Friday, August 28, 2015

Rosmini for August XXVIII

ST. AUGUSTINE

St. Augustine reprehends three classes of people for their ignorance: firstly, those who imagine they know, and yet do not know; secondly, those who are conscious of their ignorance but do not seek knowledge in the right way; thirdly, those who are conscious of their ignorance, yet will not seek knowledge at all.
Treatise on Moral Conscience p. 256 [SC]

Aristotle, Plot, and Baen Books

An interesting bit from an old interview with Toni Weisskopf, editor and publisher of Baen Books, describing Baen's method of pairing established writers with newer ones in collaborations:

Part of what led to the company's doing so many collaborations was Jim thinking about how we could grow our younger authors (people like Elizabeth Moon) and get them up to the level of shipping that they deserved, faster than just by publishing a book a year. He remembered what Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle had done in their collaborations, and he thought he could reproduce their method and have a similar system work for our younger writers, paired with established older writers who didn't necessarily have time to write all the plots they wanted to write. We started out with David Drake, who plots like no one else -- he doesn't think it's hard! For him, it's like putting on his shoes in the morning. I'm not a writer myself, but I've met plenty of writers who say, 'I'd cut off my left foot to plot like he does.'

Around the same time, I was reading Aristotle's Poetics and realized there's a philosophical underpinning for this method of creating fiction. I recommend The Poetics for anyone who is doubtful about this way of doing things. It's similar to the way the Great Masters worked, the painters in the Renaissance. They would create the outline of the painting, their apprentices would fill in the details, and then the masters would come back and make the finishing touches that made it a brilliant painting. This is the same way that our 'arranged marriage' collaborations work (though not all the marriages are arranged; some of the writers come to us as 'couples' already). David Weber and Steve White's first novels were collaborations, for instance.

The specific aspect of the method that finds a philosophical underpinning in Aristotle is not the collaboration but the structure of it. Aristotle holds that the events of a tragedy consist plot and episodes. Tragedy, according to Aristotle, is an imitation, a mimesis, of action and life, and therefore it is primarily governed by its plot, which is the ordering of its actions. Plot is the soul of a tragedy, and exercises its proper functions when it is unified, complete, and plausible. This plot, as Aristotle understands it, is not the whole story of the work; it is the structural framework of the whole, consisting of the essential turns of fortune (the Greek word for such a turn of fortune is a catastrophe, an overturning). One also requires episodes. An episode is literally a parenthetic narrative, whatever happens to occur between the choral commentaries that structure a Greek tragedy; it is what goes with the plot without being the plot. Aristotle illustrates the point humorously in a very famous comment about the Odyssey:

A certain man is absent from home for many years; he is jealously watched by Poseidon, and left desolate. Meanwhile his home is in a wretched plight--suitors are wasting his substance and plotting against his son. At length, tempest-tost, he himself arrives; he makes certain persons acquainted with him; he attacks the suitors with his own hand, and is himself preserved while he destroys them. This is the essence of the plot; the rest is episode.

The compression here is deliberate; on Aristotle's account the Odyssey has very little plot. It's an epic, and epics because of their length are more episode-heavy than tragedies; but the Odyssey is also more episodic than most epics. Much of what you find in the Odyssey is not actually required for the major turns of fortune in the story that is the Odyssey itself, and could be broken up into little independent stories and scenes that need have nothing to do with coming home to Ithaca. This is fine for an epic; a tragedy structured like this would have what Aristotle calls an episodic plot, which he regards as defective. Amateurs write such plots because they are weak at plotting, and those with experience only write them to please the actors: acting itself is almost purely episodic in nature, because it is the episodes, not the plot, that let the actors show their skill. (This is why highly visual media of our day -- television, movies -- are so big on character arcs. Character arcs are pseudo-plots consisting of contrasting episodic representations of character in incidental relation to the real plot; acting is very well suited to this, as Aristotle recognized, but our visual media are much more intensely actor-focused than Greek drama was.)

Because of this, Aristotle's recommendation for poets is that they write their tragedies beginning with the plot, then assign names to the characters, then fill it in with episodes that are interesting and relevant to the plot. Aristotle doesn't envisage this as collaborative, but the Baen method is, as Weisskopf suggests, Aristotle's method, just with a division of labor.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rosmini for August XXVII

ST. JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS

You are indeed privileged, destined as you are to lead to God so many of our little ones dear to our Lord. If the crime of scandalizing one of these children is denounced by Christ in such terrible words, surely there must be proportionate merit and ground of hope in caring for them and teaching them.
Letters 571 [SC]

[St. Jose de Calasanz was a controversial educator of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, who advocated free education for all children. He founded the Clerks Regular of the Pious Schools, also known as the Piarists. In the modern Ordinary Form calendar his memorial is August 25 rather than August 27 as it was when the Spiritual Calendar was published (it is still August 27 in the Extraordinary Form calendar).]

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

And I Am Sometimes Proud and Sometimes Meek

Aloof
by Christina Rossetti


The irresponsive silence of the land,
The irresponsive sounding of the sea,
Speak both one message of one sense to me:--
Aloof, aloof, we stand aloof, so stand
Thou too aloof, bound with the flawless band
Of inner solitude; we bind not thee;
But who from thy self-chain shall set thee free?
What heart shall touch thy heart? What hand thy hand?
And I am sometimes proud and sometimes meek,
And sometimes I remember days of old
When fellowship seem'd not so far to seek,
And all the world and I seem'd much less cold,
And at the rainbow's foot lay surely gold,
And hope felt strong, and life itself not weak.

Rosmini for August XXVI

I advise you not to be too harsh with yourself, but to humble yourself continually with great gentleness and sweetness. Be persuaded of your own nothingness, and then you will not be surprised at the assaults of your passions.
Letters 2777 [SC]

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Regularist vs. Necessitarian Accounts of Moral Obligation

Accounts of moral obligation often have broad analogies to accounts of laws of nature. This is not very surprising, as despite their differences they are both strong modalities (Box) and they both have to accept the basic D axiom (Box implies Diamond), since moral obligation (Box) has to imply permissibility (Diamond) and laws of nature (Box) have to imply physically possibility (Diamond). It doesn't seem to be much considered, though, although I am pleased to note that Reutlinger, Schurz, and Hüttemann in their SEP article on ceteris paribus laws of nature at least briefly recognize that there can be a link of some sort between ceteris paribus laws of nature and prima facie norms.

It's common to classify accounts of laws of nature into two rough groupings: Regularist or Regularity (sometimes called, a bit controversially, Humean) accounts and Necessitarian accounts. On a Regularist account, laws of nature are, as you would suspect, just regularities. The Boxiness of the laws of nature is temporal: they are just things that always happen, according to some measure of what counts as 'always' (i.e., according to some kind of regularity). Necessitarian accounts take laws of nature to identify necessities in a stronger sense than this. The basic difference, in other words, is that Necessitarians want to say that you can have regularities that are not laws of nature -- that there are things that happen always that could be otherwise than they are, and these have to be distinguished from the fundamental laws of nature, which in some way have to be what they are.

The analogy between deontology and nomology holds here: we can classify accounts of moral obligations into two rough groups, one of which clearly has affinities with Regularist accounts of laws of nature and one of which clearly has affinities with Necessitarian accounts of laws of nature.

Regularist accounts of moral obligations are most commonly associated with consequentialists: moral obligations for consequentialists are regularities, things that happen to be always better, according to some practical measure of 'always'. Despite the association, I don't think Regularists about obligation have to be consequentialists. The reason for the association is that a Regularist needs there to be something morally significant for obligations to be the regularity of, and consequentialism is the most popular and influential theory that has an obvious candidate in how it conceives of consequences.

Necessitarian accounts, on the other hand, are most commonly associated with deontologists. As in the prior case, I doubt this is a strictly logical connection. The reason for the association is that Kantianism, the most philosophically influential deontology, is founded on an attack against any and every kind of Regularist account of obligation; this is precisely what Kant is doing in the early part of the Groundwork.

Likewise, one can see that objections to this or that nomology often have counterparts in objections to the analogous deontology. Deontological Regularists hammer Deontological Necessitarians on epistemological worries just as hard and as often as their nomological counterparts hammer Nomological Necessitarians on them. Issues of idealization and precision show up in Deontological Necessitarian attacks on Deontological Regularists just as often as they do in the Nomological Necessitarian critiques of Nomological Regularism.

Occasionally there are accounts of laws of nature that don't fit easily into the Regularist/Necessitarian framework (accounts that focus on natural classification, for instance); it would be interesting to see how these analogize to accounts of obligation. And a further issue of interest would be differences; different interpretations of Box and Diamond make different modal axioms more plausible or less plausible, and this would affect how the analogy works.

Stolen from Some Heavenly Arcady

Athanasia
by Oscar Wilde


O that gaunt House of Art which lacks for naught
Of all the great things men have saved from Time,
The withered body of a girl was brought
Dead ere the world's glad youth had touched its prime,
And seen by lonely Arabs lying hid
In the dim womb of some black pyramid.

But when they had unloosed the linen band
Which swathed the Egyptian's body,--lo! was found
Closed in the wasted hollow of her hand
A little seed, which sown in English ground
Did wondrous snow of starry blossoms bear
And spread rich odours through our spring-tide air.

With such strange arts this flower did allure
That all forgotten was the asphodel,
And the brown bee, the lily's paramour,
Forsook the cup where he was wont to dwell,
For not a thing of earth it seemed to be,
But stolen from some heavenly Arcady.

In vain the sad narcissus, wan and white
At its own beauty, hung across the stream,
The purple dragon-fly had no delight
With its gold dust to make his wings a-gleam,
Ah! no delight the jasmine-bloom to kiss,
Or brush the rain-pearls from the eucharis.

For love of it the passionate nightingale
Forgot the hills of Thrace, the cruel king,
And the pale dove no longer cared to sail
Through the wet woods at time of blossoming,
But round this flower of Egypt sought to float,
With silvered wing and amethystine throat.

While the hot sun blazed in his tower of blue
A cooling wind crept from the land of snows,
And the warm south with tender tears of dew
Drenched its white leaves when Hesperos up-rose
Amid those sea-green meadows of the sky
On which the scarlet bars of sunset lie.

But when o'er wastes of lily-haunted field
The tired birds had stayed their amorous tune,
And broad and glittering like an argent shield
High in the sapphire heavens hung the moon,
Did no strange dream or evil memory make
Each tremulous petal of its blossoms shake?

Ah no! to this bright flower a thousand years
Seemed but the lingering of a summer's day,
It never knew the tide of cankering fears
Which turn a boy's gold hair to withered grey,
The dread desire of death it never knew,
Or how all folk that they were born must rue.

For we to death with pipe and dancing go,
Now would we pass the ivory gate again,
As some sad river wearied of its flow
Through the dull plains, the haunts of common men,
Leaps lover-like into the terrible sea!
And counts it gain to die so gloriously.

We mar our lordly strength in barren strife
With the world's legions led by clamorous care,
It never feels decay but gathers life
From the pure sunlight and the supreme air,
We live beneath Time's wasting sovereignty,
It is the child of all eternity.

Rosmini for August XXV

It is a mistake to suppose that we can instil humility into people by depressing and humbling them. No; it is rather by praising them in the Lord that we make them advance, and by humbling ourselves sincerely, without any affectation, and by actions rather than by words.
Letters 2778 [SC]

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rosmini for August XXIV

Of praise, commonly speaking, I take little account, because I know too well that it is not always sincere. But advice and admonitions, and even reproofs from friends, these are never deceptive; they bear the stamp of sincerity; they are gifts from the heart.
Letters 2884 [SC]

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dashed Off I

As usual, notes dashed off, to be taken with a grain of salt.

Pilgrim's Progress as a chimeric melding of many allegories

To participate in a ceremony is often more instructive than hearing it explained, if that is all one has.

the prudence, justice, moderation, and fortitude required of a good historian

Advice is not a matter of conveying information.

papal privileges and powers
(1) essential to the Chair of Peter
(2) necessarily concomitant to it under certain conditions
(3) arising from customary law and confirmed by special appropriateness
(4) arising from customary law and preserved as a matter of convenience
(5) delegated under positive law

The holiness of the Church is sacramentality.

mutual confirmation among classifications

"Mythology presents the most complicated structure ever devised by human intellect; inexhaustibly rich, but at the same time most variable in its signification..." (Schlegel)

revelation as preventing men from being debased into mere instruments (Schlegel)

In baptism we are painted with the colors of glory; in confirmation we receive the means of painting in the same colors.

Techne requires logos.

design//other minds; cosmological//external world; ontological//mathematical objects

idea-, essence-, & possibility-based views of mathematics

Hume seems carefully to regiment his discussion fo the design argument so that it always corresponds to other minds known indirectly; this raises of course the issue of Berkeley, for whom D //present OM.

D <- OM -> Sublimity (cp. Reid)
Cleanthes needs a sublimity branch; but lacks anything more than a gesture toward one. Contrast this with Reid.

Hume's discussion of design is about vestiges; one poss. weakness of his argument is that so much relies on precisely this vestigial, indirect character of the inference, both for questioning the robustness of the conclusion and for questioning its viability as a ground for religion.

tradition//prudence
- the counterpart of casuistics for tradition
- prudence as ground of inner tradition
- tradition // counsel

stable vs. unstable solutions to philosophical problems

argument structure conservation from position to position

labor:end::toil:impediment

liturgy as a dialogue between God and His people

What Jews attribute to the Sabbath, Christians often attribute to the Church.

Creation of Eve // Construction of Tabernacle // Marriage

the means of the Serpent; deception, violence, seduction

3 levels of sin: misstep, breach, rebellion (Ps 106:6; I Kg 8:47; Dn. 9:5)

Cryptography is an organizing of ignorance.

definite-bad vs. not-good-enough arguments from evil (limit vs. threshold)

Repeatability and falsifiability both presuppose underlying regularities.

Abstractions do not, as such, explain; we use abstraction in explanation to understand the actual, which explains.

Ethical relativism commits one to rational relativism.

government as formed not by giving up rights but by pooling them

tradition & following wise examples

"History sacred and profane tells us, that, corruption of manners sinks nations into slavery." John Dickinson

the rational interplay of life, knowledge, play, art, sociability, practicality, religion, labor, and romance -- rational atmosphere

Mill's essays on religion can be seen as philosophical attacks on the Christian virtue of hope.

traditions as structured by authority, education, and public opinion

- there needs to be a theological study of the Councils of Toledo

Baptism is a sacrament the Christian never stops encountering.

It is an utterly remarkable feature of--and dreadful warning from--the history of higher criticism that so many figures espousing 'higher criticism' have managed to engage in extensive magical thinking about their own critical and reasoning abilities.

memory:term::testimony:proposition::tradition:argument

drink offering & martyrdom

What is important to a translation is what one denies oneself in translating.

Luke's use of proleptic narration

(a) direct textual arguments
(b) parsimony arguments
(c) external evidence arguments
Most synoptic problem discussion is really occurring on the level of parsimony, even when the text is being discussed closely.

All debates are about words; the only question is whether a given debate is about anything else.

All sacramental rites have an essential feature plus a perfecting or sealing feature like the bloom on youth-- technically dispensable but naturally linked and a sign of health.

Catholic Social Teaching, rooted in the image of God, rises through Christ the King toward resurrection in glory and life in the world to come; in no other way can it accurately be interpreted.

arguments for finality
(1) continuity with mind/function (in art and nature)
(2) genesis of mind/function
(3) analogy with mind/function
(4) intrinsic nature

self-forming vs. sustained views of the continuance of the universe
(Whitehead is good in seeing the problem and developing an attempt at a self-forming account.)
- Outside of Whitehead, this is an important problem that is neglected by modern philosopher.
- endurantist vs. perdurantist views
- Whitehead comes to the subject through a related question, or can be seen as doing so: What makes this universe the universe of before? This links the topic to issues about skepticism concerning the past.

the sense of sublimity & the sense of the unity of the cosmos

subsumptive views of continuance (mingle self-forming & sustained)

Photographs have sense and reference.

Mariological mereological morality (linked to the Marian aspect of the Church, we as children as part of Mother Mary as whole, in the way Aquinas treats of children as related to parents as part in some way to whole)

personal selfhood as extending beyond personal substance (interior castle)

three factors of degree of love
(1) intimacy
(2) knowledge
(3) duration

matrimony as the sacrament of heritage

Physical->Psychological->Testimonial
Physical->Psychological = sensation
- hallucination
- illusion (including trickery)
Psychological (memory, imagination & understanding, sensibility & drive)
- dream
- deception
- misunderstanding (including being deceived)
- distortion
- misremembering
Psychological->Testimonial = formulation
- misstatement
- defective transmission

motives of credibility like the vestments of faith

To deny faith is to deny providence in intellectual matters.

Machines fail through part failure-- part as locus of possible failure for whole
two major kinds of part failure: overload, fatigue

The governing tendency of Rand's Objectivism is absolute opposition to dialectic; it is why she insists so much on the Laws of Thought; and why she hates KAnt so much, since the antinomies are the beginning of dialectic and Kant begets Hegel begets Marx; and this opposition is the primary core of what she takes to be reason.

symbolic & rational re-enactment in tradition

Political liberty is a means that has rational use of liberty of will as its end.

Teaching by charity is teaching by example.

Unrestricted competition is class warfare with millions of classes.

A genuine just wage theory must begin with gratitude for workers, gratitude for good work, and gratitude for good opportunity.

the omen-esque character of events (an aptness for symbolism)

Analytic appeals to intuitions are modified consensus gentium arguments.

The primary responsibility of a ruler is to study the means to good.

Evils are not corrected by greater naivete about evil.

Were Jesus not Jewish, He would not be the Christ.

arguments for private property // arguments for popular government
- this seems to be so even though structurally popular government is itself more like common property (although perhaps we should be taking into account overlapping private property claims, like private property of families and firms; or perhaps the bridge is corporate personhood)

Property is an inherently genealogical idea.
private property as a remedium avaritiam

The devil's greatest ally is Missing-the-point.

RElations of ideas and matters of fact can only cover all the objects of human inquiry if they are taken to come in several varieties, some of which overlap the divide. (Modalities provide a treasury of examples of why this is necessarily so. Another is that both must fall under a single category, or both be referred to a single category, or one be referred to the other, in order to be linked in as 'Hume's Fork' links them; and this also establishes the fact that htey cannot be exhaustive unless taken loosely and with overlap.)

The dignity of fair and rational inquiry is something that strikes almost everyone who seriously contemplates it.

arguments/positions converging to indistinguishability under ideal conditions (e.g., Lyons on rule & act utilitarianism)

the ordinative power of baptism
(1) the power of customary law and agency in the liturgical commonwealth
(2) the power of executing ecclesial laws applying to oneself in such reasonable manner as one deems appropriate
(3) the power to protest and to counsel in matters concerning oneself
(4) the power of material self-protection in the face of abuses
(5) the power to negotiate through civil and ecclesial agencies
(6) the power of voluntary association

Everything produced has an exemplar cause (effects follow on determinate forms).

charity and dignity as the pillars of Christian medical practice

Sacramental character gives us something analogous to angelic knowledge of God.

the four levels of matrimony as a sacrament
(1) reason
(2) revelation
(3) grace (sacrament proper)
(4) Christ (by sign)
the threefold characteristic of the marital covenant at each level: unity, justice, totality
- the covenant itself is structured as twofold: between spouses, between spouse and God. But these are interlinked.

Tolerance is a poor substitute for charity.

truth as the lure of reasoning

The ivory tower is often not different from an intellectual ghetto.

Discrete mathematics is an art of finding middle terms to explicate certain kinds of enthymemes.

Reasoning through faith cannot be purely deductive, because our understanding of truths of faith being usually indirect it must also involve comparison of the reasoning to an archetype. This is not unique to reasoning through faith; one finds it, for instance, in ordinary reasoning in matters where perspective or practical ends are important.

logical distribution as an ordered pair

(1) natural law -- reason
(2) Torah -- reason uplifted to divine things indirectly by teaching from divine reason
(3) Church -- reason uplifted to divine things directly by union with divine reason
(4) Logos -- divine reason

the introduction of the principle of private judgment into marriage

Baptism is the mother sacrament of the Creed; orders is the mother sacrament of Canon Law.

It seems to be confirmation rather than baptism that grounds the passive magisterium and the lay apostolate, in the proper sense. Think about this.

traditions as systems of education

confirmation // presentation in the Temple

Venial sins sap the readiness to do well.

Tone may interfere with argument structure.

Tradition is an activity requiring completion in one's own reasoning and acting.

Faith, hope, and love direct us to ends outside of our own power.

Infused moral virtues, theological virtues, and gifts of the Holy Spirit are known in ourselves only by probable and plausible signs.

The principle of intersectionality guarantees social fracturing.
Prohibiting tone policing solidifies the power of those with the social status to get away with contempt or worse without consequence.

the relation between humor and hope

All Saints as the feature of Catholicity; Peter & Paul as the feast of Apostolicity

Duplications are so common in the Pentateuch that it is seems odd that no one considers the possibility that this might sometimes be deliberate.

A tradition is guarded by its icons.

Serious methods of inquiry generally depend more on precedent than on rules.

the profound human need to put one's life on a rational basis

scene as quasi-material aspect of narrative (cp. Burke)

the Church itself as Tradition (cp Irenaeus Adv Haer 3.4.1)

The possibility of pragmatic inconsistency establishes the possibility of pragmatic circularity and vice versa.

Virtually every form of legal positivism has to import natural law elements to work -- Hart, Peczenik, and MacCormick are all good examples of this. And the reason is that law cannot really operate in isolation from reason.

Prudence requires regard for precedent; precedents function like counsels.

Advice increases the rational resources available for discussion.

OM0/D0 one's own mind
OM1/D1 another like oneself
OM2/D2 another greater than oneself
...
OMinf/Dinf God

criterial, IBE & analogical forms of recognizing one's own effects
-- the analogical will have to be of two forms:
analogy with others' effects
analogy with one's own (other) effects
-- this twofold possiblity is found in all D-ana arguments; one may, for instance, recognize designer X on analogy with oneself or on analogy with previously identified designers
-- actually, for others the latter splits into three: X itself may be a previously identified designer (cp. discovery of new work by known master)
D
(1) D-ana
(1a) D-ana-s (self)
(1b) D-ana-r (reflexive)
(1c) D-ana-o (other)
(2) D-IBE
(3) D-crit

Does Cleanthes concede the possibility of infinite regress too easily? obviously Humean principles allow him little room to maneuver, but even on Humean principles there is more problem with infinite regress than mere exhaustion of mind -- no empirical experience can include or establish infinite regress, which has no analogy to anything in our experience. (Q: How does Hume's account of equality in T affect this reasoning?) By analogy with our own experience, we may take the regress to be finite. To be sure, this might give results also not analogous -- but this must be established. The same applies to Philo's Epicurean possibility, which is not merely analogical inference from experience but also hypothesis. Since Cleanthes is willing to embrace finitistic theism, he can dismiss both the Epicurean supposition and any supposition of infinite regress quite easily; but even before this, how do they fit at all with experimental inference?

Molyneux's problem & deriving the unknown from the known

Transubstantiation is a nongradual, complete substantial conversion, neither annihilation nor creation nor material transformation, to real presence under symbolic characteristics that do not change.

IBE & pragmatic incentive
(Lipton's description of IBE as inference to the loveliest explanation seems to capture this well.) Thus taking greater understanding as the end(s) one frames the optative means in light of the evidence -- hopeful inquiry. The major difficulty, of course is avoiding stupidly optimistic inquiry. This seems to arise in general through overlooking solution desiderata that are important for the problem.

sign-to and sign-of aspects of a sign

terraforming as a symbol of philosophy

the rabbleward temptation of political movements

regular contiguous resemblance (all three admit of degree)

an analysis of the concept of home based on analyses of Aeneid, The Hobbit, & Mansfield Park

Providence works by mediations.

"By longstanding habit nature always either progresses or regresses." Chrysologus

Provision is of means to ends.

criterial arguments are semiotic arguments; the primary issue for them is reliability
- index/indicator signs seem to be the primary kind. Are there others?

sacramentalia as protections of sacraments

time table as part of the structure of actual reasoning

Metaphor as allowing the coding of one logical structure in terms of another

argument-auditing practices

reflection as the limit-case of inversion

literate programming & its analogue in argument formalization

customary tax law with minor statutory enforcement as a more reliable source of revenue

tally mathematics (tallying, grouping, m-n only defined for m>n, etc.)

proportions as the fundamental topic of arithmetic

calculation as dominated by the problem of ease of tracking operations

biological function as semiotic fit

the leonine, bovine, aquiline & human faces of philosophy

naturals
pairs of naturals - integers
pairs of integers - rationals

part, measure, operation, proportion

infinite sets as capacities to identify infinite series

prudence as a sense of metaphor
foresight, circumspection, & caution in use of metaphor
safe vs daring metaphor
objective vs intersubjective confirmation of metaphor

bridge-inference & jump-inference

Mission or sending is deliberate principiated presence.
Dwelling is mission, understood especially in light of the presence involved.
mission through command, through counsel, through consent

dedication of church as symbolic of baptism & confirmation

charity as hospitality to the indwelling Spirit
charity as
(a) desire for God
(b) hospitality to God
(c) friendship with God
(d) dwelling in God

necessitarian views of the continuance of the universe // monistic views of the self

'Forgery' is a functional term indicating how a word is used.

Acts 13:15 // Hb 13:22

Kahane's account of debunking arguments would guarantee that they are rarely of any use; it fails to consider postconfirmations & involves an uncritical notion of truth-tracking.

Much of rhetoric is impediment removal.

truth-tracking vs. truth-aptitude

The fundamental motivating principle of philosophy is that right is more fundamental than might (in reason, in politics, in everything else).




Rosmini for August XXIII

Be generous with our Lord; do not fear to give too much, but desire and try to give him more every day. Think whether you have anything that might be pleasing to Him, and then make the sacrifice of it.
Letters 2076 [SC]

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Miller on the Morality of False Identity

The recent videos that have raised an uproar about Planned Parenthood have stirred up some discussion again about undercover sting operations and Catholic moral theology on lying, of the same kind that occurred due to the undercover operation of LiveAction a few years ago. It has been much of the same. But one bright point is that Monica Migliorino Miller at Crisis has given the kind of response to worries that should have been given all along. A few points:

(1) Usually I would complain immediately about mixing up truthfulness, lying, and right-to-truth passages from the Catechism, but as Miller is explicitly focusing on the question of whether assuming a false identity is lying, so they all are actually directly relevant to the specific topic at hand. This makes the argument, in and of itself, one of the better ones I've seen.

(2) Miller says:

Aquinas approved of actual gestures of false signification stating: “A man may be deceived by what we say or do, because we do not declare our purpose or meaning to him.”

This is a somewhat baffling gloss. Precisely Aquinas's point in the discussion of ambushes is that these things do not involve false significations; these are cases in which we don't declare our meanings (we aren't signifying), and others are themselves responsible for the fact that they come to the wrong conclusions. The whole point is that we are concealing the truth, not that we are signifying what is false. And, in fact, Aquinas is quite clear that false signification with the intention to deceive is exactly what lying is, and always wrong -- his primary argument that lying is wrong is based on the issue of false signification.

(As a side note, Miller assumes throughout that the issue is intent to deceive; but in Catholic moral theology, intentio is a somewhat broader word than the English word 'intent'; it means the way you dispose yourself to act, which can include not just intent but a number of other things, like acquired habits. I don't think this affects her argument in any very serious way.)

(3) Catholics need to be careful with double effect when talking about lying. Lying is directly analogous to murder in these cases. When someone attacks you, this does not give you the right to try to kill them: that is murder, although under the circumstances much more excusable than murdering on a plan. You can see this quite clearly if you think about a scenario in which we find A and B, who are enemies. In this scenario, A is strolling along and suddenly is attacked by B; A suddenly realizes that now is his chance to destroy B once and for all, and he kills him. That is murder, plain and simple; the fact that B attacked A may make it harder to show that it was murder in a court of law, and it might, depending on the situation, make A's murder of B less serious than murdering on a plan; but defending yourself does not give a license for murderous intent, nor does it make intent that would be murderous suddenly non-murderous.
If you are attacked, however, it is entirely just to defend yourself from attack. In a life-or-death situation, the attack may well lead to killing your attacker. But the whole point of double effect is that for this to be just, you have to be out to defend yourself, not using the attack as an excuse to destroy your attacker.

The effect in cases of lying and deception, of course, is that the person in question is deceived; being deceived is the aspect of the case that directly corresponds to being killed in the self-defense case. It is not necessarily wrong to act in such a way that the other person is deceived; situations in which the other person is acting unjustly may indeed provide some fairly clear cases, although they do not do so automatically. But this is not a license to speak falsely with the intent to deceive. You must still be truthful; it's just that, as in the self-defense case, in which you have been, through another's injustice, placed in a paradoxical situation in which the effect is not one a just person would aim at, despite acting entirely justly, you have been placed in a situation in which being truthful happens to result in another's being deceived.

However, Miller (and this is a major strength of her argument) avoids the common error of trying to treat double effect as a blanket license here, and thus focuses narrowly on the question of false identity. And here she is entirely correct, as far as her argument goes. Having what we would call a false identity is not in and of itself an act of lying; and she is right that this is so even on a strict interpretation of Thomistic principles (given some things he says to Jerome, Augustine might be more skeptical). When Jesuit priests who were undercover in England during the reign of Elizabeth I went around under the name Mr. Smith (or what have you) to hide the fact that they were priests, this was not intrinsically wrong. To recognize this, it is not even actually necessary to get into the question of mental reservation, as Miller does and the Jesuits did, although this is certainly one way to go. If I call myself Mr. Smith, that's what I am called. If I, like the young Clive Staples Lewis, firmly resolved one day that everybody should call me Jack, Jack my name would be.

We get into more dangerous waters, however, if we are talking about not merely hiding my identity under an alias or pseudonym but impersonation. Miller's recognition of false identity as a form of self-defense is actually quite ingenious, but the argument necessarily comes with a very short tether. Just as in the attack, I must not be aiming to kill another human being but acting justly to both of us, so too in these cases of false identity one would have to not be aiming at false communication for the purposes of deception but exercising the virtue of truthfulness. And it is quite obvious that on this ground there are lots of things that you could not possibly do in order to create and maintain your false identity. I do not have sufficiently precise knowledge of how the videos were maintained to know whether the cover was maintained truthfully. But it is important regardless to understand just how small the room to maneuver provided by this argument is.

All in all, this is a good defense: it proportions its conclusion properly to its actual premises; while there are things I would change myself, it is laid out fairly well; it handles ethical analogies massively better than most discussions on this topic I have seen; it doesn't mangle double effect beyond recognition; and it doesn't treat the Catholic tradition of moral theology as a wax nose. I don't think it gets anyone all that far, but what it does get is properly earned, and I have no major complaints about it.

Rosmini for August XXII

A Christian should have the reasons of his own nothingness engraved upon his mind; firstly, those which prove the nothingness of all creatures; secondly, those which humble mankind especially; and thirdly, those which humble him personally.
Maxims of Christian Perfection v.3 [SC]