reader's imagination to supply than a narrator. It would be very adaptable to a screenplay, I think, which is perhaps a sign that it is, Jill-like, the true child of its mother the Hallmark Channel and its father King Lear. But in both formats, page and audio, it is an enjoyable holiday read.

Favorite Passage:

In this fallen world, however, some people were better loved at a distance. For years, that distance had been the divide between Los Angeles and Luxembourg. Now there was no barrier to coming home: not Heath Albany's dog, not Mother herself, not even bad career prospects. Certainly, not close ties in Los Angeles. Her best friend there was ready to embark on her own adventure.

And some people were better loved up close, in person. (p. 122)

Recommendation: Recommended.


Cat Hodge, Unstable Felicity: A Christmas Novella, Oak & Linden (2020).

Let This Do for Today

 16 December

God is all: I am nothing. Let this do for today.

[Pope John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, White, tr., The New American Library (New York: 1965) p. 161. This is from his spiritual diary from 1902; he was still in seminary at the time.]

Friday, December 15, 2023

Links of Note

 * Elliot Polsky, Why Are Accidents Included under Being Per Se? (PDF), on a curious comment in Aquinas's commentary on the Metaphysics.

* Jacob Baynham, What If Money Expired?, at Noema

* Samuel Kahn, Frankfurt Cases and Alternate Deontic Categories (PDF)

* David Bourget and Angela Mendelovici, Debunking Debunking: Explanationism, Probabilistic Sensitivity, and Why There Is No Specifically Metacognitive Debunking Principle (PDF)

* Yuval Shany, From digital rights to international human rights: The emerging right to a human decision maker

* Reuven Kimelman, The Books of Maccabees and the Al HaNissim Prayer for Hanukah, at "The Seforim Blog"

* Timothy Perrine, A Timid and Tepid Appropriation: Divine Presence, the Sensus Divinitatis, and Phenomenal Conservatism (PDF)

* Courtney D. Fugate, Problems with the Highest Good (PDF)

* Gregory Caridi, Reopening the Question of Abstinence from Meat on Fridays, at "Church Life Journal"

* Susanna Melkonian-Altshuller, Truth Dependence Against Transparent Truth (PDF)

* Edward Feser, No King but Caesar?, at "The Josias", reviews Kevin Vallier's All the Kingdoms of the World

* A. R. J. Fisher, Musical Works as Structural Universals (PDF)

* Richard Y. Chappell, Against Confidence-Policing, at "Good Thoughts"

* Tyra Lennie, Self-Improvement in Astellian Friendship (PDF)

Dashed Off XXXV

 Willingness to help others only scales to the extent personal relationships do.

unconditional vs. conditional esperability

Possibilities are expressions of actualities.

Hopes presuppose required actions.

Hopes in the thick of things act, but hopes at leisure also seek reasons and evidences.

We can literally see that some things are possible.

Every actuality implies multiple possibilities. When we delve into the actuality of something, we always discover multiple possibilities. When we test whether something is actual, we presuppose its having multiple possibilities available to it, based on context.

Possible worlds must not only be internally consistent but externally consistent with other possible worlds beign possible in the same manifold; or, to put it in other terms, must share the same general kind of possibility.

causal possibilities
causal possibilities with respect to containing boundaries: spatial possibilities
causal possibilities with respect to clocking changes: temporal possibilities
causal possibilities relative to a given container: places
causal possibilties relative to a given clock: times
causal possibilities with respect to contexts of means and resources: possibilities of action-range
causal possibilities relative to a given means-resource context: feasibilities
causal possibilities with respect to laws: deontic possibilities
causal possibilities with respect to given laws: permissibilities

Justice requires reparation and restoration when wrongful behavior done with faulty disposition results in harmful consequences, and reparation and restoration is practically possible. What it requires in other cases is more complex.

Tort laws and delict laws are like fences around the rule of law.

separation of powers within the legislative (bicameral), the executive (plural executive), and the judicial (forms of court, like equity and law)

Apostolic succession contrasts with private revelation and secret tradition; it is publicly verifiable tradition.

'the apostolate of the ear' (Francis)
-- welcome, 'accompany', discern, integrate
-- first four Spiritual Works of Mercy

Annunciation: purification :: Pentecost : illumination :: Assumption : perfection

purifying purifying: Immaculate Conception
illuminating purifying: Annunciation
perfecting purifying: Nativity of Christ
purifying illuminating: Co-passion
illuminating illuminating: Resurrection of Christ
perfecting illuminating: Pentecost
purifying perfecting: Dormition
illuminating perfecting: Assumption
perfecting perfecting: Coronation

Acts presents the Church as the culmination of both the Hebraic and the Hellenistic strands of Judaism.

Romanticized versions of things lose their value for certain functions, but it is an error to think that romanticizing things has no value.

Even criminals often form quasi-civil institutions.

"Human nature's goodness is like water's downwardness." Mencius
"That which is done without doing is world-order; that which arrives without sending is destiny."

"An obedient son and respectful brother, but likes defying superiors: rare. One who doesn't like defying superiors but likes raising rebellion: never." Analects 1.2
"Study, then appropriately practice it -- is it not pleasant? Have friends come from afar -- is it not happiness? Not understood but not angered -- it is not noble?" Analects 1.1

amicableness, responsibleness, politeness, perceptiveness, trustworthiness

In the house, better amicable than responsible; in the forum better responsible than amicable; in all things the best is to have both.

Restraint of self and restoration of social order makes for amicableness.

If one just desires amicableness, it is at hand.

Glib tongue and polished presentation are rarely amicable.

"The three hundred verses are summarized in one phrase: guiltless mind." Analects 2.2

One maintains social order by inquiring about social order.

The amicable find comfort in being amicable.

Restraining oneself and maintaining courtesy is being amicable.

Glib tongue disrupts authority; impatience in the small disrupts great plans.

The man of highest authority does not make his authority obvious. That is how he maintains authority. The man of inferior authority cannot rid it of the appearance of authority. Thus he has no authority.

Doing well creates things; authority preserves them.

Authority is the beneficence of doing well; everyone relies on authority. Authority is the dwelling place of doing well.

When doing well is lost, next comes authority; when authority is lost, next is being amicable; when being amicable is lost, next is being responsible; when being responsible is lost, next is courtesy.

Universalists often transfer passages concerned with the catholicity of the mission of the Church to universality of heavenly destination.

There can be no Seal of the Prophets because prophecy is inexhaustible.

"My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner." Augustine

The fundamental problem of Gnosticism is that no number of emanations could actually model the richness of the true spiritual life; such things will always fall short of the inexhaustible glory of God and the grace He gives us. The apparatus of emanations was doomed to be false gnosis from the beginning.

Nothing is a success or failure except in light of alternative possibilities.

Moral, jural, and sacral matters consist of unities of 'relations of ideas' and 'matters of fact'.

No society can properly be free that does not recognize a moral order higher than itself.

"The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny....The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to public necessity." Coolidge

"Wisdom is a communicative and philanthropic thing." Clement of Alexandria
"He is a king who governs according to laws and has the skill to sway willing subjects."
"Generalship involves three ideas: caution, boldness, and the union of the two."

In offensive action, caution is the material organized formally by boldness; in defensive action, boldness is the material organized formally by caution.

Mitzvot require intention because the point of a mitzvah is to live according to Torah, not to stand on its own.

The Church is by its nature a partly linguistic structure.

God began evangelization of the world with the Law.

Kerygma begins with a call to repentance.

There are many different communal experiences in the Church, joining together into an ecclesial river of experiences characterized by a collective intentionality that does not exclude but even incorporates and reinterprets many individual intentionalities. But unlike many other such communities, there is a community-subject, an owner of the whole ecclesial river of expereinces, distinct from, but also in some sense owning, the moral personality constituted by the collective intentionality; the moral personality proceeds from the indvidual members and the community-subject jointly, constituting it as a sovereign sphere of power and a juridical subject of rights. It is this joint constitution that makes the Church both a holy hierarchy and a liturgical commonwealth.

the vestment of titles of the Bride of Christ

Liturgy proper occurs in an outside-the-everyday state, marked with signs of spatial and temporal demarcation.

semiotic quasi-transcendence in reading, liturgy, movie-watching, etc.
-- the signs are technically still there, but they also seem to fall away, as if you were beyond them, among the things they signify.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Music on My Mind


Dan Vasc, "Angels We Have Heard on High".

Ioannes a Cruces

 Today is the feast of St. Juan de la Cruz, Doctor of the Church. From his Ascent of Mount Carmel (Book II, Chapter III):

From the object that is present and from the faculty, knowledge is born in the soul. Wherefore, if one should speak to a man of things which he has never been able to understand, and whose likeness he has never seen, he would have no more illumination from them whatever than if naught had been said of them to him. I take an example. If one should say to a man that on a certain island there is an animal which he has never seen, and give him no idea of the likeness of that animal, that he may compare it with others that he has seen, he will have no more knowledge of it, or idea of its form, than he had before, however much is being said to him about it. And this will be better understood by another and a more apt example. If one should describe to a man that was born blind, and has never seen any colour, what is meant by a white colour or by a yellow, he would understand it but indifferently, however fully one might describe it to him; for, as he has never seen such colours or anything like them by which he may judge them, only their names would remain with him; for these he would be able to comprehend through the ear, but not their forms or figures, since he has never seen them.  

Even so is faith with respect to the soul; it tells us of things which we have never seen or understood, nor have we seen or understood aught that resembles them, since there is naught that resembles them at all. And thus we have no light of natural knowledge concerning them, since that which we are told of them bears no relation to any sense of ours; we know it by the ear alone, believing that which we are taught, bringing our natural light into subjection and treating it as if it were not. For, as Saint Paul says, Fides ex auditu. As though he were to say: Faith is not knowledge which enters by any of the senses, but is only the consent given by the soul to that which enters through the ear.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Sidgwick on Purity

 A significant part of Henry Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics is a critical discussion of topics raised in Whewell's moral philosophy, although he does not explicitly call attention to the fact that this is what he is doing. Thus he has significant sections devoted to Whewell's Five Virtues, including Purity.  ('Virtue' in both Whewell and Sidgwick is perhaps not quite what we usually mean by 'virtue'; we should perhaps think of a Virtue in their sense as being a value exemplified by a good character. In Whewell, at least, what we would often think of as the virtue is closer to what Whewell instead calls the Spirit of the Virtue.) However, Sidgwick makes a significant change when he talks about it, one that distorts the discussion considerably. In Whewell, Purity is concerned with the idea that we should not act like mere beasts; in particular, our 'lower' parts (like bodily desires) should be subordinated to our 'higher' parts (like our moral capacities). This is quite general, and forms subordinate Virtues depending on the kinds of bodily desires, like Temperance for food and drink, Chastity for sex, Modesty as an offshoot of Chastity concerned with attitude. All of these are governed by a unified principle. And this is essential for Whewell, because he is in turn responding to Bentham who rejects both as forms of 'asceticism' (the ultimate evil in Bentham's hedonistic utilitarianism). Sidgwick, however, more or less identifies Purity with Chastity. This ends up creating a number of problems.

(1) First, Temperance is divided from Chastity, and the two are no longer seen as having a common root and end. True, Sidgwick does recognize that there is a practical convenience in treating the two together, but the internal unity between the two is broken. The breaking of the unity has the further effect that the role of Purity in Whewell's response to the utilitarians is obscured, and the further clarification of the idea that could come from Whewell's argument against Bentham is ignored.

(2) Further, it leads Sidgwick to think of Purity/Chastity not as a Virtue concerned with our priorities in all life but as concerned with interpersonal relations. He denies, for instance, that Purity is a self-regarding Virtue (which is certainly not wholly true in Whewell's scheme), and talks about it almost entirely in terms of sexual intercourse, despite the fact that Purity is usually not considered (by Common Sense or by Whewell) to be solely concerned with the actual sexual deed. This creates a muddle. In Methods III.ix, when he first discusses it, Sidgwick is in the process of arguing that 'Common Sense Morality' provides no definite, precise rules for moral life, using Whewell's scheme of the Virtues to structure his argument. Unsurprisingly, he finds that Common Sense is very imprecise about Purity -- but all of the imprecision arises in contexts concerning interpersonal relations, and thus from Sidgwick's own  modification of the idea, whose attribution to Common Sense is never really justified and which is simply unjustifiable in the context of Whewell's overall scheme. Whewell is very clear (and Sidgwick is very aware) that our sexual morality does not unfold entirely out of Purity, but depends very heavily on another of the Five Virtues, Order, which concerns Law. It is Order, not Purity, that primarily concerns sexual matters as matters of interpersonal relation, because it is interpersonal relations in particular that require definite standards. Much of Sidgwick's criticism of Purity as a source of definite guidance really boils down to the claim that you can't get the Order parts of sexual morality out of Purity alone. This is true, but doesn't actually tell us much of anything about Purity itself.

(3) Sidgwick notes a distinction in Common Sense Morality between a 'stricter' and a 'laxer' view of Purity; the stricter holds that sexual appetite should be indulged only for procreation and the laxer that it should be indulged only for increasing mutual affection in a permanent union. Part of his argument that Purity provides no precise guidance is that these are two very different views. But throughout, Sidgwick is assuming that sexual appetite can have only one end, which is not at all what Whewell's characterization of Purity implies. And we already know that Common Sense Morality does not assign sexual appetite one end. Sidgwick has admitted it himself. He takes this to be a sign that Common Sense Morality is not definitively decided on the topic, but in reality nothing requires that either end be taken exclusively, and it is plausible that Common Sense Morality rejects rather than assumes the idea that indulgence of sexual appetite can't have more than one end consistent with Purity. 

(4) One of the most important claims Sidgwick makes is, "But it may be observed that any attempt to lay down minute and detailed rules on this subject seems to be condemned by Common Sense as tending to defeat the end of purity; as such minuteness of moral legislation invites men in general to exercise their thoughts on this subject to an extent which is practically dangerous" (III.ix.3). This is a claim that Sidgwick can make only because he conceives Purity so narrowly, as pretty much entirely concerned with the sexual act itself. Thus any extensive attempts to work out what is required to be 'pure' requires extensively thinking about sexual acts. But Purity as Whewell describes it does not work this way; it covers many things that are not sexual at all, and those things that it covers that are sexual are not all of the same kind, some of them being with secondary matters. Purity conceived this way does not require 'minute legislation' on how to have sex; it concerns things like how to treat people you are sexually attracted to, how to behave in romantic situations, how to act with good manners to members of the opposite sex in situations where sex might be relevant, and what should take precedence over any sexual behavior at all. These things will often not require thinking about any sexual act at all, because they concern things well upstream. What is more, it's not only that Sidgwick is certainly not getting Whewell right here; he is also certainly not getting Common Sense right. Is it really true that "any attempt to lay down minute and detailed rules" on sexual matters is condemned by Common Sense when the vast majority of societies that have ever existed have fairly minute and detailed rules about how men and women, and especially young men and women, should behave around each other? The existence of marriage and virginity customs are fairly close to universal; gossip about scandals is pretty much all the world over concerned with sex; people are very opinionated (and reasonably so) about how they should be treated in any matter even remotely concerned with sex.

Thus the entire discussion of Purity in Sidgwick attributes to Common Sense Morality on the subject of Purity a set of confusions and limitations that arise entirely from Sidgwick's never-justified modification.

While most of it is concerned with issues orthogonal to those considered here, Francesco Orsi has an interesting discussion of Sidgwick's comments on Purity: Sidgwick and the Morality of Purity.