Saturday, January 06, 2024


 Today is the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as the Theophany, although in the United States it will be liturgically celebrated tomorrow. The feast is historically associated with three events in the life of Christ, all concerned with revelation in one form or another: the Baptism of Christ, the Wedding at Cana, and the Visit of the Magi.


 I heard the preacher speaking
and of miracles I heard,
the wine of revelation
from the water of our words.
I heard of men and women
in humility of ways
transfigured to the glory
of the Ancient One of Days
(first river-bathed and lustral
in the waters of the earth,
then drunken, full of Spirit,
with the Wine of heaven's birth),
of wisdom-seeking sages
who had sought the Good by star
and found it with its Mother
where the Jewish peoples are,
the True in swaddled clothing --
thus their wise philosophy
was turned, like wedding-water,
to that wine, epiphany.

Friday, January 05, 2024

Dashed Off I

 Our repentance is an expression of God's love for us.

The art of Christendom is not an incidental adornment but an instrumental part of the Church as liturgical commonwealth, serving the higher ends of mystery and kerygma, but not less valuable for being so transformed.

"Beauty has an infinite amplitude, like being." Maritain

All the forms of fine art are different modes of imitating the actions, passions, and character of human persons. Thus the spectator feels the likeness in himself. For the human being is the most imitative of all animals; we imitate in thought and in deed because it is natural to us, and the realm of imitables is for us vast beyond measure, as vast as the scope of reason itself, so that we imitate not only what is or was but also what can be thought to be and what ought to be.

contrived plausibilities vs. plausible contrivances

The artist, the artisan, and the engineer make a thing and thereby make a new way of seeing and knowing the world.

Faithfulness in imitation should not be conflated with superficial copying.

The poet, the artist, the artisan, makes the world more knowable, more intelligible; he removes obstacles to knowing, gives new illumination, presents things in new ways.

necessity ad melius vs necessity ad esse

word : thing :: signification : composite of word & thing :: form : matter

Every artifact has a double genus, that of its materials and that of its art.

sacraments as intrinsically significant artifacts

The artist and the poet in a sense take the mind to be greater than the world, and represent the world insofar as it is in the mind.

fine art as the creation of cognitive media

One of the ways Scripture teaches is as a literary work, affecting our passions and our initial estimates based on the passions, by delighting, intriguing, horrifying, puzzling, confusing, and awing us so as to lead us to higher things.

the system of all signs in the universe as a sign of the divine mind

What delights in a significant work of art is the object as it is in the work itself.

the thing as object, the object as idea, the object in the work

object: dinosaur; sign: bone; interpretant: paleontological skill
-- this is the structure of all material/instrumental evidence
-- by skill the bone is understood under the description "of a dinosaur" (and perhaps many other such relativities)

"The Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son by the unity and power of the Spirit." Athenagoras

the Father as Father (principle of processions)
the Father as distinguished (ingenerate)
the Father as uniting the Trinity (monarchy)
the Son as Son
the Son as distinguished (only-begotten)
the Son as uniting the Trintiy (mediation)
the Spirit as Spirit
the Spirit as distinguished
the Spirit as unitying the Trinity (nexus)

the Creed identifies effects appropriated to each person of the Trinity (the created world, the Incarnation, the prophets)

three modes of evanglism: manifestation, distinction, ornamentation

Counterfactual theories of causation make more sense with respect to formal and material causation; they only are able to model efficient causes indirectly, insofar as it involves giving of form or disposing of matter.

Counterfactuals depend on causal powers, which both posit possibilities and provide an anchor for reasoning about different possibilities.

Beginning to exist implies nonbeing of being, and thus potential being.

"An excellent workman should proportion his action to his work; he does not accomplish by quite complex means that which he can execute by simpler ones, he does not act without an end, and never makes useless efforts." Malebranche

To be alive is either to be life itself or to be moved ultimately by life itself.

Hume uses similarity or resemblance across experiences where an analytic philosopher would talk of similarity across possible worlds; this is because empirical similarity does the work for him that possibility does for others.

Without virtue it is not easy to bear good fortune well.

It is important to understand that the purpose of apologetics is not to persuade but to answer.

With regard to possibilities, the past is as open as the future.

Sabbath as a symbol of divine love (cp. Cohen)

We do not experience the Church as a spiritual communion, although we do experience signs and witnesses of the its being so.

Logical elaborations are living developments.

For a republic to survive, citizens must be encouraged, trust among citizens must be cultivated, and the first impulse should always be to let the citizens themselves solve the problem, with the state merely assisting and keeping the peace.

Healthy markets are cooperations for general benefit.

the closed door as a horror movie trope
-- potential vulnerability in protection
-- hides as much as protects (who knows what's on the other side)
-- common experience of being startled at banging on door

original justice // infused virtues

The natural law is more like the written law insofar as the latter is related to the whole of society than insofar as it is related to individuals; we are pervaded by it, structured by it.

pedagogical fictions -- physicists are a very good source of these

"The saints must be honored as the friends of Christ, as the sons and heirs of God." Damascene

Morality is the infinite task of man, and can be exceeded.

covenant & the memory (merit) of the fathers (zekhut avot) in Judaism

Sosa: aptness vs. meta-aptness of means (apt is when it manifests competence for attaining end, meta-apt is when it manifests competence for selecting means)

The aim of belief is not truth directly but goodness relevant to truth, and the aim of opinion is practical vicinity of truth.

to learn in order to know & love that which is most to be known and loved

Suffering and death suggest the need for God.

the combination of suspending judgment with suspecting as a major element of many inquiries

Moral obligation is able to have the force it does because there is something higher than it, on which it is founded, and which it participates.

Our acknowledgment or endorsement of a rule is never the source of its authority for us; it is our registering of its authority for motivational purposes.

Human beings go through the world consecrating things to themselves.

"The human person, body and soul, has a fundamental order and finality whose integrity must be respected. Because of this order and finality, neither patients nor physicians nor researchers nor any other persons have unlimited rights over the body; they must respect the order and finality inscribed in the embodied person." USCCB 'Doctrinal Note on the Moral Limits to Technological Manipulation of the Human Body'
"The body is not an object, a mere tool at the disposal of the soul, one that each person may dispose of according to his or her own will, but it is a constitutive part of the human subject, a gift to be received, respected, and cared for as something intrinsic to the person."
"The mission of Catholic health care services is nothing less than to carry on the healing ministry of Jesus, to provide healing at every level, physical, mental, and spiritual."

Much of human intelligence in practice consists of our cooperative linguistic capacities.

We do not commemorate those on the calendar of saints because we admire them, although they are in many ways admirable. We commemorate them because they are owed for their contribution and intercession.

the Temple as the hieroglyph of providence

The forms of Church government do not derive from the synagogue, but from the structuring of the band of students around Jesus and their way of handling the complexities of evangelism. The practices of liturgy, however, do seem to take their first form from the practices of both the synagogue and the Temple.

the problem of defective causes (this is what all forms of the argument from evil reduce to)

analogies as sketches of inference

Sean Carroll on cognitive instability & C. S. Lewis's argument against naturalism

Intellectual acts are telic, but the evolution of ideas is not.

imitation-first vs infrastructure-first accounts of social movement origination

reactive link (effect E is caused in response to occasion O)
occasional link (E is caused insofar as it is to have a link with O)
preestablished harmony (O and E are caused so as to have a particular relation)
sustaining link (O's causing of E is caused)

(1) primary cause causes effect in response to subcause (subcause = provoking cause)
(2) primary cause causes effect in response to subcause so as to execuate a relation between them (subcause = occasional cause)
(3) primary cause causes subcausal effect so as to execute a relation of ordering between them (subcause = initial condition of order or as-if cause)

possible responses to skeptical arguments based on disagreement
(1) Disagreement is illusory.
(2) Disagreement is limited
--- (a) in minority
--- (b) in the margins of 
--- --- (1) larger overlap
--- --- (2) identifiable convergence
--- (c) in incidental or trivial matter
(3) Disagreement is not ground of doubt
--- (a) because alternatives are explained by biases
--- (b) because alternatives are explained by missing information
--- (c) because solution can explain alternatives as limited approaches to truth (disagreement is evidence for solution)
--- (d) because it is not relevant whether people disagree.

possible responses to skeptical arguments based on infinite regress
(1) The regress actually terminates
--- (a) by necessity
--- (b) by convergence to initial point (state)
--- (c) by direct identification of state
(2) The regress is harmless
--- (a) because trivial
--- (b) because irrelevant
(3) The regress is antiskeptical because each step actually increases the case.
(possible responses to skeptical arguments based on circularity will be similar to those based on infinite regress)

centrality of principles within a web of evident principles
(1) many links to other evident principles
(2) closely linked to other evident principles
(3) plays major role in other principles being linked to each other
(4) linked to especially central principles
(the principle of noncontradiction is the most central principle in all of these ways)

jurisdiction // ritual precinct = templum
-- pomerium is the boundary of the ritual precinct

Most of the attraction of the Copenhagen Interpretation was that it allowed people that the quantum mechanical probabilities were real but nothing but probabilities. Hidden variable / implicate order made probabilities just about the relation between our ignorance and the real (thus in a sense probabilities but not real); many worlds makes the probabilities real in a way more fundamental than being mere probabilities.

Waves of conspiracy-theory thinking are a known pathology of democratic politics; but democratic politics has no safeguards against this pathology.

priests & deacons as curators of ecclesial memory

Platonic Myths as pedagogical fictions

Deely's neologism 'suadisign' is better used for rhetorical syllogisms than syllogisms in general.

Sometimes one must simplify in order to avoid collapse.

Contemplation and worship ache to converge.

The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacramentalizing, an extension into divine mysteries, of the tribunal of conscience.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Ho On kai Ho En kai Ho Erchomenos

 Jesus Christ's unveiling, which God gave Him to show to His servants what ought to happen with speed. And He made it known, having sent through His messenger to His servant John, who testified to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, as much as he gazed at. Blessed those reading and those hearing the words of this prophecy and guarding what in it has been written, for near the season!

John, to the seven churches in Asia: Grace to you, and peace, from the Being and the Was and the To Come, and from the seven spirits in the sight of His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To the one devoted to us and loosing us from our sins through His blood (and He has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father), to Him glory and rule to the eons of eons. Amen. See, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, and those who pierced Him, and because of Him all the races of the earth will lament. Absolutely! Amen!

I am the Alpha and the Omega, source and consummation, says the Lord God, the Being and the Was and the To Come, the All-ruler.

[Revelation 1:1-8. My very, very, very rough translation. In general, one should always be wary of translations of Revelation that do not convey how weird the original language it is -- the book is famous for how utterly weird its Greek is, somehow managing to be both slangy and technical, filled with extremely ungrammatical phrases that seem to be entirely deliberate. This little opening is filled with both auditory and visual terms. Notable is that John represents himself as giving testimony to Christ's testimony, but he also literally says he stared at it. 'The Being' (Ho On) is a divine title we find elsewhere, in the Septuagint, but combining it with The Was Being (Ho En) and The Going to Be (Ho Erchomenos, literally, the Coming) is unusual.]

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Pillars of Orthodoxy

 Today is the feast of St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, Doctor of the Church, and of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Doctor of the Church.

From Basil's Homilies on the Hexaemeron (Homily IX):

The dog is not gifted with a share of reason; but with him instinct has the power of reason. The dog has learned by nature the secret of elaborate inferences, which sages of the world, after long years of study, have hardly been able to disentangle. When the dog is on the track of game, if he sees it divide in different directions, he examines these different paths, and speech alone fails him to announce his reasoning. The creature, he says, is gone here or there or in another direction. It is neither here nor there; it is therefore in the third direction. And thus, neglecting the false tracks, he discovers the true one. What more is done by those who, gravely occupied in demonstrating theories, trace lines upon the dust and reject two propositions to show that the third is the true one? 

 Does not the gratitude of the dog shame all who are ungrateful to their benefactors? Many are said to have fallen dead by their murdered masters in lonely places. Others, when a crime has just been committed, have led those who were searching for the murderers, and have caused the criminals to be brought to justice. What will those say who, not content with not loving the Master who has created them and nourished them, have for their friends men whose mouth attacks the Lord, sitting at the same table with them, and, while partaking of their food, blaspheme Him who has given it to them?

From Gregory's Funderal Oration for Basil (Oration 43):

He indeed could neither rain bread from heaven by prayer, to nourish an escaped people in the wilderness, nor supply fountains of food without cost from the depth of vessels which are filled by being emptied, and so, by an amazing return for her hospitality, support one who supported him; nor feed thousands of men with five loaves whose very fragments were a further supply for many tables.  These were the works of Moses and Elijah, and my God, from Whom they too derived their power. Perhaps also they were characteristic of their time and its circumstances: since signs are for unbelievers not for those who believe. But he did devise and execute with the same faith things which correspond to them, and tend in the same direction. For by his word and advice he opened the stores of those who possessed them, and so, according to the Scripture dealt food to the hungry, and satisfied the poor with bread, and fed them in the time of dearth, and filled the hungry souls with good things. And in what way? For this is no slight addition to his praise. He gathered together the victims of the famine with some who were but slightly recovering from it, men and women, infants, old men, every age which was in distress, and obtaining contributions of all sorts of food which can relieve famine, set before them basins of soup and such meat as was found preserved among us, on which the poor live. Then, imitating the ministry of Christ, Who, girded with a towel, did not disdain to wash the disciples' feet, using for this purpose the aid of his own servants, and also of his fellow servants, he attended to the bodies and souls of those who needed it, combining personal respect with the supply of their necessity, and so giving them a double relief.

Monday, January 01, 2024

Fortnightly Books Index 2023

The Fortnightly Book saw an extremely diverse group of books this year, although the overall tendency has perhaps been to British authors and to strange and fantastic themes. Due to a year of weird scheduling, there was also a disproportionate number of re-reads, especially toward the end of the year.

December 17: Kazuo Ishiguro, The Blind Giant
Introduction, Review

December 3: Cat Hodge, Unstable Felicity
Introduction, Review

November 19: The Protevangelium of James
Introduction, Review, Supplement

October 29: Augustine, Confessions
Introduction, Review

October 15: Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
Introduction, Review

October 1: Michael Flynn, In the Country of the Blind
Introduction, Review

September 17: James Michener, Journey
Introduction, Review

September 3: Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Introduction, Review

August 6: Sir Walter Scott, Old Mortality
Introduction, Review

July 23: Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly. Les Diaboliques
Introduction, Review

July 9: James Morier, The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan
Introduction, Review

June 25: Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil
Introduction, Review

June 11: The Book of Taliesin
Introduction, Review

May 14: Charles Dickens, Bleak House
Introduction, Review

May 7: Tarjei Vesaas, The Ice Palace
Introduction, Review

April 2: Olaf Stapledon, Odd John; Starmaker; Sirius
Introduction, Review

March 12: Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pius II), Secret Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope
Introduction, Review

February 26: The Quest of the Holy Grail
Introduction, Review

February 12: Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian
Introduction, Review

January 22: Certain Members of the Detection Club, The Floating Admiral
Introduction, Review


Fortnightly Books Index 2022

Fortnightly Books Index 2021

Fortnightly Books Index 2020

Fortnightly Books Index 2019

Fortnightly Books Index 2018

Fortnightly Books Index 2017

Fortnightly Books Index 2016

Fortnightly Books Index 2015

Fortnightly Books Index 2014

Fortnightly Books Index 2012-2013