Cassini just made its first close flyby of Titan. Here are some images at near-infared wavelengths, where we can see through the smog: a splendid false-color of the globe, a stretch of "icepack", and a closeup of the Huygens landing site. Wonderful!



I didn't realize that this was in Plato. As one who is wont to juxtapose Socrates with Christ, I find the passage haunting. What is so very fascinating is that Plato does not seize upon this opportunity to foreshadow, dramatically, Socrates' own very different martyrdom in the sufferings and death of the just man:

To the best of my ability and if such is the nature of the two, it becomes an easy matter, I fancy, to unfold the tale of the sort of life that awaits each. We must tell it, then; and even if my language is somewhat rude and brutal, you must not suppose, Socrates, that it is I who speak thus, but the those who will commend injustice above justice. What they will say is this: that such being his disposition, the just man whill have to endure the lash, the rack, chains, the branding-iron in his eyes, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be crucified [anaschinduleuthesetai], and so will learn his lesson that not to be but to seem just is what we ought to desire.

, 361e-362a (Paul Shorey, trans.).


After the nature stuff.

I just finished my first "deep" read-through of Aristotle's Metaphysics. I used the Loeb edition, followed along in the Greek, made numerous marginalia, etc. I guess that I hadn't realized just how much space he devotes to the existence of numbers. All in all, three things come to mind:

(1) Avicenna once said that he read the Metaphysics forty times before understanding it. Well, if he meant complete comprehension, I can sympathize.
(2) The next time I read the Metaphysics, I will bring Averroes and St. Thomas along . . . for a longer ride.
3) Meditating on this stretch of Aristotle drives home to me my inadequate familiarity with the later Plato, especially the lesser dialogues, and with Plotinus.


My wife and I went to see Michael Moore at Kent State this evening. It was . . . well . . . a very interesting sociological experience. A great deal of propaganda. A much-hyped hate-fest, as it were. There were far too many shirts and placards stating "Buck Fush." It seems that political discourse (or lack thereof) has declined of late, especially on the side of the Left. And yet, it is really all that different from Rush Limbaugh ranting about "John F'ing Kerry"? Or the Bill O'Reily interview procedure? I don't think so.


Putin wants to be a czar, and Bill Clinton wants to be the secretary-general. At least, those are the rumors.

I find it all very interesting. On the one hand, what's wrong with a strong king? :) On the other hand, a Clinton tenure would be downright ironic given the ex-President's role in violating the U.N. Charter with the use of force in the Balkans.
Sarah Hempel, a fellow Hillsdale student from Latin 101 and an accomplished artist, is engaged (and is very happy). Congratulations, Sarah!
Strauss on the Ancients and the Moderns

Epicurus is truly the classic of the critique of religion. Like no other, his whole philosophy presupposes the fear of superhuman forces and of death as the danger threatening the happiness and repose of man . . .

The Enlightenment understands this happy peace, this tranquility in a fundamentally different way from the original Epicureanism—it understands "tranquility" in such a way that the civilization, the subjection, the improvement of nature, and particularly of human nature, becomes indispensable for its sake. While the battle of the Epicureans against the terrifying delusion of religion was aimed preeminently at the terror of this delusion, the Enlightenment aimed primarily at the delusoriness itself.; regardless of whether the religious ideas are terrifying or comforting—qua delusions, they cheat men of the real goods, of the enjoyment of the real goods; they steer men away from the real "this world" to an imaginary "other world," and thus seduce them into letting themselves be cheated of the possession and enjoyment of the real "this worldly" goods by the greedy clergy, who "live" from these delusions. . . .

The latest and purest expression of this is that the religious ideas are rejected not because they are terrifying but because they are desirable, because they are comforting: religion is not a tool which man has forged for dark reasons in order to torment himself, in order to make life unnecessarily difficult, but rather a way chosen for very obvious reasons, in order to escape the terror and the hopelessness of life, which cannot be eradicated by any progress of civilization, in order to make his life easier. A new kind of fortitude, which forbids itself every flight from the horror of life into comforting delusion, which accepts the eloquent description of the misery of man without God as proof of the goodness of its cause, reveals itself eventually as the ultimate and purest ground for the rebellion against the tradition of the revelation. This new fortitude, being the willingness to look man's forsakenness in the face, being the courage to welcome the terrible truth, being toughness against the inclination of man to deceive himself about his situation, is probity. . . . This atheism with a good conscience, or even with a bad conscience, differs precisely by its conscientiousness, its morality, from the conscienceless atheism at which the past shuddered; the "Epicurean," who became an "idealist" in the persecution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who, instead of being willing to "live in hiding" safely, learned to fight and die for honor and truth, finally becomes the "atheist" who rejects for reasons of conscience the belief in God. Thus it becomes clear that this atheism, compared not only with the original Epicureanism but also with the generally "radical" atheism of the age of Enlightenment, is a descendent of the tradition grounded in the Bible; it accepts the thesis, the negation of the Enlightenment, on the basis of a way of thinking which became possible only through the Bible.

Leo Strauss, Philosophy and Law, Eve Adler, trans. (SUNY, 1995), p. 35-37.

For the religion with which medieval philosophy has to do is revealed religion; the problem posed by revelation is the problem of medieval philosophy, to such an extent that revelation is constitutive for medieval philosophy. The situation of philosophy was altered from the ground up by the reality of the revelation.

Ibid., p. 57.

Since the recognition of the authority of the revelation is prior to philosophizing and since the revelation lays claim to man totally, philosophizing is now possible only as commanded by the revealed law. It therefore no longer lies in the discretion of the man suited to philosophizing whether he will philosophize or not, in such a way that we will have to draw the natural consequences of his discretion and nothing more; it is now no longer undetermined whether or the philosopher is appointed to philosophize by himself or by an authority (cf. Plato, Apology 28d); and it is no longer an obscure, enigmatic, multifarious admonition by which a god summons to philosophy (cf. Plato, Ap. 21a-b and Phaedo 60e-61a); but rather the one God obliges the men suited to it, by a clear unequivocal, simple command of his revealed law, to philosophize. This is the teaching of even and precisely "the most radical thinkers" of the Middle Ages, above all of Averroes himself. Out of the new situation of philosophizing, the obligation by revelation, there emerges a new problem for the philosophers, their accountability to revelation.

Ibid., p. 59.

Philosophy and Law is an illuminating read--both for what it says about Averroes, Maimonides, and relation between the eternity-of-the-world issue and prophecy, and for what it says about Strauss himself. I should blog quite a few more quotes from it . . .
Reading Star Wars

If Jabba the Hut is really just an old-fashioned dragon, then Chewbacca is Enkidu.


I was helping my wife grade papers tonight. One line was priceless:

As my mother likes to say, "If life hands, you lemons make lemonade!"


I am doing some background research on a Greek rhetorical term for my wife, and I'm using my little stack of Loebs and OCTs, for once, for something more than pensive longing for a past life. Anyways, it strikes me that, while for the most part Loebs are pretty functional trots, William Race's new Loeb edition of Pindar is something else altogether entirely. His translation seems fluid, accurate, and altogether a delight!



In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
Do you ever find yourself going to bed early and rereading the annals of waking life in dreams, so that you wake up at 4:30 a.m. and find that you can't get past moments of transition off your mind?

I close my eyes now and all I can see are the frozen snows of Mt. Fuji, the cemetary at Kitakawa hill, crowds in Piazza Navone at dusk, and the cobblestones of Durham at my feet.
I have been reading Leo Strauss (the young Leo Strauss) on Maimonidies & co. (Philosophy and Law), and I am struck by how much he sounds like the young Rushdoony at points in his critique of the modern and its denial of revelation as an axiom. (But perhaps that's only the exoteric reading!)
Sic transit superhomo.


Derrida is dead. He died on Friday in Paris of pancreatic cancer.

My wife, who is presently taking a class in semiotics, made the following comment: "Dare I say that, in light of deconstruction, it is practically meaningless?"


I have strong sinus pressure now in my forehead. In fact, I feel like John Kerry with botox. When I try to crease my brow, no wrinkles show! This is a really wierd sensation . . .

I am also working on a Sunday. There is no rest for the wicked--not even a chance to read philosophy!

I feel not unlike Hamlet. The time is out of joint.


Before their eyes in sudden view appear
The secrets of the hoary Deep--a dark
Illimitable ocean, without bound,
Without dimension; where length, breadth, and height,
And time, and place, are lost; where eldest Night
And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise
Of endless wars, and by confusion stand.

Paradise Lost
, II.890-897
Another Big Owie

I went to the dermatologist the other day and had two cysts removed from the top of my scalp. The resident made an incision and slowly popped out two white bean-like masses. The supervising doctor was very excited, at one point, exclaiming, "It's a boy!," as the first cyst was coming out. (The nurse commented, "We like cysts.") I guess they were above-average in terms of size. A very interesting experience. . . .


Overheard: Shades of Obei-wan

"Oh. You aren't the Wileys I'm looking for."

Bill Betz to Daniel, Bethel, and myself, October 1, 2004