Welcome to the latest incarnation of Maverick Philosopher. This post will remain at the top of the queue to give new and some old readers an idea of what this site is and isn't, what goes on here, and what is not permitted to go on here. Like the site itself, this introductory page is under permanent construction and reconstruction. It will take shape bit by bit over the coming weeks and months.
1. Why 'Maverick Philosopher'? Since I am a philosopher and what is done here is mainly philosophy, it is appropriate that 'philosopher' be in the title. As for 'maverick,' this word derives from the name of the Texas lawyer Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870) who for a time was a rancher who ran cattle that bore no brand. These unbranded animals of his came to be known as mavericks. The term was then extended to cover any unbranded stock and later any person who holds himself aloof from the herd, bears no 'brand,' resists classification, strives to be independent in his thinking or mode of living, is religiously or politically unaffiliated, and the like. (Cf. Robert Hendrickson, QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, p. 473.)
In this entry I expand on my claim that Peter van Inwagen's theory of properties commits him to bare particulars, not in some straw-man sense of the phrase, but in a sense of the phrase that comports with what proponents of bare particulars actually have claimed. I begin by distinguishing among four possible senses of 'bare particular.'
Four Senses of 'Bare Particular'
1. A bare particular is an ordinary concrete particular that lacks properties. I mention this foolish view only to set it aside. No proponent of bare particulars that I am aware of ever intended the phrase in this way. And of course, van Inwagen is not committed to bare particulars in this sense.
2. A bare particular is an ontological constituent of an ordinary concrete particular, a constituent that has no properties. To my knowledge, no proponent of bare particulars ever intended the phrase in this way. In any case, the view is untenable and may be dismissed. Van Inwagen is of course not committed to this view. He is a 'relation' ontologist, not a 'constituent' ontologist.
3. A bare particular is an ontological constituent of an ordinary concrete particular, a constituent that does have properties, namely, the properties associated with the ordinary particular in question, and has them by instantiating (exemplifying) them. This view is held by Gustav Bergmann and by David Armstrong in his middle period. Armstrong, however, speaks of thin particulars rather than bare particulars, contrasting them with thick particulars (what I am calling ordinary concrete particulars). When he does uses 'bare particular,' he uses the phrase incorrectly and idiosyncratically to refer to something like (1) or (2). For example, in Universals and Scientific Realism, Cambridge UP, 1978, vol. I, p. 213, he affirms something he calls the "Strong Principle of the Rejection of Bare Particulars":
For each particular, x, there exists at least one non-relational property, P, such that x is P.
(I should think that the first occurrence of 'P' should be replaced by 'P-ness' despite the unfortunate sound of that.) This principle of Armstrong is plausibly read as a rejection of (1) and (2). It is plainly consistent with (3).
But of course I do not claim that van Inwagen is committed to bare or thin particulars in the sense of (3). For again, van Inwagen is not a constituent ontologist.
4. A bare particular is an ordinary concrete particular that has properties by instantiating them, where instantiation is a full-fledged external asymmetrical relation (not a non-relational tie whatever that might come to) that connects concrete objects to abstract objects, where abstract objects are objects that are not in space, not in time, and are neither causally active nor causally passive.
What is common to (3) and (4) is the idea that bare particulars have properties all right, but they have them in a certain way, by being externally related to them. A bare particular, then, is nothing like an Aristotelian primary substance which has, or rather is, its essence or nature. The bareness of a bare particular, then, consists in its lacking an Aristotle-type nature, not it its lacking properties.
My claim is that van Inwagen is committed to bare particulars in sense (4). Let me explain.
Van Inwagen's Bare Particulars
Consider my cat Max. Van Inwagen is committed to saying that Max is a bare particular. For while Max has properties, these properties are in no sense constituents of him, but lie (stand?) outside him in a realm apart. These properties are in no sense at him or in him or on him, not even such properties as being black or being furry, properties that are plausibly held to be sense-perceivable. After all, one can see black where he is and feel furriness where he is. None of Max's properties, on van Inwagen's construal of properties, are where he is or when he is. As I made clear earlier, the realms of the concrete and the abstract are radically disjoint for van Inwagen. They are jointly exhaustive and mutually exclusive realms: for all x, x is either concrete or abstract, but not both and not neither. So Max is here below in the realm of space, time, change, and causality while his properties exist in splendid isolation up yonder in the realm of abstracta.
Max and his properties are of course connected by instantiation which is a relation that is both external and abstract. In what sense is the relation external? X and y are externally related just in case there is nothing intrinsic about the relata that entails their being related. Max is two feet from me at the moment. This relation of being two feet from is external in that there are no intrinsic properties of me or Max or both that entail our being two feet from each other. Our intrinsic properties would be just the same if we were three feet from each other. But Max and his brother Manny are both black. In virtue of their both being intrinsically black, they stand in the same color as relation. Hence the latter relation is not external but internal. Internal relatedness is supervenient upon the intrinsic features of the relata; external relatedness is not.
Suppose I want to bring it about that two balls have the same color. I need do only two things: paint the one ball red, say, and then paint the other ball red. But if I want to bring it about that there are two balls having the same color ten feet from each other, I have to do three things: paint the one ball red, say; paint the other ball red; place them ten feet from each other. The external relatedness does not supervene upon the intrinsic properties of the relata.
Given that concrete particulars are externally related to their properties, these particular are bare particulars in the sensedefined in #4 above.
And What is Wrong with That?
Suppose you agree with me that van Inwagen's concrete particulars are bare, not in any old sense, but in the precise sense I defined, a sense that comports well with what the actual proponents of bare/thin particulars had in mind. So what? What's wrong with being committed to bare particulars? Well, the consequences seem unpalatable if not absurd.
A. One consequence is that all properties are accidental and none are essential. For if Max is bare, then there is nothing in him or at him or about him that dictates the properties he must instantiate or limits the properties he can instantiate. He can have any old set of properties so long as he has some set or other. Bare particulars are 'promiscuous' in their connection with properties. The connection between particular and property is contingent and all properties are accidental. It is metaphysically (broadly logically) possible that Max combine with any property. He happens to be a cat, but he could have been a poached egg or a valve lifter. He could have had the shape of a cube. Or he might have been a dimensionless point. He might have been an act of thinking (temporal and causally efficacious, but not spatial).
B. A second consequence is that all properties are relational and none are intrinsic. For if Max is black in virtue of standing in an external instantiation relation to the abstract object, blackness, then his being black is a relational property and not an intrinsic one.
C. A third consequence is that none of Max's properties are sense-perceivable. PvI-properties are abstract objects and none of them are perceivable. But if I cup my hands around a ball, don't I literally feel its sphericalness or spheroidness? Or am I merely being appeared to spheroidally?
If I ought to do something, am I obliged to do it? And if I am obliged to do something, is it my duty to do it? I tend to assume the following principle, where A is an agent and X an act or rather act-type such as feed one's children.
P. Necessarily, A morally ought to X iff A is morally obligated to X iff A has a moral duty to X.
The necessity at stake is conceptual; so by my lights (P) is a conceptual truth. But, as if to illustrate that philosophers disagree about every bloody thing under the sun, a correspondent writes:
I don't see that "x is something I ought to do iff x is something I'm morally obligated to do" is a conceptual truth, or even true. [. . .] Non-consequentialist moralities allow room for good deeds that are not obligatory. If helping a stranger is a good deed and you are fully able to perform it without endangering others, then I am quite comfortable recommending to you that you ought to do it. But I am not suggesting you have any duty or an obligation to do so. [. . .] So, you ought to help does not imply you have a duty to help.
I will now try to show that you ought to help does indeed imply that you have a duty to help, assuming that one is not equivocating on 'ought' and is using 'ought' as it is used in (P).
I agree that there are good deeds that are not obligatory. Suppose my neighbor is away when an important-looking package is delivered to his door. I take it into my house for safekeeping until he returns. Surely I am under no obligation, moral or legal, to do such a thing. Yet it is a good deed.
But it does not follow that it is a deed that I ought to do, or that I have a duty to do; it is precisely a supererogatory action, one above and beyond the call of duty. (A supererogatory action can be something as trifling as this, and need not be grand or heroic, but more on this in a separate post on supererogation.) If I ought to X, and I omit to X, then I do something wrong. Therefore, if I ought to pick up my neighbor's package, but omit to do this, then I do something wrong. But obviously I do nothing wrong in leaving my neighbor's package where it lies. Hence it is not the case that I ought to pick up my neighbor's package. Nor do I have any duty to pick up my neighbor's package.
I suspect my correspondent is simply playing fast and loose with 'ought,' a word with several meanings in English. Some examples:
a. 'The car ought to start; I installed a new battery.' This looks to be a non-normative use of 'ought,' one with no relevance to moral theory.
b. 'If you want to get to Tucson from Phoenix by interstate highway, you ought to take I-10 East.' This sentence is a hypothetical imperative, and the subject-matter is morally indifferent.
c. 'If you want to be a successful hit man, then you ought to learn how to kill with a .22 caliber gun.' A second hypothetical imperative. Here the subject-matter is not morally indifferent, but the 'ought' has noting to do with a duty.
d. 'If helping a stranger is a good deed, and one wants to be helpful, then one ought to help.' Another hypothetical imperative, and close to what my correspondent said above. But this use of 'ought' is not the use in principle (P) above.
e. 'You ought to pay your debts.' A categorical imperative, and a morally relevant use of 'ought.' This is the use of 'ought' that is featured in (P) above.
In sum, (P) seems rock-solid and I will continue to adhere to it until someone can instruct me otherwise. But then I ask myself: Am I merely making precise how I shall use the relevant moral words? Is (P) above a merely precisifying, and thus partially stipulative, definition? If so, then ordinary language considerations won't tell against it.
Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things . . . .
And when a writer stoops to 'kinda,' that too is perhaps an indication that it is time to hang up the keyboard.
The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
Sullivan here touches upon a serious problem, that of time apportionment as between serious writing and blogging, which tends to be scribbling of a more ephemeral sort. (If truth be told, almost everything that almost all of us will ever write is of no lasting significance; so it's almost all of it ephemeral scribbling.)
I think it is possible to balance the two if one is willing to write well and in depth about important topics that transcend the fads, fancies, and fatuities of the moment, and eschew the need to post many times per day or even daily. Some of what I write on this blog gets reworked for serious publication. In this way my blogging aids my serious writing. It also aids it by making it less 'academic.' The blogger is forced by his chosen medium to be pithy and direct.
I can't see myself quitting as long as health and eyesight hold out. Blogging is just too deeply satisfying.
For one thing it satisfies the need to teach of someone who hated most classroom teaching. Philosophy is a magnificent, beautiful, and noble thing, but it is wasted on the typical undergraduate. In a class of 35, five might be worth teaching. And I taught at good schools. That is one of the reasons I resigned a tenured position at the age of 41. If you are reading this, you want to be here, and I'm glad to have you.
Second, blogging attracts the like-minded. Isolation is relieved and friendships are made, the genuine friendships of spiritual affinity as opposed to the superficial ones of mere propinquity. Ralph Waldo Emerson would have been a blogger for sure. "The good of publishing one's thoughts is that of hooking you to like-minded men, and of giving to men whom you value . . . one hour of stimulated thought." (Bliss Perry, The Heart of Emerson's Journals, p. 94.)
Third, blogging is superior to private journal writing because the publicity of it forces one to develop one's ideas more carefully and more thoroughly.
Fourth, the blogger has a reach that far exceeds that of the person who publishes in conventional ways.
What follows is a paper by Jannai Shields, posted with his permission, together with some comments of mine. I will make my comments as time permits and not all in one session. Others are invited to add their comments in the ComBox.
On the Individuation of Tropes
Trope theorists see their view as a happy middle ground between nominalism and universalism. It is not too hot or too cold; it’s just right. It does not scandalously posit entities that are said to be simultaneously in multiple places, like universalism. And, at least at first blush, it does not seem to be plagued by an appeal to a primitive notion of resemblance, like some prominent versions of nominalism.
BV: 'Universalism' is used in more than one way in ontology alone. So I would like to see a definition of this term right at the outset of the paper. I take it that universalism as here intended is the doctrine that there are universals. But what exactly are universals? Here too a definition would be helpful. And please note that a commitment to universals does not bring with it a commitment to entities that are wholly present in multiple places. For example, van Inwagen thinks of properties as universals but, eschewing as he does constituent ontology, does not view them as present in the things that have them.
One distinction that needs to be made is that between transcendent and immanent universals. A transcendent (immanent) universal is one that can (cannot) exist unexemplified. A second needed distinction is between universals that enter into the structure of the things that have them and those that don't. Call the first constituent universals; call the second nonconstituent universals. The two distinction-pairs cut perpendicular to each other yielding four combinatorially possible views according to which properties are: (a) transcendent non-constituent universals (Peter van Inwagen, e.g., if we leave aside haecceities); (b) immanent non-constituent universals (e.g., R. Grossmann); (c) immanent constituent universals (e.g., G. Bergmann, D. Armstrong); (d) transcendent constituent universals.
1. One's right to express an opinion brings with it an obligation to form correct opinions, or at least the obligation to make a sincere effort in that direction. The right to free speech brings with it an obligation to exercise the right responsibly.1
2. Free speech is rightly valued, not as a means to making the world safe for pornography, but as a means to open inquiry and the pursuit of truth.
3. Although free speech and free expression generally are correctly valued mainly as means to open inquiry and the pursuit, acquisition, and dissemination of truth, it does not follow that some free expression is not a value in itself.
4. The more the populace is addicted to pornography, the less the need for the government to censor political speech. A tyrant is therefore well advised to keep the people well supplied with bread, circuses, and that 'freedom of expression' that allows them to sink, and remain, in the basest depths of the merely private where they will pose no threat to the powers that be.
5. One who defends the right to free speech by identifying with adolescent porno-punks and nihilists of the Charlie Hebdo ilk only succeeds in advertising the fact that he doesn't understand why this right is accorded the status of a right.
6. The free speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States constitution protects the citizen's right to free expression from infringement by the government, not from infringement by any old entity. My home is my castle; you have no First Amendment rights here, or at my cybercastle, my weblog. So it is no violation of your First Amendment rights if I order you off of my property because of your offensive speech or block you from leaving stupid or vile comments at my website. It is impossible in principle for me to violate your First Amendment rights: I am not the government or an agent thereof. And the same holds at your (private) place of work: you have no First Amendment rights there.
7. The First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press -- call them collectively the First Amendment right to free expression -- is not the same as the right to free expression. If the latter is a natural right, as I claim that it is, then one has it whether or not there is any First Amendment. The First Amendment is a codicil to a document crafted by human beings. It has a conventional nature. The right to free speech, however, is natural. Therefore, the First Amendment right to free expression is not the same as the right to free expression. Second, the right to free expression, if a natural right, is had by persons everywhere. The FA, however, protects citizens of the U.S. against the U. S. government. Third, the First Amendment in its third clause affords legal protection to the natural moral right to free expression. A right by law is not a natural right. Ergo, etc.
8. The right of free expression is a natural right. Can I prove it? No. Can you prove the negation? No. But we are better off assuming it than not assuming it.
9. To say that the right to free expression is a natural right is not to say that it is absolute. For the exercise of this right is subject to various reasonable and perhaps even morally obligatory restrictions, both in public and in private. There are limits on the exercise of the right in both spheres, but one has the right in both spheres. To have an (exercisable) right is one thing, to exercise it another, and from the fact that one has the right it does not follow that one has the right to its exercise in every actual and possible circumstance. If you say something I deem offensive in my house, on my blog, or while in my employ, then I can justifiably throw you out, or shut you up, or fire you and you cannot justify your bad behavior by invocation of the natural right to free speech. And similarly in public: the government is justified in preventing you from from shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater, to use the hackneyed example. You are not thereby deprived of the right; you are deprived of the right to exercise the right in certain circumstances.
10. The restraint and thoughtfulness exhibited in a responsible exercise of one's right to free speech is not well described as 'self-censorship' given the pejorative connotations of 'censorship.'
11. To suppose that government censorship can never be justified is as extreme as the view that the right to free speech is absolute.
12. It is silly to say, as many do, that speech is 'only speech.' Lying speech that incites violence is not 'just' speech' or 'only words.'
1If one cannot be obliged to do that which one is unable to do, then there cannot be a general obligation to form correct opinions.
I had a new thought this morning, new for me anyway. It occurred to me that the familiar use-mention distinction can and should be applied to images, including cartoons. I recently posted a pornographic Charlie Hebdo cartoon that mocks in the most vile manner imaginable the Christian Trinity. A reader suggested that I merely link to it. But I wanted people to see how vile these nihilistic Charlie Hebdo porno-punks are and why it is a mistake to stand up for free speech by lying down with them, and with other perpetual adolescents of their ilk. Those who march under the banner Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie) are not so much defending free speech as advertising their sad lack of understanding as to why it is accorded the status of a right.
So it occurred to me that the use-mention distinction familiar to philosophers could be applied to a situation like this. To illustrate the distinction, consider the sentences
'Nigger' is disyllabic. The use of 'nigger,' like the use of 'kike' is highly offensive. Niggers and kikes are often at one another's throats.
In the first two sentences, 'nigger' and 'kike' are mentioned, not used; in the third sentence, 'nigger' and 'kike' are used, not mentioned.
Please note that nowhere in this post do I use 'nigger' or 'kike.'
I chose these examples to explain the use-mention distinction in order to maintain the parallel between offensive words and offensive pictures.
Suppose someone asserts the first two sentences but not the third. No reasonable person could take offense at what the person says. For what he would be saying is true. But someone who asserts the third sentence could be reasonably taken to have said something offensive.
Jerry Coyne concludes a know-nothing response to a review by Alvin Plantinga of a book by Philip Kitcher with this graphic:
Coyne added a caption: AL-vinnn! Those of a certain age will understand the caption from the old Christmas song by the fictitious group, Alvin and the Chipmunks, from 1958. ( A real period piece complete with a reference to a hula hoop.)
Here's my point. Coyne uses the image to the left to mock Plantinga whereas I merely display it, or if you will, mention it (in an extended sense of 'mention') in order to say something about the image itself, namely, that it is used by the benighted Coyne to mock Plantinga and his views.
No one could reasonably take offense at my reproduction of the image in the context of the serious points I am making.
Likewise, no one could reasonably take offense at my reproduction of the following graphic which I display here, not to mock the man Muslims consider to be a messenger of the god they call Allah, but simply to display the sort of image they find offensive, and that I too find offensive, inasmuch as it mocks religion, a thing not to be mocked, even if the religion in question is what Schopenhauer calls "the saddest and poorest form of theism."
By the way, journalists should know better than to refer to Muhammad as 'The Prophet.' Or do they also refer to Jesus as 'The Savior' or 'Our Lord' or 'Son of God'?
Ready now? This is what CNN wouldn't show you. Hardly one of the more offensive of the cartoons. They wouldn't show it lest Muslims take offense.
My point, again, is that merely showing what some benighted people take offense at is not to engage in mockery or derision or any other objectively offensive behavior.
Suppose there are two groups, the As and the Bs. Some of the As are really bad actors. And some of the Bs are as well. But most of the members of both groups are tolerably well-behaved. Suppose there is a third group, the Cs. Some of the Cs comment on the bad behavior of the bad actors among the As and the Bs. But they comment in two very different ways. These commenting Cs attribute the bad behavior of the bad actors among the As to their being As,while they attribute the bad behavior of the bad actors among the Bs, not to their being Bs, but to factors that have nothing to do with their being Bs. The commentators among the Cs can be said to apply a double standard in respect of the As and the Bs as regards the etiology of their bad behavior. They employ one standard of explanation for the As, a different one for the Bs.
That's the schema, presented schematically. Instances of the schema are not hard to locate.
Consider cops, Muslims, and lefties. (Some leftists will complain about 'leftie' which I admit is slightly derisive. But these same people do not hesitate to refer to conservatives as teabaggers, right-wing nutjobs, etc., terms which are not just slightly derisive. Here then is another double standard. "We can apply any epithet we like to you, but you must always show us respect!" But I digress.)
So you've got your cops, your Muslims, and your lefties. The behavior of bad cops -- and there are such without a doubt -- is said by many lefties to derive from something 'institutional' or 'systemic' such as 'systemic racism.' Cops are racists qua cops, if not by nature, then by their professional acculturation in 'racist Amerika.' But the bad behavior of some Muslims, such as committing mass murder by driving jumbo jets into trade towers, or slaughtering those, such as the Charlie Hebdo porno-punks, who 'diss' their prophet, does not derive from anything having to do with Muslims qua Muslims such as their adherence to Muslim beliefs. A spectacular example is the case of Nidal Malik Hasan, the 2009 Fort Hood shooter who killed 13 people and wounded many more. His deed was dismissed by the Obama Administration as 'work place violence' when it was quite clearly a terrorist act motivated by Islamist beliefs. Wikipedia:
Once, while presenting what was supposed to be a medical lecture to other psychiatrists, Hasan talked about Islam, and said that, according to the Koran, non-believers would be sent to hell, decapitated, set on fire, and have burning oil poured down their throats. A Muslim psychiatrist in the audience raised his hand, and challenged Hasan's claims. According to the Associated Press, Hasan's lecture also "justified suicide bombings." In the summer of 2009, after completion of his programs, he was transferred to Fort Hood.
So here we have a double standard, an unjustified double standard. (Are double standards by definition unjustified? This is something to explore.)
Of course, there is a lot more to be said on this delightful topic. For example, police brutality does not derive from the professional training that cops receive. They are not trained to hunt down and kill "unarmed black teenagers" who are harmlessly walking down the street or "children" on the way to the candy store. But Muslim terrorism does derive from Muslim teachings. Not all Muslims are terrorists, of courses, but the terrorism of those Muslims who are terrorists is not accidental to their being Muslims.
Note the difference between
A Muslim who is a terrorist is not a true Muslim
A cop who is corrupt is not a true cop.
The first sentence is a clear example of the the No True Scotsman Fallacy. The second is not. Why not? Well, there is nothing in the cop-role that requires that a person who plays that role be corrupt. Quite to the contrary. But there is something in the Muslim-role, or at least the Muslim-role as presented by many teachers of Islam, that requires that players of this role make jihad against the infidel.
In Chapter 42 of his Essays, Montaigne remarks that
We praise a horse for its strength and speed, not on account of its harness; a greyhound for its swiftness and not its collar; a hawk for its wing and not for its jesses and bells. Why then do we not value a man for what is his? . . . If you bargain over a horse, you remove its trappings, you see it bare and uncovered . . . . Why, when estimating a man, do you estimate him all wrapped and muffled up? . . . We must judge him by himself, not by his attire. (Tr. E. J. Trechmann)
I am tempted to agree by saying what I once said to my mother when she told me that clothes make the man, namely, that if clothes make the man, then the kind of man that clothes make is not the kind of man I want to be. (Women are undeniably more sensitive than men to the fact that the world runs on appearances. They have a deep intuitive understanding of the truth that the Germans express when they say, Der Schein regiert die Welt.)
But there is another side to the problem, one that the excellent Montaigne ignores. A horse does not choose its bit and harness, but has them imposed on it. A man, however, chooses how he will appear to his fellows, and so choosing makes a statement as to his values and disvalues. It follows that there is some justification in judging by externals. For the externals we choose, unlike the externals imposed on a horse, are defeasible indicators of what is internal. In the case of human beings, the external is not merely external: the external is also an expression of the internal. Our outer trappings express our attitudes and beliefs, our allegiances and alignments.
But enough philosophy! On to some tunes. We get things off to a rousing start this fine Saturday evening with
ZZ Top, Sharp-Dressed Man. This one goes out to Mike Valle who is definitely strutting his sartorial stuff these days.
This entry is a summary and critique of Peter van Inwagen's "A Theory of Properties," an article which first appeared in 2004 and now appears as Chapter 8 of his Existence: Essays in Ontology (Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 153-182.) Andrew Bailey has made it available on-line. (Thanks Andrew!) I will be quoting from the Existence volume. I will also be drawing upon material from other articles in this collection. This post is a warm-up for a review of the book by me commissioned by a European journal. The review wants completing by the end of February. Perhaps you can help me. Comments are enabled for those who know this subject.
1. The Abstract and the Concrete.
Platonism is "the thesis that there are abstract objects." (153) Van Inwagen uses 'object' synonomously with 'thing,' 'item,' and 'entity.' (156) Everything is an object, which is to say: everything exists. Thus there are no nonexistent objects, pace Meinong. There are two categories of object, the abstract and the concrete. These categories are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. Thus for any x, x is either abstract or concrete, but not both, and not neither. Van Inwagen is a bit coy when it comes to telling us what 'abstract' and concrete' mean; he prefers a roundabout way of introducing these terms. He stipulates that the terms and predicates of ordinary, scientific, and philosophical discourse can be divided into two mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive classes. The denotata of the members of these two classes of terms and predicates, if they have denotata, are concrete and abstract objects. Thus 'table,' 'God,' and 'intelligent Martian,' if they pick out anything, pick out concreta, while 'number,' 'the lion,' (as in 'The lion is of the genus Felis') and 'sentence' (as in 'The same sentence can express different propositions in different contexts'), pick out abstracta. (154) (See footnote * below)
Van Inwagen holds that platonism is to be avoided if at all possible. On platonism, there are abstract objects. This characteristic thesis does not entail, but it is consistent with, the proposition that there are also concrete objects. Van Inwagen is a platonist who accepts both abstract and concrete objects but thinks we would be better of if we could avoid commitment to abstract objects. Why? Well, apart from considerations of parsimony, the difference between members of the two categories is abysmal (my word): "the differences between God and this pen pale into insignificance when they are compared with the differences between this pen and the number 4 . . . ." (156) Such a radical difference is puzzling. So it would be preferable if the category of abstracta were empty. That the category of concreta cannot be empty is obvious: we know ourselves to be concreta. (157) Van Inwagen goes on to belabor the point that the things we can say about concrete things are practically endless, while little can be said about abstracta.
In short, reality, unlike ancient Gaul, "is divided into two parts . . . ." (158, emphasis added). The two parts of reality are radically disjoint. Everything is either abstract or concrete, nothing is both, and nothing is neither. Among the abstracta are instantiated properties. Instantiation or 'having' would seem to forge a connection between the disjoint realms. But the instantiation relation is "abstract and external." (206, 242) So it too resides in the realm of abstracta and hence (as it seems to me) does nothing to mitigate the radical dualism or span the abyss that yawns between reality's two parts. So if we could eke by without abstracta, that would be preferable. But we cannot manage without them, says van Inwagen. (158)
2. Why We Need Abstract Objects.
The short reason is that we need them because we need properties, and properties are one sort of abstract object, along with propositions and "proper relations." (240) A proper relation is a relation whose adicity is two or more; van Inwagen thinks of properties as one-place relations and propositions as zero-place relations. Every abstract object is a relation (a relation-in-intension) in the broad or improper sense, and everything else is a substance, a concrete object. (239)
But why do we need properties? We need properties because things have common features. The class of humans, for example, has something in common. This appears to be an existential claim: there is something, humanity, that the members of this class share. Platonists take the appearance at face value while nominalists maintain that the appearance is a mere appearance such that in reality there are no properties. How do we decide the issue that divides the platonists and the nominalists? Here van Inwagen is referring to what he calls "austere" nominalists, the nominalists more standardly called extreme: those who deny that there are properties at all. There are also the nominalists van Inwagen calls "luxuriant" nominalists, the ones more standardly called moderate: those who admit the existence of tropes or individual accidents or particularized properties. (203, 203 fn 5) The extreme nominalist denies that there are properties at all -- a lunatic view if I may inject my opinion -- while the moderate nominalists admit properties but deny that they are universals. Platonists are not austere nominalists because they accept properties; they are not luxuriant nominalists because they accept universals.
3. Van Inwagen's Method.
The method derives from Quine. We start with the beliefs we already have, couched in the sentences we already accept. We then see if these sentences commit us to properties. We do this by translating these sentences into "the canonical language of quantification." (160) If we need to quantify over properties for the sentences we accept as true to count as true, then we are ontologically committed to the existence of properties. If, on the other hand, we can 'paraphrase away' the apparent reference to properties in the sentences we accept that appear to refer to properties, then the ontological commitment is merely apparent.
Van Inwagen's main idea here is that our discourse commits us to quantification over properties, and thus to the existence of properties. We deduce the existence of properties from certain sentences we accept. The argument is not epistemological: it does not seek to provide evidence for the existence of properties. Nor is it transcendental, or an inference to the best explanation. (167) The operative methodological principle, if there is one, is only this: "if one does not believe that things of a certain sort exist, one shouldn't say anything that demonstrably implies that things of that sort exist." (167)
Example. We accept 'Spiders share some of the anatomical features of insects.' (159) This says nothing different from 'There are anatomical features that insects have and spiders also have.' This then is translated into canonical English. I will spare you the rigmarole. The upshot is that there are anatomical features. Hence there are properties.
The most promising way of rebutting platonism so derived is by finding a paraphrase of the original sentence that says the same thing but does not even seem to commit its acceptor to properties. (The nominalists would of course have to do this for every sentence proposed by platonists that supposedly commits its users to abstracta.) Van Inwagen, predictably, argues against the paraphrastic way out. Nominalist paraphrases are not to be had. (164-167)
4. Van Inwagen's Theory of Properties.
Given that there are properties, what are they like? What are the properties of properties? To specify them is the task of a theory of properties. What follows is my list, not his, but gleaned from what he writes. Properties are
a. abstract objects, as we have already seen. As abstract, properties are non-spatiotemporal and causally inert. (207) Better: abstract objects are categorially such as to be neither causally active nor causally passive.
b. universals, as we have already gleaned, with the exception of haecceities such as the property of being identical to Plantinga. (180) Van Inwagen has no truck with tropes. (241) See my Peter van Inwagen's Trouble with Tropes.
c. the entities that play the property role. And what role would that be? This is the role "thing that can be said of something." It is a special case of the role "thing that can be said." (175) Properties are things that can be said of or about something. Propositions are things that can be said, period, or full stop.
d. unsaturated assertibles. Things that can be said are assertibles. They are either unsaturated, in which case they are properties, or saturated, in which case they are propositions.
e. necessary beings. (207)
f. not necessarily instantiated. Many properties exist uninstantiated.
g. not all of them instantiable. Some unsaturated assertibles are necessarily uninstantiated, e.g., what is said of x if one says 'x is both round and square.'
h. such that the usual logical operations apply to them. (176) Given any two assertibles, whether saturated or unsaturated, there is 'automatically' their conjunction and their disjunction. Given any one assertible, there is 'automatically' its negation.
i. abundant, not sparse. There is a property corresponding to almost every one-place open sentence with a precise meaning. The 'almost' alludes to a variant of Russell's paradox that van Inwagen is fully aware of but that cannot be discussed here. (243) Thus, contra David Armstrong, it is not the task of what the latter calls "total [empirical] science" to determine what properties there are. Perhaps we could say that properties for van Inwagen are logical fallout from one-place predicates. (My phrase) But since properties are necessary beings, there are all the properties there might have been; hence they 'outrun' actual one-place predicates. (My way of putting it.)
j. not parts or constituents in any sense of the concrete things that have them. Indeed, it makes no sense to say that an assertible is a part of a concrete object. And although properties or unsaturated assertibles are universals, it makes no sense that such an item is 'wholly present' in concrete objects. (178) Concrete things are 'blobs' in David Armstrong's sense. They lack ontological structure. "Their only constituents are their parts, their parts in the strict and mereological sense." (243)
k. not more basic ontologically than the things whose properties they are. A concrete thing is not a bundle or cluster of properties. The very suggestion is senseless on van Inwagen's scheme. A property is an unsaturated assertible. It is very much like a Fregean (objective) concept or Begriff, even though van Inwagen does not say this in so many words. (But his talk of unsaturatedness points us back to Frege.) Clearly it would be senseless to think of a dog as a bundle of Fregean concepts. That which can be truly said of a thing like a dog, that it is furry, for example, is no part of the critter. (178-79)
I should point out that while talk of saturated and unsaturated assertibles conjures the shade of Frege, van Inwagen has no truck with Frege's concept-object dichotomy according to which no concept is an object, no object is a concept, and the concept horse is not a concept. You could say, and I mean no disrespect, that he 'peters out' with respect to this dichotomy: "I do not understand the concept-object distinction. The objects I call properties are just that: objects." (206, fn 11)
l. are not objects of sensation. (179) To put it paradoxically, and this is my formulation, not van Inwagen's, such perceptual properties as being blue and being oval in shape are not perceptible properties. One can see that a coffee cup is blue, but one cannot literally see the blueness of the coffee cup.
My readers will know that almost everything (of a substantive and controversial nature) that van Inwagen maintains, I reject and for reasons that strike me as good. Ain't philosophy grand?
I'll begin the critique with the last point. "We never see properties, although we see that certain things have certain properties." (179) If van Inwagen can 'peter out,' so can I: I honestly don't know what to make of the second clause of the quoted sentence. I am now, with a brain properly caffeinated, staring at my blue coffee cup in good light. Van Inwagen's claim is that I do not see the blueness of the cup, though I do see that the cup is blue. Here I balk. If I don't see blueness, or blue, when I look at the cup, how can I see (literally see, with the eyes of the head, not the eye of the mind) that the cup is blue?
'That it is blue' is a thing that can be said of the cup, and said with truth. This thing that can be said is an unsaturated assertible, a property in van Inwagen's sense. Van Inwagen is telling us that it cannot be seen. 'That the cup is blue' is a thing that can be said, full stop. It is a saturated assertible, a proposition, and a true one at that. Both assertibles are abstract objects. Both are invisible, and not because of any limitation in my visual power or in human visual power in general, but because abstract objects cannot be terms of causal relations, and perception involves causation. Both types of assertible are categorially disbarred from visibility. But if both the property and the proposition are invisible, then how can van Inwagen say that "we see that certain things have certain properties"? What am I missing?
How can he say that we don't see the property but we do see the proposition? Both are abstract and invisible. How is it that we can see the second but not the first? Either we see both or we see neither. If van Inwagen says that we don't see the proposition, then what do we see when we see that the cup is blue? A colorless cup? A cup that is blue but is blue in a way different from the way the cup is blue by instantiatiating the abstract unsaturated assertible expressed by 'that it is blue'? But then one has duplicated at the level of abstracta the property that one sees at the concrete cup. If there is blueness at the cup and abstract blueness in Plato's heaven, why do we need the latter? Just what is going on here?
To van Inwagen's view one could reasonably oppose the following view. I see the cup (obviously!) and I see blueness at the cup (obviously!) I don't see a colorless cup. To deny the three foregoing sentences would be to deny what is phenomenologically given. What I don't literally see, however, is that the cup is blue. (Thus I don't literally see what van Inwagen says we literally see.) For to see that the cup is blue is to see the instantiation of blueness by the cup. And I don't see that. The correlate of the 'is' in 'The cup is blue' is not an object of sensation. If you think it is, tell me how I can single it out, how I can isolate it. Where in the visual field is it? The blueness is spread out over the visible surfaces of the cup. The cup is singled out as a particular thing on the desk, next to the cat, beneath the lamp, etc. Now where is the instantiation relation? Point it out to me! You won't be able to do it. I see the cup, and I see blue/blueness where the cup is. I don't see the cup's BEING blue.
It is also hard to understand how van Inwagen, on his own assumptions, can maintain that we see that certain things have certain properties. Suppose I see that Max, a cat of my acquaintance, is black. Do I see a proposition? Not on van Inwagen's understanding of 'proposition.' His propositions are Fregean, not Russellian: they are not resident in the physical world. Do I see a proposition-like entity such as an Armstrongian state of affairs? Again, no. What do I see?
Van Inwagen claims that properties are not objects of sensation; no properties are, not even perceptual properties. I should think that some properties are objects of sensation, or better, of perception: I perceive blueness at the cup by sight; I perceive smoothness and hardness and heat at the cup by touch. If so, then (some) properties are not abstract objects residing in a domain unto themselves.
Van Inwagen's view appears to have the absurd consequence that things like coffee cups are colorless. For if colors are properties (179) and properties are abstract objects, and abstract objects are colorless (as they obviously are), then colors are colorless, and whiteness is not white and blueness is not blue. Van Inwagen bites the bullet and accepts the consequence. But we can easily run the argument in reverse: Blueness is blue; colors are properties; abstract objects are colorless; ergo, perceptual properties are not abstract objects. They are either tropes or else universals wholly present in the things that have them. Van Inwagen, a 'relation ontologist' cannot of course allow this move into 'constituent ontology.'
There is a long footnote on p. 242 that may amount to a response to something like my objection. In the main text, van Inwagen speaks of "such properties as are presented to our senses as belonging to the objects we sense . . . ." How does this square with the claim on p. 179 that properties are not objects of sensation? Can a property such as blueness be presented to our senses without being an object of sensation? Apparently yes, "In a noncausal sense of 'presented.'" (243, fn 3)
How does this solve the problem? It is phenomenologically evident that (a definite shade of) blue appears to my senses when I stare at my blue coffee cup. Now if this blueness is an abstract object as van Inwagen claims then it cannot be presented to my senses any more than it can be something with which I causally interact.
2. But Is This Ontology?
Why does van Inwagen think he is doing ontology at all? It looks more like semantics or philosophical logic or philosophy of language. I say this because van Inwagen's assertibles are very much like Fregean senses. They are intensional items. (As we noted, he reduces all his assertibles to relations-in-intension.) Taking his cue from Quine, he seeks an answer to the question, What is there? He wants an inventory, by category, of what there is. He wants to know, for example, whether in addition to concrete things there are also properties, as if properties could exist in sublime disconnection from concrete things in a separate sphere alongside this sublunary sphere. That no property is an object of sensation is just logical fallout from van Inwagen's decision to install them in Plato's heaven; but then their connection to things here below in space and time become unintelligible. It does no good, in alleviation of this unintelligibility, to say that abstract blueness -- the unsaturated assertible expressed by 'that it is blue' -- is instantiated by my blue cup. For instantiation is just another abstract object, a dyadic external relation, itself ensconced in Plato's heaven.
But not only the formulation of the question but also the method of attack come from Quine. Van Inwagen thinks he can answer what he and Quine idiosyncratically call the ontological question by examining the ontological commitments of our discourse. Starting with sentences we accept as true, he looks to see what these sentences entail as regards the types of entity there are when the sentences are properly regimented in accordance with the structures of modern predicate logic with identity.
The starting point is not things in their mind- and language-independent being, but beliefs we already have and sentences we already accept. The approach is oblique, not direct; subjective, not objective. Now to accept a sentence is to accept it as true; but a sentence accepted as true need not be true. Note also that if one sentence entails another, both can be false. So if sentences accepted as true entail the existence of properties in van Inwagen's sense, according to which properies are unsaturated assertibles, it is logically possible that there be no properties in reality. The following is not a contradiction: The sentences we accept as true entail that there are properties & There are no properties. For it may be -- it is narrowly-logically possible that -- the sentences we accept as true that entail that there are properties are all of them false. Not likely, of course, and there may be some retorsive argument against this possibility. But it cannot be ruled out by logic alone.
So there is something fishy about the whole method of 'ontological' commitment. One would have thought that ontology is concerned with the Being of beings, not with the presuppositions of sentences accepted as true by us. To put it vaguely, there is something 'transcendental' (in the Kantina sense) and 'subjective' and 'modern' about van Inwagen's Quinean method that unsuits it for for something that deserves to be called ontology.
This is connected with the point that van Inwagen's assertibles, saturated and unsaturated, are hard to distinguish from Fregean senses. They are denizens of Frege's Third Reich or Third World if you will, not his First Reich, the realm of primary reference. To illustrate: Venus is an item in the First World, while the senses of 'Morning Star' and 'Evening Star' and the sense of the sentence 'The Morning Star is the Evening Star' are three items all in the Third World. Senses, however, are logico-semantic items: their job is to mediate reference. Van Inwagen is arguably just hypostatizing items that are needed for us to secure reference -- whether thinking reference or linguistic reference -- to things that truly exist extramentally and extralinguistically.
Again, this is vague and sketchy. But good enough for a weblog entry! Is think my Czech scholastic friends will know what I am driving at.
3. Van Inwagen's Ostrich Realism and Commitment to Bare Particulars
Van Inwagen rejects both extreme and moderate nominalism. So he can't possibly be an ostrich nominalist. He is, however, as he himself appreciates, an ostrich realist or ostrich platonist. (214-15)
Suppose Max is black. What explains the predicate's being true of Max? According to the ostrich nominalist, nothing does. It is just true of him. There is nothing in or about Max that serves as the ontological ground of the correctness of his satisfying the predicate. Now 'F' is true of a iff 'a is F' is true. So we may also ask: what is the ontological ground of the truth of 'Max is black'? The ostrich reply will be: nothing. The sentence is just true. There is no need for a truth-maker.
The ostrich realist/platonist says something very similar except that in place of predicates he puts abstract properties, and in place of sentences he puts abstract propositions. In virtue of what does Max instantiate blackness? In virtue of nothing. He just instantiates it. Nothing explains why the unsaturated assertible expressed by 'x is black' is instantiated by Max. Nothing explains it because there is nothing to explain. And nothing explains why the saturated assertible expressed by 'Max is black' is true. Thus there is nothing concrete here below that could be called a state of affairs in anything like Armstrong's sense. There is in the realm of concreta no such item as Max-instantiating-blackness, or the concrete fact of Max's being black.
Here below there is just Max, and up yonder in a topos ouranos are 'his' properties (the abstract unsaturated assertibles that he, but not solely, instantiates). But then Max is a bare particular in one sense of this phrase, though not in Gustav Bergmann's exact sense of the phrase. (Bergmann is a constituent ontologist.) In what sense, then?
A bare particular is not a particular that has no properties in any sense of 'having properties'; a bare particular is a particular that has properties, but has them in a certain way: by being externally related to them. Thus bare particulars, unlike Aristotelean substances, have neither natures nor essences. Indeed, the best way to understand what a bare particular is is by contrast with the primary substances of Aristotle. These concrete individuals have natures by being (identically) natures: they are not externally related to natures that exist serenely and necessarily in Plato's heaven.
In this sense, van Inwagen's concrete things are bare particulars. There are no properties 'in' or 'at' Max; there are no properties where he is and when he is. What's more, on van Inwagen's scheme -- one he shares with Chisholm, Plantinga, et al. -- Max can only be externally related to his properties. This has the consequence that all of Max's properties are accidental. For if x, y are externally related, then x can exist without y and y can exist without x. So Max can exist without being feline just as he can exist without being asleep.
Could Max have been a poached egg? It is narrowly-logically possible. For if he has all of his properties externally, then he has all of his properties accidentally. Even if it is necessary that he have some set of properties or other, there is no necessity that he have any particular set. If properties are externally related to particulars, then any particular can have any set of properties so long as it has some set or other.
If you deny that concrete things are bare in the sense I have explained, then you seem to be committed to saying that there are two sorts of properties, PvI-properties in Plato's heaven and 'sublunary' properties at the particulars here below. But then I will ask two questions. First, what is the point of introducing PvI-properties if they merely duplicate at the abstract intensional level the 'real' properties in the sublunary sphere? Second, what justifies calling PvI-properties properties given that you still are going to need 'sublunary' properties to avoid saying that van Inwagen's concreta are bare particulars?
One can say of a thing that it might not have existed. For example, I can say this of myself. If so, it must be possible to say of a thing that it exists. For example, it must be possible for me to say of myself that I exist. As van Inwagen remarks, "it is hard to see how there could be such an assertible as 'that it might not have existed' if there were no such assertible as 'that it exists.'" (180) Existence, then, is a property, says van Inwagen, for properties are unsaturated assertibles, and 'that it exists' is an assertible.
There are many problems with the notion that existence is a first-level property on a van Inwagen-type construal of properties. Instantiation for van Inwagen is a full-fledged dyadic relation. (It is not a non-relational tie or Bergmannian nexus). He further characterizes it as abstract and external as we have seen. Now it is perfectly obvious to me that the very existence of Socrates cannot consist in his instantiation of any PvI-type property, let alone the putative property, existence. For given the externality of the instantiation relation, both Socrates and the putative property must 'already' exist for said relation to hold between them. So one moves in an explanatory circle of embarrassingly short diameter if one tries to account for existence in this way.
This circularity objection which I have developed in painful detail elsewhere will, I expect, leave van Inwagen stone cold. One reason is that he sees no role for explanation in metaphysics whereas I think that metaphysics without explanation is not metaphysics at all in any serious sense. This is large topic that cannot be addressed here.
I'll mention one other problem for van Inwagen. I'll put it very briefly since this entry is already too long. Van Inwagen is a Fregean about existence; but on a Fregean view existence cannot be a first-level property. For Frege, 'x exists' where 'x' ranges over individuals is a senseless open sentence or predicate. There is no unsaturated assertible corresponding to it. I have a number of posts on van Inwagen and existence. Here is one. My latest published article on existence is "Existence: Two Dogmas of Analysis" in Novak and Novotny, eds., Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives in Metaphysics, Routledge 2014, 45-75.
Among the properties, van Inwagen counts haecceities. They are of course abstract objects like all properties. But they are not universals because, while they are instantiable, they are not multiply instantiable. The property of being identical with Alvin Plantinga is an example van Inwagen gives. (180) This property, if instantiated, is instantiated by Plantinga alone in the actual world and by nothing distinct from Plantinga in any possible world. Plantingitas -- to give it a name -- somehow involves Plantinga himself, that very concrete object. For this property is supposed to capture the nonqualitative thisness of Plantinga. (Haecceitas is Latin for 'thisness.')
I submit that these haecceity properties are metaphysical monstrosities. For given that they are properties, they are necessary beings. A necessary being exists at all times in all possible worlds that have time, and in all worlds, period. Plantinga, however, does not exist in all worlds since he is a contingent being; and he doesn't exist at all times in all worlds in which he exists, subject as he is to birth and death, generation and corruption. I conclude that before Plantinga came into being there could not have been any such property as the property of being identical to Plantinga. I conclude also that in worlds in which he does not exist there is no such haecceity property. For at pre-Plantingian times and non-Plantingian worlds, there is simply nothing to give content to the unsaturated assertible expressed by 'that it is Alvin Plantinga.' (Alvin Plantingas hung out at those times and in those worlds, but not our Alvin Plantinga.) Plantinga himself enters essentially into the very content of his haecceity property.
But this is absurd because PvI-properties are merely intensional entities. No such entity can have a concrete, flesh and blood man as a constituent. Just as a PvI-property cannot be a constituent of a concretum such as Plantinga, Plantinga cannot be a constituent in any sense of 'constituent' of a PvI-property.
But if Plantinga hadn't existed, might it nonetheless have been true that he might have existed? (180). Van Inwagen says yes and introduces haecceities. Plantingitas exists in every world; it is just that it is instantiated only in some. I say no, precisely because I take haecceities to be metaphysical monstrosities.
I am not out to refute van Inwagen or anyone. Philosophical theories, except for some sophomoric ones, cannot be refuted. At most I am out to neutralize van Inwagen's theory, or rather his type of theory, to explain why it is not compelling and how it is open to powerful objections, only some of which I have adduced in this entry. And of course I do not have a better theory. I incline toward constituent ontology myself, but it too is bristling with difficulties.
As I see it, the problems of philosophy are most of them genuine, some of them humanly important, but all of them insoluble.
*At this point I should like to record a misgiving. If sentences (sentence types, not tokens) are abstract objects, and abstract objects are necessary beings as van Inwagen holds (cf., e.g., p. 242), then sentences are necessary beings. But sentences are tied to contingently existing languages and cannot exist apart from them. Thus 'I am hungry' is a sentence of English while 'Ich habe Hunger' is a sentence of German, and neither sentence can exist apart from its respective language. A natural language, however, would seem to be a contingent being: German came into existence, but it might never have come into existence. Given all this, a contradiction appears to follow: Sentences are and are not necessary beings.
His latest NRO column. Spencer tells me that "I've been mulling writing something like this for a very long time. I think this is reasonably good at expressing what I want to express, but I wouldn't have picked the title and sub-head."
. . . if you do not share the universities' values, it could be a big mistake to send your children to college before they are intellectually and morally prepared for the indoctrination-rather-than-education they will receive there. Therefore, prepare them morally and intellectually and, if possible, do not send them to college right after high school. Let them work for a year, or perhaps travel . . . . The younger the student, the less life experience and maturity they have, the more they are likely to embrace the rejection of your values.
The sad fact is that if you love education, revere the life of the mind, care about the pursuit of truth, think young people need to receive wisdom from their elders, and value moral clarity, the university is the last place you would want to send your 18-year-old.
Douglas Murray's article from The Spectator is so good I have reproduced the whole of it. (HT: Joel Hunter) Study the article. Pass it on. If you live in the West and enjoy its freedoms and liberties, then you have a moral obligation to do your bit in defense of it and them. People have shed blood in defense of these freedoms and liberties and you are too lazy to inform yourself about these matters and to speak out? In particular, you must speak out against the mendacity of Obama and his underlings who refuse to refer to Muslim terrorism as perpetrated by Muslims acting from (what they take to be) Islamic beliefs and which are, the experts tell me, really Islamic beliefs.
The only weak point I find in Murray's piece on a quick reading is the author's claim that no religion is peaceful. A religion is not the same as its adherents. It is certainly true that no religion is such that all of its adherents are peaceful. But aren't Buddhism and Christianity in their doctrines and approved practices peaceful in stark contrast to Islam and its doctrines and approved practices?
It occurs to me that there may be a second weak point. The author says nothing about the need to examine immigration policies. Shouldn't we be having a 'conversation' about this? Liberals love 'conversations' about this, that, and the other thing. Do you liberals really believe in free inquiry and open debate? Prove it!
UPDATE, 1:45 PM. This just in from Joel Hunter:
1. "‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. [. . .] Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion."
I do not agree. While public denunciations from Muslim leaders to the larger world may be muted, qualified, or even nonexistent, I think the militant nature of secularism puts plenty of heat on Muslims at all levels of society to reassure the rest of "us" that they either (a) have nothing to do with the fanatics and/or (b) are taking steps to shun and ostracize them from "acceptable" (within the secular sphere) society. My impression is that this message, though delivered in and by western societies with a velvet glove, is pretty constant.
2. "Because the violence of the Islamists is, truthfully, only to do with Islam: the worst version of Islam, certainly, but Islam nonetheless."
I think this is self-serving and reductive. The violence of Islamists has to do with Islam, yes. But only Islam? Ridiculous. This is equivalent to the claim that the violence of the Christians in the Crusades had only to do with Christianity.
3. "Here we land at the centre of the problem — a centre we have spent the last decade and a half trying to avoid: Islam is not a peaceful religion. No religion is, but Islam is especially not." As you pointed out, he overreaches here. He goes on to cite stories about Mohammed from the Hadith that indicate Mohammed was no pacifist. He wants to infer that Islamists are acting on the violent history of their founder. But nowhere does he show that Muslims teach that emulating all of the actions of their Prophet are what a good Muslim does, nor that Muslims believe that.
To "fight" Islamists will require more than a total surveillance state, state-of-the-art military equipment, and combat soldiers. It will require a more difficult examination of historical, non-religious causes emanating from western societies. This Guardian article discusses this perspective. It has its weaknesses, too, but I think gives a more complete picture of what is needed from our leaders to "defeat" Islamism and rescue the idea of the secular.
An aside: Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote that Joseph McCarthy might have been the most brilliant conspiracy ever created by the Reds, for what other person, what other rhetoric, would be likely to elicit sympathy for communism? In a similar vein, it strikes me that the militant atheists are best explained as an elaborate plot by theists to garner sympathy for believers and interest in their ways.
Thanks for posting all of the Murray article - it's quite good.
But readers might find your "Update" confusing. Could you show more clearly where Joel Hunter is speaking and where you are speaking? I'm inferring that Joel Hunter states the following:
"But nowhere does he show that Muslims teach that emulating all of the actions of their Prophet are what a good Muslim does, nor that Muslims believe that."
Unfortunately, Islam does teach that a good Muslim does emulate Muhammad in every respect. Fortunately, most Muslims do not do so, nor do most mosques talk about Muhammad's 'bad' actions, for whatever reasons.
BV: The material above the first update is wholly mine, while the material in the first update is wholly Hunter's. So Jeff's inference is correct.
The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault.
In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7 and Tony Abbott after the Sydney attack last month. It is what David Cameron said after two British extremists cut off the head of Drummer Lee Rigby in London, when ‘Jihadi John’ cut off the head of aid worker Alan Henning in the ‘Islamic State’ and when Islamic extremists attacked a Kenyan mall, separated the Muslims from the Christians and shot the latter in the head. And, of course, it is what President François Hollande said after the massacre of journalists and Jews in Paris last week.
All these leaders are wrong. In private, they and their senior advisers often concede that they are telling a lie. The most sympathetic explanation is that they are telling a ‘noble lie’, provoked by a fear that we — the general public — are a lynch mob in waiting. ‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. First, because the general public do not rely on politicians for their information and can perfectly well read articles and books about Islam for themselves. Secondly, because the lie helps no one understand the threat we face. Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion. And fourthly, because unless mainstream politicians address these matters then one day perhaps the public will overtake their politicians to a truly alarming extent.
When I pound on liberals, it is contemporary liberals who I have on my chopping block, not classical liberals or liberals from circa 1960. Call the latter paleo-liberals or old-time liberals. My brand of conservatism incorporates the best of their views. My conservatism is distinctively American; it is not of the 'throne and altar' variety.
But 'contemporary liberal' is ambiguous. It could refer to an old-time liberal with respect to some or all of the issues who just happens to flourish in the present, or it could refer to one who espouses contemporary liberalism, that species of aberrant political ideology increasingly indistinguishable from, and ever on the slouch toward, hard leftism.
I mean 'contemporary liberal' in the second sense. Accordingly, 'contemporary' in 'contemporary liberal' as I use the phrase modifies the liberalism of the liberal and not the liberal. The cynosure of my disapprobation is contemporary liberalism or progressivism or leftism. Finer distinctions can be made as needed. And no one outdoes the philosopher when it comes to drawing distinctions. For one of his mottoes is:
Could I interest you in please posting a notice on your blog of the following new YouTube video from the C.S. Lewis Society of California of my keynote talk at the first annual conference of Christians for Liberty, that was held at St. Edwards University in San Antonio, TX, August 2, 2014?
My argument against the use of these terms is simple and straighforward. A phobia, by definition, is an irrational fear. (Every phobia is a fear, but not every fear is a phobia, because not every fear is irrational.) Therefore, one who calls a critic of the doctrines of Islam or of the practices of its adherents an Islamophobe is implying that the critic is in the grip of an irrational fear, and therefore irrational. This amounts to a refusal to confront and engage the content of his assertions and arguments.
This is not to say that there are no people with an irrational fear of Muslims or of Islam. But by the same token there are people with an irrational fear of firearms.
Suppose a defender of gun rights were to label anyone and everyone a hoplophobe who in any way argues for more gun control. Would you, dear liberal, object? I am sure you would. You would point out that a phobia is an irrational fear, and that your fear is quite rational. You would say that you fear the consequences of more and more guns in the hands of more and more people, some of them mentally unstable, some of them criminally inclined, some of them just careless.
You, dear liberal, would insist that your claims and arguments deserve to be confronted and engaged and not dismissed. You would be offended if a conservative or a libertarian were to dismiss you as a hoplophobe thereby implying that you are beneath the level of rational discourse.
So now, dear liberal, you perhaps understand why you ought to avoid 'Islamophobia' and its variants except in those few instances where they are legitimately applied.
I think the two distinctions you make are the right ones to make. I doubt that the four necessary conditions in your definition of 'terrorism' are jointly sufficient, but I'm not too concerned about that. [And I didn't claim that they are jointly sufficient, only that they are individually necessary.] I was hoping for a good practical definition and this is as good as I've seen (and better than the ones I offered). If the State Department were to adopt this definition, they would have a good, functional definition that got nearly every case right. It's too bad that you and I both know the State Department as currently staffed and run would never do anything so sane!
BV: Here is the State Department definition:
Title 22, Chapter 38 of the United States Code (regarding the Department of State) contains a definition of terrorism in its requirement that annual country reports on terrorism be submitted by the Secretary of State to Congress every year. It reads:
"[T]he term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents".
That is fairly close to what I said, though I wasn't aware of this definition until just now. I didn't mention premeditation, but that pretty much goes without saying. There are plenty of spur-of-the-moment crimes of passion, but how many spur-of-the-moment terrorist acts of passion are there? But three of my points are covered.
Here's my attempt at a counterexample. Suppose we are in Nazi Germany and suppose further that the Nazi state was not a legitimate one. Thus, in Germany during Nazi rule, there was no legitimate state. I am part of a German underground agency working to overthrow Hitler's regime because I and my agency recognize the Nazis as illegitimate and murderous. My agency is clearly not a state, so I think it meets condition three. My agency and I have a political goal: the overthrowing of the Nazi regime and the establishment of a legitimate government. So, condition one is met.
The other two conditions might be a little harder to meet. Suppose I know that Hitler is to give a speech at a rally, flanked by many high ranking Nazis. My agency has found a way to get myself and a few others into the crowd, but we know the Nazis thoroughly check a crowd for guns. Luckily, agent X is an ace explosive maker, and can make explosives out of things that not even the Nazis would suspect. Agent X equips us all with highly explosive cigarette lighters. We want to kill as many of the Nazi brass as we can and this may be the best shot we have. Given the circumstances, we do not have the option of discriminating between the "combatant" Nazis and the civilians who may have just come out of curiosity. We decide it is better to risk killing a civilians who are too close than not take the opportunity. Thus, we seem to meet condition two.
The question is whether this counts as an act of sabotage against the Nazis. It certainly involves the killing or maiming of other human beings. And, you might think that sabotage involves acts against legitimate entities, and the Nazis are not legitimate. It seems to me to be more than mere sabotage. But I think someone could reasonably disagree with me about that. If I'm right, then it appears that I'm a terrorist unless we come up with more conditions.
BV: Let us suppose that you count as a terrorist by my definition. Would that be a problem? My definition says nothing about whether terrorism is good or bad, morally permissible or impermissible. It merely states what it is. The original question was whether it is true that most terrorists, at the present time, are Muslims. To answer that question we need a definition of 'terrorist.' On the basis of my definition I would say that, yes, most terrorists today are Muslims. My concern was merely to define the phenomenon. I leave open whether some terrorist acts are morally permissible.
Of course, I consider Muslim terrorism unspeakably evil, from the beheading of Christians, including Christian children, to the attack on Charlie Hebdo, even though I consider the Hebdo crew to be moral scum who misuse, egregiously, the right to free speech, thereby confusing liberty with license. This is why it is is so wrong and indeed moronic for people to stand up for free speech by saying Je suis Charlie. Do they really mean to identify with those people? The way to stand up for free speech is by courageously but responsibly exercising one's right to free speech by speaking the truth, not by behaving in the manner of the adolescent punk who makes an idol of his own vacuous subjectivity and thinks he is entitled to inflict on the world every manifestation of his punkish vacuity.
If someone brings up all the violent drug cartel members in Mexico and Central and South America who 'terrorize' people, assassinate judges, bribe politicians and law enforcement agents, and so on, the answer is that they don't satisfy my first condition inasmuch as they are members of organized crime, not terrorists: they are not in pursuit of a political objective. It is not as if they aim to set up something like a narco-caliphate. They do not, like Muslim terrorists, seek to assume the burdens of governance in an attempt to bring about what they would consider to be a well-regulated social and political order in which human beings will flourish by their definition of flourishing. They attack existing states, but only because those states impede their criminal activities. See Mexican Drug Cartels are not Terrorists.
As for sabotage, I was suggesting that sabotage is not terrorism because terrorist acts are directed against persons primarily, while acts of sabotage are not directed against persons except indirectly. If Ed Abbey urinates into the gas tank of a Caterpillar tractor and manages to disable it, that will affect people but only indirectly. (But what about tree-spiking?) So I would not call you and your cohorts saboteurs.
You are not a terrorist by my definition because you are not indiscriminate in your attack on people: you are not trying to kill noncombatants. What you are doing comes under collateral damage.
David Dalton, Who is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan, Hyperion, 2012, p. 65:
As Dave van Ronk pointed out in his autobiography, many of the people involved in the first folk revival of the 1930s and '40s were Jewish -- as were the folkies of the '60s. Van Ronk reasoned that for Jews, belonging to a movement centered on American traditional music was a form of belonging and assimilation.
[. . .]
"The revelation that Jack [Elliot] was Jewish was vouchsafed unto Bobby one afternoon at the Figaro," Van Ronk recalled. "We were sitting around shooting the bull with Barry Kornfeld and maybe a couple of other people and somehow it came out that Jack had grown up in Ocean Parkway and was named Elliot Adnopoz. Bobby literally fell off his chair; he was rolling around on the floor, and it took him a couple of minutes to pull himself together and get up again. Then Barry, who can be diabolical in things like this, leaned over to him and just whispered the word 'Adnopoz' and back he went under the table."
Lacking as it does the proper American cowboy resonance, 'Elliot Charles Adnopoz' was ditched by its bearer who came to call himself 'Ramblin' Jack Elliot.' Born in 1931 in Brooklyn to Jewish parents who wanted him to become a doctor, young Adnopoz rebelled, ran away, and became a protege of Woody Guthrie. If it weren't for Ramblin' Jack, Guthrie would be nowhere near as well-known as he is today.
Pretty Boy Floyd. "As through this life you ramble, as through this life you roam/You'll never see an outlaw drive a family from their home." No? An example of the tendency of lefties invariably to take the side of the underdog regardless of whether right or wrong.
I was reading your recent post on religious profiling in which you said, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims." I totally agree, but it's something I've been thinking about lately. I saw someone else make the same claim just last week on another blog, and a liberal vehemently objected, claiming that the reason "most terrorists are Muslims" is that we don't use the word 'terrorist' for all the Catholic murderers in the South American cities with the highest murder rates in the world.
The idea behind this objection, it seems, is that if we were consistent, we'd call Christian murderers (such as baptized Catholics in South America who work for drug cartels and perhaps occasionally visit a Catholic church) terrorists too, and once we did that, we would no longer end up with the result that most terrorists are Muslims. Furthermore, once we did that, we wouldn't think Islam had a problem with violence any more than Christianity does, so we shouldn't pick on Islam.
I think this line of thought has multiple mistakes, but it does bring to the surface an interesting question. How do we define 'terrorist'?
One obvious thing that distinguishes Islamic extremists, such as the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack, is that they are motivated to murder in the name of their religion, whereas the South American drug cartel members do not murder in the name of Catholicism.
My reader is exactly right. Muslim terrorists murder in the name of their religion. And please note that this is so even if it could be shown that there is nothing in Islam when properly interpreted to justify terrorism. Even if you think, incorrectly, that Muslim terrorists have 'hijacked' true Islam, they are still Muslim terrorists and must be counted when we tally up the number of Muslim terrorists in the world. Can someone give me an example of a Jesuit terrorist who in recent years has slaughtered human beings to the tune of ad majorem dei gloriam? Or the name of a Buddhist terrorist who has murdered while shouting a Buddhist precept?
There are two important related distinctions we need to make.
There is first of all a distinction between committing murder because one's ideology, whether religious or non-religious, enjoins or justifies murder, and committing murder for non-ideological reasons or from non-ideological motives. For example, in the Charlie Hebdo attack, the murders were committed to avenge the blasphemy against Muhammad, the man Muslims call 'The Prophet' and consider Allah's messenger. And that is according to the terrorists themselves. Clearly, the terrorist acts were rooted in Muslim religious ideology in the same way that Communist and Nazi atrocities were rooted in Communist and Nazi political ideology, respectively. Compare that to a mafioso killing an innocent person who happens to have witnessed a crime the mafioso has committed. The latter's a mere criminal whose motives are crass and non-ideological: he just wanted to score some swag and wasn't about to be inconvenienced by a witness to his crime. "Dead men tell no tales."
The other distinction is between sociological and doctrinal uses of terms such as 'Mormon,' 'Catholic,' Buddhist,' and 'Muslim.' I know a man who is a Mormon in the sense that he was born and raised in a practicing Mormon family, was himself a practicing Mormon in his early youth, hails from a Mormon state, but then 'got philosophy,' went atheist, and now rejects all of the metaphysics of Mormonism. Is he now a Mormon or not? I say he is a Mormon sociologically but not doctrinally. He is a Mormon by upbringing but not by current belief and practice. This is a distinction that absolutely must be made, though I won't hold it against you if you think my terminology less than felicitous. Perhaps you can do better. Couch the distinction in any terms you like, but couch it.
Examples abound. An aquaintance of mine rejoices under the surname 'Anastasio.' He is Roman Catholic by upbringing, but currently a committed Buddhist by belief and practice. Or consider the notorious gangster, 'Whitey' Bulger who is fortunately not an acquaintance of mine. Biographies of this criminal refer to him as Irish-Catholic, which is not wrong. But surely none of his unspeakably evil deeds sprang from Catholic moral teaching. Nor did they spring from Bulger's 'hijacking' of Catholicism. You could call him, with some justification, a Catholic criminal. But a Catholic who firebombs an abortion clinic to protest the evil of abortion is a Catholic criminal in an entirely different sense. The difference is between the sociological and the doctrinal.
As for the South American drug cartel members, they may be sociologically Catholic but they are not doctrinally Catholic. That's my second distinction. And they operate not from Catholic doctrine rightly interpreted or interrpreted in a twisted way, but from crass motives. That's my first distinction.
Anyone whose head is clear enought to grasp these distinctions has a head clear enough to appreciate that most terrorists at the present time are Muslims, and that the existence of sociologically Catholic mafiosi and drug cartel members is irrelevant.
My reader continues:
So, you might think that the definition of 'terrorist' has something to do with religious motivation. But, this sort of definition does not catch terrorists who are motivated by power or greed.
You could go with a definition that sticks more closely to the word 'terrorist', defining it as someone who uses extremely violent acts to create fear and terror to accomplish political goals, but this sort of definition is pretty broad, and it isn't as obvious that "most terrorists are Muslims" when we define it that way, is it? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts about this.
Although it is true that Muslim terrorists are religiously motivated, it would be a mistake to define 'terrorism' in such a way that it could have only religious motivations. Terrorism could have purely political motivations: purely secular separatists might resort to terrorism to achieve their goal. It is worth adding that Islam is not a pure religion, but a blend of religion and political ideology; hence the roots of Muslim terrorism are religious-cum-political. Islam is as much a political ideology as it is a religion. So even if one defines a terrorist as one who uses violence indiscriminately, against comabatants and non-combatants alike, to achieve political goals, it would still be obvious that most terrorists at the present time are Muslims. Theocracy is both a political and a religious concept, and its instantiation, world-wide, is what Islamists want.
This brings us to the important question as to what a terrorist is. One cannot count Xs unless one knows what counts as an X. To evaluate the truth of the quantified statement, 'Most terrorists are Muslims,' we need to have at least a working definition of 'terrorist.' It is not easy to say what exactly a terrorist is in general terms -- which are the only terms in which one could give a viable definition -- easy at it is to identify terrorism in specific cases. I suggested the following in an earlier post from November 2009. It is not without its difficulties which are for me to know and you to discover.
I suggest that the following are all essential marks of a terrorist. I claim they are all individually necessary conditions for a combatant's being a terrorist; whether they are jointly sufficient I leave undecided. 'Terrorist' is used by different people in different ways. That is not my concern. My concern is how we ought to use the term if we intend to think clearly about the phenomenon of terrorism and keep it distinct from other phenomena in the vicinity.
1. A terrorist aims at a political objective. This distinguishes terrorists from criminals. No good purpose is served by lumping John Gotti and 'Whitey' Bulger among terrorists. Criminals may 'terrorize' as when a loanshark microwaves a delinquent's cat, but criminals who terrorize are not terrorists. This is because their aim is personal, not political. It is not impersonal ideals that motivate them but base personal desires. And although terrorists commit crimes, they are best not classified as criminals for the same reason. Treating the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as criminal matters showed a lack of understanding of the nature of terrorism.
2. A terrorist does not discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. This distinguishes terrorists from the warriors of a legitimate state. All are fair game, which is not to say that in a particular situation a terrorist might not have a reason not to target some combatants or some noncombatants. This distinguishes a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah from the Israeli Defense Forces. As a matter of policy, the IDF does not target noncombatants, whereas as a matter of policy Hezbollah and other terrorist outfuts such as Hamas target anyone on the enemy side. The deliberate targeting of civilians also distinguishes terrorists from guerilla fighters.
3. A terrorist is not an agent of a legitimate state but of a nonstate or substate entity. A terrorist is neither a criminal (see #1 above) nor a warrior (see #2) ; a terrorist act is neither a criminal act nor an act of war; a terrorist organization is neither a criminal gang nor a state. Strictly speaking, only states make war.
Of course, a state (e.g. Iran) can arm and support and make use of a terrorist outfit (e.g. Hezbollah) in pursuit of a political objective (e.g., the destruction of Israel). But that does not elide the distinction between states and terrorist organizations. It is also clear that states sometimes 'terrorize'; but this is not a good reason to think of states as terrorist organizations, or some or all of their combatants as terrorists or of any of their acts as terrorist acts. The Allied firebombing of Dresden in February of 1945 was a deliberate targeting of combatants and noncombatants alike in clear violation of 'just war' doctrine. But whatever one's moral judgment of the Dresden attack or the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, none of these acts count as terrorist for the simple reason that they were the acts of states, not terrorist organizations. Some will bristle at this, but if one wants to think clearly about terrorism one must not confuse it with other things.
But what about the 'Islamic State' or ISIS or ISIL or whatever you want to call it? The short answer: it is not a legitimate state. What makes a state legitimate? With this question we are deep in, and the going gets tough. At this point I invoke blogospheric privilege and my maxim, "Brevity is the soul of blog."
4. A terrorist is not a saboteur. Sabotage is one thing, terrorism another. Analytical clariy demands a distinction. Infecting computer networks with malware or attacking the power grid are acts of sabotage, but they are not strictly speaking acts of terrorism. An act is not terrorist unless it involves the killing or maiming of human beings or the threat thereof.
I am indebted to the discussion in Louise Richardson, What Terrorists Want, Random House, 2006, Ch. 1
I heard Nicholas Kristof use the phrase the other night. But is there such a thing as religious profiling?
I have argued that there is no such thing as racial profiling. The gist of my argument is that while race can be an element in a profile, it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense racially to profile you. Similarly, apparel can be an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. I can profile you, but it makes no sense sartorially to profile you.
The same holds for so-called religious profiling. There is no such thing. Religious affiliation can be an element in a profile but it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense religiously to profile you, or to profile you in respect of your religion.
There are 1.6 billion or so Muslims. They are not all terrorists. That is perfectly obvious, so obvious in fact that it doesn't need to be said. After all, no one maintains that all Muslims are terrorists. But it is equally obvious, or at least should be, that the vast majority of the terrorists in the world at the present time are Muslims. To put it as tersely as possible: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims.
It is this fact that justifies using religion as one element in a terrorist profile. For given the fact that most terrorists are Muslims, the probability that a Muslim trying to get through airport security is a terrorist is higher than the the probability that a Buddhist trying to get through airport security is a terrorist.
Or consider the sweet little old Mormon matron from Salt Lake City headed to Omaha to visit her grandkiddies. Compare her to the twenty-something Egyptian male from Cairo bound for New York City. Who is more likely to be a terrorist? Clearly, the probability is going to be very low in both cases, but in which case will it be lower? You know the answer. Liberals know it too, but they don't want to admit it. The answer doesn't fit their 'narrative.' According to the narrative, we are all the same despite our wonderful diversity. We are all equally inclined to commit terrorist acts. Well, I wish it were true. But it is not true. Liberals know it is not true just as well as we conservatives do. But they can't admit that it is true because it would upset their 'narrative.' And that narrative is what they live for and -- may well die for. A terrorist 'event' may well be coming to a theater near them, especially if they live in New York City.
It is the same with Muslims as with blacks. Blacks, proportionally, are much more criminally prone than whites. That is a well-known fact. And as I have said more than once, a fact about race is not a racist fact. There are facts about race but no racist facts. There are truths about race, but no racist truths. The truth that blacks as a group are more criminally prone than whites as a group is what justifies criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
Again, there is no such thing as racial profiling; what there is is criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
There are two mistakes that Kristof makes. He uses the unmeaning phrase 'religious profiling.' Worse, he think there is something wrong with terrorist and criminal profiling, when it is clear that there isn't.
But Kristof's heart is in the right place. He doesn't want innocent Muslims to suffer reprisals because of the actions of a few. Well, I don't either. I have Turkish Muslim friends. I met Zuhdi Jasser a while back. (The sentence I just wrote is logically independent of the one immediately preceding it.) Perhaps you have seen him on The O'Reilly Factor. An outstanding man, a most admirable Muslim man. May peace be upon him and no harm come to him. I mean that sincerely.
A reader asked about my comment policy. It is more of an anti-comment policy. I look askance at comments. Ten years of quotidian toil in the 'sphere have supplied me with many arguments. To put it aphoristically,
The best arguments against an open combox are the contents of one.
Scribbler that I am, I have a lot more to say on this and cognate topics under the rubric, Blogging.