Saturday, November 26, 2016

Chance, Design, Necessity

Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part IX:

Though the reasonings which you have urged, Cleanthes, may well excuse me, said Philo, from starting any further difficulties, yet I cannot forbear insisting still upon another topic. It is observed by arithmeticians, that the products of 9, compose always either 9, or some lesser product of 9, if you add together all the characters of which any of the former products is composed. Thus, of 18, 27, 36, which are products of 9, you make 9 by adding 1 to 8, 2 to 7, 3 to 6. Thus, 369 is a product also of 9; and if you add 3, 6, and 9, you make 18, a lesser product of 9. To a superficial observer, so wonderful a regularity may be admired as the effect either of chance or design: but a skilful algebraist immediately concludes it to be the work of necessity, and demonstrates, that it must forever result from the nature of these numbers.

This passage has always bothered me, and I think I've put my finger on why. It is true that the feature involved is "the work of necessity", but it is a necessary feature of a base-10 place-value numeral system, and that is a work of design. The claim is not true if you shift the base, and the claim is not true in a different system of numerals (e.g., Roman numerals or simple tallies). Thus the actual situation is this:

(1) It would be possible (although in fact it almost certainly is not) for someone to design the system we have (or something like it) for the purpose of having a numeral system in which this property in fact obtains. Then, besides being a necessary feature of the system, it would be part of the system's design, in the same sense that certain principles will always be necessary for any system you design.

(2) As is vastly more likely, the numeral system was designed for other purposes (simplifying counting, etc.), and this feature was preterintentional, just not in view at all. In this sense we can say that it is a chance feature -- it was not part of the design, but as it happens is a necessary feature of the kind of system we chanced on actually making in order to fulfill our intentions. In which case it can be a chance feature while also being a necessary feature.

What Hume actually needs for the argument he wants, of course, is some much more fundamental property of numbers that does not depend on the choice of how you record them. But even doing so, he is still going to run into the fact that the necessity of the internal relations of the system and the necessity of the system actually used is not the same; the former is not enough to get the exclusion of design he is suggesting. This doesn't affect Philo's overall argument -- Philo is in fact not really making much of an argument, but only saying that, since others brought necessity into the discussion, perhaps everything is in fact absolutely necessary and we just don't know it. It's just that the example chosen is poorly suited for his particular purpose, because it doesn't actually express an absolute necessity, but only an internal necessity of one system among many.

All of this seems related to a topic I've discussed before, namely, that when we call mathematics a 'universal language', we seem to be equivocating -- in the sense in which mathematics is universal, it is not a language, and in the sense in which it is a language, it is not universal. Mathematics in practice is not a matter of pure necessity; we have to construct things to reason about mathematical necessities, and we can construct things in very different ways. This is obviously true of geometry, but it is true of arithmetic as well, since the numeral systems by which we reason about numbers are constructed in order to reason about them.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dashed Off XXVI

philosophy as a humanitarian tradition

constancy and sagacity as virtues required for intellectual inquiry (Hume, Treatise 179)

No proper plan of research or inquiry can be guaranteed to survive much interaction with what it investigates.

the fog of research

Every sacrament unifies the Church, teaches truth, gives grace, and provides something in which our minds may pleasantly dwell.

logical behavior as integrating behavior

Subsidiarity is inherently anti-totalitarian.

thanksgiving as dignum et iustum, and its roots in human dignity and justice toward God (religio)

"The first and most important lesson which the liturgy has to teach is that the prayer of a corporate body must be sustained by thought." Guardini

particular churches constituted by a double communion: with bishop in apostolic succession and with Rome in Petrine succession

A sacramental character forms an ecclesial body.

sacramentalia as circumstantial

translation as instrumental principle of spiritual warfare

Morality with religion does not suffice for salvation.

Liberty of conscience is bound up in principles of moderation; it becomes incoherent otherwise.

One must be prepared by prayer to receive the gifts of the Bible appropriately.

poetry as an instrument of virtue

New Jerusalem (also motherhood of the Church) Gal 4:26

the earthly life of Christ as exemplar of Christian life through our predecessors in the faith (apostolic succession broadly speaking)
the session of Christ as exemplar of Christian life through sacrament
the exemplates of both together: sacramental character

(1) the authentic notion of truth
(2) the objective validity of first principles
(3) the objective validity of the principle of causality
(4) the objective, public character of revelation
(5) the Church simultaneously hierarchical, juridical, charismatic, & mystical
(6) objectivity of moral order

God the Word is united with baptismal water, eucharistic elements, and oil of chrism, but in three different ways.

"Every valid celebration of the Eucharist expresses this universal communion with Peter and with the whole Church, or objectively calls for it, as in the case of the Christian Churches separated from Rome." Communionis notio
"in every valid celebration of the Eucharist, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church becomes truly present"

Human failing requires that the moral law within receive an external republication appropriate to it.

the role of clock (when) and container (place) in organisms

If your Christianity is becoming more and more self-designed, you are going in the wrong direction.

Naming is an act of hope and remembrance at once.

end-timed action
end-placed instrument (part)
end-timed actions of end-placed instruments (parts)
end-configured systems of end-timed actions of end-placed instruments (parts)

Qualities establish genera of ends for actions and passions.

customary law // grammar

system interacting with genius

defeasible reasoning and possible truth-preservation
defeasible reasoning and possibility-preservation

categories and the kinds of modality

Reception of communion foreshadows the union of faithful in Christ and causes unity in the Church.

The common good of civil society is the commonality of good of its citizens not just as individuals but also as families.

papal solidarity and subsidiarity

rectifcation of names as required for people to act appropriately in relationships

avenues of prudential reasoning
(1) distinction of substantive and incidental good
(2) remoteness and proximateness of goods to each other
(3) fitness of means to ends

hope as a sort of purity of intention

The eucharist effects the bond of the Church by presence; matrimony effects the bond of the Church by signs.

Natural marriage is the natural environment of piety.

structured vs unstructured pluralisms

The liturgical-juridical articulation of the Church in its history seems analogous to the doctrinal articulation of the development of doctrine. Think about this.

the triple problem faced by the New Evangelization: the secularized West, the modernizing traditional Far East; and the Islamic middle

the notion of a field as a generalization of the notion of contact

Structurally, reciprocal causation is similar to (although different from) chance causation.

- a typology of semiosis related to typologies of causation

politics as a source of incentives for inquiry

navigation as bookkeeping

at-least-convenient-fiction status in scientific theories

Natural marriage makes generation an act appropriate to reason.

nomocratic and teleocratice activities in Church politics

Savagery becomes horrific in its harms to the innocent and especially the virtuous.

sovereignty, rule of law, peace

We are often too close to those who love us to see all the ways they love us.

character and competence as the primary ends of education

To Christ we render religion, for He is God. To Mary we render piety, for Christ has made her our mother at the Cross; but to Joseph we render observance as spouse of Mary and parent of Christ.

ministries in the order of sanctifying grace (e.g., apostle); ministries in the order of hypostatic union (e.g., Mother of God)

A calendar, properly speaking, is something by definition to be shared.

anaphorae without explicit words of institution: Addai and Mari; Sixtus II; Dionysius
Sixtus II and Dionysius both describe the institution; Addi and Mari does not but does have an oblation prayer asking God to "make a good and acceptable the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto you on your pure and holy altar".

Schism is properly a sin of will, and only in a secondary sense a state of a person; the latter is a summary description, not a fundamental point.

three constant pulls on liturgy:
(1) restoration of the past
(2) imitation of the Great Sees
(3) interaction with cultural context

Like the body, language is both instrument and mediation.

Jn 1:1-14 as the appropriate template for sacramental semiotics
Hb 4:16 understood sacramentally

image-prototype, figure-truth, appearance-presence, flow-font, sacramentum-res

the Church as the collateral experience required for understanding Scripture

sacraments as rallying points for meaning, inspiring as well as notifying

A key question of Confucian ethics: How can one teach and cultivate observantia in society at large?

satispassio as accepting the consequences of one's actions

plausible narrative as integral to the nature of historical inquiry

actual being & capacity for being

the priest as cupbearer of Christ

perpetuity, indefectibility, visibility of ecclesial unity int he Word as the ecclesial principle of coherence

sacraments as doctrine teaching us love of the heavenly, adherence to the eternal, wise assessment of the earthly

rhetoric and the quasi-intelligible

the enactment of the sacrament (form)
(1) the operation of Christ (form)
(2) the ministerial word symbolizing the Word (matter)
the capacity for the sacrament (matter)
(1) the semiosis of the sign (form)
(2) the material for the sign (matter)

the Word
the minister
the human mind
the material world

sacrament / semiotic instrument / material thing

In colloquial contexts, it is often assumed that 'terrorism' is a form of organized crime. This is not always assumed in technical contexts, and is a potential source of confusion.

circumstantial topics and strategic planning

traditions as dynamic systems of signs

a priori Box, a posteriori Diamond-Not
self-evident Box, non-self-evident Diamond-Not
(Pace Plantinga, who, however, is right for some kinds of necessity of proportions)

Merely thinking of numbers in terms of sets does not of itself explain how we use them to number things in the first place.

marriage as a natural sign of providence

modes of authority: narration, praise, blame, exhortation, precept, prohibition, counsel, threat, promise, supplication

consequentialist and non-consequentialist accounts of success in an enterprise
'winning at any cost' as a 'might makes right' view of success

philosophy by the natural method
(like learning a language: language pedagogy // philosophical pedagogy)

Christ's Baptism : baptism :: Christ's Ascension and Session : eucharist :: chrismation : Christ's victory

The notion of a reliable process is an unavoidably causal notion.

artificial marriage

human ecology and common good
(1) 'respect for the human person as endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordained to his or her integral development'
(2) ' overall welfare of society developed through subsidiarity'
(3) 'social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice'

the tendency to conflate dignity and sense of dignity

Titus 3:10 -- the right to be warned before juridical excommunication as a right of divine positive law

The Office of St. Peter is a divinely established juridical status.

How many have been led astray by the desire to be clever!

Eternity has a completeness only crudely imitated by the past, a presence only roughly approximated by the present, and a freedom only loosely suggested by the future, for time is merely an imperfect reflection of eternity, smeared out, so to speak, because of the imperfections of the changeable.

true propositions // halting computations

Marriage is prior in being to civilization, and civilization is prior in end to marriage.

All ecclesial Tradition is both constitutive and inhesive -- that is to say, the distinction is not between two different strands of Tradition, but two ways Tradition teaches, as carrying forward and as establishing things in so doing.

"hope withdraws us from evils and induces us to seek for good things" ST 2-2.20.3

Irenaeus: tradition and apostolic succession
Basil: tradition and sacramentalia
apostolic appointment of elders: Acts 14:23
apostolic consolidation of churches: Acts 15:41; 16:5

(1) keys of kingdom
(2) confirming of brethren
(3) feeding of lambs and sheep
(4) barque

locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary aspects of instrumental causation

-- all of Latour's modes are trajectories of extension across a gap -- each thus requires identifiable antecedents, consequents, and differences between both, as well as an action of overcoming the differences (union)

modes of external world reasoning
(1) suppositional (narrative speculative)
(2) conflational (nonnarrative nondifferentiative)
(3) interactional (causal)
(4) analogical (parallel)

Unbroken on the Wheel

Today is the feast of Queen St. Catherine of Alexandria, Great Martyr, the patron saint of philosophers.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, Barbara Longhi
(Barbara Longhi, St. Catherine of Alexandria; this is also usually thought to be a self-portrait)

The earliest written account of her life is from some 600 years after her martrydom, although her veneration seems to have been longstanding by then, so, as is common with oral hagiography, which tends to simplify tales to their basic structure and assimilate them to other tales with similar structures, her story is likely a stylized composite of many virgin martyrs. Caesar Baronius thought that she might be the same as Dorothea of Alexandria, since a late writer claims that her original name was Dorothea, but this is speculation on limited evidence, so we don't really know. But her tale is perfect for a patron saint of philosophy. If you try to break truth on the wheel, truth breaks the wheel.

The torture of the wheel, incidentally, is a quite nasty way to die. You are stretched out over a wagon wheel and beaten to death with hammers. Why a wheel? If you were on a flat surface, the flat surface would support your bones; they break much more easily over gaps.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Whewell on Purity

If morality is to be the supreme rule of human action, appetites and desires must be constrained by rational regard for moral principle. Because of this it is inevitable that morality should involve discipline of physical desires, and that by its nature involves the introduction of a sort of hierarchy: some tendencies in our nature are to higher ends than others, and the higher should be predominant over the lower. This gives us the fifth Virtue in Whewell's primary pentad (EM §121):

The control of the Appetites by the Moral Sentiments is recommended to us under the form of the Virtues of Chastity and Temperance: but the Virtue which carries the control of the Higher over the Lower Parts of our Nature deeper into the heart and soul, is more properly termed Purity. And hence, we place Purity as one element of the complete Idea of Virtue or Goodness.

The principle expressing this Virtue is thus, "the Lower parts of our nature are to be governed by the Higher."

Obviously this notion of governance by reason cannot be simply inconsistent with the gratification of bodily desires, which are necessary for both individual survival and the continuation of the species. These desires are not, in themselves moral in character; they are, however, the material for Virtue, which arises when we put them under an appropriate moral rule. Doing this for sexual matters is what we call Chastity, and the attitude of mind following from it we call Modesty; doing it for food and drink is what we call Temperance. Our desire for these things should always strive to treat as higher what is higher. Thus we should not eat and drink (for instance) solely out of love of food and drink. The accoutrements of a decent table "are to be indulged as subservient to the support of life, strength, and cheerfulness, and the cultivation of social affections" (EM §222). All our duties of Purity arise out of this proper subordination to higher purposes. Our meals, for instance, should be "so conducted, that they may not only satisfy the bodily wants of nature, but also minister to the cheerful and social flow of spirits and thought, which is a condition favourable to moral action" (EM §224).

In sexual matters, Whewell of course takes mere sexual desire to be something that must be subordinated to the desire for a true conjugal union (Em §230):

The direction of the Affections and Desires, here referred to, towards their proper object, Marriage, is the best mode of avoiding the degradation of character which is produced by their improper operation. Virtuous love, as it has often been said, is the best pre-servative against impure acts and thoughts. The Love which looks forwards to the conjugal union, includes a reverence for the conjugal condition, and all its circumstances. Such a love produces in the mind a kind of moral illumination, which shows the lover how foul a thing mere lust is; and makes him see, as a self-evident truth, that affection is requisite to purify desire, and virtue necessary to purify affection.

This doesn't cover the whole of the moral character of marriage, which is structured not just by the Idea of Purity but also by the Idea of Order (and the others, too, although these two particularly), but it is part of the reason Whewell takes marriage to be higher and more morally important than a mere legal arrangement could be.

Just as with other Virtues, we have duties not only to particular kinds of action, but also to the appropriate disposition, the Spirit of Purity, so that Impurity becomes foreign to us, and to the relevant kind of moral cultivation, so that we conform ever more in thought and action to the Idea of Purity.

Whewell makes clear that he regards Jeremy Bentham as his primary opponent on this topic; Bentham, of course, rejected the very notion of a virtue of Temperance on utilitarian grounds. Whewell sees the defense of the Principle of Purity as placing himself, on the contrary, in the camp of Joseph Butler. In the Preface to the Second Edition of Elements of Morality, he uses it as an example of why his approach is kin to Butler's:

If it be asked, to which of our English Moralists the Scheme of Morality here presented most nearly approach es, I reply, that it follows Butler in his doctrine, that by the mere contemplation of our human faculties and springs of action, we can discern certain relations which must exist among them, by the necessity of man's moral being. He maintains that, by merely comparing appetite and reflection or conscience, as springs of action, we see that the latter is superior in its nature, and ought to rule. This truth, I, with him, conceive to he self-evident; and I endeavour to express it by stating, as a fundamental Moral Principle, that the Lower Parts of our Nature are to be governed by the Higher. And I conceive that there are several other Moral Principles which are, in like manner, self-evident.

Not accepting the Butlerian position obliterates the distinction between man and beast, Whewell thinks, and leads to treating all tendencies, including moral tendencies, on par with each other (EM §223).

Since Whewell takes States to be moral agents, States have duties related to Purity, although as far as I can tell this seems primarily to be educational. States, of course, have no bodily desires themselves, and when the State does have a particular duty with respect to something that falls under Purity (like marriage and the family), it is often more concerned with Order. The Christian faith, as usual, incentivizes and intensifies the ordinary duties of Purity, insisting on the importance of inner control of bodily desires and giving a religious value to marriage itself. (As an Anglican, Whewell wants to play down a bit St. Paul's suggestion that virginity is better than marriage, which he represents as Paul's own opinion rather than a divine principle.) But, of course, aside from the religious significance of marriage, much of Christian exhortation on Purity has very little to do with sexual matters -- we are encouraged to be sober, not ruled by our bellies, not greedy, grave rather than frivolous, modest in dress, and the Christian faith gives a special reason to do these things, namely, that we should act in a way appropriate to children of God.

The Principle of Popular Government

There is no great share of probity necessary to support a monarchical or despotic government. The force of laws in one, and the prince's arm in the other, are sufficient to direct and maintain the whole. But in a popular state, one spring more is necessary, namely, virtue....

When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community. The objects of their desires are changed; what they were fond of before has become indifferent; they were free while under the restraint of laws, but they would fain now be free to act against law; and as each citizen is like a slave who has run away from his master, that which was a maxim of equity he calls rigour; that which was a rule of action he styles constraint; and to precaution he gives the name of fear. Frugality, and not the thirst of gain, now passes for avarice. Formerly the wealth of individuals constituted the public treasure; but now this has become the patrimony of private persons. The members of the commonwealth riot on the public spoils, and its strength is only the power of a few, and the licence of many.

Charles-Louis de Secondat (Baron de Montesquieu), The Spirit of the Laws III.3

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Foreign Emoluments

It's a year for new things, I suppose. In their flailing about, Trump opponents have been grasping at any straw that they think might turn into a sword. Thus, for instance, we've had people campaigning for Electors to change their vote (a licit last-resort option even if a very bad precedent for future elections) or sending in death threats to them. The latter, of course, is an unacceptable action that should be a jailable felony, if it isn't already. Anyone who is trying to oppose the Trump presidency by undermining or subverting the integrity and safety of the constitutional process is a moron and deserves nothing but contempt; it is precisely the attempt to subvert process of law by force and intimidation that is the greatest danger to any free society.

But some are a bit more creative; it isn't often that people suddenly gain an interest in the Foreign Emoluments Clause, but this election has stirred up precisely such an interest. The U. S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

This clause, the basic idea of which goes back to the Articles of Confederation, is an important, interesting, and not-very-explored clause. An emolument in the strict sense is a form of paid employment; but the term can also be read as covering any kind of definite profit. I would be inclined myself to read it as meaning wages or salaries, but this is obviously not necessarily the only reasonable reading.

The question that comes about is whether Trump's business interests risk putting him in violation of this clause. Note that the question is not, contrary to occasionally bad reporting, whether he is in violation of this clause -- Trump does not yet hold an office of profit or trust under the United States. ('President Elect' is not an office at all; while the President Elect has access to some resources, under supervision of the Office of the President, in order to facilitate the legal transition of the office, he holds no constitutional or statutory office. When Obama was President Elect, in fact, he was fairly heavily criticized for acting as if he did have an official position.) Once he becomes President, a potential conflict of interest arises if (for instance) foreign diplomats stay at Trump hotels. Would such a thing run afoul of the Foreign Emoluments Clause?

Unlike a lot of the things that have been bandied about, this is a legitimate concern. It's also one that we have no idea how to answer. For one thing, it can't be determined until (1) Trump is inaugurated as President and (2) we see how he actually arranges his business interests, neither of which have happened yet. And, no doubt, when it does it will involve rather complicated issues of business law. Nonetheless, this is something that certainly must be handled properly.

Even if a serious candidate for violation of the clause comes about, it's unclear what would happen. To bring it to court, a citizen would need standing -- in particular, they would need to have suffered some definite harm themselves and be able to sue under statutory law. This doesn't seem to be the case here. Thus Congress is the only authority capable of doing anything about it. (This is actually not surprising at all, if one thinks about it. Congress is the sole competent authority to determine whether something was done with the consent of Congress, and, since the Foreign Emoluments Clause is obviously an anti-corruption clause, and the Presidency is a significant constitutional office, arguably the most appropriate channel for handling such a violation would be impeachment, for which Congress is also the sole competent authority.) This adds a third obstacle to determining how it will all work, since we can't say much until (3) we see what safeguards, if any, Congress will expect to be put in place. Congress will likely not demand much as long as its relationship with Trump does not sour badly; but if it does, if there is no clear, definite framework in place already, Congress will have the ability to hold it over Trump. Actually, I think this is very much how it's supposed to work -- that is, I think it's a mistake to pre-interpret the clause beyond very general principles, because precisely the point, I think, is to give a solid ground for Congress to decide when something is unacceptable.

Contrary to the way it is treated in a lot of places, I doubt that the issue has much popular traction as long as there is no clear and direct evidence of quid pro quo and as long as Trump himself ceases to be active in the operations of his business concerns -- people who voted for him already knew he had them, and so are not going to regard their mere existence as a problem, and I suspect there is a large pool of people who didn't vote for him for whom this would also be true; and the popular pressure would have to be immense for Congress, and especially a Republican Congress wanting to avoid a scandal about a Republican President, even to move on the matter without some specific 'smoking gun'. It's definitely a point that citizens have a responsibility to watch, but for all practical purposes we don't know anything yet beyond the fact that it bears watching.

Three reasonably sober discussions of the matter:

* Zephyr Teachout, Trump's Foreign Business Ties May Violate the Constitution
* Noah Feldman, Trump's Hotel Lodges a Constitutional Problem
* Jonathan Adler passing on comments by Erik Jensen, The Emoluments Clause -- Is Donald Trump Violating Its Letter or Spirit?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Xenophon's Anabasis, Books V, VI, & VII

Book V

Having arrived at Trapezus, Xenophon discovers that an entirely new set of problems awaits. The men don't want to keep marching, so the other option is to go by sea, which raises the question of how to get enough ships to carry everyone back. Cheirisophus notes that he has a friend in charge of many ships, and proposes that he go ahead, make contact with his friend, and return with the ships. Xenophon proposes a plan for what needs to be done why they wait -- they need a way to get provisions, since they lack a market and, for that matter, money, and this needs to be done in an organized way that maintains their safety. He also recommends that they not simply trust that Cheirisophus can wrangle up enough ships quickly, but also take what steps they can to procure ships on their end, as well -- better to have more rather than fewer ships than they need. The sailors agree to this. But when Xenophon suggests that they also must prepare, should the sea-voyage plan fail, to go by land, where the roads are not currently good, he gets shouted down. Xenophon, realizing that the soldiers themselves are hopeless on this point, instead works to convince the cities to begin repairing their roads voluntarily.

Problems intensify when Cheirisophus does not return, and they realize that they must travel by land. They use the ships they have procured to send the elderly and the sick home, and set out. The lack of Cheirisophus is felt in more ways than one, since Xenophon no longer has his help in keeping the army unified. He still has to negotiate his way through cities that are, if not always completely hostile, nonetheless suspicious of this large army suddenly showing up. And in the midst of this mounting tension, Xenophon makes a nearly fatal mistake:

At this time, as Xenophon's eyes rested upon a great body of Greek hoplites, and likewise upon a great body of peltasts, bowmen, slingers, and horsemen also, all of them now exceedingly efficient through constant service and all there in Pontus, where so large a force could not have been gathered by any slight outlay of money, it seemed to him that it was a fine thing to gain additional territory and power for Greece by founding a city. It would become a great city, he thought, as he reckoned up their own numbers and the peoples who dwelt around the Euxine. And with a view to this project, before speaking about it to any of the soldiers, he offered sacrifices, summoning for that purpose Silanus the Ambraciot, who had been the soothsayer of Cyrus. Silanus, however, fearing that this thing might come to pass and that the army might settle down somewhere, carried forth to the troops a report that Xenophon wanted them to settle down, so that he could found a city and win for himself a name and power.

Xenophon is able to talk his way out of this by explaining that the sacrifices were in fact just for the purpose of determining whether he should ask the soldiers, not whether he should proceed behind their backs, and, after renouncing the project, by proposing that any deserters should be brought to trial -- they are all in this together. This outmaneuvers Silanus, but it is perhaps not surprising that Xenophon will continue to have trouble. It's worth remembering that the soldiers were in this mess to begin with because they had been repeatedly deceived by their commanders. That they are practically paranoid about further deception is not, in context, very surprising, however much trouble it might cause. Xenophon himself is soon brought to trial on charges that he is, under deception, trying to reverse the march. Again he is able to talk his way out of the problem, this time by pointing out how incoherent the plan attributed to him is. In addition, Xenophon is accused of having beaten other soldiers. Xenophon is again able to explain, and his response is in some ways quite reminiscent of the view of punishment put forward by Socrates in the Platonic dialogues (compare particularly to the Gorgias): "if it was for his good that I punished any one, I think I should render the sort of account that parents render to sons and teachers to pupils; for that matter, surgeons also burn and cut patients for their good."

Book VI

Cheirisophus finally returns with a ship, but brings little more than this beyond news. The men are starting to think about what they will do when they get home, and how they can arrive with a little extra to use. They conclude that things will go much more smoothly if there is a single commander for the entire Greek army. The officers try to convince Xenophon to take over. Xenophon is tempted because "he thought that if he did so the greater would be the honour he would enjoy among his friends and the greater his name when it should reach his city, while, furthermore, it might chance that he could be the means of accomplishing some good thing for the army," but he also knows that it could still turn out very badly. So he consults Zeus, as the oracle at Delphi had told him to do, and Zeus is clear that he should not take the command. Cheirisophus takes command instead.

The Greeks set sail from Sinope, but quickly begin to dispute among themselves, greedy for gain. The army breaks up into factions. Xenophon considers just leaving them all behind, but sacrifices to Heracles lead him to conclude that he should stay, and he begins leading one of the three main factions home. Hearing of one of the other factions pinned down by the Thracians, however, Xenophon urges his men to their aid, and the factions are eventually reunited, shortly after the death of Cheirisophus. The army then finds its in an uncomfortable situation as provisions begin to run out and yet the sacrifices do not favor going forward. Infighting intensifies.

Book VII

Problems continue to arise as the soldiers move on to Byzantium. Xenophon attempts to leave the army, but is continually begged not to do so for one reason or another. At Byzantium, the troops are told to leave, but, lacking pay and provisions, they become increasingly unruly until they come within a hair's breadth of sacking the city. Xenophon, however, is able to calm them, and to try to find a way out, he allies with Seuthes, king of Thrace: they will help him gain territory if he will provide for them. This works for a while, but the king of Thrace becomes increasingly difficult to work with, and Xenophon will again have to pull out his speechifying skills to get the soldiers their pay. Seuthes has an interesting opinion of Xenophon; asked by Spartans what kind of man Xenophon is (7.6.4), Seuthes replies that "he was not a bad fellow on the whole, but he was a friend of the soldiers, and on that account things went the worse for him."

As for Xenophon himself, despite the fact that he was increasingly accused of enriching himself at the expense of the army, he had reached the point of being so broke that he had to sell his horse -- not a minor issue for Xenophon, who was very much a horse person -- and only ended up having a horse at all because some Spartans out of good will bought it back for him. Finally nearing home, however, Xenophon helps capture a Persian, Asidates, and, receiving a significant share of the spoils, comes out of the whole affair with a modest profit. And thus the work ends. It is a very interesting place to end. Xenophon will go on to aid Agesilaus in Sparta, so his adventures are not over; rather, the structural point seems to be that he came through it all right, through intelligence and sacrifice to the gods.

The length of the entire journey, upward and downward, was two hundred and fifteen stages, one thousand, one hundred and fifty parasangs, or thirty-four thousand, two hundred and fifty-five stadia; and the length in time, upward and downward, a year and three months.

Additional Comments

* Beginning with Book V, another threat looms larger than enemies, and that is anomia, lawlessness. All of Xenophon's problems in Book V are different outbreaks of this lawlessness. Jacob Howland ("Xenophon's Philosophic Odyssey: On the Anabasis and Plato's Republic," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 94, No. 4 (Dec., 2000) p. 882) notes that Xenophon's three defenses in Book V, which show the disintegration of the army, seem to provide a narrative contrast with his three speeches in Book III, which helped to unite it. It's noteworthy that just as Xenophon sees the potential of the army to be a great polis, they show themselves unable to rise to the same vision.

The Anabasis is in many ways about leadership, like a great many of Xenophon's works, but one can also see it as a story about the limits of leadership -- the misfortunes and problems it can bring due to a mismatch between plans ad reality, and the ineffectiveness even of honest and intelligent leadership over a society that is motivated by greed.

* It is almost certainly not accidental that Book VI sees a direct reference back to Xenophon's consultation of the oracle at Delphi. In a sense, Xenophon has learned the lesson Socrates had pointed out to him -- to let the gods give their own answers rather than to try to get the answers one wants from them. This may also relate to Xenophon's near danger in Book V, in which his sacrificing still seems motivated more by his own ideas than his willingness to accept the will of the gods.

* Robin Waterfield, "Greed and the Mixed Constitution in Xenophon's Anabasis," Αριάδνη 17 (2011) pp. 137-138:

So Xenophon shows us the army polis functioning well, and then shows it falling apart, and he makes it plain why it begins to fall apart: largely greed, but also neglect of divine will (6.3.18; 6.4.23-24). Greed first threatened to split the army back into its original ethnic units (5.6.34; Xenophon intervened with a speech to defuse the threat) and finally did so (6.2.9-16); via unauthorized marauding, it caused on more than one occasion the great-est losses of life the mercenaries endured throughout the whole journey (5.4.16; 6.3.2-9; 6.4.24); it almost made them attack a friendly people (5.5.2-3), but the gods intervened; it made the men frequently unruly and even mutinous, leading to ugly incidents (5.7.13-33; 6.6.5-28; 7.1.7-21, allayed by another speech by Xenophon). Xenophon characterizes as greed the mercenaries’ natural desire to return home wealthier than they left, and the reason he characterizes it in this way is because of its destructive effect on the eutaxia of the army.

* Food is a constant theme throughout the work, but it becomes especially prominent in the last three books, when the Greeks are continually on the verge of starving and have difficulty procuring provisions. Likewise, references to Xenophon sacrificing to Zeus and the gods become much more frequent.


Quotations are from Xenophon. Xenophon in Seven Volumes, 3. Carleton L. Brownson. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA; William Heinemann, Ltd., London. 1922, at The Perseus Project.


It is a most true thing that all the things of the world have to have an ending to their existence. But these only run the entire course that is generally ordained by Heaven, which does not disorganize their body, but keeps it so organized that it is not changed, or if it is changed, it is for its welfare and not its injury. And as I speak here of mixed bodies, as are Republics and (Religious) Sects, I say that those changes are for the better which bring them back to their (original) principles. And, therefore, those are better organized and have a longer existence, which through their own means are able frequently to renew themselves, or which through some accident outside the said organization come to that renewal. And it is something clearer than light, that these bodies which do not renew themselves, do not endure. The means of renewing them ((as has been said)), is to bring them back to their (original) principles. For all the principles of Sects and Republics and of Kingdoms must have within themselves some goodness, by means of which they obtain their first reputation and first expansion.

Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Book III, Chapter I

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fortnightly Book, November 20

When I was in elementary school, my grandparents gave me an omnibus edition of Robert Louis Stevenson, with several of Stevenson's works. Treasure Island, of course, was fun, and I enjoyed Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; I've mentioned before that it took me forever to get into The Master of Ballantrae, although I enjoyed it once I eventually managed to do so. But there was another work in the collection, and I think I enjoyed it most at the time: Kidnapped, which is the next fortnightly book, since I haven't read it in years and years.

Stevenson often had money problems, in part due to poor health, and Kidnapped is his attempt to write a popular work that would bring in money like Treasure Island had. It was first serialized in Young Folks magazine in 1886. It was a reasonable success, selling well. After Stevenson's death, it faded into the background of his other works, being in some sense even more of a boy's novel than any of Stevenson's other works, but it has over the past century increasingly been regarded as having excellences in its own right.

To give a sense of historical period, Stevenson made the work's full title deliberately much longer than the short version by which we all know it:

Kidnapped: Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751: How he was Kidnapped and Cast away; his Sufferings in a Desert Isle; his Journey in the Wild Highlands; his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and other notorious Highland Jacobites; with all that he Suffered at the hands of his Uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, falsely so-called: Written by Himself and now set forth by Robert Louis Stevenson

I remember very much liking David Balfour and the realism of his struggles; we'll see if it holds up after all of these years.

I am reading this work in a nice Heritage Press (Connecticut) edition. Unlike most of the Heritage Press editions in my library, this one is not from my grandfather's library, but is a later acquisition. In general Heritage Press editions from New York are better than those from Connecticut, which tend to involve a lot of cost-saving shortcuts, but this one is quite nice at first glance. It was designed by Elmer Adler, a pretty significant name in book design, and its typeface is English Monotype Caslon, which gives the sense of an older book without sacrificing readability. It is illustrated with wood engravings by Hans Mueller, and a gold-stamped anchor on the front cover and a red slipcover.