Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Summa for Kindle

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Divine Perfection in the face of evil


Your niece, who takes a daily two-minute break from facebook, sends you a message to ask: (1) how God, who knows everything, can know evil and still remain 100% actualized goodness; and (2) how God’s will can always be fulfilled given that there is evil in the world.  [Brief reading response for ST Ia. qq.14-21.] 

1.  The most important point here is to establish the difference between "good" and "evil".  Good is a transcendental quality of all being.  The goodness of a thing is its being considered under the aspect of perfection or desirability.  Evil, on the other hand, is a privation of perfection or goodness of a thing.  Now some things include in their natures a natural potency to certain privations.  The easiest example is the corruption of material life.  Plants naturally have a potency to die and decay.  Death is, nonetheless, a privation of the goodness in the plant, and is thus evil, secundum quid.  Now inasmuch as a creature is capable of greater perfection, it is also greater of a greater privation of that perfection for which it was created.  Thus the old adage: The corruption of the best is the worst.  Consequently the privation of perfections which ought to be present in humans constitute greater evil than is possible in irrational animals or plants.  Specifically, in human freedom, which flows from our capacity to know and to will, humans are capable of moral evil.  Now, God knows all things, even (!) future contingent singulars.  And the perfect knowledge of a thing includes all its potential accidental features.  Now, the absence of a natural perfection is an accident of those things which fall into evil.  Thus God knows evil.  However, it is wrong to think this means that God knows evil per se or that God knows evil as an essence.  To suggest that evil had is own principle of being or could exist in a pre-eminent way would be absurd, since such evil could not (by definition) exist.  Being, after all, is convertible with Goodness, so to utterly lack goodness is not to exist at all.  So when God knows evil, he knows it not as an independently existing reality in which the particular deficiencies of creatures participate, but as a potential or actual deficiency in the perfection of created things.  Consequently, as St. Thomas says, citing Pseudo-Denys, evil is known to the divine intellect the way a shadow is revealed by the absence of potential light upon a surface.  And we know already that God is perfectly good, so the apparent contradiction has been resolved.

2.  There are two problems here:  (A) If created beings are instrumental causes by which God accomplishes his will, wouldn't the deficiency of the instrument detract from the realization of the end for which it was used?  (B) God's being is identical with his willing his own being.  But God's being is perfectly good and thus God wills only that which is perfectly good.  However, there is evil in created things.  Thus God's will must not be fulfilled in those things.

Answering both problems together, we first repeat what was said above: that evil has no positive existence, and that everything that is, is only insofar as it is good.  Thus though there is imperfection in created things, God still wills them to be inasmuch as they are, and therefore their activity (which follows on being) is a realization (however imperfect) of that positive being granted to it by God.  Thus the deficiency of created things can in no way hinder God's will from being realized, and since God as first cause orders all consequent created causes to his own ideas, the perfection present in the instrumental causes of providence must be sufficient to accomplish its ultimate goal.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A New Kind of Religious Liberty

From the National Review Online:

VANDERBILT LAW STUDENT AND CLS MEMBER PALMER WILLIAMS: I am a little confused by the fact that under your policy, I can gather with a group of my friends, or a group of like-minded people, I can state my beliefs, but as soon as I go as far as writing down what we believe in, and then try to live by those beliefs as a community on campus, then I’m not allowed to do that.

VANDERBILT VICE CHANCELLOR MCCARTY: What I’m going to challenge you to do, [is] to be open to a member that doesn’t share your faith beliefs who could be a wonderful member of CLS, maybe even a leader. But we’re not saying you have to vote for that person. We’re simply saying that person, who maybe does not profess allegiance to Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, should be allowed to run for office in CLS. Maybe it’s not chair or president, maybe it’s a person who is amazing at social outreach. It would still be consistent with your goals of serving the underserved with legal advice and legal services, but maybe isn’t Christian but they endorse what you’re trying to do. Give that person a chance. . . . Now let me give you another example, and this would affect all of you. I’m Catholic. What if my faith beliefs guided all of the decisions I make from day to day?

[At this point, the crowd applauds the idea that people should live according to their faith.]

No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t!

[Disagreement from crowd.]

Well, I know you do, but I’m telling you that as a Catholic I am very comfortable using my best judgment as a person to make decisions. As a Catholic, if I held that life begins at conception, I’d have a very big problem with our hospital. Right? Would I not? . . . I would, but I don’t. . . . We don’t want to have personal religious views intrude on good decisionmaking on this campus. They can guide your personal conduct, but I’m not going to let my faith life intrude. I’ll do the best I can at making good decisions, but I’m not going to impose my beliefs on others, not going to do it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Unchaining Prometheus


Given the utter dominance of the liberal-progressive mindset in mass culture, a few questions arise:

  1. What are the key "myths" of liberal-progressivism?  (By "myths", of course, we mean underlying narrative structures and categorical frameworks — not necessarily falsehoods or fictions.)  In fact we assume that these structures are appealing only insofar as they approximate the truth.
  2. What are their foundations?  What is the matter from which they have been formed?  Take for example the doctrines at work in the "gay rights" movement.  Its core references are extremely clever, involving subtle transformations of several fundamental social ideals: human happiness, the binding power of nature, the primacy of human freedom, and the meaning of love.
  3. What is true in these myths?  Why do they appeal?  What do they get right that resonates in the minds of the many?
  4. How can they be perfected and/or subverted? How do the myths of liberal-progressivism lie?  How can their basic narratives be adapted and perfected so as to serve the truth?  To put it more deviously: how could the formal instruments of liberal propaganda be subverted?  What stories can be told to show the falsehood of their stories?  In the past thirty years a myth has spread about the American right: that it is essentially opposed to liberty and justice, that it is synonymous with a kind of narrow-minded misanthropy.  This has been an incredibly powerful tool.  What is the counter-narrative?  None exists to my knowledge.
Establishing a good set of answers to these questions seems like a reasonable starting point for a movement that is not narrowly anti-progressive (since anti-progressives inevitably lose the battle and usually become unknowing progressives in the process), but capable of countering the dominant ideology on a massive scale with something closer to the truth.

First Principles for the Week

It is in struggling to justify getting dressed on a Monday morning that the following truths are most readily seen:

—First, that the object of the will is the end and the good.
—Second, that causation cannot survive an infinite regress.

Alternate Realities

[Continued from "Myth and Cultural Programming" below.]


This brings us to the point of this whole thing, which was called to mind by David Brooks' most recent column on "How to Fight the Man".
The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true. 
The old leftists had dialectical materialism and the Marxist view of history. Libertarians have Hayek and von Mises. Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy, or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day. 
These belief systems helped people envision alternate realities. They helped people explain why the things society values are not the things that should be valued. They gave movements a set of organizing principles. Joining a tradition doesn’t mean suppressing your individuality. Applying an ancient tradition to a new situation is a creative, stimulating and empowering act. Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux.
Mr. Brooks is making a half-hearted attempt to render a key conservative principle (that the past is not evil) appealing to the radicalizing impulses of his domesticated baby-boomer readership.  Naturally he just gets booed offstage as usual — he's too close to the line for conservatives and too conservative for liberals — but in the meanwhile he comes close to something we've said.  These belief systems helped people envision alternate realities.  And not just to envision them, but to inhabit them mentally, to re-envision the fundamental structures and categories according to which society is divided and see things in their true light.  That is, not simply to dream of some future utopia in which all problems will be solved, but to reconstitute the problems, to re-examine the prior nature of the matter of society and its form.  When I look at the face of young American conservatism it is very clear to me that such a transformation is not happening.  What is needed, as the Master says, is the rectification of names.  The re-statement of first principles, and their infusion into the culture on a grand scale . . .

[It smacks too much of uninspired demagogy, but the ideas are good.]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Democratic Living


—Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.

—Yes, he replied, he is all liberty and equality.

— Plato, Republic VIII

Lyrics from a Skeptical Age

When you rush around in hopeless circles
Searching everywhere for something true
You're at the age of not believing
When all the make believe is through

When you set aside your childhood heroes
And your dreams are lost up on a shelf
You're at the age of not believing
And worst of all you doubt yourself

You're a castaway where no one hears you
On a barren isle in a lonely sea
Where did all the happy endings go?
Where can all the good times be?

You must face the age of not believing
Doubting everything you ever knew
Until at last you start believing
There's something wonderful...
Truly wonderful in you


— taken from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (3).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Myth and Cultural Programming

Myth, says Levi-Strauss, is a bricolage.  It bears the vestigial marks of old, forgotten uses and ideas and is perpetually adapted to resolve our ordering of reality into functional categories.  Only bad myths are cut from whole cloth (i.e., are engineered), because a myth derives its efficacy in large part from its familiarity in the culture.  Myths have been passed around from one hand to the next, so that when someone reshapes them slightly to show a different significance or functionality, they can still rest easy in the hands of the many.

What we have said about myth can easily be expanded to most of the components of culture.  One might say that the art of political success is in producing a myth flexible enough and compelling enough to be adapted in a hundred different ways — one for each major sector of the voting public.  "Change you can believe in."  Likewise there are silent myths which shape the way we see the world.  We might call them prejudices, except that "prejudice" is a key player in one of the dominant spoken myths of our time.  Certain ideas are simply 'in the air': that the movement of history is progressive; that intelligent people do not believe in God; that freedom is the highest human good.  One might call these beliefs "arbitrary" or "groundless", but they form the philosophical foundations of the masses, and no one is capable of defending them except with clumsy retorts: "God is dead." "Look at human progress in the past few centuries." "Would you like to be unfree?"  And the universal refusal of the culture to engage its critics becomes its greatest defense.


Unseemly Laughter

Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Dao, earnestly carry it into practice. 
Scholars of the middle class, having heard about it, seem now to keep it and now to lose it. 
Scholars of the lowest class, when they have heard about it, laugh greatly at it. 

If it were not thus laughed at, it would not be fit to be the Dao.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Two Craftsmen

Since sustained dialectics are uninteresting, this thought will be divided into three short parts, and completed in subsequent posts. First we revisit the classic distinction made by Levi-Strauss in The Savage Mind, between the bricoleur and the engineer:

The bricoleur works from incidental material burdened with its own diverse history to create something whose form is limited by its matter.  His very ability to imagine the result of his labors is curtailed by the fact that this steel has been plated with chrome and formed into a basket, and that paper is cut into bleached sheets of 8.5x11 inches.  He is not the artist of the readymade, but he handles real particulars and fashions determinate objects from them, rather than attempting to conjure impossibly pure forms from nonexistent prime matter.  The work of the bricoleur always bears with it the imprint of its past.

The engineer works from pure stuff: absolute concepts, ideal forms, prime matter.  His imagination flits freely across the unbounded plane of logical possibility.  He describes the matter for his work before seeing it, and works from plans utterly unconstrained by complexity of execution or scarcity of resources.  Reality is clay in his hands, readily yielding to his designs, perfectly conforming to its intended use and function.  The work of the engineer bears no sign of a past, since it has no past, nor does it lend itself to alternate possibilities, since its form coheres perfectly with its matter and testifies clearly to its purpose.



Seven against Thebes


But these several sins have each their army against us.
For from vainglory there arise

  • disobedience, 
  • boasting, 
  • hypocrisy, 
  • contentions, 
  • obstinacies, 
  • discords, and 
  • the presumptions of novelties. 


From envy there spring:

  • hatred, 
  • whispering, 
  • detraction, 
  • exultation at the misfortunes of a neighbour, 
  • and affliction at his prosperity. 


From anger are produced:

  • strifes, 
  • swelling of mind, 
  • insults, 
  • clamour, 
  • indignation, 
  • blasphemies. 


From melancholy there arise:

  • malice, 
  • rancour, 
  • cowardice, 
  • despair, 
  • slothfulness in fulfilling the commands, 
  • and a wandering of the mind on unlawful objects. 


From avarice there spring:

  • treachery, 
  • fraud, 
  • deceit, 
  • perjury, 
  • restlessness, 
  • violence, and 
  • hardnesses of heart against compassion. 


From gluttony are propagated:

  • foolish mirth, 
  • scurrility, 
  • uncleanness, 
  • babbling, 
  • dulness of sense in understanding. 


From lust are generated:

  • blindness of mind, 
  • inconsiderateness, 
  • inconstancy, 
  • precipitation, 
  • self-love, 
  • hatred of God, 
  • affection for this present world, 
  • and dread or despair of that which is to come. 


Because, therefore, seven principal vices produce from themselves so great a multitude of vices, when they reach the heart, they bring, as it were, the bands of an army after them.


— St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, Book XXXI


A peculiar Survey

The objects currently covering my desk, from left to right:

butter knife, knife block with kitchen shears in it, scotch tape, bottle of ibuprofen, binder clip with attached length of string, electric kettle, empty envelope, post-it note with WLAN password, notebook for keeping finances straight, bottle of peppermint flavored oil, bottle of vanilla extract, two peat moss disks (dry), pencil sharpener, Holy Bible (NAB), peppermint teabag (unopened), pad of post-it notes, uncapped pen (uniball deluxe micro black), rubber band, bottle of glue, stapler, dixon ticonderoga pencil (unsharpened), sakura micron 01 pen (black), one cup measure containing crumbs of pipe tobacco peppermint and lavender, Wüsthof utility knife (clean), cord for mp3 audio recorder, red felt-tipped pen, check book, floss, comb attachment for electric clippers, 32 count box of strike anywhere matches, saucer containing several burnt matches, empty container that once held chocolate and now holds: black bic pen dirty fork and a hydrated peat disk containing three peas which have not yet sprouted, pad of postit notes, empty envelope, stack of Chipotle napkins (unused), Wüsthof chef's knife (small, dirty),, power cable for macbook pro, headphone cord, chipotle receipt, tea strainer, mirror compass, small resealable bag of liturgical incense, 300 count box (mostly empty) of strike anywhere matches, dixon ticonderoga pencil (sharpened, worn), deoderant stick, ball of string, salt shaker, mostly empty container of chocolate, jar of honey, Penguin Classics mug with broken handle, large swiss army knife, bottle of cloves, bottle of ground ginger, smoking pipe, can of cocoa, tube of neosporin, small bottle of oral analgesic, angelic warfare confraternity prayer card, jar containing a mix of 2/3s peppermint 1/3 lavender, St. Martin de Porres votive candle, role of duct tape.

天道

...Therefore the ancients who clearly understood the great Dao first sought to apprehend what was meant by Heaven, and the Dao and its characteristics came next. When this was apprehended, then came Benevolence and Righteousness. When these were apprehended, then came the Distinction of duties and the observance of them. This accomplished, there came objects and their names. After objects and their names, came the employment of men according to their qualities: on this there followed the examination of the men and of their work. This led to the approval or disapproval of them, which again was succeeded by the apportioning of rewards and penalties. After this the stupid and the intelligent understood what was required of them, and the honourable and the mean occupied their several positions. The good and the able, and those inferior to them, sincerely did their best. Their ability was distributed; the duties implied in their official names were fulfilled. In this way did they serve their superiors, nourish their inferiors, regulate things, and cultivate their persons. They did not call their knowledge and schemes into requisition; they were required to fall back upon (the method of) Heaven: this was what is called the Perfection of the Rule of Great Peace.

The Iceman

HICKEY  --  (suddenly bursts out) I've got to tell you! Your being the way you are now gets my goat! It's all wrong! It puts things in my mind--about myself. It makes me think, if I got balled up about you, how do I know I wasn't balled up about myself? And that's plain damned foolishness. When you know the story of me and Evelyn, you'll see there wasn't any other possible way out of it, for her sake. Only I've got to start way back at the beginning or you won't understand. (He starts his story, his tone again becoming musingly reminiscent.) You see, even as a kid I was always restless. I had to keep on the go. You've heard the old saying, "Ministers' sons are sons of guns." Well, that was me, and then some. Home was like a jail. I didn't fall for the religious bunk. Listening to my old man whooping up hell fire and scaring those Hoosier suckers into shelling out their dough only handed me a laugh, although I had to hand it to him, the way he sold them nothing for something. I guess I take after him, and that's what made me a good salesman. Well, anyway, as I said, home was like jail, and so was school, and so was that damned hick town. The only place I liked was the pool rooms, where I could smoke Sweet Caporals, and mop up a couple of beers, thinking I was a hell-on-wheels sport. We had one hooker shop in town, and, of course, I liked that, too. Not that I hardly ever had entrance money. My old man was a tight old bastard. But I liked to sit around in the parlor and joke with the girls, and they liked me because I could kid 'em along and make 'em laugh. Well, you know what a small town is. Everyone got wise to me. They all said I was a no-good tramp. I didn't give a damn what they said. I hated everybody in the place. That is, except Evelyn. I loved Evelyn. Even as a kid. And Evelyn loved me. (He pauses. No one moves or gives any sign except by the dread in their eyes that they have heard him. Except Parritt, who takes his hands from his face to look at Larry pleadingly.)

PARRITT  --  I loved Mother, Larry! No matter what she did! I still do! Even though I know she wishes now I was dead! You believe that, don't you? Christ, why can't you say something?

HICKEY  --  (too absorbed in his story now to notice this--goes on in a tone of fond, sentimental reminiscence) Yes, sir, as far back as I can remember, Evelyn and I loved each other. She always stuck up for me. She wouldn't believe the gossip--or she'd pretend she didn't. No one could convince her I was no good. Evelyn was stubborn as all hell once she'd made up her mind. Even when I'd admit things and ask her forgiveness, she'd make excuses for me and defend me against myself. She'd kiss me and say she knew I didn't mean it and I wouldn't do it again. So I'd promise I wouldn't. I'd have to promise, she was so sweet and good, though I knew darned well--(A touch of strange bitterness comes into his voice for a moment.) No, sir, you couldn't stop Evelyn. Nothing on earth could shake her faith in me. Even I couldn't. She was a sucker for a pipe dream. (then quickly) Well, naturally, her family forbid her seeing me. They were one of the town's best, rich for that hick burg, owned the trolley line and lumber company. Strict Methodists, too. They hated my guts. But they couldn't stop Evelyn. She'd sneak notes to me and meet me on the sly. I was getting more restless. The town was getting more like a jail. I made up my mind to beat it. I knew exactly what I wanted to be by that time. I'd met a lot of drummers around the hotel and liked 'em. They were always telling jokes. They were sports. They kept moving. I liked their life. And I knew I could kid people and sell things. The hitch was how to get the railroad fare to the Big Town. I told Mollie Arlington my trouble. She was the madame of the cathouse. She liked me. She laughed and said, "Hell, I'll stake you, Kid! I'll bet on you. With that grin of yours and that line of bull, you ought to be able to sell skunks for good ratters!" (He chuckles.) Mollie was all right. She gave me confidence in myself. I paid her back, the first money I earned. Wrote her a kidding letter, I remember, saying I was peddling baby carriages and she and the girls had better take advantage of our bargain offer. (He chuckles.) But that's ahead of my story. The night before I left town, I had a date with Evelyn. I got all worked up, she was so pretty and sweet and good. I told her straight, "You better forget me, Evelyn, for your own sake. I'm no good and never will be. I'm not worthy to wipe your shoes." I broke down and cried. She just said, looking white and scared, "Why, Teddy? Don't you still love me?" I said, "Love you? God, Evelyn, I love you more than anything in the world. And I always will!" She said, "Then nothing else matters, Teddy, because nothing but death could stop my loving you. So I'll wait, and when you're ready you send for me and we'll be married. I know I can make you happy, Teddy, and once you're happy you won't want to do any of the bad things you've done any more." And I said, "Of course, I won't, Evelyn!" I meant it, too. I believed it. I loved her so much she could make me believe anything. (He sighs. There is a suspended, waiting silence. Even the two detectives are drawn into it. Then Hope breaks into dully exasperated, brutally callous protest.)

HOPE  --  Get it over, you long-winded bastard! You married her, and you caught her cheating with the iceman, and you croaked her, and who the hell cares? What's she to us? All we want is to pass out in peace, bejees! (A chorus of dull, resentful protest from all the group. They mumble, like sleepers who curse a person who keeps awakening them, "What's it to us? We want to pass out in peace!" Hope drinks and they mechanically follow his example. He pours another and they do the same. He complains with a stupid, nagging insistence) No life in the booze! No kick! Dishwater. Bejees, I'll never pass out!

HICKEY  --  (goes on as if there had been no interruption) So I beat it to the Big Town. I got a job easy, and it was a cinch for me to make good. I had the knack. It was like a game, sizing people up quick, spotting what their pet pipe dreams were, and then kidding 'em along that line, pretending you believed what they wanted to believe about themselves. Then they liked you, they trusted you, they wanted to buy something to show their gratitude. It was fun. But still, all the while I felt guilty, as if I had no right to be having such a good time away from Evelyn. In each letter I'd tell her how I missed her, but I'd keep warning her, too. I'd tell her all my faults, how I liked my booze every once in a while, and so on. But there was no shaking Evelyn's belief in me, or her dreams about the future. After each letter of hers, I'd be as full of faith as she was. So as soon as I got enough saved to start us off, I sent for her and we got married. Christ, wasn't I happy for a while! And wasn't she happy! I don't care what anyone says, I'll bet there never was two people who loved each other more than me and Evelyn. Not only then but always after, in spite of everything I did--(He pauses--then sadly) Well, it's all there, at the start, everything that happened afterwards. I never could learn to handle temptation. I'd want to reform and mean it. I'd promise Evelyn, and I'd promise myself, and I'd believe it. I'd tell her, it's the last time. And she'd say, "I know it's the last time, Teddy. You'll never do it again." That's what made it so hard. That's what made me feel such a rotten skunk--her always forgiving me. My playing around with women, for instance. It was only a harmless good time to me. Didn't mean anything. But I'd know what it meant to Evelyn. So I'd say to myself, never again. But you know how it is, traveling around. The damned hotel rooms. I'd get seeing things in the wall paper. I'd get bored as hell. Lonely and homesick. But at the same time sick of home. I'd feel free and I'd want to celebrate a little. I never drank on the job, so it had to be dames. Any tart. What I'd want was some tramp I could be myself with without being ashamed--someone I could tell a dirty joke to and she'd laugh.

CORA  --  (with a dull, weary bitterness) Jees, all de lousy jokes I've had to listen to and pretend was funny!

HICKEY  --  (goes on obliviously) Sometimes I'd try some joke I thought was a corker on Evelyn. She'd always make herself laugh. But I could tell she thought it was dirty, not funny. And Evelyn always knew about the tarts I'd been with when I came home from a trip. She'd kiss me and look in my eyes, and she'd know. I'd see in her eyes how she was trying not to know, and then telling herself even if it was true, he couldn't help it, they tempt him, and he's lonely, he hasn't got me, it's only his body, anyway, he doesn't love them, I'm the only one he loves. She was right, too. I never loved anyone else. Couldn't if I wanted to. (He pauses.) She forgave me even when it all had to come out in the open. You know how it is when you keep taking chances. You may be lucky for a long time, but you get nicked in the end. I picked up a nail from some tart in Altoona.

CORA  --  (dully, without resentment) Yeah. And she picked it up from some guy. It's all in de game. What de hell of it?

HICKEY  --  I had to do a lot of lying and stalling when I got home. It didn't do any good. The quack I went to got all my dough and then told me I was cured and I took his word. But I wasn't, and poor Evelyn--But she did her best to make me believe she fell for my lie about how traveling men get things from drinking cups on trains. Anyway, she forgave me. The same way she forgave me every time I'd turn up after a periodical drunk. You all know what I'd be like at the end of one. You've seen me. Like something lying in the gutter that no alley cat would lower itself to drag in--something they threw out of the D.T. ward in Bellevue along with the garbage, something that ought to be dead and isn't! (His face is convulsed with self-loathing.) Evelyn wouldn't have heard from me in a month or more. She'd have been waiting there alone, with the neighbors shaking their heads and feeling sorry for her out loud. That was before she got me to move to the outskirts, where there weren't any next-door neighbors. And then the door would open and in I'd stumble--looking like what I've said--into her home, where she kept everything so spotless and clean. And I'd sworn it would never happen again, and now I'd have to start swearing again this was the last time. I could see disgust having a battle in her eyes with love. Love always won. She'd make herself kiss me, as if nothing had happened, as if I'd just come home from a business trip. She'd never complain or bawl me out. (He bursts out in a tone of anguish that has anger and hatred beneath it) Christ, can you imagine what a guilty skunk she made me feel! If she'd only admitted once she didn't believe any more in her pipe dream that some day I'd behave! But she never would. Evelyn was stubborn as hell. Once she'd set her heart on anything, you couldn't shake her faith that it had to come true--tomorrow! It was the same old story, over and over, for years and years. It kept piling up, inside her and inside me. God, can you picture all I made her suffer, and all the guilt she made me feel, and how I hated myself! If she only hadn't been so damned good--if she'd been the same kind of wife I was a husband. God, I used to pray sometimes she'd--I'd even say to her, "Go on, why don't you, Evelyn? It'd serve me right. I wouldn't mind. I'd forgive you." Of course, I'd pretend I was kidding--the same way I used to joke here about her being in the hay with the iceman. She'd have been so hurt if I'd said it seriously. She'd have thought I'd stopped loving her. (He pauses--then looking around at them) I suppose you think I'm a liar, that no woman could have stood all she stood and still loved me so much--that it isn't human for any woman to be so pitying and forgiving. Well, I'm not lying, and if you'd ever seen her, you'd realize I wasn't. It was written all over her face, sweetness and love and pity and forgiveness. (He reaches mechanically for the inside pocket of his coat.) Wait! I'll show you. I always carry her picture. (Suddenly he looks startled. He stares before him, his hand falling back--quietly) No, I'm forgetting I tore it up--afterwards. I didn't need it any more. (He pauses. The silence is like that in the room of a dying man where people hold their breath, waiting for him to die.)

CORA  --  (with a muffled sob) Jees, Hickey! Jees! (She shivers and puts her hands over her face.)

PARRITT  --  (to Larry in a low insistent tone) I burnt up Mother's picture, Larry. Her eyes followed me all the time. They seemed to be wishing I was dead!

HICKEY  --  It kept piling up, like I've said. I got so I thought of it all the time. I hated myself more and more, thinking of all the wrong I'd done to the sweetest woman in the world who loved me so much. I got so I'd curse myself for a lousy bastard every time I saw myself in the mirror. I felt such pity for her it drove me crazy. You wouldn't believe a guy like me, that's knocked around so much, could feel such pity. It got so every night I'd wind up hiding my face in her lap, bawling and begging her forgiveness. And, of course, she'd always comfort me and say, "Never mind, Teddy, I know you won't ever again." Christ, I loved her so, but I began to hate that pipe dream! I began to be afraid I was going bughouse, because sometimes I couldn't forgive her for forgiving me. I even caught myself hating her for making me hate myself so much. There's a limit to the guilt you can feel and the forgiveness and the pity you can take! You have to begin blaming someone else, too. I got so sometimes when she'd kiss me it was like she did it on purpose to humiliate me, as if she'd spit in my face! But all the time I saw how crazy and rotten of me that was, and it made me hate myself all the more. You'd never believe I could hate so much, a good-natured, happy-go-lucky slob like me. And as the time got nearer to when I was due to come here for my drunk around Harry's birthday, I got nearly crazy. I kept swearing to her every night that this time I really wouldn't, until I'd made it a real final test to myself--and to her. And she kept encouraging me and saying, "I can see you really mean it now, Teddy. I know you'll conquer it this time, and we'll be so happy, dear." When she'd say that and kiss me, I'd believe it, too. Then she'd go to bed, and I'd stay up alone because I couldn't sleep and I didn't want to disturb her, tossing and rolling around. I'd get so damned lonely. I'd get thinking how peaceful it was here, sitting around with the old gang, getting drunk and forgetting love, joking and laughing and singing and swapping lies. And finally I knew I'd have to come. And I knew if I came this time, it was the finish. I'd never have the guts to go back and be forgiven again, and that would break Evelyn's heart because to her it would mean I didn't love her any more. (He pauses.) That last night I'd driven myself crazy trying to figure some way out for her. I went in the bedroom. I was going to tell her it was the end. But I couldn't do that to her. She was sound asleep. I thought, God, if she'd only never wake up, she'd never know! And then it came to me--the only possible way out, for her sake. I remembered I'd given her a gun for protection while I was away and it was in the bureau drawer. She'd never feel any pain, never wake up from her dream. So I--

HOPE  --  (tries to ward this off by pounding with his glass on the table--with brutal, callous exasperation) Give us a rest, for the love of Christ! Who the hell cares? We want to pass out in peace! (They all, except Parritt and Larry, pound with their glasses and grumble in chorus: "Who the hell cares? We want to pass out in peace!" Moran, the detective, moves quietly from the entrance in the curtain across the back of the room to the table where his companion, Lieb, is sitting. Rocky notices his leaving and gets up from the table in the rear and goes back to stand and watch in the entrance. Moran exchanges a glance with Lieb, motioning him to get up. The latter does so. No one notices them. The clamor of banging glasses dies out as abruptly as it started. Hickey hasn't appeared to hear it.)

HICKEY  --  (simply) So I killed her. (There is a moment of dead silence. Even the detectives are caught in it and stand motionless.)

PARRITT  --  (suddenly gives up and relaxes limply in his chair--in a low voice in which there is a strange exhausted relief) I may as well confess, Larry. There's no use lying any more. You know, anyway. I didn't give a damn about the money. It was because I hated her.

HICKEY  --  (obliviously) And then I saw I'd always known that was the only possible way to give her peace and free her from the misery of loving me. I saw it meant peace for me, too, knowing she was at peace. I felt as though a ton of guilt was lifted off my mind. I remember I stood by the bed and suddenly I had to laugh. I couldn't help it, and I knew Evelyn would forgive me. I remember I heard myself speaking to her, as if it was something I'd always wanted to say: "Well, you know what you can do with your pipe dream now, you damned bitch!" (He stops with a horrified start, as if shocked out of a nightmare, as if he couldn't believe he heard what he had just said. He stammers) No! I never--!

Against the Sophists

1.  My mother and your mother were hanging up clothes.  My mother punched your mother right in the nose.  What color of blood came out?

2.  At this point the easiest thing would be to piece together a Foucault-inspired short reflection on the role of violence in the formation of culture.  How competition is based on the alienation of the victor from the disinterested masses.  How trophies are just cairns raised over the corpses of the dead, sacrificed for the sake of one's own glory and at the expense of the substance of one's being.  War after all is nothing but the willful oblation of one's friends for the sake of material gain.  Better to die together than live alone, no?  And if one is pursuing a definite good that is capable of being attained through violence, then isn't it mere idolatry?

3.  Instead of that let's have a parable:
There was once an old professor who took the bus to and from work.  Every day at 5pm he closed up his office, walked down to the bus stop and waited.  As he sat there, sometimes for ten or twenty minutes, he would pick something to count.  In the winter he might count women wearing scarves, or people not wearing jeans, or birds flying by.  Each time a new one passed by, he would match to it something else:  one universe, two electric charges, three knives in a basic set, four cardinal directions, five days since I visited an ATM, six edges in a complete graph of 4 vertices... and so on.

On the Perpetual Inner Dialogue

1.  Having let this blog lie fallow for a month, I think it's time to revive it.  Since resurrection requires some kind of transfiguration of the matter of the thing resurrected (requires? untrue), or rather because I would prefer the thing to take a different form, there will be some modifications to the basic framework:

1. A.  Posts will have titles, not numbers.  Where the first incarnation life of the blog (what an undignified word — what an undignified reality — what a self-important load of bull this is) ...

1. B.  What could be more boring than a sustained dialectic?

2.  Almost every dialectical sequence can be formally abstracted by the time its fourth step is reached.  The third step enables one to produce a theory, the fourth confirms it.

3.  If boredom is the demonic pantheism, then is virtue always ultimately undesirable?

4.  This has been a sustained dialectical post.  Thank you for attending to it.