The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Just now I tied the sash on my daughter's first communion dress so she could play Cinderella.

I would gladly have my eyes pecked out and my liver eaten by birds as I lay on a flaming bed of poison-tiped nails if only it would save her one moment of dissapointment. I've asked God to let me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shame on you! (Guilty as charged.)

I'm a frequent defender of guilt and shame. I know they've played a key role in my own reformation. However, I recently set out to write a little defense and I found that it was all superfluous. The goodness of (ordinate) guilt and shame can be understood with a simple exercise: imagine the history of this world with all guilt and shame removed. If you have any power of imagination you'll shudder at the thought.

Gospel of Judas, Shmospel of Schmudas

Some readers may be interested on the post-Easter post I put up on the Gospel of Judas over at X-Catholics.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Flight 93

The trailer for the movie based on the passenger uprising which kept a plane from hitting the capital has now come out.

Excerpts from the 911 Commission Report are available here and it includes a narrative of the uprising.

I can't comment on it, I can only say that if you haven't seen either and you think you can handle it then it's very haunting. The excerpt from the Report is the most factually informed account there is and it corrects myths currently circulating.


"Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before." - Tremendous Trifles

I am not, as they say, and "early riser". Thus my commentary might be a bit skewed.

One way to take the quotation is that miserliness is a stop along the path to burglary. My pocket dictionary returned this for "miser":

"A stingy hoarder of money and possessions (often living miserably)"

The parenthetical phrase sent me to the OED to see if the "miser" in "miserable" was directly related to "miser" the noun above defined. The test results were positive. "Miser" came to mean what it does, because the poor wretch would rather live...well, wretchedly rather than spend money to live in even moderate comfort.

Thus the miser has a values inversion--for details see Mortimer Adler's Desires: Right and Wrong--which is the same *fundamental* problem as the burglar. It's only that the miser--mirabile dictu--burgles himself.

Now it would be a fallacy to say that the "industrious" individual who follows Ben Franklin's maxim: early to bed and early to rise was a miser just because he shared a key trait with a miser. In Aristotelian logic it's called the fallacy of the undistributed middle. Consider.

1. The miser is an early riser.
2. The industrious man is an early riser.
3. Therefore the industrious man is a miser.

is no more valid than

1. I am a man.
2. Elvis is a man.
3. Therefore I am elvis.

On the other hand...there is more to logic than deductive logic. In inductive logic we often say that the *probability* of an entity have more in common with another is raised by its sharing some properties in common. It's the basis for all analogical reasoning. A is like B in this respect, so probably A is like B in other respects. This plant has the same kinds of buds as that medicinal plant, so perhaps it is medicinal as well. Of course inductive logic always leaves open the possibility of error--unlike deductive logic when the premises are known to be true--you might just die if you are wrong about those buds.

This is why inductive logic is combined with Decision Theory--the calculus of acting under uncertainty, of weighing risks. If you are going to die anyway, then trying the buds might be your best option. So while we cannot infer for certain that an early riser is miserly rather than industrious, I personally am a little suspect. If I were to find my self an early riser, I'd at least have consider the risk that I'm going down the path to miserliness. Just a word of caution for my more, er, industrious friends.

If you would like a real treat of an essay defending the, um, less-industrous life. See Henry David Thoreau's Life without Principle.