Saturday, March 25, 2023

Holy Announcement

 Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. From the Protevangelium of James (10-12):

And there was a council of the priests, saying: Let us make a veil for the temple of the Lord. And the priest said: Call to me the undefiled virgins of the family of David. And the officers went away, and sought, and found seven virgins. And the priest remembered the child Mary, that she was of the family of David, and undefiled before God. And the officers went away and brought her. And they brought them into the temple of the Lord. And the priest said: Choose for me by lot who shall spin the gold, and the white, and the fine linen, and the silk, and the blue, and the scarlet, and the true purple. And the true purple and the scarlet fell to the lot of Mary, and she took them, and went away to her house. And at that time Zacharias was dumb, and Samuel was in his place until the time that Zacharias spake. And Mary took the scarlet, and span it. 

And she took the pitcher, and went out to fill it with water. And, behold, a voice saying: Hail, thou who hast received grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women! And she looked round, on the right hand and on the left, to see whence this voice came. And she went away, trembling, to her house, and put down the pitcher; and taking the purple, she sat down on her seat, and drew it out. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before her, saying: Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace before the Lord of all, and thou shalt conceive, according to His word. And she hearing, reasoned with herself, saying: Shall I conceive by the Lord, the living God? and shall I bring forth as every woman brings forth? And the angel of the Lord said: Not so, Mary; for the power of the Lord shall overshadow thee: wherefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of the Most High. And thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. And Mary said: Behold, the servant of the Lord before His face: let it be unto me according to thy word. 

And she made the purple and the scarlet, and took them to the priest. And the priest blessed her, and said: Mary, the Lord God hath magnified thy name, and thou shall be blessed in all the generations of the earth.

The Protevangelium of James is a hagiography of the Virgin Mary that seems to have been in circulation around the middle of the second century. It plays an enormous role in the imagination of the Church. I suppose the closest analogy in our day would be the Christmas pageant -- the basic Christmas pageant is not canonical, and not really intended to be, but it's an attempt to translate the Gospel stories and our sense of what was prophesied of Christ into an imaginative form, and shapes how we talk about the story. Whatever the original intention of the work, this is essentially how it was used by the Church Fathers -- not canonical in itself, but as a book of legends that have a certain plausibility as narrative and provide a vividly imaginable account of the events of Mary's early life leading up to the visit by the Magi and the death of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. It is the source that gives us the traditional names of the Virgin's parents, Joachim and Anna, and one of the most important Marian feasts of the East, the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, is based in part on the Protevangelium's account of Mary as one of the young girls who were consecrated to serve in the Temple -- for instance by spinning and sowing the cloth needed for various functions, as she does in the section above. Note incidentally, that Mary is chosen by lot to spin the scarlet thread, which represents blood, and the purple thread, which represents royalty, which foreshadows the coming of Christ.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Dashed Off IX

 causes as what fixes accessibility relations in possible worlds framework

Being just is often an act of mercy.

Clouds of analogies by overlap and convergence distill into particular claims.

Propaganda slogans are dangerous because they are available, so people fall back on them when they don't understand or are unprepared.

philosophy of history
(1) philosophy of historical work
(2) philosophy of the human tradition
(3) philosophy of forms of interaction

marriage law and the chaplaincy powers of the state

family resemblances as evidence of participation

ostension of grace, divine presence, in the sacraments

the internatural

laws of nature as beings of reason

energy as the causal capacity for locomotive change (locomovent or locomotive capability)
In a massive object, the locomotive capability is related to the mass and the maximal change of swiftness of reach.

The experience of philosophy is the experience of something whose final cause is infinite intelligibility. (Note that this is different from saying the final cause is universal intelligibility.)

The arrow of time is just the directionality of clocks in their actual use for measuring. What underlies this feature of measurement is a more fundamental question.

The intelligibility of a perfect island implies that either it or something greater exists.

There is no luck in folly.

signum levatum in nationibus (Is 11:12)

'the focal point of the longings of history and culture' (GS 45)

the exhibitive word of God

the importance of establishing safeguards against judicial murder

plants: positionality of open form
animals: positionality of closed form
humans: excentric positionality

the family as sign of Eden (and obliquely its loss)

incorporation merito vs incorporation numero

All legitimate and proper acts of the Church Militant anticipate in some way the Church Patient and the Church Triumphant.

revivescence in sacrament // revivescence in tradition

"Good angels and men belong to one Church." Aquinas (ST 3.98.4)

stages in the founding of the Church
(1) Anticipation (Israel)
(2) Vocation of disciples
(3) institution of Apostles and Women (and, more complicated, Brothers of the Lord)
(4) Holy Thursday
(5) Great Commission
(6) Ascension
(7) Pentecost
(8) Supervision (institution of episcopacy)

The mission of the Church is part of the missions of both the Son and the Holy Spirit.

lion : immaculate conception :: ox : perpetual virginity :: man : divine maternity :: eagle : assumption

the child and his mother: Mt 2:13, 2:14, 2:20, 2:21

pleasures that are life and fecundity
pleasures that are death and sterility

Judith 9:11 as capturing all that is true in liberation theology

Faith often does not understand (Lk 2:50), but still keeps in the heart (Lk 2:51).

The witch hunt is an inevitable mode of society in this fallen world; but the varieties change.

Two readings of Jn 1:12-13
majority (all Greek): But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God.
Vetus Latina, Syriac: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, he who was born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God.

Mary is addressed as Woman, both at the Wedding at Cana and at the Crucifixion.

Every truth has its 'text', its context, its subtext, and its supertext.

the whirl and whorl of dreams

Desire, like water, tends a way, but it can be dammed and cut into different channels.

wave functions as mathematical depictions of dispositions

Language is received and inherited; we may, as with all things received and inherited, toss in a bit from ourselves, but we can only propose our bit, not impose it. But the temptation, to which propagandists particularly but not exclusively succumb, is always there to play God with this vast something that is older and more powerful than we are a current carried down by the whole human race itself.

Hume's sympathetic mirrors as a a description of language use as intrinsically social
the general point of view as an instrument of language use

familial relations by physical, by moral, by jural, and by sacral connections

Never confuse refusal to learn with principle.

God's actions do not need justification; they simply are, the factest of facts, but discussion of justification are not pointless, although they are really more about us than about God. Further, human beings like to know if there could be a justification, if there might be a justification, if there happens to be something that is available as a justification, even when none is strictly needed, because this is how we ourselves think.

'Semantic necessity' is in fact a form of deontic necessity.

Kitsch often functions as a kind of balm, and often as a social lubricant.

Invincible ignorance requires genuine love of truth combined with limited means.

In the courtroom law often has a primarily repulsive effect -- judges decide as they deem appropriate, but they try to avoid clear infringement of the law as commonly understood.

An ecumenical council is merely a concentration, for particular purposes, of the communion of bishops that always exists at least diffusely.

moral congregation : moral :: societas perfecta : jural :: hierarchia : sacral

Human virtue must not be merely had but in some sense must come to be deserved.

sports as venues for developing second-order virtues of capabilities

natural evils as challenges for thymos

Anything with a power to motivate can harm if misused.

the problem of commensurability of goals across forms of life

It is an error to think that personal identity is only one thing.
personal identity: substantial (ontic), moral, jural, sacral

'Heap' is a being of reason relative to a change or action of heaping things together.

closest continuer accounts of tradition
(note that by such an account the papacy is the closest continuer of the Roman Republic)

(broadly libertarian) free will as a postulate of democracy

three aspects of personhood (and its modalities): subject, communication, gift

The act of forgiveness involves change in the status of the forgiven; it only involves change in the forgiver insofar as the forgiver is not always disposed by mercy to forgive.

Good law as a product of love increasing its scope of action.

ministries as divine gifts interacting with human services, either immediately or mediately

images and traces of the Church

justice and preferential option for the virtuous

'the service of the saints' 1 Cor 16:15

moral, jural, and sacral expressions of authority

passive and acts of philosophy -- e.g., preserving philosophical arguments for posterity as a passive philosophical function

kinds of reasoning by which we go beyond our senses
(1) causal inference
(2) profile fitting (based on custom from constant conjunction)
(3) extrapolative supposition
(4) translative conflation
(5) analogical inference

quasi-sympathetic perception (in Hume's sense of sympathy)

sophia, gnosis, pistis, hiamata, dynameis, propheteia, diakriseis pneumaton, glossai, hermeneia glosson, etc. as signs depicting aspects of the heavenly liturgy

imagining vs supposing vs confirming the external world

Bureaucracies inevitably fall into the error of trying to solve problems by refiling them.

Understanding Christian meekness requires understanding that its great exemplars are Moses and Jesus.

In Matthew, the monychangers in the Temple are contrasted with Jesus healing in the Temple, and in John, the Resurrection is the sign of the authority to cast them out.

the natural association between life-giving and holiness

In marriage, husband and wife are morally, jurally, and sacrally one, although not obliterated in any of these orders.

personhood as subsistent consecration

It is inherent to any kind of democratic governance that people will flail about a lot in trying to get a grip on ideas and policies.

1 Clement as being about what is involved in being the People of God

the laity as public of the Church

baptism and confirmation and the double mission of the people of God

The laity are the primary engine of particular religious devotions.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Round Circles

 I saw this on Twitter. Trace the circles with your finger, if you don't believe it.

ADDED LATER: After a little playing around, I've found two ways that I can actually see the two circles.

(1) putting my fingers at the outer corner of my eyes, gently pulling so that the vision blurs.

(2) stepping back from the screen and looking at it with peripheral vision.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Counterfactual Theories of Causation

 Counterfactual theories of causation are accounts of causation which understand the cause-effect relation to reduce to "If the cause didn't exist, the effect would not exist." They go in and out of fashion, and of course, they can vary quite widely depending on the account of counterfactual conditionals you give. A common version in recent times has been:

"A causes B" when and only when either there are no possible worlds with A or else some possible world with A that includes B is 'closer to the actual world' than any world with A that does not include B.

It's well known that counterfactual theories struggle with certain causal situations, but what I would like to suggest is that they cannot handle the right kinds of causal situations at all. Counterfactuals arise in causal situations not due to efficient causes but due to material causes, and therefore properly speaking these 'causal counterfactuals' are only relevant at all when we are talking about (a) material causes; (b) formal causes relative to material causes; (c) efficient causes in precisely the respect in which they either dispose material causes for formal causes or provide the formal causes to material causes; or (d) when we are just using a material-cause metaphor to talk about other kinds of causal dependencies.

Counterfactual conditionals work very well for material causes. If we are talking about a wooden statue, for instance, "If the wood had not been, the wooden statue would not have been", is a good model, at least, for "Wood is the material cause of the wooden statue." We could even interpret that, if we wished, by saying that a possible world with the wood and its wooden statue is 'closer' to the actual world than any world that has the wood and not the wooden statue. It would be incorrect to say that the counterfactual captures the material causation itself, but it does correctly capture the dependency involved in material causation, in part because material causes are potential to different forms but necessary for material composites, and therefore it is natural to talk about them as being able to be otherwise and also about what would have to follow (or not) if they were.

People often run into difficulties in applying counterfactual theories to certain kinds of preemption cases. For instance, if two people, X and Y, throw rocks at a window, and X's rock arrives first, so that there is no window left when Y's rock arrives, we recognize that X's rock caused the window to shatter. Yet even if X had not thrown a rock, the window still would have shattered, because Y's rock would have shattered. But it's easy to see why; X's rock is identified as the cause because it is what actually gives the window the distortions of shape that are the change that completes in the window being shattered. If it had not been, then insofar as this affected the material of the window, the effect would not have been. If X's rock had missed, then the same could have been said of Y's rock.

If, however, there are efficient causes whose effects are not necessarily connected with material causes in changes or compositions, then there's no particular reason to think that a counterfactual conditional could adequately account for them. That is to say, if there are forms of efficient causation that are not either creation ex nihilo of material composites or moving causation of changes (the former makes material causes exist at all and the latter disposes or informs material causes), it doesn't seem there could be anything in them that would be adequately captured by a counterfactual conditional. This is not to say that you couldn't use counterfactual conditionals to talk about them, but in such cases, the counterfactual conditional would obviously be incidental rather than anything the causation actually reduces to (I think this is obviously the case with, say, creation ex nihilo of subsisting forms), or else we would be using them as a metaphorical models rather than actual accounts (I think this is obviously the case with certain descriptions of causation of human action).

Monday, March 20, 2023

The Strangest Whim Has Seized Me

 A Ballade of Suicide
by G. K. Chesterton

The gallows in my garden, people say,
Is new and neat and adequately tall;
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbours--on the wall--
Are drawing a long breath to shout “Hurray!”
The strangest whim has seized me. . . . After all
I think I will not hang myself to-day. 

 To-morrow is the time I get my pay--
My uncle’s sword is hanging in the hall--
I see a little cloud all pink and grey--
Perhaps the rector’s mother will not call--
I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way--
I never read the works of Juvenal--
I think I will not hang myself to-day. 

 The world will have another washing-day;
The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H.G. Wells has found that children play,
And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall,
Rationalists are growing rational--
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray
So secret that the very sky seems small--
I think I will not hang myself to-day. 

 Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;
Even to-day your royal head may fall,
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

 Posting might be a little light this week; I have two eight-week condensed courses that are starting up this week, and I'm still learning how it will affect my schedule and time.