Friday, July 31, 2015

The heart has its rationalizations, which reason did not abjure

"Probity, Sir, does not permit me to deny the force of these arguments.  I am persuaded that he is a dishonest man [who] treats with apparent contempt the reasons of his adversaries when he feels the whole force of them in the depths of his heart; this would be to lie to others as well as to oneself.  Thus, when we together examined all the miracles of antiquity, we have neither disguised nor treated with contempt the reasons of those who deny them, and we only opposed, in good Christian fashion [(en bons chrétiens)], the faith to arguments.  Faith consists in believing what the understanding cannot, and it is in this that the merit lies.
"But Sir, in being persuaded by faith of things which appear absurd to our intelligence, which is to say, in believing what we do not believe, we are protected from making this sacrifice of our reason in the conduct of life.
"There have been those who have said, to the contrary, 'You believe things incomprehensible, contradictory, impossible because we have ordered you to; so do things unjust because we have ordered you to.'  These people reason wondrously.  [For] certainly he who is within his rights to render you absurd is within his rights to render you unjust.  If you do not oppose to orders to believe the impossible the intelligence that God has placed in your mind, you are not obliged to oppose to orders to do evil the justice that God has placed in your heart.  Once [you have allowed] one faculty of your soul to be tyrannized, all the other faculties must be equally so.  And it is this which has produced all the religious crimes with which the earth has been inundated."

"La probité, monsieur, ne me permet pas de nier la force de ces arguments. Je suis persuadé qu'il est d'un malhonnête homme de traiter avec un mépris apparent les raisons de ses adversaires, quand on en sent toute la puissance dans le fond de son coeur: c'est mentir aux autres et à soi-même. Ainsi, quand nous avons examiné ensemble les miracles de l'antiquité, nous n'avons ni déguisé ni méprisé les raisons de ceux qui les nient, et nous n'avons opposé, en bons chrétiens, que la foi aux arguments. La foi consiste à croire ce que l'entendement ne saurait croire; et c'est en cela qu'est le mérite. "Mais, monsieur, en étant persuadés, par la foi, des choses qui paraissaient absurdes à notre intelligence, c'est-à-dire en croyant ce que nous ne croyons pas, gardons-nous de faire ce sacrifice de notre raison dans la conduite de la vie.
"Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois: Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l'avons ordonné; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l'ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n'opposez point aux ordres de croire l'impossible l'intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre coeur. Une faculté de votre àme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l'être également. Et c'est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée."

Voltaire, Letter 12 On miracles (1795), translation mine. Tout Voltaire (whence the French); 1797, pp. 150-151.
But of course Pascal (to whom Voltaire himself is of couse here responding) had already replied more than thirty years before Voltaire was even born. Reason and the heart lie on different levels.
But of course Pascal stole this from Plato, Republic 9, 582a ff. (the second argument: "Which of the three men has most experience of the pleasures we mentioned?" The one ruled by the love of learning (the rational part). He has more experience of the pleasure of being honored than the one ruled by the love of honor (the spirited part), just as the one ruled by the love of honor has more experience of the pleasure of profit than the one ruled by the love of profit (the appetitive part, because the "appetites for food, drink, sex, and all the things associated with them . . . are most most easily satisfied by means of money" (580d-581a)) and 583b ff. (the third argument: "apart from those of a knowledgeable person, the other pleasures are neither entirely true nor pure but are like a shadow-painting").

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"'Welcome, men'"

     With a yell he woke up.  A space boat had nudged against his crystal hull, and was now bobbing a few feet away.  It was a solid metal ovoid, of a model he recognized, and the numbers and letters on its hull were familiar to him.  He had made it.  He had hung on.  The ordeal was over.
     The little hatch of the rescue boat opened, and two suited figures emerged, one after the other, from its sheltered interior. At once these figures became silver-blurred as the berserker's machines had been, but these men's features were visible through their faceplates, their eyes looking straight at Karlsen. They smiled in steady encouragement, never taking their eyes from his.
     Not for an instant.
     They rapped on his door, and kept smiling while he put on his spacesuit. But he made no move to let them in; instead he drew his gun.
     They frowned. Inside their helmets their mouths formed words: Open up! He flipped on his radio, but if they were sending nothing was coming through in this space. They kept on gazing steadily at him.
     Wait, he signaled with an upraised hand. He got a slate and stylus from his chair, and wrote them a message.
     He was sane but maybe they thought him mad. As if to humor him, they began to look around them. A new set of dragon-head prominences were rising ahead, beyond the stormy horizon at the rim of the world. The frowning men looked ahead of them at dragons, around them at buzzsaw rainbow whirls of stone, they looked down into the deadly depths of the inferno, they looked up at the stars' poisonous blue-white spears sliding visibly over the void.
     Then both of them, still frowning uncomprehendingly, looked right back at Karlsen.
     He sat in his chair, holding his drawn gun, waiting, having no more to say. He knew the berserker-ship would have boats aboard, and that it could build its killing machines into the likenesses of men. These were almost good enough to fool him.
     The figures outside produced a slate of their own from somewhere.
     He looked back. The cloud of dust raised by the berserker's own weapons had settled around it, hiding it and all the forceline behind it from Karlsen's view. Oh, if only he could believe that these were men . . .
     They gestured energetically, and lettered some more.
     And again:
     He didn't dare read any more of their messages for fear he would believe them, rush out into their metal arms, and be torn apart. He closed his eyes and prayed. After a long time he opened his eyes again. His visitors and their boats were gone.
     Not long afterward—as time seemed to him—there were flashes of light from inside the dust cloud surrounding the berserker. A fight, to which someone had brought weapons that would work in this space? Or another attempt to trick him? He would see.
     He was watching alertly as another rescue boat, much like the first, inched its way out of the dustcloud toward him. It drew alongside and stopped. Two more spacesuited figures got out and began to wear silver drapery.
     This time he had his sign ready.
     As if to humor him, they began to look around them. Maybe they thought him mad, but he was sane. After about a minute they still hadn't turned back to him—one's face looked up and out at the unbelievable stars, while the other slowly swiveled his neck, watching a dragon's head go by. Gradually their bodies became congealed in awe and terror, clinging and crouching against his glass wall.
     After taking half a minute more to check his own helmet and suit, Karlsen bled out his cabin air and opened his door.
     "Welcome, men," he said, over his helmet radio. He had to help one of them aboard the rescue boat. But they made it.

     Fred Saberhagen, "The face of the deep" (1966), Beserker (1967), as reproduced here, and corrected against a large print edition ((Waterville, MN:  Thorndike Press, 2003), 332-336).

Quiz for Sara

Pseudo-Luther on "the conversion of the purse"

"There are three conversions necessary:  the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse."

     Popularly but in all probability erroneously attributed to Martin Luther.  Cf. this, from 1858 (undoubtedly far from the first such use of "purse").  My friend James Darlack, Director of the Goddard Library at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, confirms that it is not supported in the 1980 source cited by Richard Foster on p. 250 of Money, sex and power (1985), in which (likely the book responsible for diffusing the error) it appears on p. 19 as follows:
There are three conversions necessary:  the conversion of the heart, mind, and the purse.
At my request Mr. Darlack also searched the electronic edition of the American edition of Luther's Works (as did several other ATLA librarians), but without success.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"'Nevertheless, it is not for the Supremacy that you have sought my blood—but because I would not bend to the marriage!'"

     Saint Thomas More as quoted by Robert Bolt in A man for all seasons:  a play in two acts, Act 2 (New York:  Vintage International, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 1990 [1960]), 160).

Wolf Hall, series 1, episode 4.
     In the Paris Newsletter's Account (=Michel de Castelnau, Memoires, vol. 1 (Brussels:  1731), pp. 417-418 (414 ff.)) of 4 August 1535, this appears (in English translation) as follows:
'I say further, that your Statute is ill made, because you have sworn never to do anything against the Church, which through all Christendom is one and undivided, and you have no authority, without the common consent of all Christians, to make a law or Act of Parliament or Council against the union of Christendom.  I know well that the reason why you have condemned me is because I have never been willing to consent to the King’s second marriage; but I hope in the divine goodness and mercy, that as St. Paul and St. Stephen whom he persecuted, are now friends in Paradise, so we, though differing in this world, shall be united in perfect charity in the other.  I pray God to protect the King and give him good counsel.'
Thomas More source book, ed. Gerard B. Wegemer & Stephen W. Smith (Washington, DC:  The Catholic University of America Press, 2004), 387 (underscoring mine), which quotes Letters and papers, foreign and domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, vol. 8, ed. James Gairdner (London: Longmans & Co., 1885), no. 996, p. 395.