Saturday, March 16, 2024

Sigrid Undset, Saga of Saints


Opening Passage: 

The stranger, the tourist who "does" Norway, visiting it as part of a cruise that takes him in and out of the fjords, sees a narrow strip of shore at the foot of the mighty mountains, which are green-clad near the water's edge, and higher up are gray with fallen rock, towering up into the soft blue sky which shimmers over the glistening snow fields further inland.

The rifts in the mountains open out where a river tries to thrust its way out to sea. Along the banks fo the rivers leafy forests show their brilliant green, and small farms, each surrounded by their fields and little patches of plowed land, cling to the sides of the valleys. But very small and lowly is this little strip of land which steals along close under the overpowering mountains and on which men can make their livelihood. (p. 3)

Summary: The Norwegian title for Saga of Saints, Norske Helgener, just means 'Norwegian Saints', and in some ways it's probably best to see this book in those terms, as essentially a collection of biographical sketches of various Norwegian saints. It does, however, have a more-or-less unified arc, which is that of Norway itself. In "The Coming of Christianity to Norway" we begin with the earliest human habitation and the development of a pagan society, into which the earliest Christian missionaries come. The missionaries mostly get no traction, but it's a period in which the various chieftainships of Norway are coming into much broader contact with the world; missionaries keep trickling in, and, perhaps more importantly, the noble classes, who are much more likely to have connections abroad, occasionally convert when living abroad, and come back to start building an infrastructure of support. The key figure in this very limited radication of the Church is King Haakon the Good, a chieftain who had been fostered by Aethelstan, attempts to live as a Christian king among his pagan people, and while it's an uneasy situation in which both Christian king and pagan people have to make compromises they don't like, a lot of people find that they actually like their king, who is one of the best kings they've ever had. The interaction between pagan and Christian see-saws back and forth until King Olav Tryggveson manages to unify a significant number of chieftainship into an officially Christian principality, where Christian baptism provides the thread of unity among these many diverse warring clans and tribes. Christianity, unification as a people, and monarchy begin to intertwine, and they will shape the course of Norway for the next millenium.

This is effectively an idea that Undset is pulling from Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, which makes essentially the same point. But the Heimskringla follows the monarchy thread, and the arc of this collection follows the thread of Christian sainthood. We get a short look at Saint Sunniva, who in a way is our representative of the semi-legendary period of Christianity in Norway, where Christianity is slowly making gains but in ways that are difficult to see historically. St. Sunniva (or Sunnifa) was an Irish princess who fled a Viking invasion with a band of others and ended up on the Norwegian island of Selje, which was mostly used by coastal farmers for safe pasturing of cattle. Landing on Selje was unfortunate, because the locals assumed that they were there for a cattle raid. The people with Sunniva hid in fear in a mountain cave and prayed not to fall into the hands of the heathen. Their prayer was answered: the roof of the cave fell in and they all died. Olav Tryggveson becomes aware of it and sails to the island, where he and others find the body of St. Sunniva, incorrupt, and he builds a church dedicated to her. How much of it is true? We may not ever know; but Undset herself certainly thinks there is at least something to it, and thinks that dismissals of it are, as we would say, elitist dismissals of the people, whose traditions are often not set to paper until long afterward and yet nonetheless, in their rough and loose and stylized and sometimes floridly adorned way, often carry a closer connection to the actual saints. The Christianization of Norway is structured around the kings, yes, but it was also a unification of a people, and to be such there had to be a movement flowing down among the people, whose traces are found only in legends and traditional practices.

 Norway becomes Christian ultimately through St. Olav Haraldsson, who becomes the Perpetual King of Norway (the King of Norway to All Eternity, as it is given here), consolidating the land through his Christian kingship and even more through the devotion to him that develops after his death. After the tale of St. Olav, the next several sketches cover the period of this consolidation. St. Hallvard was a young man who stood up to protect a woman accused of theft; he failed, and was murdered along with her. He was remembered by the local Christian population and eventually at the altars, and became the patron saint of the diocese of Oslo -- one more step in binding the people of Norway together. We then get a more famous saint, St. Magnus, Earl of the Orkney Islands, which in those days were a territory under the kings of Norway, and see the cultural confrontation of pagan ethos and Christian ethos, which leads again to the death of the saint, but also thereby the triumph of the saint. In the tale of St. Eystein, Archbishop of Nidaros, on the other hand, we see the development of the Church in Norway as a political force, and its full organization into the Church of Norway, and in both that tale and the next, that of St. Thorfinn of Hamar, proliferating connections with the rest of the Church.

And then comes the break. In the 14th century, a union begins to develop between Norway and Denmark, and while technically Norway is self-governing, in reality it has the worst of the deal, and goes into a period of deterioration. This will culminate in 1537 when Christian III of Denmark conspires with the Danish commanders of the various coastal fortresses and seizes control of the country. In the course of doing so, he imposes Lutheranism as the official religion. This did not turn Norway Lutheran overnight; it was still a very diverse nation with a large rural population who mostly kept on as they had been. Norway Lutheranized less from any major conversion of the people and more from the slow drying-up of the pool of available priests. Slowly, though, it happened, and Catholicism in Norway again enters a period as obscure as its semi-legendary days. There were still scattered Catholics; they mostly kept quiet and only came into view by accident, and often left the country when discovered, never to be heard of again. And thus we come to the last tale, that of Father Karl Schilling, who was a young painter studying in Dusseldorf who, after having accidentally committed a faux pas during a Eucharistic procession, decided to learn more about the Catholic faith of the family with whom he was staying, and converted, becoming a Barnabite priest. I though it was interesting how Undset depicts his own family's handling of the news of his steady Catholicization -- horrified, but not in any way vicious or malicious about it, trying to be supportive while nonetheless very worried, as a good Lutheran family of the day certainly would have been. After all, being a Catholic priest essentially meant that he could never go home again, and he spent most of the rest of his life in France and Belgium. Undset covers him because of the cause of canonization that was established for him, and was going on at that time, making him the first post-Reformation Norwegian priest to be considered for canonization. (It is still proceeding; he is now Venerable Karl Schilling.) 

And of course, this is the point. One of Undset's concerns is to show that the Catholic Church and Norway are not alien to each other. Catholic kings and saints formed Norway as a nation.While the Lutherans were right that there were many pagan traditions still floating around among the people, the reason for that was that it was the Catholics who converted the pagans to Christ in a long, ongoing process. Lutheranism was not an original development, like the old paganism, nor was it an organic diffusion and development, like medieval Catholicism; it was literally imposed by the Danes. This is not so much a criticism of Lutheranism itself as part of an ongoing argument through all of these tales that Lutheranism was a break in the history of Norway, and that Catholicism is not, in fact, foreign to Norwegian life but essential to its integrity. Whatever one may make of that argument, the point is that the often intense anti-Catholic prejudices of Norwegians in Undset's day are not set in stone. In people like Ven. Karl Schilling, one sees what might well be the first sign of a thaw. Catholicism might yet bloom again in the land. And, after all, St. Olav is still, and always shall be, the Perpetual King of Norway.

Favorite Passage: An interesting story about an event a century after Norway had become Lutheran:

In 1637, a Norwegian-born Catholic priest came secretly to Larvik. In his correspondence with the College of Propaganda, he called himself Johan Martin Rhugius. He had been sent up in response to the request of a Norwegian nobleman to be received back into the Church. The wording "received back" makes it apparent that he had been a Catholic before. There were some isolated Catholics in Norway, especially in the coastal districts -- many of the men were able to receive the Sacraments when they went abroad or on journeys. That priests had secretly visited the country and administered the Sacraments seems very probable, since in a small town like Larvik Rhugius found a congregation of twelve. He also regularly visited Catholics who were spread abroad in the land. He received quite a number of converts into the Church, and among the farmers he found not a few who adhered to the old Faith. Many of these were "so innocent" that they did not even know that a religious revolution had taken place. They certainly realized that much they had treasured in the old days had disappeared, but they believed that these were alterations which the Pope had ordered "all over the world." (p. 237)

Recommendation: Recommended. It's a good way to learn about Norwegian saints and history, and makes a fairly good pairing with the Heimskringla. While the original title had nothing about a saga, the connections with the Heimskringla do make Saga of Saints a very good title for the work.


Sigrid of Undset, Saga of Saints, E. C. Ramsden, tr., Cluny Media (Providence, RI: 2022).

Bonaventure for Lent XXVIII

 ...the gifts of the Holy Spirit are seven in number for the sake of helping us suffer in the same spirit as Christ. In accepting his passion, Christ was moved to endure his sufferings by the will of the Father, by the needs of humanity, and by the strength fo his own virtue. He was moved by the will of the Father, which he knew through understanding, loved through wisdom, and reverenced through fear. He was moved by our needs, which he was led to understand through knowledge and for which he was led to show compassion through piety. Not least of all, he was moved by the strength of his own virtue, which counsel made capable of farsighted choice, and fortitude, of vigorous achievement. And so the gifts are properly seven.

[Bonaventure, Breviloquium (5.5.6), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005) p. 189. I've highlighted the names of the seven gifts.]

Friday, March 15, 2024

Dashed Off VI

 This completes the notebook finished in April 2023.


A significant difficulty with mechanization, from a practical point of view, is that you are often replacing a multi-function person with a single-function machine.

axiology : natural-historical classification :: aesthetics & ethics : botany & zoology

Axiological structures are quite distinct from deontic structures.

Intrinsic value is not aseity.

"Human activity is cultural activity. Man's task is to create and develop culture, to obtain permanent cultural values, thus producing a new abundance of forms which shall be as a second creation, in juxtaposition to divine creation." Josef Kohler
"The chief error in Kant's philosophy lies in this, that the difference between subject and object is exaggerated until it becomes monstrous."
"The totality of humanity's achievements is called culture, and in this culture, it is the part of the law to promote and to vitalize, to create order and system, on the one hand; and, on the other, to uphold and further intellectual progress."
"To the right corresponds the claim, that is, the power to call upon another to perform something."

'intellectual property' vs. 'rights in immaterial things'

While inheritance is often in practice connected with death, nothing in the concept itself requires that it always be.

"The State is a community organized into a personality which, by virtue of its own law, takes upon itself the task of promoting culture and opposing non-culture; and it aims at performing this task not only in certain respects, but in all the directions of human endeavor and development." Kohler
--> This is certainly how modern states are structured, but the second clause in fact and on close examination contradicts the first, the totalitarian conception being inconsistent with the promotion of culture. The state is not the realization of the rational idea, and must always be asked its warrant. The earlier 'legal' conception of the state, despite its limitations, was closer to true than the totalitarian 'culture' state, and much more coherent. What you actually get in this totalitarian state is the use of culture as an excuse for destroying the rights of others and devouring other institutions, even when those rights and institutions play a key role in actual culture. In a proper conception fo the state, the state serves the insight of the citizens, and not vice versa; it is the citizens who promote culture all directions, and the state is a means to reduce friction in doing so.

"the twofold basic lawfulness -- causality and motivation -- operating together within one sentient subject with a sensuous-mental essence" (Edith Stein)
"The real causality of the sensate manifests itself in the phenomenal causality of the experiential sphere."

You can't learn anything by being timid about it.

Expansion of the possibility of doing precedes the actual doing.

hero protagonists vs MacGuffin protagonists

public sector unions as part of checks & balances

"Every human being who comes to share in some virtue by firm habit, certainly participates in God, who is the substance of all virtues." Maximus Confessor

practical sign in mode of proposal, in mode of guideline, in mode of standing rule

Why was the entropy low at Big Bang? (possible structures of answer)
-- (1) It had to be.
-- -- -- (a) lottery in infinite (inevitable chance)
-- -- -- (b) causal intitiation
-- -- -- (c) recurrence
-- (2) It happened to be.
-- -- -- (a) lottery in finite
-- -- -- (b) causal possiblization (nondeterministic cause)
-- (3) It wasn't.
-- -- -- (a) at all: no Big Bang
-- -- -- (b) distinctively: relativity of entropy

Why do we observe such-and-such? vs. Why does such-and-such exist to be observed?
How can this happen given such a causal setup? vs. How does this happen at all? (How is there any causal setup such that this can happen?)

the change of one change into another kind of change

field : space :: measurement-history : time

statistics as inference from exemplate population (of measurements) to exemplar population (of measured things)

beam-splitting experiment as physical representation of alternative possibilities

"Unperformed experiments have no results." Asher Peres

All phenomena are signifiable phenomena.

Paths are relative to beginnings and endings.

The human being by nature propels itself into what it does not yet understand.

By cooperating, human beings do things that would be literally miraculous for a human being alone.

laxism, tutiorism, probabilism, and probabiliorism in exegesis and interpretation of texts

Every proposition picks out a set of possible causes of truth for that proposition.

We are connected to our fellow human beings not merely intellectually but also by human tradition.

tradition as a dispositive cause of human powers

What the Gnostics got somewhat right about Christian truth was the vastness of it; but the light poured down and their jars for holding it broke.

The world will never not be hazardous to the Church, until Kingdom come.

To say that evidence is intrinsically inference-guiding is to say that the reasons it gives for inferring or not inferring soemthing is independent of the inferrer's desires or purposes. Evidence as a to-be-considered-ness to it; the universe takes sides in a matter of inference; evidence is as real as trees and as practical as advice. Intelligent and well-meaning people often disagree about what the evidence is; but this is not subjective. Truths about evidence itself are never necessary for the best explanation of a non-evidential fact, but the best explanation of something itself evidential; some evidential claims do not need to be inferred but are evident from experience. In all of these ways, evidence is like moral quality on precisely the points on which some have argued for skepticism or error theory about the latter.

Since we can and do make at least some moral rules, "There are moral rules" is obviously true.

"The Church is loved for the sake of our neighbor, but God for the sake of God." Augustine

Note that Irenaeus says (1.3) that Sophia corresponded to Judas Iscariot in the Apostle/Duodecad parallel of the Valentinians.

Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses
the Valentinians "disregard the order and connection of the Scriptures" (Adversus Haereses 1.8) -- thi sis the step of argument in 1.1-9
1.10-31 is an argment contrasting the unity of the doctrine of the Church with the disunity of the Valentinians.
Bk 2 is then concerned with direct refutation by arguing there is but one God who created the world (2.1-11) and by arguing that the Valentinian scheme is incoherent and confused (2.12-35). Bk 3 argues against them on the basis of Scripture as intepreted by the united tradition of the Church, as to Christ; Bk 4 continues this as to the Father; Bk 5 continues this as to resurrection and immortality.

Philosophy is not about asking questions but finding answers; it is just that the philosopher knows that in reasoning answers create new questions.

Hank's mistake in A Connecticut Yankee is thinking that institutions are mere vestments on the substance that is the people; this leads him to underestimate the extent to which those institutions express the people, and to think he is working with an infinitely malleable material. (Twain also plays up ways in which Hank does not see that his own culture has similarities to the Arthurian one, most chillingly represented by the modern-style war that results.) Despite Hank's democratic values, his attitude to most of the people is always paternalistic; he is always The Boss.

Apocalyptic visions do not have singular interpretations but open a region of possible interpretations. The tendency of academics to impose 'the' interpretation on allegedly scholarly grounds is a sure sign of the attempt to peddle wares. It is of course a different matter when communities appropriate them on the basis of their shared presuppositions; this is in a sense what apocalyptic works are 'for'. But scholars swooping in and pretending to pronounce clearly have no respect for deliberately polysemic and occulted texts.

In the Gospels, the Pharisees and scribes are usually right about principles but wrong about application to Christ, while the disciples are usually right about application to Christ but misunderstand the principles involved.

"Cognizers are elevated above noncognizers in this way, that they can receive into themselves that which is of another as it is of the other, or insofar as it remains distinct in the other, so that they are not only what they are in themselves, but they can become other than themselves." John of St. Thomas

"Scientia in nobis est sigillatio rerum in animabus nostris." Aquinas DV 2.1 ad 6

impressed species as vice obiecti
-- We know we have species in general because we dream the likenesses of things we experience. They are formations of our cognitive power, but similitudes of their objects, being relative to the thing and presenting it after a particular manner, which is why we call them 'likenesses' or 'similitudes'. They are not wholly separate copies but presentations in an aspect. "In the species itself, the representation formally contains intelligibly and intentionally the immediate object itself of which it is the species" (John of St. Thomas, CP Phil Nat 4q11a2). The impressed species does not just happen to be like the thing; it is the formal similitude of the thing itself, by its nature a formal agreement with its form, the very quiddity itself insofar as it is transferred representatively to the mind.

instrumental cause : efficient cause :: objective cause : formal/exemplar cause

The impressed species represents the object intentionally, which is formal causation, but is also a concurrent efficient cause, with the cognitive faculty, in eliciting particular cognitions; this however does not belong to the object as object or the species as species but to the presence activating the cognitive power. This concurrence of presence is not by parts but a union; the cognitive act proceeds from faculty and species as one act of them both.

The external senses do not form a copy of what is sensed, but are invovled in a process and activity whose term is the thing sensed, which moves the senses to be related to it. Thus we do not experience copies but the things themselves.

express species = phantasm = how the internal senses take the object as sensed (e.g., memoratively, imaginatively, extimatively, etc.)
The impressed species is the present principle of which the expressed species is the term; this expressed species then represents in absence the object of the impressed species.

"The object of every sensitive power is a form as existing corporeal matter." Aquinas

A means is something that borrows its finality from another.

Phantasms are illuminated by the intelelct to make them handy for abstraction; this illumination is a rendering of the phantasms as instruments for the intellect's formation of the impressed intelligible species. The phantasm, however, is an objective, not an effective, instrument in this process -- more like a book than a hammer -- and it is not itself made the intelligible species but given an incipient power towards intelligibility, as a book has when one takes it up to read. This makes the phantasm suitable for abstraction, which gives the intelligible species.

We think on behalf of the world.

expressed intelligible speces = intention intellecta = concept = formal sign of object = mental word
(these equalities are extensive rather than intensive -- these are different functionalities of the same thing)
The impressed intelligible species is the principle of which the concept is the term. The word proceeds from the intellect insofar as it has the impressed intelligible species.

The concept makes the object intellectually present by formal sign, is the object as actually understood, and is that which we manifest by further signs like written and spoken words.

The concept has the nature of the thing understood insofar as it intelligibly contains it.

Sacraments contain objectively and cause instrumentally.

The internal word is both the efficient and the final cause of the external word; it is simultaneously the sign of the formal concept and the sign of the objective concept.

Our understanding is called conception insofar as we are considering 'formal concept' and apprehension insofar as we are considering 'objective concept'.

We do not have a direct way to assess our understanding of something. Therefore we do it indirectly by
(1) evidence that it is true to the thing understood
(2) consistency with general principles
(3) consilience & the power to incorporate other insights
(4) internal coherence
(5) confirmation by newer insights
(6) consistency with experience
(7) reslience in practical use

The will can in some sense and to some extent redirect our vigor from one thing to another, as when we rouse ourselves to do something.

We often use 'everywhere' and 'always' as symbols of necessity.

"The perception holds an object before itself, in incarnate self-presence; but the memory or the daydream merely represents its object." Stein

The principles of association to which Hume appels are best suited to recollective memory (cf. Aristotle, Coleridge), and one could indeed interpret the entire system of Treatise Book One as an exploration of how things show up in recollection, which is confused for the whole of the mind.

conservation laws as quantitative specifications of a more general natural coherence

'accompaniment' as a new form of penitential practice

priestly life as structured by the sacrament of Order and the office of Mission (the latter of which includes jurisdiction)

upholding the honor of the human species as a species

"Every fully constituted object is simultaneously a value-object." Edith Stein
"We find communities 'out there in life.' But we find them *within* us as well, for we live as their members."
"Just as the requisite conditions for geometry as exact theory are not sufficient for its determination, and allow room for different possible 'geometries', so too the conditions for the possibility of an exact psychology allow some latitude for the particular qualities of the psyche, its components and connnections." 

Bradshaw's interpretation of Aquinas errs by taking res to mean 'reality' in an ordinary sense.

Names are generally used as part of a network of other names.

The entire universe is taken in as part of human society and thus has roles and sets of functions within human society.

The sign presents itself, a relation, and an object, the object by way of the relation by way of itself.

When we are integrated into a system of highly valued values, our interests are given focus and that seems to free up energy to act; this is especially the case when we have a sense of being supporte din according to those values.

'Spacetime points' cannot be identified nominalistically.

ambient signs, intuited signs, evidential signs

In practice, nominalism is always realism at slightly farther remove.

Much of evidential work involves looking at the 'range of signifiability' for particular pieces of evidence and seeing how the ranges overlap. But actually drawing a conclusion often requires a holistic jump, a leap to a synoptic view.

The feelings of solidarity that Christians often feel with respect to hearing the public reading of Scripture or participating in the Eucharist are important forms of consolation, refreshment, and encouragement, but it is important to recognize that such feelings are mere signs of the actual solidarity, which is much greater.

Communicative signs have peculiarities arising from being both signs and means.

food & fuel as 'para-material causes'
signs as para-material causes of learning

Final causation enters directly into the semiotic situation by way of the interpretant.

object : extrinsic formal causation :: representation : intrinsic formal in itself, extrinsic formal relative to interpretant :: interpretant : final causation

People often confuse human rights and substantive opportunities; the former are (among other things) preconditions for *construction of the frameworks* for the latter.

All animals are very often wrong in inductions.

our presential self-knowledge as question-raising

A model is a system of signs that is used as a tool for reasoning about something other than itself.

The framing effects often associated with metaphors are available for literal discourse as well, even if harder deliberately to access.

One of the difficulties faced by the Renaissance reforms was confusion over the appropriate authority for organizing it. A second was failure to find feasible means adequate to the ends of reform.

composite-or-noncomposite as disjunctive transcendental
-- noncomposite has priority due to
(1) avoiding infinite regress
(2) Scotus's rule
(3) While relative priority is consistent with composite, proirity simply speaking is only consistent with noncomposite, because composite presupposes composition.
(4) coherence with practices of explanation
(5) composition as mark of contingency

Law of Nature formulation of categorical imperative : duty :: End in Itself : dignity :: Kingdom of Ends : autonomy

reconciliation a re-initiation rite
contrition : separation :: confession : transition :: satisfaction : incorporation

sophistical syllogisms syllogized on the basis of seemingly probable premises vs. sophistical syllogisms seemingly syllogized on the basis of probable premises

"Just as some proposition is necessary, another impossible, another possible, and still another contingent, so some proposition is true, another false, another known, another unknown, another spoken, another written, another conceived, another believed, another opined, another doubted, and so on." William of Ockham

"God indeed made David king, as he had promised, but by means of the consent of the people." Bellarmine

The divine hiddennes argument presupposes that the evidence for theism is weak. (This is quite explicit in Schellenberg's Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason; it's part of how he originally motivates the argument.) -- It is a form of argument based on the idea that weakness of evidence can be evidence against.

"Any sentient property can be a bearer of value: sensory susceptibility, memory, understanding, as well as responsiveness to moral value." Stein

volunary associations as important to societies in which individuals are not treated as mere means

All human relationships are shifting hierarchies, some more shifting than others.

The human person projects the structure of personhood in various ways on the rule, including on the groups to which he belongs. Thus in various ways the person serves as the model for groups of persons.

(1) Scripture structures our life in a sacred way.
(2) Theological reflection is usually of Scripture insofar as it does so.

William of Shyreswood holds that res permanens incipit is per positionem presentis, removing the existence in the past, while desinit is per remotionem presentis, positing existing in the past; for res successiva, incipit is per remotionem presentis, positing future existence, and desinit is per positionem presentis, removing future existence. Okham criticizes this and tries to replace it with a unified theory based on the mode for the intrinsic boundary.

minimum : maximum :: incipit : desinit

'Cutting edge' research deals more with possibilities than definites.

boundary -- limit (adds directionality) -- maximum and minimum (adds relationality) -- desinity and incipit (adds relation of relationality)

Many of our moral practices are concerned with 'unprivating' and thus undoing or at least minimizing evils.

Parental rights arise from the needs and rights of the child; the only question is who is to exercise them.

Presence is a more fundamental idea than location, which requires relation to boundaries.

God is present *as such*, in a way on which location depends, rather than in a localized way.

All things that are capable of being premissible are permissible to God; all things that are capable fo being possible are possible to God.

God is eternal (as regards presence itself), atemporal (as regards to how this presence itself is related to clock measurement), and omnitemporal (as regards how temporal things are related to this presence itself).

The New Testament has two themes, Jesus and the Church. This is built into, and explicit in, its very structure.

The status of our knowledge varies according to our and its relation to God as truth.

the counterserpentine principle in political philosophy: rejection of tendencies structured as 'You will be like God'.

Phenomenological descriptions are organizations of metaphors.

What is or is not oppressive can only be determined with respect to an account of good character.

Every doctrine of divine revelation is under a sort of pressure to take the revelation itself, or some core of it, to be eternal and in some way itself quasi-divine. For divine revelation itself in some sense is both God Himself and not God Himself.

Human beings unite with other human beings by signs; signs are our adhesive. As atoms give and take electrons, we give and take signs, and by that means bond.

Genuine military innovations largely arise out of the ingenuity of making a virtue of necessity.

Human beings act even in ordinary situations in ways that show their sacral potential, their capacity for the sacred.

A relation can be realized as long as one of its terms is real.

three aspects of order: priority & posteriority, distinction, ordering notion (e.g., place, dignity origin).

"order is always said by comparison to some principle" Aquinas (ST 1.42.3)

"All the divine attributes are principles of production in the efficient exemplar mode, as all goods imitate goodness and all beings essence, and so for others." Aquinas (1 Sent 1.10.15 ad4)

Bonaventure for Lent XXVII

 ...our mind is not conformed to the blessed Trinity except through the uprightness of our free choice, and this occurs only through the strength of virtue, the splendor of truth, and the fervor of love. For the strength of virtue cleanses, strengthens, and elevates the soul; the splendor of truth enlightens and reforms it, conforming it to God; and the fervor of love perfects and vivifies it and unites it with God. When all this is accomplished, a person is made pleasing and acceptable to God.

[Bonaventure, Breviloquium (5.1.6), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005) p. 172.]

Thursday, March 14, 2024

I Must Down to the Seas Again

by John Masefield 

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking. 

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. 

I must down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Bonaventure for Lent XXVI

 The eager desire for discipline gives birth to love. Hence the proper attention to discipline is love. For if you love discipline, you love virtue in yourself and in others and in its very Source. Discipline, however, does not have to be servile: it may be free, so that it loves the one who imposes it, and acts out of love, not out of fear. 

[St. Bonaventure, Collations on the Six Days (2.4), in The Works of Bonaventure: Cardinal, Seraphic Doctor, and Saint, Volume 5, De Vinck, tr., St. Anthony Guild Press (Paterson, NJ: 1960) p. 17.]

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Bonaventure for Lent XXV

 It is in Christ's merit, then, that all of our merits are rooted, both those that satisfy punishment or those that merit eternal life. For we are unworthy to be absolved from any offense against the supreme Good, nor do we deserve to be rewarded with the immensity of the eternal reward that is God's own self, except through the merit of the God-man. Of him we can and should say, Lord, all we have done, you have done for us. And he indeed is the Lord of whom the prophet spoke: I say to the Lord, "You are my God, for you have no need of my goods."

[Bonaventure, Breviloquium (4.7.7), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005), p. 156.]

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

"Let's See You Do Better!"

 Patrick Todd, Let's See You Do Better: An Essay on the Standing to Criticize, argues for the 'be better norm of criticism', which he formulates as follows:

One must: criticize x with respect to standard s only if one is better than x with respect to standard s.

Part of his attempt to motivate this is based on "Let's see you do better" cases, i.e., cases in which people respond to criticism by saying "Let's see you do better!" The whole argument is quite interesting. However, the 'be better norm' is, I think, obviously absurd and untenable, since it would require people not to criticize in cases in which we have good independent reason to think that people have a moral responsibility to criticize. For instance, you don't actually have to be better at politics than someone to criticize their political abuses, and any attempt to suggest the 'be better' norm in such cases would (I say) miss the point of such criticisms and, more importantly, the moral obligations that sometimes require that we make such criticisms.

It is true that people often try to evade criticism by pointing to hypocrisies and failings in their critics, but this cannot be regarded as good and rational behavior; it is often flailing and only really works to the extent that it appears to suggest that the criticism is a lying criticism. But the problem with a hypocrite pointing out your moral failings, if they really are moral failings, is not the criticism but the failure to apply it to themselves, as well.

In "Let's see you do better" cases, I don't think it's reasonable to see these as implying anything like the 'be better norm'; rather, the point is usually that the criticism fails to do justice to the difficulty of the task. In general, in fact, to a certain extent, "Let's see you do better!" acknowledges the criticism as to content; you don't say it if you can just point out that the critic is wrong. You do say it when you think the critic is underestimating the difficulty or complexity of the task being criticized, because difficulty and complexity are things that everyone thinks should be taken into account in evaluation. It's not the criticism but the glibness of it that "Let's see you do better!" highlights. This is the real reason for one of the features that Todd discusses, the fact that you can give the response on behalf of someone else.

I've sometimes commented on something like this with regard to 'mediocre' poets. Some people like to criticize poets like Alfred Austin as 'mediocre'. Austin is arguably not mediocre at all, and just labors under the difficulty of having been Poet Laureate immediately after Wordsworth and Tennyson, but even if he were, it's absurd to treat this as a serious criticism. The reason people make such criticisms is that they generally do not grasp the difficulty of poetry. To be even a mediocre poet is an extraordinary achievement; very few people make it so far, and a mediocre poet is going to achieve some very good work even if not consistently or with noticeable weaknesses. Thus if someone is being dismissed for being a 'mediocre poet', it's entirely reasonable to say to such a person, "Let's see you do better!" Underestimating the difficulty of the task being criticized is a common problem, in fact, in literary and artistic criticism, and it leads to distortions of judgment. Since literature and art are matters of skill, difficulty matters an immense amount in any reasonable assessment. Dante's Inferno is occasionally marred by pettiness and obscurity; this is definitely true, but let's see you do better.

When this is taken into account, I think it's clear that there's really no such thing as a standing of criticism, except in the metaphorical sense that if you criticize you should know what you are talking about; while it sometimes gets used loosely, 'standing' is really only relevant in matters dealing with harm, and honest and reasonable criticism is never a harm even when wrong.

Bonaventure for Lent XXIV

 Now we come to Christ either through faith or the sacrament of faith. Since faith in Christ is the same in past, present, and future, it follows that Christ's influencing power must reach all people -- those who went before him, those who were his contemporaries, and those who were yet to come; all who believe in him and who are reborn in him; all who are bound to him in faith and who, through an inpouring of grace become members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit, and thus children of God the Father, joined to one another by the unbreakable bond of love. Just as distance does not divide us, so we are not separated by the passing of time. Thus all the just, wherever they might be, whenever they might live, constitute one mystical body of Christ, receiving sense and motion from the one head that influences them, through the fontal, radical, and original fullness of all grace that dwells in Christ the fountainhead.

[Bonaventure, Breviloquium (4.5.6), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005) p. 149.]

Monday, March 11, 2024

Not Where I Breathe, but Where I Love, I Live

 I Dye Alive
by St. Robert Southwell

O life! what letts thee from a quicke decease?
 O death! what drawes thee from a present praye?
 My feast is done, my soule would be at ease,
 My grace is saide; O death! come take awaye. 

 I live, but such a life as ever dyes;
 I dye, but such a death as never endes;
My death to end my dying life denyes,
 And life my living death no whitt amends. 

 Thus still I dye, yet still I do revive;
 My living death by dying life is fedd;
Grace more then nature kepes my hart alive,
 Whose idle hopes and vayne desires are deade. 

 Not where I breath, but where I love, I live;
 Not where I love, but where I am, I dye;
 The life I wish, must future glory give,
 The deaths I feele in present daungers lye.

Bonaventure for Lent XXIII

 For the method of reasoning or inquiring is good for promoting faith. And it does so in three ways directed to three types of humans: some are adversaries of the faith; others are weak in their faith; while the faith of others is complete. 

 In the first place, the method of inquiry works to confound the adversaries of the faith. Consequently, Augustine says in On the Trinity: “Against loquacious quibblers, whose self-esteem outstrips their abilities, make use of Catholic arguments and like arguments that are suitable, in order to defend and assert the faith.” 

In the second place, the method of inquiry works to strengthen those who are weak in their faith. Just as God strengthens charity in the weak through temporal benefits, so he strengthens the faith of the weak through arguments using proof: for if the weak were to see that there are no arguments using proof for the faith, but that opposing arguments abound, none of them would persist in the faith.

 In the third place, the method of inquiry works to bring delight to those whose faith is complete. For in a wonderful way the soul delights in understanding what it already believes with complete faith. Consequently, Bernard says: “There is nothing we understand with more pleasure than what we already believe through faith.”

[Bonaventure, Commentary on the Sentences: Philosophy of God (Topic 1: Book 1, Prologue, Question 2), Houser and Noone, trs., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2013).]

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Links of Note

 * Helen De Cruz, Curtain tune for academic philosophy, at "Wondering Freely"

* Andrew Chignell, Kant, Modality, and the Most Real Being (PDF)

* Michael Strand, Why We Don't Believe in Free Will, at "Front Porch Republic"

* José David García Cruz, A Modal Logic to Reason about Analogical Proportion (PDF)

* Kieran Setiya, Josiah Carberry Day, at "Under the Net"

* Gary Hatfield, The history of philosophy as philosophy (PDF)

* Andrew Klavan, Words, Words, Words, at "The New Jerusalem"

* Sebastian Gäb, Mystical Ineffability (PDF)

* Paul Krause, The Augustinian Imperative: Saint Augustine and the Discovery of the Self, at "Discourses on Minerva"

* Joel Katzav, Revisiting Grace de Laguna's critiques of analytic philosophy and of pragmatism (PDF)

* Jamie Boulding, Intellectual Friendship: Why It Matters, at "Public Discourse"

* Maité Cruz, Shepherd's Case for the Demonstrability of Causal Principles.  This is interesting, although I'm skeptical of the idea that Shepherd herself takes substance-accident metaphysics to be a central concern. But I also don't think Fantl's objection a serious problem for Shepherd (it's based on an assumption about beginning to exist, that it is entirely in terms of existence and nonexistence at times, which I think Shepherd would regard as obviously absurd and, even if not, irrelevant to the cases she is explicitly considering, and I think she would be correct if she did so regard it), so I don't think it makes sense to take response to it as central to interpretation of her argument. Nonetheless I think the substance-accident approach is a viable one in itself and that Shepherd perhaps could have taken it.

* Troy Wellington Smith, From Enthusiasm to Irony: Kierkegaard's Reception of Norse Mythology and Literature (PDF) 

* Helen Rauner, Dust to Dust, on W. H. Auden, at "Commonweal"

* Eric Solis, Curable and Incurable Vice in Aristotle (PDF)

* Laura K. Field, Liberal morality needs liberal mythology, at "hypertext"