Saturday, December 16, 2023

Cat Hodge, Unstable Felicity


Opening Passage:

On the first of December, Jill O'Leary -- until last week a self-possessed, self-assured career woman -- found herself up in the air, obeying her mother's order to spend Christmas in Luxembourg. (p.1)

Summary: Jill O'Leary heads back home for Christmas to small-town Luxembourg, Ohio. It's not something to which she looks forward. Her father, whom she remembers fondly, is no longer alive; she has a very rocky relationship with her mother, Regina O'Leary; and the last time she left, after a bad break-up with her boyfriend, Heath, she had run over his dog. But her father's business, the Luxembourg Inn, has an uncertain future in light of her parents' somewhat creative accounting and budgeting, so she returns if only to see if she can preserve anything of her father's legacy.

In Luxembourg, she meets a local investor, Garrett French, whom her mother gravely dislikes, who has been trying to make an offer to buy the inn. She also meets a mysterious Mr. Singh,  a man with a polish and sophistication that is undeniably far beyond anything smalltown Ohio could produce, and whose very presence here in the middle of nowhere is a puzzle. Meeting Heath again goes much better than she expected -- he has settled down well and is contrite for his mistreatment of her; while Jill had primarily been feeling guilty about the dog, we learn that her doing so wasn't quite a matter of spite, but was, as Heath himself admits, rooted in the nasty temper of the dog. Throughout she has to deal with the passive-aggressive melodrama of her mother and the drama of her two sisters, Reagan and Del. Tensions with her mother increase, and come to a pinnacle when her mother demands that her daughters express their love for her and Jill finds that she just honestly can't. Everything seems a tangle and doomed to collapse into disaster -- until the knot of the problem begins to unravel.

The book is effectively a love-story, but it deliberately (and to good humorous effect) shunts the usual Hallmark-style romance off onto Mr. Singh and Jill's friend Amita, whose fairy-tale, love-at-first-sight, impossibly perfect romance contrasts with the actual love story at the heart of the book: a story of love of family (with all of its rocky aspects) and of how love develops between two very flawed people trying to find the happiness genuinely suitable for them in a world where fate mostly only allows a very unstable felicity. 

In addition to reading it, I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Suzanne T. Fortin. I think listening to the book, and not just reading it, brings out a few aspects of the story a bit more -- I think the humor particularly benefits from the living voice, which almost naturally brings out the passive-aggressiveness of Regina O'Leary, as well as the humor of the Amita / Mr. Singh sideplot.  The family drama, I think, works somewhat better on the page, I suspect because much of the drama is actually dramatic drama, in the old-fashioned sense of 'dramatic': it arises from the complex interactions of multiple characters in a coherently framed scene, which is somewhat easier for a reader's imagination to supply than a narrator. It would be very adaptable to a screenplay, I think, which is perhaps a sign that it is, Jill-like, the true child of its mother the Hallmark Channel and its father King Lear. But in both formats, page and audio, it is an enjoyable holiday read.

Favorite Passage:

In this fallen world, however, some people were better loved at a distance. For years, that distance had been the divide between Los Angeles and Luxembourg. Now there was no barrier to coming home: not Heath Albany's dog, not Mother herself, not even bad career prospects. Certainly, not close ties in Los Angeles. Her best friend there was ready to embark on her own adventure.

And some people were better loved up close, in person. (p. 122)

Recommendation: Recommended.


Cat Hodge, Unstable Felicity: A Christmas Novella, Oak & Linden (2020).

Let This Do for Today

 16 December

God is all: I am nothing. Let this do for today.

[Pope John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, White, tr., The New American Library (New York: 1965) p. 161. This is from his spiritual diary from 1902; he was still in seminary at the time.]

Friday, December 15, 2023

Links of Note

 * Elliot Polsky, Why Are Accidents Included under Being Per Se? (PDF), on a curious comment in Aquinas's commentary on the Metaphysics.

* Jacob Baynham, What If Money Expired?, at Noema

* Samuel Kahn, Frankfurt Cases and Alternate Deontic Categories (PDF)

* David Bourget and Angela Mendelovici, Debunking Debunking: Explanationism, Probabilistic Sensitivity, and Why There Is No Specifically Metacognitive Debunking Principle (PDF)

* Yuval Shany, From digital rights to international human rights: The emerging right to a human decision maker

* Reuven Kimelman, The Books of Maccabees and the Al HaNissim Prayer for Hanukah, at "The Seforim Blog"

* Timothy Perrine, A Timid and Tepid Appropriation: Divine Presence, the Sensus Divinitatis, and Phenomenal Conservatism (PDF)

* Courtney D. Fugate, Problems with the Highest Good (PDF)

* Gregory Caridi, Reopening the Question of Abstinence from Meat on Fridays, at "Church Life Journal"

* Susanna Melkonian-Altshuller, Truth Dependence Against Transparent Truth (PDF)

* Edward Feser, No King but Caesar?, at "The Josias", reviews Kevin Vallier's All the Kingdoms of the World

* A. R. J. Fisher, Musical Works as Structural Universals (PDF)

* Richard Y. Chappell, Against Confidence-Policing, at "Good Thoughts"

* Tyra Lennie, Self-Improvement in Astellian Friendship (PDF)

Dashed Off XXXV

 Willingness to help others only scales to the extent personal relationships do.

unconditional vs. conditional esperability

Possibilities are expressions of actualities.

Hopes presuppose required actions.

Hopes in the thick of things act, but hopes at leisure also seek reasons and evidences.

We can literally see that some things are possible.

Every actuality implies multiple possibilities. When we delve into the actuality of something, we always discover multiple possibilities. When we test whether something is actual, we presuppose its having multiple possibilities available to it, based on context.

Possible worlds must not only be internally consistent but externally consistent with other possible worlds beign possible in the same manifold; or, to put it in other terms, must share the same general kind of possibility.

causal possibilities
causal possibilities with respect to containing boundaries: spatial possibilities
causal possibilities with respect to clocking changes: temporal possibilities
causal possibilities relative to a given container: places
causal possibilties relative to a given clock: times
causal possibilities with respect to contexts of means and resources: possibilities of action-range
causal possibilities relative to a given means-resource context: feasibilities
causal possibilities with respect to laws: deontic possibilities
causal possibilities with respect to given laws: permissibilities

Justice requires reparation and restoration when wrongful behavior done with faulty disposition results in harmful consequences, and reparation and restoration is practically possible. What it requires in other cases is more complex.

Tort laws and delict laws are like fences around the rule of law.

separation of powers within the legislative (bicameral), the executive (plural executive), and the judicial (forms of court, like equity and law)

Apostolic succession contrasts with private revelation and secret tradition; it is publicly verifiable tradition.

'the apostolate of the ear' (Francis)
-- welcome, 'accompany', discern, integrate
-- first four Spiritual Works of Mercy

Annunciation: purification :: Pentecost : illumination :: Assumption : perfection

purifying purifying: Immaculate Conception
illuminating purifying: Annunciation
perfecting purifying: Nativity of Christ
purifying illuminating: Co-passion
illuminating illuminating: Resurrection of Christ
perfecting illuminating: Pentecost
purifying perfecting: Dormition
illuminating perfecting: Assumption
perfecting perfecting: Coronation

Acts presents the Church as the culmination of both the Hebraic and the Hellenistic strands of Judaism.

Romanticized versions of things lose their value for certain functions, but it is an error to think that romanticizing things has no value.

Even criminals often form quasi-civil institutions.

"Human nature's goodness is like water's downwardness." Mencius
"That which is done without doing is world-order; that which arrives without sending is destiny."

"An obedient son and respectful brother, but likes defying superiors: rare. One who doesn't like defying superiors but likes raising rebellion: never." Analects 1.2
"Study, then appropriately practice it -- is it not pleasant? Have friends come from afar -- is it not happiness? Not understood but not angered -- it is not noble?" Analects 1.1

amicableness, responsibleness, politeness, perceptiveness, trustworthiness

In the house, better amicable than responsible; in the forum better responsible than amicable; in all things the best is to have both.

Restraint of self and restoration of social order makes for amicableness.

If one just desires amicableness, it is at hand.

Glib tongue and polished presentation are rarely amicable.

"The three hundred verses are summarized in one phrase: guiltless mind." Analects 2.2

One maintains social order by inquiring about social order.

The amicable find comfort in being amicable.

Restraining oneself and maintaining courtesy is being amicable.

Glib tongue disrupts authority; impatience in the small disrupts great plans.

The man of highest authority does not make his authority obvious. That is how he maintains authority. The man of inferior authority cannot rid it of the appearance of authority. Thus he has no authority.

Doing well creates things; authority preserves them.

Authority is the beneficence of doing well; everyone relies on authority. Authority is the dwelling place of doing well.

When doing well is lost, next comes authority; when authority is lost, next is being amicable; when being amicable is lost, next is being responsible; when being responsible is lost, next is courtesy.

Universalists often transfer passages concerned with the catholicity of the mission of the Church to universality of heavenly destination.

There can be no Seal of the Prophets because prophecy is inexhaustible.

"My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner." Augustine

The fundamental problem of Gnosticism is that no number of emanations could actually model the richness of the true spiritual life; such things will always fall short of the inexhaustible glory of God and the grace He gives us. The apparatus of emanations was doomed to be false gnosis from the beginning.

Nothing is a success or failure except in light of alternative possibilities.

Moral, jural, and sacral matters consist of unities of 'relations of ideas' and 'matters of fact'.

No society can properly be free that does not recognize a moral order higher than itself.

"The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny....The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to public necessity." Coolidge

"Wisdom is a communicative and philanthropic thing." Clement of Alexandria
"He is a king who governs according to laws and has the skill to sway willing subjects."
"Generalship involves three ideas: caution, boldness, and the union of the two."

In offensive action, caution is the material organized formally by boldness; in defensive action, boldness is the material organized formally by caution.

Mitzvot require intention because the point of a mitzvah is to live according to Torah, not to stand on its own.

The Church is by its nature a partly linguistic structure.

God began evangelization of the world with the Law.

Kerygma begins with a call to repentance.

There are many different communal experiences in the Church, joining together into an ecclesial river of experiences characterized by a collective intentionality that does not exclude but even incorporates and reinterprets many individual intentionalities. But unlike many other such communities, there is a community-subject, an owner of the whole ecclesial river of expereinces, distinct from, but also in some sense owning, the moral personality constituted by the collective intentionality; the moral personality proceeds from the indvidual members and the community-subject jointly, constituting it as a sovereign sphere of power and a juridical subject of rights. It is this joint constitution that makes the Church both a holy hierarchy and a liturgical commonwealth.

the vestment of titles of the Bride of Christ

Liturgy proper occurs in an outside-the-everyday state, marked with signs of spatial and temporal demarcation.

semiotic quasi-transcendence in reading, liturgy, movie-watching, etc.
-- the signs are technically still there, but they also seem to fall away, as if you were beyond them, among the things they signify.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Music on My Mind


Dan Vasc, "Angels We Have Heard on High".

Ioannes a Cruces

 Today is the feast of St. Juan de la Cruz, Doctor of the Church. From his Ascent of Mount Carmel (Book II, Chapter III):

From the object that is present and from the faculty, knowledge is born in the soul. Wherefore, if one should speak to a man of things which he has never been able to understand, and whose likeness he has never seen, he would have no more illumination from them whatever than if naught had been said of them to him. I take an example. If one should say to a man that on a certain island there is an animal which he has never seen, and give him no idea of the likeness of that animal, that he may compare it with others that he has seen, he will have no more knowledge of it, or idea of its form, than he had before, however much is being said to him about it. And this will be better understood by another and a more apt example. If one should describe to a man that was born blind, and has never seen any colour, what is meant by a white colour or by a yellow, he would understand it but indifferently, however fully one might describe it to him; for, as he has never seen such colours or anything like them by which he may judge them, only their names would remain with him; for these he would be able to comprehend through the ear, but not their forms or figures, since he has never seen them.  

Even so is faith with respect to the soul; it tells us of things which we have never seen or understood, nor have we seen or understood aught that resembles them, since there is naught that resembles them at all. And thus we have no light of natural knowledge concerning them, since that which we are told of them bears no relation to any sense of ours; we know it by the ear alone, believing that which we are taught, bringing our natural light into subjection and treating it as if it were not. For, as Saint Paul says, Fides ex auditu. As though he were to say: Faith is not knowledge which enters by any of the senses, but is only the consent given by the soul to that which enters through the ear.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Sidgwick on Purity

 A significant part of Henry Sidgwick's The Methods of Ethics is a critical discussion of topics raised in Whewell's moral philosophy, although he does not explicitly call attention to the fact that this is what he is doing. Thus he has significant sections devoted to Whewell's Five Virtues, including Purity.  ('Virtue' in both Whewell and Sidgwick is perhaps not quite what we usually mean by 'virtue'; we should perhaps think of a Virtue in their sense as being a value exemplified by a good character. In Whewell, at least, what we would often think of as the virtue is closer to what Whewell instead calls the Spirit of the Virtue.) However, Sidgwick makes a significant change when he talks about it, one that distorts the discussion considerably. In Whewell, Purity is concerned with the idea that we should not act like mere beasts; in particular, our 'lower' parts (like bodily desires) should be subordinated to our 'higher' parts (like our moral capacities). This is quite general, and forms subordinate Virtues depending on the kinds of bodily desires, like Temperance for food and drink, Chastity for sex, Modesty as an offshoot of Chastity concerned with attitude. All of these are governed by a unified principle. And this is essential for Whewell, because he is in turn responding to Bentham who rejects both as forms of 'asceticism' (the ultimate evil in Bentham's hedonistic utilitarianism). Sidgwick, however, more or less identifies Purity with Chastity. This ends up creating a number of problems.

(1) First, Temperance is divided from Chastity, and the two are no longer seen as having a common root and end. True, Sidgwick does recognize that there is a practical convenience in treating the two together, but the internal unity between the two is broken. The breaking of the unity has the further effect that the role of Purity in Whewell's response to the utilitarians is obscured, and the further clarification of the idea that could come from Whewell's argument against Bentham is ignored.

(2) Further, it leads Sidgwick to think of Purity/Chastity not as a Virtue concerned with our priorities in all life but as concerned with interpersonal relations. He denies, for instance, that Purity is a self-regarding Virtue (which is certainly not wholly true in Whewell's scheme), and talks about it almost entirely in terms of sexual intercourse, despite the fact that Purity is usually not considered (by Common Sense or by Whewell) to be solely concerned with the actual sexual deed. This creates a muddle. In Methods III.ix, when he first discusses it, Sidgwick is in the process of arguing that 'Common Sense Morality' provides no definite, precise rules for moral life, using Whewell's scheme of the Virtues to structure his argument. Unsurprisingly, he finds that Common Sense is very imprecise about Purity -- but all of the imprecision arises in contexts concerning interpersonal relations, and thus from Sidgwick's own  modification of the idea, whose attribution to Common Sense is never really justified and which is simply unjustifiable in the context of Whewell's overall scheme. Whewell is very clear (and Sidgwick is very aware) that our sexual morality does not unfold entirely out of Purity, but depends very heavily on another of the Five Virtues, Order, which concerns Law. It is Order, not Purity, that primarily concerns sexual matters as matters of interpersonal relation, because it is interpersonal relations in particular that require definite standards. Much of Sidgwick's criticism of Purity as a source of definite guidance really boils down to the claim that you can't get the Order parts of sexual morality out of Purity alone. This is true, but doesn't actually tell us much of anything about Purity itself.

(3) Sidgwick notes a distinction in Common Sense Morality between a 'stricter' and a 'laxer' view of Purity; the stricter holds that sexual appetite should be indulged only for procreation and the laxer that it should be indulged only for increasing mutual affection in a permanent union. Part of his argument that Purity provides no precise guidance is that these are two very different views. But throughout, Sidgwick is assuming that sexual appetite can have only one end, which is not at all what Whewell's characterization of Purity implies. And we already know that Common Sense Morality does not assign sexual appetite one end. Sidgwick has admitted it himself. He takes this to be a sign that Common Sense Morality is not definitively decided on the topic, but in reality nothing requires that either end be taken exclusively, and it is plausible that Common Sense Morality rejects rather than assumes the idea that indulgence of sexual appetite can't have more than one end consistent with Purity. 

(4) One of the most important claims Sidgwick makes is, "But it may be observed that any attempt to lay down minute and detailed rules on this subject seems to be condemned by Common Sense as tending to defeat the end of purity; as such minuteness of moral legislation invites men in general to exercise their thoughts on this subject to an extent which is practically dangerous" (III.ix.3). This is a claim that Sidgwick can make only because he conceives Purity so narrowly, as pretty much entirely concerned with the sexual act itself. Thus any extensive attempts to work out what is required to be 'pure' requires extensively thinking about sexual acts. But Purity as Whewell describes it does not work this way; it covers many things that are not sexual at all, and those things that it covers that are sexual are not all of the same kind, some of them being with secondary matters. Purity conceived this way does not require 'minute legislation' on how to have sex; it concerns things like how to treat people you are sexually attracted to, how to behave in romantic situations, how to act with good manners to members of the opposite sex in situations where sex might be relevant, and what should take precedence over any sexual behavior at all. These things will often not require thinking about any sexual act at all, because they concern things well upstream. What is more, it's not only that Sidgwick is certainly not getting Whewell right here; he is also certainly not getting Common Sense right. Is it really true that "any attempt to lay down minute and detailed rules" on sexual matters is condemned by Common Sense when the vast majority of societies that have ever existed have fairly minute and detailed rules about how men and women, and especially young men and women, should behave around each other? The existence of marriage and virginity customs are fairly close to universal; gossip about scandals is pretty much all the world over concerned with sex; people are very opinionated (and reasonably so) about how they should be treated in any matter even remotely concerned with sex.

Thus the entire discussion of Purity in Sidgwick attributes to Common Sense Morality on the subject of Purity a set of confusions and limitations that arise entirely from Sidgwick's never-justified modification.

While most of it is concerned with issues orthogonal to those considered here, Francesco Orsi has an interesting discussion of Sidgwick's comments on Purity: Sidgwick and the Morality of Purity.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Whewell on Purity (Re-Post)

This is a re-post of a post from 2016.

 If morality is to be the supreme rule of human action, appetites and desires must be constrained by rational regard for moral principle. Because of this it is inevitable that morality should involve discipline of physical desires, and that by its nature involves the introduction of a sort of hierarchy: some tendencies in our nature are to higher ends than others, and the higher should be predominant over the lower. This gives us the fifth Virtue in Whewell's primary pentad (EM §121):

The control of the Appetites by the Moral Sentiments is recommended to us under the form of the Virtues of Chastity and Temperance: but the Virtue which carries the control of the Higher over the Lower Parts of our Nature deeper into the heart and soul, is more properly termed Purity. And hence, we place Purity as one element of the complete Idea of Virtue or Goodness.

The principle expressing this Virtue is thus, "the Lower parts of our nature are to be governed by the Higher."

Obviously this notion of governance by reason cannot be simply inconsistent with the gratification of bodily desires, which are necessary for both individual survival and the continuation of the species. These desires are not, in themselves moral in character; they are, however, the material for Virtue, which arises when we put them under an appropriate moral rule. Doing this for sexual matters is what we call Chastity, and the attitude of mind following from it we call Modesty; doing it for food and drink is what we call Temperance. Our desire for these things should always strive to treat as higher what is higher. Thus we should not eat and drink (for instance) solely out of love of food and drink. The accoutrements of a decent table "are to be indulged as subservient to the support of life, strength, and cheerfulness, and the cultivation of social affections" (EM §222). All our duties of Purity arise out of this proper subordination to higher purposes. Our meals, for instance, should be "so conducted, that they may not only satisfy the bodily wants of nature, but also minister to the cheerful and social flow of spirits and thought, which is a condition favourable to moral action" (EM §224).

In sexual matters, Whewell of course takes mere sexual desire to be something that must be subordinated to the desire for a true conjugal union (Em §230):

The direction of the Affections and Desires, here referred to, towards their proper object, Marriage, is the best mode of avoiding the degradation of character which is produced by their improper operation. Virtuous love, as it has often been said, is the best pre-servative against impure acts and thoughts. The Love which looks forwards to the conjugal union, includes a reverence for the conjugal condition, and all its circumstances. Such a love produces in the mind a kind of moral illumination, which shows the lover how foul a thing mere lust is; and makes him see, as a self-evident truth, that affection is requisite to purify desire, and virtue necessary to purify affection.

This doesn't cover the whole of the moral character of marriage, which is structured not just by the Idea of Purity but also by the Idea of Order (and the others, too, although these two particularly), but it is part of the reason Whewell takes marriage to be higher and more morally important than a mere legal arrangement could be.

Just as with other Virtues, we have duties not only to particular kinds of action, but also to the appropriate disposition, the Spirit of Purity, so that Impurity becomes foreign to us, and to the relevant kind of moral cultivation, so that we conform ever more in thought and action to the Idea of Purity.

Whewell makes clear that he regards Jeremy Bentham as his primary opponent on this topic; Bentham, of course, rejected the very notion of a virtue of Temperance on utilitarian grounds. Whewell sees the defense of the Principle of Purity as placing himself, on the contrary, in the camp of Joseph Butler. In the Preface to the Second Edition of Elements of Morality, he uses it as an example of why his approach is kin to Butler's:

If it be asked, to which of our English Moralists the Scheme of Morality here presented most nearly approach es, I reply, that it follows Butler in his doctrine, that by the mere contemplation of our human faculties and springs of action, we can discern certain relations which must exist among them, by the necessity of man's moral being. He maintains that, by merely comparing appetite and reflection or conscience, as springs of action, we see that the latter is superior in its nature, and ought to rule. This truth, I, with him, conceive to he self-evident; and I endeavour to express it by stating, as a fundamental Moral Principle, that the Lower Parts of our Nature are to be governed by the Higher. And I conceive that there are several other Moral Principles which are, in like manner, self-evident.

Not accepting the Butlerian position obliterates the distinction between man and beast, Whewell thinks, and leads to treating all tendencies, including moral tendencies, on par with each other (EM §223).

Since Whewell takes States to be moral agents, States have duties related to Purity, although as far as I can tell this seems primarily to be educational. States, of course, have no bodily desires themselves, and when the State does have a particular duty with respect to something that falls under Purity (like marriage and the family), it is often more concerned with Order. The Christian faith, as usual, incentivizes and intensifies the ordinary duties of Purity, insisting on the importance of inner control of bodily desires and giving a religious value to marriage itself. (As an Anglican, Whewell wants to play down a bit St. Paul's suggestion that virginity is better than marriage, which he represents as Paul's own opinion rather than a divine principle.) But, of course, aside from the religious significance of marriage, much of Christian exhortation on Purity has very little to do with sexual matters -- we are encouraged to be sober, not ruled by our bellies, not greedy, grave rather than frivolous, modest in dress, and the Christian faith gives a special reason to do these things, namely, that we should act in a way appropriate to children of God.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Highest of the High

 Endless are His Praises, endless are those who speak them.
Endless are His Actions, endless are His Gifts.
Endless is His Vision, endless is His Hearing.
His limits cannot be perceived. What is the Mystery of His Mind?
The limits of the created universe cannot be perceived.
Its limits here and beyond cannot be perceived.
Many struggle to know His limits,
but His limits cannot be found.
No one can know these limits.
The more you say about them, the more there still remains to be said.
Great is the Master, High is His Heavenly Home.
Highest of the High, above all is His Name.
Only one as Great and as High as God
can know His Lofty and Exalted State.
Only He Himself is that Great. He Himself knows Himself.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib 5 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Rosmini on Causes and Happenings (Re-Post)

 A re-post from 2014.

'Every happening has a cause that produces it.' This proposition means exactly the same as the following: 'It is impossible for our intelligence to think a happening without thinking a cause that produced it.' To show that 'a happening without a cause cannot be thought', we must show that 'the concept of a happening without a cause involves contradiction.' Once this is demonstrated, we will have deduced the principle of cause from the principle of contradiction.

The demonstration is as follows: to say 'What does not exist, acts' is a contradiction. But a happening without a cause means 'What does not exist, acts.' Therefore a happening without a cause is a contradiction. The proofs follow.
As regards the major: to conceive mentally an action (a change) without an ens, is to conceive without conceiving, which is a contradiction. Indeed, the principle of knowledge states: 'The object of thought is ens'; therefore without an ens, we cannot mentally conceive. To conceive an action without conceiving an ens that performs the action, is to conceive without conceiving. Therefore to apply the action to something that does not exist is a contradiction in terms, which was to be proved.

As regards the minor: a happening is an action (a change). If this action has no cause, it is conceived by itself, without belonging to an ens; there is then an action without ens or, which is the same, what does not exist, acts. Thus the minor is proved (cf. 350-352).

Antonio Rosmini, New Essay Concerning the Origin of Ideas, Volume 2, Part III, Chapter 2. To put the argument in another format:

Major: 'Something that does not exist, acts' is a contradiction.
(1) What is conceived is conceived as a being.
(2) An action conceived without being conceived as a being acting, is not conceived as a being.
(3) Therefore, an action conceived without being conceived as a being acting is a contradiction.

Minor: A happening without a cause entails that something that does not exist, acts.
(1) A happening is an action.
(2) An action conceived without a cause is not conceived as a being that acts.
(3) Therefore, a happening conceived without a cause is not conceived as a being that acts.

The section references to 350-352 is from Rosmini's criticism of Kant in Volume 1. There Rosmini argues that 'what happens' conceptually includes the notion of 'cause', and thus the judgment is analytic and not, as Kant would have it, synthetic. As he puts it:

The following, therefore, is the sequence of our conceptions:

1. We conceive coming into existence, a concept which includes that of change.
2. The concept of change contains that of new operation.
3. The concept of new operation contains that of prior existence.
4. The concept of prior existence contains that of cause.

Conclusion: A happening without a cause is a contradiction.