Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New Period Room at the WAH Center

Between the Empire Room and the Library at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, there is a new period room with objects from the 16th to 19th centuries. It is guarded by a 19th century carved and painted sculpture called the "Grand Nubian."  April will feature a special luncheon and dinner, and guests will be escorted through the many treasures held in the Yuko Nii Foundation and WAH Center collections. Dinner tickets $500, limited to 20 tickets. Info:

Friday, February 16, 2018

"The Estuary" by Clark Ashton Smith

Smith is not without a following, though he remains an obscure figure. To learn more about him, please click HERE.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Allegory of Advanced Mumbo Jumbo

Engraving by Jan Caspar Phillips c. 1750

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018

S is for Space

I first read Ray Bradbury in the Caribbean, when I was 12. The book was S is for Space, and thinking now of Bradbury's books, I regard it as presenting the best of his short stories. It was a nice discovery down there on Carriacou, where I lived one summer with a group of Canadian marine biology students. It was a British Commonwealth edition of the book meant for distribution to the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and seeing that list of countries on the back cover certainly added to the sense of "otherness" which characterized my experience there--and at present I am somewhat amused thinking of myself on that island doing as I pleased, a sort of "Aristotle, Jr." in his own private Atarneus. The cover was pretty good.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Professor Hodges on Emanations: I Am Not a Number

Yesterday, Jeffery Hodges blogged on Emanations: I Am Not a Number, which, after a  protracted voyage, has reached Korea.  Please click HERE to see Jeffery's initial impressions.  Today, he writes on Richard Kostelanetz's contribution, "Epiphanies." Please click HERE.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Aristotle and the meaning of Eudaimonia

When Aristotle discusses Eudaimonia, we will find it beneficial to consider that his notions compare closely to what Jefferson is suggesting by Happiness in The Declaration of Independence.  Eudaimonia doesn't translate directly to Happiness, but a consideration of the Lockean discussions that give the Declaration its context, suggest that in this matter Jefferson does indeed sympathize closely with Aristotle.

In the following passage, Anthony Kenny characterizes the concept of Eudaimonia in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics:
   In Book X [of the Nicomachean Ethics] Aristotle finally answers his long-postponed question about the nature of happiness. Happiness, we were told early on in the treatise, is the activ­ity of soul in accordance with virtue, and if there are several virtues, in accordance with the best and most perfect virtue. Now we know that there are both moral and intellectual virtues, and that the latter are superior; and among the intellectual virtues, understanding is superior to wisdom. Supreme happiness, then, is activity in accordance with understanding; it is to be found in science and philosophy. Happiness is not exactly the same as the pursuit of science and philosophy, but it is closely related to it: we are told that understanding is related to philosophy as knowing is to seeking. Happiness, then, in a way which remains to some extent obscure, is to be identified with the enjoyment of the fruits of philosophical inquiry.
   To many people this seems an odd, indeed perverse, thesis. It is not quite as odd as it sounds, because the Greek word for happiness,’eudaimonia', does not mean quite the same as its English equivalent, just as 'arete’ did not mean quite the same as virtue. Perhaps 'a worthwhile life' is the closest we can get to its meaning in English. Even so, it is hard to accept Aristotle’s thesis that the philo­sopher's life is the only really worthwhile one, and this is so whether one finds the claim endearing or finds it arrogant. Aristotle himself seems to have had second thoughts about it. Elsewhere in the Nicomachean Ethics he says that there is an­other kind of happiness which consists in the exercise of wisdom and the moral virtues. In the Eudemian Ethics his ideal life consists of the exercise of all the virtues, intellectual and moral; but even there, philosophical contemplation occupies a dominant position in the life of the happy person, and sets the standard for the exercise of the moral virtues.
 Whatever choice or possession of natural goods - health and strength, wealth, friends and the like - will most conduce to the contemplation of God is best: this is the finest criterion. But any standard of living which either through excess or defect hinders the service and contemplation of God is bad.
Both of Aristotle's Ethics end on this exalted note. The contemplation commended by the Nicomachean Ethics is described as a superhuman activity of a divine part of us. Aristotle's final word here is that in spite of being mortal, we must make ourselves immortal so far as we can.

    --Anthony Kenny, An Illustrated Brief History of Western Philosophy, Blackwell, 2006

 Please click HERE for more on how Locke fits into this discussion.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ancient of Days with Tessa B. Dick

Tonight on her streaming radio program Ancient of Days, author Tessa B. Dick will discuss the ancient Greeks.

January 28 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. 6:00 p.m. Pacific.

Listen by phone at (319) 527-6208. Press "1" to talk to Tessa. Or to listen on-line, please click HERE.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Early Work of Terrance Lindall, January 20 at the WAH Center

In The Small Gallery January 20, 2018 4-6 PM: Early Work of Terrance Lindall
Please click HERE for Tickets.

Coming in April 2018: "The Terrance Lindall Complete Retrospective with the Later Illustration Work." The event will include a program of music, lectures, and a gala dinner, also featuring the first viewing of the 32 x 17 inch Grand Paradise Lost Folio.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Afternoon Recreation

1. Choose a circle and follow it's career through the pattern.
2. Clap your hands when you see the number seven.
3. Each time you see the pattern repeat itself, eat a banana.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Suggestive, Nearly

Cornelis Saftleven, The Vision of the Sunday Child, 1660

Monday, January 1, 2018

Speculative Fictions Four

Editor Gareth Jackson has announced the fourth issue of Speculative Fictions is now available as a free download.  My story "Scene from a Nursery" appears in the new issue. Please click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page. Issues 0, 1, 2 and 3 are also available.

Friday, December 29, 2017

1. Metaphysical beliefs, "curious" assumptions about logic, and/or a theory of human nature.

Today we return to our discussion of moral philosophy. Let's contextualize the conversation by first identifying the nature of the assumptions upon which moral philosophies are based and constructed.

Metaphysical beliefs are speculative, theoretical and imaginative.  They are not grounded in fact but, becasue of the nature of language and our psychological practices and needs, they can resemble something real, or, more specifically, such beliefs can be acted upon as if they are realIn fine, they are abstractions reflecting parts of reality, and moreover they are often distorted abstractions, like the figures and symbols in a surrealistic painting.  The word "metaphysics" itself is a distortion of the original conception, which was one of the titles Andronicus of Rhodes used while editing the works of Aristotle.  Originally, the Greek prefix meta- means "after", hence the title After-physics. It was meant by Adronicus as an instruction to students: the fourteen books titled Metaphysics should be read after the books on Physics.  When Roman Catholic monks translated Adronicus's editions into Latin, they invested the term with the meaning that it has today; hence Beyond-Physics. We can  understand why the Catholic monks with their Christian, Platonic and neo-Platonic preoccupations would read the word this way. Indeed, we can sympathize, too, with their religious convictions. Today we draw a sharp distinction, however, between fact and myth, between scientific activity and theoretical speculation; indeed, carefully observing such distinctions is central to our scientific understanding.*  That many philosophers do not draw this distinction is evidence of a multitude of conceptual errors and institutional problems: their ignorance and the ignorance of their teachers, political pressures, and the culture of self-promotion that characterizes the academy.   While we may believe in our metaphysical assumptions, it is important to recognize that they are not proven, and regardless of how much we believe in them or stand committed to them as personal or professional convictions.  They may form part of our argumentation, but they do not prove or "scientifically confirm" our moral beliefs or philosophies of ethics.

In the past the aesthetic and emotional quality of poetry and myth seemed evidence of metaphysical truth, but as the methods of philological, historical and scientific analysis were brought to bear in an examination of poetry (by which I mean myth and metaphysics), the nature of  poetry was revealed and any truth-claims for its language were identified, characterized, mitigated, and relegated to their rightful status, and finely characterized.  Nevertheless, ignorance, ecclesiastical and academic pressures, and politics remain factors, so philosophers shifted from the abstractions of their metaphysical claims to the abstractions of language itself; that is, they turned to logic.  A substitute for metaphysical abstractions was created from the curious motley of distinctions made possible by logic--a sort of theatrical exhibition of language-as-language, or language-as-reality. This practice has its roots in Aristotle, who attempted to make two books about the subject (that is, logic). Following Aristotle's pattern of rationalization, Aquinas developed sequenced patterns of thought in the sphere of theology; if metaphysics was challenged by nature, then the language used to describe that nature might be seen as a source for new "truths"--which weren't observed but rationally (but not reasonably) drawn from observation.  Kant then "regularized" the practice, creating through his ratiocination linguistic distinctions that at once appeared to be rooted in reality but were simply reifications of abstractions.  While Moses relied upon the spoken "word of God" as a source of truth, Kant relied upon the dazzling fluency of his ratiocination.  Kant's clever use of language, his convincing fluency, and his ability to maintain the illusion of authority--chiefly an artifact of his university affiliation and the fame of his publications--remain characteristics of philosophical conversation today.  

Moral philosophers often claim for their foundations some potted theory of human nature. At the outset of my discussion here, I should bring to bear something Elizabeth Anscombe said in her paper on "Modern Moral Philosophy", where she asserts that we are "conspicuously lacking . . . an adequate philosophy of psychology."A quick review of the assumptions of moral philosophers regarding some foundational theory of human nature reveals such theories to be potted, incomplete, abstract, reductive, surreal, ludicrous...  This is particularly conspicuous among English professors, who, being rather interested in their narcissistic end-game, are eager to grasp any odd bit of anthropological or psychological rubbish, and foist it upon students and junior faculty for the sake of novelty, show-business, or from the necessity to produce some figment of academic work.

Before we move on to number 2. "Moral philosophy, ethical beliefs, or an 'ethical system'", I'll walk through some of the things moral philosophers have said in their attempts to characterize human nature. See you soon.

* I should also point out that the consideration of this distinction is an important thread in the theological discussions taking place in many religions. Exercising the exposition of his orthodox Episcopalian beliefs, in his novels Philip K. Dick often uses the drawing of this distinction to settle matters dealing with the artifice of the world, which involves coming to terms with the things God can and cannot (or will not) do for us, and the things that we have to do for ourselves.