Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Poetic Misunderstanding

Poetry is among the oldest arts in all the humanities. The oral culture of our pre-literate ancestors was one in which the most important mythological tales were told through bards who, in order to better facilitate memorization and rhythmic recitation, narrated their tales in meter. The earliest literature from the West and the Near East--the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey--has come down to us in verse, perhaps inextricably bound by what today we call mythopoeia, itself a self-conscious psychological interpretation of archetypes from our own collective unconscious. But the place of poetry in the 21st century, where not only the prose novel but also audio-visual media has lessened the impact of this once hallowed form, is not so highly regarded. Once the mark of an educated man, poetry, even among those of us ensconced in the arts and humanities, holds essentially no place in our curriculum. Since World War I, poetry has atrophied from the consciousness of the educated and is seen now as little more than a hobby or a habit.

However, if there's one area that poetry seems to exist in a particularly purposive way and in an especially decontextualized way, it is in politics. Certain poems, because of their rhythm, language, or form, have a certain ability to invoke inner emotional states that simple language often cannot. But what happens when, after so much decontextualization, after so often hearing the same phrases and words unattached from the themes of their author, that the meaning morphs, not beyond simply what the poet intended (I suspect most poets perfectly understand that the imperfection of language to convey abstract ideas will inevitably lead to their poems being read in ways other than that which they intend), but takes on a new meaning entirely independent from the poem itself. Politicians, and I suspect their critics even more so, make a career from taking things out of context and bending them to the will of their ideologies and political platforms. It is this misunderstanding that I feel has killed poetry far deader than the fickle vicissitudes of modernity.

I spent much of the morning watching Ted Kennedy's memorial service, and it is ineluctable that in the discussion of a Kennedy, whether deferring to the "curse" or not, someone feels the need to quote Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Ulysses's final line about striving, seeking, finding, and never yielding, if I may paraphrase, and it is almost always quoted, in the words of David Yezzi, of The Wall Street Journal, as a "buoyant rallying cry." And those who hear these words in this context are most often apt to think of them as such. But, though I am no literary theorist or critic, it bothers me as a fan of this poem, when these lines are uttered in triumph rather than in lament as they, to my mind, are meant to be read. The poem underscores Ulysses' realization that, with age, comes invalidity, decrepitude, and the feeling of uselessness accompanied by a greater understanding of the fragility of life. Tennyson describes Ulysses--who once ruled Ithaca, fought gallantly in the great Trojan War, and braved the Mediterranean Sea for over a decade before returning home--as an "idle king", a "man made weak by time and fate." "How dull it is to pause," Ulysses bemoans, "to make an end, to rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!" reminding us all not of his greatness, but that all greatness, no matter the heights, shall one day succumb to that which fells us all: the unalterable progress of time. The Kennedy's always quoted this poem (especially Robert, but also Teddy) to promote the drive and determination that so defined their political lives. And now, perhaps with Teddy's passing, it can finally take on the authorial intent of introspection into the fate which awaits us all. These themes are not the most romantic in poetry, but as the age of poetry waned, it became a theme all too common amongst her greatest children. T.S. Eliot, perhaps more than others, in his Gerontion and Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, understood that all that shines will one day burn out, the art of poetry included.

Perhaps, as Kirsten mentioned as she leaned over while we watched the service, the Kennedys really were aware of Tennyson's meaning all along and took Ulysses' advice to heart. Perhaps they understood that, with but one life to live, it is in striving and seeking and finding and never yielding that we find most fulfillment in life. And the tragedy that this family has endured has surely imparted to them the lessons of this reality. And that, in the end, when we are at the precipice, weak with age, deteriorated, our halcyon strength behind us, the words and deeds which we bequeath to our younger generations really are "buoyant rallying cries" and, in true Greek fashion from which the myth of Ulysses derives, it is our words and deeds which echo throughout eternity long after we have yielded to time. If Ted Kennedy's words and deeds do this, they may have been quoting Tennyson correctly after all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Move to South Carolina and the Clemson Graduate History Program

So, we're finally settled into our new home in South Carolina. The move went swimmingly and we had no snafus along the way. Kirsten and I ended up getting a place in Central, South Carolina, which is about two miles east of Clemson, back towards the Greenville direction. It's in fact no where near centrally located in the state and is called Central because it is exactly halfway between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia. The town grew up here because it's right along the railroad line between the two cities. It is fairly small at only a few thousand people, and outside of the downtown area, it seems to be primarily a town for Clemson University upperclassmen and graduate students who commute to school. One other notable tidbit about Central: it's the hometown of Senator Lindsey Graham. So, yeah, there's that, too.

The first week of graduate school hasn't entailed a whole lot just yet. I currently feel like I'm living through the calm before the storm as I have my reading list (22 books long, plus 5 for my TA class, plus thesis research) and am theoretically supposed to start doing some preliminary research for my thesis this semester, which begins in earnest next January. So far, it's mostly been attending meetings and getting acquainted with the faculty, staff, and campus. I am taking three classes this semester, though in a sense one could argue that I'm taking as many as four or as few as two (ah, the grad school factual argumentativeness). I have Historiography, which is essentially a history of history, and this will explore historical methods, modes of historical inquiry, phases through which the idea of history has passed, and how past and present historians have regarded the craft, beginning with Herodotus and Thucydides and wending our way all the way to the 20th century. My "substantive" course is on witchcraft, and considering that I wrote my writing sample for the department, in part, on witchcraft, this felt like a natural choice. I have to admit I was a bit reticent about taking this course because it is taught by an American postmodernist historian of women and gender, and I am neither an American or postmodernist historian. However, after looking at the reading list, at least the first half of the course seems to focus on witchcraft's European origins and tracks its development from antiquity through the Middle Ages to the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe before it jumps the pond to America. This seems like it is, in a sense, going to be another historiography course, in that the methods and interpretations of witchcraft history will be studied even more than the content of the historical record, but for a topic with such scant historical evidence and even less historical consensus, I think this is a fair approach. The third "course" I have is thesis research, which is entirely independent research I'll do on my own about whatever topic I want my thesis to be on. Since I probably won't sit down with anyone to discuss this in any major way until January, this will be less like taking a class and more like gathering materials I may want to use down the road. Presumably, when I'm not reading and researching for my other two courses, I'll be scouring the library looking for resources for this future project. However, I have no idea yet what I want to write my thesis on (actually, I have several, but don't really know what I'll pick).

The final "course" is the course in which I'm a teaching assistant. It's a freshman level lecture called "The West and the World Part 1" and essentially it's Western Civ. meets world history from prehistory to about the late 17th century. So, this is exactly along my lines of interest, and since TA assignments tend to be random, I'm very lucky to have gotten it. The course looks like it will be, as its name implies, about integrating the traditional study of Western history within the global context and looking at its unfolding comparatively with much of the rest of the world. It's lecture-based (there are about 125 students) and the professor said that almost the entirety of the tests will be based around his notes. My role, along with the other TA, will be primarily supportive: attendance taking, paper and test grading, student advising, running review sessions, etc. So, I'll certainly treat it like a "real" class that I'm taking, in that I'll take notes and read all the books so as to better serve the students. Plus the reading list actually looks very interesting and includes brand new books on, among other things, the formation of the polis in ancient Greece, the most recent archaeological studies on the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the theological, philosophical, and political motivations behind the Gothic cathedral of Chartres.

Although I don't want this blog to turn into a "here's what I did today" type of blog, I think that I might be writing more of that in the coming months as the bulk of my time will be spent with my nose in a book and conducting research, for which this blog may serve as a "rough draft of thoughts" so to speak. Coming soon, I anticipate I'll write about the organization of my library, as it was an ordeal that was much more difficult than I thought it would be, and to bounce a few thesis topics around. And in the slightly more distant future, I will likely post some of my papers or versions/edits of them. So, if you don't like history, now would be the time to stop reading.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Decline of Scholasticism and the Rise of Humanism: Late Medieval Thought and the Coming Renaissance

That Scholasticism was the primary mode of academic discourse in the medieval university system is an understatement. From the early 12th till at least mid 14th century, it was the only system within which reputable scholars and academics aired their ideas and theories. Just as the Church held a spiritual monopoly over Western Christendom, so too did Scholasticism, combined primarily with Thomist philosophy, hold sway over the scholarly mind, and this entrenchment, over time, led to a gradual erosion of original thinking until by the mid-14th century a serious crisis of stagnation entered Western thought. As we have seen, the "Latin Averroists" along with Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas managed to propel Aristotle to the forefront of the philosophical dialogue, and even though his ascension hit numerous snags along the way (being banned in 1210 and severely restricted in 1231), his preeminence, especially among the Dominican order and its followers, became obvious by mid-century. The inertness of learning did not come about purely because of the rigidity of the Scholastic method so much as by the tyranny exerted over the minds of the period by an authority which was never to be contradicted. Numerous scholars spent decades systematizing and synthesizing Aristotle's works until at last a body of ideas existed that held up both the revealed truths of the Church and the observed truths of nature. But nobody is perfect, and chinks began to appear in The Philosopher's armor as scholars began to find out that the ancient scholar was not always correct and some ideas could still be interpreted, even in spite of the synthesis, as heretical. It became evident that new paths of knowledge had to be explored if any advancement could be made. What was to result over the course of about a century and a half were two dynamically different modes of thought: one which sought to divorce faith and reason and one that brought a more secular and more humanistic approach to Western philosophy.

The status of "mandatory" conferred upon Aristotle in 1255 was to be a short-lived one despite the fact that his works were now readily accessible and nearly sacred in Western Christendom. While Aquinas had been rather reserved in his application of Aristotelian logic to Christian theology, some near contemporary scholars dared to go further, stating that Aristotle's philosophy proved such diverse ideas as the unity of all thought, coalescing in a godhead (such as Siger de Brabant, 1235-1282) and the idea that the individual soul was not immortal but that all souls merged into one upon death (Boetius of Dacia, 1230-1285). The next major test of the Aristotelian corpus came just 22 years later in 1277 when more charges of heresy came up relating to Aristotle's work. However, this time it was not the Philosopher himself, but merely his works that were to be held up for scrutiny. Rather than putting a blanket ban on him, Pope John XXI commissioned the Bishop Etienne Tempiers of Orleans to review Aristotle's writings and bring to his attention any precepts that specifically contradicted the Holy Scriptures. Fortunately for Tempiers, Thomas Aquinas had completed his great compilation of Aristotle fewer than four years prior. In less than six weeks, the bishop brought forth no fewer than 219 propositions which he claimed should be banned. These were taken into consideration by the Pope, and he upheld Tempiers' findings. This prohibition, unlike the one of 1210, would not be as far reaching and ended up applying only to the University of Paris. Many other universities used this to their advantage and several attracted students who would otherwise have gone to Paris, boasting that their university still allowed his teachings. Still, the effect was that some of Aristotle's thoughts would be forever tainted with a brand of heresy and scholars would have to tread into Aristotelian waters at their own risk. And in spite of the ban, the University of Paris continued to be the foremost theological school in Europe. Far from being an inhibition on the minds of medieval scholars, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the hold this philosopher exerted over them began to give way to a more open-ended way to reach new realms of knowledge.

One such way that this new academic freedom led the learned was in the direction of skepticism. This was not so much skepticism in the modern sense as it was in the a skepticism specifically of the entire enterprise of Aristotelian synthesis. Several major thinkers of the late 13th and early 14th century attempted to scrap Aristotle altogether, hearkening back to more Augustinian and Platonic notions of the self, the soul, and the metaphysical nature of the universe. John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), for example, claimed that since the human being was a perfect being made imperfect through sin, we could never truly trust our senses empirically, thus, the only sure path of knowledge was faith in revealed scripture. This did not , as some have suggested, mean that Duns Scotus advocated a complete denial of reason, but that the sphere of reason had no place being used in the arguments raging in the theological arena. This mode of thought was particular to the Francisan order, which found its philosophical inspiration from the likes of Augustine and the Middle Platonists rather than Aristotle and the Averroist, but by the early 14th century, the gap between faith and reason was certainly widening.

It was William of Occam, however, who put together a coherent argument against the use of the Scholastic method, and his critique attempted to completely overturn the technique of linking theological premises through reasoned analysis. Scholasticism had been about plurality--combining multifaceted and disparate ideas into one congruous form. Occam turned this philosophy on its head, stating that "plurality need not be posited without necessity." He viewed all of this reconciliation as unnecessary and posited that Scholastics relied on too many assumptions to link between Aristotle to Scripture. The best theory was the one that required the fewest amount of leaps in logic to validate it. This very simple yet profoundly powerful thesis was an enunciation of what would come to be called "Occam's Razor" or "the law of parsimony." According to Occam, the simplest explanation was always the best one--and of course, for Occam, the simplest explanation for nearly every tenet within the Aristotelian corpus was that God was in control of all action. Occam promoted the idea of the absolute power of God at the expense of almost any other reason-based explanation. This was the greatest affront to Scholasticism in that Scholastics, at their core, believed that one could through reason become closer to God. Occam did not deny the importance of reason, but stated, as Duns Scotus and others had, that it had no place in theology. This is an essential divorce between faith and reason that is still with us to this day, though it would not reach its full peak until the Scientific Revolution. The great irony of Occam's most lasting contribution to philosophy is that, today, the premise of Occam's Razor is often used to disprove the existence of God.

But what of the other direction philosophy was heading during the close of the Middle Ages? For all their differences in opinion, Duns Scotus and Occam, the two most towering figures of the early 14th century, were essentially still working within the Scholastic framework. The modes of thought that would begin developing to the south in Italy, laying the seeds of the Renaissance which would unleash itself upon Europe beginning in the 15th century, were trending in an entirely different direction. Philosophy in general was losing a great deal of consistency in the Later Middle Ages, as it was interrupted by what Barbara Tuchman has called the "calamitous 14th century" which was racked by peasant revolts, religious upheavals, a sharp rise in mysticism, the long and bloody Hundred Year's War, and most of all the Black Plague. The unity of the previous few centuries was long gone and people seemed to seek comfort and consistency in a plethora of areas. What happened in Italy is a subject for another philosophy lecture, but in many ways its roots are firmly planted in the Middle Ages. In terms of philosophy, there is one figure that truly stands out as the early Renaissance champion of a new secular and humanistic outlook on life: Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374).

Petrarch very quickly became disenfranchised by contemporary university professors who insisted on reading the glosses and commentaries of ancient texts as if they were the equal of the original and he complained that the eloquence of the original Latin and Greek (though he knew no Greek) were too muddied and vulgarized by the later writers. By simply asserting that the original texts be held in the highest regard and by demanding access to the unadulterated ones (as much as was possible) Petrarch began the process of rediscovery for which the coming period was named. This was a literal rediscovery: Petrarch became a papal secretary and physically scoured libraries across Europe looking for old and long forgotten texts--and for this, he is thought to be personally responsible for the discovery of no fewer than 10 histories of Livy, several orations of Cicero, and at least one text of Archimedes. What resulted was a much more human-oriented philosophy that emphasized a study of the arts and humanities in their original form, a rejection of the authority of the universities (including Aristotle), and the individual freedom of scholars to discover at will. It is also at this time that the first recorded uses of the term "Middle Ages" appears to describe the preceding period (from medium aevum, Latin for "in-between-age," coined in the early 1400s by humanist scholar Flavio Biondo). This was a disparaging term, implying that the thousand years "in between" the fall of Rome and the rebirth of its cultural, literary, and philosophical greatness in 15th century was essentially a time of little importance and learning. But, of course, the Middle Ages, though crude, were hardly "dark" and the illuminating light of academia shined on even in difficult times. And the modern word, thought to be so influenced by the humanism and secularism of the Renaissance, was in a very tangible way, influenced as much as by the Medieval period as those which followed it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Aristotelian Reconciliation: Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas

The primary goal of 12th and 13th century Scholasticism was to reconcile the natural philosophy of Aristotle with revealed truth of Christian scripture. The impact of Christian thought on the philosophy of the Middle Ages need not be mentioned, for not only was it the most important in terms of influence, it was indeed the entire framework within which medieval philosophers perceived the world. However, beginning in the early 12th century, a new force which had hitherto been unknown or at least obscure enough to escape the notice of all but those scholars lucky enough to have access to his work, began to exert its influence on Western thought. Much like the Bible, Aristotle needs no introduction and if the specifics of his philosophy do not precede him, his reputation does. Throughout the course of the 12th and 13th century, he would become so popular and so emulated that he came to be known simply as Ille Philosophus, "The Philosopher," and this is in large part due to the works of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, who were able to resolve many of the differences between and synthesize both the corpus of Christian thought and the writings of the ancient thinker.

The path from obscurity to ubiquity for Aristotle's works in the Middle Ages was an arduous one and more complex than can be attempted here, but we may briefly track its movement. Aristotelian philosophy, like most other intellectual pursuits, gradually faded from the collective consciousness of Western Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire as there was a general dearth of scholars to carry on his work and the more academic nature of his writings did not lend itself to study in the generally difficult life led by most from 500-1000 CE. As we have seen, there were areas where his works were preserved: Boethius' translations formed the backbone of later Latin translations and copyists and scribes in the British Isles and in the Byzantine Empire preserved a fair amount in later centuries as well. But likely the greatest location for the preservation of Aristotelian knowledge was the Islamic world, which, if the Appropriation Theory is correct, managed to add to and improve. The greatest of these was the mid-12th century Muslim Spaniard Averroes (Ibn Rushd), who is often regarded as the founder of secular thought in Western Europe. Among Averroes' many accomplishments include his massively influential commentary on the writings of Aristotle, written in 1160, in which he simplified and summarized Aristotle's philosophy, made editorial comments on them to elucidate their oftentimes difficult concepts, and attempted to tease out the meanings behind Aristotle that may be conciliatory to the Islamic religion. What resulted was a sort of medieval Cliff's Notes version of the works of Aristotle that were read across the Islamic world and soon found their way into the hands of eager European scholars. Averroes was so influential that, for a time, Scholastics who were engaged in the process of synthesizing Aristotle with Christianity were known as Averroists.

To Medieval scholars, the most important ideas to be found in Aristotle's works were the ones related to metaphysics and natural philosophy. While too broad to detail here, some of his more notable theories include the concept of the four element (earth, water, air, and fire) composition of matter and their correspondent qualities, humors, zodiacal signs, etc.; the idea of nature as a "plenum," meaning that one could not reach the smallest portion of matter (the word atom comes from the Greek a tomos meaning "uncuttable"); the sphericity of the earth and the cosmos and the idea of a "natural place" for all elements (earth sank to the center, water on top of it, air rose above these two, and fire ascended to the heavens); the perfect circular motion of heavenly bodies and the difference in the nature of physics below the orbit of the moon (the sublunar sphere) and above the orbit of the moon (the supralunar sphere); and the logical hierarchy of "causes" in nature, among many, many others. It became clear early on, that not all of Aristotle's ideas meshed well with Christian doctrine, but Aristotle's authority was already too great and religious figures of the day likely could not have passed laws forbidding his teachings if they had wanted to. But try they did: in 1210 in Paris a council of bishops forbade the teaching of his works in the French university system and in 1231 in Rome Pope Gregory IX ordered a "clean-up" of Aristotle's works so they would become more palatable to medieval Christian sensibilities. The most notable of "The Philosopher's" beliefs that disagreed with Christianity included his assertion that the cosmos was eternal and had no beginning or end (this denied the Creation as well as the Apocalypse), that the soul and the body are interminably linked (this denied the immortal soul and the prospects for salvation and afterlife), and that miracles were impossible (this, of course, denied God's will). This is where Albertus and Thomas Aquinas enter the picture.

Albertus Magnus (c. 1200-1280) was a German Dominican scholar who was the first to attempt a Christian synthesis of Aristotle's ideas utilizing the same format as Averroes. Albertus, who would later be made a Doctor of the Church (one of only 33 people to hold this title in history), had a lifelong thirst for knowledge that never seems to have been satiated and ranged from theology and philosophy to alchemy and astrology, physics and metaphysics to metallurgy and phrenology. During his lifetime, he managed to compile the majority of Aristotle's known works, make insightful comments upon them as they related to the Christian world view, and preserve his work in a relatively complete form upon which later scholars could draw. However, Albertus is generally considered to have failed in truly creating a systematized Aristotelian corpus which could pass muster among the Church powers who insisted on a thoroughly Christianized philosophy. Albertus' greatest contributions to history were not to be his writings on Aristotle but his advocacy of an experimental method and of a compatibility between science and religion--perhaps broader realizations of his attempts with Aristotle. It is fitting that the scholar who succeeded in this more specific and more laborious task was Albertus Magnus' greatest student, Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) was originally from the country-side around Naples and the son of a minor noble who wanted Thomas to enter a Benedictine monastery as his uncle had done. Thomas' early education was at the state-sponsored University in Naples where he developed an early interest in theology. He was more receptive to Dominican ideals as they had placed a greater emphasis on empiricism and rationality and this eventually led him to Paris where he received instruction from the imminent Albertus Magnus. Where Thomas was able to succeed his master's failures was in the great organizational capacity and originality in his thinking. Thomas regarded Aristotle, not necessarily as an ancient pagan philosopher, but as a brilliant thinker who had the Christian-perceived misfortune of being born before the salvation of Christ. And he viewed Christianity not as an island of meaning, new and disparate from other philosophy, but as a completion and fulfillment of the knowledge originally, if only partially, realized by Aristotle. Aquinas was the first to distance himself from the Augustinian viewpoint of deduction: Augustine had explained everything by taking what was known universally (the existence of God, the salvation of Christ, the path to Heaven, etc.) and derived particulars from this. Thomas, on the other hand, using the quintessentially Scholastic tool of reason, began with what could be discerned rationally among particular cases (a particular murder being evil, arriving at a conception of God after reviewing his individual creations of plants and animals, etc.) and used these to arrive at universal conclusions. His verdict on Aristotle was, essentially, that reason and faith, being separate but complementary, could be used in service of one another--reason had helped Scholastic philosophers arrive at proofs and arguments in favor of the existence of God, and faith was now being used to contend that, as far as Aristotle's natural philosophy was concerned, it could not truly contradict revealed truth if the validity of his ideas were discovered in nature. For was not nature the very dominion of God and the expression of His will at creation? Aquinas would follow Aristotle very closely in this respect, and this would lead him on the path to reworking most of the Philosopher's ideas under the illumination of the light of Christianity.

His greatest work in this endeavor was his Summa Theologica, which would contain the entirety of his new philosophical system. Written between 1265 and 1274, it argued nearly every major point of Christian theology with appeal to reason, including especially the existence of God; the Creation; Man and his purpose; Christ and His life, death and resurrection; and salvation. The work is especially known for its enunciation of "The Five Ways" or quinquae viae, five arguments for the existence of God that have a certain Aristotelian ring to them. The first of the Five Ways can be, and has been, read as the most astonishing example of Aristotelian reconciliation in particular and with Scholastic logic in general. The First Way reads, "God is simple, without composition of parts, such as body and soul, or matter and form." Aristotle had, as we have seen, argued for the eternity of the universe, but had conceded that if there was a beginning, it would necessitate the existence of a "prime mover" or a "first cause"--something that got the ball rolling. Aquinas linked these ideas thusly: To cause change is to bring into being that which had hitherto not existed and this can be done only by something that already existed (as fire is needed to cause burning in matter); a thing causing this change must remain constant itself during the change if the result is to be constant; therefore anything in the process of changing was caused by something prior to it; there must be a terminal point as there will be no original cause of changes if we do not; this first cause must be God. These words are essentially Aristotle's, with the phrase "prime mover" changed to "God." This is Thomist Scholasticism and Aristotelian reconciliation at its finest.

Thanks to Aquinas, not only was Aristotle reinstated in the European university system in the Middle Ages, it was made mandatory in 1255. His separation of natural philosophy from theology made the study of both easily compatible and this is viewed as a proto-attempt to reconcile science and religion. Aquinas himself, however, would leave his greatest work unfinished as he died while writing it in 1274. While celebrating Mass, Aquinas had a mystical vision which he would share with no one, but it obviously had a profound effect on him which changed him deeply. "I cannot go on," he said. "All that I have written seems like so much straw to me [mihi videtur ut palea] compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me." Aquinas died four months later. Modern observers believe he may have had a stroke or a nervous breakdown. Others that he received a mystical vision from God, providing him with an instant communion with the ultimate reality beyond logical comprehension, which no words could possibly attempt to describe. Whatever the case, even despite Thomas Aquinas' refusal to complete his opus, his new system of philosophy would dominate the remainder of medieval thought and would not find a replacement until the Protestant reformation 250 years later and the revival of Neoplatonism in the Renaissance. And he would almost single-handedly make Aristotle available for intellectual consumption on a broad scale for the remainder of the Middle Ages.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peter Abelard and Heloise: The Problem of Universals, the Rise of Scholasticism, the School of Nominalism, and One Horrific Castration

Peter Abelard (1079-1142) was a Scholastic philosopher and theologian, originally from Palet in Brittany, known primarily for his controversial views regarding the concept of universals, his instrumental role in the formation of the Scholastic method and the school of nominalism, his secret love affair with his female student Héloise, and the punishment of castration which followed. He is regarded by many scholars as the greatest logician of the Middle Ages and, in that role, as an essential founder of the technique of medieval philosophy known as Scholasticism, in which the primary raison d'etre became the reconciliation of Greco-Roman philosophy (primarily Aristotle) with Christian theology.

Abelard is given credit for the creation of the school of thought known as nominalism, a proposed solution to the problem of universals, which replaced the school of realism then in vogue in European universities. The school of realism, as opposed to the modern definition of the term, asserted that ideal concepts such as "love" or "virtue" referred to "forms" in the Platonic sense and that these terms were independent of the physical world, existing only as ideals. These ideals were known in medieval times as universals, which, according to one succinct scholar of medieval philosophy, is "a functional word expressing the combined image of a word's common association within the mind," or, perhaps even more succinctly, if less descriptive, an "ideal that exists solely within the realm of ideas." In other words, a green sweater, a blade of grass, and a Green Bay Packers uniform all exhibit qualities of "green-ness" even if "green-ness" itself exists only as an ideal. Nominalists went one step further, saying that universals were not only not dependent on physical reality, but had no real existence whatsoever other than in the realm of the human mind as a way of thinking and talking about abstract concepts. This may seem a trivial difference to the modern reader, but this was vastly important to medieval Christian theologians as Christian discourse contained numerous references to abstract concepts such as Heaven, Hell, Grace, and the Trinity. If universals were real only insomuch as they were necessary for humans to linguistically express them, did this not also mean that essential Christian necessities such as the aforementioned concepts were also unreal? Abelard's controversy only begins here.

Abelard was a prolific writer during his university years and his works were, by medieval standards, among the most lively and original works of philosophy of the early 12th century. His most famous and enduring work is known as Sic et Non, or Yes and No (also sometimes translated as Thus and Otherwise or For and Against) and it was to be used as the standard scholastic textbook for much of the Middle Ages. Written around 1123, it affirmed that any dialectical or logical truth can only be regarded as true when all sides of an argument have been presented. The Scholastic method developed only a few generations before Abelard, primarily from Islamic philosophers in the East and by the Bishop Anselm of Canterbury in the West, and Abelard's work Sic et Non developed a coherent organizational procedure. Scholasticism, as mentioned earlier, was primarily concerned with the reconciliation of Christian theology with Aristotelian philosophy, and the method bequeathed to this institution by Abelard was a technique that sought specifically to use reason and logic to resolve these apparent contradictions between sources which were argued from both sides, theoretically, with an open mind. The writing consisted of essentially arguing the pros and cons (or "Yeses and Nos") of various contradictory issues of the day. Abelard is quoted in it as saying "by doubting, we come to inquiry." This ran counter to Anselm's and the Church's proclamation, fides quaerens intellectum, of first having faith and then coming to reason (see The Ontological Argument Revisited). For this, Abelard was regularly rebuked. Among Abelard's many other controversial assertions include his theory of sin, in which he argued true sin was in intention rather than action, which also ran counter to the predominant Catholic teaching of the day. Abelard also contended that one could only truly confess sins to God and no other (earning Abelard retroactive admiration by some Protestants), which would get him into entanglements with the papacy, since Catholic doctrine gave the monopoly of confession to priests, and this sidestepping of Church authority was seen as blasphemous and politically dangerous. In fact, Abelard's works were officially condemned by the Church twice: once at a council in Soissons in 1121 over his denial of a universal of the Holy Trinity and again in Sens in 1140. This latter one was conducted by Pope Innocent II himself, at the behest of the mightily influential Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk who had been instrumental in preaching the First Crusade, and who was viewed as resoundingly anti-rationalist and anti-skeptic. Later historians would interpret Abelard and Bernard as mortal enemies.

Out of all this controversy, however, it is likely his relationship with his most famous student Héloise that earned him the most infamy at the time and the most fame in later centuries. Though Héloise is mostly famous due to her association with Abelard, she was a great scholar in her own right, being proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. She came from lower nobility in France and her uncle Fulbert managed to secure Abelard as a private tutor for the precocious young academic. If the contemporary sources are to be believed, they instantly and passionately fell in love. Due to the circumstances of his place in their household and the impropriety of the tutor/student relationship, their love was kept a secret, though it seems that it was secret from no one except Héloise's naive uncle. Unfortunately for them, a furious Fulbert eventually did find out and the two were forced to flee. Abelard, who still hoped for advancement within the Church, urged a secret marriage, but Héloise turned down his proposals, claiming that it would do too much to destroy Abelard's reputation should word reach his superiors. Soon thereafter, Héloise became pregnant with their child (whom they would name Astrolabe, after the recent astronomical invention) and she conceded to the marriage. Fulbert could not be kept in the dark forever, and when Héloise flatly denied their involvement, Fulbert took this under the assumption that he had deserted her, infuriating him even more. Eventually, he dispatched a group of knights to Abelard's bedchamber where he was tied down and slowly castrated as punishment for his licentious behavior. This effectively put an end to their relationship, and Abelard retired to St. Denis monastery until poverty forced him to resume teaching, at Paraclete, under the rank of abbot, while Héloise continued her life as a private scholar in a convent in Paris. Abelard would never again enjoy the fame and eminence he once held, and would spend much of the rest of his life moving from monastery to monastery. The two would never see each other again, though they would maintain a correspondence through letters for the rest of their lives, which many have regarded as among the most romantic love letters in the Western canon.

Abelard's legacy is one of controversy from beginning to end--from his tumultuous academic life to the tragic end of his affair with Héloise. But it is also a legacy of the advancement of human knowledge and the stirrings of free thought emerging out of a fairly intolerant and traditionalist society. Abelard's career can be seen as philosophically paradigmatic in that he believed in the essential unity of thought, reason, skepticism, individual intellectual interpretation, and emotion and intuition as a way of understanding and having faith. Abelard came to represent the excitement and aggressiveness with which Scholasticism would tackle the philosophical problems of the Middle Ages, and he sowed an optimism in the human spirit and intellectual faculties. For this, and for his undying affection for his beloved Héloise, he is one of the most romanticized figure from the period. Indeed, in later centuries, is life and love would be fodder for numerous poets:

"How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!/ The world forgetting by the world
forgot./ Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!/ Each pray'r accepted and each wish resigned."
--Alexander Pope, from "Eloisa to Abelard" (1717)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Medieval Islamic Science: Appropriation or Marginalization?

The Appropriation and Marginalization Theories of Islamic science are competing theories regarding the extent to which Islamic science contributed to Greco-Roman learning during the European Middle Ages. The Appropriation Theory contends that the Islamic scholarly society purposefully sought out ancient Greek and Latin science and used it as the principal cornerstone for its own unique science, while the Marginalization Theory states that in Islamic society, translation of works from Greek and Latin into Arabic was the only real effort and that there was little creative achievement and little or no pursuit of original knowledge.

The so-called Islamic Golden Age, a period of scientific, philosophical, and cultural growth from the 8th to 13th centuries, coincided with the latter part of the major Western decline in learning culture. After the fall of the Roman Empire in 5th century, the West entered a period of drastic decline in almost all scholarly areas, produced almost no major engineering or architectural works, little philosophical or literary works, and experienced an unprecedented decline in trade and commerce. The term Dark Ages, which was once applied to the entirety of the European Middle Ages, is still sometimes used to describe this half a millennium from 500-1000 CE. In the Middle East, however, much of this period was marked by the dramatic revival of scholarship based primarily on the works of the major Greek and Latin philosophers such as Aristotle, Archimedes, Hippocrates, Euclid, Galen, Ptolemy, and others. This occurred primarily in major urban centers such as the Bait al-Hikma ("House of Wisdom") in Baghdad as well as in Cordoba and Toledo in al-Andalus (modern-day Spain), which would later provide the primary entry point as this science and learning filtered back into Europe starting in the 12th century. The only places of comparable developments in Christendom included the Byzantine Empire and the Irish monasteries. However, the former was under almost constant siege from the Islamic East and the latter from Viking marauders, to contribute anything much in the way of major scholarship. The later Western European revival of learning in 12th century universities and then again during the Italian Renaissance, in many ways, owes their existence to the works of Islamic scholars such as Avicenna and Averroes.

The Marginalization Theory was given its modern form by the 19th century French philosopher of science Pierre Duhem, who claimed that it was primarily the Roman Catholic Church that fostered the development of Western science and was among the first to claim that the Later Middle Ages was a period of vast growth in scientific, especially mathematical and statistical, knowledge. Duhem essentially ignored the major contributions of Islamic science, claiming that they were not of any use in the study of the history of science as they were mere passive receptors of Greek science, incubating them for later discovery by the West. The theory was not combated for a number of years until the publication in the mid-20th century of A.I. Sabra's influential work, "The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam" in which he argued that Islam was a creative force in science and that not only did it influence Western science but was the primary influence from the 12th century until at least the Italian Renaissance. Among the many original Islamic contributions to science include: the most extensive and accurate star catalog since the time of Ptolemy in the 2nd century and until Tycho Brahe's of the 16th century, the creation of modern numerical and mathematical notation (adapted and enhanced from an Indian system, and introducing for the first time decimal notation, non-Euclidean geometry, and frequency analysis), rudimentary refrigeration and indoor plumbing, the first recorded concept of communicability of disease and possibly the first conception of vaccines, the creation of algebra (from the Arabic al-jabr, meaning "calculation"), several works on the nature of light and optics, and the first use of something resembling the modern experimental scientific method and peer review systems. Some more daring scholars have even suggested that they may have even, in slightly more primitive fashion, contemplated the heliocentric model of the solar system, the laws of gravitation, and calculus several centuries before Newton and Copernicus.

The Appropriation Theory of A.I. Sabra became mainstream and accepted amongst most historians of science in the last few decades thanks in large part to the works of David C. Lindbergh and Ronald Numbers, who have argued in favor of the work, not only of Islamic science in preserving and adding to Greco-Roman knowledge in the West, but also of religious institutions in general, including the Catholic Church, for laying the groundwork for later scientific advances. During the first half of the 20th century, the study of the relationship between science and religion, especially before the Age of Enlightenment, generally took a dim view of the latter, stating that it was the medieval dominance of the Church that set back the Western advancement of knowledge for nearly 1000 years. And, while most scholars did not outright deny the Church's trenchant dogmatism and blatant censorship of heretical ideas, the indebtedness to the Church in the West as the only stable institution from the fall of the Roman Empire to the rise of national monarchies is the 15th and 16th centuries is a fact too important to overlook. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the Islamic Golden Age came to an end in these same centuries as their European territories in Spain and Portugal asserted their independence and Arab territories across the Middle East shrank from the onslaught of Turks from the north and Mongols from the East.

It is a testament to the impartiality of academia that, in our modern political climate and culture of "Islamaphobia," the greatness of the history of Islamic learning is acknowledged. Very few modern scholars outright deny the augmentations made to science by the Islamic Golden Age, though the degree and nature of this contribution is constantly questioned and debated. Some notable exceptions include the popular (populist?) historian Thomas Cahill, who, while not truly denying the role Muslims have played, relegates them to the sidelines and claims almost propogandistically that the major contributions were made by medieval Irish monks working at the fringes of early medieval Europe, and even more so, the eminent Middle Eastern scholar Bernard Lewis, who simply argues against using the term "Islamic science" (any more than we would describe the Scientific Revolution as "Christian science") to describe what were essentially universal achievements. The use of the Appropriation and Marginalization theories of science have more recently been applied to our own modern era, with the general consensus that our "technologically-laden" society certainly falls into the realm of Appropriation, as more and more academic knowledge is applied towards technology, but it has also been described as Marginalized in the sense that science has become so specialized, that not everyone has access to this knowledge.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Ontological Argument Revisited

The Ontological Argument, first proposed by the Islamic scholar Avicenna, but made popular by the archbishop of Canterbury Anselm of Bec (c. 1033-1109) in the late 11th century in his philosophical tracts the Monologion and Proslogion, is the metaphysical premise that purports to prove the existence of God through rational means. At its core, the argument states that God is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" or, put another way, that God is a necessary assumption in the nature of the universe and that as a necessary being, God is something that can not be thought not to exist. Anselm begins with the premise that "that than which nothing greater can be thought can be thought" and that "if that than which nothing greater can be thought can be thought, then it exists in reality", therefore, "that than which nothing greater can be conceived exists in reality." This convoluted language oftentimes obscures the true nature of the argument and foundation on which Anslem's belief rested, and it is perhaps easier to begin with the man Anselm and his beliefs before attempting to understand the argument.

Anslem is often considered the father of Scholasticism, a medieval technique in which logic and reason were used in service of Christian theology, and the formulation of the Ontological Argument is considered the primary early example of this modus operandi in action. Obviously, the Middle Ages was a time in which the Christian institution dominated thought, and at the time the theory was somewhat controversial, primarily because many of the more conservative churchmen of the day considered it a type of blasphemy to attempt any "proof" whatsoever as to the existence of God, claiming faith alone was sufficient. This argument also helped to lead Anselm to perhaps his most famous statement of faith and one which had a considerable amount of influence on medieval Christian philosophy and still exerts influence to this day: "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo, quia, nisi credidero, non intelligam"--"Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand." Building from Augustine, Anslem contended that no true understanding of any philosophical topic was possible without faith in God, for faith was not the end of understanding but the beginning, and without this foundational grounding, one could never be intellectually fulfilled. Anselm's motto, fides quaerens intellectum ("faith seeking understanding"), implies a priority on faith and that a love of God will, out of necessity, lead to a greater wisdom of Him and of the universe. This has remained, in Catholicism, a particularly important point, that belief should come first and foremost and that, given orthodox consideration, metaphysical and ontological understanding will follow.

The theory is, of course, not without its critics and almost immediately after it inception, it was attacked vociferously by the the famous Gaunilo de Montmourtiers. Anslem, in his formulation of the argument, had quoted the first verses of Psalms 14 and 53, which state that "the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" and Gaunilo poignantly titled his rebuttal In Behalf of the Fool. In it, he argued that, simply because he could envision the most perfect island in existence, this did not mean it did exist. Simply imagining an existence did not make it so, and this entire premise ran counter to Anslem's, and many others', prevailing notions of faith. Nevertheless, the Ontological Argument remained an edifice of Christian philosophy relatively unscathed by Gaunilo's criticisms for two centuries until is was rejected by the even more influential Christian Scholastic Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas rejected the argument on the grounds that God is never specifically defined in the argument and thus only those who have already conceived of God in the same way may be convinced by Anselmm's argument. The argument, and the rebuttals, have since then undergone heavy criticism, especially in the early modern era by Rene Descartes, Gottfreid Leibnitz, and most fervently by Immanuel Kant, the originator of the phrase "ontological argument" (the medievals simply called it argumenta Anselmi, or "Anselm's argument"). Descartes, faintly echoing the Platonic concept of forms, reaffirmed the argument on the basis of certain ideas inherent in the structure of the universe. For example, we cannot envision a triangle whose interior angles do not add up to a sum of 180 degrees, just as the existence of the cosmos cannot exist without some originator, who may be defined as God. Leibnitz attacked this view by claiming that perfection was not analyzable and, much like Aquinas, claimed that the inconsistency of the definition of God, or perfection, rendered this argument meaningless. It is Kant, however, who is considered by many philosophers to have laid the argument to rest for good with his rebuttal of the idea of "existence" as a property to begin with. In short, Kant cries foul on the basis of circular logic: since Anselm has already endowed God with the property of existence, his argument proves nothing and he merely repeats himself by presuming to prove existence through the faculty of existence itself. And, in defining existence as a predicate, Kant takes to task the moral and subjective claims that existence is somehow more perfect than nonexistence.

Modern philosophers have added to the debate, but it has been less in the purely metaphysical realm and more in the validity of the argument itself. The Ontological Argument is regarded by its critics, especially those in the scientific fields, as the penultimate a priori argument, or argument based on rationalization independent of empirical experience. In short, logic can be, and has been, employed to prove anything, but without evidence, these arguments amount to nothing more than suppositions and word games. Perhaps this is why so many scientists have a natural disdain for philosophers, who often arrive at truth simply "by thinking about it." In any case, the Ontological Argument was highly influential in the Central Middle Ages and was essential in creating the ontological branch of metaphysics, dominant for nearly a thousand years, which remains among the most studied fields in philosophy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Boethius and the Consolation of Philosophy

The Consolation of Philosophy, a philosophical treatise written in 524 by the former Roman consul Boethius while awaiting execution in prison, is often viewed as the most influential non-religious work of the entire Middle Ages. Boethius, a Roman of noble birth, served the the remnants of the Roman state for a time following the Ostrogothic takeover of the kingdom of Odoacer, who had deposed the final Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476, effectively dissolving the imperial system of government. Boethius and his family, which was of ancient Roman patrician stock, held great distinction in the early 6th century and the Ostrogothic king Theodoric employed Boethius to be the magister officiorum, or master of government and court services. However, in 523, Boethius was accused by Theodoric of conspiring with the Byzantine emperor Justin I to overthrow his regime and reinstate a Roman to the throne in the West. It is also possible that Boethius was being punished, not for treason, but for religious reasons. Theodoric, who was an Arian Christian, as were most Ostrogoths, grew alarmed at the eastern power because Justin I was a Catholic, as many of the Roman aristocracy were. Boethius, who may have been a pagan or a Catholic, could have been a casuality of this relgious strife. The source evidence is scant and the guilt or innocence of Boethius can likely never be settled; nevertheless, Boethius was imprisoned for one year and was executed following excruciating torture. During his year of imprisonment, Boethius wrote what is considered his capstone achievement, The Consolation of Philosophy.

The Consolation of Philosophy follows the Greek example of a dialogue, much as Aristotle and Plato had written, and the work takes the form of five books--part lyrical, part prose (the Menippean satire)--in which Boethius engages in a philosophical discussion with the Lady Philosophy. They discuss, among other things, fate vs. free will and the the idea of predestination, the nature of justice and virtue, and the question of why bad men prosper and go unpunished while good men suffer (an issue obviously close to Boethius' heart). Among the more notable and influential moments of the piece, is the concept of the "Wheel of Fate" which generally depicted a wheel with many spokes, with a king sitting atop the wheel and progressively lower ranks of people populating the spokes, until we reach the poor beggars, prisoners, and those of destitute fate at the bottom. Boethius reminds us that at any time the wheel may turn, sinking those of high birth into the pit of woeful fate (as had happened to himself) while the lowly rise to the top. While this notion had its roots in earlier Greco-Roman philosophy (particularly that of Cicero) and had seen cruder representation in various Germanic mythologies, the eloquence and depth with which Boethius elucidated the concept proved extremely appealing to early medieval philosophy and the parallels between it and the Christian concept of the "meek inheriting the earth" are easy to surmise. Indeed, Boethius, though he is usually studied in the medieval context, is generally seen as the last of the great classical authors, and his coupling of essential classical and Christian concepts, mirrors the cultural shift from Greco-Roman to medieval occurring during his lifetime. The Consolation of Philosophy ends with Boethius fittingly consoled by the Lady Philosophy with the idea, not of divine judgment, as this desire for retribution would not be virtuous, but with the image that all things that happen happen out of necessity, and that "no man can ever be truly secure unless he has been forsaken by Fortune."

The posterity of Boethius lies not just in this work, but in the long-lasting contributions he made to Latin scholarship. While The Consolation of Philosophy took shape only in his final year of life, his life's work was the translation of most of the major works by Aristotle and Plato from Greek into Latin, and in many places, his were the only translations available until the 12th century, nearly 600 years later. And, in the medieval university, which would not emerge until the late 11th century (500 years after his death), the basic curriculum of the "seven liberal arts" was drawn directly from his works: the trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic or logic included the essential techniques medieval students were required to conquer in order to graduate and, for the more advanced students, the quadrivium of music, astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic followed. Boethius' works, and especially The Consolation of Philosophy, were among the most translated works of the Middle Ages and the early modern period, undergoing translations in English in different periods by such luminaries as King Alfred the Great (Old English), Geoffrey Chaucer (Middle English) and even Queen Elizabeth I (modern English) who counted it among her favorite works. Due to the extraordinary circumstances of its composition, the masterful bridging of pagan and Christian concepts, and the honest humanity in Boethius' reconciliation with his reality and his fate, The Consolation of Philosophy remains a philosophical work of the ages.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Update and a Quick Preview

I haven't posted anything for a month and really don't have an excuse. Summer would have been the perfect time for me to sit down at the computer and write blog after blog but it didn't happen. I think it's partially because I have had virtually no routine all summer long and blogging has been one of those things that's gotten lost in the shuffle. So, even though I think everyone who reads this blog already knows the stuff I'm about to type, here's a quick synopsis of the last month and introduction to the next six or so posts I intend to write.

July was in some ways a really busy month and in some ways a really boring one. I spent most of the month working at the one part-time job I was able to get--grading the fifth grade social studies portion of the standardized test for the state of Kentucky. Suffice to say that it was simultaneously hilarious and depressing. The job was filled primarily with educators making some extra cash during their summer recesses, employees of the temp agency Kelly Services who had recently finished up other assignments, and people like myself, who had enough college credits to qualify for the job, and needed something to do for a month or two. I signed a "confidentiality agreement" stating that I wouldn't reveal any student responses (despite the fact that all of the responses were anonymous), and even though I've passed some of them along in private conversation, I feel it's probably not appropriate to post them here. But, for a taste, let me just say that around 15% of Kentucky fifth graders seem to think that Martin Luther King, Jr., freed the slaves, spoke at Abraham Lincoln's funeral, and single-handedly ended the Civil War between North and South America.

The only other major thing that happened in July was that Kirsten and I took a trip down to South Carolina to visit Clemson, look for an apartment, and for Kirsten to look for a speech-language pathologist position. We have, in fact, secured an apartment in Central, South Carolina, which is about a 12 minute drive form campus. The Upstate, or Upcountry, region of South Carolina is quite beautiful. It is essential the far southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains and the Blue Ridge chain is only about 25 minutes north of where we'll be living. We already went hiking once and it was gorgeous. Plus, though the area is sparsely populated by most standards, we are less than 30 miles from Greenville, SC, which has over 100,000 people and around 20 miles north of Anderson, which is about half of that. Clemson is extremely beautiful as well, and a bit different from what I'm used to. Indiana University and Michigan State are both very large state schools of nearly 40,000 students, and Clemson's student body is only around 17,000, but it was the size of the campus, which one could walk across in maybe 20 minutes (as opposed to nearly an hour at the others), that really amazed me. It is small but exactly what I want a college campus to look like: quaint, idyllic, and quintessentially Southern in style. Magnolia trees line the streets, and the buildings are largely an old Southern colonial style (from what I can tell, I'm not that great with architecture) with deep red brick walls, and columns on the larger buildings. I got to meet some of the staff in the history department as well as a very helpful graduate student. All in all, it was a pleasant experience and I look forward to beginning my scholarly journey in just a few more weeks.

Finally, I want to briefly preview the next few blogs I'm post. Those of you who are Facebook friends may remember a little over a year ago when I posted a six part series of notes on medieval philosophy (or, likely, that you don't). In any case, I am planning on reposting them here over the next few days, not so much so that people will read them again, but more for my benefit, because I was rather proud of my work on them and there are some edits I would like to make, some extra research I'd like to do, some hyperlinks I'd like to insert, and some intellectual avenues I wouldn't mind strolling down again. If you've read them before, feel free to ignore them, but I'd like to move them to my blog, since it's obviously a far more appropriate place for the content than in Facebook notes. After that, my next blog should be coming to you from the Palmetto State! Hope you had a great summer!