Tuesday, July 25, 2017

M and A

Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, pp. 187, 190:

The Virtue then of Agents, or their Benevolence, is always directly as the Moment of Good produc'd in like Circumstances, and inversely as their Abilitys: or B=(M/A)....

Since then Benevolence, or Virtue in any Agent, is as M/A, or as in (M+1)/A, and no Being can act above his natural Ability; must be the Perfection of Virtue where M=A, or when the Being acts to the utmost of his Power for the publick Good; and hence the Perfection of Virtue in this Case, or M/A, is as Unity. And this may shew us the only Foundation for the boasting of the Stoicks, "That a Creature suppos'd Innocent, by pursuing Virtue with his utmost Power, may in Virtue equal the Gods." For in their Case, if [A] or the Ability be Infinite, unless [M] or the Good to be produc'd in the whole, be so too, the Virtue is not absolutely perfect; and the Quotient can never surmount Unity.

Jane Austen, Emma, Volume III, Chapter VII:

“No, no,” said Emma, “it will not reckon low. A conundrum of Mr. Weston’s shall clear him and his next neighbour. Come, sir, pray let me hear it.”

“I doubt its being very clever myself,” said Mr. Weston. “It is too much a matter of fact, but here it is.—What two letters of the alphabet are there, that express perfection?”

“What two letters!—express perfection! I am sure I do not know.”

“Ah! you will never guess. You, (to Emma), I am certain, will never guess.—I will tell you.—M. and A.—Em-ma.—Do you understand?”

Understanding and gratification came together. It might be a very indifferent piece of wit, but Emma found a great deal to laugh at and enjoy in it—and so did Frank and Harriet.—It did not seem to touch the rest of the party equally; some looked very stupid about it, and Mr. Knightley gravely said,

“This explains the sort of clever thing that is wanted, and Mr. Weston has done very well for himself; but he must have knocked up every body else. Perfection should not have come quite so soon.”

De vin, de poésie ou de vertu

Make Yourself Drunk
by Charles Baudelaire

You must always be drunk. That is it: it is the only point. In order not to feel the horrible burden of Time that breaks your shoulders and bends you to the earth, you must make yourself drunk without pause.

But of what? Of wine, of poetry, or of virtue, as you please. But make yourself drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace, on the green grass of a ditch, in the dreary solitude of your room, you awaken, drunkenness already lessened or lost, ask of the wind, of the wave, of the star, of the bird, of the clock, of all that flies, of all that groans, of all that rolls, of all that sings, of all that speaks, ask what the hour is, and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, will answer you: "It is the hour of getting drunk! In order not to be the martyred slaves of Time, make yourself drunk; make yourself drunk without cease! Of wine, of poetry, or of virtue, as you please."

A rough translation by myself. The original French, for those interested.

by Charles Baudelaire

Il faut être toujours ivre. Tout est là: c'est l'unique question. Pour ne pas sentir l'horrible fardeau du Temps qui brise vos épaules et vous penche vers la terre, il faut vous enivrer sans trêve.

Mais de quoi? De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise. Mais enivrez-vous.

Et si quelquefois, sur les marches d'un palais, sur l'herbe verte d'un fossé, dans la solitude morne de votre chambre, vous vous réveillez, l'ivresse déjà diminuée ou disparue, demandez au vent, à la vague, à l'étoile, à l'oiseau, à l'horloge, à tout ce qui fuit, à tout ce qui gémit, à tout ce qui roule, à tout ce qui chante, à tout ce qui parle, demandez quelle heure il est et le vent, la vague, l'étoile, l'oiseau, l'horloge, vous répondront: "Il est l'heure de s'enivrer! Pour n'être pas les esclaves martyrisés du Temps, enivrez-vous; enivrez-vous sans cesse! De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Two Poem Drafts

You can tell it's July.

Summer Lassitude

A summer lassitude sweeps me by,
for hateful and hot is the fury of the sky
that bears whips of flame and arrows of gold
too fierce, too swift, too sharp, too bold,
too bitter in resentment and in pain:
a step, a step, a step, then one is slain.
The sunbeams all bear poison tips:
a scratch, and drowsy weakness grips
the eyes, and languid limbs
are useless till the sunlight dims.
The tyrant throned in summer sky
now flogs the skin, and not a sigh
of cooling wind dares ease the lash;
all flesh is whipped to smoke and ash,
collected like a tax to please
the golden sun with palace-ease.
A sleepy semblance like to death
infects my heartbeat and my breath
and sweeps me to a shady path
half-sheltered from the ceaseless wrath,
as work is idle, left undone,
in laze beneath the summer sun.

July Fragment

I have no humor; humid air
half the land leads to despair;
the heat is sticky and no one dares
to step outside, the sun to bear.

Cedar of Lebanon

Today is the feast of St. Sharbel Makhlouf, or Charbel, monk, priest, and hermit of Lebanon.


Feast of St. Sharbel

O Christ our Light, You fill the earth with light;
You choose worthy teachers to teach Your Church,
securing the good of those who love God,
molding Your people into Your image.
You give Your saints the word of life and truth;
as flame to flame they kindle ardent faith,
each a star to show us the path of life.

From Sharbel's hermitage a great light shines:
through his prayers we receive salvation,
through his intercessions, health of spirit.
O Sharbel, you found the pearl of great price,
giving everything that you might have it.
Our Lord Jesus Christ called you to follow,
and without hesitation you followed.


Cedars grow tall on Liban hills,
life rooted deeper than human will;
flame is bright over muddy grave
of a hermit-saint who hid his face;
the heart is kissed by burning light
as cedar soars to sun and sky,
is charged with day without a night,
and burns but is not burned.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Brave the Wild Winds and Unhearing Tide

Dover Cliffs
by William Lisle Bowles

On these white cliffs, that calm above the flood
Uprear their shadowing heads, and at their feet
Hear not the surge that has for ages beat,
How many a lonely wanderer has stood!
And, whilst the lifted murmur met his ear,
And o'er the distant billows the still eve
Sailed slow, has thought of all his heart must leave
To-morrow; of the friends he loved most dear;
Of social scenes, from which he wept to part!
Oh! if, like me, he knew how fruitless all
The thoughts that would full fain the past recall,
Soon would he quell the risings of his heart,
And brave the wild winds and unhearing tide—
The World his country, and his God his guide.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Evening Note for Friday, July 21

Thought for the Evening: 'The Normative Jinx'

Christoph Kletzer has a very interesting, although ultimately baffling, paper on what he calls "the normative jinx." The argument in its barebones is that two positions, normative monism and legal/moral incompatibilism are inconsistent with each other, although there is good reason to think both true, and therefore, as he says in the abstract,

if we take law to be valid, then there is no moral point of view from which to assess the law; if we consider morality to be valid, there cannot possibly be valid law that could be the object of moral assessment.

Needless to say, this is a somewhat surprising claim, deserving a closer look. Without being too rigorous, here are some issues I have with the argument as Kletzer lays it out.

(1) Normative monism is the opposite of normative pluralism, and normative pluralism is the claim that one can have two or more normative systems that have their validity independent of each other. He then concludes that for a normative pluralist, it must be true that there could be independent normative systems with no normative relation to each other. I am not convinced that this a good inference. Whether normative systems can have no normative relation to each other is distinct from the question of whether the sources of their validity as normative systems are independent, and the two positions should not be conflated even if they tend to go together.

(2) Kletzer opens his argument that we have good reason to be normative monists by looking at legal monism -- a legal monist denies that you can have legal norms that do not stand in some kind of legal relation to each other. He recognizes that this at first seems to be an odd claim; Imperial Chinese law seems to be quite independent of Imperial Roman law, being separated geographically and having no overlapping jurisdiction or even jurisdictional claim, and one could posit that they operated in perfect ignorance of each other without any obvious contradiction. Kletzer seems to take this to mean that in Imperial Roman law, Imperial Chinese law is not law, and vice versa, but this is an odd interpretation. Ex hypothesi, the two simply have no judgment one way or another about the other; it's not that the Chinese legal system has a legal norm that what the Romans call law is not a law -- it has no legal norm with respect to it at all. This is not fatal to Kletzer's argument, since he actually is interested in the claim that they are simultaneously valid, but it is an odd move nonetheless.

Kletzer then goes on to claim that if we say that Roman law only applies in the geographical area of Rome, and Chinese law only applies in the geographical area of China, that this implies that "legally the applicability of certain norms is limited to certain regions" (my emphasis). This seems to assume that the only limitations for the applicability of the law are legal, but this is certainly false. American law doesn't apply to the interstellar dust of the Andromeda galaxy, but this has nothing to do with a legal limitation; it's just a combination of a spatial limitation (instruments of American law have no presence in Andromeda galaxy) and a technical limitation (no one has ever worked out a way to apply American law in Andromeda galaxy) and a psychological limitation (it doesn't occur to anyone to treat American law as applying in Andromeda galaxy, so that there are no American legal norms whatsoever about interstellar dust in the Andromeda galaxy). American law doesn't apply to thirteenth century Australia because Americans don't have a time machine; it doesn't apply past the extinction of the human race or the end of the world because there won't be any Americans then -- and, indeed, its temporal limitation is likely to be far closer to our time than to the extinction of the human race. In the Roman-Chinese case, the limitations of legal norms are spatial (far apart) and epistemic (ignorant of each other), not legal.

Kletzer doesn't consider temporal, epistemic, technical, or psychological limitations, but he does consider the spatial limitation, and argues that this cannot be a limitation of law unless it is given legal significance because different parts of the Roman empire are also far apart. Thus mere distance doesn't work to limit law. But this seems to me to miss the point (beside the fact that it doesn't address the other limitations that are operative in the separation); Germania Inferia and Arabia Petraea are separted by distance, but their legal systems aren't -- Roman law exists in both. The problem raised by spatial limitation is that legal systems do not appear to be the kind of thing that we could say is diffused over the entire universe. Roman law exists and is operative in Germania Inferia and Arabia Petraea; it is neither existent nor operative in the Qing province of Han China. American law doesn't just legally restrict itself from being in Andromeda; it doesn't exist or operate there at all. American legal norms are not present in Andromeda. If we held that American law were something like a Platonic Form, perhaps we could say that it doesn't itself have a spatial presence anywhere, but legal platonism is bound to be a somewhat controversial metaphysics.

One can, of course, have an overarching law that governs both the Roman and the Chinese whether they know about each other or not -- every natural law theorist holds that there is such a thing. But without some such position, I don't see that Kletzer has actually established what he set out to establish.

(3) Kletzer then moves to argue normative monism by dropping the 'legal' from his argument for legal monism. Ironically, I think this ends up being vastly more plausible simply because moral platonism is a more plausible position than platonism about positive law. However, I still don't see how the applicability argument is supposed to work here -- that is, the position itself has quite a bit of plausibility, but it doesn't seem to have it because of the applicability argument.

Kletzer considers moral norms and norms in the games of chess. Then, on analogy with what he said about laws, there has to be "some kind of allocation of applicability", and that this would have be a rule, and that this would then unite the two normative systems. But, again, not every limitation of the rules of chess is a rule of chess. (It's an interesting, and I think difficult, question, whether every limitation of the rules of morality is a rule of morality. 'Ought implies can' probably gives us the limitation of morality that is most plausibly not a rule of morality; but it is not actually clear that it is not a rule of morality. The reason is that, unlike the rules of chess or American law, we typically take moral law to be a pure, ideal, eternal thing.)

If we take a less fraught example, we might take the rules of chess and the rules of Tổ tôm, which is a Vietnamese card game, neither of which seems to have anything to do with each other. It is not a rule of chess that it is not Tổ tôm; it is not a rule of Tổ tôm that it is not chess; neither game has any rules that address either; the two are not typically played together, and at least at some point in their history the players of each could be said to be always wholly ignorant of the other. They are normatively related, since they are both governed by norms of practical reason -- this is essentially like being a legal monist because you are a natural law theorist. But this has nothing to do with their spheres of applicability.

(4) As I am both a legal monist and a normative monist in Kletzer's sense(s), the more interesting question for me is the supposed legal/moral incompatibility. The crux is here:

What distinguishes law from chess is that whilst chess, just as morality, is a static normative system, the law is a dynamic normative system. This means that the law has a different mode of individuating or applying its content: whilst the content of rules of morality and chess are individuated or applied by way of thought or reflection, the law’s content is individuated and applied by way of decisions, or acts of will.

I don't like this terminology, but let's keep it. The normative system of chess is 'static' not in the sense that it doesn't change but that there are no rules for changing the rules of chess; but 'law' is 'dynamic' because it involves legal norms about changing legal norms. And morality, Kletzer argues, is static.

Let us assume that law is dynamic. There is good reason to argue that neither chess nor morality are static in Kletzer's sense. If we're talking about standard tournament chess, the rules are determined by the FIDE Rules Commission, and the normativity of FIDE decisions about the rules is just part of tournament play. The rules of tournament chess are highly stable, but the regular norms involved include norms governing rule changes. And there are at least two cases of normative systems that are treated in some moral theories as moral norms but which are known to undergo change, and appear to do so due to pressure from higher moral norms -- etiquette ("lesser morality", as Hume calls it) and law itself.

Etiquette is an interesting case here, because the norms of etiquette seem to get their validity from moral norms, but it is typically part of the norms of etiquette to adapt etiquette to the situation, and therefore its norms are dynamic in Kletzer's sense. Emily Post tells us, for instance, that "a first rule for behavior in company is 'Try to do and say only that which will be agreeable to others' (Emily Post, Etiquette, Funk & Wagnalls, [New York: 1945] p. 41). Given how it is interpreted, this is quite clearly a rule for modifying, making, and discarding etiquette norms according to the company in which one finds oneself. Likewise, she says, "Not to attract attention to oneself in public is one of the fundamental rules of good-breeding" (p. 49), but this also functions as a rule for shifting norms of etiquette when one counts as being conspicuous changes. Similarly, Post notes that the head of the table is always the hostess; thus all norms governing seating are relative to where the hostess chooses to seat, and are modified according to this choice, and likewise, the direction of service is determined by the hostess in accordance with what is practical given the layout of the room and the nature of the table -- and her choice becomes a norm for that dinner party. But Post also takes etiquette to be an ethical system, containing social ethics (the moral code of gentlemen and ladies) as an immutable governing part. Thus if Post is right about etiquette, it is a dynamic system involving moral norms, and it does not seem far-fetched to call it a dynamic system of moral norms. Kletzer's argument, if sound, would make this impossible.

(5) I don't really follow Kletzer's attempt to neutralize the natural law objection to his claim that law and morality are incompatible normative systems; the argument seems to require a legal positivist account of law, which is precisely one of the things a natural law theorist would deny. He holds that the doctrine of legal force implies that as soon as morality allows law, it allows the violation of morality. But I don't see why this is so, and nothing that he says clarifies how this is supposed to work. It's true that in law faulty and erroneous laws can be laws; these are handled in natural law theory, for instance, by the doctrines of tolerance and of scandal. What natural law theory denies is that positive law can both be law and directly require (not just allow) that moral law be violated, no matter how much we call it law. But (1) at least as it is laid out, Kletzer's argument seems to involve the assumption that any kind of wrongness of law would be enough to generate a violation of morality, which is false on any view; and (2) Kletzer's argument seems to take only legal appearances into account -- i.e., that we still call these things laws and that people sometimes try to treat them as such.

(6) Kletzer doesn't consider any cases, as far as I can see, where there are plausible overlaps. It's a plausible moral norm that we ought to obey laws when we can do so without deliberately violating moral norms; some legal norms seem to make direct appeal to moral norms (norms about moral turpitude, for instance, or about the need for good moral character to become a U.S. citizen, or in the conflict of interest law governing the U.S. civil service, or in the constitutional norm that the President should execute the laws 'faithfully' -- which certainly sounds like a moral term). This is surely relevant to the claim that the two are incompatible.

(7) And perhaps worst of all, Kletzer makes the mistake so many philosophers of law make: he does not consider how legislative deliberation works. This is a very serious flaw that seems to run throughout most of philosophy of law, which tends to take the law as just given rather than something deliberated over and then deliberately constructed for political and moral ends.

Various Links of Interest

* A lost version of the Analects of Confucius has been discovered in a Chinese tomb. The standard version of the Lun yu was made during the Han dynasty by Zhang Yu, who is known to have had at least two distinct versions before him -- that of Qi and that of Lu. He used Lu as a template and then added Qi material to it, and this is the version that was preserved. What they've discovered appears to be the original Qi text, although perhaps it is a variation of it. It was actually unearthed a while ago, but it was reported then as a 'possible' Qi manuscript, and seems to have come into the news again due to confirmation.

* Michael Gavin has a fascinating discussion of the problem of language diversification. Why do the tropics regularly have massively more languages than other areas? Why are Australian aboriginal languages much more diverse near the coast than they are in the interior?

* Ann-Sophie Barwich, Is Smell an Aesthetic Sense?

* Erik Hinton discusses Gershom Scholem.

Currently Reading

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Mary Astell, The Christian Religion, as Professed by a Daughter of the Church of England
John of St. Thomas, Outline of Formal Logic
Giambattista Vico, The New Science
Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson, eds., The Hobbit and Philosophy

Astell on Study

Speculation is one of the most refined and delicious pleasures, but it is not to be followed only as a pleasure, but as an exercise and duty. There is as great variety in understandings as in faces, they have not all the same beauties nor the same defects, but every genius has its particular turn, and therefore the same course of study is not equally fit for everyone. The business is, to learn the weakness and strength of our minds; to form our judgments, and to render them always just; to know how to discover false reasonings, and to disentangle truth from those mazes of error into which men have hunted her; and whatever method tends to this end ought to be pursued.

[Mary Astell, The Christian Religion, as Professed by a Daughter of the Church of England, Broad, ed. Iter Inc. & Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (Toronto: 2013) p. 202.]

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Islands of Miranda, Part V

This is the fifth part of a short story draft. I, II, III, IV.

Brother Andrew led Diego through a small side door to a small room that had an elevator locked with a key. As he took out the key and turned it in the lock, he said, "I have always felt a sort of cousinship with Miranda; the mercantile orders were approved by Leo Theodore, as well, and at the time it was an even more controversial decision than the founding of Miranda. And yet, like Miranda, here we still are." The elevator opened and he stepped in, with Diego. Brother Andrew pushed the button for the Mezzanine level, and as the elevator began its descent, said, "You have no idea how long the wait for someone like yourself sometimes has seemed." Then he inserted the key again and stopped the elevator between floors.

Diego tensed quickly, not understanding what was happening, wondering what Brother Andrew -- who seemed rather harmless to look at -- would do to him. But all Brother Andrew did was hold out the envelope he was carrying.

"In this envelope, you will find two things. The first is your Certificate of Confirmation. As of now, you are a member of the Board of the Miranda Organization. The second one -- perhaps you should see it for yourself first."

Slowly Diego opened the envelope. On top there was indeed the Certification of Confirmation of Appointment, signed and sealed by Augustine Cardinal Binaisa, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Insular State of Miranda. The second was a document in Latin. Diego had not had any formal study of Latin since high school, but in his lifetime he had had to sign more than a few Mirandan contracts, which often have both Spanish and Latin versions, both of which are legally binding, and the document was a crisp and straightforward legal Latin. He found he could follow much of it, and as he did, he frowned. He skimmed through the first page, and then the second, and then the third and last page and stared at the signature and seal at the end. Finally he looked at Brother Andrew.

"Is this authentic?"

"It is indeed. One of the things Papa Leo Teodoro did after the papal approval of the Antoninites was to put in our charge a number of time vaults. Most of them opened a long time ago -- items of historical interest, mostly, but occasionally legal arrangements or legal documents giving various institutions access to trusts he had squirreled away. One of them, however, was misplaced in inventory -- it was in storage, but misfiled, and was thought lost until we stumbled upon it again some years ago. It had a great many legal documents -- mostly backup copies, but it also had this, with a note saying, 'In case of an invasion of the Islands by the Venezuelan government.' And this was in triplicate." He said the latter in a tone indicating that he approved of this clerical propriety.


"Entirely true. The note is still in the Antoninites safe and was authenticated as being in Papa Leo Teodoro's own hand. How he foresaw it, I don't know, but that he did is beyond doubt."

Diego contemplated the document for a moment. "This cannot be binding, can it?"

"That is the thing of it. Miranda operates on the principle of self-governance within the framework provided by the Holy See. Constitutional changes require the joint approval of the Holy Father and the Council of Self-Governance. He signed this constitutional document, but it was not sent to the Council. Strictly speaking, Leo Theodore also has no authority to bind his successor, but the current Holy Father is always hesitant to put himself into direct conflict with his predecessors. He would never propose anything like this, and would oppose it if the Cardinal ever proposed such a thing, but under the circumstances, he would very likely uphold it if the Council accepted it and approved it.

"Thus the question becomes, 'Would the Council accept it and approve it?' Nothing would prevent them from ignoring it; the Council is the primary authority for the legitimacy of legal documents in Mirandan matters. They could simply rule that the Fundamental Law's requirement of papal approval is a requirement for approval by a pope living at the time of the Council's own approval. The Holy See would certainly support them in this. Then the document would be no more than a historical curiosity. But suppose they went the other way, and held that the papal approval holds as long as it is not later rescinded, and then approved the document. It would be fully legal, enacted by the appropriate authorities, and the moment the Council gave their official approval, it would become the new Fundamental Law of Miranda -- and all authority over the Miranda Organization would pass from the Board of the Organization to the direct control of the Council itself, with the Marshal of Los Roques as the primary executive officer. The Board might protest, but they have no authority except under the current Fundamental Law, which already indicates that they are purely instrumental to the Council. Human law is an artifact, Mr. Páez; it has the nature the artisans of law put into it. Do you think that the Council would accept it as legitimate?"

"They might," said Diego slowly. "Anyone else proposing such a sweeping constitutional change would probably be resisted, even if he were the Pope himself -- but if it could be proven to come directly from the hand of Pope Leo Theodore, that is a very different thing. To Mirandans, he is not just a Pope, he was the Pope, and his name, even from the grave, still has power. I don't know that they would accept it. But they might."

"'Might' is not good enough for us. I will be quite frank with you in saying that the current Holy Father would not be at all pleased at Cardinal Binaisa's action in giving this to you. The Mirandan Support may be a symbolic token of allegiance in Mirandan terms, but it constitutes fully a third of the yearly revenues of the Holy See, and all of that is in the hands of the Board, which in principle operates by authority of the Council. The Board is required to provide the Support according to a formula approved by the Council; the Council can't deny the Holy See the Support, but it can make it arbitrarily small, to devastating effect. It would be a financial crisis not seen in centuries."

"And nothing could compensate for it? Not the mercantile orders?"

"No," said Brother Andrew, with some severity. "The mercantile orders exist to support the works of mercy, making them more sustainable and increasing their scope. We would have to divert funds from hospitals, schools, parishes in distress, all to keep afloat institutions whose reason for existence is to further those hospitals, schools, and parishes. Nor can the gap be budgeted around; we have run the numbers many times, and no matter what assumptions we introduce into the models, the result is always the same. Church expenses only increase over time; everyone always demands more while expecting more to be free, simply because it is the Church. The Holy See is in a position in which it cannot endanger the Support. Any disturbance to the status quo distresses the Holy Father. By giving this to you, the Cardinal is deliberately creating a situation in which his hand may be forced. But failure comes with a cost. And that is where you come in."

"What do you mean?"

"Cardinal Binaisa -- and not just him -- has been increasingly worried about the self-assertion of the Board at the expense of both the Council and the Pontifical Commission. But we do not have the inside information we need in order to determine when and under what circumstances to give it to the Council. Doing it incorrectly could create an immense set of problems. So we need someone who might be able to determine that. But in point of the fact, it probably requires a member of the Board itself. The Cardinal has interviewed every candidate for the Board in order to find one who could be trusted to put Mirandan interest over his or her own. He is gambling on you. You will be in a position to decide whether it should be done now, or, if not, find the right time later. Or it may be that we are already too late, and there will never be a time for it. That is a possibility as well -- but to determine whether it is true requires the same kind of inside information. And so we put the fate of Miranda into your hands, Mr. Páez."

"And what if I make a mistake and cause this financial disaster for the Church?"

"Well," said Brother Andrew philosophically, turning the key and starting the elevator again, "perhaps it will be reminder that while men work by bureaucracies, God does not. The instruments of the Church rise and fall, and are ever-changing, but the Church goes on and on."

The elevator stopped at the Mezzanine level and Diego got off. Brother Andrew said, "I second the Cardinal's recommendation that you see the man himself before you leave. A remarkable man, Papa Leo Teodoro, to have had a plan for countering the corruption of the Board. It makes me wonder, really, what his plan for countering any corruption of the mercantile orders might have been." The elevator doors closed, and Diego went to find Pacelli.

On their way back to the hotel, they took the long way around and walked to the Pontifical Church of San Tommasso de Villanova, just outside Castel Gandolfo City State, to see the burial place of Leo Theodore; it took some time because it was all uphill. The church itself was relatively plain and clean-lined and white, with an unassuming dome and rather antique-looking lampposts out front; but inside it was splendid, with intricate carved detail from the hand of Bernini. The monument for Leo Theodore, much newer although in a Neo-Baroque style, was off to the side, a raised platform on which rested a lion and a lamb.

Diego had seen pictures of the monument all his life, but the monument was far more detailed than pictures ever showed. On the base there was a plaque that read:

Nemo est qui reliquerit domum,
aut fratres, aut sorores, aut patrem,
aut matrem, aut filios, aut agros
propter me et propter Evangelium,
qui non accipiat centies tantum,
nunc in tempore hoc:
domos, et fratres, et sorores,
et matres, et filios, et agros,
cum persecutionibus,
et in sæculo futuro vitam æternam.

It was framed by four little ovals with pictures Diego supposed were allegorical, labeled Opibus Firma, Copiis Locuples, Gloria Amplia, and Virtute Honesta, respectively; Diego had no idea what the point of them was, or if there was some allusion he was supposed to be getting from them.

From the pictures, Diego had always supposed that the lion, by whose side the lamb was curled up, asleep, was also sleeping; but seen in person it was clear that the lion, while resting its head on its paw, had its eyes open, vigilant, keeping guard.

From San Tommasso, they walked in leisurely fashion back to their hotel, drinking in the restful sight of Lake Albano. Diego was thoughtful through the entire walk.

to be continued

The Three Institutions

We observe that all nations, barbarous as well as civilized, though separately founded because remote from each other in time and space, keep these three human customs: all have some religion, all contract solemn marriages, all bury their dead. And in no nation, however savage and crude, are any human actions performed with more elaborate ceremonies and more sacred solemnity than the rites of religion, marriage, and burial. For, by the axiom that "uniform ideas, born among peoples unknown to each other, must have a common ground of truth" [144], it must have been dictated to all nations that from these three institutions humanity began among them all, and therefore they must be devoutly guarded by them all, so that the world should not again become a bestial wilderness.

[Giambattista Vico, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, Bergin & Fisch, trs., Cornell (Ithaca, NY: 1976) p. 97, section 333.]

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Teacher

Today is the feast of St. Macrina the Younger, Neoplatonist philosopher, sister of St. Basil the Great, St. Naucratius, St. Peter of Sebaste, and St. Gregory of Nyssa, daughter of St. Basil the Elder and the St. Emmilia, granddaughter of St. Macrina the Elder. By one of those occasional happy happenstances, I am teaching Macrina today as part of a short section on Neoplatonism. From St. Gregory of Nyssa's On the Soul and the Resurrection, an account of Gregory's conversation with Macrina on her deathbed, here is an excerpt giving a Neoplatonist diagnosis of Epicurus's philosophy:

The framework of things was to his mind a fortuitous and mechanical affair, without a Providence penetrating its operations; and, as a piece with this, he thought that human life was like a bubble, existing only as long as the breath within was held in by the enveloping substance , inasmuch as our body was a mere membrane, as it were, encompassing a breath; and that on the collapse of the inflation the imprisoned essence was extinguished. To him the visible was the limit of existence; he made our senses the only means of our apprehension of things; he completely closed the eyes of his soul, and was incapable of seeing anything in the intelligible and immaterial world, just as a man, who is imprisoned in a cabin whose walls and roof obstruct the view outside, remains without a glimpse of all the wonders of the sky. Verily, everything in the universe that is seen to be an object of sense is as an earthen wall, forming in itself a barrier between the narrower souls and that intelligible world which is ready for their contemplation; and it is the earth and water and fire alone that such behold; whence comes each of these elements, in what and by what they are encompassed, such souls because of their narrowness cannot detect. While the sight of a garment suggests to any one the weaver of it, and the thought of the shipwright comes at the sight of the ship, and the hand of the builder is brought to the mind of him who sees the building, these little souls gaze upon the world, but their eyes are blind to Him whom all this that we see around us makes manifest; and so they propound their clever and pungent doctrines about the soul's evanishment;— body from elements, and elements from body, and, besides, the impossibility of the soul's self-existence (if it is not to be one of these elements, or lodged in one)....

Delightful Bathed with Slow-Ascending Dews

by William Lisle Bowles

As one who, long by wasting sickness worn,
Weary has watched the lingering night, and heard
Unmoved the carol of the matin bird
Salute his lonely porch; now first at morn
Goes forth, leaving his melancholy bed;
He the green slope and level meadow views,
Delightful bathed with slow-ascending dews;
Or marks the clouds, that o'er the mountain's head
In varying forms fantastic wander white;
Or turns his ear to every random song,
Heard the green river's winding marge along,
The whilst each sense is steeped in still delight.
So o'er my breast young Summer's breath I feel,
Sweet Hope! thy fragrance pure and healing incense steal!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817. From one of the three surviving prayers composed by Jane Austen for Austen family devotions:

Father of Heaven! whose goodness has brought us in safety to the close of this day, dispose our hearts in fervent prayer. Another day is now gone, and added to those, for which we were before accountable. Teach us almighty father, to consider this solemn truth, as we should do, that we may feel the importance of every day, and every hour as it passes, and earnestly strive to make a better use of what thy goodness may yet bestow on us, than we have done of the time past.

Give us grace to endeavour after a truly Christian Spirit to seek to attain that temper of Forbearance and Patience, of which our Blessed Saviour has set us the highest Example and which, while it prepares us for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure to us the best enjoyment of what this World can give. Incline us Oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves.

Bruce Stovel discusses the background of these prayers here.