Pierre Charron on “The duty of Parents and Children”

From Pierre Charron’s “On Wisdome,” (1601) translated by Samson Lennard (1612), pg. 437-437

The duty of Parents and Children is reciprocall, and reciprocally naturall : if that of children be more strait, that of Parents is more ancient, parents being the first authours and cause, and more important to a Common-weal : for to people a State, and to furnish it with honest men and good citizens, the culture and good nourishment of youth is necessary, which is the seed of a Common-wealth. And there comes not so much evils to a Weal-publick, by the ingratitude of Children towards their Parents, as by the carelesness of Parents in the instruction of their Children: and therefore with great reason in Lacedemon, and other good and politick States, there was a punishment and a penalty laid upon the Parents, when the Childdren were ill conditioned. And Plato was wont to say, that he knew not in what a man should be more careful and diligent, than to make a good son And Crates cryed out in choler, To what end do men take so much care in heaping up goods, and so little care of those to whom they shall leave them? It is as much as if a man should take care of his shoo, and not of his foot. What should he do with riches that is not wise, and knows not how to use them? It is like a rich and beautifull saddle upon a Jades back. Parents then are doubly obliged to this duty, both because they are their Children, and because they are the tender plants and hope of the Common-weal : This is to till his own land, together with that of the Weal-publick.

Now this office or duty hath four successive parts, according to those four goods or benefits that a child ought to receive successively from his parents, Life, Nourishment, Instruction, Communication. The first regardeth the time when the infant is in the womb, untill his coming into the world inclusively; the second, the time of his infancy in his Cradle, until he know how to go and to speak; the third, all his youth; this part must be handled more at large, and more seriously; the fourth concerneth their affection, communication and carriage towards their children now come to mans estate, touching their good thoughts, designments.

[Man’s responsibility with respect to “copulation”]

“and if there be a fault committed in this first part, the second and third can hardly repair it . . . When men go unadvisedly and headlong to this copulation, onely provoked thereunto by pleasure, and a desire to disburthen our selves of that which tickleth and presseth us thereunto: if a conception happen therby, it is by chance; for no man goeth to it warily, and with such deliberation and disposition of body as he ought, and nature doth require. . . . Behold then briefly, according to Philosophy the particular advisements touching this first point, that is to say, the begetting of male-children, sound, wise, and judicious: for that which serveth for the one of these qualities, serves for the other.

  1. A man must not couple himself with a woman that is of vile, base, and dissolute condition, or of a naughty and vitious composition of body.
  2. He must abstain from this action and copulation seven or eight dayes.
  3. During which time he is to nourish himself with wholsome victuals, more hot and dry than otherwise, and such as may concoct well in the stomach.
  4. He must use a more than moderate exercise.*
  5. a man must apply himself to this encounter after one manner, a long time after his repast, that is to say, his belly being empty, and he is fasting . . .
  6. And not near the monethly terms of a woman, but six or seven days before, or as much, after them
  7. And upon the point of conception and retention of the feed, the woman turning and gathering her self together upon the right side, and let her so rest for a time
  8. This direction touching the viands and exercise must be continued during the time of her burthen.

*additional comment, All this tendeth to this tend, and purpose, that the feed may be a well concocted and seasoned, hot and dry, fit and proper for a masculine, sound and wise temperature, Vagabonds, idle and lazie people, great drinkers, who have commonly an ill concoction, ever beget effeminate, idle, and dissolute children (as Hippocrates recounteth of the Scythians.)


Quotable: Aristotle

“Actions, then, are called just and temperate when they are such as the just or the temperate man would do; but it is not the man who does these that is just and temperate, but the man who also does them as just and temperate men do them. It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good.

“But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.”

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1105b5-17

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.”