Links

  • Some bats apparently vocalize in such a way that can inform recipients about the identity of the caller. But one of the researchers added: “We do not find a ‘word’ that mean ‘hello’ or ‘move’ or ‘eat’ in bat communication. We just show that the spectral content of the vocalizations or their frequencies contain information about the context.” It’s not language, as the researcher makes clear, but we should take into account things like this when thinking about philosophy of language, just like how Aristotle took into account knowledge among different animals when writing the Organon.
  • Sr. Prudence Allen, RSM has been writing a series of books on the concept of womanhood throughout the history of philosophy. She has an author’s interview with Eerdmans here. Seems interesting.
  • Scott Alexander has a very intriguing (and really entertaining) post about the correlation between patient reviews of antidepressants and physician reviews. Scott Alexander (actually his pen name) is a psychiatrist-in-training (or at least he claims to be one, anyway), although the warning he gives at the top of the post is excellent advice. The sample is a convenience sample, after all. And maybe patients are not be the best judges of how their medications are actually working.

Christmas

He without whose divine bidding no day runs it course, in His Incarnation reserved one day for Himself. He Himself with the Father precedes all spans of time; but on this day, issuing from His mother, He stepped into the tide of the years.

Man’s Maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breasts; that the Bread might be hungry, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired from the journey; that the Truth might be accused by false witnesses, the Judge of the living and the dead be judged by a mortal judge, Justice be sentenced by the unjust, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Vine be crowned with thorns, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might be made weak, that He who makes well might be wounded, that Life might die. He was made man to suffer these and similar undeserved things for us, that He might free us who were undeserving…

– St. Augustine, Sermon 191.

St. Theophylact of Ohrid on the Old Testament and New Testament

Fr. Lawrence Farley has an article at the OCA website about “Holy Hatred” in the Old Testament. His interpretation of what “hate” means in the Bible is pretty good. However, he makes an odd comment when criticizing an unnamed theologian’s view about violence and hatred in the Old Testament:

“Do I not hate them who hate You, O Lord?  And do I not loathe them that rise up against You?  I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.” [Ps. 139:21] The author contrasts this attitude with Christ’s words about loving one’s enemies, and characterizes the voice of David in this verse as “the sinful voice of a human.”  Though he says we ought not to “throw the Old Testament out, nor read it flatly without any discernment,” and though he asserts that while “Psalm 139 is full of inspiration,” he still says, “David’s own paradigm comes through.  It’s all [David] knows in his time.  He can’t yet apply the awareness of his divine belovedness [sic] to his enemies.”  The upshot is that we must “pick and choose in the Bible.  Always pick and choose Jesus.”  That is, for him some bits in the Scriptures are devoid of inspiration or authority, and ought to be jettisoned since they are merely the voices of sinful humans, men incapable of rising to a divine standard.  If something in the Old Testament mirrors the Gospel counsel in the New Testament, it may be allowed to stand.  If not, out it goes.  It is not the sinful Old Testament author’s fault however; “it’s all he knows in his time.”  It is an extraordinary bit of exegesis, worthy of the heretic Marcion himself—or perhaps of the Biblical sceptics that made German theological liberalism so famous in the last century.

The author does not deny the inspiration of the Psalm, but states that it was tailored for its time. While the author may not speak perfectly about this issue, it is definitely harsh to link such a view to Marcion, who thought the Old Testament was evil. In fact, the author’s view might have much more in common with St. Theophylact of Ohrid than with Marcion. Consider Luke 9:52-56:

And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

Some manuscripts have James and John say “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them as Elijah did?” This is because the narrative here clearly is in parallel with 2 Kings 1:9-12:

Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’” But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. He went up and said to him, “O man of God, this is the king’s order: Come down quickly!” But Elijah answered them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

Both narratives take place in Samaria, and the language is similar in the two. Furthermore, Luke 9:52-56 has parallels in Jewish and Christian literature where a harsh part of the Old Testament is rewritten in some way. Some may say that this passage is not intended to make Christ look superior to Elijah. There is something to be said for this, and it is how St. Augustine (Sermon on the Mount, I.64) and St. Bede (Expositio in Lucae Evangelium, ch. 41) interpret the passage (“The Lord blames them, not for following the example of the holy Prophet, but for their ignorance in taking vengeance while they were yet inexperienced”) but it is clearly not how Theophylact interpreted it. Luke 9:52-56 causes him to remark that the teaching of Christ is loftier than the life of Elijah (PG 123:829B, Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke).

All this to say that we should be slow to attack someone for their views, because they might not be so silly as we initially think (I have plenty of experience with this).

EDIT: more detailed information about the passage from Luke and similar ancient Jewish and Christian treatments of harsh OT passages can be found in Dale Allison’s JBL article ‘Rejecting Violent Judgment: Luke 9:52-56 and Its Relatives.’

The Ecumenical and Romanian Patriarchates on Anti-Crete Activism

Someone recently leaked a letter from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Church of Greece requesting the control of certain clergy and hierarchs that have been going around and criticizing the Holy and Great Council. A translation with comments by the Orthodox scholars at Fordham can be found here. However, I think the letter itself is a bit harsher than the comments let on.

More recently the Romanian Patriarchate has released a similar appeal to bring to order those involved “in rebellion and denigration of the Council in Crete”. The Romanian Patriarchate one is particularly well-reasoned.

A Hormone by Any Other Name

Epinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that, among other functions, increases breathing and heart rate, inhibits insulin, and increases blood sugar levels. It is also known as adrenalin/adrenaline. The two names it goes by are etymologically the same, just from two different languages. Epinephrine is secreted by the glands which sit on top of the kidneys, known as the adrenal glands. From this the Latin name, adrenaline, is derived. ‘Adrenal’ comes from the Latin ad (on) + ren (kidney). In Greek, this is epi (above) + nephros (kidney): epinephrine. The adrenal glands are also sometimes called the suprarenal glands (supra is Latin for ‘above’), which is why at one point this hormone also went by ‘suprarenalin’ and ‘suprarenin’ (‘adrenin’ also competed with ‘adrenaline’ for a while).

epi

Epinephrine is the favored term in Japan, Canada, the US, and Spain. It is also the primary term used by the WHO’s International Non-propietary Names list. Adrenaline is generally used elsewhere (funny enough, this includes Greece). According to Jeffrey K. Aronson, there are strong reasons to favor the use of ‘adrenaline’ over ‘epinephrine’:

  • Safety: epinephrine can be easily mistaken in hospitals for ephedrine, whereas there is no such problem with adrenaline.
  • Consistency: the glands which produce the hormone are called the adrenal glands, not the epinephric glands. ‘Adrenal’ glands is also more commonly used than ‘suprarenal’ glands. The term ‘epinephrin’ was first used by John Abel on the suggestion by Josef Hyrtl that the adrenal glands be called ‘epinephris’ (although Abel himself called them the suprarenal capsules), which has clearly not been taken up.
  • History: John Abel chose ‘epinephrin’ to describe his extract from the adrenal glands. However, he had only extracted an inactive form of the hormone. The first pure extract was done later by Jokichi Takamine, who patented his extract as adrenaline.

Since choice of words is done subordinate to the end of clear communication, I would say the first of these is strongest. The historical argument is weakest, since it relies on a principle that someone who isolated an inactive form of a compound should not get the honor of naming it.

EDIT: I also forgot that another argument that Aronson mentions is that ‘adrenaline’ is the colloquial term for the substance that causes excitement (e.g., ‘adrenaline rush’ is commonly used whereas nobody says ‘epinephrine rush’). This does have a benefit of making medical terminology more transparent to patients.

St. Theophan the Recluse on Grace and Knowledge

Grace, coming down upon someone, does not bring much factual knowledge, but teaches a human person the duty to pay careful attention to the contemplation of things. It does not create a context for interpreting the laws of knowledge, but pours onto a person love of truth which does not allow that one to deviate from the right ways to truth and to rely too much on abstractions. Thus it provides a middle ground of truth which cannot be reached without Grace … A scientific man develops a specific method of research, a kind of intuition in disclosing truth and true ways to this disclosure. This, in turn, being supported by virtues of the mind returning to the heart … communicates to the works of this mind such properties as successfulness, solidity, and fruitfulness.

– St. Theophan the Recluse, Начертание христианского нравоучения. Т. 1. Свято-Введенский Печерский монастырь, 1994, pp. 242-243. I took the translation from Alexei V. Nesteruk’s article Faith and scientific knowledge in Russian religious thought, pp. 391-392 in Scott Mandelbrote and Jitse M. van der Meer, Nature and Scripture in the Abrahamic Religions, vol 1., Leiden: Brill, 2008.

Copleston on the Categories

Some writers have emphasised the influence of language on philosophy. For instance, because we speak of the rose as being red (and this is necessary for purposes of social life and communication), we are naturally inclined to think that in the actual objective order there is a quality or accident, “redness,” which inheres in a thing or substance, the rose. The philosophical categories of substance and accident can thus be traced back to the influence of words, of language. But it should be remembered that language follows thought, is built up as an expression of thought, and this is especially true of philosophical terms. When Aristotle laid down the ways in which the mind thinks about things, it is true that he could not get away from language as the medium of thought, but the language follows thought and thought follows things.

Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. I: Greece and Rome (2nd ed.). Westminster, 1950: Newman Press. pp. 280-281.