Monday, June 26, 2017

Poem a Day 26


The sidewalks burn with light.
The sun is rising high; its heat
burns our innocent feet.
All things shine that we see, and eyes
ache from the burning skies.
May we see, ere we die, the night.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Xunzi, Part I

What might be called Standard Confucianism consists essentially in the Four Books, which originate out of a commentary tradition on the Five Classics. The traditional acceptation of the Four Books gives a sense of how this works. Lun yu give us Confucius himself, as well as some of his immediate disciples commenting on his essential ideas; Da xue is likewise, according to tradition, a summary by Confucius of his ideas and a commentary by Zeng Zi, one of his most important students; Zhong yong is attributed to Confucius's grandson Zisi; and then we jump to the major commentator, Mencius, in the Mengzi. This gives Master Meng a significant pride of place as a semi-definitive comment on what the way of the scholar is; when the Four Books idea really develops, the commentators essentially focus on the tradition from Confucius to Mencius. But there are alternative forms of Confucianism, and the most important of these is Xunzi, who was essentially from the generation immediately after this Standard Confucian cut-off.

Xunzi was born Xun Kuang -- or perhaps Sun Kuang -- but beyond that we know very little about him. He first really shows up in the states of Qi and Qin in his fifties, and is thought to have lived out much of his later life in what would be the modern Shandong province. The most notable figures who are thought to have been his students, Li Si and Han Fei, were important anti-Confucians, so in a sense his tradition dead-ends with him. This is not to say that he did not have influence, since the absolute dominance of Mencian thought in Confucian circles only really arises in the Song dynasty, and the very fact that we have a surviving substantive work from him is a point worth considering. While Xunzi would often be criticized, it is only with the Song commentators that Xunzi becomes treated as a kind of Confucian heresiarch because of his heavy (but entirely Confucian) criticism of Mencius.

As with all the major Confucian texts, it is a matter of considerable controversy how much of the Xunzi text is actually due to Xunzi himself. It consists of thirty-two chapters that stand alone very easily. The text as we have it was compiled in the first century BC by Liu Xiang, who himself says that he started with over three hundred texts and edited it down to thirty-two -- some of those three hundred were duplicates, but we don't know in what proportion, nor do we know for sure what Liu Xiang did in building the thirty-two chapter work we have. For instance, each chapter has a title, but we don't know if all of these are Liu Xiang's or if some of them go back to the beginning. Because of its origin, there is no fixed chapter order, and new editors in new generations felt free to shuffle them around to an order that made more sense to them. Likewise, while some of the chapters would make nice stand-alone essays, others seem to be more miscellaneous chapters in which Liu Xiang put pieces he couldn't fit elsewhere, and the 'smoothness' of the chapters varies considerably. Without Liu Xiang's original sources, it is impossible to say how much of the text actually goes back to Xunzi himself; some of it, or even most of it, could be due to lesser known or unknown disciples. On the other side, though, there is no reason to think that the book is in any way unfaithful to Xunzi's thought, either.

The translation I will be using is that of Eric L. Hutton, who follows the most common chapter order, that of Yang Liang. David Elstein has a nice overview article on Xunzi at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Dan Robins another such overview article at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

I. Quanxue (An Exhortation to Learning)

"Learning must not stop" (p. 1), that is to say, a constant state of refinement and improvement is necessary to life of the junzi, or noble. Learning as Xunzi conceives it is essential social: by building on the work of others you are able to go farther than you would be able to go on your own. This will tie in with one of Master Xun's constant themes: greatness and authority are not things you simply have, any more than you have a good view simply by your birth, but must be worked at. To have a good view, you must find a good place to stand. It matters where you live and with whom you associate. As he will say later, "In learning, nothing is more expedient than to draw near to the right person" (p. 6).

Learning likewise is a matter of slow accumulation. It is by small steps that you reach a destination worth reaching, and it is important for the process of accumulation not to give up simply because things get tedious or difficult. One starts with the classics, moves on to the study of ritual, and never stops until death. It must be upheld at all times: "To pursue it is to be human, to give it up is to be a beast" (p. 5).

The noble do not merely receive learning; they assimilate it. It sticks in their heart, diffuses through their body, is expressed in their action, so that everything they do is an expression of what they have learned and thus a model for others. The petty, Master Xun says in a striking image and joke, are such that learning enters their heart and leaves their mouth: "From mouth to ears is only four inches--how could it be enough to improve a whole body much larger than that?" (p. 5). Learning should be for improvement of self, not for impressing others.

The result is a very high standard. People who are inconsistent in their principles and actions are not to be trusted as teachers; only those who pursue important things wholeheartedly have a true grasp on learning, and thus are able to pass along in a proper way things they have learned. The noble person, then, will devote himself without qualification to learning, knowing that the flawed does not deserve praise.

II. Youshen (Cultivating Oneself)

Education is fundamentally a matter of self-education, and this means that all things are occasions for education. If you see goodness in another, look to see how you can cultivate it; if you see badness in another, look to see if you are guilty of or in danger of it. One should avoid flatterers, who may mislead you, and you should regard your critics, when right, as more friends than your supporters who support you no matter what. This is one of the distinctions between the noble and the petty.

Teaching has a necessary relation to what is good; it is contrasted with leading others to what is bad, which is flattery. (The argument here is quite similar to that of Plato in the Gorgias.) Education is thus by its nature practical: there are specific remedies to handle problems so that, for example, if you are sluggish or greedy, you need to cultivate "lofty intentions" (p. 11). This practicality means that your self-cultivation should proceed regardless of whether your situation is difficult or not (the farmer does not become more lazy in times of drought), and you need to have a good template or model to follow, which you then must proceed to use in a way appropriate to it.

Rituals are ways of correcting yourself; "to contradict ritual is to be without a proper model" (p. 14). We rely on teachers to help us to correct our implementation of them.

III. Bugou (Nothing Improper)

The noble only esteem what is in accordance with ritual and rightness. It is precisely this that guarantees that the noble man is consistently good and admirable, regardless of what temperamental or acquired traits he may have. Whether the noble are learned or unlearned, cautious or ambitious, renowned or in obscurity, pleased or displeased, wealthy or poor, the noble are in accordance with ritual and rightness. The petty are the opposite; they are discordant and sowers of discord whether they are learned or unlearned, cautious or ambitious, renowned or in obscurity, pleased or displeased, wealthy or poor:

A saying goes, "In both cases the gentleman advances. In both cases the petty man falters." This expresses my meaning. (p. 18)

The noble cultivate themselves by cheng, being true to their proper nature. Because the noble man is steadfast and consistent he becomes an element of the environment, so to speak; and just as heaven and earth and the seasons have their effects without having to use words, so the noble person teaches and improves the world simply by living nobly.

In making decisions, one must be balanced and thorough, looking at everything from each side in order to determine what is desirable or undesirable. Failure to do this may lead to an appearance of propriety or nobility that is purely an illusion.

Poem a Day 25

True Love

I have not yet met you on my way;
I guess I cannot marry you today.
I thought to meet you walking by the bay;
I missed you by a minute on the road;
I thought I might just catch you by the quay --
no such luck! Perhaps you did not make the boat,
or were held up by sudden, sad delay,
or perhaps had come and gone, and I too slow --
but as I do not know you, anyway,
I guess I cannot marry you today.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dashed Off XIII

rhetoric and the logic of tone/coloring/illumination

apt inquiry: inquiry that finds truth by competence rather than luck
investigative competence

the integral parts of prudence & forms of being in the world

moods of inquiry: the cautious, the dreading, the enthusiastic, the perfunctory, the retaliatory, the musing, the hopeful, the suspicious, the hectic, the frantic
James's passional element of inquiry and the moods of inquiry

curiousity as craving for the new vs as love for truth vs as wondering

"An 'epistemology engine' is a technology or a set of technologies that through use frequently become explicit models for describing how knowledge is produced." Ihde & Selinger

investigative gear & handiness for inquiry
signs as gear for inquiry

handiness as accessibility + affordance

rational inference // alchemical transformation
(the parallel is not accidental; the latter borrows notions from spiritual conversion)

the spatiality of human inquiry

material; material semiotic; verbal semiotic; instrumental orientation; archetypal principle

Too many liturgical arguments err by assuming that there is only one possible mood for worship.

Collingwood reenactment // experimental repeatability
(the latter is mental reenactment with appropriate variations to clarify the non-obvious features)

accessible evidence vs admissible evidence

Whether something is probable cannot be assessed until you know what it means.

I & II Samuel and the principle of intercession

curation as an act of inquiry

the call of conscience as a participation in Logos
evening and morning knowledge and the call of conscience
conscience as making soliloquy possible

contiguity-searching for cause; resemblance-searching for cause; logical requirement/prerequisite-searching for cause
We most often use contiguity search for causes in singular cases without leisure for extended inquiry.

Every cause in its causing is a model for the effect it causes.

sacred liturgy progresses through (Mediator Dei):
(1) clarification of sacred doctrine
(2) improvement of ecclesiastical discipline in administration
(3) popular devotion and practice of piety
(4) progress of fine arts
(5) regulations to protect the purity of worship from abuses

the Lord's Prayer as summation of all Christian prayer

error accumulation in geometrical diagrams

the shape in which a pleasure exists, the seat in which it resides, the source whence it is derived, the inlet through it is derived

assessing inquiry in terms of
(1) intrinsic appropriateness
(2) sustainability
(3) promise of success
(4) accessibility
(5) likely fecundity
(6) likely avoidance of impediment
(7) general usefulness

People often appeal to 'Ockham's Razor' to perform the function that used to be performed by 'Uniformity of Nature'.

∃ as exception-to-not
∀ as not-exception-to

transitivity-breaking in analogy chains

Descartes's ideological argument for God can be seen as an argument that recognizing the being of anything requires recognizing being as such, characterized privatively by 'limitless' and 'lackless', and that this must be first being with respect to other being.

Skeptics about introspection tend still to assume the reliability of their introspective assessment of their own arguments and their understanding of them.

(1) identifying conceptual territory to explore
(2) scouting territory (initial probes)
(3) tentative mapping of territory (first approximate model of possible options)
(4) comparison to actual evidence of territory (history of problem)
-note that the history of the problem may itself provide the initial probes
(5) refinement of map

the works of religion transpose the potential parts of justice to a higher key:
filial piety to God as Father
honor to God as Good
truthfulness to God as True
gratitude to God as Benefactor
vindication to God as Lovable
amiability toward God as Friend
liberality with respect to divine glory
- note that in some cases, the virtue of religion can only do this at all if informed by charity (e.g., amiability) and in other cases can only do it imperfectly without charity

Virtue cannot be maintained without memory.

All believing entails some kind of knowing.

If language can only say those things we can imagine otherwise, that can be said,so we must be able to imagine that language can say things we cannot imagine otherwise.

The problem with too many pronouncements about philosophy is that they attempt to articulate a necessary principle structuring the most recent product of historical accidents.

All of the damned are after a fashion suicides.

weak-plausible vs strong-plausible
(wp is the most common sense, based on appearance; sp requires fit with what we can reasonably be said to know. wp can be inconsistent but sp cannot; wp makes few to no assumptions, sp makes substantive assumptions. A pyrrhonian, for example, can argue on wp, but not on sp.)

The problem with being seen as a victim is that everyone has a point at which they are more ashamed at the possibility of their own vulnerability than they are of the actual vulnerability of another. Past this point, strong will and clear sight is required.

the intrinsic warrant of the principle of noncontradiction

defeasibility as modally organized

Counterexample games are better for building distinctions than for building refutations.

Quantifier placement cannot ground a sharp distinction between de dicto and de re; it can only distinguish them relatively.

'Cicero' and 'Tully' are not proper names in the same language (the former is Latin, the second Anglicized), and Cicero and Tullius are not proper names with the same function. If I am referred to by 'Brandon' and by 'Watson', or someone is referred to by 'Tollers' and 'Tolkien', these proper names are not functionally equivalent and are not used the same way. And every propre name can be made a common noun and vice versa: Xanthippe and Africanus. There is no difference between them beyond the use.

Proper names clearly have 'tone' and applied to the same thing can tonally differ.

incorporation of description into proper name: Olympiodorus the Younger, Mad Max, Honest Abe, Johnny Appleseed, Robin Hood, Wayland Smith, Sir Lancelot, Jesus Christ, Peterson, etc.
Notice that these often are uses of description to make the proper name function better as a proper name.
Note that "without sense" proper names are typically atrophied descriptions (or imitations of such atrophied descriptions). It is clearly an error to ignore the fact that these atrophied forms are atrophied.

"Archeology, in fact, is to the body social somewhat as comparative anatomy is to animal organization." Balzac

the relation between undercutting defeaters for claims and rebutting defeaters for consequences of claims

prima facie appreciables in aesthetics

"The hater is more disturbed by his hatred than is the hated." Kant

signs as originated distinctions manifesting their origin

Blackstone on 'The king can do no wrong': the legal fiction, far from placing the king above law, provides a means of subjecting the king to legal constraint without use of force

Blackstone's deterrence theory of punishment -- three primary forms of deterrence: reform of offender, dread of example, deprivation of future power of mischief

positions about hell
(1) state of hell: vacantism, sempiternalism
(2) who gets out of hell: particularism, universalism
(3) what ultimately happens to the damned: annihiliationism, salvationism, punitionism

One must build one's life on reason; but it is a highly irrational life that is built on assessment of individual arguments. Such assessment has its role, but it is not enough.

the two senses of rest: cessation of work, satisfaction of desire

The modern universe is a less durable universe than the Aristotelian.

The desire for vengeance is quite often an outgrowth of sympathy, for those perceived as wronged.

Sometimes when people talk about 'following where the argument leads', they are confusing means and ends; at other times they are confusing it with important activity of seeing where the argument goes, which is not the same.

An argument that one actually deserves faith is an argument for believing in the first place.

former-argument remnants in later arguments

Anything that concerns matter required for persons to live as persons is moral.

to ask of any freedom, "What love does it make possible?" -- for that gives the character of the freedom

clothing as an expression of self-control and dominion in the world

There is no communion without common aim.

sartorial shame -- tending to shun clothing that can obscure the value of persons (of oneself and others)

By use of clothing we show a facet of rationality.

"Holy Job is a type of the Church. At one time he speaks for the body, at another for the head." Gregory Moralia 13.21

Is the tendency to think taht good requires evil related to the tendency to think good is the pleasant?

"A likeness of one thing existing in another is essentially an exemplar if it stands to the other as principle." SCG 4.11

Different oughts imply different cans.

John 8:41 and the virgin birth

When we get the plausiblity of a statement in different ways, we cannot assume that it will be equally plausible from each direction. We experience disparity of plausibility according to ordering effects, asymmetries of association, ease of inference, and many other things all the time.

Augustine's general principles of Gospel harmony
(1) divine providence
(2) order
(3) thematic differences (priest, king, God)
(4) distinct talents (active contemplative)
(5) consonance with sameness of sense
Augustine's Gospel harmonization is intrinsically perspectival -- it is inconsistent with Diatessaron-forming because it is based on the principle that the Four are not inter-reducible. (the difference between tessellating harmonization and perspectival harmonization)

Conceptual entailment is more properly a matter of consistency than psychological association.

How modest a hypothesis is, depends entirely on the evidence. It cannot depend on how many claims are made by the hypothesis, because claims can be differently portioned (broken up, given further explanation, put in terse form, reduced by a more powerful vocabulary, etc.). It cannot be about specificity, because that is relative -- a hypothesis may be more specific in one context and less when compared to other hypotheses. And the appropriate level of specificity itself depends on the evidential context. And it cannot be about narrowness of scope, for the same reason.

Evidence is not extrinsic to a hypothesis, if by that is meant that hypotheses can be understood and analyzed independently of any evidence at all; for instance, the very reason for proposing this rather than some wholly different hypothesis is constrained by relevance to evidence.

the maieutic character of good counsel

Human sympathy is not bare affection; it involves counterfactual reasoning.

character arc as role discovery

repentance // acceptance of refutation

Applying moral noncognitivism, moral error theory, and moral subjectivism to norms of reasoning gives us three varieties of sophistry.

philosophy as ascetic endeavor (the distinction between real and apparent good)

humility, confidence, and attention as conditions of inquiry

penitential (i.e., purifying) practices as the most natural expression of infused moral virtues

interjections as predicate-like
(1) they work a lot like predicates for demonstrative subjects (they are comments on real rather than verbal topics)
(2) they can easily be modified into normal predicates ('the song was wow')
(3) Normal predicates under the right conditions can easily be modified into interjections (Bright! Fire! Sorry! -- i.e., secondary interjections)

the aizuchi use of interjections

"Philosophy can be driven out only by more philosophy." Scruton

space and time as abstractions from light, broadly considered

institution of sacrament : apostolicity :: integral composition of sacrament : unity :: operative efficacy of sacrament : holiness :: necessity of sacrament for salvation : catholicity

sacrament as instrument, as sign, as vestment, as juridical act, as Church in expression

clothing as imperfect effects of a person (Hume)

A Church cannot be less than a nation.

the sacrifice of the Cross as the principal indulgence, other indulgences as direct or indirect unions with this (cp. Sertillanges)

plotting as organization of problems

organic regulation as a principle of good administration

Each sacrament unifies, sanctifies, catholicizes, and apostolicizes the Church.

Traditions are capable of preventing ordinary people from being wholly at the mercy of purported experts, and of protecting the weak from the strong. They do not usually address the underlying problems, but they are powerful mitigators and resilient buffers. And indeed it is precisely by buffering everyone with rules and rites that all can learn, and by bringing the same pressures on all, that they have such an effect.

Repenting of the good is a dangerous thing.

The etiological theory of function requires that function come in degrees.

act/potency -> change -> clock -> time
act/potency -> composition -> container -> location (place)
act/potency -> active/passive -> cause/effect -> force -> resistance -> interaction

"As long as the child is in the mother's womb, it is not entirely separate, but by reason of a certain intimate tie, is still part of her; just as the fruit while hanging on the tree is part of the tree." Aquinas ST 1.113.5ad3

tradition as temporal hierarchy (subsidiarity through time) and as temporal friendship (solidarity through time)

the obligation of piety to draw on what is good in our predecessors

Poem a Day 24


The heat has overflowed from day to night;
memory of your eyes haunts me tonight.

The world no longer brings joy to my sight;
to my eye night is piled onto night.

Once I would have looked up at starry light,
your sigh in my ear; it is dark tonight.

The moon no longer beams with face of white;
our love did not endure from night to night.

Return, my love, and set my heart to right!
I am alone when day turns into night.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Loving Nature for Its Own Sake

The end of labor, so far as material nature is concerned, is not to make it an instrument for obtaining things and money, but to perfect it--to revive the lifeless, to spiritualize the material in it. The methods whereby this can be achieved cannot be indicated here; they fall within the province of art (in the broad sense of the Greek τεχνη). But what is essential is the point of view, the inner attitude and the direction of activity that results from it. Without loving nature for its own sake it is impossible to organize material life in a moral way.

[Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good, von Peters, ed. Catholic Resources (Chattanooga, TN: 2015), p. 370.]

Poem a Day 23

Footsteps on the Moon VI

Challenges shape the course of destiny,
Exalting the minds that rise to them.
Reason finds hope in overcoming.
Never does the road to heaven perish;
Always it is there, a shining path.
Night skies sing of those who walked in them.

Spaces grand enough for spirit to grow
Call to the human mind at night,
Herald a morning on new spheres,
Mix our mortal thoughts with dreams of more,
Inspire us to travel beyond horizon's bound.
Truth is a treasure within our mental reach;
Transcended, Earth gives way to the stars.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Poem a Day 22

Loves of Dandelions

The dandelions flourish,
suns below for sun above,
by winds and waters nourished
with a wanton kind of love
promiscuous in passion
and libertine in touch,
vulgar in its fashion
and gaudy overmuch,
but cheerful in its crassness,
like men with taste for beer,
and valiant in its rashness,
untouched by dread or fear.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Islands of Miranda, Part II

This is the second part of a short story draft. Part I

Early the next morning, Diego ferried over to the floating airstrip for his flight to Costa Rica. It was uneventful, and customs went smoothly; under the dual-nationality agreement between Costa Rica and Miranda, he was required to use his Costa Rican passport to enter, and therefore did. As he was getting his baggage, he called the Mirandan embassy and they sent out a car to fetch him. They were just pulling through the embassy gate when he received a call from his sister saying that she and her husband's stay in the Bahamas had been extended, so they would not be back until later in the week. He sighed and wondered what he would do for the rest of the week.

When he checked in at the embassy desk to let them know that he would be expecting a message from the Council the next day, he found that there was already a message for him, asking him to meet Graciela Tovar in the top floor meeting lounge.

Diego had seen pictures of Tovar before, but on entering the little meeting room with its collection of arm chairs and side tables, he discovered that she was one of those beautiful people to whom photographs do no justice. She sat in the armchair as if it were a throne, and rose graciously to shake his hand as if she were a princess.

"It is good to meet you in person," she said, sitting down again. "I assume that you know that everything is cleared away for your appointment except the formalities."

"Yes, Teddy Chavez told me."

"Ah, yes. Would you like some wine to celebrate?" When he assented, she nodded her head at the waiter, who opened a new bottle -- a Château Angélus Cabernet Souvignon 2112, a very good vintage that no one simply has on hand for casual celebration -- and poured the glasses.

"May the Islands return," Diego said.

"May the Islands return," Tovar replied. "I've always found that toast so interesting. It is not we how return to the Islands; it is the Islands that will return to us. There is a great deal to that." She looked at him over her glass. "I seem to recall that you have spent the last few years in the Mirandan Navy."

Diego nodded. "Captain of the Dominic Seabourne."

"Seabourne? Who was that? The name sounds familiar."

"He was one of the volunteers in the Mirandan Marines who died holding off the Venezuelan invasion long enough for the Evacuation. I confess that I never understood why we name ships for historical figures until I was assigned to the Seabourne and learned more about him. He is one of those who made possible the very fact that I exist; it was an honor to contribute to the continuation of his memory."

The corner of Tovar's eyes crinkled slightly in what may have been either appreciation or cynicism; Diego could not tell. "And before that, a degree at Our Lady of Coromoto."

"Yes, naval engineering."

"Did you like Nuevos Aves?"

Diego laughed. "A little too cold for me. I don't know why they put it so far north."

"My understanding is that at the time it was so that the Venezuelan navy wouldn't be tempted to think they could get away with raiding it. Thus all the seasteads are in the Pacific or the North Atlantic. A great deal of what we have ever done has been shaped by the Left-Populist government of Venezuela; they don't like us at all, because we represent -- well, a failure for them, I suppose. And they are hot-tempered and reckless. You have heard, I suppose, of their accusations that we are to blame for their recent computer problems?"

"Yes, I saw something of the kind. They do seem to rant a lot."

"Very true. They would be much better served to have the proof in hand before making these kinds of accusations. Especially," she said, looking reflectively at her glass, "in a case like this, when what they say is true."

Diego, who had been on the verge of taking a sip, lowered his glass slowly. "You mean that we really are hacking Venezuela's essential systems? That could be seen as an act of war."

"Oh, but Señor Páez, it is an act of war. A very deliberate act of war. I do not know why they have picked now -- my suspicion is that something that was being prepared for later was accidentally set off before its time -- but there is no question that it is now the first step in what is the increasingly inevitable war between the Left-Populist Republic of Venezuela and the Miranda Organization."

Diego absorbed this a moment, then said, "I notice that you did not say the Insular State of Miranda."

"Do you think the Council of Self-Governance would approve this sort of thing? Can you imagine the Marshal of Los Roques or the Ranger of Los Aves signing off on a war? No, it is very much the Miranda Organization itself. There have always been two groups inside the Organization, those who held that war was the path to the return of the Islands and those like myself who have argued that patient diplomacy is more promising."

She swirled the wine around in her glass. "Not that I cannot see sometimes the point of the other side. If you have never looked at it closely before, look at the angel statue on the northern side of the embassy before you leave. It is one of the original Angels of La Orchila, commissioned by Leo Theodore himself. One was destroyed in the invasion, and the other three were sold off by the Venezuelans to help them recover some of the cost of turning our grandparents into exiles. One of them vanished into some private collection somewhere, and the last two, the one here and then one in the Washington embassy, were bought back at very great expense. They used to stand in front of the Church of Los Ángeles Santos, which is now an office building for the Venezuelan Navy. It is enough of an insult to make any Mirandan angry."

"But," she said with emphasis, leaning forward, "we must not let ourselves be distracted from such things. Those are old ways. The times are changing." She leaned back again. "I do not fully know how Leo Theodore conned the Venezuelan government into giving him the Territorio Insular Francisco de Miranda; it was an astounding feat of diplomacy. But he took a haphazard collection of a few thousand people, used to fishing and tourism, and made them a nation, and that was an even greater feat, for whether he knew it or not, he was making something completely new. Because there was so little land, everything he did had to be done in a decentralized way, so he invented a way to do that --"

"The Miranda Organization."

"Exactly. And not bound by the limits of territory, or the limits of thought created by it, Miranda became the wealthiest country in the Caribbean in a generation. That's what the Left-Populists thought they were going to get; having bankrupted their own government, they saw a treasury for the taking. But all they got were some offices, some petty cash reserves, a few chartered corporations whose operations were entirely in Miranda and Venezuela. And the Islands. But Miranda itself was not bound to the isles and cays, and it survived their loss. The Miranda Organization was still recognized by treaty law as the legal entity representing Mirandan citizens in the greater world.

"The era of the nation-states is over. They are property managers, and very poor ones. When Leo Theodore founded Miranda in 2073, a new age began. It is foolish to pine for the days when we were bound to the earth. And the direction we are heading will do nothing for us."

"Because we are heading for a war we cannot win."

"No, because it is a war that will harm us even though we will win. Of course we will win; they are Left-Populists squeezing a country they have bankrupted several times over, and these are not the old days when the Mirandan Marines were mostly concerned with customs and park-rangering. We can shut down half their country by twiddling our fingers on a keyboard. None of this is the point. The danger is precisely that when we win we will have the archipelagos around our necks like millstones, and perhaps Venezuela, too."

Tovar snapped her fingers and the waiter -- who, Diego suddenly realized, was not merely a waiter -- handed her a folder, which she handed to Diego.

"What is this?" he asked, opening it. It was filled with technical diagrams.

"A new satellite that the Space Agency will be putting into orbit next month. Under your supervision, of course, assuming you don't stop it." She waved her glass at her assistant, who refilled it, and sipped it appreciatively while Diego looked through the papers.

"Satellite design is not my specialty," he said slowly. "But this looks like a rather strange satellite."

"Not if your satellite is a weapon."

"You mean, like a tactical laser?"

"I am told that it is not technically a laser, but yes, a beam weapon along those lines."

Diego shook his head. "That makes no sense; you could have a cheaper and more effective weapon by dropping iron rods."

"More effective, perhaps, but not with the same precision. It would be child's play to put a bombardment system in orbit that would drop things on Venezuela until there was no more Venezuela, but that would run afoul of a long list of treaties and get half the countries of the world on their side. But surgical strikes? It is the sort of thing we can do and then ask for forgiveness. And anywhere in Venezuela, from a position that the Venezuelans can never dislodge. Absolute strategic high ground."

"Surely our allies will not stand for it."

"You'll find, Diego, that our allies will stand for anything, or at least not oppose anything, that fattens their pocketbooks. It is how we have survived for so long. Everyone makes money if Venezuela loses -- including probably Venezuela, given how the Left-Populists have handled things. Either they'll be quiet, or they'll sternly lecture us not to do it again, and that's it. And, while I don't know, I suspect the Americans are actually in on it. They are still smarting from their loss in the Polynesian War. Let us do the testing, and risk the international outcry, and, if it proves effective, they can have an even better system up within the year. Probably already have it ready.

"One of the first things you'll have to decide, Diego, is whether we should go to war. Can I count on your support to oppose this?"

Diego handed back the folder, wondering what the catch was. "This is quite a serious matter," he said warily. "I would prefer to avoid a war, but I would have to look more closely at all of the relevant information."

On Tovar's face, there was a brief flash of what Diego could only interpret as extreme skepticism, almost immediately replaced by a pleasant smile. "Of course," she said. "I could not ask for anything more. It just seemed a good idea to give you fair warning about what you are about to step into."

"Thank you very much for that."

"Are you intending on flying to Italy as soon as get the official notice? The usual expectation is that you would meet the Pontifical Commission within a week or two."

"I'm not sure. I had originally intended to stay in Costa Rica for the rest of the week, but that was when I thought my sister would be back from her trip already; now she won't be back until I was expecting to leave. Now I'm thinking I might move it up."

"Hm. Well, prepare to be lectured."

"Teddy Chavez said the same thing to me; he said that I would be lectured on ancient history."

"I think it differs according to the person. With me it was forty-five minutes, nonstop, on papal sovereignty. Binaisa is harmless, but he likes to pontificate. Just smile and nod."

She rose and extended her hand with a directness that made it clear that the interview was over, so he shook her hand and left. As he left, he looked back, and saw her looking at him with that same very skeptical look that he had seen earlier.

to be continued

Poem a Day 21

Footsteps on the Moon V

Yesterday's mountains, hard as stone,
Over long eons to dust erode.
Unknown and mysterious, time is a riddle;
Nothing but the mind can resolve it,
Great with courage, great with thought.

Destiny begins with one foot;
Under the high Earth it begins with a step.
Kick off the chains that bind the feet;
Earth is more fair when bright in the sky.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Resistance to Crimes

The moral principle demands real resistance to crimes, and determines this resistance (or punishment in the wide sense of the term, as distinct from the idea of retribution) as a rightful means of active pity, legally and forcibly limiting the external expressions of evil will, not merely for the sake of the safety of the peaceful members of society, but also in the interests of the criminal himself. Thus the true conception of punishment is many-sided, but each aspect is equally conditioned by the universal moral principle of pity, which includes both the injured and the injurer.

The victim of a crime has a right to protection and, as far as possible, to compensation; society has a right to safety; the criminal has a right to correction and reformation. Resistance to crimes that is to be consistent with the moral principle must realize or, at any rate, aim at an equal realization of those three rights.

[Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good, von Peters, ed. Catholic Resources (Chattanooga, TN: 2015), p. 345.]

Soloviev is very down on retributive theories of punishment, but a version of this point, at least, is a standard part of classical retributive theory, in large part due to the influence of Platonism, with which Soloviev's account of punishment has much in common.

Poem a Day 20

No, I Will Not Love You

No, I will not love you;
your eyes are far too bright,
lively in their laughter,
sparkling in the light.

My love, I will not love you
if love will have an end;
the link between our hearts must last
until the stars descend.

My love, I can only hate you
unless this love is pure;
no love at all I give you
unless its joy endure.

No, I will not love you,
whose smiles too perfect shine,
unless my heart is wholly yours
and yours is wholly mine.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Islands of Miranda, Part I

This is the first part of a short story draft.

Diego Páez was that most remarkable of things, a citizen of the Insular State of Miranda, which did not exist, and being so gave him access to untold power and wealth. He was even a candidate for the Board. But such things do not constitute invulnerability, and he had already narrowly avoided assassination.

His troubles had begun, as troubles often do, with a meeting. The meeting occurred aboard a boat, docked at the Mirandan seastead of Nuevo Roque in the Pacific, belonging to the Fifth Speaker of the Board of the Miranda Organization, Teddy Chavez. To call it a 'boat' is a bit of an understatement; it was a yacht, so fine as to be perhaps even a little better than the finest that money can buy.

"Tuanís," Diego said under his breath as he came on board. He had spent his last few years as captain of a light corvette with complement of fifty, which, like all ships built for military purposes, had a design inspired by a sardine can. The open space, the wood paneling, the gilt and artwork and grand piano, all took his breath away.

He clinked a glass of bourbon -- also of a kind a little better than mere money could buy -- with Chavez before settling into a comfortable overstuffed chair.

"May the Islands return," said Chavez, taking his own seat across the desk.

"May the Islands return," replied Diego.

They took time to appreciate the bourbon, smooth with a silky finish, then Chavez said, "It's a big day. It has basically been decided. You will be the new Fourth Speaker."

"I had thought that the Council wasn't making a decision until the day after tomorrow."

"Officially, but it's all squared away. The always have to make a decision before the actual deadline so they can draw up the official documentation and deliver it by Courier with minimal delay. The Council of Self-Governance likes their documents, lots and lots of documents. It's their only form of entertainment."

"And the Pontifical Commission?"

"That's a rubber stamp. They want to interview you, but they always do. They have to, to feel like they are doing something. Binaisa will give you a lecture on ancient history and send you on your way; just smile and nod politely and it will all be fine. Will you be here when the Council makes its announcement?"

Diego shook his head. "I fly out to San José tomorrow to visit with friends and family. I told the Courier Office that that's where I'd be when they announced the result."

Chavez nodded. "I'm very excited about this, Diego. I pushed very hard for you with the rest of the Board." He glanced at the clock on the wall, a marble affair shaped like a bear, and stood, "I'm sorry to have to cut this short, but I have to head out. I just wanted to see you before I left, to share the news."

They shook hands. Before Diego left, Chavez said, "By the way, Diego, a word of advice. These aren't the days of the Lion and the Lamb; Board politics is very rough. You'll need to keep a sharp eye out and clear head on your shoulders."

Diego disembarked and walked along the ponte to the South Towers. It was a beautiful day. The sun was just touching the horizon to set, creating a long golden road of waves across the sea. This, combined with the news he had received, put him in a very good mood. This was perhaps a good thing, because he got lost trying to find his hotel, and only finally reached the hotel desk well after it had begun to get dark.

"And how are you paying, sir?" the man at the front desk asked.

"I would like it charged to my account at the Bank of Miranda," Diego replied, handing over his Mirandan passport and banking card.

The man, startled, took the documents and then became very intensely focused on the computer.

"I'm sorry, sir," he said, after it beeped at him twice. "When the reservation was made, they did not note that you were a Mirandan citizen. If you have no objection, I will upgrade your room to one of our luxury suites for no additional charge."

Diego had no objection to this, and briefly wondered whether anyone ever had an objection to such a thing, and so it was done. He took a long ride up an elevator, long enough to watch a news report on claims by Venezuela that several key government systems, including its electrical grid, had been hacked, to a suite large enough to take up almost an entire floor. Even at night, the view was breathtaking -- the stars were shining brightly in the west, while off to the east in the far distance one could see the lightning flashes of a storm. But when he made himself a cup of herbal tea and settled down on the comfortable sofa, it was to the shadows to the north that he looked. Somewhere in that direction, too far away to be in sight even if it were day, was Nuevo Francisqui, the location of the Miranda Space Agency, which was one of the agencies traditionally under the supervision of the Fourth Speaker of the Board.

He raised his cup in a toast to his reflection. "May the Islands return," he said.

to be continued

Flesh and Bone

Philosophy is a product of the humanity of each philosopher, and each philosopher is a man of flesh and bone who addresses himself to other men of flesh and bone like himself. And, let him do what he will, he philosophizes not with the reason only, but with the will, with the feelings, with the flesh and with the bones, with the whole soul and the whole body. It is the man that philosophizes.

Miguel de Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life, Flitch, tr. Dover (New York: 1954) p. 28.

Poem a Day 19

Footsteps on the Moon IV

Sweetly the rains of sunlight fall,
Combusting the kindling of the mind,
Ordering its thoughts in curious design.
Thought is an active thing, a force,
Taking the spheres of the world in hand.

In the quiets of space the power of God
Reaches into the mind with thundering force,
Waking the heart to sublime adventure,
Instilling a sense of the Presence within;
Nigh to eternity is the human soul.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fortnightly Book, June 18

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19)

The next fortnightly book is Miguel de Unamuno's San Manuel Bueno, mártir. It is quite short, but I will be reading it in Spanish. Although I will not be doing it officially for the fortnightly book, I will also be reading (in translation) Unamuno's major philosophical work, The Tragic Sense of Life, on the lookout for connections between the two.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864-1936) wanted to be a philosophy professor, but couldn't get an appointment, so he went into Classics instead, and took a position at the University of Salamanca, of which he eventually became the rector. In 1924, he was removed from his position and exiled by Miguel Primo de Rivera, the general Prime Minister who essentially functioned as a dictator at the time; he spent some time in the Canary Islands, but eventually escaped to France. After the collapse of Primo de Rivera's government, he returned to Spain and to his university positions. Very pro-Spanish, he originally welcomed Franco's unapologetic insistence on maintaining Spanish culture, but soured very quickly on Francoist methods. Always the moderate, he fearlessly criticized the extremes of both the Republicans and the Francoists, and inevitably was removed from his university positions again. He died shortly afterward under house arrest.

During his career, he became one of Spain's most internationally known literary greats, and San Manuel Bueno, mártir is perhaps his most famous fictional work. It is not quite a novel, a novela; rather, it is a nivola, a neologism invented by Unamuno to describe a short work that uses novelistic techniques but is otherwise almost entirely unlike a typical novel. A nivola is more concerned with ideas than with realism, rejects any interest in psychological complexities beyond what is strictly required by the story told, insists on limited-perspective narration, and is more like a sketch than an intricate drawing of life. It tells the story of Don Miguel, a Catholic priest who is loved by the people of his parish, who consider him a saint. He spends his days doing good for people and preaching the faith -- but he is burdened by the fact that he no longer believes in immortality of the soul or resurrection of the body. Thus the epigraph for the book, which I have quoted above.

Poem a Day 18


The sky is thick with storm:
the wind is harsh and steady now;
the lightning strikes are near;
the drops are cold and newly large.
This kind of storm will last;
the floods will soon be loosed on all.
This gale is from your eyes;
I sail a ship on unsafe seas.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; Murder on the Orient Express; Appointment with Death; 13 at Dinner; The Tuesday Club Murders; What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!


Opening Passages: Just a selection of them. From The Murder of Roger Ackroyd:

Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16th-17th September--a Thursday. I was sent for at eight o'clock on the morning of Friday the 17th. There was nothing to be done. She had been dead some hours.

From Appointment with Death:

"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"

The question floated out into the still night air, seemed to hang there a moment and then drift away down into the darkness toward the Dead Sea.

From Murder on the Orient Express:

It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining-car, a sleeping-car and two local coaches.

Summary: The selection is quite diverse; there are four Hercule Poirot novels, two Miss Marple novels, and one independent work. They extend across the spectrum of possible gimmick puzzles -- all the possible suspects have been apparently murdered, all the possible suspects have means, motive, and opportunity, the murderer is someone who should not be a suspect, all the suspects have clear alibis, nobody knows who the suspects should be. They have a variety of obfuscations: witnesses lying to cover their role in the crime, witnesses lying for reasons having nothing to do with the crime, honest witnesses who are mistaken, misleading physical evidence, lack of evidence. They have a variety of forms of revelation: Poirot's proclamations, Miss Marple's anticipations, letters or journals from the murderer, confession. They show a variety of criminals: the professional criminal, the person with a past acting in fear, the wronged acting in revenge, the doctor, the actress, the judge, and more. But what they always have is a story of a causal inference that must be put together from materials that do not make it obvious.

One of the interesting things was reading multiple Poirot novels right in succession. I have never particularly been a fan of Poirot as a character, being very much in agreement with Christie's own judgment of him as a 'detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep'. He's particularly insufferable in the company of Hastings (as in 13 at Dinner, also known by the much better title of Lord Edgware Dies), and shows up in the best light, somewhat ironically, in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, where he is lonely for lack of him. He is also partly admirable in the occasional moments scattered throughout when he makes clear that he does not like murder. A real-life Poirot, however, in contrast to a real-life Miss Marple, would not generally be a good person. But reading several in a row makes it difficult to take Poirot to be quite an authority on himself -- he uses his pomposity at times deliberately as a way to provoke a reaction he wants, for instance; and despite his emphasis on method, at several points his success is due to a chance remark, one that does not always have to do with the case at all.

Miss Marple, on the other hand, benefits from being in many ways the opposite: she does not invite attention (and uses this at times to good effect), she has a rather fierce and old-fashioned moral code (firmly in favor of the death-penalty for purely moral reasons and insistent on the importance of duty), she does not put emphasis on method but on experience, and her age limits what she can actively do. All of these come together in What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (also known as 4:50 from Paddington), to extraordinarily good effect; I think it is in many ways the best constructed of all of Christie's novels that focus on a particular detective. The one thing Miss Marple and Poirot have in common is that they are psychological detectives -- while physical facts matter, they are the effects of motives, and it is by focusing on motives that both Miss Marple and Poirot solve puzzles that are insoluble at the level of the available physical facts. This is, I think, one of the reasons for the success of both. Detective novels can get caught up in the clever physical means of killing, or in the cunning means by which the criminal obfuscates his or her guilt, but the psychological approach makes clear the true state of the case: a crime is an effect of human agency, and can only be fully understood in light of human agency, because in terms of a crime, everything other than the actual human mind is either an instrument or an occasion or an impediment for the mind, and nothing more.

Part of the experience of Christie's works is intimately connected with the adaptation of her stories to other media, and so I when through a number of adaptations as well as reading the books. I watched Desyat Negrityat, Stanislav Govorukhin's movie adaptation of And Then There Were None; I listened to Orson Welles's radio version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd for Columbia Playhouse; and I watched the Agatha Christie's Poirot versions of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Appointment with Death, and 13 at Dinner, starring David Suchet.

Adaptations are somewhat tricky because they are necessarily multi-dimensional, and any evaluation of them must also be multi-dimensional. Broadly speaking, an adaptation may work well in its medium or may work well as an adaptation; that is to say, it may work as a work of art, or it may work as a faithful representation of the story as a work of art. In moving from one medium to another, things inevitably must change. Novel-writing is a very expository thing; contrary to the common wisdom, a novel never shows, it only tells, and what people really mean when they say, 'Show, don't tell' is 'Tell in a way that doesn't tire the reader with the telling'. If you want to show rather than tell, you should be writing screenplays. No other medium can exposit so well as a popular novel, so things inevitably must be changed to suit the medium, and this is of considerable significance. This is especially the case with detective fiction. Almost all of Murder on the Orient Express consists of interviews with a large cast of characters in a confined space. Both airwave and screen would run immediately into the problem of making the interviews not seem tedious; the radio adapter would have to worry about differentiating the characters (a nontrivial issue when you can only rely on vocal differences), while the television adapter will puzzle over how to avoid visual monotony.

In addition, radio and television formats are structured by formal episodes. (The work closest to such a structure in this batch is The Tuesday Club Murders, which consists of two series of short stories and a concluding short story.) You have a specified time you must fill and which you must not overfill, to a precision of minutes, which is a limitation the original did not have. It is unsurprising, therefore, that a television episode of Murder on the Orient Express makes cuts to the cast, or that an adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which involves a lot of exposition and relatively little action as a number of things happen whose relation is only determined at the end, adds a few things not in the original; it would take extraordinary ingenuity to maintain faithfulness while still allowing the story to work in its new medium.

To add to the complications, one must consider differences in audiences. Television has a broader and more captive audience; it must often explain things to which the book can simply allude. Thus it is unsurprising that the screen adaptation of 13 at Dinner has to explain the Judgment of Paris despite the fact that doing so is on its own a problem for the story.

An adaptation may be quite faithful without being good in its own right. Likewise, an adaptation may be very excellent but not as an adaptation. A good example of the latter is the classic movie, Murder, She Said, with Margaret Rutherford. The movie, which is an adaptation of What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! stands beautifully on its own, and Rutherford is splendid. But it's not great as re-telling of the Christie story, and Rutherford's Miss Marple is a Miss Marple only in name. Of the Poirot re-tellings, "Lord Edgware Dies" (an adaptation of 13 at Dinner) is easily the most faithful, although it inevitably simplifies major parts of the narrative; "Appointment with Death" is the least. The latter definitely is more interesting as a television episode than the former, but it is extraordinarily bad as an adaptation -- the test of which is that if you changed the title and the names of the character nobody would be able to guess that you were drawing from Christie's book at all. The characters are all changed; the archeological elements are all foreign to the book; the nature of the mystery is modified and the solution to the mystery is very different. It is an entirely different story; it is only an adaptation in the loosest sense of the word.

The adaptations of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express raise much more interesting questions. The former, I think, is an interesting failure, due to the writing and directing (it must be the writing and directing because the cast is easily the best cast, in terms of both casting and acting, of the adaptations that I saw). But the way narration works in the book is such an integral part of the story that tampering with it creates problems for faithfulness; the radio adaptation handles this fairly well, because it, like writing, is a natural medium for narration, but television is a different fish altogether, since it is a very difficult medium for narration. They made the best of it, creating a device that salvaged some of it, but were not, I think, bold enough about it -- although I don't know if a bolder approach would work much better. Murder on the Orient Express is more daring, since it uses the story to reflect on the issues of vigilante justice in ways that the book very definitely glosses over; it is not very faithful. But the handling of the ethical issues is so much of an improvement above the book, and is so well integrated into the final result, that I think it stands extremely well on its own.

(Incidentally, I have to remark on the most common criticism of the Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express, which is its emphasis on Poirot's Catholicism. Some of the criticisms can be dismissed immediately -- Poirot's Catholicism, as such, is not a foreign intrusion into the series, since it is a running background theme in the books overall as well. Poirot is described as born Catholic; he describes himself on at least two occasions as a good Catholic and at least once as a practicing Catholic; he crosses himself in 13 at Dinner while making a vow; he makes scattered comments about the good God and le bon Dieu that do not seem to be figurative; and once he even gets onto a case entirely because he stops to pray in a Catholic church. Christie doesn't do much with it, but it is undeniably there. One runs into this allergy to religion a lot these days; it may masquerade as a concern for artistic purity or faithfulness, but that concern is seen as a mask here. The fact of the matter is that the glossing over Poirot's condoning of vigilantism is one of the weakest parts of the book, both in itself and in how it relates to Poirot's usual insistence in any context of not liking murder, although perhaps it fits with the way Poirot goes out in Curtain. There might have been other ways of doing it, but Suchet himself was part of the motivation for the series starting to look more at how Poirot's religious background might affect his investigations, and in a series that depends entirely on David Suchet, it makes sense to write David Suchet's role in a way that David Suchet finds interesting. Certainly the handling of religion in this episode is infinitely superior to its handling in the "Appointment with Death" episode.)

Easily the most faithful adaptation that I looked into was Govorukhin's adaptation of And Then There Were None, and, astoundingly, it is also highly effective. This is a truly impressive achievement. The modifications for screen are minor and well chosen -- it is at every point more faithful than any adaptation of the book that has ever appeared in English -- but at the same time Govorukhin makes full use of the visual medium. The standard techniques of Russian cinema -- slow and quiet build, integration of the scenery into the story, subtle symbolic framings of abuses of power -- combine with a story ideally suited for them and a very good cast to make what I suspect will forever be the best cinematic version of the tale.

Favorite Passage: From The Tuesday Club Murders:

"You say crime goes unpunished; but does it? Unpunished by the law perhaps; but cause and effect work outside the law. To say that every crime brings its own punishment is by way of being a platitude, and yet in my opinion nothing can be truer."

"Perhaps, perhaps," said Colonel Bantry, "but that doesn't alter the seriousness--the--er---seriousness--" He paused, rather at a loss.

Sir Henry Clithering smiled.

"Ninety-nine people out of a hundred are doubtless of your way of thinking," he said. "But you know, it really isn't guilt that is important--it's innocence. That's the thing that nobody will realise." (p. 122)

Recommendation: All Recommended. Of the works this time, And Then There Were None and What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! are the best constructed; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express have the most ingenious solutions; and The Tuesday Club Murders has the most charm (and is my personal favorite).


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, HarperCollins (New York: 1991).

Appointment with Death, Berkley Books (New York: 1992).

Murder on the Orient Express, HarperCollins (New York: 1991).

The Tuesday Club Murders, Berkley Books (New York: 1986).

Poem a Day 17

Footprints on the Moon III

Serenity lies at the end of long roads,
Hard by a sea drenched with light,
Earthshine and sunshine intermingled.
Paths through the heavens endure for ages.
Amaranthine footsteps mark the way.
Reason alone can navigate that journey;
Dreams alone can sustain the heart in it.

Millions of miles away, the Earth is small;
In the void it hangs, fragile droplet.
Time drops away, the mind goes out to all things,
Cascade of an infinite breath.
Hopes are serene, spirit is calm,
Eternity hints at itself in all things.
Long roads make great transformations;
Life is renewed and heart rediscovered.


I found this article in Texas Monthly, about Holy Family American Catholic Church here in Austin, to be particularly interesting. The 'American Catholic Church in the United States' is an example of what is known as 'Independent Catholicism' -- High Church Protestantism, in fact, although they sometimes get offended when you point out that there is literally no difference between them and the Episcopalians except that the latter are better at it. There are lots of little splinter groups of this sort; I hadn't heard of this particular one before, but it is of the usual pattern. These religious movements survive by a process of sweeping up people alienated -- for any of infinite number of reasons -- from their Catholic communities and promising a more congenial atmosphere. One can always predict offhand how they will describe it -- more compassionate, more inclusive, more relevant to the modern world. Not all do, but those that officially allow contraception or celebrate same-sex marriage or ordination of women advertise it. And the predictability is not surprising; they are in fact the liberal reflections of their conservative opposites, sedevacantists (which, contrary to some classifications, I do not consider Independent Catholics, for a number of reasons too complicated to get into), and exhibit much the same range -- and lack of range -- and for the same reason that if they weren't within that limited range of options, they would be in communion with Rome or not be calling themselves Catholic. There are only so many things you can be if you insist on being neither hot nor cold.

The world of Independent Catholicism or Breakaway Catholicism or Pseudo-Catholicism -- as a Catholic would certainly consider them -- is a very complicated one, and there is no general formula for evaluating them. The most massive group are churches linked by the Bonn Agreement, which guaranteed sacramental intercommunion between the Anglican Communion and the Union of Utrecht (Old Catholics, as they are sometimes called), although sometimes these are not given the actual label of Independent Catholic. The Union of Scranton (consisting primarily of the Polish National Catholic Church and the Nordic Catholic Church), which is not part of the Bonn Agreement, is somewhat more conservative; the PNCC originally broke away due specifically to a real failure of American bishops to provide adequately for the needs of Polish immigrants, so it has drifted far less than most Independent Catholic churches. (This is a general pattern; Breakaways arising from specifically identifiable injustices, perceived or real, tend to drift very slowly around where they started, while Breakaways of a more general type tend to accelerate away.) All of the PNCC's sacraments, while illicit, are consistently valid, which is no longer true of the Union of Utrecht. PNCC is a Canon 844 §2 church, which means that Roman Catholics may sometimes receive Eucharist, Reconciliation, or Unction from the PNCC in emergency situations, whereas Union of Utrecht churches are not -- individual ministers may have legitimate orders, and thus valid sacraments, but no general guarantee of this exists. The ancient Apostolic Churches are all 844 §2, while Breakaways are very rarely so, and thus the distinction ends up being a quite significant one.

The Ecumenical Catholic Communion, farther out still, is probably the largest coherent mass that is not part of one of these communions.

Outside these, though, the label is a grab-bag of many different splinters. The American National Catholic Church and the American Catholic Church in the United States -- which are not the same -- are each big on particular liberal interpretations of the Second Vatican Council; the Antiochian Catholic Church in America has a mix-and-match of Oriental Orthodox practice and theology. The Iglesia Católica Apostólica Mexicana, which is the one that actually annoys me, is a church invented by the government of Mexico in 1925 amidst the persecutions of Catholics that led to the Cristero War. If there is any Independent Catholic denomination whose existence defies all reasonableness and decency, it is the quisling ICAM.

It's an interesting phenomenon. It's a very old one as well. Most Breakaways through the centuries have tended to fade away unless they have secular support, but they have always existed, and inevitably arise when catechesis or priestly formation or episcopal teaching are bad, or when secular powers decide that having their own particular church would be easier than dealing with a universal Church. The problem they always face is that there doesn't seem to be a path that's neither Protestant nor parasite -- that is, they all tend either to become indistinguishable from Protestants or they survive only by continually picking off alienated Catholics. I suspect that we will see more of them in the near future; build-your-own-church is a very powerful temptation.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poem a Day 16


We have no words between us;
they dried up long ago.
That river once ran deeply;
its canyon now is bare.
The sun in living blisters,
its deserts spreading wide,
aridity our ending
and sand for endless miles.
But I saw you at sunset,
evening violet your crown,
and you were fresh as morning
with spring rain on the ground.
And silently I loved you,
and silently was loved.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

Bread is broken on the table;
into the cup is poured the wine;
thus by this word the Word our Savior
becomes the substance of the sign.

Adam's flesh from fleshly Adam
is freed from sinful flesh once more,
for we, by blood and by slain body,
are flesh and blood with Christ our Lord.

Speak, my tongue, of His scourged body,
now blessed and broken for our race,
of pricelessness of blood now flowing
to pay our price and grant us grace.

Sing, my voice, the song of angels
as here they wonder at his tomb,
which, its side-sprung water flowing,
encompassed us to be our womb.

Love, my heart, the changeless ancient
who descends from God above
to be a babe and passion's patient;
He is God, for God is Love.

Trust, my soul, in Truth most holy:
for Truth is true and does not lie.
All free from lie, from lies He freed us;
here see the sign Truth truly died!

Hope, my spirit in your Savior,
for He is life, in dying lives,
for us is given by the Father
to be this Bread of Life we give.

Shout, my sisters; shout, my brothers!
From on the housetops make it known
and tell the tale on every mountain
to own this well: you are His own!


[T]he mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth. Imagine, then, that a man should need to get fire from a neighbour, and, upon finding a big bright fire there, should stay there continually warming himself; just so it is if a man comes to another to share the benefit of a discourse, and does not think it necessary to kindle from it some illumination for himself and some thinking of his own, but, delighting in the discourse, sit enchanted; he gets, as it were, a bright and ruddy glow in the form of opinion imparted to him by what is said, but the mouldiness and darkness of his inner mind he has not dissipated nor banished by the warm glow of philosophy.

Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures. Part of this passage was quoted by the astronauts returning from the moon in the Apollo 15 mission, in the paraphrastic form, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted."

Poem a Day 15

Footsteps on the Moon II

Clear and bold, our hearts rise high,
Over the land cast a humorous eye,
No obstacle fearing, nor dreading.
Riddling the world to draw the mind,
All truths making known under veil,
Dreams may reach to moonlit seas.

Bright are the colors the human mind
Educes from the barren landscape;
Ascension transforms the seeing eye --
Nature seems now angelic in splendor.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chesterton on Detective Fiction

G. K. Chesterton died on June 14, 1936, so, since I'm doing Agatha Christie's detective fiction for the fortnightly book, let's see what Chesterton has to say on the subject of detective fiction.

From "A Defence of Detective Stories":

By dealing with the unsleeping sentinels who guard the outposts of society, it tends to remind us that we live in an armed camp, making war with a chaotic world, and that the criminals, the children of chaos, are nothing but the traitors within our gates. When the detective in a police romance stands alone, and somewhat fatuously fearless amid the knives and fists of a thieves’ kitchen, it does certainly serve to make us remember that it is the agent of social justice who is the original and poetic figure; while the burglars and footpads are merely placid old cosmic conservatives, happy in the immemorial respectability of apes and wolves. The romance of the police force is thus the whole romance of man. It is based on the fact that morality is the most dark and daring of conspiracies.

From "Errors about Detective Stories" we get probably his most interesting ideas about detective stories -- for instance, that they reverse dramatic conventions:

The two methods of concealment are exactly contrary, for the drama depends on what was called the Greek irony – that is, on the knowledge of the audience, and not ignorance of the audience. In the detective story it is the hero (or villain) who knows, and the outsider who is deceived. In the drama it is the outsider (or spectator) who knows, and the hero who is deceived. The one keeps a secret from the actors, and the other from the audience.

Or that only bad detective stories try to confuse the reader rather than focus on making things clear to them:

The true object of an intelligent detective story is not to baffle the reader, but to enlighten the reader; but to enlighten him in such a manner that each successive portion of the truth comes as a surprise. In this, as in much nobler types of mystery, the object of the true mystic is not merely to mystify, but to illuminate. The object is not darkness, but light; but light in the form of lightning.

He says something similar in "The Ideal Detective Story":

The detective story differs from every other story in this: that the reader is only happy if he feels a fool. At the end of more philosophic works he may wish to feel a philosopher. But the former view of himself may be more wholesome – and more correct. The sharp transition from ignorance may be good for humility. It is very largely a matter of the order in which things are mentioned, rather than of the nature of the things themselves. The essence of a mystery tale is that we are suddenly confronted with a truth which we have never suspected and yet can see to be true.

And he also builds on this theme in his "How to Write a Detective Story", since it is the first principle for which he argues, using "Silver Blaze" as the example -- the success of the story is that the death is caused by one whom nobody suspects but in retrospect was the only completely reasonable suspect. The second principle is that the explanation of the mystery should be more simple than the mystery itself. The third is that the guilty party should already be on the stage for a plausible reason that has nothing to do with the fact that you need a guilty party:

The art of narrative consists in convincing the reader for a time, not only that the character might have come on the premises with no intention to commit a felony, but that the author has put him there with some intention that is not felonious. For the detective story is only a game; and in that game the reader is not really wrestling with the criminal but with the author.

And the fourth, related, principle of detective fiction that Chesterton identifies is that the author should keep in mind that the reader is really trying to out-think the author, not the criminal:

The instinct of the reader, playing hide-and-seek with the writer, who is his real enemy, is always to say with suspicion, "Yes, I know a surveyor might climb a tree; I am quite aware that there are trees and that there are surveyors, but what are you doing with them? Why did you make this particular surveyor climb this particular tree in this particular tale, you cunning and evil-minded man?"

And the last principle is that writing a detective story starts with an idea rather than going in search of one:

Where the story turns upon detection, it is still necessary that the writer should begin from the inside, though the detective approaches from the outside. Every good problem of this type originates in a positive notion, which is in itself a simple notion; some fact of daily life that the writer can remember and the reader can forget. But anyhow, a tale has to be founded on a truth; and though opium may be added to it, it must not merely be an opium dream.

Limbus Puerorum

Nicholas Senz on Limbo:

And while Ludgwig Ott’s venerable Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma does list as de fide (dogma) the proposition that “souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God,” this quotation only begs the question: does this teaching necessarily apply to the case of an infant or unborn child who dies without baptism? Clearly not for Ott, as he writes that “theologians usually assume that there is a special place or state for children dying without baptism which they call limbus puerorum (children’s Limbo)” (emphasis added). Are assumptions the stuff of dogma?

Senz is right that limbus puerorum is not a dogma, but his argument is extremely muddled; the idea of the limbo of children is that there are independent reasons for holding that infants do not have have poena sensus, as opposed to just having poena damni -- which is the exclusion from the Beatific Vision. The de fide proposition is universal by its nature; it applies to anyone who departs life in a state of original sin. Ott is not claiming that limbus puerorum is any kind of exception to that proposition; he is saying that supposing that there is a special state for infants who have died without baptism has commonly been thought by theologians to make more clear how the de fide proposition coheres with other things. Nor could Ott be ignorant of the fact that theologians through the centuries have argued for the hypothesis on the basis of more fundamental doctrines. (And this is certainly part of the argument of Fimister to whom Senz is supposed to be responding.)

The title of the article thus claims that without the limbo of infants a “serious gap” is left in Church teaching. Yet a gap would only exist if no other solution were proposed to the question that the proposal of limbo attempts to answer; but this is not the case.

This is again muddled; if there were no gap, there would be no need for any other solution to the question. That there are different proposals for bridging a gap is not evidence that there is no gap.

He then quotes the Catechism (#1261) and says:

Thus the Church proposes that our knowledge of God’s love, mercy, and salvific power gives us sufficient reason to believe that children who die without Baptism can be saved.

But this is not what the section he quotes says. It says that it allows us to hope that there is salvation for them when she entrusts them to the mercy of God, which is the only thing she can do; this is far more qualified than Senz suggests, and that the qualification is not merely a happenstance of phrasing is made clear by the sentence that Senz does not quote from that section: "All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy baptism." But Senz's interpretation makes no sense of the section -- it requires us to read it as saying that we have sufficient reason to believe that children dying without Baptism can be saved, thus it is so much more emphatic (vehementior, which is quite strong, or plus pressant in the French) that children not be impeded from Baptism.

Is it really better to propose a middle state that puts these children outside of God’s love, simply for the sake of our being able to add a few more theoretical details?

(1) Limbo of children is not posited as a middle state, by definition; in fact, claiming that it is has been condemned (as Ott alludes to, although he does not elaborate, again in the sentence after the one from which Senz quotes). Senz twice calls it a 'middle state', and there is no excuse for this. And (2) it has never been posited to put anyone outside of God's love, which is not even a coherent thing to say. It is a fact of history that the limbo of a children spent several hundred years being attacked as too lenient and now has been undergoing a steady barrage for being too harsh; a sign, I think that these kinds of considerations are not, in fact, very reliable for determining questions of doctrine.

The one thing Senz does get right in his criticism of Fimister's article is that it is a theological hypothesis not a dogma, and that everyone in the argument is in fact hypothesizing to save the phenomena, not drawing rigorous conclusions. But this still requires rational standards.

Poem a Day 14

Evening Wind

The evening wind is warm.
I am all alone,
hollow in my heart
and hollow in my bone.

The world is cruel and cold,
home is far away,
never to be found,
for I am here to stay.

At times the evening wind
brings to me on wings
hints of what I lost
and of my sorrow sings.

The world is cold and cruel,
home is far away,
out beyond my reach
and lost in yesterday.

The evening wind is warm.
I am all alone,
hollow in my heart
and hollow in my bone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Elements of Modal Logic, Part X

Part IX

It's common for us to work with more modality than one; we need to see how multimodal reasoning can work. This can get very difficult and complicated. The simplest and easiest form of multimodal reasoning is when we have two modalities, one of which includes the other. For instance, suppose you want two Boxes, □1 and □2, and one of the modalities includes the other. So, for instance, let's take □1 to tell us that something is known by us and □2 to indicate that we accept it as certain. These are the not the same -- we can have certainty about things that we don't know, for instance. But there is a relation between the two -- we often think that if you know something, you have certainty about it. Then □1 includes □2, and we have two different Boxes related to each other. Let's also assume that both modalities, as we are using them, are 1234D modalities.

To make this easier to see, instead of □1, we'll say K, and instead of □2, we'll say C, so we don't confuse ourselves with lots of □'s. Our square of opposition with Rule (D) is:

So both K and C will have a square of opposition that looks like this. So we just substitute K for □ to get our square for K:

And we can substitute C for □ to get our square for C:

Now we just have to put them together. This requires some hard thinking about how 'X is something known by us' and 'X is something we accept as certain' relate to each other. Here is one possibility:

(i) If we know something, we accept it as certain, but we can in fact accept as certain things that we do not know.
(ii) If we don't accept something as certain, we don't know it -- that is, we only know something if we accept it as certain.

In real life, there are many cases in which (ii) might be controversial; this is where interesting philosophical questions begin to enter into our discussion (can you know something even if you are not certain of it?), but we're not interested in looking at these things right now, so we'll just assume that (ii) is true and see what the logic of that would be.

(1) All the relations in the K-square and the C-square stay the same.

(2) By (i), there has to be a subalternation arrow from K to C (If it's known, it's certain), and the same reasoning gives us a subalternation arrow from K~ to C~ (If it's known not to be, it's certain not to be). Remember that subalternation tells us that if we have one thing, we can have the other (but not necessarily the reverse).

(3) By (ii) we know that there has to be a subalternation arrow from ~C to ~K (If it's not certain, it's not known); and by the same reasoning, there has to be a subalternation arrow from ~C~ to ~K~ (If it's not certain that it's not, it's not known that it's not).

(4) We have an arrow from K to C, but ~C is contradictory to C. What this means is that K and ~C are contraries. The same reasoning applies to K~ and ~C~. Remember, two things are contrary when you can't have both, but it's OK if you have neither. They are contradictory when you can't have both and you can't have neither. We can check that the contrariety bar really does go here: If we know something, (i) tells us that it has to be accepted as certain; thus there is no situation in which we can know something and not be certain of it. But (i) also tells us that we could be in a situation in which we don't know something but are certain of it. So K and ~C are contraries.

(5) We have an arrow from C to ~C~, but ~C~ and K~ are contraries. So this means you can't have both C and K~ (that is, we can't accept something as certain and know that it's not so); C and K~ are therefore contraries. The same reasoning applies to K and C~.

(6) Because we have arrows from K to C and from C to ~C~, we can put an arrow from K to ~C~. The same reasoning applies to K~ and ~C.

(7) Because we have arrows from C to ~C~ and from ~C~ to ~K~, we can put an arrow from C to ~K~. The same kind of reasoning gives us an arrow from C~ to ~K.

There are enough corners and lines that we could picture this combination of squares of opposition in more than one way, but here's an attempt to do it in a way that keeps most of the oppositions easy to see. The thick black lines are contradiction, the thin lines are contrariety, and the arrows are subalternation.

So with just two Box modalities, and thus two squares of opposition, related in a fairly simple way, we get lots of different oppositions! But it's not as complicated as it might look at first. Notice that left and right are symmetrical, for instance -- the one mirrors the other. You can have relations between modal operators that are not symmetrical like this, but the symmetry is very common, and makes it easier to use.

We could do much more. We could put together three, or ten, or a million, or more. The full squares of opposition get massively more complicated at each step, but really all we are doing is taking the single squares of opposition, connecting them, and thinking about what the connections mean for each corner. If we wanted to, we could give our square of opposition as a table describing our square of opposition, instead of as a picture or diagram:

Y or NNYY or NY or NY or NY or NY or N
NY or NY or NYY or NY or NY or NY or N
Y or NNYY or NY or NNYY or N
NY or NY or NYNY or NY or NY

In each row we start with a particular operator, indicated by the bolded letter, and compare it to every other operator. For instance, the first line is the line for K; the bold letter Y under K indicates that it is the one we are starting with. Then we ask of each operator, "If I have K, do I have this one?" And obviously the answers we can give are: Yes (Y), No (N), or It Depends (Y or N). So if we know that the world is flat, which is K(The world is flat), then we don't have have K~(The world is flat), but we do have ~K~(The world is flat) and so forth. Likewise, if we start with ~K(The world is flat) and want to see if in accepting this we must have anything else, we can go down to the fourth line, the one with the bolded Y under ~K, and we see that we don't -- we can't have K(The world is flat), but the others we may or may not have, just depending on the situation. This is also what our square of opposition diagram says.

Multimodal reasoning can be a lot of work! But the above example is simpler than most; it did not use anything more complicated than a 1234D Box.

Part XI

Poem a Day 13

Footsteps on the Moon I

All human hearts rise up,
Reach out, to the sky,
Moonlight on our soul-wings,
Seeking more and higher than we are.
Trust it takes, and valiant heart;
Reason it takes, and imagination
Open to what has never been,
Never faltering in difficulty.
Glory glides down on eagle's wings.

All tranquility, sea-deep and bright,
Lasts as a moment still in time;
Deep in the heart, joy is stirring,
Remembering the Cross and its grace,
Inside the heart, in eternity calm,
Near to magnificent desolation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pitch and Reality

(ht). As our TV, so our civilization, I think.

Poem a Day 12


The stars that shine, resplendent in sky,
with gleam of light reflect in your eye,
the dome in a mere of azure and tear,
quiet and clear like heavenly sigh.
Where is the heart of heroes of old?
Where is the strength of warriors bold?
As mirrors are walls that hide ancient halls,
behind your eye falls glory untold,
adventurous quests in endless supply,
and spells to entangle fools such as I.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Soloviev on Negative Historical Criticism

The absurdity of the point of view generally assumed by the negative historical criticism escapes general ridicule simply owing to the 'darkness of time,' which conceals the objects upon which it is exercised. If its favorite methods and considerations were applied, e.g., to Mahomet or Peter the Great, there would be s little left of these historical heroes as of Dido or Romulus. Every one who has read Whately's admirable pamphlet on Napoleon will agree that the solar significance of this mythological hero is proved in it, in accordance with the strict rules of the critical school, and is worked out with a consistency, clearness, and completeness not often to be found in the more or less famous works of the negative critics, although the latter wrote without the least irony but with the most serious intentions.
[Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good, von Peters, ed. Catholic Resources (Chattanooga, TN: 2015), p. 232n.]

Whately's pamphlet is, of course, Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Buonaparte, his classic attack on Hume's essay on miracles.

Poem a Day 11


She caught,
with casual raise of the hand,
the zephyr-breeze running through the green field --

tiny stars of daisies spangled the earth;
dew was still on their petals,
and they clustered around her feet --

the birds in the distance discoursed with angels,
who were shining like undying candles,
and she caught another breeze --

And she asked,
"Where is the flower that grants youth without end?"--

"In the gardens of Tapio,
which no mortal may ever see"--

"In the body,
you mean,
but my heart has seen it in dreams"--

"Not even in dreams,
for dreams are reflections in the Sorrowful Lake,
and nothing more"--

She bent down to pluck a shining daisy --

the old man,
with thought-like suddenness,
rose into the sky,
the sun gleaming on his ebon wings,
a raven.