Gagarin and the Seven Heavens (Sketch of an Outline)

In the wake of Yuri Gagarin’s historic ascent into “outer space”, Nikita Khrushchev remarked

As to paradise in heaven, we heard about it from the priests. But we wanted to see for ourselves what it is like, so we sent our scout there, Yuri Gagarin. He circled the globe and found nothing in outer space — just complete darkness, he said, and no garden at all, nothing that looked like paradise. We thought the matter over and decided to send up another scout. We sent Herman Titov and told him to fly around a bit longer this time and take a good look — Gagarin was only up there for an hour and a half, and he might have missed it. He took off, came back and confirmed Gagarin’s conclusion. There’s nothing up there, he reported. [1]

There’s a remarkable concentration in the saying by Khrushchev: it asserts that traditional talk about God “in the heavens” is referring to space that is above the sky. As we saw in a previous post that looked at the older models of the universe with regard to how the outer layers of the sky (or the spheres) were supposed to influence things on the earth, the sky was, at first, conceived of as a dome.

At a basic level, Khrushchev is correct (and this, despite Gagarin’s later religious beliefs). Continue reading

Excerpt #26 — Charles Taylor on How the “We” for Whom The State Exists Cannot Be a Mere Aggregate

I expect to get back to the question of intention vs. impact soon, as I have two posts left before that series is completed. In the meantime, I have several posts that are nearly finished, and which I’ll release first — including this one, which is relevant to those intention-vs-impact entries. 

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Some Books and Articles Recently Read (May 2019) — Taylor, Houellebecq, MacIntyre

Some things read, with links.

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A Preface to Walter Ullmann, Part 2(b) of 2 (Canning)

The first half of our treatment on Ullmann can be found here, and the prelude to this two-part series can be found here (and the forerunner to the prelude [!] is here); in the six (a through e; 2a is here) parts of this second post, we’ll cover the way that his students, admirers and critics have presented the outline of his thought, and the faults they have found with it. 

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A Preface to Walter Ullmann, Part 2(a) of 2 (Ozment)

The first half of our treatment on Ullmann can be found here, and the prelude to this two-part series can be found here (and the forerunner to the prelude [!] is here); in the six (a through e) parts of this second post, we’ll cover the way that his students, admirers and critics have presented the outline of his thought, and the faults they have found with it. 

I began to draft this over two years ago, but let it go, pursuing other projects; I release it here roughly as it has been sitting for the past two years, with the full admission that, as it stands, it is little more than an obscenely bloated compilation of the opinions of others — Ullmann’s direct or indirect students, for the most part, but all the leading English-language scholars in the field of medieval thought and politics. I have an entire box of notes and books and articles that make what is represented here look like a mere sampling of post-it notes on a manuscript compared to what I have (post-it notes which themselves need trimming!), but, knowing that I won’t get to it soon, it needs to be released as-is. I hope that it will be helpful, as a long list of extracts, for individuals who are preparing to read Ullmann, so that they will have a sense of how his students and professional historians who were indebted to him (and who hold sway within the field) read him; this should give readers of Ullmann a sense of what to gather, and what to leave behind as they read him. Looking back, it seems that a collection-of-the-opinions-of-others approach was my intention two years ago, so I hope this cut-up post, while it certainly falls egregiously far short of the high watermark I had intended for it, nonetheless has, basically, enough of the material any interested party could wish for to gain a foothold. 

Finally, I also hope that the impression it leaves is not uncharitable, and that people will not deny Ullmann a generous and open-minded reading on account of it.

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