Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Aquinas for Lent XXXI

Now every one, as a matter of fact, loves his own life, but some love it absolutely, without qualification, and others love it partially, in a qualified way. To love someone is to will good to that person; so, to love one's own life is to will good to it. Therefore one who wills what is good without qualification to his own life, loves it unqualifiedly; while one who wills his life some partial good loves it in a qualified way. Now the unqualified goods of life are those which make a life good, namely, the highest good, which is God. Thus, one who wills the divine and spiritual good to his life, loves it unqualifiedly; while one who wills it earthly goods, such as riches, honors and pleasures, and things of that sort, loves it in a qualified way.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapters 6-12, Larcher & Weisheipl, trs., Catholic University of America Press (Washington, DC: 2010) p. 279.]

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Voyages Extraordinaires #42: Face au drapeau

The carte de visite received that day, June 15, 189—, by the director of the establishment of Healthful House was a very neat one, and simply bore, without escutcheon or coronet, the name:


Below this name, in a corner of the card, the following address was written in lead pencil:

“On board the schooner Ebba, anchored off New-Berne, Pamlico Sound.”

The capital of North Carolina—one of the forty-four states of the Union at this epoch—is the rather important town of Raleigh, which is about one hundred and fifty miles in the interior of the province. It is owing to its central position that this city has become the seat of the State legislature, for there are others that equal and even surpass it in industrial and commercial importance, such as Wilmington, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Edenton, Washington, Salisbury, Tarborough, Halifax, and New-Berne. The latter town is situated on estuary of the Neuse River, which empties itself into Pamlico Sound, a sort of vast maritime lake protected by a natural dyke formed by the isles and islets of the Carolina coast.

Face au drapeau, or Facing the Flag, is not one of Verne's better known works, but it has a great deal to recommend it. It is a tale of mystery and espionage, of piracy and patriotism, of powerful missiles and submarine boats. There are a number of ways, too, in which one can clearly see that Verne is experimenting a bit with his writing -- for instance, while the frame is third-person, much of the tale is first-person from an active narrator who only gradually unravels the mystery in which he finds himself, and as the tale progresses, it shifts from a first-person recent-past narrative (a journal) to a first-person immediate-present narrative (notes taken as things happen). At least as far as I could tell from the English translation, this deliberate narrative shifting is done in a skillful manner that heightens the urgency of the tale as things come to a head.

Thomas Roch is a brilliant inventor with a long string of successes, and he has come up with one of his greatest: the fulgurator, a weapon that could give a nation dominance on land and sea. However, he has become bitter at what he sees as people unfairly taking advantage of his inventions to profit themselves, and at what he regards as a general lack of appreciation, so when he approaches the French government, he demands a very high price, and, what is more, refuses to demonstrate the weapon until he is paid, and stubbornly refuses to see the unreasonableness of this. The French break off negotiations. Feeling betrayed, Roch turns his back on the French flag and offers his invention first to the Germans, who don't think they need the help of a Frenchman, and then to the more practical English, who hear him out but also turn him down. Increasingly sour on the world and emotionally unstable, Roch approaches the even more practical Americans who, recognizing that he is not quite right in the head, seize him and put him in a mental institution, the Healthful House, until he becomes more sane and amenable to negotiation -- an action that probably not accidentally also keeps him from approaching any other governments with the weapon. A French engineer named Simon Hart hears about the situation, and so, under an assumed name, gets himself hired at Healthful House to keep an eye on Roch and make sure that the fulgurator is not used against French interests. But other people have also heard about the situation, and see all too well the potential....

The book, interestingly, led to a lawsuit; Eugène Turpin, the inventor of the explosive melinite, sued Verne for defamation on the ground that the crazy Roch was obviously a representation of Turpin himself (who had been thrown in prison on accusations that he was trying to sell to foreign powers). Turpin lost the lawsuit, in part due to Verne's brilliant lawyer, Raymond Poincaré, who later became President of France, but it was not an unreasonable conclusion. Verne at several points does refer to Turpin's inventions. And while Turpin could not have known it, Roch was indeed inspired by Turpin's case; in his correspondence with his brother Paul, Verne refers to Roch as "le Turpin".

Aquinas for Lent XXX

As may be gathered from the words of Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv), beauty or comeliness results from the concurrence of clarity and due proportion. For he states that God is said to be beautiful, as being "the cause of the harmony and clarity of the universe." Hence the beauty of the body consists in a man having his bodily limbs well proportioned, together with a certain clarity of color. On like manner spiritual beauty consists in a man's conduct or actions being well proportioned in respect of the spiritual clarity of reason.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 2-2.145.2

Monday, March 19, 2018

Appeal to the Stone

As I have previously noted, 'The theory of fallacies is merely partially systematized folklore; as one would expect from folklore, it is a weird brew of logical tidbits, practical advice, ethical admonition, historical detritus of exploded or doubtful theories, things people thought clever or neat at some point, and misunderstandings.' One of the interesting things about it is seeing how different fallacies -- or more often, pseudo-fallacies -- emerge into common discourse.

I recently came across an attribution of the fallacy of the 'appeal to the stone'. It's an interesting example of how these things are born. The original idea is well known:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus."

Any Berkeley scholar will note that Boswell and Johnson seem to have misunderstood Berkeley's claim, although in a way that was usually done. (Thus Jonathan Swift, who was Berkeley's friend, is said to have played the practical joke of telling his servants to leave the door locked when Berkeley came to call, because the door was only in Berkeley's mind.) Berkeley, in fact, would arguably agree with Johnson on the key point. But it's not a fallacy to misunderstand a position. Moreover, given what Johnson thought he was refuting, one can simply see the action as a reason to regard the claim as wrong, and it's certainly not a fallacy to give such a reason.

Regardless, the 'appeal to the stone' gets its name from association with the story, whether the story exemplifies it or not. According to Wikipedia, "Argumentum ad lapidem (Latin: "appeal to the stone") is a logical fallacy that consists in dismissing a statement as absurd without giving proof of its absurdity." Considering bare dismissal without reasoning as a fallacy, which is an error of reasoning, is dubious already, but in any case it seems implausible to say that there are no absurdities that can be dismissed without proof. For instance, if I say "P & ~P", whatever P may be, there seems to be no problem with just dismissing the claim as absurd. 'Absurdity' is a classification term; classifications can have quirks or unexpected results, but some things will just be obviously the kind of thing for which you have the classification, 'absurdity', to begin with. There will be times when you can't get away with mere classification without proof -- although those will perhaps all be cases either of 'begging the question' or of just being wrong to begin with. Some classifications, however, have to be basic, and some things will indeed just be absurd. Now, to be sure, although the article is a bit obscure, it does seem at least to suggest that argumentum ad lapidem is a form of begging the question, in that it links it to 'proof by assertion', "where an unproved or disproved claim is asserted as true on no ground other than that of its truth having been asserted." In this way one could make some kind of sense of the fallacy attribution, and in a fruitful way, since petitio principii, unlike most fallacies, has a good account (Aristotle's). The case still would be complicated and uncertain however, since, as Aristotle noted, you can't beg questions with immediate principles, and the falsity of some absurdities is an immediate principle (as in the case of contradiction above).

Wikipedia's account is heavily based on Madsen Pirie's How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic, although it's clear from the Talk page that there has been some effort to make more sense of it. Pirie's discussion is interesting, in that it is based on the principle, "An argument or piece of evidence cannot be dismissed because it fails to conform to an existing opinion." This does not seem to be universally true, although there will indeed be cases where it would be foolish to dismiss an argument so easily. Much of the problem is that we do a lot of different things with arguments in a lot of different contexts. Some of those contexts will have presuppositions that need to be taken into account. It is not unreasonable to dismiss an argument against (say) the possibility of evolution in a class on evolution. If Pirie means 'opinion' in a broad sense, so that it includes things we think we know, then the principle is too broad: it would make it impossible to reject any argument at all. If Pirie means 'opinion' in a narrow sense, so that it excludes anything we actually know, it becomes more plausible for some cases, but, as I have noted, not for every kind of context. (It's interesting, incidentally, that one of Pirie's examples is no-platforming or shouting down a speaker on college campuses. This shows that Pirie's point is a more controversial one than you would gather from the Wikipedia article -- in the book Pirie is actually trying to present a particular picture of what rational discourse is, and each fallacy discussed identifies elements of that picture. Pirie is fairly explicit about this, and for this reason is explicitly generous about what counts as a 'fallacy'. But much of the picture is deliberately put forward in contrast to other conceptions of rational discourse, or at least other practices purporting to be rational discourse. This isn't a problem in Pirie's book, but it's noticeable that it vanishes entirely in the Wikipedia article. This phenomenon, of a set of claims from a very specific argumentative context continuing even after the context is dropped, is very common in the history of fallacies; I've discussed it here before, for example, with the case of false analogy.)

Most of the uses of 'appeal to the stone' or 'argumentum ad lapidem' as a fallacy label trace back to Pirie's book, either in this edition or in the earlier edition, which had the title, The Book of the Fallacy. But the term did not originate here. The earliest I've been able to trace it is to 1959, in Fearnside and Holthier's Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument; you can find it under section 39, 'Abandonment of Discussion', in the 'Diversions' section. Their comment is notable:

Johnson's refutation of Berkeley, a form of refusing to discuss the "absurd," is jestingly referred to by philosophers as the invention of a new fallacy, the appeal ad lapidem (to the stone).

We see here all the later elements of it -- and the explicit recognition that it is something of a joke fallacy. I suspect that their doing so is related to their treating in a discussion of fallacies while also recognizing in the same section that abandoning discussion is not the sort of thing that would ordinarily be considered a fallacy. In any case, this is not the first instance of a joke-fallacy insinuating its way onto serious lists of fallacies; the same thing happened with argumentum ad crumenam and argumentum ad baculum much earlier, as I've also noted before.

Aquinas for Lent XXIX repent is to deplore something one has done. Now it has been stated above (III:84:9) that sorrow or sadness is twofold. First, it denotes a passion of the sensitive appetite, and in this sense penance is not a virtue, but a passion. Secondly, it denotes an act of the will, and in this way it implies choice, and if this be right, it must, of necessity, be an act of virtue. For it is stated in Ethic. ii, 6 that virtue is a habit of choosing according to right reason. Now it belongs to right reason that one should grieve for a proper object of grief as one ought to grieve, and for an end for which one ought to grieve. And this is observed in the penance of which we are speaking now; since the penitent assumes a moderated grief for his past sins, with the intention of removing them. Hence it is evident that the penance of which we are speaking now, is either a virtue or the act of a virtue.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 3.85.1

Sunday, March 18, 2018

White in the Lily, and Red in the Rose

Today is the memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church, although of course the feast is liturgically superseded by Sunday. He was an irenic man, inclined to compromise to keep the peace, who had a career that was very much not irenic at all; he was deposed and banished about three times for not accepting Arianism, although in each case he was eventually restored, and he was one of the Conciliar Fathers of the First Council of Constantinople. From his Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 16.12

And why did He call the grace of the Spirit water? Because by water all things subsist; because water brings forth grass and living things; because the water of the showers comes down from heaven; because it comes down one in form, but works in many forms. For one fountain waters the whole of Paradise, and one and the same rain comes down upon all the world, yet it becomes white in the lily, and red in the rose, and purple in violets and hyacinths, and different and varied in each several kind: so it is one in the palm-tree, and another in the vine, and all in all things; and yet is one in nature, not diverse from itself; for the rain does not change itself, and come down first as one thing, then as another, but adapting itself to the constitution of each thing which receives it, it becomes to each what is suitable. Thus also the Holy Ghost, being one, and of one nature, and indivisible, divides to each His grace, according as He will: and as the dry tree, after partaking of water, puts forth shoots, so also the soul in sin, when it has been through repentance made worthy of the Holy Ghost, brings forth clusters of righteousness.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

There Is a Moment of Intense Delight

The Hill of Saint Patrick
by Sir Aubrey De Vere

There is a moment of intense delight
When, standing on the place of some great deed,
We mark where human intellect for right
Hath triumphed, as at bloodless Runnymede,
Or where the victim Spartan fell in fight,
Self sacrificed, that Hellas might be freed;
Beside the walls with Raffaelle's soul still bright;
Or Chatham's tomb, by Senate-kings decreed.
In such a mood, on this bold height, I stand,
Where first the holy pilgrim, Patrick, trod,
And as he gazed upon the glorious land,
Like Pisgah's Seer, stirred by the inward God,
With the deep weight of prophecy oppressed,
Stretched forth, and blessed the land:—and it was blessed!

Aquinas for Lent XXVIII

...the proper and direct cause of sin is to be considered on the part of the adherence to a mutable good; in which respect every sinful act proceeds from inordinate desire for some temporal good. Now the fact that anyone desires a temporal good inordinately, is due to the fact that he loves himself inordinately; for to wish anyone some good is to love him. Therefore it is evident that inordinate love of self is the cause of every sin.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 2-1.77.4

Friday, March 16, 2018

Dashed Off V

1. logical constraint
2. intentional content
3. communicative means
4. physical constraint

provable as 'admitting of proof', i.e., proof is possible vs. provable as 'one can (actually) construct a proof for it' vs provable as 'is proven'

1. from a constraint
2. of a subject in a context
3. under an authority
4. over something subordinate
5. to options
6. for an end

the analogies of Christian liturgy and Christian moral life (the reflection of the sacraments in Christian morality)

Some words of art are precisifying and others are summarizing; they work very differently.

An image is apt to be a sign, but is not necessarily a sign.

The material disposition of philosophy is not separable from actual human life. This material disposition has potentially that which is actually unified in an ordered totality in the ideal disposition of philosophy. The material disposition of philosophy, however, receives these things with difficulty because it relies on the senses as a crutch, and therefore expresses these things not as an ordered system but as a diffuse meander. To the extent that this meander is ordered, it involves receiving by means of gradation, one thing through another and for the sake of another. In receiving that which the ideal disposition unifies, the material disposition is completed or perfected by conceptualization, or discovery, and formation of positions. In doing this there is a sort of unity between the material disposition and the ideal disposition, but it is impossible for them ever to be the same: there is always knowledge eluding philosophy as practiced, and the manner in which the material disposition is completed guarantees that it cannot integrates what it receives in the way it is unified in the ideal disposition.

Models are analogies, not definitions.

'Converting to a religion' is primarily a matter of social reasoning. When it is based in philosophical argument, it is in fact a matter of the natural social path given that argument and other context.

relics as an expression of the communion of saints (cp. the Martyrdom of Polycarp)
2 Kg 13:21, Acts 19;12, and relics

analysis of 'intuitions' by productive cause (power), objective cause (that to which the power tends), formal cause (actual kind of exercise), instrumental cause (means by which object is presented to power)
- this allows one to consider possible defective causation in each case

Our sense of objectivity is a feeling of dependence, of wishing, and not being able to accomplish our wish, or at least the hypothetical of this (if I wished otherwise, I could not accomplish it).

2 Tim 1:18 and prayer for the dead (note that Onesiphorus is not greeted either at the beginning or the end of the letter, only his household; all description of Onesphorus is in the past tense -- Also note that what Paul does say about him is pretty typical of what one might say about the dead -- praying for his household and recalling the good he has done)

Voting is a form of petition.

swiftness, acuity, and sensitivity of understanding

Skill, as such, does not reflect.

sets as inquiry-results
To say that there is a set is to say that a particular collecting is logically possible.

present tense as a kind of overlap

squares of opposition
inside, inside not, not inside not, not inside
outside, outside not, not outside not, not outside
into, into not, not into not, not into
out of, out of not, not out of not, not out of
intrinsic, intrinsic not, not intrinsic not, not intrinsic
extrinsic, extrinsic not, not extrinsic not, not extrinsic

"No one functions so independently of another that even the lowliest part does not have some relation to the Head to which it is connected." Leo I

People want to have virtue without having fortitude, and there is no such thing.

Rational politics consists chiefly, although, to be sure, not solely, in living a reasonable life.

the natural right to emergency hospitality

"since land everywhere offers the possibility of supporting a large number of people, the sovereignty of the State, although it must be respected, cannot be exaggerated to the point that access to this land is, for inadequate or unjustified reasons, denied to needy and decent people from other nations, provided, of course, that the public weal, considered very carefully, does not forbid this." Exsul Familia

The integrity of elections requires upholding the character of the election as a good-faith negotiation; that requires entering it with a good faith willingness to abide by it.

As sweet may become dull without ceasing to be sweet, so pleasant may pall without ceasing to be pleasant. There is at least a shadow region of mingled weariness and pleasure.

the shadow of reason in the passions

Latour's modes of being as kinds or spheres of meaning

Progress without practicality is a contradiction in terms.

Ghosts of wickedness linger long in human cultures.

To understand what it means to say that marriage is a contract requires understanding that contracts can be sacred things.

Lack of tradition is sterility of culture.

"The Vocabulary of Virtues and Vices is a constant moral Lesson; perpetually operating to bring each man's moral sentiments into agreement with the general judgment of men." Whewell

Inference to the best explanation is necessarily causal (the 'explanation' part).

positive laws as a precondition for large-scale joint moral action

transcendentals as homoiomerous

Protestantism oscillates wildly between a 'platonism' and a 'nominalism' of grace.

There is a natural abstraction in the progress of a field in which it goes from being about X and its properties to including structures of X and X-properties. Thus mathematics goes from quantity to higher-order structures that illuminate quantity, jurisprudence from law to legal systems, and so forth. The danger is that the root may be forgotten as the field just begins talking about itself; but the progression is natural and the benefits potentially good.

HoP as the study of systems of philosophy, qua systems and the networks of influence

voting as counting-like vs voting as temperature-like (i.e., treating it as an extensive vs as an intensive measure)

alternation of ratios in concept formation:
if a:b::c:d, and I have a concept R such that R(a:b) = R(c:d), then I can form a concept S such that S(a:c)=S(b:d)

a mereology of part-taking

act & potency -> same & different, and parr & whole -> structure

the material cause of law as the whole body of the people (Robert Gahl, Jr.)

Nothing on earth consoles so well as good sense.

"a Contract to speak the Truth is implied in the use of Language" Whewell

authority of infallibility vs authority of doctrinal providence (Billot)

tyranny of rule vs tyranny of usurpation

passive resistance vs passive obedience

the importance of the quieter and more sober part of society to its governance

Campaigning decisions are not made on the basis of validity of votes but on the basis of accessibility of votes.

Scripture & Apostolic Succession of churches as the two instruments for conservation of Tradition
- the two mutually conserve each otehr

suppressio veri & suggestio falsi in jokes

The 'morality of Common Sense' concerns dispositions more than particular actions. But it also often deals with dispositions indirectly, in terms of what we are comfortable or uneasy with, etc.

As it is impossible to obtain exact precision in promising, there is always a region of negotiation involved in determining what promises require.

Every argument in a sense draws upon the whole system of logical principles.

Every government in a democratic society promises the moon but only delivers what it can afford.

Matters of faith may be rationally suggested by a reason that cannot prove them.

[Box : possibilities][Box : place-times][Box : red](not black)

Reasoning about impossibilities is a sort of mirroring or inversion of reasoning about necessities.

If there is legitimacy in the notion of stakeholder, it should apply in all cases of possession of private property.

preconditional, essential, consequential, and incidental Box

Voting is a context in which not supporting is almost as significant as actively supporting.

Every artistic object has an internal logic of design (even if it is a bad logic of design).

journalistic reporting as classifications of circumstances

running gag vs surprise gag

As philosophical positions increase so do objections.

(1) sensation with guarantor
(2) sensation with causal inference
(3) inference to medium
(4) transcendental precondition

Our experience of the world does not indicate that it is infinite in space or in time, nor does it indicate any definite boundaries in space and time.

the world as medium of action, as medium of communication
the world as object(s), as medium, as active power(s)
the world as intelligible object, as sensible object, as object of physical action

3 problems with Sidgwick's handling of 'common sense morality'
(1) inadequate distinction of disposition-duty & action-duty
(2) inadequate distinction between uncertainty arising from principle & uncertainty arising from that to which it is applied
(3) inadequate distinction between specific virtues and general properties of virtue

Aquinas for Lent XXVII

At the present time we cannot know how great God's love for us is: this is because the good things that God will give us exceed our longings and desires, and so cannot be found in our heart: "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, that God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9).

[Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapters 13-21, Larcher & Weisheipl, trs. The Catholic University of America Press (Washington, DC: 2010) p. 191.]

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Five Poem Drafts

The first two are based on Ossian, the last one on Ahikar and Proverbs.


Star, night's companion,
whose face rises, brilliant,
from the sunset-clouds,
whose majestic steps press down
on the firmament blue,
what do you see below?
The stormwinds of the day are still,
the evening gnats, on light wings,
fill the heaven-silence with their buzz.
Brilliant star,
what do you see below?
But I already I see you
settling with smile on horizon's edge.
Farewell, farewell, silent star!

you dwell on hero-covered land.
Sing at times the glory of the dead;
may their shades rejoice around you.

Sun of Justice

O you who roll on high,
round like ancestral shield,
O divine sun, where are the rays?
Whence springs eternal light?
In majestic beauty you advance.
The stars vanish in the firmament;
the moon, pale, cold, hides in western waves.
You alone endure, O sun!
Who could match you in your course?
The moon wanders in the heavens:
you alone are ever the same,
constantly rejoicing in shining splendor.
Thunder may roll, lightning fly,
but from clouds you burst forth in beauty,
laughing at the tempest.

The Fire-lit Firmament

The fire-lit firmament,
azure field,
is lightly swept with dust of cloud.
The moon has slept but rises now,
an orb of snow,
hanging low
with silvern shine
between mountains steep and sheer.
The winds are winding
through old ways,
mountain passes
thick with grasses
still wet from lately fallen rain,
a fleeting shower
that kissed each flower
and, faithless friend,
was swept by wind,
was off as swiftly as it came,
nothing left to be the same.

Neyat Sor

Above stirring foam,
undaunted by storm,
gale-winds defying,
great spires rising
with crystal gleam;
glowing like snow,
the high castle stands,
praying to heaven.

Courtier's Handbook

Lend your hear that you may hear,
your heart to understand:
casket truths inside yourself
and answers will rise to mouth.
Thirtyfold is cleverness
to make the naïf wise,
that they might speak right answers.
Rob not the wretched,
burden not the weak;
the crime is weighed in the end.
Work not with the unsettled soul,
lest you yourself be overturned.
Do not trouble the age-old bounds.
Focus on the reward that is given,
and do not hound for more.
Do not take praise deceitfully
for in the end it is nothing.
Hare not after money;
ill-gains devour the gainer
and fly beyond reach like a bird.
Be not greedy after gain,
or you will spew it forth.
Do not trouble enduring bounds;
beware the Lord of All.

Aquinas for Lent XXVI

The accumulation of temporal goods contrary to justice is always a mortal sin. And so Hab. 2:6 says: "Woe to those who pile up things not their own." Likewise, the accumulation of temporal goods, even if not contrary to justice, is a mortal sin if one makes them one's end.

[Thomas Aquinas, On Evil, Regan, tr., Oxford University Press (Oxford: 2003) p. 395.]