Thursday, September 28, 2023

Music on My Mind


Club for Five, "Fragile".

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Dikaion de Psychai en Cheiri Theou

 The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no tribulation will touch them. They seemed to the eyes of the imprudent to die, and their exit was believed evil, and their going away from us to be shattering; but they are in peace. And though they are to human eyes punished, still their hope is full of immortality, and having been slightly disciplined, they are greatly benefited, because God assayed them and found them worthy for himself. He tested them like gold in the furnace and he received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their examination, they shall shine and run across like sparks on a reed. They shall judge the nations and rule the people, and their Lord will reign for always. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and those who are faithful in love will continue with him, for grace and mercy are to his holy ones and he examines his chosen. But the impious shall suffer punishment according to their own thought, those who have neglected the just and departed from the Lord. For whoever despises wisdom and discipline suffers hardship, and their hope is empty, and their deeds are pointless, Their women are witless and their children are wicked, their stock is cursed. For blessed is the barren one who is pure, who has not known the bed of transgression, who shall bear fruit in the examination of souls, and the eunuch who has done no lawlessness with his hands, nor imagined wickedness against the Lord, for he is given the chosen gift of faith and an inheritance in the temple of the Lord more to his mind. For the fruit of good labor is glorious and the root of prudence is unfailing. The children of adulteries shall be unfulfilled and the seed of the transgressive bed shall vanish, for if they happen to live long, they shall be accounted as nothing, and their old age shall be honorless, and if they end quickly, they shall have no hope, not even in the day of discernment. For unbearable is the end of the unjust generation.

[Wisdom 3:1-19, my very rough translation.I have translated episkope and like words by words indicating 'examination', which seems to fit best; literally, it means supervision or oversight. The last several sentences are heavy with different telos-related words, which can mean the ending or fufillment or completion of something. I find the emphasis on one's own thought interesting: the difference between the end of the just and of the unjust is that the unjust are punished even by their own lights, whereas the just are not. While some of the last part is obscure, I'm fairly the point is less a claim about the actual progeny of adulterers and more a comment that even the apparent blessings of the unjust (of which wife and children and descendants are an especially great kind) will not really be blessings -- however the unjust may seem to flourish, they are not in fact doing so. It's unsurprising, I think, that parts of this passage are often read in commemorations of martyrs, who end badly in the eyes of the world but have great reward, in contrast to many who seem to do well but in reality are building toward disaster.]

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Pointing the Path that Leads His Journey Right

The Moon
by John Clare

How sweet the Moon extends her cheering ray
To damp the terrors of the darksome night,
Guiding the lonely traveller on his way,
 Pointing the path that leads his journey right.
Hail! welcome! blessing! to thy silver light,
That charms dull night, and makes its horrors gay.
So shines the Gospel to the Christian's soul;
So by its light and inspiration given,
 He (spite of sin and Satan's black control)
Through all obstructions steers his course to heaven.
So did the Saviour his design pursue,
 That we, unworthy sinners, might be bless'd;
 So suffer'd death, its terrors to subdue,
 And made the grave a wish'd-for place of rest.

The Liturgical Commonwealth

 Let's start with a basic picture of human society, which I think is at least approximately true. Human beings are both sympathetic and rational, and for both reasons tend to combine their efforts in with others. In some of these interactions, the people involved are interacting in order to have some good that they have in common with others through the interaction. This common good is literally common; it is not a distributed good, divided among the people interacting, and it is not a collective good, distinct from the good of each. It is a good held in common, each individual's good and yet not divided among them. Systems of such interactions are called 'communities' after this good shared in common. In rational interactions with common good, we have rational principles governing how the common good is to be handled in the interactions; these are obligations and norms. When a community has in itself all that is required for the common good it has as a community, it is a complete society. The explicit obligations and norms of a complete society, when made explicit by the actions of all of the members of the community, or made explicit by those whom the members of the community treat as having the relevant authority, are called laws.

Let's also consider the nature of the Church, with an account of its origin that I am greatly simplifying but that I think is also at least approximately true. The Church by its nature does not arise out of a set of responses of its individual members; it is not the Jesus fandom. It is an institution, in the very literal sense that it was instituted by Christ and the early disciples operating on behalf of Christ. Even in the life of Christ it had rites and structured practices (baptism, preaching, healing missions) formed under his direction. It likewise had roles that were at least semi-formal and had some specific responsibilities -- the book of Acts lists the roles of authority in the Church as the Eleven (i.e., the Twelve Apostles minus Judas), the Brothers of the Lord, the Women, and Mary the Mother of the Lord. The last of course is a sui generis role; the Apostles seem to have been the primary authority, with the Brothers of the Lord primarily concerned with the role of Christians in Temple worship and the Women primarily concerned with administering the material needs of the Church, although our knowledge of the role of the latter two is very hazy and limited, because only the Apostles had a role that made it possible for them to provide a stable organization for the Church as a whole, and because the Brothers of the Lord did not survive much beyond the destruction of the Temple and the Women, whose original unity seems to have been that they had been wealthy women personally healed or exorcised by Jesus who were returning the favor by providing money and other help to Jesus and his disciples, seem to have broken up into various diverse practices and traditions.  The Apostles in organizing the Church established what seems to have been a fairly wide variety of different roles, of which the role of Supervisor (or 'bishop', to use the English modification of the Greek word for 'supervisor') was particularly important. The very early Church, however, seems to have been quite flexible in terms of the offices used, and one reason the role of Supervisor became dominant is that it literally involved the Apostles delegating some of their own supervisory functions, which could be said of no other role. The Church is organized under a particular commission, part of its very institutional structure: to go into all the world, baptizing and making disciples; it thus has both a sacramental and doctrinal aspect to it.

Therefore the Church is a community to which you are called, into which you are initiatiated, and within which you are part of an organization. Many of these features are not made by those who are members but received by them as part of the process of tradition, vocation, initiation, and participation. The Church pre-exists any of its members and is received by its members as involving common good that is higher than any human good, and part of that common good is the community itself. The Church itself is also a complete society, since it has everything in itself that its common good requires.

So far, so good; I am simplifiying, but this is in its broad outlines a fairly standard kind of ecclesiology. However, I think there is another aspect that gets forgotten. The Church as outlined above is a received society rather than a formed society; that is, its members receive the common good that makes it a community, including its sacramental and doctrinal hierarchy, whose existence depends on its institution from Christ and the Apostles rather than the members themselves. But when human beings have a common good, they form communities, and therefore the members of the Church, sharing the common good they receive from divine institution, form a society that depends on its members. This aspect of the Church I call the 'liturgical commonwealth'. It forms within the Church as part of the Church, and includes all of the members of the Church. The Church is not reducible to the liturgical commonwealth (because it is not reducible to the kind of society it is insofar as it depends on its members), but the Church is the liturgical commonwealth. 

The common good of the liturgical commonwealth includes all of the doctrine and the sacraments of the Church, and thus all of the hierarchy which supervises the doctrine and the sacraments. However, as with every other complete society, the liturgical commonwealth as such has authority over itself to protect that common good, and this is a power that belongs to the whole people who are part of it. Bishops have supervisory power over doctrine and sacraments, including the power of canon and liturgical law, but the whole community can by custom and various means of organization establish norms and even laws that are distinct from this.

This adds a layer of complication to ecclesiology -- the Church has to be considered both insofar as it is a received hierarchy and insofar as it is formed by its members -- but it also, I think, explains a great many things. There are many powers bishops and priests have historically had that are not strictly required by their doctrinal and sacramental mission; they are powers that have been given by the communities they served, because the community needed certain functions to be fulfilled and it was more convenient to attach it to the already-received episcopal or priestly office than to invent a new office. Likewise, there have been many roles that are distinct from the received hierarchy that have nonetheless played an important role in the Church. Monks and nuns and the like are an obvious case; they are now more or less formally integrated into what we usually think of as the received hierarchy, but this is actually a relatively new thing, something that took many centuries. All of these positions are things that were not necessarily done as an extension of episcopal organization, and yet developed a considerable amount of authority and influence just by the custom of the people. That is, the roles were generally created by the people as part of their way of upholding the common good, and then the bishops, exercising their supervisory power, organized those roles that the people had developed. (There are particular kinds of monastic that were invented by bishops, but in those cases the bishops were generally using a pre-existing role, developed by the people, as a model that they then adapted.) Other roles that have certainly been important for the Church but which were formed by the people rather than received as part of the instituted common good, are Christian kingship and Christian knighthood. Recognizing that the Church is a liturgical commonwealth clarifies the functions of such roles within the whole order of the Church.

In English we often call the hierarchy-constituting sacrament, 'holy orders'. But the original name for it was just Order. And the 'order' in the sacrament of Order was not a specialized term. Every society whatsoever has order, in the same general sense that 'order' was applied to the sacrament of Order; every society has to ordain (i.e., set in order) things for its common good. The Church has an instituted sacramental order, but as a liturgical commonwealth, it also has the same general sort of social order that human societies tend to have. And just as we have 'holy orders', that is, sacramental components of the sacramental order, we also have what might be called 'social orders', that is, social components of the social order. They are not equal, because the sacramental order is itself part of the common good that the social order is formed to protect and preserve, and because the supervisory powers of bishops are conferred sacramentally but are both sacramental and social in scope. (Christian marriage, like the clergy, also exists in both orders, and plays an important role in structuring the liturgical commonwealth.) But they are distinguishable. We can see this even in the clergy; the clergy are primarily structured by the sacramental orders (deacon, priest, bishop), but there are clearly distinctions among clergy that are social-order distinctions (monsignor, cardinal). But there are social orders in the Church that we primarily associate with the laity as well; again, Christian kings and Christian knights are an example. Some, like Christian kings and Christian knights, have been explicitly given a kind of sacramental recognition for their role in upholding the common good of the Church; that is to say, there are sacramentalia (sacramentals) associated with them, in the form of various blessings and Christian rites that at various times and places the Church has recognized. But the lay social orders themselves develop as part of the laity just living their lives in the Church, not because of these sacramental recognitions. Thus recognizing that the Church is also a liturgical commonwealth can serve to clarify the role of the laity in the Church, since the laity often participate in the actual work of the Church through social orders and roles that could, if necessary, be formalized as social orders, and because the laity play a major role in shaping the customs and norms of the liturgical commonwealth.

The idea is that the Church is therefore a kind of double society, the society into which we are called and which we form in light of the society into which we are called. Thinking in this way

(1) provides a way of clarifying a number of ecclesiological questions, like cultural and local powers of clergy, like the role of the laity in the Church, like the way in which the Church is both a divine and a human society, etc.;

(2) gives an ecclesiology that recognizes the priority of the sacramental and doctrinal order without reducing the Church to that;

(3) gives an ecclesiology that is flexible enough to account for the real importance of the customs of the people and Christian culture without reducing the Church to that.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Music on My Mind


The Hound + The Fox, "Return to Pooh Corner". Originally a Kenny Loggins song.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

En de Anthropos ek ton Pharisaion

 And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nikodemos his name, an Archon of the Judeans; he came to him at night, and said to him, Rabbi, we are aware that you have come from God, a teacher; because no one is able to make these signs that you make, if God were not with him.

Iesous responded and said to him, Amen, Amen, I say to you, if anyone is not born from above, he is not able to see God's realm.

Nikodemos says to him, How is a man able to be born, being old? He is not able to enter his mother's belly a second time and be born.

Iesous said to him, Amen, Amen, I say to you, if anyone is not born of water and Breath, he is not able to enter God's realm. What has been born of flesh, is flesh, and what has been born of the Breath is breath. Do not wonder that I said to you that y'all ought to be born from above. The breath breathes as it will and you hear its sound, but you are not aware of whence its comes and whither it departs; so are all who have been born of the Breath.

Nikodemos answered and said to him, How are these things able to happen?

Iesous answered and said to him, You are the teacher of Israel and do not know these things? Amen, Amen, I say to you, that that of which we are aware, we speak, and to that which we have seen, we testify, and our testimony y'all do not receive. If I have told y'all things on earth and y'all do not believe, how will y'all believe if I tell y'all things above the heavens? And no one has risen to heaven if not the one having come down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moyses elevated the serpent in the wasteland, thus the Son of Man ought to be elevated, so that all who believe in him may possess perpetual life.

Thus God was so devoted to the world that he offered his only-born son, so that all who believe in him should not be annihilated but should possess perpetual life. For God did not send out his Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be rescued through him. Who believes in him is not judged; who does not believe him has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the only-born Son of God. 

[John 3:1-18, my rough translation. There are several subtleties to the Greek here that are difficult to capture in translation. One interesting feature of this passage that is usually missed in English is that Jesus keeps switches back and forth between singular and plural 'you'; hence my use of 'y'all'. Another feature that is virtually impossible to convey in English is that Jesus originally says, 'If anyone is not born anothen'; anothen literally means 'from above', but can also mean 'anew'. From what Jesus goes on to say, it is clear that he intended 'from above' as the primary meaning (although perhaps not excluding 'anew'), but Nicodemus clearly interprets him as meaning 'anew' (as do many translations). Another tricky point is how to translate pneuma, which can mean spirit, breath, and wind; the passage also uses pneumatos, which is clearly a title. So I've picked 'breath' as the single translation that fits most easily with most of how it's used here, and then distinguished pneuma and pneumatos by capitalizing the latter. Monogene is tricky; it literally means something like 'single one from a given stock', so 'unique, one-of-a-kind'; but Jesus's repeated comments about birth, a related word, just prior to this do suggest that there is wordplay here again, in which Jesus is using the word in a way that highlights its relation to birth-words, thus 'only-begotten' or 'only-born', which arguably also fits better with the same word as used in John 1:14.

Nicodemus's title, archon, is often translated as 'ruler', which is very literal but not very enlightening. An archon would have been a member of the governing council of the local community; it was not itself a religious position, although it often overlaps with religious positions. Judeans were an ethnos in the ancient world, and as such were expected to be partly self-governing, so archon is here an official title for a community leader. Nicodemus's comment about 'signs' at the beginning fits with a continuing theme in the Gospel of John about signs that are not correctly interpreted. It is possible that this is why there is unusual wordplay running through the entire passage, in which Jesus is represented as using several words in ways that are slightly different from what one would expect: just as people not born of the Spirit do not understand what He was doing, so people not born of the Spirit do not understand what He was saying.]

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Baptism of Vicarious Desire

 There has recently been in several places in social media some discussion of baptism of vicarious desire (baptismus in voto parentum); unfortunately it has been plagued by several serious misconceptions. I think it is worthwhile to make a few clarifications, although they do not on their own rise to a full treatment.

(1) The question of whether there is baptism of vicarious desire arises from the case of infants whose parents were intending to baptize them who die before baptism. There are a few things potentially confusing about the name.

Despite the English name, the 'desire' has nothing to do with 'desire' in the colloquial sense; the 'desire' in this context specifically indicates baptismal intention. For instance, catechumens may die before they receive sacramental baptism; but to be a sincere catechumen is to be preparing for baptism, and thus to have baptismal intention, so they are said to receive baptism of desire. Baptismal intention is a necessary but not sufficient element of sacramental baptism; thus in the case of catechumens who die, they have part but not all of what makes for sacramental baptism. When this has actually been discussed, saints and doctors have typically seen this as a case of genuine participation in something not completely possessed; that is to say, baptism of desire is genuine baptism, and thus suffices for salvation, but it is incomplete and does not provide everything that sacramental baptism does (e.g., it does not give any kind of sacramental character because it is not sacramental baptism). This is known as 'baptism of desire'. It is distinct from (although related to) what we are currently considering. Despite occasional skeptics, here is no real doubt in Catholic theology that there are cases of baptism of desire; it's not a hugely common topic, but one can find clear support for it in some Church Fathers, some particular version of it seems to be the situation for the Old Testament saints, and the Council of Trent at least implies it as a possibility and is often interpreted as requiring it as part of Catholic theology of baptism.

Most forms of baptism, including baptism of desire, involve what is known as proper baptismal intention; that is to say, the person baptized is the one who has the baptismal intention itself. However, there are kinds of baptism that do not involve proper baptismal intention but vicarious baptismal intention. This is the sort of intention that is involved in sacramental baptism of infants; the baptismal intention is that of the parents and the Church on behalf of the infants rather than of the infants on behalf of themselves. There is no real doubt in Catholic theology that vicarious baptismal intention suffices in the case of sacramental baptism; infants receiving sacramental baptism with only vicarious baptismal intention (which is the only way they can) are genuinely baptized.

Thus the question of whether there is baptism of vicarious desire amounts to this: Are there cases of baptism falling short of sacramental baptism where the baptismal intention is vicarious? For example, if parents are preparing for an infant to have sacramental baptism but the infant dies before it can actually receive sacramental baptism, is the infant baptized? Catholic theology does not take baptism to be an all or nothing affair; there are baptisms that are taken to be genuinely but only incompletely or partially baptismal, like baptism of desire and baptism of blood (martyrdom). Is an infant who dies (for instance) just before receiving sacramental baptism baptized in this kind of genuine-but-incomplete sense? That is the question.

It is important to recognize, because I find that people regularly fail to do so, that the question is not whether infants can be saved without baptism; the question is whether they can be baptized without sacramental baptism. Likewise, we are not considering whether every infant is so baptized; we are considering whether infants who were going to receive sacramental baptism but did not are baptized. (There's a weird notion that occasionally floats around that baptism of vicarious desire is an alternative to limbo; in fact, they don't really have anything to do with each other -- the claim that there is a limbo of children is a claim about what happens to children who are not baptized, the claim that there is baptism of vicarious desire is a claim that some children are baptized in a particular way. Dragging limbo into the matter is an ignoratio elenchi.)

(2) Some peope take the fact that there is nonsacramental baptism due to proper baptismal intention and sacramental baptism due to vicarious baptismal intention as directly establishing that there can be nonsacramental baptism due to vicarious baptismal  intention. This is probably too quick, but it is true that it makes it a reasonable question to ask. Given that we certainly have 


what principled reason is there to claim that the right corner of the table should get a NO rather than a YES? Infant baptism does establish that vicarious baptismal intention can sometimes be adequate as baptismal intention; baptism of desire does establish that sometimes one can be baptized with proper baptismal intention without having received sacramental baptism in particular. So the question becomes, what principled reason is there for denying that someone can be baptized with vicarious baptismal intention without having received sacramental baptism in particular? And that turns out to be quite difficult; most of the arguments I've come across would, if they worked, also establish that there is no infant sacramental baptism. What is given with proper intention in baptism of desire and adult sacramental baptism is given with vicarious intention in infant sacramental baptism. Since infant sacramental baptism is a non-negotiable YES in Catholic theology, any argument against baptism of vicarious desire that would also imply that infants cannot be sacramentally baptized, if one attempted to apply the same argument to sacramentally baptized infants, is a non-starter. In practice I find that critics of the idea of baptism of vicarious desire tend to start with the baptism of desire and then argue that infants don't have proper intention and so don't have baptism of desire. This is trivially true, and irrelevant, because baptism of vicarious desire is not baptism of desire in this way. If lack of proper baptismal intention were sufficient, no infants could receive any kind of baptism. The fundamental puzzle that has to be addressed if one rejects baptism of vicarious desire is how the arguments for infant sacramental baptism work if vicarious baptismal intention is not adequate for baptism. (An indirect version of this, which one finds very occasionally discussed in Baroque authors, is circumcised children in the Old Testament, who are taken to have baptism by anticipation, a very specific form of baptism of desire, but who, if they died before the age of reason couldn't be baptized, as adult Old Testament saints could be, under baptism of desire, since their anticipation of Christ was vicarious rather than proper.)

In short, any argument against baptism of vicarious desire would have to be an argument that while one can be baptized with proper intention despite not having received sacramental baptism, one can only be baptized with vicarious intention if one has received sacramental baptism. Most attempts to discuss the question completely fail to argue this.

(3) Well, what do we find when we look at the Church Fathers and scholastic doctors? The answer is that we find almost nothing either way. The question does not seem to be directly asked until the early modern period. Scattered passages from the Church Fathers and scholastics that are occasionally brought forward in favor of baptism of vicarious desire are generally on closer inspection seen to be about infant sacramental baptism; scattered passages that are occasionally brought forward against it are on closer inspection either talking about infants who are not baptized at all (which is not relevant to this case) or occur in contexts that are clearly about proper baptismal intention (which is not relevant to this case) and don't discuss vicarious intention at all. Some arguments concerning infant sacramental baptism can be interpreted as also implying that there can be baptism of vicarious desire; some arguments concerning baptism of desire can be interpreted as also implying that proper baptismal intention is in fact required if there is no sacrament. The 'can' is quite important; one could also usually not interpret them in these ways. The handful of Baroque theologians who discuss the matter explicitly, usually building on or arguing against Cajetan, are divided and often cautious. Some people argue that they tend overall toward the negative on the topic; I don't know if this is actually true, and I don't know anyone who has actually done the study required to establish this, Baroque sacramental theology being a sorely neglected field of research. But even if it is, there doesn't seem, as far as I can tell, to be any consensus among those who definitely reject it as to exactly why there is infant sacramental baptism but not baptism of vicarious desire for infants who die before they can actually receive sacramental baptism. Part of this is that it is difficult to find any well developed account of vicarious baptismal intention and its relation to proper baptismal intention. The primary topic that comes up when discussing the question of baptism of vicarious desire is whether infants in the womb can be baptized; but this only looks at a subset of the infants whom one might consider candidates for having had baptism of vicarious desire, and therefore one's answer to this question does not give us a general account of the latter. Sacramental theology after the collapse of Baroque scholasticism, while not entirely empty, has for the most part left the topics of scholastic sacramental theology where they were, and where it has touched on them has usually done so in a perfunctory or fragmentary way. Baptism of vicarious desire has only very occasionally even had serious examination in modern times.

Thus, contrary to what some would imply, the matter has simply never had the discussion appropriate for definite decision, in either direction.

(This is a quite common problem. The medieval and Baroque scholastics did truly extraordinary work in systematically working through the issues of Catholic sacramental theology -- I truly believe that their efforts constitute one of the great wonders of intellectual history -- but despite working through it over centuries, scholastic theology as a shared conversation and project collapsed before it was completed. There are vast portions of the map of sacramental theology that are barely sketched out. To take just one easy-to-prove example, Thomists still don't have a fully worked-out theology of matrimony or unction because Aquinas never got to the point himself of fully working through the implications of his instrumental theory of the sacraments for these sacraments, and Thomists since have only barely contributed anything along this line. But you can find significant gaps everywhere.)

In any case, all this is simply to point out things that need to be taken seriously to discuss the matter at all. If anyone wishes to know my own view, it's that baptism of vicarious desire exists and is genuine baptism; on the usual principles we apply, it almost certainly exists for cases like the infant dying shortly before actually receiving baptism, and probably also for cases of infants who actually die in childbirth, where the parent certainly would have baptized them if they had lived long enough. Miscarriages are a much harder case, in part because any arguments are necessarily indirect, but I think the arguments are at least plausible. Children who die without sacramental baptism whose parents were committed to giving them such baptism participate in baptism because they have through their parents and the Church the intentional element of sacramental baptism; this suffices for salvation, but does not give other benefits of sacramental baptism, like the baptismal character. However, whether this is true or not, fully arguing in either direction requires prior work on vicarious intention, indirect and incomplete participation in the sacraments, and the like that has simply not been done.

The Tracks of Some Unearthly Friend

 Angelic Guidance
by John Henry Newman 

Are these the tracks of some unearthly Friend,
 His foot prints, and his vesture-skirts of light,
 Who, as I talk with men, conforms aright
Their sympathetic words, or deeds that blend
With my hid thought;--or stoops him to attend
 My doubtful-pleading grief;--or blunts the might
 Of ill I see not;--or in dreams of night
Figures the scope, in which what is will end?
Were I Christ's own, then fitly might I call
That vision real; for to the thoughtful mind
That walks with Him, He half unveils His face;
But, when on earth-stain'd souls such tokens fall,
These dare not claim as theirs what there they find,
Yet, not all hopeless, eye His boundless grace. 

 Whitchurch. December 8, 1832.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Soil of Liberty

 Nor with heroic daring against the Foreign foe, can black vengeance against the Domestic be wanting. Life-circulation of the Revolutionary Committees being quickened by that Law of the Forty Sous, Deputy Merlin, not the Thionviller, whom we saw ride out of Mentz, but Merlin of Douai, named subsequently Merlin Suspect,—comes, about a week after, with his world-famous Law of the Suspect: ordering all Sections, by their Committees, instantly to arrest all Persons Suspect; and explaining withal who the Arrestable and Suspect specially are. ‘Are Suspect,’ says he, ‘all who by their actions, by their connexions, speakings, writings have’—in short become Suspect. Nay Chaumette, illuminating the matter still further, in his Municipal Placards and Proclamations, will bring it about that you may almost recognise a Suspect on the streets, and clutch him there,—off to Committee, and Prison. Watch well your words, watch well your looks: if Suspect of nothing else, you may grow, as came to be a saying, “Suspect of being Suspect!” For are we not in a State of Revolution? 

 No frightfuller Law ever ruled in a Nation of men. All Prisons and Houses of Arrest in French land are getting crowded to the ridge-tile: Forty-four thousand Committees, like as many companies of reapers or gleaners, gleaning France, are gathering their harvest, and storing it in these Houses. Harvest of Aristocrat tares! Nay, lest the Forty-four thousand, each on its own harvest-field, prove insufficient, we are to have an ambulant “Revolutionary Army:” six thousand strong, under right captains, this shall perambulate the country at large, and strike in wherever it finds such harvest-work slack. So have Municipality and Mother Society petitioned; so has Convention decreed. Let Aristocrats, Federalists, Monsieurs vanish, and all men tremble: “The Soil of Liberty shall be purged,”—with a vengeance!

Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History, Chapter 3.4.VI. It is said that Charles Dickens carried around this book while writing A Tale of Two Cities.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Links of Note

 * William Paris, The Problem Spaces of Public Philosophy, at "The APA Blog"

* Bridger Ehli, Hume on Modal Projection (PDF)

* Lauren N. Ross, What is social structural explanation? A causal account (PDF)

* Baskerville, Book I of Plato's Republic, at "Baskerville Reads"

* David P. Hunt, Form and Flux in the Theaetetus and Timaeus (PDF)

* Colin Guthrie King, Aristotle's Categories in the 19th Century (PDF) -- I thought this was a very interesting article.

* Stephanie Pappas, Mistranslation of Newton's First Law Discovered after Nearly 300 Years, at "Scientific American". The headline, it should be said, is not very accurate, although the body of the article is much, much better than one would expect from such a title. The rough summary is that Daniel Hoek argues against a (now-)common interpretation of the First Law by going back to the Latin rather than the English translation which seems to be the basis of the interpretation. I haven't read Hoek's paper, but the abstract for it does suggest that the translation is an error; I would say rather that it is potentially ambiguous, in a way that later was misinterpreted. ('Unless' in the eighteenth century sometimes is used in ways that make it interpretable in the same way as 'except insofar'.) But in any case, it would not usually have been interpreted incorrectly due to the English translation until the twentieth century, because most Anglophone physicists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would have read the Latin original. Learning Latin was something that they would have done as schoolboys, and scientists like Faraday who could not read Latin and Greek with at least moderate fluency were rare. In England in particular, everyone who would have studied physics or calculus in university would certainly have studied Newton's Principia in the original Latin; it was a point of a pride. And when one looks at major Newtonian interpreters, like William Whewell, it is very clear that they did not make the mistaken interpretation that Hoek is criticizing (in fact Whewell's interpretation is quite close to the paraphrase suggested by Hoek). It's interesting to consider when the misinterpretation arose; the earliest reference given in the article is in the 1960s, and I would not be surprised if that were its origin -- new interest in Newton by people who probably (as Hoek suggests) did not go back and look at the original Latin.

* Fiorella Tomassini, Right, Morals, and the Categorical Imperative (PDF)

* Sara Protasi, Teaching Ancient Women Philosophers: A Case Study (PDF)

* Brian Kemple joins Hunter Olson for a two-part podcast on medieval semiotics.

* Ryan Haecker, Origen's Speculative Angelology (PDF)

* Andrea Iacona, Connexivity in the Logic of Reasons (PDF)

* Ben Zion Katz, Maimonides on Free Will, Divine Omniscience and Repentance, at "The Seforim Blog"

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Portents and the Prodigies

 If we are to look for lessons, here at least is the last and deepest lesson of Dickens. It is in our own daily life that we are to look for the portents and the prodigies. This is the truth, not merely of the fixed figures of our life; the wife, the husband, the fool that fills the sky. It is true of the whole stream and substance of our daily experience; every instant we reject a great fool merely because he is foolish. Every day we neglect Tootses and Swivellers, Guppys and Joblings, Simmerys and Flashers. Every day we lose the last sight of Jobling and Chuckster, the Analytical Chemist, or the Marchioness. Every day we are missing a monster whom we might easily love, and an imbecile whom we should certainly admire. This is the real gospel of Dickens; the inexhaustible opportunities offered by the liberty and the variety of man. Compared with this life, all public life, all fame, all wisdom, is by its nature cramped and cold and small. For on that defined and lighted public stage men are of necessity forced to profess one set of accomplishments, to rise to one rigid standard. It is the utterly unknown people, who can grow in all directions like an exuberant tree. It is in our interior lives that we find that people are too much themselves. It is in our private life that we find people intolerably individual, that we find them swelling into the enormous contours, and taking on the colours of caricature. Many of us live publicly with featureless public puppets, images of the small public abstractions. It is when we pass our own private gate, and open our own secret door, that we step into the land of the giants.

G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens: A Critical Study, Chapter X.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

On Bloomfield on Humility

 Paul Bloomfield in Humility Is Not a Virtue (PDF) argues, as you might expect, that humility is not a virtue. 

Part of his argument is that many of the virtue-ish things associated with humility are really matters of justice. This part of his argument fails miserably. For instance, one phrase associated with humility is 'having a just opinion of oneself'; Bloomfield argues that this is naturally seen as really an act of justice (as shown by the 'just' part of the phrase). But in reality all this shows is that humility is at least similar to justice, which is trivial, since all virtues have similarities to other virtues. In the traditional way of understanding justice, justice is not primarily or directly about oneself at all, but about paying one's debts (monetary or otherwise) so that equality is maintained. There is no sense in which 'having a just opinion of oneself' can be construed as literally a performance of this action. When we say things like 'humility involves having a just opinion of oneself', we are using justice as an analogy, not as a classification -- humility is like justice but applied to oneself (so could be called justice loosely), which justice (in the relevant sense of a specific virtue) is not. Of course, we can use 'justice' to mean something broader and more loosely than any specific virtue; we do so a lot. But precisely because of this we cannot assume that something pertains to the specific virtue of justice merely because we use justice-words for it. Bloomfield says if you replace 'humility' with 'justice' in common statements about humility that you get something that makes complete sense, but notably none of his examples show this if we are talking about justice as a specific virtue rather than justice as meaning any aspect of character that is justice-y in some way -- justice as a specific virtue, for instance, tells us nothing at all about what about ourselves we should or should not be proud of. Bloomfield's arguments on this point are merely showing that humility is plausibly in the family of virtues clustered around justice, not that justice is the real virtue we are talking about when we are talking about humility. This is all the more sure given that, when Bloomfield talks about justice here, he characterizes it as having to do with respect and self-respect, which is not a traditional account of justice; this merely confirms that he is actually talking about a virtue in the justice family that is not the one we usually call 'justice', but another one, which we often call 'humility'.

He has a further argument, focused on the notion of humility as 'owning limitations'; Bloomfield argues that 'owning one's limitations' requires appreciating one's strengths and competencies, and that if you put this together with 'owning one's limitations', you don't have humility. Thus humility would only be 'half a trait'. But this argument fails as well -- 'owning one's limitations' may require appreciating one's strengths and competencies, but owning limitations and appreciating strengths are simply not the same act, and therefore they could very well be done by distinct traits. Futher, virtues can break up into virtues ('integral parts' in the old terminology), and it is entirely possible for a virtue to be analyzable into other virtues as integral parts, where those sub-virtues need to be combined together to reach their full potential as virtues, despite always being distinguishable. People have proposed something like this with justice, taking it to be analyzable into the virtues of beneficence and nonmaleficence; the fact that these sub-virtues need to be put together in a fully integrated character does not change the fact that they are distinct, with different objects.

These failures are largely due to the fact that many modern theories of virtue have a flat and unsophisticated notion of how virtues can be related to each other. But not all theories of virtue are flat in this way, and in a more sophisticated account it becomes clear that neither of these lines of argument could actually prove what Bloomfield wants them to prove. (Bloomfield mentions other arguments briefly in passing, but they also are poorly suited for drawing such a conclusion; for instance, that humility is learned through mistakes and failure -- this is not necessarily true -- unlike other virtues which are not -- this is also not necessarily true, as we see with prudence -- or that humility is phenomenologically unpleasant -- this is not necessarily true -- unlike other virtues -- this is also not necessarily true, as we see with patience and fortitude.)

But there is a broader point that Bloomfield makes that is, I think, quite relevant. Bloomfield notes -- clumsily, but accurately -- that humility makes sense as a virtue in a theistic context. No matter how good you are, your good is derivative and infinitely far from the greatest good, the divine good, and so it becomes a virtue to recognize that your good, however good it may be, is a finite and derivative good. If we don't assume a theistic context, it becomes much less clear why humility would be a virtue. Modesty in the sense of not being boastful still would be, but humility is a much harder sell if there is no good that is far and away greater and more fundamental than your own excellence. Bloomfield argues that humility could be a 'corrective' in cases violating equality, but I would argue that this does not work, and Bloomfield would simply have done better to reject humility altogether. For one thing, as he characterizes humility, it simply can't act as a corrective in the way he suggests, because humility as he characterizes it is not concerned with equality but lowliness, and whatever else may be said about humility this surely has to be in some way right. Another issue is that it becomes unclear that there would be much use for it, since people are usually not treating others as equal because they have a reason to treat them as inferior, whether good or bad; once you take out a principle like 'We are all in the image of God' or 'We are all equal before the judgment seat of God', the sense in which we are ever actually equals in practical situations is attenuated at best. People think that the excellent athlete should have humility precisely because he is an excellent athlete; but this is precisely the point at which the excellent athlete is not equal to other people. In the theistic context it makes sense -- you recognize the inequality but recognize that it doesn't make you 'all that', because before God other things matter far more. But take that away and it's difficult to see how human equality (as opposed to say, equality of benefit in very narrowly defined exchanges) is not just a polite fiction; all of the alternatives to God, like reason, end up being quite abstract and removed from the practical features of this particular situation. 

In any case, Bloomfield is right that whether humility is a virtue depends at least in part on whether God exists. If God exists, the reasons for thinking that humility is a virtue are quite considerable; if there is no God, they are at least very limited and perhaps nonexistent. This is not surprising; what counts as a virtue for human beings will depend on what human beings are, and whether God exists or not has fairly direct implications for how we should see ourselves.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Two Poem Drafts

 The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

A music weaves through waving reed and rush,
a bit of symphony that melds with swish and shush
of wind and water through the leaping stream,
with one small thread of song in dawning gleam.
Both old and new, with beauty bright and clear,
like foreign-land's adventures laced with homelands dear,
like dreams of things that never we have known
that give to waking life a strange but luscious tone,
behind the veil of life, like Pan in piping dance,
is realm of magic haunt and holy-high romance;
just on the other side of mundane shadows gray
the Piper pipes the song at gates of dawning day.

The Touch of Evermore

The world is dark and full of sorrow,
the roads are long and sharp with stone,
but with you here, the stars are shining
and I will never walk alone.

My dearest love, my night is falling
as was my fate since I was born,
but in your smile the sun is dawning
and hope can dream a fairer morn.

The shadows fall on every corner
and in the dark the monsters dwell,
but, bright of eye, you walk here smiling
and banish all the shades of hell.

My dearest love, I stand here dying,
as we all do on this wicked shore,
but you and I, our hearts are flying
and I feel the touch of evermore.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Fortnightly Book, September 17

The Klondike Gold Rush occurred between 1896/7 and 1899. The Klondike is entirely in Yukon, Canada, but the American/Canadian border nearby was worked out without regard for the geographical layout of the region; getting to the Klondike from Alaska was fairly easy, but due to the way the Rocky Mountains are laid out in the area, getting to it from anywhere in Canada was immensely difficult, and, indeed borderline impossible for much of the year. This is why we often tend to associate the Gold Rush with Alaska -- most people attempted to get to the gold-rich area through Alaska.

Because of this, when James A. Michener was writing his tome, Alaska, he considered the question of how one might try to reach the Klondike while staying entirely in Canada, particularly since one of his primary goals in working out his outline for the book was to emphasize the Canadian contribution to Alaskan history. He eventually settled on a Mackenzie River route and worked out some characters he liked for the expedition. And then the entire section was cut from Alaska, partly because Michener wanted to keep the book under a thousand pages and partly because it was hard to justify having such a significant portion of the book Alaska not occurring anywhere near Alaska, particularly given the development of a chapter on the Alaskan side of the Gold Rush. Alaska was published in 1988 without the section. But Michener really liked parts of the story that he had written, and considered how he might use it. It had to be reworked and filled out in some ways, since it had been pulled out of a larger context to which it was no longer connected, but in 1989 he published it as a standalone work of less than two hundred pages, Journey: A Novel

Journey is the next fortnightly book, of course. All-around athlete and explorer Lord Luton wants to head an expedition to the Klondike during the Gold Rush, but it aggravates him to have to leave the British Empire to do it. From London to Edmonton by boat and rail, and then the harder part of the journey begins: up through Athabasca Landing, along the rivers to Fort Norman, and then, hardest of all, along the Mackenzie River to Dawson. A difficult journey -- and one where it's uncertain that it can be done at all.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows


Opening Passage: 

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said “Bother!” and “O blow!” and also “Hang spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, “Up we go! Up we go!” till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

Summary: The Mole gives up spring cleaning to enjoy the spring, and by good fortune meets the friendly and sensible Water Rat, with whom he quickly becomes good friends. Rat teaches him how to boat on the river and introduces him to other animals. One of these other animals is Toad of Toad Hall, a wealthy, irresponsible, bombastic, conceited, very affable fellow. Toad turns out to have a fatal weakness: he becomes addicted to recklessly driving motor-cars. While this problem is developing, Rat introduces Mole to the Badger, who lives in the Wild Wood. (Narnian Talking Animals are of coruse modeled on the animals in The Wind in the Willows, and Badger is the most obvious point of similar, because he would fitly comfortably in either world.) As Toad's obsession with motor-cars gets him into increasing trouble, Mole, Rat, and Badger hold an intervention for him, to prevent him from reaching the apparently inevitable end of either death or ruin. The intervention fails completely, however; Toad takes a final joyride in another person's car and is caught, with the result that he is brought before the Magistrates, who take a dim view of his entire action. Poor Toad is thrown in jail. He eventually escapes in disguise and makes a fugitive flight across the country in order to get home, where money and being well liked will provide some protection. When he gets back, he finds that Toad Hall has been taken over, and will need the help of Mole, Rat, and Badger to get it back. In the meantime, Mole and Rat meet the great god Pan, and Rat, with Mole's help, has to fight off the temptation to become a seafarer.

Much of the story can be seen as exploring the struggle between the restlessness and thirst for adventure we often feel in mundane and domestic matters and the homeliness of home. Mole gives in to the restlessness and it becomes in some ways the best thing he ever did, because it results in his having excellent friends. Toad only ever gives in to the restlessness and it lands him in prison. Rat has to fight off the restlessness because it is really contrary to who he is. I think Chapter VII, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", where Mole and Rat meet Pan, shows both of the two impulses tangled together. Pan's piping is the music of the wind in the reeds and the rushes; it calls forth to adventure, but paradoxically, coming to Pan is also like coming home to animals, a paradox that is neatly captured by perhaps the most famous passage in the chapter:

“Rat!” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?” 

 “Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!” 

 Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

But there is another reconciliation of adventure and home that we find throughout the book: friendship. Friends are an adventure in which we are at home, and a home which is full of adventures. Whether it is Mole and Rat drifting down the river and then having a picnic, or the two enjoying Badger's excellent hospitality, or the three looking out for Toad as he returns home from his flight, having friends is one of the ways to satisfy both the restless thirst for adventure and the deep need for being at home.

Besides reading this work, I also listened to an audiobook version (from Blackstone Publishing, narrated very well by Mary Woods), and I'm glad I did so. In many ways, this is really a tale meant to be read aloud rather than silently -- preferably with friends, of course, but in any case aloud. Many of the poetic descriptions found in the book work best in the living voice. 

Favorite Passage:

One morning the girl was very thoughtful, and answered at random, and did not seem to Toad to be paying proper attention to his witty sayings and sparkling comments. 

 “Toad,” she said presently, “just listen, please. I have an aunt who is a washerwoman.” 

 “There, there,” said Toad, graciously and affably, “never mind; think no more about it. I have several aunts who ought to be washerwomen.” 

 “Do be quiet a minute, Toad,” said the girl. “You talk too much, that’s your chief fault, and I’m trying to think, and you hurt my head. As I said, I have an aunt who is a washerwoman; she does the washing for all the prisoners in this castle—we try to keep any paying business of that sort in the family, you understand. She takes out the washing on Monday morning, and brings it in on Friday evening. This is a Thursday. Now, this is what occurs to me: you’re very rich—at least you’re always telling me so—and she’s very poor. A few pounds wouldn’t make any difference to you, and it would mean a lot to her. Now, I think if she were properly approached—squared, I believe is the word you animals use—you could come to some arrangement by which she would let you have her dress and bonnet and so on, and you could escape from the castle as the official washerwoman. You’re very alike in many respects—particularly about the figure.” 

 “We’re not,” said the Toad in a huff. “I have a very elegant figure—for what I am.”

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Dashed Off XXVIII

 Applying plans requires a good sense of 'That will do well enough'.

Contracts are fundamentally nonverbal interactions that are partially verbalized.

On Jenkins's account of agender identity, nothing prevents anyone from being an 'agender man' or an 'agender woman', if (like most people) you don't think manhood or womanhood is reducible to 'internal map'. The same is true of 'genderfluid'. This account therefore does not rule out that these are just modalities of 'man' and 'woman'. 

Even when considered only as signs, sacraments are formed of *many* signs.

The world-points of physics are not in a one-to-one correspondence with the world-points of the perceptual world. They are, however, often close enough to use such a correspondence as a loose approximation. 

"An object is considered the designatum of a sign production of a certain person if there is a procedure which assigns the greatest weight to it in relation to that sign production. The meaning of the sign production is considered the more safely ascertained, teh more the weight of the object in question surpasses the weight of the other objects for the same sign production." Carnap
--> An obvious problem with this is the assumption that there is always only one object, whereas multi-object sign productions are very common. (It's interesting to think of how a satisficing rather than maximizing version might work.)
--> Weightings would obviously have to be relative to interpretant and in particular (but not solely) to the interpretant associated with the sign producer. At the very least, it seems likely there will be many procedures relevant to possible relevant interpreters.

"The reporting relation (between a report and its state of affairs) is to be constructed together with the sign production relation (between a word and the designated object), since the two constructions relate to, and support, one another." Carnap

A weathervane is a sign of the way it is pushed; its being pushed this way may be a sign of the direction of the wind; the direction of the wind may be a sign of the coming of a storm.

On Carnap's account of 'the purely quantitative world of physics', all experiments are outside the 'world of physics'. 

Experiments are cultural objects and rely on the manifestation and documentation relations, among many others.

As there is no single temporal order, a real object's position in temporal order, or even whether it has one, depends on the clock used.

Carnap often talks as if one could construct levels fairly directly, but what would actually have to happen is construction of ways of relating (like sense organs or measuring devices) which would then be used to construct objects at the relevant level. (Thi sis perhaps obscured in Carnap's examples by, e.g., his ambiguous use of 'my body' and similar things as cranes and scaffolding without acknowledging that this is a different -- and new -- function.)

"Unquestionably, there are phenomena of faith, religious and otherwise, and of intuition; they play an important role, not only for practicla life, but also for cognition. Moreover, it can be admitted that, in these phenomena, something is 'grasped', but this figurative expression should not lead to the assumption that knowledge is gained through these phenomena. What is gained is a certain attitude, a certain psychological state, which, under certain circumstances, can indeed be favorable for obtaining certain insights." Carnap

"The evil person is like a fracture in our human world, through which we catch glimpses of the void." Roger Scruton

the need for co-phenomenology (dealing with structures of consciousness from a *plural* first-person view)
-- experience sharing
-- co-intentionality (collective, shared, distributed)
-- body as intersubjective media
-- shared normativity
-- shared emotions
-- the human ability to appraise on the part of others (including groups)

Our feeling-material is inherently sympathetic and our feeling-forms are inherently communicable.

feeling-from (queasiness, uneasiness) vs. feeling-toward (grief, love)

A group works as a unity to the extent its nature as a group analogizes to a hylomorphic composite.

Liturgy by definition is a cooperative project.

kinds of sharing a mood or vibe
(1) resembling modalities of experiencing and acting
(2) mutual feeling and acting on behalf of or from the posit of the other's perspective
(3) A' sexperience of being with B while B feels and acts
(4) A responding or reacting to B's experience and acting insofar these are taken by A to represent B
(5) shared objects under shared descriptions

membership-feelings and proto-representation

Team or joint reasoning is not somethign that emerges from complete individual reasoning; it is our default mode of reaosning, and reasoning on one's own requires the development of special skills.

Human beings personify virtually everything, so it is obviously absurd to claim we cannot act in ways that treat groups as personified.

The very structure of the New Testament gives what might be called the preliminary canonical structure of Church: from Christ through the Apostles, organized as supervised churches, with both formal and informal structures and offices, oriented toward final consummation. This preliminary structure is filled in by: typology, prophecy, solutions in the New Testament to particular problems, historical application of Scripture to historical problems, diffusion of local customs.

Our basic first-person perspective does not seem to distinguish singular and plural very sharply; we tend, for instance, to speak and act for others as well as for ourselves, and children have to learn how to handle cases in which they can't.

Monarchy and tyranny are the only forms of government that are really generous to mediocrity.

the world as physical framework, the world as vital environment, the world as material and medium for reason

reasons to keep watching a movie
(1) inductive: interesting so far
(2) deductive: intrinsically interesting idea being unfolded
(3) abductive: interest in where it suggests it is going
(4) nonductive: nothing more interesting to do

What Campbell's monomyth gets right is liminal crossing.

Equality is only valuble if it is the kind of equality compatible with respect for one's neighbor.

The sinner is to be loved as potential saint.

forms/stages of political philosophies
experimental -> revolutionary -> tribalist/nationalist -> intertribalist/internationalist -> universalist -> reactionary -> experimental

"Divine love is the end of which all the inspiration and all the miracles which ever were in the world were but the means. Those were only certain means of grace, but divine love is the grace; it is itself the sum of all grace." Jonathan Edwards

baptismal & confirmational character : soul :: eucharist : Church

conscientious objection & the principle of least means in statecraft

Note Edwards's arguments throughout the Miscellanies that the angels were only confirmed in holiness at the Ascension. (They often correctly recognize some kind of exaltation, but this is not enough for Edwards's conclusion.)

Anything written on the page must be translated from death to life.

The counterfactual is indefinite by nature, but it can be imagined on the model of a collection of definite things based on causes, logical consistencies, and extrapolated regularities (in various combinations).

In evangelism, those fish are caught who swim near where the nets can go.

common intelligibility as a postulate of community

Hohfield's privileges would be better thought of as permissions and his powers as legal responsibilities and his immunities as exemptions.

Every right is direct to an object considered as good, and is had within a community.

Rights are only as defeasible as the laws that form them.

receiving the created things of the world eucharistically

Most of what St. Paul says he clearly expects others already to know, and also often does not expect his claims would receive any serious challenge form another apostolic line.

(I) Syllogism of Synthetic Medicine: (1) The phenomena we know of this disease are such and such; (2) In case of similar phenomena, such and such method of treatment was found beneficial and another hurtful; (3) Therefore follow the first and not the second method.
(II) Syllogism of Analytic Medicine: (1) The internal and formal causes of the present disease are these or those; (2) Such and such method of cure diminishes or destroys these causes; (3) Therefore that method is sutiable for the treatment of the present disease.

"We say, therefore, that every effect produced in the human body must be considered as the product, not of the agent alone, but of two concurrent causes, the *agent* and the *reagent*. Here *action* is continually accompanied by *reaction*, and the consequent state of the body is merely the result of this action and its accompanying reaction." Rosmini
--> As he notes, this directly implies that no medical effect can be predictable without knowing the state of the body being treated, and imprecision or uncertainty in the latter increases the imprecision and uncertainty of the prediction.

Concern for the happiness of one's neighbor is largely built out of local interests, idioms, allegiances, and patriotisms.

2 Maccabees 2:17 -- the inheritance (kleronomian), the kingship (basileion), the priesthood (hieroteuma), the consecration (hagiasmon)
Romans 9:3-4 -- the adoption (huiothesia), the glory (doxa), the giving of the law (nomothesia), the service of God (latreia), the promises (evangeliai), the fathers (pateres), Christ according to the flesh (Christos to kata sarka)

To reason back from exemplate to exemplar requires assessment of the defective causes relevant to the derivation of exemplate from exemplar.

the probationary/progressive link (stages of a progressive scheme are probationary)

love, joy, and peace as the three modes of Christian prayer

love as an act of charity : faith :: joy as an act of charity : hope :: peace as an act of charity : charity

In romance, the romantic object is made the foreground of a decorative context.
romantic situations as cultural objects, manifesting ideas in mind and documented by dinnres, gifts, flowers, etc.

formal documentations (actions) and material documentations (objects used in actions)

the sacramental economy as an expressive sign of divine holiness

People need more than bare truth; they need ways to express it and apply it.

General Account of Scriptural Text
(1) Testimony as Causal Connection
-- (a) Text as Effect
-- (b) Efficient Causes in Testimonial Connection
-- (c) Defective causes in Testimonial Connection
(2) Testimony as Personal Connection
-- (a) Text as Sign Presented
-- (b) Text as Common Ground (Communication)
-- (c) Testimony as Assurance
-- (d) Text as Manifestation and as Documentation
(3) Custodial Care of the Text
-- (a) Sharing
-- (b) Preserving
-- (c) Teaching
-- (d) Studying
-- (e)  Refractions and Reflections in Other Literature and Art
(4) Reception of the Text
-- (a) Text as Community-Forming and -Shaping
-- (b) Textual Reception as Discipline
-- (c) Textual Reception as Inspiration
-- (d) Textual Analysis and Interpretation
(5) Text as Objective Cause
-- (a) Text as Sign of Object
-- (b) Modes of Presenting Objects
-- (c) Symbolism and Objects as Signs of Objects
-- (d) Shared Objects
-- (e) Motivating Objects
(6) Text as Dispositive Cause
(7) Text as Occasional Cause
-- (a) Divine Communal Movement
-- (b) Divine Individual Movement

Pentecost is not strictly the birth of the Church but its confirmation.

Simply looking at the gospel alone, Augustine's characterization of Mark as an abbreviation is extremely plausible -- Mk does come across at times as an abbreviated summary for a new audience. It's the extrinsic evidence that causes problems for the idea.

The body itself is a practical articulation of our experience.

every conservation law as identifying a PSR for a restricted domain.

Oppression is not some vague miasma but always very specific things.

'Folk theology' is narrative, symbolic, and concerned with patterns and anomalies. This is ineliminable; no matter what further discipline or refinement, this serves as our universal default.

Every passion has a sympathetic mode. We not only feel anger, we can feel angry for others; we not only feel joy, we can feel joy for others.

Christ often heals only because of faith, but it is notable that he does not only heal because of the faith of the one healed.

Something's being a sign of power does not exclude it from being a sign of wisdom or goodness.

"The works of Jesus CHRIST are not arguments of power, we know not waht: they are arguments of the very power he pretended to; because samples of that very power." Turnbull
--> As Turnbull rightly notes, this line of reasoning is entirely independent of any account of what miracles or how they relate to laws of nature.

Human beings can so to speak 'resonate' with those with whom we deal often; we sometimes in this context say that the virtues and vices of others 'rub off' on us.

We learn about people by taking their actions as samples.

Both Mark and John, in different ways emphasize the extraordinary confusion Jesus caused in those around him.

The essential principle of apocalyptic is deeper meaning; it posits deeper meaning to history and exhorts the reader to look for deeper meaning.

Mark 1:1 should be taken very seriously; it is precisely what the gospel shows.

Jesus' temptation in the wilderness as itself a symbol of the Incarnation

pseudo-marks in drawing (extrapolated lines, negative-space lines)

"A conserved quantity -- energy, momentum, etc. -- is an infintie potential and so has minimal actual." Chastek

the Esther vocation of Christian rulers: giving fellow Christians room to defend themselves

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Links of Note

 * James Kalb, The State of Catholicism, at "Chronicles"

* Jack Trotter, Remembering Hilaire Belloc , at "Chronicles"

* Jans Lemanski, Can Non-Causal Explanations Answer the Leibniz Question? (PDF)

* Thomas Nagel, Leader of the Martians, at "London Review of Books", looks at the life of J. L. Austin during World War II.

* Chris Tweedt, Absolute Identity and the Trinity (PDF)

* Landon D. C. Elkind and Richard Zach, The Genealogy of 'v' (PDF)

* Miranda Aldhouse-Green, The secret life of Druids, at ""

* Thomas A. Blackson, Believing for Practical Reasons in Plato's Gorgias (PDF)

* Michael Gibson, Chariots of Philosophical Fire, at "City Journal", discusses the role of Oxford in twentieth-century philosophy.

* David P. Hunt, On Augustine's Way Out (PDF)

* Quote Investigator looks into the sources for the quotation, "When People Cease To Believe in God, They Do Not Then Believe in Nothing, But in Anything."

* Hashem Morvarid, Avicenna on common natures and the ground of the categories (PDF)

* The Project Gutenberg Open Audiobook Collection

* Stuart Ford, Preambles Before the Preamble: Rediscovering the Preamble's Role in Constitutional Interpretation (PDF)

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


 Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church. From Homily 5 on the Gospel of John:

Moses in the beginning of the history and writings of the Old Testament speaks to us of the objects of sense, and enumerates them to us at length. For, In the beginning, he says, God made the heaven and the earth, and then he adds, that light was created, and a second heaven and the stars, the various kinds of living creatures, and, that we may not delay by going through particulars, everything else. But this Evangelist, cutting all short, includes both these things and the things which are above these in a single sentence; with reason, because they were known to his hearers, and because he is hastening to a greater subject, and has instituted all his treatise, that he might speak not of the works but of the Creator, and Him who produced them all. And therefore Moses, though he has selected the smaller portion of the creation, (for he has spoken nothing to us concerning the invisible powers,) dwells on these things; while John, as hastening to ascend to the Creator Himself, runs by both these things, and those on which Moses was silent, having comprised them in one little saying, All things were made by Him. And that you may not think that he merely speaks of all the things mentioned by Moses, he adds, that without Him was not anything made that was made. That is to say, that of created things, not one, whether it be visible or intelligible was brought into being without the power of the Son.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


 In logic, subalternation is the operation in which from a universal proposition you can infer a particular proposition with the same terms and quality -- e.g., from "All X is Y" you can always get "Some X is Y". As is well known, this plays a role in  the traditional Square of Opposition, but is not found in the modern Square of Opposition.  It's worth thinking through the implications of the difference.

(1) The characteristic principle of subalternation is "Some S is S". Whenever "Some S is S", you always have subalternation, assuming that the rest of your logic is not modified. This is easily shown. For instance, in TFL, in which "All X is Y" is represented as -X+Y and "Some X is Y" is represented as +X+Y, subalternation uses the principle:


The premises add to the conclusion and the particular conclusion derives from one premise that is particular, so it is valid. Likewise in SYLL, in which "All X is Y" is represented as X -> Y and "Some X is Y" is represented as X <- * -> Y:

X -> Y   [premise]
X <- * -> X [subalternation principle]
X <- * -> X -> Y [concatenation]
X <- * -> Y [simplification]

Likewise, Lukasiewicz showed that you can derive the whole of Aristotle's syllogistic just from

All A is A
Some A is A

as well as Barbara and Datisi syllogisms.

Modern predicate logic, then, is a form of logic in which it is assumed that "Some A is A" need not be true -- that, for instance, "Some dogs are dogs" is not necessarily right. The traditional logic assumes that "Some A is A" is a necessary truth.

(2) Besides subalternation, the other relations of opposition are contradiction, contrariety. and subcontrariety. Any Square of Opposition that has both contradiction and contrariety will have subalternation. Suppose that A ("All S is P" is contradictory to O ("Some S is not P") and contrary to E ("No S is P") and that E is contradictory to I ("Some S is P") and contrary to A. Then from the truth of A we can include that E is false, since contraries cannot both be true; from E's being false we can conclude that I is true, since contradictories cannot both be false. The same reasoning follows for subalternation of O from E, if we start with E.

Thus in the modern Square of Opposition, which still has the same contradictories but lacks subalternation, contrariety must be lacking as well, which it is. In the modern logic it is assumed that "All S is P" and "No S is P" can both be true; in the traditional logic this is assumed to be impossible.

(3) The fundamental reason for the modern Square's difference is a very curious and quite arbitrary choice that was made to treat particular propositions as existential propositions (they imply that the subject term exists) and universal propositions as conditional propositions (with "All A is B" being translated as "If something is A, it is B"). Conditional propositions can be true even if their antecedent is false, so universal affirmative and negative propositions are not contraries, and you can't get "Something exists that is A and is B" from "If something is A, it is B". 

This weird division between universal and particular is logically consistent (although you have to tweak the rules of inference slightly), but it is far from being the most natural way to build the Square -- the most natural way to build the Square of Opposition is to assume either that they all imply the existence of their subject terms or that none of them do. Both of these assumptions give us something consistent (Aristotle, using mereological analogies, seems to have assumed that the subject term always in some sense exists, although he is fairly generous about what counts as existing, and free logic assumes that none of the categorical propositions are existential), and in both we can have subalternation. It's only when our account of universal propositions is not unified with our account of particular propositions that subalternation becomes impossible to accept as a logical rule. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Music on My Mind


Rag'n'Bone Man, "Human".

Sunday, September 10, 2023


 To say that something is 'potential' is to say that it has a particular sort of relation by which the actuality of something is possible for it. It is, in short, a relative term. Because of this, it can actually be applied to very different things as long as the relation is maintained.

Sometimes when we say that something is potential for X, we are saying that it is related to X by a lack of actuality that X's actuality could complete; X's actuality is only a possibility that can happen to it. This is potentiality in the strictest sense; in this sense something is potential precisely insofar as it is lacking in actuality. This potentiality is, so to speak, the capability of the thing that has it to be caused in some way.

However, at other times, we mean instead an actuality that can be the source of the actuality of other things, so that X's actuality is possible insofar as it is related to that source. Thus we might say that the sun has the potential to bring forth life; this bringing forth of life is not the actualization of any lack in the sun but something whose actuality is possible because the sun's superabundant activity is what can actualize it.

These two potentialities are very different, but often confused; recognizing the distinction can clear up many difficulties, not just with respect to discussions of the potential but similar discussions of power and disposition and capability and the like. 

Saturday, September 09, 2023

In Paths of Heaven'ly Truth to Soar

 Psalm 23
by Christopher Smart 

The shepherd Christ from heav'n arriv'd,
My flesh and spirit feeds;
I shall not therefore be depriv'd
Of all my nature needs. 

 As slop'd against the glist'ning beam
The velvet verdure swells,
He keeps, and leads me by the stream
Where consolation dwells. 

 My soul He shall from sin restore,
And her free pow'rs awake,
In paths of heav'nly truth to soar,
For love and mercy's sake. 

 Yea, tho' I walk death's gloomy vale,
The dread I shall disdain;
For Thou art with me, lest I fail,
To check me and sustain. 

 Thou shalt my plenteous board appoint
Before the braving foe;
Thine oil and wine my head anoint,
And make my goblet flow. 

 But great still Thy love and grace
Shall all my life attend;
And in Thine hallow'd dwelling place
My knees shall ever bend.

Friday, September 08, 2023

It Breaks in Our Bosom and Then We Bleed

 Hymn of Pan
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

 From the forests and highlands
 We come, we come;
From the river-girt islands,
 Where loud waves are dumb
 Listening to my sweet pipings.
The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
 The bees on the bells of thyme,
The birds on the myrtle bushes,
 The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was,
 Listening to my sweet pipings. 

 Liquid Peneus was flowing,
 And all dark Tempe lay
In Pelion's shadow, outgrowing
 The light of the dying day,
 Speeded by my sweet pipings.
The Sileni, and Sylvans, and Fauns,
 And the Nymphs of the woods and the waves,
To the edge of the moist river-lawns,
 And the brink of the dewy caves,
And all that did then attend and follow,
Were silent with love, as you now, Apollo,
 With envy of my sweet pipings. 

 I sang of the dancing stars,
 I sang of the daedal Earth,
And of Heaven, and the giant wars,
 And Love, and Death, and Birth --
 And then I chang'd my pipings,
Singing how down the vale of Maenalus
 I pursu'd a maiden and clasp'd a reed.
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!
 It breaks in our bosom and then we bleed.
All wept, as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood,
 At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

While All Is Dark Around, She Shines in Native Light

 Sonnet VI
by John Black 

While the bright colours slowly melt away,
That late the western clouds so richly dight,
And gradual darkness steals upon the light,
Thro' flowery vales, and groves I love to stray, 

 And silent mark the GLOW-WORM's kindling ray,
That mid the dunnest walks, and deepest glooms,
The long dank grass, with greenish light, illumes,
And glads the eye, and cheers the dusky way. 

 Tho' now it spread a radiance thro' its sphere,
 'Twas pale by day, unheeded, and unseen:
 Thus humble Virtue oft may dim appear,
Where gaudy Fortune spreads her dazzling sheen; 
 But in the gloom of drear Affliction's night,
 While all is dark around, she shines in native light.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Links of Note

 * Dan Williams, Is emotionality a fingerprint of misinformation?, at "Dan Williams Philosophy" (The post began as a Twitter thread, which is the reason for its unusual format.)

* Liam Kofi Bright, Arguments in Philosophy, at "The Sooty Empiric"

* Olivier Lemeire, The causal structure of natural kinds (PDF)

* Stephen C. George, When Scientists Believed the Adorable Platypus Was a Hoax, at "Discover Magazine"

* Chris DeVille, Dog Sneaks into Local Metallica Show, at "Stereogum"

* Bridger Ehli, Fiction and Content in Hume's Labyrinth (PDF)

* A while back there was an online push to try to find who was the artist who painted the famous 1976 Dell/Laurel Leaf paperback cover for A Wrinkle in Time. The name of the artist has finally been discovered (thus proving one of the things that internet communities are actually good for, I suppose): Richard Bober. Amory Sivertson, Ben Brock Johnston, and Emily Jankowski give the story of how a connection that had almost seemed to be lost forever was discovered.

* The Iraqi government, for reasons unknown, recently withdrew recognition of the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, Louis Sako; he was forced to relocate his see to Kurdish city of Erbil.

* Vincent Lam and Christian Wuthrich, Laws beyond spacetime (PDF)

* Lauren N. Ross, Cascade versus Mechanism: The Diversity of Causal Structure in Science (PDF). All of Ross's work on causal concepts in the sciences, at least all that which I have read, is very good, and this paper is not an exception; it is excellent.

* Kathrin Koslicki & Olivier Massin, A Plea for Descriptive Social Ontology (PDF)

* The quantitative analysis blog, "Data Colada", was recently sued due its investigation of apparent academic wrongdoing; they have an update on the current situation.

* I don't think I've said much about the 2019 biopic Tolkien; I enjoyed it, although I find it somewhat lacking in a number of ways. In any case, Jess of the Shire recently had a review of it at YouTube with which I am pretty much in agreement:

Monday, September 04, 2023

O Friend! I Know Not Which Way I Must Look

 Written in London. September, 1802
by William Wordsworth 

O Friend! I know not which way I must look
For comfort, being, as I am, opprest,
To think that now our life is only drest
For show; mean handy-work of craftsman, cook,
Or groom! -- We must run glittering like a brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest:
The wealthiest man among us is the best:
No grandeur now in nature or in book
Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,
This is idolatry; and these we adore:
Plain living and high thinking are no more:
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Gregorius Dialogus

 Today was the feast of Pope St. Gregory I the Great, often known in the East as Gregory the Dialogist. From his Moralia in Iob (Vol III, Part 6, Bk XXXIII, Sect 36-37):

...But because this Leviathan flatters himself with a false promise of the Divine compassion, after He had spoken of the terror of his strength, and had roused the mind of blessed Job with circumspection towards Him, (saying, Remember the battle, and say no more;) in order to shew his unpardonable guilt, He immediately added; Behold, his hope shall disappoint him. 

But this ought to be so understood, as to be referred to his body also; because all wicked men who fear not the strictness of Divine justice, flatter themselves in vain on His compassion. And He presently returns to console us, and foretels his coming destruction at the last judgment, saying; And in the sight of all he shall be cast down. For he will be cast down in the sight of all, because when the eternal Judge then terribly appears, when legions of Angels stand at His side, when the whole ministry of heavenly Powers is attending, and all the Elect are brought to behold this spectacle, this cruel and mighty monster is brought captive into the midst, and with his own body, that is, with all reprobates, is consigned to the eternal fires of hell, when it is said, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. O what a spectacle will that be, when this most huge monster will be displayed to the eyes of the Elect, which at this time of contest, could he but be seen, might have too much terrified them! But it is so ordered by the secret and wonderful judgment of God, that he is now conquered by His grace, though not seen by the combatants, and that then he is beheld by the joyful victors as already captive. But they then learn more fully how much they are indebted to the Divine assistance, when they have once seen so mighty a beast, whom they have now conquered in their weakness; and behold in the huge size of their enemy, how much they owe to the grace of their Defender....

Fortnightly Book, September 3

 Kenneth Grahame was a secretary at the Bank of England; he had had literary aspirations but his family had pushed him in the direction of a profession with a more stable salary. He still did some writing in his spare time. Pagan Papers, a slim book of literary sketches, was published in 1894, but he began having real success with his next two works, The Golden Age (a book of retellings of Greek myths, published in 1895) and Dream Days (a book of short stories, published in 1898), which were both lavishly praised by the critics and sold reasonably well. But he is best known, of course, for a work published in 1908, which the critics of the despised. He had originally intended to title it, Mr. Mole and His Mates, but for reasons completely unknown, it was published under a title that was much more memorable: The Wind in the Willows.

The book began as a set of stories that Grahame told his perpetually ailing son, Alastair, around 1904, when the boy was four years old. Sometimes they were bedtime stories, sometimes they were letter-stories he wrote to his son when he was away, but in 1908, shortly after he had left his job at the Bank and retired, he reworked them a bit and had them published. And now it comes to us, as the next fortnightly book.

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Sir Walter Scott, Old Mortality


Opening Passage: Because this has an elaborate narrative framing, one has to choose what counts as an 'opening passage', since there are two distinct introductions and a Chapter 1 that is explicitly labeled 'Preliminary', with the actual story starting in Chapter 2. Since I don't think the introductions or the preliminary first chapter actually give much a sense of the story itself, I've chosen to begin with the opening of Chapter 2, which at least puts us at the time of the story.

Under the reign of the last Stewarts, there was an anxious wish on the part of government to counteract, by every means in their power, the strict or puritanical spirit which had been the chief characteristic of the republican government, and to revive those feudal institutions which united the vassal to the liege lord, and both to the crown. Frequent musters and assemblies of the people, both for military exercise and for sports and pastimes, were appointed by authority. The interference, in the latter case, was impolitic, to say the least; for, as usual on such occasions, the consciences which were at first only scrupulous, became confirmed in their opinions, instead of giving way to the terrors of authority; and the youth of both sexes, to whom the pipe and tabor in England, or the bagpipe in Scotland, would have been in themselves an irresistible temptation, were enabled to set them at defiance, from the proud consciousness that they were, at the same time, resisting an act of council. To compel men to dance and be merry by authority, has rarely succeeded even on board of slave-ships, where it was formerly sometimes attempted by way of inducing the wretched captives to agitate their limbs and restore the circulation, during the few minutes they were permitted to enjoy the fresh air upon deck. The rigour of the strict Calvinists increased, in proportion to the wishes of the government that it should be relaxed....

Summary: In 1679, Lady Margaret Bellenden holds a wapenshaw (literally: weapon-show), which is a gathering of people in a district "both for military exercise and for sports and pastimes", partly in order to express her support of the Royalists. The Covenanters in the area, of whom there are many, are unhappy, but many of them cannot stay away from the fun and games.  During the shooting competitions, two people particularly stand out: Lord Evandale and Henry Morton. The entire story will consist of their intersecting and intertwining lines, and involve three things in particular: they are both in their own way honorable men even when honor is detrimental to their situation; they are both in love with the same woman, Edith Bellenden, Lady Margaret's daughter; and, despite being both political moderates, are on opposite sides of a brewing civil war, since Lord Evandale is a Royalist and Henry Morton is a Convenanter.

Henry ends up getting an immense amount of trouble when his sense of honor leads him to help John Balfour of Burley, a historical figure who played a significant role in the Covenanter rebellion. Balfour of Burley is persona non grata, but he also is responsible for having saved the life of Henry's father, a debt that his father had never been in a position to repay, and so out of a sense of honor, he gives Burley food and shelter for a night. However, Burley was thoroughly involved in the assassination of Archbishop James Sharp, and the result is that Henry's honorable payment of his father's debt leads to near-disaster for his entire family, to Henry himself being outlawed. He ends up with the Convenanter rebels, with whom he has some abstract agreements of principle, being Presbyterian himself and in favor of freedom of religion.

Henry's talents, which were already on display in the wapenshaw, lead him to becoming a significant commander in the Covenanter army, which gains a great victory against the Royalist forces at the Battle of Drumclog. However, it's more than slightly difficult to be a liberalish moderate commander in an army that gets its numbers largely from religious fanaticism; he will be blamed for every failure and mistake that gets made, and despite his genuine commitment to the cause, will constantly be attacked for lukewarmness and Erastian tendencies. It's unlikely that anyone in the seventeenth century would espouse quite the combination of principles Henry Morton does, so it seems fair to say that Henry Morton is a deliberate anachronism, being a sort of pro-Union Scotsman from Scott's own day born back in Convenanter days. He serves as a sort of filter for nineteenth-century Scottish thinkers looking back at the their heritage and having to deal with the problem that a very significant portion of their ancestors would have been vehemently opposed to everything that Scotland had become by the nineteenth-century. Henry is a nineteenth-century test for seventeenth-century Scotland, showing what can be admired in the latter even among the things that the former has repudiated. Nonetheless, he is not an allegorical figure, and is depicted in a well rounded way. Henry understands his allies as to several fundamental principles, but he often shows that he does not really understand them in terms of their attitudes and priorities. 

It is clear as the story progresses that Henry's position among the Convenanters is deterioriating and will certainly end badly -- it only carries on as long as it does because of his unusual military talents. This all ends when the Royalists achieve a crushing victory over the Covenanters at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. The Covenanter army scatters, but Henry himself is captured by some of the extreme Covenanter faction, who of course blame him as the infidel responsible for their loss of God's favor and prepare to execute him as a traitor; he happens to be saved by Royalists crossing their path, and is sent into exile until the overthrow of the Stewarts.

Scott presents the Covenanters in such a way as to emphasize that fanaticism is their fatal flaw, but he is also very careful to be clear that many of their complaints were entirely justified.  They were actively persecuted and oppressed, sometimes by slow social pressures imposed from above and sometimes with outright brutality.  In a story with so many oppositions, it's rather interesting that among the characters we most see, there are no outright villains on either side; even the fanatics are mostly just people who are in over their heads and are dealing with the fact that they need to forge some kind of unity despite having a disagreement-riddled religion based mostly on isolated individual Bible study and charismatic preachers -- something that is not entirely their fault, since most of the ways to maintain religious unity are precisely the kinds of institutions and practices that get suppressed in a religious persecution. Individual Covenanters often get censured for their own lack of moderation and deliberate refusal to see the big picture, but it's important to Scott's telling of the story that the Covenanters are not wholly wrong and have many noble qualities, which he sees as having been misdirected as a result of their having been mistreated. The nineteenth-century Scot can entirely relish the excellences of his Covenanter ancestors while fully admitting that they were often in error.

There is a love triangle running through this story. I have not emphasized it, partly because it's constant but not actually important to most of the events in the story, which are primarily driven by broader social and political forces. It does play an important role in showing both Henry and Lord Evandale in a good light, particularly since despite being love rivals they keep saving each other's lives, but while the historical parts of the story are fascinating, I found much of the love triangle story to be aggravating. Edith is a fine character for the most part, but her repeated tendency to keep the triangle going as long as possible, even when it is very obviously best for everyone that she choose Lord Evandale (the only choice she can make that does not end in disaster for her entire Royalist family), and Lord Evandale's patience with her went well beyond what should ever be required of mere mortals. But again, the role it plays in the story is mostly characterization, and for the most part it does not slow down the plot.

Favorite Passage: This is not a particularly quotable book, but there are many fine passages in which Scott attempts to capture the entire spirit of the era in a few strokes, of which this is one.

While the prudent and peaceful endeavoured, like Niel Blane, to make fair weather with both parties, those who had more public (or party) spirit began to take arms on all sides. The royalists in the country were not numerous, but were respectable from their fortune and influence, being chiefly landed proprietors of ancient descent, who, with their brothers, cousins, and dependents to the ninth generation, as well as their domestic servants, formed a sort of militia, capable of defending their own peel-houses against detached bodies of the insurgents, of resisting their demand of supplies, and intercepting those which were sent to the presbyterian camp by others. The news that the Tower of Tillietudlem was to be defended against the insurgents, afforded great courage and support to these feudal volunteers, who considered it as a stronghold to which they might retreat, in case it should become impossible for them to maintain the desultory war they were now about to wage. 

 On the other hand, the towns, the villages, the farm-houses, the properties of small heritors, sent forth numerous recruits to the presbyterian interest. These men had been the principal sufferers during the oppression of the time. Their minds were fretted, soured, and driven to desperation, by the various exactions and cruelties to which they had been subjected; and, although by no means united among themselves, either concerning the purpose of this formidable insurrection, or the means by which that purpose was to be obtained, most of them considered it as a door opened by Providence to obtain the liberty of conscience of which they had been long deprived, and to shake themselves free of a tyranny, directed both against body and soul. Numbers of these men, therefore, took up arms; and, in the phrase of their time and party, prepared to cast in their lot with the victors of Loudon-hill.

Recommendation: Recommended.


Sir Walter Scott, Old Mortality, Oxford (New York: 2009).