Saturday, August 09, 2014

Urakami Cathedral

Urakami Cathedral

On August 9, 1945 the American Air Force dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. They used as their reference point the most visible building in the part of Nagasaki with munitions factories: St. Mary's Cathedral, usually known as Urakami Cathedral because of its location in the Urakami valley. The Cathedral was one of the largest churches in Asia. The bomb detonated less than two thousand feet from the Cathedral itself, obliterating most of it. There may have been a Mass going on at the time; if so, everyone there was vaporized in an instant. Since the area had the highest concentration of Catholics in Japan, somewhere around ten thousand Catholics died in the next few moments alone.

The current cathedral was rebuilt in the late 1950s.

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Today is the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein. She was born into a German Jewish family and attended the University of Grottingen, where she studied philosophy. She did her dissertation under Edmund Husserl, and continued as his research assistant when she took a position at the University of Freiburg. She was not able to get her habilitation thesis; it's usually thought that the reason was a reluctance to allow a woman to a level that would allow her to compete for academic chairs. About this time she converted to Catholicism and took a position teaching at a girls' school in Speyer run by the Dominicans. She was there for about eight years and then in 1932 took a position as lecturer at the Institute for Scientific Pedagogy. However, the Nazis came into power and by law she was forced to resign in 1933. All her career paths were blocked, it seemed, despite being one of the most talented German philosophers of her generation. (She forms an interesting contrast with Martin Heidegger, who was Husserl's research assistant after her, and who, of course, was a Nazi. We know they met several times, and Stein began working out a critique of Being and Time toward the end of writing Eternal and Finite Being.)

She had become interested in the Discalced Carmelites, though, and joined them along with her sister Rosa, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, after both St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. As Nazi antisemitism increased, the order moved members of Jewish background out of Germany into the Netherlands. But the Nazis, of course, took over the Netherlands. On July 20, 1942, the Dutch Bishops' Conference had a statement read in all Catholic churches condemning Nazism; the result was that the Nazis began to round up Catholics of Jewish background. Edith and Rosa, along with almost a thousand others, were deported on August 7, sent to Auschwitz. We don't know the exact day, but Edith and Rosa were probably killed in the gas chambers on August 9, 1942. Edith was beatified in 1987 as a martyr, and canonized in 1998.

As were the hearts of the first human beings, so down through the ages again and again human hearts have been struck by the divine ray. Hidden from the whole world, it illuminated and irradiated them, let the hard, encrusted, misshapen matter of these hearts soften, and then with the tender hand of an artist formed them anew into the image of God. Seen by no human eye, this is how living building blocks were and are formed and brought together into a Church first of all invisible. However, the visible Church grows out of this invisible one in ever new, divine deeds and revelations which shed their light ever new epiphanies. The silent working of the Holy Spirit in the depths of the soul made the patriarchs into friends of God. However, when they came to the point of allowing themselves to be used as his pliant instruments, he established them in an external visible efficacy as bearers of historical development, and awakened from among them his chosen people.

[Edith Stein, "The Hidden Life and Epiphany", The Hidden Life, Collected Works of Edith Stein (Volume IV), ed. Dr. L. Gelber and Michael Linssen, O.C.D, ICS, 1992.]

Friday, August 08, 2014


Clitophon (or Cleitophon, depending on how you transliterate the Greek) is the shortest dialogue in the Platonic corpus, but what is most distinctive about it is that it is, hands down, the strangest dialogue in the Platonic corpus. The Clitophon was regarded as authentic in antiquity, but it went through a period starting in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when it was usually regarded as spurious. The judgments seem more mixed today. The problem is this: Clitophon is an attack on Socrates, and Socrates just goes silent. There is no consensus at all at how this should be interpreted. Some have argued that Clitophon is a sort of prologue to the Republic. Others have argued that it is an attack on Antisthenes. Others have argued that it is a fragment, an incomplete draft. And those are just the people who think it is Plato's. One reason to think the dialogue might be authentic is that Xenophon's Memorabilia 1.4.1 is often taken to be a response to it -- which, if so, would put it very early, in Plato's lifetime.

You can read Clitophon online in English at the Perseus Project or in French at Wikisource.

The Characters


Clitophon is also a character with a (very brief) speaking part in Plato's Republic, which is the major reason why some people want to link this dialogue with that one. Clitophon is also mentioned in Aristophanes' The Frogs, in association with the Athenian general Theramenes, who had something of a reputation for being an opportunist in the constant fight between oligarchs and democrats, so he may have been regarded as a somewhat slippery supporter of oligarchy.

The Plot and The Thought

Socrates opens the dialogue by (somewhat stiffly) remarking that he has heard that Clitophon, talking to Lysias, has been criticizing Socrates "while greatly praising the instruction of Thrasymachus" (406a). Clitophon says he has been misrepresented, since he both praised and criticized Socrates, and says that since Socrates is obviously passive-aggressively scolding him, he would be glad to tell him what he actually said. Socrates replies that he would be glad to hear his good and bad points, so that he could improve. Clitophon begins his speech, and Socrates does not speak for the rest of the dialogue.

Perhaps the most important part of Clitophon's speech is this, as far as interpretation goes:

So, Socrates, finally I asked you yourself these questions and you told me that the aim of justice is to hurt one's enemies and help one's friends. But later it turned out that the just man never harms anyone, since everything he does is for the benefit of all. (410b)

There are several strange elements to this speech. Two are particularly worth noting. (1) That justice is harming one's enemies and helping one's friends was in fact a common saying in Athens, and comes up several times in Plato. However, it is not the view of Plato's Socrates, always being proposed by someone else, and Socrates always leads this interlocutor around to question some aspect of it. In the Republic Socrates opposes it outright. This suggests that Clitophon does not know what Socrates is doing in raising the point. [Xenophon's Socrates proposes the claim, but even there in no case does it seem to me to be clearly a matter of Socrates proposing his own view rather than trying to draw out his interlocutor's view.] (2) Note that Clitophon in the space of two sentences clearly attributes to Socrates not only this view but the opposing view. This strongly suggests that what we are getting from Clitophon is a highly compressed summary of a conversation with Socrates -- so highly compressed it has become garbled. It is not in the least surprising that both of these ideas would come up in a conversation with Socrates; it is also clear enough that if they did, it would be as a result of Socrates asking questions, not merely stating his own views.

Thus we have excellent reason to regard Clitophon's account as showing that he has learned only superficial things, and not really understood the reason for them. We see signs of this elsewhere in the speech. The protreptic or hortatory speech attributed to Socrates by Clitophon, for instance, is such a condensed and hectic jumble of Socratic themes that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to imagine Socrates actually giving this sort of speech. Likewise, in Clitophon's account of his discussion with Socrates' associates, he uses Socratic arguments, but he seems to move through them awfully quickly. 409b and following seems an especially egregious case, in which people give the answer actually called for by the particular question he asks -- but Clitophon leaps immediately to another Socratic trope, that each skill/craft/art/know-how (techne) has to have some distinctive kind of product. This is the trope that we need more than names -- but when people try to give him an answer he immediately leaps to arguing that "the words are to be found in each of the skills" (409c), despite the fact that it's not the words but the things that are relevant in context. This seems to be going continuing with the baffling argument about agreement, in which the interlocutor seems to be talking about justice producing the kind of real agreement requiring knowledge, but the bystanders claim he has gone in a circle in which they treat justice and agreement as if they were being proposed as the same thing -- which they were quite clearly not.

Thus Clitophon can imitate Socrates in superficial ways quite cleverly, but not in a way that actually does what Socrates does. The Socratic approach is not merely a way of leading people around, or coming to the conclusion that they are ignorant; it is not just using particular arguments. People often remark on the silence of Socrates -- but they don't remark often enough, I think, on the fact that we manage to have an entire dialogue between two people in which one of the people actually doesn't speak more than a few lines, and, indeed, after the introduction, never speaks at all. How is this even possible? Because while Clitophon argues that Socrates can only encourage to virtue and not teach what it is, he does this not by drawing it out of Socrates himself, but by a long speech in which he doesn't listen to Socrates at all. And Clitophon's account of Socrates treats Socrates entirely as a speechmaker, and nothing else. Anyone who is a teacher can recognize the type: the bright student who learns the superficial things easily but never even tries to understand their point, because he thinks the superficial things are the point.

  Additional Remarks

* The dialogue obviously has some kind of dramatic link with the Republic, since Clitophon is shown hanging around Thrasymachus in the latter. It also has a great many verbal links with Gorgias -- the beginning of Clitophon's interrogation of Socrates' associates seems to be a garbled version of an argument given by Socrates in that dialogue.

* Christopher Moore, "Clitophon and Socrates in the Platonic Clitophon", argues that a major point of the dialogue is that Clitophon never actually uses the Socratic approach to improve himself:

What this dialogue informs us about Socrates—that he asks leading questions and refutes definitions—makes clear that Clitophon has undergone an examination but has not realized its consequences for himself. He has not realized what the Socratic overturning of a definition amounts to, and so he has not realized that it entails his ignorance. He is like most interlocutors after only a few contradictions, before they reach a genuine aporia. But if Socrates’ effect comes about only through recognizing one’s ignorance, then Clitophon has not yet reaped the benefits of Socrates’ effect. And so he is not yet in a position to judge that effect.


Quotations are from Francisco J. Gonzalez's translation in Plato, Complete Works, Cooper and Hutchinson, eds., 965-970.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Proportionality and Just War Theory

The recent furor in Gaza has led some people to talk about just war criteria. There are always peculiarities when this happens, because people tend not to be careful about being clear on why each of the criteria is taken to be a criterion. Meanings start drifting and confusions set in. One of the points at which peculiarities tend to arise is the criterion of proportionality.

This one is quite deeply rooted. We can see this by looking at two easily accessible and influential sources: Alexander Moseley's Just War Theory article at the IEP and Brian Orend's War article at the SEP. I think there are problems with both, but of these, Moseley has a more historically correct understanding of proportionality and why it is a criterion; but Orend summarizes what seems to be the most common -- and not very critically examined -- idea about what it is.

First, Moseley:

The final guide of jus ad bellum is that the desired end should be proportional to the means used. This principle overlaps into the moral guidelines of how a war should be fought, namely the principles of jus In bello. With regards to just cause, a policy of war requires a goal, and that goal must be proportional to the other principles of just cause. Whilst this commonly entails the minimizing of war’s destruction, it can also invoke general balance of power considerations.

This is right (although it's a little odd to talk about the end being proportional to the means rather than vice versa). The 'just war criteria' weren't just put together at random; they arise from considerations of the nature of action itself. All deliberate actions have ends; deliberate actions involve chosen means to those ends. Assuming that the ends themselves are rational and appropriate, to be rational and appropriate, the means must be proportionate to the ends. The proportionality here is exactly the same as we have in the phrase 'sense of proportion', although, of course, war is always a somewhat greater test of our sense of proportion than most other situations. The most important idea here is that the means are to be proportioned to the end. And since we're interested in justice in war, the end is the just cause. Thus we are not interested in abstract calculations here, although calculation may be necessary; the question raised by proportionality is this: "Is the party in question fighting in a way consistent with, and appropriate to, a just cause?"

But we get a somewhat different idea elsewhere. Here's Orend:

A state must, prior to initiating a war, weigh the universal goods expected to result from it, such as securing the just cause, against the universal evils expected to result, notably casualties. Only if the benefits are proportional to, or “worth”, the costs may the war action proceed. (The universal must be stressed, since often in war states only tally their own expected benefits and costs, radically discounting those accruing to the enemy and to any innocent third parties.)

This, although it is a very common idea, is a deviation from the historical concept of proportionality. Note the key point here: the historical idea is about means; this idea makes proportionality about consequences. If you're interested in means, you weigh consequences; but this is hardly all you do.

If I am deciding how to celebrate someone's birthday, I will certainly assess advantages and disadvantages of different ways of doing it, but I will do so only in a relatively limited way, a way limited by my primary concern. My primary concern will be to find something fun for the birthday person that is practicable on the resources and makes sense for a birthday. That is proportionality as traditionally understood: I am looking for a means proportionate to celebration of a birthday. It is no different in war: we are looking for means proportionate to our just cause. We will surely weight benefits and harms, but relevant benefit and harm is determined by the just cause. It is a very different thing from the greatest universal benefit with least universal harm, in which just cause is simply one thing considered and the weighing is unconditional.

As nearly as I can tell, based on some very quick and loose searching, this divergence in positions arises in the late 1960s, when proportionality starts being treated in something like this new way. This is perhaps not surprising; what would be surprising is if the way proportionality is often formulated today preceded the rise of consequentialism, since it is structured like a standard consequentialist rule. There is also something about it that seems to me to require something like a post-WWII political situation; a rule better suited to favoring populous, powerful nations with a rich array of military options would be difficult to think up.

People can use which version they please, but it needs to be recognized that there are two different things floating around under exactly the same name under exactly the same conditions.

Two New Poem Drafts


In the evening sky the moon was bright.
I reached up and plucked its living light.
I turned it around in my hand
and gazed, but did not understand:
a thing so small, in a world so vast,
I did not see how it could last.


I saw the plan of providence --
not the whole, and just a glimpse;
without an end it hung with grace,
infinite time through infinite space
it hung; each thread as fine as fairy-wire
held galaxies and worlds entire
like little droplets, shining dew --
my mind could hardly grasp the view.
Into a drop I, trembling, fell,
down more years than I can tell.
The plan was there, and finer still
its threads than thought of heart or will,
and on each strand bright droplets stood,
single atoms of the good.
I saw one whisper of one wind;
I saw the glimmer of a friend
when friends first meet, the subtle shift,
the instant's instant of heart's lift;
I saw one photon of the dawn
kiss one small blade upon the lawn.
A million million things I saw,
but further still I fell in awe,
and past the quarks in interlink,
the bits of grace one can barely think,
I fell, and down to where our reason's point
is worlds too coarse to cut the joint,
the goods so subtle their brightest glints
are only known through hints of hints,
and still I saw, like frost arrayed
in finest line, God's plan displayed.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Alcibiades Minor

Second Alcibiades, also known as Alicibiades Minor (so called because it is shorter than Alcibiades Major) and sometimes given the subtitle, "On Prayer", is generally considered not to be by Plato. There is no early attestation of it, and some doubted its authenticity even in antiquity, and current scholarship tips heavily toward thinking it spurious. As is not uncommon, though, most of the worries about its authenticity are stylistic -- it doesn't seem Plato-ish enough to Plato scholars -- which is the weakest ground for judgments of inauthenticity, and it's not uncommon to find Plato scholars who think it inauthentic nonetheless considering it in order to hedge their bets, if only because the dialogue might be a slightly later form of a line of thought that is genuinely early. The work is usually considered to be, at least in part, an attack on the Cynic movement in philosophy, largely for reasons of vocabulary (e.g., the strangely negative use of the word megalopsychia, magnanimity).

You can read Alcibiades Minor online in English at The Perseus Project or in French in Cousin's translation or in Chambry's translation at Wikisource.

The Characters

The dialogue is an apparently private discussion between Socrates and Alcibiades.

The Plot and The Thought

Socrates opens the discussion by asking whether Alcibiades is going to prayers, which he says he is. Socrates remarks that "there is a great need for caution, for fear you might, all unawares be praying for great evils when you think you are asking for great goods" (138b). He uses the example of Oedipus praying that his sons would take arms in order to determine their inheritance, which they did -- against each other. Alcibiades remarks that this would be what a madman would do. Socrates argues, however, that it's really stupidity that's the issue, and that stupidity is a matter of not knowing what should be done and said.

He asks Alcibiades to imagine that the god appeared to him and offered him sole rulership of Athens, or perhaps even all of Europe, plus universal recognition of this rule. He would presumably go home happy; and Alcibiades agrees. But then, Socrates, asks, would he do this if the cost were his life, and Alcibiades replies that he would not, because then it would be useless to him. Thus we see that even something like becoming ruler of the world is something we only want if it is really good for us, and not at the expense of our lives or other things like that. Socrates wonders if perhaps human beings are wrong to blame the gods for misfortunes; perhaps it is instead their own stupidity in not asking for the right things that is the problem.

Alcibiades agrees that this is all well said, but suggests that ignorance is often the real problem. But Socrates points out that it wouldn't be ignorance as such but ignorance of what is best. Ignorance could even be a good if it kept you from doing some wicked thing. Someone without knowledge of what is best, however, is no good to anyone, including himself.

Socrates discusses the example of the Spartans, who only pray for the good and noble, and not anything else, and tells a story. Sparta and Athens were fighting, and Athens sent to the oracle of Ammon in Libya to ask why the Spartans kept winning when Athenian sacrifices were better, Athenians feasts in honor of the gods were better, and so forth. And the answer came back (149b): "Thus saith Ammon to the Athenians: I prefer the terse Laconic utterance to all the sacrifices of the Greeks." Thus he concludes:

It would be a strange and sorry thing if the gods took more account of our gifts and sacrifices than of our souls and whether there is holiness and justice to be found in them....Gods and men of sound men are more likely to hold justice and wisdom in especial honor; and none are wise and just but those who know how to behave and speak to gods and men. (149e-150a)

Alcibiades agrees, but Socrates then suggests that the implication is that he shouldn't pray until he learns how to behave to gods and men. Alcibiades asks Socrates to teach him, giving him the victory-garland on his own head, and Socrates ends the dialogue remarking that he looks forward to victory over Alcibiades' other lovers.

  Additional Remarks

* The dialogue clearly has ties both to Alcibiades Major and to Xenophon's Memorabilia. Hutchinson discusses the relation to the first in his introduction to the dialogue in the Complete Works (p. 596):

Alcibiades, full of ambition, encounters Socrates, who engages him in a conversation and makes him realize how little he understands of what he needs to understand; at the end Alcibiades is humiliated and begs Socrates to be his teacher and lover. To this schematic extent Second Alcibiades tells the same story as the Alcibiades also preserved in the Platonic corpus. Certain other parallels suggest that the author of Second Alcibiades adapted Alcibiades 141a-b ≈ 105a-c; 145b-c ≈ 107d-108a. But perhaps the similarities between the two dialogues are to be explained by their common derivation from the celebrated Alcibiades of Aeschines of Sphettus, or from one of the other dialogues called Alcibiades. We cannot determine this question, because Aeschines' dialogue survives only in fragments, and the Alcibiades dialogues of Euclides and Antisthenes, other students of Socrates and writers of Socratic dialogues, are lost.

In addition, the same topic found here comes up in the Athenian's discussion of religion in Laws III (687d-e):

Athenian: Yet the father will often pray the gods that the things which the son prays to obtain may in no wise he granted according to the son's prayers.

Megillus: Do you mean, when the son who is praying is still young and foolish?

Athenian: Yes, and also when the father, either through age or through the hot temper of youth, being devoid of all sense of right and justice, indulges in the vehement prayers of passion (like those of Theseus against Hippolytus, when he met his luckless end), while the son, on the contrary, has a sense of justice,—in this case do you suppose that the son will echo his father's prayers?

Megillus: I grasp your meaning. You mean, as I suppose, that what a man ought to pray and press for is not that everything should follow his own desire, while his desire in no way follows his own reason; but it is the winning of wisdom that everyone of us, States and individuals alike, ought to pray for and strive after.

On the side of Xenophon, we can see a clear connection to Xenophon's Memorabilia 1.3.2:

And again, when he prayed he asked simply for good gifts, “for the gods know best what things are good.” To pray for gold or silver or sovereignty or any other such thing, was just like praying for a gamble or a fight or anything of which the result is obviously uncertain.

One can even find people in the nineteenth century suggesting that the work was written by Xenophon, although this never was regarded as especially plausible.

* The oracle of Ammon was the foreign oracle the Greeks most trusted. The reason Athens would be consulting this oracle is either (1) they couldn't reach Delphi because of fighting with the Spartans or (2) it was especially associated with the Spartans, who regarded it quite highly.

* Socrates' piety is presented many different ways in Plato; we have Socrates' daemon or daimonion (mentioned in Phaedrus, Ion, Meno, Euthydemus, Theaetetus, Euthyphro, and Apology), the engagement with the oracle at Delphi (mentioned in Apology), the way he understands his expertise in erotics (mentioned in Phaedrus and Symposium), Socrates' divinatory dreams (mentioned in Apology, Crito, and Phaedo), his writing of a hymn to Apollo (mentioned in Phaedo), and his participation in sacrifices (mentioned in Phaedo). We also have about a dozen cases of Socrates praying in those dialogues generally recognized as authentic. B. Darrell Jackson in "The Prayers of Socrates" [Phronesis, Vol. 16, No. 1 (1971), pp. 14-37] lists them as such:

(1) Euthydemus 275d -- to the Muses and Memory, for aid in remembering a conversation
(2) Phaedo 117c -- to the gods, as he takes hemlock, for a happy migration
(3) Symposium 220d -- to the sun, after the twenty-four hour 'trance' at Potidaea
(4) Phaedrus 237a-b -- to the Muses, for aid in his first speech on love
(5) Phaedrus 257b -- to Eros, at the close of his second speech on love, for forgiveness, success in love, and intercession
(6) Phaedrus 278b -- to be a philosopher
(7) Phaedrus 279b-c -- to Pan and others, for inner beauty, wisdom, temperance, and harmony
(8) Republic I, 327a-b -- Socrates tells of having prayed at the festival of Bendis
(9) Republic IV, 432c -- Socrates prays for success in discovering the nature of justice
(10) Republic VIII, 545d-e -- to the Muses, for information on the origin of political dissension
(11) Philebus 25b -- to a god, for aid in the argument
(12) Philebus 61b-c -- to Dionysus and Hephaestus, for success in the argument

(Some of these are clearly stylistic, according to conventions, but some are more substantive.) We find, then, that Socrates in Plato's dialogues prays to the gods for (1) help in exploring the nature of love, justice, goodness, and the like, (2) a good death, and (3) spiritual qualities like wisdom or the love that pursues wisdom. This is obviously consistent with the position taken in this dialogue, and sheds some light on it.


Quotations are from Anthony Kenny's translation in Plato, Complete Works, Cooper & Hutchinson, eds., 596-608.

Limitless and Sublime

The Transfiguration—Matins
by John Henry Newman

Quicunque Christum quæritis

O ye who seek the Lord,
Lift up your eyes on high,
For there He doth the Sign accord
Of His bright majesty.

We see a dazzling sight
That shall outlive all time,
Older than depth or starry height,
Limitless and sublime.

'Tis He for Israel's fold
And heathen tribes decreed,
The King to Abraham pledged of old
And his unfailing seed.

Prophets foretold His birth,
And witness'd when He came,
The Father speaks to all the earth
To hear, and own His name.

To Jesus, who displays
To babes His beaming face,
Be, with the Father, endless praise,
And with the Spirit of grace. Amen.

Great and Holy Transfiguration

Just as in the Baptism, where the mystery of the first regeneration was proclaimed, the operation of the whole Trinity was made manifest, because the Son Incarnate was there, the Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove, and the Father made Himself known in the voice; so also in the transfiguration, which is the mystery of the second regeneration, the whole Trinity appears--the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud; for just as in baptism He confers innocence, signified by the simplicity of the dove, so in the resurrection will He give His elect the clarity of glory and refreshment from all sorts of evil, which are signified by the bright cloud.

Thomas Aquinas, ST 3.45.4 ad 2.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Elements of Modal Logic VI

Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV. Part V. (This series is a first rough draft; Part I tells what I am trying to do in it.)

So far we have recognized two defining rules:

(1) □ on the Reference Table means the statement would be found on any talked-about table there might be.

(2) ◇ on the Reference Table means that there is a table on which the statement itself is found.

And we have recognized that there are two other rules that, while not universal, nonetheless are very common:

(3) □ is interchangeable with ~◇~.

(4) ◇ is interchangeable with ~□~.

To this we added another rule that's common, although not as common as (3) and (4), the subalternation rule:

(D) □ on the Reference Table means that there is a talked-about table on which the statement itself is found.

We'll add a sixth rule, also common although not as common as (3) and (4), and that will give us quite a lot to look at before we get to a different kind of rule.

Sometimes when we are reasoning, we are taking something as a reference point that is part of what we are talking about. For instance, if we are talking about time, we might talk about now; if we are talking about location, we might talk about here. 'Now' is a time, albeit a special one; 'here' is a location, although it is a special one. None of our rules so far take this kind of thing into account. In everything we've done so far, our Reference Table is not assumed to be itself one of the tables we are talking about. But sometimes we want our Reference Table to be one of the tables described in the Reference Table; we want it to include itself. This brings us to our next rule, which we might call the reflexivity rule:

(M) □ on the Reference Table means that the Reference Table is a talked-about table on which the statement itself is found.

Suppose we are thinking about books on your shelf. We can represent each of them as a table. Suppose you keep track of the books on your shelf by describing them all in a book, which you keep on that shelf. We can call it your Inventory Book. Your Inventory Book is working in a way that can be represented by a Reference Table. We might look at a line in the Inventory Book and discover that it says all the books on the shelf mention other books; this would give us the following Reference Table:

REFERENCE TABLE: Books on the Shelf
□ (Other books are mentioned.)

Since our Inventory Book is one of the books the Inventory Book itself describes, and □ here tells us that the statement following it is true of every book described by the Inventory Book, we know that the Inventory Book mentions other books.

In the next post, we'll look at more particular cases where we want to use a rule or not. Then we'll go on to look at what happens if a table a Reference Table talks about is itself another Reference Table. When we have that, we'll have most of what's needed to handle all but the most advanced tasks of modal logic.

Santayana on Philosophy and Poetry

Philosophy is a more intense sort of experience than common life is, just as pure and subtle music, heard in retirement, is something keener and more intense than the howling of storms or the rumble of cities. For this reason philosophy, when a poet is not mindless, enters inevitably into his poetry, since it has entered into his life; or rather, the detail of things and the detail of ideas pass equally into his verse, when both alike lie in the path that has led him to his ideal. To object to theory in poetry would be like objecting to words there; for words, too, are symbols without the sensuous character of the things they stand for; and yet it is only by the net of new connections which words throw over things, in recalling them, that poetry arises at all. Poetry is an attenuation, a rehandling, an echo of crude experience; it is itself a theoretic vision of things at arm's length.

George Santayana, Three Philosophical Poets, p. 124

Monday, August 04, 2014

Links of Note, Notably Noted

* Whewell's Gazette volume 7, on the history of science, is out.

* A Clerk of Oxford discusses St. Olaf in England

* Fr. Stephen Freeman on the tradition of being human.

* Brendan Hodge on World War I reparations

* James E. Fleming, Fidelity, Change, and the Good Constitution (PDF)

* There seems to be a slowly increasing pushback against the use of trolley problems to investigate moral reasoning.

* The Linothorax Project studies ancient Greek armor made out of linen.

* Resources in medieval military history.

* Hadley Arkes, "Conscience" and the Law: A Bumpy Ride

* William James's Universal Cyclopaedia article on Telepathy (1899)

* John C. Wright, Faith and Works in a Science Fictional Universe

* There are still many puzzles and mysteries of nature yet to be uncovered; one that may -- may -- have recently been solved is the puzzle of the Death Valley sailing stones.

* Andrew Criddle on Basilides and the date on which Christ's baptism was celebrated.

* The history of surgical gloves.

* Nick Ripatrazone argues that the saddest poem ever written is Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Spring and Fall".

* Francis Hutcheson's argument against slavery at "Irish Philosophy".

* Two recent SEP articles:
Christopher Shields and Daniel Schwartz, Francisco Suarez
Jill Buroker, Port Royal Logic

* Benjamin Berger, Poetry, Mercy, and the Phenomenology of Justice (PDF)

Curé d'Ars

When Jean Vianney was a little child in France, France underwent the French Revolution. In its wake, in what was once the thoroughly Catholic culture of France, the Catholic faith was outlawed. His early memories of the Mass were of secret meetings in people's houses. Napoleon returned Catholicism to legality when he was a teenager, and the young man began to study for the priesthood until he was drafted into Napoleon's army. He refused to join, and so traveled around with a community of deserters for a while. He almost wasn't ordained because of it, but a seminary teacher spoke up for him and argued that despite the gaps in his education, he was indeed fit to be a priest. He was assigned to the little village of Ars.

There he discovered just how devastating the Revolution had been. An entire generation had grown up knowing nothing of Catholicism beyond the name and a few distorted ideas. It would be the work of the rest of his life to try to remedy that problem.

Today, of course, is the feast of the Curé d'Ars, St. Jean Vianney.

Curé d'Ars

The human heart will tire, and human force can fail.
In this alone an ever-giving love resides:
to force not gift, but let love give, and not impede
the endless flow of love itself, which never dies.
No human strength or will can give as love must give;
one cannot force that grace by one's own might.
To give yourself, first know how weak you are,
that you can never give that gift by will alone!
But Love Himself can give beyond all human gift:
so let yourself be gift, let Love the giver be;
the source of endless love is God's own charity.

From the Bronzed East unto the Whitened West

Beyond the Sunset
by Charles Heavysege

Hushed in a calm beyond mine utterance,
See in the western sky the evening spread;
Suspended in its pale, serene expanse,
Like scattered flames, the glowing cloudlets red.
Clear are those clouds, and that pure sky's profound,
Transparent as a lake of hyaline;
Nor motion, nor the faintest breath of sound,
Disturbs the steadfast beauty of the scene.
Far o'er the vault the winnowed welkin wide,
From the bronzed east unto the whitened west,
Moored, seem, in their sweet, tranquil, roseate pride,
Those clouds the fabled islands of the blest;--
The lands where pious spirits breathe in joy,
And love and worship all their hours employ.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Fortnightly Book, August 3

Jesuit missionaries arrived in Japan in the sixteenth century and the result was extraordinary. Missions thrived and the Jesuits themselves became extremely important as a liaison between Japan and the West. Christians established churches, printing presses, hospitals, universities, so that as the seventeenth century rolled around, the Catholic community in Japan was the largest Catholic community in the world that was not under the direct governance of some European power. In the 1610s, Nagasaki, the "Rome of Japan", had ten Catholic churches and was mostly Catholic. One wonders what would have happened if things had gone a different way.

The way things actually went was into shadow and darkness. Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified Japan, and began to be worried that the Catholics represented a way for European powers to manipulate Japanese policy. In 1587 he issued a ban on Catholicism. It really wasn't enforced, and famously Hideyoshi himself still chatted with Jesuits in his gardens. But it was a shift. Technically, all Catholics were in violation of the law, and technically they only continued under the suffrage of the powers of Japan. When collapses like this come, they do not come all at once but in little ripples, followed by little waves, followed by greater waves, followed by terrible ones. And every so often, those powers would move under the law to remind everyone of the state of things. In 1597, St. Paul Miki and his twenty-five companions were crucified in Nagasaki. When Tokugawa Ieyasu took over after Hideyoshi, English and Dutch traders, seeing an opening, did not waste time filling his ears with the dangers of Jesuits. Under the next Tokugawa shogun, Hidetada, a persecution broke out in 1613, and in 1614 all missionaries were expelled from Japan. And in the next shogunate, that of Iemitsu, in 1632, another persecution broke out and Catholicism was banned entirely. A rebellion, the Shimabara Rebellion, broke out; the Rebellion was not purely religious in nature, but a lot of the participants were Catholic peasants. It was squashed ruthlessly. The persecution was continual and vigorous from that point, and the Tokugawa shoguns destroyed every visible sign of Catholicism. Christianity in Japan fell into shadow and darkness. And silence.

But it did not die. In quiet, Japanese Catholics continued. They had no priests, and so only had baptisms and marriage as their sacraments, but they baptized their children and taught them basic catechism and fragments of old prayers. They would enroll as Buddhists and build little shrines ostensibly to Guanyin, Kannon in Japanese, bodhisattva of compassion, who had sometimes been represented with a child on her knee; really it was the Virgin Mary, and often there would be some cross, surreptitious and easy to miss, to mark the difference. Little pieces, sometimes garbled, sometimes disarrayed, fragments, some strands of the broken web did not break. And in the Meiji Restoration decades later, when the Paris Foreign Missions Society built Oura Church in Nagasaki, they found, to their surprise, a steady stream of people from all around Nagasaki, wanting to see what a statue of the Virgin Mary looked like that wasn't hidden as a Maria Kannon, or wanting to talk to a real priest from Rome about how to catechize their children. Chopped away at bough and stalk until there seemed to be nothing left, the tree had not been uprooted.

The fortnightly book is the most famous novel about the Catholic persecution in Japan, and is often considered one of the great novels of the twentieth century, by Shusaku Endo. The title is Chinmuku, or Silence. I've had it on my shelves for quite some time, but never actually finished it, for reasons having nothing to do with the novel itself. It is a historical novel depicting events around the time of the Shimabara Rebellion, as the persecution became ruthless and total. While the main character is fictional, the book opens with an event that was not: the apostasy of Cristóvão Ferreira. Ferreira was the Jesuit superior for the mission. He was captured and tortured in the pit, and he broke and became a collaborator. It was a shock both in and out of Japan.

The translation I'll be using is the standard English one, by William Johnston.

A Poem Draft and a Poem Re-Draft

Desert Sun

Too bright the sun, too harsh its light, at noon today,
the everlasting azure sky too blue and pure.
The clouds like sheep before the wolf have fled away
and we, poor mortal creatures, hide, bow down, endure
as best we can; but little strength have we to last
against the sun-god's heat, against the Archer's blast.
A madness soaks the beams, a poison none can cure,
and bitter burns the bite of each unturning ray.
As death, bright angel, spreads the glory-shroud of day
we fall on desert sand, our end made sure,
and dream of rivers cool, of dew, of spring and pool,
of lands of green and joy, where gentler spirits rule.


Sacred text in hand, the lion waits;
teaching is the path through golden gates
reaching other realms the mind has sought,
byssal depths of light beyond all thought.
Flawless question given, answers dissipate.

Past the first awareness is the seed,
source untouched by any craving need,
spark forever steadfast in its light,
constant in reflection and in fight:
thinker is but thought, and doer deed.

Lion for reflection on the plains,
Free of deep delusion, in the rains
sees the golden grasses and the sky;
golden eyes outlook all things that die.
Thoughts devoid of craving know no pain:
self once overcome, no self remains.