Monday, March 31, 2014

sufficient unto the day

     . . . for what so strong,
     But wanting rest will also want of might?
     The Sunne that measures heauen all day long,
At night doth baite his steedes the Ocean waues among.

Then with the Sunne take Sir, your timely rest,
     And with the new day new worke at once begin:
     Vntroubled night they say giues counsell best.

     The Lady to the Knight of the Red Crosse, Edmund Spenser, The faerie queen I.i.32 l.6-33 l.3.
     Not that that sleep turned out to be without its dangers, the "faire discourse" and "Aue-Mary" notwithstanding!  (Or maybe the pair should have known better than to have "told of Saintes and Popes" and "strowd an Aue-Mary".)

The riotous fecundity of the divine conception of unity

"To compel all men to follow the same course towards the same object is a human conception; to introduce infinite variety of action, but so combined that all these acts lead in a thousand different ways to the accomplishment of one great design, is a divine conception."

     Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America II (1840).iv.2 ("That the opinions of democratic nations about government are naturally favorable to the concentration of power"), Appendix Y, trans. Henry Reeve, with revisions by Francis Bowen and Phillips Bradley ((New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), vol. 2, p. 367); Œuvres, ed. André Jardin (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade), II (De la démocratie en Amérique), ed. Jean-Claude Lamberti and James T. Schleifer (Paris:  Éditions Gallimard, 1992), 861.

     There are so many senses in which this seems undeniable (and, for example, utterly Thomistic).  And yet so many ways, too, in which it could also be mis-taken and mis-applied.
Men place the greatness of their idea of unity in the means, God in the ends; hence this idea of greatness, as men conceive it, leads us to infinite littleness.  To compel all men to follow the same course towards the same object [(à marcher de la même, vers le même objet)] is a human conception; to introduce infinite variety of action, but so combined that all these acts lead in a thousand different ways to the accomplishment of one great design [(Introduire une variété infinie dans les actes, mais les combiner de manière à ce que tous ces actes conduisent par mille voies diverses vers l'accomplissement d'un grand dessein)], is a divine conception.
     The human idea of unity is almost always barren [(stérile)]; the divine idea is infinitely fruitful [(immensément fécond)].  Men think they manifest their greatness by simplifying the means they use; but it is the purpose of God which is simple; his means are infinitely varied [(varient à l'infini)].

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"the normative, indeed the rational, is a wine beyond the purse of naturalism's ontology. . . ."

     Conor Cunningham, "Dawkins the Neanderthal and Darwin's pious idea," in The unknown God:  sermons responding to the new atheists, ed. John Hughes (Eugene, OR:  Cascade Books, 2013), 36 (29-46).

"the modern idea that we can choose between Hierarchy and equality is, for Shakespeare's Ulysses, mere moonshine."

When that the general is not like the hive
To whom the foragers shall all repair,
What honey is expected? . . .
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows. Each thing (meets)
In mere oppugnancy. . . .
Force should be right, or, rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then everything (includes) itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite,
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey
And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
Follows the choking.
And this neglection of degree it is
That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
It hath to climb. The General’s disdained
By him one step below, he by the next,
That next by him beneath; so every step,
Exampled by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation.
And ’tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.

     William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida I.3, ll. 85-141.  Header derives from C. S. Lewis, A preface to Paradise Lost, being the Ballard Matthews Lectures delivered at University College, North Wales, 1941, revised and enlarged (London:  Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1956 [1942]), 72.

"it is a fundamental principle with the English Lawyers, that Parliament can do every thing, except making a Woman a Man, or a Man a Woman."

     Jean Louis de Lolme, The constitution of England, or An account of the English government; . . . 4th ed. corr. & enlarged, I.x ((London:  printed for G. Robinson . . . and J. Murray, 1784), 133a-134).  I haven't yet tracked this to an edition of the French original, but the French appears on p. 1043 of the 1992 Pléiade edition of Tocqueville as follows:  "C'est un principe fondamental pour les juristes anglais que le Parlement peut tout, sauf transformer une femme en homme et vice versa."  It appears in Appendix M of vol. 2 of the Reeve-Bowen-Bradley translation of Tocqueville I cite elsewhere in this blog ((New York:  Knopf, 1997), vol. 2, p. 355).
     The context is, of course, important here:
Owing to the above mentioned real difficulty in creating new Writs [or Briefs (Brevia)] on the one hand, and to the absolute necessity of such Writs in the Courts of Common Law on the other, many new species of claims and cases . . . are left unprovided for, and remain . . . like so many inaccessible spots, which the laws in being cannot reach. . . .     To remedy the above inconvenience, or rather in some degree to palliate it, law fictions have been resorted to, in the English law, by which Writs, being warped from their actual meaning, are made to extend to cases to which they in no shape belong.     Law fictions of the kind we mention were not unknown to the old Roman Jurisconsults; and as an instance of their ingenuity in that respect, may be mentioned that kind of action, in which a Daughter was called a Son (a). 
     (a) From the above instance it might be concluded that the Roman Jurisconsults were possessed of still greater power than the English Parliament; for", etc. (as above).