Monday, December 13, 2010

Experience

I find it surprising that, since the number of various experiences seems to be important, that science has not tried to make it possible to see what it’s like to become a toaster oven.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Four Notes of Fate

Ludwig van Beethoven conveys the message of fate and human will to the whole world through his music. Much of Beethoven's life reflects this struggle between human will and fate, in fact. Beethoven was born to Johann and Maria Magdalena van Beethoven in the year 1770. His family steadily became poorer after his grandfather's death in 1773 and his father's descent into alcoholism. After age eleven, Beethoven was forced to leave school to provide for his family. His father made young Ludwig undergo vigorous musical training in hopes that he would become another child-prodigy like Mozart, but this failed. In spite of his failure to become a child prodigy, though, Beethoven went on to study music; and he made a name for himself early on. Although no credible testimonials survive of his first visit to Vienna, legend has it that Mozart said “this young man will make a great name for himself in the world” when he heard Beethoven's superb improvisational skills. But then the hand of fate struck. By 1800, Beethoven realized that he was going deaf. He was tempted to take his life into his own hands, but, as the Heiligenstadt Testament reveals, “..only Art held [Beethoven] back; for, ah, it seemed unthinkable for me to leave the world forever before I had produced all that I felt called upon to produce.…” Beethoven would not let deafness stop him from writing the music that he was called to write. He stated that he would “seize fate by the throat”. He did this through his music. After completing his famous tenth symphony, he planned to continue on by outlining his next symphony. But fate had caught up with him. On March 26th, 1827, Ludwig van Beethoven died; and was honored by the presence of ten-thousand people at his funeral.


Beethoven wrestled fate through his music. Even early on, you can hear traces of this life-conflict of his. He aggressively displayed emotional intensity in his Piano Sonata in C minor, which is known as his “Pathetique Sonata”. After he learned of his advancing deafness, he decided to start over in his composing career by writing his Third or “Eroica” Symphony. Beethoven was taking quite a few chances by displaying this fiery emotion amidst the practice of self-control in the Classical period. When the audience heard the first four notes of his infinitely famous Fifth Symphony, they were sure he was insane. However, by the time he wrote his great Seventh Symphony, the audience had caught on – they wanted to hear it again. Beethoven saved his best for last, though. The Ninth Symphony was one of the very last manuscripts to be written by the great composer. During its performance, Beethoven had to be made aware of the applause from the audience by one of the soloists: as he was completely deaf. Beethoven also wrote one opera, called Fidelio. But his struggles with fate are best portrayed by far by his nine symphonies that shook the world.

Beethoven's lyrical melodic lines and powerful accents bring to mind the dramatic and hostile aspects of the struggle with fate, while his slow, somber themes inform us of the deep wounds fate inflicts. The rhythmic motifs illustrate this continual battle. One particular practice of Beethoven's that enables him to portray the underlying element of fate is his treatment of the bass line. Until Beethoven, composers in the Classical era wrote the bass line in the cello and doubled it an octave below with the stringed bass. Beethoven departed from this practice, and wrote independent parts for both instruments. Another rather different and somewhat odd characteristic of Beethoven is his treatment of sonata form. On some occasions – in his early piano sonatas, for example – Beethoven departed from the normal use of this form. He used what has been called “binary sonata form”. In binary sonata form, the boundary between the development section and the recapitulation section is somewhat uncertain. When listening to this in Beethoven's music, one might come away with more of a sense of turmoil created by this unclear boundary – A chaotic struggle between the will of the composer and that of fate.

The four notes sound. Instantly, fate has struck its blow: Beethoven was going deaf. He started sketching his Fifth Symphony as early as 1804, around the time he realized that fate had dealt him the blow. By July of 1809, he had finished it, and presented the score to the publisher E.T.A. Hoffman. Hoffman was a contributor to one of the most respected music journals in Germany at the time, and had nothing but praise for the work. The review he wrote was twice as long as his other reviews, and contained extravagant and pictorial language about Beethoven's work of early Romanticism – it was the largest piece of writing ever written on a work of Beethoven at the time.

Undoubtedly, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was one of his most important works: perhaps the most important of all. Beethoven's Fifth marked a major turning point in the composition of his symphonies. Perhaps with the exception of his third, Beethoven's symphonies had been mostly written in the style of musicians in the Classical Period before him. His techniques were moderated and somewhat under control. While composing his Symphony No.5, Beethoven seems to have uncontrollably unleashed his self-expression into his music. The self-expression Beethoven displays in this piece and his use of Classical techniques undoubtedly set the pace for the Romantic era to follow. This is more than likely the reason why Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is so important, and why it is remembered so well today.

The theme of fate seems so prominent in Beethoven's life, but it is much more prominent in the first movement of his Fifth Symphony than it is in his other works. One only has to hear the violent first four notes to understand that this piece is about the harsh blows inflicted by fate. The four note motif is so striking that is easily recognized around the world. Even if you happen to miss the opening statement, you can still hear the motif throughout the entire piece. During the exposition, the motif is often stated in other voices, even while other material is being played. At the beginning of the development section, we hear the opening theme stated in F minor. Then, the material breaks down into the development of the motif. Even though the development is chaotic, you can still hear the motif interspersed between the other developed material. The recapitulation is signaled by the chords in the woodwinds answered by the strings, followed by a loud repetition of the motif. Once you pass through the recapitulation, the loud statement of the motif signals a change from the end of the recapitulation to the beginning of the coda. The coda is a long one, and is almost a re-development section. This re-development returns to the main theme, once again, with a loud restatement of the motif. The piece ends with a violent series of chords alternating between dominant and tonic, creating a dramatic close to seal the end of a journey of fate.

An element of Beethoven's music that seems to jump out at you is his continual use of harshly loud accents (called a sforzando). The first of his symphonies where this can be clearly observed is in the opening two chords of the “Eroica” or Third Symphony. In addition to the harshly accented chords that leap out from the material, many of Beethoven's themes seem to naturally accent themselves, whether or not this is indicated in the music. This supports the partly mythical-seeming connotations of fate with Beethoven. Something that may not appear fate-oriented, however, is Beethoven's ability to weave lyrical melodic material into material that is contrastingly rough and aggressive. However, when Beethoven mixes this melodic material into his rough and accented music, as he does in the fourth movement of his Sixth Symphony, it becomes all the more fateful. But in his earlier works, there is more of a contrast between smooth and rough, and this is openly displayed in the first movement of his Fifth Symphony. During this period in time, Beethoven still used sudden dynamic contrast, but he also began to use crescendos and decrescendos effectively. Again, the smooth transition from loud to soft and soft to loud is more prominent in his later works. This period may be more of a transition from Classical to Romantic: and so Beethoven's Fifth is a pivotal point in this transition. Another characteristic of Beethoven that may play a factor in moving from Classical to Romantic may be his ability to move into polyphonic texture at any time. While he uses this texture sparingly at this point in time, the texture can appear anywhere and lead to any place in his music. The rough accents, contrastingly smooth and lyrical melodic material, contrasting and smooth changes in dynamics, polyphonic texture jumping from nowhere: these all add to the sense of fate perceived in Beethoven's music.

Due to Beethoven playing a major role in the transition from Classical to Romantic, he almost has more in common with composers of the Romantic period than he does with those of the Classical. However, Beethoven's roots were in the music of the Classical period, and therefore many trends of the time influenced his music. The importance of the symphony at the time must have left a large impression on him, as he went on to expand it considerably. Although he made vast expansions to it, Beethoven drew heavily on the sonata form that was in standard use at the time. Also, Beethoven's music was mostly homophonic in texture, as was a good deal of the music during the Classical period. However, Much of Beethoven's transition to Romanticism might be linked to his teacher, Haydn. Haydn influenced Beethoven in a large number of ways: Haydn used syncopation, abrupt contrasts in dynamics, unconventional modulations, and accented chords that surprised his audience – Beethoven used all of these techniques, and developed them further. Beethoven also appears to have drawn from the music of Mozart as well. In some of his works, Beethoven seems to have similar phrasing, and his use of the orchestra sounds as though it might be a development of Mozart's style of orchestration. Mozart, like Haydn, also frequently used syncopation. So, both of these musical giants seemed to have influenced Beethoven quite heavily. But, in his genius, Beethoven took both the styles of Haydn and Mozart to new heights that even they had not imagined. This shaped the music of Beethoven to become what we hear today.

Beethoven's determination to conquer fate has left us with some of the greatest music in history. Perhaps his music would not have taken the shape it took had Beethoven not been struck deaf. Perhaps what Beethoven called fate lead him to compose the very music of the struggle with fate that he did. In the end, Beethoven left us with astonishing music, and perhaps even a whole new era of music.

Bibliography


Medforth, Budden, and Knapp, Raymond. Ludwig van Beethoven. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/58473/Ludwig-van-Beethoven.

Cassedy, Steven. Beethoven the Romantic: How E.T.A. Hoffman Got It Right. University of California, San Diego. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_the_history_of_ideas/v071/71.1.cassedy.html.

Sherrane, Robert. The Classical Period: Ludwig van Beethoven. ipl2. http://www.ipl.org/div/mushist/clas/beethoven.html.

Song, Moo Kyoung. The Evolution of Sonata-Form Design in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Early Piano Sonatas, WoO 47 to Opus 22. University of Texas at Austin: 71, 72, & 115.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Myth of the Four Lovers, Chapter 1

Arouse, O Muse, thy ancient mouth,
And form thy song upon the theme
Of converse between gods and men.
For many times the gods have come
And made a mockery of love.
But now, Behold! Thy tale has changed!

The earth is large, but not the world. Occasionally, he who is privileged to live upon the earth for a brief sojourn before he travels into Hades or Elysium (Depending on his deserts, not his cunning, for the Feather of Truth lies not) finds a space, perhaps an island surrounded by coral, perhaps a walled garden, perhaps a vessel upon the deeps of the sea, where the very landscape seems to be bounded Being.
There once was such a place, half of a small Aegean island, neither in Ilium nor far from that great dead city of Troy. The gods had seen fit to raise up a mound of stone in the midst of the sea, the island of Gaes. Mostly mountain it was, but in between the two feet of the stone titan (the mountain had no name, for the people of the island were sensible enough not to honor a mountain that did not occasionally spew fire like an angry god) there stretched an expanse of rolling grassy hills, with hedges and small forests of pine, juniper, birch and aspen scattered here and there.
One could not discern the sea from the midst of the plain, where the brooks and rivers met, for Poseidon had shown favor to the people of the island, shrouding it in mist during the day, thus warding off the hostile eyes of enemy ships. Unfitting it was, therefore, for those who lived there to gather their food from the sea. Some were farmers, others shepherds, and all looked upon the sea and the gods with reverence and gratitude for their plentiful flocks, their abundant fields of grain, and their life of peace.
The king of the island, descended in a line of sons from time immemorial, bore the name of Cithos. He was a shepherd, and he diligently kept the festivals, drawing the sacrificial bull to the altars and pleading with the Apollo and the spirits of heaven and earth for plentiful harvests, numerous lambs, perpetual peace, and cornflowers. (It was unknown why he prayed for cornflowers; this too had been handed down in a line of sons from time immemorial.) And, so that the line of the kings might not fail, he himself had two sons: Lithmanes, the older and a farmer, and Karethos, the younger and a shepherd.
This is the description of the island of Gaes; its lands, its peoples, and its inhabitants. And if there be anything lacking, any beauty unmentioned, hold me not at fault, O Muse, Who walks upon the mists of the grey sea!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Evangelization a la Ronald Knox

He’s not a wicked man, whose life is thrown
Into the filth of vice, a toxic waste
That eats a life or twists it to a brawn
Of some demented Hulk who man-flesh tastes.
He merely lives – a quiet, desprate shell
That with grasping success flies for a toy,
Some spark of novelty to stave off hell
Though for a little while. Devoid of joy,
For years his actions getting what they seek
Yet getting nowhere, he is found alone.
For he who is not rushing toward the peak
Along his path, has no life-spring, not one.
How different’s he who’s drunk from living springs,
And, seeking God, will not stop for mere things!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ding Ding Ding! Let Round One Begin!!!!

Okay, it's time to stir up the hornets' nest! How and why is syncopation bad? Music has a direct effect on the brain, so, what are the effects of syncopated music? And while we're at it, what are the effects on the brain that listening to the musical "Wicked" causes?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Based on a True Story: The Myth of St. Edith Stein

Within an older world lived she, with stars
Both regular and sharp. Alone, with He,
Elusive, dropping hints to follow far
Into a Sinai, past Europe’s debris.
But not enough for some were all these hints:
For were they careful, they would find a treat
That wasn’t there to feed their unbelief;
Too sloppy, they’d in custom unfind hints.
And such became Miss Stein, a ph‘lospheress,
Who, trapped in chaos ‘twixt the “Death of God”
And then the finding of the new, searched
With her Phenomenologicer’s Rod.
So ends her quest: she’s found This God Who’s New:
‘Tis Christ, the Only God she’d always knew.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Apology

Sorry about those Chinese comments. I had no clue what they were saying, so I was allowing them to stay. Then I clicked on one, and a screen came up that said that what it linked to was filtered for content reasons. Which means the linked-to site was REALLY BAD!!!!! I hope that nobody was scandalized by that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Constable Keep

Note well: This is not the whole story. Hopefully, there is more to come. So, if some of the conversation in the middle scene seems a bit…incongruous…well, it’s supposed to be.


He had nice curves. It of course is expected that the person who reads that thinks that there is a typo and that the previous sentence should read “she.” But that is not the case. He had nice curves, from the top of his well-rounded, elongated domular, “British Grenadier” policeman’s hat; to his face, which continued the contours of the cap; to the graceful arms and well-rounded lower body. His buttons were as shiny as the hall of mirrors at Versailles, and as golden as the mirror-frames. For Constable Keep refused to save pounds by buying brass buttons, even if they looked just as nice as the gold ones.
The perpetual English rain may have been plopping in the puddles as Constable Keep twirled his bobby-stick, but its frenetic pace and the rushing of the hansom-cabs did not stop the Constable from sniffing a deep sniff and grunting a small grunt.

“Hmm…yes…It’s a fine day, and…Ooh! Get away from me!”

The instigator of the problem was a small child with dirty hands. Constable Keep ran after him with small but surprisingly quick steps, twirling his stick and yelling unintelligible insults at the child. The insults were all in good taste, of course.
An older man stood by the side of the street laughing. He was dressed in those old and worn clothes of quality that betray moderate wealth matched with a more than moderate lifespan.

“Be careful, bob, or you’ll get fired for disturbing the peace.”

Keep turned around.

“No…perhaps not fired, although I have been fired before…from a clothing store I believe. Never mind. I won’t get fired. I’ll be deposed or downsized. Or possibly even transferred.”

Constable Keep sniffed and looked straight at the man, with eyes that looked like finest glass and made you feel like they were made of glue.

“You see,” Constable Keep continued, “That really wouldn’t be all that bad. For perhaps I would get transferred to deep guard over the Globe Theater on the other side of London. I’ve always had this dream, you see, of guarding Shakespeare.”

“Well,” said the old man, “I’m in a literary society.”

“Pooh. Literary society. Just because it’s a literary society…”

“And so is the present administrator of the Globe.”

And with that, the old man walked away.



The next day, which happened to be Constable Keep’s day off, he received an invitation to a meeting of the very same literary society that the man had mentioned before, the Globe Street Regulars. He went, of course.
The Globe Street Regulars met in a pleasant, well-kept, slightly overdecorated small house in a London suburb. The yard was not quite as large as one might like, but the porch chairs were stuffed quite as large as most people could ever have use for. Down the street was a train station, the very fast express line that went through Oxford, stopping near that esteemed university en route. (It was not a place for really useful engines, for Oxford is an excellent place for learning those things that are learned for their own sake.)
Constable Keep, dressed in his best bobby hat, walked up and rang the bell just as the sun completely disappeared beneath the gorgeous curtain of London smog. Fortunately, this barrier did not stop the beams from decorating the sky with colors to gorgeous to be mentioned in a story taking place in grey, rainy England. Ah, the glories of stereotyping…
Following Costable Keep was Kate, whose prim yet precise steps measured out the stairs up to the porch as if they were a dance…or a length of wire. Kate had almost not come that day because she had spent too much time trying to get the head of another literary society to write her a letter of recommendation. Eventually, however, her good manners got the better of her, and she gave up on the letter to fulfill her RSVP to the meeting of the Globe Street Regulars.
Haspic and Harskevitz arrived a bit later. A British version of a sandstorm had ensued, driving the smog away from the sunset, staining the small house slightly sand-colored.
Finally, Dr. Baker arrived. He had been a bit delayed, for instead of taking a cab, he had followed Plato’s advice (as stated in Plato’s Britannia, that is) and taken a bus. When someone asked him his reason, he said, “It was my day off, so naturally, I wasn’t being exactly scholarly and particular.”
Upon entering, the guests found, in addition to the mysterious man who had invited them, a Dr. Than, and a Dr. McDuff. After everyone had been roundly introduced (Kate was introduced as Catherine), Dr. Baker had the pudence to ask what work of literature they would be studying.

“After all, one must make sure that moral falsehoods are not placed before the minds of those who must be protected, such as Kate, who, like Aphrodite in the Trojan war, ought not fight the battles of lower creatures, lest they be injured.”

Kate responded, “If Dr. Than wanted to program a computer to draw me, I would be perfectly happy if Dr. Baker expressed his admiration of the picture. I would not be so foolish as to believe that Dr. Baker was therefore in love with the computer.”

At this, Constable Keep pulled out a donkey’s head, put it on his own, and started braying: “If…neigh!...anyone did that, the would be almohohost as bewitched as Titania!”

“Considering the level of absurdity in Through the Looking-Glass,” Dr. Than remarked, “Your behavior is quite normal.”

“Do not associate with this illiberally educated, solely arithmetical man, Kate,” Dr. Baker warned.

“Kiss me, Kate!” Constable Keep brayed.

“Do not change Diana to Venus!” Dr. Baker fumed, willing, but too thin and weak, to fight the policeman.

“I shall kiss nobody. Writing love letters, even in this modern age of supercooled supercomputers, can get one into enough trouble!” Kate remarked.

“But you haven’t written any love letters to put into the post office box by Paddington station,” Haspic interrupted, “And neither did Bishop Machbeuf.”

“And Bishop Machebeuf wouldn’t have,” Harskevitz said, “for he neither planted bombs at Paddington nor had lady-friends from any French archdiocese, especially Paris.”

“How you do go off on tangents,” the mysterious man remarked.

With that, Dr. Baker and Dr. Than began arguing about an obscure point concerning tangents, with Dr. Baker taking the side of Euclid and Dr. Than taking the curve of Lobachevski.

“Of course, unlike the Maya, the Native Americans of New Mexico were not renowned mathmaticians,” Haspic remarked, “or else, they would have calculated that 5 kilograms of dynamite was sufficient to throw a train engine off its track, possibly killing all inside.”

“If there were no such things as weaponry, there would be no dashing soldiers to become senselessly infatuated with. Most video game designers would also lose their jobs.” Kate lamented.

“Whish is why I am Not a Pacifist,” Dr. Baker blurted out before continuing his argument. “War is noble, say the ancients.”

“But it’s not St. Crispin’s day!” Keep lamented.

“It does matter when or where a remark is made,” Harskevitz observed, “If Bishop Valliant had made his remark about the French soup tomorrow at noon instead of on Christmas many years ago, the remark would not have been nearly as well-dressed with fame.”

“I am well dressed with yellow stockings, cross-gartered!” Constable Keep said, slightly lifting up the foot-ends of his policeman-perfect pants to reveal the off-regulation socks underneath.

Kate gasped in horror, for, according to good manners, such a display of “underclothes” is not acceptable in public. She was also gasping in amazement because the socks were exactly the same shade as the yellow slugs in Halo. She said as much, and then fainted. With that, the meeting was over.



A few days later, Constable Keep received this letter in the mail.

Dear Sir,
After observing your behavior at the literary gathering, I have come to the conclusion that you are a very cultured man, enthusiastic for and well versed in the works of Shakespeare. I am sure that your behavior at the gathering was calculated (and well calculated, I might add) to the end of obtaining the job of guard for London’s Globe Theater. However, I have decided that, even more than Shakespeare, you are, due to your wonderful disregard of conventions in pursuit of a worthy goal, more suited to guard the street on which GK Chesterton resided while he lived in London. To this end, I shall move the mechanisms of law enforcement in the London area.

Sincerely,
Dr. Mysterious Stranger
Professor of Modern British Literature
Oxford University

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Surprise...Yes, this is a TRUE story...Hee Hee!

Step falls on step, just like the day before
Falls flat on floor (it's on Nebraska ground),
Eyes view white walls, and closed and opened doors
No laughter gleams, and no scared heartes pound.
The statue stands as he has always stood
Upon his pedestal of cubic wood
The carpet's clean, just as it ought to be
So free of clutter that it looks empty.
It grabs my head and whips it straight around
I cry: "I say! Where did all of it go?
There's nothing here! This is such empty ground!
And Andy says: "It's like this always, though."
The hallway is just as its sposed to be
But never has it been so wonderf'ly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I wonder if this is the right video...

videoThis is one of my compositions, played on the organ at St. Gregory the Great seminary, by me. At least, I think that is what it is.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Its the End of the End of the World as We Know It

They say that feelings don't count as evidence. Who is they? I have a feeling that I don't know. But one thing that I do know is that feelings are a useful tool to lead us to things...even evidence. So, let me begin with a story.

Two days ago, I watched most of the movie "Equilibrium," most meaning the important three quarters. In some ways, it is a very good movie, one that points out yet another way in which an intelligentsia and a sheepish population can produce a horror. For those of you who don't know, in the world of "Equilibrium," the rulers have produced and mandated with death a drug that, according to the movie, stops pain, war, and sorrow by stopping feelings. I think it's more like it stops them by stopping feelings, Chestertonian moments, wonder, Dasein awareness, and I-Thou relationships. (Philosophy may begin in wonder, but logic definitely does not, considering that an absence of feelings does not prevent the main character from believing a cloaked variation on the Final Cause argument.) Regardless, the resistance movement regards the ability to exercise their gifts (I almost said God-given, but in the context of this particular movie, which is under suspicion of being slightly anti-Christian; that is a question for another day) as a right which it is worse than death to not be able to exercise. The main character joins them, has a few Chestertonian moments, kills the ruler, and liberates the world. A bit formulaic perhaps, but if you're following an archtypical story, there's going to be a few repeated elements. And that's usually a good thing. Why then, did I feel so unhappy for about an hour and a half after watchin the movie? There's the fact that Equilibrium follows the formula that stipulates that the story must be interrupted every so often for a sequence of slowed-down, over-dramatized violence, but I don't think that that is enough to account for such a thing.

I think that the real reason, following Chesterton's comments on Isben in Heretics, is that "Equilibrium" does not really provide an arresting vision of a world with what the resistance is fighting for. There are those one or two moments where you realize, by something as simple as the character touching a stair-rail, just how vital life beyond the drug is. But there's no happiness: no member of the resistance is ever seen doing something happier than reading Yeats. Even the room of hidden forbidden objects, with its snow globes and Beethoven LP's has no people enjoying themselves. More importantly, it has no religous symbols, instead it has small pictures of scantily dressed women. The captured resistance member says that she lives to feel...and although she mentions love she doesn't say or even imply just how much she loves, or Who the object is.

Unfortunately, this absence of happiness is compounded by the shallowness of all the characters. Only the main character and the woman who converts him have more than a functional role in the story, leaving the world with feelings almost as empty as the world without them.

Like Isben, Equilibrium warns of the horror of evil, and does so effectively. Like Isben, Equilibrium does not know what goodness really is. Like Chesterton, I find it quite lacking.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On Snow

Give light a shape; when merely it reflects
From anything, it carries not itself
But like a word it humbly genuflects
And it is lost in bush, or tree, or shelf:
Unto whatever’s seen it gives a pass
And dies unto the solid, colored form.
Take all the world and cover it in glass!
In sparkling hints that their weight misinform
So that the eye, when seeing what seems dust
Does gladly say that there is Something More.
It feels, but does not know, it, rather, trusts,
That “Shapeless blobs” have really shapes galore.
Why does a whitened world our minds awake?
Because this thing called snow is light with shape.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Prelude to the use of Diotima’s Eros as a form of “Philosophic” knowledge

Preliminary note: There is nothing necessarily sexual in Diotima’s Eros. If you want to know more, read Plato’s Symposium, the Song of Songs, the Definition of Literature post, or there are a great deal of other similar things that you might find profitable.

“The greatest philosopher is unable to grasp the being of a single fly.”
--St. Thomas Aquinas

To which we respond, “how is this quote true?,” a question that includes “what does it mean, how do we prove it, and what are we missing in our knowledge?

There is one obvious answer: existence is a mystery for two reasons:
A. Each individual being is linked to the whole of reality by at least God’s creative act. But God, one of the causes of the thing known is infinite and unknowable. Therefore, nothing is completely knowable.
B. Existence itself is a mystery. It cannot be given an essential definition. To one who looks long and hard enough (and I know this from sense and phenomenological experience), existence elicts a sense of wonder, even from things well-known. And wonder implies ignorance (Josef Pieper).
a. “There is an is!” –G.K. Chesterton.
b. “Why should there be being, and not nothing?” --Martin Heidegger


Essence is also a mystery, or at least an ultimately undefinable, analogous to the mystery revealed by the Fallacy of the Perfect Dictionary.

In the art of logic, the clearest knowledge of a thing includes an “Essential Definition.” One who knows a thing by essential definition knows the type of thing (genus) that it is as well as that which separates this kind of thing (species) from other species of the same type necessarily and always (specific difference). For example, the essential definition of square is “A rectangle with all sides equal.” Rectangle is the genus, all sides equal is the specific difference, square is the species.
What is missing from an essential definition? What is not grasped? When one knows a thing, the mental representation of what the thing is is in the intellect. What the thing actually is, not just the representation, is in the thing itself, and in the Mind of God, for God knows all things as maker. For true and complete knowledge, it seems that an essential definition is incomplete.
Consider an angel. Each angel is, in itself, a species. This means that the “what-it-is” is identical to the individual angel (this is different from, say, an orange, where what the orange is is different from the individual orange). If the essential definition of this angel were equivalent to having the what-it-is of the angel in the mind, than everyone who knew the essential definition would have the angel in their mind, which is absurd. Therefore, there are cases where an essential definition is not complete knowledge of an essence (the essence is the what-it-is).
With material things, one can never completely know the particular, because this would imply that the particular is in the intellect. But an intellect that knows oranges obviously does not have real oranges in it.
Even with essences of material things, the so-called “essential definition” can never be known to be complete knowledge. What an essential definition does is say “Everything with genus A and specific difference B is a C.” This statement is known to conform with what C is. The idea that every C necessarily is genus A with difference B does not imply that every C only necessarily is genus A with difference B. Because the idea in the mind that is the essential definition is not the cause of what C is (the cause of what C is is the essence of C, that to which the definition conforms), the essential definition is knowledge that provides a perfect test for C’s essence, but is not necessarily identical to C’s essence.
Hence, intellectual knowledge has been shown to be possibly insufficient. Therefore, we can justifiably investigate the knowledge gained through the Eros loved by Diotima.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Inspired by a passage in the Office of Readings...I wish I could remember which one!

The flowers send forth fair odors from their eyes
The sight of the gardener, the one whom they love
Causes their scent, song and soul of their selves
To throw itself in loving ecstasy
Towards His Divine Face.

Praise Him!

He treads by the river
The grasses savoring every soft step.
His gazes upon His beloved Lily-flower
Her perfumes grow ever greater,
Her whiteness ever purer.

Praise Him!