Saturday, June 16, 2012

he who is the most audacious contemner of God is not infrequently the most startled at the loud clatter of a falling leaf. . . .

passim . . . ut . . . quisque est audacissimus Dei contemptor, ita vel ad folii cadentis strepitum maxime perturbatur. . . .

     John Calvin, Institutes I.iii.2, following (but also modifying) Battles (LCC 20, vol. 1, p.45).  McNeil cites Lev 26:36, where, however, the vocabulary is very different and it is the Israelite remnant in exile that trembles at the sound of the falling leaf:  "et qui de vobis remanserint dabo pavorem in cordibus eorum in regionibus hostium terrebit eos sonitus folii volantis. . . ."

Monday, June 11, 2012

"Sustained by the belief that a human type exists"

"the insights [(personal knowledge)] by which we recognize life in individual plants and animals, and distinguish their several kindsand by which we appraise them as normal or abnormal, establishing thereby the success or failure of the process by which they come into existence— . . . reveal a reality to which we have access by no other channels. . . ."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 4, chap. 12, sec. 3 ((London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 359, italics added).

     Are those who dismiss the idea that there is anything like a human nature or normality or the right use of an organ or disability (or whatever) among the critical objectivists (I would say "scientific" reductionists) against which Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy is directed?  So many signs would seem to point to this, not least those in chap. 12.  "the logical gap between our comprehension [(what we can know on the basis of the kind of contemplative personal knowlege described most fully in the chapter on commitment)] and the specification of our comprehension [(what we can say on the basis of a supposedly impersonal objectivism)] goes on deepening as we ascend the evolutionary ladder" (347), yet what we encounter among our contemporaries is "a steadily mounting distaste for certain forms of knowing and being; a growing reluctance to credit ourselves with the capacity for personal knowing, and a corresponding unwillingness to recognize the reality of the unspecifiable entities established by such knowing" alone (350, italics added), a knowing "Sustained by the belief that a human type exists" (349, under "2. Trueness to Type" in the merely morphological and later morphogenetic sense).  This despite the fact that "Normal shapesas distinct from abnormal, malformed, stunted shapeswould have to be identified by our own standards of rightness before they could be defined in mathematical [i.e. objective] terms" (358, italics original).  Etc.  Certainly, it will be interesting to see what Polanyi says in chap. 13, sec. 7, on "First causes and ultimate ends".

"'there are some who exhaust themselves learning and investigating things that, once learned and investigated, do not matter in the slightest to the understanding or the memory.'"

     Don Quixote, in Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote II.xxii (trans. Edith Grossman (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003), 601).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"When somebody has risked and failed, . . . when somebody has fallen from the tightrope they'd been walking on. . . ."

"The crowd criticized him.  The crowd mocked him.  And I didn't want that to happen.  When somebody has risked and failed, and when somebody has fallen from the tightrope they'd been walking on, somebody has to pick them up, and give them a burial.  The best thing is that a friend should do that.  Don wanted to make a success of his life.  He just wanted to see a bright future for himself and his family.  In my mind, I gave him a hero's burial."

     Ron Winspear, of his friend Donald Crowhurst, at the end of the documentary Deep water (2006), dir. Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell.

Holy Mother Quixote

     "'I confess, judge, and accept everything that you believe, judge, and accept'".

     The bachelor Señor Sansón Carrasco, aka the Knight of the Wood, to Don Quixote, aka the Knight of the Sorrowful Face, in Míguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote II.xiv (trans. Edith Grossman (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003), 547).
     I haven't checked a critical edition, but according to Project Gutenberg, this is "'Todo lo confieso, juzgo y siento como vos lo creéis, juzgáis y sentís'" in the original Spanish.  What would the ecclesiastical Latin have been?

"This hope is a clue to God. . . ."

     "The stage on which we thus resume our full intellectual powers is borrowed from the Christian scheme of Fall and Redemption.  Fallen Man is equated to the historically given and subjective condition of our mind, from which we may be saved by the grace of the spirit.  The technique of our redemption is to lose ourselves in the performance of an obligation which we accept, in spite of its appearing on reflection impossible of achievement.  We undertake the task of attaining the universal in spite of our admitted infirmity, which should render the task hopeless, because we hope to be visited by powers for which we cannot account in terms of our specifiable capabilities.  This hope is a clue to God. . . ."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 3, chap. 10, sec. 10 ((London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 324).
     But I wonder if there isn't a trace of a kind of gnosticism here ("the historically given and subjective condition of our mind" as the consequence of a "Fall").  What, for example, of the Fall of the will?  Is what Polanyi calls "objectivism" (charged with moral ills unlimited) what we got when we reached for the forbidden fruit?
     Part Four may tell.