“Ours has been a desultory ramble, as rambles should be.”
William Senior, By Stream and Sea (1877)
I was rambling over back roads and chanced to pass a cockeyed gate. Over the gate there was a sign indicating that it gave way to the Hammond Colony Cemetery. Now when I ramble over back roads, I ramble slowly, progressing when possible at about ten miles an hour; but even to the eye of so sedate a traveler, this Hammond Colony Cemetery appeared to be nothing but the usual mix of dusty thickets and rank bunchgrass. It lays on one side of the valley at the head of Pin Oak Creek, in the sand hills of Robertson County, and in comparison to its surroundings looked like much of a muchness. Continue reading →
I have noticed that our adversaries often mistake our critique of their notions as ad hominem condemnation of them as persons. They then react defensively, levying just the sort of vicious ad hominem attacks they say they abhor. This mystifies me.
“In the depths of every heart, there is a tomb and a dungeon, though the lights, the music, and revelry above may cause us to forget their existence.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne “The Haunted Mind” (1842)
Every man carries a vision of paradise in the depths of his heart. In this delightful dream, every woman not adorning his bed is either cooking his dinner or knitting his socks, and every man not acting on his orders is either begging, bleeding, or dead in a ditch. Such are the warm and cheering thoughts that bring a smile to the lips of what our forebears called the Old Adam.
This one is so simple, I’m shocked it took me so long to get it. But it eliminates ab initio a whole raft of perplexing conundra; not least, the puzzle of self-reference: of how it is that we can apprehend ourselves.
The basic idea is that we can only apprehend what is, and is therefore definite: definitely itself, and not some other thing. To the extent that a thing has not yet finished becoming, and thus become forever fixed in its character, it is not yet in fact out there for us to apprehend. It is invisible to us, and to all others, because, being as yet indefinite, it has as yet no definite character that we might grasp and evaluate. It just isn’t yet finished becoming. And until it is finished becoming, it isn’t yet anything in particular. It isn’t itself. It isn’t.
Until it is, and is therefore definitely itself and not something different, it cannot act qua itself. It cannot have any effect. We cannot be affected by it. We cannot feel it.
James Chastek’s Just Thomism is one of the sites I read without fail. I like it because he teaches me lots of things. He closed comments a while ago because responding to them took up too much time. So here is what I would have commented at his blog if he still allowed comments, in response to this post:
Many of the books in the “decline of the West” genre – which was already old by the time Weaver published Ideas have Consequences in 1948 but which still sells (Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed) – tell a curious narrative of decline over very large time scales. If Nominalism or Hobbesianism were as harmful as claimed, why is the diseased host still alive a half-millennium later?
Now that’s a good question. I myself have contributed a fair bit to the literature wailing and bemoaning nominalism. How do I answer the question?
Tonlieux have been a topic of discussion lately in libertarian circles. A tonlieu is a fee paid to a sovereign in exchange for safe passage or residence in his domains or for access to the markets thereof, and for the protection of his laws. Tonlieux were common in Medieval Europe. Domains of all sorts – cities, counties and abbeys, and of course duchies, principalities, and kingdoms – charged a fee to travellers who traversed or stayed in their lands or transacted in their markets (or used their bridges, ferries, or roads), no matter how short or long their stay. Payment of the tonlieu was manifest in an insignia – a visa – on a passport, which amounted to a receipt for payment. If you were in country without a current visa, you were not reliably under the sovereign’s protection, and so (in general, and with due allowance for differences in the detail of enforcement from one domain to another) might be fair game for footpads and highwaymen, thieves and burglars, muggers and fraudsters; and might be without recourse in any local court of law (which usually amounted to the throne room of the local sovereign); and might furthermore be subject to immediate deportation upon detection by the cops, if not also taking without compensation (in such cases the cops would take their cut of the expropriated assets and pass them up the hierarchy, with each level taking a cut, and the sovereign fisc last in line, although not least)(“civil forfeiture” has been around for a very long time: ‘cop’ is from the Latin capere, to take).
The recent proposals for tonlieux vary considerably. Since I’ve been talking up the notion for years, I might as well here offer a more detailed explanation of what I would propose. It is of course subject to change as I learn more.
Frontal View of the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Memphis Belle”
It might well be that I have mentioned my fondness for aviation and for air shows previously at The Orthosphere. If so, I apologize for the redundancy. Mid-July is the occasion of the American Warplane Museum’s annual three-day vintage-aircraft gathering and display in Geneseo, New York, to which I have been a regular visitor for the past decade. The organizers of the event emphasize the machines of the Second World War. The event has waned a bit in recent years in terms of the number of flying and static displays, but the gathering on the grass airfield underneath the hilltop campus of SUNY Geneseo remains impressive. The Museum itself maintains in its holdings a flight-capable Boeing B-17 G – the one used in the film Memphis Belle (1990) – and the Belle did indeed take to the air this weekend. Also flying were two North American P-51 D Mustangs, with their American-built versions of the legendary Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the one that famously powered the Supermarine Spitfire. The Mustang bears a lasting reputation as the supreme single-engine fighter of the war, but the Mustang did not begin as a fighter. Originally, the Mustang was called the Apache, and her designers intended her for the ground attack role. She was underpowered, but when the British acquired the airplane, they installed the Merlin – and likely changed the course of the conflict.
A restored Curtiss P-40 Warhawk accompanied the two Mustangs in the massed display that brought the program to its climax on Saturday afternoon. The Belle went aloft accompanied by two B-25 Mitchells (like the Mustang, a product of North American), and the three fighters flew escort.
“At leaving even the most unpleasant people And places, one keeps looking at the steeple.”
Lord Byron, Don Juan, canto ii (1819)
A steeple was in Byron’s day a symbol of the pathos of leave-taking. Owing to its unrivaled height, a traveler saw this landmark as the last piece of home to drop below the horizon, or to disappear behind a hill. In my second epigraph, Byron’s hero is standing in the stern of an outbound ship and watching his home-town steeple sink beneath the waves. As it does, he feels, like many before him, that “partings form a lesson hard to learn.” Continue reading →