Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Jane Austen's Temper

‘Temper’ is a word that in our modern vocabulary has become reduced to two sorts; good and bad. For Jane Austen there were 47 varieties of it. In Emma I find it and mentioned 47 times. I find ‘amiable’(temper), ‘social’, ‘sweet’, ‘contented’,’sweetness of temper’, ‘good’, ‘benevolence’, ‘sour the temper’,’ill-tempered’, ‘best-tempered’, ‘cheerful’, ‘odd-tempered’, ‘devil of a temper’, ‘recover his temper’, ‘sanguine temper’, ‘restlessness of temper’, ‘open temper’, ‘faults of temper’.

It is clear that someone with the writerly resources of Austen could have avoided that repetition and chosen cognates and near synonyms for what we might call 'characteristic disposition’, 'dominant mood’, 'general feeling’ , 'personality’ and so on. We need not have recourse to ‘premsia’ and ‘threctia and the universe of Cattell to vary the delineation of temper. That she did not do so is very likely because of its importance to her. It is the natural word. Living in a restricted closed off world as she was, attention to the moods of others and navigation of their reefs and shoals would be a useful skill. On an open tempered, interpretation it might be a loving awareness. I find her acerbic ironies refreshing and I shouldn’t wonder if some of her family found her temper a little sharp betimes.

Related Post:Losing Your Temper

Monday, 28 September 2015

Who Adheres to the Anatman Doctrine?

Any answer is a retorsion.

A Question which is strictly unanswerable is hardly a question.


To, ‘Is there anybody at home?’, shouted through the letter box.

No answer is an answer.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Imagination of Ibn Arabi

The imagination is the place of apparition of spiritual beings, Angels and Spirits, who in it assume the figures and forms of their ‘apparitional forms’ and because in it the pure concepts and sensory data meet and flower into personal figures prepared for the events of spiritual dramas, it is also the place where all ‘divine history’ is accomplished, the stories of the prophets, for example, which have meaning because they are theophanies, whereas on the plane of sensory evidence on which is enacted what we call History, the meaning, that is, the true nature of these stories, which are essentially ‘symbolic stories’ cannot be apprehended.
( from Alone with the Alone by Henry Corbin)

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Indian Intro. to the Philosophy of Perception

There may be many who wish to find out more about Indian Philosophy but are put off by the Sanskrit jargon which surrounds it, pretty but prickly like a Berberis hedge. It keeps common cattle off of course. A good introduction to the problem of perceptual error, illusion, confusion and delusion is an essay in a collection that is available on Internet Archive, Contemporary Indian Philosophy by Various Authors
Contemporary Indian Philosophy
(note: the epub version is clean) pub. 1950 in a revised and extended edition.

The Problem of Truth by M. Hiriyanna is an exposition along classical Vedanta lines which avoids having to learn the rudiments of philosophy bazaar Sanskrit. The philologically minded may deplore this but philosophy isn’t poetry, it’s not lost in translation. In any case that classic text Vedanta Paribhasa by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra who flourished in the 17th.century seems to be the guiding light. It is also available on internet archive and a more modern version with glossary translated by Swami Madhavananda is (pdf)
Vedanta Paribhasa

Take a break from malign demons.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Miss Austin (Austen) and Aristotle

Miss Austin (the form of Jane’s name that Dr. Whately uses) pays attention and can conjure a world out of fragments:

Harriet, tempted by every thing and swayed by half a word, was always very long at a purchase; and while she was still hanging over muslins and changing her mind, Emma went to the door for amusement.—Much could not be hoped from the traffic of even the busiest part of Highbury;—Mr. Perry walking hastily by, Mr. William Cox letting himself in at the office-door, Mr. Cole's carriage-horses returning from exercise, or a stray letter-boy on an obstinate mule, were the liveliest objects she could presume to expect; and when her eyes fell only on the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman travelling homewards from shop with her full basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling children round the baker's little bow-window eyeing the gingerbread, she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough still to stand at the door. A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.

That episode of Harriet shopping and going back to the Bates house with Frank Churchill and his step mother Mrs. Weston and then Mr. Knightley passing by on his horse on an errand and the meandering conversation, the teasing of Miss Fairfax, the fixing of a rivet on a pair of spectacles; one thing after another in a flow so natural that we hardly notice the art. Whately praises her in his review for her achievement of Aristotelian perfection.

It is a remark of the great father of criticism, that Poetry (i.e. narrative, and dramatic poetry) is of a more philosophical character than History; inasmuch as the latter details what has actually happened, of which many parts may chance to be exceptions to the general rules of probability, and consequently illustrate no general principles; whereas the former shows us what must naturally, or would probably, happen under given circumstances; and thus displays to us a comprehensive view of human nature, and furnishes general rules of practical wisdom. It is evident, that this will apply only to such fictions as are quite perfect in respect of the probability of their story; and that he, therefore, who resorts to the fabulist rather than the historian, for instruction in human character and conduct, must throw himself entirely on the judgment and skill of his teacher, and give him credit for talents much more rare than the accuracy and veracity which are the chief requisites in history. We fear, therefore, that the exultation which we can conceive some of our gentle readers to feel, at having Aristotle's warrant for (what probably they had never dreamed of) the philosophical character of their studies, must, in practice, be somewhat qualified, by those sundry little violations of probability which are to be met with in most novels; and which so far lower their value, as models of real life, that a person who had no other preparation for the world than is afforded by them, would form, probably, a less accurate idea of things as they are, than he would of a lion from studying merely the representations on China teapots.
(from Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews by Richard Whately)

And Mr Knightley, that paragon, is he a little whim of improbability on the part of Miss Austin, a mocking perhaps of the beau ideal of ladies fiction, a snapping of the knight’s garter as it were. What evidence have I for this mischief? Alas none.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Rossetti Interpretation

Myself and Siris have been having an interesting conversation about the Christina Rossetti poem An Apple Gathering.
An Apple Gathering
His observations are true after their own fashion but not entirely apposite. What has evidence which implies consistency and corroboration to do with poetry? Expect only hints, guesses, intimations.

In any case I find it a bleak merciless little poem. The persona adopted seems to be that of a woman who is disinclined to regret her preemption of conjugal felicity. She appears to be mocked by those who have been continent. Or is it that they are more forgiving of themselves or have accepted forgiveness? Plump Gertrude and
A voice talked with her through the
shadows cool
More sweet to me than song

Cue Abide With Me.
But the narrator remains outside all joy and stays out in a permafrost world.

In the Goblin Market collection as a whole I find 27 mentions of ‘cold’ and there are 5 of ‘blossoms’; all overwhelmingly negative in tone. There is no note of joy in this liturgy.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Zen of Galen Strawson

After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, "Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?"
"Yes," Tenno replied.
"Tell me," the master continued, "did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?"
Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in's apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.

If Galen Strawson were to be put into that story would his answer be ‘what umbrella?’?

I can understand his position as he has outlined it in his Aeon essay
life story
which incidentally seems an incipient classic in the ‘what it’s like to be ’ genre. He is steeped in the reality of the present moment and there he joins Bergson. Duration is the nearest we can get to the compressed rolled up history of the past. There is no need for a story because it is all there in the instant. It was Sartre in Being and Nothingness who reminded us that our most intense moments have no element of the ‘reflective cogito’ and how everything that we are can be wrapped up in a gesture or a walk. In the same way we can offer a dubious simulacrum of ourselves that apes that gesture. This is ‘bad faith’.

Does G.S. have ‘madeleine moments’ which cut a plane through through the ‘memory cone’? He doesn’t say.

Suggested correct answer to : Did you place your umbrella to the left or to the right of your shoes?

If you say another word I will hit you with it

Monday, 14 September 2015

Rebalancing Whately

It is a commonplace economy of thought to assume combinations of attitudes. Richard Whately was a complex person and evades prediction. An entry in A Compendium of Irish Biography makes this clear:
Richard Whately
He is neglected. Being a clergyman wouldn’t help.

Primordial Instruction

Looking around the Oriel Senior Common Room Dr. Whately notes:

They are not only, in general; very ugly and ill-made, but, in the structure of their limbs, and especially in the head and face, they approach considerably to animals of the ape tribe; and the countenance is usually expressive of a mixture of stupidity, ferocity, and something of suspiciousness and low cunning.

Actually he is in fact referring to uncivilised natives, savages and others who have degenerated from an original state in which the elements of gracious living were given by God in a sort of revelation. This must be the case because those races do not improve or invent anything so they could not have started out that way. Europeans improved after that antedeluvian donation, they have regressed and are now on the way out.

Each one of us Europeans, whether Christian, Deist, or Atheist, is actually a portion of a standing monument of a former communication to mankind from some superhuman Being. That Man could not have made himself, is often appealed to as a proof of the agency of a divine Creator and that mankind could not, in the first instance, have civilised themselves, is a proof of the same kind, and of precisely equal strength, of the agency of a divine Instructor.

One thinks of Von Daniken. These speculations are taken from a lecture On the Origin of Civilisation published in Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews (1860) while he was Archbishop of Dublin. He cites Humboldt in his lecture and it is clear that at that time good, intelligent and apparently well-informed people could hold views which to us are reprehensible. However it’s arguable that expressing revulsion is mere fatuous meliorism in these latter days when various horrors are welcomed as advances.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sraddha (Faith)

Do miracles even if accepted bring about faith? What has it to do with me if some praeternatural healing takes place? I am glad for the ease of someone’s suffering and in awe at the power that is shown yet my change of heart may be lacking. It is something else and something more that is wanted if one is to become a devotee of the Lord.

That faith of the embodied beings, borne of their own nature, is threefold – born of sattva, rajas and tamas.
(B.G. 17.2)

Sraddha that is svabhavaja Faith that arises out of ones own nature. The seeker has to feel that personal connection, of being recognised and known. It is not a matter of will or rational consideration, recognising that this point is where ones life was heading. Everything was for this. Balancing of evidence and probability is not a game that is played now.

The phrase borne of their own nature indicates an ontological connection as well as the bias of a particular personality.

O scion of the Bharata dynasty, the faith of all beings is in accordance with their minds. This person is made up of faith as the dominant factor. He is verily what his faith is.
(B.G. 17.4)

The way you live your world, your awareness or what pops up for you, or what you realize or make real is you. That’s so you!

There are some nice definitions of sraddha in this Wikipedia article:

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Whately and Newman on Private Judgement

The animus directed towards Catholics in the 19th. century particularly in Ireland was systemic being reflected in both social and legal attitudes. Reacting to that gave great scope to Irish wits and incendiary patriots. Trollope’s chilly sneers which are unnoticed by the majority of modern readers represent the politer end of the cultural bias. Why for instance did Paul Cardinal Cullen fight against the non-denominational educational system proposed by Archbishop Richard Whately? Might it have to do with the fact that Cullen’s father was only able to buy land after the relaxation of the Penal Laws. He sent his son to Rome to be trained for the priesthood because Maynooth which was just up the road required that the students swear an oath of allegiance to the crown. The Catholic Encyclopedia tells me that during his 30 years in Rome the future first Irish Cardinal struggled against the machinations of British agents. Take it as a given: the Empire is interested in everything.

I have admitted I am a prize ignoramus on History amongst other things. However reading in my quiet corner the various publications of Whately and Newman I am inclined to think that reaction clouds the judgement and suspicion destroys the possibility of the recognition of an ally on the other side. The mention of the term ‘judgement’ brings me neatly around to the topic of ‘private judgement’ a supposedly Protestant bulwark against Romanism foundering in blind faith. I speculate whether the move to declare Papal infallibility might not be the throwing the house keys on the table in that game. I notice also that Cullen had a hand in drafting the declaration on Infallibility and that Newman was lukewarm prior to its passing but naturally accepted it as an element of collective wisdom later.

The chief source of my understanding (for this note) of Whately’s attitude to private judgement in his annotation to the Essay Of Unity in Religion by Francis Bacon. His view seems to this reader the more magnanimous and conciliatory when contrasted with that of Newman. He was of course a master of Rhetoric. Cullen his bete noir used a more Hiberno-Roman way. The latter deployed the methods of the strategist MacKevilly perhaps better known under the Latinised form of his name. Establish a committee but make sure you appoint every last one on it. That’s the Irish way.

Whately writing on Private Judgement:

What the Romanist means by renouncing' private judgment' and adhering to the decisions of the Church is, substantially, what many Protestants express by saying, We make truth the first and paramount object, and the others, unity. The two expressions, when rightly understood, denote the same; but they each require some explanation to prevent their being understood incorrectly, and even unfairly.

A Roman Catholic does exercise private judgment, once for all, if (not through carelessness, but on earnest and solemn deliberation) he resolves to place himself completely under the
guidance of that Church (as represented by his priest) which he judges to have been divinely appointed for that purpose. And in so doing he considers himself, not as manifesting indifference about truth, but as taking the way by which he will attain either complete and universal religious truth, or at least a greater amount of it than could have been attained otherwise. To speak of such a person as indifferent about truth, would be not only uncharitable, but also as unreasonable as to suppose a man indifferent about his health, or about his property, because, distrusting his own judgment on points of medicine or of law,
he places himself under the direction of those whom he has judged to be the most trustworthy physician and lawyer.

On the other hand, a Protestant, in advocating private judgment, does not, as some have represented, necessarily maintain that every man should set himself to study and interpret for himself the Scriptures (which, we should recollect, are written in the Hebrew and Greek languages), without seeking or accepting aid from any instructors, whether under the title of translators (for a translator, who claims no inspiration, is, manifestly, a human instructor of the people as to the sense of Scripture), or whether called commentators, preachers, or by whatever other name. Indeed, considering the multitude of tracts, commentaries, expositions, and discourses of various forms, that have been put forth and assiduously circulated by Protestants of all denominations, for the avowed purpose (be it well or ill executed) of giving religious instruction, it is really strange that such an interpretation as I have alluded to should ever have been put on the phrase ' private judgment.' For, to advert to a parallel case of daily occurrence, all would recommend a student of mathematics, for instance, or of any branch. of natural philosophy, to seek the aid of a well-qualified professor or tutor. And yet he would be thought to have studied :n vain, if he should ever think of taking on trust any mathematical or physical truth on the word of his instructors. It is, on the contrary, their part to teach him how —by demonstration or by experiment—to verify each point for himself.

On the other hand, the adherents of a Church claiming to be infallible on all essential points, and who, consequently, profess to renounce private judgment, these (besides that, as has been just said, they cannot but judge for themselves as to one point—that very claim itself) have also room for the exercise of judgment, and often do exercise it, on questions as to what points are essential, and for which, consequently, infallible rectitude is insured.

(Bacon's Essays)
((This edition is very readable on my very cheap 10inch tablet. For the reader of Bacon completely uninterested in the Annotations of Whately the footnotes to the mother text clarifying usages, Latin idiom and the translation of tags is an excellent resource.))

Newman’s works pullulate with references to ‘private judgement’. cf: Characteristics
My source in this note for Newman’s view is taken from
British Critic

Whately’s ‘Annotation’ is based on a ‘Charge’ (Exhortation/Sermon) to Clergy which was later than the work of Newman and has the advantage of matured reflection on the part of the older man. The audience is of course different. At the time of Newman’s Essay The British Critic was a Tractarian publication cf:British Critic/Wikipedia Article
so the tone is one of scorn with a soupcon of persiflage.

 If a staunch Protestant's daughter turns Roman, and betakes herself to a convent, why does he not exult in the occurrence? Why does he not give a public breakfast, or hold a meeting, or erect a memorial, or write a pamphlet in honour of her, and of the great undying principle she has so gloriously vindicated? Why is he in this base, disloyal style muttering about priests, and Jesuits, and the horrors of nunneries, in solution of the phenomenon, when he has the fair and ample form of Private Judgment rising before his eyes, and pleading with him, and bidding him impute good motives, not bad, and in very charity ascribe to the influence of a high and holy principle, to a right and a duty of every member of the family of man, what his poor human instincts are fain to set down as a folly or a sin.

Probably Whately reading this could doubt the bona fides of Newman and sniff dissimulation. For myself I think Newman was on the bank and wanted to get into the boat. Instead of hopping briskly in he leaned against the boat fearful of losing his footing on the bank. He was now fully stretched out and in danger of a dunking.
 He has cast around the institutions and powers existing in the world marks of truth or falsehood, or, more properly, elements of attraction and repulsion, and notices for pursuit and avoidance, sufficient to determine the course of those who in the conduct of life desire to approve themselves to Him. Now, whether or no what we see in the Church of Rome be sufficient to warrant a religious person to leave her (a question, we repeat, about which we have no need here to concern ourselves), we certainly think it sufficient to deter him from joining her; and, whatever be the perplexity and distress of his position in a communion so isolated as the English, we do not think he would mend the matter by placing himself in a communion so superstitious as the Roman; especially considering, agreeably to a remark we have already made, that even if he be schismatical at present, he is so by the act of Providence, whereas he would be entering into superstition by his own. Thus an Anglo-Catholic is kept at a distance from Rome, if not by our own excellences, at least by her errors.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Wittgenstein Vs Whately

from Wittgenstein Lectures on Religious Belief:

Although, there is a great temptation to think we do. Because we do talk of evidence, and do talk of evidence by experience. We could even talk of historic events. It has been said that Christianity rests on an historic basis.
It has been said a thousand times by intelligent people that indubitability is
not enough in this case. Even if there is as much evidence as for Napoleon. Because the indubitability wouldn’t be enough to make me change my whole life. It doesn’t rest on an historic basis in the sense that the ordinary belief in
historic facts could serve as a foundation. Here we have a belief in historic facts different from a belief in ordinary historic facts. Even, they are not treated as historical, empirical, propositions. Those people who had faith didn‟t apply the doubt which would ordinarily apply to any historical propositions. Especially propositions of a time long past, etc. What is the criterion of reliability, dependability? Suppose you give a general description as to when you say a proposition has a reasonable weight of probability. When you call it reasonable, is this only to say that for it you have such and such evidence, and for others you haven’t? For instance, we don‟t trust the account given of an event by a. drunk man.

Ludwig I know you don’t do footnotes but if you had referenced Whately’s Historic Doubts concerning Napoleon Buonaparte then that would have added to the texture of the argument in that one could look at the solution that is offered there which is essentially the one that you struggle with. The seeker must put on ‘the mind of Christ’, be ‘of Christ and of the truth, be in Whateley’s usage ‘candid’. He is pointing towards the archaic:
free from bias; impartial.
3: Free from malice; favourably disposed, kindly - 1800
4: Frank, ingenuous, sincere in what one says 1675. (S.O.D.)

Ludwig: Yes, yes, yes, But. I can’t argue with that. It escapes me. It’s a country I’ve heard of but have no way of getting to. I don’t believe its imaginary. Don’t come at me with your imaginal, that’s altogether too big of a serving. Don’t you see, there’s no there there.

Moi: Don’t bring her into it or we’ll never get out of here.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


What does the meditator do with consciousness?

Leave it alone and it will go home dragging its tail behind it (they tell me).

Place its immediate and self-luminous nature in the chakra of your choice and experience the different tinctures of the apprehension of the world. This isn’t Idealism but a tuning of the instrument.

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

This should have been said before. Barchester Towers is like the curate’s egg, ‘good in parts’. It underlines the supreme wisdom of the Catholic Church’s holding to the rule of celibacy. Mrs. Proudie the Bishop’s wife is monstrously real in her Sabbatarian zeal and allied with the extreme unction of Mr. Slope seems about to explode the comfortable easy life of the high Church Anglicans in the Cathedral town. It is a time of change in the Church established by law when the middle ground was being eroded from two sides the one trying to draw it down to the vulgar Dissenter rabble, and on the meretricious other side the Scarlet Lady of Rome. The Bishop is a charlie and the charlie’s chaplin is Mr. Slope. Mrs. Proudie wears the gaiters in the Palace and the war is on for the control of the diocese between her and Slope who runs the show on the admin side during the Bishop’s absences which are frequent. To balance the Low of Slope you have the High of Arabin who was almost rapt to Rome by the Newman cult. To emphasise the liberal rapprochement with Rome the appointment of Dr.Whately to an Archbishopric is mentioned. Parlous times.

When, however, Dr. Whately was made an archbishop, and Dr. Hampden some years afterwards regius professor, many wise divines saw that a change was taking place in men's minds, and that more liberal ideas would henceforward be suitable to the priests as well as to the laity. Clergymen began to be heard of who had ceased to anathematize papists on the one hand, or vilify dissenters on the other. It appeared clear that High Church principles, as they are called, were no longer to be surest claims to promotion with at any rate one section of statesmen, and Dr. Proudie was one among those who early in life adapted himself to the views held by the Whigs on most theological and religious subjects. He bore with the idolatry of Rome, tolerated even the infidelity of Socinianism, and was hand and glove with the Presbyterian Synods of Scotland and Ulster.

The counters of power in the Anglican Church are the benefices and the pivot of this tale is the guardianship of the Hospital where a dozen indigent men are kept as a charity and to be for a witness. It’s a nice little sinecure and its previous Warden, Mr. Harding seems likely to get it. Slope however decides to use this as means of subjugating the Bishop and in league with Mrs.Proudie promotes the candidature of a poor parson, Mr.Quiverfull.

All that plotting is good but where the book goes wrong for me is the character of Mrs.Bold the young widowed daughter of Mr. Harding. I was lately apprised of the fact that there can be 3000 calories in a milk shake. I would have thought that there was less in a bag of sugar. Elanor Bold is an unlikely dose of sweetness and does not go down. Her hanky is never dry.

Poor Eleanor! I cannot say that with me John Bold was ever a favourite. I never thought him worthy of the wife he had won. But in her estimation he was most worthy. Hers was one of those feminine hearts which cling to a husband, not with idolatry, for worship can admit of no defect in its idol, but with the perfect tenacity of ivy. As the parasite plant will follow even the defects of the trunk which it embraces, so did Eleanor cling to and love the very faults of her husband. She had once declared that whatever her father did should in her eyes be right. She then transferred her allegiance, and became ever ready to defend the worst failings of her lord and master.

Unlike Little Nell she hasn’t the grace to die. Fortunately she is matched in wickedness by the Stanhope family and the apotheosis of the Scarlet Lady, daughter Madeline. The allegory is broad. Beautiful, seductive but crippled at the hands of her husband Neroni who is a Papal Count. She is borne on a couch. You can’t get more papal than that. Arabin who dallied with Rome is a suitable victim. Slope slobbers over her hand too. Son Bertie, the aesthete, is well drawn and slightly quartered. From the life perhaps?

The other plot swamp for me was the Thorne family and their garden fete to welcome Mr. Arabin into his benefice. It had its moments as a delineation of snobbery and class but it went on too long. Trollope admits to us in his to the reader utterances that the last 50 pages is a push. I imagine him making a check list. Did I forget anyone?

For the Trollope fan the hymn is ‘O the transport so divine’. I may go on to the Palliser series next.