Saturday, January 13, 2024

Links of Note

 * John Psmith discusses Xenophon's The Education of Cyrus, or Cyropaedia, at "Mr. and Mrs. Psmith's Bookshelf".

* Matthew Loftus, Arcs of Life, at "The New Atlantis"

* Lucien Hardy, Quantum Theory from Five Reasonable Axioms (PDF)

* Liam Kofi Bright, Race and Fantasy, at "The Sooty Empiric"

* Lucy Keer, Mermin on writing physics, at "Bucket Overflow"

* Phil Corkum, A Mereological Reading of the Dictum de Omni et Nullo (PDF)

* John Joy, Is There a Charism of Infallible Safety?, at "1 Peter 5"

* David Polansky, The Greatest Book on Nationalism Keeps Being Misread, at "Foreign Policy", on Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities

* Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton, & Christopher W. Tindale, Analogical Reasoning and Semantic Rules of Inference (PDF)

* It looks like Bishop Raphael Thattil will be the next Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

* Gavin Ashenden, What are we to make of the erotic and sensually esoteric theology of Cardinal Ferndandez?, at "Catholic Herald"

* Bishop Erik Varden, Christians are called to inaugurate a new world and rise through Christmastide, also at "Catholic Herald"

* Tuomas E. Tahko, Laws of Nature (PDF)

* Larry Chapp, Avoid moral theologies 'from below' and puncture the immanent frame, at "Catholic World Report"

Malleus Arianorum

 Today is the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church. From De Trinitate Book X:

It is manifest that there is nothing which men have ever said which is not liable to opposition. Where the will dissents the mind also dissents: under the bias of opposing judgment it joins battle, and denies the assertions to which it objects. Though every word we say be incontrovertible if gauged by the standard of truth, yet so long as men think or feel differently, the truth is always exposed to the cavils of opponents, because they attack, under the delusion of error or prejudice, the truth they misunderstand or dislike. For decisions once formed cling with excessive obstinacy: and the passion of controversy cannot be driven from the course it has taken, when the will is not subject to the reason. Enquiry after truth gives way to the search for proofs of what we wish to believe; desire is paramount over truth. Then the theories we concoct build themselves on names rather than things: the logic of truth gives place to the logic of prejudice: a logic which the will adjusts to defend its fancies, not one which stimulates the will through the understanding of truth by the reason. From these defects of partisan spirit arise all controversies between opposing theories. Then follows an obstinate battle between truth asserting itself, and prejudice defending itself: truth maintains its ground and prejudice resists. But if desire had not forestalled reason: if the understanding of the truth had moved us to desire what was true: instead of trying to set up our desires as doctrines, we should let our doctrines dictate our desires; there would be no contradiction of the truth, for every one would begin by desiring what was true, not by defending the truth of that which he desired. 

Not unmindful of this sin of wilfulness, the Apostle, writing to Timothy, after many injunctions to bear witness to the faith and to preach the word, adds, For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears will heap up teachers to themselves after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables. For when their unhallowed zeal shall drive them beyond the endurance of sound doctrine, they will heap up teachers for their lusts, that is, construct schemes of doctrine to suit their own desires, not wishing to be taught, but getting together teachers who will tell them what they wish: that the crowd of teachers whom they have ferreted out and gathered together, may satisfy them with the doctrines of their own tumultuous desires.

Friday, January 12, 2024

But Who a Day Can Trust?

 On the Death of a Beautiful Young Lady
by John Clare

 Ye meaner beauties cease your pride,
 Where borrow'd charms adorn;
 Here nature aid of art defied,
 And blossom'd all its own. 

 The rose your paint but idly feigns,
 Bloom'd nature's brightest dyes;
 The gems your wealthy pride sustains,
 Were natives of her eyes. 

 But what avails superior charms
 To boast of when in power,
 Since, subject to a thousand harms,
 They perish like a flower. 

 Alas! we've nought to boast of here,
 And less to make us proud;
 The brightest sun but rises clear
 To set behind a cloud. 

 Those charms which every heart subdue,
 Must all their powers resign;
 Those eyes, like suns, too bright to view,
 Have now forgot to shine. 

 Her beauties so untimely fell,
 What mortal would be proud?
 The day return'd, and found her well,
 But left her in her shroud. 

 To-day the blossom buds and blooms,
 But who a day can trust?
 Since the to-morrow, when it comes,
 Condemns it to the dust.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Actuality and the Actuality Operator

 There is a common, and generally overlooked, ambiguity with respect to 'actuality' in many discussions of modal metaphysics and philosophy of religion by analytic philosophers. The most common form it takes consists in talking about 'actualizing' possible worlds. Possibilities can perhaps in some sense be actualized, but possible worlds are logical objects; they are those logical objects associated with sets of truth-valued propositions. Thus they are not the kind of thing that is 'actualized' or not, but even setting that aside, the problem is that possible worlds as applied in any kind of modal metaphysics are always relative to what is already actual. In modal metaphysics, possible worlds are interepreted as 'ways the actual world can be'; thus they already describe the actual world. This is in fact their entire purpose in this context: to describe what is actual in terms of ways it can be. Actuality in this sense is presupposed by, and does not presuppose, possible worlds. 

An additional layer of confusion is created when we add to possible worlds what is often called the 'actuality operator', usually represented in notation as @. Philosophers often represent whatever they are calling 'actualization' with an actuality operator. But this sense of actuality cannot be the sense just mentioned, because this 'actuality' presupposes, and is not presupposed by, possible worlds. What the actuality operator actually does is privilege a given possible world as a reference-point possible world; it need not be interpreted as any kind of 'actuality' at all. But when we do interpret it as some kind of actuality, it has to be a 'posterior actuality', different from the 'prior actuality' that possible worlds as a whole describe, and to connect the two requires some sort of renormalization -- i.e., you are changing 'the actual world' and therefore have to reconfigure all of your possible worlds in light of the fact that you are now describing a different one. We don't, as far as I know, have any particular procedure for doing this.

Equivocation between the two would perhaps not be a serious problem, except that in modal metaphysics the whole point is to be accurate about actuality. And failing to distinguish the two can create serious problems -- e.g., if you conflate the two kinds of actuality, you often get a kind of necessitarianism in which actuality is simply identified with a single possible world (and thus a single way the actual world can be), allowing only one possibility. (This mistake is common when modal metaphysics is used to talk about God, and I've also seen it happen in discussions of free will.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

 Tell All the Truth but Tell It Slant
by Emily Dickinson 

 Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise 

 As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

The Shady Cloud

  O greatest, O Supreme Creator of things invisible! O Thou who art Thyself unseen, and who art incomprehensible! Thou art worthy, Thou art verily worthy-if only mortal tongue may speak of Thee-that all breathing and intelligent nature should never cease to feel and to return thanks; that it should throughout the whole of life fall on bended knee, and offer supplication with never-ceasing prayers. For Thou art the first cause; in Thee created things exist, and Thou art the space in which rest the foundations of all things, whatever they be. Thou art illimitable, unbegotten, immortal, enduring for aye, God Thyself alone, whom no bodily shape may represent, no outline delineate; of virtues inexpressible, of greatness indefinable; unrestricted as to locality, movement, and condition, concerning whom nothing can be clearly expressed by the significance of man's words. That Thou mayest he understood, we must be silent; and that erring conjecture may track Thee through the shady cloud, no word must be uttered. Grant pardon, O King Supreme, to those who persecute Thy servants; and in virtue of Thy benign nature, forgive those who fly from the worship of Thy name and the observance of Thy religion. It is not to be wondered at if Thou art unknown; it is a cause of greater astonishment if Thou art clearly comprehended.

Arnobius, Seven Books Against the Heathen, Book I, section 31. Arnobius of Sicca was a Christian apologist from Numidia in North Africa in the late third and early fourth century. Very little is known about him; Jerome gives us most of what we know in a single sentence (De Viris Illustribus 79):

Arnobius was a most successful teacher of rhetoric at Sicca in Africa during the reign of Diocletian, and wrote volumes Against the nations which may be found everywhere.
He also mentions that Lactantius was a student of Arnobius. It's notable that while Jerome says that Arnobius's book can "be found everywhere", it only survived in one ninth-century manuscript. The past, too, is tracked through a shady cloud.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Fortnightly Book, January 7

 Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) was born in Dublin, although mostly raised in London, and in 1938 attended Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied Greats. She would go on to become famous in both philosophy and fiction, publishing her first novel in 1954. The next fortnightly book will be her thirteenth novel, published in 1970, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

I don't know a great deal about the work, although I know it involves a character named Julius King who begins interfering in the relationships of various people, and is able to do an immense amount of damage because people will often prefer drama to honest communication. I believe the title is a reference to the Platonic idea that sometimes the only way to stop the spread of evil is to allow oneself simply to suffer defeat, to accept suffering rather than to inflict suffering on others.

Links of Note

 * Fabrizio Macagno & Douglas Walton, The Fallaciousness of Threats: Character and Ad Baculum (PDF)

* David Polansky, Machiavelli's World, at "City Journal", reviews Machiavelli's Effectual Truth by Harvey Mansfield.

* Stephen Francis Mann, The relevance of communication theory for theories of representation (PDF)

* Aidan R. Nathan, The Study of Being in Plato and Aristotle (PDF)

* Eddy Keming Chen, Does quantum theory imply the entire universe is preordained?, at "Nature"

* Kate M. Phelan and Holly Lawford-Smith, Feminist Separatism Revisited (PDF)

* Andrew Law, If Molinism is true, what can you do? (PDF)

* Alexander T. Englert, We'll meet again, at "", on Kurt Godel's thoughts on immortality of soul.

* Edward Feser, The best books on the Existence of God, at "Five Books"

* Grzegorz Gaszczyk, Interrogatives, inquiries, and exam questions (PDF)

* Taieb Hamid, Reinach on the Essence of Colours (PDF)

* Taylor Patrick O'Neill, Consent Is Not the Whole of the Law, on the concept of 'just wage'

* Ovidiu Cristinel Stoica, Does a computer think if no one is around to see it? (PDF)