Friday, March 29, 2024

Good Friday

 Good Friday
by John Keble

Is it not strange, the darkest hour
 That ever dawned on sinful earth
 Should touch the heart with softer power
 For comfort than an angel's mirth?
That to the Cross the mourner's eye should turn
Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn? 

 Sooner than where the Easter sun
 Shines glorious on yon open grave,
 And to and fro the tidings run, 
 "Who died to heal, is risen to save?"
Sooner than where upon the Saviour's friends
The very Comforter in light and love descends?

 Yet so it is: for duly there
 The bitter herbs of earth are set,
 Till tempered by the Saviour's prayer,
 And with the Saviour's life-blood wet,
They turn to sweetness, and drop holy balm,
Soft as imprisoned martyr's deathbed calm. 

 All turn to sweet—but most of all
 That bitterest to the lip of pride,
 When hopes presumptuous fade and fall,
 Or Friendship scorns us, duly tried,
Or Love, the flower that closes up for fear
When rude and selfish spirits breathe too near. 

 Then like a long-forgotten strain
 Comes sweeping o'er the heart forlorn
 What sunshine hours had taught in vain
 Of JESUS suffering shame and scorn,
As in all lowly hearts he suffers still,
While we triumphant ride and have the world at will. 

 His pierced hands in vain would hide
 His face from rude reproachful gaze,
 His ears are open to abide
 The wildest storm the tongue can raise,
He who with one rough word, some early day,
Their idol world and them shall sweep for aye away. 

 But we by Fancy may assuage
 The festering sore by Fancy made,
 Down in some lonely hermitage
 Like wounded pilgrims safely laid,
Where gentlest breezes whisper souls distressed,
That Love yet lives, and Patience shall find rest. 

 O! shame beyond the bitterest thought
 That evil spirit ever framed,
 That sinners know what Jesus wrought,
 Yet feel their haughty hearts untamed --
That souls in refuge, holding by the Cross,
Should wince and fret at this world's little loss. 

 Lord of my heart, by Thy last cry,
 Let not Thy blood on earth be spent --
   Lo, at Thy feet I fainting lie,
 Mine eyes upon Thy wounds are bent,
Upon Thy streaming wounds my weary eyes
Wait like the parched earth on April skies. 

 Wash me, and dry these bitter tears,
 O let my heart no further roam,
 'Tis Thine by vows, and hopes, and fears.
 Long since -- O call Thy wanderer home;
To that dear home, safe in Thy wounded side,
Where only broken hearts their sin and shame may hide.

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, "The Lord's Prayer".

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Bonaventure for Lent XXXVIII

 God also willed that we pray through the saints, and that the saints prayed for us. This was to give confidence to the fearful, so that those who dare not or cannot ask by themselves may succeed through suitable intercessors. In this way, humility would be preserved in those who pray, dignity manifested in the saints who intercede, and love and unity displayed in all the members of Christ, by which the lower have faithful recourse to the higher while the higher generously condescend to the lower.

[St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium (5.10.3), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005) p. 208.]

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Evening Note for Wednesday, March 27

Thought for the Evening: Illocutionary Points

A locutionary act is the saying or writing of a meaningful and relatively complete unit of thought; 'relatively complete unit of thought' is a little tricky to pin down, but relatively complete thoughts in this sense are things like sentences (relatively complete with subject and predicate), communicated arguments (relatively complete with premises and conclusions), or even larger units. More attention has usually been paid to the 'meaningful' part. There are two primary components of this. One of these, the perlocutionary act, is that which one does, or more broadly intends to do, through (per) the locutionary act -- for instance, someone's being persuaded or convinced or the like. The other, which is relevant here, is the illocutionary act, which is what one is doing in and with the locutionary act itself -- for instance, asserting, describing, promising, conjecturing, and the like.

The illocutionary act has several different aspects, but the key one is the central aim of the act, which is known as the illocutionary point. Searle famously argues that there are five and only five categories of illocutionary point:

(1) Assertive: The speaker is representing what is said as the way things are.

(2) Commissive: The speaker is committing himself to the course of action represented by what is said.

(3) Directive: The speaker is proposing to others the course of action represented by what is said.

(4) Declarative: The speaker is by what is said making the world to be the way it is represented by what is said.

(5) Expressive: The speaker is expressing an attitude or feeling about what is represented by what is said.

(A single illocutionary act could have more than one illocutionary point.) Searle's argument that these are the only five illocutionary points is based on the notion of 'direction of fit'. The essential idea (perhaps best discussed in Searle and Vanderveken's The Foundations of Illocutionary Logic) is that every illocutionary act relates a content of a proposition to the world in which the locution is given. This could be through a word-to-world direction of fit, a world-to-word direction of fit, a double or mutual direction of fit, and a null or neutral direction of fit.

(A) Word-to-World: Speech acts of this sort succeed by fitting what is said to the way things are. This gives us the assertive point.

(B) World-to-Word: Speech acts of this sort succeed by fitting the way things are to what is said. The responsibility for this success can be due either to the speaker (which gives us the commissive point) or the hearer (which gives us the directive point).

(C) Double: Speech acts of this sort succeed insofar as one can say either that the world is as things are said to be or are said to be as the way the world is. This gives us the declarative point; in a successful declaration, the world is the way one says because one says it is that way.

(D) Null: Speech acts of this sort relate what is said and the way the world is not by fitting one to the other but simply by relating them; this gives us the expressive point.

This is a nice argument in many ways. It does make sense of why the five illocutionary points identified by Searle are illocutionary points. But does it give us the 'only five' part? What always strikes me is that (B), and only (B) is associated with two points, and Searle's explanation of why there are two points associated with it is not the sort of explanation that would obviously be confined to (B) -- there are speakers and hearers for all four of these, and, failing an adequate argument for why this would only matter to (B), it seems that we could have up to eight illocutionary points. So let's consider what that might look like.

(B), of course, is taken care of for us. The world-word fit with respect to speaker gives us the commissive, while the same fit with respect to hearer gives us the directive. If we use this as a model for the others, we could get the following:

with respect to self/speakerwith respect to others/hearers
(A) Word-World  confessiveassertive
(B) World-Word  commissivedirective
(C) Doubleacceptivedeclarative
(D) Nullexpressiveimpressive

When one thinks these through, I think it's clear why the five are the more obvious, because for the other three the speaker/hearer distinction seems a bit more strained, which is why I've generalized it somewhat to speaker-self and others relative to the speaker. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for the eightfold taxonomy here.

The easiest to defend, I think, is the acceptive. For instance, it sometimes happens that one declares something, but there is another step beyond the declaration, in which people apply the declaration to their own context, i.e., formally accept the declaration: This is our king; do you all accept him as king? Yes, he is our king. I'm pretty sure that Searle assumes that 'accepting' in these contexts is generally commissive, but I don't think this usually fits the linguistic profile -- a commissive illocutionary act has to describe a practical course of action, to which one is committing oneself. This is not true in the king example. You could argue that in this particular case, 'accepting' is just declaration, but it's unclear what would be happening in this case where we would then have a double declaration of the same thing. A declaration creates a status simply by declaring it; why one would then need to create it again by declaring it again is a mystery. But if we recognize that you can create a status that nobody actually makes any use of, we can recognize that there will be situations in which a status needs not only to be created but also accepted and formally recognized for oneself. An appropriate authority can declare that so-and-so has such-and-such right, thereby giving them that right, but it does not follow from this that what is declared is treated as the case by others, and to avoid this one may need a specific locutionary recognition from someone that they do, in fact, accept that this person has that right. The only other alternatives, then, to treating this as a distinct illocutionary point is to treat it as assertive or as expressive; but you aren't merely asserting it nor are you merely expressing an attitude toward it, you are making the status a part of the furniture of 'your world', the world as it is seen from your perspective. If there were only one person declaring things for only themselves, there would perhaps be no need to distinguish the declarative and the acceptive, but in social communication the two seem to come apart in important ways. I think, for instance, that complicated tangles in international law can often be described in terms of this distinction; a treaty may declare something, and successfully, but not in a way that everyone accepts what is declared, and international diplomacy is often a matter of formally and officially narrowing the gap between legal declaration and legal acceptance.

Assertion has more of a case for covering the whole of its direction of fit, I think, and arguably the way we usually use 'assertion' does make it this broad. But we do sometimes qualify what we say in such a way that we're not so much trying to say to someone the way things are, but trying to say the way things are to us. I think using Searle's taxonomy we get cases where it's unclear whether we're dealing with assertion or expression; it seems midway between both. These are confessions; we are asserting, if you will, the way things are in our perspective, or expressing, if you prefer, the way things seem to us. It's not actually expression, because we aren't necessarily communicating an attitude or feeling, but the appearance of a fact; but 'assertion' doesn't quite fit either, because we're not trying to represent a fact but an appearance of fact.

The hardest of the candidate illocutionary points to defend is what I have called the 'impressive', but a case can perhaps be made for it. There are situations in which we might say something like, "I get the sense that you are angry" or even "You seem angry?" One could perhaps take this to be an assertion, but really it is more like an expression; I am, so to speak, expressing an impression I have of your attitude. This differs from just expressing something, as when we congratulate someone or commiserate with someone; the direction is wrong. Congratulation goes from us and our attitude to those we are congratulating; but this goes inward, in which we are taking someone else's attitude and trying to 'express' what it seems to be. Given what expression means here, it would be odd to take this as literally expressive; we don't normally think of ourselves as expressing other people's attitudes to things, but we do have locutions where we are in fact trying to convey not our own attitude but someone else's.

Expanding from five illocutionary points to eight in one sense makes the taxonomy neater, as we no longer have (B) standing out as an oddball, and we can make some kind of argument for each of the extra three illocutionary points. It arguably does, however, make the underlying principle of the taxonomy murkier, and it can certainly be said that the three are less obvious than the five. Nonetheless, I think, the case for the expanded taxonomy is quite reasonable.

Various Links of Interest

* Tim Madigan, Thomas Duddy & Irish Philosophy, at "Philosophy Now"

* Gabriele Gava, Conceptual Analysis and the Analytic Method in Kant's Prize Essay (PDF)

* Iddo Landau, Should Marital Relations Be Non-Hierarchical? (PDF)

* Robert Blust, The Dragon and the Rainbow, is a currently open access book arguing that the rainbow is the original source of myths and legends about dragons.

* Christian Illies and Nicholas Ray, An Aesthetic Deontology: Accessible Beauty as a Fundamental Obligation of Architecture (PDF)

* Michael J. Kruger, The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Esther, and the Argument from Silence, at "Canon Fodder"

* Richard Y Chappell, Hypothetical Imperatives and Normativity, at "Good Thoughts"

* Lorraine L. Besser, Virtue of Self-Regulation (PDF)

* David Francis Sherwood, The esse of the Eucharist (PDF)

Currently Reading

Marco Girolamo Vida, Christiad
C. S. Lewis, Studies in Words
Eusebius, The Church History
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Battle of Maldon together with The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth

In Audiobook

G. K. Chesterton, The Wisdom of Father Brown
Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body?
Hermann Simon, Confessions of the Pricing Man: How Price Affects Everything 

Bonaventure for Lent XXXVII

 As the First Principle is supremely true and good in itself, so it is supremely just and merciful in its work. Because it is supremely merciful, it reaches down most lovingly to our human misery through the infusion of its grace. However, being at the same time supremely just, God bestows this perfect gift only on those who desire it, grace only to the grateful, and mercy only to the ones who recognize their own wretchedness. Thus, freedom of will remains intact, appreciation of the gift undiminished, and respect for the divine honor unimpaired.

[St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium (5.10.2), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005), p. 207.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Bonaventure for Lent XXXVI

 And because our neighbor is an image of the Trinity, and, as an image of the Father, deserves our respect; as an image of the Son, our truthfulness; and as an image of the Holy Spirit, our love: therefore the commandments of the second tablet are seven in number. Two concern piety: the first -- to honor our parents -- imposes piety; the second -- not to murder -- forbids impiety. One concerns truthfulness, which is chiefly a matter of the spoken word -- the commandment not to bear false witness. Four concern love, the opposites of which, lust and greed, may exist in deed or in the heart. These four commandments are: you shall not commit adultery, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, you shall not steal, and you shall not covet your neighbor's goods. 

[St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium (5.9.5), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005) pp. 205-206.]

Monday, March 25, 2024

Jottings on Reaction Videos

 One of the interesting features of the internet is the rise of various genres specifically adapted to various internet media, and reaction videos are a particularly interesting example. I've been watching a lot of reaction videos recently, at least as background, and have been thinking about the features of this particular genre, and especially the subgenres of series and movie reactions. (There are also music reactions, YouTube reactions, food reactions, and even reaction video reactions, but, besides the fact that I find them much less interesting, most of what I say carries over to them.)

Reaction videos are specifically concerned, as you might expect from the name, with showing reactions. This marks their primary difference, as far as structure and content goes, from their closest cousins, reviews. Reactions and reviews overlap in the things they cover, but they do so for very different ends. Reviews are for (in principle) analysis and assessment so that people can decide whether something is worth seeing (or compare their own assessment of what they have seen to someone else's) while reactions are for (in principle) immediate response; I say 'in principle' because both sides in practice are somewhat messier than that makes it sound.

Because reviews are for assessment, reviews tend to be coy about precise details of what is being reviewed -- you don't want to spoil it for those in you audience who haven't seen it -- and the commentary in a review is usually more overarching. Reactions are in some ways the opposite. Reactors are constantly falling afoul of copyright issues, far more than reviewers, because reactions show as much of the object of reaction as the reactors can get away with. If you are reviewing a movie, people who are watching it don't usually need to know anything about the movie at all. If you are reacting to a movie, however, people who are watching it need to know what you are reacting to at all times, in order to make sense of your reaction. Reactors try to get around copyright limitations in various ways -- they will cut out anything that isn't necessary for the reaction, add watermarks, occasionally alternate video and audio, distort sound and blur video, and the like. One of the secondary reasons why people watch reaction videos is an accidental byproduct of this -- if you feel like refreshing your memory of a movie or television series but don't have the time actually to sit down and watch the original, cut-down versions that you get in reaction videos will often be less than two-thirds of the length of the originals, sometimes considerably less.

Older reactions often seem to have more review-like elements, and you still find occasional cases of reactions blended with review. In practice, though, this has faded due to matters of monetization. A lot of reactors do it to sustain a movie-watching or series-watching hobby; there is ad revenue on video websites, and a lot of reactors also have a system set up through Patreon for people to pay to have the right to suggest and vote on what future reactions will cover. This turned out to be more successful than people originally suspected (much more demand for it than one could have predicted), so some reactors started just doing it for the revenue stream. Reviewers usually review most things that come their way in whatever genres they prefer to review, but reactors are often reacting to things that other people have chosen. And the key point here is that people rarely pay money to have someone watch something and trash it. They may occasionally choose something mischievous, in the hopes of a good reaction, but by and large people pay to see others watch things that they themselves enjoy. Further, people don't click on a reaction video in YouTube in order to watch someone hating on something; if you are doing a reaction series to an anime, the people who are going to watch it are anime fans. To be a reactor you have to be the kind of person who likes most things, because the people who actually watch you are usually people who love whatever it is to which you are reacting.

There is a particular kind of parasocial sharing element to reaction that doesn't exist with reviews; people are watching with the reactor. FTW (First Time Watching) reactions are particularly central to the reaction ecosystem, and precisely the draw of FTWs is to get the fresh first reaction to something. In the streaming era we only rarely get this in real life. I think one of the things that reactions show us is that people are starved for it; part of what we enjoy about art is how other people react to it. 

In addition, other people's reactions sometimes highlight things that we don't notice, or give us a different perspective on them. For instance, I've recently been semi-watching (as background while I do other things) Lord of the Rings reactions, and it has made me appreciate that some things in Jackson's The Return of the King that put me off because they make no internal sense (like Gandalf beating Denethor down without any reaction from Denethor's guards) actually play well cinematically (Jackson has built up the audience's annoyance with Denethor so much that people who are watching the movie just as a movie don't care about the plausibility -- Gandalf in that moment is their representative, and they are relieved that, finally, someone is doing it), whereas other things that put me off for story reasons (like Jackson having Faramir try to take Frodo to Gondor) also sometimes baffle people who know nothing at all about the story beyond what the movie itself is telling them. 

To take a different example, I once watched a reaction to 2005's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which the reactors were from India; they did not know what a beaver was, and did not even know that the movie was based on a book. It was interesting to see them puzzling about this warrior Aslan, and then enthusiastically enjoying the reveal of who he was -- because it was completely unexpected to them, but they did know that the lion is king of the beasts, so it made perfect sense once revealed. It was also quite interesting to see how alarmed they were at Edmund taking Turkish Delight -- people from cultures all over the world can immediately recognize the stupidity of taking food from strange women with magical powers -- and their heightening exasperation when Edmund gives his siblings away yet again. Not having a Christian background, they were a bit baffled by the Stone Table and its aftermath -- but also took it mostly in stride, as something strange and unexpected that nonetheless fit the story. Almost all of the war side of the story, however, made complete sense to them; they recognized the conventions immediately as fitting the kinds of stories they already knew. Seeing the movie in light of an audience that had a very different background highlighted very different aspects of the movie.

C. S. Peirce held that every sign has three constituents: the sign-vehicle or representamen (what we often call the 'sign'), the object, and the interpretant. The representamen links up the interpretant and the object; the interpretant is that which the sign-vehicle connects to the object. For instance, if you see a stop sign, the physical sign (representamen) determines your sensory and mental experience (interpretant) in such a way as to connect it to the object (the practical action of stopping). Reactions show in the case of movies, which are signs, how a change of interpretant (in this case the audience) can change how the movie functions as a sign. This is sometimes -- certainly not always, but sometimes -- enlightening, and I think is, after the sympathetic/parasocial aspect of the reaction a major component in what attracts people to reactions. When we like something, we want to know it better, and when see other people's reactions to a movie, we feel like we understand it better, and sometimes do understand it better.

Bonaventure for Lent XXXV

 Now, God is triune -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- whose sovereign majesty deserves to be adored, whose truth ought to be acknowledged, and whose love deserves to be accepted, through our negative appetite, rational faculty, and positive appetite, in our deeds, words, and affections. Therefore, there is a threefold commandment on the first tablet corresponding to these three aforementioned duties: submissive adoration, truthful oath-taking, and sacred observance of the Sabbath.

[St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium (5.9.4), Monti, tr., Franciscan Institute Publications (St. Bonaventure, NY: 2005) p. 205.]

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Thou Little Veil for so Great Mystery

Sonnet -- To a Daisy
by Alice Meynell 

Slight as thou art, thou art enough to hide,
 Like all created things, secrets from me,
 And stand a barrier to eternity.
And I, how can I praise thee well and wide? 

 From where I dwell—upon the hither side?
 Thou little veil for so great mystery,
 When shall I penetrate all things and thee,
And then look back? For this I must abide, 

 Till thou shalt grow and fold and be unfurled
 Literally between me and the world.
 Then I shall drink from in beneath a spring, 

 And from a poet’s side shall read his book.
 O daisy mine, what will it be to look
 From God’s side even of such a simple thing?