Notes on The Prelude to Middlemarch, by George Elliot (by Mary Ann Evans)

This is a really good Prelude. I’ll make a few comments, which may be to the benefit of a reader, or for my own recall. The “mysterious mixture” seems to be the carry over of Galenic physiology where an ideal disposition is referred to as eukrasia, lit. well mixed as of wine. It refers to the mixture of humors which at least partly determine the character of a person. Saint Theresa is her example of a proper object of study for this “mixture,” beginning with her deeds and ending with reflection on her character. The idea here is that her flame burns hotly, a characteristic of men in the Elizabethan conception of gender and the humors, the “flame” referring to the character of her heart–the source of animal spirits. Theresa’s deeds showed an excellence of courage and idealism the Victorian world would have had a hard time countenancing in a woman.

“Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide-eyed and helpless-looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child-pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa’s passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.”

But Theresa is not the only woman of spirit that demands our attention. Tragically, the other Theresas have not always been met with opportunity for satisfying their ideal natures. Not only are these women overlooked, but they are charged with deficiency of character on account of the tension between their nature and their opportunity (and education, “dim lights”). They do not even have the benefit of the pre-modern religious confidence that made heroes and martyrs out of courageous women. They are not merely unwept, they are condemned. He (she) sarcastically notes how inconvenient it is for society that God has not made all women equally incompetent. 

“That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago, was certainly not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights and tangled circumstance they tried to shape their thought and deed in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later-born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul. Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as a lapse.”

“Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict as the ability to count three and no more, the social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are really much wider than any one would imagine from the sameness of women’s coiffure and the favorite love-stories in prose and verse. Here and there a cygnet [swan] is reared uneasily among the ducklings in the brown pond, and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its own oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centring in some long-recognizable deed.”

Aquinas’s Logic of Temptation

This is useful for understanding the relation of body and soul in Aquinas for several reasons. First, the spiritual governs the corporeal, so temptation comes through the body. Second, the movements of appetite make perception more acute, or the body prepares the soul’s cognition. Third, imagination produces appetite, or the soul prepares the body, at least in part.

Summa Theologica, I-II.80.2

Hence, the entirety of the devil’s interior operation seems to focus on the imagination and sentient appetite.


By moving the two of them, he is able to induce a man to sin, since he can operate in such a way as

to present certain imagined forms to the imagination, and he can likewise

bring it about that the sentient appetite is excited with some passion.


For it was explained in the First Part (ST 1, q. 110, a. 3) that a corporeal nature naturally obeys a spiritual nature with respect to local motion.


Hence, the devil, too, is able to cause everything that can arise from the local motion of lower bodies, unless he is held back by God’s power.


Now the fact that forms are represented to the imagination follows sometimes from local motion.

For in De Somno et Vigilia the Philosopher says, “When an animal sleeps and the blood descends to the sentient principle in a large quantity, the movements or impressions that are left by sensible motions and that are conserved in the sensible species descend at the same time and move the apprehensive principle in such a way that the impressions appear in the way they would if the sentient principle were at that time being affected by the exterior things themselves.”

Hence, this sort of local motion on the part of the humors or [animal] spirits can be procured by demons whether the man in question is asleep or awake, and in this way it follows that the man imagines certain things.


Similarly, the sentient appetite is likewise excited toward certain passions in accord with certain determinate movements of the heart and [animal] spirits; hence, the devil can likewise operate to effect this.


And from the fact that certain passions are excited in the sentient appetite, it follows that the man perceives more acutely the sensible movement or tendency that is traced back, in the way just explained, to the apprehensive principle;

for as the Philosopher says in the same book, “Lovers are moved to the apprehension of the beloved even by a slight similarity.”


Again, because the passion is excited, it happens that what is proposed to the imagination is judged to be something that should be pursued;

for someone who is in the grips of a passion (ei qui a passione detinetur) is such that what he is inclined toward by the passion seems good to him. And it is in this way that the devil induces a man interiorly to sin.

Samuel Johnson defends blogging

(tongue firmly in cheek on the title, in case you’ve never heard of him)

Samuel Johnson’s first essay in The Rambler: “No. 1. Difficulty of the first address. Practice of the epick poets. Convenience of periodical performances.”

“I hope not much to tire those whom I shall not happen to please; and if I am not commended for the beauty of my works, to be at least pardoned for their brevity. But whether my expectations are most fixed on pardon or praise, I think it not necessary to discover; for having accurately weighed the reasons for arrogance and submission, I find them so nearly equiponderant, that my impatience to try the event of my first performance will not suffer me to attend any longer the trepidations of the balance.

“There are, indeed, many conveniencies almost peculiar to this method of publication, which may naturally flatter the author, whether he be confident or timorous. The man to whom the extent of his knowledge, or the sprightliness of his imagination, has, in his own opinion, already secured the praises of the world, willingly takes that way of displaying his abilities which will soonest give him an opportunity of hearing the voice of fame; it heightens his alacrity to think in how many places he shall hear what he is now writing, read with ecstasies to-morrow. He will often please himself with reflecting, that the author of a large treatise must proceed with anxiety, lest, before the completion of his work, the attention of the publick may have changed its object; but that he who is confined to no single topick may follow the national taste through all its variations, and catch the aura popularis, the gale of favour, from what point soever it shall blow.”

Ludwik Fleck on “thought collectives”

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

A thought collective is defined by Fleck as a community of persons mutually exchanging ideas or maintaining intellectual interaction (1935a, II.4). Members of that collective not only adopt certain ways of perceiving and thinking, but they also continually transform it—and this transformation does occur not so much “in their heads” as in their interpersonal space. It is easy to observe this phenomenon in everyday life. When a group of people speak about something important, they start to speak about things which would not cross their minds if they were alone and which they would not tell if they were in another group of people. There arises a thought style characteristic for that group. There also arises a certain collective mood which straightens up the ties among the group members and inclines them to act in a certain way.

Some collectives last shortly—even only as long as an individual conversation lasts. When social forces connecting people operate for a long time, there arise thought collectives lasting for many generations. They take forms of religious movements, folk traditions, art or science. Long-lasting collectives create social institutions which enable and regulate the method by which next generations are added to a given collective: educational systems and social rituals accompanying the admission of new members.

All members of small ethnic groups belong to the same thought collective: everybody perceives and thinks in the same way, just like everybody performs the same or very similar actions. Within more developed societies there are many various collectives: religious, artistic, scientific, astrological, and those related to fashion, politics, economy, medicine, quack, sport, etc. When a thought style, developed and employed by a collective, becomes sufficiently sophisticated, the collective breaks into a small esoteric circle—a group of specialists which “are in the know”—and a wide exoteric circle for all those members, who are under the influence of the style, but do not play an active role in its formation. Members of the first group are those “initiated”—priests and theologians in the case of religion; artists and art critics in the case of art; scientists in the case of science etc. The corresponding exoteric circles for those groups are: lay believers; art-lovers; school teachers of physics, chemistry, and biology, and also engineers and all people interested in science.

Exoteric circles have an access to a proper thought style only through esoteric circles—for example through listening to sermons given by priests, or reading popular literature written by scientists. Members of exoteric circles trust the initiated. But specialists and members of esoteric circles are not independent of exoteric circles: this is the “public opinion” which justifies the efforts of specialists and gives them a stimulus to continue their work.

In contemporary societies almost everybody belongs to many thought collectives; e.g. a scientist may be also a member of a certain church, political party, mountain climbing club. An individual usually belongs to distant thought collectives, so that conflicts between thought styles coexisting in him/her do not arise. Most of people belong only to exoteric circles; only few become members of any esoteric circle, sporadically belonging to more than one. Everybody also belongs to a wide “everyday life” collective (which also differs from culture to culture).

Within the esoteric circle Fleck distinguishes the following subgroups: (1) vanguard, “the group of scientists working practically on a given problem”, (2) the main body, “the official community”, and (3) the group of stragglers (1935a, IV,4). In other places he omits stragglers and introduces a distinction between professionals (specialists sensu stricto) and more general specialists (1936, VI).

I care about this because I have a strong desire to point out that exoteric “believers” in scientism are more similar than dissimilar to the exoteric believers of a religious viewpoint. Everybody is taking someone’s word for it and talking in ways that are clichéd. But even among professionals, competency is so limited by human finitude, that I am not sure that life’s really difficult questions are fully within our reach. Scientism has a methodological problem with value, but its exoteric adherents are happy to trust their “studies” to deliver technique and call it value.


Fascinating claim on the importance of “social pressure” for research: “[the constitution of a research collective] happens when an appropriate mood arises… [A example given by Fleck was] a common demand for effective means for curing syphilis which was considered as an embarrassing and reuptation-damaging disease. (Fleck brought forward a controversial claim that the absence of any analogous success in the struggle with tuberculosis was related to a common approach to tuberculosis as ‘romantic’, which in turn resulted with insufficient social pressure to overcome it.)” SEP

The Forbearing Community

The challenge of any community is that we all have ways of being that cause tremendous pain to others. Our own assumptions of what is due to us or just our unconscious drives for love, affirmation, and satisfaction can make life unbearable to others. We sin both by demanding what others cannot give and by not giving what we never even thought of giving. Yet the real pain caused by our inattention and habitual desire is serious. This is why the only real community that can exist is a Christian community. A real community must be sustained by forbearing the pain caused by others. We must be able to say, “This pain I charge not to them, because God has not. In fact, God has not charged to me the pain I am causing them, but has become the great bearer of pain, making forgiveness possible. And since human forgiveness and forbearance is always responsive to God’s forgiving, my forbearing this pain is simply doing less than what God has done for me in Jesus.”

Remembering My Grandpa

13873197_10154161545605342_11024999247223338_nDuluth News Tribune:

“Robert John LaPine 90 of Palm Harbor, Fla., passed away Aug. 3, 2016. He was born Robert John Lapinoja in Eveleth, the son of the late John and Jenny Lapinoja.

He was a graduate of Eveleth Senior High School class of 1943. He served three years in the Navy during World War II achieving the rank of Admiral’s yeoman.

He was employed for 42 years with NW Bell as a lineman and supervisor of the motor vehicles for Northern Minnesota.

In the early sixties he served as president of the Duluth Jaycees, and he had the distinquished honor of being the first mascot of the Minnesota Vikings. Dressed up in the horns, he presented the Chicago Bears’ head coach George Halas a live bear cub at the halftime of the very first Minnesota Viking game.

Robert served on the Duluth City Council from 1964 to 1976 and served one term as its president. He also was an outstanding member of the Sertoma Club, the Kaliva of Long Lake,Town Talkers; and he also served on the board of directors for the DTA. He also taught safety courses at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

In 1982, Robert earned a B.A. from Liberty University with a degree in Biblical Education. He then served as pastor of the Wright Evangelical Free Church for 11 years. Throughout the years, he served on elder and deacon boards at Lakeside Baptist and Bethel Baptist in Duluth, and he helped plant North Bay Community Church in Superior. In his later years, he was a faithful member of Faith Baptist Church in Hermantown where he referred to it as his second family.

Robert was an avid fisherman and hunter. He took great pride in the fact that he shot a 30 point buck, cleaned over 13,000 fish in one summer as a guide on Crane Lake, and he himself shot seven moose on one hunting trip. He was the last of the great cane pole fishermen.

Robert accepted Christ as his Savior in 1964, and dedicated his life to introducing Jesus Christ to the people he would meet. He served on the local Billy Graham outreach boards, Youth for Christ boards, and mission boards for various church and parachurch organizations.

Robert is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, June (Kortes) LaPine; his sister, Ruth (Charles) Sickel of Eveleth; his sons, Kerry (Nancy) LaPine of Vashon Island, Wash., Robert (Nancy) LaPine of Gilberts, Ill., Dwight (Peggy) LaPine of Byron, Minn., Richard (Lynda) LaPine of Superior, and Jeremy (Carrie) LaPine of Palm Harbor, Fla.; daughter, Janelle (Robert) Farnham of Belton, Texas; 22 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren.

GATHERING OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS: 10 a.m. Friday Aug. 12, 2016 until the 11 a.m. service in Lakeview Covenant Church, 1001 Jean Duluth Rd. in Duluth.”

Calvin: Conflating Heart and Will

Calvin does use the word “heart” in many ways throughout The Institutes. But at least when he’s talking about the depravity of the psychological faculties, he takes the biblical uses of “heart” as references to the corrupt will. I think this is a problem, but I make no comment about that here. But to preserve a key example:

God, therefore, begins the good work in us by exciting in our hearts a desire, a love, and a study of righteousness, or (to speak more correctly) by turning, training, and guiding our hearts unto righteousness; and he completes this good work by confirming us unto perseverance. But lest any one should cavil that the good work thus begun by the Lord consists in aiding the will, which is in itself weak, the Spirit elsewhere declares what the will, when left to itself, is able to do. His words are, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,” (Ezek. 36:26, 27). How can it be said that the weakness of the human will is aided so as to enable it to aspire effectually to the choice of good, when the fact is, that it must be wholly transformed and renovated?

John Calvin, Institutes, II.3.6