You don’t like “heads I win, tails you lose’? OK, We’ll compromise: Tails I win, heads you lose.

What could be more reasonable?


A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day – John Donne – repost

Happy St. Lucy’s Day! Here’s a post from a while back:

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world’s whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
Of all, that’s nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s and the day’s deep midnight is.

UPDATE: Final rewrite to make this a little more scholarly.  Continue reading “A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day – John Donne – repost”

More Kant & Hegel

Why should anyone care if Kant destroyed logic as a meaningful aspect of reality? Why should we care that Hegel denies that logic, as understood by scientists, mathematicians, computer programmers as well as philosophers and theologians, has no place in philosophical thought?

Chesterton explains somewhere that to prove out something logically to a medieval man was to compel him – that his unshakeable (if probably unconscious) belief in the unity of human experience and understanding meant that his *behavior* had to follow the logic. This is not theory – as the master logician John C. Wright explains in the already linked essay, logic has its own momentum or gravity, making it work to be inconsistent -it’s an uphill battle, as it were, while consistency is, logically, as natural as sitting down.

People today are much more willing to put in the work required to be inconsistent than they are to change their behaviors. But it has not always been so: witness the hundreds or thousands of churches, usually named after our Lady, which sprung up after Francis and Dominic starting in the 12th century. Once you accept the Incarnation, especially as manifested in the Transubstantiation of the Eucharist, what is there to do besides build the most beautiful building you can, embellish it with the greatest art and music, and devote your life to celebrating that mystery? For centuries, across thousands of square miles, amidst all the wars, famines, plagues, and invasions, millions of people routinely celebrated beautiful liturgies in gorgeous buildings accompanied by the best music ever written and surrounded by the finest art man has ever produced – as a result of following the logic of the Church with regard to how God works our salvation in this world.

Now? We start, with Kant, by asserting that there’s no appeal to the real world to answer our questions about reality – it’s all a game, we can’t really know anything except how our own personal mind works, with the predictable result that our mind becomes the one sacred arbiter of TRVTH. Next, following Hegel, we disavow that logic has anything to do with anything – sure, it’s a game mathematicians and computer programmers (and auto mechanics and plumbers) play – but what’s that got to do with reality? with ME? *I* see the world as *I* see the world – and there’s nothing you can do about it! To even try – like, say, by reasoning with you – is a fundamental violation of the unspoken rules that underlie this world-without-rules. And don’t even think about pestering me about consistency – hobgoblins, and all that.

If you believe that ideas matter, and want to live in a sane world, then Kant and Hegel are the enemy.

Kant and Hegel: Oh. Now I Get It

Was reading the inestimable John C. Wright, who writes faster than I can think, on one of his whirlwind tours of Philosophy, History and Modern Culture, when a connection I had not made dawned on me: That Hegel rejects logic and embraces the dialectic because the definitive German Protestant take on logic – Kant’s – doesn’t, you know, work. Hegel  cannot work with the belief that nothing in this world is knowable in itself – and nobody else can, either, for that matter. Kant “proved” logically, following Descartes and Hume, that the only things we can really know are a few aspects of our own mind, that there is an unbridgeable gulf between everything that exists in the world and us. We know only perceptions – a smell, a color, the squeaks and scratches that make up Beethoven’s 9th – which can tell us nothing certain about the thing in itself.

Hegel accepts that view. Never mind that, to accept that view means that he learned something from Kant, Hume and Descartes, and learning something from somebody else disproves the view that you can’t learn anything from outside your own mind – Hegel is convinced that following logic to the end leads to nowhere, to a mind trapped in itself and beset by phenomena both tricksy and false.

And so, in answer, Hegel adopts the notion that logic is for the little people – mathematicians and physical scientists and craftsmen – while true Philosophy and true knowledge come through the Dialectic, in which things can both be and not be at the same time in the same respect (which, as far as I can figure, is merely embracing perception as the final arbiter – you do the ‘hard thinking’ and see it my way, or you’re wrong – there’s really no room for or point in trying to explain it logically).

Note that the characteristic moments in the life of the Perennial Philosophy are crowd shots: Socrates asking questions to Meno or Ion or Callicles, Aristotle delivering a lecture at the Academy, Thomas formulating his opponent’s arguments in front of a class. The characteristic moment of modern philosophy is Descartes, alone in his room, shades drawn, contemplating his navel.

Which is Harder?

Making an important technological advance, say discovering penicillin, or civilizing the French?

You may be thinking: the French are civilized? But of course! Don’t let the recent unpleasantness of the last 250 years or so – revolutions, equality and brotherhood in the form of mass murder of innocents, that whole applied Cartesian thinking thing*, Gerard Depardieu – detract from the vast leaps made by the descendents of the Franks from 300 A.D. to the 15th century.

Continue reading “Which is Harder?”

Music at Mass Review: Sept 18, 2011

At Parish A today. Today’s music featured a strong challenge to my ‘can I sing this at Mass’ rules: Because You Are My Shepherd, an execrable ditty by a Christopher Walker, who. according to his own web site, is an internationally known composer, conductor and expert on liturgical music. Right. OK, then, I guess.

Using the Orthometer’s criteria, this song gets an HL (Hella Lame) for the sentiments expressed in the refrain, the goofy music, and the forced scansion of the verses,  which alone means one with any trace of musical, liturgical or artistic sense will not chose this song for Mass – but the question for the jury: does it also get an H (heretical)? Because that would mean that, in the unfortunate event that one is subjected to this tune at Mass, one must refrain from singing it. To make it even harder, almost all of the song is a not too bad paraphrase of Psalm 23 – only the refrain triggers my ‘shields up!’ response on the Heretical issue. Here ya go:

1. Because the Lord is my shepherd,
I have ev’ry thing I need.
He lets me rest in the meadow and leads me
to the quiet streams.
He restores my soul and he leads me
in the paths that are right:

Lord, you are my shepherd,
you are my friend.
I want to follow you always,
just to follow my friend. Continue reading “Music at Mass Review: Sept 18, 2011”

They Blew Up My Car

but it’s nothing more sinister than incompetence: the old Dodge minivan, with 190K miles on it, needed a new timing chain. We went for it, figuring $1300 for another year of use (gulp!) would be worth it.

Well, the dude working on the car evidently started it up before setting the timing – this is a mystery to me, but that’s how it was explained – and, because the timing was way off, basically bent, blew out or otherwise destroyed the valves.

So, we get to drive a nice brand new Dodge minivan for a few days while the shop rebuilds our engine, puts in new values and whatever else got fubared, and redoes the timing belt – all on a vehicle that is *this* close to being hauled off as junk.

Hey, maybe we can get *2* years on it…