Saturday, May 06, 2023

The Three Grand Requisites (Re-Post)

Coronations do not (usually) make the king, for practical reasons; they are generally just public ceremonies for the tribe to recognize its tribal leader, so to speak. But King Charles III had his coronation today, and I have been irritated more than once already with British republicans expecting me, as an American, to be sympathetic to their comments about the monarchy. "Not My King!" -- yes, he is, you poorly educated losers; that you are dogs without honor doesn't affect that. Either play with the team you're on or start shooting your fellow subjects in a revolution; otherwise you are just a yellow-bellied coward.

Thus I now re-post this relevant post from 2020, having said the most inflammatory things up front, because it happens in passing to explain why British republicans are loons.


Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England has a brief discussion of the nature of law; the theory of law that is used is a simplified natural law theory, although one that shares a number of features with more positivistic theories. In any case, he has an interesting discussion about law that take it to be closely tied to power, wisdom, and goodness. The account starts at the top, with God ordering the human world according to law. How do we fall under this law?

(1) We are dependent beings, and our dependency means our life is structured by rules determined by that on which we depend. However, our dependency is one of being created, which means it is in this sense a total dependency; we have free will, but this, too, is dependent on divine creation. Thus we fall under law because we fall within the scope of God's infinite power.

(2) God does not merely have infinite power; He is infinitely wise, as well. Considering only divine power, God could will any laws at all; but God's power over us is ordained or ordered power, governed by infinite wisdom. Thus, says Blackstone, "he has laid down only such laws as were founded in those relations of juftice, that existed in the nature of things antecedent to any positive precept"; our minds have been made to be able to recognize these "eternal immutable laws of good and evil", at least to the extent that is necessary for human life.

(3) However, while reason can discover these immutable principles, this cannot be adequate of itself, because doing so requires some difficult thinking, far too much to cover all of our practical life. Thus God's infinite goodness comes into the picture. God has made us so that we have a natural impulse to do the right thing; in particular, our self-love or drive for happiness, carries us in the direction of what is right, because our happiness and justice are interwoven. Thus "pursue your own happiness" is in itself a kind of natural summary of what we must do to live well: "This is the foundation of what we call ethics, or natural law."*

Power, wisdom, and goodness are not found only in natural law, of course; we have no reason to obey laws except so far as they can be traced to these three, even if they are positive laws:

For when society is once formed, government results of course, as necessary to preserve and to keep that society in order. Unless some superior were constituted, whose commands and decisions all the members are bound to obey, they would still remain as in a state of nature, without any judge upon earth to define their several rights, and redress their several wrongs. But, as all the members of society are naturally equal, it may be asked, in whose hands are the reins of government to be entrusted? To this the general answer is easy; but the application of it to particular cases has occasioned one half of those mischiefs which are apt to proceed from misguided political zeal. In general, all mankind will agree that government should be reposed in such persons, in whom those qualities are most likely to be found, the perfection of which are among the attributes of him who is emphatically stiled the supreme being; the three grand requisites, I mean, of wisdom, of goodness, and of power: wisdom, to discern the real interest of the community; goodness, to endeavour always to pursue that real interest; and strength, or power, to carry this knowledge and intention into action. These are the natural foundations of sovereignty, and these are the requisites that ought to be found in every well constituted frame of government.

We find a similar view -- that power, wisdom, and goodness are required for authority of government -- in Josiah Tucker's later anti-Lockean work, A Treatise Concerning Civil GovernmentPart II, Chapter III:

[T]here must be Power, Wisdom, and Goodness, subsisting in one Degree or other, in every Government worthy to be so called, let the exterior Form of it be whatever it may.

For Example, without Power the very Idea of Government is annihilated; and there are no Traces of it left.

Without Wisdom to conduct this Power towards some certain End, or Object, the Thing itself would not be Power, in a moral Sense, but blind Impulse, or mechanic Force.

And without Goodness to influence and incline the Operations both of Wisdom and Power towards some benevolent Uses, conducive to public Happiness, the Efforts of Wisdom would in effect be Knavery, Trick, and Cunning; and the Display of Power mere Tyranny and Oppression. There must therefore be a Coalition, or Co-operation of all three, in order to form a Government fit to rule over such a Creature as Man.

Tucker then uses this as a framework for assessing different forms of government. Absolute monarchy, requiring less coordination, most clearly exhibits power, but monarchs are also often deficient in wisdom and goodness. Hereditary aristocracy suffers from the same problems, and lacks the chief advantage of monarchy, "that Glare of Glory, which surrounds a Throne"; it is weak because of its division. It fares better than absolute monarchy with regard to wisdom; actual aristocrats tend to be actively involved in various aspects of the business and practical life of the realm, and so a large aristocracy is guaranteed to bring into their policies an extent and depth of experience far beyond what any absolute monarch could.** Further, aristocracy tends to do better than absolute monarchy in goodness; they tend to commit fewer abuses, except where they are driven by jealous protection of their privileges. Democracy -- real democracy, where everything is directly or indirectly put to the votes of the people themselves -- suffers even more completely the disadvantages that arise from division, and thus is a weak government indeed; and democracies do very poorly with regard to wisdom, since they are liable to mob injustices, and with regard to goodness, since their benevolence is unstable at best.

On the basis of this, Tucker makes the standard argument for the excellence of the British Constitution (as it stood in the eighteenth century): as a mixed government combining elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy in checks and balances with each other, it can minimize the dangers of each, even if it occasionally loses out on their strengths, and he argues that it does it better than "the Gothic Constitution", i.e., what we would call feudalism or manorialism, and better than the classicizing republics that the modern period introduces into Europe and America. He does, however, point out a number of ways in which he thinks it is defective and could be improved (he thinks in particular that it is thrown off balance by the possession of overseas colonies and that its democratic aspect has a number of problems and is in the way of becoming even more disordered under the influence of Locke's political philosophy).***


* This is, of course, the idea behind the notion of the "pursuit of happiness" as a foundational right in the Declaration of Independence, although the idea is not exclusive to Blackstone and there is a scholarly dispute about whether Blackstone is the primary influence -- Jefferson had a somewhat mixed view of Blackstone, but did know him, and Blackstone's popularity as a compendium of law made him a natural source of vocabulary when you wanted to be widely understood. In any case, we could just as easily talk about the right to life, liberty, and virtue.

** We tend, on the basis of fiction, to think of aristocrats as lolling about doing nothing except attending parties and social events, but this is never true in practice except where the aristocracy has been deliberately neutered -- historically, aristocrats are busy managing estates, working as landlords, and organizing military units, until a centralizing power tries to limit their influence by pulling them to court, where one gets something like the decadence recognized in fiction.

*** I'll use this occasion for some rambling. I find Tucker particularly interesting because his conclusions, at least, are fairly similar to my own. Speaking abstractly and only of ideal government, I think parliamentary monarchy is probably the best form of government that we have discovered and that Britain (almost entirely accidentally) managed to stumble on the form of parliamentary monarchy that most closely approximated the ideal somewhere between the accession of Queen Anne and early Victoria, and that it failed to hold onto it in part because it was not merely a United Kingdom but an Empire. Imperial distortions of the power balance led to the overgrowth of the effective power of the Commons at the expense of Crown and Peerage until they reached their almost vestigial forms today, uselessly flapping around like tiny wings on the body of a turkey bred to be so large that it can barely waddle around.

Of course, 'ideal government' is ideal, not actual, and not always practical; the single most important desideratum for government is not that it approximate the ideal but that it grow organically in a way appropriate to the customs and lives of its actual people. I have a much higher respect for the American Republic than Tucker, and think it, despite its many flaws, still one of the best forms of actual government that has ever been developed; and, regardless, Americans have republican habits and would not know what to do with a Crown and Parliament, much as the British have political habits that (despite the wishful thinking of British republicans) would not stead them well at all in a republic.

I often think of quangos: the British have entities that they call "quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations". Americans have something like them, too; we call them "independent government agencies". I think these completely opposed uses of the term 'government' capture more than a merely accidental difference between British and American English; they capture completely opposed habits of thinking about governance. There's a reason why American monarchists and British republicans seem increasingly kooky the more you talk to them; they are enamored of a scheme, and may even have excellent arguments for it, but their patterns of thought and political habits are all wrong for the scheme they are concocting. Every time I have talked with British republicans, it eventually becomes manifest that they have no idea how power works in a republic; they lack the weird instinctive mixture of paranoia of power, cunning hyperlegalism, casual magnanimity, and jealous protectiveness of what's yours (in an expansive sense of 'yours') that is found in a people born and bred to long-lived republican ideals. Any republic actually implemented by British republicans would become a third-world dictatorship within a matter of decades; they don't even know what to be suspicious of, and while some might turn out to be quick studies, most people can't shift that drastically. Americans have always been weak on understanding our own behavior, but we are nonetheless, even in these decadent times, excelled by no one when it comes to acting like we live in a republic, even (perhaps especially) when we aren't thinking about it; and we would continue doing so even if we became a monarchy, to chaos and confusion everywhere. But Americans are not particularly tempted to unsuitable monarchical schemes (our temptation when it comes to unsuitable and artificial kookery lies toward democratic utopianism), whereas I think the British are much more tempted by the thought that they could just become a republic tomorrow if they wanted. It's a dangerous error.

Which is not, of course, to say that these things are set in stone. Our republic-mindedness has been weakened by bread and circuses, or in modern terms, healthcare and Hollywood; that is to say, we have let ourselves give in to the temptation to allow consolidations of power we should not have allowed, on the excuse of a better life and more choices, and created dependencies that slowly eat away at our native suspicion of government in any form. And half the world is slowly being Americanized, willy-nilly, regardless of their own political customs. But a good fit between scheme of government and political habits of mind is far more important than the precise structure of the former.

Olaf Stapledon, Odd John; Star Maker; Sirius


Opening Passages: From Odd John:

When I told John that I intended to write his biography, he laughed. 

“My dear man!” he said. “But of course it was inevitable.” The word “man” on John’s lips was often equivalent to “fool.” 

 “Well,” I protested, “a cat may look at a king.” 

 He replied, “Yes, but can it really see the king? Can you, puss, really see me?” 

 This from a queer child to a full-grown man.

From Star Maker:

One night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill. Dark heather checked my feet. Below marched the suburban street lamps. Windows, their curtains drawn, were shut eyes, inwardly watching the lives of dreams. Beyond the sea’s level darkness a lighthouse pulsed. Overhead, obscurity. 

 I distinguished our own house, our islet in the tumultuous and bitter currents of the world. There, for a decade and a half, we two, so different in quality, had grown in and in to one another, for mutual support and nourishment, in intricate symbiosis. There daily we planned our several undertakings, and recounted the day’s oddities and vexations. There letters piled up to be answered, socks to be darned. There the children were born, those sudden new lives. There, under that roof, our own two lives, recalcitrant sometimes to one another, were all the while thankfully one, one larger, more conscious life than either alone. 

 All this, surely, was good. Yet there was bitterness. And bitterness not only invaded us from the world; it welled up also within our own magic circle. For horror at our futility, at our own unreality, and not only at the world’s delirium, had driven me out on to the hill.

From Sirius:

Plaxy and I had been lovers; rather uneasy lovers, for she would never speak freely about her past, and sometimes she withdrew into a cloud of reserve and despond. But often we were very happy together, and I believed that our happiness was striking deeper roots. 

 Then came her mother’s last illness, and Plaxy vanished. Once or twice I received a letter from her, giving no address, but suggesting that I might reply to her “care of the Post Office” in a village in North Wales, sometimes one, sometimes another. In temper these letters ranged from a perfunctory amiability to genuine longing to have me again. They contained mysterious references to “a strange duty,” which, she said, was connected with her father’s work. The great physiologist, I knew, had been engaged on very sensational experiments on the brains of the higher mammals. He had produced some marvellously intelligent sheep-dogs, and at the time of his death it was said that he was concerned with even more ambitious research. One of the colder of Plaxy’s letters spoke of an “unexpectedly sweet reward” in connection with her new duty, but in a more passionate one she cried out against “this exacting, fascinating, dehumanizing life.” Sometimes she seemed to be in a state of conflict and torture about something which she must not explain. One of these letters was so distraught that I feared for her sanity. I determined therefore to devote my approaching leave to walking in North Wales in the hope of finding her.

Summary: Science fiction is in many ways, and often at its best, the romance of the adventure of the intellectual mind, a fictional and symbolic representation of the sublimity of the mind in progress of discovery, or knowledge, or understanding. Stapledon is an author who perhaps more than any other has sought to depict this sublimity in and of itself, the cold but glorious limitlessness of the lucid mind. To bring out such a sublime vastness requires a point of contrast, and we have in these three works three different attempts to do it. The sublime is the infinite that crushes to exalt, and I think I would say that of these three works, Odd John emphasizes the crushing, Sirius the exaltation, and Star Maker the infinite; but all three have all three elements. The infinite progress of the mind is terrible and exhilarating, splendid and horrifying, a brightness that blinds and a blindness opening out to an endlessness that eludes comprehension. Such is the aesthetics of Stapledon.  

In Odd John, the titular character, John Wainwright, is a deformed mutation with a mental capabilities well beyond those of an ordinary human being. We follow his life through the reporting of the normal human narrator. However, as time goes on, it becomes unclear how reliable the narrator is; John and the group of 'supernormals' he slowly develops around himself turn out to have a sort of mesmeric power to manipulate weaker minds, and the narrator -- whom John and the supernormals call 'Fido' -- despite having some clear uneasiness about things that John does (including, at times, murder) regularly goes out of his way to try to excuse them. How far is the narrator simply under John's spell, and how far is he bending the story to tell the story that John wants told? We never quite know. John, after a period of acting out, makes it his mission to find people like himself. He finds that being the next stage of the evolution of man is a tricky thing; the supernormals are not merely scattered over the world, they are often not faring well, being locked in madhouses or roaming as vagabonds. Perhaps the most effective scene in the book is when John comes across the most powerful supernormal he has met, a mind of extraordinary telepathic ability locked inside the body of an infant growing abnormally slowly, who as the result of the frustration has become consumed with an all-devouring hatred of everyone and everything. With those supernormals who are less extreme, John establishes a colony on an island -- the island is inhabited, but it is soon deserted because the supernormals kill all the natives -- to be the first society of homo superior. But inevitably, word gets out of the weirdness of the island, and the political powers of the world do what they always do: adapt to the threat.

In Star Maker, an Englishman finds himself transported mentally out of his body and able to explore the galaxy. He discovers many different alien civilizations, and as he does so he ends up melding into a kind of communal mind with others, scattered from about the different civilizations of the universe; they later learn that this process is being directed by a particular highly advanced civilization. The tendency of the universe is toward the collective mind, but the unfolding evolution is a tumultuous and stormy process. Civilizations fail again and again and again, their development of 'lucidity' and 'being awake' disrailed due to prejudice, or war, or disease, or catastrophe, or spreading addictions, or any number of other things. Through it all, the community of minds keep finding suggestions that perhaps there is a great purpose behind all of this, that perhaps there is a Star Maker guiding it all; the pattern and directionality of it makes the suggestion unavoidable, but at the same time there is everywhere suffering and death and failure and despair as the universe itself becomes more and more conscious. At the end the narrator finally comes face to face with the Star Maker, although the Star Maker is beyond his comprehension, making universe as universe in search of one that will meet the Star Maker's inscrutable, incomprehensible standard, caring nothing at all for the suffering and the death and the failure, because all of it is insignificant to him. (It is this part of the book that led C. S. Lewis, who admired the work artistically, to say that the book ended in sheer devil-worship.)

Of the three works, Sirius is, I think, the best. It explores many of the same issues, but it is in some ways the opposite of Odd John. In Odd John the progress of intelligence is depicted as something alien and foreign to us; but in Sirius, we are the alien superintelligence. Sirius is a dog, roughly of Alsatian breed, who has through experimental means been given superior intelligence -- and, as it turns out, intelligence greater than a typical human being, although still within human range. The novel is a masterful exploration of this concept. Sirius has the intelligence of a human being; therefore he is not really able to relate with dogs properly. But he has the body and emotional make-up of a dog, and therefore has a complicated and occasionally tortured relationship with human beings. How does a human-level intelligence deal with having no hands, particularly in a world where almost all other human-level intelligences do? How does a human-level intelligence deal with a dog's highly limited vision, in a world where the dominant intelligences are all highly visual? How does human-level intelligence struggling with a wolf-nature work in a world designed by human-level intelligences struggling with an ape-nature? Sirius's being a dog ironically humanizes Stapledon's themes about the evolution of intelligence; John is disturbingly alien, but we can see in Sirius's struggles analogues of our own. Of course, being a dog in a man's world is sometimes difficult; being a dog-person in a world that does not see dogs as people is a disaster waiting to happen, a germinating tragedy. But here, too, Sirius gives us more humanity than we find in other works by Stapledon: intelligence and love have a power to unite even very different people, such as Sirius and the Trelanes of whose family he is an adopted part, and while the bond cannot fend off tragic happenings, it can give even to them a sort of beauty. Reason and love, as Stapledon says in one of his nonfiction works, are the two wings of the human spirit; and having both, we fly, even if only for a brief moment.

Stapledon's world is an unsettled one. The consistent theme is that all of the traditional pieties of yesterday have been shown not to be adequate, but all the modern attempts to replace them have glaring gaps that show that very valuable things are being lost in change. Progress is good; and it is a costly and destructive good. Every improvement comes at a cost, and sometimes the costs are not made up, and all one's progress ends in catastrophe as the debts approach default. An interesting recurring theme in Star Maker is that rather than take advantage of the opportunities of progress to improve themselves, societies regularly become sidetracked into degenerating self-indulgence, as sexual mores collapse, and with them the bonds of society, and addictions of various sorts spread a sort of stagnation and death, and tensions due to unresolved bigotries mount up to war. What is more, at every stage the temptations are new and more sophisticated versions of the same old temptations. Intelligence is not guaranteed to solve any of our real problems at all; but it certainly can also give us new ways to make them worse. But Stapledon also has an ambiguity toward this. He wants to say that being the sort of being who can mess things up more badly is just the cost of being a better kind of being, and that part of enlightenment is coming to recognize this in one's own struggle and failure. There is no theodicy, no justification; suffering and struggle just are. But in the midst of it, we can find community and love -- like John's island, or the narrator's community of minds in Star Maker, or Sirius and Plaxy Trelane -- and be, if not wholly content or satisfied, at least more awake. 

Favorite Passages: Stapledon has many excellent passages, but they tend to be slowly developed, which means that gettign a sense of things requires chunkier quotation.

From Odd John:

The programme of activities on the island was now altered considerably. All work that could not bear fruit within the next few months was abandoned. The islanders told me that they had certain supreme tasks on hand which must, if possible, be finished before the end. The true purpose of the awakened spirit, they reminded me, is twofold, namely to help in the practical talk of world-building, and to employ itself to the best of its capacity in intelligent worship. Under the first head they had at least created something glorious though ephemeral, a microcosm, a world in little. But the more ambitious part of their practical purpose, the founding of a new species, they were destined never to fulfil. Therefore they were concentrating all their strength upon the second aim. They must apprehend existence as precisely and zestfully as they could, and salute That in the universe which was of supreme excellence. This purpose, with the aid of Langatse, they might yet advance to a definite plane of achievement which at present still lay beyond them, though their most mature minds had already glimpsed it. With their unique practical experience and their consciousness of approaching doom they might, they said, within a few months offer to the universal Spirit such a bright and peculiar jewel of worship as even the great Langatse himself, alone and thwarted, could not create.

From Star Maker:

In vain my fatigued, my tortured attention strained to follow the increasingly subtle creations which, according to my dream, the Star Maker conceived. Cosmos after cosmos issued from his fervent imagination, each one with a distinctive spirit infinitely diversified, each in its fullest attainment more awakened than the last; but each one less comprehensible to me. 

 At length, so my dream, my myth, declared, the Star Maker created his ultimate and most subtle cosmos, for which all others were but tentative preparations. Of this final creature I can say only that it embraced within its own organic texture the essences of all its predecessors; and far more besides. It was like the last movement of a symphony, which may embrace, by the significance of its themes, the essence of the earlier movements; and far more besides. 

 This metaphor extravagantly understates the subtlety and complexity of the ultimate cosmos. I was gradually forced to believe that its relation to each earlier cosmos was approximately that of our own cosmos to a human being, nay to a single physical atom. Every cosmos that I had hitherto observed now turned out to be but a single example of a myriadfold class, like a biological species, or the class of all the atoms of a single element. The internal life of each ‘atomic’ cosmos had seemingly the same kind of relevance (and the same kind of irrelevance) to the life of the ultimate cosmos as the events within a brain cell, or in one of its atoms, to the life of a human mind. Yet in spite of this huge discrepancy I seemed to sense throughout the whole dizzying hierarchy of creations a striking identity of spirit. In all, the goal was conceived, in the end, to include community and the lucid and creative mind.

From Sirius: 

But now at last she thought of a fitting thing to do. She would sing his requiem. Returning to her dead darling, she stood erect beside him, facing the dawn. Then in as firm and full a voice as she could muster, she began singing a strange thing that he himself had made for her in his most individual style. The wordless phrases symbolized for her the canine and the human that had vied in him all his life long. The hounds’ baying blended with human voices. There was a warm and brilliant theme which he said was Plaxy, and a perplexed one which was himself. It began in playfulness and zest, but developed in a tragic vein against which she had often protested. Now, looking down on him she realized that his tragedy was inevitable. And under the power of his music she saw that Sirius, in spite of his uniqueness, epitomized in his whole life and in his death something universal, something that is common to all awakening spirits on earth, and in the farthest galaxies. For the music’s darkness was lit up by a brilliance which Sirius had called “colour,” the glory that he himself, he said, had never seen. But this, surely, was the glory that no spirits, canine or human, had ever clearly seen, the light that never was on land or sea, and yet is glimpsed by the quickened mind everywhere. 
As she sang, red dawn filled the eastern sky, and soon the sun’s bright finger set fire to Sirius.

Recommendation: Odd John is Recommended; Sirius is Highly Recommended. Star Maker is a tricky one; I would put it Highly Recommended, but I think it requires a particular set of reading interests, and if you only read one of the three, I think Sirius is the one you should read.


Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker, Dover (Garden City, NY: 2021).

Olaf Stapledon, Odd John and Sirius, Dover (New York: 1964).

Friday, May 05, 2023

Dashed Off XV

 Prooftexting at least presents prima facie evidence; it is often replaced with things that do not even do that.

A historical period is not merely a time in the past but also a mode by which the past operates in the present and the future.

divine metonymy : instruments of divine action :: divine metaphor : exemplates of divine being

Christ gives us impassibility through His Passion.

We can have unstated legal obligations because reason can obligate us with respect to stated laws, beyond the statements of those laws on their own.

the Church as
oikos pneumatikos 1 Pt 2:5
hierateuma hagion 1 Pt 2:5
genos eklekton 1 Pt 2:9
basileion hierateuma 1 Pt 2:9
ethnos hagion 1 Pt 2:9
laos eis perpoiesin 1 Pt 2:9
laos theou 1 Pt 2:10
thou douloi 1 Pt 2:16
ten adelphoteta 1 Pt 2:17

the Church as sacramental body of Christ, the Church as politic body of Christ

Dynastic orders are essentially tribal honors.

"Ligeance is the mutual bond and obligation between the king and his subjects." Coke
(the king as natural liege lord)

"Virtue is the ethical order reflected in the individual character so far as that character is determiend by its natural endowment." Hegel

Thinking of public welfare only in terms of justice, and never in terms of mercy, guarantees that you will miss essential things.

the power to dispense, the power to convene, the power to personate

marriage covenant as the completion of covenants, the summit and pinnacle

reform for principle vs reform for effect

planning as finding the 'middle terms', the intermediate ends

All social animals have norms.

alienating qualifications
-- (1) formally: Socrates is a dead man.
-- (2) materially: The term 'good' has four letters.
reducing qualifications
-- (1) intentionally: The square circle can be found, on the list of impossible things.
-- (2) potentially: Egg is chicken, potentially.
-- (3) partially: The house is on my property, with respect to its corner.

If we understand contingency as Diamond & Diamond-Not, then it is possible for something to be contingent in one context and not in another, for most interpretations of Diamond.

"The very nature of man, not only in the religious sphere, demands something in the way of a disciplina arcani." Rahner

God as eternal subsistetn right, God as eternal absolute value

persons as subsistent value

(1) merit, broadly speaking
-- (a) merit proper
-- -- (1) condign
-- -- (2) congruous
-- (b) demerit
(2) desert as right

1:6:23  --- ship : horse : foot, approximately

Talk of stakeholders often seems to be a way for executives to replace strict responsibilities with highly malleable responsibilities.

the 'custom of the castle' motif as symbolic of feudal obligations

a common marketing format: (1) claim of unusual insight or ability, (2) plausible platitude, (3) glittering claim, (4) call to action
-- this is the structure of Descartes's Discourse on Method!

Augustine and the sublimity of memory

Thomas Paine takes the 'Rights of Man' to be rights of all collectively, not distributively.

stress as residual pitch

In a pandemic, logistics is always infinitely more important than mandate.

What is a church but a Round Table?

Ethnicity in both the Hellenistic and Roman periods is religiously toned; this contrasts with ethnicity in the British and American periods, where it is racially toned. Ethnicity then was a matter of familial/tribal tradition; now it has become something like a sub-race.

iustitia : ius : religio : sacra

The divine transcends the natural/supernatural distinction.

the six antitheses of the Sermon the Mount and building a fence out from Torah

The prophet calls the people to a society not merely just but also holy.

Connoisseurship is in part learning how to be pleased across multiple desires simultaneously.

prayer to receive the grace 'to imitate what divine mysteries contain and to obtain what they promise' as the basic structure of most meditative devotion: content -- promise/imitation -- achievement, or, more broadly, mystery -- grace in us

Churches sui juris tend to be produced in the friction between empires.

Ezekiel 11:23  -- the glory of the Lord from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives
Zach 14:4-5  -- His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives.

Tobit 4:15 -- "What you hate, do not do to anyone."

1 Pt 2:9 -- An ethnos was an official designation; e.g., since Antiochus III, the Jews had been an ethnos, self-governing according to their own laws, with a sort of quasi-citizenship status in certain respects; all of Judean heritage had Judea as their legal origin, and they had rights partly tied to this.

"tax collectors and sinners" occurs 9 times in the New Testament

Freedom is an effect of law.

All property inherently has a social aspect; the 'private' in private property does not exclude it.

"All is foreseen but free will is given." Rabbi Akiva

Tobit and Sirach are found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Hellenistic dispossession of the Zadokite movement results in
(1) Sadducees
(2) Oniads in Leontopolis
(3) Qumran sect under the 'Teacher of Righteousness' (Moreh Ha'Tzedek) against the 'Wicked Priest' (Ha'Kohen Ha Rasha, a pun on Ha'Kohen Ha'Rashi, 'High Priest')

The baptism of John anticipates Christian baptism, through the Baptism of Christ is a model of it; but it is also a model of penance, and in many ways an even closer model.

Hume's principle of 'counterpoize' is likely a political metaphor ('counterpoises' being another name for checks and balances) -- belief as the voting of ideas, as the authority in a political system of mind

People generally tolerate some measure of corruption, even if complaining about it, because corruption is expensive and exhausting to eliminate. In some cases the corruption is itself a symptom of insufficient resources; in other cases, safeguards against corruption add an extra layer of continual expense.

degree of difficulty of mimesis
(1) capturing that it is
(2) capturing what it is
(3) capturing how it is
(4) capturing who it is

skill as learning one's instrument

Political weight is not a matter of force but of positioning.

Our free will presupposes divine freedom, and our free choices as it were occur within a divine free choices.

futuribility as a form of relative possibility

the effect of baptismal grace: passive sanctification
the effect of chrismational grace: active sanctification

concepto (Gracian): 'an act of the understanding that brings out the correspondence between objects'
-- the correspondence here is a harmony or symmetry
-- note that Gracian doesn't think this has to be purely verbal; heraldic devices and emblems are included

"Agency is the fiduciary relationship that arises when one person (a 'principal') manifests assent to another person (an 'agent') that the agent shall act on the principal's behalf and subject to the principal's control, and the agent manifests or otherwise consents so to act." Restatement of the Laws of Agency 1.01

'qui facit per alium, facit per se'

power of attorney (etymology)
power: a legal instrument of authorization, written under seal, as opposed to a letter, written only under signature
attorney[-in-fact]: personal representative, from 'attorn', to turn over to another
-- law has since loosened the seal/signature distinction in some situations
-- because attorney usually now means attorney-at-law, the terms 'agent' and 'agency' are more commonly used outside this particular phrase

the 'large' in "at large" originally meant 'liberty' (from Old French)

It is natural for people to express historical events in terms of the literature they know.

Genesis as a narrative of disguises and dreams

"Transcendence is an order a greater thing has to a lesser, such that the greater has all the good of the lesser in a higher and more unified way, but *the higher and more unified way* is a higher order of being, so that no multiplcation of the lower good ever equals or exceeds the higher good." Chastek

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Haunts Me Like a Face Half Known

by William Watson

Strange the world about me lies,
 Never yet familiar grown
 Still disturbs me with surprise,
 Haunts me like a face half known. 

 In this house with starry dome,
 Floored with gemlike plains and seas,
 Shall I never feel at home,
 Never wholly be at ease?

 On from room to room I stray,
 Yet my Host can ne'er espy,
 And I know not to this day
 Whether guest or captive I. 

 So, between the starry dome
 And the floor of plains and seas,
 I have never felt at home,
 Never wholly been at ease.

Sir William Watson (1858-1935) was a major English poet in the decades after Tennyson's death -- perhaps better regarded at the time than Alfred Austin, the poet who succeeded Tennyson as Poet Laureate -- but by the end of his life was already almost unknown; a great deal of his poetry is political in nature, which is perhaps the reason why. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

The Great and Apostolic Athanasius

 Today is the feast of St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church. From chapter 54 of his On the Incarnation:

As, then, if a man should wish to see God, Who is invisible by nature and not seen at all, he may know and apprehend Him from His works: so let him who fails to see Christ with his understanding, at least apprehend Him by the works of His body, and test whether they be human works or God's works.  And if they be human, let him scoff; but if they are not human, but of God, let him recognise it, and not laugh at what is no matter for scoffing; but rather let him marvel that by so ordinary a means things divine have been manifested to us, and that by death immortality has reached to all, and that by the Word becoming man, the universal Providence has been known, and its Giver and Artificer the very Word of God. For He was made man that we might be made God ; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. For while He Himself was in no way injured, being impassible and incorruptible and very Word and God, men who were suffering, and for whose sakes He endured all this, He maintained and preserved in His own impassibility. And, in a word, the achievements of the Saviour, resulting from His becoming man, are of such kind and number, that if one should wish to enumerate them, he may be compared to men who gaze at the expanse of the sea and wish to count its waves. For as one cannot take in the whole of the waves with his eyes, for those which are coming on baffle the sense of him that attempts it; so for him that would take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, it is impossible to take in the whole, even by reckoning them up, as those which go beyond his thought are more than those he thinks he has taken in. Better is it, then, not to aim at speaking of the whole, where one cannot do justice even to a part, but, after mentioning one more, to leave the whole for you to marvel at. For all alike are marvellous, and wherever a man turns his glance, he may behold on that side the divinity of the Word, and be struck with exceeding great awe.

Monday, May 01, 2023

Pink to the Peach and Pink to the Apple

Fides, Spes
by Willa Cather

Joy is come to the little
 Pink to the peach and pink to the apple,
 White to the pear.
 Stars are come to the dogwood,
 Astral, pale;
 Mists are pink on the red-bud,
 Veil after veil.
 Flutes for the feathery locusts,
 Soft as spray;
 Tongues of lovers for chestnuts, poplars,
 Babbling May.
 Yellow plumes for the willows'
 Wind-blown hair;
 Oak trees and sycamores only
 Comfortless, bare.
 Sore from steel and the watching,
 Somber and old,
(Wooing robes for the beeches, larches,
 Splashed with gold,
 Breath of love from the lilacs,
 Warm with noon,)
 Great hearts cold when the little
 Beat mad so soon.
 What is their faith to bear it
 Till it come,
 Waiting with rain-cloud and swallow,
 Frozen, dumb?

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Admin Note

 A thunderstorm rolling through the area at the end of last week apparently did something of a number on my internet, which has been going in and out most of the weekend; and then I came down ill last night -- nothing serious, but enough to put me mostly out of commission for a day; and the combination of both have put me behind on things as I enter the penultimate week of the term. So suffice it to say that the next few days are likely to be quite light on posting. I do have the fortnightly book done, but I need to finish writing up the actual post when I have the time.