Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Good Man is Hard to Find: Nature and Use

WHEN WE CALL A MAN A GOOD MAN, we ought to know what we mean by such a statement. This, of course, means we need to know both what "good" means, and what "man" means. This leads to the need to understand the concept of "use." The concept of "use" leads us to the notion of "nature."

Simon defines "use" broadly as "the application of a thing to an operation." Simon, 20. Here we identify three aspects or components: the thing being used (the instrument). That question involves exploration into the nature of the thing. The user of the thing (the agent) and how he operates the thing. That issue focuses on the relationship between the user and the thing. Simon calls this the particular use of the thing. And, finally, the end for which the thing being used, that is, how it is being applied. Simon calls this the human use of the thing.

To explain his analysis Simon uses the example of a piano. The first issue of "use" relates to the piano itself, and focuses on the nature of the piano. Is the piano as a thing good or bad as a piano? Is it expensive and in tune? Or is it cheap and out-of-tune? The answer to this question, of course, will affect subsequent components of use. If, for example, the piano is out-of-tune, the piano player will have a difficult if not impossible time using the piano correctly, whether the use is in reference to its particular use or to its human use. Irrespective of his virtuosity, the piano player will not be able to play Mozart's playful Scherzo well if the piano is out-of-tune. No matter of his burning desire to please his friends, the piano player will have an exceedingly difficult time doing that if the piano is out of tune.

Supposing then that one has a piano that is in tune, the next issue is the ability of the piano player or agent to use that piano. One can can have an excellent piano, yet have a pianist who is truly wretched. It may be that the piano player has not practiced, or is drunk, or is not familiar with the piece to be played, or is simply not nimble or experienced enough to play, for example, Sorabji's Opus Clavicembalisticum and so absolutely fumbles the piece. There is, then, the possibility of a disconnect, a lack of fitting between the piano as piano, and the piano as used. The competence associated with using the piano (which is defined by the piano's nature) allows us to call the piano player good or not good. We have here a question of art, not character.

Yet even if the piano is perfectly in tune, and the piano player perfectly competent (so that we may say the piano is good and the piano player is good), there is an ultimate question which Simon calls the human use of the piano. A good piano may be used by a good piano player in a way that is still not good. For example, he may play in the late hours of the night beautiful, complex pieces with unparalleled virtuosity, and yet be in utter disregard to the rights and interests of his neighbors. Similarly, he may decide to play to Mozart's Scherzo during an event when he was supposed to play Chopin's Marche funèbre.

Focusing on a distinction haling back to Plato,* Simon thus distinguishes between "being good at a particular skill and being good absolutely speaking as a human being." Simon, 20. Though it appears obvious that the condition of the nature of a thing does not assure its correct use, whether particular or human, there is nevertheless a connection that Simon detects between the condition of a thing and its ability to be used well in a particular or human sense. If a piano is out of tune, for example, it will never effectively be used by the pianist, and both its particular use and human use will suffer accordingly. If the piano is, however, in tune, we are not assured of its proper use.

What is true with the piano and the piano player may be analogized to a human soul and its powers, such as memory or will power. Someone may have a good memory or a strong will, but that does not assure its proper particular or human use. However, having either a weak memory or a weak will (analogous to the situation of an out-of-tune piano) can seriously affect the ability to put this faculty to a good human use. So two principles may be obtained. First, "we understand that we can make either good or bad use of certain things . . . regardless of their own condition." Second, "a poor natural condition of a thing may sometimes result in its wrong human use." Simon, 25.

Given the importance of the condition of the thing in determining its proper human use, the question then arises of whether the tendency towards wanting to put some thing to a right human use does not also tend toward wanting to improve the condition of the thing to be used. It is rather obvious that the desire to put some thing to good human use will also have an accompanying desire to make sure that the condition of the thing used is such that it accords with its nature. The piano player, to put his piano to good human use, will both want to have his piano in tune as well as to make sure he is sufficiently adept at using the piano. A human being, then, to put himself to good human use, will want to have his nature properly ordered and will want to have sufficient adeptness at controlling his nature so that it may be at his disposal and control.

This issue become particularly important in the area of human emotions. "When it comes to emotional tendencies, their condition can never be neutral with regard to their use. To make good human use of emotions, they must be sound." Simon, 24. If these emotional urges are outside of rational control, and if they are sufficiently destructive, we may have a situation where it is impossible for these to be put to good human use. Here we arrive at the issue of insanity beyond which there is no question of morality, for any sort of rational control is impossible. In the vast majority of situations, however, there is an area where the emotional urges that are destructive are not so intense as to be outside of rational control. If that control is exercised, especially if exercised consistently, we have a situation of moral loftiness.

Simon thus sees the subject matter of virtue to lie in the interplay between the interconnecting links between the tendency to put something to good human use and the improvement of the condition of the thing we use and of the proficiency at the particular use of that thing.

[D]eliberate acceptance of proper particular use of things, supported by a strong tendency toward human use, may well lead to their improvements, especially when these 'things' happen to be the internal powers of the human soul. If there is a secret at the bottom of the question about the relation between 'nature' and 'use,' in my opinion, this is it.

Simon, 28.

*Simon cites to Plato's Apology 22d, Euthydemus 228d, Gorgias 448b.

1 comment:

  1. Of note: most parishes, reportedly, when filling liturgy music positions, don't look for "good people" who are in Communion with the church. Instead, they look for "employees", or "willing lackeys", who will just shut up about the low (or no) pay rates offered, do as they're told.

    Alternatively, if the parish actually has a pipe organ or decent grand piano, and wants a competent Organist who can actually play it properly (which is now hard to find among Catholic musicians, whose organists are now near-extinct), they now have to recruit Protestant organists.

    Well then, for Liturgy to fulfill one of its main functions as teaching, requires worship leaders who are in Communion with the Church, AND gifted + trained in authentic theology and/or playing. Minor oversight or major?

    But since we've forgotten the Natural Law clarifying the Nature of this Office, we've now resorted to whimsical "people power", where people who don't know anything about authentic Liturgy Music, are put in charge of filling those positions.

    After many centuries of scandal in this area, (Bach jailed merely for protesting his work conditions rights, i.e. implicit violation of Tithing allocation per Nehemiah 12 suppressing discussion of "according his needs"), it becomes clear we need a better way to discern God's Will which protects the rights of such Artists. The Teleogical end is for building up the Church.

    To discern "good men" in Liturgy Music, needs people who actually know, and a Big Stick to enforce their authority over the whims of the uninformed mob-prone masses. We must drop the requirement that the organist merely "get along", and insist upon finding, and allocating for, quality, and those with genius gifts.

    Just as the Prophets must proclaim themselves, and prove their authenticity and authority even if they are not of the Levite class, so too must "good men" assert their talents, and rightful claim to their positions in building up the Church.

    That means, do not shy from pointing out errors in parishes neglecting their Liturgy Music. Non-musicians concerned about attendance and authentic Liturgy should also raise these in councils. Fraternal Correction, Mt 18, rightful claims to the Tithing allocations. More on that later.