Monday, 14 October 2019

Sir Roger Scruton FBA, Conservative and Heretic


The faggots are piled around the feet of the heretic and the executioner is about to apply the torch when a messenger rides up. The Grand Inquisitor shrugs as he reads the missive whose red wax captured ribbon flutters like a tiny premonitory flame. He gruffly commands:

- Stay your hand, release him. Roger of Scruton Hall, there has been a change of plan. You are to be raised a knight of the realm and a member of the British Academy. Wealth will be yours and fame. Depart from here, unshriven and recalcitrant.

You would have thought that heresy was a dwindling trade but Sir Roger Scruton FBA has made a go of it. He started early at the age of 24 when in Paris in ‘68 as an onlooker of the student riots. ‘Twerps’. He has not deviated from that judgment since then.

In 1980 he published his book The Meaning of Conservatism and in 2015 Confessions of a Heretic a collection of essays. So what, the young fogy has become an old fogy even if he’s right and he is . Conservatism is as various as the societies in which it is rooted. Because of this when Scruton talks out of the American side of his mouth he utters things which would shock the English cultivar. The generalisations which would assimilate both, miss the point and Scruton is correct when he holds that Conservatism is not discursive but a pre-emptive feeling of distrust of novelty and downright disgust with murderous utopian social engineering schemes.

Here he is on Environmentalism:

Environmentalism has all the hall-marks of a left-wing cause: a class of victims (future generations), an enlightened vanguard who fights for them (the eco-warriors), powerful philistines who exploit them (the capitalists), and endless opportunities to express resentment against the successful, the wealthy and the West. The style too is leftist: the environmentalist is young, dishevelled, socially disreputable, his mind focused on higher things; the opponent is dull, middle aged, smartly dressed and usually American. The cause is designed to recruit the intellectuals, with facts and theories carelessly bandied about, and activism encouraged.
(from Confessions of a Heretic)

That seems to this reader to be reactive malignant Batesonian symmetrical thinking. He corrects towards the complementary after this salute to his constituency and he displays the fairness which is a strength of Conservatism.

However, the cause of the environment is not, in itself, a left-wing cause at all. It is not about ‘liberating’ or empowering the victim, but about safeguarding resources. It is not about ‘progress’ or ‘equality’ but about conservation and equilibrium. Its following may be young and dishevelled; but that is largely because people in suits have failed to realise where their real interests, and their real values, lie. Environmentalists may seem opposed to capitalism, but – if they understood matters correctly – they would be far more opposed to socialism, with its gargantuan, uncorrectable and state-controlled projects, than to the ethos of free enterprise. Indeed, environmentalism is the quintessential conservative cause, the most vivid instance in the world as we know it, of that partnership between the dead, the living and the unborn, which Burke defended as the conservative archetype.

‘Free enterprise’ - the American side of his mouth and with its insinuation of untrammelled, a proven error. I ask myself about Thunbergian doom – Have we been here before? Do you remember the Y2K bug that was to bring massive disruption and queues at the border. Or am I thinking of Brexit? Nothing happened very quickly then and now what? Let’s be prudent. Go green with nuclear power stations and less meat eating and please knock those useless wind farms that deface the land.

Both books are worth reading.



Sunday, 6 October 2019

Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati on Sri Harsha


Was Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati (Sri SSS) correct when he said that Sri Harsha did not understand the true method of vedanta?(Chap.14:285) Next two question arising from that is (a) what is the true method of vedanta and (b) how did he fail to understand it?

In Chap.3:20 of his Method of Vedanta Sri SSS expresses it thusly:
The Method of False Attribution followed by Retraction underlies other forms of Vedanta Teaching (Adhyaropa/Apavada). It is found throughout the Upanishads, Gita and Brahma Sutras.

What Sri Harsha fails to understand is that the search for truth through dialogue which brings clarification is not served by the stultification of your interlocutors. Even honest error has a perspective which can be corrected. It may even bring focus to an issue by displaying a characteristic misstep. Inquiry has many landing points which are partial and false. They are surpassed by a new vision. This is the process known as sublation.

In fact we are all wrong and ‘nobody knows anything’.

There is one false attribution that is the root cause of all others. It is due to its presence that the other erroneous ideas come into being and work mischief during the time of their existence. So the Upanishads single out this error and call it metaphysical ignorance (avidya). And the knowledge whereby one establishes the true nature of metaphysical reality through negating that error is called enlightenment (vidya).
(Chap.3:22)

Note: adhiropa is the transliteration that I first came across. adhyaropa is now more usual so I will use that in future and it ties in with adhyasa - superimposition

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Yellow Vests abú (forever)


Recall:
veist bui(yellow vest)

Well it’s settled. The leasee of the hotel that was going to be presented as a direct provision centre for asylum seekers has withdrawn his contract submission and the project is now scrapped. After trying to tag the protestors with the racist label the minister advised them to ‘step back’. Now they are doing the step back boogie.

They wrought it very cleverly keeping the overt racists quite and allowing those that are against direct provision on humanitarian grounds to seem to be central to the protest. What then was the main unspoken objection to the centre as well as the entirely justified resentment at having your village population increased by 20% without any enhancement of infrastructure and without consultation as a fait accompli. The general sentiment in the country at large is that asylum seekers are for the most part economic migrants without any real claim to refugee status. They can’t even be bothered to make up a good story because they rely on administrative delay to prolong the process and then they will have to be allowed to stay.

At a subconscious level too is the memory of the tragedy of emigration from Ireland. We know that it is not a good thing when the young leave in droves. It should not be encouraged. As well as that the economic migrants are often from the better off segment of their societies who can afford to pay the smugglers large sums of money for their transportation. Why should they be favoured over genuine impoverished refugees that languish in camps? The Norway solution of quick decision on status followed by deportation in the case of rejection seems to be working for them. There direct provision centres are closing down not opening. Here in Ireland there has been a 26% increase in asylum applications this year over that of the whole of last year. Céad míle fáilte!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Sri Harsha: The Reader over your Shoulder


If the reader over your shoulder is a type of Sri Harsha (12th.C). be very afraid because you are going to be found out. I would defend the right of Sri Harsha to controvert everything and offer no positive teaching of his own unless you regard what he impugned as an limning by way of negative space. His positive thesis may be in a book now lost. In the particular book that I am referring to, the Khandana Khanda the scrutiny of his eagle eye has lit on the Nyaya school often referred to as 'the logicians'. Their programme as stated by Ganganath Jha in his introduction to the translation of the work - KhKh

The things, or categories, whose correct knowledge leads to the attainment of the highest aim of human existence, are (according to the Nyaya), the following sixteen—The Instruments of Right Cognition, the Objects of Right Cognition, Doubt, Motive, Example, Doctrine, Factors of Inference, Hypothetical Reasoning, Demonstrated Truth,. Discussion, Disputation, Wrangling, Fallacious Reason, Perversion, Casuistry and Clinchers. (Gautama’s Sutra 1-1-1). The most important among these are the Instruments of Cognition*and the Objects of Cognition; all the rest are of subordinate importance, being aids to the Instruments-of Cognition.

One of the points at issue is whether it is necessary for fruitful dialogue that both parties should admit the existence of the valid means of knowledge ie. the pramanas. That may not be necessary for in fact for without that, incoherence, inconsistency and self-contradiction could be found in the definitions of the opponent. Reductio ad absurdum can proceed without any commitment to the existence of the means of valid knowledge. Sri Harsha would hold that we can prescind from a committment to the existence of pramanas and still offer therapy to the holder of faulty definitions of experience, memory, perception, and recognition.

Sri Harsha states:
Not at all. We do not say that debate is to be undertaken having admitted that the means of valid knowledge do not exist, but that debate may be undertaken by individuals who are indifferent to the question whether the means of valid knowledge do exist or whether the means of valid knowledge do not exist, and yet carry on just as you do having admitted their existence. Were this not the case, even this fault adduced by you, having misconstrued our viewpoint to be that the means of valid knowledge do not exist, could not be stated.
(trans. by Phyllis Granoff from Philosophy and Argument in Late Vedanta: Sri Harsha's KhKh)

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad on Non-Realism


While I have been thinking about the prevalence of 'non' as a prefix for some very important aspects of Advaita eg. non-dualism, non-difference (of cause and effect) and so forth I have been intrigued by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad's concept of non-realism which seems at first blush to be a refined position between idealism and realism. This interests me greatly and so I have been scouting around reading here and there amongst his papers to try and find out more.

Ram-Prasad seems to have a poor grasp of what realism is and a fortiori non-realism subtle or gross must elude. What is one to make of this from a 1995 paper on Dreams and the Coherence of Experience

The traditional realist claim is that objects that experience presents as existing externally, do in fact exist internally. The denial of externality appeals both to those who doubt that experience is ever veridical (in other words, who doubt that the objects experience presents are ever exactly identical with existing objects) and also to those who think that experience is veridical only if ob jects are not external.

A simple succinct definition of Realism found in a Dictionary of Philosophy:

theory to the effect that entities of a certain category exist independently of what we think. A consequence of realism in this sense is that the entities are there to be discovered, and that ignorance and error is possible.

Further down he states:
Both the Cartesian skeptic and the Berkeleyan idealist use dreams to challenge externality: a subject takes it that there is experience of a world of external objects, but there need be no such world as seems to be thus experienced. Cognition that there are external objects could therefore occur without such objects.

Did Berkeley use dreams to establish his immaterialism? Was it not a logical following through of Locke's primary and secondary qualities?
So Non-Realism is perhaps not ready to join the big Nons yet. If anyone out there knows more, please relate.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Who put the A in Advaita (1)


Who put the A in Advaita? there are so many of these 'nots' in the philosophy of Advaita that it might be useful to quicknote them.

First of all there is a dvaita or not-two or non-dualism. We are accustomed to think in terms of polar concepts so we look for the opposite of nondualism (running the suffix into the noun). Would that be holism or something after that fashion? Now that has some merit though not covering precisely what non-dualism attempts to adumbrate. We are getting past the dualism of subject and object and trying to embrace a vision in which the two are one or both subject and object are both aspects of the one reality. That sounds good but it leaves out the central principle of adhyasa which is that neither subject nor object are freestanding realities in their own right. The cognitive event in which both are blended is a shining forth of fundamental reality. So the anirvachanya position re normal perception which means 'not definable as specifically real or unreal' comes into play. Another way of stating the Subject/Object divide is that the divide is real as a manifestation or appearance. Things as they appear are limiting adjuncts of the Real which means that any attempt at definition of the Self collapses. It cannot be grasped in a single apprehension in an objective way.



Through what, 0 Maitreyi, should one know the Knower?' (Brh.Up. IV. v. I5), it is concluded: That which has been described as "Not this, not this." ' Besides, thus only can the statement, 'I will instruct you (about Brahman),' be relevant. That is to say, if the Sruti wants to teach the transcendent nature of the individual self-which is free from all differentiations of limiting adjuncts, then only can this assertion be fulfilled.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Yellow Vest (Veist buí) protest


The yellow vests have arrived at a hotel near where I live. Some of them are working there turning the defunct hotel in a direct provision centre. Others are protesting the placement of a possible 300 migrants claiming asylum there. You can see why they might be annoyed as the village just up the road has a population of 1,400. The protesters are well settled in with a portaloo and some canteen facility signalling a determination to stay as long as it takes. As everybody knows most of these proposed as residents are economic migrants. At the end of a long process of review, which is a modest source of revenue for young lawyers, a large percentage will be refused asylum and be deported. Others will drift away into the black economy working for a pittance. They get an allowance of 39.80 for adults and 29.80 Euro for children plus food and lodging.

Current state of row:
oughterard row

Extract from an Irish Times report on asylum seekers (Jan.2019):
However, while Syria remains a highly volatile war zone, more people from Georgia claimed asylum in Ireland in the first 11 months of 2018 than Syrians.
After the 409 Georgian nationals, there were 383 Albanians and then came Syrians, some 326 of whom had claimed asylum in the Republic to the end of November.
Zimbabwe was the next most represented nation, with 257 of its citizens claiming asylum here, followed by Pakistan; some 230 new asylum claimants in 2018 declared Pakistani citizenship.



Monday, 16 September 2019

Scantlings and Spring Balances


You need more hands than a Hindu goddess to install spring balances in sash windows. It’s about time that they were done. For x years, the length of a short mortgage I have been propping them up with scantlings. Luckily I have my own shakti rupa to help but I have done it without her. They are single glazed, six panes in each sash moulded and scribed. The wood is Iroko which shows precisely no signs of wear. Why didn’t you make them double glazed while you were at it? Lumpy and expensive and really we are not living in Finland. If you’re cold put on a jumper. I like draughts which I describe as continuous air exchange. When Greta is a granny picketing a nuclear power station and checking her account someone will have violated my fenestration and put in triple glazed self cleaning glass with inbuilt draught alert. A final and fitting end would be as garden lights.

The Dance of the Bats and Arthur Koestler


In the early morning just before dawn around 6:30, I go outside to see the pipistrelle bats coming back to roost. When I first step outside there’s a couple and then quite quickly there’s a lot circling round my head as though they were checking to see what this big object on the sonar was. Round and round they go in a 15 foot circle enjoying the last of the night feinting towards the dormer and swinging away again. Wonderful, dizzying dance. There must be some ingress into the roof space at the dormer which I can’t make out. They only need less than one inch to enter. Occasionally one comes in an open window and then we have fun with a butterfly net. Extraordinary creatures with their delayed conception. Is there any permutation or possibility that nature hasn’t happened on; most of them useless and some decidedly handy. Arthur Koestler in his The Ghost in the Machine writes how when later stages of evolution come to a dead end, its as though the process bethought itself and went back to the larval stage and took a different tack. His teleology would cause conventional evolutionists to sniff :

It seems that this retracing of steps to escape the dead ends of the maze was repeated at each decisive evolutionary turning point. I have mentioned the evolution of the vertebrates from a larval form of some primitive echinoderm. Insects have in all likelihood emerged from a millipede-like ancestor -- not, however, from adult millipedes, whose structure is too specialised, but from its larval forms. The conquest of the dry land was initiated by amphibians whose ancestry goes back to the most primitive type of lung-breathing fish; whereas the apparently more successful later lines of highly specialised gill-breathing fishes all came to a dead end. The same story was repeated at the next major step, the reptiles, who derive from early, primitive amphibians -- not from any of the later forms that we know.

And lastly, we come to the most striking case of paedomorphosis, the evolution of our own species. It is now generally recognised that the human adult resembles more the embryo of an ape than an adult ape. In both simian embryo and human adult, the ratio of the weight of the brain to total body weight is disproportionately high. In both, the closing of the sutures between the bones of the skull is retarded to permit the brain to expand. The back-to-front axis through man's head -- i.e., the direction of his line of sight -- is at right angles to his spinal column: a condition which, in apes and other mammals, is found only in the embryonic, not in the adult stage. The same applies to the angle between backbone and uro-genital canal -- which accounts for the singularity of the human way of copulating face to face. Other embryonic -- or, to use Bolk's term, foetalised -- features in adult man are: the absence of brow-ridges; the scantness and late appearance of body hair; pallor of the skin; retarded growth of the teeth, and a number of other features -- including 'the rosy lips of man which were probably evolved in the young as an adaptation to prolonged suckling and have persisted in the adult, possibly under the influence of sexual selection' (de Beer).........
It is as if the stream of life had momentarily reversed its course, flowing uphill for a while, then opened up a new stream-bed. I shall try to show that this reculer pour mieux sauter -- of drawing back to leap, of undoing and re-doing -- is a favourite gambit in the grand strategy of the evolutionary process; and that it also plays an important part in the progress of science and art.


Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Devils, The Possessed, Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


I have been reading The Devils, Demons, The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky this last month. I don’t mean three books just the three translations available to me made by Magarshack, Peavar & Volokhonsky, and Garnett. The first named is quite readable and light on patronymics which are a boulder in the way of smooth reading. The Garnett has a period flavour which is not out of place for a novel serialised through 1870. I find no real difference between the latter two translations. I switched back and forth between them all. The Magarshack is the more literary, possibly easing the original feverish and hasty writing of the original. Garnett lacks the chapter variously called “Stavrogin’s Confession” and “At Tikhon’s”. That is an important omission when considering the character of Nikolai Vsevolodovich (Stavrogin). Considered as a portrayal of the damage done by paeodophile grooming it puts the elegant Nabakov in the shade. (I must reread Pale Fire.) Given in both translations as an appendix which is a little scholastic consisering that Dostoyevsky wrote it as the chapter after Ivan the Tsaravitch (Crown Prince). It wasn’t originally printed as being too shocking for 1870 and for me the depiction of the invitation into the soul of evil, relishing it and then in the end being destroyed by it, is very powerful.

The critical cliché about Dostoyevsky is his ‘lumpy structure’, scrambled narration and so on. That, as I have remarked before in other connections, is entirely false but the diabolism of it is that it is true after its own fashion. All of the novel is the work of the active imagination and reflects the chaos and evil tumult of the conspirators. Are they the pigs that the devils have entered into or are they the devils awaiting the Gadarene swine? The theme of counterparts could be explicated at great and tedious length. The humour of ‘skandaly’ (outrageous scenes) is there as well as pathos. Read it every seven years and always find more.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb


But recall that this chapter is about layering, units, hierarchies, fractal structure, and the difference between the interest of a unit and those of its subunits. So it is often the mistakes of others that benefit the rest of us—and, sadly, not them. We saw that stressors are information, in the right context. For the antifragile, harm from errors should be less than the benefits. We are talking about some, not all, errors, of course; those that do not destroy a system help prevent larger calamities. The engineer and historian of engineering Henry Petroski presents a very elegant point. Had the Titanic not had that famous accident, as fatal as it was, we would have kept building larger and larger ocean liners and the next disaster would have been even more tragic. So the people who perished were sacrificed for the greater good; they unarguably saved more lives than were lost. The story of the Titanic illustrates the difference between gains for the system and harm to some of its individual parts.
(from Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

The SS Imperator of the Hamburg America line was launched in 1912. He, so called instead the normal ‘She’ by request of the Kaiser, was bigger than the Titanic as were the later built Vaterland and Bismark.
Imperator
A present day super liner ‘Symphony of the Seas’ is five times bigger than the Titanic was.

An imprudent captain was a factor in the Titanic sinking. More of those and many more boats of any size whatever would sink. Consider the opera buffa elements of the sinking of the Costa Concordia.
Vada a bordo, cazzo!

Antifragile is a little weak in spots with a tiller corroded by blowhardia causing it to list when dodging reefs. Will she reach port? Probably but for God’s sake do not go so close to the Statue of Liberty.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Alexandrine History


This extreme is illustrated by the impressions that Jean Reville describes,in connexion with the problem of the Fourth Gospel :"Concluding his study of the Prologue of the Fourth Gos-pel, M.Loisy says of the Evangelist: 'He is not writing a history of Jesus but rather a treatise on knowledge of Jesus.' I hold instead that he intended to write a history, but history as an Alexandrian understood history , which is something radically different from what we mean by history....The aim of the Gospel, the aim of the Prologue itself, is historical, that is the fact that must not be lost sight of. However, the Evangelist writes history as all men who were imbued with the Alexandrine spirit in his day wrote history, with a sovereign contempt for concrete material reality, as was the case with Philo or St. Paul. In the view of those great minds, history was not a pragmatic narrative of events, a faithful reproduction of details, a careful chronology, an integral resurrection of the past. The historian's task was to emphasize the moral and spiritual values of facts, their deeper significance, that element of eternal truth which is present in each contingent and ephemeral phenomenon in history.
(from Le quatrieme Evangile by Jean Reville as quoted in The Mind and Society by Vilfredo Pareto)

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Our Own Common Era


It is the unheralded ancestor of every subsequent era system, including the Christian Anno Domini system, our own Common Era, the Jewish Era of Creation, the Islamic Hijrah, the French Revolutionary Era, and so on.

(further down)

All events, however dislocated, were part of a single story, a total history. 

These observations are from an Aeon essay by Paul J. Kosmin of Harvard College who is John L Loeb associate professor of the humanities, specialising in the history of the Ancient Greek world, at Harvard University in Massachusetts. His most recent book is Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire(2018)

Are you sitting comfortably; this won’t take long. What do you notice about the group of dating systems mentioned above? Most of the numbers are different except for two: A.D. and C.E. Correct. That leads us to suspect that they may be part of “a single story” as Kosmin says himself. What has caused the break in acronym? Can it be that “our own C.E.” represents ‘under new management’? Fine but shouldn’t this new regime have a starting date? When would it be? Very difficult problem even for a Harvard prof specialising in time. Really hard problem. Let’s just cancel the history of dating instead.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

A French Detective Speaks


"But, in the world of reality, at the very heart of reality, there is always a fixed point, a solid nucleus, about which the facts group themselves in accordance with a logical order”.
(from The Eight Strokes of the Clock by Maurice Leblanc.

And yet as it happens the story that Prince Renine spun was an lie told out of a desire to correct the world of reality and align it with an ideal. Alethtomy? From  ἀλήθεια
cf Wikipedia on the topic:
aletheia

I was a hidden treasure and I wished to be known Allah/hadith

Renine is disclosing a supervening emotional reality or an ideal sublation.
Read it at The Eight Strokes of the Clock

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Peter Wessel Zapffe climbs Mount Kailas


Dealing with the absurdism of Peter Wessel Zapffe by the method of retorsion is relatively easy.
maverick philosopher
If our unnecessarily large brains have concocted a farrago of comforting illusions might not this solemn philosophy be just another one of them? However for those who have entered the Zapffian the view from outside is obstructed. The door to that doomy portal closes after you enter it and besides there are many teachings of the traditional wisdom schools that echo the cool pessimism of the view from the mountain top. At the pinnacle near the bench mark will be scratched, Nietzsche was here. Vedanta and Buddhist sages may have added stones to the cairn also. cf.Vedanta and Anti Natalism

Whatever happened? A breach in the very unity of life, a biological paradox, an abomination, an absurdity, an exaggeration of disastrous nature. Life had overshot its target, blowing itself apart. A species had been armed too heavily – by spirit made almighty without, but equally a menace to its own well-being. Its weapon was like a sword without hilt or plate, a two-edged blade cleaving everything; but he who is to wield it must grasp the blade and turn the one edge toward himself.
(from The Last Messiah essay by Peter Wessel Zapffe pub.1933
trans. The Last Messiah )

The symbolic meaning of hollow Mount Kailas and Arunachala, wherein dwell Shiva and deathless sages, is a rebuttal of the ultimacy of the absurd. Saints and rishis have penetrated that adamantine rock through the practice of gnothi seauton (know thyself) and atma vichara (inquiry into the self). Yes, they agree, man cannot know truth but he can realise it. The good as a categorical or utilitarian slogan is otiose but the action of one who embodies the good is a safe template which we can apply to our work.

(general review of Zapffe by Gisle Tangenes: The View from Mount Zapffe)

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Vedanta and Anit-Natalism


Having approached the Teacher in the prescribed manner i.e. with fuel in his hand; he thus addresses him:

Thus in this beginningless world on account of my own actions I have been giving up successive bodies assumed amongst gods, men, animals and the denizens of hell and assuming ever new ones. I have in this way been made to go round and round in the cycle of endless births and deaths as in a Persian wheel by my past actions, and having the course of time obtained the present body. I have got iired of this going round and round in the wheel of transmigration and have come to you, Sir, to put and end to this rotation.
(from Upadesa Sahasri Chap.1 by Shankaracarya)

This sounds arguably very much like prospective anti-natalism. Gratitude for this birth and the meeting with a Teacher is a given that mitigates that. One might also press the point that the doctrine of maya in Vedanta is nihilist. We are, it is held, radically deluded and under a misapprehension of what our true nature is. That is a shallow understanding of maya and a simplistic grasp of the snake/rope analogy. Creation is not free standing and self supporting. It is non-different from Brahman, an indescribable (anirvachanaya) relation, neither identical nor different.




Sunday, 18 August 2019

Pareto's Cormanesque Juridical Entities


Pareto was fond of bizarre stories drawn from classical sources which served to illustrate his theories about residues and derivatives. Re a derivative which he calls juridical entities he cites:

Pausanias, Pcriegesis, VI, Elis II, n, 5-7, relates that, at Thasos, one of the rivals of the champion runner, Theagenes, was in the habit of thrashing his statue every night, and that finally to punish the man it fell upon him and crushed him : "The children of the dead man then brought action against the statue for murder, and following one of the Draconian laws, the Thasians threw it into the sea." But a blight oracle declared that it was because the Thasians "had forgotten the greatest of their fellow-citizens." So they fished up the statue and reerected it in its original position.

Pope Formosus was put on trial in 897. Unfortuneately at that point in time he had been dead for eight months:

The Cardinals, the Bishops, and many other Church dignitaries, assembled in Sanhedrin. The Pope's body, wrested from the tomb in which it had been lying for eight months, was clothed in the pontifical robes and seated on a throne in the Council hall. Pope Stephen's attorney arose and turned towards the horrible mummy at its side sat a terrified deacon who had been designated to act as its counsel. [Animals too had their attorneys.] The prosecutor read the charges. Then the living Pope inveighed at the dead Pope in a mad violence: 'Why, ambitious man, didst thou usurp the Apostolic See of Rome, thou who wert Bishop of Porto?' The attorney of Formosus answered in his defence so far as terror did not paralyze
his tongue. The dead Pope was convicted and his punishment fixed.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Iris Murdoch: Muddles and The Mixture as Before


"I do love the way you talk, you're so precise, not like my father. He lives in a sort of rosy haze with Jesus and Mary and Buddha and Shiva and the Fisher King all chasing round and round dressed up as people in Chelsea."

This is Julian the daughter of Baffin the popular novelist of the quasi deep Murdochian sort. The author in the mirror of her characters writes against herself. Bradley Pearson the ever so serious, not many words but true ones, in a review of Baffin’s latest, writes:

Arnold Baffin's new book will delight his many admirers. It is, what readers often and innocently want, "the mixture as before." It tells of a stockbroker who, at the age of fifty, decides to become a monk. His course is thwarted by the sister of his abbot-to-be, an intense lady returned from the East, who attempts to convert the hero to Buddhism. These two indulge in very long discussions of religion. The climax comes when the abbot (a Christ figure he) is killed by an immense bronze crucifix which accidentally (or is it accidentally?) falls upon him while he is celebrating mass.

This is all in The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch which I haven’t finished and mightn’t. It’s the insolence of being too successful, too prolific and not allowing the creative energy to gather itself that irritates. It’s Murdochshire on a warm summer’s day and the general sense of ‘muddle’ that confounds. A favourite word of Oxford philosophy which occurs 16 times in ‘Prince’ ,17 times in The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, 42 times in A Fairly Honourable Defeat. I include muddles, muddler, muddling etc in this count – it’s the concept that counts, you know.

What does it mean? What could it mean? It ought to have an entry in a dictionary of philosophy. Let me attempt a prolegomena to a sense of it.

a mix up, taking something to be that which it is not, a categorical error, a state of affairs as a false framing (not really love), an unwitting masquerade, misapprehension, confusion, mistake, misprision, misplaced soul searching (solution: keep one in every room), stultification by intent ……..

Murdoch in many places is saying ‘Iris put down that pen, take the dogs for a walk, become more chaste and elegant, cut like a hated editor and for God’s sake don’t strain so much'.

‘I for one;, when did people stop saying that, have reverted to reading again Dostoevsky’s The Devils. Now that’s a novel, not a toy.




Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Bilimoria on Theodicy


Purushottama bilimoria has a review of the various theodicies in the Hindu tradition.
Towards an Indian Theodicy
theodicy

His remarks on the short sections of Shankaracarya’s commentary on Brahma Sutra Bhasya II.i.34/5 are interesting.
Śaṅkara is adamant that creation is “sāpekṣa,” that is, Brahman is not independent, even though he is the sole material cause of the world. As a matter of fact, he does not have nor can exercise free choice, since he has no control over dispensing the consequences of creatures’ actions, in which he is guided by the “Force of Law” – Karma.

The essence of this view is that when you create a world you create interaction, you create work and therefore causality. Because issuing from the boundless consciousness of Brahman in which there is no border between spirit and matter, interaction on all planes is subject to cause and effect. The explication of Brahman as the material cause of the universe must not be taken to mean that Brahman is itself material. This is made clear by Shankaracarya in his commentary on Tai.Up. (Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma). See various posts on this very close analysis –
Tai.Up.
To create a world in which there was no interaction would be incoherent. Bilimoria puts it in a stronger way that might be questioned.
It is clear though that God’s dependence upon the karma of the creatures, seriously delimits, that is, restricts, God’s omnipotence; second, it takes away any element of the hand or even the inscrutability of providence: grace would not be easy to come by in this account

Delimit and dependence seem to suggest the concept of a creation inflicting itself on the creator when in fact the demands of karma are internal to creation. When grace is required it comes from inside the creation via an avatar as the Bhagavad Gita puts it:
.
BG 4.8: To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age

Within the creation the avatar is subject to birth and death and can interact with others to answer their prayers. There is no remote creator dependent on his creation but he must act from within the creation if he is to act in Isvara mode.

Bilimoria stresses again this ‘dependence’ aspect in his consideration of B.S.B. II.i.35:
Be that as it may, the uniqueness of the Hindu idea of the beginninglessness of the universe (in cyclical returns), and God’s dependence on the world (rather than the converse) renders God not as independent and existing outside of, nay prior to, the created world – which marks the idea of God in Judeo-Christian monotheistic doctrines. God is bound by the karmas of the individual creatures even after their selves have been dissolved along with the world.

This is in reference to the beginning-less nature of the Hindu creation which is periodically dissolved and reissued with the karmas of participants continuing on. Before you had the big bang you had the big contraction. And off to work we go.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Nisargadatta Maharaj on Personality / Advice to a Seeker


Questioner: Why do you keep on dismissing the person as of no importance? Personality is the primary fact of our existence. It occupies the entire stage.

Maharaj: As long as you do not see that it is mere habit, built on memory, prompted by desire, you will think yourself to be a person – living, feeling , thinking, active, passive, pleased or pained. Question yourself, ask yourself. ‘Is it so?’ And soon you will see your mistake. And it is in the very nature of a mistake to cease to be, when seen.

The Questioner reveals some of his history:

I am an adopted child. My own father I do not know. My mother died when I was born. My foster father, to please my foster mother, who was childless, adopted me – almost by accident. He is a simple man – a truck owner and driver. My mother keeps the house. I am 24 years now. For the last two and a half years I am travelling, restless, seeking. I want to live a good life, a holy life. What am I to do?

Maharaj: Go home, take charge of your father’s business, look after your parents in their old age. Marry the girl who is waiting for you, be loyal, be simple, be humble. Hide your virtue, live silently. The five senses and the three qualities (gunas) are your eight steps in Yoga. And ‘I am’ is the Great Reminder (mahamantra). You can learn from them all you need to know. Be attentive, enquire ceaselessly. That is all.
(from I AM THAT: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj )

The ‘I am’ is the focus on consciousness as such and not any particular conformation of it.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

A Fairly Honourable Defeat by Iris Murdoch (pub.1970)


Published in 1970 the same year as The Sovereignty of the Good there is a certain ghosting through of the philosophical work in the novel. Julius King refers to the philosophy book that Rupert Foster is writing as ‘High Church Platonism’. Arguably that is what ‘Sovereignty’ is, with Good being God. At two points in the novel the question is asked – why is stealing wrong? Rupert replies at length with the force and clarity which no doubt earned him his first at Oxford where he met Axel and Julius King. Julius also has a go at an elucidation of stealing and its wrongness. In both case it is Tallis Browne who is asking the question.

Are you confused yet? Time to introduce the Dramatis Personae:
Rupert and Hilda Foster, he a senior civil servant, economics department, she a housewife with a multitude of committees to attend to.
Peter their only child, dropping out of Cambridge and gone to live with Tallis Browne a community worker and evening class lecturer.
Tallis Browne is the husband of Morgan, Hilda’s sister, back from America where she has been for the last two years. While there she was the mistress of Julius King. They have parted now.
Simon Foster is the brother of Rupert and the partner of Axel. The latter is a colleague of Rupert’s and an old friend from college days.

Well then, are we sitting comfortably? As the novel opens it is the 20th. Wedding anniversary of Rupert and Hilda. The time seems to be in the early 60’s, Rupert had a good war. I have never been able to quite get the insinuation of that expression. They are drinking champagne in the afternoon and getting a trifle squiffy. The Evening Standard has reported that Julius King is in England after a stint in Dibbins College heading up a military funded lab working on biological warfare. Nerve gas and anthrax resistant to antibiotics. He has given that up because he got bored with it. We are told that he is Jewish and independently wealthy. Julius is the arch manipulator, Mephistophelian meddler and the kingpin of this novel. He makes things happen with an malicious ingenuity which is quite credible given that all the characters other than Tallis Browne are self absorbed and not capable of noticing the damage done or if they have, doing anything about it. In contrast to the ghostly ‘Sovereignty of the Good’ we might subtitle this book ‘The Ebullience of Evil’.

Morgan Browne is an emotional wreck sustaining herself with lots of whiskey and gin. Morgan le Fay is a suggestion from her name, sexually predatory and the disciple of Merlin/Julius. She is a disturber and a creator of variance. Tallis Browne who will not divorce her lives in Notting Hill in utter filth which Murdoch has great fun describing. Have you ever been in a house where you step backwards onto a plastic bag which yields like dead puppies? Morgan visiting Tallis remembers that their previous house in Putney had a similar smell.

Axel and Simon live near to Rupert and Hilda in the posh Barons Court area. The minutiae of this relationship seems a parody of heterosexual marriage with fluttery airheaded Simon and stern sensible strict Axel. The closet is firmly closed to Axel’s colleagues in Whitehall. Even Simon when he first met met Axel did not know that he was ‘queer’. They met in the kouros annex of the National Museum in Athens quite by chance. That was some 3 years previously and the photo of the kouros resides on the left of the mantelpiece. Simon’s fear of the loss of the love of Axel is the lever that Julius uses to make him collude unknowingly with his plan to disturb the cosy relationships in his vicinity. How that is worked is a masterpiece of creative ingenuity of Murdoch’s.

It’s an excellent novel very well sustained with a good serving of evil that is in its way a demonstration of its privative quality. Confidence, faith, trust and love is taken away in a spirit of wilful caprice and when ruin ensues rationalisation follows. Probably one of her best books.

In case you are wondering why stealing is wrong:

Rupert, who had not had a philosophical training for nothing, was never startled by any question, however bizarre, and was ready at once to give it his undivided attention. He reflected now for a while, staring at Tallis. Then he said ‘Of course the concept of stealing is linked to the concept of property. Where there are no property rights there is no wrongful appropriation of the goods of another. In completely primitive situations where there is no society—if any such situations exist or existed—it could be argued that there are no property rights and so no stealing. Also in certain kinds of community, such as a monastery or conceivably a family, there could be mutual voluntary renunciations of property rights, so that within the community stealing would not exist by definition. Though even in these two cases what a man customarily uses such as his clothes or his tools might be thought of as natural property and ergo as deserving of respect. Indeed one might argue that it could never be right under any circumstances, to remove a man’s toothbrush against his will. However, in state and society as we know it, there is no prospect of any universal voluntary surrender of the concept of property, and extremely complicated property rights, extending far beyond the area of clothes and tools, appear to exist and are upheld by law. Doubtless many of these complex arrangements can be argued to be economically and politically necessary to the well-being and continuance of the state, and in a healthy open society the details of these arrangements are properly a matter for continual discussion and adjustment in the light of both expediency and morality. Acceptance of any society, and even a bad society gives its members many benefits, does seem to suggest a certain duty to respect property. In a bad undemocratic society there might of course exist specialized duties to disregard particular alleged property rights, or even to break the law as a matter of protest, though it should be kept in mind that there are always prima facie utilitarian arguments against stealing, in so far as people may be distressed by the removal of their goods. But in a democratic society stealing is surely wrong not only for utilitarian reasons but because property is an important part of a structure generally agreed to be good and whose alteration in detail can be freely sought.’
When Rupert had finished speaking Tallis waited as if there might be something more to come. He looked puzzled. Then he said, ‘Thank you very much, Rupert.’ And to Hilda, ‘Please forgive me, I must go. Don’t bother to see me to the door. Oh how kind of you. Thank you, good-bye, good-bye.’ He went away smiling and waving.
Hilda and Rupert walked back into the drawing room. They picked up their drinks. They stared at each other in complete bafflement.

If they knew that their son Peter was shoplifting with abandon they would be less puzzled.

Julius is asked the same question:
Why is stealing wrong?’
‘It’s just a matter of definition,’ said Julius.
‘How do you mean?’
‘It’s a tautology. “Steal” is a concept with a built-in pejorative significance. So to say that stealing is wrong is simply to say that what is wrong is wrong. It isn’t a meaningful statement. It’s empty.’
‘Oh. But does that mean that stealing isn’t wrong?’
‘You haven’t understood me,’ said Julius. ‘Remarks of that sort aren’t statements at all and can’t be true or false. They are more like cries or pleading. You can say “Please don’t steal” if you want to, so long as you realize that there’s nothing behind it. It’s all just conventions and feelings.’




Sunday, 4 August 2019

Wittgenstein's Joke Book



Wittgenstein had the idea of a philosophy book composed entirely of jokes. Here's one for him.


******************
Psychiatrist: You're crazy
Patient: That's outrageous. I want a second opinion.
Psychiatrist: You're crazy.

Miracles: Slow and Fast


Mk : 6, 35-53:
The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is followed closely by Jesus walking on the water.

And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

In the slowly developing busyness of dividing out the picnic and heeding the cries of ‘what about us over here’, ‘you missed him’ and so on, there is a failure to notice what is wonderful. It would be the last thing that you would consider as a possibility, something in you, call it reality testing, would cry ‘fail’ to that hypothesis. More likely some of these people brought some bread along and seeing everybody eating have taken theirs out feeling that it was safe to do so. Nobody saw what was evident because it was blocked from their consciousness by their inner Hume but Jesus walking on the water was a shock that was impossible to gloss over.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Dean Inge (of St.Paul's) on Eugenics and the White Race


That ideas have the power to unhinge
is perfectly shown by Dean Inge
Who engaged in polemics
On the subject of eugenics
whilst going about unfrocked.

More work to be done on that but it summarises the interests of the ‘Gloomy Dean’ of Saint Paul’s (1860 - 1954) who feared that the pure race of the Saxon would be diluted beyond repair by inferior types breeding unchecked and in general we would be overwhelmed by exponential population growth. The wrong sort of people were having too many children. He was also a naturist as if there wasn’t already enough suffering in the world.
Dean Inge wiki

I have been reading his Outspoken Essays (second series).
Outspoken Essays

One of them is on Eugenics (from Edinburgh Review 1922 and in it he mentions his nemesis G.K. Chesterton. Russell Sparkes in an informative essay
G.K.C. and Eugenics
details G.K.C’s successful battle against the introduction of what he called ‘the feeble minded bill’:

The United Kingdom was one of the few major countries where eugenics was not effectively put into law. Yet people should not feel smug that it did not happen in Britain – because it nearly did. The United Kingdom escaped eugenics laws by the skin of its teeth, as they were backed by some of the most powerful people in the land. As far as can be seen, only one public figure waged a vigorous, and ultimately successful, campaign against the proposed Mental Deficiency Bill in 1912. That man was G. K. Chesterton. The battle against eugenics is Chesterton's great, unknown victory. To explore it properly, I have given a brief introduction to the subject, followed by an account of Chesterton's battle against what he called the "feeble minded Bill." An account of draconian eugenics laws in the United States, including forced sterilisation, shows what might have happened in Britain without his fight against it. Lastly, I have included some pieces from Chesterton's 1922 book, Eugenics and Other Evils, which show, once again, what great prophetic insight he possessed.

Throughout the Outspoken Essays Dean Inge worries about the ‘white race’.

Religious institutions are by far the toughest and most long-lived of all human associations. Nothing could destroy the Christian Churches except the complete decay and submergence of the white race, a most improbable contingency.

Dean Inge on the Roman Catholic Church:

The Roman Catholic Church is a bitter and unscrupulous opponent both of eugenics and of birth-control. I read in one of their organs the astounding statement that ' since posterity does not exist, we can, properly speaking, have no duties towards it.' Only those who have tried to rouse the public conscience on these questions know how fierce is the antagonism of the greatest among the Christian Churches to any recognition of scientific ethics.


The prejudices against eugenics are still strong. They find vent in such strange ebullitions as a recent book by G. K. Chesterton, and in frequent denunciations on the part of Roman Catholics. It is, however, strange that Christians should be anti-eugenists. For though religion is the strongest of nurtural influences, the religion of Christ, like eugenics, makes nature, not nurture, its end.

Dean Inge draws comfort from the assurances of Havelock Ellis and Sir Francis Galton concerning the superior stock bred out of the Anglican clergy:

Vaerting and Havelock Ellis agree that the list of distinguished clergymen's sons is long and illustrious; and Sir Francis Galton told me in conversation that he considered the clergy the very best sires from the eugenic point of view. I will not speculate on the causes of this; but everyone must have noticed the extremely robust appearance of the old-fashioned parson (the younger clergy are mostly drawn from a different class), and the facts, as ascertained by impartial investigators, are certainly a strong argument against clerical celibacy.

Previously in the essay he traces his mother’s line starting from his great grandfather Ralph Churton, Archdeacon, Scholar and Divine. Modest about his own achievements he instructs us to ‘see Who’s Who’.





Friday, 26 July 2019

heigh ho, heigh ho


Akrasia, the overcoming of:

Sidle up to it in a friendly manner. Enter the workshop with an air of ‘I happened to be in the neighbourhood and I thought it rude to pass’.
Observation: What’s here. Sawdust. Sweep that. Red Deal, piney Scando. Tuneless whistle. Heigh Ho. I’ll sharpen a penknife and create a bad spot on my forearm. Sharpness is all and now look directly at the dry assembled front door on the bench. It seems less reproachful but still sternness is there modulated by a recognition of velleity. This is going to be a day of action. Let me just knock it apart. The wedges are already made from a previous engagement.

It was an instructional job. My son did a lot of the work on the hollow chisel morticer and he did the muntin tenons and mortices by hand. I said:

- We’ve done a lot, we can stop now or we can finish it off.

- Let’s do it.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

The Time of the Angels by Iris Murdoch (1966)


So I went on from The Bell by Iris Murdoch (1954) to The Time of the Angels (1966). A grim, bleak descent and I think an artistic and moral failure. Don’t do evil says Google. Murdoch likewise should have stayed away from the depiction of the serious evil in this novel. London fog carries too much symbolic weight and moreover robs her of landscape at which she is very good. You might want to read it as a completist chore but best left out. There are plenty more where that came from. If I say anything about it spoilers will emerge. So there is the Anglican priest, and two girls a Russian caretaker, his son and a maid of all work living in a large house. An ogre, captive maidens, the good servant in a Castle Perilous. Initially there is a feeling that a Charles Williams diaphane will drop on the scene. That might have been better. Restriction is not her forte.

Non placet.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith


I often find I think that someone should be better known, only to discover that they are better known than I knew them. Running this risk may I offer for your perusal some of the trivia of Logan Pearsall Smith.

To-Day
I woke this morning out of dreams into what we call Reality, into the daylight, the furniture of my familiar bedroom—in fact into the well-known, often-discussed, but, to my mind, as yet unexplained Universe.
Then I, who came out of Eternity and seem to be on my way thither, got up and spent the day as I usually spend it. I read, I pottered, I talked, and took exercise; and I sat punctually down to eat the cooked meals that appeared at stated intervals.


Stonehenge
They sit there forever on the dim horizon of my mind, that Stonehenge circle of elderly disapproving Faces—Faces of the Uncles and Schoolmasters and Tutors who frowned on my youth.
In the bright centre and sunlight I leap, I caper, I dance my dance; but when I look up, I see they are not deceived. For nothing ever placates them, nothing ever moves to a look of approval that ring of bleak and contemptuous Faces.

The Sound of a Voice
As the thoughtful Baronet talked, as his voice went on sounding in my ears, all the light of desire, and of the sun, faded from the Earth; I saw the vast landscape of the world dim, as in an eclipse; its populations eating their bread with tears, its rich men sitting listless in their palaces, and aged Kings crying "Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity!" lugubriously from their thrones.

Dissatisfaction
For one thing I hate Spiders—I dislike all kinds of Insects. Their cold intelligence, their empty, stereotyped, unremitted industry repel me. And I am not altogether happy about the future of the Human Race; when I think of the slow refrigeration of the Earth, the Sun's waning, and the ultimate, inevitable collapse of the Solar System, I have grave misgivings. And all the books I have read and forgotten-the thought that my mind is really nothing but a sieve—this, too, at times disheartens me.

(from Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith Trivia )

Monday, 22 July 2019

The Bell by Iris Murdoch (1958)


Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love,
And not those things that they were emblems of.
(The Circus Animals Desertion by W.B.Yeats)

Was he wrong? Can character become fixed by a significant incident at a sensitive moment? Iris Murdoch proposes in her novel that the tentative grooming by Michael of Nick, a teacher and his pupil, had a disastrous effect on both their lives. He the priest manqué, and the other a ‘beautiful boy’ of 15. Of course Michael does not see that, it was all so aesthetic, so pure, almost holy. Now 15 years later He is running a Brotherhood attached to a convent of Anglican Benedictines. Nick’s sister Catherine is due to join the nuns and Nick is lurking at the lodge but not a serious member of the group quartered at the big house of Imber. Yes it’s that familiar one pot stew of Murdoch’s that you must stir, stir, stir and don’t let it stick to the bottom. She is a great fabulist and the story continues to hubble bubble.


James the second in command at Imber (it’s Michael’’s house and lodge) has a view which is a rough sketch of the course of the novel:

In so far as Michael had had serious hopes that any individual other than Catherine might be of any genuine help to Nick at Imber he had thought that James Tayper Pace was the man. He was disappointed in James's reaction. James showed himself, where Nick was concerned, stiffly conventional. 'He looks to me like a pansy,' he said to Michael, soon after Nick's arrival. 'I didn't like to say so before, but I had heard it about him in London. They're always troublemakers, believe me. I've seen plenty of that type. There's something destructive in them, a sort of grudge against society. Give a dog a bad name, and all that, but we may as well be prepared! Who'd believe that thing was twin to dear Catherine?'


James has no inkling of course of how Nick was ‘turned out’ by his interlocutor and how something of the same sort is to to be visited on the innocent Toby who is helping out at Imber before going up to Oxford in the Autumn. As I wrote in my previous post Toby is quartered with Nick at the Lodge to keep an eye on him. Is he being traded? Well you decide, Iris does not tell you everything.

Another interesting character is Dora, the errant wife of a resident at Imber Paul, who is studying the historical documents of the nunnery. She is a true Dora (Copperfield nee Spenlow) scatterbrained with a good heart but a ninny. Iris reduces many pc mansions to rubble in this novel. That was the 50’s for you, an era of great repression. On a day flight from Imber and her overbearing husband Dora visits the National Gallery and has a Murdoch moment:

Dora was always moved by the pictures. Today she was moved, but in a new way. She marvelled, with a kind of gratitude, that they were all still here, and her heart was filled with love for the pictures, their authority, their marvellous generosity, their splendour. It occurred to her that here at last was something real and something perfect. Who had said that, about perfection and reality being in the same place? Here was something which her consciousness could not wretchedly devour, and by making it part of her fantasy make it worthless. Even Paul, she thought, only existed now as someone she dreamt about; or else as a vague external menace never really encountered and understood. But the pictures were something real outside herself, which spoke to her kindly and yet in sovereign tones, something superior and good whose presence destroyed the dreary trance-like solipsism of her earlier mood. When the world had seemed to be subjective it had seemed to be without interest or value. But now there was something else in it after all.

The chief characters are developed through their own voice and consciousness which change as the novel develops. The craft is to make that credible and she does along with very fine nature word painting as well. A classic.

Trivia: Glenn Ford stars in a made for tv movie The Brotherhood of the Bell which is quite good and out there:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ICl0KMm5yw

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Hallfway through The Bell by Iris Murdoch


I’m not sure if I read Iris Murdoch’s novel The Bell (‘58) before and I still haven’t read it being at the half way stage. I can project forward and feel my way towards possibilities only to have them confounded by the author. She will herself have been surprised by the lurch of the Jungian active imagination.. The recurring dream of Michael’s, the leader of the Anglican Community at Imber, is it clairvoyant? High, high, high, verily unto plain chant and incense Anglican. Smells and The Bell, quite. Will the period of very dry weather reveal the old bell in the lake? Will mythic history cast its doom on a suitable victim, the postulant Catherine. Why is homasegsshuall (Oxbridge) Michael putting Toby in the way of Nick his old love? Vicarious seduction or does he even see it? One’s own motives being opaque to one is the novel’s strength. Spontaneous goodness and overwrought goodness, which is the better would in a philosophical treatise run close to mere quibbling and deontic dancing on the head of a principal. We notice these things because that is what we do, yet they doesn’t impose and force acquaintance.

Tension is abuilding and the fine weather will be, should be, must be broken by a thunderstorm. Could I be wrong about this?

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Embryology and Abortion West and East


There’s a lot of moral idiocy about and it’s perfectly immune to scientific knowledge. Our enhanced scientific observation of life in the womb has not brought in its train a greater respect for that life. Posters showing sonograms are descried as offensive by pro-abortionists. “Human kind cannot bear very much reality” said Eliot. Indeed not. We feel that abortion is wrong but why? The move to place it under a rule that everyone accepts to be just namely killing persons is wrong, is rhetorically a poor strategy. The argument is then shunted into a siding where deep discussions about personhood take place. Someone once asked me, she was a philosophy Phd.- How would you characterise abortion then, as murder or manslaughter? I replied that I would call it, as per the 1861 act, the procuring of a miscarriage.

It is just that and ordinary undefiled moral sense knows that this interruption of the course of a life is just wrong. Hindu and Buddhist scriptural teaching is perfectly clear on this.
Hinduism and Buddhism on Abortion
(a good summary of the main sources)

Obviously the concept of personhood obtaining in Western disputation was not a factor and moreover the embryological knowledge was likewise fanciful. Thomistic theological wrangling about quickening and ensoulment are historically interesting but take place on a siding like the personhood puzzle. Making the gravity of the taking of a life a time limited matter is a mistake.

Monday, 15 July 2019

High Rising by Angela Thirkell


Is it snobbery to be aware that there is a class system and being born born into a more favoured one, the upper middle class, is a piece of acceptable good fortune? Dismissing Angela Thirkell (1890 – 1961) as a crashing snob because she writes about what she knows is a projection of dismal whiggery

All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
That never looked out of the eye of a saint
Or out of drunkard’s eye.

In her delightful novels set in the Trollopian loam of Barsetshire she ironically adopts the continuing saga mentioning old Frank Gresham, Lord Pomfret and the Thorne Institute. I may be making that last up, but it doesn’t matter. She even occasionally addresses the reader as Anthony might, usually to dismiss a character - ‘we will speak no more of X who plays no further part in our story’. Bishops, canons and members of the inferior clergy though patched poor are still and all gentry. Bounders are clearly signalled and they are not necessarily outsiders but of course, as in life, they often are. In High Rising (1933) the focus is on Laura Morland a widow aged 47 with four sons who makes a living writing trashy thrillers with a haute couture setting which she earnestly hopes that her friends will never read. They in fact do and she is successful enough to educate her sons. Tony, an eleven year old schoolboy and model railway builder and train spotter, with the garrulous nerdaciousness that implies, is still with her. Her loving exasperation is beautifully observed.

When she got back to the house she found that Tony had already unpacked most of his railway all over the drawing-room floor, flung his coat and cap on the sofa, and settled down to the construction of a permanent way.
‘No, Tony,’ said his mother firmly. ‘Put all those things back in the box and take them upstairs. You know you have your own play-room. I will not have your rubbish all over the drawing-room floor. And take your clothes off the sofa and go and wash for supper at once.’
‘But, mother, you wanted to see the railway, because of settling about the engines.’
‘I don’t want to see the railway now, or ever,’ cried Laura, goaded to exasperation, ‘at least not this evening, and not in the drawing-room. Pack it up at once.’
Unwillingly, with a delicious, pink, sulky face, Tony put his engine and lines away, piled his coat and cap on the box, and staggered from the room, with faint groans at the tyranny under which he lived.
Stoker the cook and maid of all work watches over Laura with benign strictness that casts to one side formal differences.

When Stoker had removed the soup plates and brought in the fish and fried potatoes, she settled herself in an easy attitude against the kitchen door, nursing her elbows, and began to impart information.
‘Just as well I come down a week before you,’ she began. ‘There’s always more than enough to do. I tell you, when I saw the way things were, I felt my back open and shut with the nerves.’
The gently tart nature of her wit is a cumulative thing and the moral sense is refreshing. Men admire women for their beauty and their goodness. Women are often of a firm decided type who get on with it.

Thirkell’s books are to be found on fadedpage.com in all formats. After High Rising I recommend Cheerfulness Breaks In. They are beautifully written. Now find a shady tree.





Thursday, 11 July 2019

Sydney Smith on Jeremy Bentham


I have previously quoted the Arch-Debunker Pareto on Jeremy Bentham. Pareto himself would be equally subject to Sydney Smith's criticism of Jeremy Bentham with his like mania for division and subdivision.

Whether it be necessary there should be a middleman between the cultivator and the possessor, learned economists have doubted; but neither gods, men, nor booksellers can doubt the necessity of a middleman between Mr. Bentham and the public. Mr. Bentham is long; Mr. Bentham is occasionally involved and obscure; Mr. Bentham invents new and alarming expressions; Mr. Bentham loves division and subdivision—and he loves method itself, more than its consequences. Those only, therefore, who know his originality, his knowledge, his vigor, and his boldness, will recur to the works themselves. The great mass of readers will not purchase improvement at so dear a rate; but will choose rather to become acquainted with Mr. Bentham through the medium of reviews—after that eminent philosopher has been washed, trimmed, shaved, and forced into clean linen. One great use of a review, indeed, is to make men wise in ten pages, who have no appetite for a hundred pages; to condense nourishment, to work with pulp and essence, and to guard the stomach from idle burden and unmeaning bulk. For half a page, sometimes for a whole page, Mr. Bentham writes with a power which few can equal; and by selecting and omitting, an admirable style may be formed from the text. Using this liberty, we shall endeavor to give an account of Mr. Bentham’s doctrines, for the most part in his own words. Wherever an expression is particularly happy, let it be considered to be Mr. Bentham’s—the dullness we take to ourselves.
(from Edinburgh Review essay on The Fallacies of Anti-Reformers by Jeremy Bentham)
Find a copy atFallacies of Anti-Reformers

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Taittiriya Upanishad II.i.1 //Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahma (Interlude)


What happens when you have the interplay of three adjectives which inflect each other creating a boundless space? From Satyam we move to Jnanam to Anantam. One opens up to the other even demanding this extension. It's not that either, it's an encompassing and a nesting at once. There is a conceptual planetary system, so to speak, and our attention and absorbtion is the gravity that holds it together. "That is the infinite in which one does not know anything else". The inflection of the infinite creates a consciousness which is not a knower there being no second thing to know. The 'jnanam' (consciousness or knowledge) in its turn inflects the 'satyam' (true/changeless) so there is a triple system in which the divine energy moves back and forth.

The characteristic mistake of the 'objector' is to focus on one of these terms and try to show that there is an error.

Objection: From the denial of particulars in the (above) statement, "One does not know anything else", it follows that one knows the Self.

By isolating the boundless/infinite, the triple system effect is lost.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Dave Brennan and Brephos (N.T. Gk. for unborn/infant)


I wasn’t aware of this talk by Dave Brennan when I posted on The Good Samaritan cover on the pro-abortion booklet. Dave uses the parable (Lk.10: 25-37) as his opening text on the church’s (Anglican) unholy silence in relation to abortion. This is in Britain where one in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45.

Excellent talk.

The Good Samaritan

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Meditation on Bergson's Duration


By Bergson the brain is an organ of action. We do not have the time to scry all the inputs only a useful fraction of them. The rest is filled in from memory. He calls these images, photos already taken out there. Yeats in The Circus Animals Desertion called them:

Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind but out of what began?

The brain’s task is to limit the overwhelming information to what we already know. The simplest thing that everybody knows makes getting around easier. It’s a meme world.

To refuse to complete the sentence the world has begun is a task for spiritual philosophy. Duration is a single plane with all our past embedded there and not drawing anything from it for our use is to pause in a condition that is perfectly clear and quite empty. Is this what he calls intuition?



Tuesday, 2 July 2019

The Good Samaritan



A couple of members of the Liberal Truth Society have put out a booklet (71 pgs. in epub ) which is free and can be downloaded in various formats or shell out for a paperback $5.38. It’s called Thinking Critically About Abortion with underneath that title its general conclusion: Why Most Abortions Aren’t Wrong & Why All Abortions Should Be Legal.

As far as I can see there’s nothing new in it; the misdirection into a discussion about personhood is produced as a folding body press and victory roll in eristic wrestling terms. I look at the little creature swimming on a sonogram and for me that’s deictic.

The cover of the paperback shows the painting by Van Gogh of The Good Samaritan done when he was a patient in the asylum. Is using that image ignorance or insolence? Can they be implying that good doctors will abort for free at a cost to themselves? Hardly, that would ruin the trade.

Those philosophers represent the priests of the Enlightened Church of Reason and the Levites of rationalisation. The Americans who are bringing in new laws about heartbeat and enforced cut off points have the right idea. This is an issue like slavery where persuasion does not work. Law does.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Pareto contra Bentham




"The sophistry,'" he says, "supplies a legitimate presumption against those who use it. Only for lack of sound arguments does one resort to it. [That is based on the implicit assumption that logically sound arguments are more convincing than fallacies. Experience is far from showing that.] As regards measures that are in themselves sound it is useless, or at least it cannot be indispensable. [The same implicit assumption, and experience, again, in no sense concords with it.] The sophistry presupposes he is in those who use it, or in those who adopt it, either lack of sincerity or lack of intelligence." Bentham's assumption is that the person who uses a fallacy recognizes it as such (insincerity) or that, if he fails so to recognize it, wanting in intelligenceAs a matter of fact many fallacies that are current in a given society are repeated in all sincerity by people who are exceedingly intelligent and are merely voicing in that way sentiments which they consider beneficial to society. Also implicit in Bentham's sermon is the assumption that lack of sincerity and lack of intelligence are uniformly harmful to society; whereas there are plenty of cases to go no farther than diplomacy where too much sincerity may be harmful, and other cases where a highly intelligent man may go wrong and do incalculable harm to a society by forcing certain logical policies upon it; whereas a stupid individual instinctively following beaten paths that have been counselled by long experience may be a blessing to his country.

Pareto is deprecating the assumed persuasiveness of the logical. On the contrary people are more influenced by sentiments and select the enthymeme of their choice to serve as justification for their beliefs and actions.(Vol.3: Mind and Society)

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Sunday Times Misandry Misery


The Sunday Times gets brought into the house occasionally. I haven’t bought it in years The edition of the 16th. June, Fathers’ Day reminds me why. It’s a fine example of modish misandry, every day is Fathers’ Day, misery. On the cover under the headline ‘Modern Family’ is Liam Gallagher with his three children by 3 different women. One of them, Molly (21), he only met recently. There’s another daughter now 6 whom he hasn’t met yet - It’ll just have to happen naturally.

Liam’s own father he hasn’t seen since he was 17. Ah.

Another story in the same mag. is about a man’s feud with his father whom he hasn’t spoken to in years. Dad’s new younger wife created variance. Dad is 85 now and in poor health and reconciliation is unlikely.

A third story is of men who had trouble becoming fathers. Mostly they didn’t. It’s not fair really. Liam has just to hang up his trousers. Why do these men go public with their grief? To the Sunday Times?

Finally a little piece on Family entitled: Dads! The best thing you can do this Fathers’ Day is sit back... and learn how to listen to your daughters. A psychologist Steve Biddulph author of 10 Things Girls Need Most says that a daughter should know that “he loved spending time with her, listened to her and talked softly and respectfully around her and her mum”. To sum up the journalist Lorraine Candy writes:

So there you have it, dads, being nice to mums is the best gift you can give to your girls this Father’s Day



Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Taittiriya Upanishad II.i.1 //Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahma (no.3 in series)


Having established that Satyam, Jnanam, anantam Brahma are linked in the definition of Brahman but in themselves are not intrinsically connected Shankara proceeds to demonstrate that as defining Brahman they are intimately connected and not an factitious confection of the theological mind of an advaitin.

Taking ‘satyam’ as truth which is unchanging and therefore real is a similar intuition to that of Parmenides who held that change was unreal, as a state which did not exist could not emerge into reality. It has no traction. If then Brahman is ‘satyam’ could it not be the unchanging material cause of the universe? Here we revisit the standard material identity analogy i.e. only the clay out of which the various vessels are made persists through all the manifestations of ‘clay’. Therefore only the ‘clay’ is real and all the pots, dishes, cups etc. mere names of clay.

However a merely material cause is insentient so the attribute ‘jnanam’ must be appended to ‘satyam’. Elsewhere Shankara rejects the Sankhya philosophy of ‘pradhana’ or the primal inert material basis of creation. The order and design of the universe shows an intelligent origin.

Does this ‘jnanam’ or consciousness/knowledge indicate an agent of knowing? Shankara demurs. An agent of knowing implies a distinction between the knower and the known and also coming to know or arriving at knowledge indicates change.

If Brahman be the agent of knowing, truth and infinitude cannot justly be attributed to It. For as the agent of knowledge It becomes changeful; and as such how can it be true and infinite? That indeed is infinite which is not separated from anything. If it be the agent of knowing, It becomes delimited by the knowable and the knowledge, and hence there cannot be infinitude, in accordance with another Vedic text: “That is the Infinite in which one does not know anything else. And that in which one knows anything else is limited” (Ch.Up. VII., xxiv, 1)

Monday, 24 June 2019

Belief and Religious Experience


Faith is a difficult subject to write about or even think about. Is it rational to have certitude/assurance about what you do not understand or is beyond comprehension? Add to that my own predilection for Perennialism/Traditionalism and you multiply the conflict between different faiths or might it be that the conflict goes away. Such paralogism tempt me to title this post ‘Faith and Begorrah’ but I will resist that quip.

Seeing Fr. M.C. D’Arcy’s book The Nature of Belief second hand for all of ein euro bitte I though it a good place to start. I was right. There’s none of your ould Jesuitical wibbly wobbly about Martin Cyril. He will quote Dean Inge when the Dean is right but the oecumenical tide is somewhat less than Spring. There is an analytical contents, a device which is extremely useful when the topic is complex. First published in 1931, my edition is the 1945 second impression with his 1944 preface.

How belief in the philosophical sense shades into religious faith is delineated in the early chapters which include close analysis of Newman’s The Grammar of Assent. Chapter 8 is on Belief and Religious Experience which could be read as a free standing essay. He is of the opinion that empiricism is the cause of the elevation of such experience. How it differs from true mystical experience is a concern for him.

Owing to the decadence of metaphysics philosophy tended to pass over into the hands of its successful rival, physical science, which therewith appropriated to itself the name of the philosophy of nature.......The present tendency, therefore, is to make two divisions of truth, knowledge by experience and knowledge by reason. The latter is the concern of science and is restricted to what is qualitative and numerable. The former covers quality and value, and has, therefore, for its domain the moral, the aesthetic and the religious. Beliefs which are dependent on experience are not necessarily less true than those which are attained by reason; they are different and that is all that can be said about their relation.

From the foregoing it can be seen that the importance attached to religious experience is due to a partition made in the past between religion and reason. There is no reason why this assumption should be accepted, and in fact the Catholic Church has never accepted it.

‘We had the experience but missed the meaning’ could be construed as a manifestation of the error of thinking that the experience is a type of verification as in ‘the meaning of a statement eg. God exists, is the method of its verification. Dead wrong of course but D’Arcy does not dash it with cold water, quite.

But this is not to say that faith is dependent on realisation or verification for its certainty. There is a growing intensity heightened by love. The love does not change the nature of the act of belief; it adds fuel to a fire already existing.

He deprecates the view that not having a ‘religious sense’

“has been used by many as an excuse for taking no interest in religion. These latter are apt to say with a shrug that they have no religious sense, and they consider that this is a good reason for neglecting to worship God. They forget - and they have been encouraged to forget by those who should know better - that sense and feeling are not the criteria of what is duty, and it is in “an act of duty not of experience that religion first consists."

That alone is a good euro’s worth.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

George Soros and cannabis legislation


‘Meddling’ George Soros is taking an interest in Ireland again. Not since St.Patrick did we have a foreigner who cared so much. Dr. Boyle follows the money. In a letter to the Irish Times on Tuesday 18/6/19
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Sir, – Many of your readers are aware of the arguments for and against the legalisation of cannabis.
What many of your readers will not be aware of is why the liberalisation of cannabis law suddenly seems to have become a national political priority for Ireland.
As someone working on the frontline with addicts, it certainly has been a surprise to me.
The letter from 14 “drug policy experts” to The Irish Times on June 7th was particularly puzzling: what interest could 14 academics from the US, UK, Sweden and Austria have in advocating the liberalisation of drug laws in Ireland?
A Google search revealed that these signatories are supported by grants from the George Soros Open Society Foundation which openly states that since 2008 it has been “working to change the way the world approaches drug policy”.
An organisation with annual grants of 1.1 billion dollars to award has taken an interest in our drugs laws and neither the grant-funded “experts” nor The Irish Times thought it relevant to inform us, the readers? This is far from being fair and “open”.
It is important that Irish people are informed about all aspects of the growing push for marijuana legalisation, and in particular the experience in the US, where the ability of corporate interests to sell marijuana products has greatly expanded the market.
Big Tobacco companies like Altria (Phillip Morris, Marlboro, Juul) are investing billions in marijuana and vaping products (particularly popular with teens).
The cannabis edibles market (candies, cookies) is rapidly expanding. George Soros is a major shareholder in both Altria (Phillip Morris) and Monsanto which is investing heavily in cannabis-associated agriculture.
This may be great news for those with stock options but not for my patients. I have no doubt that the significant substance abuse problem we have has the potential to be made much, much worse. The intervention of a combination of international ideologues and corporate Big Marijuana interests in our national drugs legislative policy development is not a welcome one.
There is a bipartisan (Obama and Clinton’s drug policy advisers are members) non-corporate organisation in the US established by Patrick J Kennedy (son of the late Edward Kennedy) called Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM – Preventing Another Big Tobacco) which I would urge interested
 readers to consult for a more balanced view of the issues (including support for medicinal marijuana where medically indicated). – Yours, etc,
Dr THERESE
BOYLE,
Dublin 7.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Taittiriya Upanishad II.i.1 (no.2 in series)


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 existing in the intellect, lodged in the supreme space in the heart, enjoys, as identified with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things, simultaneously.

When it is said that the knower of Brahman knows the highest, what is it that they know. When the answer is given it is parsed to make sure that the meaning extracted from the incorrigible words of the Upanishad are according to their meaning. It is a lawyerly approach in which the position of commas becomes a fulcrum for distortion. For instance the phrase satyam jnanam anantam Brahma could be construed as a catenary of entities 'the truth', 'knowledge', the 'boundless' and last but not least Brahman. That would be a false reading as all those attributes have the same case ending so the phrase is meant to be a definition of the substantive 'Brahma'.

The objection comes:
If this is a definition that demarcates are we to think that it only distinguishes between this (satyam jnanam anantam) Brahman and all other sorts of Brahman much as we sort red lotuses from blue lotuses.

Not so. Sankara offers the distinction between an adjectival string that identifies an entity as a member of a class and the defining nature of the string string satyam jnanam anantam Brahma. The lotus could be described as aquatic fragrant, red,transplantable, hardy etc. All of these attributes are interlinked conceptually as dealing with plants of a certain genus. Contrariwise you could have satyam Brahma, jnanam Brahma, anantam Brahma. Satyam, jnanam and anantam have no intrnsic connection.

The words, satya etc., are unrelated amongst themselves, since they subserve something else; they are meant to be applied to the substantive. Accordingly each of the attributive words is thus related with the word Brahman independently of the others; satyam brahman, jhanam brahma, anantam brahma

Monday, 10 June 2019

'Wrong' sort of Realism


((I left this comment on a post in electric agora. I'm posting it here for the record.))

Mark:
I went a bit metaphysical there on you for a bit but I do think that the sceptically vulnerable physical can get confused with it.. In good light and not having ingested psychotropic substances and facing the right way I can say with assurance - ‘there is an tree in the yard’. As a brain in a vat and as a subject trapped in a computer simulation I could say the same thing with the same assurance and be wrong. What would ‘wrong’ mean in this case? Is it not parasitic on the true ‘wrong’, the one that is open to correction? All observations are subject to determined scepticism and we can only stay calm and carry on.

However metaphysical realism is different. It relies on their being an ontological substratum which unites Subject and Object. This is the approach of Platonic, Aristotelian and Vedantic philosophy. It is coherent with the project of critical realism in the physical sense. We accept the truth of our observations as a default assumption. We could be wrong though, but this ‘wrong’ is a true ‘wrong’ i.e. one connected to the metaphysical reality of the unity of the substratum.

My point is that realism which tries to establish itself solely in the domain of observation is not on the ‘wrong’ track if you will forgive a paradox.


Friday, 7 June 2019

Taittiriya Upanishad II.i.1. (Tai.Up. 1 in series)


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 existing in the intellect, lodged in the supreme space in the heart, enjoys, as identified with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things, simultaneously.
(Taittiriya Upanishad: II.i.1)

The commentary by Shankara on this verse over the following 18 pages is a condensed explication demonstrating the supple and subtle power of his mind. The primary thing to be noted is that he takes this definition of Brahman as truth, knowledge and infinite (Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam Brahman) as a given and does not attempt a proof of its, Brahman’s, existence. It is established by the Vedas, in other words, by the knowledge of countless sages in that tradition. There is no better proof than realisation. To know that Brahman exists is congruent with knowing that you yourself exist. Yes indeed but when the man from Kerala told me about the sharing of power in that state between C.P. Mos. and C.P. Pek. I asked him about how that was working out. He replied:
- Difficulties are there.

The objector, a standard character in Shankara’s commentaries attempts to use the classic interpretation of Advaita against the concept of realisation. How can we attain Brahman if we are already Brahman? How can we make a journey to where we already are? How can we take possession of that which we already have?

Answer: this is no fault.

What prevents us from seeing the truth is a wrong view that interposes itself. It is like a wrong method of counting that consistently gives the incorrect result. The example given is the classic tale of the Tenth Man. Ten men crossed the hazardous river and on the far bank their leader began to count them to see if everybody had arrived safely. He counted nine and began to bewail the loss of one member of the group. Someone passing corrected him:
- You are forgetting to count yourself.

A wrong method of looking at reality bars you from the true picture. There is a systematic error, similar to the counting error. ((personal note: don’t overcook the analogy by drawing more out of it than that)). You think of yourself as an individual amongst other individuals and count on that basis. Your identity is established on the basis of your thoughts and perceptions. This is faulty but natural. When you think of the whole that unites us or the substratum of unchanging consciousness which is the true source of identity, your counting is corrected.

…...similarly in the case of one , to whom Brahman remains unattained owing to his ignorance, there may be discovery of that very Brahman by realising that omnipresent Brahman to be none other than one’s own Self – a realisation that comes through enlightenment consequent on the instruction of the scriptures.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Macaulay on Shaming


There’s been an improvement on the six or seven years intervals that Macaulay noted. Now it’s continuous and unrelenting. This of course gives the lie to that banal moral nostrum, the harm principle. No matter how innocuous the observation somebody somewhere is being harmed. The ubiquity of hurt on social media I forfend by staying away.



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We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality. In general, elopements, divorces, and family quarrels, pass with little notice. We read the scandal, talk about it for a day, and forget it. But once in six or seven years our virtue becomes outrageous. We cannot suffer the laws of religion and decency to be violated. We must make a stand against vice. We must teach libertines that the English people appreciate the importance of domestic ties. Accordingly some unfortunate man, in no respect more depraved than hundreds whose offences have been treated with lenity, is singled out as an expiatory sacrifice. If he has children, they are to be taken from him. If he has a profession, he is to be driven from it. He is cut by the higher orders, and hissed by the lower. He is, in truth, a sort of whipping-boy, by whose vicarious agonies all the other transgressors of the same class are, it is supposed, sufficiently chastised. We reflect, very complacently on our own severity, and compare with great pride the high standard of morals established in England with the Parisian laxity. At length our anger is satiated. Our victim is ruined and heart-broken. And our virtue goes quietly to sleep for seven years more.
(from Critical, Historical and Miscellaneous Essays. Vol.2, Review of Moore’s Life of Lord Byron