Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Poem for the Belligerent

Armor along with arms to be put away
Tarnished from a pitched battle fought
To protect our favored nation and
Kept the holy kingdom from ruin
Heavy scales shown protection and
Displayed defense from weapons thrust
Through the heart of Vien during days
When might was given grace to assist
Its decisive stop at the gates of our city
Defended by those who resisted them

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Against Milton as Canon

    I'd like to provide counter points to what I wrote last week about Milton. I have been fixated about where he stands among other poets such as Shakespeare. I have looked at Lycidas by analyzing it, which was more interesting, but now it seems I'm putting Milton forth as the example of a strong poet. Let's see what has been said about him:

    When looking at Milton's work as a potential center of criticism, somehow Shakespeare must be put aside to make room for Milton. If you follow Bloom's thought about how Shakespeare is the center of the canon, then his work will show us what is thought to be meaningful literature.

    Why cannot Shakespeare have his place, while Milton has his? Given that Milton relies on him as a source of influence, it would seems that the one who influences is greater than the one influenced. So in addition to the works of these writers, which you could assess for yourself, there is also the critical opinion that Shakespeare has the preeminence.

    It seems that the canonization process is completely artificial. Critics have come up with their lists as to what should be considered valuable writing. And their evidence is to be seen within the pages of the well written plays, poems and whatever else. Read the works for proof of their value.

    It's artificial in the sense that critics use criteria that seem to be arbitrary, but when you look at them as a whole, there is a more substantial method as to how critics do criticism. The lists that have been drawn up, for example, could be compared to generate a more perfect way of deciding what counts as canonical writing.   

    But why should Milton be considered foremost, which puts him in the center of how criticism should operate? Look at Milton's work and compare that to the plays of Shakespeare to see how differently these poets wrote. Shakespeare made characters, while Milton wrote criticism. 

    Milton certainly wrote different types of literature other than what Shakespeare wrote, but someone like John Dryden should be given credit for writing literary criticism, not Milton. If we are going to stack poetical works side by side, that itself would be an artificial process that needs to be explained.

    Milton gave us a tradition of being self-aware of one's position within what we consider to be canonical writing. There is nothing from Shakespeare analogous to what Milton wrote within his political tracts about his desire to give posterity a type of canon. He seems to have an edge here.

    There are interpretations of Shakespeare's work such as Prospero, who throws away his magical book and staff at the end of the Tempest, which would show self-awareness of the author within his own work. As for bequeathing a type of canon to posterity, the First Folio put together by his fellow actors serves as such.

    In some ways Milton does have the advantage, but Shakespeare provides a response for any point that would indicate how one poet is greater than another. So for next time I'd like to get away from these canonical debates for something for concrete. I might have another analysis up soon.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Milton as Canon

    When looking at Milton's work as a potential center of criticism, somehow Shakespeare must be put aside to make room for Milton. If you follow Bloom's thought about how Shakespeare is the center of the canon, then his work will show us what is thought to be meaningful literature.

    It seems that the canonization process is completely artificial. Critics have come up with their lists as to what should be considered valuable writing. And their evidence is to be seen within the pages of the well written plays, poems and whatever else. Read the works for proof of their value.

    But why should Milton be considered foremost, which puts him in the center of how criticism should operate? Look at Milton's work and compare that to the plays of Shakespeare to see how differently these poets wrote. Shakespeare made characters, while Milton wrote criticism. 

    Milton gave us a tradition of being self-aware of one's position within what we consider to be canonical writing. There is nothing from Shakespeare analogous to what Milton wrote within his political tracts about his desire to give posterity a type of canon. He seems to have an edge here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Milton's Political Context

    One of the things that one should keep in mind when studying Milton's life is the fact that he lived in world different from our own. Within the Anglosphere, we share a lot of things in common with Milton such as language, customs, and the idea that liberty is far better than tyranny.

    He wrote at length, as I wrote before, on controversial subjects that were pressing issues. But he, John Milton, did not write in a vacuum. No, there were statists (politicians), who shaped the affairs of the state, which was under dispute during the civil wars between the kingdoms.

    One such man, Oliver Cromwell, came to power after the void left by the execution of Charles I in 1649. He disputed with parliament; he was tried for treason. And after that horrible event, the Army came to power with Cromwell eventually becoming the Lord Protector in place of the king.

    Cromwell, being a military man, had learned tactics on the battlefield without having formal training in that subject. He was able to soundly defeat the Royalist forces that fought against him. During the war, Milton focused his attention to these matters while writing politically in prose.

    And after that brief period of non-monarchical rule, Charles II came out of hiding to take the crown in 1660. With this shifting political climate, Milton worked under leaders who sought to rule without a king much like what he wrote about in his tracts. They shared his political views.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Milton's Paradise Lost

    This poem was one of the first books that I bought with my own money at a bookstore. That along with other books like Robinson Crusoe and Pilgrim's Progress, were my first experiences of literature in general. Those two books, however, cannot compare to the heroic verse structure that you find in Milton's Paradise Lost, an epic poem that subsumes Homer, Virgil, Tasso, and so on.

    So the book that I'd like to discuss is Paradise Lost by John Milton. It is about the story of creation that we find in Genesis, but there are many Classical references as well. I feel that Satan is the central character, who reveals the fact that we identify with him at first but as we read through the poem, we feel that we would rather stay near our first parents: Adam and Eve, who are idealized human beings.

    The cosmos of PL consists of a three-tiered universe that some chide the biblical writers for. I sometimes wonder why science that has been evolving throughout these modern times must be used as a model for how pre-modern scientists should operate. Wouldn't it be nice if we could take what we know now and somehow give them our information? Perhaps, someday we will.

   Anyways, the three-tiered universe of PL is the backdrop for the event of the sin that Adam and Eve committed in the paradise that was the Garden of Eden. They were then cast out after they ate from one of trees of the garden, so that they then have to live without the sheltered lifestyle that they enjoyed together. And Satan was the one who led the assault on those two persons who ate.

  So the plot is simple enough to follow, but it's Satan who is the most intriguing because of his seductive charm that led our first parents to their demise. He was able to convince them in Book 9 to partake the fruit that was forbidden of them to eat. Then in Book 10, Satan is reduced to a hissing serpent, which is a long way down from the charismatic leader that we found in Book 2 of PL.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Press Liberty within the Lord's Kingdom

Wenatchee The Hatchet has a searching question in the context of press freedom:

The fundamental [question] is: Is Jesus honored when Christians take one another to task before a watching world?

    He then considers two different kinds of thinking about how the press operates. One is the libertarian view that the truth will win out over falsehood, if the press is not controlled in an authoritarian fashion, which is the view that an elite should control the means of how it functions because they feel that they have the right to do so.

    So the initial question should be recast in terms how we view the nature of the press. The authoritarians would be pleased with viewing the social networking press as a place where there needs to be some guidance in directing it, while those in favor of not having authorities over matters of press operation, would simply dismiss them as unnecessary.

    I think that for Christians and unbelievers alike, there will be an elite who controls social media, while those who are not as well as connected as Trueman and Leithart, will have a desire to take control of that sphere of influence by interacting with whatever they throw at us. So to answer the initial question: no, since his kingdom is not of this social media world.

Monday, October 12, 2015

What Would Milton Do?

    So far, I have looked at John Milton to see how he operated as the major English writer after Shakespeare. There was a brief series on Lycidas, where I thought poetically about this short poem. From those outworkings, you have seen that he blended Christian and pagan elements as he overcomes the loss of his friend. For example, he was compared to Orpheus whose corpse went down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore.

    I think that since he had an encyclopedic knowledge of Classical myth as well as a studied interest in the holy scriptures, which he has used to defend topics such as divorce (domestic liberty) and regicide (freedom from tyrants), then he would naturally use those tropes and references in his poetry. Much like how Shakespeare was known to the public first as a poet and then as a playwright, Milton was a political polemicist before he was known as the proper epic poet within English.

    Eventually, Milton published Paradise Lost, an epic poem in blank verse. During the time he was writing his poem, he lost his position as Secretary of Foreign Tongues within the Interregnum, when Cromwell ruled, since Charles II took over among other political considerations. So after that brief republican government, the blind Milton much like Homer composed the poem, which I'd like to write about next time.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Keep it in the Family

The following excerpt (p.59) from Bloom's Anatomy of Influence is about how to read King Leer:

All attempts to read King Leer as a positive, hopeful Christian drama are weak and unconvincing, but so drastic is the play that desperate attempts to soften it are understandable if deplorable. It is the most harrowing of all literary works, ever. Shakespeare pulls us in, exhausts us, and releases us to nihilism. Lear is neither saved nor redeemed, Cordelia is murdered, and Edgar survives as a warrior-king who, by one English tradition, goes down battling the wolves that overran the kingdom.

    This is in response to those who claim that Christ has his dominion even over stage plays that represent pre-Christian Britannia. If you are familiar with the play, you might argue for a Christian sensibility by pointing to Cordelia, a martyred figure, but not consistently.

    Domestic strife within families, like in works such as King Leer, move us to see that fathers are tragic figures. Leer pleaded, while anyone who would respond with pity was chided because his character is such that any love given him will be shown to be inadequate.

    The three daughters went their separate ways and eventually died off one by one. It seems as through they were unfit to inherit the kingdom that their father was to give to them. Such is feminine weakness in the response to Edgar and Edmond's fight for the throne.

    Much more could be said about the play, but I wanted to give a brief response to those who feel that they should read this play with theological insight. Some things should be evaluated for what they are, which is not redemption, but tragedy for a nominal Christian audience.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

our Poor Way of Writting

There has been an article recently published on Reformation 21 that affected me:

Because words now remain in a web of communication (on the web and in print), their power is preserved, for better or worse. We can offer others the meaning we have found, the control we have been given to use words wisely, and our personal presence in the unique structures and patterns of our prose. But that means we can also offer ambiguity, impotence, and absence. Poor prose can actually be an anti-type of communication reflecting the Trinity. That is why poor prose is not just poor prose; it's poor theology.

    The article argues that to write poorly is to write poor theology. To the extent that we profess true religion, we should also reflect our view of God in how we write. So the prose that we write should have clarity and personality. And it should be readable to the public at large.

    But no writer lives up to the standards that these theologians set up for us. These standards show how bad we are in explaining to our audience what we are trying to give them through our words. One is a good theologian, if he recognizes the limitations of us prose writers.

    Our God demanded perfection from his Son when he worked, and his words were hardly ambiguous or weak. And he also demanded perfection from his disciples who were off their targets when they spoke about him. (Matt.16:22, Mark 9:38) So these standards just kill us when we try to write.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Untying a Knot

There is a questionable part of yesterday's post that I'd like to untangle for today:

He begins with Shakespeare, of course, to show that he has the greatest influence on Bloom's approach to literary criticism. From there, he argues, Milton's Satan has within him the best of Shakespeare's characters to form a distinct personage in response to Shakespeare's influence among other observations.

    For Bloom, human personality was invented by William Shakespeare, whose many characters have represented how men and women think and operate in our world. They are more than mere actor's roles, they're life's largeness to be found in the 38 plays that he had penned down and acted in.

    And Milton is just one example of a belated poet, who came to terms with his literary past. So fiction authors not only come to be influenced by past masters, but they represent those influences as well as bring something new to the table by misapplying their influences when they write their works.

    So canonical literature cannot be artificially considered apart from the authors who contended with their literary past. The example of Milton being influenced by Shakespeare or the other way around is a classic one that shows how literary influence works. And Harold Bloom's theory is that this happens anxiously, not benignly.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Summer Ended

    I have recently been reading through Harold Bloom's Anatomy of Influence, which is about his theory that poets have to creatively misread their influences to put forth something meaningful in the poetic canon. He begins with Shakespeare, of course, to show that he has the greatest influence on Bloom's approach to literary criticism. From there, he argues, Milton's Satan has within him the best of Shakespeare's characters to form a distinct personage in response to Shakespeare's influence among other observations.

    Along with Bloom's theory of influence, he also suggested that reading poetry should strengthen one's appreciation for the value that they impress to its readers. His preference is for the Romantic poets such as Blake, Shelly, and Wordsworth. They combined sight and sound to form sensuous verse that evoked feelings. These strong emotions enable us to appreciate their work more than those who would value poetry for its social or political considerations.

    So I wanted to continue with Milton, but I have come to an impasse. To understand this poet, it would be beneficial to mark or place him with other poets to grasp his significance. Thus, it would be artificial to talk about Milton and his work without reference to his influences, which in addition to the Classical sources, also includes Shakespeare, who was given high praise by Milton when an anonymous poem his was dedicated to Shakespeare in his Second Folio in 1630.

    These poets have strongly influenced the way we approach literary studies. And those poets who have been influenced by them also color our understanding of the literary past. It is through these poems that have reacted against their influences that we are able to see the labyrinth of linkages that they have constructed for us. So as we walk through this literary labyrinth, we are able to evaluate how these poets have influenced each other.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

On the Late Massacre in Piemont

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughter'd saints, whose bones
Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipt stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans,
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piemontese that roll'd
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
to Heav'n. Their marty'd blood and ashes sow
O're all th' Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple Tyrant: that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who, having learnt thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

Friday, October 2, 2015

the Good, the Bad, and the Obama

    You know by now that I've been focusing on words that have a Saxon equivalent rather than the common French words that we adore and use every day. But I wanted to ask the question: what is the political end of this focus on choosing certain words in speech or in writing? For the sake of explaining my title, I'd like to get to the grounds for why those, who prefer the barbarous Germanic words over high class Francophone phrases, have an authoritarian bent to them, even in a civil setting. So our beloved president's name was used a gimmick to move us to think about the political nature of Anglish.

    I have chosen Milton as my guide through this discussion because if there is one thing that describes the best poet after Shakespeare, then that would be power through what he wrote. If you compare Paradise Lost with Shakespeare's Lucrece, for example, you would conclude that the verse of PL > L because of their style and diction. PL is high and lofty, while L has a steady flow that does not rise and fall as much as PL does. So if you compare Miltonic epic with Shakespeare's best long poem, you have to conclude that Milton does indeed surpass Shakespeare at least with this comparison.

    If you look at Milton's political tracts, he dismisses the barbarous past and looks to places like France and Italy as model societies. And they have derived their ways from the Classical past. So the proper way to govern would not be to look at Beowulf, but to behold the Greek polis that had a much better way to conduct state affairs, than that of how the Germanic tribes worked out theirs.

    And I think that the nature of this artificial language is such that it will not be used to craft state policy, but rather it gives its users a power to craft what their thoughts desire. So since this tung has the barbarous Old English language in sight along with the other Germanic languages of the same sort, there is a longing to see how Germanic societies governed themselves during the Migration Periods after the fall of Rome. When civilization as we knew it collapsed, the Germanic invaders borrowed Classical customs but essentially retained their own Folkways including the way that they practiced governance.

    To conclude, Milton would cast me aside when it comes to preferring other customs of government than that of the Classical past, but he would look with favor on how language might be shaped for our own ends. And if those ends lead to a greater care to preserve our current state of affairs within our own burgs, moots, and rikes, then he may nod with a sigh of relief from the circuitous route that I took to get there.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Peter in Lycidas

    This post will be my last brief analysis on Lycidas before I move onto some other aspect of Milton's career or vocation as a poet. I'd like to get into his political and religious viewpoints that we find in his published tracts when Britain was tearing apart due to the coming civil war. But for now let's look at lines 109-115 of Lycidas:

The Pilot of the Galilean lake,
Two massy Keyes he bore of metals twain,
(The Golden opes, the Iron shuts amain)
He shook his Miter'd locks, and stern bespake,
How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain,
Anow of such as for their bellies sake,
Creep and intrude, and climb into the fold?

    Milton has Peter, the apostle, in view when he wrote the above lines. The keys are instruments that bind and loose or open and shut the gate. He was given the power to include or exclude those who would be seeking to enter into Heaven. But why would Milton choose Peter in the midst of this pagan pastoral scene?

    Here Peter speaks with authority. He has the power either to allow or disallow Milton's companion entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. This authoritative sternness that bellows out from the apostle is in contrast to the mellow harmony of the mythological figures that we find in the rest of the poem.

    The Christian audience breathes a sigh of relief when we encounter Peter, who speaks directly to the young swain. Setting aside the debate of whether Peter was exclusively given the keys of the kingdom, I think that he is used here as a relief from the figures that we find in the Greco-Roman myths, which we pick up on as we read this highly elusive poem.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Last Lines of Lycidas

Let’s look at the last section of the poem (lines 186-193):

Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th' Okes and rills,
While the still morn went out with Sandals gray,
He touch'd the tender stops of various Quills,
With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
And now the Sun had stretch'd out all the hills,
And now was dropt into the Western bay;
At last he rose, and twitch'd his Mantle blew:
To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.

    I feel that Swain refers to a Sheppard here due to the pastoral context, but it could also refer to a young person. Milton, at this point, identifies himself as the speaker of the poem: an untrained sheppard that sung his song about his fellow poet, who is now in heaven. Milton takes on the identity of a sheppard, even though he lived in the city (London) rather than the country. And he saves this reference about his identity until the end of this short (193 lines) poem.

   So Milton, the unready poet, rises at the end of Lycidas to find something new. He has already finished this pastoral poem, and so, after that, he embarks in 1638 on a tour of the Continent. He travels through France and Italy to meet up with other influential people such as Hugo Grotius and Galileo. So once Lycidas is written, then Milton travels through Europe to visit her famous people and places such as Florence and Rome. So after work, he leaves for his grand tour. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Intro to Lycidas

Milton wrote this poem because of the drowning of Edward King, a fellow poet who drowned in 1637 off the coast of Wales. He serves as the inspiration for Lycidas, which is a poem about how he was cut off too early in his life. So this is a lament in the form of a pastoral, a poem that shepherds would write about. And I feel that Milton is anxious to become a poet with lasting value, so he feels compelled to write in a grandiose fashion, which Samuel Jonson, the 18th century critic, derided as vulgar and disgusting.

Milton recalls his masque, Comus, at the beginning of the poem. Comus was a play that was performed in 1634 before the court. And he uses this work a springboard to launch his argument for his dead friend, who is lamented and compared to Orpheus, a mythological poet who was cut off in his prime. So Milton alludes to Classical myth throughout his works, so if you want to find out about these ancient mythological references, I’d suggest reading the Metamorphoses by Ovid to get a handle on them. You will find that the poem reads better if you are aware of this material. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

the Autumn of Milton

    A few years back, I spent the summer fixated on Shakespeare due to a book on the subject of the characters within his plays. The book focuses on what made Shakespeare's characters come alive from the reader's prospective. I liked it because the author was able to draw from all of Shakespeare's plays to give you a sense of what made Hamlet, Falstaff, Rosalind, and so on different from the other play-makers of his time. The book is Shakespeare: Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom.

    We could understand why Shakespeare is different by contrasting his characters with the characters of the Ancient Greek plays who changed as a result of the will of the gods. But the characters that we find in the plays of Shakespeare change as a result of overhearing themselves. This inward change comes about through the interactions between characters as well as by the soliloquies that change their own intentions as they speak them. So this technique gave Shakespeare an edge over rival playwrights like Marlowe and Ben Johnson.

    But I'd like to do a series on John Milton, who lived after Shakespeare's time. He was a poet, who also wrote about his political events such as the execution of the king. He was a proponent of personal liberty to the point of arguing for divorce in his tracts. I like Milton because we have more biographical information about him than Shakespeare, who seemed to live a mostly private life. And I suspect that if you are going to be inventing inwardness for your characters, you won't have much time for writing about your life.

    However, Milton did not have this problem because he writes about his life in plain prose through his political tracts. Of course, we cannot separate religion from politics during this time period because church and state were not separate. But I will not be focusing on the historical times of this poet, since I'd like to focus, rather, on what he wrote. So next time, I will be looking at Lycidas, a poem about his friend who drowned in 1637 in the Irish Sea.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Horatio at Home

    In literature, a character often feels at home, if they are with the people that they are familiar with. They tend to speak more freely, especially if they are with their friends. If we find such characters with those who offer comfort to them, then we recognize that they will freely talk about their motives with each other.

    In general, characters speak freely so that their traits become perceptible to us as readers. So if we would like to look into how a character is to be seen from the point of view of the writer, then we should look at where the character is at home or among good company. The following example will show this general tendency:

When Hamlet decides to see the ghost, then Horatio then warns him (I.iv, 69-76):

    What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o'er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? think of it:
The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.

    The above lines represent Horatio as an interpreter of Hamlet, who is hard to understand at times, due to his ambitious preoccupations. These motives are shown to us more clearly by Horatio, who presents the prince as a victim of an occult experience. The ghost of Hamlet's father will tell him exactly who it was that killed him, but Horatio cautions the prince about the ghost beforehand. So Horatio feels comfortable about reassuring Hamlet about the coming encounter with the ghost.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

on Working with a Textual Tradition

    My last post was about how proponents of a certain textual tradition of the Bible don't have any meaningful answers if confronted with questions in a public debate setting. So I have agreed that this particular view of how textual criticism should be done is shortsighted. Those who identify with the Reformed Confessions, take this ecclesiastical text position as a sort of QIRC that one fellow confessor from California had pointed out in his book years ago. This quest to narrow the field of textual critical studies is an example of how our modern folk deal with those who would promote a different tradition than that of which they are used to.

    So, in sum, we could point to the use of I John 5:7 in the catechisms and, therefore, conclude that John wrote down this verse for the church. The above argument, however, does not consider the history of textual transmission because it takes the outcome of a council in ways that they themselves have not intended their work to be taken. In other words, those who would claim that a council had determined the textual critical methods of investigating the original readings of the Bible would not be able to be critical of their own textual tradition. So they would accept the Comma Johanneum without question.

    If the proponents of the ecclesiastical text take issue with this analysis of their position, then they would have to engage with the textual sources the Westminster divines had used. Then the question becomes one of relevancy, since modern textual critics don't accept their position on textual critical methods. They are happy with text that the church had handed down to them and, perhaps, that is what they want to have.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

on the Ecclesiastical Text of the Bible

    I have recently seen a video that was put up about two months ago on James White's YouTube account. I didn't get a chance to see it until now, due to my obsession with Anglish, which I'd like to put away for now. James White seemed very concerned that the proponents of the ecclesiastical text, however that is defined, don't have any leg to stand on when it comes to public debates with those who are familiar with textual criticism. So I'd like to take a moment to address the issue of having an objective methodology for criticizing the ecclesiastical text of the Bible.

  First, we are not criticizing the Bible based on its literary value, but rather on how are we going to get the same text that the Prophets and the Apostles had wrote down for their audience. That should be the goal of textual criticism, but that is a very broad outlook, so I'd like to the focus on how the proponents of the 'ecclesiastical text' might go about establishing the key passages that Dr. White has cited in his video. If you have not yet seen the video, it's here for your interest:

    So I think that those who promote the 'ecclesiastical text' are wondering how on earth can Dr. White do textual criticism, if he doesn't use the text of the Bible that we're familiar with. If you don't have 'the text' that the church has handed down to us, how do you begin to examine it at all? This question is asking for a textual tradition that could be accepted by those who are part of the church. So I feel that those who want to go back to the time of the Reformation would have a skeptical climate of opinion toward James's direct questions of how the ecclesiastical text might be founded.

    In response to the skepticism, the proponents would say that we have what the text of the Reformers had, but there has been much development since those early days. Wouldn't it be nice to live in the 16th century, when the science of textual criticism was just budding? To have the work of Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, and so on, however, wouldn't answer the question of how the text of the Scriptures is established, which is a process that requires sharp criteria, if you are going to do meaningful criticism of the text. So we should appreciate the work of those men, but we should also consider how they came to their conclusions in establishing what the Apostles wrote to the church.

    If we are going to find out what textual tradition we should use to do textual criticism, let's take a bird's eye of the field. We have many manuscript traditions that show how the text has come down to us. But the church dose't have to be the keeper of these documents to feel that we have the 'true' text of the Bible. For instance, if 19th century statists were influential in preserving the text of the Word of God, could we not use their insights to understand where our Book has come from? So I'd say that the proponents of this undefinable text of the church have to, at least, give an attempt to answer the questions that were raised in the video.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Dialogue on Society

Volt: So how do we find our place within society?

Hans: From the fact that we are citizens of a political state, then we could find our place within society.

Volt: But you would not even know that you are a citizen without being told as such.

Hans: The recognition of being a citizen is dependent on actually being a citizen, which is predicated on an already existing political state.

Volt: All right; you receive your citizenship from the state, but what are you in relation to your society?

Hans: I am saying that once we recognize our own political state, then we can be effective members of its society.

Volt: You, sir, don’t know you place within society.

Hans: How could you say that I don't know? I have lived within society all of my life.  Do you have any evidence that I have not lived within society?

Volt: Here is what I mean: once you live among its members, you will find your place.

Hans: But I…But what is my place?

Volt: Your place is to see that its members decide who you are going to be in relation to them.

Hans: But what of my personal dignity?

Volt: They will respect that once you show yourself to be a dignified member among them.

Hans: I guess that I feel that have a lot to learn.

Volt: That’s all for today’s lesson.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Converse with the Dead

Here is a passage from Hamlet (III, ii, 17-36)):

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the
word to the action; with this special o'erstep not
the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is
from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone,
or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the
censure of the which one must in your allowance
o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be
players that I have seen play, and heard others
praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely,
that, neither having the accent of Christians nor
the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so
strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of
nature's journeymen had made men and not made them
well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

    This is apart of the 'Speak the Speech' advice give to his players, who have to preform before the royal audience in Elsinore. These are the stage directions given by Hamlet to instruct the players in how to act well in the play, the Murder of Gonzago, that is going to be preformed. So I'd like to focus on the meaning of two things within the above speech: 1. 'holding up the mirror up to nature' and 2. 'imitating humanity'

    1. Hamlet says that the play-actor shows what is the heart of his audience by merely speaking his lines. This simple direction seems too simple because Hamlet is an experienced play-actor, while his players are novices, who are forced to keep up with the demands of the playwright. So the nature of the players are their relative youth and inexperience.

    2. The irony of Hamlet is that he points out the flaws of other players that he had seen. These were poor players, who did not act well because they sometimes missed their cues. When it was their turn to act, they failed because they did not deliver their lines with the gusto that Hamlet is demanding from his players. So it's human to wander away from what you are supposed to be doing.

   Thus, while we wander from our duties, we could take the time to remember our place on the stage. We will never be like Hamlet because he does not want us to be like him. He demands exact conformity to his directions, which we will never measure up to. So we concede that we have enough of the words that we have been taught from him as players on his stage.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Natural Law Ethics

    Natural law ethics could be described as the attempt to find values within nature, which is the image of what should be. That is a very sketchy definition of nature, but then from this understanding of what nature is, one could set up a way of carrying out those values to other image-bearers, who are those who hold to these values. (The values are concepts which are shown through actions.) So this is a theistic account of how we understand ethics through natural law theory, which is on the internet somewhere.

    So once we look at nature, we will then look for a certain 'oughtness' about how things work within nature. This 'oughtness' is a feeling that we have when we see how nature should act. Down below, there will be a distinction between how things should be and how things ought to be. Let's call this the difference between how we feel about something and how things actually are in themselves.

    For example, if there is a glass of water on the table, then one could look at how the water is settled within the glass, and then from there conclude that the water acts in such a way that it should be settled within that glass. However, this is a fallacy because nature does not tell us anything about how things should act, but rather those, who have a sense of how nature should be, are the ones who make a judgement about how nature should act.

    Thus, our judgments depend on nature to give us an idea of how things ought to be, but we already have an idea of how things should be. And as we look to nature for how things ought to be, let us keep in mind that 'should' tells us about our feelings that we have about nature, while 'ought' is how things are to be in our world that is sensible to the image-bearers within it. So we get knowledge about the world through how we interact with it, since nature is the source of science, but math guys have to give you a schema to find out how to understand science.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Kentucky Woman

This is nothing less than Calvin’s doctrine of the lesser magistrates (Institutes 4.20.22-32), which I would urge upon all and sundry as relevant reading material. And as Calvin points out, after Daniel — a Babylonian official — disobeyed the king’s impious edict, he denied that he had wronged the king in any way (Dan. 6:22-23).

John Bugay wrote the above on a blog that has helped me out in my thinking and writing:

    Now, this controversy over a Kentucky woman, who did the right thing in my estimation, is about being blamed for not issuing marriage licenses in her respective state. She had an issue of conscience that would not allow her to perform her duties, so she has been put in jail, I believe, over this issue of gender-blind marriage, which to me is nonsense.

    My question is: does the lesser magistrate, in this context the Kentucky clerk, have the right to not follow the law, if that law does not seem right in her estimation? If you do not think that a law is right, does that obligate you to disobedience? When is civil disobedience justifiable?

    Let’s say that there is a law that says that it’s lawful for persons to do evil. Now this is just a thought experiment, so do not object yet, you lawyers! There is a point to this thought: when the law says to perform an evil action, will you do it? Yes, that is what the law says, but what does your instinct tell you?

    So if there is a law that you feel has no binding authority on your behavior, should you not be punished for your crime? Yes, because you have decided that the law is useless in the sense that it has no authority over your conscience because you feel that it would not be right to follow such a law. Why follow an unjust law?

    Thus, if you are a lesser magistrate, and if there is, I hate to say it, an evil-law, then you should disobey that law because that particular law is unjust. So when a society becomes oppressed by evil-laws, then that society will become weak with ill rule, so that another one will take its place over time. This is a bleak conclusion that could be overturned with magistrates who follow this line of thinking.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How to Read and Why

    The book ‘How to Read and Why’ was published by Touchstone in 2000 by Harold Bloom, an excellent literary critic, who wrote this book to give many examples from imaginative literature, or fictional writing, to show you why reading matters. He begins his book by giving us some guidelines to read well:

1.       Clear you mind of jargon.
2.       Read to improve your own interests, not those of your neighbor.
3.       A scholar is a candle, which the love and desire of all men will light.
4.       One must be an inventor to read well.
5.       Look for irony as you read.

    These principles of reading serve us as a reminder that we read for ourselves, while writers write for others. However, the opposite happens also, but the propose of reading fiction is to become better at overhearing ourselves as we seek what the author, Bloom, calls the Sublime, which is a hard pleasure to capture. Thus, we read fiction to enjoy our own interests, but you have to read a lot if you are going to become an interesting person.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

the White Flag of Words

  Some people are attached to their favorite authors like Twain, Dickens, or you name him. And their readers have a sense that the worlds that they have written up are familiar to them. They feel comfortable not just because they are familiar with their diction, but rather they are comfortable with the literary world(s) that they have made. So if you think about their different books that have been written by one of these authors, you might find a place where you feel welcome. And this is a 'home' for you that is different than where you pay your bills, for example.

  This 'home' is inhabited by many different characters, who live in the world of the author's making. And I don't believe that they are just marks on a page, but rather they live and move and have their being because an author has chosen to give them motivations and intentions. And if we find the author to be moral in the sense that he has lived a good life, then we tend to read what they have written. So if like how an author writes, then we tend to think that their life was not so bad. We might then ask ourselves: how did he live, so that I could be like him?

  Now this question is usually answered by looking at his biographers, who recorded what they liked about him. (The author could be female, but I will bet that my audience will look this over with a passing glance.) So if we like a certain author, we would want to find out more about him. That is to say, what the author has written has more weight than the marks that he left on paper.

  So I would suggest that these authors have their place because their audience thought that they deserved it. Furthermore, who we read will influence what else we read, since these authors have influenced our reading habits. And these habits have been shaped by the authors, whom we read because they have given us so much life out of mere words.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Gender Neutral Pronouns

We are familiar with the singular pronouns she, her, hers and he, him, his, but those are not the only singular pronouns. In fact, there are dozens of gender-neutral pronouns.

A few of the most common singular gender-neutral pronouns are they, them, their(used as singular), ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr.

These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new. The she and he pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.

    The above link is from an academic source that explores the possibility of gender neutral pronouns, and I'd like to ask if we should use gender neutral pronouns within the context of academia. 

    I'd think that the use of gender neutral pronouns is such that, if there is a person without a gender, then we are warranted to use a gender neutral pronoun for 'hirs', which is the 3rd person pronoun for our hypothetical person, for example. So we would use these pronouns when there is a need to describe a person without gender. But if someone claims to be without gender, then the claim itself is ambiguous, since hir is just not familiar with hirself.

    Then we have 'ze', a person without gender, while 'hir' is the 2nd person(al) pronoun. So now have them in order: ze (1st), hir (2nd), and hirs (3rd). These are the gender neutral pronouns of the singular variety. And the same could be done for plurals, which they themselves do not use because this group of unfamiliar youths is not a community as of yet. One day when hirs become one, then what need will there be for 'them'?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

on Blogging

   I would like to take the time to talk about blogging in general. What is blogging? What is a blog? Why blog? Why not tweet instead? All of these questions deal with our need to send out our thoughts to nameless people, who may or may not know us personally, and so there is an element of danger that I would like to address now.

   The danger of blogging is that once you have reached a comfortable level of influence among your audience, then there is the temptation to scale back your efforts because you feel that you have over-stretched yourself. You feel that your thoughts have influenced someone else, so that you must find a place to hide to not let your audience know about anything else that you might have to say. In other words, your audience has a chance to talk back to you thru the comments box and that could be worrisome for some folks. (The vision never dies.)

   Now there was a time when this sort of thing happened to me. I put up material from A&O Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, that was about textual critical issues over the confessions of faith that we as Reformed churches confess. There was a commenter who wanted to challenge me about my sources, so I went back to my sources to find out that he was not seeing the entire picture of where we were at. So I told him that I had a lot more resources than I was letting on. And the commentator had not replied ever since I responded to him (her?) about that issue.

  So I would recommend taking time to get a sense of who your audience is before you post on your blog because then you will be better equipped to answer them, if they respond back to you. That is to say, when you blog, assume that your audience has some idea about what you are talking about, right? Otherwise, I guess that this medium could be used a journal, but who wants to read other folk's personal info on the Internet? So stay nameless as possible on the internetworks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


    Do you know what love is? Some people say that love is feeling that is found in one's gut, when you consider a person whom you know about. Others say that love is an action that drives you to move on a person's behalf. For example, if you know that the person whom you love is in trouble, then you would move on the behalf of this person (with gender) to rescue them from danger. So, love, for now, can be described as a feeling that moves you to preform an action on behalf of your beloved.

  Let us think about another sonnet from Shakespeare, the bard that we all (just me) talk about here on this blog. Let's consider Sonnet 43:

1.  When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
2.  For all the day they view things unrespected;
3.  But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
4.  And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
5.  Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
6.  How would thy shadow's form form happy show
7.  To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
8.  When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
9.  How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
10. By looking on thee in the living day,
11. When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
12. Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
13. All days are nights to see till I see thee,
14. And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

At first I note how my computer wants to correct the bard. I guess he made a spelling error.

    So the poet thinks about what love is. Under the shadow of night, he thinks about his lover. This is seen through the setting where the bard is dreaming about his lover by looking at their 'shadow's form', which is a phrase meaning the lover's presence that, with irony. brings light to the poet's sight. Love, described here with shadowy imagery, is unpacked as a metaphor. They are eyes that bring light to 'the living day'. So love makes everything turn bright from the point of view of the beloved.

   Love, then, can only make sense from your lover's point of view. It is a pair of eyes that can see the world, even though it is dark, since light is brought forth from them, the eyes. So if we want love, we have to see through the eyes of our beloved. Then, love, from this meditation is more than what we first thought it was. It requires almost a second sight that we lack of ourselves. We require another set of eyes to see the world around us to feel love.

Friday, July 10, 2015


    Time is a common subject that is written about. This is done in fictive settings as well as scientific analysis, so it's a common theme, since time and chance happens to all. What can be said about time?

   If time is found in a fictional setting, you may want to abstract it from its context to consider the concept of time all by itself. However, then you have divorced time from its reason to be, since the violence done to time here is not thinking about it poetically. 

   What I mean here is that time needs a home for it to show how it operates in a given setting. Time considered on its own loses its power. And you might want to think about it scientifically, but now let's consider time by look at this sonnet from Shakespeare:

Consider Sonnet 19:
1. Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,
2. And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
3. Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
4. And burn the long-lived phoenix, in her blood;
5. Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet'st,
6. And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
7.To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
8. But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
9. O, carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
10. Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
11. Him in thy course untainted do allow
12. For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
13. Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
14. My love shall in my verse ever live young.

   Time here is called a wild cat that tears her pray. And no one can stop here from destroying her targets. Then next, time is told not to devour the poet’s lover. So time’s face changes to an abstraction.

   The loss of time’s cast or how it is perceived from the sonnet’s opening lines to the ending couplets is not abrupt but developed. From line 10, we get the fact that time is a writer editing the beauty of a face.

   Time is dynamic within this sonnet in the sense that it has the power to destroy as well as to mar the faces of men. These actions have a similarity in its chaotic outcomes, but they are not the same because time is not a static entity here.

   The change comes from Shakespeare’s description. He encounters the feline animal to forbid destructive action on the part of its alternative manifestation, which is the writer with the pen.

   This abstraction is done within the parameters of the consideration of the destructive force of time, although it points to the experience that we all have of its ravages of our own youth and beauty. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

a Broken Tower

Once more you mutual friends and lovers
Hidden beneath ruin of a broken tower;
Cast down by neglect or my ignorance,
Whereby I myself perished every day.
Rather would I submit a single death,
Than to your crosses which you carried;
Still to save at least a few amid flames
Brought about by circumstances dire;
Through there is nothing sweeter to find
Among glowing embers still flying here:
Such consolation from your fair faces.
You faces familiar will lie with sleep;
Nothing more by me can be done now.
The tower covers over your trouble.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


    The first tool for this new conceptual schema of ethics is identification. Identification, simply put, is finding out what is under consideration. However, in this context, the tool itself will be used as a marker for significant behavior in the search for that which is morally praiseworthy. So, the tool will be loaded properly once a criterion for what we have chosen to look for has been selected. For now the default setting will be language that has proper usage.

    So f(x) = y, where f(x) is a function of proper use of language. The function can be represented as the way language (x) relates to proper use (y). How this formulation takes place will depend on how both of these variables are identified. Given that the language is identified, then proper use can be determined through the use of the functional formula. What the function actually is cannot be determined here, but we note how language and proper usage relate to each other.

    This is not a truth-functional operation that is carried out, but rather the function is dependent on the aesthetic qualities of language which cannot be mapped onto truth and falsehood because negation cannot significantly alter such aesthetic qualities. Something more flexible needs to be used to capture features such as syntax, diction, and cognitive strength within language. The identification will need to account for these features.

    This impasse can be overcome if we do not insist on an exact account of what we find to be significant for how certain words and phrases within language produce a sense that shows that they have more significance than others. The question now becomes one of identifying these qualities that make language augmented and elevated. The above shows that simple criteria will not do for understanding ethics, so that another approach to the problem is needed.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How is that Going to Help your Putting Game?

    In continuation from the previous posting, narrowing ethics down to the form of how things are communicated will limit its scope but, perhaps, this narrowing will give us a framework to work with. But, now, the question of relevance comes up, which should be answered. By suggesting that this framework will give us a clear view of the moral landscape that we are beholden to daily, there is then the specific question of how this new focus will treat ethics: what will this narrow compartment say to the whole field of philosophy?

    First, most moral actions are not to be evaluated in practice because they are not directed toward us as moral agents. But, words, in contrast, have a public standing especially if they are printed in a medium such as a newspaper. Consider that public actions are usually accompanied with a explanation, if they are important enough to be executed by important moral agents. But we need not concern ourselves now of the exact statistics of the relations between words and actions. I just want you to note down the distinctions, so that morals could be seen separately from political action.

    From this elementary observation of how words and actions relate, we can then form the idea of how words precede actions. If significant or political actions require an explanation for its use, then we can take the next step to say that how that explanation is expressed will show its moral signification for that action. Another way of putting this distinction is that the moral justification for an action will reveal itself to be praiseworthy through how it is intended to be taken by means of its verbal backdrop given by the moral agent.

    So given that actions are important, then the form of the words used to uphold them will prove their worth through their moral signification. This quality will be revealed by looking at how and why those words used in such a context of moral actions. We will require at least a few tools to build up this moral framework of signifying praise and blame. That will be next.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


    Usually ethics is cast in terms of actions, where the focus is on correct behavior. Even if that focus is the case, I would like to focus on words rather than actions. Actions speak louder than words, yes. But, perhaps, looking into words will preserve correct action, if the focus was fixed on the form of how correct speech is to be formed for those seeking to live rightly.

    Now Wittgenstein said that his Tractatus was essentially ethical, even though the publication has propositions that are mainly not about ethics, but how words capture states of affairs. Through the picture theory of meaning, he proposed a way of how propositions show the logical way they work within the framework of logical space.

   From correct modes of speech, we can follow correct behavior. This will cover speech acts such as suggesting action as well as informatory discourse that is the bulk of speech. One overall element suggested from the Book of the Courtier is that speech should have sprezzatura, a quality that shows one did not put a lot of effort to make it happen. This rhetoric would stand out by how it is performed.

   So if it could be suggested that how words should be used is not through its content but its form, in this context through the speaker's way of speaking, what is lost?  We have lost focus on how actions are performed to concentrate on words. And we are not looking to what is said but how something is said. From all of this winnowing, can how words are said serve as a guide to an ethical outlook?

    If we borrow another proposition from the Tractatus: Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same (6.421), we can take this criterion and say that it severs as a way to evaluate how pleasing speech is, which is in essence rhetoric. So, perhaps, the justifications for behavior can be evaluated by how pleasing they are. What this does is take the proper subject of ethics, behavior, and evaluate it through the way those actions are defended. I will say more on this latter.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

City Life

This ritual yeartide, when I seek full consent
To wander around a city, where I have wooed
You both unhappily and relentlessly,
Continues to convict me that nothing
Remains to me but honor and life, which is safe.

But your recent anger is death to me for
Which I plea to be pardoned to play freely
In a double game where masks are worn
By us, never seeing the other’s opposing side.

Soon your presence will be worth all this waste,
But in the meantime as I remember your face
This city becomes a universe of dear spite.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

An Effusion of Blood

I feel your skepticism seeping towards
the abortive state of art and scholarship in Turkey.
Yes, especially on the northern border!

Their discourse grows golden apple sour through
their rote learning and often wearying spiritual exercises
Inflamed with so intense a desire

Inspired by an extraordinary zeal for philosophy
Grant me chastity and continence, now!
I think we should spit in their sea.

I am your captain, follow me!
The first son of his mother’s body.
The young lord keeper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nant, son of Nant, Mason of Krondor

For three score years and five
did Nant
tithe and tithe and tithe.
To Church and God and Priest
did Nant
tithe and tithe and tithe.
Not once in three score years
and five
did prayers yield a boon,
Not once in three score years
and five
did even fateful goddess smile,
And now that Nant's full three
score years and five
do finally come to pass, the tithing
finally ends.

found on a gravestone near a mausoleum