Saturday, August 26, 2023

A Poem Re-Draft

 This summer we've had a very long series of days in excess of a hundred degrees Fahrenheit (above 37.7 degrees Celsius, for those on the Celsius system). It is astounding how torpid and lethargic it makes everything; even staying inside doesn't change things much, particularly since nothing is really built for weather anymore, so you either blast yourself with air conditioning or fall asleep from warm humidity. I walk to clear my head, but even I can't walk extensively in 105 degree weather, so I've spent most of the summer feeling a weird mix of nervously squirrel-like and listless. My optimistic list of things to get done this summer is in a state of mostly not-done. So I'm very much feeling this poem at the moment.

A Ballade of Sun-Beating 

The sun is hot today, and fierce!
It will not give surcease or rest.
It waterfalls with flames that pierce,
no matter hope I may invest,
unyielding till it reaches West.
If nothing's done, then I must die.
So here is my quixotic quest:
to beat the sun from flaming sky!

 I need a steed that never veers
(a dragon likely would be best)
and one that knows no qualms nor fears,
with spirit growing in its chest.
Then we will fly without a rest
until we reach the world on high,
to do what must be done with zest:
to beat the sun from flaming sky! 

 With gilded sets of pocket-shears
I will undo its shining vest,
and chase it through its wide careers
with baseball bat and hammer blessed
with holy water, as you've guessed,
to make that demon weep and cry.
No pity stops me, nor behest,
to beat the sun from flaming sky! 


 Dread prince, I have but one request:
if in this task I fail and die,
let other men take up the quest --
to beat the sun from flaming sky!

Friday, August 25, 2023

Dashed Off XXVI

This begins the notebook that was started at the end of December 2022.

 Every kind of measurement has a 'focus' and therefore struggles away from that focus, either by defect (e.g., too small or too short) or by excess (e.g., too large or too long); since probabilities are measures, this is true of probabilities as well.

divine presence
--1. incircumscribable
-- -- a. atemporal
-- -- b. immense/infinite
-- 2. as over (power)
-- 3. as with (knowledge)
-- 4. as that from which (goodness)

Other monotheistic religions hold that we must give ourselves to God, but Christianity holds that we must also give God to God.

If your Mariology is correct, you should be able to derive all essentials of Christology from it.

Those who do not hold to the supernatural will sink into the subnatural.

"This is the chief glory of the devout, that they glory in the Lord and do not love themselves except in God." Prosper of Aquitane
"It is in our own best interest to hold that all good things, especially those conducive to eternal life, are obtained through God's favor, increased through God's favor, and preserved through God's favor."
"Merit begins with grace, which was itself unmerited."
"Grace has now submitted to the sceptre of the Cross of Christ many peoples whom Rome could not subject with her arms; though Rome by her primacy of the apostolic priesthood has become greater as teh citadel of religion than as the seat of power."
"The beginning of life is the commencement of death. No sooner do we advance in age than we start to decline."
"Virtue is nonexistent with men who do not wish to be virtuous, and you cannot say that men could have faith or hope or charity, if they refuse their free consent to these virtues."
"Though no man has any good which he was not given by God, yet not all are resplendent with the same virtues or endowed with the same gratuitous gifts."
"God grants to His elect whom He chose without any merit of their own, the means to gain merit."
"God's grace does not make anyone proof against temptation."

Hypocrisy works like crime accounting: two sets of books.

In any field, that which one can demonstratively prove is a mere framework or skeleton of the field as a whole.

"Pater (fons et principium Deitatis) est persona producens tantum; Filius est persona et producta et producens; Spiritus sanctus est persona producta tantum." Gerhard (Loc Th. 1 loc. 5 de Deo patr. cap. 4)

Testimony is based on love, whether of what is discussed or those whom we discuss them with or true things or ourselves.

The malicious you will always have with you.

Eden depicts a state of the world functioning as a complement of the human person as made in the image of God.

Everyone has some kind of right to fulfill a genuine obligation that genuinely applies to them.

Understanding a distinction requires situating oneself so as to be able to make it.

"A religion above or below controversy is a religion without results. A religion which finds nothing in man to fetter or to contradict is not a religion at all. I fthe presence of controversy is not of itself the *criterion* of the truth of a doctrine, a doctrine which excites no contradiction lacks one of the characters of truth." Alexandre Vinet

Through form we gain substance, through works of the hand we do works of the heart, through matter we reason to spirit, through image we understand reality, through the temporary we discover the permanent.

the Church as the perpetual recollection of the consummatum est

transubstantiation in Eucharist // transcapitation of the human race in redemption

We often find the sublime in things of common sense.

A 'vibe' is a context of comprehensibility.

forgiveness as a jural act (release from obligation)

A descriptive statement in one context may be an evaluative one in another and vice versa.

What is counted as important is always relative to habitus.

"Quia enim ipse est actus purus, et ideo ens dividitur per actum et potentiam." Scotus

pure act as the explanans for potentiality as such

Suarez on ceremonies (sacramentals): exterior religious actions, or circumstances or conditions thereof, instituted for the adornment or for due worship in the sacraments or sacrifice

Human beings are consoled or devastated by seeing themselves as signs.

the episcopal character as a vicariate modality of priesthood; the bishop is elevated as such precisely to be a successor of the apostles

What is sensed is sensed as reminiscent of other things, as suggestive of other things in the imagination, as inspiring or affecting sensibility, as intentionally valued for practical action. These can only be disentangled by a theory of the faculties or internal senses; without such a theory being applied, our sensations are received as nonatomic and nonseparate, as already having all these aspects.

Local tradition in Durmelzier holds that Merlin was imprisoned in a riverbank tree (whitethorn) by Mortan le Fay there; or lese buried on the haugh on the east/right bank of Tweed, north of Drumelzier Church.
-- There is a single standing stone in Drumelzier. 
-- Tehre is another stone in nearby Stobo, called teh Altar Stone, that has claw-like markings said to have been made by a witch who turned into a hare when being hunted by Merlin.

reasonable actions for public purpose, performed with authorization, for which fair notice has been given

Very methodical and logic-driven approaches to arguing can be disrupted by very imaginative approaches; very imaginative approaches can be disrupted by very evidence-driven approaches; very evidence-driven approaches can be disrupted by very methodical and logic-driven approaches.

Midsummer Night's Dream takes place in the gap between love's aspiration and love's motivation.
It ends witht he weaving together or interlacing of the realm of men and the fairy realm.

Haste never has fortune on its side.

Some things may be forgiven and forgotten. But other things are such that one must repeatedly forgive them, for their impact is still ongoing.

Assists to the moral life
(1) human sympathy and sociability
(2) practical calculation
(3) honor and shame
(4) good taste

the transsignification and transfinalization of the human race

The Eucharist heals not merely our sins but to some extent also our stupidities.

Use of evidence is a particular case of proportioning means to ends. Evidence is a means of inquiry and has no meaning outside the context of an inquiry.

All culture is a collaboration with the dead.

In game theory, backward induction is often just showing us the way in which tunnel vision can be useful in a tunnel.

Love is the ultimate source of alternative possibilities.

love as the highest form of the self-diffusiveness of the good

vadiatio legis (wager of law)
oaths de fidelitate & oaths de credulitate

principle of fidelity // principle of credulity

the Eucharist as intensifying the effects of other sacraments

the sacramental economy as exemplate of divine wisdom

participating in the sacraments as development of a system of doctrinal plausibilities

"Democracy is difficult, and it is made more difficult because many who call themselves democrats are totalitarians in disguise." Sidney Hook

Hume's Treatise Bk 3 as a psychology of law

Exodus 23:4-5 on the importance of basic civil relations

Love is rooted in simplicity; the less composite and divided the person, the greater the capacity to love.

The worst sort of murderer is the self-justifying murderer.

Verum-factum convertibility applies insofar as we are talking about human reason; our reasoning understands and knows truth by making it actual to ourselves.

The more we understand a truth, the more other truths we know in that truth.

ren as co-humanity

"Love cannot be rightly ordered unless the proper goal of our hope is established; nor can this happen if knowledge of the truth is lacking." Aquinas

"Man understands himself only when he realizes that he is the one to whom God communicates himself." Rahner

In evangelism we cannot save the soul of another; we can only cast out the net or line and see if they are ready to come up.

The major sacraments have both an intrinsic and extrinsic causality; the fomer does not exclude the latter.

Aristotle Met 5.2 (1013b) on instrumental causality

A cause principiates possibilities.

"None but God can cause grace: since grace is nothing else than a participated likeness of divine nature." Aquinas

Titus 3:5 and the instrumentality of the sacraments

To have a holy book is to have the beginning of a culture.

Human redemption, to be appropriate to humanity, needs to involve incorporation into a story.

Human beings are never not narrativizing.

Scripture is so rich it is impossible to keep it all in view; we all read it somewhat flatly, although this is not the same as reading it incorrectly.

the ecclesia of the demos of God

gregarious activity -> congregarious activity -> organized cooperation

the sacramental economy as a whole as depciting the whole providential economy

All kinds of love have some resemblances to prayers.

To be a Christian is to be an insurgent in a darkness-riddled world.

endurance & force (dromos and bia) as elements of the beauty of youth

cachinnation: violent, excessive laughter
umbo: boss, knob, projection of shield

Being an adult is having been intellectually nourished in a complete way.

There is an odd tendency to assume that stated preferences that conflict with revealed preferences are not real preferences, when it is often the case that they are merely long-term or indirectly supported real preferences.

One of the very important things private property rights do is provide sensible tokens and symbols of other rights.

the sacrament of reconciliation as a practice of humility

Buddhism as palliative care

It's essential to the resilience of an economic system for people to have access to a variety of energy sources, so that there is no energy bottleneck.

the corpsification of the virtues
-- it is prudence that prevents this by guiding appropriate actions so that the virtue operates in a way that completes it.
-- see James 2 on faith

"Whatsoever is set down in the New Testament explicitly and openly as a point of faith, is contained in the Old Testametn as a matter of belief, but implicitly, under a figure." Aquinas

the analogy between general relativity and the optics of lenses

Language is a soup of residual fragments of philosophies.

Kant's argument that existence is not a predicate confuses existence in particular and being in general.

"Only God's knowledge of himself is glory in the full sense, because he has perfect and clearest knowledge of himself." Aquinas

wisdom as capturing the potential of what is

glossolalia as a sign of ineffability; interpetation of tongues as a sign of revelation

The multiplicity of styles in Scripture attests to the faith being confined to no one aesthetic style.

modal logic as adaptive logic

the virtue of equity as concerned with common right: something may be right considered only on its own, but in context a poor fit for what is right for us in common and relationally

'habeas corpus' pragmatic arguments against skepticisms
'quo warranto' pragmatic arguments against dogmatisms

One occasionally may have moral obligations as of being in a role, even if one is not in that role; this happens at times with spousal (e.g., between people who are not actually married) or parental and filial obligations, and it can happen elsewhere, as well.

If you feel like you are sacrificing your happiness, you never had it to begin with.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Gerard on Good Taste

 Thus taste, like every other human excellence, is of a progressive nature; rising by various stages, from its seeds and elements to maturity; but, like delicate plants, liable to be checked in its growth and killed, or else to become crooked and distorted, by negligence or improper management. Goodness of taste lies in its maturity and perfection. It consists in certain excellences of our original powers of judgment and imagination combined. These may be reduced to four, sensibility, refinement, correctness, and the proportion or comparative adjustment of its separate principles. All these must be in some considerable degree united, in order to form true taste. The person in whom they meet acquires authority and influence, and forms just decisions, which may be rejected by the caprice of some, but are sure to gain general acknowledgement. This excellence of taste supposes not only culture, but culture judiciously applied. Want of taste unavoidably springs from negligence; false taste from injudicious cultivation. 

[Alexander Gerard, An Essay on Taste, Part II, Sect. III, pp. 104-105.]

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Links of Note

 * Susan Brower-Toland, Deflecting Ockham's Razor: A Medieval Debate on Ontological Commitment (PDF)

* Richard Y. Chappell, Benatar's Fallacy, at "Good Thoughts"

* Joshua Jose Ocon, Catholic Action, Authority, and Philippine Democracy: Prospects and Perspectives Through Jacques Maritain (PDF)

* Sarah Borden, What Makes You You? Individuality in Edith Stein, at "Church Life Journal"

* Alper Güngör, Artifact Concept Pluralism (PDF)

* Frank B. Farrell, Is Ethics Like Math?, discusses a recent book on Derek Parfit, at "Commonweal"

* David Ebrey, The Phaedo as an Alternative to Tragedy (PDF)

* Zena Hitz, What Is Time For?, at "Plough"

* Graziana S. Ciola, Hic sunt chimarae? On Absolutely Impossible Significates and Referents in Mid-14th-Century Nominalist Logic (PDF)

* Literal Banana, Against Automaticity, discusses problems with various psychological concepts like priming, placebo, ego depletion, etc.

* Lukas van den Berge, Phersu, Prospon, and Persona: On Legal Personhood, Roman Sculpture and the Art of Law (PDF)

* Jonathan Goldman, When Dorothy Parker Got Fired from Vanity Fair, at "The Public Domain Review"

* John Schwenkler, How Temptation Works (PDF)

* Jordan Baker, Bearing One Another's Burdens: Virtue Ethics, Flourishing, and Liberatory Struggles, at "The Other Journal". I find some of the argument here extremely implausible, and largely to derive from a conception of virtue ethics that fails to give proper due to the virtue of prudence, but there are several interesting points made.

* Sophia Connell, Aristotle's explanations of monstrous births and deformities in Generation of Animals 4.4 (PDF)

* Wesley Morgan, The Empire's New Clothes (and Everyone Else's Too), at "New Lines Magazine", discusses the origin and spread of MultiCam, the currently dominant form of camouflage.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Humanitarian Traditions and Ethical Discovery

 It is tempting, I think, to try to derive all of ethics directly from some sort of universal human feature or characteristic. But there is good reason to think that our actual ethical concepts are often mediated by what I've elsewhere called humanitarian traditions, which are long-running cooperative traditions oriented to human goods -- traditions to which we give names like Medicine, Law, Education, Ministry, and the like. These humanitarian traditions deal directly with ethical problems on a daily basis, and in the course of doing so develop ways of thinking through these problems that are then found useful, and then used as the basis for further developments. Thus humanitarian traditions of this sort have both a conservative aspect, related to their orientation to human good as an end, and a progressive aspect, related to their construction of cognitive and social means for pursuing this good in the context of the complications of human life. These humanitarian traditions touch on matters of concern for us all and therefore the ideas they develop serve as templates for other areas of human life. For instance, in the context of Law, one might develop a concept of due process in order to prevent various kinds of ethical violations and moral corruptions, and people becoming familiar with this concept might begin applying it outside of strictly legal contexts, by extension and analogy. Likewise, we develop 'professional ethics', an ethical construction that arises first within humanitarian traditions like Medicine and then gets adapted to other contexts.

Thus the real path of ethical ideas is often not 

human nature --> ethical concepts and approaches

but instead

human nature --> humanitarian traditions --> ethical concepts and approaches for the problems of humanitarian traditions --> such ethical concepts and approaches adapted to other areas of life.

None of this is to say that the first path never happens; but any attempt to derive all of ethics directly from human nature/reason/welfare will certainly be a sparse ethics. Many of the concepts and constructs developed within humanitarian traditions are contingent and inspired by various aspects of the cultures in which they are practiced; we could in principle do things quite differently, it's just that as it happens the concepts and ideas developed within the humanitarian traditions are well-tried and have been refined by repeated use over centuries. When I do a medical ethics section in my Ethics courses, I sometimes go back and look at the Hippocratic Oath and other sorts of medical oaths and pledges over the centuries, and one of the interesting things is that, while cultural expressions shift around, some of the elements of what we think of as 'medical ethics' go back to the beginning, and have been consistently useful for literally millenia -- things like what we call doctor-patient privilege, professional judgment, patient dignity, and the like, while they have been expressed in slightly different ways have been tried-and-true for centuries. Are they strictly necessary? Perhaps some of them, but in some cases it seems like trial and error eventually led to the discovery of ways of doing things that were especially valuable in light of the human good, that are not in any way necessary but just have consistently shown themselves to be very, very useful in a wide variety of cultural circumstances.  Perhaps they can be superceded by even better ways of doing broadly similar things, or would disappear if in some distant future the field is re-organized on some better basis, but in the meantime it would be silly to try to do without them.

When we look at how ethics is discussed, however, we find that humanitarian traditions and the role they play in the actual development and discovery of our ethical ideas are repeatedly overlooked. This leads us, I think, to a very 'flat' conception of the role ethics plays in our everyday lives.

Monday, August 21, 2023

The Gold of Love and Summer in Thy Hair

by Clark Ashton Smith 

 In silence now the purpling summer passes,
The swallows fly;
The failing river scantly glasses,
Where amber twilights wane,
Our dreaming kiss above the flow'rs that die....

Will love at last remain?
Ever I pray to find
(Though all the heav'ns be blind!)
The gold of love and summer in thy hair;
And breathe between thy shadowy breasts again,
In eves of autumn wind,
All flowers that failed upon a windless air.

Creation ex Nihilo

 Leon Felipe has a paper, The Problem of Creation ex Nihilo: A New Argument Against Classical Theism (PDF); the title is a very poor title, because the argument is not even remotely new and it is not actually against classical theism but (as one might expect) against an account of creation. But there are some interesting things about material causes in it.

The argument Felipe gives is:

1. All concrete objects that have an originating or sustaining efficient cause have an originating or sustaining material cause, respectively. 

2. If classical theism combined with a classical doctrine of creation is true, then the universe is a concrete object that has an originating or sustaining efficient cause with neither an originating nor a sustaining material cause. 

3. Therefore, classical theism combined with a classical doctrine of creation is false.

It is odd to talk of a material cause being 'originating' (and Felipe's account of 'originating' and 'sustaining' is not very helpful in this respect), but I take that 'originating material cause' is Felipe's name for the material cause out-of-which; that is, the material presupposed by a change. As Felipe paraphrases 1, which he calls the principle of material causality (PMC), all made things are made from other things. It is likewise odd to talk of the universe as a 'concrete object'; Felipe complicates it further by apparently identifying 'concrete objects' as substances. It seems very problematic to take the universe to be a substance in any of the usual philosophical senses of 'substance'; indeed, I think it is straightforwardly false. Exactly what the cosmos is, is a tricky question, but a substance in any proper sense it is not.

Felipe should actually do more work in clarifying 'efficient cause' in this context; strictly speaking, in matters where PMC is relevant, we are only speaking of the moving cause, causa motiva, the cause of change in the Aristotelian sense of 'change'. Depending on exactly how we use the terms, we can count moving causes as a kind of efficient cause, but precisely the reason why Avicenna introduced the concept of an efficient (i.e., making) cause was to talk about possible cases of non-motive causation to which PMC might not be relevant because the result was not an Aristotelian change. Creation ex nihilo was in fact a major such case.

The result is that anyone who accepts the doctrine of creation ex nihilo can accept PMC for moving causes; they would just deny that it is relevant to all causation, and in particular to the kind that is called 'creation'. Felipe puts a very large amount of work into arguing that PMC is plausible; it is indeed plausible for a very large domain of things. But the question at hand is whether it is relevant to every possible kind of causal situation; you can't just assume that it is without begging the question. None of Felipe's arguments get us a stronger result than that PMC applies to a lot of things; to do so they would have to show that it is impossible to have situations of originating and sustaining to which PMC does not apply. This would simply be equivalent to proving directly that creation ex nihilo is conceptually impossible. 

Felipe does some handwaving by arguing that the arguments for PMC are "burden-shifting", but this is the laziest form of lazy; the explicit promise was for an argument against the classical doctrine of creation, which includes creation ex nihilo, and what was actually delivered was an argument for a principle whose relevance to this particular case at all is the whole point in dispute. "Burden-shifting epistemic grounds", even if they were actually burden-shifting -- which Felipe has not shown, because the only grounds that would actually be burden-shifting would be grounds for thinking that PMC is completely universal, which Felipe has not delivered -- do not establish that anything is metaphysically impossible, and therefore it is, pace Felipe, entirely reasonable for a proponent of creation ex nihilo to point out that we are talking about God omnipotent, so if we don't actually have in hand reason to think that an exception to a principle is literally impossible, we seem to have a cause that could deliver the exception. And if anyone is question-begging here, it is Felipe, not the proponent of ex nihilo, because we are in a context where we are supposed to be talking about arguments against doctrines of creation ex nihilo, not a context in which we are talking about the reasons for accepting a doctrine of creation ex nhilo. Pointing out that Felipe has not actually shown that omnipotence requires a material cause for its effects is entirely relevant. Much the same can be said of most of Felipe's responses to other non-concessive objections (i.e., arguments that hold that there is reason to think that PMC is not completely universal); he completely loses track of what he's actually supposed to be putting on the table, and therefore most of his responses could simply be denied by the proponent of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo simply saying, "I don't think that's necessarily the case; certainly, you have not established that it is so." It's perfectly legitimate to point out that a promised refutation has not been delivered. (A related problem is that Felipe regularly abuses the concept of a 'defeater'; he calls things 'defeaters' that quite clearly are not defeaters because they could at the very most optimistic assessment be reasons to doubt, which is not at all the same. A defeater has to actually provide a prima facie rebuttal or undercutting of the very thing that is said to be defeated. But Felipe's main arguments are oblique.)

Unsurprisingly, people who hold a doctrine of creation ex nihilo have arguments for it. Setting aside arguments from revelation, there are arguments based on the claim that essence is to existence as potential to actual, and that on this basis we can argue for a source of the actuality in anything whose essence is not necessarily actual, and that this is not the kind of causal situation in which an out-of-which material cause is relevant. Likewise, although they can get rather complicated, you can have arguments that the universe has a temporal beginning and is contingent, thus requiring a cause where there can be no material cause. And, as pointed out above, one could very well deny that the cosmos itself is a 'concrete object' in the relevant sense, thus rejecting (2), regardless of the status of (1). But none of these are really considered by Felipe in the detail that would be required.

In any case, there is nothing 'new' about this argument; the doctrine of creation ex nihilo was formulated by people like Avicenna and Saadia Gaon by arguing directly against the universality of PMC (that's the whole point of the 'ex nihilo'!), so arguing that PMC is universal is literally the oldest argument against creation ex nihilo. It is, as it were, the founding objection.

Felipe ends the paper by considering whether classical theism without the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is interesting; he doesn't think so, but really all this section does is underline the obvious point that the title is misleading and that the argument is not an argument against classical theism.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Bernardus Claraevallensis

 Today is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church. From his commentary on the Song of Songs, Sermon XXXIV (pp. 411-412):

How many there are who suffer humiliation without being humble! Some endure humiliation with bitterness, others with patience, others again with gladness. The first class are culpable, the second are innocent, the last are just. Although innocence may be considered a part of justice, still the perfection of justice belongs to humility....[I]t is not to the humbled but to the humble that God gives His grace. The humble man is he who converts humiliation into humility, and it is only such as can say to God, "It is good that Thou hast humbled me."