Heroines of the Middle Ages

The article begins with a sort-of amusing story.
Isn’t it irritating when your ancestral manuscript collection gets in the way of your ping-pong tournament? That was Colonel Butler-Bowden’s predicament in the early 1930s. He was so peeved by the heap of rubbishy papers cluttering up his games cupboard that he declared his intention to burn the lot. Luckily, his ping-pong companion that day happened to be a curator at the V&A, so the colonel was dissuaded from book- burning and his manuscripts were shipped instead to the museum’s London archives.

Among the collection was the unique edition of the Book of Margery Kempe, often described as the first autobiography in English, a sensational account of a woman’s mystical visions, travels and tribulations. For centuries, while her book hibernated in the Butler-Bowden estate, Kempe was completely unknown.

It would have been a great tragedy if that book had been burned. One wonders how many works of great interest have been, over the years, for idle reasons or impassioned ones like Henry VIII's desire to weaken the Catholic Church by destroying its libraries. 


Over at Hot Air, they missed the important part and only got to the second-most important part in the exit question. 
Exit question: Would a federal assault weapons ban even be constitutional in light of the recent SCOTUS decision in Gruen? AR-15s are very much “in common use,” a key factor in the Court’s reasoning, and nearly all of them are used for “lawful purposes.” (Much more so than handguns are.) So how could Congress lawfully ban them presuming they had the votes to do so?
Hall readers probably know that the Gruen standard is actually the Heller standard for keeping and bearing arms. The recent case merely reaffirmed that the 2nd Amendment protects weapons that are "in common use for lawful purposes." 
The Cicilline bill – which currently has 211 Democratic co-sponsors and no Republicans – would make it illegal for anyone to “import, sell, manufacture, or transfer” semi-automatic rifles that have certain “military features.” These features include a “detachable magazine” or “a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.” Semi-automatic pistols and shotguns with similar features would also be covered.
This standard includes all of the most popular rifles and pistols in the United States. The bill would ban the strong majority of firearms currently manufactured in America. This would include not only the AR-15, the most popular rifle in America, but all versions of (great-)granddaddy's Colt 1911, all Glocks, and generally all semi-automatic pistols for which a 'detachable magazine' is a standard feature. Only some shotguns would be affected, but for rifles and pistols it would be a massive manufacturing ban.

So yes, it's clearly unconstitutional according to the standard the SCOTUS has upheld since 2008; and yes, they don't have the votes for it anyway. 

The real question, though, is whether Americans would obey a law like this in the first place. A government that passes laws in defiance of American moral values will eventually destroy its own legitimacy in the eyes of the People -- the standard that the Declaration of Independence explains is the point at which a change of governments is a right, and even a duty.

I suppose it hardly matters if there's no chance the law might pass.

Riders from the North

I met some good bikers today, down all the way from Michigan to ride the local mountains. We had a great conversation about the local roads. I discovered that they'd been on some of the best ones, pointed them at some others, and gave them some advice about riding the most dangerous ones. "That one's in my fire district," I told them, "so if you screw it up it's me they'll call to come get you." 

They laughed merrily and said not to talk that way. Nobody did call me to come get them, so they must have made it. They said they'd done more than a thousand miles over the last few days, and had as far at least to go again. Good luck to them.

Denial of the Analytic

In philosophy, 'analytic' as a term of art means that the truth of a proposition can be determined from itself. The etymology of the word comes from a very old root that means 'to cut apart,' so that you find the thing you were looking for in the pieces. Another way of describing an analytic proposition is something that is true by definition; another one yet is to say that it is a logical truth. Properly speaking, it is or is almost a tautology; you are only saying the same thing in two different ways.

This week I made a dear friend of mine cry, for what I think is the first time in the long time I've known her, just by insisting on an analytic truth. "Abortion is murder" is a debatable proposition; sometimes, at least, it might not be. "Abortion is homicide" is purely analytic. "Abortion" means the killing of a thing that is a human being; "Homicide" means "the killing of a human being" (homi-cide from homo sapiens sapiens). It's not quite a tautology, because there are sorts of homicides that aren't abortions; but every abortion is certainly a homicide. That's analytic.

As such, abortion is the sort of thing that cannot be a right. Self-defense is a natural right that may sometimes -- often! -- entail homicide. Yet homicide itself is not and cannot be a right without disposing of the basic human equality that underlies the theory of rights. To say that one class of people has the right to kill another is to deny that human beings are equals in this basic sense. Homicide must always be justified.

We can argue all day about what the proper justifications are or might be; we can argue at length about whose authority suffices as justificatory. What we can't argue about sensibly is whether or not a homicide is under discussion. 

Yet I found myself hearing things like "Those are not human beings." Yes they are, undeniably. You can see from their genetic code that they are homo sapiens. That's analytic too, literally written in the thing. "It is an insult to compare a being like me to them." No it isn't; you were one, and were we all, necessarily. It is only an accident that we happen to be older and bigger now. "If they're a being, they should be able to survive in the world on their own without my help." A born baby can't do that, not for a long time; nor can an elder, sometimes, though no one would deny that they were (and had long been) human beings.

A lot must be at stake in this capacity to kill your children for whatever reason, without having to justify it to anyone else. It can't just be money; there's not enough money in the world to have convinced my mother to kill her children. The denial of logical truth, of the evidence of your eyes, it can't just be ideology. There is something awful hiding here.

Cultural Suicide and Classical Greece

An interesting piece by Benedict Beckeld in Quillette
Once they have left their mythical past behind, and scored successes against neighboring peoples, they become aware of their own power, knowledge, and uniqueness. 
Well before then, actually: the sympathetic view of the enemy he assigns to Aeschylus is also present in  Homer's Iliad. Simone Weil called the play a "miracle" just for that reason.
And self-analysis requires a distancing of the self from itself, in order to view the object of study in its entirety.
That is the very process of the creation of the world according to Plotinus, who discusses it at length in Ennead V.II-III. A problem is that it is both necessary and apparently impossible. In separating the thinker from the thought-about, the thinker divides itself into parts. These parts have different characters: one active, the other passive. The thought-about parts of the self are frozen, in effect, while the thinker actively thinks about them. But being frozen, they are no longer part of the active mind: and thus, it is not possible to think about 'the object of study in its entirety.' 

As a consequence of this, as well as Plato's deduction that everything must be in some way ultimately One (see the commentary on the Parmenides, sidebar), Plotinus worked out a theory of multiple levels of intellect, including a higher Mind that could perceive the forms (themselves activities by nature), and thus do the thinking and being-thought-about all at once. 
As an act- and one whose very being is an act- it must be undistinguishably identical with its act: but Being and the Intellectual object are also identical with that act; therefore the Intellectual-Principle, its exercise of intellection and the object of intellection all are identical. Given its intellection identical with intellectual object and the object identical with the Principle itself, it cannot but have self-knowledge: its intellection operates by the intellectual act which is itself upon the intellectual object which similarly is itself. It possesses self-knowing, thus, on every count; the act is itself; and the object seen in that act- self, is itself.

6. Thus we have shown that there exists that which in the strictest sense possesses self-knowing.
[If anyone wants to try to follow Plotinus' explanation, let me know. He's notoriously difficult to read and understand.]

In any case, after exploring this Greek fascination with self-knowledge, he notes that Classical Athens was nevertheless patriotic:
Herodotus, for his part, is happy to travel but thinks the Greek world best, especially Athens, which he seems to prefer (Histories 5.78) to his native Halicarnassus in Asia Minor, which is under tyrannical Persian sway. Thucydides has Pericles utter some of the most patriotically beautiful words imaginable on the greatness of Athens and the indomitable Athenian spirit (History of the Peloponnesian War 2.35–46). Aristotle considers it quite clear, in many different passages of his works, that his Greek compatriots are culturally superior to other peoples. So these men, and others, are able to analyze and even question their own traditions without thereby slipping into oikophobia.
What happened? Class warfare.
The crushing naval victory at Salamis, won by poor and simple oarsmen rather than by comparatively wealthy, landed hoplites, leads the poor to demand more rights. This is why the conservative Plato views that battle in a negative light (Laws 707a–c), even though it was a Greek victory. He feels that it caused a more assertive citizenry of individuals who believe more in themselves than in the community, and he is echoed by Aristotle at Politics 1274a and 1304a.
You can find my commentary on that part of the Laws here.
Increasingly, the rich and the poor, the democrats and the oligarchists, come to hate each other more than either group hates the Persians. Since the common civilizational enemy has been successfully repulsed, it can no longer serve as an effective target for (and outlet of) the people’s wrath. Human psychology generally requires an adversary for the purpose of self-identification, and so a new adversary is crafted: other Greeks, and other Athenians.
For us, I suppose, the end of the Cold War and the intellectual transformation of China into a trading partner rather than an enemy (although it still smells and looks a lot like an enemy at times...) began this spiral. Yet no: it must have happened earlier. All of the 'woke' hatreds of America and her history have roots at least to the 1970s, and indeed those are only radical and intellectual versions of movements that date to the 50s and 60s. Certainly the successes of the Civil Rights Movement and the Great Society did not tame these complaints -- they have sharpened and deepened as criticisms since the days of Dr. King's soaring rhetoric. Beckeld suggests that the Great Society may be particularly at fault, though he does not mention it by name here:  he is discussing a similar program in ancient Greece. 
[D]ependence makes people resentful and miserly, and the more they receive from the state, the less they will respect it. This is why there is often a dynamic of mutual strengthening between oikophobia and government largesse, and oikophobia and the entitlement mentality go hand in hand.... Once this sense of entitlement becomes the predominant outlook, the citizens of a state begin to compete more with each other, while the external enemy recedes into the background. 
At this point your culture is largely at war with itself, and a sort of suicide threatens. Certainly other powers beyond your vision, growing stronger while you focus on the threat inside, may suddenly appear on your borders or well inside of them.

Nobody Loves You

The top story at the New York Times today is a poll showing that Democrats don't want Biden to be President again. Sixty-four percent overall, but the number among Democrats under thirty rises to 94 percent.

UPDATE: Today the NYT follows up with a poll from the Republican side, showing that half of Republicans are ready to move on from Trump.

"The Culture War Between the States"

A subset, it turns out, of the economic war. City Journal analyzes the trend.

More on the Abe Shooting

Weirdly, the suspect is both mentally incompetent and also capable of making sophisticated home-made guns. That seems an unlikely combination, but it's not impossible. As Wretchard points out, a Japanese cult once figured out how to make functional sarin gas weapons. Crazy people are not good agents, so he's unlikely to be both crazy and someone's pawn. He might be faking the crazy, I suppose.