Monday, March 27, 2017

Franks and Goths (Notes:49)

Historians have long hated equating the fall of the last Roman emperor with the fall of the empire itself; in terms of classes, social structure, and customs, there are parts of the empire which persisted long after the emperor’s fall, while in other places, the system had been replaced long before the emperor’s fall. So, this being said, how did the barbarian tribes find Roman life after the emperor’s fall?

In this set of notes, professor Daileader focuses on those barbarian kingdoms in which continuity with the Roman past was especially strong. The Visigoth in Spain, Ostrogoths in Italy, and the Frankish kingdom in France (Gaul). These were the primary locales in which the barbarian connection to the Roman past were tightly round.

Visigoths were the Goths who entered Rome during the existence of the Roman Empire while the Ostrogoths were the Goths who would enter only after the fall of the Roman Empire. How the Visigoths became the rulers of Spain explains Roman policy: in 409, a group of barbarians led by the vandals had crossed into the Roman Empire during a harsh winter. The Romans decided to use the Visigoths to eject them from Spain. So, in 415, just a few years after the Visigoths had sacked Rome, they were hired to go and fight the Vandals. The Visigoths completed their task well and in a few years they had reclaimed nearly all of Spain; but this made the Romans nervous, as they thought that now the Visigoths would claim Spain as their own. So the Romans cut off food supplies to the Visigoths and they withdrew to France.

But the Goths had liked what they had seen in Spain. So after the fall of the last Roman emperor, they returned to Spain and once again fought the Vandals for control of the land. After a while, they had succeeded in conquering the territory and pushing the vandals out; the Vandals, meanwhile, traveled to Africa and established a kingdom for themselves there. For a while, the Visigoths were able to control both Spain and southern France/Gaul. But after experiencing a severe military defeat at the hands of the Franks, in 507, and are forced to confine themselves to Spain.

The Visigoths in Spain went to great lengths to preserve Roman culture and history in the early eighth-century. Under the Visigoths so much of Roman culture was renewed, a modern visitor, as Daileader remarks, might not have even known that the Roman Empire collapsed.

One such adopted tradition which the Visigoths up-took, concerns written law, something entirely alien to them. Before entering Spain, the Visigoths were illiterate and their law was oral based—something passed down from generation to generation; Romans, meanwhile, had developed a sophisticated jurisprudence based on written law. The goths decided to imitate the Roman custom as early as the latter half of the fifth century. Indeed, the Visigoth adoption of the Roman law code would be an inspiration for other barbarian kingdoms who would borrow the Visigoth adaptation.
After the Visigoths took over, the local Roman government remained intact. They were merely working for a new boss. The same officials, holding the same titles, performing the same functions, existed in the Visigoth kingdom as they did in the Roman. Officials in the Visigoth kingdom are distinctly un-medieval—they are lay-people, not clerics; paid moneyed salaries, these people are not rewarded with land.

Visigoth kings used the same form of rule, more or less, as the Roman emperors used: they continued to mint coins using the same slogans as the Romans did, they put on the same sort of displays—such as victory marches—which the Romans put on, and even the same gestures of the Roman emperors were appropriated by the Visigothic ones, such as the stomping on the defeated enemies throat.
Urban life in Visigothic Spain continued, though on a somewhat reduced form. The circuses, baths, and aqueducts are all still functioning. Problem is, the Goths are only about two or three percent of a much larger Hispano-Roman population; the fear that since the Goths had become so romanized, then they would be swallowed up by the native culture and cease to be Goths. One way, however, in which they attempted to salvage their distinct identity even as they borrowed so much from the Romans, was to restrict marriage between Goths and Romans (though, ironically, the Roman law code had also forbid marriage between barbarians and Romans). But the Goths continue to cling to their heavy furs, their language, and their own brand of Christianity.

When the Visigoths had crossed over into the empire under Emperor Valens, part of the requirement was to convert to Christianity. What they converted to was Aryan Christianity. Most native Spanish inhabitants, however, were Catholic. Though the Goths would try and force Aryanism on the local population, this, like their efforts at retaining their unique identity, would fail.

In the case of marriage, it was in the sixth century that a Visigoth ruler would admit to reality and remove the prohibition. During the late sixth and early seventh centuries, the Goths gave up on trying to convert Catholics and abandoned Arianism to adopt Catholicism. During the first half of the seventh century, the Goth abandoned their native form of dress—the practice heavy with furs—and began to dress in lighter clothes like the locals. They even give up their language during the course of the seventh century, thus becoming virtually indistinguishable from the local population.

As strong as Roman the influence was in Visigothic Spain, it would be even stronger in Ostrogothic Italy.

The Ostrogoths had crossed the Danube River in 453 after the Huns had left them behind. They decided to travel into the Eastern half of the Roman Empire and settle like the Visigoths before them south of the Danube, where they lived for about two decades, until about 473, occasionally performing military service for the Romans. But in 473, the Ostrogoths migrated deeper into the empire, going to the Balkans.

The Byzantine Emperor decided that he did not want the Goths living in his empire. He proposed a deal in which the Goths would do the dirty work of the Byzantine Emperor, to which the Goth leader accepted; the Goths go into Italy and attack a foe of the Byzantines. This struggle goes on for about five years until the Goths betray the Byzantines and come to an agreement with the Italians to become co-rulers. Shortly after coming into this agreement, however, the Italian ruler is murdered by the Gothic ruler, who becomes the new ruler of Italy in 493, establishing the Ostrogoth kingdom.
Though the Byzantines tried to spin these developments as ‘reclaiming Italy’, the truth of the matter is that the Goths were not subservient to the Byzantine Emperor. As a boy, the Goth ruler had been a hostage in Constantinople; important people of warring sides who essentially acted as collateral, in which if each side kept to their end of the bargain, then the hostages were treated quite well. So he had lived in the eastern half of the Roman Empire. In the ten years which he lived there, the Gothic ruler gained a real love of Roman/Byzantine culture, even serving in the Byzantine army.

Though as a ruler, the Goth king retains his distinctive facial hair and long hair, he is moderate in his religious policies. He never tries and converts the local Catholics to Aryanism and tries very hard to remain on good faith with the pope. Roman officials, like in Spain, continue to perform the same functions with the same titles and salaries. Even the Roman senate is still in existence. The Ostrogoth mint coins to celebrate victories, hold victory parades, and even adopting certain phrases of the Roman Emperors; the Ostrogoth ruler tries to remain on good terms with Roman senators by bribing them with luscious treats, he builds new aqueducts from scratch and rebuilds city walls, public baths. In some respect, he was even more Roman than the last Roman emperor, revising the distribution of free bread to the population, a tradition that had died out long ago.

It is mildly unsurprising that Gothic Spain and Italy were so thoroughly Romanized. They had had contact with the Romans long before crossing over and warring with them and serving them. So once they migrated into the empire, they had an easier time in adopting Roman culture. Additionally, it had to do with the areas that they settled; Spain and Italy had long experienced Roman rule. So it is not surprising that the local influence rubbed off on the new rulers.

But this all being said, it is surprising that the Franks become Romanized. The Franks, after all, did not have as much contact with the Romans. The Romans had not controlled Gaul for as nearly as long as they controlled Spain, for example. Roman roots are not as deep in this part of the world. So it is remarkable that the Franks become Romanized to the degree that they do.

The Franks, who have a long history ahead of them since they are never taken over by invaders, are a collection of tribes. King Clovis, the Frankish ruler who tries and homogenize the Franks into a single ethnic identity. He rules from about 481-511 A.D and destroys the political independence of the various tribes which form the Frankish Federation. Legendary for his underhanded tactics, Clovis also expands Frankish power claiming southern Gaul as Frankish territory. As a barbarian ruler, Clovis was rare since he converted to Catholicism. Since the Franks were to become the dominant barbarian group in Europe, other barbarian rulers would often convert to Catholicism as part a desire to form a better relationship with God and, presumably, have better fortune as rulers.

In Frankish Gaul, there is less Roman survival than in either Italy or Spain. But even within Gaul itself, things are divided: Southern Gaul has a better connection to the Roman past than Northern Gaul. For instance, the idea of an undividable kingdom does not persevere with the Frankish rulers seeing the Frankish kingdom as their own personal property to be divided among the sons. But continuity does exist in other respects: most of Gaul, for example, develops a form of romance language which is an altered Latin. The same public ceremonials, minting of coins, building of public spaces—such as race tracks—and more, such as the social distinctions, can be found in Frankish Gaul until the end of the sixth century.

In the seventh century, however, the distinctions in sociality which had dominated previous centuries—such as who were native Romans and who could trace their lineage back to all senatorial families—began to erode. The senatorial aristocracy vanishes with the only higher class left being that of the warrior class of the Franks. Contemporaries, for instance, can no longer distinguish between a Frank and a Gallo-Roman. There is a shift in the political ceremonial—victory parades are no longer held in towns but in the countryside as urban life declines. And there is a change in the minting of coins: whereas the Romans had silver, copper, and gold coins, the Franks stop minting gold and copper coins, only silver ones, adopting a monometallic money system.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Milton Journal: "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity"

(Time for something a little different. This is the first post of several which will explore the works of John Milton, the great Renaissance, Stuart-era, English poet. These short responses were assigned responses as part of a class I am taking this semester; because this is only a 200-level course, these are largely informal responses. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy them and the bout of difference that they bring to our medieval adventure.)

Ring out ye Crystal spheres.
Once bless our human ears,
                                    (If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
                                            And let the Bass of Heav’n’s deep organ blow,
And with your ninefold harmony
                                                          Make a full consort of th’Angelic symphony (L 125-35 “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”).

                From an explanatory note, the reader learns something interesting about this passage, namely, that it is inspired by Virgil and Plato’s notion of the “Great Year” as well as “the Pythagorean tradition that the music of the spheres would be audible to sinless men” (46). How fascinating!
            As a so-called “Golden Age”, or, Utopia, I have never before heard of a situation in which music is so used; it is religious, and so Salvation-oriented, but also Utopian in that only the sinless men can hear the sounds of the divine spheres which move around the universe. In a concrete way, then, it is also mathematical in that the spheres have an precise measurement and purpose if they are to create noise which only the faithful can hear; their crafter, in other words, needed to use divine tools but have them human, non-divine, oriented. (I will wait for the paper on divine mathematics, though I will not hold my breath!)
            “Ring out” (line 125) connotes a desire to see this salvation enacted, of course, but line 127 quickly limits this desire as confining it to only the true believers. So we have an intriguing mix of Christian Utopianism alongside dystopianism (since I hardly feel that such a Salvation is hardly worth noting for anyone who cannot hear the music).
            Such is further reinforced when “move in melodious time” (line 129) arrives, which is the precursor to bass of heaven which summons the angelic symphony. Though of such is very poetically endearing, it is also tightly a non-Christian nightmare, since, after all, a non-Christian cannot move in this melodious time, has no role in the great bass of heaven, or make any kind of consort with angels, let alone a symphony.
            I wish I knew some more about this “Great Year” and how it is “cyclical” (46). I do feel that there is a certain sort of repetition at work in this passage with references to sound—“ring”, “chime” melodious”, “blow”, “and symphony”. Obviously, that would connect to the cyclical nature of what this great year entails; accordingly, if I knew more, I could dig a bit deeper into how the non-Platonic elements interact with these Platonic-oriented minutia. But, since I do not know what this idea entails, I will have to, for now, leave it be and any connection is has to the Utopia-Dystopia divide.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Multi-Verse? (Enchanted Assemblages)

Don't worry, there will not be any elaborate cross-overs.

Any geek will be familiar with the idea of the multi-verse, a series of minutely different universes which branch off into infinity, each of which has a different reality according to different principals and decisions; though the scientific version of this idea is rooted in conceptualizations of physics, let’s ignore that theoretical iota and focus on something else, my adaptation.

                Readers will note that a previous post of mine focused on comments and how players interacted with other players; I had said that comments acted as alternative interpretations. Since this game is all about anti-literalism and pseudo-academic collaboration, this is a positive. But, if players are able to use, for example, an alternative description of something which has been de-familiarized—one offered not by me but by another player—than that opens the door for the question ‘how does the player see that alternative?’ And it is a good question.

                This is important to ask since the game world does have an internal logic. It may be a logic which exist outside of traditional fantasy, but it is a logic nonetheless. If I as the creator provided a rationale for why magic exists and the purpose of that magic, then it only makes sense that the inclusion of alternative interpretations be realized with something more tangible than ‘well, let’s just pretend that other players interpretations are my own’. I never liked cop outs, after all.

                The obvious solution to this question is to simply say that the alternative interpretations act as a kind of multi-verse: when you, the player, choose to either [close read] or to [de-familiarize] something, comments/alternative interpretations are what you, as a different person in a different reality, could have done in that reality; the catch is that those alternatives are other people, so you don’t have any control over how they were posted.

                I suppose this leaves open the question how you are able to witness these alternatives. After all, part of fidelity is being able to cite other players’ contributions, so obviously, your avatar is able to perceive these alternatives. But how?

                Honestly, I do not really know. I am thinking that because the player is a knight-interpreter, someone who is an expert in interpretation, and therefore wizened in the alternate routes they could have taken in interpreting a text, this training can act as a mental dues ex machinia. Any writer or scholar will know that working on a thesis involves many false starts and a great deal of revision. As one labors on such a undertaking, they realize all of the intellectual roads that they could have embarked upon had they tackled their topic from a different theoretical framework—whether one uses Derrida, Marx, Badiou, or Sartre, after all, matters and will influence how you examine a text. So, it is a mere trickle down to apply it to mere close readings.

                Even though the idea of a multiverse is old news, and even cliché at this point, I feel that it works well-enough for my adaptation; though it is tempting to encode the comments as the actions of those who came before you, thus adding to the idea of a hermeneutic sedimentation, this problematizes the text to an unacceptable degree, namely, that it demands too much extra reading and consideration from the player, aside from pushing the text in a direction which gives too much leniency to player inaction while simultaneously prizing those who post first. Maybe in a specific Node this idea would be well-suited, but as an overarching ideal to run the game, it simply causes too much of a fuss.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Sword in the Stone (Review)

T.H. White’s “The Sword in the Stone,” is the first book (meaning, section) of his novel The Once and Future King. This is White’s epic re-telling of the King Arthur legend. Since I have only finished the first book (see the Let’s Read which covers the first book—ch.1-24), I cannot comment on the novel as a whole, which encompasses three other books, but I can comment on the story so far.

                “The Sword in the Stone” covers the future King Arthur’s pre-adolescent and early teen years. We learn that Arthur, called Wart, was taken in by a kindly lord called Sir Ector as he was abandoned on his steep as a baby. He and the lord’s actual born son, Kay, become friends; Kay is pushy and emotionally uneducated, prone to temper tantrums. Wart, meanwhile, is a self-proclaimed hero-worshipper who is a bit sensitive and prone to fits of crying. But, that is the point, as we will see.

                Turns out that Sir Ector is in the market for a tutor for the boys—to give them a proper education, as you know. A few chapters into the book and that tutor is found; why, it is none other than Merlyn himself! Wart finds him while wandering in the forest after a stubborn bird named Cully.

                Skipping some irrelevant details, Merlyn takes up teaching the two boys a variety of subjects, but it is Wart’s special education which concerns the bulk of the story—while Kay is content to learn the subjects of concern for his upbringing as a knight, Wart is transformed into a variety of animals, each one imparting a different life-skill or mastery.

                As I commented in my Let’s Read, I thought this was a risky move on White’s part since until the final two or three chapters, there is not really much of a story—it is, literally, just Wart being transmogrified into various creatures and having small adventures as he and Kay grow up, learn, and prepare for their futures. Honestly, the “Sword in the Stone” is better described not so much as a ‘book,’ as in something which has a cohesive and singular plot thread, but rather as a collection of intertwined short stories.

                Amazingly enough, however, this form of writing pays off and by the end of the book, the magnitude of Wart’s adventures, those written and unwritten, take on an epic quality.

                When Wart takes grasp of the titular sword in the stone, hundreds of animal friends from his adventures fill the town square cheering him on and reminding him of his trials and tribulations. What is so neat and empowering about is, is that we only see Wart become transformed in the first book five or six times, so the fact that the square is filled with hundreds of animals, makes one hair stand on edge; even more so when one realizes that because Wart is ignorant of the magnitude of event which is transpiring before his eyes, believing this sudden outpouring of support to be simply spontaneous. The congregation of animals takes on not a high-pressure scenario but one of a friendly, no-pressure encouragement. Something, in other words, which would have been a hearty and much needed event for our young protagonist, seeing as how he had lost his best friend and was all alone in the world.

                Why this is so inspiring is because it is a part of the text to be taken in conjunction with everything which led up to it. That all of Wart’s training was not so much pointless or needless, as it was secretly preparing him for the task of freeing this sword—something which he does in the context of the story not for himself, to become king, since he is ignorant of its importance, but to instead find a sword for Kay who is to participate in a jousting tournament.

                Taken alongside Wart’s selfless and caring disposition, we understand that White has propped up the idea of ‘The Fair Unknown’ by subverting its usual elements; instead of giving us a protagonist who is macho, full of himself, and eager to prove his mettle against the evils of the world (i.e., someone like Kay), White throws the ball to the other end of the spectrum and gives us the exact opposite—someone who does not want to be a king or leader of nations, someone who is kind and caring while remaining humble enough to be afraid of leadership.

                I mused in my Let’s Read that since this book was published in 1939 and likely written earlier, then that this subversion would have been a unique phenomenon. I would not be surprised if a great number of writers ripped off White’s idea of a youth full of fundamental goodness accidentally stumbling on to his destiny (right, J.K Rowling?). Though it is obvious that many did, I would be curious to do a more thorough bit of research where I see if White’s take as common or highly uncommon.

                Considering the actual construction of the narrative—White’s authorial style, the atmosphere connoted by the book, and the pacing—everything comes together extremely well.

                All though the characters themselves are nothing to write home about, they feel believable as people. Wart and Merlyn especially are written with a happy yet melancholic flair which should be a case study in sub-text. Many authors would stumble when it comes to writing an angst-ridden, yet fundamentally joyful, adolescent (right, J.K Rowling?), but White manages to write Wart as simultaneously rambunctious and moody; his downer attitude modulated by Merlyn’s whimsical knowledge and mode of interaction with the world. Over all, the book emotes a feeling of the cartoonish; this is not to say that the story is childishly immature (though it is clearly a children’s story), but that it is heavily pushing the animated Disney feel before a time when Disney was the unstoppable corporate juggernaut which we know of it today.

                The chapters by whereupon Wart is turned into various animals are odd, but they are the best parts of the book. Filled with anachronistically charged references and political musings which deserve a steady hand to unpack (in order to see what sort of autobiographical relation they have to White), each transformation imparts a different moral and virtue, while the world building associated with each encounter is a smart, grin-encouraging affair as White builds an elaborate animalistic parody of human social system.

                There is a lot of other aspects to discuss, from White’s continued reference to mental illnesses to an exploration of depression and childhood romaticization, but I feel those topics are better left to either separate critical essays or as a longer theoretical exploration of the novel as a whole (meaning, all four books of The Once and Future King). As it stands, “The Sword in the Stone” is a lovely re-telling of Arthur’s childhood which makes the character easy for young boys to sympathize with while identifying with his struggles growing up. The text is not perfect, since it suggests some less then savvy politicking, but as an initial impression, White’s rendition performed ably.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Augustine on Authority, Reason, and Truth (Notes:48)

Are faith and philosophy compatible ways of seeking the truth? Augustine, surprisingly, will answer that they are compatible, that though they appear starkly different at first glance, they are not so different after all. Augustine’s augment for why each is compatible with one another centers on how we come to know Truth and the purpose of Truth.

Around the time of his ordination to the priesthood in 391, Augustine wrote On True Religion. It is an interesting text because though nowadays we think of church doctrine and hierarchal organization as normal, back in Augustine’s day it was still thought of in terms of cult-activity. The idea of a ‘true religion’ which has certain forms of conduct and the like, was alien to many in Augustine’s day; religion was something you did, not something you believed.

To Augustine, correct worship and correct belief are inseparable. He criticizes pagan philosophers who were willing to participate in religious rituals which were at odds with their religious beliefs. Worship and teaching, in other words, must be consistent and this marks a theological turning point.
Today, many see reason and faith as opposed to one another. One utilizes facts within the observable world as defined by a relatively stable empirical data and scientific process, while the other uses blind fanaticism, belief without evidence. But Augustine does not take such a dichotomy.

Augustine sees both faith and reason demanding our cognitive and affective sides (desires, wills, and commitments). Another reason why Augustine rejects this delineation between faith and Truth, is because the delineation does not ask what value there is in seeking the truth. People who value knowledge for its own sake, according to Augustine, is making a fundamental moral mistake. Until we know what knowledge is for we cannot evaluate what faith or reason or both might serve that aim.
This standard way—of forcing a delineation—assumes that there is a standard way of apprehending the Truth. If this was true, then an upholding of faith would require a repudiation of the wholly rational path (assuming that a purely rational approach to the Truth was even possible). To Augustine, any search for Truth, must begin with the acceptance of authority.

Faith, or belief, comes from hearing. Knowledge, meanwhile, comes by sight. Knowledge depends on first-hand experience while belief comes from accepting something from second-hand—believing what we have heard, testimony which appears to be reliable and definitive. Needless to say, much of what we would call knowledge Augustine would not consider as such: if I travel to Paris France and spend several weeks inebriated while seeing the sights and praying that I do not get caught up in a terrorist attack, then that is knowledge, because I have seen it—and my hangover— first hand; however, if I have heard of a place from friends called Paris, Utah then that is faith because I have not been there first-hand, I only of an idea of its alleged existence because I have taken several trusted sources as my guide in determining if such a place exists.

One such explicit result of Augustine’s philosophy is that no one can teach anyone anything by means of language.


Williams teaches it like this: if I teach you something, then I cause you to know it. But in order to cause you to know something, I have to show you the thing that you are to know. But words cannot show anything, they can only point you toward something. If I wanted to teach you that there is a place called Oxford England, I could not teach you by telling you about it since even if you believed me, you wouldn’t know it you would simply believe me. In order to teach in to cause you to know it, I would have to take you there, but if that was the case, then it wouldn’t be my words to teach you, but rather, your own sight.

As we learned previously, there are two different things that we can know—sensible things and intelligible things, in keeping with our Platonic distinctions. It is easy to demonstrate that sensible things cannot be shown by means of language, as the example vis-a-vie Oxford demonstrated. However, it also turns out that we cannot teach intelligible things by means of language.

For Augustine, intelligible things exist in our own minds. Justice, for example, is one such intelligible thing; in order to know justice, you must have first-hand experience of justice itself. Now, justice exists in the mind—our minds have access to it, it is an intelligible thing. But how can one show another something that only exists in their mind? I cannot know your own mind—I cannot use words to demonstrate the existence of an intelligible thing since they only exist in our minds; words can only be used to focus on ideas and ideals, not manifest something into reality in the same way which I can prove the existence of Paris, France by taking you there. The first-hand experience which constitutes knowledge is not something that I can give you.

How then do we come to know intelligible things? Augustine’s account of this is called the ‘theory of illumination’. This theory presents knowledge as an analog to vision. In order for physical vision to take place we need the power of vision itself, the presence of a physical object, light, and finally, the proper direction of our eyes, we must look in the general direction of the object which we wish to see. ‘Intellectual Vision’ is analogous on all four points: we need intellectual vision—the mind itself—we need also the presence of the intelligible object (that of Truth or Justice or whatever), we need something which corresponds to light in the physical realm, and finally, we need the proper direction not of our eyes, but of our wills.

The power of intellectual vision is always present. All human beings have that power since it is the power of reason. This is always a given. But the power of the intelligible object is also always a given; Justice, beauty, Goodness (etc.) are not like sensible objects which come and go. Intelligible objects are permanent and relatively unchanging. Thirdly, the intelligible light is always present as well: Augustine describes this intellectual light as the second person of The Trinity—that true light who enlightens every human being via God the word. All of this means that the only requirement for intellectual vision which is not always met is the proper direction of our wills. Consequently, a failure of intellectual vision is, in some ways, always traceable to a failure of will. Failure of will, remember, is what Augustine would call Sin.

To back-up a bit, there were some issues of delineation in defining the search for Truth between reason and faith. One side was the cognitive side whereas for Augustine, the affective side plays a major role; why? Because it is the state of our wills which ultimately determine the state of our intellects. Secondly, in our delineation, we see that the problem of seeking the truth is ignored: what is the value of seeking Truth (Belief)? Augustine answers in book five of the Confessions where he speaks of the Truths discovered by the natural sciences: a person who understands the natural world is not any better off—happier—than something who is purely content with God, since that person who understands the natural world but lacks God, lacks that fundamental spark which led to the creation of the natural world (the argument is more complicated than this, but this is, more or less, the gist of it). Same approach for philosophy, as far as Augustine is concerned, especially when applied to Biblical interpretation since such words are only non-sinful when the interpretation creates greater love for God, hence, Biblical interpretation for its own right, is sinful since it does not produce a great love for God. All of this is underwritten by divine assurance: it does not matter where the soul comes from, as long as you have divine assurance (Augustine relates it to a journey where even if you do not know where you left from, as long as you know where you are going, then all is well).

As such, we see in Augustine’s philosophy a radical devaluation of the kind of knowledge which posits knowledge for its own sake; one Good as such transcendence value that it must overwhelm all other Goods (i.e., God). The purpose here is transformation rather than information. In principal, seeking the Truth based on reason is any better for the purpose of transformation than seeking it based on the acceptance of authority. So faith, which relies on authority, does not need to take a back-seat to reason; the humility necessary to accede to authority is in itself a precondition for transformation. Accepting authority is an admitting that we cannot do it all by ourselves, so that sort of humility in the face of a Truth which exceeds out power of comprehension is part of what is necessary in order to have a will that is properly directed at the Truth. Such humility and acceptance of authority, therefore, is not merely an optional extra, but rather, a pervasive feature of any human being seeking transformation; this is something which holds true for anything which we wish to know (to take an example of my own creation, also one at the other end of the spectrum: if one wishes to know the capitalist mode of production, then one must take on Karl Marx’s authority, the basic premises of Marxism in order to begin a rigorous study of said mode of production).

This brings us to the third reason why the dichotomy between faith and reason does not do justice to Augustine’s views—the usual method that of positing the purely rational life as the one way of obtaining Truth, then that would mean that faith comes in, at best, as a supplement to the rational life. To Augustine, this understanding, that which posits that you either know everything or know nothing, is a symptom of Pride (the root of all other Sin). A successful search for Truth will, at some point, rely on authority; this is true because we must always rely on other peoples’ testimony even to maneuver in the world for mundane matters (communication, family lineage, travel, etc.).

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Let's Read: The Once and Future King (Ch.24)

At long last—the final chapter in the “Sword in the Stone” book. This is also a short chapter at just two and a half pages. It concerns the trappings of Wart becoming King.

It, of course, stirred a fuss, but after a bit of rabble rousing, things settled to normal.

They [the people of England] were sick of the anarchy which had been their portion under Uther Pendragon: sick of overlords and feudal faints, of knights who did what they pleased, of racial discrimination, and the rule of Might as Right” (207).

Goodness! Change a few things around and you have the contemporary U.S!

So everyone sends Wart grand presents and the best that they can afford to buy or make. Merlyn, of course, makes a surprise visit and fills him in on his history—of his father being Uther Pendragon, of Merlyn being the one who left Wart as a baby on Sir Ector’s castle, and Wart’s general history. It kinda makes your hair stands on ends.

’Will you stay with me for a long time?’ asked the Wart, not understanding much of this.
‘Yes, Wart,’ said Merlyn. ‘Or rather, as I should say (or have I said?), Yes, King Arthur’” (209).

The end.

Well, what are my thoughts on this? As a conclusion, I thought it was pretty great; really more epic then I imagined that it would be considering how a lot of the story went, but now that I see how it ends, I feel that the set-up was a bit daring but otherwise worth the narrative risk.
I am going to do a review of this portion of The Once and Future King, so I don’t want to wax eloquently at the moment. But I do wish to thank everyone who read these Let’s Reads and stuck it out with me. But, do not worry, White’s novel still has a whopping three books left in it before its final conclusion, so you and I, dear reader, will be on this journey for a while more; so, that being said, I do want to say that I will not be going on to the next book—“The Queen of Air and Darkness”—for quite a while. In fact, I am going to be soon starting a Let’s Read of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Since White’s novel is a sizable fantasy brick, and I have numerous other texts to do Let’s Reads for, I thought that it would be a nice breath of fresh air if in-between the various sections (books) of White’s novel, I did a Let’s Read of a different Arthurian text; that way we do not get redundant by just reading the one and only text from now until when the sheep come home.

But, that being said, join me again net time for a wondrously sarcastic let’s read!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I’ve Got Ninety-Nine Problems of player immersion and authorial intent (Enchanted Assemblages)

This is what I am reduced to in order to keep my spirits up.

Part of my struggle in being a post-Structualist is that I must accept as legitimate all interpretations which forego textual literalism (with the exception of interpretations which spring from incorrect ideas). It can be a pain. But it is a reality that I have accustomed myself.

                But, how does this exactly translate into my adaptation? Good question.

                Authorial intent is the devil in the details. It is when a writer—more accurately, an author of a text—declares that [so and so] means [so and so]. It is J.K Rowling declaring that Dumbledore is homosexual without anything from the text backing it up; in other words, it is a holy script—something the timid use to try and excuse their inability to depict what they mean, something which legitimates an idea which exists outside of the text.

                In contemporary times, J.K Rowling is notorious for her attempts to try and use authorial intent to justify opinions which do not exist in the text. Moreover, however, she uses her own characters as a means to that end. In some spin-offs, for example, she uses the construct of ‘Dumbledore’s Notes’ in order to provide a stand-in for her own commentary on what the story means. Though this behavior is obnoxious in the extreme, I will spare you why it is obnoxious, suffice it to say that Rowling apparently has never encountered the ‘death of the author’ before and why we, as readers and interpreters, cannot take the author at their word; to fully explain this would take a longer piece this than this post, and quite frankly it is outside of the purview of this blog.

                It is enough to say though that I reject authorial intent wholesale.

                ‘How can you reject it, though?’ I hear you say, when I myself am an author of one such text (Enchanted Assemblages). Well, this is the problem of the adaptation; not really a problem, though. Closer to a clarification. You see, I have two different kinds of Nodes on my adaptation—the hermeneutic body, for those of you keeping up—and one of those adaptations feature the titular character of the Green Knight. In this Node—‘Deconstruction’—Mr. Green has already passed by the area and interpreted it; it is up to the player to deconstruct it and offer their own interpretation to what Greeny got right and wrong (in the player’s eyes).

                In other words, the interpretation provided by the Green Knight is not holy script. It is not my holy script or attempt to dictate to the player what the ‘correct’ interpretation is; meaning, I am not roleplaying Rowling by slyly inserting what a certain Node means while giving the player only the lip-service to submit a lesser interpretation. Nope! I reject that all!

                I liked brainstorming this aspect since it made the game more ‘meta’ and more tightly wove the idea of the hermeneutic circle into the adaptation itself. Now, the player has full control over the game world in that even those aspects which have already been interpreted, can be re-interpreted; the sedimentation of interpretations intensifies and truly creates a history as players continue to interact with the Node and each other.

                Moreover, I am happy that I brainstormed this since it not only would have gone against my own philosophy to proscribe what a ‘proper’ interpretation consists of, but it would have hamstrung the player by forcing their efforts onto a narrow road. Now the player has freedom, they can keep their fidelity without being constrained by authorial intent, and I can feel relieved in that I have avoided becoming Rowling, if for only another day!

Franks and Goths (Notes:49)

Historians have long hated equating the fall of the last Roman emperor with the fall of the empire itself; in terms of classes, social stru...