Saturday, June 17, 2023

The Sad Bells of Rhymney

Bells Of Rhymney
by Idris Davies 

Oh what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney.
Is there hope for the future?
Cry the brown bells of Merthyr.
Who made the mine owner?
Say the black bells of Rhondda.
And who robbed the miner?
Cry the grim bells of Blaina. 

 They will plunder will-nilly,
Cry the bells of Caerphilly.
They have fangs, they have teeth,
Shout the loud bells of Neath.
Even God is uneasy,
Say the moist bells of Swansea.
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney. 

 Throw the vandals in court,
Say the bells of Newport.
All will be well if, if, if,
Cry the green bells of Cardiff.
Why so worried, sisters why?
Sang the silver bells of Wye.
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney.

This is one of the most famous poems by a Welsh poet, in part because it was adapted into a song first by Pete Seeger and later, and even more widely heard, The Byrds.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Dashed Off XIX

This begins the notebook started in October 2022.


Nothing is a number except to the extent that it can be taken as a unity.

Most people don't have a political system, just a hodge podge of excuses and rhetorical instruments with which they improvise.

History of philosophy consists primarily in the study of
(a) the diachronic transpersonal life of arguments
(b) the big-block elements of philosophy (schools, movements, families of positions)
(c) the person as creator and transformer of philosophy.

academia as naturally attracting schemesmen

Simple-vow religious communities developed to avoid the cloister restrictions that began to be imposed on solemn-vow communities.

Scripture as a long-term shaping instrument vs as a personal guide

Scripture has its effects not only directly on its readers/hearers but also indirectly through them.

Very large numbers of political and policy decisions are made on the basis of historical metaphors and analogies.

We often perceive the world by means of interpretive quasi-forms, recognized usabilities that are treated like actual forms.

People often mess themselves up by assuming that loving their enemies, or even being just to them, requires conceding more to them than is in fact necessary or even appropriate.

the I Ching (in its Confucian interpretation) as teaching what things to look for in decision-making

the greatest rational good for the greatest portion of society

Judgments are the structure of motivations in the actions.

People often confuse source of motivation and the object of the motivation, both of which are said to motivate.

Motivation is not the same as 'feeling an impulse'.

We have 'moral reasons' for taking things prudentially and 'prudential reasons' for taking things morally; part of the reason for this is that reasons may be both simultaneously. The overlap of providential and moral in fact plays a significant role in moral education.

each citizen as a symbolic representation of the People

Judgments, including moral judgments, constitute the framework for actions to which we are impelled.

We can be motivated toward an action to which we don't feel an impulse; feeling an impulse is reflective, not constitutive.

Legal systems typically work by forming particular encodings of broader communicative actions -- notices of intent, authorizations, directives, remindres of process (memoranda), etc.

Following a trail of evidence and logic requirs finding a reasonable middle ground in doing so.

What can be made can be counterfeited, counterfeiting being the replication of the mere appearance.

motivation as having a problem-solution structure -- we are motivated by apparent solutions

It is part of medical care to act in a way that is materially, technically, legally, and morally reasonable.

Proof virtually rules out most alternative possibilities, it does not actually rule most of them out. But virtually ruling them out is all that is needed. It is nota  flaw in a proof if it does not consider explicitly every possibility; it just needs to use the self-evidence and the evident in such a way taht they don't need to be considered explicitly.

In dialectical situations, people spontaneously adopt something like evidentiary rules, taking them not to cover all circumstances but to apply to the relevant ones in such a way as to allow for simpler inquiry.

When we care about things, we always care about them for a purpose.

One of the often overlooked forms of soft power exercised by states is found in the ability of states to create jobs for those whom it favors.

Every aspect of our life expresses itself in habitude (habitus), whether it be health or taste or preference or skill or virtue or any other kind there might be.

Scripture as culture-building instrument

cause laundering: the increasingly common phenomenon of donations to nonprofit X for X's ends being distributed to very different nonprofits Y and Z

Kant's argument against suicide is a perverse faculty argument.

Private good is grown in an environment of common good.

Everyone is enthusiastic about education if they aren't the ones who do the work. Even teachers who love teaching are easily scammed by things that promise to make it easier.

architectural hospitableness as arising from the edifice's suitability as an instrument for dwelling

Love is the conduit of inspiration.

Human reasoning is naturally well suited for considering secondary causes.

The world is always twisting us into something ugly; and our untwisting is often imperfect.

How we understand a negation depends on how we understand what is negated.

All human goodness is toward a higher good than itself.

philosophical positions as ships on the sea of truth

Every experiment can be modeled as a list of lists of yes-no questions with answers, each list of questions and answers describing one possible state of the experiment; these questions include the relevant features of the experiment as experiment and each possible failure point.

Heaven and hell are not symmetrical.

Kantianism as in general the position that ideas of reason are autonomous (cp Opus Postumum): autonomia rationis purae.

subsidiarity of inquiry

Freedom of will is an openness to possibilities commensurate with universal good.

triplex via as the structure of exegetical interpretation

The boundary between general and special revelation is fuzzy.

Our ability to affect the happiness of others is remarkably limtied. Indeed, our ability to do so with ourselves quickly reaches sharp limits; one of the temptations people have to drugs is the false promise they give of providing us with a means of increasing our control over our feelings of happiness and suffering.

Anything that can be formulated in a statue can eventually be gamed.

potency as "principle of change in another or in itself qua other" 1020a

degree of incorruptibility ('resistance' to corruptibility) as mark of actuality

'the memory of the high and perilous'

When someone says they know something, we want to know how, i.e., by what path of middle terms. When someone says they believe something, we want to know why, i.e., by what motive causes for what ends.

All composition is with respect to an active power that can compose or decompose it.

'forgetting the good in the search for the power to effect it'

Concepts are how we orient ourselves to the real.

grandfather time paradox // logical self-defeat

"Like a subsistence farmer, a subsistance farm of ideas is impoverished, has little of the best types of ideas, lacks refinement and variety, and generally requires ten times more work to get one tenth as far. Reasoning is social by nature." James Chastek

The aesthetic plays an important role in survival, because of tis role in interaction with the environment.

The Arthurian Roman War episode (1) allows non-British locations to have Arthurian associations; (2) links Arthur more closely to the Roman mystique.
The Roman War Campaign begins at the York Parliament on the Octave of St. Hilary (January 21st). Meg Roland notes that Constantine was proclaimed emperor at York in 306.

All human victories involve failures.

Every complex rational argument is constructed using a scaffolding of topical maxims, heuristics, loose analogies, parallel arguments, metaphors, handy distinctions or set formalizations, imaginative associations, customs of discourse, and sometimes more.

the sacraments as instrumental parts of the divine missions

Vagueness harms jokes by obscuring incongruities.

It is a perpetual problem in politics that there are always people whose solution to a political disease is a worse form of the same disease.

"The poet produces the beautiful by fixing attention on something real. The same with the act of love." Simone Weil

Simone Weil's method of philosophy as purgatorial

All things fall apart,
even human hearts;
they fragment into shadows
of themselves.

The human mind uses the world as part of itself and also interacts with it as other -- indeed, soemtimes as an other mind.

None are one witht he Crucified who never bear the Cross.

Bureaucracies need to be structured for due process, not process for bureaucracies.

Class is structured by what protects social position.

What we identify as particular colors are a matter of convention. (NB that I do not here say 'kinds of color' but 'particular colors'.)

AI as artificial sophist

the Catholic Church as divine monument

Talk about units or levels of selection is just a roundabout way of talking about evolutionary teleology, no matter how much the person do so are trying to pretend not to be teleological.

'Attention is a functional term, and there is no reason to think it is the same particular cognitive act all the time.  Rtaher, it identifies a role known by various effects.

Reason itself demands something higher than itself, from which it can learn.

the concomitance of love anf the fullness of faith

Intelligence without solicitude is not much different from stupidity.

Heaven is abundance of grace blossoming into glory, and Hell is the outer darkness devoid of such glory-blossoming grace.

The future belongs to none but God.

the examplar effect of good marriages

tradition as a form of diachronic cooperation

"No one aims at being a tyrant to keep out of the cold." Aristotle

All counterfactual judgments are indirect causal judgments.

"Recent philosophy has not so much rejected metaphysics as wearied of previous metaphysicians." Austin Farrer

non-normal worlds as worlds of options, some combinations of which are consistent (normal) and some of which are inconsistent (impossible)

"People who have many friends and shout familiarly to everyone appear to be friends to no one." Aristotle (NE 1170c-b)

"One cannot entirely refuse the face of an animal." Levinas

"It is possible, for all that A knows, that p" is not the same as "It is possible given what A knows, that p. The latter indicates that A's knowledge base establishes that p is possible; the former that it does nto rule out p being possible.

legal systems as doxastic

Eyewitness testimony's limitations, when not specifically tied to those of memory, are often tied to reliance on resemblances.

music as metaphorical (soundtrack effect: music inherently has the translative capacity to be 'layered over' other things)

Voting factionalizes a population over time.

When physicists talk about causes in experiment, they often mean preconditions; when they talk about causes in theory, they often mean signals.

In 1 Tim. 2:4, Paul is arguably giving content to what it means to pray for all people and for peaceful and quiet lives of holiness. That is, God wills all men to be saved *through our prayer and holiness*, which is why we should pray for all and pray to be holy.

Freedom is a form of authority, either original or derived.

The doctrine of preexistence of souls confuses our intrinsic fromness with prior existence. But by the same token, much of what it says can be rethought in a more nuanced way to shed light on that fromness.

God saves us in a manner involving and not independent of our will.

Consent has remarkably little to do with either desire or preference.

hearth -- private self -- incommunicable heart
workshop -- producing communicable thought and intention
shop/privileged market -- forensic intersection and interface involving external medical, legal, and spiritual mediators
general market -- broader communication with world

An artifact is in part a compliance with a normative principle.

Those who do not recognize their sins as worthy of hell do not truly repent of them.

the pedagogical process of familiarization unto understanding

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Van Inwagen and the Univocity of 'Exists'

 Peter van Inwagen has a well-known argument for the univocity of 'exists', in the sense that 'exists' has the same meaning in all circumstances:

1. Numerical terms are univocal.

2. 'Exists' is a numerical term.

C. Therefore, 'exists' is univocal.

Like most of van Inwagen's arguments, this is superficially clever and utterly wrong. Van Inwagen takes (1) to be an obvious truth that no one would deny; as he puts it, if I have thirteen epics and you have thirteen cats, I have the same number of epics as you have cats. Unfortunately, not only is (1) not an obvious truth, it is obviously wrong; numerical terms are not univocal because there are different number systems, and while the number 1 in (say) a rational number system will be similar to, and obviously somehow related to, the number 1 in (say) a surreal number system, you cannot merely assume that they are exactly the same. If we are considering real numbers, -1 has no square root; if we are considering complex numbers, it does. If we are considering rational fractions, 1/0 has no defined meaning; if we modify the number system to conform more closely to projective geometry, 1/0 indicates a point at infinity outside the standard number line. And because of the way mathematics works, if you are getting different properties for the same numerical terms, it is because there is something different about the definition, and therefore the meaning. Numerical terms are not univocal; they are simply relatively easy to relate to each other because in mathematics we are working with definitions within precisely defined, and often extensively explored, number systems. The reason (1) might seem very plausible is because we consider examples like the epics and cats, where we are assuming the same number system (integers) and are counting things that are relevantly the same (sharply defined objects).

Van Inwagen recognizes (2) as something for which he has to argue. His argument goes back to an old idea in analytic philosophy, to Frege, in fact, who argued that affirmation of existence just was denial of the number zero. This has a plausibility to it; if we are trying to guess the number of apples you have and you say that you definitely don't have zero apples, we would usually assume that you have some apples. However, this also fails, and we can see this if we pick a non-counting case of the number of zero. Can we say that denial of the number of zero, when talking about degrees Fahrenheit, is affirmation of existence? Of what would we be affirming existence? If I deny that something is zero degrees Fahrenheit, you might think that this means I am saying that I am affirming the existence of some other degree. But that's not true -- I might be denying that something has temperature at all. I say that the Barbara syllogism is not zero degrees Fahrenheit, which seems to be a necessary truth, I'm not claiming that Barbara syllogism is some other temperature. So what could I could I possibly be affirming the existence of when I deny zero degrees Fahrenheit? You might hold that I'm making some sort of category mistake, but van Inwagen can't do that -- he is arguing that zero, which is a numerical term, has exactly the same meaning whether we are using it to count or to identify a point on a temperature scale, and he is saying that 'exists' means we are denying the number zero.

We should also consider the other direction. If affirmation of existence is just denial of the number of zero, this means that we can never affirm the existence of anything that is zero degrees. We can only (ex hypothesi) affirm the existence of something by denying that its number is zero, so we can never affirm of anything whose number is zero that it exists.

Very obviously the reason why 'affirmation of existence is denial of the number zero' often seems to make sense is that we are really saying that affirmation of having more than one countable existing thing is denial of having zero countable existing things; we are sneaking existence in by way of our normal and everyday counting practices, in which we are always counting existing things. We don't go around counting nonexistent men in the doorway. But we are not always using numbers to count, and not all of our use of numbers has a clear connection with existence.

So numerical terms are not univocal, and existence does not appear to be a numerical term but a presupposition for certain practices when we are using numbers; and it's also the case that 'exists' is not univocal. One reason why it couldn't be is analogous to the point about numerical terms: there are different logical systems and in the ones that make use of some kind of existence, 'exists' cannot mean exactly the same thing because it will have different properties in the different logical systems and will be defined differently in those different logical systems.

It's also a little weird to talk about the univocity of a term like 'exists'. I can obviously use the term 'exists' as a figure of speech or in an extended sense, because I can do that with any term, and one does this, for instance, in existentialism (which talks about existence in a way that definitely doesn't treat it as a numerical term) or when I say things like, "You don't exist to me" or "You exist to me", in which I am definitely not talking about whether I can count you. Terms do not have 'the same meaning' in themselves, but only the same meaning insofar as I use them as having the same meaning; you can't tell whether a term is being used univocally unless you look at how it is actually used. If you just look at all the uses, of course it won't be always used univocally; some of the uses, for instance, will be ironic or hyperbolic. So the only thing that you can mean by saying that 'exists' is univocal is that it keeps the same meaning when you aren't using it with a different meaning.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Braddock on PAWA for Theism

 Matthew Braddock has an interesting paper, Resuscitating the Common Consent Argument for Theism (PDF). As I noted in discussing Tiddy Smith's "The Comment Consent Argument for Nature Spirits" and Perry Hendricks's response, "How to Debunk Animism", these sorts of arguments are not, in fact, common consent arguments, but probabilistic arguments from widespread agreement (PAWA). He actually gives two PAWA arguments. The first is:

(1) There is widespread belief in a High God.
(2) Common Consent Principle (CCP): Widespread belief that p is defeasible evidence that p.
(3) Thus, widespread belief in a High God is defeasible evidence that a High God exists. [From 1 and 2]
(4) There are no undercutting defeaters of this evidence.
(5) Thus, widespread belief in a High God is good evidence that a High God exists. [From 3 and 4]
(6) Thus, widespread belief in a High God is good evidence for theism (which asserts there is a High God) over metaphysical naturalism (which asserts there are no supernatural agents).

An obvious issue is what exactly we count as a 'widespread belief'. Braddock has an interesting set of arguments arguing that about 90% of the world believes in some Supreme Being or primary deity of some kind. I confess myself very skeptical that it is quite so high, but it's easier to get within reach of that estimate that one might think -- Christianity and Islam alone get you around half the world, even being fairly conservative; many forms of Hinduism, despite being polytheistic, take there to be supreme deity of some kind; Sikhims and Judaism of course also count; a very large portion of the very large number of small religions would also count; and, as Braddock points, out a significant portion of those who are not definitely affiliated with any particular religion would also count. Braddock also argues that you can get similarly high figures both looking to the historical past and to the foreseeable future, so the 'widespread' here is very widespread indeed.

With respect to premise (4), Braddock considers three possible lines by which one might reject this: the expertise objection (the dissenting minority is better placed to know), the debunking objection (we have an alternative explanation for the widespread belief in this case that disrupts its connection to truth), and the independence objection (the belief's being widespread is not the relevant kind for CCP because there is not enough independent acceptance of it). Of the three, the independence objection is the most complicated and difficult to answer -- indeed, my own view is that it is why the traditional common consent arguments, despite some difficulties, are often superior to PAWAs, because traditional common consent arguments commit to a specific means or set of means for why the belief occurs (nature and/or reason, usually) and thus are not putting direct evidential weight on numbers but on the hypercumulative character of the evidence available to the entire human race. Braddock himself converges on something like this in his response to the independence objection, using the results of cognitive science of religion and empirical surveys that show that people can and do give a wide variety of reasons for why they believe in God. But these responses essentially mean that the nerve of the argument is not the widespread belief but what lies behind it.

The second PAWA is this:

(7) There is widespread belief in a High God.
(8) Widespread belief in a High God is more surprising given naturalism than theism.
(9) Thus, widespread belief in a High God is evidence for theism over naturalism.

This part of the paper is much weaker. I think, despite the profligacy and confidence with which contemporary philosophers make such judgments, it is in fact impossible to assess claims like premise (8). For one thing, there is actually no 'naturalism' and 'theism'; these labels designate very large and diverse families of very different views, and tweaking details can radically throw things in a different direction. For instance, on which position is widespread belief in a High God more surprising, a naturalism that has an explanation of theism as a part of our tendency to interact with our world socially or a a theism that holds that God is trying to keep His existence secret except to a select few? Even to begin assessing an argument like this, we would need to have done some work establishing what the best forms of naturalism and the best forms of theism; there are at least enough poorly thought out versions of positions in the world, that we would need to be able to focus on the more tenable versions.

Music on My Mind


Karliene, "All the Magic".

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Monday, June 12, 2023

Where Light, Joy, Leisure, and True Comforts Move

I Walk'd the Other Day
by Henry Vaughan

I walk’d the other day, to spend my hour,
 Into a field,
Where I sometimes had seen the soil to yield
 A gallant flow’r;
But winter now had ruffled all the bow’r
 And curious store I knew there heretofore. 

 Yet I, whose search lov’d not to peep and peer
 I’ th’ face of things,
Thought with my self, there might be other springs
 Besides this here,
Which, like cold friends, sees us but once a year;
 And so the flow’r
 Might have some other bow’r. 

 Then taking up what I could nearest spy,
 I digg’d about
That place where I had seen him to grow out;
 And by and by
I saw the warm recluse alone to lie,
 Where fresh and green
 He liv’d of us unseen. 

 Many a question intricate and rare
 Did I there strow;
But all I could extort was, that he now
 Did there repair
Such losses as befell him in this air,
 And would ere long
 Come forth most fair and young. 

 This past, I threw the clothes quite o’er his head;
 And stung with fear
Of my own frailty dropp’d down many a tear
 Upon his bed;
Then sighing whisper’d, “happy are the dead!
 What peace doth now
 Rock him asleep below!” 

 And yet, how few believe such doctrine springs
 From a poor root,
Which all the winter sleeps here under foot,
 And hath no wings
To raise it to the truth and light of things;
 But is still trod
 By ev’ry wand’ring clod. 

 O Thou! whose spirit did at first inflame
 And warm the dead,
And by a sacred incubation fed
 With life this frame,
Which once had neither being, form, nor name;
 Grant I may so
 Thy steps track here below, 

 That in these masques and shadows I may see
 Thy sacred way;
And by those hid ascents climb to that day,
 Which breaks from Thee,
Who art in all things, though invisibly!
 Shew me thy peace,
 Thy mercy, love, and ease, 

 And from this care, where dreams and sorrows reign,
 Lead me above,
Where light, joy, leisure, and true comforts move
 Without all pain;
There, hid in thee, shew me his life again,
 At whose dumb urn
 Thus all the year I mourn.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Fortnightly Book, June 11

I am fiery Taliesin.
I give Christendom song....

The Llyvyr Taliessin, or Book of Taliesin, is known from a fourteenth-century manuscript (known to scholars as Peniarth MS 2). In Middle Welsh form, it contains perhaps the oldest known Welsh poems, some of which may go back to the ninth century. It is possible, although much harder to determine, that some elements of some of the poems may go back as far as the sixth century; but it is certain that in language the poems as we have them are from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. We know very little about how these poems came together, but while they are in very different styles and appear to be from very different authors, they do have a kind of thematic unity, because many of them are written either in the persona of the legendary sixth-century bard Taliesin or are at least are concerned with matters associated with him.

Taliesin is mentioned early as one of the great Welsh poets; he is associated with court of King Urien of Rheged, and the poems about Urien in the Book of Taliesin are the best candidates for having elements that genuinely do go back to the original Taliesin. That there was such a bard is historically quite certain -- we have sufficient number of distinct lines of evidence for it that it would be astounding if he didn't exist -- but most of what we know of him is later legend. According to one such legend, he began as Gwion Bach. He was a servant of the enchantress Ceridwen, who was attempting to create a potion of inspiration that could give the awen, the breath of poetry and prophecy; he was tasked with keeping it stirring. Three boiling-hot drops, however, landed on Gwion Bach's thumb, and he put his thumb in his mouth to cool it. Gwion Bach, now extraordinarily wise, fled lest Ceridwen kill him; he eventually turned himself into a bit of grain to hide, but Ceridwn found him and ate him. She became pregnant from that grain, however, and gave birth to Gwion Bach again. Unable to kill her own baby outright, she tied him in a bag and threw him into the sea, whence he was in a sense born a third time when he was found by a man named Elffin, who gave him the name Taliesin, which means 'radiant brow'. In the eleventh century, he began to be associated with the court of King Arthur, although historically he would probably have been a little later than the dates generally associated with Arthur. Regardless, he became The Welsh Poet, the figure who symbolizes them all; and, indeed, even today Welsh poets will sometimes write poems from the the perspective of Taliesin.

I will be reading the Penguin Classics version, The Book of Taliesin: Poems of Warfare and Praise in an Enchanted Britain, translated by Gwyneth Lewis (an award-winning Welsh poet) and Rowan Williams (also a poet, although best known for being the former Archbishop of Canterbury). There are sixty-one poems in the collection, which Lewis and Williams divide up into the following categories:

Heroic Poems (1-12)
Legendary Poems (13-38)
Prophetic Poems (39-49)
Devotional Poems (50-59)
Ungrouped Poems (60-61)