Prospero the Magus

I am grateful to Ralph Smith for references to Frances Yates’ work on Shakespeare’s plays. In an analysis of The Tempest, Frances Yates writes: “It is inevitable and unavoidable in thinking of Prospero to bring in the name of John Dee, the great mathematical magus of whom . . . . Continue Reading »

Elizabethan Magic

Educated Elizabethans lived in a world of similitudes. As EMW Tillyard argued, the Elizabethan world picture was constituted by a series of analogous chains of being. The social world manifested and was manifested by the natural world; the universe as a whole resembled human beings; there was a . . . . Continue Reading »

How to Write Science

U Aldrovandi organized his treatise on serpents and dragons (mid-1600s) as follows (Foucault’s summary again): “equivocation (which means the various meanings of the word serpent), synonyms and etymologies, differences, form and description, anatomy, nature and habits, temperament, . . . . Continue Reading »

Language and the world

According to Claude Duret (writing in 1613), Hebrew alone among the languages preserves the original meanings of language, naming the proper essence of things: “Thus the stork, so greatly lauded for it charity towards it father and its mother, is called in Hebrew Chasida, which is to say, . . . . Continue Reading »

Plants, stars, and botonical enmity

O Crollius in his 1624 treatise on “signatures” compared stars and plants: “The stars are the matrix of all the plants and every star in the sky is only the spiritual prefiguration of a plant, such that it represents that plant, and just as each herb or plant is a terrestrial star . . . . Continue Reading »

One World

Japan beats Cuba in the world baseball competition. According to the NPR report, during the final game, everyone in the stands - Japanese, Cubans, American spectators - does the wave and dances to YMCA by the Village People. After Japan wins, you can hear “We Are the Champions” in the . . . . Continue Reading »

Sermon Outline

INTRODUCTION Through several chapters, the author of Kings has emphasized Yahweh’s faithfulness and mercy to the Northern kingdom. He sent prophets to the Omride kings, and gives Jehu’s dynasty four generations. But when they’ve persisted in sin, their time is up. THE TEXT . . . . Continue Reading »

Hobbes on Gratitude and Justice

Strikingly, Hobbes, like Thomas, treats gratitude under the heading of justice: “Justice of actions is by writers divided into commutative and distributive: and the former they say consisteth in proportion arithmetical; the latter in proportion geometrical. Commutative, therefore, they place . . . . Continue Reading »

Machiavelli on Ingratitude

From Book 1 of the Discourses on Livy: FOR WHAT REASONS THE ROMANS WERE LESS UNGRATEFUL TO THEIR CITIZENS THAN THE ATHENIANS Whoever reads of the things done by Republics will find in all of them some species of ingratitude against their citizens, but he will find less in Rome than in Athens, and . . . . Continue Reading »

What Plato Owed Athens

Socrates’ explanation of his willingness to submit to the laws of Athens, from the Crito. Since he owes the city his very existence, he has no right to renounce the laws when they turn against him: Soc. “And was that our agreement with you?” the law would say, “or were you . . . . Continue Reading »