Thursday, June 22, 2017

Poem a Day 22

Loves of Dandelions

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Islands of Miranda, Part II

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, Teddy Chavez told me."

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

"May the Islands return," Diego said.

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

Diego nodded. "Captain of the Dominic Seabourne."

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

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

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

"Yes, naval engineering."

"Did you like Nuevos Aves?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The Miranda Organization."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not if your satellite is a weapon."

"You mean, like a tactical laser?"

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

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

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

"Surely our allies will not stand for it."

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

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

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

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

"Thank you very much for that."

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

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

"Hm. Well, prepare to be lectured."

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

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

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

to be continued

Poem a Day 21

Footsteps on the Moon V

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Resistance to Crimes

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

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

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

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

Poem a Day 20

No, I Will Not Love You

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Islands of Miranda, Part I

This is the first part of a short story draft.

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

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

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

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

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

"May the Islands return," replied Diego.

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

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

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

"And the Pontifical Commission?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to be continued

Flesh and Bone

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

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

Poem a Day 19

Footsteps on the Moon IV

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

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fortnightly Book, June 18

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

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

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

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

Poem a Day 18

Quarrel

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

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

Introduction

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

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

From Appointment with Death:

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

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

From Murder on the Orient Express:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Passage: From The Tuesday Club Murders:

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

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

Sir Henry Clithering smiled.

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

Poem a Day 17

Footprints on the Moon III

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

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

Breakaways

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poem a Day 16

Wordless

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kindling

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

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

Poem a Day 15

Footsteps on the Moon II

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chesterton on Detective Fiction

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

From "A Defence of Detective Stories":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limbus Puerorum

Nicholas Senz on Limbo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem a Day 14

Evening Wind

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Elements of Modal Logic, Part X

Part IX

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

KK~~K~~KCC~~C~~C
YNYNYNYN
NYNYNYNY
Y or NNYY or NY or NY or NY or NY or N
NY or NY or NYY or NY or NY or NY or N
Y or NNYY or NYNYN
NY or NY or NYNYNY
Y or NNYY or NY or NNYY or N
NY or NY or NYNY or NY or NY

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

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

Part XI

Poem a Day 13

Footsteps on the Moon I

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

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pitch and Reality


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

Poem a Day 12

Reflections

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Soloviev on Negative Historical Criticism

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

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

Poem a Day 11

Colloquy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She bent down to pluck a shining daisy --

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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dashed Off XII

restoration with sublation as the unified response of healthy tradition to deformations of tradition (redemption and transfiguration in sacred Tradition)

key principles of formalized iconography
(1) indentifiability by intellect
(2) definite representation
(3) purified form (removal of anything inappropriate)
- spontaneous devotional iconography may violate strict application of principles, sticking to the spirit rather than the letter
- causation : definite representation :: remotion :purified form :: eminence : intellectual identification

the principle of progressive solemnity applied to iconography

Part of the point of argument is to build shared reasoning.
the withwardness of reason

A dangerous feature of modern life that infects the 'liturgy wars' is the temptation of thinking that if you just find the Magical Method, all things will automatically fall into place; for all sides in the 'liturgy wars' tend often to treat liturgy as method.

incoherent plausibilities as a contributor to discovery (development of aporia)

universalism // indifferentism

The Church is as it already was, and it is what it already was. It is its past, not only in that its past pushes along behind it, and that the Church possesses what is past as something present-at-hand and effective, but also that hte Church has grown up in a traditional way of interpreting and understanding itself, and by this understanding its possibilities are disclosed and regulated.

It is an error to treat tradition and its primordial sources as opposed.

signs as gear (Heidegger)

Vestments are both signs and gear, but they involve the notion of carrying so as to express a being-related to the world.

the traditionary character of clothing practice

the analogy between vestment and office or role (complicated by vestment also, and because of this, being an instrument of office -- role gear)
- uniforms are standardized role-gear

the aroundness of clothing vs the aroundness of environs

As role-gear, clothing differs from characteristic tools by being not merely carried (like a hammer in the hand) but in some sense carrying itself in being carried. We carry our clothes in wearing them by arranging them so that they do the carrying (hanging, buttoning and fastening, tying, conforming).

the protecting and displaying functions of garments
- the displaying function has an interesting relation to the hiding subfunction of protecting
- the protecting function may be moral as well as physical

the analogies between garment and home (note turtles and snails and hermit crabs here)

The being of the Church Militant is the Passion of Christ; its traditionary sojourn through the world is its fulfillment by the Passion.

Kant's refutation of idealism as a sort of ontological argument (Heidegger)

analogy between knowing causal power | knowing external world
sensation | sensation
one's own volition | analogy to violation
endeavor | resistance
volition of God | occasion
regularity | coherence
readiness to act | readiness to appear

Sacramental vocation is the vocation of Christ's Passion.
sacramental vocation as anticipatory martyrdom

the Church's mode of unwellness (uneasiness in the world, queasiness at the world)
the mood of drudging

The fortitude of the Church: its founded-on-the-Rock-ness; the prudence: its helped-by-the-Spirit-of-Truth-ness; the justice: its many-members-in-one-Body-ness; the temperance: its chasteness-as-the-Bride-of-the-Lamb-ness.

The cultural goods of the Church as material for the disclosure of the Church as it has been.

The Church is based on Tradition, and its calendarizing of its worship is a way of making accessible the Tradition within which it works. but the Church works with many calendars, as it were spreading out and shifting around within this Tradition.

the calendar of saints as providing a rough sketch of the content of Tradition

hylomorphism of ideas and means of production

Imagination is naturally eclectic.

Even a stupid man's traditions have a sort of dignity.

methods of seeking the right vantage for problem-solving.

forms of promulgation: creation, command, shared practice

Peirce's 3 conditions for the existence of a sign (MS 221)
(1) characters distinguishing it from other objects
(2) must be causally linked to its object in some way
(3) address to the mind such as to relate the mind to the object

distinction, principiation, manifestation

nouns as less sparse pronouns

as-if-it-were as a modal operator

Our world is such that it works in several ways as if it were a world in which a detective named Sherlock Holmes lived on Baker Street and vanquished Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. (Our world is such that it also works in several ways as if it were a world in which a general named Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and was slain by Brutus and others.) It isalso such that it works in several ways as if there were no such detective at all. This has to be stronger than mere consistency, but of course much weaker than requirement, or even apparent requirement.

Our capacity to invent fictions arises naturally from our ability to inquire into things.

inquiry as a process of story-making

fictional characters // geometrical diagrams // arithmetical calculations // sentence formations

primary reference, collateral reference, qua-reference

objects of thought as proximate ends of means to the remote ends of truth

The orthopraxy relevant to the liturgy consists of acts of faith, hope, and love.

goodness of inquiry in terms of results, of coherence of inquiry, of contribution to understanding

the maximizing of what tends to solve intellectual problems

∃xFx Allow F's
∀xFx Do not allow non-F's (Allow only F's)

cast from Eden -> long period of rebellious wandering -> judgment -> covenant
liberation from slavery in Egypt -> long period of rebellious wandering with judgment -> covenant

"When we speak of Christ's priesthood, what else do we mean than the incarnation?" Fulgentius
"For it is in him that our human nature becomes a redemptive offering."

convalidation of reference

black holes as supertask-like

aesthetics and the splendor of ethics

the principle of overflow (redundantia) in fine arts

being with a work of art
works of art as presenting th eworld to us
works of art and the salience of space and time
the quasi-vocative characters of certain works of art

From the craving of the world springs impatience and cruelty, jealousy and conceit and self-exaltation, boorishness and selfishness and irritability, retaliation and self-indulgence and lie, despair, and, in the end, death.

Patience is required for the full fructification of love.

causation, remotion, and eminence in interpretation of Scripture

one : prudence :: holy : justice :: catholic : temperance :: apostolic : fortitude

"Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptation." Augustine

The body of the Church is a picture of the Spirit.

'straw man' requires that are determine
(1) the structure of A
(2) the structure of B
(3) an end in light of which A is not adequate to represent B

Straw man and idealization are both based on one argument/position representing or modeling another.

straw man as a case of defective type (relative to archetype)
fallacies and defective causes in inquiry

examination of inquiry // examination of conscience
- inquiry : true :: conscience : good
- things fatal to inquiry:
distraction from inquiry
despair of inquiry
distortion of inquiry (wrath, envy, pride)

the moral discipline implicit in inquiry



Poem a Day 10

Lovers' Boasts

A lover's boast is swiftly made;
the heart is not so firm and sure.
Too often trust is ill-repaid,
too often love does not endure.
But hope still bubbles at the source,
still flows from forth its ancient fount,
becomes a river in its course,
thus all the laws of time to flount.

And, strangely, things that lovers feel,
which swift and sudden passions form,
sometimes seal as strong as steel
and weather even raging storm.
At times a passing word will last,
a breath of promise shape the age,
a vow in day, in night will last,
flirtation grace undying page.

A lover's boast is swiftly made;
no human word is guarantee.
Too often promises will fade,
too often lovers' hopes will flee.
But passions sometimes seed a faith
that stands so pure and oaken-strong,
all else compared is but a wraith,
for it is real and ages long.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Evening Note for Friday, June 9

Thought for the Evening: Invented Traditions

I have recently been reading The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, which I picked up at Half-Price Books a while back; it is quite interesting. Hobsbawm defines 'invented tradition' in the following way:

It includes both 'traditions' actually invented, constructed and formally instituted and those emerging in a less easily traceable manner within a brief and dateable period-- a matter of a few years perhaps -- and establishing them with great rapidity....'Invented tradition' is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past. (p. 1)

A number of examples are given throughout the book by the different authors. For instance:

* The kilt, which is practically a distinguishing feature of Scotland today, was invented in the eighteenth century by an Englishman, Thomas Rawlinson, who owned a business that hired a lot of Scotsman for dangerous jobs like lumberjacking. The traditional Highland costume was a belted long tunic that had to be hitched up for hard work, and Rawlinson designed the kilt to be a vaguely similar garment that would be more practical. His design was indeed much more practical for difficult work, so it spread like wildfire through the Highlands among Highlanders, who often were involved in various kinds of manual labor jobs. It then began to be replaced by trousers, but the Highland regiments in the military continued to have it as part of their military uniform, so when there was a revival of Scottish nationalism in the nineteenth century, it was in people's minds as a distinctively Scottish kind of dress. Likewise, association of tartans with particular clans arose only in the nineteenth century, mostly as a marketing gimmick. (Hugh Trevor-Roper, "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland")

* Most of the public rituals and traditions we associate with the British Monarchy are fairly recent -- through most of the nineteenth century the public face of the Monarchy was notoriously shabby and unimpressive, with a poor sense of ceremony. This began to change in the 1870s, and as the Crown exercised less and less power, it began to be put forward more and more as a purely symbolic representation of British unity. (David Cannadine, "The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the 'Invention of Tradition', c. 1820-1977")

It quickly becomes clear that what the authors call 'invented traditions' are in fact one way in which traditio, handing down, is standardly done. The forest of old ways tends to dry up and burn out as people lose a sense of their purposes and meanings, or as invasive species take root and steal away their original nutrition; something must fill the void left. Either those old ways will be entirely replaced, or there will be some revitalization. If they are replaced, the new ways become the new forest, and undergo the same cycle. Residues and remnants of old ways, sometimes scholarly, sometimes distorted, sometimes only speculated, sometimes entirely imaginary, often become the seeds for either a return of something approximately like the old forest, or, more often, a compromise forest between the old and the new. The return of the old ways is often merely approximate, or by analogy, or sometimes more as a symbolic aspiration than an actual return. And the cycle begins again.

The actual processes involved are, of course, various, and, despite the name 'invented traditions' are not necessarily invented in the ordinary sense of the term -- they may just be a shift from a literal understanding to a symbolic one, or they may just be natural responses, consistent with prior traditions, to new situations that become stable precedents. They may -- indeed, in the Romantic period often were -- scholarly reconstructions, or, even more commonly, popular presentations of scholarly reconstructions that become part of people's folkloric self-understanding.

While it wouldn't be considered an 'invented tradition' in the above sense, an interesting analogy to some of these situations can be seen in Ivar Aasen's Nynorsk, an attempt to find the more purely Norwegian framework in the heavily Danish-overladen Norwegian language. He did this by working out what a purely Norse-based Modern Norwegian might be like. Thus we have the situation, which is remarkably common, of an actually traditional practice -- in this case, Dano-Norwegian -- in a struggle with a reforming purist-traditionalist practice -- in this case, Nynorsk -- both putting themselves forward as the appropriate tradition. In the case of the Norwegian language, this became tangled up with political disputes, leading to a considerable number of artificial interventions, none of which succeeded; and the result is that the Norwegian language today is quite an extraordinary mess, with no organic solution to the struggle yet found or, for that matter, in sight. In the end, only a long stretch of time and a lot of ordinary interaction will heal a muddle of tradition created by politics.

Various Links of Interest

* G. E. M. Anscombe, On Transubstantiation: "It is easiest to tell what transubstantiation is by saying this: little children should be taught about it as early as possible."

* Hume as Historian at "Incudi Reddere"

* Thomas Storck, The Sin of Usury

* Daniel J. Lasker, Translations of Rabbi Judah Halevi's Kuzari

* I'm thinking of doing some Unamuno for a fortnightly book this summer, so this discussion of his quijotismo by Mariana Alessandri is timely.

* Martha Bolton, Mary Shepherd, at the SEP

* James V. Schall reviews John Safranek's The Myth of Liberalism


Currently Reading

Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good
St. Romanos the Melodist, On the Life of Christ: Kontakia
Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed
John of St. Thomas, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Poem a Day 9

Friendship

In hope and faith is friendship formed.
By hope we hold our heart's desire;
walking freely, foot put forward,
with step on step, we stride the way.
By faith we pledge, we form a pact,
we seal by sign two different souls,
and I to we thus weld as one.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Social Life and Personality

Deprive a concrete human personality of all that is in any way due to its relations with social and collective wholes, and the only thing left will be an animal entity containing only the pure possibility or empty form of man--that is, something that does not really exist at all....

Social life is not a condition superadded to the individual life, but is contained in the very definition of personality which is essentially a rationally-knowing and a morally-active force--both knowing and acting being only possible in the life of a community. Rational knowledge on its formal side is conditioned by general notions which express a unity of meaning in an endless multiplicity of events; real and objective universality (the general meaning) of notions manifests itself in language as a means of communication, without which rational activity cannot develop, and, for lack of realization, gradually disappears altogether or becomes merely potential.

[Vladimir Soloviev, The Justification of the Good, von Peters, ed. Catholic Resources (Chattanooga, TN: 2015), p. 221.] This clearly is influenced by the arguments of nineteenth-century traditionalists, but it looks like Soloviev has generalized some of the ideas slightly.

Poem a Day 8

Caritas

Birds may be trained and tamed,
learn to love their bars and bonds,
eat from the hand and turn a phrase,
but perhaps one day
the latch on the door is unlocked,
and, flying to freedom,
from bough to bough flits the bird.
The captor may call, but in vain;
bird to bird sings a song,
flying, floating, fleeing wide,
a righteous sun above its head,
the breath of God beneath its wing.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Elements of Modal Logic, Part IX

Part VIII

Let us take some examples to see how we can use what we have learned so far. Suppose that I, being a wizard with a green thumb, am surveying my new garden of weird flowers. I have some things that I have in every quarter of my garden. That's a Box. I have other things that are in at least one quarter. And if something is in every quarter of my garden, it is in at least one quarter, and that means Box includes Diamond. So we want at least 1234D.

[1234D] Reference Table (Weird Flowers in Quarters of the New Garden):
Box (Man-eating Dandelions)
Box (Fire-breathing Snapdragons)
Diamond (Jam-and-Butter-Cups)
Box (Really Red Roses)
Diamond (Screaming Mandrakes)
Box (More-than-deadly Nightshades)
Box-Not (Daisies)
Not-Diamond (Tulips)
Diamond-Not (Venus Fly-Traps)

Now, since Box here means 'in every quarter', Not-Box means 'not in every quarter (i.e., not in some quarters)', Box-Not means 'in every quarter not (i.e., in no quarter)', and Not-Box-Not means 'not in every quarter not (i.e., in some quarters)'. From this it is easy to see how the corresponding Diamonds work, using Rules (3) and (4). Our square of opposition is (again, I only show Box, but each corner can be translated into a Diamond version):


If we take an item in our reference table, like Box (Man-eating Dandelions), then we can use the square to say what's consistent and inconsistent with this item. For instance, Box (Man-eating Dandelions) is contrary to Box-Not (Man-eating Dandelions), and it is contradictory to Not-Box (Man-eating Dandelions); so Box (Man-eating Dandelions) rules both of these out. On the other hand, it requires Not-Box-Not (Man-eating Dandelions) -- Rule (D) tells us that Box includes Diamond. And Rule (4) tells us that Not-Box-Not (Man-Eating Dandelions) is interchangeable with Diamond (Man-Eating Dandelions), so that's required, too. We can put our reasoning in a simple form:

(i) □ (Man-Eating Dandelions)
Therefore:
(ii) ◇ (Man-Eating Dandelions) -- [from Rule (D)]
Which is the same as:
(iii) ~□~ (Man-Eating Dandelions) -- [from Rule (4)]

If we look at Diamond-Not (Venus Fly-Traps), this is the same corner as Not-Box (Venus Fly-Traps); it is inconsistent with both Not-Diamond-Not (Venus Fly-Traps) and Box (Venus Fly-Traps), since those both are the same. However, it doesn't tell us anything about the other two corners -- it's consistent with Not-Diamond (Venus Fly-Traps) and Diamond (Venus Fly-Traps).

It's worth taking some time to explore how each of the corners of the 1234D square, both with Box and with Diamond, relate to the others, because it is just so very common, and if you know this very well, you know a huge amount of modal logic, because it's how you fully understand what a given Reference Table means.

So let's think about what our other tables have to be, given our Reference Table.

If you are only using 1234, you should always do Diamonds first, but we are using 1234D, and both Rule (D) and our square of opposition tell us that Box includes Diamond. Note that by our rules, Not-Diamond (Tulips) [= There are no quarters with tulips] means the same as Box-Not (Tulips) [= every quarter has no tulips]. If I were just using 1234, I might not have any quarters in my garden (maybe I haven't planted any yet). But (D) tells me that if I have any Boxes in my Reference Table, I have at least one quarter in my garden that has them (which is Diamond), so I know I have at least one quarter in my garden, and since Boxes are true of every table that we have, all our Boxes tell us about that quarter:

TABLE 1: Some Quarter in the New Garden
Man-eating Dandelions
Fire-breathing Snapdragons
Really Red Roses
More-than-deadly Nightshades
No Daisies!
No Tulips!

I put 'No Daisies' because we know that there are no daisies anywhere (Box-Not). And I put 'No Tulips' because Not-Diamond means the same as Box-Not.

With the flowers that are only Diamond, though, we have to be much more careful, because while we know they each are on at least one table, we don't know which or how many! Maybe Jam-and-Butter-Cups are only in one quarter. Maybe they are in two. Maybe they are in three. It could even be that they are in all four. Our Reference Table doesn't tell us. And it's even trickier, because we have more than one Diamond, and we don't know if they are talking about the same quarters or different quarters. There are lots of possibilities. So when I put them on my table, I can't assume that every table is a different quarter. Maybe I am accidentally giving two incomplete descriptions of the same table, and they really should be on the same table! But I can't just put them on the same table, either, because maybe they are all on different tables! Since the Reference Table doesn't tell us, we have to be careful to remember that we don't know these things. Not assuming that you know something you don't is often the single most important thing in logic.

What we do know from the Diamonds, is that (whether or not they are overlapping or separate) the following things are true:

(1) I have at least one quarter with Jam-and-Butter-Cups.
(2) I have at least one quarter with Screaming Mandrakes.
(3) I have at least one quarter without Venus Fly-Traps.

Again, I don't know if these quarters are the same or different. If I put them all on one table, I might be wrong. If I put them on different tables, though, then as long as I remember that any of my tables might be incomplete, and that any two tables might be giving incomplete descriptions of the same quarter, I will be just fine.

TABLE 1: Some Quarter in the New Garden
(Don't Know Which)
TABLE 2: Some Quarter in the New Garden
(Don't Know Which)
TABLE 3: Some Quarter in the New Garden
(Don't Know Which)
Man-eating DandelionsMan-eating DandelionsMan-eating Dandelions
Fire-breathing SnapdragonsFire-breathing SnapdragonsFire-breathing Snapdragons
Really Red RosesReally Red RosesReally Red Roses
More-than-deadly NightshadesMore-than-deadly NightshadesMore-than-deadly Nightshades
No Daisies!No Daisies!No Daisies!
No Tulips!No Tulips!No Tulips!
Jam-and-Butter-CupsScreaming MandrakesNo Venus Fly-Traps!

Or, if we prefer to have it in a slightly more diagrammatic form:



Part X