Saturday, May 06, 2017

Dashed Off X

This finishes a notebook that takes these notes up to January 2, 2016.

bad moral example : false testimony :: unsafe moral example : unreliable testimony

possible reasons justifying moral imitation
(a) predominance of decency
(b) decency as the norm
(c) social punishing of what is not decent
(d) lack of motivation for what is not decent
(e) social bond creating an expectation of cooperation in favor of decency
(f) antecedent plausibility of goodness of what is imitated

principle of veracity // tendency to act rightly

think about parallels between Hume's principle of sympathy and Reid's principle of credulity (credulity as doxastic sympathy)

"The Church's asceticism knows no other path towards Christian perfection than the lengthy and weary labour of self-denial. Yet time and again in the course of history teachers have arisen who promised the attainment of that lofty goal at much less cost and as it were at one bound." (Ludwig von Pastor)

archival structures of arguments

Vainglory inevitably works itself out into hypocrisy.

sophisms // vices

uncertainty principles of nonmonotonic inferences

evidence/inquiry given a sort of merited right to (a kind of) speculation
condignly 'merited' right to speculation vs congruously 'merited' right to speculation

allegories, quasi-allegories, semi-allegorical narratives

Arguments are for understanding, not for winning.

spiritual life as maneuver warfare

If God recognizes a contrite and humble heart as a moral sacrifice, it has something like sacrificial value: propitiatory, expiatory, satisfactory.

sacrifices // penances

"For those in a state of grace, every act is meritorious or demeritorious." Aquinas (De Malo 2.5ad7)

"To convince someone of the truth, it isn't enough to state the truth; rather, one must find the way from error to truth." Wittgenstein

intrinsic vs extrinsic difficulty of a subject

the prayers God preveniently inspires

the recognition that we are in fact inferior to what a human being, rationally speaking, should be (cp. Malebranche)

To be inspired is to aspire.

empiricist reduction to original // etymologia
[and susceptible of similar criticisms]

Christian inquiry is, first and foremost, Christian charity.

Note that Locke recognizes space, time, and infinity as particular challenges for empiricism because of their remoteness from an empirical original (Essay Bk 2, ch 12, sect. 8).

An air force primarily functions as a hypermobile artillery.

wargaming as a system of analogical reasoning

distortion factors in analogical reasoning

Free markets do not create the conditions for free markets.

justice and its potential parts as the conditions for free and reasonable exchange

Codes by nature are signs of signs.

Principles of War
principal efficient cause: Command
modality of efficient cause: Simplicity
action of efficient cause involving means, prudence of application: Offensive, Security, Surprise
action of efficient cause involving means, application of power: Economy, Mass, Maneuver
final cause: Objective
-- material cause would have to be things constituting combat power (supply, morale, numbers, training, etc.) without being combat power abstractly considered.

the principles of war in providence, qua aspects of divine victory

the principle of celerity (Rosmini) in war

the Transfiguration as the manifestation of Christ qua Savior

"the tendency to multiply festivals of saints will always be found to exert more power, and to command more sympathy, than any plan for reducing them" (Batiffol)

Ps 1:1
in cathedra pestilentiae (Vulg)
in cathedra derisorum (Jerome)
in conventu protervorum (Bea)

Parents, when they mistreat their children, tend to do so in ways similar to the ways people mistreat themselves. (This is quite obvious with overindulgence; it is less obvious, perhaps, but still certainly true, of most darker forms of mistreatment.)

Sir 45;6-7, 47:22 & the perpetuity of David and of Aaron

apostolicity: efficient cause :: unity : formal cause :: catholicity : material cause :: sanctity : final cause (Journet)

The healing miracles of Christ are symbols of our salvation; the work of these healing miracles is of two kinds, by contact and at a distance. Christ in His Mystical Body heals souls by, as it were, contact, and also by direct intervention without intermediary. (cp Journet: "He continues then to make contact with us by His action, but under the appearances of the hierarchy; as, in the greatest of the sacraments, He continues to make contact with us by His substance under the appearances of bread and wine.")

Christ as Priest : power of order :: Christ as King : power of jurisdiction
-- this raises the obvious question of what corresponds to Christ as Prophet; Journet takes proclamation to belong to the power of jurisdiction, as sacrament belongs to the power of order, and indeed argues as if this is exhaustive: Christ as Head acts on the Church in two ways, by hidden influx from within and by doctrine from without. The prophetic power would need to be tertium quid.
-- a possible correspondent power to Christ as Prophet might be found in cases that are neither precisely sacramental nor precisely doctrinal, although linked to both -- e.g., intercession and penitential practices. (Although Journet takes indulgences to be jurisdictional.)
-- power of order operates, according to Journet, in the way of infallible and purely instrumental power, while that of jurisdiction operates in the way of partly infallible, partly fallible secondary ministerial power; in addition, power of order is indelible power of spiritual priesthood, while that of jurisdiction is a delible "moral authority, mission, and power." Also, the sacramental power is transmitted by consecration (in Baptism, Confirmation, or Orders), but the jurisdiction by injunction (designation, commission, or mandate). A corresponding prophetic power would have to be tertium quid with these as well.
-- Note, though, Journet's comment that jurisdictional power is "kept on the line of truth and preserved from error by providential and involving various prophetic graces ranging from oral and scriptural inspiration, the privilege of the Apostles, to the graces of assistance given to their successors", which suggests a prophetic power of some kind.

The consecrated hands of a priest participate in that which the hands of a stigmatic show only by sign.

Baptism of desire works by a sort of participation in the baptisms of those with actual sacramental baptisms.

"the soul of the Church is not sanctifying grace pure and simple, as found in those who remain ignorant of the Church in good faith, but sanctifying grace as transmitted by the sacramental power and ruled by the jurisdictional power" Journet

the analogues of the principles of war in research -- concentration of research ability, maintenance of objective, economy of research, flexibility of research, taking advantage of serendipity, maintenance of morale, sustainment, thoroughness. (Any analogues of security or surprise would have to be highly figurative.)

accumulation of good, celerity, and germ (cp. Rosmini) in inquiry

casuistics of strategical/operational/tactical options
rigorism, probabilism, probabiliorism, and laxism in strategy etc.
We see nicely the problems with rigorism (highly conservative) and laxism (recklessness) in matters of war.

seizing the initiative as a major element in rhetoric

possibility as overlap (usually with unique fixed reference point)

Unprincipled benevolence is nonsacrificing benevolence.

entry into catechumenate : conception :: baptism : birth

"It behooved that our Head, by a notable miracle, should be born, after the flesh, of a virgin, that He might thereby signify that His members would be born, after the Spirit, of a virgin Church." Augustine (De Sanct Virg)

birth as naturally connected with hope

By failing to recognize in deed and life the image of God in man we reenact the Fall. For who would be tempted by "You shall be like god" who truly lives in recognition of the fact that human beings were created to God's image? And who would shirk responsibility as Adam and Eve did who acts so as to treat themselves as being to the image of God?

sacramental character as permanent instrumental faculty
sacramental character as moral title to grace
sacramental character as moral title to martyrdom

investiture // receiving grace

impossibility as a contradiction with conditions of a domain

Christ's passion works in baptism in the manner of generation, but in other sacraments in the manner of sanation.

herd immunities against heresies

orders of machinery and their limits (ropes & knots; steam & gears; electricity & circuits)

Marriage is built through humble offerings.

Drama arises from conscience.

reference // testimony
testimony as socially extended reference

Paul's sermon at the Areopagus, without making a fuss about it, rejects both henotheism and pantheism while accepting what is right in both.

Henotheism reaches toward what it misses in order to be fulfilled as true monotheism; pantheism drifts from true monotheism, missing something that it needs in order to be anchored. Henotheism must be pushed forward to what it does not know; pantheism must be called back to what it has forgotten.

Faith perfects reason not by mere addition but by adoption, transfiguration, and vocation to vision of God.

Order in the world follows from the unity of God.

Polytheism tends toward monotheism by intellectualization; pantheism tends from monotheism by skepticism-induced vagueness.

It is an important difference between the Bible and the Quran that the Bible is diverse of modality.

the temptation to improve the world by might rather than by right

Rigorous scientific measurement generally in practice involves folk-scientific measurement with correcting procedures.

"Belief is born on the wing and awakes to many tacit commitments." Santayana

An animal capable of spontaneous locomotion is an animal capable of thinking in terms of multiple points of view.

"A pleasure is not a programme: it exists here and not there, for me and for no one else, once and never again." Santayana

Hume's philosophy would have a very different feel if impressions and ideas were instead called adventures and reenactments.

aesthetic infinite: sublime
ethical infinite: eternal law
metaphysical infinite: God
physical infinite: mathematics
political infinite: sovereignty

"For an idea ever to be fashionable is ominous, since it must afterwards be always old-fashioned." Santayana

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Many Sparks of Bliss

Today is the feast of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, who were executed for treason between 1535 and 1679 because they refused to repudiate the Catholic faith. The Forty Martyrs were not the only ones to have been executed in the English Reformation, but they are a diverse group who are often taken to represent the whole -- about 280 or so total beatified and canonized names so far, and many more in the pipeline. It's an interesting phenomenon, this notion of saints canonized en masse standing in as representatives for even larger groups. It isn't entirely unheard of in earlier days, but the modern era has delivered martyrdoms on such a scale that it has become increasingly more common. In any case, my favorite poem from St. Robert Southwell, one of the Forty Martyrs and also one of the greatest English poets of the sixteenth century:

Look Home
by Robert Southwell

Retirëd thoughts enjoy their own delights,
As beauty doth in self-beholding eye;
Man's mind a mirror is of heavenly sights,
A brief wherein all marvels summëd lie,
Of fairest forms and sweetest shapes the store,
Most graceful all, yet thought may grace them more.

The mind a creature is, yet can create,
To nature's patterns adding higher skill;
Of finest works with better could the state
If force of wit had equal power of will.
Device of man in working hath no end,
What thought can think, another thought can mend.

Man's soul of endless beauty image is,
Drawn by the work of endless skill and might;
This skillful might gave many sparks of bliss
And, to discern this bliss, a native light;
To frame God's image as his worth required
His might, his skill, his word and will conspired.

All that he had his image should present,
All that it should present it could afford,
To that he could afford his will was bent,
His will was followed with performing word.
Let this suffice, by this conceive the rest,—
He should, he could, he would, he did, the best.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Tenures of Almighty Thought

The Landlord
by James Russell Lowell

What boot your houses and your lands?
In spite of close-drawn deed and fence,
Like water, 'twixt your cheated hands,
They slip into the graveyard's sands
And mock your ownership's pretence.

How shall you speak to urge your right,
Choked' with that soil for which you lust
The bit of clay, for whose delight
You grasp, is mortgaged, too; Death might
Foreclose this very day in dust.

Fence as you please, this plain poor man,
Whose only fields are in his wit,
Who shapes the world, as best he can,
According to God's higher plan,
Owns you and fences as is fit.

Though yours the rents, his incomes wax
By right of eminent domain;
From factory tall to woodman's axe,
All things on earth must pay their tax,
To feed his hungry heart and brain.

He takes you from your easy-chair,
And what he plans, that you must do.
You sleep in down, eat dainty fare, —
He mounts his crazy garret-stair
And starves, the landlord over you.

Feeding the clods your idlesse drains,
You make more green six feet of soil;
His fruitful word, like suns and rains,
Partakes the seasons' bounteous pains,
And toils to lighten human toil.

Your lands, with force or cunning got,
Shrink to the measure of the grave;
But Death himself abridges not
The tenures of almighty thought,
The titles of the wise and brave.

Elements of Modal Logic, Part V

Part IV

It's perhaps worth pausing a moment to consider how different different modal concepts relate to each other. I gave a table previously of some of the more important cases:

Box Diamond
time always sometimes
location everywhere somewhere
duty obligatory permissible
truth necessary possible
logical quantity all at least some
mereology   wholly at least in part
topology interior closure

If we think about the tables we have been using, they can be interpreted in lots of ways. For instance, to explain what □x does, I could say:

It tells us that, for any table that exists, x is there.
It tells us that x is everywhere.
It tells us that x is always found when we have a table.
It tells us that, if there is a table, x ought to be on it.
It tells us that when a table exists, it's necessary for x to be on it.
It tells us that x is on every table.

And so on. All of these are in some sense a way of saying the same thing. And this is one of the things we regularly find with Box and Diamond: you can use one interpretation to talk about other interpretations. It's like a logical figure of speech. We can't move directly between them -- 'everywhere' is about places and 'always' is about time, so they aren't talking about the same thing. But if you have a way in which you can talk about places using times, or times using places, then you can move from one to the other. For instance, we often think of times using a timeline. If we think about a timeline, then we can talk about 'always' meaning the same as 'everywhere on the timeline'. The timeline represents times as places on a line; it serves as an instrument for making time-language and place-language fit each other. We can call the instrument that helps two modal languages fit together the Bridge: Events in time are like points on a line. Thus we will often be able to get from one modality to another this way:

Modality A + Bridge → Modality B

One of the most common examples is a weird one. I mentioned before that ∀ and ∃ in the predicate calculus are modal operators. But suppose you want to use them to talk about necessity and possibility? ∀ and ∃ were developed in order to talk specifically about arithmetic and thus are best adapted to be applied to distinct individuals that can be picked out precisely. But necessity and possibility don't seem normally to work this way. You need a Bridge. One way to do it is to think of a whole world, and then to think of different ways the world could be, and think of these different ways the world could be as possible worlds. Then we can use ∀ and ∃ on possible worlds to talk about possibilities. The necessary is what is true in every possible world; the possible is what is true in some possible world. It's the same kind of thing you are doing with the timeline, just with a different pair of modal concepts.

It's clear enough that the reason you can do this is that Box interpreted in one way shares logical features with Box interpreted another way, and the same with Diamond. That is to say, the rules are the same even though the universes of discourse are different. But this doesn't mean that it is always easy, because, as I've pointed out, you could have modal operators that follow different rules from the ones we usually use, and you'd have to take that into account. The more rules Box 1 and Box 2 share, the more easily one can move from one to the other by a Bridge.

So far we have recognized two defining rules:

(1) □ applying to anything on the Reference Table means that it would be found on any table there might be.

(2) ◇ applying to anything on the Reference Table means that there is a table on which it is found.

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

(3) □ is interchangeable with ~◇~.

(4) ◇ is interchangeable with ~□~.

In this post we'll look at another rule, not as common as (3) or (4), but nonetheless very common.

As I noted before, □ as defined by these rules is fairly weak, because it doesn't say there are any tables at all. Given the way our rules are set up now, we start with the Reference Table and from there we construct any further tables we need. But what if we can't actually get a table to begin with? An example might be a job search. You might have a number of requirements (Box) for any acceptable candidates, but there might not be anyone meeting those requirements. Then you would have a Reference Table, but no tables following from it. The reason for this is that Box doesn't imply that there are any other tables at all; it just tells what has to be the case if there are any tables. For the Reference Table to give you another table, it needs to have a Diamond on it.

A very common assumption, however, is that if you have any Box on your Reference Table at all, there will be another table. If this assumption is true, there is never a situation in which you can have a Box statement in your Reference Table but no other tables. This gives us a new possible rule, which we can call the subalternation rule, but it is also often called D, so we'll continue to call it D:

(D) □ on the Reference Table implies that there is another table on which the statement is found.

We could also say the same thing more simply:

(D) □ includes ◇.

There are cases where this rule doesn't apply, but it makes sense for a great many different situations.

If it is always true that dragons breathe fire, it often makes sense to conclude that sometimes dragons breathe fire. If everyone in the class went on the trip, one concludes that someone went on the trip. If there is red ink everywhere, it is reasonable to say that there is red ink somewhere. If a dress is wholly blue, at least part of it is blue. If you are required to clean your room, you are allowed to clean your room. If something is necessary, we usually think it is possible. All of these common-sensical claims are particular instances of subalternation.

With D our modal reasoning begins to expand in extraordinary ways.

Part VI

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Pillar of the Church

Today is the feast of St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church. He was the twentieth bishop of Alexandria, and over his forty-five years as bishop he was exiled five times by four different emperors, survived multiple assassination attempts, and upheld Nicene orthodoxy. From his earliest book, On the Incarnation of the Word:

But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life. Anyone who wants to look at sunlight naturally wipes his eye clear first, in order to make, at any rate, some approximation to the purity of that on which he looks; and a person wishing to see a city or country goes to the place in order to do so. Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God and, thenceforth escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment, will receive that which is laid up for the saints in the kingdom of heaven. Of that reward it is written: "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared" for them that live a godly life and love the God and Father in Christ Jesus our Lord, through Whom and with Whom be to the Father Himself, with the Son Himself, in the Holy Spirit, honor and might and glory to ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Elements of Modal Logic, Part IV

Part III

So far we've looked at Box and Diamond in a fairly abstract way. (This is deliberate -- most accounts of modal logic, I think, start too far downstream. This is like trying to figure out validity before you know very much about the structure of arguments.) But we should start looking at some broader applications than we have so far. So here's a small sample of important modal concepts:

Box Diamond
time always sometimes
location everywhere somewhere
duty obligatory permissible
truth necessary possible
logical quantity all at least some
mereology   wholly at least in part
topology interior closure

There are many, many more we could do, but these are just some of the more common and important ones. For each of these, our Box and Diamond Rules hold:

(1) □ applying to anything on the Reference Table means that it would be found on any table there might be.

(2) ◇ applying to anything on the Reference Table means that there is a table on which it is found.

What differs is what the tables stand for, since they could stand for times, locations, kinds of actions, or any number of other things. These concepts, though, often have more useful logical content than we find with just these two rules, and to use these concepts fully we often have to use this extra content. What exactly this is, will depend on the modality. But some kinds of content will be very common.

One very common example of extra logical information is what is known as duality. The Box Rule (1) and the Diamond Rule (2) don't tell us anything about how box and diamond relate to each other. But if you look at the concepts above, you can see that box and diamond do have something to do with each other! In particular, you can often redefine Box in terms of Diamond and Diamond in terms of Box.

If I say, "Always the birds are singing," and we want to restate this in terms of 'sometimes', one way I could do it is to say, "It is not true that sometimes it is not true that the birds are singing." This works a little like a double negative ("not not"), except the modal operator gets stuck in the middle and gets flipped by the negatives. Thus we say that 'always' and 'sometimes' are dual to each other.

We'll use the symbol ~ to mean 'Not'. Then ~◇~, for instance, is 'Not Diamond Not'. So this gives us two more rules that we can use to reason about modal concepts:

(3) □ is interchangeable with ~◇~.

(4) ◇ is interchangeable with ~□~.

The rules are less complicated than they might seem, because we actually use them all the time. You know that when you say that the whole (□) wall is red you are also saying that it's wrong (~) to think that part (◇) of the wall is not (~) red. You're using Rule (3). Likewise, if everyone in your family is annoying, it's not true that some of them are not annoying. That's Rule (4).

There are cases where we don't use these rules. One example of a common modal concept where we usually don't is validity. Validity is a Box. You could propose a corresponding Diamond that is dual to validity, if you wanted; but we don't even have a word for it, and people don't usually care about any corresponding Diamond. So we don't need to bother with any way to get from Box to Diamond -- at least for most practical purposes. This is why we started with just Rule 1 and Rule 2. But for most complex situations the duality rules tend to be very useful.

A very common context in which we do see these duality rules used very extensively is the predicate calculus. In the predicate calculus you have expressions like, "For every x, x is furry", which, if we represent 'furry' with F would be represented as something like:


The ∀, called the universal quantifier, tells us there are no exceptions. There is another operator, called the existential quantifier, which we would use to say things like "There is some x that is furry":


The universal quantifier is Box and the existential quantifier is Diamond, and they are dual to each other: ∀ is equivalent to ~∃~ and ∃ is equivalent to ~∀~. This duality is used all the time in proofs in the predicate calculus.

One of the ways this will change how we reason is if our Reference Table has a ~◇ or a ~□. Without Rules (3) and (4), this wouldn't mean much. But if we have them, then ~◇ also tells us □~ and ~□ also tells us ◇~. For instance, if your Reference Table tells you that it is not true that unicorns exist everywhere, you know there will be some table where "Unicorns exist" is not true. Suppose you say: "It is not true that everyone is here". That's a ~□. But by Rule (3) we know that this is the same as ~~◇~; and the ~~ is a double negative. So ~□ works just like ◇~. And therefore our sentence means the same as "Someone is not here". This can take some practice getting used to -- you need to try it out with multiple examples -- but it is very useful to be able to do.

There are other important assumptions that can come into play with modal reasoning, even if they are not quite as common as duality. We'll look briefly at one of the most important ones, subalternation, in the next post in the series.

Part V

The Tuvel Controversy

Rebecca Tuvel recently published an article in Hypatia, "In Defense of Transracialism", arguing that arguments in favor of transitions of identity in transgender cases would by parity require one to be in favor transitions of identity in transracial cases (like the notorious case of Rachel Dolezal, who had spent years in black activism presenting herself as black before it was discovered that her parents were Midwestern whites). As one might expect, it has blown up into a big issue. An open letter has been started and is collecting signatures (the list of names literally nearly doubled in the time it took to write this post). The open letter is very poorly written -- it reads like it was done quite hastily -- and, rather noticeably, doesn't really address the argument (as noted at Daily Nous, its (2) and (3) are dubious characterizations, at best, of the argument as written, and its (4) would be better handled by an article in response). It claims that the defects of the scholarship in the article are glaring, but the only specific failures mentioned are not actually defects in the article but in the characterization. It then uses the occasion to launch a rather aggressive attack on Hypatia itself. The request for a change in style policy is reasonable, but there is literally nothing in this letter establishing that the signatories have the right to demand an editorial apology, much less opening its review policy to scrutiny (Hypatia's review standards are already known; papers are refereed anonymously and require the recommendation of two referees). A single article, where no evidence of abuse on the part of the editors is anywhere found, does not justify such unrestrained demands. Hypatia, as far as the evidence so far indicates, would be perfectly in its rights to stand its ground. (Academia being a reputational field, however, I doubt they will; raise the reputational stakes high enough and you can get most academic institutions to break on most things. What will be of significance, however, if they do give in, is whether they do so with or without throwing Tuvel under the bus. ADDED LATER: They have given in; it looks like they are trying to do the right thing and avoid shoving Tuvel in the path of the bullet. ADDED EVEN LATER: Brian Leiter interprets the apology much less generously than I do, and suggests that it may legally count as defamation of Tuvel)

What has actually happened, is that Tuvel has violated a political boundary; her argument actually doesn't matter to the people involved, which is why the complaint is about how she says things. Note that this is not the same as saying that she has the wrong politics, in the sense that she is not, say, an advocate of transgender rights; she is. Rather, she has insisted that a border that many of her colleagues think important is not really there, and that something that they think very wrong is in fact perfectly fine for the same reasons that gender transitioning is perfectly fine. We have seen this sort of dynamic before, in the Minerva and Giubilini paper five years ago that argued that there was no fundamental ethical difference between infanticide and abortion. The primary difference is that the uproar in that case was of a broader public, which saw immediately that this would, in practice, collapse the pro-choice movement, which had put years and years and years into arguing there was such a fundamental ethical difference in order to make and preserve its political gains. The claim that this was false was something that pro-life advocates had been saying for years, but Minerva and Giubilini were pro-choice, not pro-life; the reason for the uproar was that they were trying to sledgehammer what everyone else saw was a load-bearing wall. This is not a case of a broader public that is shocked by what ethicists say; it's a case of academics. But the political structure of the controversy is the same.

Ironically I'm actually sympathetic to the complaints to some degree, since modern ethics tends to be done in a bit of a bubble, rather than in the appropriate kind of interaction with the broader community. This is not really an acceptable norm; ethics is not about pandering to the public, but it is about something of public interest and concern, and to be such properly requires consideration of the actual lives and starting points of people at large. It is absurd, however, to suggest that this is a problem that suddenly sprang up with this paper, or that Tuvel is in any way an especially egregious offender on this point, given that she is doing nothing that is outside standard practice. And the way this controversy is done, it seems very difficult to distinguish it from an attempt by a group of academics to intimidate one of the premier philosophy journals for publishing content they disagreed with, and to destroy a young academic's career simply to make a point.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Fortnightly Book, April 30

Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (1515-1582) is one of the shining lights of the sixteenth century, and one of Spain's great minds in a century in which Spain was doing very well at producing great minds. Pursuing a religious vocation, she joined the Carmelite order -- and hated it, because many of the Carmelite distinctives had become mostly nominal, thus defeating the point of joining it. Teresa conceived of the idea of a reformed monastery, more rigorous in following the rules of cloister and poverty, and organized more strictly for the monastic purpose of prayer. And she founded many of them, because she was an extraordinary organizer and administrator as well as a woman of prayer. She wrote a number of works. The Life, which was written before 1567, has generally been considered one of the great literary works of early modern Spain, and so it is the fortnightly book; we'll add to it the Interior Castle, perhaps her most influential work on prayer, which was written in 1577. This time of year is always a bit tricky for me with the fortnightly book, since I have to juggle it with the end of term, so we'll say in advance that this will be one of those three-week 'fortnights'.

Two Poem Drafts


The rain was gentle through the night;
I know it well, the laughter light
of water showered by the trees,
which shush and shuffle, taught by breeze.

I know it well, the hallowed song
reverberates through hearts that long
for heaven's holy vernal rain;
this sacred echo softens pain.

I know, and you may know as well:
who listens learns a tale to tell
and finds a hope, though hopes were light;
the rain is gentle through the night.


Spirit pushes heavily against flesh walls;
I breathe it deep; spirit enters in and travels out.
It flows in stream across the lawn,
ever-widening, it spills through air
and journeys through the atmosphere.
My spirit and your spirit flow as one,
blow up mighty storms and push trim sails,
sparkle in the light of morning sun.
I am here, you are there, no matter:
our spirits dance together beneath God's dome.