Friday, October 27, 2023

Dashed Off XXXI

 The objects of our thought are subordinate to and contextualized by a higher intelligibility than they provide themselves.

"When we are attentive we *think* we are keeping to the point, we think our associations have something to do with the matter, we are organizing our 'objects' into apparent cohesion, or, in the alternative, appearing to refine them analytically. Association apes logical relevance even when it does not attain it." John Laird

To think of something as being and to think of it as cognizable are distinct.

"When Hume stumbled (transcendentally) upon 'objects' he was *always* aware (reflexively) of himself." John Laird
-- Note in possible confirmation of this that Hume's account allows no fundamental distinction between objects and perceptions. Hume only gets his result by detaching perceptions even from perceivers perceiving them at the time.

Association links things only insofar as they could be applied to many things; things are associated as kinds of things.

"Nothing would be more alarming in reality than to find that religion, when pressed, could give us nothing but just what we want." von Hugel

formal distributive pantheism: Each thing is divine.
formal collective pantheism: The whole of everything (the All) is divine.
emergent distributive pantheism: Each thing is becoming divine.
emergent collective pantheism: The All is becoming divine.

dissociable vs participating parthood (Laird)

People in practice tend to use 'instinct' as a term indicating production, either of an actual physical product or of an organized system of actions; this is what seems behind the popular distinction between instinct and reflex, despite teh fact that borders between the two are sometimes hard to see in actual usage.

That we consider possibilities for action and reject some is manifest; the only way to block this as showing the existence of a fairly robust kind of free will is to argue that the possibilities are only possibilities in a qualified sense, that they are not real possibilities but something else.

To say that something is a right tells us little until we know the nature and scope of the associated obligations.

aspects of proposition as communicated: expression, enunciation, appeal

Our moral principles are had not merely in the manner of law but also in the manner of gift.

"The craving for beauty, truth, and goodness is at once a response to reality and a discovery of it." T. M. Knox

Jn 3:22,26 -- Note that after the discourse to Nicodemus, Jesus himself goes around baptizing.

"Man is a thinking, feeling, and willing being, and this must show itself in his religion also." Tiele
"We act unconsciously as if we were infinite."
"A sentiment of kinship with superhuman powers, as well as a sense of entire dependence upon them, impels the religious man to seek communion with them, or at least to enter into some kind of relation towards them, and to re-establish such communion when he thinks it has been broken off through his own fault."

The more ethically oriented a religious movement, the more it drives toward universality.

Science as an endeavor is based on our sense of the infinite.

the quasi-animistic sense of our own bodies

We experience in our own bodies teleologies distinct from any associated with our wills.

"The man of science cannot deny his own existence as a knowing, feeling, and willing individual." G. F. Stout
"...we have no conception of the action of an individual self except as essentially including transactions between him and other beings which appear to him as bodies and embodied selves. In being aware of himself as active he is already aware of an independent not-self with which he interacts."
"The awareness of ourselves as active always involves these two constituents -- immediate experience, and the thought of what is not immediately experienced."
"Take away active tendency, and the unity of any process is lost."

The Church is part of Christ both distributively and collectively, both formally (in the sacrament) and finally (in glory).

Ibn 'Arabi's account of tawhid and Shankara's account of advaita

the numinous nature of the Church itself
the sense of being at home in Christ

Secondary qualities are not more 'subjective' but less easily understood than primary qualities.

"If every event A is conditioned by a prior event B and this by another C and so on, then no event can be adequately conditioned even by the totality of previous events, however many these may be. It can make no difference whether they are finite or infinite in number. On either alternative, change and succession finally presuppose an eternal Being without which they are incapable of existing. The world of becoming cannot be regarded as self-complete and self-contained." Stout
"More detailed examination of probable judgments fully bears out the thesis that they are and must be based on knowledge of necessary connexion. We ahve no right to assert that anything will even probably take place unless we are prepared to assert that it probably must take place. Probability in matters of fact presupposes necessity."
"When the window is broken by the impact of the stone, it is the tendency of the stone to continue in motion, rather than its actual motion, which overcomes the resistance of the glass. The actually continued motion is only such as remains after the resistance of the glass has been overcome. Similarly, when a spring is held down under a superincumbent weight, we regard this as due toa  balance of opposing tendencies or forces."
"The world of physical reality is primarily known as the continuation of the content of immediate sense-experience into a sphere of existence which transcends and includes it."
"Attention always presupposes knowledge, and tends to give rise to farther knowledge. But in itself it is a form of interest and not a cognitive act."

Stout's account of judging is entirely unconvincing.

The New Testament does not make any real attempt to give us a sense of dramatis personae. The authors show no concern with giving us any sense of most of the people involved; people who are highlighted as crucially important in functional terms are kept unrevealed; each of the Apostles, for instance, is treated as very important, but we are left mostly uninformed about most of them. Only three characters emerge in the NT with fully rounded characters: Jesus Christ, Simon Peter, and Paul. Of others we sometimes get character glimpses, but only with these three do we find full character development.

Every kind of composition creates a set of limts for what is so composed.

It is a peculiarity of Scripture, compared to most books, that its form and content are at least as much dependent on readers through the centuries of its formation as the authors of the texts that were pulled together over time by readers (a few of whom were also authors).

the soul as the plot of the person

The history of anthropology shows that all human societies are so complex that anthropologists can find among them almost anything which they want to attribute to them.

"Those who have not been baptized into the names delivered to us have not been baptized at all." Basil

Basil's Letter 188 and double effect

The power to bind and loose includes power over natural religion, which is structured by oaths, vows, promises, and customary norms.

As we may ask our neighbors on earth to pray for us in church, so we may ask our neighbors in heaven to pray for us in the liturgy of heaven.

Human life is lived in an ocean of unorganized impressions and unplanned strivings.

Tillich's argument against the supernaturalistic theory of miracles: "If such an interpretation were true, the manfiestation of the ground of being would destroy the structure of being...."
--> Obviously this makes the mistake of assuming that the structure of being is autonomous with respect to the ground.

Tillich's interpretation of miracle:
(1) event that is astonishing without contradicting the rational structure of reality
(2) that points to the mystery fo being, expressing its relation to us in a definite way
(3) and is received as a sign-event in an ecstatic experience.
--> Obviously this is an account not of miracles but of what are often called religious experiences or mystical phenomena.

Tillich's account of revelation narrows the meaning so much as to lose sight of why we would call it 'revelation' or 'revealing' in the first place. For instance, while a Christian might say that Christianity is based on the revelation in Jesus, in the ordinary sense of 'revelation', it has never been a claim of Christianity to be based in revelation in Jesus in Tillich's sense, because it has not been claimed that it is based on ecstatic experiences rather than ecstatic experiences perhaps sometimes confirming or illustrating what it is based on. Tillich also loses the centrality of testimony and witness.

To be a mere thing is to be finite, but this does not rule out infinites but only the 'mereliness' of such things.

Every analysis can be expressed as an argument and vice versa.

While the Bible has human authors, it is not, as such humanly authored; it grew.

communication as gift-giving

the Kingdom of God as metonymic for the Holy Spirit
the Angel of the Lord as metonymic for the Son

By rejecting both the Catholic and the Reformed accounts of sacraments, Tillich manages to make his sacramental theology doubly inadequate.

In love we often obey by both participation and submission.

Reformation and tradition are not in a polar relationship.

Much of human life consists in meriting by venture what is ours by nature.

"But if anyone else was anointed with the same ointment, as deriving virtue from it, he became either king, or prophet, or priest." Clementine Recognitions 1.46
"But now, since it is free for the mind to turn its judgment to which side it pleases, and to choose the way which it approves, it is clearly manifest that there is in man a liberty of choice." 5.6

Much of the Clementine Recognitions seems concerned with the problem of evil.

condensation vs accretion theories of philosophical position formation

musing on the world as itself a proto-philosophical act

Democracy is very poor at correcting mistakes, which is why it requires systems of checks and balances to an even greater degree than other forms of government.

Freedoms of speech, of religion, and of assembly, are freedoms that protect other freedoms.

The problem with emergencies in politics is that they tend not to be temporary, and never have well defined limits.

The test for a genuinely democratic society is whether in an emergency it trusts to the cooperation of its citizens.

Accuracy of law enforcement is important for preserving liberties.

Liberal democracy does not exist to regulate violence except so far as this furthers its conception of its ends.

"The group has a personal centre. In the original community the mother is the personal centre." Macmurray

A modern city is a polypolis rather than a single polis. (Perhaps even a multiplicity of polis-fragments in loose relation to each other.)

The parables of Christ are announcements and pronouncements of a new thing, a new event, and a real and present one.

"Who of the multitude of believers can presume, so long as he is living in this mortal state, that he is in the number of the predestined?" Augustine

What is common between the 'God of Plotinus' and the 'God of Abraham'? God.

Isaiah 40:28 -- The Lord is the no-end-in-sight God.

Who does not recognize that sin is a greater evil than suffering understands nothing about sin.

When one suffers, wanting others to suffer the same is usually a sign that something has gone very wrong with your judgment.

Problems of evil look different depending on whether one views them from a royal, priestly, or prophetic point of view.

Royal, priestly, and prophetic action each require a particular kind of self-discipline.

simplicity for understanding-purposes vs simplicity for practical purposes

Nothing can be an actual horror except in contrast to the value of human life, or something else of extraordinary value. 

To be a creature is to be something that must carry burdens for others, as part of a whole good greater than oneself.

Being humanly wise is to be co-wise in the context of a higher wisdom.

justification : jural :: sanctification : sacral

creaturely co-wisdom and the fit of mind and world

Every virtue is in part a co-virtue.

(1) Divine power is infinite.
(2) Divine power is most free.
(3) Every other power necessarily presupposes divine power.

Many theological errors arise from theologians taking their own culture to be more durable than sacred Scripture, an assumption repeatedly shown to be false.

The Life of Christ is a salvific character in a salvific plot, both of which express a salvific theme, with a salvific show appropriate to all three.

Most religious experiences are fairly ordinary.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Settler Colonialism

 The Israel-Hamas conflict has stirred up a great many stupid claims and comments. One that I have seen multiple times -- usually among progressives trying to justify antisemitic comments -- is that Israel was a settler colony. For various reasons 'settler colonialism' is one of the Big Bad Systems of the current left; modern progressives, rather than proposing positive visions, have a tendency to justify their actions in terms of Resistance to the Big Bad System. There is no completely accepted account of what settler colonialism is, but the most commonly accepted idea is that you have it when an imperial power incentivizes the establishment of a framework of colonial settlements in order to replace or exploit the native population. 

Israel was not, contrary to the claims, formed by a settler colonialist policy. For one thing, the Jews are a native population in the area. The beginning of the formation of Israel is often traced to the British Empire's nineteenth century policies regarding Mandatory Palestine, but Palestine under the Mandate was already about ten percent or so Jewish. A significant portion of Jewish Israelis have at least some Jewish ancestors who were in the region long before any imperial policy could have had a significant effect. Second, the major waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine were not settler waves but refugee waves. The Third Aliyaha (immigration wave -- the first two big immigration waves happened before the Mandate was established) is associated with World War I; the Fourth with an economic crisis in Eastern Europe and a European wave of antisemitic persecutions; the Fifth is associated with the rise of Nazi Germany. The last of these became so massive that the British, far from encouraging it, tried (and failed) to impose a massive set of restrictions on immigration to the area. The result was an increasing friction between the local Jewish population, which sympathized with the refugees, and the British government; this eventually broke out into a guerilla war, and the Jewish population lucked out -- by the time things came to a head, the political landscape had changed enough that the British thought it better to cut a generous deal rather than crushing the resistance as it had done with previous resistances. Thus was the State of Israel born. In short, Israel was formed due to

(a) an original portion of the native population
(b) massively increased by repeated influxes of refugees from war and persecution
(c) which spawned resistance and revolt against imperial restrictions on immigration
(d) in such a way and at such a time that they were able to negotiate significant concessions.

There is literally nothing about this story that is consistent with settler colonialism. This becomes even more obvious when you compare to a state like South Africa, which pretty clearly was created through settler colonialism, or even policies like Israel's handling of the West Bank, which meets at least some definitions of settler colonialism and has at least the right general structure for it. Israel itself was never a settler colony; it was not formed through settler colonialism. To fit it in, you have to stretch literally every element of any plausible definition of settler colonialism beyond the breaking point. 

Likewise the claim that Zionism in the lead up to the formation of Israel was a 'settler colonialist' movement is simply wrong. Zionism was a nationalist movement, one of many, many nationalist movements that developed in the nineteenth century; it chose, like all nationalist movements, to focus on a traditional homeland, which no one can deny Israel is for the Jews, who are as a population (and certainly in the Zionist view were) indigenous to the area; and Jews, while a minority in the Mandate, were nonetheless already a visible population there. Because so much of the immigration consisted of refugees of various kinds, Zionist organizations in practice largely helped refugees to immigrate and develop connections with Jewish populations already living there. Most of the immigration was also not driven by Zionism itself at all. And Zionism's primary contribution to the development of the Israeli State was building social infrastructure that meant both that the Jews were well entrenched when the British tried to crack down on them and that they had institutional capacity ready to go when they got independence. The claim that Zionism is settler colonialism is straightforward antisemitism; it requires the false assumption that the Zionists were a quasi-imperial power and in control of the process. There is of course no doubt that many Zionists did not have any regard for the non-Jewish majority in Mandate Palestine, but this kind of attitude is, again, not particularly distinctive, being a common pattern among nationalist groups who see themselves as trying to restore their indigenous homeland. People are usually quite indulgent of it; it's only when it's the Zionists that people bring out their knives. In any case, attempts to paint Zionism as a settler colonialist movement are, regardless of any ethical evaluation of Zionism itself, implausible, and pretty much inevitably given the actual context and development of Zionism.

Scholars at Home

 Scholars usually are glad to allow themselves to be kept in immaturity by their wives with regard to domestic arrangements. A scholar, buried in his books, answered the screams of a servant that there was a fire in one of the rooms: "You know, things of that sort are my wife's affair."

[Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Louden, tr.,  Cambridge UP (New York: 2006) p. 104. Kant -- notably a bachelor -- is very critical of any self-imposition of immaturity.]

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Links of Note

 * Peter Graham, What's Wrong with Testimony? Defending the Epistemic Analogy Between Testimony and Perception (PDF)

* Michael Kruger, New 'Gospel' Discovery? (What It Is and Why It Matters), at "The Gospel Coalition", on the recent discovery of the manuscript, P. Oxy. 5575.

* Thornton Lockwood, Is there a Poetics in Aristotle's Politics? (PDF)

* Evans, Milburn, and Shrapnel, How clocks define time (PDF)

* Rev. Calum Samuelson and Ralph Lee summarize the basic features of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church.

* Gregory Sadler, Anselmian Moral Theory and the Question of Grounding Morality in God (PDF)

* Brent G. Kyle, Hiddenness, Holiness, and Impurity (PDF)

* Daniel Callcut, Wrestling with relativism, at "Aeon", discusses Bernard Williams

* Gunnar Babcock and Dan McShea, Resolving teleology's false dilemma (PDF)

* E. Sonny Elizondo, Kantian Naturalism (PDF)

* Someone recently had one of the AI art programs do pictures of The Lord of the Rings in Byzantine mosaic style. Some of them are quite neat, although the program, since its database includes a lot of hagiographical icons, completely misuses the symbol of the halo.

* Marie Jayasekera, Mary Astell on Self-Government and Custom (PDF)

* Ian Proops, Kant on Enlightenment (PDF)

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Two Poem Drafts and a Poem Re-Draft

Yesterday's World

Yesterday's world has turned to fade,
color to gray, and bowed its head down
to sleep in the oblivion of shade.
Gone is its armor and vanished its crown
to some lost place that none can find;
its kingdom is lost beneath an endless sea,
out of sight and so forever out of mind
except in our swiftly fading memory.
We were children once, though we played at games
as if we were adults, and made mistakes with flair;
we sparred with foes -- forgotten are their names --
and burned time without thought or care.
So are we all. The days will pass, and pass,
will vanish like the blazing grass,
all wasted in some unreasoned haste
until all days are past, with no more to waste.

 Lu You's 'Wishing to Leave, Finding Rain'

The east wind burst with rain,
troubling the wanderer.

Along the road, fresh mud
is bursting from fine dust.

Flowers shut their eyes; willow close heavy eyes;
the spring's bright 'I' is lazy.

Who could know that even I
would be more lazy than bright spring?


 A man may worship this god or that, as he pleases;
devotion to this one or another, one may pursue;
but the one who seeks not Vesta to please
is not a man but a beast. 

 Who trespasses the grove of the Furies may recover;
who sullies the altar of Jupiter may repair;
but the one who harms the temple of Vesta
is reduced to the state of a beast. 

 To lay hands on a priest of Juno is grave;
it is folly to cross the king of the grove;
but those who desecrate a Virgin
will be hunted like the beast. 

 The nation unknowing of Zeus may prosper;
gods may to the godless tribes provide;
but the folk who do not respect the Hearth
are merely herds of beasts.

Monday, October 23, 2023


 Today is the feast of St. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, Martyr; he is not on the General Calendar, but he is in the Roman Martyrology and on the local calendar of saints for Pavia, Italy. From his most famous work, Consolation of Philosophy:

...we have shown that happiness is the Good itself; the Good is the very thing for the sake of which all actions are undertaken; therefore it is the Good itself that has been placed before human actions as if it were their common reward. And yet, this reward cannot be separated from good people--for one would not rightly be called good any longer if one lacked the Good--and for this reason its proper rewards to not abandon righteous conduct. Therefore, no matter how brutal evil people may be, the crown shall never fall from the head of the wise man and shall never wither; nor shall another person's unrighteousness pluck from the souls of the righteous the distinctions that are theirs alone.... 

 ...Since true happiness is the Good itself, it is clear that all good people, by the very fact that they are good, become truly happy. But it is agreed that those who are truly happy are gods. Therefore, this is the reward of good people, which no future day can grind down, which no other man's power can humble, which no other man's unrighteousness can stain--to become gods. 

[Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, Relihan, tr., Hackett (Indianapolis: 2001) pp. 100-101.]

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Ioannes Paulus II

 Today is the commemoration of St. John Paul II. From Veritatis splendor (sect. 59):

Saint Paul does not merely acknowledge that conscience acts as a "witness"; he also reveals the way in which conscience performs that function. He speaks of "conflicting thoughts" which accuse or excuse the Gentiles with regard to their behaviour (cf. Rom 2:15). The term "conflicting thoughts" clarifies the precise nature of conscience: it is a moral judgment about man and his actions, a judgment either of acquittal or of condemnation, according as human acts are in conformity or not with the law of God written on the heart. In the same text the Apostle clearly speaks of the judgment of actions, the judgment of their author and the moment when that judgment will be definitively rendered: "(This will take place) on that day when, according to my Gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (Rom 2:16).

 The judgment of conscience is a practical judgment, a judgment which makes known what man must do or not do, or which assesses an act already performed by him. It is a judgment which applies to a concrete situation the rational conviction that one must love and do good and avoid evil. This first principle of practical reason is part of the natural law; indeed it constitutes the very foundation of the natural law, inasmuch as it expresses that primordial insight about good and evil, that reflection of God's creative wisdom which, like an imperishable spark (scintilla animae), shines in the heart of every man. But whereas the natural law discloses the objective and universal demands of the moral good, conscience is the application of the law to a particular case; this application of the law thus becomes an inner dictate for the individual, a summons to do what is good in this particular situation. Conscience thus formulates moral obligation in the light of the natural law: it is the obligation to do what the individual, through the workings of his conscience, knows to be a good he is called to do here and now. The universality of the law and its obligation are acknowledged, not suppressed, once reason has established the law's application in concrete present circumstances. The judgment of conscience states "in an ultimate way" whether a certain particular kind of behaviour is in conformity with the law; it formulates the proximate norm of the morality of a voluntary act, "applying the objective law to a particular case".