Saturday, July 31, 2010

Homer Nods....

This post is in the form of an "erratum" I happened to note when searching for something about Chesterton in Jaki's works, and I could have easily missed it - except that just two days ago (Thursday July 29) I had posted on the ACS blogg about Chesterton's 88th anniversary of hic conversion - which was July 30, 1922.

Now, the erratum is this, from SLJ's collection of essays:
A past master of paradoxes, Chesterton defined their purpose as a means to awaken the mind. His own personal life provided at least one big paradox which keeps haunting the minds enthralled by his ever-alive massive literary output. The paradox in question is the long delay - almost ten, perhaps as long as twenty years - which it took for him to match his crusade for Catholic orthodoxy of dogma and morals with his becoming a convert to the Catholic Church. He did so on June 30, 1922, the Feast of Corpus Christi. His death, on June 14, 1936, fell on Sunday within the Octave of that most Roman Catholic Feast.
[SLJ, "GKC as RC" in Catholic Essays 93]
So if you have this book you may wish to insert a slip of paper at that page regarding this information. To make this curious slip on SLJ's part even more curious, it turns out that in 1922 the feast of Corpus Christi was Thursday June 15, not June 30, which was a Friday. The other detail about the date of GKC's death is correct, and part of a famous joke about GKC's size, because the Introit of that date speaks of God leading the writer into a "LARGE place". [see Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 651, quoting Psalm 17, the Introit for the Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi]

Am I, perhaps, being too hard on a very minor detail? No; Father Jaki's own academic efforts were always attuned to precision in details. For example, I can simply cite his own brilliant observation on a most ridiculous slip on the part of a Chesterton biographer, who in describing GKC's conversion, at which both Father O'Connor and Father Rice were present, wrote that "Frances waited outside while they heard Chesterton's confession." [SLJ "GKC as RC" in Catholic Essays 107 (emphasis added) quoting A. S. Dale The Outline of Sanity 234. Note, however, that SLJ's footnote on this contains another slip, calling Maisie Ward "Mr. Ward"!] To set the matter clear, Maisie Ward reports what happened:
While G.K. was making his confession to Father O'Connor, Frances and Father Rice went out of the chapel and sat on the yokels' bench in the bar of the inn. She was weeping.
[Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 465]

So - am I being too hard? Well... given my own experience in working with him on a new edition of Science and Creation, I am sure that Father would have readily made the correction in a future edition. Given the huge amount of text from Father Jaki's pen, it seems all too likely there are occasional lapses like this - and most of them trivial. He, like me is human, and liable to err - in this SLJ and GKC always sung in unison the Church's continual warning: to avoid sin we must watch and pray. Moreover, we know that in proofreading another pair of eyes can see far better than our own...

But there is a certain additional richness for us to note here - and it is fittingly noted by Chesterton himself:
To explain this peculiar kind of public value one must understand one of the deepest differences, and perhaps diseases, of our time. It was the mark of the art of the past, especially the art of the Renaissance, that the great man was a man. He was an extraordinary man, but only in the sense of being an ordinary man with something extra. Shakespeare or Rubens went with the plain man as far as the plain man went; they ate and drank, and desired and died as he did. That is what people mean when they say that these gods had feet of clay; their giant boots were heavy with the mire of the earth. That is what people mean when they say that Shakespeare was often coarse; that is what people mean when they say that he was often dull. They mean that a great poet of the elder kind had spaces which were idle and absent-minded; that his sub-consciousness often guided him; that he sprawled; that he was not 'artistic'. It is not only true that Homer sometimes nodded; but nodding was part of the very greatness of Homer. His sleepy nod shakes the stars like the nod of his own Jupiter.
[GKC "They Tell a Story" in The Apostle and the Wild Ducks 49]
Note: this famous phrase "Homer nods" is derived from Horace's Ars Poetica 402.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

an important comment

This comment was recently posted, but it is too important to leave there.
At some point we should consider a joint conference - that is, if we ever get around to having conferences.

--Dr. Thursday

Dear Duhem Society,

Fr. Stanley Jaki addressed a number of our Catholic Association of Scientists and Engineers meetings between 1992 and his death. We have a web site at that announced some of his lectures. There is also a poem "A Tribute to Pierre Duhem" that I wrote to make Duhem's life more known and easily remembered. Perhaps you would like to read it.

I also make an public access interview of Professor Ariew about Duhem and his contributions and placed it on youtube.

Best Regards,
Dr. Francis J. Kelly
The Catholic Association of Scientists and Engineers

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

News: Angelo speaks at Chesterton Day

Ah - you read that title and wonder: Why is Dr. Thursday talking about Chesterton on the Duhem Society blogg?

For two - or three - reasons. First, Chesterton deserves to be included among our Great Teachers, with Duhem and Jaki. His humour and steadfast pursuit of truth and love of God are axiomatic for us. He gives us the necessary balance, the warm heart which - no, I should write the BURNING HEART - which keeps our brains tempered and accurate.

Second, because Jaki was a great student of Chesterton. If you wish an excellent introduction to Jaki's writing, start with his little volume, Chesterton a Seer of Science. It is just as true the other way: if you know Jaki and want an excellent introduction to Chesterton, you should start with that same book. We can speculate whether Duhem had known of Chesterton: there is this interesting bit in SLJ's book on Hélène:
Hélène, who by then had many opportunities watch her father draw impressive landscapes, must have seen him refer to the enormous difference between a good drawing and a snapshot of the same scenery. Undoubtedly it was this graphic vividness and richness of detail that drew Duhem toward Dickens whom he used to read aloud at home in I evenings when Hélène was a child. Duhem's attachment to Dickens around the turn of the century was not a vote for novelty. Dickens' works had been in eclipse even in his own land for several decades before Chesterton threw a powerful light on his perennial value in 1908.
[SLJ "Reluctant Heroine: the Life and Word of Hélène Duhem" 59]
And there is also a curious suggestion that Chesterton may have known of Duhem's work - a suggestion which I do not think Father Jaki observed. This excerpt is from the dialog between MacIan, a Catholic, and Turnbull, an atheist:
[MacIan said:] "...there are only two things that really progress; and they both accept accumulations of authority. They may be progressing uphill or down; they may be growing steadily better or steadily worse; but they have steadily increased in certain definable matters; they have steadily advanced in a certain definable direction; they are the only two things, it seems, that ever can progress. The first is strictly physical science. The second is the Catholic Church."

"Physical science and the Catholic Church!" said Turnbull sarcastically; "and no doubt the first owes a great deal to the second."

"If you pressed that point I might reply that it was very probable," answered MacIan calmly. "I often fancy that your historical generalizations rest frequently on random instances; I should not be surprised if your vague notions of the Church as the persecutor of science was a generalization from Galileo. I should not be at all surprised if, when you counted the scientific investigations and discoveries since the fall of Rome, you found that a great mass of them had been made by monks.
[GKC The Ball and the Cross]
Another time we can explore this more fully - it certainly seems to be a strong suggestion - indeed a handy synopsis - of Duhem's Systeme du Monde and Jaki's Science and Creation (see especially chapter 8, "The Leaven of Confidence" and chapter 10 "The Sighting of New Horizons". But let us defer it for today.

For there is a third reason I have for mentioning Chesterton here. Simply because Angelo, one of our members, recently spoke at the Chesterton Day activities in Italy - and he is also involved in the foundation of the
Irish Chesterton Society.

We should all look forward to hearing more about this. Chesterton and Jaki are irrevocably interlinked; Jaki and Duhem are irrevocably interlinked. We who seek truth should take advantage of their light - which is a reflection of the One Light.