Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Opera Buffa of Italian Fascism: soccer and politics

Those who can appreciate the old, favorite joke about Italy---that their language has 14 tenses, but two can only be used while retreating---will be interested in the new biography of Mussolini and the Italian people by Bosworth, Mussolini's Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, reviewed by Wheatcroft in the Washington Post. Why was Italian fascism never as bad as Nazism or Communism---less totalizing, less competent, less anti-Semitic, less attractive to both the average and the intellectual Italian? The answer seems to what Neuhaus first described, following Tocqueville, as "mediating institutions" that insulate the individual from megastructures such as the state and the international corporation: the family, community organizations, churches, local artistic ventures, and so forth. In this way, the Italians, through their lack of organization, are similar to Americans in their "diversity of institutional ways in which [they] have traditionally addressed human needs."

Even sports can come between a poor Duce and his desired nationalism. Football (soccer), while exploited as effectively as possible by Mussolini, generally caused more regionalism than it subverted in Italy, even forming, as Martin writes in Fascism and Football, an "outlet for the old provincial grievances that fascism has never tolerated." One Italian politician recommended putting an end to football because of its "idiotic localism." (But see this Spiegel article on Paolo di Canio's fascist salue and the Roman mayor's bringing of di Canio together with Holocaust survivors; see also this depressing Slate description of Lazio.) The Germans under Hitler much more effectively transformed the 1936 Olympics and the 1938 World Cup into referenda on racial superiority politics, as shown by the excellent BBC documentary that aired just a week ago, Football & Fascism. (I know little about Franco and his association with Real Madrid.) Wheatcroft also mentions the murder by fascists of Ottavio Bottecchia, the two-time Tour de France winner, without noting the broader anti-fascist trends in Italian cycling of the time.

It is good to keep in mind how wicked Mussolini was, and how much madness il fascismo generated. But there is something to the claim that the pre-modern centrality of family life in Italy, and the pre-modern strength and sensibilities of the Catholic Church, made this infection less severe than in Germany. (Why would not the Orthodox Church in Russia have been more successful in mitigating Communism, given the importance of family and church there? There may be a theological or cultural explanation for this, but it seems likely that the sheer amount of time the Commies had to decimate the Orthodox Church might be the most significant fact. Take a look also at Hammer and Tickle, exploring the Orwellian idea that in a Communist society every joke is a tiny revolution.) While coming too late, the Vatican's distaste for fascism culminated in 1931 in the encyclical Non Abbiamo Bisogno, condemning Mussolini's interference with Catholic activities, and reiterating that placing the state above the duty to God is heresy. These difficulties parallel the confusing relation of the Protestant churches in Germany with Nazism, with both Niemollers and collaborationists, discussed by Richard Steigman-Gall in The Holy Reich. Interestingly, the Catholic Church was in opposite situations in Germany and Italy, with German Catholics mostly allied with Weimar socialists and opposing Hitler's rise, while the fear of socialism in Italy led the Vatican to be too friendly to early fascism. Strange.

Income inequality: Becker and Posner

Check out the posts by Becker and Posner. Forget envy for a second: one problem with economic inequality is the fact that the method by which poor families interact with the world may be qualitatively different than that of rich folks, and this qualitative difference may persist even if the poor are getting richer. (It seems clear, btw, that the poor are indeed getting richer; also, the gap between the races is closing, and the same for the gap between the sexes. Growing inequality, claim Posner and Becker, is largely due to differences in education.) A class of situations where income inequality causes objective dislocation even to better-off poor is the introduction of a new technology which enables a shift in lifestyle that the majority, but not the poor, can adopt, with this shift then isolating the poor. Cars and computers are good examples. Even if the income of the impoverished rose during the middle periods of industrialization, a typical poor person still may not have been able to afford a car; and the introduction of the car on a wide scale changed cities and opportunities in ways that the poor could not easily deal with. An argument can be made that government policies---federal support for single-family homes (through enabling tax deductions for mortgages and real estate taxes, encouraging suburbanism), federally-subsidized commuter routes, and federally-financed urban renewal---effectively isolated the poor in inner cities, which then collapsed from lack of attention and an implosion of social values. In America, the poor should not be experimented with to see if their cultural norms are strong enough to create strong communities without the presence of a middle-class.

The typical sequence of arguments is poor-getting-richer rebutted with increasing-income-inequality rebutted with envy-shouldn't-be-taken-into-account rebutted with yes-it-should rebutted with nyah-nyah. The fact that income inequality structurally divides America through a discrete jump in the accessibility of certain goods at certain incomes---a structural division that affects the poor because the majority's access to the good isolates the poor, whose lack of access persists despite the poor getting richer---can help enrich this discussion.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Troublemaker moves on

A teacher who brought back the natural joy that curiosity had when we were young, a sports fan who would call every few plays during Steelers games, a friend who was so sick she sometimes needed help walking her dogs, a laugher whose jokes meant public decency was in danger but fun was near, a person whose gambling habits you were mildly concerned about but who seemed to have so much fun it was hard to think of her not playing craps, a plainspoken teller of the truth, a fan of Atlantic City who lost her mom there, and a lover of life who raised her son Dave to be the same way... Rest in peace, Terry.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Decretals and Extravagants: Catholic Church canon law

While not-studying for the Bluebook exam (doing a sourcecite for the most boring article ever, in fact), a friend and I spotted under Section T.2, Foreign Jurisdictions, p.258, a section for citing to documents of the Catholic Church. Here are some examples:
Gratian (c. 1140)
. . . . . . Part 1 --- D.33 c.1 (d.a.)
. . . . . . Part 2 --- C.9 q.3 c.1
. . . . . . Part 3 --- De Cons. D.2 c.84
Decretals of Gregory IX (1234) --- X 3.24.2
Decretals of Boniface VIII (1298) --- VI 1.11.1
Constitutions of Clement V (1317) --- Clem. 3.5.7
Extravagants of John XXII (1316-1334) --- Extrav. Jo. 14.3
Common Extravagants (1261-1484) --- Extrav. Com. 2.1.1
Codex Iuris Canonici (1917) --- 1917 Code c.430, para. 1
Now this raises many questions. First of all, what the hell? Does this make any sense at all? Well, that's really the only question.

I confess to not having known anything about this, so I consulted 20 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 99, "Roman and Canon Law Research," by Ms. Diamond. Very interesting. Here are some answers to my question above. Especially, why the mismatch of roman numerals?

Gratian was the most systematic compiler of early canon law (such as papal bulls, writings of Church fathers, and the legislation of Church councils). His work is the Concordia discordantium canonum, or the concord of the discordant canons, or simply the Decretum of Gratian. Here Decretum just means a series of decrees. The three parts are the Distinctiones, Causae (cases), and the Tractatus de consecratione, abbreviated by D, C, and De Cons. Each is divided into quaestiones and capitula, or questions and canons, and might have dicta, or commentary by Gratian. This explains the Gratian parts, above.

Next up: what is a Decretal? A Decretal is a papal decree, usually giving a decision on canon law, which are then collected in Decretals, which are haphazard collections of whatever was on hand. The five best known Decretals were the Quinque compilationes antiquae, or Five Ancient Compilations. Gregory IX organized these books for the first time into the Liber Extra. Why are the Decretals of Gregory IX written "X"? I have no idea. I genuinely suspect it is a joke on the first syllable of extra. Pope Boniface VIII re-collected all works since Gregory IX in a sixth book to add onto the quinque, and thus it is Liber Sixtus, and abbreviated VI. The Extravagants, literally "outside-wanderers," are add-ons to these six books; the Common Extravagants were well-known but unpublished decretals.

The sheer complexity of this caused the Church to Justinianize the law again, organizing it and promulgating the 1917 Codex. This was superseded by the 1983 Codex, which is still in force. And that's how you cite to Catholic Church stuff.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Heidegger's influence on Aquinas: "Someone just needs a hug"

I didn't know whether to call this post a Heidegger pushback or a Heidegger loveslap. It seems to me, from just reading the Letter on Humanism---very, very interesting, but perhaps for right now enough Heidegger for me---that Heidegger is too pessimistic about the history of metaphysics. Heidegger sees the modern condition as one of utter forgetfulness of Being. I do not claim that the most important revelations about Ek-sistence are not yet to come: but when they do, they will build off the enduring insights of the ancients into the transcendentals and the medieval transition from natural to sacred theology in Thomas Aquinas.

The act of existing and the fact of existence are central to Thomist thought: Being is superintelligible, the font and upwelling of all intelligibility, even though it can be the most difficult concept to grasp. Jacques Maritain, in speaking of Thomist thought, has described perceiving Being as an "achievement" (Distinguer pour unir ou les degrés du savoir: "Distinguish to Unite, or, The Degrees of Knowledge"), a sort of supernatural grace in suddenly contemplating the presenceing of a blade of grass, in being awed by what is the most obvious and thus, at first, the most hidden. Thomas also notes that the beginning of a demonstration of Being can be had by realizing that there are immaterial substances as well as material ones, and thus something must underlie even substance. Without the realization of Being, the Philosophy of Nature would be the king of the disciplines: this is positivism, because it lacks access to the natural theology of the transcendentals.

Metaphysics is more than the mere esse ut primum cognitum, the mere vague grasp that something must be common to every thing. It is the view of Being as transcendental, esse inquantum esse, as not merely being the floor underlying other things like matter and color, but as constituting every thing that rests on the floor as well, whether that thing is a substance, genus, species or accident. Being shatters the heirarchy and categorical priorities of existence, and is thus the true transcendental. Being gifts itself into the green of grass as much as it does into the grass's matter or essence. The essence of grass is made up of Being. For this reason, existence precedes essence for Thomas, despite Sartre's claims. In fact, the term existentialism was first applied in the Middle Ages to Thomas, to distinguish from the later Scholastics who took Plato's Ideal Forms too literally.

On this note, Thomas incorporates the insights of both Neoplatonic transcendentalism and Aristotelian dualist metaphysics. For Aristotle, form (essence) is actuality and matter is potentiality; for Aquinas, form and matter are both potential, to be filled with the transcendental infinity of Being. Similarly, potentiality does not precede act in time, as it did for Aristotle. In Aquinas, ens, essence, draws its power and meaning from esse, existence, as everything must. Essence, in fact, like everything that is not Being, is a limitation on the explosiveness of Being. Thus, Aquinas does not dwell in forgetfulness of Being: Gilson remarks accurately that Heidegger's Sein and Seiende are mirrored by the full theory of Aquinas's esse and ens. Aquinas's metaphysics is truly an aletheiology, an un-forgetfulness.

With Thomas's treatment of the transcendentals, adding Platonic convertibility to the basically-sound Aristotelian metaphysics, he fully and completely grasps natural theology. But Heidegger wants something more: he needs something more. This is wonder. And the modern world finds it too easy, perhaps, to study Thomas without understanding his profound Christology. For Heidegger, the definition of man as a "rational animal" is too late: the basic fact of the Event, the Ereignis, has already been lost. Thomas understands this, and observes that man is defined as a rational animal only equivocally; reasoning for Thomas is in fact only a sort of "proper accident," the term itself being a seeming contradiction. Man's essence is not reasoning: the essence is what man is, and reasoning is simply what he does, what distinguishes him from chimpanzees and bananas. If another animal were found that could reason, it would not make that animal, necessarily, a man. For Aquinas, a man is the Image of God. There is some relation to rationality, here, but only secondarily. The Potter has made, not a cup, but an Image of the Potter, and the clay is the Potter Himself, though the Image is not the Potter---for the Image has Being, while the Potter is Being, as best as we can conceive. The proper response to this wonder of Creation is humility and thankfulness. We cannot be proud of being Images, for it is a gift, and even our existence to receive this gift is a gift.

The radical dependence of every thing on Being has huge consequences for Aquinas in each field of knowledge. His theory of truth is powerfully metaphysical, in contrast to the epistemological theories of truth popular these days. As Milbank and Pickstock note in Truth in Aquinas, we do not [[[Continue reading...]]] need to refer Truth to Being, for Truth is a mode of being. Truth is convertible with Being: Truth is equally close to all levels of the metaphysical heirarchy. Why would we need another name, if Truth is Being? Because we are finite creatures: we perceive beings as separate in their Beingness. Truth is a gift to us, as it relates beings to one another and to us through a harmony or analogy of the mind receiving into itself, and becoming, the full Being of the object, its existence and essence. And thus Truth is more than a mere reflection, more than just being "true to the facts." As Aquinas says, Truth is less properly in things than in mind, and our thoughts complete and bring to their full teleological existence God's creations. The tree of our mind's eye is just as True as the tree in creation---and thus Aquinas is a Realist---and in some sense Truer, since we can grasp and realize and perfect the tree's telos, its presenceing---and so Aquinas is some sort of hyperRealist. As Aquinas says in De Veritate, this gift of Truth is "salvific compensation," a boon to us in our divided and fallen state away from God.

This goes even farther: for Aquinas, Beauty may be the final, most perfect transcendental. (See Hunter's Analogy and Beauty: Thomistic Reflections on the Transcendentals, and Waddell's The Hermeneutics of Beauty: Re-reading Thomas Aquinas's De Veritate 1.1.) Truth is a harmony between different modes of being: and Beauty is harmony, proportion, and fittingness. Note that the word aesthetic is from the Greek aisthanesthai, "to perceive." Truth is a perceived harmony, and so every single judgment itself is an aesthetic act. We give glory, and fulfill our Being, by bearing witness to the Truth, and this is the ultimate act of participation in Beauty. This is the beginning of the answer Heidegger must be looking for: Heidegger just needs a hug.

I am trying to find time right now to review Caputo's Heidegger and Aquinas. The discussion there is far more technical and continental than I really feel comfortable with. Caputo approaches Aquinas from Heidegger, whereas I think in the opposite direction. Caputo at the end finds that Thomist thought only partially rises to Heidegger's challenge. I may have something to say about this during the summer. For now, here's a summary. Both Aquinas and, more so, Heidegger have, effectively, claimed that their metaphysics accuse all other theories of being oblivious to Being. Gilson makes this claim historically, noting that each epochal theory tries to encompass Being: the Platonists reduced Being to unity, the Aristotelians reduced Being to substance, from Avicenna to Hegel Being was reduced to essence, etc. Only St. Thomas, Gilson claims, took Being as Being, in all of its primodiality. However, the very distinction between us having Being, and God being Being---that seems to solve the problems of both our separation from God and yet our basic dignity as both gifts and recipieints of gifts---Heidegger attacks as once more sinking into forgetfulness. Heidegger accuses Thomas of reintroducing an ephocal theory of being by dividing between esse subsistens and ens participatum. But it does seem to me that, despite this division, Aquinas does grasp the Geschick, the sending forth of Being in to beings, and the Anwesen, the presence-ing, the overflowing of Being in the moment. The transcendental Being for Aquinas as not something remote and purely universal. It is the most super-present thing of all, and the most active, even as it is the most infinite. I think that Heidegger, unfortunately, has fallen prey to his own true criticism of the history of philosophy, and as Husserl asserts is in danger of becoming a small part of the problem: he is using language as techne. At least, that's the way it seems to me.

"Any sufficiently ancient law is indistinguishable from magic": Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Everything around us seems at first glance to be imbued with history as much as, or more than, it is filled with purpose: our ears are often deaf to the bells by which a creation selves, but it is our father's toil and blood that visibly smears the soil we have inherited. Heraclitus believed that sight and sound signified the polar opposition of the totality of knowledge--of direct and indirect experience. Those objects that are publicly knowable, as Augustine says, we apprehend through eyes and ears, the two senses whose objects we can share. (See On the way to wisdom in Heraclitus, Kurt Pritzl, Phoenix v.39 n.4 p.303.) Both history and purpose are part of the sensus communis, the common sense integrating human experience, and both give true testimony; but only seeing history's accretion of human activity is a direct witness, while inferring the inscape of a creature's final end is mere hearsay. (Though more Hermetically far-reaching, as sound can bend around the corners of time.)

History and purpose have been intertwined and come undone repeatedly as the plan unfolds, and the truths borne of their trysts persist in orphanages as sayings but are forgotten in ancestry and meaning. This is the subject of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Her observation---that on the one hand we find history, power, law and ambition huddled together, and on the other hand, alone, purpose---she was of course anticipated in. My favorite example is Victor Hugo's L'homme qui rit, The Man Who Laughs. In Part II, Book the First, Chapter VI-VII, the wicked Barkilphedro begs his patroness for the post of Drawer of Bottles, in the Jetsam Division of the Sea Prize Department of the Lord High Admiral's office. It has been many years since a bottle needed to be uncorked: the job "is like grooming a bronze horse." The Lord High Admiral owns things in the ocean which sink (lagan), things which float (flotsam), and things which are cast ashore (jetsam) (--except that the King owns the sturgeon.)
The fashion of casting bottles on the surface of the sea has somewhat passed away, like that of vowing offerings, but in those religious times, those who were about to die were glad thus to send their last thought to God and to men, and at times these messages from the sea were plentiful at the Admiralty.
And their intelligence once had been valuable: the Drawer had the right of humble entrance even into the royal bedchambers. Elizabeth would ask, "Quid mihi scribit Neptunus?" What does Neptune write me? Barkilphedro gets the office when humble entrance is no longer needed for naval goals: he uses its confidence for intrigue. And destruction. The crack between history and purpose is driven through shatteringly.

Clarke's novel is about this shattering, and she observes how our institutions still stand, but are mute. If the stone of a statue is the tangible fact of its extended place in history as a made thing, then the statue's voice, and the features on its face and thoughts in its heart, are the statue's meaning---what the artist who created and fell in love with the statue saw and wanted in his heart for the statue's good. One of the early episodes of the book is about giving statues their voices back, in fact. Clarke uses magic to remind us of the shattered world, because we only laugh lightly at examples we are more familiar with. She writes about an administrative office one step older than the Drawer of Bottles, a little farther along the process of time carrying away our voices and wearing away our faces:
Some years ago his friends in the Government had got him the position of Secretary-in-Ordinary to The Office of Supplication, for which he received a special hat, a small piece of ivory and seven hundred pounds a year. There were no duties attached to the place because no one could remember what The Office of Supplication was supposed to do or what the small piece of ivory was for.
How quaint, we think! But there is the law, and then there is the Law. And when they diverge, there is instability and there is disequilibrium. Clarke starts with a light touch on our own institutional memory---in the literal sense---and our own mortality. But she will shift to the fantastic to drive her point beneath our guard.

Often our hearts, starved for romance, grasp at words, hoping for meaning but at bottom finding only history. By the time Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell rediscover magic in England, many spells no longer work or are forgotten: "Chauntlucet, Daedalus's Rose, the Unrobed Ladies, Stokesey's Vitrification." A Clarke footnote explains each, with the best for our purpose being:
Like many spells with unusual names, the Unrobed Ladies was a great deal less exciting than it sounded. The ladies of the title were only a kind of woodland flower which was used in a spell to bind a fairy's powers. The flower was required to be stripped of leaves and petals---hence the "unrobing".
Clarke can make the extraordinary ordinary because she has a surfeit of meaning. [[[continue reading...]]] Consider the fairy spell "the doctrine of ancient lights." It creates a force which honors the precious, oldest rays of the Sun--the Sun which in Homer sees and hears everything:
Upon proof of an adverse enjoyment of light, for twenty years or upwards, unexplained, a jury may be directed to presume a right by grant, or otherwise. But if the window was opened during the seisin of a mere tenant for life, or a tenancy for years, and the owner in fee did not acquiesce in, or know of, the use of the light, he would not be bound.
This description of the spell is from the magical tome "Black's Law Dictionary."

We invent, we repeat, we forget; a new mindset gives something that previously seemed natural an ancient feel. Describing the parts of magical spells (e.g., epitome, skimmer, florilegia), Clarke notes:
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries fairies in England were fond of adding to their magic, exhortations to random collections of Christian saints. Faires were baffled by Christian doctrine, but they were greatly attracted to saints, whom they saw as powerful magical beings whose patronage it was useful to have. These exhortations were called florilegia (lit. cullings or gatherings of flowers) and fairies taught them to their Christian masters. When the Protestant religion took hold in England and saints fell out of favour, florilegia degenerated into meaningless collections of magical words and bits of other spells, thrown in by the magician in the hope that some of them might take effect.
There are meanings hidden in history, rituals whose very forgetfulness gives them power: in many places, the deliberately-anachronistic solemnity of sealing a document with hot wax and a signet seal overcomes certain legal-defect claims. In Indiana and some other states drawing a scroll next to one's name has the same effect. The consecration of the Host in the Latin Mass is rumored to only take effect upon secret words that a priest may not share on pain of Latæ Sententiæ. This is magic formalism. P. Bourdieu discusses in Ce que parler veut dire how Weber fails to find a division between rational formalism's bureaucracy and magical formalism's ritual. Kafka makes the point more grimly.

History has a claim on us and will kill us all given time, which is plentiful. Meanings that we have forgotten do not forget us: astra fovent animam corpus natura recepit. In a magical story invoked by the Kabbalah numerological symbol "179 F.2d 64," three knights owned three parcels of land. By ancient right, to the origin of which man's memory runneth not, the first knight, Abelard, was bound by great powers to allow the second, Bonaventure, to cross Abelard's land to reach his own. Bonaventure slew Chretien de Troyes, the third knight, and took his lands. Bonaventure built a castle, but the footprint straddled both Bonaventure's and Chretien's land. When Bonaventure tried to use his ancient easement of access to enter his new castle, he found a magical field prevented him from entering those portions that fell outside his original lands, as if the very lands cried out against his crime. Clarke gives a description of a magical court, the court of Cinque Dragownes, which could have easily reached this result (from the District of Columbia Circuit in 1949). The story of the Champion of the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart, p. 729 in Strange and Norrell along with the prior description by Childermass, is perhaps a retelling of this case, in a deep way. I will not spoil it here.

The interest the denizens of Faerie take in saints is mentioned several times by Clarke, and is not casual. The saints took us---take us---to new paths "towards the Moon or to the Sun", upwards from history in sentina mundi, dregs at the bottom of a clear glass. Peter Brown notes in The Cult of the Saints:
The rise of the Christian cult of saints took place in the great cemeteries that lay outside the cities of the Roman world...and came to involve the digging up, the moving, the dismemberment---quite apart from much avid touching and kissing---of the bones of the dead, and, frequently, the placing of these [relics] in areas from which the dead had once been excluded.
Norrell brings someone back to life, but a body part is left, like a relic, in Faerie. The established topography---even bodily integrity---of the universe is destroyed by the saints, much as the new magic in Clarke threatens to reawaken old consciousnesses, and the fairies promise (threaten) to tell us the meanings that surround us like dolmens. Strange can have anything he wants upon his first summoning of a fairy, and he says only:
"What are the names of the three magical rivers that flow through the Kingdom of Agrace? Ralph Stokesey thought that these rivers influenced events in England: is that true? There is mention in The Language of Birds of a group of spells that are cast by manipulating colours; what can you tell me about that? What do the stones in the Doncaster Squares represent?"
Meaning is with us always, and history is far away; but history is visible, while meaning is just a whisper. Clarke dims the room so that we can close our eyes and reel like a drunk in the transcendental Being that cycles through Creation. I close with a Clarke description that could summarize the Neoplatonic heirarchy of meaning and history:
Strange walked away and became one of the many black figures on the piazza, all with black faces and no expressions, hurrying across the face of moon-coloured Venice. The moon itself was set among great architectural clouds so that there appeared to be another moon-lit city in the sky, whose grandeur rivalled Venice and whose great palaces and streets were crumbling and falling into ruins, as if some spirit in a whimsical mood had set it there to mock the other's slow decline.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

If you are bored and find your life meaningless...

...then this post will likely not help at all. But it will tell you how other people find meaning. Or at least where they find meaning. Valparaiso has a great data set of religious denomination by county---under a class titled "American Ethnic Geography"---that pretty much confirms what everyone knows, but does it in pretty colors. Baptists are in the South, Lutherans make up a little patch in the middle-North, and Mormons dominate Utah and, um, whatever state is above it. Idaho maybe. Catholics are pretty much everywhere else. A good discussion of some of the details is given at Regions of Mind. Nebraska has an especially interesting history, being divided by its German heritage into strong Lutheran and Catholic segments.

My Antonia by Willa Cather springs to mind as a great description of the cultural incomprehension of immigrants, exposed on the Great Plains to fellow expatriates from the Old Country but of different denominations, who realize the odometer of hate and love has been reset. They can choose to share across a gap that three-hundred years of madness back home had made unbridgeable. My family first settled from Germany in Nebraska; in Kansas City, Missouri, where I was born, there was no area where Catholics had a majority district. (In contrast to French-y St. Louis.) Moving to New Mexico for my parents must have been like a German Catholic visiting Spain.

Note the single county in Nebraska that is majority Baptist: that's because there's only one church, and it's Baptist. The most Catholic state is probably New Mexico. The least religious state appears to be Oregon, if I understand the addendum to the Regions of Mind post. There are a few counties where Mennonites or Reformed or whatnots rule. I don't think there are any majority Jewish counties.

Anyhoo: interesting.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Iran defiant on nukes, blah blah: look at the cool picture

This is a pretty incredible picture accompanying a NYT story I've heard a million times. It took me a while to figger out what was background and foreground and realize it was basically a bad religious painting like my aunt likes. If I see one more picture of a vague mannish shape walking toward the light leaving some dark morass of clutching hands and entering multiple colored circles symbolizing seraphim and principalities and dominions and thrones I am going to toss my cookies. But the cool picture in the permanent exhibit at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore is way cool, because it's done by a certifiable crazy person. Or maybe that's exploitative. Anyway, I didn't know that the cherubim God is described as riding around in Psalms and Samuel was a nuke.

Universal moral grammar: John Mikhail on Chomsky on morality

John Mikhail has put "The Poverty of the Moral Stimulus" up on SSRN. In it he compares the universal grammar of Chomsky---by which a child placed in a suitable environment will, without explicit instruction, use apparently innate rules to construct a natural language---to a possible universal moral grammar, in which a suitably-situated child will also construct a "natural jurisprudence" of surprising complexity and intuitiveness.

His examples are startling: without socialization sufficient to account for the results, 3-4 year-old children distinguish between "genuine" moral violations (murder) and "social" violations (wearing pajamas to school); 5-6-olders calibrate punishments with intuitive mitigating factors; 6-7-olders have a sense of innate procedural justice and the right to be heard; children as young as 8 have a rough sense of the doctrine of double effect in the trolley-car problem. See the references to the paper for more.

The basic pattern of reasoning by Mikhail is similar to Chomsky's poverty of the stimulus argument, which shows most children have nowhere near enough teaching to explain the grammatical miracles they pull off. Mikhail analogizes this to the poverty of the moral stimulus: the moral rules the children exhibit are not learned from verbal instruction, or from observed examples. They must be innate. In the same way that the universal grammar must be rich enough to enable children to bootstrap, it also must be flexible enough to deal with significant linguistic variations. The universal moral grammar: same.

The form of the innateness is not dealt with, but whatever form it takes, it already has a name: synderesis. Consider the old joke at Scholastics' expense, in which a naif asks a philosopher why opium puts us to sleep. The scholastic answers: "Opium puts us to sleep because of its soporific faculty." Of course this definitional jonesing is partially incompatible with another accusation, that the Scholastics engaged in angels-on-a-pin speculation about everything without any empirical backing. This is of course true: the Scholastics simply had no tools to make these inquiries meaningful. And they did not appreciate how much needed to be explained, or how much would be possible. They proceeded in a cycle of definitions and guesses. They had mastered dialectic (for God's sake, see St. Thomas's discussion of Aristotle's Topics and Posterior Analytics); they just had not included the material world in their discourse.

So the modern world has learned to ask "Why?" more insistently of matter, and more counterintuitively, and to deploy sharp objects and measuring tapes in trying to get answers. If this rakish modern curiosity could be combined with a medieval docility to truth, and an ancient (or Husserl-ian) sense of man and the methodology of principles, we would get somewhere.

There is much more in this hopeful paper. Hat tip to the Scholastic saint Larry Solum for pointing this one out.

Debussy's influence on Bach: the Mass in B minor

Has anyone ever noted that the Mass's Sanctus chorus, with its shimmery male voices, overlapping and spread out (a haze of seaspray added by necessity of the Kantian manifolds of Time and Space with a dose of human fallenness and imperfection) and its building brass like proud pillars of some undersea structure---

---outdoes and perfects Debussy's conclusion to La Mer's "Nuages"? Bach is more chromatic, more impressionistic, more worshipful of the great waves of nature and their true Nature.

"Law and Letters": race and gender dynamics of white males raping black women

If your blogroll isn't so full you need to wait until one goes on the critical list to meet someone new, consider reading Law and Letters, a fine model of the blawg that mixes personal views and legal analysis. See especially her post on the gang rape at Duke and its particular tragedy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Rumsfeld, transformation, inertia

Charles Krauthammer, in an as-usual spot-on column in the Washington Post, "The Generals' Dangerous Whispers," criticizes the recent generalissimos for helping to weaken yet another social norm--the traditional silence observed by retired military officers and ex-presidents.

It should be noted that Rummy has been subject to this sort of criticism before. Fred Hiatt in a Post editorial noted as early as Aug. 27, 2001: "The defense secretary was arrogant, out of touch and corporate." But Hiatt admitted he was doing this in the service of transformation, and he had no other option but bluntness; commentors like David Ignatius in the International Herald Tribune on Sept. 3, 2001 expressed exasperation at the brass's "aversion to change."

And lest it be lost on us what the consequences of Pentagon conservativism are, Gannett summarizes a Rumsfeld speech of Sept. 10, 2001:
Standing before several hundred stone-faced defense officials in a Pentagon auditorium Monday, he declared war on the Defense Department's bureaucracy, calling it as serious a threat to national security as the Soviet Union was, and even more "implacable."

It "crushes" new ideas, said Rumsfeld, places 17 layers of bureaucracy between the defense secretary and a front-line officer with an idea, and has so many counsels' offices that a central counsel must monitor what they all do.
Note the date. The resolution came too late, much like the belated Japanese declaration or war given to Ambassador Grew as the smoke cleared from Pearl Harbor. But the idea was exactly right. It is unclear whether Rumsfeld is the best man to lead an active war; I think the Krauthammer discussion eviscerates the generals' arguments that he is not, but that itself is not a positive endorsement of Rummy. I can say, from my fairly limited experience working for the Department of Defense for five years, that he was well respected as an able and tough advocate. Rumsfeld was and is a proponent of restoring military strength and enlistment levels to two-war sufficiency, or, failing that, one war and one stop-action. It's hard to fault him for military underfunding when from the first moment of his appointment he advised Bush to veto any appropriations bill that did not increase spending on manpower. And it's hard to fault his mannerisms when a soft-spoken Secretary of Defense is simply not taken seriously. William Cohen under Clinton had a habit of writing poetry--actual poetry, not Slate-isms--that lost him much military respect, as sadly macho as that might be. Lee Aspin had a "famously unmilitary bearing" and wishy-washiness that made him completely ineffective. (His shoplifting from a Fort Myers base exchange probably did not help.)

As for the political cycle of whispers, and their usefulness as prophecy, it also might be useful for perspective to recall Timothy Noah's Slate headline of Sept. 7, 2001: "Rummy Death Watch No. 3: Possible Replacements Named!" I wonder which Watch No. we are on now.

Finally, the thought of the New York Times interviewing young military officers and publishing anonymously their remarks is quite unfortunate. There is a strong internal debate going on, you can be sure. (And, as the Times shows, the debate strongly favors Rumsfeld.) But these officers know anonymous remarks are inappropriate, and almost certainly against orders; the Times should not excoriate Scooter Libby and then tempt people to become like him.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

G. M. Hopkins: inscape and natural kind

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, "As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme," 1918

For Hopkins's theory of inscape and instress, and their relation to the poem as a whole, see this description. This poem always seems to me a better argument for natural kinds than any argument in Armstrong's Scientific Realism (as good as that book is). The Beowulfian flavor of the poem comes, first, from Hopkins's push from the Norman side of English's parentage to the Anglo-Saxon, and his use of "sprung rhythm" with its irregular stresses; and second, from his Welsh cynghanedd, with its strong alliteration.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Catholic intellectuals: authority and reason

Great series of posts over at Mirror of Justice on the motivations, and outside perceptions, of Catholic scholars. When such scholars are working in the context of a strong tradition of magisterial authority on certain matters, should they present the best argument within the tradition? The best argument in general, but continuously and explicitly confront their argument with the tradition? Or just have those discussions "internally"? When people perceive that Catholics have certain motivations that the world at large doesn't share, does that undercut their impact? (What about the authorities other traditions recognize, such as political correctness or Marxist theory?)

Check out Eduardo Penalver's first (self-described "inflammatory") post, linked above, and then scroll upwards to follow the debate. The most recent post, as of this second, is by Robert Araujo. He notes the Catholic tradition of the “Two Francises”--de Vitoria and Suárez--who debated openly and freely in sixteenth century Spain. They argued both from faith and reason, continuously annoying the civil authorities by demanding basic rights for indigenous people based on--and seeing little division between--religious truth and public reason. [See, for example, The Catholic Neo-Scholastic Contribution to Human Rights: The Natural Law Foundation, 1 AVE MARIA LAW REVIEW 159 (2003), with which I tormented Genius Pony a few weeks ago.] Humility when interacting with one's colleagues, and with the world in general, is essential, since faith is not a trump card: we do not have the whole of God's knowledge available to us. The Catholic tradition is simply that part of the vineyard which many of us have chosen to cultivate.

Araujo (S.J.) makes many wonderful points. And Penalver himself, too, with his "inflammatory" questioning, is also at the heart of the tradition of the Two Francises. This is an important discussion, since none of us come to knowledge without preconceptual assistance from some tradition.

It is interesting to consider how the Jews have approached this problem, since their intellectual context of course rivals the richness of Catholic history. Disputation is highly valued by the Jews, and thought trends like Hillel duke it out with opposing views to apply the doctrines of faith to updated conditions, and reconcile faith and reason. There is a strong feeling of tension between faith and reason, but little sense that "faith is absurd" by reason's pale, false light. This latter view would be developed by early Patristic writers like Tertullian, and held as a valuable but incomplete strand of thought in the Catholic Church. It would only come into its own, as a doctrinal reflection of original sin, with the Protestant Reformation and Luther's assertion that "reason is the handmaid of the devil."

The Jewish and Catholic heritages are perhaps quite similar in their need to solve the problem of the apparent conflict between revealed truth (especially as passed through an authoritative tradition) and rational exploration. Most Protestant lineages have less trust in reason, and less authority to reconcile it with. (What about Islam?) Surely the Catholics can learn from the Jews, both in generating ideas capable and worthy of influencing the world, and also in generating a rich, uncompromising internal discussion within the family.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Situationalism and virtue: are there any good guys?

The Model Penal Code, Section 1.02(1), states that its purposes are to (a) "prevent conduct that...threatens harm to individual or public interests," and to (b) "subject to public control persons whose conduct indicates that they are disposed to commit crimes."

This already incorporates some very strong assumptions about human nature and the capabilities of the law. The clause 1.02(1)(b) assumes that people reveal their character through conduct, and (a) assumes that the law can influence the overall situatedness of a decision, its topography of daily decisional utilities, profoundly enough to "prevent conduct" and shape action.

The idea that people have character--that there are virtuous folks and vicious folks and that you can predict based on past observations what someone might do in the future--has been under attack (at least in its stronger forms) for a while from social psychologists. Characterism is derided as committing the "fundamental attribution error": the mistake of assuming that people have strong dispositions that explain their behavior, rather than being largely guided by the situation they (luckily or unluckily) find themselves in. The most famous example of this is the Milgram experiment, in which subjects administered potentially lethal electric shocks to victims in the name of science. The average person in an authoritarian or heirarchical situation switches from his everyday "autonomic" state to acting in an "agentic" state, accepting commands and showing few stable character traits. Evolutionarily, agentic states posed fewer threats to heirarchies than autonomic states, allowing more effective wielding of genic power.

The idea of characterism at the heart of 1.02(1) is implemented in a dozen ways of the Model Penal Code and in criminal law in general: in the doctrine of excuse, and in entrapment, for example. On one definition (Spunaugle v. State, 946 P.2d 246), a crime is excused if a person of ordinary firmness would have also been unable to resist the temptation or duress. This might seem situational; but on reflection it effectively sets a standard level of "virtue" and punishes those people's actions--and only those--which do not rise to that level of character. Similarly, entrapment is at first glance situational: it is a valid defense to say that the police created a situation in which I committed a crime. But, again, the affirmative defense of entrapment requires that the defendant show that he did not have a personality propensity to commit the crime (People v. Calvano, 30 N.Y.2d 199), and so the government can introduce past behavior as a guide to character. [Even after this, certain situational elements remain: if a defendant would normally not have encountered the opportunity to commit the crime (say an undercover cop sells crack to an Amish youth), but the defendant was predisposed to the crime, it is still entrapment. Thus entrapment is described in U.S. v. Hollingsworth, 27 F.3d 1196, as "positional as well as dispositional." But positional entrapment is a hard defense to pull off, as Jacobson v. U.S., 503 U.S. 540, shows: "ready commission of the criminal act amply demonstrates the defendant's predisposition."]

On the situationalist account, the dispositionalism of 1.02(b) is idle hope based on bad folk psychology, and so we are left with 1.02(a), and the awesome need for the law to fundamentally transform all situations into "good" situations, to do the work that virtue and resistance to temptation cannot. The law has only a first order, deterrent effect--enacting an individual threat to each player at each instant--and no second-order effects of building good citizens through a healthy moral ecology.

The consequences of a successful attack on character traits is, of course, the end of the renaissance of virtue ethics, as gleefully predicted by Harman. On the other hand, many have argued that psychology experiments are much like on-screen sex: a version of the way the world works that on first thought seems idealized, and on second thought seems barren of the complications and surprises of reality. Peter Vranas has noted some difficulties in John Doris's (Lack of Character) definitions of what a "situation" is. Pro-situationalism: on the role of situationalism in poverty and the "Republic of Despair," see Leonard Long's Optimum Poverty, Character, and the Non-Relevance of Poverty Law, 47 Rutgers L. Rev. 693. Anti-situationalism: on the normative structure of criminal law and its relation to situationalism, see Husak's Crimes outside the core, 39 Tulsa L. Rev. 755.

Illegal immigration only costs the poor a little

The New York Times recently had a fascinating article, "Costs of illegal immigration may be less than meets the eye." Not being qualified, I won't comment on the econometrics; but it does seem plausible that illegal immigration has had a 5% or less negative impact on poor folks' wages, rather than the somewhat hysterical numbers like 10-20% batted around. Is this a bit, though, like the argument about Lott's More Guns, Less Crime, in which concealed carry was first asserted by Lott to tremendously reduce crime, and is now held to only reduce crime a little? (Ignore Lott's rather odd foibles.)

While a five-percent reduction in wages is not enormous, it is not chump change--try it yourself. I am in favor of immigration, of simplifying the system, of a bracero program, of an amnesty, against a wall, etc., blah blah. But the fact that illegal immigrants harm the poor less than previously thought, as the article's title suggests, shouldn't blind us to the various structural, and seemingly inevitable, negative consequences of illegal immigration. This includes the need to explain to the most vulnerable Americans the confusing fact that our democracy has placed laws on the book but our democracy is unwilling to enforce them.

"Bruin" and "Renard": proper names, now common nouns, from a fable

[a. MDu. bruin (bruyn, bruun) BROWN,
the name of the bear in Reynard the Fox.]

An appellation applied, after the manner of a proper name, to the Common or Brown Bear. (It has advanced so far in the direction of a common noun as to be often written without capital B.)
Reynard the Fox is one of Europe's most beloved folk legends, in which the eponymous character is a peasant-hero outsmarting Leo the King. A couple of quotes that roll off the tongue: "How bruyn the bere spedde wyth the foxe"; "The kynge..saide to brune the bere, syr brune, I wyl that ye doo this message."

States Wikipedia:
The patrimonial French word for "fox" was goupil from Latin vulpecula. However, mentioning the fox was considered bad luck among farmers. Because of the popularity of the Reynard stories, renard was often used as an euphemism to the point that today renard is the standard French word for "fox" and goupil is now dialectal or archaic.
Thus, this story has effectively given the world two proper-to-common animal words. Strange.

Law, violence and alienation: Ralph Pomeroy's "Corner"

The cop slumps alertly at his motorcycle,
supported by one leg like a leather stork.
His glance accuses me of loitering.
I can see his eyes moving like a fish
in the green depths of his green goggles.

His ease is fake. I can tell.
My ease is fake. And he can tell.
The fingers armoured by his gloves
Splay and clench, itching to change something.
As if he were my enemy or my death,
I just stand there watching.

I spit out my gum which has gone stale.
I knock out my new cigarette --
Which is my bravery.
It is all imperceptible:
The way I shift my weight,
The way he creaks in the saddle.

The traffic is specific though constant.
The sun surrounds me, divides the street between us.
His crash helmet is whiter in the shade.
It is like a bullring as they say it is just before the fighting.
I cannot back down. I am there.

Everything holds me back.
I am in danger of disappearing into the sunny dust,
My levis bake and my T-shirt sweats.

My cigarette makes my eyes burn.
But I don't dare drop it.

Who made him my enemy?
Prince of coolness. King of fear.
Why do I lean here waiting?
Why does he lounge there watching?

I am becoming sunlight.
My hair is on fire. My boots run like tar.
I am hung-up by the bright air.

Something breaks through all of a sudden.
And he blasts off, quick as a craver,
Snug in his power; watching me watch.
This is the meaning of the crime of loitering; this is the danger of the "broken windows" theory of policing. Everyone is on trial, even if you're just taking a cigarette break. There are similarities and differences here with horseback police patrols: both rely on a knight-like positional superiority, but horses have lost most of the menace they held through history, while motorcycles can still have a vicious animality. The community is rent by a goggled invader; it is rent into the innocents who have nothing to fear but are afraid, and the guilty who should be afraid but who want a challenge. This is order without justice; this is courage without love. If you have felt the bloody blush of fear when you see a radar trap, imagine the perception of law's lawless power to someone who has never felt protected, never felt served by these cold outsiders. What happened to the Clinton + Republican Congress community policing effort? Did you sympathize with anyone in this poem?--did you view this as a tragedy with no protagonist?--did you ascribe guilt to the gum-chewing smoker?--

Monday, April 17, 2006

Conversations with A Son, A Daughter, A Nephew

My son is thirteen and obsessed with the weather, especially thunderstorms and tornadoes. Around 5 am one morning this spring, a huge clap of thunder shook the house, announcing the arrival of the latest storm. From across the hall I hear an excited, "YES!" and then nothing more. That's my boy!

He is finishing up his first year in all regular classes. He has struggled a bit with the transition as he now has to be responsible for everything himself. We learned recently more of his history (he is adopted); he tested with a math deficiency years ago. We already knew he struggled with math as Mom and Dad have struggled with patience in helping him with homework this year. A large part of our frustration is the repetition of the same questions over and over and the same mistakes over and over. This is very evident in the joy of fractions, decimals, and percents and all of the conversions therein. At least once every evening, "Dad, 7/8, that's 1/2 isn't it?" or "90% is 1/2 isn't it?" "Yes, son. In the end, all fractions do reduce to 1/2...and a river runs through them."

My twelve-year old blonde-on-the-inside daughter called home from camp one evening this past week to tell me that she was having a marvelous time, things were very different than what she expected, and just to let me know, that she was "still in two pieces."

Palm Sunday weekend, my son and I went to visit my parents at my ancestral home. My sister and her two-year old son live with Mom and Dad. Grandma told him that it would be bedtime soon and he would need to put on his pajamas. He replied, "I want Spiderman."

Pajama pants were on and he was attempting to get the pajama shirt on. One sleeve was down his chest with the other down his back. He was struggling to get his arm through the sleeve and had chosen the wrong sleeve for his right arm. Grandma and Grandpa were saying, "Let Uncle Matt help you." My attempt to help was met with resistance and raised voice, "I DO IT MYSELF! I DO IT MYSELF!" I told him, "Spiderman is going to be on your back, let me help you." He further insisted. "I DO IT MYSELF!"

He managed to get his shirt on successfully. But when looking down at the front of his shirt and seeing nothing but blue, no Spiderman, he began jumping up and down, a little panic in his voice. "NO! NO! NO!" and tried pulling the front of the shirt around from the back to fix it.

I laughed so hard I snorted.

It was suggested again to let Uncle Matt help fix it. To no avail. He would only trust Grandpa to fix it. Grandpa had to convince him that he would actually have to take his arms back out of the sleeves to resolve the dilemma. Good job, Grandpa!

Czeslaw Milosz: Preparation (and the law school experience)

Still one more year of preparation.
Tomorrow at the latest I'll start working on a great book
In which my century will appear as it really was.
The sun will rise over the righteous and the wicked.
Springs and autumns will unerringly return,
In a wet thicket a thrush will build his nest lined with clay
And foxes will learn their foxy natures.

And that will be the subject, with addenda. Thus: armies
Running across frozen plains, shouting a curse
In a many-voiced chorus; the cannon of a tank
Growing immense at the corner of a street; the ride at dusk
Into a camp with watchtowers and barbed wire.

No, it won't happen tomorrow. In five or ten years.
I still think too much about the mothers
And ask what is man born of woman.
He curls himself up and protects his head
While he is kicked by heavy boots; on fire and running,
He burns with bright flame; a bulldozer sweeps him into a clay pit.
Her child. Embracing a teddy bear. Conceived in ecstasy.

I haven't learned yet to speak as I should, calmly.
With not-quite truth
and not-quite art
and not-quite law
and not-quite science

Under not-quite heaven
on the not-quite earth
the not-quite guiltless
and the not-quite degraded.
--Czeslaw Milosz, Preparation, 1986

Dierdre McCloskey: virtue as transgendered, transpersonal, transcendent

Can you get rabbits out of a hat if none have been put there in the first place? Can you understand (or generate) a flourishing human society using, in Bernard Williams's words, "an immensely simple theory"--perhaps even just a single, simple axiom like Hobbesian utility maximization that will blossom through careful deduction into a full understanding of what the good life is?

Dierdre McCloskey says no in the Buchanan Lecture, and in fact rejects even the next few most-reductionist theories after Hobbes, like Hobbes with a few justice steroid injections (Rawls), and Hobbes+Rawls with a dollop of other-concern (Nussbaum). To get a theory of the full panoply of ways that a society and a human life can go right (or wrong), you need to feed some sense of those virtues (and vices) into your machine at the start.

This doesn't mean you are engaging in circularity. What you're doing is heading both toward first principles by making hypotheses about the roots of human nature and refining those in light of failures and inconsistencies, and then using those honed first principles, moving from them deductively to apply your newly gained understanding. This is the heart of Alasdair MacIntyre's First Principles, Final Ends, and Contemporary Philosophy. The Cartesian process is nonsense. McCloskey gets it.

So let's drop the idea that a mere self-interested invisible hand can generate our intuitions about why the good person will not crush the weak, or that Rawls can get a theory about a just human community of extended fellowship just by taking away information. Put the rabbits in the hat already. Prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and love. While one might believe some of these can be reduced to the others, or draw slightly different divisions, the roots of human and societal flourishing are fundamentally plural. The Hobbesian program is a failure.

The second half of this paper is a discussion of how these virtues lead not to strong communitarianism, but to a robust respect for individual rights. The connection between the cardinal virtues, property rights, and limited government is a complicated one. Discovering what institutions are most conducive to the human polis is the job of sociology resting on a strong philosophy of man. Public choice theory, on this view, is a major contribution to a field that the Greeks hardly knew existed, at which late medievals like Suarez and Bellarmine made some weak stabs, and that the moderns have failed at.

McCloskey also discusses the "genderedness" of the virtues--hers is an interesting perspective, given her sex change--and the importance of transcendent virtues like faith and hope even in a secular society. Finally, she notes that virtues like prudence and temperance are "aristocratic" habits in that the ancients thought the well-off leisured class could best practice them, while faith and hope are "peasant"--perhaps referring to the Nietzschean slave revolt, but embracing it, and noting that these virtues more and more reach to the transcendent rather than quotidian preferences.

I'll probably be writing more on this article soon. Please do check it out. Below the fold is a diagram of the virtues. Also: Norbert Elias and Bentham talked a lot about "the ideology of self-control" and the "civilizing process." This seems closely connected...

As you go upwards, the object of the virtue becomes more transcendent; as you go to the left, more masculine (autonomy), while to the left is feminine (relatedness).







An empirical classification of intellectual concepts and traditions using Lexis

If you have Lexis and some basic programming skills, you could classify the entire field of human knowledge (well, at least legal knowledge) by running searches and noting the overlap between authors or concepts.

Say you start out with "natural law and macintyre and alasdair and property and economic! and right!" and you get 310 results. Then you add "and aristotle" to the end: if your results drop off to nothing (like 5 results), then the terms are largely independent, and conceptually far apart, and so you should put MacIntyre and Aristotle in different bins. If the results stay roughly the same (down to maybe 250), then the authors and concepts are referred to by the same people, and so must be exactly identical. It's true.

Just cook yourself up a metric for distantness and start running the searches. Tell me what you find.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Word cloud (after nearly a half-year)

After five months, the focus of the blog has perhaps changed a bit. The earlier word cloud at left lacked, for example, the words "marriage," "hashemi," and probably "immigration." The new one is at right: Puerto Rico has dropped right out.

Lawyer "ethics": hungry clients and ambulance chasers

It is okay for a personal injury lawyer to advance money based on a contingent fee in a speculative lawsuit, but it is forbidden for a pro bono asylum lawyer to, say, raise money in a charity auction to fly the client's children to the country for derivative asylum applications after a successful asylum ruling, or to volunteer money that likely will never be repaid for a DNA test to establish paternity for those I-730 derivative applications.

This from the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct. Section 1.8:
(e) A lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:

(1) a lawyer may pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of a client, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter;

(2) a lawyer representing an indigent client may pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of the client.

(Commentary on Rule 1.8 has noted that these rules should apply both to current and former clients.) Rule 1.8(e)(1) enables speculative litigation, and 1.8(e)(2) applies only to actual court costs and litigation for indigent clients, not expenses which follow from a successful ruling. For example, Informal Opinion 93-12 and 00-21, allow, respectively, expenses for personal injury suits (say, an MRI for evidence), but require the indigent client to be cut loose after the verdict. These rules parallel the ABA model rules, and both are harshly interpreted. See, e.g.,
C.O.P.R.A.C. Op. 1976-36 (opines that it is unethical for an attorney to advance expenses (i.e., in instances of indigence on pro bono cases) where there is a substantial likelihood that the client will not be able to repay such costs absent successful resolution of the case).
I suggest, gently, that perhaps this is a somewhat unfair bias. The review list
8 ALR3d 1155 has notes on champerty, and how unlikely one is to be hit for that in personal injury law, but how pro bono firms just can't risk it. (The painting is from Marginal Revolution's study of Mexican Amate artists.)

Sicut dixit

caeli, laetare, alleluia!
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia!
Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia!
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia!

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia!
For He whom you were found worthy to bear, alleluia!
Has risen even as He said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

from T. S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday"

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth
This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.
Lent draws to a close, and all our projects are ashes until the morning. Blessed Easter Vigil to all.

Blake, intuition, and Judas

Some good papers or articles:

  • an interesting discussion of the Gospel of Judas w.r.t. Gnosticism at (look at the comments and the link, too; also see what it means to be a Gospel; and why the resurrection of the body is important philosophically and practically from Slate)
  • NYT description of communities forcing deportation of illegal immigrants for minor infractions
  • Prawfsblag comments on Balkin on Gary Wills's "Christ among the partisans"
  • Slate obituary for the old Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin
  • How to remove a federal judge by Prakash and Steve Smith
Some websites I've been paying more attention to lately:

Some books I'm in the middle of:

  • Dominion, Scully (animal rights)
  • The Good in the Right, Robert Audi (intuitionism)
  • Moral Intuitions, James Q. Wilson (intuitionism)
  • The Idea of a Christian Society, T.S. Eliot
  • Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke (re-reading, at bedtime)
Current musical obsessions: The bands The Gris Gris and Hem. Britten's Songs and Proverbs of William Blake:
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Another favorite setting from this is Blake's The Poison Tree from Songs of Experience. This seems especially powerful in light of the new Judas narrative, of forgiveness and friendship and freedom:
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree

Fafblog discovers the next step down the slippery slope...

...of gay marriage and polgamy. Beware! Only you can prevent robot sex.

Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east...

     Now burn, new born to the world,
     Doubled-naturèd name,
    The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
  Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!
  Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
   Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled.

     Dame, at our door
     Drowned, and among our shoals,
    Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward:
     Our King back, oh, upon English souls!
  Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east,
  More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
   Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our hearts’ charity’s hearth’s fire, our thoughts’ chivalry’s throng’s Lord.

G. M. Hopkins, "The Wreck of the Deutschland"

John Allen on John Paul II and Benedict: an initial comparison

The National Catholic Reporter has a great overview by John Allen, writer of The Word From Rome. It is not an oversimplification to say that if you do not read Allen, you do not know the Vatican.

Some summary points of his:
  1. Benedict has not been an authoritarian pope, this far: he is largely in continuity with JP II. Benedict has been effective in dividing faith and morals (on which there is no compromise) from "judgment calls" where he allows a vigorous debate. (There is in fact an upcoming conference, Public Policy, Prudential Judgment, and Catholic Social Teaching, at the University of St. Thomas, noting that the religious orders often have no special competence in many political and prudential matters, and should stick, and stick hard, to their guns of moral principles.)
  2. The average non-Catholic knows little about him, and the average Catholic only fares a bit better. "At the end of Benedict's first year, the Catholic church thus faces a new communications problem. For 26 years, the church had the best story in the world in John Paul II. Now, the church can no longer assume the world will pay attention simply because the pope says or does something. That poses the question of how to "sell" the pope -- how to be sure that people are aware of what he's actually saying and doing, as opposed to random aspects of his activity that happen to catch the interest of the talk shows and editorial pages, which can produce a terribly distorted image of his real priorities."
  3. In his homily eligendo papa he announced one of the major focuses of his papacy: attacking the "dictatorship of relativism." He has certainly continued the assault, but in a surprising way: he has tried to ensure, at the start, that the Church is a credible witness to Love, so that its teachings carry their maximum force.
  4. "Again at the level of content, the dominant storyline in the transition from John Paul II to Benedict XVI is obviously continuity. He was elected with precisely that expectation. There is, however, one intriguing area of contrast: Islam. To put it bluntly, Benedict is more of a hawk, pursuing a kind of interaction with Muslims one might call 'tough love.'" Benedict has pushed for religious freedom in the Islamic world more aggressively than JP II, and has not hesitated to bring concerns about the treatment of religious and laity up with foreign leaders.
  5. JP II was not the world's greatest speaker. He relied in large part on natural charisma and his obvious, almost otherworldly love. Benedict, however, has effectively been in charge for the past decades of explaining why the Church's policies are the right ones. He is, in effect, a university professor. A common reaction in crowds is that the pope is understandable, whereas JP II often used the more technical philosophical jargon of personalism. "People came to see John Paul, they come to hear Benedict."
A fascinating article at an early stage of what could be a very good papacy.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Priestly Pedophilia and Spousal Minister Murder

Happy 10th Birthday, Alyssa! I love you!

During the recent scandal in the Catholic church re: pedophiliac priests and the cover up by bishops etc., I often heard, "If we allowed priests to marry, we wouldn't have had this problem." The real issue here is not fundamentally about priests being allowed to marry; it is about the sinful actions of individual men.

During the recent story of the Tennessee woman who shot her minister husband (click here for the story), I was hoping to see a spokesperson for the Catholic church, using this same illogical argument, reading a statement on the evening news, "...and this is why the Church does not allow its priests to marry." Somehow, I don't think this similar thought would have ever been seen in print or on the 5 o'clock news. :-)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Greetings Everyone

Thank you Sean for the invite to join you all and mix it up.

I have lurked a while and it will be nice to join the conversation on everything from billboards in Missouri to baseball to politics, if only for a brief while.

Hopefully I will have things equally mundane and profound to contribute.

Just will add a few things to the summary Sean gave.

I am a profoundly happily married man. I work too much. I enjoy good music and good humor and I can bench press my own birth weight.

Once when Bob Goldthwait was doing a radio show, a woman called him up and asked, "What is the difference between a gerbil and a hamster?" He replied, "I'm pretty sure there is more dark meat on a hamster."

Baseball and communism: sports parity and Robin Hood

Great article from Yahoo sports by Passan, "The Great Divide," on revenue sharing.

I was always under the impression that there was no significant Robin Hood transfer, because if there were, the Royals' payroll would simply have to be bigger than it is. I was right about that small point--the Royals payroll is mighty small. But there is a luxury tax taken from rich teams. And it does go to small teams. It just doesn't have to be spent on the team. It can go into the owners' pockets. And it does.

This might make the poorer team owners look a little ungenerous to their fans. But you'd need to find out what the profit margins of the big and small teams are to know how the owners are faring. All I know is this: according to the Kansas City Star's discussion of whether revenue sharing is working, the Royals got about $55m (about $20m in Robin Hood money, and $30m from a general fund). That's about 50% larger than their payroll. So, basically, the owners are not paying for their players, and are getting a fair bit of operational and collective-bargaining fees taken care of, too. The fact that the Royals still can't compete is somewhat of an argument against increasing revenue sharing. Maybe. Interestingly, the Cardinals, Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers all made the playoffs but lost money. The Royals haven't seen the postseason since Methusaleh celebrated his 21st birthday party, and made a (very small) profit.

One thing is clear: poor teams can make no mistakes with their personnel. The Yankees can spend $10m on a half-baked idea: if the Royals do, and it doesn't pan out, for the next two or three seasons the failed player's position will be staffed by promising high-school students.

It's great that the last six seasons have been won by six different teams--each somewhat of a surprise, in fact, except for the 2000 victory of the Yankees over the Mets (which was a pretty cool series anyway). But the big guys are always near the pinnacle, while the little guys, basically, just take turns occasionally getting a little-guy representative deep into the playoffs. So five teams always succeed, and the other three playoff slots rotate among fifteen less well-endowed hopefuls. Admittedly, this doesn't correlate exactly with payroll--the rich Mets almost never get very far, yet the poor Athletics are always competitive. But can small-market fans survive on just a little bit of success once per decade? Or, in the Royals' case, once every quarter-century?

Introducing our first guest-blogger

An old friend of mine, Matt Cook, has accepted an invitation to join Opinion Work Product for a week, and toss in his two cents on any subject he can find the time to think about as he manages a considerable family of wonderful, mostly-adopted children.

Matt was a philosophy major at Benedictine College, currently is a computer guy in St. Louis, and has a keen appreciation of Dave Barry's contributions to the theory of the American social fabric and the holes therein.

He probably will not include Aristotle and exploding toilets in the same post, but if he does, you can be sure that Aristotle will be wearing a surprised expression.
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you,' that would suffice."
Meister Eckhart

Why did the coyote cross the road? Environmental bisection and pile-up

There is a very interesting article in this month's issue of Nature: it comments on scientific studies of the effect of roads on the migration of large territorial mammals in quasi-natural environments. To summarize: Ventura Highway does not make good neighbors, unlike good fences. Coyote homesteads tend to "pile up" adjacent to obstructions, and so a young migrant that crosses the road to see what's on the other side will find a densely-populated urban fabric of coyotes much like the West Village. Many of these coyotes are artists, and make carvings of themselves howling at the moon. When a male crosser gets to the other side, it is difficult to find a free female because of the pile up of males, and so cross-mating happens even less than road-crossing, which happens even less than cross dressing. Thus, populations get sexually separated and genetic exchange is impaired. If animals are already troubled by human encroachment, this makes things worse, and mere acreage set aside for critters overestimates their ability to ignore us if that acreage is parsed by pavement.

Anyhoo, this has major implications for the development of transit corridors in natural settings. If you like large mammals, and don't want to see a genetic bottleneck as various large predators like wolves, great cats, and so forth become isolated and endangered, then sometimes the road less travelled might beneficially be made to run a few miles out of the way to avoid bisecting the territory of coyotes who merely want "to get to the other side." Territorial division and extinction seem sadly reminiscent of reservations and broken promises. I encourage you to read this News & Views commentary by an up-and-coming evolutionary biologist.

Unpublished opinions before the Supreme Court

Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1, allowing citation of unpublished opinions before all US appellate courts, has been passed. No longer will the judiciary be allowed to say "don't do what I say, let alone do what I do." A small vindication for the rule of law--as long as this doesn't lead to more summary judgments and one-word opinions. Hat tip to the Law Library Reference Blog, where there is more information.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Havamal of the Poetic Eddas: hospitality among the savages

It is strange that many traditions consider themselves to be hospitable--possessing strong norms about offering succor to travellers in need of shelter or a little food. It is stranger still that most of these traditions would be considered by us soft decadent Westerners to be pretty barbaric--the eye-for-an-eye early Jews, the paladin-like Asia-minor conquering Arabs, and the axe-wielding saga Norse. Perhaps they had most need of an expectation of courtesy. (Norbert Elias discusses etiquette and violence in "The Civilizing Process.")

One of the main books of Norse history--the Havamal of the Poetic Eddas, written by Odin himself, so the story goes--deals in its entire first third with rules of hospitality, and maxims as to the wisdom of accepting food and drink gladly but carefully. These poetic sayings deserve to be more widely known. Read a few; if you find them interesting, for a translation by W.H. Auden of the entire Havamal (including Odin's secret runes, "I know a second..."), go below the fold.
Young and alone on a long road, / Once I lost my way:
Rich I felt when I found another; / Man rejoices in man.
A kind word need not cost much, / The price of praise can be cheap:
With half a loaf and an empty cup / I found myself a friend.

The man who stands at a strange threshold, / Should be cautious before he cross it,
Glance this way and that: / Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
Awaiting him in the hall?

Fire is needed by the newcomer, / Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs / Who has fared across the fells,
Water, too, that he may wash before eating, / Handcloth's and a hearty welcome, Courteous words, then courteous silence / That he may tell his tale.

Better gear than good sense / A traveller cannot carry,
Better than riches for a wretched man, / Far from his own home.

Foolish is he who frets at night, / And lies awake to worry
A weary man when morning comes, / He finds all as bad as before

If you find a friend you fully trust / And wish for his good-will,
exchange thoughts, / exchange gifts, / Go often to his house.

To a false friend the footpath winds / Though his house be on the highway.
To a sure friend there is a short cut, / Though he live a long way off.
If you like sagas like Njal's or Egel's, you may want to check out the somewhat unusual Grettir's, available in full text here. It deals with these issues of hospitality, friendship, courtesy and the wisdom of keeping quiet in ways that still ring true today. Interestingly, on the Marginal Revolution subject of books that move men (100 Years of Solitude, Catcher in the Rye) and those that move women (Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc.), I think there has been an interesting inversion of the virtues of manliness. Lizzy Bennett and Miss Eyre are keen observers, and obtain their power by a sort of temperant meditation backed up with fierce courage--values that are praised very much by early saga literature. Holden Caulfield and Camus's protagonists are concerned more with authenticity, and are disabled--almost hysteric--with self-doubt. This might be why I find myself split among men and women's books.

The havamal

Young and alone on a long road,
Once I lost my way:
Rich I felt when I found another;
Man rejoices in man,

A kind word need not cost much,
The price of praise can be cheap:
With half a loaf and an empty cup
I found myself a friend,

Two wooden stakes stood on the plain,
On them I hung my clothes:
Draped in linen, they looked well born,
But, naked, I was a nobody

Too early to many homes I came,
Too late, it seemed, to some:
The ale was finished or else un-brewed,
The unpopular cannot please,

Some would invite me to visit their homes,
But none thought I needed a meal,
As though I had eaten a whole joint,
Just before with a friend who had two

The man who stands at a strange threshold,
Should be cautious before he cross it,
Glance this way and that:
Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
Awaiting him in the hall?

Greetings to the host,
The guest has arrived,
In which seat shall he sit?
Rash is he who at unknown doors
Relies on his good luck,

Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,

Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handcloth's and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale,

Who travels widely needs his wits about him,
The stupid should stay at home:
The ignorant man is often laughed at
When he sits at meat with the sage,

Of his knowledge a man should never boast,
Rather be sparing of speech
When to his house a wiser comes:
Seldom do those who are silent Make mistakes;
mother wit Is ever a faithful friend,

A guest should be courteous
When he comes to the table
And sit in wary silence,
His ears attentive,
his eyes alert:
So he protects himself,

Fortunate is he who is favoured in his lifetime
With praise and words of wisdom:
Evil counsel is often given
By those of evil heart,

Blessed is he who in his own lifetime
Is awarded praise and wit,
For ill counsel is often given
By mortal men to each other,

Better gear than good sense
A traveller cannot carry,
Better than riches for a wretched man,
Far from his own home,

Better gear than good sense
A traveller cannot carry,
A more tedious burden than too much drink
A traveller cannot carry,

Less good than belief would have it
Is mead for the sons of men:
A man knows less the more he drinks,
Becomes a befuddled fool,

I-forget is the name men give the heron
Who hovers over the fast:
Fettered I was in his feathers that night,
When a guest in Gunnlod's court

Drunk I got, dead drunk,
When Fjalar the wise was with me:
Best is the banquet one looks back on after,
And remembers all that happened,

Silence becomes the Son of a prince,
To be silent but brave in battle:
It befits a man to be merry and glad
Until the day of his death,

The coward believes he will live forever
If he holds back in the battle,
But in old age he shall have no peace
Though spears have spared his limbs

When he meets friends, the fool gapes,
Is shy and sheepish at first,
Then he sips his mead and immediately
All know what an oaf he is,
He who has seen and suffered much,
And knows the ways of the world,
Who has travelled', can tell what spirit
Governs the men he meets,
Drink your mead, but in moderation,
Talk sense or be silent:
No man is called discourteous who goes
To bed at an early hour

A gluttonous man who guzzles away
Brings sorrow on himself:
At the table of the wise he is taunted often,
Mocked for his bloated belly,

The herd knows its homing time,
And leaves the grazing ground:
But the glutton never knows how much
His belly is able to hold,

An ill tempered, unhappy man
Ridicules all he hears,
Makes fun of others, refusing always
To see the faults in himself

Foolish is he who frets at night,
And lies awake to worry'
A weary man when morning comes,
He finds all as bad as before,

The fool thinks that those who laugh
At him are all his friends,
Unaware when he sits with wiser men
How ill they speak of him.

The fool thinks that those who laugh
At him are all his friends:
When he comes to the Thing and calls for support,
Few spokesmen he finds

The fool who fancies he is full of wisdom
While he sits by his hearth at home.
Quickly finds when questioned by others .
That he knows nothing at all.

The ignorant booby had best be silent
When he moves among other men,
No one will know what a nit-wit he is
Until he begins to talk;
No one knows less what a nit-wit he is
Than the man who talks too much.

To ask well, to answer rightly,
Are the marks of a wise man:
Men must speak of men's deeds,
What happens may not be hidden.

Wise is he not who is never silent,
Mouthing meaningless words:
A glib tongue that goes on chattering
Sings to its own harm.

A man among friends should not mock another:
Many believe the man
Who is not questioned to know much
And so he escapes their scorn.
An early meal a man should take
Before he visits friends,
Lest, when he gets there,
he go hungry,
Afraid to ask for food.

The fastest friends may fall out
When they sit at the banquet-board:
It is, and shall be, a shameful thing
When guest quarrels with guest,

The wise guest has his way of dealing
With those who taunt him at table:
He smiles through the meal,
not seeming to hear
The twaddle talked by his foes.

The tactful guest will take his leave Early,
not linger long:
He starts to stink who outstays his welcome
In a hall that is not his own.

A small hut of one' s own is better,
A man is his master at home:
A couple of goats and a corded roof
Still are better than begging.

A small hut of one's own is better,
A man is his master at home:
His heart bleeds in the beggar who must
Ask at each meal for meat.

A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he may need a spear,
Or what menace meet on the road.

No man is so generous he will jib at accepting
A gift in return for a gift,
No man so rich that it really gives him
Pain to be repaid.

Once he has won wealth enough,
A man should not crave for more:
What he saves for friends, foes may take;
Hopes are often liars.

With presents friends should please each other,
With a shield or a costly coat:
Mutual giving makes for friendship,
So long as life goes well,
A man should be loyal through life to friends,
To them and to friends of theirs,
But never shall a man make offer
Of friendship to his foes.

A man should be loyal through life to friends,
And return gift for gift,
Laugh when they laugh,
but with lies repay
A false foe who lies.

If you find a friend you fully trust
And wish for his good-will,
exchange thoughts,
exchange gifts,
Go often to his house.

If you deal with another you don't trust
But wish for his good-will,
Be fair in speech but false in thought
And give him lie for lie.

Even with one you ill-trust
And doubt what he means to do,
False words with fair smiles
May get you the gift you desire.

To a false friend the footpath winds
Though his house be on the highway.
To a sure friend there is a short cut,
Though he live a long way off.

Hotter than fire among false hearts burns
Friendship for five days,
But suddenly slackens when the sixth dawns:
Feeble their friendship then.

The generous and bold have the best lives,
Are seldom beset by cares, ,
But the base man sees bogies everywhere
And the miser pines for presents.

The young fir that falls and rots
Having neither needles nor bark,
So is the fate of the friendless man:
Why should he live long?

Little a sand-grain, little a dew drop,
Little the minds of men:
A11 men are not equal in wisdom,
The half-wise are everywhere

It is best for man to be middle-wise,
Not over cunning and clever:
The fairest life is led by those
Who are deft at all they do.
It is best for man to be middle-wise,
Not over cunning and clever:
No man is able to know his future,
So let him sleep in peace.

It is best for man to be middle-wise,
Not over cunning and clever:
The learned man whose lore is deep
Is seldom happy at heart.

Brand kindles brand till they burn out,
Flame is quickened by flame:
One man from another is known by his speech
The simpleton by his silence.
Early shall he rise who has designs
On anothers land or life:
His prey escapes the prone wolf,
The sleeper is seldom victorious.

Early shall he rise who rules few servants,
And set to work at once:
Much is lost by the late sleeper,
Wealth is won by the swift,

A man should know how many logs
And strips of bark from the birch
To stock in autumn, that he may have enough
Wood for his winter fires.

Washed and fed,
one may fare to the Thing:
Though one's clothes be the worse for Wear,
None need be ashamed of his shoes or hose,
Nor of the horse he owns,
Although no thoroughbred.

As the eagle who comes to the ocean shore,
Sniffs and hangs her head,
Dumfounded is he who finds at the Thing
No supporters to plead his case.

It is safe to tell a secret to one,
Risky to tell it to two,
To tell it to three is thoughtless folly,
Everyone else will know.

Often words uttered to another
Have reaped an ill harvest:
Two beat one, the tongue is head's bane,
Pockets of fur hide fists.

Moderate at council should a man be,
Not brutal and over bearing:
Among the bold the bully will find
Others as bold as he.

These things are thought the best:
Fire, the sight of the sun,
Good health with the gift to keep it,
And a life that avoids vice.

Not all sick men are utterly wretched:
Some are blessed with sons,
Some with friends,
some with riches,
Some with worthy works.

The halt can manage a horse,
the handless a flock,
The deaf be a doughty fighter,
To be blind is better than to burn on a pyre:
There is nothing the dead can do.

It is always better to be alive,
The living can keep a cow.
Fire, I saw, warming a wealthy man,
With a cold corpse at his door.

A son is a blessing, though born late
To a father no longer alive:
Stones would seldom stand by the highway
If sons did not set them there.

He welcomes the night who has enough provisions
Short are the sails of a ship,
Dangerous the dark in autumn,
The wind may veer within five days,
And many times in a month.

The half wit does not know that gold
Makes apes of many men:
One is rich, one is poor
There is no blame in that.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead

Fields and flocks had Fitjung's sons,
Who now carry begging bowls:
Wealth may vanish in the wink of an eye,
Gold is the falsest of friends.

In the fool who acquires cattle and lands,
Or wins a woman's love,
His wisdom wanes with his waxing pride,
He sinks from sense to conceit.

Now is answered what you ask of the runes,
Graven by the gods,
Made by the All Father,
Sent by the powerful sage:
lt. is best for man to remain silent.

For these things give thanks at nightfall:
The day gone, a guttered torch,
A sword tested, the troth of a maid,
Ice crossed, ale drunk.

Hew wood in wind-time,
in fine weather sail,
Tell in the night-time tales to house-girls,
For too many eyes are open by day:
From a ship expect speed, from a shield, cover,
Keenness from a sword,
but a kiss from a girl.

Drink ale by the hearth, over ice glide,
Buy a stained sword, buy a starving mare
To fatten at home: and fatten the watch-dog.

Trust not an acre early sown,
Nor praise a son too soon:
Weather rules the acre, wit the son,
Both are exposed to peril,

A snapping bow, a burning flame,
A grinning wolf, a grunting boar,
A raucous crow, a rootless tree,
A breaking wave, a boiling kettle,
A flying arrow, an ebbing tide,
A coiled adder, the ice of a night,
A bride's bed talk, a broad sword,

A bear's play, a prince' s children,
A witch's welcome, the wit of a slave,
A sick calf, a corpse still fresh,
A brother's killer encountered upon
The highway a house half-burned,
A racing stallion who has wrenched a leg,
Are never safe: let no man trust them.

No man should trust a maiden's words,
Nor what a woman speaks:
Spun on a wheel were women's hearts,
In their breasts was implanted caprice,

To love a woman whose ways are false
Is like sledding over slippery ice
With unshod horses out of control,
Badly trained two-year-olds,
Or drifting rudderless on a rough sea,
Or catching a reindeer with a crippled hand
On a thawing hillside: think not to do it.

Naked I may speak now for I know both:
Men are treacherous too
Fairest we speak when falsest we think:
many a maid is deceived.

Gallantly shall he speak and gifts bring
Who wishes for woman's love:
praise the features of the fair girl,
Who courts well will conquer.

Never reproach another for his love:
It happens often enough
That beauty ensnares with desire the wise
While the foolish remain unmoved.

Never reproach the plight of another,
For it happens to many men:
Strong desire may stupefy heroes,
Dull the wits of the wise

The mind alone knows what is near the heart,
Each is his own judge:
The worst sickness for a wise man
Is to crave what he cannot enjoy.

So I learned when I sat in the reeds,
Hoping to have my desire:
Lovely was the flesh of that fair girl,
But nothing I hoped for happened.

I saw on a bed Billing's daughter,
Sun white, asleep:
No greater delight I longed for then
Than to lie in her lovely arms.

"Come" Odhinn, after nightfall
If you wish for a meeting with me:
All would be lost if anyone saw us
And learned that we were lovers."

Afire with longing" I left her then,
Deceived by her soft words:
I thought my wooing had won the maid,
That I would have my way.

After nightfall I hurried back,
But the warriors were all awake,
Lights were burning, blazing torches:
So false proved the path

Towards daybreak back I came
The guards were sound asleep:
I found then that the fair woman
Had tied a bitch to her bed.

Many a girl when one gets to know her
Proves to be fickle and false:
That treacherous maiden taught me a lesson,
The crafty woman covered me with shame"
That was all I got from her.

Let a man with his guests be glad and merry,
Modest a man should be"
But talk well if he intends to be wise
And expects praise from men:
Fimbul fambi is the fool called "
Unable to open his mouth.
Fruitless my errand, had I been silent
When I came to Suttung's courts:
With spirited words I spoke to my profit
In the hall of the aged giant.

Rati had gnawed a narrow passage,
Chewed a channel through stone,
A path around the roads of giants:
I was like to lose my head

Gunnlod sat me in the golden seat,
Poured me precious mead:
Ill reward she had from me for that,
For her proud and passionate heart,
Her brooding foreboding spirit.

What I won from her I have well used:
I have waxed in wisdom since I came back,
bringing to Asgard Odrerir,
the sacred draught.

Hardly would I have come home alive
From the garth of the grim troll,
Had Gunnlod not helped me, the good woman,
Who wrapped her arms around me.

The following day the Frost Giants came,
Walked into Har's hall To ask for Har's advice:
Had Bolverk they asked, come back to his friends,
Or had he been slain by Suttung?

Odhinn, they said, swore an oath on his ring:
Who from now on will trust him?
By fraud at the feast he befuddled Suttung
And brought grief to Gunnlod.

It is time to sing in the seat of the wise,
Of what at Urd's Well I saw in silence,
saw and thought on.
Long I listened to men
Runes heard spoken, (counsels revealed.)
At Har's hall, In Har's hall:
There I heard this.

Loddfafnir, listen to my counsel:
You will fare well if you follow it,
It will help you much if you heed it.

Never rise at night unless you need to spy
Or to ease yourself in the outhouse.

Shun a woman, wise in magic,
Her bed and her embraces:
If she cast a spell, you will care no longer
To meet and speak with men,
Desire no food, desire no pleasure,
In sorrow fall asleep.

Never seduce anothers wife,
Never make her your mistress.

If you must journey to mountains and firths,
Take food and fodder with you.

Never open your heart to an evil man
When fortune does not favour you:
From an evil man, if you make him your friend,
You will get evil for good.

I saw a warrior wounded fatally
By the words of an evil woman
Her cunning tongue caused his death,
Though what she alleged was a lie.

If you know a friend you can fully trust,
Go often to his house
Grass and brambles grow quickly
Upon the untrodden track.

With a good man it is good to talk,
Make him your fast friend:
But waste no words on a witless oaf,
Nor sit with a senseless ape.

Cherish those near you, never be
The first to break with a friend:
Care eats him who can no longer
Open his heart to another.

An evil man, if you make him your friend,
Will give you evil for good:
A good man, if you make him your friend"
Will praise you in every place,

Affection is mutual when men can open
All their heart to each other:
He whose words are always fair
Is untrue and not to be trusted.

Bandy no speech with a bad man:
Often the better is beaten
In a word fight by the worse.

Be not a cobbler nor a carver of shafts,
Except it be for yourself:
If a shoe fit ill or a shaft be crooked"
The maker gets curses and kicks.

If aware that another is wicked, say so:
Make no truce or treaty with foes.

Never share in the shamefully gotten,
But allow yourself what is lawful.

Never lift your eyes and look up in battle,
Lest the heroes enchant you,
who can change warriors
Suddenly into hogs,
With a good woman, if you wish to enjoy
Her words and her good will,
Pledge her fairly and be faithful to it:
Enjoy the good you are given,

Be not over wary, but wary enough,
First, of the foaming ale,
Second, of a woman wed to another,
Third, of the tricks of thieves.

Mock not the traveller met On the road,
Nor maliciously laugh at the guest:
Scoff not at guests nor to the gate chase them,
But relieve the lonely and wretched,

The sitters in the hall seldom know
The kin of the new-comer:
The best man is marred by faults,
The worst is not without worth.

Never laugh at the old when they offer counsel,
Often their words are wise:
From shrivelled skin, from scraggy things
That hand among the hides
And move amid the guts,
Clear words often come.

Heavy the beam above the door;
Hang a horse-shoe On it
Against ill-luck, lest it should suddenly
Crash and crush your guests.

Medicines exist against many evils:
Earth against drunkenness, heather against worms
Oak against costiveness, corn against sorcery,
Spurred rye against rupture, runes against bales
The moon against feuds, fire against sickness,
Earth makes harmless the floods.

Wounded I hung on a wind-swept gallows
For nine long nights,
Pierced by a spear, pledged to Odhinn,
Offered, myself to myself
The wisest know not from whence spring
The roots of that ancient rood

They gave me no bread,
They gave me no mead,
I looked down;
with a loud cry
I took up runes;
from that tree I fell.

Nine lays of power
I learned from the famous Bolthor, Bestla' s father:
He poured me a draught of precious mead,
Mixed with magic Odrerir.

Waxed and throve well;
Word from word gave words to me,
Deed from deed gave deeds to me,

Runes you will find, and readable staves,
Very strong staves,
Very stout staves,
Staves that Bolthor stained,
Made by mighty powers,
Graven by the prophetic god,

For the gods by Odhinn, for the elves by Dain,
By Dvalin, too, for the dwarves,
By Asvid for the hateful giants,
And some I carved myself:
Thund, before man was made, scratched them,
Who rose first, fell thereafter

Know how to cut them, know how to read them,
Know how to stain them, know how to prove them,
Know how to evoke them, know how to score them,
Know how to send them" know how to send them,

Better not to ask than to over-pledge
As a gift that demands a gift"
Better not to send than to slay too many,

The first charm I know is unknown to rulers
Or any of human kind;
Help it is named,
for help it can give In hours of sorrow and anguish.

I know a second that the sons of men
Must learn who wish to be leeches.

I know a third: in the thick of battle,
If my need be great enough,
It will blunt the edges of enemy swords,
Their weapons will make no wounds.

I know a fourth:
it will free me quickly
If foes should bind me fast
With strong chains, a chant that makes Fetters spring from the feet,
Bonds burst from the hands.

I know a fifth: no flying arrow,
Aimed to bring harm to men,
Flies too fast for my fingers to catch it
And hold it in mid-air.

I know a sixth:
it will save me if a man
Cut runes on a sapling' s Roots
With intent to harm; it turns the spell;
The hater is harmed, not me.

If I see the hall
Ablaze around my bench mates,
Though hot the flames, they shall feel nothing,
If I choose to chant the spell.

I know an eighth:
that all are glad of,
Most useful to men:
If hate fester in the heart of a warrior,
It will soon calm and cure him.

I know a ninth:
when need I have
To shelter my ship on the flood,
The wind it calms, the waves it smoothes
And puts the sea to sleep,

I know a tenth:
if troublesome ghosts
Ride the rafters aloft,
I can work it so they wander astray,
Unable to find their forms,
Unable to find their homes.

I know an eleventh:
when I lead to battle Old comrades in-arms,
I have only to chant it behind my shield,
And unwounded they go to war,
Unwounded they come from war,
U unscathed wherever they are.

I know a twelfth:
If a tree bear
A man hanged in a halter,
I can carve and stain strong runes
That will cause the corpse to speak,
Reply to whatever I ask.

I know a thirteenth
if I throw a cup Of water over a warrior,
He shall not fall in the fiercest battle,
Nor sink beneath the sword,

I know a fourteenth, that few know:
If I tell a troop of warriors
About the high ones, elves and gods,
I can name them one by one.
(Few can the nit-wit name.)

I know a fifteenth,
that first Thjodrerir
Sang before Delling's doors,
Giving power to gods, prowess to elves,
Fore-sight to Hroptatyr Odhinn,

I know a sixteenth:
if I see a girl
With whom it would please me to play,
I can turn her thoughts, can touch the heart
Of any white armed woman.

I know a seventeenth:
if I sing it,
the young Girl will be slow to forsake me.

I know an eighteenth that I never tell
To maiden or wife of man,
A secret I hide from all
Except the love who lies in my arms,
Or else my own sister.

To learn to sing them, Loddfafnir,
Will take you a long time,
Though helpful they are if you understand them,
Useful if you use them,
Needful if you need them.

The Wise One has spoken words in the hall,
Needful for men to know,
Unneedful for trolls to know:

Hail to the speaker,
Hail to the knower,
Joy to him who has understood,
Delight to those who have listened.