Saturday, September 06, 2014


Plato's Parmenides is often regarded as the most difficult Platonic dialogue to interpret; but it has also been one of the most influential. Significant elements of Neoplatonism find their origin in this dialogue, and one can also see the beginning of certain tropes that will become important in natural theology centuries later. The difficulty of the dialogue does not primarily lie in its readability (it is quite readable, although a considerable chunk of the dialogue simply consists of lists of what follows on making certain assumptions), but in the difficulty of knowing quite what Plato is about. Is this Plato criticizing the theory of the forms? Or is it perhaps Plato laying out a context for properly understanding them? While a Socratic dialogue, it is not Socrates that dominates the discussion, and, what is more, the Socrates we get is young, inexperienced, and still developing his approach. Because of this, I think the best first entry into the dialogue is simply to read it as an account of how Socrates developed part of his method -- the philosopher Parmenides is clearly being presented as the source of certain features of how Socrates himself approached questions. But it's also worth remembering that this dialogue has often been interpreted as the jumping-off point for some very deep metaphysics.

The authenticity of Parmenides has rarely been denied; while Aristotle never refers to it by name, he often attributes to Plato arguments that are either directly from this dialogue or that he heard independently from Plato himself.

You can read Parmenides online in English at the Perseus Project and in French at Wikisource.

The Characters

This dialogue has a very complicated frame narrative, since the dialogue is narrated by Cephalus, who recounts the meeting of his himself and others with Adeimantus and Glaucon, who took them to their half-brother Antiphon, who recites an account he had from Pythodorus of a discussion involving Parmenides and Socrates.

  Cephalus of Clazomenae
Not to be confused with the Cephalus of the Republic. We know nothing about him; but his city, Clazomenae, would have been associated in the Athenian mind with the philosopher Anaxagoras.

  Adeimantus of Collytus
Plato's brother.

  Glaucon of Collytus
Plato's brother.

The half-brother of Plato, Adeimantus, and Glaucon. We know practically nothing about him, but Debra Nails notes that the fact that he spends so much time with his horses suggests that he is a very wealthy man.

He is, in the inner dialogue, hosting the Eleatics, and is the character linking the inner dialogue with the frame narrative. He may be the same Pythodorus mentioned by Thucydides (History3-5). If so, the fact of his banishment may be why his story needs to be received from Antiphon rather than Pythodorus himself.

  Zeno of Elea
We know almost nothing about his biography, but he is, of course, the same Zeno who is still famous for his paradoxes. In the context of the dialogue, he has written a book defending Parmenides from opponents arguing that his view is contradictory by arguing that Parmenides' opponents are committed to even more extensive contradictions. The book was published without his consent, but now that it is out, he is going around and reading aloud from it at gatherings. It has been suggested by Ledger that the last part of the dialogue may be based on Zeno's own works, none of which have directly survived. He is, according to the dialogue, almost forty at the time of the discussion.

  Parmenides of Elea
Most of what we know about Parmenides' life is quite late, and it is difficult to tell how much of it is embroidery. Fragments of his only known work survive in quotation. John Palmer's SEP article on Parmenides discusses various interpretations of this work. He is, according to the dialogue, roughly sixty-five at the time the discussion takes place.

  Aristotle of Thorae
Not to be confused with the Aristotle. The youngest person in attendance at the meeting with the Eleatics, he later became a member of the Thirty Tyrants.

  Socrates of Alopece
Socrates is about nineteen or twenty.

In addition there are some anonymous others both in the Cephalus-frame narrative and in the discussion with the Eleatics.

The Plot and The Thought

Cephalus narrates that he and his companions arrived from Clazomenae and ran into Adeimantus and Glaucon in the agora. Cephalus tells them that they are trying to find their half-brother, Antiphon; they have heard that Antiphon knew Pythodorus, who was a friend of Zeno's, and can recite from memory a discussion that took place involving Socrates, Zeno, and Parmenides. They all visit Melite, where Antiphon lives, and Antiphon reluctantly agrees. Zeno and Parmenides were staying with Pythodorus just outside Athens, and Socrates and a number of others visited in order to hear Zeno read from his book.

After hearing Zeno, Socrates begins asking questions to clarify. Zeno takes a hypothesis -- things that exist are many -- and draws contradictions from it. Socrates notes that the basic conclusion of the book is the same as Parmenides', just in different words, and Zeno explains his intent in writing the book. Then Socrates gives his opposed account, that there are forms that make things like other things, and that things are one by participating the form of the One and many by participating the form of the Many. Far from being irritated at Socrates' criticisms, the Eleatics are impressed (although not convinced),and praise him for it. Parmenides then goes on to dismantle Socrates' proposed account in a systematic way. He concludes that, despite Socrates' promise, the reason that Socrates is having difficulties is that he is trying to mark off the forms from each other without having carefully trained himself to do so -- and he recommends that Socrates in fact train himself by doing the kind of thing that most people consider useless wordplay: in other words, exactly the kind of thing Zeno has been doing, taking a hypothesis and following through on its consequences until one hits a contradiction. What is more, he must not be content with only developing one side of the question: "if you want to be trained more thoroughly, you must not only hypothesize, if each thing is, and examine the consequences of that hypothesis; you must also hypothesize, if that same thing is not" (136a).

Socrates notes that this is a massive task, and that he doesn't fully understand the method, so he asks Parmenides to give examples. Parmenides replies that it is indeed a massive task, one for which he is getting a little old; Socrates then asks Zeno, but Zeno agrees that it would make sense for Parmenides to do it. Everyone else agrees, as well, so Parmenides agrees to do it, reluctantly. He decides to carry on a question-and-answer with Aristotle, who is the youngest person present. And the dialogue ends with a very long question-and-answer in which Parmenides and Aristotle simply follow through on the various consequences of a number of hypotheses.

Thoughtwise, the inner dialogue breaks fairly cleanly into two parts, one involving a theory of Forms (separate from the things participating them so as to be like them) and Parmenides' critique of it, and the second given over to the suppositional reasoning of the Deductions about the One (to hen). The Parmenidean Critique has several major arguments:

(1) There seem to be things for which there is no separate Form.
(2) There seems to be no viable account of participation of the Forms.
(3) There seems to be no way that the participating things could be like the Forms they participate. (This is often regarded as the source of the Aristotle's 'Third Man Argument' against the Forms.)
(4) If Socrates tries to avoid these problems by making the Forms mere thoughts in the mind, there doesn't seem to be anything these could be thoughts of.
(5) If Socrates tries to avoid these problems by taking the Forms to be external paradeigmata, models, that participating things participate by modeling, this likeness would itself have to be participation of a Form, ad infinitum, so that participation cannot merely be the likeness of a thing to its model.
(6) There seems to be no way for men to know or do anything with the Forms or for the gods to know or have power over anything except the Forms.

Parmenides' argument is not that the Forms do not exist; everyone agrees that the Forms are required if rational discussion is to have any value. The point he repeatedly makes is that Socrates errs in thinking that he already understands the Forms when he divides one Form from another.

The Deductions are forms of suppositional reasoning, and can be seen as a way of making sure every side of a particular question is understood. The hypotheses discussed are (if I was not too confused by all the questions):

(1) The One is one.
(2) The One is.
(3) The One sometimes is and sometimes is not.
(4) Other things are not the One.
(5) Other things are the One.
(6) The One is not.
(7) The One neither sometimes is nor sometimes is not.
(8) Other things are and the One is not.

All of these lead to various kinds of problems. For instance, it seems the One must be, or it is not the One, but if so, it must participate Being, but then it is not one (being the One + Being). If we try to get out of this by saying that the One does not participate Being, this gives us yet other problems.

Since the dialogue gives no summing-up, but simply ends abruptly after the last Deduction, it's anyone's game to determine what to make of this. But I think it is notable that all of the Deductions seem to make use of this issue of separate Forms that are marked off from other Forms and other things. This is perhaps not surprising -- Parmenides holds that all things are one, and his critique of Socrates focused on both parts of Socrates' account that violated this idea, namely, that the Forms are separate and that the Forms can be easily distinguished from each other.

  Additional Remarks

* The fact that both Parmenides and Antiphon are reluctant to go through the whole of the deductions is surely intentional. Perhaps the implied point is that this training is something best done young.

* It's pretty clear that we are getting an account of how Socrates picks up some of his methods; the examination of everything through questions until he hits a contradiction is, of course, very Socratic, and Parmenides' insistence on talking with the youngest person present is something Socrates himself explicitly does in other dialogues.

* Neoplatonists like Proclus liked to pair Parmenides off with Timaeus as giving a comprehensive account of the principles of philosophy: philosophy's objects of study are the intelligible and the sensible, and Timaeus gives us an account of the sensible while Parmenides gives us an account of the intelligible. Proclus, of course, sees everything as an emanation from the One, so he reads the Deductions as describing successive ways in which divine things emanate from the One, while Timaeus consists of emanations of things in the world from the divine.

Parmenides became the crux of a serious debate in the Renaissance, with Marsilio Ficino on one side argue for a Proclus-style Neoplatonist interpretation, and Pico della Mirandola on the other side arguing that this was wrong. From Pico's work against the Neoplatonists:

I shall say at once, as regards the Parmenides, that in this entire dialogue one does not find a single strict affirmation, and that, in any case, even if there were such an affirmation, nothing would allow one to draw such an inference with certitude. Actually there is nothing less dogmatic than this book, which, taken in its totality, is nothing else than a sort of exercise in dialectic. Indeed, so far are the words of this dialogue from being opposed to my opinion, that all the attempts of critics to read something else into them achieve only arbitrary and willful interpretations.

And this does seem to be the perpetual question: Is this dialogue intended to present something substantive -- whether a criticism or positive position -- or is it intended as an "exercise in dialectic" to guide the reader in the kind of training to which Parmenides exhorts Socrates? Different answers to that question lead along very different roads.

* I tend to avoid complaining about sources, but I have to say, Samuel Rickless's SEP article on Plato's Parmenides is the least illuminating thing I have ever read on Plato.


Quotations from Parmenides are from the translation by Mary Louise Gill and Paul Ryan in Plato, Complete Works, Cooper and Hutchinson, eds., pp. 359-397.

Deriving Just War Criteria

If you read anything about just war theory, you'll soon find a distinction between criteria for jus ad bellum and jus in bello -- and increasingly you also see a distinction between both of these and jus post bellum. The distinction is often put in terms that are quite stark: they are just different lists. This is very strange, though. We can see this partly in the fact that the jus ad bellum list is always much more comprehensive and coherent than the other two; we can also see it if we look at the history, and recognize that the list for jus ad bellum was originally a list of key elements of justice for all activities of warring, not just for choosing to go to war. But most of all we can see it when we recognize that the lists were not just put together at random out of patchwork pieces, but are derived from consideration of what is involved in deliberate activity.

Practical reason is structured by ends and means from the perspective of the agent; we aim at something and go to it. Thus all deliberate activity, whether it is deciding to go to war, or choosing tactics, or anything else, is about the agent, the means, the ends, or the relations among them. By considering the agent, we get the criterion that activities of war must be carried on by the proper authority. (Since positions of authority in this context are means to the ends of society, proper authority is determined in light of ends much broader than those of the activity itself, namely, those of society itself.) The agent must not just be a proper authority, but must be acting qua proper authority; it is from this that the criterion of public declaration originally comes, since the idea behind it is that going to war must be a legal act and promulgation is required for an exercise of law. By considering the end of the activity itself, we get the criterion that activities of war must be for a just cause, i.e., an end that is itself just and derived from common good.

If we're a proper authority with just cause (of any kind -- it's obviously not just in war that authorities need to be working for just causes), then we work backwards in deliberation from this just end to consider what we should do to achieve that end. There are four basic kinds of consideration in assessing means. The first is possibility, i.e., whether there are means that will attain the end at all, from which derives the criterion of feasibility. The second is necessity, whether these means are the ones that have to be used to attain the end, which is needed in this case because activities of war are extreme measures, and this gives us the somewhat misleadingly named criterion of last resort. The third is suitability, i.e., whether the means are themselves consistent with the end, from which we get the criterion of proportionality. And the fourth is disposition, how we ourselves actually dispose ourselves, our actions, and our instruments in the using of means to achieve ends, which gives us the criterion of right intention, whose name derives from the days when 'intention' still retained something of its technical sense of disposition or orientation to an end.

What is quite clear is that none of these cease to be operative when we move from considering going to war to considering how we fight the war in which we are already participating. The results won't be exactly the same, because we will be considering different circumstances, but the basic structure would have to remain intact all the way through. And indeed, if one looks at the typical things listed as criteria for jus in bello, you can see that it has this structure, albeit defectively. Most of them have to do with maintaining proportionality. The criterion that one should not use means malum in se, for instance, is just part of proportionality -- you must use means suitable for and consistent with a just cause. When it is distinguished from 'proportionality in bello', this is typically because 'proportionality in bello' is being used to cover a very restricted element of proportionality. 'Distinction', that one should make distinctions between the combatant status of different people, is just another element of proportionality. (One of the things proportionality requires ad bellum is that you not be indiscriminate in who you fight.) 'Military necessity' is in reality the same thing as last resort, just obscured by the choice of different names, and 'fair treatment of prisoners of war' is just one thing required for right intention. Proper authority doesn't usually get mentioned, but it is obviously just as important in the middle of a war as it is before, as is feasibility. And the same thing goes with jus post bellum: the circumstances are different but the structure should be exactly the same. The same structure required for just action applies to all activities of war, whether it's starting one, fighting one, or ending one.

The criteria are not even strictly distinctive to war; all cases of extreme measures (like national emergency operations or police crackdowns or even acts of civil disobedience) would necessarily have the same basic structure, with just whatever modification of details is needed for taking into account the differences in the circumstances. But while I have read a lot of work in just war theory, I have yet to see anyone really recognize this rather obvious fact, that the criteria are built on a general account of deliberation-based action, just combined with the fact that we are dealing with a measure that is extreme as a matter of law.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Expertise and Epistemic Authority

Mark English:

Expertise implies epistemic authority: the expert — by definition — speaks with authority within his or her area of expertise. If the expertise is recognized, the authority automatically follows and doesn’t have to be claimed or argued for.

English says he hopes that this is uncontroversial, but it is not even seriously plausible. Expertise does not imply epistemic authority; it is easy to identify cases where it would be insanely stupid to assume that when expertise is recognized "the authority automatically follows" -- to take just one extremely obvious instance, if the expert were also known to have recently become a pathological liar. Much less obvious cases are also easy to find. This highlights a key distinction between the two concepts that creates an insuperable barrier to accepting this notion that experts "by definition" speak with authority; expertise is had simply by having a relevant kind of dispositional knowledge, whereas epistemic authority is obviously only relevant when there is some kind of actual communication or proposal. So expertise does not imply epistemic authority. It's likewise the case, of course, that epistemic authority does not imply expertise, since recognizing that people can have at least a limited form of epistemic authority in matters on which they are not experts is universal. The two concepts are related, but not rigorously linked together. It is an error to slide from one to the other without regard for the conditions of the case in question.

Unrestricted Quantification

Gabriel Uzquiano has an SEP article on quantifiers and logical quantification. Most of it just discusses different options for quantifiers, but I was a bit puzzled by this bit in the discussion of unrestricted quantification:

Unfortunately, many philosophers have recently doubted that genuinely unrestricted quantification is even coherent, much less attainable. Note that these philosophers face at least two preliminary challenges, both of which are forcefully pressed by Williamson (2003). First, they face the question of what to make of the prospects of ontological inquiry without unrestricted generality. How should we formulate substantive ontological positions such as nominalism, if we cannot hope to quantify over all objects at once? The second challenge for the skeptics is to state their own position. To the extent to which the thesis that we cannot quantify over everything appears to entail that there is something over which cannot quantify, skeptics seem to find themselves in a bind by inadvertently quantifying over what, by their own lights, lies beyond a legitimate domain of quantification.

I haven't read the Williamson article referred to here, and I might just be thrown off by the concision, but I find both of these suggested problems, as stated, simply baffling. When we're talking about 'objects' here, we aren't talking just about things but whatever you feel like talking or thinking about. It includes not just things like dogs and cats but also days, colors, styles, what theoretical mathematicians talk about, and even (contrary to what some would like) fictional characters and impossible objects. Why in the world would we need unrestricted quantification to formulate nominalism? If we take 'nominalism' in the sense in which we usually take it, it is either the denial of abstract objects or of universals. Let's just take denial of abstract objects as our example. In order to do this, we don't need to consider an infinite universe of objects; we just need to know enough about what 'abstract object' purports in order to what less specific categories it purports to say things exist in; and nominalists would simply have to deny the abstract objects that are purported to be there. This is the way rational inquiry works. If you are considering whether you should deny that there are any unicorns, you don't look at socks, squares, body parts, printers, blades of grass, or (unless you're in a Madeleine L'Engle story) subatomic particles; you look at things a reasonable person might under some conceivable circumstances count as a unicorn. Denial of abstract objects is certainly of greater scope than denial of unicorns, but there's no reason to think that reasonable inquiry magically goes out the window when talking about whether nominalism is true or not. I suppose the idea is that nominalists would, for some reason, have to insist that even negative logical statements can only be made about nonabstract objects; there's no particular reason to believe that this is a real commitment of nominalism, but even if true would have nothing to do with unrestricted quantification -- if you insist on saying that X doesn't exist while simultaneously insisting that you can't possibly say anything about X, you're already in trouble, whether your quantification is restricted or unrestricted.

But the second attack strikes me as not just puzzling but so absurd that what is actually said cannot seriously be what is meant. Denial of unrestricted quantification does not entail that there is something over which we cannot quantify; it only entails that there is something over which we do not quantify for any particular instance of quantification. This is similar to the mistake someone would make if they thought that insisting that "any given dictionary leaves words out" were the same as saying that "there are words that are left out of every possible dictionary". It's like claiming that 'every integer has an integer greater than it' implies 'there are integers greater than any integer'. Uzquiano himself must recognize this, because he earlier insisted on the fact that unrestricted quantification was quantifying over all objects at once, i.e., in a single instance of quantification, so I don't know what's going on here.

Perhaps I am missing something. I suspect, however, that this is of a piece with the tendency in some analytic circles to want to pull ontology out of this or that logical system, as if there weren't a jillion different logical systems already on the table, and as if it weren't the case that every single one of them admits of a jillion different ontological interpretations.

Love and the Reunited Soul

There is, moreover, another state, or, rather, quality of the soul, wherein the else divided reason and fancy are intimately associated and entirely reunited. This is a natural, pure affection, and the very faculty of love, which is itself the soul and the peculiar essence of man's spiritual soul. For example, a mother's love for her child, which is the deepest and strongest of the natural affections; no one can call this love irrational, although it must be judged by an entirely different standard from the reason. At least it does not arise from any carefully-weighed process of the reason, for it is over it that it gains its greatest triumphs. In love both halves of the soul are united. For, taken separately and apart, reason is only one half of the soul, and fancy the other. In love alone do both concur, and the soul is there present totally and perfectly. In it both halves, which otherwise are ever apart, being again united, restore a perfect state of the consciousness.

Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophy of Language, p. 362. Since Schlegel has just finished discussing the fact that what differentiates human rational consciousness from any kind of angelic consciousness is the fact that our faculties are disunified, an implication here is that love makes us more angel-like. He has also noted that "true genius" is an occasional exception, of a sort, -- in moment of sheer inspired genius our faculties click together, so to speak, so that they act as if they were one -- so a further implication is that love is like genius in some of its more important effects.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Xenophon's Oikonomikos

An oikonomikos is the manager of a household or estate; thus the title of Xenophon's dialogue (Oikonomikos in Greek, Oeconomicus in Latin) is often translated as 'The Estate-Manager'. It was highly regarded by the Romans, who had a translation of it by Cicero, and was also a very popular work in the Renaissance. There are a number of obvious anachronisms scattered through the dialogue that make clear that Xenophon is deliberately writing Socratic fiction.

A great deal hinges on how one approaches the interpretation of the work. The dialogue is often read in a fairly straightforward way as just Xenophon putting his own idea of good advice for estate-management in Socrates' mouth. There are good reasons to question this, however. Some of Socrates' statements are highly exaggerated, and Ischomachus at several points makes clear that he thinks Socrates is cracking jokes. In addition, Socrates and Ischomachus do not agree on the value of questioning for education. It is also the case that while some of the opening discussion finds echoes in the later discussion, there are discrepancies in how wealth is treated. It would be unreasonable to expect Plato's multi-leveled ironies in Xenophon, but recognizing this is a far cry from expecting Xenophon to be unable to write irony at all, which is the impression you get from many commentators on the dialogue.

You can read a translation of Xenophon's Oeconomicus online in English at the Perseus Project.

The Characters

The dialogue has an introductory dialogue, between Socrates and Critobulus, at the end of which Socrates begins narrating a dialogue he had previously had with Ischomachus.


Critobulus is an appropriate interlocutor for the dialogue because his father, Socrates' friend Crito, was a farmer who became moderately wealthy through good management of his estate.

There are quite a few scattered references to Ischomachus, but it is difficult to get a coherent picture out of it. He is a wealthy landowner. Other sources seem to indicate that his wealth did not last. There also seems to have been some sort of scandal involved with his wife, at least as indicated by a surviving speech against Callias by Andocides. Ischomachus's daughter seems to have married the wealthy Callias, who may have been trying to shore up his wealth, which was being drained by the Peloponnesian War. When Ischomachus died, Callias seems to have become the guardian of Chrysilla, Ischomachus's wife (women were treated as minorities in ancient Athens). The daughter seems to have tried to kill herself and then run away; Callias divorced her, and then married Chrysilla. If any of this is the case, and Xenophon was aware of any of it, then much of Ischomachus's role in the dialogue must be at least partly ironic.

In addition, Xenophon claims at the beginning that he was a witness to the conversation between Socrates and Critobulus, although he doesn't contribute; as with the similar claim at the beginning of his Symposium, this is one of the anachronisms of the dialogue -- other elements indicate that this conversation takes place after Xenophon's Persian expedition and exile from Athens. In addition, there are anonymous others who are listening to the discussion.

The Plot and The Thought

Xenophon remarks as a matter of introduction that he once heard Socrates discussing oikonomia, the Socrates opens the dialogue itself by asking Critobulus if oikonomia is a kind of knowledge (episteme) the way medicine and the like are. Critobolus says he thinks it is, and they discuss what it means to have something as property, with Socrates arguing that nothing is genuinely property unless it is beneficial and useful. After a brief discussion of actual management, they talk about Critobulus's wife, with Socrates saying that the wife is often as important as the husband to the successful functioning of the estate. Socrates addresses the question of what crafts need to be considered in oikonomia by taking the Great King of Persia as a model. He then argues that farming (georgia) has many advantages for both the individual and society, including teaching justice (5.12). Critobulus repeatedly asks, however, for an explanation of that fact that results from farming are so very different, with one person working very hard and getting very little while another works relatively little and gains a lot. To this end, Socrates relates a conversation he had with Ischomachus. It is surely significant that the narrative with Ischomachus is not introduced for the general purpose of discussing estate-management but for discussing specifically "why some farm in such a way that their farming gains them all they need and more, while the result of others' labour is that their farming fails to make a profit" (6.11).

Socrates had been investigating the beautiful/noble/splendid (kalos) and good (agathos), finding good artisans and examining their beautiful products, but he really wanted to find someone who merited that greatest of Greek compliments, kalos kagathos, beautiful and good. At first he tried looking for those who were beautiful, and then seeing if he could find any goodness in them, but this failed; all he learned is that many who are beautiful have corrupt minds. So he tried a different strategy, this time looking for people who had the reputation of being beautiful and good. The name Ischomachus came up, so Socrates set out to find him. This he did in the agora, where he was sitting at the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, and Socrates expressed surprise that he wasn't doing anything, since Ischomachus seemed to be a very busy person. Ischomachus replies that he usually is, but today he is waiting to meet some people from out of town.

Socrates asks him what he normally does when he isn't waiting for foreigners, noting that he asks because he wants to understand why Ischomachus has the reputation for being beautiful and good. Ischomachus is pleased at the remark, butwryly remarks that when the state calls on him to pay for liturgies or new warships, they always just summon him as 'Ischomachus', not as 'Kalos Kagathos'. He notes that he rarely spends time indoors, because his wife is perfectly capable of managing the house (oikos). They then discuss Ischomachus's wife for several sections.

Socrates eventually asks what Ischomachus himself does, noting again that he wants to know what it is that gives Ischomachus the reputation of being beautiful and good. Ischomachus replies that he will be happy to do so, in order that Socrates can tell him if he is doing anything wrong. Socrates responds in turn that it would probably be inappropriate for him to tell a beautiful and good man what he was doing wrong, since he himself has a reputation for being a chatterer with his head in the clouds (a clear allusion to the representation of Socrates in Aristophanes' The Clouds) and a beggar. But he does take comfort in the fact that, when people were discussing how excellent a horse was, he asked the groom if the horse had any money, and the groom (no doubt thinking him crazy) replied that horses have no money; it means that his lack of money will not prevent him from becoming a good man.

Ischomachus replies that he prays to the goods for wealth, and here we have a clear indication of a difference of view between Socrates and Ischomachus -- Socrates is distinctly skeptical of the idea that having much property is a good thing, and says that he'd really rather hear first about how Ischomachus stays healthy and survives in battle. Ischomachus insists that they are related, and describes his training regime. When Socrates expresses amazement at how much he is able to do in order to get the reputation of being beautiful and good, Ischomachus responds that he often gets attacked by sycophants (i.e., people who make a living out of suing other people). Socrates asks what he does to make sure he can hold his own in argument, and Ischomachus notes that he practices with his servants and his wife, who often beats him in argument.

Socrates says he is impressed that Ischomachus is keeping such a time-wasting promise, given that he has all the property to take care of, but Ischomachus replies that he isn't neglecting his property, because he has a foreman. They talk about the training of foremen, in which responsibility (epimeleia) plays a significant part, and then Socrates asks the general question of whether it is possible to train someone in responsibility without being responsible himself. Ischomachus replies that it is not, and they continue discussing the training of a foreman.

Since knowledge of tillage is an essential part of what a foreman must know, they discuss the difficulty of teaching this, with Ischomachus insisting that it is very easy to learn and that Socrates almost certainly knows most of it already. Ischomachus questions Socrates, and Socrates ends up giving the right answers. This leads to another clear indication of difference of view between Socrates and Ischomachus. Socrates uses his own case as an opportunity to ask Ischomachus if this might not show that questioning is itself a kind of teaching (19.15):

Is questioning an educational process, Ischomachus? I'm asking because I've just understood your method of questioning me. You take me through points that I know, you show me that these points are no different from points I'd been thinking I didn't know, and thus you convince me, I think, that I do know the latter points too.

Ischomachus, however, denies this, and insists that it is just the case that farming is something everyone already knows. This, I think, is one of the keys to interpreting the dialogue, and it is perhaps the most important of several parallels between Critobulus and Ischomachus: neither of them is fully understanding what Socrates is doing when he is questioning them. Critobulus keeps interrupting the course of Socrates' questioning in order to try to get Socrates to give him answers about the things he wishes to know, and Ischomachus is completely unable to consider any possibility that he himself might learn from being questioned.

It is at this point that the discussion finally turns to the question Critobulus had asked originally, which had started Socrates' narration of the discussion with Ischomachus: if farming is so easy to learn, why do farmers get such very different results? Ischomachus says that the differences arise not from the fact that people don't have the knowledge but from the fact that they don't put it into practice through hard work. He gives as an example hard work in farming the scheme developed by his father, which he has continued. The way to make money in farming is to buy neglected farms, fix them up, and sell them for a profit; Ischomachus loved farming so much that he did that all the time. While Socrates doesn't come out and say so, it is clear that he sees the irony in this -- Ischomachus really makes money not out of farming but out of selling farms -- and doesn't entirely like it; he compares it, apparently sarcastically, to the unscrupulous acts of Athenian traders who 'love grain' so much that instead of selling it to grain-poor Athens, they make fortunes selling it in whatever foreign market that will deliver the highest price. Obviously such people do not really love the grain at all; and the negative implication for Ischomachus is very clear. But Ischomachus takes Socrates to be joking, and replies that it makes perfect sense to say that someone has a love of building houses even if he sells all the houses he builds in order to build others. Socrates replies -- again, apparently sarcastically -- that he very much believes Ischomachus when he says that "everyone is naturally inclined to love the things which they think will profit them" (20.24).

The dialogue ends with a long speech of Ischomachus on how he will concede one thing to Socrates, namely, that it also involves authority, which is common to many other things, which depends on the gods. It is difficult to know exactly how to interpret this. The basic idea seems very Xenophontic: Xenophon tends to emphasize both the importance of hard work and the value understanding how to exercise authority. On the other hand, Socrates' goal in discussing these matters with Ischomachus was to find out why he had the reputation of being beautiful and good. And all that we've learned about Ischomachus is that he seems to do well because other people do the work for him. His wife does all the domestic work. His foreman seems to do all the practical farming work. It's sometimes hard not to take his insistence that everyone already knows what is involved in agriculture as a sign that he doesn't actually know much about the subject, and just thinks he already does. He doesn't even make his major profit off of the produce of farming but instead off of real estate sales. So we seem to have the implicit conclusion that Ischomachus is not kalos kagathos, and that his reputation arises mostly from the work of others. This suggests that Socrates' narrative is quite ironic even in its own terms. If that is the case, there is certainly more going on here than is generally discussed in commentary on the dialogue.

There's no need to think that everything Ischomachus says is wrong or absurd; as the narrative is quite long, Socrates can obviously be using it to try to make many different points to Critobulus, by simply giving him a different vantage point on the questions he has been asking. But I don't see how one can not see the obvious ironies here. Setting aside the apparent irony of what we seem to know about Ischomachus from other sources -- which in a dialogue by Plato would be taken immediately as an indicator of irony in the dialogue -- Ischomachus and Socrates clearly diverge at several points, including the especially important question of whether questioning is a kind of teaching. Moreover, Ischomachus repeatedly fails to give any clear idea of what he does, despite being asked the question explicitly twice -- instead we spend practically all the time talking about what Ischomachus's wife and servants do. What little we get about Ischomachus's work itself (11.14-18) consists of Ischomachus rising early, walking out to his farm if he doesn't have business in Athens (as he does this day, sitting in the agora for long periods of time waiting to meet people), looking around the farm where his servants are already doing the work, supervising any changes he thinks should be made, then training with his horse, and finally walking and running back to Athens, all the while making sure that he eats regular meals. The man can't be doing more than an hour or two of work a day. And to crown it all, I don't see why anyone would not take the revelation in the penultimate section about how Ischomachus actually makes his money as anything else but a sign that we shouldn't take him with complete seriousness.

  Additional Remarks

* The dialogue starts so abruptly that it is commonly thought that it began as an additional section of the Memorabilia that grew big enough to stand alone.

* The description of the Great King's estate management is very Xenophontic; Xenophon, of course, saw Persia firsthand in his expedition with Cyrus the Younger and also wrote a highly idealized historical fiction about the education of Cyrus the Great. Xenophon signals that this is his own idea of how Socrates might handle the topic by having Socrates describe the behavior of Cyrus the Younger and remark that, if he had lived, he would have been a great ruler -- very Xenophon, that. There are also verbal parallels in the description of Cyrus's death with Xenophons account of the same thing in Anabasis 1.9.31.

* A feature of Athenian life that comes up quite often in this dialogue is the peculiarity of the Athenian taxation system. When the Athenians needed to fund some extraordinary and expensive item best not drawn from its regular treasury, like a religious festival or new warships, they would summon a rich citizen and make them pay for it. The expectation was that the wealthy citizen would do this as a part of his civic responsibilities. (This, incidentally, is one of the things Aristotle has in mind when he talks about the virtue of magnificence.)

* An element of Greek marriage practice that plays an important role in the dialogue is that wives were often taken when they are very young. It is not actually surprising that Critobulus has very little to say to his wife. As Ischomachus notes, his wife was fifteen when he married her, and Critobulus's may be even younger. A considerable part of what Socrates seems to be doing with the Ischomachus narration is trying to show Critobulus that he is really serious in saying, at the end of section 3, "My opinion is that when a wife is a good partner in the house, her contribution is just as beneficial as her husband's." Note, too, Socrates remark at the beginning of section 10 that if Ischomachus's account is right, his wife's mind is as good as a man's.

Quotations are from Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates, Waterfield, tr. Penguin (New York: 1990) 269-359.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Multiplicity of Proof

It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, "Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?" he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, "Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen." The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter VI. I was reminded of this salutary passage, expressing a truth too often forgotten about how reasoning really works, by Enbrethiliel's recent post on John Taylor Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction.

The Dialogist

Today is the feast of St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church. He is often known in the East as St. Gregory the Dialogist, because his Dialogues are perhaps the work of Western theology that has had the most extensive influence on Eastern theology. Rather curiously, the Dialogues, while popular reading and an influence on painting, have only occasionally had the theological importance in the West that they do in the East. In the West, his Moralia in Job has always been far more influential.

The Dialogues consists of four books of reflections on the saints of Italy. The second book is on St. Benedict, and it is from this book that the most famous passage in the West comes (Chapter 35):

The man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose early up before the time of matins (his monks being yet at rest) and came to the window of his chamber, where he offered up his prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all on a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light, which banished away the darkness of the night, and glittered with such brightness, that the light which did shine in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as himself did afterward report, the whole world, gathered as it were together under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes, and whiles the venerable father stood attentively beholding the brightness of that glittering light, he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe to be carried up by Angels into heaven.

There are a number of famous hagiographical stories told about St. Gregory himself. One of them, preserved by St. Bede in his Ecclesiastical History (Book II, Chapter I), is the famous story of the puns that first gave him the thought (before he was pope) that a mission should be sent to England:

Nor must we pass by in silence the story of the blessed Gregory, handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, which explains his earnest care for the salvation of our nation. It is said that one day, when some merchants had lately arrived at Rome, many things were exposed for sale in the market place, and much people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and saw among other wares some boys put up for sale, of fair complexion, with pleasing countenances, and very beautiful hair. When he beheld them, he asked, it is said, from what region or country they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, and that the inhabitants were like that in appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism, and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness should own men of such fair countenances; and that with such grace of outward form, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, “for they have an angelic face, and it is meet that such should be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name of the province from which they are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. “Truly are they De ira,” said he, “saved from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?” They told him his name was Aelli; and he, playing upon the name, said, “Allelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.”

Another famous hagiographical story about St. Gregory, and one that has had more theological influence, was the Miracle of the Salvation of Trajan, the basic elements of which are found in the earliest Life of Gregory. The most famous reference to it is Dante's Purgatorio X, although it was quite well known; St. Thomas Aquinas refers to it a few times, and whenever he does, is always careful not to rule it out. The story goes that St. Gregory passed by Trajan's Forum one day, and started thinking about how the Emperor Trajan had aided and defended a widow in dire straits simply because she asked for help. Weeping at the thought of it, he asked God to deliver Trajan's soul from the pains of hell. Different versions of the story go different ways at this point. According to one version, Trajan in hell is from that point on freed from any suffering or pain (i.e., his entire punishment consists solely of not receiving the Beatific Vision in Heaven). According to another version, God resurrected Trajan long enough for St. Gregory to baptize him, thus freeing him from hell entirely; according to some versions of this version God then rebuked St. Gregory for being presumptuous in thinking that he knew better than God how God's mercy should be applied.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Love that Foregoes You But to Claim Anew

Many in Aftertimes Will Say
by Christina Rossetti

Vien dietro a me e lascia dir le genti. – Dante
Contando i casi della vita nostra. – Petrarca

Many in aftertimes will say of you
‘He loved her’ – while of me what will they say?
Not that I loved you more than just in play,
For fashion’s sake as idle women do.
Even let them prate; who know not what we knew
Of love and parting in exceeding pain.
Of parting hopeless here to meet again,
Hopeless on earth, and heaven is out of view.
But by my heart of love laid bare to you.
My love that you can make not void nor vain,
Love that foregoes you but to claim anew
Beyond this passage of the gate of death,
I charge you at the Judgment make it plain
My love of you was life and not a breath.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Dashed Off X

Still getting through these from last year.

The problem with Shapiro's plan positivism is that it lacks any real sense of ongoing plan evaluation; it also assumes, without good reason, that legal plans are the broadest and most encompassing plans (that, e.g., there are no broader moral plans).

Ruth as an exemplar for penitents

Mary as Virgin and Mother a sign of Christ as God and Man

"Oil gave itself to the sick that they might gain by it all helps, as the Anointed who gave Himself to gain by Him all glories." Ephrem, Hymn on Virginity 4.5

In Confirmation & Unction alike it is made clear that our destiny is Messianic, the first in life, the second in reward.

"To think is excellent; to pray is better; to love is everything." Elisabeth Leseur

The body of work requires the breath of prayer.

To ask why, given baptism, you would have confirmation, is like asking why, given that you can put anything you wish in an introduction, you would write the book.

the two major problems with universalism:
(1) distinguishing its arguments from problem of evil arguments in general
(2) accounting for universal contrition
--> Universalists typically err with regard to (2) in accounting only for the possibility of universal satisfaction

Mt 25:41 // Rv 20:10

The contrast to the New Jerusalem is the lake of fire.

Rv 22:14-15 & counternatural sins

baptism - Trinity
eucharist - Incarnation
marriage - Church
unction - Resurrection
confirmation - Holy Spirit
ordination - Heaven's worship
penance - judgment

justice in soul, justice in exchange, justice in society

Mathematical contact is simply equivalence; physical contact is a causal notion.

problems as discrepancies between what a goal-directed system is capable of and what the scope of its intention/disposition is (cp. Fisch)

Abot 6:5 - "Greater is Torah than both the Priesthood and the Monarchy."

Aristotle's virtues as aspects of solidarity

The logic of the sacraments is confluence of analogies constrained by revealed truths.

Infused virtues are in some sense more inward than acquired virtues.

Positive laws do not settle what ought to be done; but people may settle what ought to be done out of respect for positive law.

Tradition is preserved by (1) direct reception (2) natural repetitions (3) rational deduction from evidence. Natural repetitions arise from constraints (physical, rational, social, those involved in the sense of faith, etc.).

'Hallowed be your name' is a prayer for martyrdom-if-it-comes-to-that, i.e., all that I have is on the line for the sanctification of your Name. (cp Berakhot 19b; Ta'anit 24b; Sanhedrin 106b)

The pains of purgatory are greater than ours because they are more clear.

Satispassion is more like baptism than like penitential practice.

"Those who are in hell can receive the reward of their good." Aquinas

overlap as the actual parthood relation in intransitive parthood

incipit and desinit as boundary operators
clocks as boundary markers

There is no point *in* Scripture that gives us a complete rendering of salvation history, even in just essentials; salvation history is given *by* Scripture. Likewise there are things more clearly given by Scripture than in Scripture, e.g., the Trinity or that which was defined by Chalcedon.

What we actually get in dogmatic definitions are not isolated dogmas but upsurges or pleats in the fabric of the whole dogmatic faith with which the Church is garbed.

naive physics as the medium of physical evidence

machines are constructed of pairs of elements (Reuleaux)

One could Platonize Kant's autonomy formulation into: Act according to intelligible good and not merely sensible good.

hole : space :: pause : time
hole : body :: pause : change

What is professed through faith is possessed through sacrament.

The Church prays to share in Mary's Assumption.

Human beings do not merely use signs; we vest ourselves with them, sometimes strictly literally (uniforms, regalia, pins), sometimes more loosely.

Since hell is hardened impenitence, the sacrament of reconciliation is always a victory over hell, an act of anti-hell, and thus a taste, one small taste, of heaven.

Heaven being what eye has not seen nor ear heard, we can never *imagine* anything better than a limbo of hell plus things that can be taken as symbols of something more.

It is the nature of hell not to be able to think of anything better than a very nice hell.

Faculties are necessary for absolution because confession is a tribunal.

When most people talk about whether this or that ecclesial proclamation is infallible, they are really asking not about infallibility (a feature of intelligible teaching by a teacher, not of proclamations or formulations) but about juridical imposition.

the elements of hagiography: facts, virtues, gifts, and miracles (these are not completely separable)

While heroic virtue may arise in other ways, the normal beginning of it is in heroic repentance.

semiosis as analogue of the giving of grace

Peirce: if mere possibilities may nonetheless be in some sense real, "it can no longer be granted that every conditional proposition whose antecedent does not happen to be realized is true."

ceremonial law as an antidote for misuse of sign and symbol (Mendelssohn)

The fear of the Lord is that which protects and respects the image of God.

Torah as a planting of the eternal in the midst of the world

Ps 150 & the parallel between the sanctuary and heaven

ssu & sollicitudo

The prosocial functions of beliefs are always tied to their truth, although one must consider partial truth and approximate truth.

The capacity to invoke supernatural and preternatural agents is closely linked to human dignity.

All natural potencies are also obediential potencies.

dreaming as epistemological experiment, as psychological evidence, as ethical venue

the digressions and delays used by scholars to extend the joys of inquiry

"One is punished by the very thins by which one sins." Wisdom 11:16

Torah as imperishable memorial

Consensus is an artifact of social interactions.

eudaimonia as providing the formal character of rational action

the practical syllogism in deliberation vs the practical syllogism in command

the sacramental character must be stirred into flame 2 Tim 1:6

Real composition, as opposed to colligation by the mind, has a causal aspect.

(1) The act of one thing can sometimes be in another.
(2) Two things can have one and the same act.
(3) Even if to act and to be acted on are the same, they need not be the same in respect of their account.

the sensible/intelligible thesis as the key thesis of Neoplatonism

being kind and patient with ideas

work as an instrumentality of prayer

making one's death holy in advance

"Moral virtues are the effective condition for the rationality of acting subjects." Rhonheimer

Prudence is the excellence in us pertaining to normativity as such.
We can ask of any theory of normativity: What does this make of prudence?

temperance as the preserver of prudence (sozain phronesin) EN 6.5
the pursuit of beauty as an aid to prudence

The objects of our actions are in some way part of us.

Jealousy poisons interpretations.

the possibility of love as the seed of love

fade-out as tension-relieving transition

external world // other minds // induction

Modern mathematics as the logic and hypothetical metaphysics (using transcendental argument) of quantity (extension and measure) rather than just the study of the category of quantity (it starts with quantity but spreads out from there). One can see philosophical phenomenology as trying to do the same with quality.

As canon Scripture regulates, as prayer Scripture is appropriated, made one's own.

Probability begins with the construction of possibilities.

Given the sins of humanity, true charity will have among its modes a piacular mode.

the sense of the ridiculous as a guide (however limited) for inquiry
-> restraint of passions and their corresponding biases (cp. Hutcheson)

Christ's atonement as piacular, eucharistical, and federal (testamentary)

A government, to be stable, must limit the extent to which it harms either the property or the reputation of those subjected to it.

marriage as a generator of almsdeeds (acts of mercy)

recognition of the importance of the middle term as used for extrapolating probable arguments for a newly encountered position

explanation as a kind of middle term

plausibility as first reasonableness

the scientific community as
(1) requiring resources
(1a) liberality
(1b) magnificence
(2) requiring interaction (collegiality)
(2a) patience/good temper
(2b) truthfulness
(2c) amiability
(2d) modesty
(2e) indignation against abuses
(2f) wit
(3) requiring drive
(3a) courage
(3b) ambition
(3c) magnanimity
(3d) self-restraint/discipline

potential parts of a virtue as having integral parts analogous to the integral parts of the principal virtue

Utilitarianism takes right and wrong to be a purely empirical matter; Kantianism takes it to be a purely rational matter; but in the lives of saints and heroes we seem to find something of both.

Ex 17:8-13 as an image of prayer

the saints as being the means for an abundance of reconciliation

What unifies a people must be able to tolerate a diversity of interpretation.

representative government a "semi-sacramental idea" (Chesterton)

the potential parts of justice as touching on aspects of the piacular

faith : Mansfield Park :: hope : Persuasion :: love : Pride and Prejudice

True love is that which makes the virtues shine.

Sublimity is linked to morality by carrying us outside ourselves.

All and each of Austen's works can be seen as exploring aspects of prudence: common sense, moderation, overcoming of bias, solicitude, counsel, constancy.

the importance of 'the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable"

the Land as symbol of Torah // the Land as symbol of world to come

Positions in the metaphysics of mathematics have analogues in the philosophy of law.

theological virtues : end :: infused moral virtues : means
virtues : being an agent :: gifts : being an instrument

While all virtues are linked to natural law in some fashion or other, natural law is most closely linked to justice.

'one', 'holy', 'catholic', and 'apostolic' as the four ways in which the Church exhibits wholeness

prayer of intercession as the especial expression of the communion of saints

the law as a network and instrument of agency

paradox of thrift as highlighting the fallacy of composition

Human prayer involves witnesses.

the sacrament of marriage as a school of prayer

lives that are just, useful, and symbolic of beautiful ideals (cp. Mill)

1 Cor 11:26 & eucharist as the sacrament of preaching

meditation on history as a spiritual practice

implausibilities as the aporiai of historical scholarship

the property of the Church as a patrimony of the poor

the contrition/confession/satisfaction structure as having analogues in the other sacraments (seems esp. clear for marriage & eucharist)

the sacraments as first movers of the liturgical commonwealth, moving as the beloved moves the lover (of course, it's Christ through the sacraments)
-> formed as a body, we begin to form customary law

sacrament : impression :: doctrine : idea

a utility theory of hope and despair rather than pleasure and pain (a utilitiarianism of hope)

Taking pain to be an intrinsic evil is confusing sign and signified.

Jer 17:3 the Lord, the baptismal pool of Israel

The fact that psychopaths and the vicious are put on a level with the virtuous, and only overruled by being outnumbered, is a greater weakness of utilitarianism than is generally recognized. (It's not blatant weakness, and utilitarians can work up defenses to more simplistic pressings of the matter, but it is a weak point.)

Platonic recollection // doctrinal development

Aptness to dwell on creatures of one's own imagination is an impediment to constancy.

motives of credibility
(1) confirming wonders
(2) confirmed wisdom
(3) consistent fruitfulness in good
(4) intrinsic beauty

Miracles, surpassing the ability of nature alone, symbolize doctrines surpassing the ability of natural reason alone.

Tronto's definition of care makes it indistinguishable from prudence (attentiveness, responsibility, competence, and responsiveness are all aspects of prudence).

Schopenhauer's positivism is his first false step in criticizing Kant.

Schopenhauer's 'Harm none but rather help all people, so far as you can' is reducible to the first principle of practical reason.

simplex sigillum veri -- note that the seal, while confirming, requires already possessing (everyone has the experience of things becoming simple once you understand things in the right way)

the sense of investment, the sense of property, the sense of enterprise, the sense of discipline/saving

Motives affect the classification of consequences.

Our capacity for faith, hope, and love indicates three main lines of human dignity.

'Disinterest' in Kant's account of taste is functionally linkable to the fact that beauty pleases merely on the contemplation, and not due to some further incentive.

The Deleuze-Guattari conflation of hierarchies and arborescent structures, and of both with dichotomies, is a serious error.

Measurement is not mere quantity but quantity with respect to a relation (this is why a positivist can treat it as a kind of classification).

Cain & Abel : the Maker kills the Drifter for not being inferior

Checks and balances only work properly when combined with direct responsibility to constituency.

All knowledge is of shared being and by the sharing of being.

piacular guilt as a sign of human dignity

proper admiration of Henry Crawford: "as a clever, pleasant man" Jane to Cassandra 2 March 1814

Exemplarity clearly has some affinity with life.

panpsychism & the World Soul as confusing ways of talking about angels

Occasionalism treats the entire world as if it worked like the mind.

baptism - Immaculate Conception
confirmation - Annunciation
eucharist - Dolors
unction - Assumption
penance (qua tribunal) - Intercession

grotesque : comic :: sublime : tragic
grotesque : rude/primitive :: picturesque : sophisticated technique
the role of novelty in the grotesque
grotesque : pity :: sublime : awe
the grotesque as analogous to the paradoxical

Ruskin - grotesque composed of the ludicrous and the fearful, leading to two tendencies of grotesque (sportive and terrible)

The grotesque is that in the comic that is suggestive the sublime.

the relation between the grotesque and the gruesome

suitability of the grotesque as symbolism of the divine
(1) divine names
(2) miracles & grace // lusus naturae
(3) providence (and the place of the bad/ugly in it)

The grotesque presents its incongruity on its face.

sublimity & deity Seneca Letter XLI

"Philosophy has no business supplying vice with excuses." (Seneca)

Note that Kant's ethical commonwealth can only exist among people united in a political commonwealth (from which, however, it is distinct).

the grotesque as a way in which the ugly can be part of the beautiful

Sensorimotor capability just is the rudiment of tool use.

Models presuppose minds for which they are models.

the High Priestly Prayer as a precis of salvation history

the handing on of the Lord's Prayer in Baptism and Confirmation

The pastoral function of the priest subserves the sacramental.

Mathematics is not a closed, or indeed a single, system.

Godel's qualified argument against mechanism is in reality an argument for mathematical creativity.

Law is powerful enough that even the possibility of it is powerful.

a menagerie of ideas

The cultivation of social justice requires the expansion of opportunities for giving and receiving what is good.

Understanding is not merely an organization of some material.

In a whole constituted by an end, the parts will have their proper ends, the less important parts will have the more important parts as their ends, and all parts will have the whole as their end.
-> Arguments are wholes constituted by ends.

the contrast between Elinor & Lucy SS 24: "Elinor spoke it with the truest sincerity" "replied Lucy, her little sharp eyes full of meaning"

Catechesis is the most important ecumenism. Nothing interferes with union so much as ignorance and neglect of doctrine.

if baptism : passive magisterium and orders : active magisterium, this suggests an intermediate magisterium corresponding to confirmation; think about this

Ethics on analogy with | analogous varieties
mathematics | platonistic, logicist, intuitionist (constructivist), formalist?, predicativist?
physics | realist, instrumentalist (empiricist anti-realist), historicist, social constructivist, pragmatist
medicine | realist-rationalist, realist-empiricist, anti-realist-rationalist, anti-realist-empiricist

utility-based prudential guidelines
office-based prudential guidelines
desert-based prudential guidelines

particular measurements as mereological locations

Feuerbach: "In relation to the inner life, grace may be defined as religious genius; in relation to the outer life as religious chance."

All three sacraments of indelible character purify, illuminate, and unify; but to baptism is appropriated purification, to confirmation illumination, and to orders unification.

metaphors & jokes: striking congruities and startling incongruities

Sacramentalia are ways we not only participate in liturgy but vest ourselves with it. We put the liturgy on, both literally and figuratively.

The treasury of merits is Christ Himself.

Provability is always relative to conceptual resources; proof is an end the attainment of which depends very much on the means available.

the modern superstition of the Mandate of History

Feuerbachian atheism is vulnerable to Cartesian subversion.

the play of thought wrapping around logical structure

Christian hope as divine temperance in us

It is in humility that the natural human being most reflects divine immutability.

the suitability of Christian moral principles of historical study: the goodness of human vocation and natural tendency, original sin, historical study as a practical problem falling under natural law insofar as it touches on common good, the piety of history

If it takes a village to raise a child, the saints are the village for the baptized.

exchangeable, exchange, market

creation as proto-Incarnation

It is fundamentally important to the Catholic process of canonization that it is not a personalized list of favorites. Saints are to teach, and how they perform this function is a matter of how the Church as a whole takes them.

virtue, character, witness of character

the heavens // covenant

thy name : faith :: thy kingdom : hope :: thy will : charity :: give us : temperance :: forgive us : justice :: lead us not : prudence :: deliver us : fortitude

Christlikeness is not merely a resemblance but a signification.

gratitude as community-forming (Feuerbach)

utilitarianism, effective altruism, and the bureaucratization of ethics

The problem with the at-wake-up account of dreaming is that what most plausibly acounts for this set of images at wake up is that they were already there to be taken that way; particularly as environmental factors not at wake up but before (e.g., rumble of thunder) can sometimes be identified as plausibly in the causal chain -- in such cases the at-wake-up view gives us a causal gap.

Dennett's upload account of dreaming is pure Cartesian theater.

philosophical issues in dreaming // philosophical issues in paradox of fiction

The un-Marian is an indicator of the pseudo-Messianic.

"Law in general is human reason, inasmuch as it governs all the inhabitants of the earth" Montesquieu

the theory of capital vices as a theory of cascade failures

Plato and Xenophon So Far

Getting very close! There are some hefty works still left, though, including both Plato's longest dialogue and Xenophon's longest Socratic work. Xenophon's Oeconomicus will be next. Then we'll go back to the beginning of Socrates' career with Plato's Parmenides and Protagoras. After that will be Philebus. Then the trilogy of Minos, Laws, and Epinomis. Then Xenophon's Cyropaedia and various other works, as time allows. How much time all this takes will determine whether I shoot for the entire Xenophonic canon or not. By mid-September this project will have taken up a third of the year! But it has been rewarding; I see a great many things I never previously saw.

Plato: Widely Recognized as Authentic

Phaedrus: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Hippias Minor
Gorgias: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Timaeus: Part I, Part II
Menexenus: Part I, Part II
Phaedo: Part I, Part II
Republic: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Plato: Heavily Disputed

Alcibiades Major
The Platonic Letters: 7,8
Hippias Major

Plato: Usually Regarded as Spurious

The Platonic Definitions
Rival Lovers
De Justo
De Virtute
Alcibiades Minor
The Platonic Letters: 1,5,9,12 ; 2,4,10,13 ; 3,6,11
The Platonic Epigrams

Memorabilia: Book I, Book II, Book III, Book IV

Related Posts

Some Thoughts Toward Reading Plato's Dialogues
The Golden Villain of Athens
Sydenham's Scheme for the Platonic Dialogues
Hermocrates: A Non-Reading
The Last Days of Socrates
Philosophos: A Non-Reading
A Philosophical Bendideia
Life in This Present Hades

Still to do

Plato: Parmenides, Philebus, Protagoras, Minos, Laws, Epinomis

Xenophon: Oeconomicus, Hiero, Cyropaedia, Cynegeticus (probably), Anabasis (probably), Agesilaus (possibly), Constitution of Sparta (possibly), Hellenica (possibly, but probably only if I can do Thucydides' History as well), Hipparchikos (if time allows), Hippike (if time allows), Poroi (if time allows)

Aristophanes: The Clouds

Plutarch: Socrates' Daimonion, Life of Socrates (possibly)

Apuleius: The God of Socrates (possibly)

Libanius: Defense of Socrates (probably)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Politeia (Part IV: Cities and Souls)

Book VIII and Book IX

Having discussed the community of good and philosophical education in the excellent city, Socrates can return to the point he began at the beginning of Book V, before he was interrupted by Polemarchus and Adeimantus. However, as is often the case, the digression is not wholly digressive, since in the course of it Socrates already began what he had said he was going to do: explore the relation between justice in the city and justice in the individual. The just city and the just individual have both been developed in lockstep, so now he has only to consider the other kinds of city and the kinds of individual that are like them. He does this by looking at how the kallipolis can degenerate into timarchy, timarchy into oligarchy, oligarchy into democracy, and democracy into tyranny. (So much is coming together in these books that there is simply no way to summarize it all. I will merely note a few highlights.)

The kallipolis, being a truly just city in which all parts work for common good, has no intrinsic tendency to deteriorate (and thus neither does just character), but in a world of time and change nothing can happen perfectly. Over time, mistakes happen; if they are not corrected quickly enough, they accumulate. The disparity between being good and seeming good becomes more serious, as merely seeming good occasionally gets rewarded and actually being good gets shortchanged or even penalized. The temptation to focus on seeming good rather than being good becomes greater. When the individual gives into this temptation, he or she becomes a timarchical soul, and when the city's policy becomes dominated by such individuals, it becomes a timarchy.

Each city after the kallipolis has, in addition to the extrinsic cause of degeneration (accumulation of errors), an intrinsic tendency to degenerate. The timarchy, based on love of victory and honor, is driven by appearances, which are dependent on either luck or resources. Mere drive to accumulate resources is depreciated, but in practice a timarchy has a secret drive for accumulating these resources as means. As this expands in the face of difficulty, it tends to approximate more closely to a drive for accumulating resources just to increase resources. When this dominates city policy or individual life, the result is oligarchic.

Oligarchies are driven by the desire for having more, but they make a distinction among desires: some desires are taken to be dominant and preferable to others, namely, those closely linked to accumulation. An oligarch will exercise considerable self-discipline if profit is on the line, but doing this in practice requires a split life. This manifests as a divide between the accumulating part (in the city, the rich) and the part that sacrifices for the sake of accumulation (in the city, the poor). For this to work, the rich city must give the poor city reason to think that it is benefiting from the arrangement: bread and circuses. But over time, the poor city demands more and more. Eventually it demands, and keeps demanding, more than the rich city can actually give. The poor overthrow the rich and redistribute everything. In the individual, the same overthrow happens; the individual grows tired of sacrificing so many pleasures, and begins to pursue not merely secure pleasures but luxurious pleasures.

This is democratic life, devoted to letting as many parts pursue as much as they can. In the city, this means letting each individual do whatever he or she pleases, as much as possible -- this 'as much as possible' is determined by allowing any pursuits that are harmless and disallowing what is harmful to other pursuits. This makes for an apparent win-win situation for everyone, but in reality it can only work as long as there is perfect agreement about what is harmless and what is harmful. The democratic life by its nature, however, has nothing that can guarantee this agreement. Disagreements about which pleasures are harmless and which are harmful accumulate; coherence is actually maintained only by force -- people with shared standards gang up on those who do not conform to those standards and pressure them to back down into an at least superficial conformity. At some point, however, some part or other of the city has the means to pander to a large portion of the city, and thus can go as far as it wants in eliminating opposition, and then we have tyranny. The tyrannical soul is the one that indulges its strongest desires without any significant restraint.

City Governing Principle Coherence in Pursuit of Good Dominant Element in Soul Motivating/Restraining Factor (=What Counts as Progress)
Kallipolis Philosophy/Virtue Completely One City Reason Being Good
Timarchy Honor/Reputation Approximately One City Thymos (Spirit) Seeming Good
Oligarchy Profit Two Cities (Rich & Poor) Necessary Appetite Accumulation
Democracy Toleration Each Individual a City in Loose Alliance Luxurious Appetite Diverse Pleasure
Tyranny Rule Every Individual a City at War Brutal Appetite Arbitrary Force

But when these characters are put on the large scale of a city, we can clearly see ways in which this is a real degeneration. The city, or the individual, becomes increasingly incoherent, descending into increasing conflict. Moreover, despite the apparent proliferation of pleasure as the degeneration continues, the more limited the pleasures become; less and less of the individual, or the city, is actually given any satisfaction. It becomes less and less a matter of every part working for the best good of every part and more and more a matter of constant struggle of every part even to have good at all.

But this is sufficient ground for answering the challenge Glaucon and Adeimantus had originally proposed, namely, to show that justice was better in itself as well as in its consequences. This is summarized in the Myth of the Beast of Many Heads: when the human head (reason/lovers of wisdom) unites with the lion head (spirit/lovers of honor) to cultivate the multiform beast (appetite/lovers of wealth), all parts benefit, because reason or philosophical rule is the only thing that can take into account the good of every part. If other parts try to dominate, the good of reason is necessarily shortchanged and, equally necessarily, the rest can achieve only an imperfect coherence -- parts start working against each other. When the multiform beast dominates, it can't even maintain coherence in itself, much less the whole, and everything gets shortchanged, even harmed on its own terms, except, in the end, by luck. What is more, it has by the same token become clear that only where philosophical education is involved is there any clear grasp of what is genuinely good or not; the degenerate states are precisely states in which other things are allowed to interfere with, and take precedence over, understanding.

  Additional Remarks

* One way to understand the idea behind the division of constitutions is to see them as answering a significant question: How can a city be as effective as Sparta, but in the realm of virtue? The kallipolis is in this sense a very idealized Sparta, one devoted not to victory and war but to wisdom and justice; it is therefore governed not by warriors but by those who are to wisdom what warriors are to victory, i.e., philosophers or lovers of wisdom. The timarchy is the Spartan self-image. The oligarchy is the imitation Sparta set up by many oligarchs in various cities, including Athens. The democracy is the Periclean vision of Athens. But this is all quite crude; the correspondence is not intended to be exact, because all real cities consists of populations that are mix of the citizens of these ideal cities, and the overall policy of the city is determined by whichever kind of citizens happens to dominate.

* The description of the rise of the tyrant in 565c and following appears to be a highly idealized depiction of the rise of the tyrant Pisistratus in the sixth century BC (the tyranny thus created was ended by the return of democracy, which is depicted -- albeit in a deliberately ironic and incorrect way -- in Hipparchus.

* The mathematical argument for the philosopher having a life 729 times more pleasant than the tyrant's is notoriously difficult to follow. However, 729 is significant in that it is both a square and a cube (3 x 3 x 3 = 27 x 27). Thus the tyrannical man's happiness is flat, but the philosophical man has a volume of happiness; he is quite literally more well-rounded in his pleasures. 729 also seems to have had some significance for the Pythagoreans as a symbol of human life, which seems to be the point of the comment at 588a. Notice, however, that Glaucon seems more amused than convinced by the argument, that Socrates immediately puts the emphasis not on the pleasure but on gracefulness (euschymosyne), beauty (kallei), and excellence/virtue (arete) -- the pleasantness is just a sign of these things, and in these things the philosophical life is immeasurably greater.

* Notice that, in fact, education has not stopped being the main theme of discussion: the degeneration series is presented as a degeneration in education, and the conclusion of the whole is in part that when dealing with children we should "establish a constitution in them, just as in a city, and--by fostering their best part with our own--equip them with a guardian and ruler similar to our own to take our place" (590d).

Book X

Socrates returns to the discussion of music, poetry, and physical education, by discussing how the argument to this point has confirmed his original arguments about the foundational education for the just city. The governing issue throughout the previous books has been that of the disparity between appearance and reality; thus it shows that the key principle of education needs to be that of getting the student to grasp what is really good and not what is merely an imitation of it. The problem with much of what passes for education (in terms of music, poetry, physical education) is that rather than being concerned with what is really good, it has a democratic character -- it is devoted to pleasing as many as possible. Thus it takes on the features of democratic life, and only manages to reflect justice and goodness in the very indirect way democratic life does. Participating in it plays more to our multiform beast than to anything else, and this can cultivate a degenerative imbalance in our lives. But we should be guided instead by what is really good; "we mustn't be tempted by honor, money, rule, or even poetry into neglecting justice and the rest of virtue" (608b). This is a matter of health of life: just as disease is disorder of body, so vice is disorder of life, and they both tend toward destroying what has them.

But this provides a context for looking at the relation between justice and Hades, which was first raised in Book I and was restated by Adeimantus. The soul, what it is that makes us alive, is itself apparently indestructible, being the sort of thing that in philosophy can have kinship with indestructible truth and goodness. In facing the challenge raised by Glaucon and Adeimantus, Socrates had to find a way to describe justice independently of its appearance and reputation; but it is nonetheless true that justice does have a good appearance and reputation among gods and men, and we should expect the gods to favor it in the long term. When we do we see that not only is injustice degenerative in itself, unjust people are like those who run very well for the first part of a race but fail to run well the longer the race gets, sometimes even failing in this life itself, among human judges, but especially failing after it when the judges are divine.

Thus we come to the Myth of Er, which manages to pull together strands from many other afterlife myths found in plate (e.g., the Myth of Judgment in Gorgias, or the Myth of the Chariot in Phaedrus). Part of the point of it is to depict a way of seeing each choice as having great weight and importance. Every just choice lays out a direction of progress that extends out much farther than we might imagine, and the farther one goes in that direction, the greater the difference in value between a just and an unjust life. Injustice requires extraordinary myopia.

Thus we come to the final conclusion of the dialogue, summed up by Socrates:

But if we are persuaded by me, we'll believe that the soul is immortal and able to endure every evil and every good, and we'll always hold to the upward path, practicing justice with reason in every way. That way we'll be friends both to ourselves and to the gods while we remain here on earth and afterwards--like victors in the games who go around collecting their prizes--we'll receive our rewards. Hence, both in this life and on the thousand-year journey we've described, we'll do well and be happy. (621c-d)

  Additional Remarks

* Notice that the good life is, Aristotle-like, understood as a choice of a mean between extremes (619a).

* The afterlife myth here is given the justification that seems to be the usual justification for afterlife myths in Plato (cp. Gorgias especially); it is less about what actually happens after one dies than about providing a way to see more clearly the soul "as it is in its pure state" (611c).


Quotations are from Plato, Republic, G. M. A. Grube and C. D. C. Reeve, trs. Hackett (Indianapolis: 1992).

Fortnightly Book, August 31

When Taylor Caldwell burst onto the scene in the mid-1930s, she was a housewife in New York; because of her name, it took a while for people to realize that she was a woman. Much of Caldwell's career would involve doing what prior women authors often could not do -- writing the kind of novels people had previously associated with male authors (intricate plot-based stories about finance and industry and the like) without being consigned arbitrarily to the Romance genre for being a woman (although there were critics who tried to do that). She would go on to publish 40 or so books, a significant number of which were bestsellers; only a handful of authors have been on the New York Times Bestseller list more often than she was.

Along with a reputation for writing books that sold, she also gained a reputation for casually dropping inflammatory comments in interviews on everything from women's suffrage (wasn't impressed by it) to care of children (thought that they were less important than spouses) to reincarnation (dabbled in past lives therapy without entirely committing to its being really possible) to her views on the human race (said once that human beings were God's big mistake). She was vehemently anti-Communist and highly suspicious of big government. You can see her FBI file online; she repeatedly claimed to be harassed by Communists (which is probably true in the limited sense that outspoken authors tend to be harassed by kooks opposing the positions they take) and the Internal Revenue Service, which she regarded as an instrument for the usurpation of power and the control of the populace. But it's always difficult to determine how much of this side of her was utterly serious and how much of it was dramatic hyperbole. Probably a bit of both, since there is no doubt that she put a high value on saying things frankly and yet also relished controversy. It's also true that expressing herself very vividly is something at which Caldwell excelled.

I've read a lot of her works, but the fortnightly book is one I hadn't read before. It is on my shelves as an inheritance from my grandparents' library, but they had it as an inheritance as well, since it has the name of my great-grandmother (my mother's mother's mother) inside the cover. Never Victorious, Never Defeated was a bestseller for 1954. I know very little about it, beyond the fact that it is about the railroad industry in America between the Civil War and (I believe) World War II. It is usually paired with Captains and the Kings (which I have read and have on my shelves, and which is quite a good book). It is sometimes compared with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, but I doubt beforehand that there is more in common between the two books than the railroad industry and a suspicion of big government -- we will see.

On the title page, Caldwell has placed a poem, her own, explaining the title:

Man is never victorious, never defeated,
The cheater yields up his loot to the cheated,
Wisdom and folly can never be parted,
The waters return to the hills where they started.