Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lent II

No one, however, loves his neighbour who does not out of his love to God do all in his power to bring his neighbour also, whom he loves as himself, to love God, whom if he does not love, he neither loves himself nor his neighbour. Hence it is true that if a man shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he becomes guilty of all, because he does what is contrary to the love on which hangs the whole law. A man, therefore, becomes guilty of all by doing what is contrary to that on which all hang.

Augustine, Letter 167 (chapter 5/section 16) to Jerome.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Radio Greats: Another Point of View (CBS Radio Workshop)

A discussion in the comments for a post at "Shredded Cheddar" put me in mind of a very famous and fun episode of CBS Radio Workshop.

If you want original radio, testing the limits of the genre, CBS Radio Workshop is where you go. It ran in the waning years of the Golden Age of Radio (1956-1957). It was the last in an admirable tradition of experimental radio that really attempted to explore all the possibilities provided by radio as a medium.

Because it did experimental radio, CBS Radio Workshop has no typical episode, but probably its most famous episode, and arguably the best of a fairly good run, is an episode called "Another Point of View (or, Hamlet Revisited)", narrated by the great William Conrad. It is a bit funning with the Bard, a tongue-in-cheek argument that Hamlet is the villain of Shakespeare's play and that there is nothing rotten in Denmark but Hamlet makes it so. And being properly done, it's actually a good way to think through the play and its characters -- by taking another point of view, even as a joke, it sheds a new light on the play. It also sheds light on us. One of the things that makes the episode work is that the values by which it tries to make its case are the ordinary, everyday values of the modern world.

You can listen to "Another Point of View" online at the Internet Archive (episode 22). (You can also find it here.)

Lent I

The way to wisdom is therefore not like that of a man rising from the water into the air, in which, in the moment of rising above the surface of the water, he suddenly breathes freely, but, like that of a man proceeding from darkness into light, on whom more light gradually shines as he advances. So long, therefore, as this is not fully accomplished, we speak of the man as of one going from the dark recesses of a vast cavern towards its entrance, who is more and more influenced by the proximity of the light as he comes nearer to the entrance of the cavern; so that whatever light he has proceeds from the light to which he is advancing, and whatever darkness still remains in him proceeds from the darkness out of which he is emerging.

Augustine, Letter 167 (chapter 3/section 13) to Jerome.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Philosophy and the Virtue of Temperance

One of the ways to read Plato's Gorgias is as an argument that the practice of philosophy requires the virtue of temperance (sophrosyne, self-control), and vice versa. This contrasts with rhetoric and sophistry, which have no such connection. In fact, the rhetors in the Gorgias end up explicitly affirming a number of things that are inconsistent with the virtue of temperance. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between what seems good and what is really good.

Gorgias claims that rhetoric is valuable because it is concerned with speeches that persuade, without educating, on matters of right and wrong in the city; as Socrates notes, this means that rhetoric deals with what seems good rather than what is really good. This is affirmed when Polus argues that orators are powerful because they do what they like (i.e., what seems good to them). Socrates, however, denies that what people like (i.e., what seems good to them) is what they want (i.e., real good), although, of course, since he likes provoking Polus, he states it in the most paradoxical way he can find. For instance, Socrates claims that people who do wrong and are never punished for it are to be pitied, while being wrongly punished is always a happier life than doing anything wrong; Polus will be boggled at this kind of view, in which someone could suffer terribly and have a happier life than someone who gets everything they like. Callicles in turn argues that success, the good life, the life worth having, consists of desiring as much as possible and having the phronesis (intelligence) and andreia (manliness or courage) to achieve your desires, and denies that restraining your ambitions when you could achieve them is anything but either weakness or stupidity. Socrates will argue that all of these claims are incoherent.

But more than this, all of this argument, while about self-control, is also about philosophy. This is actually made clear in multiple ways. Early on, in the discussion with Gorgias, Socrates says that he hopes Gorgias is a man like himself: someone who would prefer to be refuted than to win an argument. The claim here is entirely analogous to Socrates' later claims about punishment, because both refutation and punishment are kinds of correction. Winning an argument is a matter of appearing good; but being right is a matter of real good. Not being punished is a matter of appearing good; being just is a matter of real good. In order to be the philosophical kind of person, rather than the kind of person we later learn (despite Gorgias' facile claims otherwise) the rhetors are, you must be willing to make a distinction between merely apparent good and real good. The oratorical conception of success is concerned with winning the argument, getting away with it; the philosophical, with improving the argument, improving oneself.

It's more than just a matter of aims, though. Socrates' argument against Callicles that the good life needs self-control doubles as an argument that the good life needs philosophy. (It is one of the standard marks of Plato's philosophical brilliance that he can make an argument about one subject also at the same an argument about another subject.) Socrates argues that the good and the pleasant (i.e., what seems good because it satisfies desire) can't collapse into each other. Callicles' view that we should desire as much as possible and satisfy those desires in neverending progress requires exactly this kind of collapse. But if we hold this view, we start getting very weird results: we should itch as much as possible, letting our desire to scratch grow as large as possible, in order to maximize the pleasure of scratching; soldiers should let fear, i.e., our desire to run away, grow as big as possible and then have the manliness/courage to satisfy that desire. Callicles tries to get out of this by saying there are better and worse pleasures, but this just breaks his argument against self-control: if some pleasures are better than others, we should sometimes control ourselves so that we get the better pleasures rather than the worse pleasures. Good needs to be discovered and accommodated; it cannot be imposed by force of will.

If real good and apparent good can't be collapsed into each other, though, then we have to reflect seriously about what real good is -- which is philosophy. Thus if the good life requires self-control, as Socrates argues, the good life requires philosophy.

If this is the case, though, it applies to reasoning as much as it does to anything else in life. Winning an argument is merely seeming to be good. Rhetoric may be able to give you that appearance. But the good of reasoning does not boil down to the appearance of winning the argument, however nice that might be; the good of reasoning is having a good argument that gets you something true, and what counts as that good must be discovered. Philosophical reasoning is temperate reasoning, in which you control and restrain yourself in order to find real good in reasoning rather than merely apparent good. Someone who falls back on mere rhetoric is someone who has committed himself to 'might-makes-right' in rational matters. There is a kind of very general moral realism about reasoning implicit in philosophy itself; if you reject the idea that good in reasoning is independent of our preferences, then in Socratic terms you are no philosopher at all: you are a sophist.

Note that the moderation here is not one of tone. Plato's Socrates argues respectfully with those who argue respectfully, but vehemently and polemically against those who argue vehemently and polemically. But Plato's Socrates is also quite clearly put forward as someone who insists that there is a real good of reasoning, and that it is discovered and not imposed by force of will. Because of that, we have to restrain ourselves, not running after merely apparent good but seeking that real good. That is philosophy.

Maronite Year XXIII

Maron, or Maroun, was a Syrian monk in the fourth century who eventually retired to Cyrrhus to become a hermit. He was an open-air hermit; he lived outside, even in the wind, rain, or hail, and tended a pagan temple he had converted into a church. As word began to spread, more people joined him. Theodoret of Cyr, who was bishop of Antioch at the time, gives us a few snapshots of this blossoming ascetic movement. The Maronite ascetic movement became a central pillar of the Christian community in the mountains of Syria and Lebanon, and that community, of course, would eventually become the Maronite Church.

The memorial of St. Maron has been celebrated on February 9 since the seventeenth century (prior to that it was on January 5). He is on the universal calendar, and so his memorial is celebrated on February 9 in the Latin Church, as well. The day is a Holy Day of Obligation for Maronites.

Feast of Saint Maron
2 Timothy 3:10-17; John 12:23-30

How arrayed is Maron with blessings!
Christ said, "Follow," and he followed,
giving up all for the pearl of price.
Prayer, penitence, and virtue,
humility and true devotion,
simplicity that endures all,
led him to carry the hermit's cross,
to praise God on the mountaintops.
To his plain solitude many came,
seeking devotion to the Lord,
so that he increased heaven's numbers;
they became strangers to all else,
continuing in what they received,
furnished to every good work.

How arrayed is Maron with blessings!
He was anointed a father,
gathering a nation from nations.
He was a plow of the garden,
preparing hearts for the seed of truth.
O Father Maron, pray for us,
that we may remember you in joy,
that we may have beatitude,
a poverty of spirit in faith.
Who serves the Son is honored well.
We glorify the one Father,
who calls the faithful to solitude,
and the only Son, the one way,
and the Spirit who crowns victory.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Berkeley's Direct References to Plato's Theaetetus

These are the explicit, direct references to Plato's Theaetetus that are found in his Siris. They make an interesting selection. Besides the Theaetetus, Berkeley explicitly refers to Timaeus, Phaedrus, Epinomis, Republic, the Platonic Epistles, Phaedo, and Alcibiades Major.

253. We know a thing when we can understand it: and we understand it, when we can interpret or tell what it signifies. Strictly the sense knows nothing. We perceive indeed sounds by hearing, and characters by sight: but we are not therefore said to understand them. After the same manner, the phaenomena of nature are alike visible to all: but all have not alike learned the connexion of natural things, or understand what they signify, or know how to vaticinate by them. There is no question, saith Socrates in Theaeteto, concerning that which is agreeable to each person; but concerning what will in time to come be agreeable, of which all men are not equally judges, He who foreknoweth what will be in every kind, is the wisest. According to Socrates, you and the cook may judge of a dish on the table equally well; but while the dish is making, the cook can better foretell what will ensue from this or that manner of composing it. Nor is this manner of reasoning confined only to morals or politics; but extends also natural science.

304. There is according to Plato properly no knowledge, but only opinion concerning things sensible and perishable, not because they are naturally abstruse and involved in darkness, but because their nature and existence is uncertain, ever fleeting and changing; or rather, because they do not in strict truth exist at all, being always generating or in fieri, that is, in a perpetual flux, without any thing stable or permanent in them to constitute an object of real science. The Pythagoreans and Platonics distinguish between το γιγνομενον and το ον, that which is ever generated and that which exists. Sensible things and corporeal forms are perpetually producing and perishing, appearing and disappearing, never resting in one state, but always in motion and change; and therefore in effect, not one being but a succession of beings: while το ον is understood to be somewhat of an abstract or spiritual nature, and the proper object of intellectual knowledge. Therefore as there can be no knowledge of things flowing and instable, the opinion of Protagoras and Theaetetus, that sense was science, is absurd. And indeed nothing is more evident than that the apparent sizes and shapes, for instance, of things are in a constant flux, ever differing as they are view'd at different distances, or with glasses more or less accurate. As for those absolute magnitudes and figures, which certain Cartesians and other moderns suppose to be in things, that must seem a vain supposition, to whoever considers, it is supported by no argument of reason, and no experiment of sense.

305. As understanding perceiveth not, that is, doth not hear or see or feel, so sense knoweth not: And although the mind may use both sense and phancy, as means whereby to arrive at knowledge yet sense or soul, so far forth as sensitive, knoweth nothing. For, as it is rightly observed in the Theaetetus of Plato, science consists not in the passive perceptions, but in the reasoning upon them, τω περι εκεινων συλλογισμω.

311. As to an absolute actual existence of sensible or corporeal things, it doth not seem to have been admitted either by Plato or Aristotle. In the Theaetetus we are told, that if anyone saith a thing is or is made, he must withal say, for what, or in respect of what, it is or is made; for that any thing should exist in itself or absolutely, is absurd. Agreeably to which doctrine it is also farther affirmed by Plato, that it is impossible a thing should be sweet, and sweet to no body....

316. And as the Platonic philosophy supposed intellectual notions to be originally inexistent or innate in the soul, so likewise it supposed sensible qualities to exist (though not originally) in the soul, and there only. Socrates saith to Theaetetus, You must not think the white colour that you see is in any thing without your eyes, or in your eyes, or in any place at all....

348. Socrates, in the TheƦtetus of Plato, speaketh of two parties of philosophers, the ρεοντες and οι του ολου στασιωται, the flowing philosophers who held all things to be in a perpetual flux, always generating and never existing; and those others who maintained the universe to be fixed and immoveable. The difference seems to have been this, that Heraclitus, Protagoras, Empedocles, and in general those of the former sect, considered things sensible and natural; whereas Parmenides and his party considered το παν, not as the sensible but as the intelligible world, abstracted from all sensible things.

367. As for the perfect intuition of divine things, that he supposeth to be the lot of pure souls, beholding by a pure light, initiated, happy, free and unstained from those bodies, wherein we are now imprisoned like oysters. But in this mortal state, we must be satisfy'd to make the best of those glympses within our reach. It is Plato's remark in his Theaetetus, that while we sit still we are never the wiser, but going into the river and moving up and down, is the way to discover its depths and shallows. If we exercise and bestir ourselves, we may even here discover something.

Maronite Year XXII

Ash Wednesday is specifically a custom that arose in the Latin Church. While it's common both East and West to have a specially recognized day for starting Lent off on the right foot, the imposition of ashes is a Western idea. The only Eastern churches that regularly do it are the Maronites and the Syro-Malabar, and in both cases it is a latinization. It is a borrowing that fits the Maronite Church very well, though; historically, the Maronites began as an intensive ascetic movement, so in general ascetic practices meld very easily into Maronite life. Obviously, however, it makes no sense to have an Ash Wednesday in the Maronite calendar, because Lent begins on Cana Sunday. So the imposition of ashes is done on Monday. Through much of the world, however, Maronite churches also will recognize and distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday, as part of the Maronite tendency to recognize Latin holidays as well as their own. This is especially true in areas of the world like the United States, where a significant portion of regular parishioners are likely to be Latin rite themselves. However, the ashes distributed on Ash Wednesday have to be ashes that were already blessed on Ash Monday.

Historically the Maronites have tended to have no particular regulations for Great Lent, in part because the centrality of ascetic practices to its life has meant that fasting was a regular and common occurrence, anyway. In more recent times, however, as the Church has expanded, the requirement to fast and abstain on Ash Monday and Good Friday, and to abstain on Fridays of Lent, has been established; this is another imitation of Latin practice. The Maronite rule for abstinence is the same as in the Latin Church (no meat), while the rule for fasting is no food and no drink (except water) from midnight to noon, with food only in moderation afterward. All of this is only a minimum, however. The traditional Maronite practice is to fast and abstain (from both meat and dairy) every weekday of Lent except for the feasts of St. Maron, of the Forty Martyrs, and of St. Joseph.

Ash Monday
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:7; Matthew 6:16-21

By the work of fasting and prayer,
our fathers were given holiness;
they returned to You and were made wise.
By heroic labors they were raised;
fasting and prayer make the heart clean.

We do not work for perishing food,
but for the Bread of Life, Food of Souls;
our treasure is not in worldly things,
but eternal in the vaults of heaven.
Fasting and prayer open bright gates.

The polished mirror reflects splendor;
our souls when polished reflect glory.
From soul to soul the light of Christ shines,
ever greater, never diminished.
Fasting and prayer spread a great light.

By Your prayer You taught us to pray;
by Your prayer You brought hope to us.
By Your fasting You taught us to fast;
by Your fasting You redeemed your Church.
Fasting and prayer give the Kingdom.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Fortnightly Book, February 7

Of all his works, the one that Evelyn Waugh himself regarded as his best was Helena, which is the next fortnightly book. It tells the tale of Helena, a British princess who falls in love with an marries Constantius, a Roman officer. In Diocletian's reorganizing of the Empire into the Tetrarchy, Constantius would be raised to high office, and eventually would become one of the co-emperors. The son of Helena and Constantius would be Constantine, of course. Helena herself will eventually become Christian and go on a pilgrimage to find the True Cross of Christ.

St. Helena, as Waugh occasionally notes, is a good subject for a novel: there is a definite historical framework, a fair amount of legendary material of varying and difficult-to-untangle degrees of historicity, and a lot of unknowns. Waugh doesn't pretend to be doing any more than giving us a novel, although, outside a few liberties he explicitly mentions in the preface, he avoided anything that directly contradicted known historical fact or could not receive some support from something in the tradition.

The edition of the book I have has a portion of a 1960 interview, in which he explains what he saw himself doing in the work:

The fact of the True Cross was that there was an actual piece of wood, a historical fact, behind the Gospel. Whether or not the wood she found was the Cross is open to doubt, but at that time all those Asiatic cults, the Gnostics and people, were trying to theorize and symbolize and fine away the simple facts of an actual crucifixion on a piece of wood; and she I represented as being a simple English girl thrown greatly to her disgust into the imperial life, not the least enjoying her high position, and putting her finger at once on what was wrong with imperial Rome at that time, which was that they were losing the sense of actuality. That you might indeed say was a didactic book.


Evelyn Waugh, Helena, Little, Brown and Company (New York: 2012).

Maronite Year XXI

Great Lent in the Maronite calendar is somewhat longer than the Latin version. In general, the Maronite calendar tends to emphasize Sundays over other days, in part because there have been long stretches of time in Maronite history in which Divine Liturgy on days in addition to Sunday was difficult enough to be only an occasional event. (With things like saint's days there was always a lot more flexibility with marking the day, but if you see a major feast in the Maronite calendar, other than a saint's day, that is not always on a Sunday, you can pretty much guarantee that the feast is either very old or very new.) Thus, Great Lent is opened with a Sunday. Since the Gospel reading for the day is the Wedding at Cana, the First Sunday of Great Lent is most commonly known as Cana Sunday.

I happened to attend a Divine Liturgy by the Maronite bishop last night, and in his homily he noted that Great Lent in the Maronite calendar is framed by two conversions. On Cana Sunday, which opens Lent, Christ turns water into wine; on Holy Thursday, which closes it, Christ turns wine into His blood.

Sunday of the Entrance into Great Lent
Romans 14:14-23; John 2:1-11

You, O Lord, changed water into wine;
change us into children of God.
You gave us good wine pressed on Your cross;
give salvation to those who thirst.
You gave delight to the wedding guests;
give us delight in You, O Lord.

   Lady Fasting knocks now at the door;
   Lent, the crown of heroes, has come.
   Turn to wine the water of fasting;
   by fasting we blot out misdeeds.

The Virgin Mary was standing there;
they came to her with petition.
By her wish you changed water to wine.
We come for her intercession;
change our evil acts into good deeds,
bring us into Your own kingdom.

   Lady Fasting knocks now at the door;
   Lent, the crown of heroes, has come.
   Bring us into Your great wedding feast;
   through fasting the Kingdom is ours.

O Christ, Artisan of all good things,
You worked the sign of Your great love.
End our pride, undo our vanity,
purify our hearts, give us strength;
quench parched hearts with your forgiving blood,
to peace and joy in the Spirit.

   Lady Fasting knocks now at the door;
   Lent, the crown of heroes, has come.
   Infuse within us Your holy light;
   by fasting we gain morning-wings.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Honore de Balzac, The Wild Ass's Skin; and The Quest of the Absolute


Opening Passage: From The Wild Ass's Skin:

Toward the end of the month of October, 1829, a young man entered the Palais-Royal just as the gaming-houses opened, agreeably to the law which protects a passion by its very nature easily excisable. He mounted the staircase of one of the gambling hells distinguished by the number 36, without too much deliberation.

From The Question of the Absolute:

There is in Douai, in the Rue de Paris, a house that may be singled out from all the others in the city; for in every respect, in its outward appearance, in its interior arrangements, and in every detail, it is a perfect example of an old Flemish building, and preserves all the characteristics of a quaint style of domestic architecture thoroughly in keeping with the patriarchal manners of the good folk in the Low Countries

Summary: In Le Peau de Chagrin, Raphael de Valentin makes a last desperate attempt with his last bit of money and, the gamble failing, prepares to commit suicide by jumping in the river. Having a somewhat poetical temperament, he decides to drop into a sort of antique shop before he does so, to fill his mind with interesting sights. And the shop does not disappoint. When he meets the ancient owner of the shop, the owner shows him a piece of shagreen, which he claims has an extraordinary power to fulfill wishes. The catch is that when it does so, it shrinks, and so, too, does your life. Raphael, not really believing it, wishes for a wild party. He gets accosted by old acquaintances as soon as he leaves the shop, and they whisk him off to a wild party. Due to a wish he comes into an immense amount of money, and discovers that the shagreen is in fact shrinking, which sobers him up greatly. As a result, he does everything in his power to avoid wishing anymore, but it is inevitable that here and there he wishes for something, and the skin shrinks yet again; and inevitably, the skin, the wishes, and his life will run out.

Balzac has a reputation for writing works that are simultaneously brilliant and flawed, and I think we get something of this with Le Peau de Chagrin. Almost every individual passage is excellently written, and some of it is virtually perfect. The description of the strange shop, for instance, is a bit of workmanship that is genuinely indicative of literary genius. But at the same time, the whole fits somewhat oddly together, and despite the fact that any particular passage tends to be quite good, I found that getting through Part II of the work was a bit of a chore. The pacing is weird. Part of this is that we get so much of the story indirectly, and only a few things actually happen in the story as it is on the page. Despite brilliant description and dialogue, the middle portion of the story seemed to bog down in places.

The shagreen itself is interesting. There is no doubt whatsoever that it is miraculous; there is an amusing sequence of episodes in which Raphael goes to various scientists to try to stretch it, to no avail. But none of the wish-fulfilling that comes about because of it is actually outside the realm of natural possibility; in many ways, you could have this story without the shagreen at all, and chalk up everything to luck the way we actually would in real life. What the shagreen does, though, is make the inevitable end visible and tangible throughout the course of the events that lead to the end. The shagreen is a visible representation of human life as it is consumed by human desire. The inability of the scientists to stretch the shagreen parallels the inability of the doctors to stretch out life. We human beings are very bad at measuring out our desires according to the limits of the life we have in us; we desire so much so easily, and getting what we'd like to have, we nonetheless discover that time is still running out on us.

While not as brilliantly executed, in some ways I liked La Recherche de l'Absolu better. There is certainly more of a story to it, as we follow the life of Balthazar Claes, a genius of a chemist, and especially his family as they attempt not to be pulled down into utter destitution by Claes's monomaniacal passion, to find the Absolute, the one thing common to all substances that in combination with the right forces explains all phenomena. This would, of course, be a great discovery, and would be guaranteed to bring extraordinary wealth, and Claes is always ever almost to the point of discovering. Immense fortunes pour into his experiments, a money-sink that can never be exhausted (for what can exhaust the ingenious mind's ability to come up with one more possibility?). It will eventually fall to his daughter Marguerite to discover how to work around this insatiable drain while still maintaining her responsibilities to her father. Ironically, the promise of endless wealth from the Absolute simply drains everyone's resources, while something else entirely is continually finding new resources to keep the family from collapse. And that is family love and loyalty: the love and loyalty of a wife toward her husband, of a daughter toward her parents and her siblings, of a young man toward a young woman and a young woman toward a young man. It does not do this easily, or without suffering, as the Philosopher's Stone promises to do, but it is in reality more of a Philosopher's Stone than the Philosopher's Stone itself.

Both tales explore the destructive side of human desire. Even harmless desires may burn away our lives. Even noble ambitions may bring suffering to others. But, on the other hand, not all our sober prudence and ingenuity can entirely prevent them from doing so, either.

Favorite Passage: From The Wild Ass's Skin:

Assemble a collection of schoolboys together. That will give you a society in miniature, a miniature which represents life more truly, because it is so frank and artless; and in it you will always find poor isolated beings, relegated to some place in the general estimation between pity and contempt, on account of their weakness and suffering. To these the Evangel promises heaven hereafter. Go lower yet in the scale of organized creation. If some bird among its fellows in the courtyard sickens, the others fall upon it with their beaks, pluck out its feathers, and kill it. The whole world, in accordance with its charter of egotism, brings all its severity to bear upon wretchedness that has the hardihood to spoil its festivities, and to trouble its joys.

From The Question of the Absolute:

"Ah!" said Martha, "there is Mlle. Marguerite crying. Her old wizard of a father would gobble down the house without saying grace. In my country they would have burned him alive for a sorcerer long before this; but they have no more religion here than Moorish infidels."

Recommendation: Both are Highly Recommended.

Pending the Present Distress

by Christina Rossetti

It is good to be last not first,
Pending the present distress;
It is good to hunger and thirst,
So it be for righteousness.
It is good to spend and be spent,
It is good to watch and to pray:
Life and Death make a goodly Lent
So it leads us to Easter Day.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Dashed Off III

the Annunciation as the immaculate conception of the Church

Romans 15:16 as Eucharistic

Rv 12 & allusion back to Gn 3 + Second Eve -> Assumption

practices of sympathy with the saints

"Piety produces intellectual greatness precisely because piety in itself is quite indifferent to intellectual greatness." Chesterton

Confucius against sophistry of practice

wonder as an intimation of understanding to come (connected to analogy between inquiry and hope)

directly privative aspect of evil
indirectly privative aspect of evil
   impeding good
   deteriorating good

the Urim & the Thummim and intercession

Christ was anointed to offer Himself by the Spirit, which He does in Session and in the worship given by His Mystical Body; He was consecrated as priest by blood for the sake of His body, that His members might be consecrated a priestly people.

Nothing can touch the truth of Torah and not begin to take on some light.

In 'readiness to appear' we our potential in light of active powers.

Moral law calls forth ceremonial and political supplements.

All accounts of morality should be tried out on the normative principles of rational inquiry.

The human mind aches for human solidarities.

Ground held from the beginning requires no wresting back.

Martyrs die for the faith; but the Church goes further and makes their deaths even more for the faith.

'Ockham's Razor' as a principle of extrapolation

cascading problem-solution chains

Diamond: within; Box: throughout

modal operators are more general than quantifiers:
(1) they work on arguments, propositions, and terms;
(2) quantifiers require duality assumption, modal operators need not

The heart has an objective association with blood, the warmth of life, and the feeling of emotional response. (Gethsemane)

aesthetics as a source of reserve arguments

poetry capable of religious reading - poetry concerning religious matters - religious song - hymn proper - liturgical prayer

transhumanism as modern alchemy

wisdom tending to song

Walton's quasi-emotions as a partial account of acting and dramatic expression

Much of the quasi-emotion account is indistinguishable from an account in which we experience micro-emotions (e.g., audience at horror movie experiencing a flash of startled fear & jumping, then getting over it). But neither account really handles suspense because the feeling of suspense is extended and real, and no plausible account of suspense can make it dependent on fact in a way that excludes fiction.

The quasi-emotion account requires depreciating physiological evidence.

Emotions are not automatically motivating; they motivate by building.

As icon, every icon is an image of Christ as image of God.

Plato's recollection // development of doctrine

the Church as a perpetual interlocking of rites

Precision is the primary requirement of counter-insurgency.

Free markets require healthy conditions for exchange.

sets as search-families

natural teleology vs role teleology

Scientism intrinsically drives toward scientific anti-realism.

Saints in purgatory do not suffer as though they were objects but as though they were active martyrs and confessors, or as though they were soldiers eager to return home but needing one very great and very difficult duty to perform first.

Torah as counter to evil inclination

"every cause pre-embraces its effect before its emergence, having primitively that character which the latter has by derivation" Proclus

providence, rational free-will, and evil as principles of historical interpretation (Schlegel)

In Dickens's novels, material objects and natural events are thick with moral significance.

Human beings are such that they will often put ideas and symbols above kith and kin.

faith, hope, and love as each grounds of perserverance

Beauty persuades, as it pleases on being seen, but it should never be made a mere instrument of persuasion.

Mary's fiat as the creation of a common good

vanity -> sensuality -> selfishness
anger -> malice -> revenge

philosophy as the science of longing (Schlegel)

longing -> true love -> heartfelt enthusiasm

the three goods of society: continuance, union, allegiance or loyalty

the primary purpose of prophecy: connection of distinct things in one sign

degree of overlap
1:1 xEQy
0:n xDy
n:0 yDx
1: (n<1) yPx
(n<1):1 xPy

The French Revolution confused equality with the reversal of aristocracy.

Protestantism as Torah without Temple

right of intimate dignity of person
(1) rights against unreasonable search and seizure: person, communications, effects
(2) rights to privileged communication regarding health and integrity of: soul, body, legal presence in society, marriage

Greek myths are like musical compositions in admitting of varied renditions and performances.

the unexpected plausible

A language in which terms are used only univocally or equivocally is like a mathematics with only natural numbers.

the implicit spectacle of Platonic dialogue
the Platonic dialogue in light of the principles of episodic narrative

Lk 9:51-56 // Acts 8:5-17

language as mediating between personal and social memory.

Living traditions flower into eloquent speech, elegant composition, and lofty meditation.

the contemplative life as the heart of Tradition

traditions as language-forming
Holy Tradition naturally shapes sacral languages.

To read Scripture well is to live the Tradition of the Church.

II Constantinople and universalism based on pre-existence or universalism extended to demons

literature as linguistic precedent

the method of panjiao (doxographic dialectic)

Mou Zongsan on intellectual intuition

zhengming as pertaining to natural law

hierarchy of precedent as essential to common law
also requires clear reporting and archiving of precedents qua precedents. In primitive situations this can be personal memory, but as complexities increase, some new instruments are needed.

Blackstone understands common law as a tradition (explicitly as handed down) -- law as a living tradition

trial by ordeal as really a last resort attempt at acquittal

common law as primarily a bulwark against bloodshed (peaceful resolution)

Justice builds by tradition; we see this in rights to privileged communication, which require not merely an authorizing good but also in practice traditions of communication with identifiable customs and expectations.

Decay of ideas is impeded by multiplicity of signs.

the concept of design promise and its link to extrapolation

agnosticism & doxastic 'free-riding'
to consider: agnosticism as requiring urban conditions to spread?

conditional as Box for ordered term

New Natural Law as part of universal history

liturgy as structured by mission

Bleak House & the Dickensian approach to law

legal institutions as primarily filters for customary law

court of equity: conscience entering into law under a legal aspect -> the concept of trust (being bound in conscience to do or maintain something for someone else, thus trustees and beneficiaries)

measurement uncertainties: resolution, accuracy, precision, linearity, stability, reproducibility

rhetoric and distinctive high-leverage points in argument

There are no morally neutral human actions because there are no human actions that are not human.

the Decalogue as an indirect presentation of fundamental human rights

the linking of sabbath with freedom from debt (sabbatical year)

models of the unity of the human race

faith: trust in Christ as Truth
hope: trust in Christ as Way
love: trust in Christ as Life

kindness as kin to docilitas

self-giving as the foundation of a healthy society

The social doctrine of the Church expresses the fact that salvation sheds light on society and on moral life.
philosophy as essential to the social doctrine of the Church
The social doctrine of the Church arises out of all the faithful through their baptismal and confirmational characters; this is regularized and supported by the teaching authority in the episcopal character.
Casuistics is essential to the proper and reasonable application of the social doctrine of the Church.

The theological virtues are what convert Scripture to life.

Human rights cannot possibly be enumerated in full because human moral life cannot possibly be exhausted in a list.

solidarity = civil friendship = social charity

Human dignity overflows into that with which we have to do. We see this most clearly and perfectly in the great works of reason -- the skillful, the prudent, the harmonious -- but it is found even in stupid things, in some dim echo.

Genuine freedom must be cultivated.
conscience as unifier of freedom and truth
Human freedom is a process of continual liberation.

common good : solidarity :: human dignity : subsidiarity
subsidiarity as a principle of mediation

social justice as appropriateness to common good

The universal destination of goods is itself an implication of human dignity.

Subsidiarity protects the participation required for common good.

Genuine assistance, that is, subsidium, has clear conditions for which it might cease, to let people themselves take over.

Solidarity as a virtue is justice in light of common good.

treatment of environment // treatment of family


Russell Saltzman has an article at First Things on reading at Mass. There's nothing wrong with the advice given, but I confess that I am utterly ambivalent at it all.

I was a reader at Mass for several years; I stopped doing it because it was a task that can never please everyone and for which the communal support and preparation is always inadequate regardless of how one prepares as an individual reader. It is irrational to expect readers to work magic, but this is precisely the standard to which they are held. I did extremely well as a reader, but it has been heavenly not to have to do it.

The truth of the matter is that there is no special method for reading at Mass. The notion that having the right method or approach is the solution to everything is a modern temptation which should be resisted more often than it is. We like to hide the fact that there is no special method with an insider's jargon. We see this in the constant desire to want to talk about 'proclaiming the Word'. It's an accurate phrase; but there is a particular mentality that likes to pretend that it somehow conveys a special specialness, a spiritual quality, involved in the reading. But in reality 'proclamation' is just stating something in public in an official capacity, and when the GIRM says, "The lector is instituted to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture...", the original literally means no more than that the reader is appointed to say the readings out loud. The reader or lector just reads the text in public so that people can hear it. That's the whole task. There are some specific guidelines that are supposed to be met in doing so: e.g., the voice should be loud and clear, the tone should be appropriate to genre and occasion, and the characteristics of the local language and culture should be considered in the delivery. But these are all just specifications of the original point, which is to read it out loud so that people can hear it.

It's not a minor task, mind you. But that's all. This is, in fact, the great secret to most ministry in the Church: just do what actually and really needs to be done and stop trying to make it something special. Doing it in a 'spiritual' way is not your responsibility. The Spirit blows where He wills. You are only there to address a practical need to the best of your ability.*

One of the reasons for insisting on this fact is that the single most important goal for reading in Mass is that people actually be able to hear and follow the readings. Nothing, and I mean nothing, else is of any importance in comparison. There is a common tendency among people who mount up proscriptions and prescriptions for readers to give as their justification that it is the text of Scripture that matters, not the reader, so the reader should vanish. As Saltzman says:

It is the text—familiar though it may be—that must capture our attention, not the reader. The reader, so to speak, must stand aside. The lector’s job is to speak the text in such a way that it may catch us and thereby speak to us.

All well and good, and true enough. But this sort of claim somehow always comes with advice that is entirely about the lector, as if the lector were indeed the one who was capturing attention. And Saltzman's article, despite a certain sobriety that makes it better than much of the advice given lectors, is not an exception. After telling us that the text, not the reader, must capture our attention, he then keeps giving advice that is quite clearly about how the lector can capture attention and then (although this part is a bit murkier) draw it somehow to the text. This is not standing aside; it's playing middleman.

Readings can of course go wrong. It's worth keeping in mind that it's often not the fault of the reader, since the texts are not always easy to read aloud. And last-minute substitutions among readers are common in our highly mobile society. Training for lectors is often very limited, and when it is not, it is often very poor. And everyone's a critic, and lectors are easy targets. Sometimes people wander into ministries that they shouldn't be in, to be sure, but if you're regularly criticizing people in a ministry, you should be volunteering for it because you're apparently an expert. Although, of course, lectors do it themselves, as well. I once attended a meeting that was supposed to be for training and encouraging new readers, and the whole meeting devolved into an arbitrary list of pet peeves to avoid, none of which was suitable for the purpose. The only questions of much importance, though, are: Did you hear the Scripture? Could you follow what it said?


* It's worthwhile remembering this going into Lent, I think. The reason we fast is that we need discipline; the reason we give alms is that we need to help our neighbor; the reason we pray is that we need God. These are practical needs to which the penitential practices are practical responses. It's not our job to make them spiritually significant, or measure them out so that they involve experiences that are somehow just right, or to pursue some special kind of feeling in doing them. Our responsibility is to recognize the needs and act in a practical way in response to them.