Saturday, 22 September 2018

Finne (witness) on Tuam Mother and Baby Home / T.V. program

I watched the documentary about the Tuam Mother and Baby home (on -subtitles are available, look for Finne (witness)) and it was quite good as far as it went if you can forgive the Netflixy style and the Gothic giant nun wardress with a six inch keyring and a rosary beads hanging with the keys. Peter Mulryan telling his own story suffered a great deal and still was not embittered only puzzled at how the nuns were so cruel. Can I suggest a possible answer. Those nuns did not come from Mars, they were Irish people. The parents who put the girls into those homes after they fell pregnant were not aliens. They were Irish. The government inspectors who viewed these homes and saw the neglect were nice middle class people with good pensionable employment and also Irish. The laundries were no secret soviet city plants. They were considered to be a solution to a problem. This loveless horror was better than baby farms where the infant mortality rate was higher and often they were merely a cloak for outsourced infanticide.

The historical facts have been swamped by film reconstructions which make any objective assessment seem like a whitewash. The McAleese report was accused of this.

McAleese Report

Have a look at Pt.4 if you are inclined to acquaint yourself with statements from those who actually went through the Magdalen system. It’s not as exciting as giant nuns and portentous music but it certainly isn’t something you’d bring to the beach. At 1000 pages you’d need a handcart.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Repairing Milinda's Chariot

And the venerable Nagasena said to Milinda the king: "You, Sire, have been brought up in great luxury, as beseems your noble birth. If you were to walk this dry weather on the hot and sandy ground, trampling under foot the gritty, gravelly grains of the hard sand, your feet would hurt you. And as your body would be in pain, your mind would be disturbed, and you would experience a sense of bodily suffering. How then did you come, on foot, or in a chariot?" "I did not come, Sir, on foot. I came in a carriage." "Then if you came, Sire, in a carriage, explain to me what that is.
Is it the pole that is the chariot?" "I did not say that." "Is it the axle that is the chariot?" "Certainly not." "Is it the wheels, or the framework, or the ropes, or the yoke, or the
spokes of the wheels, or the goad, that are the chariot?" And to all these he still answered no. "Then is it all these parts of it that are the chariot?" "No, Sir." "But is there anything outside them that is the chariot?" And still he answered no. "Then thus, ask as I may, I can discover no chariot. Chariot is a mere empty sound. What then is the chariot you say you came in? It is a falsehood that your majesty has spoken, an untruth! There is no such thing as a chariot! You are king over all India, a mighty monarch. Of whom then are you afraid that you speak untruth?" And he called upon the Yonakas [Greeks] and the brethren to witness, saying: "Milinda the king here has said that he came by carriage. But when asked in that case to explain what the carriage was, he is unable to establish what he averred. Is it, forsooth, possible to approve him in that?"

What we see here is a classic philosophical paradox by which I mean an argument that proceeds impeccably to a conclusion that we are loth to accept. The usual mereological discussion is guided by Nagasena’s suggestion and begins with ‘proper parts’. This I suggest is to start from the wrong end. Our primary concepts are of wholes. Grasping that reality we can now break it down into its constituent parts over which the chariot ‘shadow’ hangs. What I mean by this is that you can then grasp ‘wheel’(chariot), ‘pole’ (chariot) etc. Your chariot schema is like an exploded parts diagram or an image where the part is highlighted and the rest is greyed out.

The chariot wheel for example we can grasp as a whole without even knowing that its parts are felloes (wheel), hub (wheel), spokes (wheel), tyre (wheel). Leave out that ‘wheel’ part and what you have is an eccentric sculpture.

Zeno’s paradox that starts with the notion of instants or discrete fractions of time also starts from the wrong end. The proper start is with the concept of a complete unit i.e. speed and the realisation that Achilles is not running the tortoise’s race for him.

Is this too simple? The critique of the concept of Atma, that is the purport of this parable, assumes that we build it up out of momentary states. Wrong end again. The Self is known with each state of awareness but they are not the parts that make it up.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Professor Auerbach meets Mrs. Ramsey in To the Lighthouse

It’s pointless knowing a lot if you only see what you already know. Auerbach in Mimesis was hewing to certain lines but when he comes to modernist writers who run off those he seems to be a little blunted. Knots no doubt. The Brown Stocking which I skipped to wanting to see what he made of To the Lighthouse misses a great deal particularly the influence of Bergson via Proust. (Proust was the best man at the wedding of his cousin Louise Neuberger to Bergson.) The concept of Duration, how memory sifts it and the density of poetic expression which reflects its compression in the present moment; all these elements are present in To the Lighthouse. I have posted before on the panpsychist element in the book
Mrs. Ramsey is herself the lighthouse illuminating with intense beams different sections of the cone of memory.
cone of memory
She is compared in Auerbach’s citation to a Greek goddess. I think this must be an ironical reference to the Moirai (Fates), the spinners which decide the fates of men, here ironically knitting her yarn into a pair of socks. Her matchmaking schemes are the fates she ordains.

Mr. Ramsey shares with the author’s father fussiness about soup. Leslie Stephen in his essay A Bad Five Minutes in the Alps taken from the collection Essays on Freethinking and Plainspeaking admits to this crankiness but does not specify its exact nature. I take this essay i.e. ‘Bad 5 mins.’, to controvert William James’s Will to Believe. More on that later. L.S. edited a collection of the essays of William Kingdon Clifford of which The Ethics of Belief is one and of course Clifford is perhaps the first of the modern panpsychists. ‘What goes around comes around’.

((All of Sir Leslie Stephen's books can be found at wikisource:
Leslie Stephen

Correction: William James’s essay was delivered in 1896 and the Essays on Freethinking and Plainspeaking were first published in 1873 and so for James to tackle Stephen on the matter of faith under pressure would be proleptic time travel, or something. In any case the connection is clear because James mentions Stephen in his first paragraph.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Dog Story

She had two dogs, Jack Russell terriers. One of them was hit by a car and was so badly injured that the vet had to put him down. “Now”, said the vet, “what you should do is take the body home with you and allow his companion to smell him. By that he will know that he is dead and won’t be in a wondering state. He can get on with things then.”

How did Descartes form the clear and distinct nonsense that animals were automatons? Overweening or supervening theory is a quaking bog.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Fridge Magnet

Yes, moral contempt is not a pleasant emotion but I will admit that my irascibility has served me well. At a certain point I can say ‘enough’ and move away far and fast and fare thee well. Friendship is not a vow and may be set aside when common ground becomes so exiguous that there is no practical access. Old long maintained but essentially defunct connections are like the furry stuff at the back of the fridge. They must go. Not alone do they no longer nourish, they are poison.

How’s your fridge?

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Yama: Deathday/Birthday

On the beam of dawn light moving down the passage of the tumulus at Newgrange the souls that lay sequestered might ride the path of the sun and be free. Is it accidental that Yama the god of death is the son of Surya the sun god? Through death you hope to go back to the source of life, ‘the force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ but there yet remains a doubt.

Katha Upanishad: I.i.20
This doubt that arises, consequent on the death of a man - some saying, “It exists”, and others saying, “It does not exist,” - I would know this, under your instruction. Of all the boons, this one is the third boon.

Yama is reluctant to give away the source of his power and by way of distraction instead offers babes and fancy vehicles:
Whatever things there be that are desirable but difficult to get - pray for all those cherished things according to your choice. Here are these women with chariots and musical instruments - such as are not to be had by mortals. With these, who are offered by me, you get yourself served. O Naciketa, do not inquire about death.

Naciketa declines:
O Death, ephemeral are these, and they waste away the vigour of all the senses that a man has. All life without exception, is short indeed. Let the vehicles be yours alone; let the dances and songs be yours.

I have always said this, yes. Honours have come unsought, and unsolicited crept to their due place. Complacently I review the tribute on this day, my birthday: a backpack, pyjama of some silken stuff of Heffneresque implication, a box of chocolates and later a trip to town to the bookshop. Is that all there there is? What about the coloured inks I mentioned and the typewriter ribbons? Have I lived so long to be thus frustrate?

Sorry, where was I?
Ka.Up. I.ii.2:
The preferable and the pleasurable approach mankind. The man of intelligence, having considered them, separated the two. The intelligent one selects the electable in preference to the delectable; the non-intelligent one selects the delectable for the sake of growth and protection (of the body etc.).

In the face of death there are difficult choices to be made. To a friend of very long standing who voted for abortion on demand in the referendum (Irish) I wrote: Are you a dupe or a dope? No card from him.

Later this day a card did arrive. No need to go into it. I'll just leave him the last word.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Katha Upanishad Triads

In the Katha Upanishad Naciketas’s father says a true thing which seems an irascible flash of irritation at his son’s correction of him. “Daddy”, says he, “ You’re giving away those more dead than alive cows as daana, where’s the merit in that. Who are you going to give me to?”

As any parent will be know ethical correction by an offspring rankles. That’s our job. Poppa replies - “I give you to death” which is perfectly true because by having children we put them in the queue for Yama’s (Death) place. Some thinkers, overthinkers really, have asserted that having the choice of not doing so, one of the benefits of science, we ought not to indulge our desire for progeny and the human world should gracefully die out.

Coming from David Benatar, a South Aftican, I am reminded of what his country’s immigration officer said to Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon when he enquired about emigration:

- But you’re black.

In the Afrikaans accent that sounded like ‘bleak’.

So Benatar, both bleak and black without a remedy for that sting.

Corinthians 15:55-56 King James Version (KJV)

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

In the Katha Upanishad there is proposed as treatment multiple triads:

Ka.Up. I.17:
The three-fold Nachiketas, being united with the three doing, the three-fold Karma, crosses birth and death, knowing the adorable, the bright, the omniscient fire born of Brahman and realising him, attains thorough peace. (17)

Commentary by Shankara:— Again he praises Karma ; the three-fold Nachiketas, . i.e., he by whom the Nachiketa fire has been kindled thrice ; or, he who knows, studies and performs in, the Nachiketa fire. United with the three, i.e., who united with his mother, father and preceptor, i.e., having duly received instruction from them ; for, that such instruction is a source of authority, is inferred from other Srutis, such as 'he who has a mother ' and ' he who has a father,' etc. ;. or, the three may refer to ' direct perception,' inference' and 'agamas '; or to the vedas,' the Smritis' and ' good men '; for, knowledge of virtue from these sources is an obvious fact. Doing the threefold karma, i.e., performing sacrifices, reciting the vedas, and making gifts. Who so does these, crosses or travels beyond birth and death ; again Brahmajagnam : Brahmaja means born of Brahma, i.e., Hiranyagarbha ; he who is born of Brahma and is omniscient is Brahmajagnam. Devam, so called because shining, i.e having ; the qualities of knowledge, etc. Idyam, worthy of praise. Knowing such fire, from the Sastras and having realised him as his own atman one attains this absolute renunciation which is realized in his intellect. The meaning is that one attains the place of the virat, by the continued practice of Upasana and Karma.
(trans: Sitarama Sastri: Katha

Friday, 24 August 2018

Bilocation as 'no there there'.

I have been reading recently about bilocation chiefly from a mathematical point of view. It’s an interesting approach that carries within it the source of its own Bergsonian nullification. Treating time and motion as a series of point instants as though this were ultimate is the crux of the impossibility of motion paradox. That this treatment is extremely useful and a practical device does not make it ultimately true.

Here in this note I ask what evokes bilocation or what is its occasion. I am taking it to be a fact well attested in the annals of the saints and the sages and adepts of all traditions. Does it happen sportively as a frolic with perturbations of the continuum and run the hazard of paradoxoi for fun? My view is that it is chiefly the answer to the prayer of the devotee. A cry starts a sympathetic resonance in the mind of the saint who may go to the devotee in an apparent physical form even though that may be far away. How can this happen? To quote Gertrude Stein - ‘there’s no there there’. It is the sphere of the imaginal.

Henry Corbin writes:

What is it like to enter into Nakoja-abad (the country of not-where). It is precisely the crossing of this limit, where the pilgrim no longer finds himself in the place, but is himself the place. To leave it (to pass beyond the Ninth Sphere) is to no longer be in the world, but to henceforth have the world in oneself, to be oneself the place where the world is. This is the imaginal space, the space where the active imagination freely manifests its visions and its epics.

(from: The Theme of the Voyage and the Messenger)

This world has also affinities with the world of formation of Kabbalah. It is next door to the world of 'action', the normal empirical domain. Introducing a passage from the Talmudists Adam Steinsaltz's 'The Thirteen Petalled Rose' Harold Bloom (Omens of Millenium) remarks: “Steinsaltz charmingly emphasizes, as does Corbin in his account of the Sufi imaginal world, that our perception of angels can be quite as ordinary as if such messengers dwelt entirely in the world of action”:

(Steinsaltz) "Similarly, the angel who is sent to us from another world does not always have a significance or impact beyond the normal laws of physical nature. Indeed, it often happens that the angel precisely reveals itself in nature, in the ordinary common-sense world of causality, and only a prophetic insight or divination can show when, and to what extent, it is the work of higher forces. For man by his very nature is bound to the system of higher worlds, even though ordinarily this system is not revealed and known to him. As a result, this system of higher worlds seems to him to be natural, just as the whole of his two-sided existence, including both matter and spirit, seems self-evident to him. Man does not wonder at all about those passages he goes through all the time in the world of action, from the realm of material existence to the realm of spiritual existence. What is more, the rest of the other worlds that also penetrate our world may appear to us as part of something quite natural."

As an archetypal world it is presented to us with the forms and usages of our own tradition. Those mansions are many and various and are not in time and space though they may appear to be so to the devotee. The cosmic mind of the siddha knows consciousness as instantaneous and omnilocated but the devotee experiences that immediacy as a bustle of dramatic business.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Davy Crockett's (John Wayne's) Discourse on Dharma

I’ve had this garbled memory in my head for a long time. I added the stompin’ bit probably from another picture:
- I came down to Texas. I didn’t know what to do. I stomped on a lot of men and I’ve been stomped on too. I knew there was two things a man could do, the right thing and the wrong. Do the one and you’re living, do the other and you may be walking round but you’re deader than a beaver hat.

His true discourse is to be found in the trailer for The Alamo here:

There are some actions that you don’t survive but regeneration is possible. I understand and accept that there is a difference between natural and supernatural hope while holding that contact with our authentic self can occur spontaneously. By natural grace and in a dramatic way we can stand outside our immersion in the personal and see ourselves objectively. We are both experiencing and experienced in the same instant. That dissociative shock starts the remorse of conscience. And so we are reborn.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Cloudless May by Storm Jameson

When I wrote that Cloudless May is the story of the machinations, plots, and stratagems of various personages in Seuilly a fictitious town on the Loire I meant that the dramatis personae are all highly ranked citizens. As leaders in their community they might be expected to defend the honour of France in her hour of need. The time is May 1940 and the panzer divisions are about to move rapidly in their direction. The town is the location of the prefecture in the French system of local government. We are first introduced to a Colonel Rienne of the local garrison. As an old war hand, wounded in the First, he senses that this is perfect invasion weather:

It was the 5th of May 1940. Seuilly was crammed with troops ; these included a regiment of Colonials and two armoured regiments : and with munitions, these included the newest tanks. The war in the meantime was only active in Norway ; west of the Vosges and in the Saar patrols of both sides played a risky game of Red Indians. Yesterday Johann was killed, tonight it may be Jean. It was not war. Rienne, like many middle-aged soldiers, felt uneasy ; his instinct warned him that these hot cloudless days, perfect for war, were peaceful for some bad reason.

The prefect Emile Bergeot is his closest friend and the same age 48 fostered with Rienne’s family after Emile’s mother died in childbirth. He can call in to the prefecture at any time:

The Prefecture was a fifteenth-century chiteau, built by the second Due de Seuilly on the cliff looking down on the Loire. The steep road climbing to it from the town had stiH an odd dozen houses built in the same century, under the surrounding wall. Their heavy doors arid the worn ends of beams supported too much ; it was easy to imagine people dying in these rooms, as low and dark as vaults, and hard to believe that anyone could be born there and receive a first glimpse of light from these crushing and dilapidated walls. Halfway up this dark lane the carriage road to the Prefecture turned off, and climbed further to a wide courtyard with superb chestnuts.

On his way to the office of the Prefect he meets the Comtess de Freppel:

The Comtesse de Freppel had been Bergeot’s mistress for nearly four years ; she was not discreet, but she had not outraged opinion more than a little : sober and stiff-minded persons, with a touch of the hypocrisy inherited from Protestant ancestors turned Catholic in 1685 to avoid being expelled, could pretend to know nothing about it, while making good and sly use of her influence.

As the novel progresses we learn just how much she cashes out her influence. She is avaricious and fearful of falling back into poverty. From being a dancer in cheap dives she managed to snag the Comte de Freppel who believes that she is the daughter of a rich shopkeeper. He refuses to give her a divorce. Only her friend in the town who shared her adventures knows who she really is. This friend is a procuress whose son is a thief and a spy in the pay of the Italians.

Next we are introduced to M. de Thieviers a banker and an aircraft manufacturer. Five aircraft a month are being produced by his factory, shambolic really. The French it appears are hoping to fold gracefully unless of course Joan of Arc turns up. Morally speaking they are prepared to lose the war. Why destroy the town needlessly? The generals who figure in the novel hold this view, Petain is their man.

Thieviers is a patron of Bergeot supporting him financially: hospitality and good suits don’t come cheap. He wants Louis Mathieu fixed.

Thiviers had come to complain about the Journal and its editor. Mathieu had published an attack on him, so injurious that even a convinced liberal, a man to whom the suppression of newspapers was a lay blasphemy, could not rest under it.
“What do you want me to do ?” Bergeot said in a lively voice.

“Suppress the paper and arrest Mathieu. We are fighting for our lives, we can’t afford weakness.”

Nearly everybody is fighting for their lives using the very best method - don’t put oneself in any danger to begin with. The importance of influence, of getting everybody behind an ‘honourable’ settlement without unnecessary heroics is the ruling thought of the elite of the town. Some of them have links with the Nazis and admire the way they have rescued Germany. The intermingling of the personal and political is very well described along with the texture of everyday life, feasting, enjoying a glass of plain wine, and waiting for direction from ‘our masters’. Somnambulistic dithering and a slow march into shame pervades this cloudless May. An excellent novel. (find it on

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Santayana's marginalia on Dasgupta's A History of Indian Philosophy

(repost from 2013)
Substance is not more real than appearance, nor appearance more real than essence, but only differently real. When the word reality is used invidiously or eulogistically, it is merely in view of the special sort of reality which the speaker expects or desires to find in a particular instance. So when the starving gymnosophist takes a rope for a serpent, he misses the reality of that, which is lifeless matter......W hen substance is asserted, appearance is not denied ; its actuality is not diminished, but a significance is added to it which, as a bare datum, it could not have.
(from Scepticism and Animal Faith)

The gymnosophists/naked sages known in India as ‘avadoothas’ or sky-clothed are generally far from starving. I’ve seen two myself, one basking on a pavement in Bangalore and the other marching along a country road in Andra Pradesh. The only kit they carry is a water pot made from a gourd and a strong staff. At the Kumba Meelah when they take their bath in the ganges en masse, films of this auspicious event show them to range from well-fed to corpulent.

The classical confusion of snake for rope occurs at dusk. Error happens as the result of a defect in the conditions of perception, the default is veridicality. The advaitic view is similar to Santayana’s (qv above) and marginal notes in Dasgupta’s History of Indian Philosophy from Santayana’s library show that he appreciated its insights:

It is because we have an awareness of blueness that we speak of having perceived a blue object
How good all this is
Note on page 154 of History of Indian Philosophy (taken from George Santayana’s Marginalia: A Critical Selection Bk.I ed. John McCormick)

The idea of the illusion having its locus in the substratum of the rope broadly conforms to Santayana’s concept of substance and the illusion itself has its link to reality through its counterpositive or a real snake.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The Grain of Storm Jameson's Talent

It is said that you should write about what you know and that may be true if that’s all you know. For others writing about what they don’t know or what is outside their normal affiliations and interests can liberate their imaginative depths. Storm Jameson is freed from the constraints of her personal experience by moving to terra incognita. Company Parade mirrors her personal life and is marred by reticence, hesitation, and ellipses. It was supposed to be the first in a roman fleuve series and she wrote two more before giving up as it ‘went against the grain of my talent’. I hit the pause button on that novel but three others; Last Score, In the Second Year and Cloudless May were engrossing. None of those books have parallels in her own life and thus allow scope for imaginative penetration. There are those sudden shifts in awareness by which we become aware of her genius at work. I hold to the ancient idea that one has a genius and not that one is a genius. The first of the novels mentioned has a diplomat that adds to his mastery of rhetoric a branch accepted by Aristotle, torture. The second is the internal struggles of a English fascist family who are leaders of a successful coup. The third is a complex and quite long for her, story of various personages in a town on the Loire during May and June 1940. She published it in 1943 and Francophile though Jameson was it is clear that a massive dose of political cascara would be needed if ever Doctor Epuration made a country call. Which he did.

Cloudless May is over 500 pages long so evidently Jameson didn’t have the time to make it shorter. Leaving nothing out generates a nervous fervour. There is truth in the scenes that might be left out and this welds it all together. Things are after all going out of control and the hope that if the Nazis are long enough in France and eat enough black pate they may yet be humanised is a bleak irony. I will write more on this neglected classic.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

A Link to the Missing

Following through on a link... yes I know, I also read manuals; I came to ‘this page doesn’t seem to exist’. That set me off. Can a nonentity seem to do anything, particularly exist? Only, I think, if its existence is camouflaged so perfectly that it is not apparent. Its non-existence lies so perfectly, sublimely, congruent with reality. Its nonness is an onness as it were. The which it is. This you see is an example of the pramana (valid means of knowledge) known as anupalabadhi i.e. non-apprehension of existence. I expected to click to something, a background of purported existence was established which was flouted. I acquired a non-perceptual knowledge for it is clear that I cannot see what isn’t there. There is a Nyaya school which claims that this knowledge is an inference anuamana (pramana) from a non-perception but it seems to me that an inference even if Sherlockian fast is contrary to the immediacy of this knowledge.

Absence makes the mind to ponder.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018


If I lectured you on argumentum ad hominem you’d reply - ‘who are you to talk’?

Tuesday, 31 July 2018


There’s something deep, metaphysically deep, scientifically deep, drowned deep about waves. From the side they present periodicity and therefore time and causality as energy is transferred along the medium of the sea. Then we notice that boats bob up and down and the perspective of being directly in the path of the wave occurs to us. In the face of the wave the idea of the non-difference of cause and effect is operative. Every energy in the wave is transforming into its next phase ceaselessly. In the Sankhya philosophy this is known as satkaryavada. The vertical movement in the face of the wave is also a marking of time. Presumably speed pulls away some of that face, herniating it. Warp speed cap’n.

Neither being in the wave or to the side of it is an artefact of consciousness. Both are true views.



Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time, that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Whitehead meets Bhagwan Hamsa on Mount Kailas

(repost from 2012)

This misapprehension is promoted by the neglect of the principle that, so far as physical relations are concerned, contemporary events happen in causal independence of each other. This principle will have to be explained later, in connection with an examination of process and of time. It receives an exemplification in the character of our perception of the world of contemporary actual entities. That contemporary world is objectified for us as 'realitas objectivas', illustrating bare extension with its various parts discriminated by differences of sense data. These qualities, such as colours, sounds, bodily feelings, tastes, smells, together with the perspectives introduced by extensive relationships, are the relational eternal objects whereby the contemporary actual entities are elements in our constitution. This is the type of objectification which (in Sec. VII of the previous chapter has been termed 'presentational objectification'.
(from Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead. Chap. II: The Extensive Continuum

From Sankara's commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad II.iv.11:
Objection: In everyone of these instances the mergence of the objects only has been spoken of, but not that of the organs. What is the motive for this?
Reply: True, but the Sruti considers the organs to be of the same category as the objects, not of a different category. The organs are but modes of the objects in order to perceive them, as a lamp, which is but a mode of colour, is an instrument for revealing all colours. Similarly, the organs are but modes of all particular objects in order to perceive them, as is the case with a lamp. Hence no special care is to be taken to indicate the dissolution of the organs; for these being the same as objects in general, their dissolution is implied by that of the objects.
I place these citations together to show that the dissolution of the subjective point of view arrived at by the progressive absorption of lower perspectives into higher ones, brings in its train the monistic condition of pure self-awareness, "one without a second". According to Whitehead the natural awareness of the subject is an atomised one because "The notion of a direct 'idea' (or 'feeling') of an actual entity is a presupposition of all common sense." (P&R) From that bare pre-theoretic intuition Whitehead concludes:
Some real component in the objectified entity assumes the role of being how that particular entity is a datum in the experience of the subject.
All actual entities are open to all other actual entities in a philosphy of organism. In short to divest the essential insight of the bewildering prolixity of Whiteheadian categories - everything is open to everything else and this openness is limited by the nature of each entity. But what is an entity? It is from our subjective point of view, according to the evolved interests of the human being, that we divide the world. Ecology has taught us, that, although these are natural to us, Nature continuously draws back into seamless unity the pieces we have cut out of the whole.

I believe that I can connect these two citations, not by an easy assimilation but by the telescoping that is a feature of both. In the way that actual entities are in each other according to the rubric of their eternal objects, do I dare to call them limiting adjuncts, so are the limiting adjuncts/upadhis successively dissolved. as described in the experience of the sage on Mount Kailas. That this is merely a fanciful connection with the philosophy of organism must be countered by the remark of Whitehead’s in Process and Reality:
This conception of an actual entity in the fluent world is little more than an expansion of a sentence in the Timaeus “But that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in the process of becoming and perishing and never really is.” Bergson in his protest against ‘spatialization’ is only echoing Plato’s phrase “and never really is”.

The words of the sage Bhagwan Hamsa on Mount Kailas mirrors the progressive dissolution of the stages between becoming and being:

Here my Manas merged into Antahkarana (heart); the antahkarana with the Manas merged into Chitta (mind-stuff); the Chitta along with Antahkarana and Manas merged into Buddhi (intellect); the Buddhi with Chitta, Antahkarana and Manas merged into Ahankar (egoism); and the Ahankar along with Buddhi, Chitta, Antahkarana and Manas merged into Absolute Brahma! I found myself reflected everywhere in the whole Universe! It was all one harmony - full of wisdom, Infinite Love Perennial and Bliss Eternal! Where was the body, its tenements and the ‘I’! It was all Satchitananda. (Truth, Wisdom, Bliss).
(from The Holy Mountain by Bhagwan Shri Hamsa)

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Hume's Epistemic Thimblerigging

The feeling I have about Hume on Miracles (Section X Treatise is very like that I get looking at a skilled thimble rigger (shell game). Where does the miracle lie? Under the logical impossibility shell i.e. there is only nature and any event not natural i.e. supernatural, has never occurred. Looking for evidence for an impossibility is pointless. But when you point at that shell, miracle is discovered to be under the pious fraud shell so evidence is a possibility but it will never be enough to establish a miracle. And it’s a virtual logical impossibility too. By virtual here I mean that the impossibility of establishing that a miracle has taken place has the force of the logical while being empirical. There is something not quite right about that but the steady stream of diverting patter moves one on quickly.

Who are Hume’s confederates in the crowd. There is a physicist who nods at the ‘there is only nature’ and there is the philosopher, a lover of mazy modality. They win: the punters hardly ever. I say to people who question miracles - you shouldn’t believe in them. They don’t cohere with your world, they don’t matter for you. If they come to matter it will be because your world has altered.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

De Quincey on Thought Experiments

De Quincey discussing Hume on Miracles (Section X 'Treatise') has a pertinent thing or two to say. His observations on the Queen Elizabeth resurrection story attested by her physicians are good and can be applied to the present mania for killer T.E.s

Prudent men, in such circumstances, would act as the judges in our English courts, who are always displeased if it is attempted to elicit their opinions upon a point of law by a proposed fiction. And very reasonably; for in these fictitious cases all the little circumstances of reality are wanting, and the oblique relations to such circumstances, out of which it is that any sound opinion can be formed. We all know very well what Hume is after in this problem of a resurrection. And his case of Queen Elizabeth's resurrection being a perfectly fictitious case, we are at liberty to do any one of three different things:—either simply to refuse an answer; or, 2dly, to give such an answer as he looks for, viz., to agree with him in his disbelief under the supposed contingency; without, therefore, offering the slightest prejudice to any scriptural case of resurrection: i. e., we might go along with him in his premises, and yet balk him of his purpose; or, 3dly, we might even join issue with him, and peremptorily challenge his verdict upon his own fiction.
(from Theological Essays and Other Papers Vol.1)

Saturday, 21 July 2018

De Quincey's Palimpsest

Amongst the posthumous works of De Quincey is the essay The Palimpsest of the Human Brain sometimes included in Suspiria de Profundis. Find a copy at
suspiria de profundis
He shares with Bergson the strong conviction that at the moment of death your life is present before you in simultaneous review. This is a common report but only Bergson offers a metaphysics that naturalises it. The Frenchman destroyed all his notes before his death perhaps to secure his reputation from the judgement of scientistic sciolists. De Quincey destroyed nothing except inadvertently through the practice of reading by candlelight. How easy it is as you approach the light to get a better squint to set the page on fire. Or your hair, or both.

What else than a natural and mighty palimpsest is the human brain? Such a palimpsest is my brain; such a palimpsest, oh reader! is yours. Everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings, have fallen upon your brain softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet, in reality, not one has been extinguished.

further down:
The fleeting accidents of a man’s life, and its external shows, may indeed be irrelate and incongruous; but the organizing principles which fuse into harmony, and gather about fixed predetermined centres, whatever heterogeneous elements life may have accumulated from without, will not permit the grandeur of human unity greatly to be violated, or its ultimate repose to be troubled, in the retrospect from dying moments, or from other great convulsions.
Such a convulsion is the struggle of gradual suffocation, as in drowning; and, in the original Opium Confessions, I mentioned a case of that nature communicated to me by a lady from her own childish experience. The lady is still living, though now of unusually great age; and I may mention that amongst her faults never was numbered any levity of principle, or carelessness of the most scrupulous veracity; but, on the contrary, such faults as arise from austerity, too harsh, perhaps, and gloomy, indulgent neither to others nor herself. And, at the time of relating this incident, when already very old, she had become religious to asceticism. According to my present belief, she had completed her ninth year, when, playing by the side of a solitary brook, she fell into one of its deepest pools. Eventually, but after what lapse of time nobody ever knew, she was saved from death by a farmer, who, riding in some distant lane, had seen her rise to the surface; but not until she had descended within the abyss of death, and looked into its secrets, as far, perhaps, as ever human eye can have looked that had permission to return. At a certain stage of this descent, a blow seemed to strike her, phosphoric radiance sprang forth from her eyeballs; and immediately a mighty theatre expanded within her brain. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, every act, every design of her past life, lived again, arraying themselves not as a succession, but as parts of a coexistence. Such a light fell upon the whole path of her life backwards into the shades of infancy, as the light, perhaps; which wrapt the destined Apostle on his road to Damascus. Yet that light blinded for a season; but hers poured celestial vision upon the brain, so that her consciousness became omnipresent at one moment to every feature in the infinite review.

((The woman referred to is his mother))

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Illusion and Confusion and the Snake/Rope example

When discussing in Indian philosophy the snake/rope confusion we need to strictly distinguish it from an illusion. An illusion stays an illusion even when you know that it is one. The Muller-Lyer lines still continue to look unequal. Adalbert Ames’s illusions are uncannily persistent.ames room
The rope is no longer seen as a snake when we discover our mistake and that is an important epistemological point in Indian philosophy. In the Nyaya inflected account of the advaitin Dharmaraja Adhvarindra our default position re perception is to accept it as veridical until shown not to be on further acquaintance.

He writes in the section The validity of Knowledge is Intrinsic and Self-Evident of the chapter on Non-Apprehension:

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.

The term ‘effort’ refers to the factor of confirmation. The silver we pick up is precious and not a mere piece of nacre. Unsuccessful effort is to discover on closer examination that we were suffering from temporary confusion. Clearly this is different from illusion.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Veggie Hitler

Hitler was a vegetarian. That tells you where vegetarianism is at as a moral position. Really? No it doesn’t. Most people can recognise this as pure argumentum ad hominem, or playing the man not the ball. Here in Ireland though it seems to be the only argument we know or the one we find most effective. It goes after this fashion. First characterise moral opposition to abortion as Catholic doctrine. Then point to the moral failings of the hierarchy and say ‘who are these people to tell you what to do’. Above all do not discuss the intrinsic evil or otherwise of abortion. Slather on words like compassion, care, and trust. Good, fine, splendid; it worked and the solemn incantation of ‘no woman takes abortion lightly’ was belied by the celebrations in the square of Dublin Castle as though ‘our team’ had won a cup.

Enlightened Progressives 2 : Recidivist Troglodytes 1

Why now after all the almost daily stories about Mother & Baby Homes, Magdalen Laundries, and buggering Bishops have achieved their goal do we continue to be treated to their continuous repetition? It is I believe a mopping up operation now that conscientious objection by doctors who will not refer on women,and the likelihood of picketing of abortionist doctors’ surgeries are issues. Demonisation must continue so that repressive measures will be accepted. One in three people voted NO and in a proportional representational electoral system that is a significant minority. If they go too far it could affect those final seats in a 5i seat constituency.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Facing Death, Facing Life

(repost from 2011)

His father had always been a stranger, an irritable stranger with exceptional powers of intervention and comment, and an air of being disappointed about his offspring. It was shocking to lose him, it was like an unexpected hole in the universe, and the writing of “Death” upon the sky, but it did not tear Mr. Polly’s heartstrings at first so much as rouse him to a pitch of vivid attention.

(The History of Mr. Polly by H.G.Wells)

That amusing and warm hearted novel has a lot of wisdom in it. We face death by facing life otherwise it’s just a distracting mystery encompassed by either table turning or nihilism. As an old English labourer explained to me as I hacked ineffectually with my pickaxe at the obdurate ground of Hertfordshire - ‘Pat, you’ve got to put a face on the work’. I won’t reduce that piece of instruction to its complete architectonic significance but the practical import of it is that you must first create a decent hole with a face that you can prise away into the void that you have created.

((I mean by facing life that ‘face’ we hew continuously, not a Mount Rushmore face but our own.))

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Vaidya on Anupalabadhi

I spent about one and a half hours reading this interviewhindu syllogisms
and that I suppose gives me the right to comment on it. I have, so to speak, paid my way – the way of the internet savant.

I’ve said this before about Sanskrit and Sanskritism. Poetry is what is lost in translation. If a philosophical text cannot be translated it is not philosophy. Philosophy is what is retained in translation. Do you really have to know French to understand the ‘evil demon’ hypothesis? Does not knowing German put the ‘thing in itself’ out of your reach?

I went to India in 2018 to speak to some very respected Mīmāṃsā scholars who debated in Sanskrit aspects of Mīmāṃsā theory of knowledge (pramāṇa). My hope is that by talking to these learned scholars who train in Sanskrit for most of their lives from a very young age, I might figure out more about the nature of non-apprehension (anupalabadhi).

Vaidya might well have read about the non-apprehension of existence in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness pub.1943 (Chap.1:Section 2) (find the book at:
being and nothingness

I have an appointment with Pierre at four o'clock. I arrive at the cafe a quarter of an hour late. Pierre is always punctual. Will he have waited for me? I look at the room, the patrons, and I say, "He is not here." Is there an intuition of Pierre's absence, or does negation indeed enter in only with judgment? At first sight it seems absurd to speak here of intuition since to be exact there could not be an intuition of nothing and since the absence of Pierre is this nothing. Popular consciousness, however, bears witness to this intuition. Do we not say, for example, "I suddenly saw that he was not there." Is this just a matter of misplacing the negation? Let us look a little closer.
Further on in his masterly exposition:
This figure which slips constantly between my look and the solid, real objects of the cafe is precisely a perpetual disappearance; it is Pierre raising himself as nothingness on the ground of the nihilation of the cafe. So that what is offered to intuition is a flickering of nothingness; it is the nothingness of the ground, the nihilation of which summons and demands the appearance of the figure, and it is the figure-the nothingness which slips as a nothing to the surface of the ground. It serves as foundation for the judgment-"Pierre is not here." It is in fact the intuitive apprehension of a double nihilation.

There are differences to the anupalabadhi pramana but the core intuition is there. The central point of claiming anupaladhi (non-apprehension of existence) as a pramana is that it is a valid means of knowledge that cannot be reduced to any other.

I see that I have come to the end of a page which is quite enough for now. I might have more to say on Vaidya on the topic of disjunctivism (argument from illusion) later.

One thing else: the example given of anupalabadhi – ‘the pot is not on the floor’ only goes on all fours if you have the background knowledge of the universal presence of an earthen water pot on every Indian floor in olden times. Its not being there is an immediate knowledge.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

My Word

You can't possibly believe that because you've never doubted it. That is what the belief in the external world amounts to.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Last Score: The Private Life of Sir Richard Ormston by Storm Jameson (pub. 1961)

I’ve been reading two political novels by Storm Jameson (1891 - 1986). The first one was Last Score from 1961 and the second In the Second Year published in 1936. It was finished in 1935 which puts it directly contemporaneous with It couldn’t happen Here by Sinclair Lewis published in 1935. Both are about fascist takeover and while the American book was deemed to be prophetic due to Trump, because Trump, the Englishwoman’s book had its source in the very real events in Europe and mad marching Mosely in England.

Last Score is based on the E.O.K.A. insurgency in Cyprus of the late 50‘s featuring the family life of Sir Richard Ormston and his dealing with the rebels. Spying, treason, torture: that sort of thing. My feeling about Jameson is that she couldn’t write a really bad book but that due to legal concerns, certain unrealities emerge to separate the character of Ormston from the real governor of Cyprus Sir John Harding who also dealt with the Mau Mau in Kenya. That good Sir John died in great old age festooned with honours though the torture claims linger on marks the difference between a possible fiction and truth we can’t handle. The astute reader of the day would decant the novel through a muslin of irony; take the glass of whisky and leave the revolver.

The character of Sir Richard, his relationships to his wife, his son, his mother and, his lover are true to the life of a steadily climbing careful colonial administrator more usually right than wrong. Until!

His wife is the plain only daughter of a deceased merchant banker. The money was useful to advance his career but she is no good at the social side of Governorship. Mother does that.

He made an effort, smiled, and managed to reply with the gentleness and polite tolerance he rarely failed to use with her: it hid, decently, he thought, the cold purgatory of boredom his marriage had day by day become. "That depends what you mean by awful. She's a loose young woman. That's surely enough."

The ‘loose young woman’ is Sarah Ling the daughter of the newspaper publisher critical of the colonial regime. By the way Cyprus is never mentioned but a reference here and there makes the location clear.

Ormston visits the prisoner:

Frent, he learned at police headquarters, was out. An officer called Senior was on duty in his room, a big stout comfortable fellow with burnished cheeks and twinkling blue eyes, the spit of a country grocer, very reassuring. The prisoner, he said cheerfully, had been put to bed in one of the cells, he was not sure which, but the prison doctor had seen him, and if His Excellency would like to talk to that officer . . .
Ormston cut him short. "I want to see the prisoner. At once. I haven't much time."
Did he catch or imagine a trace of embarrassment on the fellow's good-humoured face? If it had been there, it vanished instantly and its place was filled by the blank pseudo-face Captain Senior kept in readiness, behind his features of a decent only slightly rascally village tradesman, for use when some important person, so important that Hector Senior should never have been left to deal with him, was behaving out of character. Deplorably out of character. What call had His Excellency the Governor to appear here, without warning, without an aide, and demand to see a man who was no longer of any interest since he had been squeezed dry? It was all very difficult. Not the least of his difficulties was marching sideways, so that he led the way without leading.

Marching sideways indeed. This is an excellent novel. Jameson can do that devilishly intricate stunt for a woman of getting into a chap’s mind. Ordinary everyday evil highly placed can inflict grievous political damage. The subtitle of the book is The Private Life of Sir Richard Ormston. Take that as the gravamen of the charge; strain the rest.

In the Second Year must be for another post. Both novels are available on in the usual formats.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Belief in God

What is it to believe in God? Let me prescind here from the consideration of the demonstration of the existence of God and instead reflect on the consciousness of the person who lives as though God existed. That life is suffused by ultimate meaning. Nothing that happens is arbitrary, there is no mewing ‘why me’?

Without method, yet most exact; without rule, yet most orderly; without reflexion, yet most profound; without skill, yet thoroughly well constructed; without effort, yet everything accomplished; and without foresight, yet nothing better suited to unexpected events. Spiritual reading with the divine action, often contains a meaning that the author never thought of. God makes use of the words and actions of others to infuse truths which might otherwise have remained hidden. If He wishes to impart light in this way, it is for the submissive soul to avail itself of this light. Every expedient of the divine action has an efficacy which always surpasses its apparent and natural virtue.
(from Abandonment to Divine Providence by Rev. J.P. de Caussade Chap.4:Section 4)

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Mr. Addison, Mr. Locke, and M. Malebranche on time

Mr. Addison reflects on the words of Mr. Locke(from no.94. Vol.1. The Spectator)
Mr. Locke (Essay: Bk.2.Chap14) observes
'That we get the Idea of Time, or Duration, by reflecting on that Train of Ideas which succeed one another in our Minds: That for this Reason, when we sleep soundly without dreaming, we have no Perception of Time, or the Length of it whilst we sleep; and that the Moment wherein we leave off to think, till the Moment we begin to think again, seems to have no distance.'
To which the Author adds,
'And so I doubt not but it would be to a waking Man, if it were possible for him to keep only one Idea in his Mind, without Variation, and the Succession of others: And we see, that one who fixes his Thoughts very intently on one thing, so as to take but little notice of the Succession of Ideas that pass in his Mind whilst he is taken up with that earnest Contemplation, lets slip out of his Account a good Part of that Duration, and thinks that Time shorter than it is.'

The idea that you can lengthen time or feel it as longer by occupying your mind on many subjects or shorten it by focussing on just one has something to recommend it. It is the experience of many people that concentrating the mind can make time fly whilst the bored flitting from topic to topic can seem to drag.

Addison mentions Enquiry after Truth(pub.1674/5)by Mallebranche published before Locke’s Essay (1690):
“That it is possible some Creatures may think Half an Hour as long as we do a thousand Years; or look upon that Space of Duration which we call a Minute, as an Hour, a Week, a Month, or an whole Age.
”(Locke’s summary)

Henri Bergson has a similar idea of the subjectivity of the flow of time. The buzzing of the wings of a bee can be very slow to an awareness working at a higher rate or like the darting of a mouse might be slow for a cat. Duration he would define differently from Locke, Addison, and Malebranche as not an extent of time measured conventionally rather the force of all that has passed impinging on the present moment. This is preserved for use and is accessed or channelled through the brain which is an organ of action.. All that is not relevant to immediate use is filtered out. When immediate action is not required as at the point of death all that was previously ignored presents itself. Bergson takes seriously the reports of their whole life passing before them of people who thought they were about to die. I would consider this panoptic capacity as the mind of a sage and an indication of a naturalistic continuum.

Jorge Luis Borges peeps through this keyhole:
From The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges:

On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph's diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror's face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I'd seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand...

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Daughters and Sons by Ivy Compton-Burnett

Let me offer a theory about matriarchy probably one which you’ve seen before but I wouldn’t know, I don’t keep up. It is the natural rule of large families with property, status, and longevity that most precious hoarding which gathers up the jetsam of the predeceased. Mrs. Sabine Ponsonby aged 84, born 1810,is such a one with her own special chair in every room. And she sits at the head of the table. The family of her son an author widower is quartered on her. They comprise Clare, France(s), Chilton, Victor, Muriel and their ages range from 26 to 11 with large difference in age due to infant deaths. There is a governess called Miss Bunyan appointed to educate Murial who is introduced to us as ‘gapy-mouth’, a yawn or involuntary dismay at her position as an object of notice. Chilton (18) mocks Victor (17). Clare (26) wants to escape and France (26) is herself a writer who has just completed her first novel. This is to be adapted as a play for the village. As in all Compton-Burnett books there is almost nothing but dialogue. You must fill in the country house ambience yourself, the gravel drive, the aspidistra, brown architrave, high gravy coloured skirting and a library with uniform volumes.

"Frances does see him rather as the Almighty,” said Clare.

“The Almighty never had a daughter,” said her sister, “ He did not risk feminine insight. I see Father as a toiling companionable man, oppressed by Grandma,” .

“We all share that bond,”.

Father is a moderately successful author who lives up in London with his sister Hetta a spinster who acts as his secretary and general manager. There are at least three unmarried women who live with their brothers or uncles or if without resources become governesses. Families were more extended then and the secrets better kept.

....... It is always the fault of men that the other people in the world are women. But he does want to know the family secrets; he has a morbid curiosity about them. Though I don’t know why curiosity is often morbid. I expect this is ordinary curiosity....

Don’t think for a moment that the atmosphere of this novel is a fog of repression. There are rifts of hilarity. It’s a very funny book, Wildean in its paradoxes and inversions. Further analysis would leave me open to the charge of misplaced seriousness. The story is not the point, don’t expect scaffolding with frequent narrative putlocks. It’s flimsy and risky and only genius could manage it.

Miss Charity Marcon a neighbour of the Ponsonbys lives with her twin brother Stephen. He is unmarried and Sabine’s doctor. She is a writer of biographies:

She began to speak in her deep, dry monotone.

“I have been up in London to get the book I am writing, out of the British Museum. I have got a lot of it out, and I shall go again presently to get some more; and when I have got it all, there will be another book.” She slung a strap of notebooks off her arm, and advanced to the fire with the smooth, unswaying motion of a figure drawn on wheels. “So many people were there getting out their books. It doesn’t seem to matter everything’s being in books already: I don’t mind it at all. There are attendants there on purpose to bring it to you. This is how books are made, and it is difficult to think of any other way. I mean the kind called serious: light books are different. Mine ought to be quite a success. It will be just like the ones I am getting it out of, and they are standard books. I put things from several into another, and then it is called a biography. What have you done today?"

Compton-Burnett’s books are one offs.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Mary McAleese Moral Miles Award

Tell-truths in the service of falsehood we find everywhere, of various names and various occupations, from the elderly young women that discuss the love affairs of their friends and acquaintances at the village tea-tables, to the anonymous calumniators of literary merit in reviews, and the more daring malignants who dole out discontent, innovation, and panic, in political journals: and a most pernicious race of liars they are ! 
(from The Friend - Essay VI. Vol1 by S.T. Coleridge)

Mary McAleese (ex-president of Ireland) is essentially a media person who likes being the story herself. She worked in RTE for years. Leadership roles come naturally to her which makes her position as a professional Catholic frustrating. At the very least she should be a Bishop. Her mission of the moment is changing the Church’s mind on homosexuality, the active sort. Her son is homosexual and like the mother watching the passing out parade said ‘everyone is out of step except my Johnny’. That’s understandable and it got her barred from the Vatican - not the name of a pub. Why though did she vote Yes in the abortion referendum; ‘with a heart and a half’? It was the Savita case, a lie that is impervious to evidence. If it was a clear case of the Eight having a ‘chilling effect’ then why were nine doctors disciplined?

I’m living near Galway and I was on a what’s app chat of a No canvas crew. They met two Indian nurses, presumably citizens, who work in the hospital where Savita died. They were going to vote No. Maybe they know more than the media about the mismanagement of Savita’s sepsis: Maybe Katie Holland of the Irish Times who put out the Savita story originally is not a reliable witness? She herself has had two abortions one of which she regrets.

I think McAleese gets the most moral miles award. ( from the journey metaphor that pols used to describe how they had evolved from a pro-life position) You can see her pro-life videos from 1983 on youtube. Will that make any difference to her credibility or will the liberal media nurture her as a useful idiot until she is no longer handy? Why am I asking so many rhetorical questions?

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Belloc's The Servile State, Wright's Anticapitalism

I read Hilaire Belloc’s short book The Servile State (pub. 1912) over a couple of days this week. He felt then that the Capitalist economy was doomed because of its inherent instability and contradictions. Socialism or Collectivism seemed then to be the escape route. Putting it all in the hands of political masters would change little for the common worker and would likely ameliorate the effects of price fixing cartels and trusts. This was surely rational but the problem was that it had never been tried and the inevitable expropriation would cause variance. Oh! Belloc looked back to what had been tried and had been the way out of general slavery and serfdom. This he called the Distributist model as exemplified in the 16th.Century organisation of peasant proprietors, guilds, and orders. His book is not about how we might transition from the present stage of wage slavery i.e. the servile state in which the masses work for a bare subsistence. That evolution he recognised to be even more complex and difficult to manage than the socialist. The taming of Capitalism through minimum wage negotiation and national insurance he did not agree with as it was a submission to the lowly proletarian status that was an affront to human dignity. Very likely he would have regarded the creation of the welfare state as total capitulation.

It is an interesting book. One may question its excessive doctrinaire rigour and wonder whether the Pinko Popes would have approved.
(Distributism )

If Belloc thought that Capitalism was on its last legs he was wrong. It discarded the old ones and grew new globalist ones. We now are advised to applaud the accentuation of contradictions. Belloc said that too.

This morning I read an article in Jacobin. (ironic title one hopes)
Erik Olin Wright offers some ideas about the subversion of Capitalism by building alternatives within its structures. Some of them seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to Distributist strategy. His section on Real Utopias is good. One factor he didn’t mention which is informal and pervasive is the black economy or ‘the private sector’.

Some quotes from both writers:

A society thus constituted cannot endure. It cannot endure because it is subject to two very severe strains: strains which increase in severity in proportion as that society becomes more thoroughly Capitalist. The first of these strains arises from the divergence between the moral theories upon which the State reposes and the social facts which those moral theories attempt to govern. The second strain arises from the insecurity to which Capitalism condemns the great mass of society, and the general character of anxiety and peril which it imposes upon all citizens, but in particular upon the majority, which consists, under Capitalism, of dispossessed free men. (Belloc)

In the strongest versions of the theory, there are even underlying tendencies in the “laws of motion” of capitalism for the intensity of such system-weakening crises to increase over time, so that in the long-term capitalism becomes unsustainable; it destroys its own conditions of existence. (Wright)
A man has been compelled by law to put aside sums from his wages as insurance against unemployment. But he is no longer the judge of how such sums shall be used. They are not in his possession ; they are not even in the hands of some society which he can really control. They are in the hands of a Government official. " Here is work offered you at twenty-five shillings a week. If you do not take it you certainly shall not have a right to the money you have been compelled to put aside. If you will take it the sum shall still stand to your credit, and when next in my judgment your unemployment is not due to your recalcitrance and refusal to labour, I will permit you to have some of your money: not otherwise." 

Three clusters of state policies in particular significantly counteracted the harms of capitalism: serious risks — especially around health, employment, and income — were reduced through a fairly comprehensive system of publicly mandated and funded social insurance. (Wright)

Monday, 18 June 2018

Bide a While with Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Here is one of the most intelligible and longest sentences in the English language. In Barbara Rooke’s edition she has a footnote - (J. Wordsworth Marginalia) “This sentence particularly pleased Wordsworth for its architecture.” My own observations will follow. Do take a deep breath:

As long therefore as I obtrude no unsupported assertions on my readers ; and as long as I state my opinions, and the evidence which induced or compelled me to adopt them, with calmness and that diffidence in myself, which is by no means incompatible with a firm belief in the justness of the opinions themselves ; while I attack no man's private life from any cause, and detract from no man's honours in his public character, from the truth of his doctrines, or the merits of his compositions, without detailing all my reasons and resting the result solely on the arguments adduced ; while I moreover explain fully the motives of duty, which influenced me in resolving to institute such investigation ; while I confine all asperity of censure, and all expressions of contempt, to gross violations of truth, honour, and decency, to the base corrupter and the detected slanderer ; while I write on no subject which I have not studied with my best attention, on no subject which my education and acquirements have incapacitated me from properly understanding; and above all while I approve myself, alike in praise and in blame, in close reasoning and in impassioned declamation, a steady friend to the two best and surest friends of all men, truth and honesty ; I will not fear an accusation of either presumption or arrogance from the good and the wise. I shall pity it from the weak, and welcome it from the wicked.
(from Essay IV: Vol.1 1818 edition)

Here S.T.C. is leaping through the billows dolphin like. Each ‘while’ breaks up the whole into sentence like semantic units functioning like is a catenary of propositions. However in the following long sentences from Essay VII and Essay XI vol. 3 he sounds the depths of understanding like a whale in a single plunge. You breach with him, astonished.

 The naturalist, who can not or will not see, that one fact is often worth a thousand, as including them all in itself, and that it first makes all the other facts; who has not the head to comprehend, the soul to reverence, a central experiment or observation (what the Greeks would perhaps have called a protophaenomenon; will never receive an auspicious answer from the oracle of nature.
(from Essay VII Vol. 3)

or this Platonic utterance:

Meditate on the nature of a Being whose ideas are creative, and consequently more real, more substantial than the things that, at the height of their creaturely state, are but their dim reflexes ; and the intuitive conviction will arise that in such a Being there could exist no motive to the creation of a machine for its own sake; that, therefore, the material world must have been made for the sake of man, at once the high-priest and representative of the Creator, as far as he partakes of that reason in which the essences of all things co-exist in all their distinctions yet as one and indivisible. 
(from Essay XI. Vol.3)

Find The Friend in Two Volumes at Internet Archive:
Vol.1: Vol 1
Vol.2: Vol 2

The Friend edited by Barbara Rooke in 2 vols. pub. Princeton University Press.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Egregiously Genteel

It’s strange how words lose their richness and become much less than they were. I think of two that have become impoverished, that have fallen into decline. Both are genteelisms- epithet and egregious. The first has declined from being a significant and singular appellation eg. The Iron Duke (Wellington), The Iron Lady (Thatcher), Frederick the Great and so forth. Now it has become merely a derogatory adjective characteristically applied.

Egregious (ex grex - above the herd) has also slumped to an indefinite term of disapprobation, flagrant in some manner. That’s the usage and we can’t argue with it but I ask ‘what herd does he stand out from’? Is he an egregious liar, an egregious bounder, an egregious bully, what?

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope (II)

Feeling the need of a bracing moral universe rather than one in which politicians earn moral miles on their personal journeys I took to reading novels. If I were to characterise Victory by Conrad in pop terms it would be World of Moral Warcraft. Framley Parsonage by Trollope would be Can’t Pay, We’ll take it Away. Compare and Contrast. Just writing that creates a sinking feeling; tourbillons of chalk dust rise and afar off the snicker snack of the bar mower in the far field lays down stripes of grass.

From a craft point of view ‘Framley’ is the better novel, the story moves along smoothly with just enough of incident to show and of analysis to tell. That balance is hard to achieve. Of all the Trollope that I have read this is the one in which his mastery of clerical intrigue, snobbery, genteel poverty, and political duplicity is displayed at its finest. Of course I haven’t read all of Trollope, I’d have had to start from a boy for that, yet there does seem to me troughs and peaks in the oeuvre. Recently I started on The Duke’s Children and that cutting didn’t strike. In this novel though the variety of scenes as we move from squirearchy to hierarchy never sinks into longueurs. The blank beauty Griselda Grantly and aptly named Lord Dumbello: will they marry? Certainly, if barbarian eugenics, pace Arnold, are to flourish. Will the delightful, sparky Lucy Robarts find true love with Lord Lufton. He is beyond her station and mother Lufton does not approve. Mark Robarts has been silly and gone guarantor for Sowerby M.P.. £900 is a serious sum and there’s the riding to hunt which Parson Crawley upbraids him for. Even then bailiffs were apologetic but firm.

Parson Crawley is a proud ascetic who would starve his family rather that succumb to worldly manoeuvres. The parish of Hogglestock is not a rich one. £130 a year is all he gets which leaves him and his family worse off than their brickmaker parishoners.

And sometimes he was prostrate—prostrate in soul and spirit. Then would he complain with bitter voice, crying out that the world was too hard for him, that his back was broken with his burden, that his God had deserted him. For days and days, in such moods, he would stay within his cottage, never darkening the door or seeing other face than those of his own inmates. Those days were terrible both to him and her. He would sit there unwashed, with his unshorn face resting on his hand, with an old dressing-gown hanging loose about him, hardly tasting food, seldom speaking, striving to pray, but striving so frequently in vain. And then he would rise from his chair, and, with a burst of frenzy, call upon his Creator to remove him from this misery.
And then, don’t laugh, typhus strikes.

An excellent novel. Humour, tragedy, pathos, ordinary everyday evil and bungling and a cast of well drawn and credible characters. You could do worse this summer.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade seems to be addressing himself to persons in holy orders and that may give a wrong impression. You may think that their daily routine is strictly timetabled and running on the rails of obedience. That is true but the book is also relevant for the looser scheduled. We have to make decisions for ourselves and therefore the distortion of ego can impinge. To overcome this the presence of God in the heart must be cultivated so when we act it is under that discipline. He writes:

 There are, then, prescribed duties to be fulfilled, and necessary duties to be accepted, and further there is a third kind which also forms part of active fidelity, although it does not properly belong to works of precept. In this are comprised inspired duties; those to which the spirit of God inclines the hearts that are submissive to Him. The accomplishment of this kind of duty, requires a great simplicity, a gentle and cheerful heartiness, a soul easily moved by every breath of directing grace; for there is nothing else to do but to give oneself up, and to obey its inspirations simply and freely. So that souls may not be deceived, God never fails to give them wise guidance to indicate with what liberty or reserve these inspirations should be made use of. The third kind of duty takes precedence of all law, formalities, or marked-out rules. It is what, in saints, appears singular and extraordinary; it is what regulates their vocal prayer, interior words, the perception of their faculties, and also all that makes their lives noble, such as austerities, zeal, and the prodigality of their self-devotion for others. As all this belongs to the interior rule of the Holy Spirit, no one ought to try to obtain it, to imagine that they have it, to desire it, nor to regret that they do not possess the grace to undertake this kind of work, and to practise these uncommon virtues, because they are only really meritorious when practised according to the direction of God. If one is not content with this reserve one lays oneself open to the influence of one’s own ideas, and will become exposed to illusion.

Find an e version in all formats at:

Friday, 8 June 2018

Henri Bergson and the Phonograph

A good mind can make out more than a fair one on a particular topic though the latter may be infinitely more supplied with information. One of the strengths of philosophy is this getting back to first principles and asking the simple questions that can give a fundamental orientation to research. Bergson's impugning of the theory amounting to a doctrine, of mind brain identity proceeds on the simple query:

Impressions made by external objects are supposed to subsist in the brain as it were on a sensitive plate or a phonographic disk. But, when we look more closely, we see how fallacious these comparisons are. If, for example, the visual recollection of an object were really an impression left by that object on the brain, there would not be one recollection of an object, there would be thousands or even millions of them; for the simplest and most stable object changes its form, its size and its shade of colour, according to the point of view from which it is perceived. Unless, then, I condemn myself to a position absolutely fixed when looking at it, unless my eye remains immovable in its socket, countless images in no way superposable will be outlined successively on my retina and transmitted to my brain. And what must the number of the images be if the visual image is of a person, whose expression changes, whose body is mobile, whose clothing and environment are different each time I see him ? Yet it is unquestionable that my consciousness presents to me a unique image, or, what amounts to the same, a practically invariable recollection of the object or person ; evident proof that there is something quite different here from mechanical registration.
(from: The Soul and the Body in Mind-Energy by Henri Bergson)

Please note that the phonograph was the killer app of the day, April 12th. 1912. We now of course have the computer but the objection still stands. Memory in shellac or silicon is just not human memory. In spite of all the variety of sensible impressions it remains singular. My memory of our garden is not that of an abounding variety of plants that each day presents, it is just 'the garden'.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Argumentum ad Populum Meum

The genuflection at the altar of right thinking orthodoxy is a feature of blog communication. You must assure those who take all of a minute to read your post that your heart is in the right place and moreover that you are not likely to cause hurt and dismay to your tender readers.

Instead of conducting such a careful and thoughtful inquiry in to the nature of our egos, it seems the culture of philosophy is intent on imitating the Catholic priesthood, and having a competition to see who is the best at pointing the finger of blame and shame etc. The evidence might inform us that 2,000 years of such blaming and shaming has not cured us of the urge to say inconvenient words, nor our passion for claiming the all important fantasy victim status when we voluntarily read those words.
epithets comment )

I’ve always felt that it is the business of swamis, priests, muftis, and monks to give witness by their words and deeds to the core teachings that they confess. If they stay silent they are dammed for cosy temporisers, if vocal, dismissed as interfering in the inward workings of private conscience.

Philosophers are being urged not to follow their idle prating but this futility has not been demonstrated. In fact a mild acquaintance with history would indicate a contrary view. How was slavery brought to an end if not by the agitation of Quakers and Evangelicals?

There’s no argument here, merely the waving of a little priestcraft pennant. It makes palatable the self contradictory ‘you’re all going to hell in a handcart’ lesson which follows. On the contrary both priests and philosophers should speak up. Cry fire if there is a fire and clear the building.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Victory: An Island Tale by Joseph Conrad

Conrad’s favourite theory of morality is privative. The being of the good attracts the forces of nihilism who will eliminate and void it. Despite the grand guignol, the horror, the horror and the spatter of purple prose he can portray genuine evil and psychopathology. Ordinary people of good character, living on the moral inheritance of decency will be as chaff before a storm. Axel Heyst is the son of a philosopher and a Swedish baron and a drifter amongst the islands which ‘enchant’ him. This is a tale of those islands, Borneo, Timor, Sumatra, Java, The Celebes: Lord Jim country. Axel is drifting and aloof from the colonial world of merchant trading and exploitation. In philosophical terms he alternates between being ‘Enchanted’ Heyst and ‘Hard Facts’ Heyst, the Continental and the Analytic as it were. This changes when he rescues Captain Morrison from the clutches of Portugee customs men who have impounded his boat on the pretext of unpaid fees. He pays the fee, the boat is released and in return Morrison brings Heyst with him on his trading trips which are not very profitable due to his kind foregiving of debts. Together they form a plan to set up a series of coaling stations on islands with mines. We are at the point in shipping history when sail is being supplanted. Naturally this good plan fails and Heyst now has withdrawn to Samburan with his father’s books and favourite furniture that had been in storage for 14 years.

From the first he had selected Samburan, or Round Island, for the central station. Some copies of the prospectus issued in Europe, having found their way out East, were passed from hand to hand. We greatly admired the map which accompanied them for the edification of the shareholders. On it Samburan was represented as the central spot of the Eastern Hemisphere with its name engraved in enormous capitals. Heavy lines radiated from it in all directions through the tropics, figuring a mysterious and effective star—lines of influence or lines of distance, or something of that sort. Company promoters have an imagination of their own. There's no more romantic temperament on earth than the temperament of a company promoter. Engineers came out, coolies were imported, bungalows were put up on Samburan, a gallery driven into the hillside, and actually some coal got out.

On one of his trips away from Samburan to Sourabaya he rescues Lena from Schomberg a hotel keeper who wants to make her his mistress. She is a young member of a travelling ladies orchestra on a tour of the East Indies. He brings her back to Samburan to live with him in the company bungalow in a clearing in the jungle. They are attended by Wang a Chinese coolie who has settled down with a native woman. He acts as butler, houseboy, general yard man and insclutable music hall turn:

Wang immediately appeared in front, and, squatting on his heels, began to potter mysteriously about some plants at the foot of the veranda. When Heyst and the girl came out again, the Chinaman had gone in his peculiar manner, which suggested vanishing out of existence rather than out of sight, a process of evaporation rather than of movement. They descended the steps, looking at each other, and started off smartly across the cleared ground; but they were not ten yards away when, without perceptible stir or sound, Wang materialized inside the empty room. The Chinaman stood still with roaming eyes, examining the walls as if for signs, for inscriptions; exploring the floor as if for pitfalls, for dropped coins. Then he cocked his head slightly at the profile of Heyst's father, pen in hand above a white sheet of paper on a crimson tablecloth; and, moving forward noiselessly, began to clear away the breakfast things.
Though he proceeded without haste, the unerring precision of his movements, the absolute soundlessness of the operation, gave it something of the quality of a conjuring trick. And, the trick having been performed, Wang vanished from the scene, to materialize presently in front of the house. He materialized walking away from it, with no visible or guessable intention; but at the end of some ten paces he stopped, made a half turn, and put his hand up to shade his eyes. The sun had topped the grey ridge of Samburan. The great morning shadow was gone; and far away in the devouring sunshine Wang was in time to see Number One and the woman, two remote white specks against the sombre line of the forest. In a moment they vanished. With the smallest display of action, Wang also vanished from the sunlight of the clearing.

Schomberg is furious and continues to spread vile gossip about Heyst. At this point the evil trio of Jones, Ricardo and Pedro enter and take up residence at the hotel. Their chief occupation there is gambling, cardsharping, and rooking the Dutchmen. They are also up for a little light murder and theft. Schomberg fears them and the trouble for his business so he sets them on Heyst and the supposed riches that he has on the island. He gives them a sail boat and sets them off supplied. Ricardo is an experienced sailor.

Heyst, his moral sense and active response enervated by perspective may not be the man for that trio. He is after all the son of a philosopher. By the way don’t read the author’s note at the start of the book unless you want judgements foisted on you. Read the book, it is much more than an exotic yarn.

Friday, 1 June 2018


There are two definitions offered of the absolute by the advaitin. There is Sat Chit Ananda Brahma and Satyam jnanam anantam Brahma. The former is the one that is usually met with, the latter is in the Taittiriya Upanisad and the subject of a profound commentary by Shankara.

The knower of Brahman attains the highest. Here is a verse uttering that very fact: "Brahman is truth, knowledge, and infinite. He who knows that Brahman as existing in the intellect, lodged in the supreme space in the heart, enjoys, as identified with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things simultaneously.

From that Brahman, which is the Self, was produced space. From space emerged air. From air was born fire. From fire was created water. From water sprang up earth. From earth were born the herbs. From the herbs was produced food. From food was born man. That man, such as he is, is a product of the essence of food: Of him this, indeed, is the head; this is the southern side; this is the northern side; this is the Self; this is the stabilising tail.
Tai Up. II.i.1

Satyam, jnanam, anantam - truth, knowledge, infinite (an anta / without boundaries).
Sat, Chit, Ananda - Being, Consciousness, Bliss.

I am going to focus on Ananda/Anantam in this note.
What is it that gives bliss? It is primarily the freedom from the trammels of contingency and the limits of a conditioned individuality. The state of liberation is defined as the unconditioned. We escape from what the Buddhists call 'causes and conditions'. This is achieved by a resolution back into our true nature in a reversal of the order given in the latter half of the sutra quoted. Freedom is also the knowledge of necessity because here we are stuck within a range of possibilities. The non-liberated/realised individual can get a sense of moving past his limitations through creativity.

Philosophers who have speculated on the meaning of life and on the destiny of man have failed to take sufficient notice of an indication which nature itself has given us. Nature warns us by a clear sign that our destination is attained. That sign is joy. I mean joy, not pleasure. Pleasure is only a contrivance devised by nature to obtain for the creature the preservation of its life, it does not indicate the direction in which life is thrusting. But joy always announces that life has succeeded, gained ground, conquered. All great joy has a triumphant note. Now, if we take this indication into account and follow this new line of facts, we find that wherever there is joy, there is creation; the richer the creation, the deeper the joy. The mother beholding her child is joyous, because she is conscious of having created it, physically and morally. The merchant developing his business, the manufacturer seeing his industry prosper, are joyous, — is it because money is gained and notoriety acquired? No doubt, riches and social position count for much, but it is pleasures rather than joy that they bring; true joy, here, is the feeling of having started an enterprise which goes, of having brought something to life. Take exceptional joys,— the joy of the artist who has realized his thought, the joy of the thinker who has made a discovery or invention. 
(from the essay Life and Consciousness in the collection Mind Energy by Henri Bergson (1920).

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Keeping It

You’ve heard it too in tv dramas and comedy shows – ‘are you going to keep it’? In Gavin and Stacey on Netflix the obese pregnant woman decided to ‘keep it’. She had watched Vera Drake (pre ’67 abortionist film) twice before coming to her decision. The story formula then :- I’m pregnant – Who’s the father – Smithy (an obese man) – Are you going to keep it?

In the latest series of the Scandanavian show The Bridge Saga Noren (autustic genius detective) tells her partner and lover that she is pregnant with his child and that she is going to take it out. He asks – do I have any say in this? Dark Scando irony there.

These questions and assumptions hang in the air like an evil mist that we daily breathe in to prepare us for the reality that is prowling about in the careless shrubbery of our lives. It was then easy for the Repeal the Eight campaign to pit the mother against the child in the womb. An argument in the past against abortion was that things would be different if women’s stomachs were made of glass and the activity of the child could be seen. There were scan photos on innumerable utility poles during the campaign but they seem not to have made much difference. Obviously they were of somebody else’s baby.

Hard cases dominated the YES campaign. In an inversion of trolley triage 97 would be sacrificed to ‘save’ 3. Yes we are now in a different country where the increase in abortions that is certain to follow this result is greeted with jubilation in the square at Dublin Castle.

On Sunday we walked up Mamin to St. Patrick’s Well, a place of pilgrimage. It’s peaceful there at the top of the hill. The stations of the cross are simple with the titles in the Irish language. An interesting difference between them and the English is the present tense reflexive which is used which seems to me stronger than the continuous present. Leagtar Iosa – Jesus is knocked down not Jesus Falls for the First Time.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

40 Philosophers on the Irish Abortion Referendum

I was wondering when Philosophers for Yes would arrive. This was some days before they emerged from their noetic cocoon. I am sometimes overwhelmed by prescience. There was no horripilation, only - ‘you took your time’. Two score philosophers devising a statement they could all agree to is remarkable but achievable on the basis of not saying very much. Personhood is mentioned, DNA also: just enough of it from ‘Science for Philosophers’. In short incondite rambling.

I compare this to the pro-life No sayers who never stopped talking about ‘the unborn child’. They recognised that the intention of abortion, what it is aimed at, is the child that will be born and will demand care. It’s a causal thing - if you want a cold beer you will have to open the door of the fridge to take it. Focussing on just the opening part is pointless, it’s the chilled tin that is the point. The man on the Clapham Omnibus understands this but not most philosophers. Elizabeth Harman is different. In her Calvinist predestinarian way similar to the ‘I shall have already been saved’ doctrine she holds that being pregnant , really pregnant, is to expect a child that you hope to bring to term. In the event that you abort then her view is that one shall never have had been pregnant. It was not a pregnancy. James Franco I feel your bafflement.

never a pregnancy