Friday, January 20, 2017

Reading #28: Popkin: Reformed Epistemology

From Richard Popkin, "History of Skepticism: From Erasmus to Descartes," Harper, 1964.

The fundamental evidence for the original Calvinists of the truth of their views was inner persuasion. But how can one tell that this inner persuasion is authentic, not just a subjective certainty which might easily be illusory? The importance of being right is so great that, as Theodore Beza, Calvin's aide-de-camp insisted, we need a sure and infallible sign. The sign is "full persuasion [which] doth separate the chosen children of God from the castaways, and is the proper riches of the Saints."  But the consequence is a circle: the criterion of religious knowledge is inner persuasion, the guarantee of the authenticity of inner persuasion is that it is caused by God, and this we are assured of by my own inner persuasion.  Pg 9

1.  Why is certainty important?
2.  What is an infallible sign?
3.  What is the difference between objective and subjective certainty?
4.  What is the circle that Popkin identifies in appealing to inner religious signs?
5.  How can this be applied to contemporary Reformed Epistemology?
6.  What is the distinction between epistemology and soteriology?
7.  Do other forms of epistemological externalism face a similar circle to the one Popkin identifies?

Reading #24: Fallibilism and Evidence for Beliefs

Fallibilism and Evidence for Belief

"fallibilism," Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd Ed.  Robert Audi editor.

Fallibilism, the doctrine, relative to some significant class of beliefs or propositions, that they are inherently uncertain and possibly mistaken.  The most extreme form of the doctrine attributes uncertainty to every belief; more restricted forms attribute it to all empirical beliefs or to beliefs concerning the past, the future, other minds, or the external world.  Most contemporary philosophers reject the doctrine in its extreme form, holding that beliefs about such things as elementary logical principles and the character of one's current feelings cannot possibly be mistaken.

Philosophers who reject fallibilism in some form generally insist that certain beliefs are analytically true, self-evident, or intuitively obvious.  These means of supporting the infallibility of some beliefs are now generally discredited.  W.V. Quine has cast serious doubt on the very notion of analytic truth, and the appeal to self-evidence or intuitive obliviousness is open to the charge that those who officially accept it do not always agree on what is thus evident or obvious (there is no objective way of identifying it), and that beliefs said to be self-evident have sometimes been proven false, the causal principle and the axiom of abstraction (in set theory) being striking examples.  In addition to emphasizing the evolution of logical and mathematical principles, fallibilists have supported their position mainly by arguing that the existence and nature of mind-independent objects can legitimately be ascertained only by experimental methods and that such methods can yield conclusions that are, at best, probably rather than certain.


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Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Fallibilism
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Fallibilism is the epistemological thesis that no belief (theory, view, thesis, and so on) can ever be rationally supported or justified in a conclusive way. Always, there remains a possible doubt as to the truth of the belief. Fallibilism applies that assessment even to science’s best-entrenched claims and to people’s best-loved commonsense views. Some epistemologists have taken fallibilism to imply skepticism, according to which none of those claims or views are ever well justified or knowledge. In fact, though, it is fallibilist epistemologists (which is to say, the majority of epistemologists) who tend not to be skeptics about the existence of knowledge or justified belief. Generally, those epistemologists see themselves as thinking about knowledge and justification in a comparatively realistic way — by recognizing the fallibilist realities of human cognitive capacities, even while accommodating those fallibilities within a theory that allows perpetually fallible people to have knowledge and justified beliefs. Still, although that is the aim of most epistemologists, the question arises of whether it is a coherent aim. Are they pursuing a coherent way of thinking about knowledge and justification? Much current philosophical debate is centered upon that question. Epistemologists generally seek to understand knowledge and justification in a way that permits fallibilism to be describing a benign truth about how we can gain knowledge and justified beliefs. One way of encapsulating that project is by asking whether it is possible for a person ever to have fallible knowledge and justification.
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The term “fallibilism” comes from the nineteenth century American philosopher  Charles Sanders Peirce, although the basic idea behind the term long predates him. According to that basic idea, no beliefs (or opinions or views or theses, and so on) are so well justified or supported by good evidence or apt circumstances that they could not be false. Fallibilism tells us that there is no conclusive justification and no rational certainty for any of our beliefs or theses. That is fallibilism in its strongest form, being applied to all beliefs without exception. In principle, it is also possible to be a restricted fallibilist, accepting a fallibilism only about some narrower class of beliefs. For example, we might be fallibilists about whatever beliefs we gain through the use of our senses — even while remaining convinced that we possess the ability to reason in ways that can, at least sometimes, manifest infallibility. Thus, one special case of this possible selectivity would have us being fallibilists about empirical science even while exempting mathematical reasoning from that verdict.
Fallibilism is an epistemologically pivotal thesis, and our initial priority must be to formulate it carefully. Almost all contemporary epistemologists will say that they are fallibilists. Yet the vast majority of them also wish not to be skeptics. They would rather not be committed to embracing principles about the nature of knowledge and justification which commit them to denying that there can be any knowledge or justified belief. This desire coexists, nonetheless, with the belief that fallibility is rampant. Many epistemological debates, it transpires, can be understood in terms of how they try to balance these epistemologically central desires. So, can we find a precise philosophical understanding of ourselves as being perpetually fallible even though reassuringly rational and, for the most part, knowledgeable?
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Just as there are competing interpretations of the nature of epistemic justification, epistemologists exercise care in how they read F. Perhaps the most natural reading of it says that no one is ever so situated — even when possessing evidence in favor of the truth of a particular belief — that, if she were to be rational in the sense of respecting and understanding and responding just to that evidence, she could not proceed to doubt that the belief is true. More generally, the idea behind F is that, no matter how good one’s justification is in support of a particular belief’s being true, that justification is never so good as to be conclusive — leaving no room for anyone who might be rationally attending to that justification not to have the belief it is supporting. At any stage, according to F, doubt could sensibly (in some relevant sense of “sensibly”) arise as to the truth of the particular belief.
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Study Questions:
1. In what sense are most contemporary epistemologists fallibilists?  Why are some epistemologists worried that fallibilism leads to skepticism?  Define knowledge, opinion, skepticism, justification, certainty. In what way do ambiguity, obfuscation, and appeals to complexity contribute to this disagreement? 
3.  What does it mean for a law to be self-attesting?  Does the fallibilist believe anything is self-attesting?  How could one prove that nothing is self-attesting?
4. Contrast the claim that no belief can be conclusively justified, with the claim that many beliefs cannot be conclusively justified. 
5. Contrast justification by evidences, or personal testimony, or common sense, or intuition, with justification by reason. 
6. Explain the relationship between empiricism, externalism, and fallibilism.  In the second paragraph from the Cambridge Dictionary definition below, in what way are the proofs against infallibility reliant on empirical assumptions?
7. What does and what does not require demonstration? (See Aristotle reading #1)
8. Can a fallibilist be certain that a statement he made is actually the statement he made?  Must a fallibilist he concerned for intellectual consistency? 
9. Is fallibilism a neutral position from which to criticize others or does it have presuppositions that need to be identified and proven to be true?
10.  Do any of these follow from fallibilism as defined below:  there is nothing certain; nothing can be known with certainty; nothing is clear; nothing is self-attesting; nothing is transcendent. 
11.  Contextualize contemporary fallibilism as part of the post-modernism reaction to modernity, evidence, and reason. 
12.  Can the fallibilist be sure that the belief he/she holds is the belief he/she holds?
Exercises:
1.  Prove to me that I'm not a brain in a vat.
2.  Prove to me that I'm not having incorrigible memory lapses.
3.  Prove to me that I'm not being deceived by an evil demon.
4.  Prove to me that my senses are accurate.
5.  Prove to me that a is a.
6.  Explain the category mistakes in the following: I'm not sure we can know that the statements we make are the statements we make.
7.  Respond: You must prove to me that proof is possible.

Readng #23: Aristotle: Ethics and the Good

Aristotle
Nicomachean Ethics
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.10.x.html

1.  What does Aristotle think is the highest good and why?
2.  What brings lasting happiness?
3.  How does Aristotle define the terms virtue, good, happiness, God, and human nature?
4.  What is contemplation?  What are practical activities?  Which does Aristotle think are superior and why?
5.  Why is the life of contemplation too high for humans?
6.  What is the relationship between leisure and work for humans?
7.  How can we know if we have lived a good life?

Book 10
chapter 7

If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us. Whether it be reason or something else that is this element which is thought to be our natural ruler and guide and to take thought of things noble and divine, whether it be itself also divine or only the most divine element in us, the activity of this in accordance with its proper virtue will be perfect happiness. That this activity is contemplative we have already said. 

Now this would seem to be in agreement both with what we said before and with the truth. For, firstly, this activity is the best (since not only is reason the best thing in us, but the objects of reason are the best of knowable objects); and secondly, it is the most continuous, since we can contemplate truth more continuously than we can do anything. And we think happiness has pleasure mingled with it, but the activity of philosophic wisdom is admittedly the pleasantest of virtuous activities; at all events the pursuit of it is thought to offer pleasures marvelous for their purity and their enduringness, and it is to be expected that those who know will pass their time more pleasantly than those who inquire. And the self-sufficiency that is spoken of must belong most to the contemplative activity. For while a philosopher, as well as a just man or one possessing any other virtue, needs the necessaries of life, when they are sufficiently equipped with things of that sort the just man needs people towards whom and with whom he shall act justly, and the temperate man, the brave man, and each of the others is in the same case, but the philosopher, even when by himself, can contemplate truth, and the better the wiser he is; he can perhaps do so better if he has fellow-workers, but still he is the most self-sufficient.And this activity alone would seem to be loved for its own sake; for nothing arises from it apart from the contemplating, while from practical activities we gain more or less apart from the action. And happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace. Now the activity of the practical virtues is exhibited in political or military affairs, but the actions concerned with these seem to be unleisurely. Warlike actions are completely so (for no one chooses to be at war, or provokes war, for the sake of being at war; any one would seem absolutely murderous if he were to make enemies of his friends in order to bring about battle and slaughter); but the action of the statesman is also unleisurely, and-apart from the political action itself-aims at despotic power and honours, or at all events happiness, for him and his fellow citizens-a happiness different from political action, and evidently sought as being different. So if among virtuous actions political and military actions are distinguished by nobility and greatness, and these are unleisurely and aim at an end and are not desirable for their own sake, but the activity of reason, which is contemplative, seems both to be superior in serious worth and to aim at no end beyond itself, and to have its pleasure proper to itself (and this augments the activity), and the self-sufficiency, leisureliness, unweariedness (so far as this is possible for man), and all the other attributes ascribed to the supremely happy man are evidently those connected with this activity, it follows that this will be the complete happiness of man, if it be allowed a complete term of life (for none of the attributes of happiness is incomplete). 

But such a life would be too high for man; for it is not in so far as he is man that he will live so, but in so far as something divine is present in him; and by so much as this is superior to our composite nature is its activity superior to that which is the exercise of the other kind of virtue. If reason is divine, then, in comparison with man, the life according to it is divine in comparison with human life. But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything. This would seem, too, to be each man himself, since it is the authoritative and better part of him. It would be strange, then, if he were to choose not the life of his self but that of something else. And what we said before' will apply now; that which is proper to each thing is by nature best and most pleasant for each thing; for man, therefore, the life according to reason is best and pleasantest, since reason more than anything else is man. This life therefore is also the happiest. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Reading #25: Theaetetus: On Giving an Account

From Plato's Theaetetus.  

Soc. Well, my art of midwifery is in most respects like theirs; but differs, in that I attend men and not women; and look after their souls when they are in labour, and not after their bodies: and the triumph of my art is in thoroughly examining whether the thought which the mind of the young man brings forth is a false idol or a noble and true birth. And like the mid-wives, I am barren, and the reproach which is often made against me, that I ask questions of others and have not the wit toanswer them myself, is very just-the reason is, that the god compels-me to be a midwife, but does not allow me to bring forth. And therefore I am not myself at all wise, nor have I anything to show which is the invention or birth of my own soul, but those who converse with me profit. Some of them appear dull enough at first, but afterwards, as our acquaintance ripens, if the god is gracious to them, they all make astonishing progress; and this in the opinion of others as well as in their own. It is quite dear that they never learned anything from me; the many fine discoveries to which they cling are of their own making. But to me and the god they owe their delivery. And the proof of my words is, that many of them in their ignorance, either in their self-conceit despising me, or falling under the influence of others, have gone away too soon; and have not only lost the children of whom I had previously delivered them by an ill bringing up, but have stifled whatever else they had in them by evil communications, being fonder of lies and shams than of the truth; and they have at last ended by seeing themselves, as others see them, to be great fools. Aristeides, the son of Lysimachus, is one of them, and there are many others. The truants often return to me, and beg that I would consort with them again-they are ready to go to me on their knees and then, if my familiar allows, which is not always the case, I receive them, and they begin to grow again. Dire are the pangs which my art is able to arouse and to allay in those who consort with me, just like the pangs of women in childbirth; night and day they are full of perplexity and travail which is even worse than that of the women. So much for them. And there are -others, Theaetetus, who come to me apparently having nothing in them; and as I know that they have no need of my art, I coax them into marrying some one, and by the grace of God I can generally tell who is likely to do them good. Many of them I have given away to Prodicus, and many to other inspired sages. I tell you this long story, friend Theaetetus, because I suspect, as indeed you seem to think yourself, that you are in labour-great with some conception. Come then to me, who am a midwife's son and myself a midwife, and do your best to answer the questions which I will ask you. And if I abstract and expose your first-born, because I discover upon inspection that the conception which you have formed is a vain shadow, do not quarrel with me on that account, as the manner of women is when their first children are taken from them. For I have actually known some who were ready to bite me when I deprived them of a darling folly; they did not perceive that I acted from good will, not knowing that no god is the enemy of man-that was notwithin the range of their ideas; neither am I their enemy in all this, but it would be wrong for me to admit falsehood, or to stifle the truth. Once more, then, Theaetetus, I repeat my old question, "What is knowledge?"-and do not say that you cannot tell; but quit yourself like a man, and by the help of God you will be able to tell. 

Theaet. At any rate, Socrates, after such an exhortation I should be ashamed of not trying to do my best. Now he who knows perceives what he knows, and, as far as I can see at present, knowledge is perception. 

Soc. Bravely said, boy; that is the way in which you should express your opinion. And now, let us examine together this conception of yours, and see whether it is a true birth or a mere, wind-egg:-You say that knowledge is perception? 

Theaet. Yes. 

Soc. Well, you have delivered yourself of a very important doctrine about knowledge; it is indeed the opinion of Protagoras, who has another way of expressing it, Man, he says, is the measure of all things, of the existence of things that are, and of the non-existence of things that are not:-You have read him? 

Theaet. O yes, again and again. 

Soc. Does he not say that things are to you such as they appear to you, and to me such as they appear to me, and that you and I are men? 

Theaet. Yes, he says so. 

Soc. A wise man is not likely to talk nonsense. Let us try to understand him: the same wind is blowing, and yet one of us may be cold and the other not, or one may be slightly and the other very cold? 

Theaet. Quite true. 

Soc. Now is the wind, regarded not in relation to us but absolutely, cold or not; or are we to say, with Protagoras, that the wind is cold to him who is cold, and not to him who is not? 

Theaet. I suppose the last. 

Soc. Then it must appear so to each of them? 

Theaet. Yes. 

Soc. And "appears to him" means the same as "he perceives." 

Theaet. True. 

Soc. Then appearing and perceiving coincide in the case of hot and cold, and in similar instances; for things appear, or may be supposed to be, to each one such as he perceives them? 

Theaet. Yes. 

Soc. Then perception is always of existence, and being the same as knowledge is unerring? 

Theaet. Clearly. 

Soc. In the name of the Graces, what an almighty wise man Protagoras must have been! He spoke these things in a parable to the common herd, like you and me, but told the truth, his Truth, in secret to his own disciples. 

Theaet. What do you mean, Socrates? 

Soc. I am about to speak of a high argument, in which all things are said to be relative; you cannot rightly call anything by any name, such as great or small, heavy or light, for the great will be small and the heavy light-there is no single thing or quality, but out of motion and change and admixture all things are becoming relatively to one another, which "becoming" is by us incorrectly called being, but is really becoming, for nothing ever is, but all things are becoming. Summon all philosophers-Protagoras, Heracleitus, Empedocles, and the rest of them, one after another, and with the exception of Parmenides they will agree with you in this. Summon thegreat masters of either kind of poetry-Epicharmus, the prince of Comedy, and Homer of Tragedy; when the latter sings of 

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Soc. Let us carry the principle which has just been affirmed, that nothing is self-existent, and then we shall see that white, black, and every other colour, arises out of the eye meeting the appropriate motion, and that what we call a colour is in each case neither the active nor the passive element, but something which passes between them, and is peculiar to each percipient; are you quite certain that the several colours appear to a dog or to any animal whatever as they appear to you? 

Theaet. Far from it. 

Soc. Or that anything appears the same to you as to another man? Are you so profoundly convinced of this? Rather would it not be true that it never appears exactly the same to you, because you are never exactly the same? 

Theaet. The latter. 

Soc. And if that with which I compare myself in size, or which I apprehend by touch, were great or white or hot, it could not become different by mere contact with another unless it actually changed; nor again, if the comparing or apprehending subject were great or white or hot, could this, when unchanged from within become changed by any approximation or affection of any other thing. The fact is that in our ordinary way of speaking we allow ourselves to be driven into most ridiculous and wonderful contradictions, as Protagoras and all who take his line of argument would remark. 

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Soc. Then attend, and I will try to finish the story. The purport is that all these things are in motion, as I was saying, and that this motion is of two kinds, a slower and a quicker; and the slower elements have their motions in the same place and with reference to things near them, and so they beget; but what is begotten is swifter, for it is carried to fro, and moves from place to place. Apply this to sense:-When the eye and the appropriate object meet together and give birth to whiteness and the sensation connatural with it, which could not have been given by either of them going elsewhere, then, while the sight: is flowing from the eye, whiteness proceeds from the object which combines in producing the colour; and so the eye is fulfilled with sight, and really sees, and becomes, not sight, but a seeing eye; and the object which combined to form the colour is fulfilled with whiteness, and becomes not whiteness but a white thing, whether wood or stone or whatever the object may be which happens to be colour,ed white. And this is true of all sensible objects, hard, warm, and the like, which are similarly to be regarded, as I was saying before, not as having any absolute existence, but as being all of them of whatever kind. generated by motion in their intercourse with one another; for of the agent and patient, as existing in separation, no trustworthy conception, as they say, can be formed, for the agent has no existence until united; with the patient, and the patient has no existence until united with the agent; and that which by uniting with something becomes an agent, by meeting with some other thing is converted into a patient. And from all these considerations, as I said at first, there arises a general reflection, that there is no one self-existent thing, but everything is becoming and in relation; andbeing must be altogether abolished, although from habit and ignorance we are compelled even in this discussion to retain the use of the term. But great philosophers tell us that we are not to allow either the word "something," or "belonging to something," or "to me," or "this," or "that," or any other detaining name to be used, in the language of nature all things are being created and destroyed, coming into being and passing into new forms; nor can any name fix or detain them; he who attempts to fix them is easily refuted. And this should be the way of speaking, not only of particulars but of aggregates such aggregates as are expressed in the word "man," or "stone," or any name of animal or of a class. O Theaetetus, are not these speculations sweet as honey? And do you not like the taste of them in the mouth? 

Theaet. I do not know what to say, Socrates, for, indeed, I cannot make out whether you are giving your own opinion or only wanting to draw me out. 

Soc. You forget, my friend, that I neither know, nor profess to know, anything of these matters; you are the person who is in labour, I am the barren midwife; and this is why I soothe you, and offer you one good thing after another, that you may taste them. And I hope that I may at last help to bring your own opinion into the light of day: when this has been accomplished, then we will determine whether what you have brought forth is only a wind-egg or a real and genuine birth. Therefore, keep up your spirits, and answer like a man what you think. 

Theaet. Ask me. 

Soc. Then once more: Is it your opinion that nothing is but what becomes? the good and the noble, as well; as all the other things which we were just now mentioning? 

Theaet. When I hear you discoursing in this style, I think that there is a great deal in what you say, and I am very ready to assent. Soc. Let us not leave the argument unfinished, then; for there still remains to be considered an objection which may be raised about dreams and diseases, in particular about madness, and the various illusions of hearing and sight, or of other senses. For you know that in all these cases the esse-percipi theory appears to be unmistakably refuted, since in dreams and illusions we certainly have false perceptions; and far from saying that everything is which appears, we should rather say that nothing is which appears. 

Theaet. Very true, Socrates. 

Soc. But then, my boy, how can any one contend that knowledge is perception, or that to every man what appears is? 

Theaet. I am afraid to say, Socrates, that I have nothing to answer, because you rebuked me just now for making this excuse; but I certainly cannot undertake to argue that madmen or dreamers think truly, when they imagine, some of them that they are gods, and others that they can fly, and are flying in their sleep. 

Soc. Do you see another question which can be raised about these phenomena, notably about dreaming and waking? 

Theaet. What question? 

Soc. A question which I think that you must often have heard persons ask:-How can you determine whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state? 

Theaet. Indeed, Socrates, I do not know how to prove the one any more than the other, for in both cases the facts precisely correspond;-and there is no difficulty in supposing that during all this discussion we have been talking to one another in a dream; and when in a dream we seem to be narrating dreams, the resemblance of the two states is quite astonishing. 

Soc. You see, then, that a doubt about the reality of sense is easily raised, since there may even be a doubt whether we are awake or in a dream. And as our time is equally divided between sleeping and waking, in either sphere of existence the soul contends that the thoughts which are present to our minds at the time are true; and during one half of our lives we affirm the truth of the one, and, during the other half, of the other; and are equally confident of both. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reading #26: Doubt: On Being Skeptical

John Donne:

"To come to a doubt, and to a debatement of any religious duty, is the voice of God in our conscience. Would you know the truth?  Doubt, and then you will enquire."

I will start my class about Reason and the Good with a segment on doubt. What is doubt, what can be doubted, and what is the relationship between doubt and curiosity?

Doubt/Being skeptical: requiring more information before belief.

Skepticism: the claim that nothing is clear.

1.  What does doubt presuppose?  What is the goal of doubt?

2. What is the difference between what is practically difficult to doubt, what is psychologically difficult to doubt, and what cannot actually be doubted?

3. Why do some people never doubt what can be doubted?  

4. Why do some people attempt to doubt what cannot be doubted?

5. What is the relationship between doubt, thought, meaning, and truth?

6. Is faith opposed to doubt?  Is knowledge or certainty opposed to doubt?  If something is clear can it be doubted?

7. Consider the relationship of doubt to various sources of information and knowledge:

Personal testimony (past and present)
Common sense (appearance and reality)
Intuition (sign and reality)
Tradition (commonly accepted truths)
Experience (senses)
Science (experiment and interpretation)
Systems (presuppositions and inferences)
Logic (laws of inference)
Reason (laws of thought)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Richard Baxter: The Light and Law of Nature

From Richard Baxter, "The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith"

"See that you be true to the light and law of nature, which all mankind is obliged to observe.

If you had no Scripture nor Christianity, nature (that is, the works of God) do tell you that there is a God, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

It tells you that God is absolutely perfect in power, knowledge, and goodness, and that man is a reasonable, free agent made by him, and therefore is his own, and at his will and government.

It tells you that a man's actions are not indifferent, but some things we ought to do, and some things we ought not to do; and that virtue and vice, moral good and evil, do greatly differ; and therefore that there is some universal law which obligeth us to the good, and forbids the evil, and that this can be none but the law of the universal Governor, which is God.

It tells all men that they owe this God their absolute obedience, because he is their most wise and absolute Ruler; and that they owe him their chiefest love, because he is not only the chief Benefactor, but also most perfectly amiable in himself.

It tells us that he hath made us all sociable members of one world, and that we owe love and help to one another. It tells us that all this obedience to God can never be in vain, nor to our loss; and it tells us that we must all die, and that fleshly pleasures and this transitory world will quickly leave us.

There is no more cause to doubt of all or any of this, than whether man be man. Be true to this much, and it will be a great help to all the rest."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Reading #27: Cicero: The Law

True law is a harmony of right reasoning and nature. It applies to everyone and all places and times, for it is unchanging and everlasting. It commands each of us to do our duty and prevents us from doing wrong. Its commands and prohibitions guide good and prudent people, but those who are wicked will listen to neither. It is not right to try to alter this law. We cannot repeal any part of it, much less do away with it altogether. No Senate or Assembly of the people can free us from its obligations. We do not need anyone to explain or interpret it for us. There is no such thing as one true law at Rome and another at Athens. There is no change of law over time. It applies to all people everywhere. There is one Divine Master and ruler over all of us who is creator judge and enforcer of this law. Those who disobey him are fleeing from themselves and are rejecting their own humanity. Even if they escape human judgment for their wrongdoing, they will pay a terrible price in the end.  

Cicero. On the state. From "How to run a country." Translated and edited by Philip Freeman

Jeremiah Burroughs: Rationality and Liberty

1.  What is rationality?
2.  What does it mean to be a creature?
3.  What is understanding?  Judgement? Liberty of action?

That is why no creature but a rational creature can do an act of freedom.  Liberty of action is only in rational creatures and only comes from hence, for that is only freedom that is done in a rational way. Rational freedom is when I, by my judgment, see what has to be done, understand a thing, and my judgment agrees with what I understand: that is done freely. 

Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 17. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pilgrim's Progress: Good Works and Conscience


1.  In what way does Ignorance explain his religion?

2.  How does Ignorance appeal to his own good works and his own conscience?

3.  What is the basis of the reply from Christian and Faithful?

Here, therefore, they met with a very brisk lad, that came out of that country; and his name was IGNORANCE. So CHRISTIAN asked him, "From what part he came? and whither he was going?"

Ignorance. Sir, I was born in the country that lies off there, a little on the left hand; and I am going to the Celestial City .

Chr. But how do you think to get in at the gate; for you may find some difficulty there?

Ign. "As other good people do," said he.

Chr. But what have you to show at that gate that may cause that the gate should be opened to you?

Ign. I know my Lord's will, and I have led a good life: I pay every man his own; I pray, fast, pay tithes, and give alms, and have left my country for whither I am going.

Chr. But thou camest not in at the wicket gate that is at the head of this way; thou camest in hither through that same crooked lane: and therefore I fear, however thou mayest think of thyself, when the reckoning day shall come, thou wilt have laid to thy charge, that thou art a thief and a robber, instead of getting admittance into the City.

Ign. Gentlemen, ye be utter strangers to me, I know you not; be content to follow the religion of your country, and I will follow the religion of mine. I hope all will be well. And as for the gate that you talk of, all the world knows that that is a great way off of our country. I cannot think that any man in all our parts doth so much as know the way to it; nor need they matter whether they do or not, since we have, as you see, a fine pleasant green lane, that comes down from our country the next way into it.

When CHRISTIAN saw that the man was wise in his own conceit, he said to HOPEFUL whisperingly, "There is more hope of a fool than of him".

"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him." Proverbs 26:12 

And said, moreover, "When he that is a fool walks by the way, his wisdom fails him; and he saith to everyone that he is a fool.

"Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool." Ecclesiastes 10:3 

What! shall we talk further with him? or outgo him at present, and so leave him to think of what he hath heard already; and then stop again for him afterwards, and see if by degrees we can do any good by him?" Then said HOPEFUL:

"Let IGNORANCE a little while now muse
On what is said; and let him not refuse
Good counsel to embrace, lest he remain
Still ignorant of what's the chiefest gain.
God saith 'Those that no understanding have
(Although he made them) them he will not save.'"

Hope. He further added, "It is not good, I think, to say all to him at once; let us pass him by if you will, and talk to him anon, even as he is able to bear it."


Pilgrim's Progress: Faith and Accusations

In these two sections we see Christian, and then Christian and his friend Faithful, accused of many things. And we see how each responds. 

1.  In what way are their responses an example of faith?

2.  In what way do Christian and Faithful differ from their accusers?

3.  Is faith of this type "blind" faith, or a kind of "leap of faith," or is it based on reasoning and inference?

4.  Faithful appeals to special revelation, does that mean he accepts its contents blindly or is there an implied arguement for special revelation in what he says?


Apol. Thou hast already been unfaithful in thy service to him; and how dost thou think to receive wages of him?

Chr. Wherein, O APOLLYON, have I been unfaithful to him?

Apol. Thou didst faint at first setting out, when thou wast almost choked in the Gulf of Despond; thou didst attempt wrong ways to be rid of thy burden, whereas thou shouldst have stayed till thy Prince had taken it off; thou didst sinfully sleep and lose thy choice thing; thou wast also almost persuaded to go back at the sight of the lions; and when thou talkest of thy journey, and of what thou hast heard and seen, thou art inwardly desirous of vain-glory in all that thou sayest or doest.

Chr. All this is true; and much more which thou hast left out: but the Prince whom I serve and honour is merciful and ready to forgive. But besides, these infirmities possessed me in thy country; for there I sucked them in, and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.

Apol. Then APOLLYON broke out into a grievous rage, saying, "I am an enemy to this Prince: I hate his person, his laws, and people: I am come out on purpose to withstand thee."

Chr. APOLLYON, beware what you do; for I am in the King's highway, the way of holiness: therefore take heed to yourself!

Apol. Then APOLLYON straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, "I am void of fear in this matter: prepare thyself to die! for I swear by my infernal den that thou shalt go no farther; here will I spill thy soul." And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but CHRISTIAN had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that. Then did CHRISTIAN draw, for he saw 't was time to bestir him; and APOLLYON as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that CHRISTIAN could do to avoid it, APOLLYON wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made CHRISTIAN give a little back; APOLLYON therefore followed his work furiously, and CHRISTIAN again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till CHRISTIAN was almost quite spent. For you must know that CHRISTIAN, by reason of his wounds, grew weaker and weaker.

---

Then proclamation was made, that they that had aught to say for their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar, should forthwith appear and give in their evidence. So there came in three witnesses: to wit, ENVY, SUPERSTITION, and PICKTHANK. They were then asked if they knew the prisoner at the bar? and what they had to say for their lord the king against him?

Envy. Then stood forth ENVY, and said to this effect: "My lord, I have known this man a long time; and will attest upon my oath before this honourable bench, that he is –– "

Lord Hategood, the Judge. Hold; give him his oath!

So they sware him. Then he said, "My lord, this man, notwithstanding his plausible name, is one of the vilest men in our country; he neither regards prince nor people, law nor custom; but doth all that he can to possess all men with certain of his disloyal notions, which he, in the general, calls principles of faith and holiness. And in particular, I heard him once myself affirm that Christianity and the customs of our town of Vanity were diametrically opposite, and could not be reconciled. By which saying, my lord, he doth at once not only condemn all our laudable doings, but us in the doing of them."

Judge. Then did the judge say unto him, "Hast thou any more to say?"

Envy. "My lord, I could say much more; only I would not be tedious to the court. Yet, if need be, when the other gentlemen have given in their evidence, rather than anything shall be wanting that will dispatch him, I will enlarge my testimony against him." So he was bidden to stand by.

Then they called SUPERSTITION, and bade him look upon the prisoner; they also asked what he could say for their lord the king against him? Then they sware him; so he began:

Superstition. My lord, I have no great acquaintance with this man; nor do I desire to have further knowledge of him. However, this I know, that he is a very pestilent fellow, from some discourse that the other day I had with him in this town; for then, talking with him, I heard him say that our religion was naught, and such by which a man could by no means please God; which sayings of his, my lord, your lordship very well knows what necessarily thence will follow: to wit, that we still do worship in vain; are yet in our sins: and finally shall be damned. And this is that which I have to say.

Then was PICKTHANK sworn, and bid say what he knew in behalf of their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar.

Pickthank. My lord, and you gentlemen all, this fellow I have known of a long time; and have heard him speak things that ought not to be spoken. For he hath railed on our noble Prince BEELZEBUB; and hath spoken contemptibly of his honourable friends, whose names are, the Lord OLDMAN; the Lord CARNALDELIGHT; the Lord LUXURIOUS; the Lord DESIRE OF VAINGLORY; my old Lord LECHERY; Sir HAVING GREEDY; with all the rest of our nobility: and he hath said moreover, that if all men were of his mind, if possible, there is not one of these noble men should have any longer a being in this town. Besides, he hath not been afraid to rail on you, my lord, who are now appointed to be his judge; calling you an ungodly villain, with many other such like defaming terms, with which he hath bespattered most of the gentry of our town.

When this PICKTHANK had told his tale, the judge directed his speech to the prisoner at the bar, saying, "Thou apostate, heretic, and traitor ! – hast thou heard what these honest gentle-men have witnessed against thee?"

Faith. May I speak a few words in my own defence?

Judge. Sirrah, sirrah ! – thou deservest to live no longer, but to be slain immediately upon the place; yet that all men may see our gentleness towards thee, let us hear what thou, vile apostate, hast to say.

Faith. 1. I say, then, in answer to what Mr. ENVY hath spoken, I never said aught but this: That what rule, or laws, or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity. If I have said amiss in this, convince me of my error; and I am ready here before you to make my recantation.

2. As to the second, to wit, Mr. SUPERSTITION, and his charge against me, I said only this: That in the worship of God there is required a divine faith; but there can be no divine faith without a divine revelation of the will of God: therefore whatever is thrust into the worship of God that is not agreeable to a divine revelation, cannot be done but by a human faith; which faith will not profit to eternal life.

3. As to what Mr. PICKTHANK hath said, I say – avoiding terms, as that I am said to rail, and the like – that the prince of this town, with all the rabble – his attendants, by this gentleman named – are more fit for being in hell than in this town and country; and so the Lord have mercy upon me!

Then the judge called to the jury – who all this while stood by, to hear and observe, – " Gentlemen of the jury, you see this man about whom so great an uproar hath been made in this town; you have also heard what these worthy gentlemen have witnessed against him; also you have heard his reply and confession: it lieth now in your breasts to hang him, or save his life; but yet I think meet to instruct you into our law.

"There was an act made in the days of Pharaoh the Great, servant to our prince, that lest those of a contrary religion should multiply and grow too strong for him, their males should be thrown into the river.

"And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt , which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel . And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour. And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive." Exodus 1:7-22 

There was also an act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, another of his servants, that whoever would not fall down and worship his golden image should be thrown into a fiery furnace.

"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height wasthreescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon . Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,

That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.

They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon , Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in hisrage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who isthat God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Daniel 3:1-18 

There was also an act made in the days of Darius, that whoso, for some time, called upon any God but his, should be cast into the lions' den.

"It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree." Daniel 6:1-9 

Now the substance of these laws this rebel has broken; not only in thought (which is not to be borne), but also in word and deed, which must therefore needs be intolerable.

"For that of Pharaoh, his law was made upon suspicion to prevent mischief, no crime yet being apparent; but here is a crime apparent. For the second and third, you see he disputes against our religion; and for the treason he hath confessed, he deserves to die the death."

Then went the jury out, whose names were, Mr. BLIND-MAN, Mr. NO-GOOD, Mr. MALICE, Mr. LOVE-LUST, Mr. LIVE-LOOSE, Mr. HEADY, Mr. HIGH-MIND, Mr. ENMITY, Mr. LIAR, Mr. CRUELTY, Mr. HATE-LIGHT, and Mr. IMPLACABLE; who everyone gave in his private verdict, against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge. And first among themselves, Mr. BLIND-MAN the foreman said, "I see clearly that this man is a heretic." Then said Mr. NO-GOOD, "Away with such a fellow from the earth!" "Aye," said Mr. MALICE, "for I hate the very looks of him." Then said Mr. LOVE-LUST, "I could never endure him." "Nor I," said Mr. LIVE-LOOSE; "for he would always be condemning my way," "Hang him, hang him !" said Mr. HEADY. "A sorry scrub," said Mr. HIGH-MIND. "My heart rises against him," said Mr. ENMITY. "He is a rogue," said Mr. LIAR. "Hanging is too good for him," said Mr. CRUELTY. "Let us dispatch him out of the way," said Mr. HATE-LIGHT. Then said Mr. IMPLACABLE, "Might I have all the world given me, I could not be reconciled to him; therefore let us forthwith bring him in guilty of death." And so they did; therefore he was presently condemned to be had from the place where he was to the place from whence he came, and there to be put to the most cruel death that could be invented.

They therefore brought him out, to do with him according to their law; and first they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; after that they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords; and last of all they burned him to ashes at the stake. Thus came FAITHFUL to his end. Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for FAITHFUL, who – so soon as his adversaries had dispatched him – was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate. But as for CHRISTIAN, he had some respite, and was remanded back to prison; so he there remained for a space. But he that overrules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it about that CHRISTIAN, for that time, escaped them, and went his way.

And as he went he sang, saying: