Sunday, 30 December 2012

Scrooge Award for Dominic Lawson

Scrooge Award of the Season:
In today’s Sunday Times Dominic Lawson rejoices that Going over the cliff can save the welfare hogs. He or his editor is not very strong on the finer points of the N.T. That the devils that oppress and possess the welfare system should perish with the hogs that feed at the trough of disability benefits would be a good result as far as he is concerned. There is no talk of the hogs that do rather better on inability benefits in Wall St. and the City of London.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I thought I’d read A Christmas Carol but I hadn’t as I recognised when I began it ‘again’. We all think we’ve read it because the story has so imprinted itself on our brains through the many versions that wander back and forth across the one true one. In a way it’s read itself into us so that when we hear laissez-faire economists begin their analysis we nod and mutter ‘Ebenezer’.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.
“Both very busy, sir.”
“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”

The first edition of A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 just four years before the disastrous famine in Ireland which was was regarded by the powers that be as a providential thinning so the righteousness of Scrooge was not the maundering of a pathetic miser but economic orthodoxy. That’s Dickens slipping the truth like a shiv between the 3rd. and 4th. rib.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Intrinsic Validity in the Vedanta Paribhasa of Adhvarindra and The indefectibility of Certitude in Newman

The Validity of Knowledge is Intrinsic and Self-Evident.

The validity of knowledge generated by the above-mentioned means of knowledge originates by itself and is self-evident. To explain: Valid knowledge is that knowledge regarding something possessing a particular attribute, which has that attribute as its feature, which is conducive to successful effort, and which includes recollection as well as fresh experience. That validity is due to the totality of causes producing knowledge in general, and does not depend on extra merit, for there is no merit that abides in all valid knowledge.
The invalidity of nowledge, however, is not due to the totality of causes of knowledge in general, for in that case even valid knowledge would be invalid, but it is due to some adventitious defect.

What V.P. is proffering here is a robust form of realism. We make mistakes but these mistakes do not plunge us into general scepticism. We take things as given unless our attempts to act upon this knowledge gives rise to frustration.

This sort of trust has a similar ring to it as the general conclusions of Newman on The Indefectibility of Certitude.

 On the contrary, any conviction, false as well as true, may last; and any conviction, true as well as false, may be lost. A conviction in favour of a proposition may be exchanged for a conviction of its contradictory; and each of them may be attended, while they last, by that sense of security and repose, which a true object alone can legitimately impart. No line can be drawn between such real certitudes as have truth for their object, and apparent certitudes. No distinct test can be named, sufficient to discriminate between what may be called the false prophet and the true. What looks like certitude always is exposed to the chance of turning out to be a mistake.

The same feeling is here of the soundness of knowledge in general, that it is not due to an inherent lack of foundation that it collapses from time to time but that error is an external or adventitious hazard.

Is not looking for certainty in either a rationalist foundation or a sensible vividness merely the face and obverse of the same counterfeit coin?

We step from stone to stone in our crossing and we are not in reality wading through the stream.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Life in the Fast Lane by Garry Pettitt

De gustibus non est disputandum. If you prefer Lovecraft to Joyce we may simply agree to differ and if I never again discuss literature with you that is no more than snobbery. We do not wrangle over this because taste is the bedrock of fixed predilection yet we find our tastes changing; the enthusiasms of our youth are replaced as we grow older and the raucous passion of rock and roll finds a greater emotional range in opera.

What makes a good novel good has as its shadow the badness of the bad novel. We teach ourselves the distinction by an empirical acquaintance with fiction that remains shuffling in the halls of the banal. How often too the most gifted in experience will be unable to make very much of it. In a mysterious way they seem to be unable to tell a story. Compton Mackenzie is to me that sort of writer whose narrative capacity on a linear level is fine, there are even flourishes of good writing but what Aristotle called amplitude is lacking. They lack that beginning, middle and end which he says is what a whole consists of and who am I to contradict Magister Ari. Sometimes his utterances have the wisdom of simplicity like the coach’s dictum on the virtue of possession. ‘If we have the ball they can’t score with it’. Be that as it may, Mackenzie seems to be all middle and it’s all middle because it’s all linear. There’s no depth just progression. Modernist fiction brought in the idea of stream of consciousness which shows the simultaneous aspects of the totality of any state of mind. Natural storytellers do that effortlessly.

I’m looking at a little book, Life’s too Short(£1.99), edited by Val McDermid (Wire in the Blood) being true stories of life at work produced by people who left school without being able to read. This collection would be part of a literacy programme. One of the stories is written by a Garry Pettitt called Life in the Fast Lane. Garry who was a truck driver now retired aged 70 is remembering an incident in which his vehicle jack-knifed on an icy stretch of road. He was 33 at the time. Even though tragedy in our modern sense was averted ,tragedy, in the Aristotelian sense of a literary form is achieved.

In tragedy it is action that is imitated, and this action is brought about by agents who necessarily display certain distinctive qualities of character and of thought, according to which we also define the nature of the actions. Thought and character, are, then, the two natural causes of action, and it is on them that all men depend for success or failure. The representation of the action is the plot of the tragedy; for the ordered arrangement of the incidents is what I mean by plot. Character, on the other hand, is that which enables us to define the nature of the participants, and thought comes out in what they say when they are proving a point or expressing an opinion.
(Aristotle: On the Art of Poetry Chap.6)

Garry Pettitt hurtling towards a built up roundabout looking at the side of his trailer tells us:
Suddenly I was a very frightened young man. I realised that I was rapidly heading downhill towards a roundabout that I couldn’t possibly avoid. Hitting it at speed would very likely overturn the vehicle, crush my cab and kill me. I didn’t want to die. I was only thirty-three, with a gorgeous wife and a lovely little boy at home, and it was nearly Christmas. I wanted very much to see them again. I had yet to put up the tree and decorations for my precious little family, and I still had their presents to buy!

It’s a perfect story hardly more than 1,000 words long. Ari would like it.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Lead Kindly Argument II

My argument is in outline as follows: that that absolute certitude which we were able to possess, whether as to the truths of natural theology, or as to the fact of a revelation, was the result of an assemblage of concurring and converging probabilities, and that, both according to the constitution of the human mind and the will of its Maker; that certitude was a habit of mind, that certainty was a quality of propositions; that probabilities which did not reach to logical certainty, might create a mental certitude; that the certitude thus created might equal in measure and strength the certitude which was created by the strictest scientific demonstration; and that to have such certitude might in given cases and to given individuals be a plain duty, though not to others in other circumstances:—
(From Apologia Pro Vita Sua

 Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
(from Catholic Catechism)

The same Holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all thing can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things by the natural power of human reason : ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. [13]
(from the Decrees of the First Vatican Council)


‘But I’m not an apostate’ I always add to my admission of heresy. I have always respected the Catholic Church's philosophic acuity and I find interesting the subtle divergence from the straightforward certainty as represented by the edict of the First Vatican Council and the Newmanian modulation of the Catechism. The curious thing is that those American philosopher Catholics who blog on this question seem to support the earlier position in a quite robust way. Perhaps the vertiginous abyss of fideism or irrationalism is a fear and the middle path between strict demonstration and pure fideism that Newman tried to strike is too narrow for minds blunted by the occupational hazard of rationalism.
((related posts: conversion

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Depth of Singer's Pond

I’m looking at this post:
rescue rule
and wondering whether or not there is behind it some ironic intent some manner of ‘modest proposal’ but there doesn’t seem to be, no it’s just that rationalist sincerity in the following a principle to the brink of absurdity and then over the cliff treading air like the coyote in the cartoon. Neep-neep.

So we are to say to the Chilean or Chinese miners trapped underground sorry about that, Massa Beancounter says that you must left there as the cost of drawing you from live entombment is too great and the money might be better spent on speed traps which would save vastly more lives. Sorry about that chums.

How deep is Singer’s pond, how heavy is the fat man that is to be cast upon the tracks? Hark the unutterable pathos of the violinist!