The Charlotte News

Monday, February 28, 1938


Site Ed. Note: The other two pieces of this day, originally uploaded in 1998--one on the detention by the Chinese of Jesuit priests, presumably as traitors and prisoners of war, on charges of aiding the Japanese enemy invading China, the other on the Nazi disturbance at Graz, Austria, appearing to bode ill already for Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy, "peace in our generation", as pronounced a week earlier, (see "Peace--It's Wonderful", February 22), prompting Anthony Eden's resignation as Foreign Secretary, (to return to the Foreign Office after Churchill became Prime Minister in May, 1940, and eventually, in 1955, becoming Prime Minister for two years)--are here.

The letter to the editor from Senator George L. Berry of Tennessee, objecting to "unfair treatment" at the hands of "Stop, Look and Listen", January 26, 1938, goes to show that you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of them all of the time, not even the whole United States Senate, the one to whose chamber one proceeds via the marble hallways from the fishtruck which loads.

For more on Senator Berry, see: "A Kettle of Fish", December 10, 1937; "Crump Resigns", August 8, 1938; "A Picked Berry", September 1, 1938, the latter piece still insisting, Senator Berry's protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, that he was first appointed to administer what was left of the National Recovery Act; "Nine Points of the Law", December 15, 1938, after the Senator of 18 months, having come to office by gubernatorial appointment to complete an unexpired term, was defeated in the 1938 primary election; and "Back Again", May 11, 1939, regarding fresh charges that Citizen Berry was able to divert funds earmarked for relief from WPA to the creation and stocking of fish lakes adjacent to land he owned, thus making it more valuable than even its marble deposits had made it when slated for flooding by the TVA--yet coming to own the land a full year, said Senator Berry in the letter anyway, before TVA ever got into gear. Not that TVA was exactly legislated into existence overnight and in secret, just the day before the enactment, mind you. But, we quibble.

We agree, incidentally, with the premise of Mr. Broun's piece of the day. But, believing in that principle does not mean, we suggest, barging in and blowing your brother's country back to Babylon. But that's just our opinion.

As to Mr. Church's tap-dancing feat--gee whiz, they shoot horses, don't they?

Advance and Be Recognized*

The President's Advisory Committee on Education has submitted to Congress a bill calling for Federal aid to the states, beginning at $70,000,000 in 1939 and increasing year by year to $199,000,000 in 1949. By far the largest item in this proposed appropriation is earmarked for what the committee euphemistically calls a general aid fund for the current operating and maintenance expenses of public elementary and secondary schools. And what, pray, is the single principal cost of operating schools? Why, teachers' salaries. This bill, then, stripped of its camouflage, is chiefly a bill requiring the Federal Government to supplement teachers' salaries.

Well, they can use the extra money, we don't doubt, and they may put up a valid argument that everybody else is getting some of the gravy, so why shouldn't they? We don't know a pat answer to that, except that two profligacies don't make a frugality, but this we do know--that miracles in the quality of Education are not necessarily accomplished merely by increasing appropriations. Do it in the name of the teachers, if it must be done, but spare us the pretense of doing it in the name of Education. We've heard that one before.

Study in Creditors*

The City Government has hardened its heart toward delinquent taxpayers and set out to use the means at its command to make them pay up. Already title to a number of pieces of property has passed to the City, and the threat of foreclosure has induced many others to settle. The latest move, taken while suits are being filed for substantial amounts of taxes past due, is directed against the "little fellows," some of whom owe no more than their accumulated dollar poll taxes. But the aggregate of such amounts is large, and the authorities are determined to collect them even if that requires going to the length of salary garnishments and levies on personal property.

Across Alexander Street from City Hall, a quite different attitude prevails. The County Government is proceeding on the theory that people will pay when they can, that some day we all shall be rolling in money again, and meanwhile it is unthinkable to press for payment. The City, when it took title to property, has had to pay up County taxes in the bargain; but generally County taxpayers have what amounts virtually to permission to let taxes slide.

It's going to be interesting to see how the two policies work out, and which, in the long run, proves the greater accommodation to taxpayers. Our own belief is that the City, by forcing the delinquents to catch up, is playing fair with the taxpayers who settle without being made to, and that the county is but laying up grief for itself. In any event, we shall find out, when budgets are made next Summer, which has the right idea.

Site Ed. Note: For more on the concept discussed below, see our end-note accompanying January 8, 1940, and the note of April 3, 1940.

As we remarked not long ago somewhere in some context: don't tell anyone, but it is sort of like glass.

Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
That metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay,--
Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round,
"Since life fleets, all is change; the
Past gone, seize to-day!"--

Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
THAT was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops:
Potter and clay endure.

Grow Young With Us

At 78, Carter Glass ran for another six-year Senate term and was elected with what amounted to unanimity. At 77, General John J. Pershing's stout heart and sound constitution are rallying bravely in an attempt to pull him through the most critical of illnesses. At 73, Bob Doughton announces for Congress again, as he has ever since the beginning of the twentieth century. Still indefatigable and indispensable he is, and the attitude of his district probably will be that if he wants the place he can have it. He wants it.

There are many other notable illustrations of men--Brandeis at 80 and Hughes at 75, for two--who not only have blithely exceeded their allotted quota of three score and ten years, but whose usefulness has continued unimpaired. Their natural attainments have been augmented by experience that has been as extensive as it has been intensive.

And their example should be a great encouragement to the middle-aged of 60 or so and the youngsters of 50, not to mention the flaming youths of 45. In fact, having taken heart from these septuagenarians who are still very much in the fight, we think we'll just stop wearing hats and sock-supporters and act our age.

Circumstances Alter Cases*

All the places in North Carolina that want the new U. S. veterans' hospital, and that includes them all, with the possible exception of Oteen which already has one, are coming forward with their claims, many of them with an offer attached to donate a site absolutely free of charge to Uncle Sam. Their supposition is, of course, that they will make back the cost of the land in the business the hospital will bring along with it; and they're probably right.

Nevertheless, the spectacle of somebody offering to give Uncle Sam something is novel, to put it mildly. It becomes downright astonishing when one stops to recall that most of these municipal donors are theoretically so hard up that Uncle Sam has to come to the rescue of the unemployed among them. In fact, there is one town, whose name we shan't disclose, ready to plunk down a deed to Uncle Sam for 117 acres of land, which once had its fire hydrants painted as a WPA project, assumably because it didn't have the money to paint 'em itself. What it all comes down to, we reckon, is that it has money for investment but not for upkeep.

Toward Moderation*

Americans drank 65,700,000 gallons of wine last year, to set an all-time record. The highest previous consumption was 60,400,000 in 1936. The per capita consumption, however, is still below that in 1915, when 56,829,000 gallons were drunk. The country's population has increased about 25 per cent since that date.

Still, there is some comfort in the thought that the country is beginning, as prohibition habits fade, to drink more wine and beer, and less strong spirits. And that it actually is drinking more moderately of the harder stuff seems to be plausible despite the fact that more tax paid whisky, gin, and alcohol were withdrawn from warehouses in 1937 than in 1936. The difference may be explained by the great cut in bootleg production, stills with more than 10,000,000 gallons' capacity having been destroyed last year in Kentucky alone. Moreover, the total of 112,400,728 gallons compares with 160,080,781 gallons in 1917, despite the population increase. And that the distillers do not look for a great increase in consumption in the future is pointedly argued by the fact that the production of whisky for the first ten months of 1937 was only 136,000,000 gallons as compared with 214,000,000 for the same period in 1936.

Site Ed. Note:

... But, as I am of a disposition that makes me unwilling to be esteemed different from what I really am, I thought it necessary to endeavor by all means to render myself worthy of the reputation accorded to me; and it is now exactly eight years since this desire constrained me to remove from all those places where interruption from any of my acquaintances was possible, and betake myself to this country, in which the long duration of the war has led to the establishment of such discipline, that the armies maintained seem to be of use only in enabling the inhabitants to enjoy more securely the blessings of peace and where, in the midst of a great crowd actively engaged in business, and more careful of their own affairs than curious about those of others, I have been enabled to live without being deprived of any of the conveniences to be had in the most populous cities, and yet as solitary and as retired as in the midst of the most remote deserts.

Part IV

I am in doubt as to the propriety of making my first meditations in the place above mentioned matter of discourse; for these are so metaphysical, and so uncommon, as not, perhaps, to be acceptable to every one. And yet, that it may be determined whether the foundations that I have laid are sufficiently secure, I find myself in a measure constrained to advert to them.

I had long before remarked that, in relation to practice, it is sometimes necessary to adopt, as if above doubt, opinions which we discern to be highly uncertain, as has been already said; but as I then desired to give my attention solely to the search after truth, I thought that a procedure exactly the opposite was called for, and that I ought to reject as absolutely false all opinions in regard to which I could suppose the least ground for doubt, in order to ascertain whether after that there remained aught in my belief that was wholly indubitable.

Accordingly, seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us; and because some men err in reasoning, and fall into paralogisms, even on the simplest matters of geometry, I, convinced that I was as open to error as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I had hitherto taken for demonstrations; and finally, when I considered that the very same thoughts (presentations) which we experience when awake may also be experienced when we are asleep, while there is at that time not one of them true, I supposed that all the objects (presentations) that had ever entered into my mind when awake, had in them no more truth than the illusions of my dreams.

But immediately upon this I observed that, whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I think, therefore I am (cogito ergo sum), was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search.

In the next place, I attentively examined what I was and as I observed that I could suppose that I had no body, and that there was no world nor any place in which I might be; but that I could not therefore suppose that I was not; and that, on the contrary, from the very circumstance that I thought to doubt of the truth of other things, it most clearly and certainly followed that I was; while, on the other hand, if I had only ceased to think, although all the other objects which I had ever imagined had been in reality existent, I would have had no reason to believe that I existed; I thence concluded that I was a substance whose whole essence or nature consists only in thinking, and which, that it may exist, has need of no place, nor is dependent on any material thing; so that "I," that is to say, the mind by which I am what I am, is wholly distinct from the body, and is even more easily known than the latter, and is such, that although the latter were not, it would still continue to be all that it is.

After this I inquired in general into what is essential to the truth and certainty of a proposition; for since I had discovered one which I knew to be true, I thought that I must likewise be able to discover the ground of this certitude. And as I observed that in the words I think, therefore I am, there is nothing at all which gives me assurance of their truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to think it is necessary to exist, I concluded that I might take, as a general rule, the principle, that all the things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true, only observing, however, that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive.

In the next place, from reflecting on the circumstance that I doubted, and that consequently my being was not wholly perfect (for I clearly saw that it was a greater perfection to know than to doubt), I was led to inquire whence I had learned to think of something more perfect than myself; and I clearly recognized that I must hold this notion from some nature which in reality was more perfect.

As for the thoughts of many other objects external to me, as of the sky, the earth, light, heat, and a thousand more, I was less at a loss to know whence these came; for since I remarked in them nothing which seemed to render them superior to myself, I could believe that, if these were true, they were dependencies on my own nature, in so far as it possessed a certain perfection, and, if they were false, that I held them from nothing, that is to say, that they were in me because of a certain imperfection of my nature.

But this could not be the case with the idea of a nature more perfect than myself; for to receive it from nothing was a thing manifestly impossible; and, because it is not less repugnant that the more perfect should be an effect of, and dependence on the less perfect, than that something should proceed from nothing, it was equally impossible that I could hold it from myself: accordingly, it but remained that it had been placed in me by a nature which was in reality more perfect than mine, and which even possessed within itself all the perfections of which I could form any idea; that is to say, in a single word, which was God.

And to this I added that, since I knew some perfections which I did not possess, I was not the only being in existence (I will here, with your permission, freely use the terms of the schools); but, on the contrary, that there was of necessity some other more perfect Being upon whom I was dependent, and from whom I had received all that I possessed; for if I had existed alone, and independently of every other being, so as to have had from myself all the perfection, however little, which I actually possessed, I should have been able, for the same reason, to have had from myself the whole remainder of perfection, of the want of which I was conscious, and thus could of myself have become infinite, eternal, immutable, omniscient, all-powerful, and, in fine, have possessed all the perfections which I could recognize in God.

For in order to know the nature of God (whose existence has been established by the preceding reasonings), as far as my own nature permitted, I had only to consider in reference to all the properties of which I found in my mind some idea, whether their possession was a mark of perfection; and I was assured that no one which indicated any imperfection was in him, and that none of the rest was wanting.

Thus I perceived that doubt, inconstancy, sadness, and such like, could not be found in God, since I myself would have been happy to be free from them. Besides, I had ideas of many sensible and corporeal things; for although I might suppose that I was dreaming, and that all which I saw or imagined was false, I could not, nevertheless, deny that the ideas were in reality in my thoughts. But, because I had already very clearly recognized in myself that the intelligent nature is distinct from the corporeal, and as I observed that all composition is an evidence of dependency, and that a state of dependency is manifestly a state of imperfection, I therefore determined that it could not be a perfection in God to be compounded of these two natures and that consequently he was not so compounded; but that if there were any bodies in the world, or even any intelligences, or other natures that were not wholly perfect, their existence depended on his power in such a way that they could not subsist without him for a single moment.

I was disposed straightway to search for other truths and when I had represented to myself the object of the geometers, which I conceived to be a continuous body or a space indefinitely extended in length, breadth, and height or depth, divisible into divers parts which admit of different figures and sizes, and of being moved or transposed in all manner of ways (for all this the geometers suppose to be in the object they contemplate), I went over some of their simplest demonstrations.

And, in the first place, I observed, that the great certitude which by common consent is accorded to these demonstrations, is founded solely upon this, that they are clearly conceived in accordance with the rules I have already laid down.

In the next place, I perceived that there was nothing at all in these demonstrations which could assure me of the existence of their object: thus, for example, supposing a triangle to be given, I distinctly perceived that its three angles were necessarily equal to two right angles, but I did not on that account perceive anything which could assure me that any triangle existed: while, on the contrary, recurring to the examination of the idea of a Perfect Being, I found that the existence of the Being was comprised in the idea in the same way that the equality of its three angles to two right angles is comprised in the idea of a triangle, or as in the idea of a sphere, the equidistance of all points on its surface from the center, or even still more clearly; and that consequently it is at least as certain that God, who is this Perfect Being, is, or exists, as any demonstration of geometry can be.

But the reason which leads many to persuade themselves that there is a difficulty in knowing this truth, and even also in knowing what their mind really is, is that they never raise their thoughts above sensible objects, and are so accustomed to consider nothing except by way of imagination, which is a mode of thinking limited to material objects, that all that is not imaginable seems to them not intelligible. The truth of this is sufficiently manifest from the single circumstance, that the philosophers of the schools accept as a maxim that there is nothing in the understanding which was not previously in the senses, in which however it is certain that the ideas of God and of the soul have never been; and it appears to me that they who make use of their imagination to comprehend these ideas do exactly the same thing as if, in order to hear sounds or smell odors, they strove to avail themselves of their eyes; unless indeed that there is this difference, that the sense of sight does not afford us an inferior assurance to those of smell or hearing; in place of which, neither our imagination nor our senses can give us assurance of anything unless our understanding intervene.

Finally, if there be still persons who are not sufficiently persuaded of the existence of God and of the soul, by the reasons I have adduced, I am desirous that they should know that all the other propositions, of the truth of which they deem themselves perhaps more assured, as that we have a body, and that there exist stars and an earth, and such like, are less certain; for, although we have a moral assurance of these things, which is so strong that there is an appearance of extravagance in doubting of their existence, yet at the same time no one, unless his intellect is impaired, can deny, when the question relates to a metaphysical certitude, that there is sufficient reason to exclude entire assurance, in the observation that when asleep we can in the same way imagine ourselves possessed of another body and that we see other stars and another earth, when there is nothing of the kind. For how do we know that the thoughts which occur in dreaming are false rather than those other which we experience when awake, since the former are often not less vivid and distinct than the latter? And though men of the highest genius study this question as long as they please, I do not believe that they will be able to give any reason which can be sufficient to remove this doubt, unless they presuppose the existence of God.

For, in the first place even the principle which I have already taken as a rule, viz., that all the things which we clearly and distinctly conceive are true, is certain only because God is or exists and because he is a Perfect Being, and because all that we possess is derived from him: whence it follows that our ideas or notions, which to the extent of their clearness and distinctness are real, and proceed from God, must to that extent be true.

Accordingly, whereas we not infrequently have ideas or notions in which some falsity is contained, this can only be the case with such as are to some extent confused and obscure, and in this proceed from nothing (participate of negation), that is, exist in us thus confused because we are not wholly perfect.

And it is evident that it is not less repugnant that falsity or imperfection, in so far as it is imperfection, should proceed from God, than that truth or perfection should proceed from nothing.

But if we did not know that all which we possess of real and true proceeds from a Perfect and Infinite Being, however clear and distinct our ideas might be, we should have no ground on that account for the assurance that they possessed the perfection of being true.

But after the knowledge of God and of the soul has rendered us certain of this rule, we can easily understand that the truth of the thoughts we experience when awake, ought not in the slightest degree to be called in question on account of the illusions of our dreams. For if it happened that an individual, even when asleep, had some very distinct idea, as, for example, if a geometer should discover some new demonstration, the circumstance of his being asleep would not militate against its truth; and as for the most ordinary error of our dreams, which consists in their representing to us various objects in the same way as our external senses, this is not prejudicial, since it leads us very properly to suspect the truth of the ideas of sense; for we are not infrequently deceived in the same manner when awake; as when persons in the jaundice see all objects yellow, or when the stars or bodies at a great distance appear to us much smaller than they are. For, in fine, whether awake or asleep, we ought never to allow ourselves to be persuaded of the truth of anything unless on the evidence of our reason.

And it must be noted that I say of our reason, and not of our imagination or of our senses: thus, for example, although we very clearly see the sun, we ought not therefore to determine that it is only of the size which our sense of sight presents; and we may very distinctly imagine the head of a lion joined to the body of a goat, without being therefore shut up to the conclusion that a chimæra exists; for it is not a dictate of reason that what we thus see or imagine is in reality existent; but it plainly tells us that all our ideas or notions contain in them some truth; for otherwise it could not be that God, who is wholly perfect and veracious, should have placed them in us. And because our reasonings are never so clear or so complete during sleep as when we are awake, although sometimes the acts of our imagination are then as lively and distinct, if not more so than in our waking moments, reason further dictates that, since all our thoughts cannot be true because of our partial imperfection, those possessing truth must infallibly be found in the experience of our waking moments rather than in that of our dreams.

--from Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences, Parts III - IV, by René Descartes, 1637

The Cartesian analysis above necessarily presumes as a philosophical maxim that the notion of "God" entails only that of the "Perfect Being". Query, what happens to the analysis should we admit of any possibility that God is imperfect? Is it possible to have a triangle consistent of a total of angular degrees more or less than 180? A right triangle without the necessary explanatory geometric function: that the square of the hypotenuse is the equivalent of the square of the sum of the other two sides? It was, we glean, these sorts of latter questions and the mathematical certitude of their answers which led Descartes to his notions that these properties within the plane of geometry necessitated the presumption of a Perfect Being, that Being who had provided the origins to these immutable laws of the universe, impenetrable by either law, science or logic to deny. But, of course, these laws proceed on definitional assumption, for instance that a triangle by definition consists of a three-sided plane object, whose sides are straight lines, not in any manner curved. If we allow that a triangle is something else, for instance shaped like a Hershey's Kiss, then we have distinct problems within the universality of these otherwise immutable laws. But, then, we void the law ab initio by otherwise defining the shape of our object.

While we readily accept a good part of the Cartesian analysis and its founding principle, cogito ergo sum, we also believe that the young Master Descartes was, to some degree, boxed in by his own mathematical assumptions about the nature of the world, a function largely of his time and place. We tend toward what is obvious herein as better proof of the existence of intelligence beyond our individual selves, as well as that beyond the collectivity of things extant, presently a part of the living being of the world. That leaves open, however, the notions which go beyond merely a Perfect Being, to also admit of the possibility of spirit beings which are not corporeal and no longer exist in animate form, if ever in fact they did. And this admission then leads to the question philosophically of whether these incorporeal beings are potentially imperfect, while nevertheless intelligent by definition, and might operate on us thus imperfectly without our complete awareness under given circumstances of receptivity, yet nevertheless lending to us the same sensate experience of incorporeal association experienced in the reception of the more perfect thoughts, the understanding, for instance, of the theorem regarding the properties of a right triangle, while instead communicating to us imperfect, that is to say irrational, thoughts: for instance that the angles of a triangle are comprised of 250 degrees when heated and 150 degrees when frozen. Such an admission of possibility, either of a perfect or imperfect being, is not, however, dependent on mathematical postulates, though the basic reasoning process embraced by mathematics is obviously entailed and necessarily the function upon which the result we reach is dependent, even if by so being dependent, it is necessarily an imperfection, thus admitting of the possibility of fallibility of our premise, because we happen to be a corporeal being and not perfect.

This, then, being what we get for having spent four years of our life reading and studying philosophy.

Yet, not a day goes by since, that we do not look back in kindness on ourselves for having the good sense and sensibility, even when the spring sunshine and dogwood blossoms beckoned to our youth, to do just that in lieu of full corporeal enjoyment of the gifts bequeathed normally incident to it, whether from some Perfect Being or some very Imperfect Being, being dependent largely on one's perception of the world at large. For some see the world as a flat plane with an edge, too close to which they might come, then representing the slippery region near enough the precipitant cliff, into which, once stepped, they would then inexorably be cast over it into the oblivion of space, never to return to Kansas. We do not suffer from that fear, having done our study in philosophy.

By the way, speaking of such proofs, we just finally got around to uploading that missing day's pieces of October 26, 1937. And, when you're done perusing that sufficiently, go back to our note accompanying the commentary on October 26, 1962. If you don't yet quite regard the relationship between these things, go back and read all of the above a little more slowly and a little more deliberately. It will come to you: voila!

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