Saturday, October 21, 2023

Above the Desert's Dark-Obscured Expanse

 The Moonlight Desert
by Clark Ashton Smith

Above the desert’s dark-obscured expanse
The rounded moon uplooms; at once laid clear
The waste leaps on the sight, the far and near
Known equally. As in a silver trance,
Its sand agleam, the desert lies outrolled.
How bright, seen through the burnt-out atmosphere,
The moon and the augmented stars appear,
Yet how aloof, incurious and cold!
Silent as they the waste outspreads, in white
Unbroken, save where lonely boulders cast
Their dusky-purple shadows on the sand--
Holding Death’s terror and its wisdom fast
Within that silence -- sinister and bright,
A dead, unutterably ancient land.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Dashed Off XXX

 "The human mind hath a power of pronouncing, at first sight, an obvious truth, with a quickness, clearness, and indubitable certainty, similar, if not equal, to the information conveyed by the external organs of sense." Oswald
"We cannot proceed in a proof or process of reasoning, without having at every step a direct perception or intuitive view of truth."
--> Note Oswald's proposed method: "The obvious truth, therefore, with its opposite absurdity, must be set full in their view; it must be brought again and again into view, until the mind, being made familiarly acquainted with it, begins to feel its force."
--> Note Oswald's claim that Smithian sympathy in TMS could be usually substituted with 'common sense', because the latter is actually the foundation for Smith's best conclusions.

People deeply want to be loved, and they will bully, lie, cheat, steal, and sometimes even kill to get some semblance of it.

"Bigots, skeptics, enthusiasts, and all who take delight in false and fantastical ways of thinking, are fond of reasoning, but do not love to judge." Oswald

We find through Scripture a recognition that things themselves can be holy: holy ground, holy temple, holy implements, holy offerings, holy people.

We are not untied to the sins of others, even where we are not culpable for or even complicit in them, for humans have responsiblities for each other.

" must be observed that the force of the word *is* as expressing *representation* is derived from two sources; for one thing may represent another either on account of their natural resemblance, or because the first is authorized and intended to represent the second....So that we get two principles on which a thing may be said to represent another, either that of *likeness*, which derives its force from the judgment of the spectator or that of authority, which depends upon the intention of the author." Robert Isaac Wilberforce
"The Emperor Charlemagne may be said to be present *figuratively* or *symbolically*, throughout his vast empire, because justice was everywhere administered in his name: he was present throughout it *virtually*, for such was the energy of his character, that his influence was everywehere felt: but *really*, he was only present in his palace Aix-la-Chapelle."

The OT sacrifices call to mind sin (Hb 10:3) but the NT sacrifice calls to mind Christ (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24-25). 

"The salt by which Christianity acts upon the world seems to be martyrdom and holy virginity." H. W. Wilberforce

We have clear evidence for the earliest primitive Church formally worshipping in
(1) the Temple
(2) Jewish synagogues
(3) house-churches under household sponsorship.
[The later parish churches and basilicas take inspiration from all three.]

At no point in history has the Church exercised all the authority it actually has.

Spiritual power and temporal power overlap in civil religion.

One does not become wise merely by erring, but who is not willing to risk going wrong will never be wise.

scientific fictions (e.g., center of gravity, centrifugal force, relativistic mass)

The human family, like the human person, naturally lives, all at once, in physical, moral, jural, and sacral terms.

mineral teleology in crystallization

iterative vs adaptive means to ends

If you sat by a lake or a sea on a very dark morning, you might well experience the order of Genesis 1: first a lightening of the sky, then a differentiation of basic horizon, then slowly great distinctions of land and vegetation as the sun begins to rise, then stirring first of fish and birds and then land animals, then humans going up and about their business.

It is a perpetual danger of academic theology to replace doctrine with paraphrases of doctrine, the latter not being made as a sort of halo or umbra around the doctrine but being inserted in place of it.

All of the NT epistles are about how we cohere as a Church.

sacrifices as ways to draw near to God

Aretas IV Philopatris, mentioned in 2 Cor 11:32-33, died about AD 40.
The province of Illyricum was dissolved into Dalmatia and Pannonia somewhere around the early reign of Vespasian (79-89); Paul mentions it in Rm. 15:19.
Claudius's decree in Acts 18:1-2 likely occurred in 49. Gallio, mentioned in Acts 18:18, became proconsul in Achaia in 51 (according to the Delphi inscription). The famine mentioned in Acts 11:28-30 is possibly the one that occurred 46-47, but Herod Agrippa, mentioned in Acts 12:20-25, probably died about 44 (based on Josephus and coins); there are, however, some indications that there may have been a Judean famine in 44-46.

Christians as tending to imagine Jesus with a synoptic plot but a Johannine theme (cp. Luke Timothy Johnson)

Acts 9 is underappreciated for how well it explains may Pauline theological themes.

Most evidence is not evidence by being a sample from a population, but on other grounds.

The unvierse always suggests more than it shows.

"To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion -- all in one." Ruskin

"The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by description." Newman

"Our whole business is to heal the eye of the heart, so that God might be seen." Augustine

the cosmos as a contingent intelligible order with internal history

The solution is the final cause of the problem.

All literary and worldbuilding involves taken the world as one understands it and varying it in reasoned ways.

the exercital responsibility of the laity

general levy and select levy aspects of militia

The poor are not, as such, saints. But insofar as they are poor they will be vindicated even if they are very much not saints. It is essential to the Christian tradition to recognize that divine vindication does not prescreen for perfection.

Conscience is the root of professional ethics.

fields of study as beings of reason
'trading zones' among distinct fields of study (Galison)

extensive use of metaphor -> aporiai -> dialectic

All morality is based on authority, whether of reason or something else.

Since neither reflection nor experience end, nothing in reflectively interpreted experience can be any kind of court of last appeal.

It is always important to remember that not all inconsistencies are real and not all consistencies are obvious.

Explanation does not usually mean bringing an instance under a general law, because most explanations do not themselves appeal to anything general at all (although their supporting reasons may).

The bare conditions for reasoning do not rule out any position whatsoever, even inconsistent ones; only the acceptance of reasons, or reasons actual and true, could.

Attempts to argue that fear or desire for gain cannot be moral motives, even when there is any argument at all, are almost universally bad. And the position is implausible on its face.

Assent and evidence are not commensurable things, and therefore cannot be put directly into an equation with each other.

In thinking, we seek many things more than knowledge.

If we only have indirect control over our beliefs, we only have indirect responsibility for them, and certainly not the precise kind of responsibility that requires direct control to exercise.

The claim that we an proportion particular belief to particular evidence requires that we have strong, direct control over those particular beliefs.

Reasoning often generates inconsistencies; it is in fact the most common source of inconsistencies. You don't eliminate inconsistencies by reasoning but by correct understanding.

Most human explanations outrun the evidence available.

Arguments and positions can be pleasing in many different ways, but one of these ways is intellectual, and it very much does have a bearing on truth.

While people are often naive realists, they are generally loose naive realists; they take themselves to perceive things themselves *more or less*, and are wholly unbothered by things like distortion or isolated illusion.

It is in myth that the mind learns to increase the length, breadth, and depth of its vision. Belief in themyth is perhaps not necessary, but practice in myth is. Take away muth and the mind becomes dull and stupid and clunkheadedly unimaginative.

(1) There are tryings.
(2) Trying implies alternative possibilities both as to the action itself and as to the result.

(1) the experiment causally construed
(2) the experimment semiotically construed
(3) the experiment abstractly construed
(4) experimentation as an act of free will
(5) experimentation as part of the pursuit of intelligibility
(6) experimentation as subcreation
(7) the experimenter as in the image of God (as person)
(8) the experiment as in community

spenta: furthering, strengthening, bounteous, holy

Yasna 31.11-12: As in the beginning, O wisdom, through thought, you fashioned for us bodies and senses and wits; as you gave embodied spirit, as also actionsa nd doctrines whereby one chooses at will, tehrefore one lifts up voice, false or true, knowing or unknowing, with heart and mind: over time, truth embodied deliberates in being, with opposition.

While there are things that can be identified as sacred scriptures for Buddhism, as a matter of history and practice Buddhism has always been more a religion of mnemonics than of scriptures.

"We have to accept the fact that, almost all the world over, the 'natural religions' are ceremonial and non-ethical." Charles Gore
"Religious experience shows that certain specific beliefs have permanently and greatly elevated human nature and augmented its capacity."

It is important for understanding Jesus' preaching that He is doing something more fundamental than ethics.

There is a nourishment of the soul, a means of life, without which even ethics is pointless.

Goodness divorced from truth and beauty is necessarily an ugly lie.

It is not wrong to say that God is in some sense above or beyond good and evil; the error is in thinking that good and evil are therefore equal with respect to or insofar as they are related to God, for evil is by its nature defective.

All other things being equal, doing what is good and right expands our options; doing what is bad and wrong boxes us in.

"Man's conscience is the lamp of the Eternal, flashing into his inmost soul." Pr 20:27 (Moffatt)

"The relation between individual and communal experiences is constitution, not summation." Stein

Human beings experience the world not merely individually, but as pluralities, in which one person's experience is intrinsically linked or even interlocked with another's, in integration rather than conflation.

Besides the evidence and argumentative support for a premise, one must also consider *how it enters the argument*. Is it a judgment from perception, received by testimony, an articulation of concept, not merely supported by but received from another argument? How a premises becomes available to use is distinct from reasons to use it.

The problem with Theodotus-style (or Paul-of-Samosata-style) adoptionism is that Luke quite clearly blocks it: the Holy Spirit is not just given to Him in Baptism; it is the reason He is born and His status is acknowledged by the prophetess and unborn prophet, long before Baptism. Jesus is the Son from the beginning; everything in Luke  (including even the genealogy) makes this clear.

Progress is a brutal god.

"The gods seem to love the obscure and hate the obvious." Brihadarangara Upanishad 4:2

"By knowing God a man is from all fetter freed." Svetasvatera Upanishad 2:15

"In Christianity it is Baptism that corresponds to Nirvana -- the death of carnal man before his allotted time." Zaehner

"Would you see Christ transfigured? Climb this mountain, learn to know yourself." Richard of St. Victor

In most of life, people pay little attention to what are called identities; they come up to aid this or that other action, and little more.

Personhood is received but most also be cultivated.

To say that reflecting on a thing simply and refleting on it as existent are not different is implausible on the face of it, particularly in light of our ability to think of things modally and relatively. But saying suh does come close to recognizing being as a transcendental.

Liebniz's df. of perfection: a simple quality which is positive and absolute and expresses without any limits whatever it does express
--> Note that perfections are compossible both with each other and with other things, so their nonexistence cannot be required by incompossibility.

proof of nonexistence by
(1) intrinsic impossibility
(2) incompossibility with the existent
(3) negation by failure

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Voting and Representation

  Ioan-Radu Motoarca asks, Should animals have the right to vote? at the "OUPblog", summarizing an article, Animal voting rights, at Analysis. One is tempted, of course, to say that if nonhuman animals want the right to vote so badly, they should ask for it. Of course, the question is not really about the right to vote for animals, but whether they should have human representatives voting 'on their behalf' -- which means, of course, human representatives voting in a way that they decide counts as a vote on the behalf of their animal constituents, since it's not as if the animal constituents can contradict them. Motoarca says, "This proposal would elevate animals to the status of actual actors in the political process." But of course, this is not what it would do at all; the animals would be as they were, and the "actual actors" would be members of whichever political party was able to grab and hold the animal representative offices in order to further their other political goals.  The animals still would have no actual influence, only a legal fiction of influence. What it would do instead is elevate animals into the status of a political excuse and justification; they can be so and sometimes are even without any legal fiction of voting rights, but this would make them even more of an excuse and political cover than they are. And we know exactly what that would mean, because it happens already when something becomes a widely acceptable political cover: exactly the same political disputes and controversies go on, but people just rationalize a new vocabulary to talk about how their preferred zoning policies or tax initiative is 'for the animals'. Motoarca suggests in his article that the votes could be distributed by a "politically neutral committee consisting of scientific experts", but Motoarca should know as well as anyone that it's difficult under the best circumstances to make a committee genuinely "politically neutral", and, of course, in a political system like voting, the key question would then be, 'Who chooses who counts as a relevant scientific expert?' Likewise, Motoarca says we should restrict animal voting to matters relevant to the interests of animals; but what that really means in a political system is that we should restrict animal voting to matters that major political players choose to count as relevant to the interests of animals.

This might all seem rather trivial, but the more general question is worth considering.  Why not have voting slots that are at least nominally on behalf of animals, infants, fetuses, cultural landmarks, ancestral spirits, corporate firms, churches, trade unions, gods, angels, abstract objects, or any number of other things? It's entirely possible to have a voting system that would work like that. If it were organized properly, it might even work, and there might be an argument that such a voting system, done properly, is more representative of the actual interests of a society. Even the fact that the voting would be ritual symbolism is not a problem, because voting systems are ritual symbolic systems. The people don't actually give senators a mandate; through a sort of divination process (sometimes described as 'determining the will of the people'), they ritually determine people who will ritually represent them. But while nothing prevents admitting even more slots into the divination process, we ourselves (modern citizens of modern liberal societies) do not have voting systems in order to have a general instrument of representation; we, i.e., those who would otherwise have to organize everything ourselves, use the process to select those who will organize things for us, not as being representatives of us in every way, which they could never possibly be, but solely as representatives of our rational ability to organize things in our society (and, indeed, of that ability understood in a fairly restrictive way).

This is why competence to vote plays a role in our understanding of that system: what we are giving in voting is a particular extension of our ability to participate in and organize society. Yes, Motoarca is right that any particular test of competence you might propose would exclude some adults whom we don't prohibit from voting; but this is not an issue, because the reason for often ignoring this and letting them vote anyway is practical, not a matter of pure principle. Voting systems are complicated, and get massively more complicated as the population of voters increases, and so we repeatedly do things that are there not to meet some abstract standard but just because they make things easier for everyone. There are lots of people who are borderline in various ways; it is practically speaking easier to let most of them vote than fight over every case or over the tests one might use to sort them out. It's much more practical (in the sense of causing fewer political disputes) to let competence fall out of the voting system itself -- to vote, you have to be competent enough to cast a vote by one of the legal methods of voting. This, of course, doesn't satisfy everyone, since we still have disputes over what the legal methods of voting should be; but this is because any voting system just by having a procedure for voting is presupposing a standard of competence (perhaps even a disjunctive standard to be on the practical-political safe side). But a system in which animals are taken, even by legal fiction, to have a rational ability to contribute to the organization of society, and to be thereby able, even by legal fiction, to extend their own ability by themselves voting to give others a representative role for them, would not be a minor adjustment of the voting system but a completely different kind of society. 

In any society remotely like our own, it's doubtful that 'representative of animals' would really be the best way to understand the people chosen by any process our voting system could practically handle; really, we would just be deliberately voting or appointing people to an office whose responsibility is to rig the voting process in particular directions. It's not impossible to imagine reasons why one might do this, but, again, such a voting system is deviating from the actual principle of representation that we usually take to underlie our own voting systems, which does not treat voting as a matter of purely symbolic representation but as a delegation of the practical authority of citizenship.

One of the reasons Motoarca takes the line he does, I think, is that he buys into the fiction that voting is a matter of preference-tracking. People, of course, will tend to vote according to their preferences, but you have only to look at actual election systems to see that they do not make use of any consistent or coherent method of tracking actual preferences; we do not all vote, we do not all vote the same way, and we do not all vote at the same time, so there is no consistent measure of our preferences, and everybody knows that if you held a vote two months later or two months before, your voting populations would not directly overlap, and even if we had a way to do them with the same voters, you might get a very different result. If you were designing a system to track preferences, you would not come up with a voting system.  Nor would we want a voting system that tracked preferences; ideally, we would want it to track informed, rational judgments about whatever is being voted on, but practically, we just need it to pick something or someone that will do.

But the big reason for Motoarca's argument is just that he is incredibly naive, in the way noted at the beginning; as he puts it, "animal representatives will always vote in the interest of animals". Oh, my dear, dear infant child in the wild jungle: we can't even guarantee representatives will vote in the interest of human beings, or for that matter in their own interest. We have no way of guaranteeing that people will do what we think they ideally should do; we design voting systems, in fact, on the assumption that they often won't.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Fallen Kingdoms of Romance

by Clark Ashton Smith

Who has seen the towers of Amithaine
Swan-throated rising from the main
Whose tides to some remoter moon
Flow in a fadeless afternoon?...
Who has seen the towers of Amithaine
Shall sleep, and dream of them again. 

 On falcon banners never furled,
Beyond the marches of the world,
They blazon forth the heraldries
Of dream-established sovereignties
Whose princes wage immortal wars
For beauty with the bale-red stars. 

 Amid the courts of Amithaine
The broken iris rears again
Restored from gardens youth has known;
And strains from ruinous viols flown
The legends tell in Amithaine
Of her that is its chatelaine. 

 Dreamer, beware! in her wild eyes
Full many a sunken sunset lies,
And gazing, you shall find perchance
The fallen kingdoms of romance,
And past the bourns of north and south
Follow the roses of her mouth. 

 For trumpets blare in Amithaine
For paladins that once again
Ride forth to ghostly, glamorous wars
Against the doom-preparing stars.
Dreamer, awake!... but I remain
To ride with them in Amithaine.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Teacher of Prayer

 Today was the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. From The Way of Perfection (Chapter 22):

O miserable world! Give hearty praise to God, daughters, that you have left so wretched a place, where people are honoured, not for their own selves, but for what they get from their tenants and vassals: if these fail them, they have no honour left. It is a curious thing, and when you go out to recreation together you should laugh about it, for it is a good way of spending your time to reflect how blindly people in the world spend theirs. 

 O Thou our Emperor! Supreme Power, Supreme Goodness, Wisdom Itself, without beginning, without end and without measure in Thy works: infinite are these and incomprehensible, a fathomless ocean of wonders, O Beauty containing within Thyself all beauties. O Very Strength! God help me! Would that I could command all the eloquence of mortals and all wisdom, so as to understand, as far as is possible here below, that to know nothing is everything, and thus to describe some of the many things on which we may meditate in order to learn something of the nature of this our Lord and Good. 

 When you approach God, then, try to think and realize Whom you are about to address and continue to do so while you are addressing Him. If we had a thousand lives, we should never fully understand how this Lord merits that we behave toward Him, before Whom even the angels tremble. He orders all things and He can do all things: with Him to will is to perform.

Fortnightly Book, October 15

 I'll likely be very busy for the next two weeks, so it makes sense to choose a smaller work for the next fortnightly book, and the one I have chosen is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Sewell (1820-1878) was born into a devout Quaker family; at the age of fourteen she had an accident that severely damaged her ankles. She walked with crutches for the rest of her life, and had to use horse-drawn wagons for a wider range of distances than most people would. From this came her love of horses and concern for how they were often treated. Black Beauty itself was written in the 1870s. Sewell's health was severely declining by then, so much of the book was dictated from bed. While people have generally come to think of it as a children's book, Sewell had no such aims; her goal was to write a book for people who worked with horses, to persuade them to reevaluate their treatment of horses. And in great measure was a success in this way; many of the practices Sewell criticized began to fall out of favor in the years that followed the publication of the book. Sewell lived long enough only to see the very first wave of success for the book, but it soon became one of the bestselling books in the world, being particularly popular in the United States.