Welcome to the latest incarnation of Maverick Philosopher. I began this weblog in May of 2004 and have kept it up continuously on different servers, missing only a few days. I'm in this game 'for the duration,' as long as health and eyesight hold out. It has proven to be deeply satisfying, not the least reason for which being that my scribbling has attracted a large number of like-minded individuals, some of whom I have met in the flesh, and have come to value highly as friends.
And for that I am grateful.
What you need to know is that this weblog is just one philosopher's online journal, notebook, common place book, workshop, soapbox, sandbox, and literary litter box. A lot of what I write is unpolished and tentative. I explore the cartography of ideas along many paths. Here below we are in statu viae, and it is fitting that our thinking should be exploratory, meandering, and undogmatic. Nothing human, and thus nothing philosophical, is foreign to me.
The graphic well illustrates my approach. A lonesome traveller meanders along a desert path toward a distant prominence which points up and away to the goal of his Quest, a goal fitfully glimpsed, never grasped. Leastways, not while he is on trail and on trial. The quester quests until his thought rests, but the Rest is far off. Meanwhile there is the Quest, an integral part of which is philosophy, reason's search for the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. But reason is not reason unless it strives mightily beyond itself to sources of truth that transcend it.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. I oppose hyper-professionalization and excessive specialization. After all, this is only a weblog. Every once in a while I post something that is mistaken, someone corrects me, and I learn something. I admit mistakes if mistakes they be. See how modest I am? On the other hand, this rarely happens. My PhilPapers page currently lists 64 entries and will give you some idea of what I am more or less expert in.
I allow comments on only some posts, usually the more technical ones. And to keep the cyberpunks at bay, Comment Moderation is always on. Comments must address what I say in my posts. If you go off on a tangent, I will most likely not allow your comment to appear. Comments must meet a certain standard, and I do not suffer fools gladly. But on some days I go soft, being only human.
I suppose that in these decadent days of the Decline of the West I should issue a TRIGGER WARNING: this is no place for the politically correct. It is not a 'safe space.' Here you will find free speech, trenchancy of expression, and open inquiry.
[Samuel] Huntington is most famous for arguing in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that the post-Cold War world would not be defined by the universalization of liberal values but by ethnic frictions within nations and civilizational clashes between them (the most volatile fault lines, he said, were between the West and Islam and the West and China). Even more prescient, at least as far as the United States is concerned, was Huntington’s 2004 book, Who Are We?, which described “nationalism versus cosmopolitanism” as the central dividing line in American politics, with immigration as its focal point.
Huntington identified two forms of cosmopolitanism—neoconservatism, popular on the right, which promised to bring America’s values to the world, and multiculturalism, popular on the left, which promised to bring the world’s values to America—both of which he attacked as destructive and unsustainable. The 2016 election campaign was one long demonstration of how right Huntington was, and how blind were his liberal and neoconservative critics who had no idea of the forces building in American politics.
The neocon mistake was to imagine that our superior system of government could be imposed on benighted and backward peoples riven by tribal hatreds and depressed by an inferior religion. The folly of that should now be evident. One cannot bomb the benighted into Enlightenment.
The mistake of the multi-culti cultural Marxists is to imagine that comity is possible without commonality, that wildly diverse sorts of people can live together in peace and harmony. Or at least that is one mistake of the politically correct multi-cultis.
Along comes Trump. Whatever you think of the man and his ostentation, self-absorption, slovenly speech, occasional feel-ups of the distaff contingent, and all the rest, he is a powerful vehicle of a necessary correction away from both forms of cosmopolitanism/globalism toward a saner view.
Donald J. Trump, the somewhat unlikely vehicle of a necessary correction.
So how does the Left respond? In their usual vile and thoughtless way by the hurling of such epithets as sexist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, fascist . . . you know the litany. According to Chris Mathews of MSNBC, Trump's inaugural speech was "Hitlerian."
Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man, 1964. Philip Larkin is supposed to have called this the greatest song ever written. Don't believe me? See here:
Like Thwaite, Hartley is insistent that Larkin loved women; nor will she go along with the idea of him as a miser. When she won a place at university as a mature student, Larkin, knowing how hard-up Hartley was, opened a book account for her, and placed a fat sum in it. She is full of stories about him: the time they went to see Louis Armstrong together in Bridlington; the time Larkin arrived at a party clutching a bottle of crème de menthe. She reminds me – so unlikely seeming, this – that he thought Dylan's "Mr Tambourine Man" the best song ever written. Larkin, who once described his physique as being like that of a "pregnant salmon", hated dancing, but at departmental Christmas parties, he would be sure to ask every woman in the room to dance: cleaners, caterers, library assistants. No one was left out.
It is an evil state we are in, ignorant as we are of the ultimate why and wherefore.
The topic of birthdays came up among some friends. I said I don't celebrate mine: my birth befell me; it was not my doing. A female companion replied that life is a gift to which my response was that that is a question, not a given. It is not clear that life is a gift or even a good. Equally, it is not clear that it is a mistake (Schopenhauer) and something bad.
Human life is a problem the solution to which we do not know. One can only have faith that life is good, and I do. It is a reasoned not a blind faith. But that I lack knowledge and need faith is itself something evil. There are far worse evils, of course.
The issue of procreation -- pun intended -- makes the question concrete. To procreate deliberately and responsibly is to act on the conviction that conception, birth, and the predictable sequel are good. But that is not known given the powerful counter-evidence that pessimists provide.
So again one is thrown back on faith. To need faith is to lack knowledge and by my lights this lack is a privatio boni and insofar forth evil.
Readers will of course disagree with me and disagree among themselves as to what merits disagreement. This is just further evidence that our predicament is suboptimal.
If you want to think about the problem of evil in its full sweep you ought to include the evil of ignorance in all its forms. And you ought to bear in mind that evil is not a problem for theists alone.
The influential Austrian philosopher Franz Brentano took intentionality to be the mark of the mental, the criterion whereby physical and mental phenomena are distinguished. For Brentano, (i) all mental phenomena are intentional, (ii) all intentional phenomena are mental, and (iii) no mental phenomenon is physical. (Franz Brentano, Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (1874), Bk. II, Ch. 1.)
What is intentionality? ‘Intentionality’ is Brentano's term of art (borrowed from the Medievals) for that property of mental states whereby they are (non-derivatively) of, or about, or directed to, an object. Such states are intrinsically such that they 'take an accusative.' The state of perceiving, for example is necessarily object-directed. One cannot just perceive; if one perceives, then one perceives something. The idea is not merely that when one perceives one perceives something or other; the idea is that when one perceives, one perceives some specific object, the very object of that very act. The same goes for intending (in the narrow sense), believing, imagining, recollecting, wishing, willing, desiring, loving, hating, judging, knowing, etc. Such mental states refer beyond themselves to objects that may or may not exist, or may or may not be true in the case of propositional objects. Reference to an object is thus an intrinsic feature of mental states and not a feature they have in virtue of a relation to an existing object. This is why Brentano speaks of the "intentional in-existence of an object." It is also why Husserl can 'bracket' the existence of the object for phenomenological purposes. Intentionality is not a relation, strictly speaking, though it is relation-like. This is an important point that many contemporaries seem incapable of wrapping their heads around.
There are some interesting points of analogy between intentionality and potentiality. An intentional state exhibits
a. directedness to an object b. an object that may or may nor exist c. an object that may be, and typically is, indeterminate or incomplete.
For example, right now I am gazing out my study window at Superstition Mountain. The gazing is an intentional state: it is of or about something, a definite something. It takes an accusative, and does so necessarily. The accusative or intentional object in question presumably exists. But the intentional object is what it is whether or not it exists. The phenomenological description of object and act remains the same whether or not the object exists. Moreover, the object as presented in the act of gazing is incomplete: there are properties such that the intentional object neither has them nor their complements. Thus, to a quick glance, what is given in the intentional experience is 'a purplish mountain.' Just that. Now anything purple or purplish is colored, and anything colored is extended; but being colored and being extended are not properties of the intentional object. No doubt they are properties of the mountain itself in reality; but they are not properties of the precise intentional object of my gazing, which has all and only the properties it is seen to have. Furthermore, in reality, yonder mountain is either such that someone is climbing on it or not; but the intentional object of my momentary gazing is indeterminate with respect to the property of being climbed on by someone.
The potentiality inherent in a thing exhibits
a*. something analogous to intentional directedness: a potentiality is a potentiality for something, or to something. For example, a human embryo has the potentiality to develop, in the normal course of events, into a human neonate. But a human sperm cell lacks this potentiality. It has a different potentiality: it can combine with a human egg cell to form a zygote. A thing cannot just have a potentiality: every potentiality is a potentiality for something or to something. This something is not merely a something or other, but a definite something, analogously as in the case of intentional directedness.
b*. something analogous to the feature of an intentional experience whereby, from the occurrence of the intentional experience, one cannot infer the existence of its intentional object. Just as the intentional object may or may not exist without prejudice to its being an intentional object, a potentiality may or may not be realized. The embryo's potentiality to develop into a neonate may go unrealized -- and this without prejudice to the potentiality's being something quite definite and quite real.
c*. something analogous to the incompleteness of intentional objects. To revert to a hackneyed example, an acorn has the potentiality to become an oak tree. But this is not to say that there is some perfectly determinate (definite) oak tree that an acorn has the potentiality to become, a 50 foot oak tree the diameter of whose trunk is two feet, etc.
The same points can be made about dispositions. If a piece of glass is fragile, then it is disposed to shatter if suitably struck. There cannot be a disposition that is not a disposition to do something, to shatter, or explode, or melt. Second, the reality of a disposition is independent of its manifestation: a fragile piece of glass is fragile whether or not it ever breaks. From the fact that x is disposed to F one cannot infer that x ever Fs. This parallels a feature of intentionality: from the fact that x is thinking about Fs one cannot infer that there exist Fs that x is thinking about. (If I am thinking about unicorns it does not follow that there exist unicorns I am thinking about; if I want a sloop it doesn't follow that there is a sloop I want; if Ernest is hunting lions it doesn't follow that there are any lions he is hunting.)
Third, although a manifested disposition is a fully determinate state of affairs, this complete determinateness is not present in the disposition qua disposition. The disposition to shatter if suitably struck is not the disposition to shatter into ten pieces if suitably struck, although it is of course the disposition to shatter into some number or other of pieces, the exact number being left indeterminate.
Now here is a tough question: are dispositionality and intentionality merely analogous, or can we take it a step further and say that utimately there is no difference between dispositionality and intentionality? If that case could be made, then Brentano would be shown to be wrong in his claim that intentionality is the mark of the mental. For if the three characteristics of intentionality mentioned above are found below the level of mind in the physical world, then it looks as if intentionality cannot be the mark of the mental. Or should we stay instead that, since intentionality is the mark of the mental, and intentionality is found in nature below the level of mind, that there is something mind-like about all of nature?
I have been a fan of Nat Hentoff ever since I first read him in the pages of Down Beat magazine way back in the '60s. He died at 91 on January 7th. My tribute to him is a repost from 4 June 2012:
A Prime Instance of Political Correctness: The Blackballing of Nat Hentoff
Nat Hentoff is a civil libertarian and a liberal in an older and respectable sense of the term. He thinks for himself and follows the arguments and evidence where they lead. So what do contemporary politically correct liberals do? They attack him. His coming out against abortion particularly infuriated them. Mark Judge comments:
Hentoff's liberal friends didn't appreciate his conversion: "They were saying, 'What's the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don't you consider it a late abortion and go on to something else?' Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying."
The reaction from America's corrupt fourth estate was instant. Hentoff, a Guggenheim fellow and author of dozens of books, was a pariah. Several of his colleagues at the Village Voice, which had run his column since the 1950s, stopped talking to him. When the National Press Foundation wanted to give him a lifetime achievement award, there was a bitter debate amongst members whether Hentoff should even be honored (he was). Then they stopped running his columns. You heard his name less and less. In December 2008, the Village Voice officially let him go.
When journalist Dan Rather was revealed to have poor news judgment, if not outright malice, for using fake documents to try and change the course of a presidential election, he was given a new TV show and a book deal -- not to mention a guest spot on The Daily Show. The media has even attempted a resuscitation of anti-Semite Helen Thomas, who was recently interviewed in Playboy.
By accepting the truth about abortion, and telling that truth, Nat Hentoff may be met with silence by his peers when he goes to his reward. The shame will be theirs, not his.
Commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, one of the great traitors of our time, is finger-in-the-eye willfulness. Obama took 28 years off the sentence of a soldier who stole and then released through WikiLeaks almost half a million military reports, plus another quarter-million State Department documents.
The cables were embarrassing; the military secrets were almost certainly deadly. They jeopardized the lives not just of American soldiers on two active fronts — Iraq and Afghanistan — but of locals who were, at great peril, secretly aiding and abetting us. After Manning’s documents release, the Taliban “went on a killing spree” (according to intelligence sources quoted by Fox News) of those who fit the description of individuals working with the United States.
Meet George Molnar. Not the witty cartoonist, but the other one: a thwarted philosopher whose wild life finally found some meaning after his death.
Did you think there was only one George Molnar - the witty and urbane Hungarian whose cartoons graced the pages of the Herald for many years? Well, think again. To many Sydneysiders, the truly famous George Molnar, famous to the point of notoriety, was someone else altogether. He was George Molnar, libertarian philosopher, left-wing radical and one of the sharpest minds the city's intellectual circles had known.
What a wonderful legacy! Some people have a negative net worth. Can one speak of a negative legacy? In these waning hours of his (mis)administration, let us reflect on the foolish and destructive things Obama has said and done the better to savor the change and hope that tomorrow will usher in. Remember Arizona Senate Bill 1070 from 2010 and the lawsuit former Attorney General Eric Holder brought against the State of Arizona? Here are my posts from that time in case you want to refresh your memory over that outrage. Image credit: Lisa Benson.
After all, no one would confuse Trump with a religious man. Robert Tracinski's explanation strikes me as correct:
The strength of the religious vote for Trump initially mystified me, until I remembered the ferocity of the Left’s assault on religious believers in the past few years—the way they were hounded and vilified for continuing to hold traditional beliefs about marriage that were suddenly deemed backward and unacceptable (at least since 2012, when President Obama stopped pretending to share them). What else do you think drove all those religious voters to support a dissolute heathen?
Ironically, a pragmatic, Jacksonian populist worldling such as Donald J. Trump will probably do more for religion and religious liberty in the long run than a pious leftist such as Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Carter famously confessed the lust in his heart in an interview in -- wait for it -- Playboy magazine. We should all do likewise, though in private, not in Playboy. While it is presumptuous to attempt to peer into another's soul, I would bet that Mr. Trump is not much bothered by the lust in his heart, and I don't expect to hear any public confessions from his direction.
But what profiteth it to confess one's lust when one supports the destructive Dems, the abortion party, a party the members of which are so morally obtuse that they cannot even see the issue of the morality of abortion, dismissing it as a health issue or an issue of women's reproductive rights?
The view I've arrived at is that sentences involving 'possibility' can be re-written into sentences involving just 'possibly', and that our modal notions arise from our encounter with inference. I'm happy to say, There is the possibility that the bulb will shatter -- we say things like that all the time -- provided it's understood to mean, Possibly, the bulb will shatter. I certainly don't want to commit myself to things called possibilities, unless they can be seen as constructions out of sentences, roughly, Possibly, S ≡ The truth value of sentence S cannot be determined from what we currently know together with deduction from known principles.
Can you persuade me otherwise? A 'big topic' I would imagine!
Let B be an ordinary light bulb. Light bulbs are typically fragile: they are disposed to shatter if suitably struck or dropped from a sufficient height onto a hard surface. I take Brightly to be saying two things. He is maintaining, first, that there is no more to the possibility of B's shattering in circumstances C than the truth of the sentence, 'Possibly, B will shatter in C.' Second, he is offering an analysis of 'possibly' in such sentences.
I take Brightly to be saying that there is nothing in B, and thus nothing in reality, that could be called B's disposition to shatter. In general, unrealized possibilities have no ontological status. But then what makes the sentence 'Possibly, B shatters in C' true? Presumably, Brightly will say that nothing makes it true: it is just true. He would not, I take it, say the same about 'B exists.' He would not say that nothing makes 'B exists' true, that the sentence is just true. I would guess that he would say that it is B itself, or perhaps the existence of B, that makes 'B exists' true. So there is something in reality that 'B' names, and this item is, or is part of, the truth-maker of 'B exists.'
But if he says this, should he not also admit that there is something in reality that make 'B is disposed to shatter in C' true?
To appreciate the point one must see that a disposition and its manifestation are different. B is disposed to shatter at every time at which it exists. But it needn't ever shatter. It might remain intact throughout its career. Therefore, the reality of a disposition cannot be identified with its actual manifestation. The same goes for powers and potentialities. If a man has a power he never exercises, it does not follow that he does not have the power. The potentiality of a seed to sprout in the right conditions is something real even if the seed remains on a shelf and its potentiality is never actualized.
There is an epistemological question that I want to set aside lest it muddy the waters. The question is: How does one know de re, of a particular light bulb, that it is disposed to shatter if it never does? I am not concerned here with the epistemology of modal knowledge, but with the ontology of the merely possible, which includes the ontology of unmanifested dispositions.
A disposition, then, is real whether or not it is ever manifested. But doesn't this just beg the question against Brightly? I maintain that unmanifested dispositions are real. Brightly denies this. If I understand him, he is eliminating unmanifested dispositions in favor of the truth of possibility sentences.
My objection to this invokes the Truth-Maker Principle: truths need truth-makers. Or at least many classes of truths need truth-makers, one of these being the class of truths about the powers, potentialities, dispositions, and the like of concrete individuals. (I am not a truth-maker maximalist.) My point against Brightly is that the sentence, 'Possibly, B shatters in C,' if true, is true in virtue of or because of something external to this sentence, namely, the unmanifested disposition in B to shatter.
My view is consistent with the view that unmanifested dispositions reduce to the so-called 'categorical' features of things like light bulbs. Unmanifested dispositions can be real without being irreducibly real. What I have said above does not commit me to irreducibly real dispositions. It commits me only to the reality of unmanifested dispositions, whether reducible or not.
" Possibly, S ≡ The truth value of sentence S cannot be determined from what we currently know together with deduction from known principles."
S in Brightly's example is 'The bulb will shatter.' True or false? I grant that the truth value cannot be known from what we currently know together with what we can deduce from known principles. But this cannot be what the possibility that the glass will shatter consists in. Brightly is making the very real possibility that the glass shatter, the bomb explode, the round fire, the cat scratch, Hillary throw a lamp at Bill, etc., depend on our ignorance. But then real possibility is eliminated in favor of epistemic possibility.
Suppose Sally knows that Tom is in Boston now and believes falsely that Scollay Square still exists. I ask Sally: is it possible that Tom is in Scollay Square now? She replies, "Yes, it is possible." But of course this is a mere epistemic possibility sired by Sally's ignorance. It is possible for all Sally knows. It is not really possible that Tom is in Scollay Square now given that the place no longer exists.
I don't think we should say that the possibility of the bulb's shattering consists in our igntrance as to whether or not 'The bulb will shatter' is true or false. Consider also that long before minded organisms arose in our evolutionary history, and thus long before there was knowledge or ignorance, there we seeds and such with real potencies some of which were actualized and some of which were not.
Here is a good article on the topic addressed to law enforcement officers, but useful for the ordinary citizen.
Under ORANGE below read 'if possible' for 'if necessary.'
Condition White is fine while in your house, assuming your house is well-secured. The minute you step out your door you should move to Condition Yellow, whether you are carrying or not. Train yourself to stay in Yellow as long as you are out and about.
I came close to being mugged in New Orleans' French Quarter in '90 or '91. I was there to read a paper at an A. P. A. meeting. Early one morning I left the hotel to sample the local color and grab some breakfast. Striding along Bourbon street, I noticed a couple of black dudes on the other side of the street. I was wearing a beret, which may have suggested to the loiterers that I was a foreigner and an easy mark. One dude approached and commented on my shoes in an obvious attempt ti distract me and throw me off my guard. My situational awareness saved me. That, my stern mien, height, leather jacket and purposeful stride. I gave the punk a hard look, increased my pace, and blew him off.
Profiling is part of situational awareness. Profiling is just common sense, which is why liberal fools oppose it. A couple of black youths loitering in a touristy area are probably up to no good. If common sense makes me a racist, then we should all be racists, including decent black folk.
Not only is chess racist, it is also sexist and patriarchal. The fact that the Queen is the most powerful piece on the board proves nothing to the contrary. The powers allowed to the Queen are in truth nothing more than so many sops thrown to the feminists to keep them quiet.
The sexism and patriarchalism of chess is proven by the dignity afforded to the King.
Wherein resides the dignity of the King? At every time in every possible game, the King is on the board. He cannot be captured: he never leaves the board while the game is on. He may be checked and checkmated; he is never captured. His royal consort, however, must submit to sacrifice, and is sacrificed gladly in the most beautiful of games. She has no dignity unto herself; she is but a means, nothing more than an overgrown pawn, and in some cases an ambitious upstart who has clawed her way to the eighth rank with the determination of a Hillary. She must die, when called upon, for the glory of His Majesty.
Another proof that chess is racist and oppressive and ought to be banned is that blacks are woefully under-represented among its players. This evil can have only one explanation: racist suppression of black players. For everyone knows that blacks as a group are the equals of whites as a group in respect of intelligence, interest in chess, and the sorts of virtues needed to play the undemocratic and reactionary 'Royal Game.' Among these are the ability to study hard, defer gratification, and keep calm in trying situations.
For these and many other reasons, we must DEMAND that chess be banned.
We must manifest solidarity with our oppressed Taliban brothers who have maintained, truly, that chess is an evil game of chance.
It is therefore most heartening to read that chess has been banned in some places in America. May this trend continue as we march forward, ever stronger, together to the land of social justice where there are no winners and no losers.
I am surprised at how hard-hitting this is. But the punches land right on target.
From the first time I saw Mr. Obama, his First Inaugural, I said to myself, “This is a classical tyrant” and wrote an article to that effect. Now, a classical “tyrant” is not some brutal beast. Rather, he is popular, suave, smooth-talking, and ruled only by his own musings. He arises in a democracy when its citizenry have largely lost touch with natural being.
Mr. Obama’s notion of America was that into which he wanted to change it. The America of the Founders or the tradition did not much interest him. Indeed, this America was what had to be changed to make the world safe for the America that he was out to re-found, one that looked pretty much like himself. And, to give him credit, he succeeded in many ways. His Muslim and community organizing backgrounds were both traditions that had almost nothing to do with what we once understood to be Western civilization, with its unique American gloss.
[. . .]
I will pass over his religious views. His is a popular leftism that identifies religion as politics. Catholics were slow to recognize the efforts Mr. Obama made to identify religion and positive law. No leeway was left. Religion could not stand in the way of social “progress.” Who could have imagined even a decade ago that the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion traditions would be under fire for holding back the social engineering that Mr. Obama and his friends foisted on the country’s embassies, laws, military, healthcare, medicine, schools, environment, and even in the food we can’t eat.
But is there nothing good that this still relatively young man accomplished? The comedian Jack Benny was once famously confronted by a robber who insistently demanded, “Your money, or your life!” To which Benny replied, “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!” Mr. Obama has made it necessary for us to recall a whole order of being that was relentlessly overturned step by logical step. Do I think that this countrywide recollection is taking place? “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”
A list by Steven Pinker. Refreshingly prescriptivist. I agree with every example. For instance,
• Begs the question means assumes what it should be proving and does not mean raises the question.
Correct: "When I asked the dealer why I should pay more for the German car, he said I would be getting 'German quality,' but that just begs the question."
The MavPhil trinity of editors, me, myself, and I heartily agree. But if you disagree with me or the trinity I won't draw my weapon. I won't even give you a lecture or refer you to one of my erudite entries on the topic. Meaning is tied to use. So if enough people come to use 'begs the question' to mean raises the question, then that is what it will mean. The meaning of a word or phrase is not an intrinsic property of it. If you want to communicate using the phrase in question after the ignorant have their way with it, then you will have to acquiesce in the semantic corruption.
But why call it corruption? Because of the destruction of a very useful phrase with a specific meaning. We already have 'raises the question.'
When Trump was asked by Hugh Hewitt whether the former meant it literally when he called Obama the founder of ISIS, the Orange Man said yes, literally. Now there are degrees of descriptivism. Will you take it to the mad dog extreme of tolerating this use of 'literally'? Or will you dig in your heels? Not every prescriptivism is schoolmarmish. I have been known to split an infinite when the cadence of a well-crafted sentence dictated it. (Memo to self: write an entire entry on 'literally.')
The fact that we have the leisure to ponder these bagatelles is testimony to how good we have it. So be grateful for what you have while you have it.
Philosophers often use 'numerically' in contrast with 'qualitatively' when speaking of identity or sameness. If I tell you that I drive the same car as Jane, that is ambiguous: it could mean that Jane and I drive one and the same car, or it could mean that Jane and I drive the same make and model of car, but not one and the same car. To take a second example, six bottles of beer in a typical six-pack are numerically distinct but qualitatively identical. Suppose you want a beer from the six-pack. It won't matter which bottle of the six I hand you since they are all qualitatively the same (qualitatively identical) in respect of both bottle and contents, at least with regard to the properties that you would find relevant such as quantity, taste, inebriatory potential, etc. If I hand you a beer and you say you want a different beer from the same six-pack, you mean a numerically different one. If I reply by saying that they are all the same, I mean they are all qualitatively the same.
If A and B are numerically identical, it follows that they are one and the same. A and B are one, not two. If A and B are qualitatively identical, it does not follow that they are one and the same. But they might be. For if A and B are numerically identical, then they share all properties, in which case they are qualitatively identical. Furthermore, if A and B are qualitatively identical, it does not follow that they share every property: it suffices that they share some properties.
To see this, suppose that you and I both order the 'monster chimichanga' at the local Mexican eatery. We have ordered the same item, qualitatively speaking. But it turns out that the one served to you is slightly more 'monstrous' (a wee bit bigger) than mine. That doesn't change the fact that they are qualitatively the same or qualitatively identical as I use these phrases. The chimis are two, not one, hence numerically different. They are the same in that they share most properties.
I suppose we could nuance this by distinguishing strict from loose qualitative identity. Strict implies indiscernibility; loose does not.
Can One Step Twice into the Same River?
Stephen Law (HT: Sed Contra) thinks one can make short work of a Heraclitean puzzle if one observes the numerical-qualitative distinction:
If you jump into a river and then jump in again, the river will have changed in the interim. So it won't be the same. But if it's not the same river, then the number of rivers that you jump into is two, not one. It seems we're forced to accept the paradoxical - indeed, absurd - conclusion that you can't jump into one and the same river twice. Being forced into such a paradox by a seemingly cogent argument is a common philosophical predicament.
This particular puzzle is fairly easily solved: the paradoxical conclusion that the number of rivers jumped into is two not one is generated by a faulty inference. Philosophers distinguish at least two kinds of identity or sameness. Numerical identity holds where the number of objects is one, not two (as when we discover that Hesperus, the evening star, is identical with Phosphorus, the morning star). Qualitative identity holds where two objects share the same qualities (e.g. two billiard balls that are molecule-for molecule duplicates of each other, for example). We use the expression 'the same' to refer to both sorts of identity. Having made this conceptual clarification, we can now see that the argument that generates our paradox trades on an ambiguity. It involves a slide from the true premise that the river jumped in the second time isn't qualitatively 'the same' to the conclusion that it is not numerically 'the same'. We fail to spot the flaw in the reasoning because the words 'the same' are used in each case. But now the paradox is resolved: we don't have to accept that absurd conclusion. Here's an example of how, by unpacking and clarifying concepts, it is possible to solve a classical philosophical puzzle. Perhaps not all philosophical puzzles can be solved by such means, but at least one can.
Not so fast. Although superficially plausible, the above solution/dissolution of the puzzle begs the question against the doctrine of Heraclitean flux. Law goes at Heraclitus with the numerical-qualitative identity distinction. But this distinction presupposes a distinction between individuals and qualities. Given this distinction one can say that one and the same individual has different qualities at different times. Thus one and the same river is stepped into at different times. But on a doctrine of Heraclitean flux, there are no individuals that remain self-same over time. There is no substrate of change. Change cuts so deep that it cannot be confined to the properties of a thing leaving the thing, as the substrate of change, relatively unchanged. For Heracliteans as for Buddhists, it's flux all the way down.
Law taxes Heraclitus with an illicit inferential slide from
The river jumped into the second time is not qualitatively the same
The river jumped into the second time is not numerically the same.
But there is no equivocation on 'same' unless we can sustain a distinction between the thing and its properties. Is this distinction unproblematic? Of course not. It reeks with problems. Just what is a thing in distinction from its properties? A Bergmannian bare particular? An Armstrongian thin particular? An Aristotelian primary substance? There are problems galore with these conceptions. Has anyone ever really clarified the notion of prote ousia in Aristotle? Nope. Is a thing a bundle of its properties? More problems. And what is a property? An abstract object? In what sense of 'abstract'? A universal? A trope? Will you say that there are no properties at all, only predicates? And what about the thing's HAVING of properties? What is that? Instantiation? Is instantiation a relation? If yes, does it sire Bradley's Regress? Are properties/concepts perhaps unsaturated in Frege's sense? Can sense be made of that? Is HAVING some sort of containment relation? Are the properties of a thing ontological constituents of it? And what could that mean? And so it goes.
We are presented with a puzzle and a seeming absurdity: There is no stepping twice into the same river. The Moorean rebuttal comes quickly: Of course, there is! Common sense, convinced that it is right, attempts to dissolve the puzzle by making a simple distinction between numerical and qualitative identity. The dissolution seems to work — but only if we remain on the surface of the troubled waters. Think a little more and you realize that the distinction presupposes a deeper distinction between thing and properties. But now we are launched into a labyrinth of ontological problems for which there is no accepted solution. The unclarity of the individual-property distinction percolates back upwards to disturb the numerical-qualitative distinction.
Law has not definitively solved the Heraclitean puzzle.
The Numerical-Qualitative Distinction is Valid at the Level of Ordinary Language
We need to make the distinction, of course: it is fallout from, and exegesis of, ordinary usage. 'Same' is indeed ambiguous in ordinary English. The distinction does useful work at the level of ordinary language. The Heraclitean, however, need not be taken as contesting, at that level, the truth that one can step twice into the same river. He is making a metaphysical claim: there is in reality, below the level of conventional talk and understanding, radical flux. If so, there is nothing that remains self-same over time, such as a river, into which one can step twice.
To think clearly and avoid confusion one must observe the distinction between numerical and qualitative identity. But this distinction, which is serviceable enough for ordinary purposes, rests on a distinction, that of individual and property, which is metaphysically murky. Therefore, the common sense distinction cannot be used to dispatch the Heracliteans' metaphysical claim.
The deep metaphilosophical issue here concerns the role and status of Moorean rebuttals to seemingly crazy metaphysical claims. The illustrious Peter van Inwagen famously denies the existence of artifacts. But he is not crazy, and you won't be able to blow him out of the water with some simple-minded distinction.
How could you, Monica Crowley? Well, at least you are in good company. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized portions of his Boston University dissertation:
A committee of scholars appointed by Boston University concluded today [10 October 1991] that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized passages in his dissertation for a doctoral degree at the university 36 years ago.
[. . .]
"There is no question," the committee said in a report to the university's provost, "but that Dr. King plagiarized in the dissertation by appropriating material from sources not explicitly credited in notes, or mistakenly credited, or credited generally and at some distance in the text from a close paraphrase or verbatim quotation."
[. . .]
The dissertation at issue is "A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman." Dr. King wrote it in 1955 as part of his requirements for a doctor of philosophy degree, which he subsequently received from the university's Division of Religious and Theological Studies.
Does King's plagiarism disqualify him from being honored? No. He was a great civil rights leader and he died in the service of his cause.
Crowley's plagiarism appears to have been much worse than King's.
Every man has his 'wobble' as I like to say, and every woman too. If we honored only those who are in all respects honorable we would honor no mortal.
If truth be told, no one of us is all that admirable, although some of us are more admirable than others.
Is there something about the land itself that promotes conservatism? The answer is as old as Western civilization. For the classical Greeks, the asteios (“astute”; astu: city) was the sophisticated “city-like” man, while the agroikos(“agrarian”; agros: farm/field) was synonymous with roughness. And yet there was ambiguity as well in the Greek city/country dichotomy: city folk were also laughed at in the comedies of Aristophanes as too impractical and too clever for their own good, while the unpolished often displayed a more grounded sensibility. In the Roman world, the urbanus (“urbane”; urbs: city) was sometimes too sophisticated, while the rusticus (“rustic”; rus: countryside) was often balanced and pragmatic.
The maverick ideal as I envisage it is to be able to relate both to the urbanites and to the 'deplorable' rustics, rough, blunt, and practical among the latter, sophisticated and refined among the former. Among the urbanites, but not among the rustics, I might justify the maverick ideal by invoking Terence. Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto. "I am a man: I consider nothing human foreign to me."
Among the rusticos and urban blue-collar types any show of learning will often be taken as 'putting on airs.' And any display of refinement will often be read as preciosity, not that the workers will know this word. The word has an interesting property: it often applies to those who know it. A good maxim is to tailor one's discourse and comportment to one's audience, being vulgar among the vulgar and refined among the refined.
Hanson's piece is just jam-packed with insight:
Language is also different in the countryside. Rural speech serves, by its very brevity and directness, as an enhancement to action. Verbosity and rhetoric, associated with urbanites, were always rural targets in classical literature, precisely because they were seen as ways to disguise reality so as to advance impractical or subversive political agendas. Thucydides, nearly 2,500 years before George Orwell’s warnings about linguistic distortion, feared how, in times of strife, words changed their meanings, with the more polished and urbane subverting the truth by masking it in rhetoric that didn’t reflect reality. In the countryside, by contrast, crops either grow or wither; olive trees either yield or remain barren; rain either arrives or is scarce. Words can’t change these existential facts, upon which living even one more day often depends. For the rural mind, language must convey what is seen and heard; it is less likely to indulge adornment.
Things haven't changed. Leftists are masters of linguistic distortion as I have been pointing out since 2004 in these pages.
To the rural mind, verbal gymnastics reveal dishonest politicians, biased journalists, and conniving bureaucrats, who must hide what they really do and who they really are. Think of the arrogant condescension of Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of the disastrous Obamacare law, who admitted that the bill was written deliberately in a “tortured way” to mislead the “stupid” American voter. To paraphrase Cicero on his preference for the direct Plato over the obscure Pythagoreans, rural Americans would have preferred to be wrong with the blunt-talking Trump than to be right with the mush-mouthed Hillary Clinton. One reason that Trump may have outperformed both McCain and Romney with minority voters was that they appreciated how much the way he spoke rankled condescending white urban liberals.
Oikophobia is an irrational fear of household items, surroundings, and the like. Political oikophobia is an irrational aversion to one's own country, culture, traditions, and countrymen. I suggest we call the opposite political oikophilia, an irrational love of one's own country, culture, traditions, and countrymen. This distinction 'cuts perpendicular' to the xenophobia-xenophilia distinction. Thus,
Political oikophobia: irrational aversion to one's own country, etc. Political oikophilia: irrational love of one's own country, etc. Xenophobia: an irrational fear of foreigners and the foreign. Xenophilia: an irrational love of foeigners and the foreign.
Clearly, one can be an oikophobe without being a xenophile, and an oikophile without being a xenophobe.
Trump Derangment Syndrome takes the form of political oikophobia in many. Glenn Reynolds supplies examples. Here is one:
Ned Resnikoff, a “senior editor” at the liberal website ThinkProgress, wrote on Facebook that he’d called a plumber to fix a clogged drain. The plumber showed up, did the job and left, but Resnikoff was left shaken, though with a functioning drain. Wrote Resnikoff, “He was a perfectly nice guy and a consummate professional. But he was also a middle-aged white man with a Southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this week’s news.”
This created fear: “While I had him in the apartment, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether he had voted for Trump, whether he knew my last name is Jewish, and how that knowledge might change the interaction we were having inside my own home.”
When it was all over, Resnikoff reported that he was “rattled” at the thought that a Trump supporter might have been in his home. “I couldn’t shake the sense of potential danger.”
Here is a second example:
In fact, another piece on reacting to the election, by Tim Kreider in The Week, is titled "I love America. It's Americans I hate." Writes Kreider, “The public is a swarm of hostile morons, I told her. You don't need to make them understand you; you just need to defeat them, or wait for them die. . . . A few of us are talking, after a couple drinks, about buying guns; if it comes to a fascist state or civil war, we figure, we don't want the red states to be the only ones armed.”
“A vote for Trump,” Kreider continues, “is kind of like a murder.” Though his piece concludes on a (slightly) more hopeful note, the point is clear: Americans, at least Trump-voting Americans, are “pathetically dumb and gullible, uncritical consumers of any disinformation that confirms their biases.”
And a third:
And in a notorious Yale Law Journal article, feminist law professor Wendy Brown wrote about an experience in which, after a wilderness hike, she returned to her car to find it wouldn’t start. A man in an NRA hat spent a couple of hours helping her get it going, but rather than display appreciation for this act of unselfishness, Brown wrote that she was lucky she had friends along, as a guy like that was probably a rapist.
Clearly, these three people are topically deranged: they lose their mental balance and the boat of brain capsizes into irrationality when the topic of Trump obtrudes. This is not to say that they cannot negotiate the world sensibly in other ways: they are not globally deranged. Nor is it to say that everyone with objections to Trump the man or Trump's policies and appointments is deranged topically or globally.
The phrase 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' refers to a real phenomenon and is justified by this fact.
An important essay by Robert Nozik. (HT: C. Cathcart) Teaser quotation:
Intellectuals now expect to be the most highly valued people in a society, those with the most prestige and power, those with the greatest rewards. Intellectuals feel entitled to this. But, by and large, a capitalist society does not honor its intellectuals. Ludwig von Mises explains the special resentment of intellectuals, in contrast to workers, by saying they mix socially with successful capitalists and so have them as a salient comparison group and are humiliated by their lesser status.
Lockheed Martin Corp.’s chief told President-elect Donald Trump it’s close to a deal with the Pentagon to lower costs “significantly’’ for the next production lot of its F-35 fighter jet and will boost hiring at the Texas factory where the advanced aircraft is made.
People have been complaining about defense contractors' bilking of the government for decades. Should a screw cost $37? What's it made out of, gold? A coffee maker $7,622? A toilet seat $640? (See here.)
Finally, some action. But for action you need a man of action. A man who can't be bought. Not another lawyer turned career politician. Not another member of the cozy political class who goes along to get along. Someone with the wherewithal to be independent, a maverick politician, if you will.
You lefties ought to like that Trump is sticking it to yuge corporations and saving American jobs. So to you nattering nabobs of negativism I say: give the man a chance, a year or two. If he goes fascist we'll take of him.
A rich, complex vocabulary properly deployed is one evidence of a strong mind endowed with a wealth of knowledge. As I was watching portions of Trump’s press conference yesterday, despite being made physically ill by the man, I somewhat reflexively noticed the extraordinary paucity of his linguistic resources. Even when he is talking about something he has prepared himself on, he seems utterly unable to use more than the most primitive vocabulary, inaccurately and banally.
Professor Wolff is down with a bad case of TDS if he is made physically ill by Trump's speech. And yes, the paucity of the Orange Man's linguistic resources cannot be gainsaid. But might it be that we intellectuals have an inordinate respect for verbal intelligence? And an unjustified contempt for those who don't read books?
Among many, myself included, verbal facility is a touchstone of intelligence, or rather of one sort of intelligence, verbal intelligence. Barack Obama has it. He is a master of soaring rhetoric and empty phraseology. By way of exaggerated contrast, George W. Bush couldn't rub a subject and a verb together and come up with a clean sentence in his mother tongue. But there is more to intelligence than the ability to sling words while avoiding syntactic howlers. And when it comes to this 'more,' Obama has proven to be sadly lacking. Obama is an uncommonly good bullshitter and blather-mouth, but the net effect of his presidency has been negative. He lost the Middle East. And to mention only one domestic disaster, his policies, appointments and interventions into local affairs have set back race relations and have led to a terrible spike in inner city violence. The rule of law has been weakened under his administration.
David French is a good writer. But the following is from his January 11th NRO column, Shame on Buzzfeed:
So here’s what responsible people say when confronted with claims like that: What’s your evidence? If the answer is “an anonymously written and anonymously sourced series of memos that no one has yet been able to substantiate,” then you either pass on the story or — if you have the time and resources — try to substantiate the claims. If you can’t, then you pass. It’s that simple. Any other action isn’t “transparency.” It’s not “reporting.” It’s malice.
The intended meaning is clear, but only after two or more readings. The trouble is the ambiguous phrase 'pass on.'
In one sense of 'pass on,' to pass on a story is to tell it to one or more people, to publish or broadcast it. French's intended meaning is the opposite: to refuse to tell the story by 'taking a pass' on one's option of so doing.
The careful writer is sensitive to ambiguity, both semantic, as in the above case, and syntactic. We philoso-pedants call the latter amphiboly.
"The foolish fear that God is dead." This sentence is amphibolous because its ambiguity does not have a semantic origin in the multiplicity of meaning of any constituent word, but derives from the ambiguous way the words are put together. On one reading, the construction is a sentence: 'The foolish/ fear that God is dead.' On the other reading, it is not a sentence, does not express a compete thought, but is a sentence-fragment: ' The foolish fear/that God is dead.'
A good writer avoids ambiguity except when he intends it.
I got my quarterly haircut the other day. A neighbor remarked, "I see you got a haircut," to which I responded with the old joke, "I got 'em all cut."
What about 'pretty bad girls.' Are they pretty and bad, or pretty bad? Is the ambiguity here both syntactic and semantic? After all, if something is pretty bad, it is not pretty.
Ain't English fun? And why is 'pretty' pronounced like 'pity' and not like 'petty'? It is because of history, toward which we conservatives feel a sort of natural piety.
Could I present liberal-left ideas in such a way that the reader could not tell that I was not a liberal? Let me take a stab at this with respect to a few 'hot' topics. This won't be easy. I will have to present liberal-left ideas as plausible while avoiding all mention of their flaws. And all of this without sarcasm, parody, or irony. Each of these subheadings could be expanded into a separate essay. And of course there are many more subheadings that could be added.
Abortion. We liberals believe that a women's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy is a very important right that must be upheld. We are not pro abortion but pro choice, believing that decisions concerning a woman's reproductive health are ultimately her decisions, in consultation with physicians and family members and clergy, but are not the business of lawmakers and politicians. Every woman has a right to do what she wants with her body and its contents. While we respect those who oppose abortion on religious grounds, these grounds are of a merely private nature and cannot be made the basis of public policy. Religious people do not have the right to impose their views on the rest of us using the coercive power of the state.
Voting Rights. We liberals can take pride in the role our predecessors played in the struggle for universal suffrage. Let us not forget that until the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution on 18 August 1920, women were not allowed to vote. We liberals seek to preserve and deepen the progress that has been made. For this reason we oppose voter identification laws that have the effect of disenfranchising American citizens by disproportionately burdening young voters, people of color, the elderly , low-income families, and people with disabilities.
Gun Control. We live in a society awash in gun violence. While we respect the Second Amendment and the rights of hunters and sport shooters, we also believe in reasonable regulations such as a ban on all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Marriage. We liberals believe in equality and oppose discrimination in all its forms, whether on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. For this reason we support marriage equality and same-sex marriage. Opposition to same-sex marriage is discriminatory. As we become more enlightened and shed ancient superstitions, we extend the realm of freedom and equality to include more and more of the hitherto persecuted and marginalized. The recognition of same-sex marriage is but one more step toward a truly inclusive and egalitarian society.
Taxation and Wealth Redistribution. We liberals want justice for all. Now justice is fairness, and fairness requires equality. We therefore maintain that a legitimate function of government is wealth redistribution to reduce economic inequality.
Size and Scope of Government. As liberals we believe in robust and energetic government. Government has a major role to play in the promotion of the common good. It is not the people's adversary, but their benefactor. The government is not a power opposed to us; the government is us. It should provide for the welfare of all of us. Its legitimate functions cannot be restricted to the protection of life, liberty, and property (Locke) or to the securing of the negative rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson). Nor can it be restricted to the securing of these and a few others: people have positive rights and it is a legitimate function of government to ensure that people received the goods and services to which they have a positive right.
Health and Human Services. A decent society takes care of its members and provides for their welfare. The provision of welfare cannot be left to such institutions of civil society as private charities. It is a legitimate state function. People have positive rights to food, water, shelter, clothing, and health services. These rights generate in those capable of satisfying them the duty to provide the things in question. It is therefore a legitimate function of government to make sure that people get what they need.
Capital Punishment. We liberals are enlightened and progressive people. Now as humankind has progressed morally, there has been a corresponding progress in penology. The cruel and unusual punishments of the past have been outlawed. The outlawing of capital punishment is but one more step in the direction of progress and humanity and indeed the final step in implementing the Eight Amendment's proscription of "cruel and unusual punishments." There is no moral justification for capital punishment when life in prison without the possibility of parole is available.
The Role of Religion. As liberals, we are tolerant. We respect the First Amendment right of religious people to a "free exercise" of their various religions. But religious beliefs and practices and symbols and documents are private matters that ought to be kept out of the public square. When a justice of the peace, for example, posts a copy of the Ten Commandments, the provenience of which is the Old Testament, in his chambers or in his court, he violates the separation of church and state.
Immigration. We are a nation of immigrants. As liberals we embrace immigration: it enriches us and contributes to diversity. We therefore oppose the nativist and xenophobic immigration policies of conservatives while also condemning the hypocrisy of those who oppose immigration when their own ancestors came here from elsewhere.
Suppose it is true that Sam believes that Hesperus is a planet. One cannot substitute 'Phosphorus' for 'Hesperus' in 'Sam believes that Hesperus is a planet' and be assured that the resulting sentence will also be true. And this despite the fact that Hesperus is Phosphorus. The reason is that Sam may be ignorant of the fact that Hesperus is Phosphorus. So here we have a context, that of belief de dicto, in which the substitution of one co-referential expression for another fails to preserve truth.
Valid: Hesperus is a planet; Hesperus is Phosphorus; ergo, Phosphorus is a planet.
Invalid: Sam believes that Hesperus is a planet; Hesperus is Phosphorus; ergo, Sam believes that Phosphorus is a planet.
The difference in Quinean jargon is that in the valid argument, each name is in a referentially transparent position, while in the invalid argument the first occurrence of 'Hesperus' and the second occurrence of 'Phosphorous' are in referentially opaque positions. (Cf. Word and Object, sec. 30)
So far the Opponent will agree. But he has a question for me.
Why does substitution succeed for the ‘designates’ relation, but fail for the ‘believes’ relation? The two arguments below are of exactly the same logical form:
A. ‘H’ designates H; H = P, therefore ‘H’ designates P. B. Sam believes that H is a planet; H = P, therefore S believes that P is a planet.
My answer is that substitution succeeds for the 'designates' relation because there is no referential opacity in (A). 'H' in (A) -- I am mentioning the third word in (A) -- is referentially transparent. Let's not forget that we are assuming that names are rigid designators that refer directly to their designata, not via a Fregean sense or a Russellian description.
A directly referential term 'lassoes' its object, or you could say it 'harpoons' it or 'grabs' it. If I grab my cat I don't grab him under a description or via a Fregean "mode of presentation." I grab the cat himself, all 25 lbs of him with all his parts and properties. Analogously, successful reference on Kripke's scheme get us right to the thing itself.
I am maintaining against the Opponent that if names are rigid designators that target their designata directly and not via any sort of semantic intermediary, then the (A) and (B) cases are very different. (B)-type cases are counterexamples to universal substitutivity salva veritate; (A)-type cases are not. He is maintaining that the cases are parallel and that both generate referential opacity.
The Opponent's view might make sense if we add to the dialectic the Opponent's surprising thesis that all reference is intralinguistic reference, but this thesis cannot be brought into a discussion of Kripke who holds no such view. My view is that while there is of course intralinguistic reference, it is a derivative phenomenon: the paradigm cases are of extralinguistic reference. Reference to a massive planet is nothing like a pronoun's back-reference to its antecedent.
But I don't endorse Kripke's views. I incline toward a descriptivist theory of names. Names don't refer; people or rather their minds refer using names that need not be publicly expressed. Linguistic reference is built upon, and nothing without, thinking reference, or intentionality. The primacy of the intentional! (Chisholm would be proud of me.) The intentionality of finite mind, however, never presents us with the thing itself, Venus say, in all its infinitely-propertied glory. Mental reference in never direct but mediated by a semantic intermediary, whether a Fregean sense, an Husserlian noema, a Castanedan guise, or something of that order.
Thinking about my cat is quite unlike picking him up. When I pick him up I get the whole cat including stomach contents into my hand. But I can't get the whole cat into my mind when I think about him. I can only think of him under a description which doesn't begin to exhaust his full kitty-kat kwiddity.
Kripke's scheme is crude, especially when he tries to explain via causation how a name acquires its reference. The causal theory of reference quite hopeless for reasons canvassed in other posts.
Finally, if 'a' and 'b' are rigid designators that directly target their objects, and a = b, then surely there is no possible world in which the referents of these names both exist and are numerically different. If substitution comes into this at all, it cannot fail to preserve truth. For if the meaning of 'a' is exhausted by a, and the meaning of 'b' exhausted by b, and a = b, then there is no additional factor that could induce referential opacity.
If a = b, it does not follow that necessarily, a = b, for if a/b is contingent, there there are worlds in which the identity does not hold. But we can say this: if a = b, then essentially, a = b. This rules out the contingency of their identity across all worlds in which a/b exists.
Trump admires people who make money. He doesn’t buy that those, to take one example, with Ph.D.s and academic titles could have made money if only they had wished—but for lots of reasons (most of them supposedly noble) chose not to. For Trump, credentialed academic expertise in anything is in no way comparable to achievement in the jungle of business.
Instead, in Trump’s dog-eat-dog world, only a few bruisers make it to the top and the real, big money — the ultimate barometer of competence. He sees the “winners” as knights to be enlisted in behalf of the weaker others. He might not quite say that a Greek professor [a professor of Greek] is inherently useless, and he might not worry much about preserving the ancient strands of Western civilization. But he might remind us that such pursuits are esoteric and depend on stronger, more cunning and instinctual sorts, whose success alone can pay for such indulgences. Without Greek professors, the world can still find shelter and fuel; without builders and drillers, there can be no Greek professors. Brain surgery and guided missiles both require lots of money without which decline is inevitable.
There is an important truth here. The life of the mind is a noble and magnificent thing, and philosophy is the noblest pursuit of them all. The vita contemplativa is an end in itself and the vita activa its handmaiden.
But the spaces of serenity and contemplative repose must be secured by "cunning and instinctual sorts," the rude men who enforce the law and defend us from the barbarians within and the warriors who defend us from the barbarians without. And none of this is possible without the "builders and the drillers."
We intellectuals have a certain amount of justified contempt for the businessmen who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. We are disgusted by the vulgarity, ostentation, and ignorance of types like Trump. And they return the 'compliment.' The truth is that we need each other's virtues.
We need a man like Trump in the White House now after the disasters both foreign and domestic perpetrated by an adjunct law professor and community organizer with no experience of the real world whose only credentials are a gift of gab and a dark skin pigmentation.
Madonna's opening line at the awards gala was edited out of the shortened official video: "I stand before you as a doormat — oh, I mean a female entertainer." Merciful Minerva! Can there be any woman on Earth less like a doormat than Madonna Louise Ciccone? Madonna sped on with shaky assertions ("There are no rules if you're a boy") and bafflingly portrayed the huge commercial success of her 1992 book, Sex, as a chapter of the Spanish Inquisition, in which she was persecuted as "a whore and a witch."
C.P. is often a good antidote to P. C., not that that I would award Miss Paglia the much-coveted plenary MavPhil endorsement.
Yet another example. (HT: Karl White) "University students demand philosophers such as Plato and Kant are removed from syllabus because they are white."
The Telegraph title isn't even grammatical. The stupid demand is that these greats BE removed. Has England declined so far that its journalists can no longer write or speak correct English and must take instruction from an American blogger?
Demands refer to future events. I can demand that you leave my house, but I can't demand that you not have entered it, or that you are leaving it. I could of course demand that you continue the process of removing your sorry ass from my premises, but that too is a future-oriented demand.
I demand that you are stopping to be a willfully stupid leftist and that you are removed from my presence!
UPDATE (1/10). Horace Jeffery Hodges comments,
I think the statement is British English:
"University students demand philosophers such as Plato and Kant are removed from syllabus because they are white."
American English requires a subjunctive form:
I demand that they be removed . . .
This is one of the things I dislike about British grammar.
I don't know. I may be wrong, and Jeff may be right. In any case, it makes no bloody sense to use the present tense to refer to a future event. It is in the nature of a demand that it point us to the future for its satisfaction or the opposite. There is more to grammar than usage; there is also logic broadly construed. But then I am something of a prescriptivist. The distinction between singular and plural, for example, is logical and good grammar respects it.
Correct: A polite chess player thanks his opponent for the game, whether he wins or loses.
Incorrect: A polite chess player thanks their opponent for the game, whether they win or lose.
What about this: A polite chess player thanks her opponent for the game, whether she wins or loses.
I argued years ago that if 'his' can be correctly used gender-neutrally, then so can 'her.' And this despite the fact that in 'standard English usage' (admittedly a tendentious phrase) 'his' but not 'her' can be so used. Lydia McGrew got her knickers in a knot over this, thinking that I had succumbed to political correctness. This goes to show that for some conservatives one can never be too conservative. The least little concession to liberals shows that one has 'sold out.'
But more important than quibbling over language is defeating the Left and the contemptible shitheads who would remove Plato and Kant from the curriculum.
What these cranially-feculent morons fail to grasp is that really to understand their own crack-brained POMO ideology, they would have to study Kant. Kant's defensible constructivism was part of the set-up for their indefensible constructivism. Besides, you need Kant to understand Hegel, and Hegel Marx, and Marx the Frankfurt School . . . .