Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Rocks of Distinctions and the Whirlpools of Universalities

In matters of the understanding, it requires great skill and a particular felicity to steer clear of Scylla and Charybdis. If the ship strikes upon Scylla, it is dashed in pieces against the rocks; if upon Charybdis, it is swallowed outright. This allegory is pregnant with matter; but we shall only observe the force of it lies here, that a mean be observed in every doctrine and science, and in the rules and axioms thereof, between the rocks of distinctions and the whirlpools of universalities: for these two are the bane and shipwreck of fine geniuses and arts.

Sir Francis Bacon, Wisdom of the Ancients XXVII.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Evening Note for Monday, January 15

Thought for the Evening: Mythology as a Guide for Morals

One of the weaknesses I've always thought modern philosophy of religion to have is a lack of interest in mythology. Greek mythology is particularly notable, since Greek mythology does not consist of tales repeated word for word, but of tales continually reworked for particular purposes. This is a peculiarity of Ancient Greek religion. Every Greek myth has a local traditional core somewhere, but this core consists mostly of old ceremonies and rituals with certain religious associations. The nature of the Greek religion means that Greeks constantly formulated and reformulated stories about these local traditional cores, and there were no standardized versions of the stories (although Homer tends to dominate other sources, when they overlap). Tragic poets would draw on these local traditional cores as they saw fit for whatever purposes they saw fit, and there was no expectation that the tale had to be told this particular way or that (although the giving of awards at festivals was probably partly affected by whether people thought the tale appropriate to the gods and heroes). The Greeks even had a genre, the satyr play, which consisted of Silenus and his satyrs breaking into some important Greek myth, messing it up because they were drunk, with the result that the Greek heroes had to find a way to fix it. The point of saying this is that the Greeks didn't give their myths simply to say what other people had said; Greek myths are told with a purpose. Platonic myths, while more explicitly philosophical, are entirely within the Greek myth tradition, and Plato is not ever really operating out of the bounds of what any skillful poet might have done in mixing and matching and developing and revising the tales to make a point.

Myths are likewise not told arbitrarily; myths for which no one can see the point tend not to be retold. In particular, the myths that tend to be told tend to be those that are striking (they entertain or please for some reason) or that teach something useful and practical, or both. One cannot conflate them with allegories -- but it takes no great insight or research to see that there is often an allegorical component to myths, and even the non-allegorical part may be at least partly didactic.

A good example of a myth that is not particularly allegorical but quite clearly is didactic is the myth of Baucis and Philemon, which we get from Ovid. Zeus and Hermes are wandering the land in disguise and they come to a village, where the people are so wicked that when the gods ask for a place to sleep, the villagers all deny them, and don't even do so with courtesy or kindness -- a violation of xenia or the hospitality we are obligated to show to strangers in matters of necessity. So Zeus and Hermes pass through and come to the poor hovel of Baucis and Philemon at the edge of the village; Baucis and Philemon are far poorer than any of their neighbors who live in the village. Baucis and Philemon, although having very little, give a xenium of wine to the strangers -- and discover, to their astonishment, that the wine jar never goes empty, no matter how much they pour. Suddenly they realize that the strangers are gods, and recognizing that, they beg forgiveness for the fact that they have offered the gods so little. Old Philemon tries to chase down a goose to kill and cook for them, but the goose takes shelter in Zeus's lap, and Zeus tells them not to worry about that, but instead that they should come with Zeus and Hermes to a mountain outside the village. They do, and Zeus completely destroys the village with a flood -- except that the hovel of Baucis and Philemon has somehow been spared, and it has been turned into a beautiful and ornate shrine as a sign that the gods were there. Zeus asks the couple what they wish in turn for their hospitality, and they ask to be made caretakers of the shrine, and also that neither of them would die before the other. So they become caretakers of the shrine, and as their death approached, they were both made trees, one an oak, one a linden, with intertwining branches. This theoxeny is not particularly allegorical, but who can deny that it has a moral, and arguably more than one, about hospitality?

Some myths do have an allegorical component that is quite important. Among the works of Sir Francis Bacon is one called Wisdom of the Ancients, which is concerned precisely with this allegorical aspect of myths. Bacon realizes that his contemporaries have a prejudice against allegorization, and one that he thinks is not always unreasonable, and so in the preface to the work, he explicitly defends his allegorical interpretations. He notes three things:

(1) Myths often have a structure that is very plausibly understood as allegorical. Zeus, for instance, is king of the gods; keeping that in mind, some myths about Zeus have a structure that strongly suggests a general comment about kings and their subjects. Zeus has to deal with rebellions; he has to keep unruly subjects in line; he has to take counsel and put it into practice; and the result is that tales about Zeus are often tales about kings. (President Macron a while back was widely made fun of for saying that he wanted to run his administration on a jupitérien model; but the point was entirely intelligible in terms of myths about the kings of the gods, and applying the idea did not require, as people willfully interpreted it, attributing godhood to himself.)

(2) In myths, names are often quite clearly allegorical. Metis means 'counsel', or the quality required for giving good counsel. Nemesis means 'revenge' (or probably originally 'rendering what is due').

(3) Some myths have weird features that are hard to explain unless they are taken to involve deliberate allegory. Jupiter mates with Metis, then swallows her, and then Athena is born: this myth, which seems rather random on its own, looks exactly like what you would expect if you took it as an allegory.

Bacon himself recognizes that myths are not purely allegorical; but as he notes, the allegorical -- and therefore some broadly philosophical point -- is there. But even if you insisted otherwise, he notes that stories have the twofold function of entertainment and teaching, and even if the Greek myths are assumed to be vague and indefinite, with no definite meaning, the use of stories naturally tends toward teaching; stories work as a kind of proto-argument. A story, even if it does not deliberately involve any allegory, may nonetheless guide the understanding in a certain direction, and in doing so make certain things more clear than they might have been without the story. Thus Bacon says, the ancients in their myths had either a great wisdom or a fortunate one: great, if deliberate, but if not deliberate, their myths nonetheless served as a springboard for higher reflection.

Thus one does not have to go full-scale Neoplatonist about myths in order to recognize that they provide interesting and useful explorations of ideas, particularly as they related to morals; likewise, one does not need to hold that the best way of understanding this relation is to look at the surface and no further, as if Zeus eating Metis and having Athena spring out of his head was primarily about cannibalism rather than about, in some sense, the nature of wisdom. Myths have a moral relevance. I've talked about Greek myths, in part because Greek myths are a particularly easy case with which to argue this. But one can make the same argument, mutatis mutandis, for myths generally. Myths have features that are mostly for entertainment, and features that arise out of historical accident or religious tradition, but they also have features that arise out of reason, and particularly moral reason. They are worth a bit of reflection.

Various Links of Interest

* Liam Kofi Bright and Aaron Novick, Zhengming, discusses Carnap and Xunzi.

* Thony Christie on the development of our thought about the Andromeda Galaxy.

* Edward Peters, Is the ‘Pauline Privilege’ an exception to Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage?, and Is the ‘Petrine Privilege’ an exception to Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage?

* Wesley Hill, The Tears and Laughter of the New Testament: Why David Bentley Hart's Translation is a Glorious Failure

* Richard Ostling on the cursing of the fig tree.

* Ladykillers: Murder Ballads and the Country Women who Sang Them

* Mediaeval or Medieval

* Katherine Rowland, We are Multitudes, discusses microchimerism and pregnancy.

* Why the Vatican is using milk to paint its buildings.

* Gene McCarraher, Radical, OP, talks about Herbert McCabe. (ht)

* How utilitarian are you on the Oxford Utilitarianism Scale? I score a 14 out of 63, meaning I'm not very utilitarian at all.

Currently Reading

Jules Verne, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
John C. Wright, Count to Infinity
Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Christopher Kaczor, ed., Thomas Aquinas on Faith, Hope, and Love
Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John

Two Types of Laws

One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fortnightly Book, January 14

After Cinq semaines en ballon, Jules Verne published Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras, a tale of an expedition to the North Pole. It is rarely read today, but at the time consolidated Verne's reputation as someone who could deliver a resounding adventure story. It has two parts Les Anglais au pôle nord and Le Désert de glace. Early working titles indicate that Verne had originally thought of the work as a Robinsonade on the deserted ice, which a significant portion of it still is, but the story in its final form goes well beyond a tale of survival.

I'll be reading The Adventures of Captain Hatteras in William Butcher's 2005 translation, which is, I believe, the first unabridged translation into English.

To the North!

Map from Journeys and Adventures of Captain Hatteras by Jules Verne
(Édouard Riou's original illustrated map for the book.)

Hammer of the Arians

I missed it, but yesterday was the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church, a pagan Neoplatonist who converted to Christianity. From his book On the Trinity:

I believe that the mass of mankind have spurned from themselves and censured in others this acquiescence in a thoughtless, animal life, for no other reason than that nature herself has taught them that it is unworthy of humanity to hold themselves born only to gratify their greed and their sloth, and ushered into life for no high aim of glorious deed or fair accomplishment, and that this very life was granted without the power of progress towards immortality; a life, indeed, which then we should confidently assert did not deserve to be regarded as a gift of God, since, racked by pain and laden with trouble, it wastes itself upon itself from the blank mind of infancy to the wanderings of age. I believe that men, prompted by nature herself, have raised themselves through teaching and practice to the virtues which we name patience and temperance and forbearance, under the conviction that right living means right action and right thought, and that Immortal God has not given life only to end in death; for none can believe that the Giver of good has bestowed the pleasant sense of life in order that it may be overcast by the gloomy fear of dying.

And yet, though I could not tax with folly and uselessness this counsel of theirs to keep the soul free from blame, and evade by foresight or elude by skill or endure with patience the troubles of life, still I could not regard these men as guides competent to lead me to the good and happy Life. Their precepts were platitudes, on the mere level of human impulse; animal instinct could not fail to comprehend them, and he who understood but disobeyed would have fallen into an insanity baser than animal unreason. Moreover, my soul was eager not merely to do the things, neglect of which brings shame and suffering, but to know the God and Father Who had given this great gift, to Whom, it felt, it owed its whole self, Whose service was its true honour, on Whom all its hopes were fixed, in Whose lovingkindness, as in a safe home and haven, it could rest amid all the troubles of this anxious life. It was inflamed with a passionate desire to apprehend Him or to know Him.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Gratitude Toward Inanimate Objects

We conceive, in the same manner, a sort of gratitude for those inanimated objects, which have been the causes of great, or frequent pleasure to us. The sailor, who, as soon as he got ashore, should mend his fire with the plank upon which he had just escaped from a shipwreck, would seem to be guilty of an unnatural action. We should expect that he would rather preserve it with care and affection, as a monument that was, in some measure, dear to him. A man grows fond of a snuff-box, of a pen-knife, of a staff which he has long made use of, and conceives something like a real love and affection for them. If he breaks or loses them, he is vexed out of all proportion to the value of the damage. The house which we have long lived in, the tree, whose verdure and shade we have long enjoyed, are both looked upon with a sort of respect that seems due to such benefactors. The decay of the one, or the ruin of the other, affects us with a kind of melancholy, though we should sustain no loss by it. The Dryads and the Lares of the ancients, a sort of genii of trees and houses, were probably first suggested by this sort of affection, which the authors of those superstitions felt for such objects, and which seemed unreasonable, if there was nothing animated about them.

Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, II.iii.1.

Voyages extraordinaires #1: Cinq semaines en ballon

There was a large audience assembled on the 14th of January, 1862, at the session of the Royal Geographical Society, No. 3 Waterloo Place, London. The president, Sir Francis M——, made an important communication to his colleagues, in an address that was frequently interrupted by applause.

This rare specimen of eloquence terminated with the following sonorous phrases bubbling over with patriotism:

“England has always marched at the head of nations” (for, the reader will observe, the nations always march at the head of each other), “by the intrepidity of her explorers in the line of geographical discovery.” (General assent). “Dr. Samuel Ferguson, one of her most glorious sons, will not reflect discredit on his origin.” (“No, indeed!” from all parts of the hall.)

Five Weeks in a Balloon actually predates Verne's Voyages extraordinaires; it was the success of the book that gave Verne the leverage to make the deal for a series of books like it. It would, I imagine, have been a very distinctive work at the time. It is a Dark Continent tale, which were very popular at the time, but one with a twist: the explorers are crossing the African continent in a balloon. They don't quite make it, although they come close; but on the way they deal with hostile natives, wild animals, and unfavorable terrain and climate, surviving because of their friendship, a little good fortune, and some handy use of cutting-edge technology in hydrogen balloons.

The story, which I'd read before, doesn't quite have the spark of some of the later classics, but it still stands on its own fairly well.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Dashed Off I

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

decency, honor, and interest

the right to free speech as a protection for the virtue of honesty (and thus honest communication in society)

fear, hope, and the nature of conjecture

matrimony : defensive :: consecrated virginity : offensive

concept formation by negating a prior concept, by inducing the idea of cause, by abstraction of resemblance, by limitation or illimitation, by distinction of gradation, by composition of concepts

Naturalism posits true-in-physics as a transcendental.

assessing evidence by profile

being : possible :: true : intelligible :: good : desirable :: beautiful : enjoyable

Constant lies about the respected may unsettle respect, though known to be lies, for our assessments of things consider the views other people have of them.

To base morality on consent is to treat everything as having a price.

Justice requires the possibility of mercy if it is to continue to exist.

We can only assess our own reason's strength and quality by causation, eminence, and remotion.

Words often have, in addition to their sense proper, an etymological sense-root, which affects how they are applied. This sense-root is always in varying degrees of atrophy, depending on how aware people are of the etymology of the word. In addition, words may acquire new sense-roots (in folk etymology).

the Burning Bush as type of the Church (theosis)

Sometimes in prayer the chief things is to come to the point; we often avoid what most needs our attention.

That memory has a causal structure is seen from cases of misremembering.

In the kingdom of God, justice itself is a kind of mercy.

Sirach 50:1-21 and the book of Revelation

Relevance is often nontrivial to determine, but relevance is always of a specific, identifiable kind. Nothing is relevant for no particular reason.

(1) self-relevance
(2) adjunct
(3) evidence for
(4) evidence against

subjective, integral, and potential parts of evidence

claims such that a single instance suffice to establish the claim
(1) necessary truths
(2) singular truths
(3) particular truths
(4) diamondized versions of above

resemblance as state vs as act (the latter is direct/asymmetric)

the modes of ecclesial magisterium on matters of morals
(1) baptismal (general and remote, what is required for Christian life generally)
(2) penitential (specific and proximate, what is specifically required for participation in sacraments)
(3) chrismatic (in light of common good of Church)
(4) eucharistic (in light of love of God and neighbor)
(5) unctional (what is required for preparation for glory)

forensic account of personhood as a narrative account of personhood

devotion in religion | conjugal fidelity:
adoration : esteem/respect of spouse
thanksgiving : gratitude to spouse
contrition : contrition
supplication : deferential loyalty to spouse

the 'psychosis of resemblances' and the construction of political ideology

A clear implication of Pride and Prejudice is that prejudices about people are not avoidable, but may be treated in more and less reasonable ways. As there is so much more to people than we already know, our interaction with other people will be heavily influence by (1) social expectation (2) prior experiences with them and our reaction to those experiences (3) the testimony of others (4) extrapolation from ourselves and from our imaginings.

love of language as an aid to love of others

The history of language links up with genealogy and with miggration-history.

"The preaching of the Resurrected Lord is a necessary part of His ministry as a whole." Bulgakov

Bettting is not an expression of belief but of motivation.

causative vs concessive binary modal operators

Assigning numbers to 'degrees of belief' requires a measurement structure, which can only be developed on the basis of studying identifiable interactions involving belief change. Any other numeration is entirely fictional.

everywhere (= not somewhere not), nowhere(= everywhere not), somewhere (= not everywhere not), not everywhere (=somewhere not)
still, not yet, already, no longer

mental economy and the relation between belief and evidence

The same evidence may suggest many theories of differing fruitfulness, simplicity, historical salience, practical utility, and conformity to necessary principles.

If I glance at the night sky and see a nova, that is evidence there is a nova in the universe. If I glance at the night sky and do not see a nova, that is only evidence that there is no nova in the scope of my glance, and it is absurd to call it evidence of no novas in the entire universe.

'no evidence' vs 'no evidence yet'
'evidence' vs 'evidence still'
'no evidence' vs 'evidence no longer' (e.g., contamination of evidence)
'evidence' vs 'evidence already

Victory requires not merely winning the battle but holding its gains.

the radix of a concept, the focus or point from which the circle of its plenitude of meaning extends
radix, plenitude, implicate associability, implicate articulability, poetic power (play), theory-grounding power, imaginative expression, external (e.g., verbal) expression

Plato is right that the true character of some moral matters can only be easily seen when taken to a large scale -- large populations, large timescales, large institutions.

Most 'confirmation' in the sciences involves ruling out the possibility that a hypothesis/interpretation/result is artificial (rather than natural).

An analogy between arguments may be
(1) an artifact of interpretation
(2) a convergent development of different reasons
(3) a development of shared reasons

Reasonable people do not rush around trying to find things of which to be skeptical; the hunger for being skeptical of the occult is the same as the hunger for the occult, a hunger to be among the knowing, fueld by ingenious fictions.

those who use Bayesianism for statistical ends vs those who use Bayesianism as numerology

To sorrow is to recognize the goodness of the fragile.

to commit suicide is to fail to treat the image of God with respect it deserves.

the palaetiology of arguments and ideas

the internal ethics of humanitarian traditions
the requirements for law (legal profession) be a humanitarian tradition

The tending of all human government is to usurp whatever makes its perceived task easier.

The most important part of inference to the best explanation is having the right starting points.

Error sometimes snares inquirers, but it is not a threat to inquiry.

For the mother, the child is a victory.

marks of truth
(1) appropriateness of source
(2) goodness for mind
(3) consistency of confirmation
(4) internal consistency

The perception of the beauty of a right action is distinct from the perception of the action's being right, for the former is a higher-order reflection.

Moral maturity requires moving from taking things to be good because they please to being pleased at things because they are good.

monarchia, unica spiratione, nexus
The Son receives from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father; thus we also say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father to dwell or rest on the Son, and that the Spirit is the bond of unity between Father and Son. The Holy Spirit receives from the Father to be the Spirit of the Son as well, and in being the Spirit of the Father; thus we say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle by one spiration.

By means of icons we begin to appreciate the human being as made to the icon of God.

Socrates autem primas philosophiam devocavit e caelo. (Cciero Tusc Disp 5.10)

Whewell's Physical Argument for God's existence
[1] Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
-> There is a cause for the universe.
[2] A combination of means conspiring to a definite end implies intelligence.
-> The cause is an intelligent being.
[3] impossibility of finding cause of universe in nature
-> The cause is out of, above, nature.

"...Atheism is generally but a form of inconsistently applied scepticism." Whewell

Whewell's Moral Argument
(1) sentiment of Dependence
(2) spontaneous impulse of Gratitude
(3) Moral Constitution (Conscience)
(4) aspirations for well-being, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness (instinctive longing for immortality and higher blessedness)

Polemic involves assertion in advance of proof because a major function of assertion in polemic is to pose challenges.

the Church as icon of Christ

"Proper satire is distinguished by the generality of the reflections, from a lampoon, which aimed against a particular person." Johnson's Dictionary

Human beings are prone to error in most fields; but proneness to error is merely a reason to be cautious -- it does not tell us that we are irrational to conclude at all.

Defeaters cannot address first principles because defeat is a matter of inference.

Contradictory expectations mean defeat before you start.

When you can't fight the right kind of battle, winning every battle is not victory but stalemate.

the journalistic duty of scrutiny

Acts 13:2 -- the one case in NT of first person referred to Holy Spirit

understanding wisdom by remotion, causation, eminence
- remotion: removing presumption, recklessness, timidity, etc. (note link to Socrates here)
- causation: discerning wisdom through the beauty of its works
- eminence: cp Confucian approaches: exemplars, comparison of exemplars, and analogy between our harmony and a greater cosmic harmony; cp also filial piety as a school of virtue, and extension from there

Lines being terminated by points, there is some perspective from which they look like points; surfaces terminated by lines, there is some perspective from which they look like lines.

sciences as unities of truths, as unities of (intellectual) goods

undesigned coincidences between subjective experience and testimony

teleology -> intentionality -> intensionality

The philosophy truly appropriate to Catholic theology would be a philosophy infinite in scope, infinitely rich and profound, rigorously true, guiding to a good life, and beautiful in its expression. In practice, we get fragmented approximations.

Purify the heart, improve the mind.

Voyages extraordinaires

Doing The Mysterious Island last fall led me to want to do something a little different for 2018. There are fifty-four novels in Jules Verne's Voyages extraordinaires series; I think I've only read about a fifth of them. So I thought as a reading project for the whole year, I would make a heavier dent in the pile, reading and re-reading a large number the 'extraordinary voyages'. I won't be getting through them all, since there are fifty-four books and only fifty-two weeks in the year, and I have other things to read, and since not all of them are equally easy to get in English, or even in French; and I won't be going in strict order. I'll do some of them for the fortnightly book (the roughly half-dozen already on my shelf), and some will just get a post with brief comments. For the fortnightly book, I have already done Around the World in Eighty Days and The Mysterious Island, and I've had posts commenting on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Master of the World; I might make more comments about them, but they won't be a high priority. Since it's become something I often do, I'll also listen to classic radio versions of Verne's work -- it's a fairly small pool, novels being a less common source for classic radio than short stories and most of the handful of episodes being on only a handful of the most popular books.

The fifty-four works of Voyages extraordinaires, as given by Wikipedia:

1. Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon, 1863)
2. Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras (The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, 1866)
3. Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864, revised 1867)
4. De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865)
5. Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (In Search of the Castaways, 1867–8)
6. Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas, 1869–70)
7. Autour de la lune (Around The Moon, 1870)
8. Une ville flottante (A Floating City, 1871)
9. Aventures de trois Russes et de trois Anglais (The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa, 1872)
10. Le Pays des fourrures (The Fur Country, 1873)
11. Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days, 1873)
12. L'Île mystérieuse (The Mysterious Island, 1874–5)
13. Le Chancellor (The Survivors of the Chancellor, 1875)
14. Michel Strogoff (Michael Strogoff, 1876)
15. Hector Servadac (Off on a Comet, 1877)
16. Les Indes noires (The Child of the Cavern, 1877)
17. Un capitaine de quinze ans (Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen, 1878)
18. Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum (The Begum's Millions, 1879)
19. Les Tribulations d'un chinois en Chine (Tribulations of a Chinaman in China, 1879)
20. La Maison à vapeur (The Steam House, 1880)
21. La Jangada (Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon, 1881)
22. L'École des Robinsons (Godfrey Morgan, 1882)
23. Le Rayon vert (The Green Ray, 1882)
24. Kéraban-le-têtu (Kéraban the Inflexible, 1883)
25. L'Étoile du sud (The Vanished Diamond, 1884)
26. L'Archipel en feu (The Archipelago on Fire, 1884)
27. Mathias Sandorf (Mathias Sandorf, 1885)
28. Un billet de loterie (The Lottery Ticket, 1886)
29. Robur-le-Conquérant (Robur the Conqueror, 1886)
30. Nord contre Sud (North Against South, 1887)
31. Le Chemin de France (The Flight to France, 1887)
32. Deux Ans de vacances (Two Years' Vacation, 1888)
33. Famille-sans-nom (Family Without a Name, 1889)
34. Sans dessus dessous (The Purchase of the North Pole, 1889)
35. César Cascabel (César Cascabel, 1890)
36. Mistress Branican (Mistress Branican, 1891)
37. Le Château des Carpathes (Carpathian Castle, 1892)
38. Claudius Bombarnac (Claudius Bombarnac, 1892)
39. P’tit-Bonhomme (Foundling Mick, 1893)
40. Mirifiques Aventures de Maître Antifer (Captain Antifer, 1894)
41. L'Île à hélice (Propeller Island, 1895)
42. Face au drapeau (Facing the Flag, 1896)
43. Clovis Dardentor (Clovis Dardentor, 1896)
44. Le Sphinx des glaces (An Antarctic Mystery, 1897)
45. Le Superbe Orénoque (The Mighty Orinoco, 1898)
46. Le Testament d'un excentrique (The Will of an Eccentric, 1899)
47. Seconde Patrie (The Castaways of the Flag, 1900)
48. Le Village aérien (The Village in the Treetops, 1901)
49. Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin (The Sea Serpent, 1901)
50. Les Frères Kip (The Kip Brothers, 1902)
51. Bourses de voyage (Traveling Scholarships, 1903)
52. Un drame en Livonie (A Drama in Livonia, 1904)
53. Maître du monde (Master of the World, 1904)
54. L'Invasion de la mer (Invasion of the Sea, 1905)

In addition, there are posthumous "based on" novels that are sometimes added:

Le Phare du bout du monde (Lighthouse at the End of the World, 1905)
Le Volcan d’or (The Golden Volcano, 1906)
L’Agence Thompson and Co (The Thompson Travel Agency, 1907)
La Chasse au météore (The Chase of the Golden Meteor, 1908)
Le Pilote du Danube (The Danube Pilot, 1908)
Les Naufragés du "Jonathan" (The Survivors of the "Jonathan", 1909)
Le Secret de Wilhelm Storitz (The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz, 1910)
L’Étonnante Aventure de la mission Barsac (The Barsac Mission, 1919)

I will almost certainly do Lighthouse at the End of the World, which is the one that has the most genuine Jules Verne in it, being essentially one of Verne's last manuscripts with some (occasionally extensive) revision by his son Michel. The others are much more loosely tied to Jules Verne himself (in some cases he had written a chapter or two, or planned it out but not written it, or they were even more massively reworked by Michel than Lighthouse, and L’Agence Thompson and Co. is simply Michel's own novel).

We'll see how far I get.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Meanings and Likenesses

We find we have in us Meanings; now the Meanings of Words, or (which is the same, taking that word objectively, what's meant by those Words,) are most evidently the same Spiritual Objects as are our Notions, and 'tis Impossible those Meanings should be the same with Ideas or Similitudes, but of a quite different Nature. Let it be as Like the thing as 'tis possible, 'tis not the Likeness of it which we aim at in our Language: For we do not intend or mean when we speak of any thing, to talk or discourse of what's Like that Thing, but of what's the same with it, or rather what that thing itself is; which the meer Similitude of a thing cannot possible be. For a Similitude being Related to the Thing, is so far from being that Thing, or the Same as It is, that it is relatively Opposite to it; that is, quite Distinct from it. Now, that what's essentially and formally Distinct from a Thing, nay Opposite to it, should of it self, and by it self alone, give us the First Knowledge of It, (as they put their Ideas to do;) or that the Meaning of the one should be the Meaning of the other, is utterly Unintelligible, and against Common Sense. Wherefore the Meaning, which is the Immediate and Proper Object of the Mind, and which gives us, or rather is the First Notice of the Thing, must be of a quite different Nature from an Idea or Likeness of it; and since there can be no Middle between Like and the Same; nor any nearer Approach or Step, proceeding from Likeness, towards Unity with the Thing, but if falls into Identity, it must necessarily be more than Like it; that is, the Same with it; which an Idea or Likeness cannot possibly be, as was proved lately.

John Sergeant, Solid Philosophy Asserted, Against the Fancies of the Ideists, Preface sect. 21.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Premiseless Arguments (Re-post)

(This is a slightly updated version of a post from 2012.)

We often think of premises as necessary for inferences, but this depends to some extent on what one counts as premises. Here is a simple example, although since it uses a system that most people don't know, Peirce's existential graphs, it needs a bit of explaining.

Peirce's existential graphs are a purely diagrammatic way of doing logic, in which logical steps consists primarily of making and erasing shaded ovals on a blank sheet of paper according to some very, very basic rules. Obviously it would be a pain to reproduce the shaded and unshaded ovals here, so we'll do a work around using brackets; you can imagine a pair of brackets as a large oval on a page. Whether it is shaded or not depends on what surrounds it. Thus let's pretend that this is a shaded oval:

[ ]

This is an unshaded oval in a shaded oval:

[ [ ] ]

This is a shaded oval within an unshaded oval within a shaded oval:

[ [ [ ] ] ]

So if you count pairs of brackets, the first or outermost pair is always shaded, and every even pair represents an unshaded oval, every odd pair represents a shaded oval.

The basic way the system works is this. You take a blank sheet of paper, which Peirce calls the Sheet of Assertion, and this is your universe of discourse -- the whole universe of things that are relevant to whatever you'll be talking about. You draw your premises on the sheet with pencil. A shaded area represents a negative. An unshaded area represents the positive. A line to the left, called the line of assertion indicates that something is definitely in the universe of discourse (colloquially, that some exists). This allows you to say, "There is something that is not a phoenix":


And also "There is nothing that is a phoenix":


And things like "There is a phoenix who rises" and "There is a phoenix who does not rise" and "There is no phoenix who rises":


There are three things you can do once you have any premises drawn, which Peirce calls Permissions. They are, roughly:

(1) You may erase any graph-instance on an unshaded area as you please, and you may insert a graph-instance on any shaded area that already exists. (Shaded areas themselves are not considered graph-instances.)

(2) Any graph-instance may be repeated in the same area, or in any area enclosed within that area, provided that any lines of assertion have the same features each time; and for any graph-instance already repeated in this way, the innermost instance (or either if they are in the same area) may be erased.

(3) Any vacant ring-shaped area may be collapsed; any vacant ring-shaped area may be created by shading and erasure. (An area is not vacant if crossed by a line of assertion, even if nothing else is in it.)

And that's all; with this you can do nearly everything you would learn in an undergraduate logic class. It's a bit tricky to use, at times, because it wasn't designed to be easy to use but to break down reasoning to its very bare essentials. But you can do predicate calculus with it (and it can be extended even further to do modal logic). And as it happens, we don't need the full system here, because we won't need lines of assertion. And in this context we can see that you can have an argument that does not start with any premises.

(1) We start with the blank sheet.

(2) Third Permission allows us to draw

[ [ ] ]

(3) Then Third Permission allows us again to put in more ovals:

[ [ [ [ ] ] ] ]

(4) Then First Permission allows us to add a letter representing a proposition, any proposition you please, in a shaded area:

[ a [ [ [ ] ] ] ]

(5) Then Second Permission allows us to repeat the letter in another area:

[ a [ [ [ a ] ] ] ]

(6) Then First Permission allows us to add another letter:

[ a [ [ b [ a ] ] ] ]

And this, as it happens, is logically equivalent to "If a, then if b, a" or as we would usually represent it: a -> (b -> a). And we started with a blank sheet empty of premises. (If you want to see how this looks in the real graph format, see Sowa's commentary about halfway down.)

Of course, it's true that you can't get conclusions if you don't have anything at all to start with. Besides premises there are two other sources of information: the universe of discourse itself and the rules of inference. In this case we've drawn out a limit of possibility for the three Permissions -- no matter what universe of discourse you are in, whatever result you get using the Permissions will be consistent with a -> (b -> a). So we can call the universe of discourse and the rules of inference principles of argument, and say that every argument requires principles. But not every argument requires premises, as we see here. The only possible alternative is to claim, Tortoise-like, that (1) positing a universe of discourse and (2) every rule of inference are premises, in which case, also Tortoise-like, you are really claiming that all arguments are infinitely dense -- between every set of premises and a conclusion there are infinitely many premises, whether we explicitly name them or not -- and infinitely long -- whenever we identify a premise, there are infinitely many premises already on the table, namely, all the rules of logic and their every possible combination. You can have some arguments with no premises, or every argument with infinitely many; you can take your pick, but you are stuck with one of the two.

Γρηγόριος Νύσσης

January 10 is the feast of St. Gregory of Nyssa. From one of his letters:

The Lawgiver of our life has enjoined upon us one single hatred. I mean, that of the Serpent: for no other purpose has He bidden us exercise this faculty of hatred, but as a resource against wickedness. “I will put enmity,” He says, “between thee and him.” Since wickedness is a complicated and multifarious thing, the Word allegorizes it by the Serpent, the dense array of whose scales is symbolic of this multiformity of evil. And we by working the will of our Adversary make an alliance with this serpent, and so turn this hatred against one another, and perhaps not against ourselves alone, but against Him Who gave the commandment; for He says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy,” commanding us to hold the foe to our humanity as our only enemy, and declaring that all who share that humanity are the neighbours of each one of us. But this gross-hearted age has disunited us from our neighbour, and has made us welcome the serpent, and revel in his spotted scales.