Saturday, May 27, 2023

Links of Note

 * Jennifer Mensch, The Poem as Plant: Archetype and Metamorphosis in Goethe and Schlegel (PDF)

* Tang Yun, Can Virtue Grow Out of Vicious Human Nature? Xunzi's Genealogy Reconstructed (PDF)

* David Polansky, Why Ancient Israel Was Not a Modern Nation

* Joshua Conrad Jackson, Danica Dillion, et al., Supernatural explanations across 114 societies are more common for natural than social phenomena. As is usually the case with studies like this, one has to be precise about what is actually being said; the paper shows that supernatural explanations are more common for particular natural phenomena like storms or sickness than particular social phenomena like murder or war in ethnographic descriptions of the cultures; cases for the natural phenomena considered were in 90% of cultures, while those for social phenomena considered were more variable (67% for war, 82% for murder, 26% for theft), and tended to be more common in larger and more urban populations. Since the ethnographic accounts span several hundred years, and are mostly Western, there's always a possibility that Western ethnographers just may have have been more sensitive to or interested in supernatural explanations of natural phenomena; and the authors note that sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a phenomenon should be classified as natural or social, as with African witchcraft cases, in which a phenomenon may simultaneously be considered both murder and natural disease. Nonetheless, it's an interesting attempt to study these matters.

* Michael P. Moreland, Friendship as the Primary Purpose of Law (PDF)

* Brendan Hodge, America's Aging  Bishops, at "The Pillar"

* Christopher Tollefsen, The Good of Play in John Finnis's Natural Law and Natural Rights (scroll down)

* John Ehrett, The End of Viking Vitalism, at "Mere Orthodoxy"

* Tobias Flattery, May Kantians commit virtual killings that affect no other persons? (PDF). Flattery's argument that (contrary to a common reading of Kant) the answer is 'at least often, no', is right; but I think a more straightforward line of argument is to compare this to Kant's arguments about our moral treatment of animals, in which he argues that treating humanity as an end in itself requires showing a relevant kind of moral respect even to non-human things that are sufficiently human-like (like the non-moral loyalty of a dog). Similarly, in order to show respect for humanity as an end in itself, you would have to show an appropriate respect for representations of humanity (I actually use this example with paintings, photographs, and statues, in my Ethics course when I talk about Kant on moral treatment of animals).

* Jesse Russell, The Sacred Roots of Modern Government, at "Public Discourse"

* Dixie Dillon Lane, A.I. Doesn't Cause Cheating. Fear Does., at "Front Porch Republic"

* Max G. Levy, Chatbots Don't Know What Stuff Isn't, at "Quanta", on a fascinating limitation of current LLMs -- researchers haven't worked out any consistently effective way to handle negation.

* A Mystery that Should Not Exist: Who Is the Cover Artist for This Edition of A Wrinkle in Time?, at "Unquiet Things"

* Alexander Geddes, Pregnancy, Parthood, and Proper Overlap: A Critique of Kingsma (PDF)

* Gregory B. Sadler, Interpreting Anselm of Canterbury as a Virtue Ethicist (PDF)

Friday, May 26, 2023

Dashed Off XVII

 Experimentation arises out of the cycle of abstract and concrete.

The whole power of the state is less than the whole power of the civil society that uses the state to organize itself and to have effects on other societies.

providential sovereignty -> popular sovereignty -> crown sovereignty

What a king can do, a whole people can do.

'mutual and reciprocal intercourse, influence and communication of qualities' between Christ's natural body and His social body

allegiance (liege homage) to the state vs obedience to the state
-- these are often confused in modern societies, but a state has a (defeasible) right to allegiance from just lordship in fulfilling its customary duties to vassals, whereas a state has a (defeasible) right to obedience from customary power or mastery over subjects.
-- both should be distinguished from the civil responsibility of a citizen to cooperate with the state in matters of civil good

master - servant - compliance
lord - vassal - customary due
state - citizen - rational cooperation

All jurisdiction in the Church is exercised in Christ's name, and all authority derives from Christ's commission, with no action violating that commission having any authority. It is His juridical authority exercised in ecclesiastical court and His eleemosynary authority exercised in the tribunal of mercy.

chieftainship powers as based on the attentions of the people
-- note that this is not weak (it is in fact a precondition for a great many other things) but is minimal in its general form, since it can be in place even when people reject your decision. It is in its essence an advisory power, capable at times of immense effect, but only when and to the degree sufficient portions of the people follow your advice. It gives you a power to propose, to mediate, and to influence.

The association of sovereignty with territory is a feudal relic.

In the long run we are all destroyed by the things we do not respect.

As shadows are byproducts of, and dependent on, light, so obscurities are byproducts of, and dependent on, understanding.

"He who studies Philosophy must be a freeman in mind." Henry Dunning Macleod

Wealth consists in exchangeable rights. (Macleod)

"If a bill is taken in exchange for goods, it is *Payment*: but it is not *Satisfaction* until the bill itself is paid." Macleod
"...though giving Money is *Payment*, it is not *Satisfaction* until the Money is exchanged away for something that is desired."
"*Satisfaction* is anything which is received as a final Discharge and closing of any transaction."
"A Banker is a trader whose business consists in *Buying Money* and *Debts* by *Creating* other *Debts*."

jurisprudence : rights :: economics : exchanges of rights

"To counterfeit misery is to be miserable." Aristotle

Stories become more interesting in juxtaposition with other stories.

Judicial decisions are concerned almost entirely with classification.

Every tribunal that is constituted as a court in a complete and proper sense has a power to designate and punish contempt of court, or something similar, arising from its authority over its own proceedings. Custom, of course, may modulate how and by what means this can be expressed, as may statute.

In the Life of Alexander, Plutarch distinguishes histories and lives, arguing that hte latter pays more attention to marks and indications of human souls, their vices and vicrtues, than exploits.

At their peaks of power, wisdom, or goodness, human beings get tutelary attributions and sometimes quasi-religious or even religious honors, from their fellow human beings.

modalities of the episcopal power of jurisdiction
(1) broadly moral: linked to divine license to preach the word received; can reach to all rational beings.
(2) jural: linked to office with respect to the Church as a society.
(3) sacral: linked to episcopal modality of character with respect to the Church as Mystical Body; this is the ambience of things subserving the power of order.

priesthood: the power to offer and consecrate the Divine Host
diaconate: the power to distribute
subdiaconate: to prepare the matter and the sacred vessels
acolyte: to care for the altar and the lights
exorcist: to keep out unworthy and free the possessed
lector: to proclaim the word of God and assist the hearer in understanding
ostiary: to guard the property of the House and to assemble the faithful
--> all of these are found in a more eminent way in the power of the bishop

An advantage of the idea of minor orders is that i more clearly delineates the authority of the priest who sums them all in complete integration.

All who receive the sacrament of orders are formed into one body.

The minor orders pictured the sacrament of orders as itself a temple.

It is natural to think of the character as 'in' us, but one may also think of it, perhaps more spiritually and accurately, as something into which we and the whole Church are brought. This is true of baptism, confirmation, and ordination. It is an important element in understanding sacramental character that, the character in us, we become the Church (in the mode of our character) for all others in the Church. To receive baptism is in a way to receive the Church in oneself, and so too in different ways with confirmation and ordination. For the sacramental character, which is a participation of Christ whose sacramental Body we all together are, is a way in which we are each in each and all in each as members of that Mystical Body.

Christ is our Temple and the sacramental character is the Temple in us.

The character reflects the Church in a given mode.

Cyprian Ep. 27: the Church properly consists of Bishops, Clergy, and the Standing (i.e., those who are not Lapsi in the face of persecution)

1 Cor 14:19 (cp. Lk 1:4, Acts 18:25, Rm 2:18; Gal 6:6) -> catechumenate

the structure of the ancient catechumenate
(1) Audientes
(2) Substrati (postratores)
(3) Competentes
-- (1) and (2) were not always distinguished; when they were, (1) was allowed to hear the Christian message in church itself, (2) received regular blessing. (3) were allowed to call themselves Christian.

The Church can, if it deems fit, create a minor order for any element of temple-service in the divine liturgy.

Reason can as it were only see the moral law from its underside; faith lets us begin to see it in the round; only in the Beatific Vision will we truly asee it as it is.

Exactly the same thing may be spoken with very different levels of authority -- indeed, very different kinds of authority.

Eveyr removen prohibens has a specific prohibens (we could call it a kibosh), which is an act of opposition that has to be removed.

Governments give room to protest, and even incite it, to make themselves seem more democratic -- protests are flashy things to which one can point to prove one's liberal character.

Our personal good consists in frameworks of common good within which our individual good distinctively develops.

Everything in either belongs both to the sciences and the humanities, but in different ways. (Cp. Mach)

the collage of ideas in the imagination

The human body becomes the human body by becoming the site of moral problems and moral resolutions.

All formal heresy is an attempt to seize grace on one's own terms.

hagiosyne (1 Thess 3:13)
hosiotes (Lk 1:75; Eph 4:24)

the double aspect of sanctity: withdrawal or separation for the divine & seal or sanction by the divine

The virtue of religion becomes sanctity to the extent it organizes all other virtues.

Common law provides a middle ground wherein statute and custom can beneficially interact.

Exectuive branches are as inherently precedential as any court system.

"The employment of speculative men, since the beginning of the world, has been to investigate the causes of things." Reid
"As all credit supposes an equivalent debt, so all right supposes a corresponding duty."
"Without fidelity and trust there can be no human society."
"...if no provision were made by nature, to encourage men to fidelity in declarations and promises, human nature would be a contradiction to itself, made for an end, yet without the necessary means of attaining it."

testimony: theoretical reason :: promise : practical reason

the existence of other minds as posited by our social intellectual powers

The two essential elements in effective leadership are, within the framework of the requirements of leadership, to share in the burden and to care for the people.

Interculturality preserves cultural elements.

The Son of Man sayings are sometimes said by Jesus as if the Son of Man were Himself and sometimes as if the Son of Man were another; this is reconciled in the doctrine of the second coming.

four family rituals in Imperial China
(1) initiations (cappings and pinnings)
(2) weddings
(3) funerals
(4) service to ancestors

two forms of merit
(1) causes a right in justice to a reward
--- (a) in commutative justice
--- (b) in distributive justice
(2) causes a disposition appropriate to receiving a reward

In the Incarnation, God takes a special responsibility for the human race, as He had taken a special responsibility for Israel in the electino of Israel.

Merit mediates agent and reward by giving a ground of imputation of reward to agent.

"a benefit is repaid by being acknowledged." Seneca
"that which is seen is not a benefit -- it is but the trace and mark of a benefit"
"What, then, is benefit? It is the act of doing a kindness which both bestows pleasure and gains it by bestowing it, and which does its office by natural and spontaneous impulse.
"...a benefit exists, not in that which is done or given, but in the mind of the doer or giver"
"He who receives a benefit with gratitude, repays the first instalment of it."
"That benefit which consists of the action is repaid when we receive it graciously; that other, which consists of something material, we have not then repaid, but we hope to do so."
"A benefit gives perpetual joy to a grateful man, but pleases an ungrateful one only for a moment."
"A benefit is subject to no law; it depends upon my own arbitration."

formal beneficia vs instrumental beneficia

The problem with using 'favors' to translate Seneca's 'beneficia' is that you can owe, trade, bank, and repay in favors. Favors are useful services, but not with respect to gratitude as such.

The rights between spouses are not the same but reciprocating.

painting & the hierarchy of interest
-- relevant to the picturesque, which also finds a hierarchy of interest
-- Gilpin's 'roughness' is an indirect marker of the hierarchy of interest in the scene.

The wergild system worked in part because it covered the bases for punishment: the perpetrator had to  engage in a public symbolic act that recognized that the misdeed was wrong, that the person harmed was of value, that the kin of the person harmed had been harmed, and that the peace of the king (or sometimes the church) had been violated; there was compensation; wergild amounts were set deliberately high so that perpetrators would typically have to go into debt to pay, thus requiring penal sacrifice. But wergild was also not the only system involved, because it coexisted with other systems (e.g., in later times with the penitential system).

Usury is a usurpation of rights, because interest is a right requiring specific title in light of justice; but usury is taking interest without the relevant kind of title.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Baeda Venerabilis

 Today is the feast of St. Bede of Northumbria, Doctor of the Church. From his Ecclesiastical History:

Thus much of the Ecclesiastical History of Britain, and more especially of the English nation, as far as I could learn either from the writings of the ancients, or the tradition of our forefathers, or of my own knowledge, with the help of the Lord, I, Bede, the servant of Christ, and priest of the monastery of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow, have set forth. Having been born in the territory of that same monastery, I was given, by the care of kinsmen, at seven years of age, to be educated by the most reverend Abbot Benedict, and afterwards by Ceolfrid, and spending all the remaining time of my life a dweller in that monastery, I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture; and amidst the observance of monastic rule, and the daily charge of singing in the church, I always took delight in learning, or teaching, or writing. In the nineteenth year of my age, I received deacon’s orders; in the thirtieth, those of the priesthood, both of them by the ministry of the most reverend Bishop John, and at the bidding of the Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time when I received priest’s orders, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for my own needs and those of my brethren, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, the following brief notes on the Holy Scriptures, and also to make some additions after the manner of the meaning and interpretation given by them....

Tina Turner (1939-2023)

 Tina Turner died yesterday at her home in Switzerland.

Tina Turner, "Proud Mary".

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Egyptian-Themed Poem Drafts

 Sekhet Alu 

Two colonnades of Busiris here stand,
the pillars of glory in the realm of the ram.
Where the four-souled beast raises its head,
mighty Anubis protects every gate,
bowing head to Osiris, the master of fate
and the king of the realms of the dead.
He rules there in peace, with truth as his rod,
his throne in the midst of the tomb of the god
where emperors themselves come to die,
the lord of the west as the sun that has set,
strong in his splendor and unfaded as yet,
and great like the death of the sky.
Unless it has died, a seed cannot live;
to that which is dead, no fear can one give,
for the dead in the fields like the seeds are all sown.
Embalmed they are cured, and freed from all blight,
the sunset preserving the joys of their sight:
Osiris they know, by Osiris are known.
Marshmallow lands by the Delta-mouth grown
with the souls of the dead are become thickly sown,
the asphodel meadows where the mummy-god rules.
The dead are all walking in the splendor of light,
hearts light as a feather and ardent for right,
and free of this world so snake-like and cruel.
Twofold truth in the halls of the king
with the pious confession in prayer there rings
('I am pure, I am pure, I am pure').
The never-defiled have reward as they must,
are weighted by balance, and known to be just:
in the hands of Anubis their spirits endure. 


 Osiris sleeps and dreams of death,
entombed in ebon halls of stone,
the death-blessed god on sacred throne,
and over gilded sands his breath
still seeks the signs of Isis' will. 

 And, through Egyptian starlight still
that shines in quiet on the sands,
it courses past the nomad-bands,
a honeyed wind that blows no ill,
and pulses with old hope's demands. 

 And Isis wanders through the lands
to seek the tombs and sacred throne,
to re-knit flesh to flesh and bone;
she takes the children in her hands
and makes them gods upon the flame. 

 The dead all have Osiris' name;
one soul goes up, one soul remains,
and on the Nile night-sent rains
will fall to heal the blind and lame
and raise the dead to grace.


 At the City of Beautiful Monuments
the Crown encircled your head,
blessed with the gift of heaven
and the glories of the dead. 

Your mother upon the River
to the throne of Horus came
from the Bowlands and the Southlands
to praise your rising name. 

The gods looked well upon you;
the River gave life in flood.
The temple towns were many,
the harvests full and good. 

In Karnak and Kawa was lavished
the ram of great Amun
with treasures to shame all princes
beneath the sun and moon. 

Down came Assyrian armies,
up went Taharqa's hand;
by army, mice, and angel
was saved Yehuda-land. 

 But alas! All things must vanish;
the wolf of the north returned
again and again with sorrow
and an anger that seethed and burned. 

In the holy City of Scepter
you saw your final end
as Assyrian darkness and fire
did on the Two Lands descend. 

But in Nuri you sleep with Osiris
to return one day from the dead
in the glory of perpetual kingship,
the Western sun on your head!

On Mizrahi on Scientism

 Moti Mizrahi has a very poor essay on scientism at It's sometimes been said that a sign that common criticisms of scientism are right is that the philosophical attempts to defend it are so provably bad, and this essay is a very good example of it, since it features in very blatant form a number of the common failures of such defenses. For instance, Mizrahi can't even get out of the introductory portion of the essay without being inconsistent in his characterization of it -- he repeatedly conflates 'best form of knowledge' with 'best way of knowing', despite the fact that these are not even remotely the same things, and then later goes on to conflate (although this is very deliberate and explicit) 'knowledge' and 'research', despite the fact that almost nobody uses these terms as synonyms, and then conflates 'research' and 'what is found in academic publications of an academic discipline' despite the fact that everyone recognizes that some of the latter is actually not research (e.g., fraudulent papers) and that there is much more to research than what ends up in academic publications (e.g., practical skills). So, despite pretending to be talking about what everyone else is talking about when they talk about 'scientism', Mizrahi's 'Weak Scientism' seems to end up being the position that science (by which he seems to mean only 'what ends up in what we call '-"scientific journals"') has the academic journals or the ways of putting together academic journals (we don't know which he means) that are the best at producing things that go (or are supposed to go? -- it isn't very clear what the standard is here) in academic journals. Needless to say, very few people other than Mizrahi would call this mush 'scientism' at all, and it will obviously be at least questionable sometimes -- for instance, it's a well-known view of academic publishing that some scientific journals are very bad for science itself and some are very good, and there is plenty of reason (fraudulent papers being one) to think that the very bad scientific journals are not better for science (or for society, or for humanity, or for any number of other possible standards of bestness) than the very best non-scientific academic journals are. 

On the qualitative side, Mizrahi says, "Scientific knowledge can be said to be qualitatively better than non-scientific knowledge because scientific knowledge is explanatorily, predictively and instrumentally more successful than non-scientific knowledge." But since 'knowledge' can only mean 'research' here, by Mizrahi's own definition, this will obviously just depend on what journals and papers you are looking at. If one wants to argue that Physical Review is a better journal for learning about physics-journal research than Philosophy of Science, this seems like something everyone accepts; if one wants to argue that Physical Review is a better journal for learning about philosophy-of-science research than Philosophy of Science, this seems highly doubtful; if one wants to argue that Physical Review has better editorial practices than Philosophy of Science, OK, maybe, although this seems to be a practical assessment that requires an investigation of what each journal is for; if one wants to argue that Physical Review does more for physics than Philosophy of Science does for philosophy of science, OK, maybe, although this would require some sort of sociological investigation of the impact of each, the results of which are not likely to be particularly interesting. But if you want to argue that anything published in a scientific journal, including the fraudulent papers, is better for either physics or philosophy of science than anything published in Philosophy of Science, there are literally legions of reasons for rejecting this position. On the other hand, since Mizrahi characterizes 'better' on the quantitative side as producing more knowledge (=research) or having more of an impact (=citations, apparently), then we have to consider all the journals together. But there it seems entirely a matter of historical accident whether scientific journals happen overall to publish more research or involve more citations than non-scientific journals -- the first depends heavily on the economics of journal publication and the latter on customs of citation, both of which are different across different fields for any number of reasons.

Mizrahi also shows that he doesn't understand what it means to treat something as wrong by definition; he accuses the psychologist Steve Taylor of doing this despite the fact that Taylor quite clearly is not putting wrongness into the definition of 'scientism' but giving a reason why scientism is a non-starter, namely, that its proponents fail to make proper distinctions between assumptions and facts. Whether or not this is true, it is obviously absurd to claim that this is treating scientism as wrong by definition; a reason, one that explicitly concerns argumentative practice and not definition, is explicitly given, and the claim that scientism is a dogmatic belief system is very clearly presented as a conclusion rather than a premise. Mizrahi's mistake here is immensely embarrassing; whether or not it is right, Taylor's argument is not structurally complicated and is literally the kind of argument I give to Introduction to Philosophy students in order to give them practice in distinguishing premises and conclusions. When a professional philosopher in trying to defend a position is making literal Intro-level errors, this is a red flag that there is something wrong with the position being defended -- people who spend their days studying arguments are unlikely to get an analysis of an elementary argument so confused unless the position they are defending is itself extremely confused.

Mizrahi also shows that he doesn't understand what a 'persuasive definition' is. He defines it as "definitions that are intended to transfer emotive force, such as feelings of approval or disapproval"; but this is false. 'Persuasive definition' is a term of art, due originally to C. L. Stevenson, that means a definition intended to change the meaning of an already emotively charged term (which a very large number of terms are) in order to elicit the same reaction of approval or disapproval toward the new meaning. None of the examples Mizrahi gives are persuasive definitions; most are not definitions at all, being diagnoses rather than definitions, and the few that could plausibly be considered attempts at definitions are not trying to change the meaning of 'scientism'. Mizrahi, on the other hand, is trying to change the meaning of 'scientism', since none of the critics use it in his new sense, but he is also not giving a persuasive definition because he is not trying to keep the emotive meaning the same but reverse it.

The whole article is an embarrassment, and should never have been published, much less in a popular venue where people might be misled into thinking that Mizrahi's eccentric position on these matters is commonly accepted by philosophers of science or that Mizrahi's argument, as presented, is the sort that could seriously be accepted by philosophers without complete reworking. Just utterly irresponsible.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Fair Planet of the Night

 To the Moon
by Charlotte Smith 

 Queen of the silver bow!--by thy pale beam,
 Alone and pensive, I delight to stray,
And watch thy shadow trembling in the stream,
 Or mark the floating clouds that cross thy way.
And while I gaze, thy mild and placid light
 Sheds a soft calm upon my troubled breast;
And oft I think---fair planet of the night,
 That in thy orb the wretched may have rest:
The sufferers of the earth perhaps may go,
 Released by death---to thy benignant sphere;
And the sad children of Despair and Woe
 Forget, in thee, their cup of sorrow here.
Oh! that I soon may reach thy world serene,
Poor wearied pilgrim---in this toiling scene!