Monday, September 22, 2014

Until the Ancient Race of Time Be Run

One Certainty
by Christina Rossetti

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher saith,
All things are vanity. The eye and ear
Cannot be filled with what they see and hear:
Like early dew, or like the sudden breath
Of wind, or like the grass that withereth,
Is man, tossed to and fro by hope and fear:
So little joy hath he, so little cheer,
Till all things end in the long dust of death.
Today is the still the same as yesterday,
Tomorrow also even as one of them;
And there is nothing new under the sun:
Until the ancient race of Time be run,
The old thorns shall grow out of the old stem,
And morning shall be cold and twilight grey.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nomoi (Part III: City in Speech)

Book VI

Having established the preliminaries, the Athenian Stranger turns to the first element of city organization: competent officials to administer law. Incompetent officials can can make even good laws harmful. This is an especially acute problem when we are dealing with a new colony, since you have all sorts of different people thrown together, likely for the first time, and thus you cannot rely on education and background. The Athenian's solution is to leverage the colony's close connection to Knossos, which will serve as a sort of guardian or ward of the colony as it is designating its first officials.

I will not go through all the institutions here. Officials are to be elected by an Assembly (ekklesia) of all the citizens. They elect thirty-seven Law-Guardians (nomophylakes), all over fifty, who are exactly what their name suggests -- they oversee the maintenance of law. They have minor disciplinary powers and some important but very restricted judicial powers; although the Stranger does not give details, it seems their most essential function would be just to give a certain amount of transparency or accountability to everything, so that abuses can be easily discovered and, even more important than this, people are regularly reminded of the way things should be. There is a Council (boule) of ninety members, distributed among four different property classes, serving one-year terms. It includes both men and women -- men can be elected started at the age of thirty, women at the age of forty. Generals and cavalry commanders are elected from a list put forward by the Law-Guardians. There are lots of other positions concerned with the civil religion, the courts, and the day-to-day administration of the city. All of the elections are organized in an attempt to ensure that there is a sort of equality between citizens, but that this equality is that of each person receiving according to his or her merit.

The Athenian spends some amount of time discussing the laws and customs for marriage, since well-matched marriages are essential to the health of the city: people marrying need to be informed about the background of their prospective spouses, and the Stranger suggests that strictly supervised dances in the nude should be used to get young men and women together. Wedding expense is regulated to avoid competition in luxurious displays. Newlyweds are not allowed to remain at home, but must strike out on their own, with the husband supporting the family. Having children is the major responsibility of the newlyweds, both husband and wife, and they can be publicly admonished if they do not take this seriously; they can also negotiate terms of divorce if children turn out to be possible.

  Additional Remarks

* While men and women are not exactly equal in the colony, since there are some important differences in expectations and requirements for each, there is no area of political power that is off-limits for women. Women have the same basic education as men, attend communal meals like men, are full citizens, can vote in the Assembly, can be elected to office, and, if they have already borne children, can fight in the army. The radicalness of this in comparison with the misogyny of Greek society, in which women had no political power and were treated as minors all their lives, is extraordinary. It is also an explicit and deliberate move. The Athenian Stranger thinks women have less natural potential for virtue than men (perhaps unsurprising given that one of the four main parts of virtue is andreia, manliness), but they do have the capacity for it, and so he insists that it is a defect of any constitution to leave half the human race out of account. He will also argue this in Book VII (804d and following).

Book VII

Having covered the precondition for children being born, the Athenian Stranger turns to the education of children once they have been. He refrains from precise regulation because of the difficulties involved with regulating private family life, and but insists that something, at least advisory, must be said on the subject, because ad education of children can undermine the laws. In the Athenian's conception of the education of children, it begins quite early; to the surprise of his companions, he holds that it begins in the womb, with the mother's physical exercise, and continues outside the womb with what singing and dancing is appropriate to the child's abilities, with a focus on trying to assist the child in not being governed by fear. Clinias and the Athenian end up disagreeing on whether this should include plenty of pleasures; the Athenian argues that one should find a balance of pleasures and pains and that the child should be taught not to seek pleasure in an active way, and Clinias concedes the point. All these things, however, cannot be laws in the usual sense; they have to be unwritten, and work like immemorial custom, if they are to work at all.

As the children get older, more specific physical training is required -- horsemanship, archery, javelin-throwing, and the use of the sling; boys should be required, and the girls allowed, to attend any lessons, although boys should be taught with boys and girls with girls. This prepares for serious training in dancing and wrestling. The Athenian also argues, at considerable length, that one should discourage any significant changes in the games children play, to avoid teaching children a taste for novelty as such: the nomoi (songs) have become nomoi (laws), and so there should be a standard public canon lest lawlessness be discouraged (709e-800a). Given the difficulty of rule-making in this kind of situation, however, the Athenian proposes that there should be model laws to be the mold or impression for shaping other actions.

The Athenian then gives an extended argument that women should be given the same training as men, including at least some training for the military, and discusses various issues concerned with cultivating an appropriate work ethic. Literature is to be studied using model works, like the Laws itself (811c-e). Astronomy is to be quite important, because it studies "the gods of the heavens" (821c). And the Athenian ends the discussion of education by looking at regulations for hunting.


The next item on the agenda is "a program of festivals to be established by law" (828a). The Athenian argues that there are to be sacrifices every day, as well as twelve major festivals to honor the Olympian gods. In addition, there are to be festivals to the gods of the underworld, which, however, are to be kept separate from the Twelve. One day a month there should be a festival with war games, to be pursued with as much spirit as athletic competitions, and focused on cooperation and teamwork. Two things tend to interfere with teamwork in the city at large: pursuit of wealth and partisan spirit. Thus one needs the proper constitution to encourage this kind of military training for the citizens.

Sexual matters, which are next, are a complicated question. They must be kept in order: "Reason, which is embodied in law as far as it can be, tells us to avoid indulging the passions that have ruined so many people" (835e). But finding a remedy for sex-driven disruption of the common welfare is difficult. The sexual loves you need to encourage are those that are not focused on the body, but on the soul and character, and that are had between virtuous people. Megillus agrees fairly easily with this, although Clinias is more reluctant. The Athenian argues that one should try to make it so that unimproving loves are treated like incest, a disgusting abomination; and, in particular, sex should only be allowed when it is for procreation. He recognizes that young men would have difficulty accepting this, but thinks that sufficient religious support will get around this. The young should be encouraged to conquer pleasure, and given the support they need in order to do so.

After sex, agricultural laws are considered, including the importance of not moving boundary stones and respecting the land of others. Then we have laws governing craftsmen and artisans.

  Additional Remarks

* It's notable how concerned the Athenian is with avoiding intrusiveness into most of the matters discussed in this Book; the kinds of laws found here would not have been unheard of in Greek cities, and the focus here tends to be on indirect persuasion. The point of all of the laws discussed, of course, is to encourage people to maintain the priorities indicated in the general prelude, i.e., maintaining the greater importance of the soul than the body, and of the body than possessions.

Book IX

Book IX continues the discussion of particular laws by focusing on serious prosecutable acts and the penalties they should receive. The Athenian notes that having to do this at all is already a sign that the laws have in some way failed; but as we legislate today for men rather than demigods, it is a necessity. Punishment will be a big part of the argument, so I will mostly highlight matters concerned with legal penalty.

The first prosecutable offense discussed is robbery from temples. In the course of discussing the penalty (branding on face and hands, plus flogging, plus exile), the Athenian remarks that in punishment one attempts to make the person undergoing the penalty either more virtuous or less wicked. He also notes that punishment is a way to make the wrongdoer of service to others; "he will be of service to others, by being a lesson to them" (855a). He also argues that the children of a wrongdoer, if they do not follow in the footsteps of the parent, should be given honors for their example.

If a crime requires a fine, then if the person is not able to pay it, imprisonment or some other temporary penalty (like standing or sitting in public for all to see one's wrongdoing) should be given; but nobody is ever to be deprived completely of the rights of the citizen, even if he is banished from the city.

After the serious religious offense comes the serious political offense; subversion, either through stirring up actual sedition or through negligence in the face of sedition of someone in an official role charged with maintaining the city. No penalties of fathers are to be visited on children with the exception of cases where the child's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather have all committed capital crimes; in which case the children should be returned to the original home city from which the original colonists in the family came.

The next crime is theft, which the Athenian says should all receive the same penalty, namely, payment of twice the value of the property stolen. Clinias balks here, however, protesting that it makes no sense to give all theft the same penalty, and that every other code of laws takes into account all sorts of circumstances surrounding the theft. But the Athenian reminds the Cretan that they agreed that the laws were not merely to be imposed on the citizens by force; they were to be seen as tutoring the citizens, as well, and gaining their voluntary compliance by persuasion. The Athenian claims that nobody is willingly unjust, so the common distinction used in the laws of Greek cities between involuntary and voluntary justice has no place. But the distinction does seem to be getting at something, namely, the difference between laws concerned with injustice and laws concerned with injury. The Athenian proposes a general policy:

...when anyone commits an act of injustice, serious or trivial, the law will combine instruction and constraint, so that in the future either the criminal will never again dare to commit such a crime voluntarily, or he will do it a very great deal less often; and in addition, he will pay compensation for the damage he has done. (862d)

The point of law is to teach people to pursue justice and hate injustice; although the death penalty is admissible, it is only to be used for incurable cases.

With this in mind, he moves on to discuss homicide. In cases of premeditated murder, he identifies three major causes of the crime: the first is desire (epithymia), especially for wealth; the second is ambition (philotimia); the third is fear (phobia). He also argues that the citizens should actively be taught that they will be punished for this crime in the afterlife; when they are reincarnated, they will by a law of nature experience the same fates as their victims. If this does not deter, the crime of premeditated murder should be handled in the same way and by the same punishment as temple-robbery. A similar kind of process handles murder specifically of a relative. Suicides, as murderers of themselves, should receive dishonorable burial. The Athenian proposes, however, that if someone kills someone else in self-defense, or in retaliation for rape, or in the process of defending an innocent family member, that he should be considered innocent before the law.

Next comes maiming and wounding. If it is premeditated, it is to be treated as murder, but out of respect for the spirit that prevented it from ending in death, it should fall short of receiving the capital penalty. Striking a parent, being a significant impiety, is to be sharply punished.

  Additional Remarks

* The Athenian in passing argues against thinking of death as the most extreme penalty; the most extreme penalty is punishment in the afterlife. He doubts that either has a deterrent effect on some people, though.

* One of the key themes of the Laws comes out quite clearly in some of the discussions of penalties: laws that are properly designed do not merely coerce, they persuade. Punishments in particular are to be designed so as to warn citizens. Note that this is not deterrence; it is difficult to imagine Plato thinking a deterrent theory of punishment anything other than an abomination -- punishment may deter, but as a legislative matter, if you are already at the punishment stage, you have already missed the point at which deterrence was supposed to be a major concern, and you have, moreover, failed. The goals of punishment are instead educative: (1) to teach citizens in general the priorities of the city; and (2) to rehabilitate lawbreakers by teaching them what is just and what is unjust, if that is possible. Temple robbery and murder and assaulting parents are given severe punishments in order to make clear what the common good of the city is. Failing to do so would teach the citizens that they are no great matters, leading to the deterioration of the integrity of the city as citizens stop prioritizing goods properly. This conception of punishment as educative will become highly influential in ancient philosophy.

No Chains Can Bind It, and No Cell Enclose

Freedom of the Mind
by William Lloyd Garrison

High walls and huge the Body may confine,
And iron grates obstruct the prisoner's gaze,
And massive bolts may baffle his design,
And vigilant keepers watch his devious ways:
Yet scorns th' immortal Mind this base control!
No chains can bind it, and no cell enclose:
Swifter than light, it flies from pole to pole,
And, in a flash, from earth to heaven it goes!
It leaps from mount to mount — from vale to vale
It wanders, plucking honeyed fruits and flowers;
It visits home, to hear the fireside tale,
Or in sweet converse pass the joyous hours.
'Tis up before the sun, roaming afar,
And, in its watches, wearies every star!

Baltimore Jail, May, 1830.

The reason Garrison was in jail was that he accused a shipowner, Francis Todd, of engaging in the domestic slave trade and of being brutal to slaves; Todd sued him for libel and won. Garrison was fined but, as he could not pay the fine, he was jailed until he could pay. After seven weeks his fine was paid by his fellow abolitionist, Arthur Tappan.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Family Jeong

Today is the feast of the Holy Korean Martyrs. Among these, the family Jeong (sometimes, especially in older works, anglicized as Chong) has a notable pride of place.

Blessed Augustinus Jeong Yak-jong was from a very highly educated Korean family -- his younger brother was Dasan, (Jeong Yak-yong), one of the greatest Korean Confucian philosophers. All the brothers seem to have come into contact with Catholic thought, although it's very difficult to determine how far any of them went (there's no proof that Dasan was ever actually baptized, for instance), and several of Bl. Augustine's brothers distanced themselves from Catholicism as the regime became increasingly unfavorable to it. Bl. Augustine became very active in the faith, however, and was widely to known to be one of the leaders in the thriving Catholic community (which was heavily driven by laity rather than priests or religious). In 1800 King Sunjo took the throne, but since he was only eleven years old, the real power was in the hands of Queen Jeongsun, his step-grandmother. She had been actively opposed for much of her life to the reforming party in the court, and she regarded Catholics as a major mainstay of that party. In 1801 she officially began persecuting Catholics (usually known as the Shinyu Persecution). The highly visible Bl. Augustine was one of the first to be rounded up. He was condemned to death and beheaded at the age of 41. Bl. Augustine's death was a reason why Dasan spent several years in exile; while certainly not Catholic by that point, if he had ever been, Bl. Augustine's brothers were now suspect to the regime. Blessed Charles Jeong Cheol-san, Bl. Augustine's son by his first wife, was arrested on the day of his father's execution, in part because he refused to give any information about the location of a priest, and was executed; he was twenty years old.

That persecution eventually passed, but several flare-ups occurred. Then in 1839, a massive persecution began (often known as the Gihye Persecution). Bl. Augustine's second wife, Saint Cecilia Yu Sosa, was put in prison, where she died. Before that happened, her son was Saint Paul Jeong Hasang was killed. He, like his father, had become a major leader in the Catholic community. He was intending to become ordained when the persecution arose and was arrested. According to the stories, he gave the judge at his trial a written defense of the Catholic faith; the judge was impressed by the defense, but pointed out that the king himself forbade the religion. St. Paul was executed at the age of 45. St. Cecilia's daughter was Saint Elizabeth Jeong Jeong-hye; she died about a month after her mother.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Same F

Dale Tuggy has a post in which he puts forward the following argument on the Trinity (see also here for background):

1. The Father and the Son are the same God.
2. For any x and y, and for any kind F, if x and y are the same F, then x is an F, y is an F, and x = y. (x and y are numerically one)
3. The Father = the Son. (1, 2)

(2), however, is false, unless we are making a question-begging assumption, in which case there seems to be an equivocal middle term. To say that something is 'the same F', we usually only require some kind of equivalence relation (a relation that's symmetric, reflexive, and transitive). But identity (represented here as x = y) is only one kind of equivalence relation, namely, the kind with antisymmetry. (Strictly speaking, adding antisymmetry gets you equality -- hence the symbolism. It is in fact not entirely certain that equality and identity are the same relation, since there are accounts you can give of mathematical equality, which is paradigmatic equality, preserving its character as an equivalence relation with antisymmetry, that at least make it seem weaker than what one would want from identity; but this is a contentious issue, and there is no widely accepted view about what you could even conceivably add to equality to make it identity, and people do in general make the assumption that equality is identity, or close enough. It need not make a difference here, since the primary issue turns on identity being an equivalence relation with at least antisymmetry; I mention it only because Tuggy regularly talks as if identity were straightforward rather than something for which there are still many unresolved puzzles. When working with identity, it's wise to go slowly.)

Thus (2) is false in the senses in which we usually talk about things being the same F. If we assume specifically that we are including antisymmetry in 'the same F', then (2) becomes a tautology. But in general the only reason you would ever assume that 'the same F' implies antisymmetry is if you were deliberately doing it in order to get something like (3).

This doesn't even get into the problem of identity across modal domains. Usually when talking about identity we are talking about extensional identity. But we use forms of identity that are not obviously extensional. For instance, if I see someone wearing a hat and then later not wearing a hat:

1. That man with the hat and that man without a hat are the same person.
2. For any x and y, and for any kind F, if x and y are the same F (assuming antisymmetry), then x is an F, y is an F, and x = y.
3. That man with the hat = that man without a hat.

From which you can derive a contradiction (one person being hatted and not hatted), of course, unless one modulates the identity using modal information (that of difference in time). But obviously we do also see immediately that despite being the same person, that man with the hat and that man without the hat differ in properties. Obviously, time is not the only modality that adds this sort of complication. There is no generally accepted account of how to handle identity across modal domains. The three kinds of identity across modal domains most discussed these days are personal identity (i.e., one form of identity through time) and transworld identity (i.e., identity across different possible worlds), and material constitution (if one takes material constitution to be an identity relation; in which case it can involve several different kinds of modal domains). All of them raise remarkably complicated questions, and there is no consensus on the best way of handling any of them.

All three of these, however, require us to recognize that (3) is consistent with x and y also being very different, unless we assume that x and y are not in different modal domains. If they are in different modal domains (different times, different locations, different possibilities, different roles), x can equal y and yet differ from it in quite a few ways (hatted, unhatted; 13,148 days and nine hours old, 13 148 days and ten hours old; etc.). It's pretty clear in context that this is a problem for what Tuggy wants to say, since the point is to press a contradiction on
Bowman rather than just giving a slightly less specific statement of (1), but contradictions can be blocked by difference in modal domain. (This is why the principle of noncontradiction is usually stated as something like 'A cannot be both B and not-B in the same respect', i.e., in the same modal domain.) All of the traditional descriptions of the Trinity, however, and most of the modern 'models', lay out the doctrine in heavily modalized terms, so one would have to rule out, and not merely assume, the possibility that we have different modal domains.

ADDED LATER: James Chastek discusses a counterexample to (2) that is of particular relevance to the question.

Nomoi (Part II: Preludes to Law)

Book IV

The Athenian opens the discussion of the city in speech by asking about its background conditions, and first whether it is coastal or inland. Clinias replies that it is about eighty stades (about nine or ten miles from the sea), and it has excellent harbors. The land around it is productive of many things and hilly, and there is no other nearby city. The Athenian replies that the closeness to the sea is unfortunate, but at least it is not right on it, and the other facts seem to suggest that it is not necessarily unfit for virtue. He is relieved to discover that the land is not timber-rich, which will reduce the tendency of the colonists to imitate bad deeds of their enemies. To make his point he returns to the Minos story: Crete under Minos had a powerful navy, and Attica was relatively unfitted for the sea. Because of this, it took them a long time to build up any navy, and thus they were forced to amphibious tactics that were conducive to courage. Clinias replies by pointing out the importance of the sea-battle of Salamis in the Persian War. The Athenian insists, however, that the war was won by land battles, and that the land battles made the Greeks better while the sea battles made them worse, even when they were military successes like Salamis or Artemisium.

They turn to consider who will settle the colony, and Clinias says that it will be Cretans, and probably some Greeks from the Peloponnesus, as well. The Athenian notes that everyone having the same background and language increases the friendship of the city, but also increases the reluctance to have new laws, whereas people will be more willing to have new laws if they are of mixed backgrounds, but will also be less unified. For this reason, among others, it seems that no man makes laws; laws are formed by all sorts of chance events or practical needs. Everything apparently seems governed by God (theos), chance (tyche), and opportunity (kairos); there must, however, be some room somewhere for art/skill (techne). It seems that if someone has genuine skill, then they are able accurately to identify and pray for whatever particular gift of chance that they need. So the Athenian considers what it is for which the person of legislative skill would pray. And he suggests that it is a monarchy with a competent monarch: this is the fastest way for a city to get the laws it should have: the fewer rulers, the easier it is to get things done. However, the monarch to do this properly still has to lead by example, exemplifying the character that the laws are trying to encourage in the citizens.

The three men invoke the help of the God, and then consider the appropriate constitution for the city. They decide to do this by identifying the constitutions for their own city. Megillus and Clinias are flummoxed by the question, though, since Sparta and Knossos seem to have very mixed constitutions. The Athenian agrees with this, but says that they are perhaps not using the right kind of classification; the usual labels just indicate different ways of men ruling other men, whereas the real constitution one would want to classify according to the god "who really does rule over men who are rational enough to let him" (713a). He tells the myth of Chronos to clarify what he means. In the age of Chronos, people were happy because Chronos knew that human beings given full power over human beings would become corrupt. For this reason, he gave them daemons for kings who, like shepherds for sheep, took care that human beings had "peace, respect for others, good laws, justice in full measure, and a state of happiness and harmony among the races of the world" (713e). For this reason, the Athenian says, we should strive to live according to that principle, organizing our lives according to that which is divine in us, namely, reason. Whenever people rule on any lesser principle, disaster awaits.

The Athenian opposes the position that justice is what furthers the interests of those in power with the rule of law, in which "law is the master of the government and the government is its slave" (715d), and insists on the importance of the latter. He then imagines giving an address to the colonists:

Men, according to the ancient story, there is a god who holds in his hands the beginning and the end and the middle of all things, and straight he marches in the cycle of nature. Justice, who takes vengeance on those who abandon the divine law, never leaves his side. Teh man who lives in happiness latches on to her and follows her with meekness and humility. But he who bursts with pride, elated by wealth or honors or by physical beauty when young and foolish, whose soul is afire with the arrogant belief that so far from needing someone to control and lead him, he can play the leader to others--there's a man whom God has deserted. (715e-716b)

He continues by noting that "the moderate man is God's friend, being like him, whereas the immoderate and unjust man is not like him and is his enemy; and the same reasoning applies to the other vices too" (716d). The prayers of the good are effective, and those of the wicked are futile; so piety to gods, ancestors, and parents is a key element of civic life.

At this point, there is introduced one of the more interesting ideas of the dialogue, the preludial system of legislation. In this approach to lawmaking, it is generally inappropriate for laws to be put forward as mere commands backed by force; they need to persuade as well as compel, in the same way that the most effective doctor is one who not only prescribes but also encourages and explains. Thus major laws should have a prelude or preamble that gives the context for the law itself. These will tend to be the broad moral aims that justify imposing the law in the first place and give reasons for people to go along with the law. For instance, the Athenian proposes a law that all men must marry between the ages of thirty and thirty-five, and the prelude for it is that human beings have a nature tending to immortality, and procreation is one of the ways in which this natural desire is fulfilled, so that it is inappropriate for us to neglect marriage.

They all agree that the preludial system is a good approach, even Megillus, who notes that in general Spartans prefer laconic brevity, and, because the address previously given seems to serve as a general prelude for laws concerning piety and impiety, they agree that the Athenian Stranger should give a general prelude for the laws governing human concerns.

  Additional Remarks

* The colony city is almost twice as far from the sea as Athens is, so the Athenian's comments on this point are an implicit criticism of Athens itself. The suggestion that naval power has a tendency to corrupt by encouraging luxury-driven behavior and dreams of empire is one found elsewhere in Plato (e.g., Critias).

* The discussion began around dawn, but it is now around noon (722d).

* All throughout the discussion of the preludial system of legislation, the Athenian plays on the fact that the Greek word nomoi can mean either laws or songs of a certain kind; the 'prelude' of the law is like the prelude section of a musical composition, preparing the one who receives it for the main work.

Book V

The Athenian's approach in building the general preludes for human affairs is to focus on the concept of honor. Beneath the gods, the holiest thing in human life is a person's own soul; it is therefore that which should be most honored after the gods. Honoring one's soul is a matter of having proper priorities:

To put it in a nutshell, 'honor' is to cleave to what is superior, and, where practicable, to make as perfect as possible what is deficient. Nothing that nature gives a man is better adapted than his soul to enable him to avoid evil, keep on the track of the highest good, an dwhen he has captured his quarry to live in intimacy with it for the rest of his life. (728c-d)

After the soul, the body has third rank in honor. What matters with the body is all-around completeness in good balance. External goods like money work on the same principle: everything in moderation, avoiding excess and defect. The young must be taught modesty, but the best way to do this is not by rebuke but by patient example: the elder should respect the younger, so that by showing respect to the young they will show the young what it is to respect their elders. Relatives, friends, and companions should also be respected. Contracts with someone foreign (xenos) should be upheld, because the gods have compassion to the stranger who is without friends and family in a foreign place, and Zeus Xenios, god of Strangers, looks out for them.

The next matter of concern is how individuals themselves should act. "Truth heads the list of all things good, for gods and men alike" (730c), so citizens should be encouraged to be truthful. Likewise, one should always encourage prudence, temperance, and other virtues. One needs people to be spirited but capable of great gentleness, because justice often requires that one fight for justice, but one should pity those who do wrong (cp. the very similar argument in Gorgias). Self-love should be recognized as the most pernicious kind of vice, since it is the one we always excuse in ourselves. Joy and grief, pleasure and pain, should be maintained in balance, but the virtuous life is both more pleasant and more balanced than the vicious one.

This ends the prelude. Now there are two things to do: establish offices and create a code to govern them. But there are some preliminaries required in order to do this properly and well. One needs to weed out real troublemakers, those who are dangerous to the society, so that they will not begin destroying things from the very beginning. In an established society this would be difficult, but since they are proposing a colony, the major issue is simply to control what kind of person will become a colonist. The Athenian proposes that they should have 5040 colonists, since 5040 will divide equally in a lot of different ways, which will make distribution of land easier. The best kind of property would be one built on the principle that friends have all things in common, but since this is practically impossible, we should look for the kind of city that approximates it most effectively. So people should receive their own land, but regard it as a common good, and distributions should be as stable as possible, so that there are always about 5040 households, to the extent that one can manage this. Buying and selling of land allotment is to be illegal. The city should make its own money for use in giving wages, but gold and silver, and any common Greek coinage, is to be turned over to the city to be used for all. There are to be no dowries and no lending at interest.

The legislator is not to aim at making the people as wealthy as possible, for great wealth does not tend to virtue, and virtue should always be the aim of law: "The whole point of our legislation was to allow the citizens to live supremely happy lives in the greatest possible mutual friendship" (743c). The laws should encourage citizens to make their soul their highest day-to-day priority, and then their body, and only third their money.

The Athenian recommends that the land allotments be done by pairs of land, an outer estate and another allotment in the city itself, with the land and the city being divided into twelve. He recognizes that reality rarely fits idealized plans, but insist that the plans must be laid out first before one considers how it may be adjusted into feasibility. The plans themselves are to be orderly and mathematical to the extent possible, but things like water and weather also need to be taken into account.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Music on My Mind

Morgan James, "I Put a Spell on You".

A Screamin' Jay Hawkins song, originally, although James is covering Nina Simone's famous cover of it. (The Screamin' Jay Hawkins song, while a cult classic, never charted; Simone's cover was the highest charting version of it.) The Screamin' Jay version was originally intended to be a sweet love ballad; however he and the musicians got completely drunk before they recorded the album, which Screamin' Jay Hawkins always swore he never remembered actually making, and the lunatic version they came up with has never been forgotten.

They All Were Moderns in Their Day

Ballade of Moderns
by G. K. Chesterton

On deserts red and deserts grey
The temples into sand have slid;
Go search that splendour of decay
To find the final secret hid
In mummies' painted coffin-lid
In hieroglyphs of hunt and play.
Read the last word, my cultured kid,
They all were moderns in their day.

Yes, it was just as bold and gay
To do what Astoreth forbad.
Yes, it was smart to carve in clay
And chic to build a pyramid.
Yes, Babylonian boys were chid
For reading hieroglyphs risqué.
We do but as our fathers did --
They all were moderns in their day.

There are progressives who passed away
And prigs of whom the world is rid,
And there are men in hell today
As silly as old Ben Kidd;
And Webb (whose uncle calls him Sid),
God made him with the flowers of May,
And the blind stones he walked amid.
They all were moderns in their day.


Prince, still the soul stands virgin; "quid
Times"; we tear some rags away
But shall we grasp her; God forbid.
They all were moderns in their day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Polemicist Who Wouldn't Hurt a Fly (Re-Post)

Since today was the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, I re-post this comment from 2012.


Today is the feast of St. Roberto Bellarmino, polemical theologian and Doctor of the Church. Even if you didn't know he was a Jesuit you could figure it out by the fact that so many legends, apocryphal stories, and outright falsehoods have collected around him.

David Hume has an interesting comment about Bellarmine in The Natural History of Religion:

Bellarmine patiently and humbly allowed the fleas and other odious vermin to prey upon him. "We shall have heaven," said he, "to reward us for our sufferings; but these poor creatures have nothing but the enjoyment of the present life."

Like a number of Hume's weirder claims this comes from Pierre Bayle, who as a Calvinist is not wholly the most reliable source for information about Catholic saints. The advantage of Bayle, though, is that he tells us where he's getting these things. Bayle is drawing the story from Jacopo Fuligatti's life of Bellarmine. Fuligatti gives three stories about insects and Bellarmine's patience: first, it's said he counted gnats and other minor vexations to be from God, so he wouldn't drive them away, but simply endured them patiently; second, that he was once bitten by insects at Mass and turned to the statue of Christ to pray; and third, that Cardinal Crescentius told the story that in Rome, where flies are a problem, he wouldn't drive them away, and when asked why said, "It is unjust to disturb those little creatures whose only paradise is the freedom of flying and landing where they wish." Bayle sums it up by saying that he was said to be so patient that he allowed flies and other small insects to be troublesome to him; and being a sarcastic Calvinist, he insists on explicitly saying that shooing away bugs is consistent with the teachings of Christ. It should not need to be said, but unfortunately probably does, that there is nothing whatsoever in Bellarmine to suggest that he would not agree to this; that the stories are second-hand (third-hand by the time we get to Bayle) and, except for the third, which alone is sourced, they are vague and generic moral tales about patience and suffering which have parallels elsewhere in hagiographical convention (the first story explicitly links the bugs to minor vexations of life; the second links them to hell); that if Bellarmine actually did make the comment in the third story, it might well have been at least half-joking, because Bellarmine was notoriously fond of jokes and puns; and that, if true, the whole thing may for all we know have grown out of one single incident in the Cardinal's nearly eighty years of life. Bayle is telling the story from a popular source, and he is telling it as scholarly gossip and with a little malice.

It's noteworthy how Hume, who now gives the story at fourth-hand, embellishes on Bayle's story. We move from gnats and flies to "fleas and other odious vermin." Conceivably the vague reference to biting insects in the second story could be taken as meaning fleas; but it's a different story than the one that involves the comment. Hume takes the figurative reference to paradise and turns the whole saying into a comment about the afterlife, which is actually crucial to how it is used in context. Either he is telling the story from memory -- which is possible -- or he is reworking it to make it fit its context, which is the difference between the nobility of Greek heroes (representing polytheism) and the abasement of Catholic saints (representing monotheism).

Many more people in the English-speaking world read Hume now than read Bayle, so it's Hume's story that has spread since; and you can regularly find people stating as fact that Bellarmine let fleas drink his blood because they can't go to heaven. The thing of it is, this is hardly unusual with Bellarmine; half the stories you come across about him are just like this one. Actually, this one is better than a lot of the stories that are told about him, since Bayle's version, at least, is not provably false and has (unlike most such stories) some sort of provenance.

Nomoi (Part I: Pilgrimage to the Cave of Zeus)

The Laws is Plato's longest dialogue; in antiquity it was often counted as twelve dialogues, although the break-up into twelve books may be later than the dialogue itself. The Laws is usually considered one of the definitely authentic dialogues. According to Diogenes Laertius, it was Plato's last dialogue, still on wax tablets (i.e., still in the draft stage) when Plato died; according to Diogenes Laertius as well, it was transcribed by Philip of Opus, a student at the Academy, who also wrote Epinomis. Because of this, the Laws has often been used to date other dialogues; although I'm not wholly sure why, since it is not as if Diogenes Laertius is a hugely reliable source on most things. The basic argument for the authenticity of the Laws is quite strong: Aristotle explicitly attributes it to Plato in Politics Book II, which is the strongest external evidence of authenticity. However, there seems to be an increasing trend in thinking that the Laws, or at least much of it, is not completely Plato's. The view that it is (at least largely) authentic still seems to be, as far as I can tell, the clear majority view -- but it is increasingly easy to find Plato scholars at least willing to consider the possibility that parts, at least, might be heavily redacted by later hands. Stylometric considerations have linked it in terms of vocabulary with Critias, Timaeus, Philebus, Sophist, and Statesman, but, of course, since Aristotle it has been most closely compared to the Republic.

You can read the Laws online in English at Perseus Project and in Cousin's French at Wikisource.

The Characters

The Laws is a non-Socratic dialogue (although Aristotle repeatedly refers to the Athenian Stranger by the name 'Socrates'). The characters are the Athenian Stranger (Xenos in Greek), the Cretan Clinias, and the Spartan Megillus. It is unclear whether the last two are historical figures or not -- Debra Nails notes that 'Clinias' would be an unusual name for a Cretan, but also notes that there are possible mentions of Megillus in other sources.

Book I

The Athenian Stranger opens the dialogue by asking the other two whether the source of their codes of law is human or divine. Clinias replies that in Crete, where he is from, the code of laws is attributed to Zeus, and in Sparta, where Megillus is from, it is attributed to Apollo. The Athenian asks if the Cretans follow Homer in taking Minos to have had regular consultations with Zeus, and Clinias replies that this fits the Cretan version, which also describes Minos' brother Rhadamanthus as an exceptionally just judge. The Athenian then proposes that they discuss codes of law on their journey. They are walking from Knossos to the shrine at the Cave of Zeus, and it is a long way, although there are shady areas and cool meadows where they can stop and rest. And so they start off.

The Athenian Stranger asks why it is that the Cretans and Spartans enforce communal meals and special systems of physical training by law. Clinias replies that the legislator no doubt did it with an eye to making sure that they could be supreme in war. The Athenian Stranger, however, is unconvinced, and goes on to argue that this can't be right: the goal of a legislator is not increasing the ability for war but increasing the unity, reconciling enemies and furthering peace. Preparing for war is just a necessary evil subordinate to this end: "he'll become a genuine lawgiver only if he designs his legislation about war as a tool for peace, rather than his legislation for peace as an instrument of war" (628d-e). Clinias concedes that this sounds reasonable, but notes that he would be very surprised if the institutions of Crete and Sparta were not, in fact, geared for war. The Athenian responds by imagining a dialogue with the poet Tyrtaeus, an Athenian who became a Spartan, to argue that a legislator must concern himself with highest virtue. Clinias remarks that this is as much to say that the Cretan legislator was a failure, but the Athenian points out that one could as easily say that they had made the mistake, in thinking that the legislator was concerned with only one part of virtue rather than the whole. In reality, we should look at a larger picture;

'Now, Sir,' you ought to have said, 'it is no accident that the laws of the Cretans have such a high reputation in the entire Greek world. They are sound laws, and achieve the happiness of those who observe them, by producing for them a great number of benefits. These benefits fall into two classes, "human" and "divine." The former depend on the latter, and if a city receives the one sort, it wins the other too--the greater include the lesser; if not, it goes without both. Health (hygieia) heads the list of the lesser benefits, followed by beauty (kallos); third comes strength (ischys), for racing and other physical exercises. Wealth (ploutos) is fourth--not "blind" wealth, but the clear-sighted kind whose companion is good judgment--and good judgment (phronesis) itself is the leading "divine" benefit; second comes the habitual self-control of a soul that uses reason (meta nou sophron psyches hexis). If you combine these two with courage, you get (thirdly) justice (dikaiosyne); courage (andreia) itself lies in fourth place. All these take a natural precedence over the others, and the lawgiver must of course rank them in the same order. Then he must inform the citizens that the other instructions they receive have these benefits in view: the "human" benefits have the "divine" in view, and all these in turn look towards reason, which is supreme....' (631b-d)

They decide to start from the beginning again, looking at how the legislator handles fortitude and then using their discussion of that as a model for the rest. The Athenian argues that courage concerns not just conquering in matters of pain, but also in matters of pleasure; they look at institutions that expose people to pains and pleasures in order to teach them how to overcome them. Clinias and Megillus, however, have difficulty coming up with institutions on the pleasure side, and the Athenian notes that this seems fairly unique to these regimes: they expose men extensively to pains and dangers in order to teach them to overcome them, but try to keep people away from pleasures entirely.

They next turn to self-control, and Megillus proposes again that common meals and gymnastic exercises contribute to this, but the Athenian notes that they can contribute to revolution as well. In addition, they seem to corrupt the pursuits of pleasures, especially sexual pleasures, directing people not to the natural pleasures of sex between men and women in order to have a child but to the unnatural pleasures of men and men or women and women, which arise not in order to have a child but simply because the people in question cannot control their desires for pleasure. There seems to be a need to draw from both fountains, pleasure and pain, and one needs to know the proper occasions for doing so.

Megillus, however, argues that the Spartan custom of avoiding pleasure seems to work quite well, to which the Athenian replies that it no doubt does for people who already have a certain character. He proposes that they focus in particular on drunkenness. There are many different approaches to it on the table, ranging from the total abstention of the Spartans and Cretans to the intensive drinking of the Scythians and Thracians. He then goes on to defend drinking parties (symposia) as real contributions to the education of the citizenry by arguing that someone who wishes to be truly good at a trade must practice it from childhood, and what a city really needs is for people to practice virtue even from childhood. People are trained by fear, confidence, and reasoning, however, and reasoning when it is a public decision is a law; wine removes fear and intensifies confidence, and thus provides an occasion for the practice of self-control.

Book II

The Athenian continues his defense of drinking parties by looking at the nature of education. He ties education again to the managing of pleasures and pains:

I maintain that the earliest sensations that a child feels in infancy are of pleasure and pain, and this is the route by which virtue and vice first enter the soul....I call 'education' the initial acquisition of virtue by the child, when the feelings of pleasure and affection (philia), pain and hatred, that well up in his soul are channeled in the right courses before he can understand the reason why. Then when he does understand, his reason and his emotions agree in telling him that he has been properly trained by inculcation of appropriate habits. Virtue is this general concord of reason and emotion. (653a-b)

Education, in other words, is focused on training children to love what ought to be loved and rejecting what ought to be rejected, so that our loves and hates accord with reason. This can wear off, over time, so that we need means of recuperation. This has been provided by the gods, who provide religious festivities so that we might be refreshed and restore our characters to proper balance. A significant part of this is music and dance. Even young non-human animals like to jump around and cry out; the difference in our case is that we, being rational, are capable of appreciating order and disorder in these things. Thus we have music and dance, which enable us simultaneously to relax and to practice being rational. Goodness in song and dance has to be understood in terms of education: a person may in some sense sing well by being able to represent good things accurately, but the true and proper sense of singing well is having the right alignment of loves and hates, pleasures and pains: this is to be trained in music and dance. If this is so, however, it is also not true to say that the standard of music and dance is whether they give pleasure: they need to be rationally ordered and appropriate to a good human being and his or her state. We would not teach children just any kind of dancing and singing, after all, but appropriate ones, and this is true generally; at the very least, you need the dancing and singing to be appropriate to whatever function it is supposed to fulfill in the health of the city. Thus we get the standard of taste: "The productions of the Muse are at their finest when they delight men of high calibre and adequate education--but particularly if they succeed in pleasing the single individual whose education and moral standards reach heights attained by no one else" (658e-659a). One of the major implications of this is that a musician is a teacher, and must act accordingly, not pandering to what just anyone, but providing a way for people to educate their loves and hates, pleasures and pains, properly.

One of the things the Athenian, very Platonically, does not want to say is that there is an inherent split between the pleasurable life and the virtuous life; he insists (as Plato does elsewhere) that what the virtuous find pleasurable is different from what the vicious find pleasurable, and because virtue is required for rational judgment in such matters, only the judgment of the virtuous is right. Even if this weren't true, it would obviously be valuable for people to believe it correct. This too must be expressed in song and dance.

As men get older, song and dance still remain important, but the kind of song and dance that is appropriate for them changes. Young people can with dignity enter competitions and the like, but older people are more sober and cannot so easily rely on the natural charms of youth. This brings us back to dinner parties. People under eighteen should be forbidden wine, because wine intensifies the dangerous tendencies of youth. People under thirty may drink in moderation but should be kept sharply within bounds. But those who are over thirty should let themselves loosen up at common meals and "summon Dionysus to what is at once the play-time and the prayer-time of the old" (666b). Wine helps them grow young again; it cures any curmudgeonliness they might be developing; by softening their cast of mind a bit it makes it easier for them to bring themselves back into proper balance.

Pleasant things can be pleasant in a way that emphasizes the charm, or the correctness, or the usefulness of the things in question. Thus things should only be judged wholly by the standard of pleasing others if they are not also true or useful. This applies to imaginative (eikastike) and imitative (mimetike) arts like music; the fact that music pleases others is in a way the least important thing about it -- certainly not as important as correctly imitating the beautiful/splendid (kalos). If the arts of the Muses are to be judged by how well they imitate the beautiful, however, then the only ones who can seriously be in a position to judge them are those who already know the beautiful. A judicious assessment of the matter has to take in the original, the correctness of the copy, and the quality of the copying. Modern judgments of music consistently fail on these points.

Thus the older men need to have an excellent training in song and dance, both so that they may dance and sing in ways appropriate to their age, but also so that they may serve as leaders and guides for the singing and dancing of the young. Dinner parties or symposia, then, are an appropriate and fitting object of legislation; there should be experienced men, over sixty years of age, to serve as generals of Dionysus, doing for wine what the generals of Ares do for war, but wine plays an important role in the health of the city. Drinking is excellent if done in an orderly way, and it serves as training for temperance. If we do it frivolously, however, drinking is so dangerous that we might as well go so far as punish people for doing it.

  Additional Remarks

* In the notes to Bury's translation there is a good summary of the criticisms the Athenian Stranger makes of modern music:

...the main features censured are—incongruity, when the words, tunes and gestures of an acted piece of music are out of harmony; senselessness, when tunes and gestures are divorced from words; barbarousness, when the thing represented is paltry or uncouth (such as a duck's quack); virtuosity, when the performer makes a display of the control he has over his limbs and instruments, like a mountebank or “contortionist.” All these are marks of bad music from the point of view of the educationist and statesman, since they are neither “correct” nor morally elevating.

* It may seem a bit odd that the dialogue opens with a very extended defense of the importance of drinking parties, but it is an indirect way of arguing that temperance is as important to a city as fortitude -- in an analogy that is occasionally made explicit, symposia do for temperance in a city what the martial exercises of the Cretans and Spartans do for fortitude. The subject also keeps the argument of the dialogue connected to the original idea, which is that the real source of the laws is divine: the drinking that the Athenian Stranger is advocating is explicitly drinking associated with religious festivals, whose purpose in turn is to refresh and restore our moral characters through song and dance.

Book III

Having defended symposia, the Athenian asks what they should say about the origins of cities. They all agree that the history of cities is cyclical, as cities are destroyed or founded, as they increase in size or decrease in size, as they become good or turn bad. They imagine a few survivors surviving the great Flood, hiding in the mountains, and from there proceed to work out a speculative history of the slow, gradual re-establishment of city life. Such men would tend to be of noble character, through necessity, but they were both naive and ignorant of how to form societies in the best way. Instead of having statutory law, which requires writing, they lived according to custom (ethos) and the conventions of their fathers, as scattered clans are essentially extended families ruled by parents or the eldest members. Slowly they become more sophisticated, turning to farming and making homesteads and fencing off land, and at the same time become more aware of the differences among the customs of various settlement. They then start advising each other on laws, and they adopt those that seem good to them.

After a while, though, people start moving down from the highlands to the plains, being far enough removed from the disaster of the past to throw off fear of its happening again. The city of Troy is an example of this. Other peoples did the same, cities proliferated, and soon enough we have the Trojan War. Returning home, they sometimes found themselves unwelcome; rallied by Dorieus, they banded together as the Dorians and established places like Sparta. The Dorians forged alliances among the cities of Sparta, Argos, and Messene, one designed for the protection of all the Greeks. Since they were just starting out, they had many advantages over later legislators -- they were not trying to reform practices to which the people were already attached -- but it all went wrong, anyway. Argos and Messene collapsed, leaving only Sparta. And the reason is that the impressive character of the alliance to protect all Greeks lies entirely in something purely instrumental -- the ability to put forward an army like no other. And human beings, the Athenian notes, have a bad habit of assuming that a splendid instrument will cure all their problems. People get dazzled by wealth, for instance, and think that if only they put such a fine tool to fine use, they would inevitably have good results.

In reality, though, everyone tends to grasp after the desires of their own hearts, despite the fact that sometimes we are quite ignorant about what is really good for us, and thus are trying for bad things. We see this in prayer: prayer is dangerous for those without wisdom. The alliance collapsed through a lack of wisdom, which is why legislators must, above all, implant wisdom in the city. This occurs, again, by education forming our love and hate in an appropriate way. This is tied to the fact that in cities there must be ruler and ruled -- first parent and child, or noble and ignoble, or elder and younger, or master and slave, or stronger and weaker, or wise and foolish (the most important), or those chosen by lot and those not chosen by lot. The creation of faction makes possible the collapse of government; and at the level of kings, this was due to the pursuit of luxury. The Spartans were saved from this, however, by the fact that they ended up with a split kingship -- the kingship was originally shared by brothers -- as well as a council of elders and an ephor system to keep the power of the rulers in check. The divinely favored character of this constitution is seen by the survival of the Spartans and by the fact that they were the only one of the three cities actually to fulfill the function of protecting all of Greece when the Persians invaded. It shows that the most important thing for a legislator to aim at is a society that is wise, free, and bonded by friendship.

The Athenian argues that there are two pure kinds of government, monarchy (like the Persians) and democracy (like the Athenians). In order to have freedom and friendship joined together by wisdom, however, it is essential to blend the two. Under Cyrus the Persians became powerful and prosperous precisely because he allowed the people a considerable measure of freedom. But Cyrus was unable to teach his sons to do this as well, and let them become corrupted by the luxuries of the court. They met disaster, and only recovered because they became dominated by Darius, who was in some ways like Cyrus. But Darius made the same mistake, and disasters followed again. This was not due to luck but to bad education. And the only reason a person should come to rule is if they have the whole of virtue -- prudence, temperance, justice, and courage, all. These are the people who should be honored. The failure of the Persians to legislate with this in mind led to despotism and war. The tale on the Athenian side is much the same, allowing for the differences in constitutional structure. Originally they distributed power and were governed according to reverence, which united them internally and with other Greek cities, so that they protected the Greeks against the Persians. But just as the Persians practically destroyed themselves by making their people the slaves of luxury-hungry kings, so the Athenians began to ruin themselves by giving people too much license, thus destroying the orderliness of their education and breaking down the friendship of the city until children wouldn't even treat their parents with proper respect.

The Athenian ends by asking what test they might use to check that their conclusions are right. Clinias responds that Crete is founding a colony, in the planning for which he is heavily involved, so he suggests that they use their conclusions to design the legal framework for the colony, building a city in speech, thus letting them investigate these matters further, and perhaps, should the results be favorable, putting them into effect. They all agree on this, and the rest of the dialogue is concerned with this project.

  Additional Remarks

* Notice that the Athenian suggests that legislation starts with the interaction between cities rather than anything internal to them.

* The history of the Dorians is quite surprising; everywhere else they are mentioned, they are said to be an invading people who drove out the Achaeans from the Peloponnesus (hence Sparta's famous two-tier structure with occupying Spartans on top of occupied helots), not Achaeans who were exiled.

* The tale of Hippolytus is that Phaedra, the wife of Theseus (and daughter of Minos), accused Theseus' son Hippolytus of trying to take advantage of her. Theseus prayed to his father, Poseidon, to punish the boy, and Poseidon did by causing him to die in a chariot accident. Theseus only then learned that the boy was innocent.

* Ephors were representatives elected by the people for one and only one term; they shared power with the kings, significant policies requiring majority vote of the ephors and kings. The system probably arose because one of the functions (the primary function, in fact) of the kings was to lead armies into battle, and the ephors provided a way for governance to continue even when kings were gone for an extended period of time. The ephors, when in agreement, were in practice an absolute authority.

* Aristotle, in Books II and III of the Politics, protests rather firmly against some of the Athenian Stranger's claims in this book. One of his protests against the plausibility of the suggestion that all good governments are blends of monarchy and democracy. But it seems clear enough that Plato's intent here is simply to take these as stand-ins for more abstract qualities: unity and liberty, which he repeatedly says the legislator should unite by prudence.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Clew of Memory

The whole system of the languages of man is but the external and visible copy and true mirror of his inmost consciousness. The different epochs of their ancient production are but so many terms in the progression observed by the human mind in its development. Consequently, language in general, as the clew of memory, and tradition, which binds together all nations in their chronological series and succession, is, as it were, the common memory and organ of recollection for the whole human race.

Friedrich von Schlegel, Philosophy of Language, Morrison, tr., pp. 395-396.