Brandon Watson is always worth reading; here he gives an extended meditation on what is required of a competent literary critic. Increasingly, however, I have come to think that one of the common characteristics, and perhaps the distinguishing feature, of incompetent criticism is not recognizing that skill is skill, that craft has the structure of craft. All skill or craft has goals in view; the whole point of skill is that it appropriately applies means to achieve goals and does… Read more

The Mauritius Command is the fourth of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, following after H.M.S. Surprise. In form it is similar to its predecessor; Captain Jack Aubrey, newly-married with twin baby girls, is given a long mission to Indian Ocean. In this case he is given command of a large frigate, the Boadicea, and also is named commodore of a small squadron. (In the Royal Navy of Aubrey’s day, “commodore” was not a permanent rank, but a temporary rank given to… Read more

My fellow Patheos blogger Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote an excellent article last week entitled “How our botched understanding of ‘science’ ruins everything.” I liked it very much, and generally agree with what he says; but I thought a little more could be said about Aristotle’s role in the whole thing. PEG says, A little history: The first proto-scientist was the Greek intellectual Aristotle, who wrote many manuals of his observations of the natural world and who also was the first person… Read more

It’s been said that home is where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in; and there’s a great truth to this. Our families, the parents and siblings and children of our own blood, have a claim on us that we cannot ignore. We didn’t choose them; we might not always like them; and yet we somehow have to get along with them. That’s a dynamic that’s in some amount of trouble in our modern American… Read more

The three natural roads to God are truth, goodness, and beauty. That’s because even though we can perceive and understand them on a natural level, they still speak to us of some aspect of God who is, per St. Thomas Aquinas, Truth itself, Goodness itelf, Beauty itself. We can (sometimes) know that a statement is true or false; we can know (sometimes) that an act is good or evil; we can know (sometimes) that an object is beautiful or ugly…. Read more

So the other day I discovered that my wife Jane, the country music fan in the family, had nevertheless never heard Jerry Reed’s song “The Bird”; and it occurred to me that you might not have either. While sitting in a bar, a fellow meets a guy with a bird that sings like Willie Nelson…and it goes on from there. Here it is, with Reed’s trademark guitar fireworks and goofy lyrics. Even if you’re not a country fan, you ought… Read more

Jack Aubrey sometimes misspeaks, and Stephen Maturin is always ready to help. Here, all hands are needed to get the Surprise ready for sea, and so Jack Aubrey has stopped all shore leave: ‘May you not find the men grow wilful and discontented? May they not, with a united mind, rush violently from the ship?’ ‘They will not be pleased. But they know we must catch the monsoon with a well-found ship; and they know they are in the Navy… Read more

I was watching Star Wars with my kids during our vacation last summer, and repeatedly heard Obi-Wan tell Luke to trust his feelings. I usually dismiss this as New Age claptrap; but this time I pondered it for a while: what does it mean, to trust your feelings? And is there a sense in which Luke truly ought to trust his feelings? It seems to me that the word “feelings” has at least three distinct meanings: emotions (which is what… Read more

Last week and the week before I reviewed the first two books in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series of sea stories, Master and Commander and Post Captain, two books I enjoy greatly, but which have pitfalls for the unwary reader. In those reviews I tried to highlight those pitfalls, and explain them; so that, being forearmed, as it were, readers who had tried O’Brian and failed to appreciate them might try, try again and make it through. H.M.S. Surprise, one of… Read more

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here. In the previous chapter, Thomas showed that God’s essence can not be represented as a genus and a specific difference, and thus God is not a species within a genus.  Now he goes on to show that God isn’t a genus, either.  It does not strike me as likely that He could be, mind you, but Thomas is always thorough. Let me note again: these… Read more

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