Friday, April 12, 2024

Dashed Off VIII

 The human person was born to walk in a garden of symbols, and taste of all those that do not confuse good and evil.

The trees in the Garden of Eden represent all the greatest potentialities of the human spirit.

An imperium is not a territory but a jurisdiction.

A regularity theory of laws of nature is in effect a final cause theory, since final causes are what explain regularities; the only question is whether it is final causes in the things or in the mind.

'Science' can only do what scientists do.

People often speak of 'intelligence' when they mean 'imaginative facility'.

Two thoughts may be occasionatively tangled (come from same occasion) or objectively tangled (have same, overlapping, or linked objects).

von Wright on quantifiers as 'existential modalities'

Every positive law presupposes a prior legal right to make law.

Law is the only source of the state.

There is always a gap between something becoming a law and its being enforced; indeed, there is often a gap between its becoming a law and the way of enforcing it being worked out. (Anyone who knows how laws get implemented through civil service can find examples of this.)

The primary purpose of the state is coordination, not coercion.

Nothing prevents the existence of a state that does not have coercive power, but (e.g.) simply organizes things for the people themselves to enforce. (Medieval Iceland was fairly close to this.)

Deterrence is always achieved by signs under an interpretation.

The world in its opposition to the Church is like a vast and well equipped army, but it is also always overextended.

Husserl's noema // Peirce's interpretant

Thomasson on dependencies
A.1. x constantly depends on y iff when x exists, y exists.
A.2. x historically depends on y iff x needs y to come to be, but may continue to exist without y.
B.1. x rigidly depends on y iff y is a determinate and irreplaceable individual.
B.2. x generically depends on y iff y is a token of a type and can be substituted by another toke of that type
-- fictional entities depend rigidly & historically on the creative activity of the author, generically and constantly on the work of fiction itself, perhaps generically & constantly on potential readers.

Szanto on collective imagination
(1) identity: same intentional object
(2) mutual awareness: awareness of others participating in the same kind of activity
(3) normativity: joint commitment in imagining
-- i.e., an act of collective imagining involves taking the same object in the same kind of awareness within a single framework

A discipline is a traditioning of an object.

A tradition is a reserve of possibilities.

The self-evidence of mathematical truths is only uncovered within the context of mathematics as a tradition.

Intentionality is a form of dispositionality.

Individual intentionality has a social mode as well as prive and public individual modes.

As money needs to be used in negotiations, every kind of money is partly structured by a language associated with it.

When one has been hurt, forgiveness is an ongoing process, at least for a while.

purgative improvement vs. compensatory improvement

If A is a sign of B and B is a sign of C, A may be a sign of C or not, i.e., the series may be transitive or not.

We do not start with an understanding of the physical world and build from it an understanding of the moral world; we start with an understanding of the moral world and build within it an understanding of the physical world.

Legal positivism becomes more and more adequate to legal facts the more it approximates legal naturalism.

A philosophy of law must first and foremost be a philosophy of law for legislators and for citizens/subjects; lawyers and judges need to get in line behind them, and not take over the field, becayse they minister to legislators and citizens/subjects.

Legal powers are conferred not directly by law but by reason in light of law.

Social reality is a moral and rational reality before it is a legal reality.

The rational reconstruction of the legal system requires taking a higher rational standpoint than positive law.

Things are recognized as means and ends in terms of the first principle of practical reason.

(1) The existence of positive law always depends on what is merited or not in light of the originating reasoning from which the law comes.
(2) The existence of laws in every legal system depends on at least very general moral values recognizable by all human beings as in some way good.
(3) Any system of rules depends in application on prudence, and law even more than most.

In order to function as institutions, institutions must have obligations, norms, and rights within a larger normative scheme.

Legal systems, as legal systems, depend on the natural law precepts associated with peaceable living.

Legal systems are so diverse that no particular legal process or proceeding seems to be universal, and nothing seems to unite them except their general role in practical reasoning in social matters.

Law is a rational ordering; rules are merely particular articulations of law.

Reason is the most fundamental legal system; legal systems are only legal systems in a way derivative from natural law.

Fuller's inner morality of law: Laws must be general, open (promulgated), prospective, clear, consistent, stable, obeyable, and upheld. [John Gardner's summary slightly modified.]

In matters of salvation, Scripture is perspicuous for those to whom the Holy Spirit gives light, and dark to those who reject Him; but this perspecuity and this obscurity are not phenomenal qualities, and many have been gravely misled by the idea that the meaning of Scripture is what *feels* perspicuous.

Civil war arises through the undermining of shared institutions.

the infrastructure of liberty
(1) means of movement
(2) means of communication
(3) means of self-defense
(4) means of influence

Medical treatment must be
(1) appropriate to the patient
(2) appropriate to the illness
(3) with a view to possible consequences
(4) clear, particularly with regard to risks and dangers
(5) consensual
(6) stable (non-erratic)
(7) implementable
(8) implemented with appropriate means
(9) informed
(10) authorized by role of those doing treatment (appropriate to doctor etc.)

One difficulty that sacramental thoelogy always faced is that one rite may serve at any given time multiple functions.

the Mandatum as a symbol of confession

social justice as rendering what is due to others by their human nature and vocation

There is no actual legal system in existence in which people do not often appeal directly to moral principles in interpreting, applying, creating, or criticizing laws; people will often assume that laws tend to reflect their own moral principles, in general terms at least, or use their consciences as a guide to determining how it is to be taken.

Our obedience to law is always a matter of degree, and the degree is affected by custom, inclination, and moral principle.

Hart's rule of recognition is a philosophical fiction serving as a proxy for what is in fact merely custom.

(1) Many moral obligations pertain to matters minor in themselves.
(2) Many moral norms are susceptible to abrupt and deliberate change (cf. promises).
(3) Moral principles sometimes settle responsibilities on people without regard for fault.
(4) The primary social pressure exerted by law is exhortation; sanction is for when this fails. The same is often true of moral obligations.

Law-abiding citizens obey the law from custom, from conscience, and from enlightened self-interest.

purposiveness in nature as a requirement of systematic classification (this is a way of reading Kant)
principle of homogeniety: there are genera
principle of specification: there are specific differences
principle of continuity of forms: transitions are not per saltum (how species are related in classification)

" is destined by his reason to live in a society with men and to cultivate himself, to civilize himself, and to make himself moral, by the arts and sciences." Kant

Theorizing serves practice, practice contemplation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Dignitas Infinita

 The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith recently published a Declaration, 'Dignitas infinita' on human dignity. It has the looseness of terminology that committee documents often have, and there is room, I think, to say that some of the things in it could be more precisely and carefully stated, but allowing for this, I actually like it. It is a much more robust document than one has come to expect from the bishops. From the first paragraph of the Introduction:

1. (Dignitas infinita) Every human person possesses an infinite dignity, inalienably grounded in his or her very being, which prevails in and beyond every circumstance, state, or situation the person may ever encounter. This principle, which is fully recognizable even by reason alone, underlies the primacy of the human person and the protection of human rights. In the light of Revelation, the Church resolutely reiterates and confirms the ontological dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed in Jesus Christ. From this truth, the Church draws the reasons for her commitment to the weak and those less endowed with power, always insisting on “the primacy of the human person and the defense of his or her dignity beyond every circumstance.”
'Infinite' seems to be the adjective (not wrong, but perhaps potentially misleading) that was chosen to capture the idea mentioned in the quotation from Pope Francis at the end of the above paragraph: that the dignity in question is "beyond every circumstance", i.e,. not limited by circumstances. Thus the point is that human dignity is infinite (i.e., not limited) relative to any circumstances in which the human person may exist. Personally, I would prefer the phrase used by the Second Vatican Council, "sublime dignity", but 'infinite', properly understood, works fine.

The Declaration distinguishes four different things that might be called 'human dignity':

(1) Ontological dignity: "belongs to the person as such simply because he or she exists and is willed, created, and loved by God" (7). It is this that is most properly characterized as "infinite dignity".

(2) Moral dignity: "how people exercise their freedom" (7), particularly with respect to conscience or the Gospel.

(3) Social dignity: "the quality of a person’s living conditions" (8).

(4) Existential dignity: while this is not precisely defined, the essential idea seems to be that it is the quality of a person's life in its actual conditions.

I'm not sure how adequate this division is, and the accounts of social dignity and existential dignity in particular do not seem entirely adequate, but I'm glad to see this attempt to distinguish different meanings. People in general, and bishops not excluded, have had a tendency to blur all of these things.

I think one of the fundamental problems that the Declaration wrestles with is that 'dignity' of the sort that the Dicastery is attempting to clarify has a paradoxical structure, one derived from the paradox of humanity. The paradox of humanity is that all of us are born human and all of us have to learn how to be human, that it is the nature of the human being to be a potential human being becoming an actual human being. This curious character of being both already human and becoming human is something we have by being very changeable living things. It is clear that we cannot already be human and not yet human in the same way and sense; but it is also clear that it is a very grave mistake to split them apart. The humanity we always have had is the formally necessary and integral framework for the humanity we must acquire; the humanity we acquire is the finally necessary completion of the humanity we always have had. As with humanity, so with human dignity. We are born with human dignity and we must live so as to acquire it; having human dignity always, we have to become the sort of people who live in a way appropriate to it. The Declaration is not particularly elegant about how it handles this paradoxical structure, but sometimes it makes a reasonable attempt, e.g., in sections 20-22. I am very glad to see it acknowledged, more or less explicitly; one of the great temptations when talking about human dignity is to flatten it out, and recognizing that human dignity is both natural to us and must be completed in us is a good preventative against doing so.

I think the primary weakness of the Declaration is in its discussion of violations of human dignity; I am not convinced that it has a unified account of what it means to violate or harm ontological dignity, and I think it needs to have one to do what it was intending to do in its discussion of practical matters. Nonetheless, the brief discussions of violations of human dignity are perfectly fine on their own, even if it's unclear how they relate to each other as 'violations of human dignity'.

All Your Winds Sang Battle-Lays

 April Days
by Amanda Theodocia Jones 


 Come through mist and dashing rain,
April days, April days;
Break the last light crystal chain,
Teach the snowbird livelier lays,
Deck with verdure wood and plain,
April days, April days. 

 Years are long--the years are three,
April days, April days,
Since my love went forth from me;
Craving neither gold nor praise,
But free scope for valor free,
April days, April days. 

 Sun-bright flags for marshaled men,
April days, April days,
Flung ye out o'er hill and glen;
All your winds sang battle-lays;
Southward soared your eagles then,
April days, April days. 

 Flaunt your sun-bright flags once more,
April days, April days;
For the ship is near the shore,
And he comes whom all must praise:
Northward doth my eagle soar,
April days, April days. 

 Gayly shine, oh, brightly shine,
April days, April days!
Wounded in the vanward line,
Victor of a hundred frays,
Welcome home this love of mine,
April days, April days! 


Tuesday, April 09, 2024

The Error of Cowards

 The sole philosophy open to those who doubt the possibility of truth is absolute silence--even mental. That is to say, as Aristotle points out, such men must make themselves vegetables. No doubt reason often errs, especially in the highest matters, and, as Cicero said long ago, there is no nonsense in the world which has not found some philosopher to maintain it, so difficult is it to attain truth. But it is the error of cowards to mistake a difficulty for an impossibility. 

[Jacques Maritain, An Introduction to Philosophy, Sheed and Ward (New York: 1933) p. 181.]

Monday, April 08, 2024

Social Operations of Mind

 There is another division of the powers of the mind, which, though it has been, ought not to be overlooked by writers on this subject, because it has a real foundation in nature. operations of our minds, from their very nature, are social, others are solitary. 

 By the first, I understand such operations as necessarily suppose an intercourse with some other intelligent being. A man may understand and will; he may apprehend, and judge, and reason, though he should know of no intelligent being in the universe besides himself. But, when he asks information, or receives it; when he bears testimony, or receives the testimony of another; when he asks a favour, or accepts one; when he gives a command to his servant, or receives one from a superior: when he plights his faith in a promise or contract; these are acts of social intercourse between intelligent beings, and can have no place in solitude. They suppose understanding and will; but they suppose something more, which is neither understanding nor will; that is, society with other intelligent beings. They may be called intellectual, because they can only be in intellectual beings: But they are neither simple apprehension, nor judgment, nor reasoning, nor are they any combination of these operations.

[Thomas Reid, Essay on the Intellectual Powers, Essay I: Preliminary, Chapter 8.]

Notably, the things that Reid mentions as social operations of the mind are today mostly studied as 'speech acts'; but Reid specifically includes what might be called receptive social operations as well as active ones.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Why Thus Invert Thy Wonted Pow'r?

 To Cynthia
by William Henry Charlton

(Written at the solar eclipse of 1827.) 

 Cynthia! we hail thy genial birth,
 And bless the borrow'd ray
 That smiles upon the slumb'ring earth,
 And turns our night to day. 

 But why, if thus at midnight hour,
 Thou reign'st supremely bright,
 Why thus invert thy wonted pow'r,
 And turn the day to night? 

 Strange usurpation this! if true
 What midnight sages tell;
 That all the darts you ever drew
 From Phoebus' quiver fell. 

 Ungrateful Dian! is it so
 His favors you requite,
 Stripping his beams of half their glow,
 His disk of half its light? 

 Say, wouldst thou reign, in boundless space,
 Unrivall'd and alone;
 Snatching that brightness from his face
 Which gives thee all thine own? 

 Alas! no more thou shin'st confest
 The night's resplendent queen:
 Thy form, array'd in ebon vest,
 Like envy's self is seen. 

 O then, withdraw from Phoebus' car
 Thine interposing pow'r;
 For shiv'ring mortals ill can spare
 His warmth, in wintry hour. 

 Like passing gleams of brief delight
 On life's uncertain way,
 So breaks the sunbeam on the sight,
 Upon a winter's day. 

 Then ah, that beam again impart,
 Unveil'd, to mortal view;
 Lest thou, who so inconstant art,
 Be deem'd invidious too.