Monday, 29 April 2019

Dr.Richard Whately on Evidences/Miracles and Hume's equivocation on Experience

Here is a wodge of Dr. Whately's Logic. You've seen it before but your sybaritic taste glutted on the sophisms of Mr. Hume refused it. Your wish to deny the fact of miracles lest they should lead to a position of faith is, as I pointed out, a groundless anxiety. A faithless generation requires them but even Moses coming back from the dead to confirm the message of the gospels would not convince. Whately would demur. They are useful if the ground of sufficient candour exists.
A consistent theme of Whately’s is ‘evidences’. A couple of his books that I’ve come across are composed of annotations appended to what he considers seminal texts. Generally these annotations are chapter length reflections on the previous chapter of the mother text. Paley’s A View of the Evidences of Christianity is one and Bacon’s Essays is the other. 

Evidences is the short form of ‘evidences for the truth of the Christian religion’ or a quasi-rational justification. Though he is represented as having been at odds with John Henry Newman even while the latter was in his Anglican phase I find that both of them really did not believe that there were knock-down demonstrative proofs available in the domain of religion. In the early working out of what later became the illative sense Newman spoke of implicit reasoning and they both would I think have recognised that a prior cultivation of the heart was necessary for the living reception of ‘evidences’. For Whately the fact of miracles was central for faith. Without miracles the establishment of the faith as a world-wide phenomenon would be impossible. Google have his Easy Lessons on Christian Evidences with several chapters on that theme. His amusing retorsion on/of/to Hume on miracles cf. Doubts Relative to Napoleon Buonaparte is quite serious in intent.

Men were not to become his disciples in consequence of their knowing and perceiving the truth of what He taught, but in consequence of their having sufficient candour to receive the evidence which his miracles afforded, and being so thoroughly of the Truth as to give themselves up to follow wherever that should lead, in opposition to any prejudices or inclinations of their own; and then knowledge of the truth was to be their reward. There is not necessarily any moral virtue in receiving truth; for it may happen that our interest, or our wishes, are in the same direction; or it may be forced upon us by evidence as irresistible as that of a mathematical demonstration. The virtue consists in being a sincere votary of Truth;—what our Lord calls being 'of the Truth,'—rejecting 'the hidden things of dishonesty,' and carefully guarding against every undue bias. Every one wishes to have Truth on his side; but it is not every one that sincerely wishes to he on the side of Truth.

(from annotation to Bacon’s Essay Of Truth)

A note on David Hume's equivocation re 'experience' from Richard Whately might be a useful antidote:

EXPERIENCE.—This word, in its strict sense, applies to what has occurred within a person's own knowledge. Experience, in this sense, of course, relates to the past alone. Thus it is that a man knows by experience what sufferings he has undergone in some disease, or what height the tide reached at a certain time and place.
More frequently the word is used to denote that Judgment which is derived from experience in the primary sense, by reasoning from that, in combination with other data. Thus, a man may assert, on the ground of Experience, that he was cured of a disorder by such a medicine,—that that medicine is, generally, beneficial in that disorder,—that the tide may always be expected, under such circumstances, to rise to such a height. Strictly speaking, none of these can be known by Experience, but are conclusions derived from Experience. It is in this sense only that Experience can be applied to the future, or, which comes to the same thing, to any general fact; as, e. g. when it is said that we know by Experience that water exposed to a certain temperature will freeze.
There are again two different applications of the word {see Book III. § 10,) which, when not carefully distinguished, lead in practice to the same confusion as the employment of it in two senses; viz. we sometimes understand our own personal experience; sometimes, general Experience. Hume has availed himself of this (practical) ambiguity, in his Essay on Miracles; in which he observes, that we have experience of the frequent falsity of Testimony, but that the occurrence of a miracle is contrary to our Experience, and is consequently what no testimony ought to be allowed to establish. Now had he explained whose Experience he meant, the argument would have come to nothing: if he means the Experience of mankind universally, i. e, that a Miracle has never come under the Experience of any one, this is palpably begging the question: if he means the Experience of each individual who has never himself witnessed a Miracle, this would establish a rule, {viz. that we are to believe nothing of which we have not ourselves experienced the like,) which it would argue insanity to act upon. Not only was the King of Bantam justified (as Hume himself admits) in listening to no evidence for the existence of Ice, but no one would be authorized on this principle to expect his own death. His Experience informs him, directly, only that others have died. Every disease under which he himself may have labored, his Experience must have told him has not terminated fatally; if he is to judge strictly of the future by the past, according to this rule, what should hinder him from expecting the like of all future diseases ?
Some have never been struck with this consequence of Hume's principles; and some have even failed to perceive it when pointed out: but if the reader thinks it worth his while to consult the author, he will see that his principles, according to his own account of them, are such as I have stated.
Perhaps however he meant, if indeed he had any distinct meaning, something intermediate between universal, and individual experience; viz. the Experience of the generality, as to what is common and of ordinary occurrence; in which sense the maxim will only amount to this, that false Testimony is a thing of common occurrence, and that Miracles are not; an obvious truth, indeed ; but too general to authorize, of itself) a conclusion in any particular case In any other individual question, as to the admissibility of evidence, it would be reckoned absurd to consider merely the average chances for the truth of Testimony in the abstract without inquiring what the Testimony is, in the particular instance before us. As if e. g. any one had maintained that no testimony could establish Columbus's account of the discovery of America, because it is more common for travellers to lie, than for new Continents to be discovered. See Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Bonaparte.
It is to be observed by the way, that there is yet an additional ambiguity in the entire phrase " contrary to experience;" in one sense, a miracle, or any other event, may be called contrary to the experience of any one who has never witnessed the like; as the freezing of water was to that of the King of Bantam; in another and stricter sense, that only is contrary to a man's experience, which he knows by experience not to be true; as if one should be told of an in&llible remedy for some disorder, he having seen it administered without effect. No testimony can establish what is, in this latter sense^ contrary to experience. We need not wonder that ordinary minds should be bewildered by a sophistical employment of such a mass of ambiguities.
Such reasonings as these are accounted ingenious and profound, on account of the Subject on which they are employed; if applied to the ordinary affairs of life, they would be deemed unworthy of serious notice.
The reader is not to suppose that the refutation of Hume's Essay on Miracles was my object in this Article.
That might have been sufficiently accomplished, in the way of a reductio ad absurdum," by mere reference to the case of the King of Bantam adduced by the author himself But this celebrated Essay, though it has often perhaps contributed to the amusement of an anti-christian sophist at the expense of those unable to expose its fallacy, never probably made one convert The author himself seems plainly to have meant it as a specimen of his ingenuity in arguing on a given hypothesis; for he disputes against miracles as against the Course of Nature; whereas, according to him, there is no such thing as a Course of Nature; his skepticism extends to the whole external world;—to every thing, except the ideas or impressions on the mind of the individual; so that a miracle which is believed, has, in that circumstance alone, on his principles, as much reality as any thing can have.
But my object has been to point out, by the use of this example, the fallacies and blunders which may result from inattention to the ambiguity of the word " Experience :" and this cannot be done by a mere indirect argument; which refutes indeed, but does not explain^ an error.

(from alphabetical appendix to Elements of Logic by Dr.Richard Whately)

Friday, 26 April 2019

Anslemian Faith and Sraddha (faith)

Are there Gettier answers? You can get the right answer without it being the right answer. You get the marks whilst being ignorant withal. In Advaitin circles discussion of sraddha generally translated as faith, the clever distinction is made between the Anslemian faith seeking understanding and the purportedltyAdvaitic Faith pending understanding. In the latter faith is a temporary state which is no longer required when true realisation is achieved. The former is characterised as a state of 'blind' faith.

Certain objections occur to this facile distinction generally considered to be a correct answer. While understanding is pending what is the sadhaka (seeker) doing but seeking. And faith, where does it come in, how does it arise? Can one just decide to have faith? Pace William James that seems an impossible leap, blindly in the dark. Why would you do it unless something, so to speak, had got into you. This irruption of the non-rational into one's life is I would suggest a pure gift of grace and serves as the base for the further spiritual practice (sadhana) which has the Beatific Vision as its goal. The metaphysical system of Advaita would postulate a reality which our personal ignorance (ajnana) hides from us. It is our own nature that we have faith in, not an external God. Even so, whatever the ontological scaffolding the commitment of faith must be achieved. How? The importance of acceptance and initiation by a Sat Guru (Perfect Master) is stressed. That initial trust and confidence could be an illusion.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Coleridge and Miracles

Luke 16: 29 -31
Abraham saith unto him; They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

This is the text that Coleridge cites in his discussion of spiritual truths and the understanding in Section the Second Essay II, The Friend He asks :

Whether miracles can, of themselves, work a true conviction in the mind? There are spiritual truths which must derive their evidence from within, which whoever rejects, “neither will he believe though a man were to rise from the dead” to confirm them.

That is so true, miracles, though they may leave one stunned and thunderstruck (stundered) in a state of momentary shock at the abrogation of natural experience will in cooler recollection evoke the reaction:
wonderful, but what has it to do with me.

….. is not a true efficient conviction of a moral truth, is not “the creating of a new heart,” which collects the energies of a man’s whole being in the focus of the conscience, the one essential miracle, the same and of the same evidence to the ignorant and the learned, which no superior skill can counterfeit, human or demoniacal?

Humean ingenuity is confounded by this inversion. Faith allows miracles as the ebulliance of divine power but they do not establish faith.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Essays on the Principles of Method by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Essay VII)

((repost from 2012)

If Coleridge were to Friend you it would mean no more than that you were to receive in the post a successor periodical to The Watchman. Rather that descrying the state of political life his intent was:

I do not write in this work for the Multitude; but for those , who by Rank, or Fortune, or official Situation, or Talents and Habits of Reflection, are to influence the Multitude. I write to found true Principles, to oppose false Principle, in Criticism, Legislation, Philosophy, Morals, and International Law.

Much the same Aims and Objectives which I myself espouse though I doubt S.T.C. had to deal with the machinations of the Illuminati. It was through the remarks of Owen Barfield on Essays on the Principles of Method in his book What Coleridge Thought that it first came to my attention. My particular edition of The Friend is that published by Princeton University Press in 2 Vols. Edited by Barbara Rooke. The second volume is a variorum containing emendations, historical background, index etc. which is of course fascinating but the actual text with notes but without index is in the first volume.

The Friend on Internet Archive:

The Friend

In a remarkable passage from his Table Talk he muses:

I do not know whether I deceive myself, but it seems to me that the young men, who were my contemporaries, fixed certain principles in their minds, and followed them out to their legitimate consequences, in a way which I rarely witness now. No one seems to have any distinct convictions, right or wrong; the mind is completely at sea, rolling and pitching on the waves of facts and personal experiences. Mr. —— is, I suppose, one of the rising young men of the day; yet he went on talking, the other evening, and making remarks with great earnestness, some of which were palpably irreconcilable with each other. He told me that facts gave birth to, and were the absolute ground of, principles; to which I said, that unless he had a principle of selection, he would not have taken notice of those facts upon which he grounded his principle. You must have a lantern in your hand to give light, otherwise all the materials in the world are useless, for you cannot find them; and if you could, you could not arrange them. "But then," said Mr. ——, "that principle of selection came from facts!"—"To be sure!" I replied; "but there must have been again an antecedent light to see those antecedent facts. The relapse may be carried in imagination backwards for ever,—but go back as you may, you cannot come to a man without a previous aim or principle." He then asked me what I had to say to Bacon's induction: I told him I had a good deal to say, if need were; but that it was perhaps enough for the occasion to remark, that what he was evidently taking for the Baconian _in_duction was mere _de_duction—a very different thing.[1] [Footnote 1: As far as I can judge, the most complete and masterly thing ever done by Mr. Coleridge in prose, is the analysis and reconcilement of the Platonic and Baconian methods of philosophy, contained in the third volume of the Friend, from p. 176 to 216. No edition of the Novum Organum should ever be published without a transcript of it.—ED.]

He likens the natural philosopher to the sage who attempts to put himself into a receptive state of tension:

We have seen that a previous act and conception of the mind is indispensible even in the mere semblance of Method; that neither fashion, mode, nor orderly arrangement can be produced without a prior purpose, and “a pre-cogitation, ad intentionem eius quod queritur,” though this purpose may have been itself excited, and this “pre-cogitation” extracted from the perceived likeness and differences of the objects to be arranged. But it has likewise been shown, that fashion, mode, ordonnance, are not Method, inasmuch as all Method supposes A PRINCIPLE OF UNITY WITH PROGRESSION; in other words, progressive transition without breach of continuity. But such a principle, it has been proved, can never in the sciences of experiment or in those of observation be adequately supplied by a theory built on generalization. For what shall determine the mind to abstract and generalize one common point rather than another; and within what limits, from what number of individual objects, shall the generalization be made ? The theory must still require a prior theory for its own legitimate construction.

(from Essay VII on the Priciples of Method)

‘Intentio’ is ‘straining after’ (White’s Latin Dictionary) which sense is retained in the philosophical concept of intentionality. It is this very straining after, this tension, this aporia, the I don’t know how to go on feeling that is creative. A new comprehension is required. The emergence of the creative solution involves finding a catalyst that crystallizes the new vision and it is inspririted by the stuckness.

This instinct, again, is itself but the form, in which the idea, the mental correlative of the law, first announces its incipient germination in his own mind : and hence proceeds the striving after unity of principle through all the diversity of forms, with a feeling resembling that which accompanies our endeavors to recollect a forgotten name, when we seem at once to have and not to have it; which the memory feels but can not find. 

(Essay VII)

The catalyst Coleridge calls a protophaenomon:

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

(from Essay VII)

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Shepherding for Dummies

It’s interesting that the Milgram experiment
milgram experiment
produced a result that is mirrored by the result of our abortion referendum in Ireland. The percentage that voted for legalisation was slightly more at 66% as against 65% which works out the same when you correct for native brutality.

Here in Ireland the experiment was carried out on the whole nation which was continuously badgered by authority figures. The first indication of this strategy came in the Citizens’ Assembly. Add to that the perfect storm of pro choice/abortion propaganda in the media reinforcing the message. That was all the broadcast and print media without exception. Then there was the Dail parliamentary Committee, shamelessly packed but then of course that’s normal when you have preferred outcomes.
Was Jesus (and Plato) right when he said that people were like sheep prone to panic and stupidity unless they have a reliable shepherd (philosopher king)?The Shepherding for Dummies book has a section - When Bad Things Happen. And they have.

spending halted
For those who don’t follow links money meant for maternity services is now being put into the new abortion regime. The Irish Times admits it but for them abortion is a maternity service so that’s all right.

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Dogs in the Great Glen by Benedict Kiely (they didn't bark)

Benedict Kiely is as much a teller, as a writer, of short stories and so the particular rambling flavour comes out when you read having his voice in your head. Luckily there is much broadcast archive material. His narration of the Hands programme on the Mullhollands of Lisnaskea, Co.Fermanagh, Farmers and Stonecutters is a good example.

The story The Dogs in the Great Glen from A Journey to the Seven Streams (1963) is a fine controlled meander. The New Yorker Magazine published it in 1960:
the dogs in the great glen

The narrator that may or may not be a class of a psychopomp sets out with an Irish American professor to discover the mountain valley in Kerry that his grandfather emigrated from. He has only the name, the bare name of the glen, the Glen of Kanareen. That shouldn’t be too hard, there are maps, ordnance survey maps. Not marked. Often the local name may be different from the Anglicised official name but the guide has a feeling that he heard the name in a pub in Kenmare once. More seeming solid is the possibility of knowledge to be gained from a record of a relative who had been a monk in the Cistercian monastery of Mount Melleray in Co.Waterford. South then in the rattly Prefect only to arrive too late at the guesthouse. They decide to go West to Gort across the country to Gort in the County of Galway where a relation had been a cooper. No luck there either. Since aluminium firkins coopering is a dwindling trade. One good omen though – on the lake in Coole demense were nine and fifty swans. North to Galway town for the craic - a night’s hard drinking that was like a fit of jovial hysteria.

Back in the Prefect and south to Kenmare but no one in the savant stacked pub could tell them of Kanareen or its Glen. The Kerryman will never be defeated by base knowledge when a conjecture will suffice. .It could of course’, he said, ‘be east over the mountain’.

Eventually though they find a solid anecdote. A rural postmaster tells them of a local woman who married a man from Karaneen. When they left to go to his place after the marriage they set off up that road.

The rattle of our pathetic little car affronted the vast stillness. We were free to moralize on the extent of all space in relation to the trivial area that limited our ordinary daily lives.

They are on the right track , they think, but for the last part of the climb up through the gap in the mountains they leave the car and walk on the grass verge of the loose gravelled boreen. A pisgah sight:

Small rich fields were ripe in the sun. This was a glen of plenty, a gold field in the middle of a desert, a happy laughing mockery of the arid surrounding moors and mountains. Five hundred yards away a dozen people were working at the hay. They didn’t look up or give any sign that they had seen two strangers cross the high threshold of their kingdom but, as we went down, stepping like grenadier guards, the black and white sheepdogs detached themselves from the haymaking and move silently across to intercept our path. Five of them I counted. My step faltered.

further down:
The silent dogs came closer. The unheeding people went on with their work.

When you are on a pilgrimage a vision accompanies you. Here it is the heart broken dreams of his grandfather’s native place that come like a veil between the locals and the two travellers. Sheepdogs that don’t bark, that’s uncanny.

When he meets his grandfather’s brother at the old house the spell is broken:

Through sunlight and shadow the happy haymakers came running down towards us and barking, playing, frisking over each other, the seven black-and-white dogs, messengers of good news, ran to meet. The great Glen, all happy echoes, was opening out and singing to welcome its true son.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Pixie Dust

You couldn’t make it up…. Actually you could but no one would believe you particularly around April Fools Day. Did Prime Minister Leo Veradkar really send a gushing fan letter to Kylie Minogue pixie gay icon welcoming her to Ireland in his capacity as Taoiseach (prime minister). He signed it Leo V. Taoiseach. Leo the Fifth primus inter pares. He’s gay so its fun and Brexit is just a distraction that doesn’t require attention. Well it would if it got it.

Story here:
Ireland of the Welcomes