Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Music on My Mind



The Nicole Ensing Band, "The Mystery".

It is, of course, an adaptation of a poem by Chesterton. The original:

The Mystery
by G. K. Chesterton


If sunset clouds could grow on trees
It would but match the May in flower;
And skies be underneath the seas
No topsyturvier than a shower.

If mountains rose on wings to wander
They were no wilder than a cloud;
Yet all my praise is mean as slander,
Mean as these mean words spoken aloud.

And never more than now I know
That man's first heaven is far behind;
Unless the blazing seraph's blow
Has left him in the garden blind.

Witness, O Sun that blinds our eyes,
Unthinkable and unthankable King,
That though all other wonder dies
I wonder at not wondering.

Tender & Liberal Spirit

If I am vain of anything, it is of my eloquence. Consideration & Esteem as surely follow command of Language, as Admiration waits on Beauty. And here I have opportunity enough for the exercise of my Talent, as the cheif of my time is spent in Conversation. Reginald is never easy unless we are by ourselves, & when the weather is tolerable, we pace the shrubbery for hours together. I like him on the whole very well; he is clever & has a good deal to say, but he is sometimes impertinent & troublesome. There is a sort of ridiculous delicacy about him which requires the fullest explanation of whatever he may have heard to my disadvantage, & is never satisfied till he thinks he has ascertained the beginning & end of everything.

This is one sort of Love, but I confess it does not particularly recommend itself to me. I infinitely prefer the tender & liberal spirit of Manwaring, which, impressed with the deepest conviction of my merit, is satisfied that whatever I do must be right; & look with a degree of contempt on the inquisitive & doubtful Fancies of that Heart which seems always debating on the reasonableness of its Emotions.

Jane Austen, Lady Susan, Letter 16. It's not surprising, of course, that Lady Susan prefers it to be assumed that whatever she does is right; nor that reasonable restraint of the passions is the chief impediment to being manipulated by someone who tells a good story. I have mentioned before that Lady Susan reminds me of Milton's Satan or Tolkien's Saruman, with their treatment of language as a means of power rather than a service of truth; this is one of the letters in which the parallels become very clear on this point.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Saadia Gaon on Christology

An interesting passage from Saadia Gaon's Book of Beliefs and Opinions:

Now these advocates of the doctrine of the trinity, may God have mercy on thee, are divided into four sects, three of which are the older while the fourth appeared only recently. The first of these is of the opinion that the body, as well as the spirit of their Messiah, is derived from the Creator, exalted be He. The second holds the view that his body was created, his spirit alone having emanated from the Creator. The third, again, believes that both his body and his spirit were created, but that he also possessed another spirit that was derived from the Creator. As for the fourth group, it assigns to him the position of the prophets only, interpreting the sonship of which they make mention when they speak of him just as we interpret the Biblical expression: Israel is My first-born son (Exod. 4:22), which is merely an expression of esteem and high regard, or, as others interpret the meaning of the phrase: "Abraham, the friend of God."
[Saadia Gaon, The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, Rosenblatt, tr. Yale University Press (New Haven: 1976) p. 109]

It's unclear whether and to what extent this is supposed to be a somewhat idealized classification -- the chronological remark in the first sentence suggests that it is intended to identify real groups, but the cleanness of the classification suggests that he might be partly just considering the logical possibilities. The second position seems to be Apollinarianism. I'm fairly sure that the third group is the Christology of the Church of the East -- it admits of both orthodox and Nestorian interpretation.

I don't know who would fall into the first and fourth groups, although the first position could be the kind of statement of Monophysitism that one might find in its critics. What is interesting about the fourth position is the comment that it is recent. Rosenblatt claims that Saadia means Muslims by the fourth group, which would account for the position. But Saadia clearly says he is talking about advocates of the doctrine of the Trinity (and reaffirms it at the end of the chapter), and it is impossible to imagine that Saadia, of all people, born in Egypt and writing in Baghdad in the tenth century, could possibly be ignorant of the Muslim rejection of the Trinity. Since Saadia is Jewish (albeit the greatest Jewish mind of the tenth century), one can allow for a bit of an outsider's perspective, so perhaps he is just approximating Christian positions he has only heard about. On the other hand, a look at the whole section in which Saadia criticizes Christian theology shows a clear familiarity with actual Christian arguments.

Saadia rejects the fourth position on the basis of arguments that Torah admits of no abrogation and that Christians have a false account of Messianic prophecy. (The latter is another reason to take him not to be discussing Muslims here.) Both of these arguments would apply to all the groups of Christians, of course. The first he argues against on the basis of the fact that a creature cannot be a portion or natural emanation of the Creator. With regard to the third, he argues that creatures cannot become God merely by association with the divine. And all of these arguments would apply against the second group.

One of the interesting things is the analogy he attributes later in the chapter to the third group (the fact that he is so much more precise about the third group is another reason to think that he explicitly has in mind the Church of the East): "They cite as an analogy the descent of the glory of God on Mount Sinai and its appearance in the Burning Bush and the Tent of Meeting." It's unlikely that the Assyrian Christians were actually arguing for the Incarnation on the basis of such an analogy (although Saadia does seem to take them to be doing so), but it's possible that it was brought up in arguments for clarification purposes, or may be the kind of imagery associated with the Incarnation in the liturgy and devotional life of Assyrian Christians in Saadia's day.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Radio Greats: The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway (X Minus One)

The 1950s in radio saw a slow, cautious exploration of the genre of science fiction. One thread of the genre that tended to work especially well with radio was comic science fiction. Science fiction, of course, has always been recognized as having some satirical potential, but this can be quite dry or acidic; what worked especially well on radio was the use of science fiction for genuinely humorous twists. X Minus One, the most important and impressive science fiction series ever to air on radio, had a number of classics of this kind -- "Skulking Permit" and "Bad Medicine" (both by Robert Sheckley, the latter satirizing psychoanalysis) are obvious examples. Another great example of comic science fiction at its best is "The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway", which aired in April of 1957.

As is always the case with X Minus One, it is based on a short story of the same name from Galaxy magazine; that story, by William Tenn, was published in 1955. William Tenn (the pen name of Philip Klass) is often considered the greatest writer of science fiction satire in the Golden Age of science fiction, a period in which a great deal of science fiction satire was done. He has a knack for skewering on more levels than one, and not just skewering but stimulating thought in new direction. "The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway", which satirizes the art world, is an excellent example of this, raising fascinating questions about creativity and evaluation of art.

You can listen to "The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway" at Old Time Radio Downloads or at The Theatre of the Mind on YouTube or at Relic Radio or at the Internet Archive (episode 95). You can read the radio script at Generic Radio Workshop.

If you prefer to read the original, you can read it here.

Maronite Year XLVIII

The Season of Pentecost is the longest season of the Maronite liturgical year; depending on the rest of the year, it can last up to eighteen weeks. As with the Latin liturgical year, the first Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday.

Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity
Romans 11:25-36; Matthew 28:16-20

Inscrutable Father, infinite Son,
ineffable Holy Spirit, Three and One,
begetting, begotten, proceeding,
glory and thanks and exaltation to You!
As word comes from mind, and voice comes from both,
three names are given where there is but one will,
known by faith undivided of the Church,
which is taught by angels in hymns of glory:
Holy, Holy, Holy is the one Lord.

Can any comprehend God as Trinity?
A truth it is no study can exhaust.
The Father before all time begot the Son;
the Word took flesh from holy Virgin's womb;
the Spirit was sent to strengthen and perfect.
Thus from Him, through Him, and for Him is all,
with perfection, purity, and sanctity.
This is the faith of the Church and her saints:
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord our God.

O God of Love and Peace, one only God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Three and One,
we take refuge and find comfort in You,
undivided and inapprehensible,
who shows mercy to the guilty and lost,
who purifies sinners and perfects the just,
who is known by the faith of the one Church,
which is taught by angels in hymns of glory:
Holy, Holy, Holy is the one Lord.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dashed Off X

This gets me toward the end of September 2014 in my notes. I have at least four more little fat notebooks to go to catch up.

Living reason involves both memorial and anticipation.

nonengagement; marginal engagement (containment); proxy engagement; limited engagement; major engagement; coalition campaign

tradition as integrating, sanctifying radicating, and evangelizing

antiquity: apostolicity; consensus of antinquity; (tending to) consensus with antiquity

refractions of ideas through practices

the uncanny as a font of inquiry

reciprocal action as a sign of composition

intentio, stability, coherence, and proportion in material substances

Torah as watering paradise (Sirach 24:23ff)

"One who admits his fault will be kept from failure." (Sirach 20:3)

projected sculptures & fictional characters
fictional characters to be acted (false identities, covers, cons, plays)
historical characters that, known only indirectly, may not be real

Reasonableness does not suffice for avoiding conflict.

Diamond: in one's power; Box; beyond one's power to avoid

We have a mastery of other things in the measure we have mastery of ourselves.

faith as making us instruments of divine teaching authority

timing/time as the matter of cinema (Tarkovsky)

All historical disciplines, including those of natural history, begin with direct attestation of some present evidence and work out from there by affinity and parsimony.

agents: proper authority
agents-means: public declaration
means-end: (1) feasibility (2) proportionality
end-highest end: (1) last resort (2) just cause
agents-means-end-highest end: right intention

last resort ; feasibility :: just cause : proportionality

(1) Caretaker for what is common: proper authority
(2) for common good: just cause
(3) ordering of reason: feasibility, necessity (last resort), proportionality, right intention
(4) promulgation: public declaration

That is not charity which does not boldly fight injustice and error; charity uses higher means to further good and impede bad, and thus does so more than even justice, albeit in new ways.

(1) distinction between sense and intellect -> antecedent possibility of angels
(2) existence of God -> antecedent possibility of angels
(3) perfection of cosmos -> antecedent possibility of angels
(1) + (2) + (3) -> antecedent probability of angels

Cant 4:7-8 Immaculate conception (note v. 12) + assumption + coronation (note v. 14 re intercession?)

Immaculate Conception as a sort of assumption of soul completed in Assumption of body and soul

Mary as the ephod of priesthood

Mary as Tabernacle (the Word tabernacled among us)

Virginity as understood by the Fathers is not a mere physical condition but a spiritual one; thus the perpetual virginity of Mary is more than a claim about sexual status.

consentient council of doctors (Vincent of Lerins)

immortality as a postulate of philosophical inquiry (cp Rep 611e-612a)

sages -> nobles -> merchants -> mobs/gangs -> warlords

All probabilities presuppose a prior division of a universe of discourse.

Trust creates social resilience.

The key question for any society is: What makes this society one? What does the real work of integration?

unexpected coherences as motives of credibility

approaches to personal identity // approaches to change

Relying on immigrants for one's work is not structurally different from relying on mercenaries for one's army.

Human beings are present to each other by signs; in some cases we can make ourselves the signs by which we are present to others -- but also in some cases this can be more difficult than it sounds.

The ordinary presence of God is not primarily by sign; rather, He is present in such a way that that to which He is present is a sign of Him.

"A prophet mediates between the angels and the people." Aquinas

Theological insight can be welcomed but cannot be forced.

Statesmanship must be guided by reason, but by a reason that takes sympathy into account.

Solomon's Temple is loftier than the temples of natural reason.

The Jews more than any other people have understood the powerful truth that nations are signs, and that nations must form themselves as signs of things that are not base.

the canonical Spirit,
exceeding all measure,
measuring all

Chance sometimes proves the wisest strategist.

philotimia, philomatheia, and philanthropia as propaedeutics to philosophia

Xenophon & the importance of making virtue visible

"Questioning is a kind of teaching." Xenophon

utilitarianism as reducing human beings to their productive value as a source of profit (that the human beings may share in the profit is not relevant -- actual sharing of profit only enters as producing)

the nonrational creation as a trust

the improvement of moral thought by metaphor and exhortation

the parable of the Good Samaritan and the sacraments of initiation (inn, oil, wine)

almsdeeds as sabbath rest

the wonderful, the uncanny, the fantastic

"Sameness consists of at least three elements: for there to be sameness a thing must needs be the same as another according to a particular condition." Marsilio Ficino

The reason for trusting rules is so that we can trust people more, not less.

the Passion as sacramental premotion

Tobit 12:15 // Rv 8:2-4

oil as a symbol of Mary (cf Gregory Thaumaturgos)

the natural respect of a man for his tools

No one but God is an expert on God.

reflections of angelic choir in the prayer of the Church

boredom-quit and frustration-quit in argument/inquiry

the importance of "unexpected flashes of instruction" through "fortuitous collision of happy incidents, or an involuntary concurrence of ideas" (Johnson Rambler 154)

Wealth does not spoil character, but it can accelerate the spoiling of it.

Protagoras' 3 stages of learning justice
(1) language
(2) poetry, music, athletics
(3) law

aphorism as an approach to multiplicity of proof

philosophical inquiry as a model of ethical life, ethical life as a model of philosophical inquiry

new indicators & ongoing indicators for presumptive reasoning

Matrimony reflects ordination in ordination's aspect of being the sacrament of tradition; it does so by being itself the sacrament of genealogy, which is a sign of tradition.

Trinitarian procession as giving the structure of sacred Tradition

natural marriage as our way of reaching toward eternity (permanence, fecundity, union)

"The heretics cling to one point -- that the sacrament is figurative -- and to that extent they are not heretics." Pascal

pleasure and pain as good qua remedial
pleasure as a coming-to-be

arguments against usury
(1) from protection of the poor
(2) from justice of exchange
(3) from sterility of usury

Live-and-let-live requires a presupposition of harmlessness.

three-eyed Plato is a swan

Reductionism usually consists entirely of a network of metaphors.

"mind belongs to that kind which is cause of everything" Philebus 30e

immediate vs memory-mediated pleasures

People are more likely to get angry at being accused of lacking knowledge than they are when accused of lacking pleasure.

Justice requires calling the noblest things by the noblest names.

Outrage may be a legitimate motivation, but even so it is not a plan.

patience as the marrow of piety (Catherine of Siena)

The possibility of supererogation follows from any position that allows a distinction between the first principles of practical reason and the principles of obligation.

Ecclesiastes as a book of repentance (Wesley)

consciousness as partial conscience

Bragging is not about inducing believes in others -- people brag to people they know will not believe them, and peopl brag in cases where the point is simply to make themselves feel better.

Each of the Ten Commandments indicates a way in which human beings violate divine prerogatives or act as gods over others.

Arguments from divine hiddenness boil down to the claim that if God's existence is not self-evident to us, God does not exist.

In coming to know God from creation, we come to see creation in a new light.

sacred languages as memory systems for the Church

"Unless we have a moral principle about such delicate matters as marriage and murder, the whole world will become a welter of exceptions with no rules. There will be so many hard cases that everything will go soft." Chesterton

wine "intended to be a medicine and to produce reverence in the soul and health and strength in the body' (Laws672d)

Lack of evidence only becomes significant in itself through complicated counterfactual reasoning.

"the way to heaven is like heaven itself" Sigrid Undset

True love of God and neighbor requires the prayer of faith.

Grace is the beginning of faith.

religious festivals as periods for restoration of character (Laws 653b)

'Induction approximates truth because of uniformity of nature' vs 'Induction approximates truth by ruling out causes of falsehood' (Peirce is esp. good on this)

"the poetic tribe, with the aid of Graces and Muses, often grasps the truth of history" (Laws 682a)

A very significant number of bad skeptical inferences consist of conflating immediate and particular grounds of particular inferences with remote and general grounds of knowledge in general.

Most arguments over burden of proof are signs of intellectual laziness; they involve arguing over who is supposed to do the work.

Desert is a social concept.

"the moderate man is God's friend, being like him" (Laws 716d)

"mankind is by nature a companion of eternity" (Laws 721c)

"Truth heads the list of all things good, for gods and men alike." (Laws 736)

Theos is the first word of Plato's Laws.

All human authority is implicit in human nature, which is given by God, and by human work it is specified and furthered.

modesty & treating oneself as a person

the preludial system of legislation is especially appropriate to natural law theory

constancy and coherence as intimations of the real

the First Way and the intrinsic conditions of empirical experience

St. Catherine of Siena and moral miracles of conversion
the episode of the moldy flour in St. Catherine's life as an emblem of salvation

personal identity // transworld identity // material constitution

vagueness states // possible states or temporal states
(i.e., vagueness as an unusual diamond modality)

a church as a memory palace

matrimony as the sacrament of hospitality

the fate-level and the free-will-level of a narrative

The water of natural marriage becomes the wine of sacramental matrimony.

Love enlivens virtue.

the primary thesis of Plato's Laws: Law is a sort of divine order because it expresses reason, which is the divine in us because it has kinship with the gods.

"What we call a bad civilization is a civilization not good enough for us." Chesterton

Labeling oneself a skeptic remarkably often leads into the intellectual laziness of not bothering to earn the label with serious thought.

"It is when the work has passed from mind to mind that it becomes a work of art." Chesterton

All states not explicitly recognizing institutions beyond their control tend toward the totalitarian.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Linkable Links

* How to caramelize sugar without melting it

* Anglo-Saxon theology of Pentecost at "A Clerk of Oxford"

* D. G. D. Davidson discusses white tie and tuxedos by looking at the formalwear of Tuxedo Mask in the Sailor Moon manga and anime.

* Peter Kwasniewski on tradition and modernity.

* Friedrich Hayek on his second cousin, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

* Postcards from Rome, circa 1890. They were made using the Photochrom lithographic process, making them among the earliest color postcards.

* Mapping the Martyrs looks at some of the places associated with early Christian martyrs.

* David Clayton discusses the Ghent Altarpiece.

* The beatification cause of Shahbaz Bhatti has been opened in Pakistan.

* Norman P. Ho, A Confucian Theory of Property (PDF)

* Rachel Cohon discusses Hume's account of promissory obligation.

* Which Shakespeare play should I see? An illustrated flowchart.

* Some apocryphal psalms in Syriac.

* It has been noted that there has been some sloppiness in recent papal documents with regard to use of quotations and references -- someone will be cited as saying something and when one goes to the original, one finds that someone was fooled by a misleading translation no one bothered to check, or important qualifications have been dropped. Some of the oddities of the use of Thomas Aquinas in the recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

* Hildegard von Bingen's Explanation of the Athanasian Creed, as translated by Nathaniel Campbell.

* Thony Christie on Boole, Shannon, and the Electronic Computer

* All the French Tintin comics.

* Robbie Duschinsky, Tabula Rasa and Human Nature discusses the history of the concept of tabula rasa.

* The Eucharist in space. Actually, there's been at least one other case of the Catholic Eucharist being taken up. And, of course, famously, one of the very first things ever done on the moon was Presbyterian communion.

* Elliott Sober on simplicity and scientific theory.

* The Syriac Catholic Patriarch has some sharp words for how Western politicians have handled the Syria crisis.

* William Whewell, John William Lubbock, and the development of peer review.

* The nuns who helped chart the stars of the sky.

* Larry Hurtado discusses the ways in which the book of Revelation differs significantly from other apocalyptic texts.

* Apparently, new evidence of the Union of Uzhhorod, which some skeptics had doubted even occurred formally, has been discovered.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Reading of Earth, or of Life

We are justified in saying that philosophy partakes of the nature of art, provided that we are serious about art. The addition made to reality by a great artist is not wilful or disconnected;--it is an unfolding, or a cultivated growth from what was there. Shakespeare says, 'See what life can be; for a Cordelia, for Autolycus, and for Macbeth'. Pheidias says both, 'See what marble can do', and also 'This is what Dew-maidens would be if they existed'; bringing out something which is inchoate in a twilight amongst Greek hills. Holbein shows us a society and a history, and depths of experience sounded or evaded, through a few lines on a canvas. More simply, though on the smaller scale, we see the interpretative office in the secondary arts. The performance of a drama, the playing of an orchestral composition, the reading aloud of a poem, will add to existent reality an evanescent series of movements and of sounds, and through these will unfold what was given. Poets perhaps have bestowed a name which philosophy need not repudiate, when they have called it a reading of earth, or of life.

[Helen Wodehouse, "Language and Moral Philosophy," Mind, Vol. 47, No. 186 (Apr., 1938), p. 213.]

Helen Marion Wodehouse (1880-1964) is a philosopher who deserves a somewhat greater remembrance than she has. Her book, The Logic of Will, for instance, is an interesting exploration of the analogy between the cognitive and the conative, or, in other words, between speculative thought and practical action.

"Language and Moral Philosophy" itself is a very nicely worked-out argument that all language is both emotive and representational (or, as she prefers to put it, emotive and presentative); that is to say, that we cannot separate out 'emotive' uses of language and factual/scientific/assertive uses of language because all use of language is emotive -- it seeks to move, even if only to move people to pay attention to something -- and that it always fulfills its emotive function by presenting the world in a certain way, either directly asserting or suggesting assertions: "Every intentional communication is both presentative and emotive; and if a rule is given, an assertion is made" (p. 209).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Quick Trip to Italy, Miscellanea IV

Florence: Uffizi Gallery

As I noted, I avoided taking many pictures in the Uffizi, despite the fact that they allow flashless photography, but I did grab a few very quick ones to prove I'd been. Here is the most famous painting in the Uffizi, taken from the doorway because of the crowd:


I never realized that Botticelli's The Birth of Venus was so popular, but there was a constant mass of people crowding straight for it.

Here is a picture of the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, from the cafe balcony:


Hyacinthe Rigaud's portrait of Bossuet:


And Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy's Death of Socrates:


Rome: Trevi Fountain

The plaque above the Fontana di Trevi:


And some more of the fountain itself:


Rome: Forum

On the way to Trajan's Forum, I snapped this picture of the front of the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles:


It's a very old church, going back to the sixth century, although, of course, it was heavily restored and developed beginning in the fifteenth century. Bessarion is buried there; I hadn't known that offhand, but it makes me glad I at least snapped a picture of the front, as I very much like Bessarion.

Here's the edge of the entire Forum area:



And another picture of the gaudy monstrosity:


Manalive, something about that monument irritates me. The front side is completely uninviting and dull. From the back side the winged statues at the top look like giant black bats feeding on a white glob of corpse. No one's life has been made better by it. It's like a supervillain's notion of monumental architecture.

to be continued