Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Evening Note for Wednesday, April 25

Thought for the Evening: Medical Ethics and the Rights of Infants and Toddlers

It is difficult not to be a bit depressed about the current problems surrounding the infant Alfie Evans in Liverpool. Alfie was born with what seems to be a neurological condition that led to seizures when he was about twenty-three months old, when he was placed in Alder Hey Children's Hospital. He is in a "semi-vegetative state", but his condition has been up and down. The parents have been trying to get him moved somewhere that will not remove oxygen, food, and water; both Pope Francis and the Italian government have offered to pay for the expense of moving him and for all future care at Bambino Gesù. The Italian government even recognized Alfie as an Italian citizen so that he would be part of the Italian health care system. The Evans family has been blocked from doing this by both the actions of the hospital and by a court order ruling that this is contrary to Alfie's best interest, under a law that, as far as I have been able to see, seems to have been designed to give a court the authority to act in loco parentis when parents are guilty of provable negligence or abuse.

What is striking to me is the complete lack of serious medical ethics in the statements of the hospital and, to an even greater degree, in the comments of some of its defenders. There has been no serious examination of the actions of the hospital in terms of familial right over care, some form of which is the standard proxy, in most approaches to medical ethics, for patient autonomy in cases of children and those unable to make their own decisions. The parents in question are guilty neither of neglect nor of abuse, which are usually the only moral grounds nullifying the right of guardians to make health care decisions for their wards. I have seen literally no moral justification offered for this. I would be willing to accept that there is some arcane feature of British law that would make the relevant law applicable here rather than (as it very much looks) only in cases of neglect or abuse, but granted that, I have seen no indication from anybody about why this is not a moral backfiring of the law.

Every human being has a human right to palliation -- that is, every human being has a right to palliative care in non-triage cases where resources are available. This is not a triage case (the resources are not urgently needed to save the lives of others), and resources have been explicitly offered by third parties. I have seen nothing in any statement by the hospital or any defense by its defenders to show that this is not an egregious example of a human rights abuse. (Indeed, and this is very worrisome, any attempt to press for further clarification on this has been met with active hostility of the "We're Britain, we have one of the best medical systems in the world, how dare you suggest that we are violating anyone's human rights" sort. Getting this kind of response is always, always a glaring red flag that raises immediate questions.)

At one point, Alder Hey removed Alfie's oxygen on the grounds that he would die in short order. After more than half a day, they put him back on oxygen. It is unclear how this wasn't simply bungled, and it raises questions about why it is in Alfie's "best interests" to die in Alder Hey, which apparently watched him gasping for breath for hours, rather than at an Italian hospital, which is willing to continue palliative care. The hospital certainly isn't informative about anything, and provides no morally useful explanation; its communications are always vague bromides and slogans like it's recent one on the failure of the Evans's legal appeal: "Our top priority is to continue to provide Alfie with the care he deserves and to ensure his comfort, dignity and privacy are maintained at this time." How this claim is consistent with any of the hospital's actions is pretty much an unexplained mystery.

That both legal and medical systems will sometimes fail morally is inevitable. It is a grave misfortune and tragedy, and should not be treated glibly. But that is the most depressing aspect of it all, the glibness of all the defenses I have seen -- vacant of any serious consideration for the serious questions of medical ethics that have been raised, smug and self-righteous in the defense of what looks very much like the violation of the rights of the child to palliative care and the protection of his parents, or else an endless smokescreen of bromides and glittering generalities that show no serious critical examination of the issues. There are so many grave ethical questions raised by this case, and the hospital and the courts and their defenders seem to want to treat it all as "emotive nonsense", to use Justice Hayden's description, that will soon blow over. That's not how ethics works. That's not how people with a serious investment in ethics act.

Various Links of Interest

* David Shariatmadari on the Robbers Cave experiment

* The Charles S. Peirce Foundation is collecting funds to mark the poorly marked grave of C. S. Peirce, one of the truly great American philosophers. I'm not hugely impressed by the monument design, but it is absurd that there isn't some kind of monument there already.

* Tom Hendrickson on the value and importance of Neo-Latin.

* Eduardo J. Echeverria, Conscience, Newman, and Vatican II

* Frog and Toad Attend a Philosophy Class at "JSTOR Daily"

* I kept intending and forgetting to mention it, but MrD had a good post a while back on the liberal arts.

* Joseph Heath, Against the racialization of everything, argues that, with respect to Canadian discourse, at least, some problems are such that treating them as racial problem will not give you good solutions, primarily because racial categories are sometimes too crude and clumsy to do justice to actual people.

* Garnette Cadogan, Walking While Black

* ThonyC's discussion of Robert Bellarmine's interactions with Galileo

* Thomas Weinandy, The Four Marks of the Church

* Boxes and Diamonds: An Open Introduction to Modal Logic

* Amandas Ong on Edna St Vincent Millay

* Hannah Arendt on the time she met W. H. Auden

* Robert Pasnau on the parochialism of philosophy

* A very large quantity of copyright material in the U.S. will begin entering the public domain on January 1, 2019

* Evelyn Lamb, Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician

* Tristan Haze on what it is like to be a philosopher. I particularly like the part about the aesthetics of notation, which is an understudied field. Like much of aesthetics, there will always be matters of mere taste, but some aesthetic features of notation (elegance, simplicity, readability, power of summation, manipulability) are clearly linked what makes a notation work well to begin with.

Currently Reading

Sir Walter Scott, Waverley
Antonio Rosmini, Certainty
Magnus Magnusson, Scotland: The Story of a Nation
Dugald Stewart, Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind

Alberto Vanzo, "Empiricism and Rationalism in Nineteenth-Century History of Philosophy" (available here)
Maureen (Molly) Brady, "The Forgotten History of Metes and Bounds" (available here)
Lawrence B. Solum, "Virtue as the End of Law" (available here)
Jonathan Simon & Colin Marshall, "Mendelssohn, Kant, and the Mereotopology of Immortality" (available here)
Christopher Hom, "Pejoratives" (available here)
Gregory Johnson, "From Swedenborg's Spiritual World to Kant's Kingdom of Ends" (available here)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Music on My Mind

The Corries, "Loch Lomond". One of the great folksongs of all time. Sung often, it has many versions, but this is the one that matters. The first published version was in 1841, but it is almost certainly a fair amount earlier than that. It refers to the Jacobite Rising of the Forty-Five.

O well may I weep
for yest're'en in my sleep,
we stood bride and bridegroom together.
But his arms and his breath
were as cold as the death
And his heart's blood ran red in the heather.

As for the chorus, which is the most famous part because it is so striking, nobody has anything but speculation about what 'the high road' and 'the low road' are supposed to mean.

Monday, April 23, 2018

To Define, to Distinguish, or to Supply

In general, it is safe to suppose that, whenever any problem proves intractable, it either needs definition or else bears either several senses, or a metaphorical sense, or it is not far removed from the first principles; or else the reason is that we have yet to discover in the first place just this-in which of the aforesaid directions the source of our difficulty lies: when we have made this clear, then obviously our business must be either to define or to distinguish, or to supply the intermediate premisses: for it is through these that the final conclusions are shown.

Aristotle, Topics VIII.3

St. George's Day

St. George and the Dragon - Briton Riviere

Briton Rivière's "St. George and the Dragon": An interesting twist on standard conventions of representation, to show how exhausting it can be to fight evil.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Fortnightly Book, April 22

Sir Walter Scott originally made his name in poetry, and was in fact offered the office of Poet Laureate, although he turned it down (Southey got it instead). Scott had been researching the traditions of the Scottish Borders for a considerable time, and he seems to have toyed with putting some of it in a fictional form to make it more immediately interesting without finding, for quite a few years, anything that he thought worked. But in 1814 he published, anonymously, an attempt at this: Waverley, or 'Tis Sixty Years Since. He seems to have enjoyed the anonymity, even at times discussing with other people who could possibly have written it, although close readers who were familiar with his poetry recognized the similarity of poetry in the work, so it didn't last very long. The book has been criticized from the beginning for its unevenness, as well as the extremely gradual way in which it builds (e.g., the entire first chapter is about the title). But it became sensationally popular, and it marks a significant turning point in the wholly unexpected twist by which the laureled genre of English literature stopped being the poem and became the novel. Scott himself just liked a rousing story -- he had no pretensions to writing great art in his novels/romances and regularly compared himself negatively to authors like Maria Edgeworth. But posterity has consistently regarded Scott as underselling his talent. He was the first fantastically popular novelist who was also a widely lauded poet, and although he mostly just tossed off his novels, his sense of language was such that for the first time people started taking seriously the full potential of the novelistic romance.

Waverley takes us to Scotland in the Forty-Five. A number of Jacobite risings have already failed, but Bonnie Prince Charlie has come, and the Jacobite future is more promising than it has ever been before. Edward Waverley, a young man with dreams of glory from an English family with Jacobite sympathies, travels north and soon finds himself in the thick of it. We know, of course, that it will all fall apart, but what will happen to Edward when it does? It will all depend on a crucial split-second choice that he makes at the Battle of Prestonpans.

I will be reading Waverley in a Heritage Press (New York) edition. It's a nice-looking book, with tan cover printed with a pattern alternating thistles and crowns. The book itself uses laid paper rather than wove paper -- laid paper has more of a texture because, as the Sandglass says, "the dandy-roll which flattened the wet pulp was equipped with wires which left their impression in parallel lines that are clearly visible when a leaf of the book is held up to the light." The typeface, fittingly enough, is the Waverley typeface; the type has no connection to the novel beyond happening to share the same name, but it works very nicely. The book has illustrations from pencil, both black-and-white and colored, by Robert Ball (not to be confused with the English illustrator Robert Ball).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Poetic Edda; The Saga of the Volsungs and The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok


Opening Passages: From the Voluspa in the Poetic Edda:

Heed my words,
all classes of men,
you greater and lesser
children of Heimdall.
You summoned me, Odin,
to tell what I recall
of the oldest deeds
of gods and men.

From The Saga of the Volsungs:

Here begins the story of Sigi, who was said to be a son of Óðin. Another man named Skaði was also involved in this story. He was powerful and considered a great men, though between the two Sigi was more powerful and considered to be from a better family, according to the opinion of the time.

From The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok:

Now the news came to Heimir in Hlymdalir that Sigurð and Brynhild were dead. Their daughter Áslaug, who was Heimir's foster-daughter, was three years old at the time, and Heimir knew that someone would search for her and try to kill her and wipe out her family line. And he mourned so much for the loss of Brynhild, his foster-daughter, that he could not hold on to his kingdom or his wealth, and he knew that he could not hide the girl there. So he had a huge harp made, and he hid Áslaug inside of it together with many treasures of gold and silver, and then he wandered north through many lands until he came here to Scandinavia.

Summary: Norse myth always has a distinctive atmosphere, and it can be summed up in the notion that Odin the Allfather rules under a doom: he knows that Ragnarok comes, when the armies of Death and Fire will invade, and the Wolf and the Serpent will destroy the gods. Because of this, Odin is somewhat obsessed about learning all he can about the end of the gods, so that he will not be caught by surprise. Many of the more memorable aspects of his depiction stem from this. Odin sends his Valkyries to collect the greatest warriors in the world at the height of their prowess in preparation for that dark day. He sends out his ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory), to gather all the knowledge that he can. He has only one eye, because he traded the other for a drink from Mimir's knowledge-giving well. We see this unfold in the poems of The Poetic Edda. In the Voluspa, Odin summons a volva, a shamaness, to foretell the fates of men and gods. In the 'Runatal' section of the Havamal, Odin speaks of having sacrificed himself to himself by hanging, spear-pierced, from the tree for nine nights in order to discover the runes. In Vafthruthnismal, he engages incognito in a riddle contest with a wise giant, which includes sounding him out about Ragnarok and its aftermath.

But there is a deep undercurrent of humor through it all, sometimes subtle, sometimes earthy. In Harbarthsljoth, Thor trades taunting insults with a ferryman who turns out to be Odin; they are the kinds of joke-taunts men still make today: Odin keeps pretending that Thor looks like a good-for-nothing criminal, they argue over who has slept with the best women and who has fought the best battles, call each other cowards in various creative ways, Thor says he'll give a good beating with his hammer, Odin says he should probably save the hammer for the man who is sleeping with Thor's wife, and so forth. In Lokasenna, Loki gets thrown out of the feast of the gods for killing a slave, and returns to taunt the gods, rather more acidically and maliciously, with a mix of lies and truths. In Thrymskvitha, Thor has to dress up as a bride in order to recover Mjollnir from a thief. In Alvissmal, Thor has to come up with a clever way to prevent a dwarf from marrying Thor's daughter.

The same, both doom and humor, can be found through the heroic poems, and, of course, most of all with the larger-than-life soap opera that is the history of the Volsungs. Odin has a son, Sigi, who has a son, Rerir, who has son, Volsung. Volsung was in his mother's womb for six years, until she began to die and he had to be surgically removed. Volsung is murdered by the king of the Geats (roughly, Swedes), and his children, Signy and Sigmund, as well as their incestuously conceived son Sinfjotli, plot to avenge their father. Sigmund and Sinfjotli, preparing for their task, have adventures as violent outlaws and werewolves until they are finally able to complete the task. By another wife, Borghild, Sigmund has another son, Helgi Hundginsbane, who in some poems will eventually avenge Sigmund's death. Sinfjotli has a quarrel with Borghild's brother about a woman that escalates until Sinfjotli kills him; and then Borghild poisons Sinfjotli. Sigmund will be slain by Odin himself in battle (it is a sign of his prowess that Odin collects Sigmund himself), but not before he has given his second wife, Hjordis, a son, who is Sigurd.

Sigurd will also eventually avenge Sigmund's death, and when he has done so will, of course, slay Fafnir the dragon for Regin, and then Regin himself, becoming wise from eating the dragon's heart and wealthy from the dragon's gold -- but he has thereby meshed himself in a curse that will destroy him. He will meet Brynhild, a Valkyrie, and pledge union with her, but he will be given a potion of oblivion and tricked into winning Brynhild for another man, Gunnar, while Sigurd weds Gudrun, Gunnar's sister. As a wedding gift, Sigurd gives Gudrun some of the dragon's heart, which makes more wise -- but also more cruel. She taunts Brynhild, who thereby discovers that she was tricked, and Brynhild plots her revenge, urging Gunnar to violate his own vows and kill Sigurd. He cannot break his vows directly, but he uses an enchanted brew to get his younger brother Guttorm to do it; Guttorm, of course, will be killed by Sigurd in killing him. Brynhild will also kill Sigurd's son, and immolate herself on a funeral pyre.

Gudrun will go on to marry Atli, that is, Attila, king of the Huns. It will be a very unhappy marriage, and since Gudrun, like the Volsung family she had previously married into, cannot do unhappy like a normal person, the inevitable end result will be Gudrun cooking her sons with Atli and feeding the dish to him, and killing Atli by locking him in his hall and setting it on fire. Some families are dysfunctional; the Volsungs are epically dysfunctional.

Another marriage will follow with a king who is apparently not quite familiar with Gudrun's backstory; she will marry Jonak, a king of the Geats. The daughter of Sigurd and Gudrun, Svanhild, the most beautiful woman in the world, will then be married to Jormunrekk, the king of the Goths, but she will be maliciously accused of adultery with the king's son, and will be executed by being trampled to death by horses. Gudrun will convince her sons by Jonak to avenge Svanhild's death, which they will by cutting off Jonak's hands and feet; but they will be stoned to death in retaliation.

As it turns out, Sigurd and Brynhild had an illegitimate daughter, Áslaug, who will eventually marry a Danish prince, Ragnar, called Lothbrok, "Shaggy Pants", because he had worn shaggy pants to protect him when slaying a dragon. Eirik and Agnar, Ragnar's sons by a previous marriage, die in battle against King Eystein of Sweden, who has a demonic cow whose mooing drives men mad. With some difficulty, Áslaug convinces her own sons to avenge their half-brothers, which they do. Then the sons of Ragnar go a-raiding and keep conquering everything. They are called back when King Ragnar is killed by King Ella while foolishly trying to invade England with two ships. Ívar, the cautious and cunning elder brother, infuriates his brothers when he refuses to aid them in an assault on King Ella. Their assault fails, and Ívar goes to Ella, saying that he will let it all go in return for being well compensated, and Ella does it. Ívar then uses his wealth to become powerful and influential in Ella's kingdom, siphoning off Ella's support, then sends a message to his brothers, who return to avenge their father on the much-weakened Ella. Ívar, of course, stays out of it, thus by one plan becoming even more wealthy and powerful, avenging his father, and fulfilling his oath of peace with his father's killer. The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok has a wonderfully striking ending: many, many years later some Danish sailors end up on an island where they find an ancient wooden idol, forty feet high, and while they are wondering about its history it speaks to them and says that it was set there by the sons of Ragnar.

Except for the tale of Ragnar, I had read much of this before. A few things particularly jumped out at me during this reading. The occasional similarities between the hero Volund and Daedelus, or between Brynhild and Medea, for instance. Another was the artistry of the Volsunga Saga; the author was pulling together from many sources and it is noticeable to emphasize the seams where he doesn't seem to quite pull it together smoothly. The most commonly noted case is the baffling chiasm of events in which Sigurd rides through the fire to meet Brynhild, then later meets Brynhild, apparently for the first time, then later rides through the fire, explicitly for the first time. But this is somewhat misleading, because the craft of it is extraordinary -- little details end up mattering all through the story. The quiet statement about Gudrun becoming not only more clever but more cruel when she tastes the dragon's heart ends up putting all of her later actions into different perspective, and part of the effectiveness is precisely the quietness with which it is done. The saga is filled with examples of this. Even the meeting of Sigurd and Brynhild is carefully structured in such a way that I think there's room to suggest that perhaps the author's problem was not failing to stitch the material together adequately but doing so in a more subtle way than we the readers have been able to follow. As for the tale of Ragnar, it is great fun.

It's interesting, too, the world it depicts: a world of very casual violence in which one's word is held sacred. People would rather murder or be murdered than break their vows,and much of the tragedy of Sigurd lies in the wickedness by which Sigurd is made to break his vows without knowing it. Indeed, it is framed in such a way that it is clear that it is the most tragic part. One thinks of how much of the doom of Asgard is due to the deceptions by which Odin and the gods have maintained it. Such a world in which the greatest horror is to be false, not to die, is foreign to us; we live in the world of Loki, a world of people who will gladly lie and break promises to get not only out of death but out of pain or inconvenience. It is not the most important aspect of reading great literature, but one of the things of value one gets from it is seeing oneself more clearly, for better or for worse, both one's advantages and one's disadvantages, by the contrast with something else entirely. One gets a considerable amount of that here.

Favorite Passages: From Guthrunarkvitha I, in The Poetic Edda:

Then Guthrun,
daughter of Gjuki, wept.
She wept, the tears
poured from her eyes,
and the flock of geese
which she kept outside
screamed loudly
in response. (p. 269)

From The Saga of the Volsungs, a passage that captures the dry, matter-of-fact humor of the sagas at their best:

Sigurð said, "What will happen to me if I get the dragon's blood on me?"

Regin said, "There's just no getting you to do anything, since you're afraid of everything. You are nothing like your departed kinsmen when it comes to courage." Then Regin fled in terror, and Sigurð rode up on Gnitaheið and dug a pit. (p. 31)

From The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok:

The Swedes had a superstition about a cow they called Síbilja. So many sacrifices had been made to this cow that no one could withstand the terrible sounds it made. And it was the king's custom, when he expected war, to let this cow lead his troops, and so much demonic power was in this cow that Eystein's enemies, when they heard it, were driven so crazy that they fought among themselves and did not heed their own friends. And for this reason the Swedes were left in peace, because no man dared to fight against such overwhelming power. (p. 101)

Recommendation: Highly Recommended, all three.


The Poetic Edda, Jackson Crawford, ed. & tr., Hackett (Indianapolis, IN: 2015).

The Saga of the Volsungs, with The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, Jackson Crawford, tr., Hackett (Indianapolis, IN: 2017).

Friday, April 20, 2018

Music on My Mind

Eivør, "Trøllabundin". Trøllabundin means 'ensorcelled' (literally something like 'spellbound'. A galdramaður is a sorceror.

And Ripens Now Into Rhyme

Come, Here Is Adieu To The City
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Come, here is adieu to the city
And hurrah for the country again.
The broad road lies before me
Watered with last night's rain.
The timbered country woos me
With many a high and bough;
And again in the shining fallows
The ploughman follows the plough.

The whole year's sweat and study,
And the whole year's sowing time,
Comes now to the perfect harvest,
And ripens now into rhyme.
For we that sow in the Autumn,
We reap our grain in the Spring,
And we that go sowing and weeping
Return to reap and sing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Idea of a Course

I was thinking recently about an underappreciated philosophical genre: the philosophy course syllabus. Real-life syllabi, of course, have a lot of things in them that are required by the administration, or that are included to reduce the work of the instructor, but the essential core of a syllabus is to give the Idea of a Course -- and, since what we mean by a 'course' is a preliminary course of study, that is the same as to say the Idea of a Preliminary Study of a Topic. Most philosophical genres are concerned with an end result, but there's obviously a value with looking at how one might begin; one finds that similar genres -- lists of favorite books and 'what I'm reading' blogposts -- have a real value to people. So one can imagine a pure syllabus -- all the administrative overlay and encrustation removed, a guide for the student more than a protection for the instructor. It's like the relation between a composer's Mass and a liturgical Mass: the composer's Mass focuses wholly on the musical aspect, and will accomplish the result even if it does not follow the exact liturgical rubrics, or if the rubrics the composer had in mind are out of date, although in principle a properly done composer's Mass could, all things being considered and those things changed that needed to be changed, be adapted to a liturgical Mass, since it is in some sense subordinate to the latter. A great deal of the modern course is a concession to rules that don't have much to do with the topic, although they may sometimes be genuinely necessary or important for practice. Actually teaching a course is more important than some idealized Idea of the Course, but this doesn't mean that the latter is irrelevant; it can serve as a sketch for lines of inquiry.

About five years back I was asked to come up with a course on Jane Austen as a moral philosopher. The course ended up falling through -- a combination of insufficient enrollment and poor administration -- but I did get far enough to start sketching out the first thoughts about how it might work. Perhaps it is worth dusting it off and putting into a bit more shape. Here was my very, very first sketch of possibilities for readings:




Basics of Jane Austen
James Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen, Chapter V
Susan Morgan, “Why There’s No Sex in Jane Austen’s Novels”
(need plot summary handouts)

Why Moral Philosopher
Gilbert Ryle, “Jane Austen and the Moralists”
Philip Drew, “Jane Austen and Bishop Butler”
Thomas Rodham, “Reading Jane Austen as a Moral Philosopher”

Why Revolutionary Aristotelianism
David Gallop, “Jane Austen and the Aristotelian Ethic”
Alasdair MacIntyre, “The Nature of Virtue”

{summary and comparison sheets for: Aristotle, Shaftesbury, Butler, Hume}
Something on novel itself as philosophical?
nb. the role of reading itself in moral education in Austen
MacIntyre on characters?

I. Lady Susan

Virtue, Vice, and Moral Education


Reading Lady Susan as an Argument: The Roots of Social Disintegration and Revolutionary Aristotelianism

II. Sense and Sensibility

Selections from Gilpin on Picturesque Beauty
Dadlez, “Aesthetics and Humean Aesthetic Norms in the Novels of Jane Austen” ??

Phronesis, Prudence, Sense

Kearney, “Jane Austen and the Reason-Feeling Debate” ??
Clyde Ray, "Uncommon Prudence in Sense and Sensibility" ??

Reading Sense and Sensibility as an Argument: The Nature of Happiness
Sarah Emsley, “Sense and Sensibility: ‘Know Your Own Happiness’”
Selections from Aristotle on eudaimonia
Claudia Martin, "Austen's Assimilation of Lockean Ideals"

III. Mansfield Park

Virtue and the Moral Picturesque
Selections from Repton?
Selections from Cowper's "The Task"?

Andreia, Fortitude, Constancy
{need something noting importance of fact that Aristotle's is 'manliness' while Austen, as seen in Anne's comments in Persuasion, associates 'constancy' with women}

Reading Mansfield Park as an Argument: Limits of Sociability as a Foundation for Ethics

Practices and Institutions in Mansfield Park


The references to "Revolutionary" I would drop -- they were a concession to other parties who wanted a more exciting course title than I had originally come up with. The course, being limited by time to a single term, could not cover the full oeuvre. But a pure syllabus doesn't have that problem. So it could be expanded to include the other major works -- Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey. I had forgotten completely aobut it, but I like the idea (for a preliminary course of study) of the abstract structure (which needn't always be chronological), Introduction to X + "Reading X as an Argument" + Relating X to Other Philosophical Discussions. Looking at the first sketch here, I would certainly not have sketched out all the same possibilities were I doing it today. I think the overall Introduction should have its own section on Picturesque Theory, which is probably the most obvious point on which Austen directly relates to actual philosophical discussions; perhaps also a section on Theory of Sensibility, which is another point, recurring through the novels, on which Austen directly engages larger philosophical questions. Discussing the course at the time with Mrs. Darwin, she had made a suggestion of distinguishing philosophical novels from didactic novels, and this seems like a good thing for the introductory as well. (Of course, the introductory material need not all be at the beginning of the course, since some of it might be more appropriate leading into particular novels.) It's also certainly the case that some of the possible candidates, while relevant, would not be best suited to this particular preliminary course of study and have to be culled in favor of focusing on the more valuable materials. While relation to other philosophical discussions is important, it is also important not to collapse the course into mining Austen for things relevant to Aristotle/Hume/Shaftesbury rather than making it a course about Austen's own philosophical work.

I haven't looked recently at whether there is any more recent scholarship relevant to the philosophical content of Austen's courses, but as it's a slow-moving field, I wouldn't expect that it would require much updating. Of course there have been a few potentially useful things -- Whit Stillman's Love and Friendship, which of course is an adaptation of Lady Susan, to take just one example. And not long after all of this was being planned, Sarah Emsley did her online conference on Mansfield Park, any of the material for which might be relevant.

Of course a course should have some kind of project -- not just reading things, but doing something with the readings. One idea idea I had was some kind of guided project on Austen's unfinished work, Sanditon -- essentially, analyze the fragment, write scenes that could be part of a continuation and analyze how they might tie into the argument that she seems to be developing (about moral hypochondria). Another, and one to which I was leaning at the time, was to have them look in some way at one of the major works that was not covered. Obviously this would not in itself be relevant to a course that covered them all, but then you can just open the field and have a project using any of the works. Another suggestion of the Darwins that I liked was to focus the project on the heroes rather than the heroines -- particularly since the obvious route for the readings is to focus on the heroines, which leaves the heroes as an opportunity for exploration. I never got far enough to work out any precise guidelines for such a project; I tend to like highly structure projects, so I would certainly have a project with several stages.

Lots of work that would still be needed to get a finalized pure syllabus; but I think one can see what I mean from the example.