Saturday, April 22, 2023

Abstract Relations and Matters of Fact

 There are two ways in which the subject of morals may be treated. One begins from inquiring into the abstract relations of things; the other, from a matter of fact, namely, what the particular nature of man is, its several parts, their economy or constitution; from whence it proceeds to determine what course of life it is, which is correspondent to this whole nature. In the former method the conclusion is expressed thus, that vice is contrary to the nature and reasons of things; in the latter, that it is a violation or breaking in upon our own nature. Thus they both lead us to the same thing, our obligations to the practice of virtue; and thus they exceedingly strengthen and enforce each other. The first seems the most direct formal proof, and in some respects the least liable to cavil and dispute: the latter is in a peculiar manner adapted to satisfy a fair mind, and is more easily applicable to the several particular relations and circumstances in life.

Joseph Butler, Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel, Preface. Hume's arguments at the beginning of Treatise, Book III, can be seen as a rejection of this idea. Hume has a sharp dualism about abstract relations and matters of fact; they just cover different things and so can't converge on anything. In the Treatise he argues precisely this for moral matters: morality cannot be based on abstract relations at all, and therefore must be based on matters of fact (namely, a kind of moral sentiment). Butler's convergentism -- that you can start at different places and get to the same place if you just take a large enough view -- is a general feature of his thought, and plays a significant role in how he himself applies his famous idea that probability is the guide of life.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Dashed Off XIII

 Our experimental capacity, like our artistic impulse, arises from our delight in imitation. (Cp. Turnbull)

Liberalism is very poor at handling pluralism of values; its strength is reducing the destructiveness of mishandling pluralism, not avoiding mishandling. And effective handling of pluralisms arises from layered structures, like federalism, imperialism, etc.

the state as the means by which a stable private/public distinction is maintained (and thus the primary cause of its modality)

To fulfill his destiny, a man must find a way to be democrat, aristocrat, and king all at once.

the obligation to join the graces with virtue in terms of agreeableness, affability, propriety, courtesy, etc. (Kant)
-- elsewhere he alludes to Schiller on coupling virtue with grace when talking about decorum

duty : justice :: decorum : temperance

When we actually identify as something, we always do it for some specific purpose.

the liturgical commonwealth and the lay right of confraternity

A sense of humor protects from manipulation; it is not a flawless safeguard, but it has kept many people on the prudent side of things.

An account of sovereignty that makes it simply inconsistent with suzerainty/vassalage is already wrong.

In the love ascribed to God Himself, as when we say that God is Love, the things that are immediate consequences of love in us are eminent and intrinsic features of divine love: union, mutual indwelling, ecstasy, zeal, ready enjoyment, and activity.

The reformation of all Christendom is always beyond human power to accomplish.

Capital existed before capitalism and will exist after it.

the family as the natural place of business

The devil works by szalamitaktika.

All human law includes principles of natural laws that contribute to it; human law is not, and cannot be, pure positing without rational precondition.

music and almost-as-if-story

Modern liberal theory has a tendency to try to sever justice from its potential parts.

A meritorious cause requires a principal cause with respect to which it is constituted as meritorious cause.

Adam in his sin as the demeritorious cause of the gift of original justice

preservative vs. liberative salvation

One person may contribute to another's work by counsel, by command, by consent, or by protection. The Holy Virgin shares in the Incarnation, and all of its consequent works, by consent.

The penitent in the confessional is in the position of the Good Thief.

Solemnities in Lent remind us that there are many modes of penitence.

kinds of sacramentalia
(1) dispositive: prepare for sacrament
(2) commemorative: extend the sacrament by memory of it
(3) associate: facilitate the celebration or reception of the sacrament in an appropriate way
-- these are not mutually exclusive; holy water has all three functions

good : thing :: value : quality (Scheler)

Values are not relations but they are that in a good with respect to which a subject aware of the good is related to it as good. (Or we can substituate bad, although this is more complicated, since bad is always in good.)

valuer, valuative attention, value in good as object

value // significance

The intent in making and deciding law is generally to make it what it ought to be.

Determining what a fact is, is always held to the standard of how it ought to be determined.

'Harm' and 'benefit' always presuppose a broader account of functions and requirements.

The primary purpose of covenant is cooperative.

Literature functions as both surrogate experience and advice, so it can only improve us morally in the ways experience and advice can.

the causal complex of choice (cp. the Phaedo)
(1) intellect
(2) appearance of good
(3) choice (willing)
(4) actual good

We see from Plato's Gorgias that arguments can have allegorical as well as literal senses. (Indeed, one can find examples scattered throughout the Platonic corpus.)

Poorly conceived reforms open the door to new corruptions.

found evidence vs. gathered evidence vs. purified evidence

Few things are as good at binding the human race together as children are.

An atmosphere permeated with a call for reform appeals to men of ambition.

An inadequately appreciated feature of legal systems is how much of them is often devoted to creating problems as a trial of sincerity.

Justice is often most effectively pursued by indirect means.

the papal household (jural family) vs. the papal see (jural person)

Satisficing does not rule out optimizing; it rules out optimizing being required.

John 7:44-46 -- The Temple guards return to the priests and Pharisees not having seized him because nobody speaks like Jesus
Jn 7:50-51 -- Nicodemus points out that the Law does not condemn without a hearing
Jn 8:2-6 -- The Pharisees lay a trap to have a ground for accusation
Jn 8:7 -- "Let any who is without sin throw the first stone."
Jn 8:10-11 -- No one condemns the adulterous woman (no witnesses); "Go and sin no more."
Jn 8:17 -- Jesus points out that the law requires witnesses
Jn 8:20 -- Again no one seizes Jesus
Jn 8:31-34 -- "The truth will set you free... everyone who sins is a slave to sin."
Jn 8:39-41 -- Jesus points out that they are not doing as Abraham did.
Jn 8:58 -- "Before Abraham was, I am."
Jn 8:59 -- They try to stone Jesus.
---> Note that Jn 8:7 sets up for Jn 8:59, particularly since Jesus and the Pharisees keep wrangling about whether Jesus has witnesses for His claims, and then we get them having to defend themselves as not illegitimate (i.e., children of 'adulterous union').
---> With some rare exceptions that put it at the end of John, in the margin, or (in the Ferrar group) after Lk 2:38, all mss have the pericope adulterae in exactly this place; even if we assume it is interpolated, this is obviously the original location for the pericope.
---> Thus either (a) it is not interpolated or (b) it is interpolated but has the particular form it does precisely in order to be here.

causative pairs
electrify : to make electric
verify : to make true
show : to make see
teach : to make to learn
feed : to make to eat
raise : to make to rise
fell : to make to fall
lay : to make to lie
sench : to make to sink
quench : to make to quink (obs. = vanish)

Great music is like coming into an entirely new kind of experience.

Pardon and punishment are twins more alike than is often admitted.

An ambassador's role is to represent both the dignitas of the sender and the sender's existimatio for the one to whom the ambassador is sent.

the intrinsic embassy rights of the Church

the Church as missionary/evangelical
the Church as sign of eternal life
the Church as imbued with divine power
the Church as moral/penitential system
the Church as people of God

Church structure has repeatedly shown itself to be far more durable than civil structure.

kinds of opinion: take, vibe, attack, defense, half-question

liberty as a system of responsibilities, including responsibilities of judgment and of initiative

Feast of Unleavened Bread: Ordination
Feast of Harvest: Baptism
Feast of Ingathering: Confirmation

the human will as an effect of predestination (NB that thi sis will, the power, not particular willings)

The distinction between order of intention and order of execution is essential to the relation between means and end.

predestination of the human race vs predestination of human individual

the will as means to glory, which by its nature must be freely possessed and gratuitously possessed; thus the will must be free and capable of grace

In marriage each spouse becomes as it were the sacred vestment of the other.

An oath is an act of religion intrinsically tied to truth and religion.
An oath is not just a case of promising really hard.

The Church now must strive to be a sign of the New Jerusalem to come.

tradition // restoration ecology
habitate corridors as key element in the health of a small tradition
re-seeding and weed control

To speak truly and logically with a reasonable person who is seeking the truth and not be believed is the rhetorical gap; rhetoric is bridge-building for such gaps.

All divine attributes implicitly include all other divine attributes.

Within certain limits, polarization is a normal part of the oscillations of democratic society.

coordinate systems as classification systems

knowing vs seeming to recall

omnipresence and everlastingness as both symbols of divine eternity

Freedom of speech implies that there be some kind of context free for speaking.

The shift from pagan temple architecture to church architecture is primarily dominated by the need to bring the people, as a priestly people, into the enclosure. Thus we increase the enclosed space, we do not put a portico with pillars when you can bring that space within the walls, etc.

The modern era excels in an episodic style of architecture.

musical composition // computer program // liturgical rubric

misison: communication of the will of one person to another with intentional reference to some novel extrinsic effect
-- messengery
-- embassy and legation
-- prophetic mission
-- evangelic mission of the Church
-- apostolic mission
-- Petrine mission
-- visible and invisible missions of the Son and Spirit
-- angelic missions

The Trinitarian circumincession is the eminent ground of the indwelling of the Persons in us.

Justice is perhaps most commonly corrupted through the confusion of means and ends, although the confusion of object and intended consequences is another common form.

historiography as approach vs historiography as field of representations of past events
-- the latter is philosophically interesting: What counts as a past event (the notion is not purely chronological)? What constitutes a representation of it? How do representations relate to each other? What constitutes the representability of past events? What are the formal characterizations of the act of representing here? What are the objects and ends of such representings?

Probability axioms are not standards of likeliness but operationalizations of them.

Meriting is something that arises out of love as its precondition.

The Protestant Reformation is a counter-reformation to the reform movement of the Renaissance.

A strong emphasis on the Scriptural text tends to diversify theology along educational lines, since it is not possible to read a text wholly in abstraction from the particular modes of education that shape one's reading in general.

meritorious cause // semiotic cause, but with respect to a mode of love more than a cognitive power

If it is true that there is no church without a bishop, there would have to be a bishop for the whole Church on earth.

legislative body names
(1) speaking (parliament)
(2) thinking (duma)
(3) assembling (assembly, congress)
(4) people (diet)
(5) social status (estates)

Enumeration of rights always runs the risk of reducing rather than increasing the protection of rights.

Individual rights should not be treated as if they were a kind of intangible private property.

One of the main purposes of punishment is to make the unpunished grateful that they followed the law, by making clear that it was definitely the right thing to do. (This is also a major point at which states and governments are tempted to overuse punishment.)

Descartes's view of immortality (based on basic substance dualism)
(1) external: Decay or death of body does not imply decay or death of soul and we cannot see any other causes that could destroy the soul (if God doesn't).
(2) internal: No substance at all annihilates by nature; bodies perish through accidental compositions, but the soul is "pure substance".
(3) revealed: God himself has revealed to us that god -- the only cause that has the absolute power to annihilate the soul -- will not destroy the soul.

strategies people use in dealing with other religions
(1) syncretism (usually driven by political motivations)
(2) allegorism (suggested by poetry)
(3) euhemerism (suggested by history)
(4) rejecting as outright lie

Themes of trickery and deceit pervade the Gylfaginning.

Anathemas give bishops and priests authority to address and resist claims with the backing of the Church.

Legislatures qua representatives of the people tend to come to prominence due to problems arising from continuity of government.

In the end, it is the fate of all human beings to be crucified, whether physically or spiritually, whether willingly or unwillingly.

R. Yehuda b. Pazi (Y. Yevamot 2:4) says that Lv 18 (on forbidden relationships) and Lv 19 (on sanctification) are linked to indicate that holiness is linked to keeping distance from forbidden relationships.

Neither being worse off nor being badly off are in themselves harm.

Claims that morality serves the biological function of cooperation run into the obvious problem that morality does not seem to increase cooperation. It seems, in fact, to increase dispute. (It does, however, also increase and improve what can be achieved by cooperation.)

language, statutes, and music as instruments of objective causation

The doctrine of the Trinity gives one a higher standpoint from which to understand each divine attribute.

Who fails to follow the law virtuously fails to follow it properly.

The true measure of state capacity is what can be accomplished without the last resort of police or military coercion, which is what you use when more extensive, stable, and efficient means have failed.

Intercession of saints is grounded in part in the fact that the saints reign together with Christ.

The most fundamental principle of planning out a reform is to recognize that it will probably be implemented badly.

Monarchical and aristocratic luxury is a way of placing others under obligation to oneself.

the political prudence and the military prudence of the Church (ST 2-2.50.4)

For us and for God, Christ came from God.

God wills God for all.

1 Cor 12:4-6
charismata: particular graces
diakoniai: offices/ministries
energemata: particular tasks

Gn 1:26, 11:7 possibilities
(1) figurative plurality
-- (a) of deliberation
-- (b) of majesty
(2) literal plurality
-- (a) of persons in God
-- (b) of persons other than god (heavenly court)
While 2b would work well with 11:7, it fits poorly with 1:26 given that creation is a divine distinctive. While 1:26 could be 1a, 11:7 seems not to be deliberative. Thus 1b and 2a seem the surest possibilities; but plural of majesty is not a universal of language.

Is 6:3 possibilities
(1) the triple holy is merely emphatic
(2) to God is to be attributed a threefold or triple holiness in some way
The context seems to be linked to Jesus by Jn 12:37-41; to the Spirit in Acts 28:25-27.

The actual world is every possible world, but only as possible.

'if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen [outside the City of God] and the publican [complicit with the oppressor]'

"One does not so much require knowledge in witnesses as honesty and good faith." Francis de Sales
"When Our Lord imposes a name upon men he always bestows some particular grace according to the name which he gives them."

ministry of Peter // patriarchate of Abraham [Is 51:1-3]

'It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us' is a startling thing to say; the Holy Spirit gets primacy but the apostles are given authority with Him.

Thursday, April 20, 2023


 The Washington Post has an interesting search engine that searches Google's C4 dataset, which is often used for Large Language Models (although not, as far as we know, ChatGPT, which seems to use a much, much larger dataset that was obtained independently), to see how much of the dataset is occupied by a given website. Blogspot blogs that have been around for a while tend to do fairly well (they are easily accessible large collections of webpages); Siris is ranked 21,453 in C4 (out of about 15 million websites), occupying 0.0004% of the whole dataset. (For comparison, Wikipedia occupies 0.19% of the dataset and the largest influence,, occupies 0.46%.) The ranking is determined by counting 'tokens', which are roughly words and word-like segments in archived websites that would be statistically analyzed by LLM's, and there are about 670,000 Siris-originated tokens in C4.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

And Kisses Fling at Hopes and Fears

by Ella Higginson 

Hey, pretty maid! Whence comest thou
 With violets linked about thy brow,
 And zone of buttercups' own gold?
 The currant blossoms round thee fold
 Their delicate beauty, red and sweet,
 And star-flowers faint beneath thy feet.
 Thou dear coquette! A tear, a frown,
 Dark lashes drooping shyly down,
 To bid one hope the while he fears,
 Then sudden laughter thro' thy tears;
 May all thy sweethearts now take care,
 And of thy ravishments beware.
 See how the soft wind kisses thee,
 And how the rough wind misses thee,
And fruit trees blow and bend and sigh
 When thy glad feet come twinkling by;
 And thou dost laugh thro' sparkling tears
 And kisses fling at hopes and fears.
 Ah, May is fair, and June is sweet,
 And August comes with loitering feet;
 July's the maid to lie and dream,
 Beside some blue and lilied stream;
 But April's sweetheart never yet
 Could her tear-mingled smiles forget.

Ella Higginson was the first Poet Laureate of Washington State; there's been, I think, a bit of a revival of interest in her over the past decade or so.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Classifying Character

 In his discussion of natural virtues and vices (T, SBN 575), Hume has an argument that I think deserves a lot more consideration than it is usually given:

If any action be either virtuous or vicious, 'tis only as a sign of some quality or character. It must depend upon durable principles of the mind, which extend over the whole conduct, and enter into the personal character. Actions themselves, not proceeding from any constant principle, have no influence on love or hatred, pride or humility; and consequently are never consider'd in morality. 

 This reflection is self-evident, and deserves to be attended to, as being of the utmost importance in the present subject. We are never to consider any single action in our enquiries concerning the origin of morals; but only the quality or character from which the action proceeded. These alone are durable enough to affect our sentiments concerning the person. Actions are, indeed, better indications of a character than words, or even wishes and sentiments; but 'tis only so far as they are such indications, that they are attended with love or hatred, praise or blame.

The claim here is remarkable -- that it is self-evident that actions themselves are never considered in morality; actions are only considered in morality insofar as they are signs of something durable. Love, hatred, pride, and humility, are sentiments that do not consider transient and passing actions, and since Hume's version of moral sentimentalism takes all attributions of virtue and vice to depend on these, we can only get morality where those passions reach. 

This is perhaps not what one would have expected from Hume's original set-up (T 3.1.2), where Hume (twice!) refers to actions in moral contexts. But, of course, the claim here is not that actions are not relevant to morality at all, but that when they are relevant, it is because they are taken as signs of 'qualities' that are lovable or hateable (if we are talking about others) or able to be objects of pride or humiliation (if we are talking about ourselves). That this is the case is clear when Hume begins talking about justice (T, SBN 477-478):

'Tis evident, that when we praise any actions, we regard only the motives that produced them, and consider the actions as signs or indications of certain principles in the mind and temper. The external performance has no merit. We must look within to find the moral quality. This we cannot do directly; and therefore fix our attention on actions, as on external signs. But these actions are still considered as signs; and the ultimate object of our praise and approbation is the motive, that produc'd them. 
After the same manner, when we require any action, or blame a person for not performing it, we always suppose, that one in that situation shou'd be influenc'd by the proper motive of that action, and we esteem it vicious in him to be regardless of it. If we find, upon enquiry, that the virtuous motive was still powerful over his breast, tho' check'd in its operation by some circumstances unknown to us, we retract our blame, and have the same esteem for him, as if he had actually perform'd the action, which we require of him.

Hume is significant in being the primary early modern virtue ethicist -- even the scholastics in the period usually seem to think of morality in terms of moral law and duty, but moral law plays no role, and duty a very secondary role, in Hume's account of morality. Unlike Aristotelians, he can't take character or second nature as an inhering quality. Indeed, it seems Hume is committed to holding that character is not something you can really have. Nonetheless, character is something attributed to a person, and we attribute it by classifying actions and words based on whether they regularly give pleasure or pain and on whether they regularly turn out to be useful or the opposite. Someone whose words often cannot be relied on (thus highly defective in their usefulness and often displeasing) is assigned the vice of dishonesty; someone whose actions are like those of other dishonest people is assigned the same vice. We hate dishonesty and are humiliated if we find ourselves in a situation where our actions suggest, to our own consideration or to the consideration of others in a way we find plausible, that we are dishonest.

Thus when Hume talks about 'natural virtues and vices', he is not talking about inherent virtues and vices but attributed virtues and vices, and the primary features of Hume's ethics arise from the fact that on his account morality is a system of classification based on diagnostic actions. Unlike Aristotelian virtue ethics, which is agential (the virtues or vices are about how your passions tend to affect your choices), Humean virtue ethics is spectatorial (the virtues or vices are about how you tend to appear to yourself and others). Being moral is primarily an attempt to communicate that you are pleasant and useful. Hume has no strict agential component, I think. The reverse is not true -- Aristotle does think that communicating character is morally important (it's something you do in friendships, for instance, and friendship is a central pillar of the Aristotelian account of ethics), but it is a very secondary role. In fact, the doctrine of the mean directly implies that a Humean account would be inadequate, because with the doctrine of the mean, Aristotle famously establishes that there can be (for various incidental reasons) virtues and vices for which we have no words -- i.e, that are not included in our standard classifications. In Aristotle's account, virtues admit of a wide range of variations, but they are real and can be discovered even if we don't have a way of classifying them yet; but in Hume's account, something's being a virtue follows on its being classified a certain way.

When I teach virtue ethics in a survey course, I typically (as is fairly common) divide kinds of virtue ethics according to whether they are sentimentalist (like Hume) or rationalist (like Aristotle). But I think one could argue that classification is the more fundamental issue, and whether virtues and vices are inherent or attributed might perhaps be the most fundamental divide. (A potential advantage of this is that Confucianism as a whole straddles the sentimentalist/rationalist distinction in a very awkward way, whereas it sits very comfortably on the inherent side of the divide, for very much the same reasons Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism, and Stoicism do.)

Monday, April 17, 2023

Music on My Mind


LoLa and Hauser, "Für Elise". A nice bit of Beethoven.

But Chiefly from My Own

 A Morning Hymn
by Christopher Smart

O Thou, who lately closed my eyes,
And calmed my soul to rest,
Now the dull blank of darkness flies,
Be thanked, be praised, and blest! 

 And as thou saved me in the night,
From anguish and dismay,
Lead through the labours of the light,
And dangers of the day. 

 Though from Thy laws I daily swerve,
Yet still Thy mercy grant;
Shield me from all that I deserve,
And grant me all I want. 

 However she's tempted to descend,
Keep reason on her throne;
From all men's passions me defend,
But chiefly from my own.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

An Inner Incompleteness

 Within the community, and thus within the individuals who belong to it, there lives an inclination to reach out beyond themselves toward a complete unification. Before it stands the image of a complete community that can't be achieved by any earthly community -- can't in principle, not just accidentally. However the possibility of complete community becomes insightfully given, on the basis of what can be achieved in the midst of the earthly community toward overcoming absolute loneliness. Consequently, an inner incompleteness clings to every earthly community, and an inclination beyond itself.

[Edith Stein, "Community as Reality", in Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, Baseheart & Sawicki, trs., ICS Publications (Washington, DC: 2000): pp. 285-286.]