Saturday, January 28, 2023

Common Doctor

 Today is the feast of St. Tomasso d'Aquino, Doctor of the Church. From his commentary on the book of Colossians, on Colossians 1:3-6:

Our good consists principally in faith, hope, and charity; for through faith we have familiarity with God, through hope we are raised up to Him, but by charity we are united to Him. I Cor. XIII, 13: 'so now abide faith, hope, and charity, these three', &c. And so he [St. Paul] gives thanks for these three. First, that they [the Colossian Christians] have faith, although he was not the one who preached to them, which was a disciple named Epaphras, and later Archippus. Thus he says 'hearing of [your] faith', which is the source of spiritual life. Hab. II, 4: 'my just one lives from faith'. Hebr. XI, 6: 'who would draw near to God should believe', &c.

But this faith without working love is dead, as is said in Iac. II, 17. And thus it ought to be that there is a working love. Gal. ult.: 'in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor foreskin is worth anything, but a new creation'. And so he says, 'and the love which you have, etc.'.

For there is a love of charity and a worldly one, but the worldly one does not extend itself to all, because love is to those with whom there is communion, which is the cause of love, and this cause in worldly love does not pertain to all, but only to those who share blood or who share worldliness, but the love of charity extends itself to all. And thus he says 'in all'. For even if sinners are loved, this is so that at some point they might be saints. 1 Io. III, 14: 'we know that we are translated from death to life, because we love the brethren'.

Moreover, the world's love has fruit in this world, but charity has it in eternal life. And this third he puts under hope, saying, 'according to the hope that is laid up', that is, according to eternal glory, which is called hope, because it is held as certain. Iob XIX, 27: 'laid up is my hope in my heart'.

[Super ad Colossenses, sect. 11, my translation]

If you want to read St. Thomas without getting too heavily into technical matters, I recommend the commentary on Colossians very highly; I think it's one of the best commentaries on Colossians ever written and it is a fairly good introduction to important elements of St. Thomas's theology, but it is also relatively short and readable.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Dashed Off III

This completes the notebook that itself was finished in March 2022.


Even if you rejected 'An unjust law is not a law', there are injustices so great that laws requiring them cease for most people to be tolerable as laws, even in the abstract.

There are forms of injustice that are inconsistent with any law at all.

-- Aristotle on brutality, adapted to commentary on the nature of law

To be a human being is to be a participant in a broader community in which other people at least in principle owe you things.

A causal account of truth in judgment must appeal to both objective causality and exemplar causality.

A problem with truth deflationism is that the truth schema really makes adequation to reach truth a practice essential to inquiry, as important to inquiry in general as equality in the form of the zeroable equation is to mathematics, and for much the same reason.

the sacraments as jural goods

Tradition suggests or anticipates an ideal that is captured by the minds involved in it, as best they may, and which they attempt to implement, as best they may.

Scripture as text is a mechanism or means for creating languages.

culture as a dynamic system of mnemonics

"The semiosphere is that same semiotic space outside of which semiosis itself cannot exist." Lotman

"It is not seemly to be famous." Boris Pasternak

Every sign has an eschatology.

learning, imagination, eloquence, wit, gaiety, sublimity as moods of morality

-- Gould takes NOMA to apply to art as well, and it is here where all the flaws of the position are most clearly seen.

The Good Samaritan did not do liberation theology; he saw a wounded man and helped him.

Since having a right is imputable, in the Trinity there are three subsistent rights sharing one unique natural title to all possible jural goods.

Both aristocracies and republics require semi-regular significant sacrifices -- heroisms -- to function.

Relative to the artisanal idea, the action is a work: idea -> working (work-action, operation) -> work-thing (opus).

intellectual property and juridical titles, publicity of idea as title to a *kind* of opus
-- the opus as juridical good vs the kind of opus as juridical good

juridical title
(1) on natural grounds
(2) on artificial grounds
(3) on sacral grounds

piacularity and the need to recognize title even where one's violation of the right is not culpable or even complicitous

The Incarnation is in part a gift of the Virgin, and therefore donatively hers in that respect; the Eucharist is therefore, more indirectly, donatively hers.

the intercessory authority of the Virgin and the filial piety of Christ as man

life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness as the three grades of equality

As the danger in writing is to overtell, the danger in a visual medium is to overshow.

the destructive character of credentialed class cultural self-segregation: the acceleration and expansion of oligarchical elitism -- every society can tolerate some of this, but as the credentialed class gets larger, it can create impermeable credential-bubbles, so that credentialed persons can limit their interaction with the rest of the population

the value of religious institutions in forcing different classes together at least sporadically

Ps 45:17 & Lk 1:48

The first three days of creation parallel the second three days, with the latter bringing the regime of life to the contextual frame of the former.

It is natural to human beings to make things their own.

Jdg 13:18: And the angel of the Lord said to him, 'Why do you ask my name, seeing it is ineffable?'

iconoclasm as a reiteration or transposition of docetism

Each theological virtue anticipates an everlasting adornment of soul and body in heavenly life: faith will give way to vision and hope to possession or comprehension, while love will remain but reach its highest form of fruition.

romance and complimentary embarrassment

the Church as the sacramental cosmos

All art aspires to the condition of a sacrament, all literature to the condition of a scripture.

"The baptized man himself becomes a spring." Ratzinger

The liturgy itself is a higher actualization of those who participate in it.

The correct form of demythologizing is toward spirit, not flesh, toward heaven, not earth, toward glory, not dullness, toward something more than myth, not less.

The world of electric lights and radios and medicine is a world in which spirit and wonder and miracle are not so strange and remote from us as we had thought. (This is a common theme in our science fiction.)

Edwards's account of true virtue -- benevolence to being in general, the consent propensity and union of heart to being in general that is immediately exercised in a general good will -- is not a bad description of integral good character as such.

"Heaven and earth were created that the Son of God might be complete in a spouse." Jonathan Edwards

baptism : angelic creation :: confirmation : angelic confirmation in beatitude :: ordination : angelic exaltation under Christ as King of Angels and heavenly high priest

the intrinsic rituality of drama

First Christ must be present, then He must be offered for us.

the two ends of rites involving sacraments: to make the sacrament, to make the sacrament clear

Every sin is a distorted kind of love.

Academic jargon is liable to slip into states of sloppy convenience, using imprecise terms as if they were precise, using loose analogies as if they were explanatory accounts, not doing the work of analysis the situation actually requires

The particular form Hume's skepticism takes largely immunizes him from persuasion by argument, although not in the cases that lie near concerns and interests he already independently has.

-- 'unreasonable' in the Fourth Amendment as perhaps an indicator of common law (the reason of the common law) -- cf. Laura Donahue, who notes that Joseph Story holds something like this
-- cf. Coke's famous, "the common law itselfe is nothing else but reason".

the curtilage of doctrine

gift, sale, lease, bailment

privacy law as growing out trespass law

confidential and privileged communication & the curtilage of the person

In popular telling, the Goodyear blimp Resolute is the only US craft to have operated under Letters of Marque and Reprisal since the War of 1812. It served briefly in Dec 1941 and early 1942 as an anti-submarine privateer on the California coast. (This seems, however, to be a legend; no formal letter was issued by Congress, although the Resolute does seem to have provided some reconnaissance assistance to the Navy for a short time.)

We represent time as dynamical because we measure it by change.

convening powers in government

contrition in confession, confession the first part of satisfaction
-- contrition is virtual confession and confession is virtual satisfaction

"Satisfaction is part of penance as a sacrament, and a fruit of penance as a virtue." Aquinas ST 3.90.2ad3

The confession one must have in the confessional is confession that expresses contrition and begins satisfaction by accepting the authority of the tribunal of mercy.

Penitence is a medicine if its contrition, confession, and satisfaction are true and sure, but where necessity impedes confession and satisfaction, the penitence is true if there is contrition. (Cp. Scholarios, De differentia)

Confession and satisfaction are in the will as it expresses itself outwardly.

There can be no absolution in a void; it must be applied to the penitent qua penitent.

Sacramental penitence includes Christ's satisfaction as meritorious and exemplar cause of our own.

As the necessities in determinism are stronger than deontic necessities, determinism implies that everything actually done is permissible.

Too much of what we find in surrogacy is the renting of women as women.

Much as Clausewitz says of war, everything in reasoning is simple, but the simple things are hard in a number of ways.

Many church parishes are organized *like* parishes but not *as* parishes.

(1) charismatic
(2) prior social unity
(3) common experience (including professional ethos)
(4) mutual debt

The success of an army lies in solving a very large number of very small engineering problems (and, occasionally, a big engineering problem or two).

The arrogance of the clever is often itself unpardonable stupidity.

(1) Persons have intrinsic dignity.
(2) Everything else has either extrinsic dignity created by persons or dignity arising from association with persons.
(3) There was a first human person.
(4) Human persons must be caused.
(5) Nothing with intrinsic dignity can be caused by what has only extrinsic dignity or associate dignity.
(6) The first human person is not caused by a human person.
(7) Therefore, the first human person is caused by a person who is not human.
(8) Infinite regress of class of persons of kind X being caused by persons not of kind X is impossible.
(9) Therefore, there is a first person absolutely speaking from whom the series of persons resulting in any given human person comes.

"The ordinance of God is what we call the law of our being. To fulfil the law of our being is what we call the moral law. The moral law when reduced to a system is what we call religion." Gu Hongming
"A law from which we may escape is not the moral law."
"The moral law is to be found everywhere, and yet it is a secret."
"Great as the Universe is, man with the infinite moral nature in him is never satisfied."
"The true meaning of liberty says, 'You must fulfill the law of your being.' But the modern American notion of equality, among other things means head or brain flattening."

Gu Hongming's 'religion of good citizenship' is in fact universalist liberalism

"Do not hate hard labor or farmwork, which was created by the Most High." Sirach 7:15

The point of the Pax Romana is less that a state *of* peace was established and more that Rome was able to establish and enforce conditions *for* peace.

Esther B:2
(1) to deal fairly and with clemency
(2) to provide for subjects a life of complete tranquillity
(3) by making government humane and effective to restore the peace desired by all
--note incidentally the irony of this given what Haman has convinced the king to do

the Church as "a flood of water from a little spring" (Esther A:9)

idolatry as the reason, beginning, and end of all evil (Wis 14:27)
-- note the implication in vv. 28 & 29 that this is because the idols are actually covers for wrongdoing (cp 15:11-12)
-- note 15:16-17 -- contrary to what one might expect, the idolater is not making the divine in his own image, because man cannot actually make even a god-idol in his own image.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

A-Chasing the Wild-Deer, and Following the Roe

My Heart's in the Highlands
by Robert Burns 

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love. 

 My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go. 

 Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods. 

 My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Skeuos Ekloges

 But Saulos, still breathing menace and murder toward the Lord's students, having come to the high priest, petitioned from him letters to the synagogues in Damaskos, so if he found any being of the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Ierousalem. 

In travel, it happened in drawing near to Damaskos, there unexpectedly flashed around him a light from heaven. And having fallen on the ground, he heard a sound saying to him, Saulos, Saulos, why do you harry me?

And he said, Who are you, Lord?

And he said, I am Iesous, whom you are harrying. It is harsh for you to kick against the goads.

Trembling and aghast, he said, Lord, what do you wish me to do?

But rise and enter the city and you will be told what you ought to do.

And the men accompanying him stood dumb, hearing indeed the voice, but seeing no one.

Saulos then rose from the ground, but opening his eyes could see nothing. Then leading him by the hand, they brought him to Damaskos. And he did not see for three days, nor eat, nor drink.

And there was a certain student in Damaskos named Hananias, and a vision of the Lord said to him, Hananias!

And he said, See me, Lord.

Then the Lord to him: Having risen, go to the lane named Level, and seek, in the house of Iouda, one named Saulos of Tarseus. For see! he is praying! And he saw a man in a vision named Hananias having come and having laid hands on him so that he might see again.

Then Hananias responded, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how many evils he has done to your holy ones in Ierusalem, and here he has authority from the high priests to bind any who appeal to your name.

But the Lord said to him, Go journey, for this one is my selected vessel to carry my name to the nations and also rulers, and then to the sons of Israel. For I will show him how much he ought to endure for my name.

Then Hananias went off and entered the house, and having laid his hands on him, said, Saulos, brother, the Lord has sent me, Iesous who appeared to on the way you were going, that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Then immediately the flake-like fell from his eyes so that he saw again. And rising, he was baptized, and taking food, he was invigorated. And he was with the students in Damaskos for some days.

And at one he began proclaiming Iesous in the synagogues, that he was the Son of God. Then all hearing were flummoxed, and were saying, Is this not the one who was laying waste in Ierusalem all who appealed to this name? And for this he had come here, that, having bound them, he might lead them to the high priests.

But Saulos was more empowered and bewildered the Jews dwelling in Damaskos, teaching that this is the Anointed.

[Acts 9:1-22, my rough translation; today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I've translated what is usually translated as 'disciples' as students, mostly just as a reminder that the word wasn't some technical term but just meant people who studied under a teacher. I suspect that there is a deliberate contrast between 'the Way' (i.e., an early name of Christianity) and 'the way you were going' later in the passage. It's hard to translate the terms that Luke uses to talk about the complete chaos Saul is causing by the end of the passage. Existanto, which I've translated a 'flummoxed', could be translated as 'were made insane' or 'were struck mad'. I was tempted to translate it loosely but reasonably correctly as 'felt like they were losing their minds'. Synnechynnen, which I've translated as 'bewildered', literally suggests that everything was poured together, that is to say, thrown into a chaos and confusion in which nothing can be distinguished from anything else. The phrase that the Lord uses to describe Saul, skeuos ekloges, is interesting; skeuos is the same word that Paul himself uses to talk about God selecting some people for 'honorable use' in Romans 9. It can take a very generic meaning as any sort of instrument or implement, so 'instrument' would work as well as 'vessel'. Ekloges means something like 'taken out for a reason' and could also be translated as 'chosen'; Paul also uses the term in Romans 9. This is not insignificant, given the fact that Romans 9 is specifically about the mission to the Gentiles.]

Links of Note

 * David Merritt, MOND and Methodology (PDF)

* Gillian Russell, Quine on the Analytic/Synthetic Distinction (PDF)

* Extinct, the philosophy of paleontology blog, has recently started up again.

* Brendan Hodge, The 'synodal style' -- A correspondence look at US synod reports

* J. Dmitri Gallow, How to Trace a Causal Process

* Jeffrey Goodman, The Puzzle of Fictional Resemblance (PDF)

* Anthony Kalulu, Effective altruism is worse than traditional philanthropy in the way it excludes the extreme poor in the global south

* Christopher W. Love, The Argument from Disagreement to Moral Skepticism (PDF)

* Hans Zeigar, Communities of Memory, at "Front Porch Republic"

* Dalia Nassar, Alexander von Humboldt, at the SEP

* Blake Smith, Eve Kosofsky Sidgwick's Big Fat Nonbinary Mistake, at "Tablet"

* R. Drew Smith, Black Religious Fostering of American Civic Ideals

* Chad McIntosh is putting together a list of theistic arguments.

* Donald L. M. Baxter, The Discernibility of Identicals (PDF)

* Joseph Blado & Tyler Dalton McNabb, Confucianism and the Liturgy (PDF)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Non Excidet

 Today is the feast of St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church. From An Introduction to the Devout Life (Part I, Chapter 2):

Ponder Jacob’s ladder:—it is a true picture of the devout life; the two poles which support the steps are types of prayer which seeks the love of God, and the Sacraments which confer that love; while the steps themselves are simply the degrees of love by which we go on from virtue to virtue, either descending by good deeds on behalf of our neighbour or ascending by contemplation to a loving union with God. Consider, too, who they are who trod this ladder; men with angels’ hearts, or angels with human forms. They are not youthful, but they seem to be so by reason of their vigour and spiritual activity. They have wings wherewith to fly, and attain to God in holy prayer, but they have likewise feet wherewith to tread in human paths by a holy gracious intercourse with men; their faces are bright and beautiful, inasmuch as they accept all things gently and sweetly; their heads and limbs are uncovered, because their thoughts, affections and actions have no motive or object save that of pleasing God; the rest of their bodies is covered with a light shining garment, because while they use the world and the things of this life, they use all such purely and honestly, and no further than is needful for their condition—such are the truly devout.

Monday, January 23, 2023

On Hollingsworth on Divine Simplicity

 Andrew Hollingsworth has an interesting paper, Thomistic Simplicity and Distinguishing the Immanent and Economic Trinities (PDF), arguing that the former causes problems for the latter. Unfortunately, he makes a number of common errors. This is seen very clearly in his account of what simplicity means for Aquinas:

The DDS: (i) God lacks all composition and is made up of no parts, be those parts physical or metaphysical. (ii) There exist in God no distinctions, be those distinctions between essence and existence, act and potency, substance and attribute, essence and accident, genus and differentia, or form and matter. (iii) God is identical with all of his intrinsic features, and all of said features are identical with one another.

This is wrong in ways that end up being significant for the argument. 

(i) is roughly correct, although 'physical or metaphysical' is not a genuine Thomistic distinction in this context; the doctrine in fact relies on the Thomistic account of composition, in which you have composition wherever you have act and passive potency. There are different kinds of parts, but what makes them parts is always the same, so 'physical or metaphysical' does no work in the Thomistic account. (It gets added in these contexts because people often assume that 'parts' means 'physical parts'.)

(ii) is inconsistent with the Thomistic account of simplicity. (As a side issue, 'substance and attribute' and 'essence and accident' are bad pairings -- one would expect 'substance and accident' and 'essence and existence'.) What is true is that there are in God no distinctions that imply composition (which, again implies act and passive potency). Some kinds of distinctions, like purely relative distinctions, do not necessarily do so. Hollingsworth is sloppy about this; he sometimes just says 'distinctions' and sometimes 'real distinctions', which is a very specific kind of distinction. This is actually a problem for his argument, because there is no reason whatsoever why one would think the immanent/economic distinction is a real distinction. They aren't separable; they aren't related as act and passive potency; and dividing God into two trinities would cause any number of problems. Rather, the economic Trinity just has to be the immanent Trinity considered relatively. Thus, to use the example that Hollingsworth uses, the divine missions (like the sending of the Son in the Incarnation or the sending of the Spirit to believers) are just the divine processions considered relative to a temporal effect. The Son is sent because the Son is always from the Father and creation is made to have an effect specifically linked to the Son being from the Father (the Incarnation).

(iii) is very, very wrong; this is a claim of analytic philosophers, not Thomists. Aquinas actually makes a famous distinction here: God is idem (same) with everything in God secundum rem, but not idem with everything in God secundum rationem. This is quite important, because identitas secundum rem doesn't require transitivity, which is what is usually implied in contemporary philosophy if you are talking about something being 'identical' without any qualification. Identitas in Latin does not mean 'identity' in the modern sense, although identity in the modern sense would be a kind of identitas. It means 'sameness'; its usual meaning is just generic sameness (sameness of kind), although in philosophical contexts other kinds of sameness are often in view.

There are also problems with Hollingsworth's understanding of the Incarnation, in Thomistic terms.

When applied to the Son’s submission to the Father, the problem becomes clear. According to Thomas, the Son—qua his humanity—wills to submit to the Father’s will. The Son does not—qua his divinity—will to submit to the Father. However, it does not seem to matter by which nature the Son wills to submit to the Father. Though it may be by his human will in the incarnation, the Son—nevertheless—wills something distinct from what he wills in the IT. In the Incarnation, the person of the Son is still a unified single subject, though he has two natures. But it is the Son, as a single subject, that wills submission to the Father, not the human nature apart from the person of the Son.

The supposed problem is not at all clear, however. The human will is not part of the divine substance, and therefore its distinction from the divine will does not introduce composition into God. Acts of the human will are in fact distinct from acts of the divine will, and this is true of the Son, who is a subject with a human will and a divine will. Hollingsworth seems to be baffled as to why St. Thomas doesn't affirm monothelitism; the reason he doesn't is the Third Council of Constantinople. Monthelitism is simply wrong; your account of the Incarnation should not be getting the result that the acts of the divine will and the acts of the human will are the same without distinction. But there is, again, no conflict with the doctrine of divine simplicity because the human will is not divine, and therefore it obviously implies composition and distinction from what is wholly simple. (Hollingsworth also seems to miss that Aquinas's analogies to the horse and rider and the master and servant are not depictions of the relation in the Incarnation but clarifications of the relevant principles of instrumental causality, because Aquinas holds that the human will of Christ has a necessarily subordinate and instrumental relation to the divine will, which is why the human will never conflicts with the divine will.)

But in any case, Hollingsworth gets the apparent problem he does because he assumes that (ii) is taken by Thomists to be true, as is, and, what is more, true not just of God himself but (what no one who was not a lunatic could believe) of everything attributable to God, even relatively, so that God engages in no distinguishable acts, even relatively. But God's creation of the world is (for instance) distinct from his miraculous parting of the sea for Moses, and both are distinct from God's sending of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost. But the distinction does not introduce any composition into God, because we distinguish these acts relative to things other than God (different objects and effects) and under a description, where the descriptions are not synonymous with each other. Thus there is no problem on the Thomistic account with attributing to God two distinct operations; such operations will in some sense be the same, and will not be distinct in a way that introduces composition, but they will be distinguishable.

Polymeros kai Polytropos

God, having by many steps and many twists spoken of old to the fathers through the prophets, in these last days has spoken to us through the Son whom he has appointed inheritor of everything, and through whom he has made the eons; who, being reflection of glory and imprint of His substance, and carrying everything by the utterance of the power from himself, having made purification of sins, sat at the right hand of the Greatness on high, having become nobler than the messengers by as much as he has inherited a name surpassing theirs.

For to which of the messengers did he ever say, You are my Son; I have begotten you today? And again: I will be a Father to him, and he will be a Son to me?

Again, when he brings the Firstborn into the empire, he says: May all the messengers of God prostrate before him. And indeed, as to the messengers, he says: Who is making his messengers spirits, and his functionaries a flame of fire. But to the Son: Your throne, O God, unto the eonmost eon, and the scepter of rectitude, the scepter of your realm. You were devoted to justice and have detested lawlessness; thus God, your God, has anointed you with oil of exultation above your associates. And: In the beginnings, Lord, you founded the earth and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will be annihilated, but you will remain; and everything like a tunic and like a cloak will wear out. You will fold them like a tunic and they will be altered. But you are the same and your years will not fail.

But to which of the angels did he ever say, Be enthroned at my right hand until I place your enemies as a footstool for your feet? Are they not all functionary spirits sent out for service for those intended to inherit salvation?

[Hebrews 1:1-14, my very rough translation, at Cat's suggestion. The opening of this describing the ordinary course of divine revelation, polymeros kai polytropos, is great. Polymeros means 'by many parts'; the parts can be spatial or, as here, temporal. Polytropos, literally 'by many turns', is the word used by Homer to describe the cunning of Odysseus, the twisty-turny man whose plans are never what you think. The contrast made is that God had revealed in a stepwise and twisty fashion what now is revealed at once in his Son, the blaze of God's glory and the copy of God's substance. The right hand, of course, designates the highest place of honor, and the name inherited has to be, by the Father-Son logic of the passage, the divine name. 'Messengers' could always be translated as 'angels'; it's always worthwhile to remember, though, that 'angel' is just the Greek for 'messenger'. (Given the structure of the argument, I actually wonder as well if the generic meaning may not be at least partly in play here, anyway; that is, it's possible that human prophets of revelation are included along with heavenly ministers as 'messengers' here.) The messengers are also said to be leitourgoi, from the word that gives us 'liturgy'; leitourgia in Greek is the name for public works and ceremonies ('work of the people' is the literal meaning), so leitourgoi are public servants, people put in charge of the city's events and projects. But for the Greeks religious events and projects were all public civil events and projects, so the word already had religious applications and could arguably also be translated as 'priests' -- all priests and religious administrators in ancient Greece, as in the modern Church of England or Church of Norway, being functionaries of the state. In any case, I went neutral, and just used 'functionary', which seems like a word you would use if you were trying to contrast someone's position with someone else's more important position, as in 'He is a mere functionary.']

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Fortnightly Book, January 22

 In 1930, a number of mystery writers in Britain, based on an idea by mystery writer Anthony Berkeley, formed a group that became known as the Detection Club. G. K. Chesterton was the first president. Dorothy Sayers wrote the famous tongue-in-cheek initiation oath:

Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?

They had regular dinner meetings and collaborated occasionally as a club. Which brings us to the next fortnightly book, The Floating Admiral, a round-robin novel with fourteen authors, which was done as a kind of game among several of the members and published in 1931.  The rules were that each person would write a chapter. Each chapter had to accommodate all the chapters before it, and in writing the chapter the author had to already be aiming at a particular solution to the mystery (no chapters just trying to gum up the works). This individual solution was put in a sealed envelope, to prevent cheating. When all the chapters were done, the club president wrote the prologue for it. The chapters and authors are:

PROLOGUE: "'The Three Pipe Dreams'" by G. K. Chesterton

CHAPTER I: "Corpse Ahoy!" by Canon Victor L. Whitechurch

CHAPTER II: "Breaking the News" by G. D. H. Cole and M. Cole

CHAPTER III: "Bright Thoughts on Tides" by Henry Wade

CHAPTER IV: "Mainly Conversation" by Agatha Christie

CHAPTER V: "Inspector Rudge Begins to Form a Theory" by John Rhode

CHAPTER VI: "Inspector Rudge Thinks the Better of It" by Milward Kennedy

CHAPTER VII: "Shocks for the Inspector" by Dorothy Sayers

CHAPTER VIII: "Thirty-Nine Articles of Doubt" by Ronald A. Knox

CHAPTER IX: "The Visitor in the Night" by Freeman Wills Crofts

CHAPTER X: "The Bathroom Basin" by Edgar Jepson

CHAPTER XI: "At the Vicarage" by Clemence Dane

CHAPTER XII: "Clearing Up the Mess" by Anthony Berkeley

Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, Fr. Ronald Knox, and Dorothy Sayers certainly require no introduction to anyone reading this. But the contributors are a roll call of some of the top writers of the Golden Age of Mystery Fiction. Canon Whitechurch is most commonly associated with his detective Thorpe Hazell, deliberately written as a sort of anti-Holmes; George Douglas Howard Cole and Margaret Cole collaborated on a large number of mysteries; Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, writing under the pen name Henry Wade, is best known for his Inspector Poole novels; John Rhode is best known for his Dr. Lancelot Priestley novels, and was famous for his thoroughly researched and science-tinged puzzle construction; Milward Kennedy is best known for his Inspector Cornford and Sir George Bull novels; Freeman Wills Crofts, an engineer whose novels often made the favorites lists of other mystery writers, is best known for his hyper-methodical Inspector French; Edgar Jepson is probably best known today as a translator of the Arsene Lupin novels, but he was also a prolific writer of mystery novels in his own right; Winifred Ashton, writing under the pen name Clemence Dane, has always been better known for her melodramas and historical work, but her handful of detective novels, co-written with Helen Simpson, were some of the most widely read detective novels of the day; Anthony Berkeley Cox, under his pen name Anthony Berkeley, is best known for his Roger Sheringham mysteries. Having put all that down makes me realize just how bits-and-pieces my familiarity with much of the classical mystery field is.

In addition to the main story contributions, the work has an Introduction by Dorothy Sayers, explaining how the book came to be, and two appendices, one that gives the solutions that the individual authors directed to their chapters toward (for comparison with Anthony Berkeley's actual solution) and one with excerpts from a letter by the always-researching John Rhode on some technical issues that came up in the course of the story.

The corpse of an admiral has been found in a boat. He was last seen rowing home in his own boat from having dinner with the vicar and his niece, but the boat in which his body is found is not his boat; it belongs to the vicar. The admiral was stabbed, but there is no blood in the boat, and the boat seems to have been set adrift deliberately. Why was the admiral killed? Where was he killed? Who was his murderer? Why was his body dumped into a different boat and set adrift? What other clues will the greatest mystery writers of the early twentieth century throw into the pot to give the narrative a twist?