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.)
Last Wednesday morning, just as Old Sol was peeping his ancient head over the magnificent and mysterious Superstition range, I embarked on a drive down old Arizona 79, past Florence, to a hash house near Oracle Junction where I had the pleasure of another nice long three and one half hour caffeine-fueled discussion with Dale Tuggy. For me, he is a perfect interlocutor: Dale is a serious truth-seeker, no mere academic gamesman, analytically sharp, historically well-informed, and personable. He also satisfies a necessary though not sufficient condition of fruitful dialog: he and I differ on some key points, but our differences play out over a wide field of agreement.
I incline toward the view that God is not a being among beings, but Being itself. Dale rejects this view as incoherent. In this entry I will take some steps toward clarifying the issues that divide us.
A Being Among Beings
First of all, what could it mean to say that God is a being among beings? As I see it, to say that God is a being among beings is to say that God is no exception to the logical and ontological principles (pertaining to properties, property-possession, existence, modality, etc.) that govern anything that can be said to exist. It is to say that God fits the ontological or general-metaphysical schema that everything else fits. It is to say that God is ontologically on a par with other beings despite the attributes (omniscience, etc.) that set him apart from other beings and indeed render him unique among beings. To spell it out:
a. Properties. Some properties are such that God and creatures share them. Consider the property of being a self. For present purposes we may accept Dale's definition: "a being capable of consciousness, with intelligence, will, and the ability to intentionally act." God is a self, but so is Socrates. Both are selves in the very same sense of 'self.' 'Self' is being used univocally (not equivocally and not analogically) in 'God is a self' and 'Socrates is a self' just as 'wise' is being used univocally in 'God is wise' and 'Socrates is wise,' and so on.
Dale is uncomfortable with talk of properties and seems to prefer talk of concepts. Well then, I can put my present point by saying that some concepts are such as to be common to both God and creatures, the concept self being one example.
b. Property-possession. God has properties in the same way that creatures do. My first point was that there are some properties that both God and creatures share; my present point is a different one about property-possession: the having of these shared properties is the same in the divine and creaturely cases. Both God and Socrates instantiate the property of being a self, where first-level instantiation is an asymmetrical relation or non-relational tie that connects individuals and properties construed as mind-independent universals.
The point could be put conceptualistically as follows. Both God and Socrates fall under the concept self, where falling under is an asymmetrical relation that connects individuals and concepts construed as mind-dependent universals.
c. Existence. God is in the same way that creatures are. Given that God exists and that Socrates exists, it does not follow that they exist in the same way. Or so I maintain. But part of what it means to say that God is a being among beings is to say that God and Socrates do exist in the very same way. Whatever it is for an item to exist, there is only one way for an item to exist, and God and Socrates exist in that very same way. For example, if what it is for x to exist is for x to be identical to some y, then this holds both for God and Socrates.
d. It follows from (a) and (b) taken together that God is really distinct from his properties, and that his properties are really distinct from one another. God is in this respect no different from Socrates. Really distinct: distinct in reality, apart from our mental operations. (What is really distinct need not be capable of separate existence.) And both items have their properties by instantiating them.
e. It follows from (c) that God is really distinct from his existence (just as Socrates is really distinct from his existence) and that God is really distinct from existence (just as Socrates is distinct from existence).
f. It follows from (d) and (e) taken together that God is not ontologically simple. Contrapositively, if God is ontologically simple, then God is not a being among beings as I am using this phrase. It is therefore no surprise that Dale rejects divine simplicity whereas I am inclined to accept it. See my SEP entry for more on this.
If I understand Dale's position, he maintains that God is a being among beings in the above sense. If he is right, then God cannot be Being itself. But he presumably has a more direct reason to think that God cannot be Being itself.
Suppose God is not a being among beings in the sense I have just explained. And suppose, as we have been all along, that God exists. Does it follow that God is Being itself? It depends on what 'Being itself' refers to. For Dale, if I understand him, it doesn't refer to anything, or at least not to anything mind-independently real. If so, then God, who we both believe exists, cannot be identical to Being itself. For God is mind-independently real. In conversation, Dale owned up to being a subscriber to what I call radical ontological pluralism:
ROP: In reality, Being (existence) divides without remainder into beings (existents).
What (ROP) says is that in reality outside the mind there is no such 'thing' as Being. There are only beings. Since in reality there are only beings, Being itself, Existence itself, does not exist. A partisan of (ROP) may admit a distinction between Being and beings, Sein und das Seiende, esse et ens, existence and existent, but he will go on to say that Being in its difference from beings is nothing real, but only something verbal or conceptual. Thus Dale granted in conversation that we can use 'existence' and 'Being' to refer collectively to existents or things that are, but he denied that 'existence itself' and 'Being itself' refer to anything that really exists other than these existents. There is no one item, distinct from each of them and from all of them, in virtue of which the many beings ARE. Thus there is no Platonic Form, Existence itself, or any other sort of universal or property or entity or stuff for 'Being itself' or "Existence itself' to refer to. These high-falutin' words, if they refer to anything, refer to concepts we excogitate. If this is right, then there just is no Being itself for God to be identical to. On Dale's scheme all we've got are beings; it is just that one of these beings is the omni-qualified God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Dale did not give the above argument, but it is available to him, given that he accepts (ROP). The argument is formidable and cannot be dismissed out of hand. In sum:
Existence itself does not exist; God exists; Ergo, God is not (identical to) existence itself.
This argument, if sound, puts paid to any conception like that of Aquinas according to which Deus est ipsum esse subsistens, "God is self-subsistent Being." Framing the matter as I have shows that the fundamental issue is as much about the 'nature' of existence as it is about God.
For every syllogism there are three corresponding antilogisms. Here is one corresponding to the above syllogism:
Existence itself exists. God exists. God is not (identical to) existence itself.
The limbs of this aporetic triad cannot all be true given the following assumptions that I believe Dale accepts. (A1) God is the source/ground of everything distinct from himself. (A2) Existence itself, if there is such a 'thing,' is the source/ground of the existing of what exists. The difference between Dale and me can now be put concisely as follows.
I accept the first two limbs and reject the third while Dale accepts the second two limbs and rejects the first. We agree on the second limb.
Five Possible Views
By my count there are five combinatorially possible views:
V1. God exists, Existence exists, and they are identical. (BV) V2. God exists, but Existence does not exist. (DT) V3. Existence exists, but God does not exist. (A version of non-naturalistic atheism) V4. Both God and Existence exist, but they are different. V5. Neither God nor Existence exists. (Naturalistic atheism)
You might think that no one holds (V4). You would be wrong. Theist J. P. Moreland insists that existence itself exists while holding that it is a special property, the property of having properties, and thus not identifiable with God. (Universals, McGill-Queen's UP, 2001, pp. 134-139.)
Why Should We Think that God is identical to Existence itself?
I hope Dale will agree that I have made sufficiently clear the issue that divides us. We now need to look at some arguments. Here is one argument for the view that God is Existence itself.
Classically, God is causa prima, the 'first cause,' where 'first' needn't be taken temporally. Now God cannot play the role of first cause unless he exists. There are five 'possibilities' regarding the divine existence. Either (P1) God causes himself to exist, or (P2) God is caused by another to exist, or (P3) God exists contingently as a matter of brute fact without cause or reason, or (P4) God is a necessary being, but nonetheless a being among beings really distinct from his existence and from Existence itself, or (P5) God is (identically) Existence itself.
Each of the first four possibilities can be excluded.
Nothing can cause itself to exist. For that would require a thing to exist 'before' it exists whether temporally or logically-ontologically. Since that is impossible, God cannot cause himself to exist. On the other hand, nothing other than God can cause God to exist -- else God would not be God, would not be the ultimate metaphysical ground of all else. God is the Absolute, and it is self-evident that the Absolute cannot depend for its existence or nature on anything 'higher up' or 'farther back.' Please note that one can accept this, and Dale will, even while holding that God is a being among beings as I explained this notion.
On (P3), the existence of God is a brute fact. But then God is a contingent being in which case, again, God is not God. God is the Absolute, and no absolute worth its salt is a contingent being. No absolute just happens to exist. It is built into the divine job description that God be a necessary being, and indeed one whose metaphysical necessity is from itself and not from another as the necessity of certain propositions is necessary from another if they are divine thoughts.
I think Dale will agree with my rejection of the first three possibilities. I expect him to opt for (P4) according to which God is a necessary being but nonetheless a being among beings, and not Being itself. But if God is a necessary being, what is the ground of his necessity if it is not the divine simplicity? We agree that God cannot not exist. But I ask: why not? If in both God and Socrates there is a real distinction between essence and existence, and if in Socrates his contingency is rooted in the real distinction, then God too will be contingent. Dale needs to supply a ground for the divine necessity, and the only plausible ground is the identity in God of essence and existence.
I hope it is obvious that existing in all possible worlds cannot be the ground of the divine necessity. For that puts the cart before the horse. God exists in all possible worlds because he is a necessary being; it is not the case that he is necessary because he exists in all possible worlds.
Now there are only the five 'possibilities' mentioned above. (Or can you think of a sixth?) Since the first four are eminently rejectable and herewith rejected, the fifth alone remains standing: God is (identically) his existence and Existence itself. If so, God is not a being among beings. He transcends the general-metaphysical framework to which all else must conform. God is self-existent Existence.
Is the Argument Rationally Compelling?
Unfortunately, it is not. I think Dale would be within his epistemic rights were he to object: "You have reasoned logically toward a conclusion that makes no logical sense. The discursive intellect simply cannot 'process' any such claim as that God is identical to self-existent Existence. And the same goes for all of the characteristic claims of the divine simplicity to which you are committed by your denial that God is a being among beings."
So we end this round with a stand-off at an impasse. I continue to insist that the divine necessity, transcendence and aseity require divine simplicity as underpinning while granting that simplicity cannot be formulated in a way that satisfies the exigencies of the discursive intellect.
I am disposed to say either that the problem is insoluble at the level of the discursive intellect, a genuine aporia, or that there may be a way forward via the analogia entis. But, like Dale, I find the latter exceedingly murky. Erich Pryzwara's recently translated (into English) and published Analogia Entis certainly hasn't helped. Nor have the reviews I have read of it. Rigor of thought and clarity of expression are not phrases I would use to describe most of the writers on this topic. But then there is more to philosophy than rigor of thought and clarity of expression.
However, most people understand their side is good and the opposing side is bad, so it’s much easier for them to form these emotional opinions of political parties.
This sentence features a misuse of 'understand.' 'Understand' is a verb of success. If you understand something, then it is the case. For example, if you understand that both 2 and -2 are square roots of 4, then this is the case. Otherwise there is a failure to understand. 'Understand' in this respect is like 'know' and unlike 'believe' or 'think'. My knowing that p entails that p is true. My believing or thinking that p does not entail that p is true. My understanding that my side is good entails that it is. The above sentence should read as follows:
However, most people THINK their side is good and the opposing side is bad, so it’s much easier for them to form these emotional opinions of political parties.
It has been said of Bill Clinton that he'd rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth. Hillary continues the family tradition. One of her latest untruths is that all four of her grandparents came to the U.S. as immigrants when only one of them did. She lied, brazenly, about something easily checked. To prolong the arboreal metaphor, why would she perch herself far out on a limb so easily sawn off? Beats me.
Now a liar is not a person who tells a lie once in a long while. Otherwise we'd all be liars. A liar is one who habitually lies. Evidence mounts that Hillary is a liar. Ed Morrissey:
As lies go, this is somewhere between the Tuzla dash and the bombed-out Belfast hotel that wasn’t. The problem for Hillary is that it fits a pattern, and that pattern’s emerging very early in a campaign that has to run for another 18 months. Every time Hillary campaigns, she begins to fantasize about her history and experience in a way that reminds voters about the Clintons and their lack of credibility. Last year, she blew up her book tour by trying to claim that she and Bill left the White House “dead broke,” even though they owned two expensive houses, Hillary had already been elected to the Senate, and both she and Bill immediately began lucrative speaking tours and got huge book advances.
Re-imagining grandparents as immigrants all by itself wouldn’t necessarily be fatal to any candidate, let alone Hillary Clinton, who’s already stretching credulity to the breaking point by running as a populist while locking up all of the establishment backers in the Democratic Party. The problem for Democrats is that it’s not all by itself, and the fabulism problem will only get worse the longer Hillary talks.
Hillary's mendacity makes a certain amount of sense if one bears in mind that truth is not a leftist value, and that for leftists winning is everything with the end justifying the means. But only a certain amount. How could anyone believe that her ends are served by lying about matters easily checked? It may well be that Hillary is not just a liar, but a pathological liar. But does any of this matter?
When philosophy is done with others it takes the form of dialog, not debate. It is conversation between friends, not opponents, who are friends of the truth before they are friends of each other. Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas.
Ideally speaking, of course. Pushing a bit further into the Ideal:
In a face-to-face philosophical discussion, three is a crowd. As a rule, if not always.
If Al and Bill are talking philosophy, the first thing that has to occur, if there is to be any forward movement, is that the interlocutors must pin each other down terminology-wise. Each has to come to understand how the other is using his terms. It is notorious that key philosophical terms are used in different ways by different philosophers. This terminological fluidity, though regrettable, is unavoidable since attempts to rigidify terminology will inevitably beg key questions.
The following is a partial list of terms used in different ways by different philosophers: abstract, concrete, object, subject, fact, proposition, world, predicate, property, substance, event. Take 'fact.' For some, it is a matter of definition that a fact is a true proposition. But as I use the term, a fact is the truth-maker of a true proposition. Suppose you use 'fact' as interchangeable with 'true proposition.' Then I can accommodate you by distinguishing between facts-that and facts-of. Thus, the fact that Bill is blogging is made true by the fact of Bill's blogging. But we must sort out these definitional questions if we are to make any progress with the substantive issues. A substantive question would be: Are there facts? Obviously, we cannot make any headway with this until we agree on how we are using 'fact.' For more on this topic see Three Senses of 'Facts' and other entries in the Facts category.
And of course we can't stop here. If you say that a fact is a true proposition, then I will ask you how you are using 'proposition.' Do you mean the sense of a context-free declarative sentence? Are propositions for you abstract objects? But now we need to get clear about 'abstract' and 'object.' Do you use 'object' and 'entity' interchangeably? Or can there be objects that are not entities and entities that are not objects? (An hallucinated pink rat counts for some philosophers as an object that is not an entity, and a being that has never been the accusative of any intellect might count as an entity that is not an object.) Someone who uses 'object' in such a way that there is no object without a (thinking) subject is not misusing the word: that is a traditional use. But equally, a person who uses 'object' to mean entity is not misusing it either. So the use of 'object' needs clarification.
And then to add to the bloody mess there are those who use 'object' to mean entity belonging to the category of individuals.
One might use 'abstract' and 'concrete' as follows: X is abstract (concrete) iff X is causally inert (causally active/passive). But I know of at least one name philosopher who uses 'abstract' interchangeably with 'nonspatiotemporal.' On this usage, God would be an abstract object, while on the first definition God would be concrete.
Note that an abstract entity on either of these two definitions can be a substance (another word with about ten meanings!), i.e., a being capable of independent existence. But 'abstract' is used by philosophers as diverse as Hegel and Keith Campbell (the Australian trope theorist) to refer to non-independent objects. And indeed, their use is the classical, and etymologically correct, use.
Talk of 'abstract objects' is Quinean, not classical.
There are philosophers who think that 'Cambridge' changes and real changes are mutually exclusive. Thus they think that if a change is Cambridge, then it is not real. This is a mistake if we go by the terminology as it was originally introduced by Peter Geach. Real changes are a proper subset of Cambridge changes. See here for details.
A word or phrase catches on and then people start using it idiosyncratically.
And then there is 'bare particular,' a phrase that can be and has been used in about four different ways. (See second article referenced below.)
How about de dicto and de re? I am not in the mood to touch that terminology with an eleven-foot pole, which is the pole I use to not touch something I won't touch with a ten-foot pole.
And so it goes. Suppose Carla is present at Al and Bill's discussion. Will she help or hinder? Experience teaches that, for the most part, three's a crowd: the third interlocutor, in her zeal to contribute to the discussion will only interfere with the protracted preliminary clarification that Al and Bill need before they can get to work on the substantive questions that interest them.
Note 1: The above applies to face-to-face discussions, not to on-line exchanges. Note 2: I seem to recall Roderick Chisholm making the 'three is a crowd' remark. So I may have picked up the thought from him.
The merger of Philosophy Research Index into PhilPapers has now been completed. More than half a million items have been added to the PhilPapers index, greatly improving our coverage of older publications and print publications not available online. At 1.75 M items, our index is now three times the size of the nearest commercial alternative. We thank our colleagues at the Philosophy Documentation Center for their ceaseless efforts to collect relevant data.
My PhilPapers page sports some new entries though in several cases the bibliographical information is incomplete.
Now all of this sort of thing is what Heidegger would dismiss as Betriebsamkeit and with some justification. Fascinating our capacity to distract ourselves from the essential and lose ourselves in all sorts of busy-ness. Which is not to deny some value to this sort of frenetic scholarly industriousness. But let's hope that a further layer of Leiterization is not added. What this might consist in I'll leave it to you to imagine.
It is troubling that our lives will end. But for some of us it is even more troubling that they are constantly ending. It is not as if we are fully real now and later will not be; it is rather that our temporal mode of existence is not fully real. At each moment our lives are passing away. There is no completion, no rest, no final satisfaction, no fullness of being, in any moment. For this reason, living forever in this mode of existence is no solution at all. It is not as if what exists in time fully exists, but in time; rather it is that temporal existence is a deficient mode of existence.
Can philosophy be debated? In a loose sense, yes, but not in a strict sense.
Debate is a game in which the interlocutors attempt to defeat each other, typically before an audience whose approbation they strive to secure. Hence the query 'Who won the debate?' which implies that the transaction is about attacking and defending, winning and losing. I don't deny that debates can be worthwhile in politics and in other areas. And even in philosophy they may have some use. Someone who hears William Lane Craig debate some atheist will come away with some idea of what sorts of issues philosophers of religion discuss. What he won't come away with is any understanding of the essence of philosophy.
Why is philosophy -- the genuine article -- not something that can be debated?
Philosophy is fundamentally inquiry. It is inquiry by those who don't know (and know that they don't know) with the sincere intention of increasing their insight and understanding. Philosophy is motivated by the love of truth, not the love of verbal battle or the need to defeat an opponent or shore up and promote a preconceived opinion about which one has no real doubt.
When philosophy is done with others it takes the form of dialog, not debate. It is conversation between friends, not opponents, who are friends of the truth before they are friends of each other. Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas.
There is nothing adversarial in a genuine philosophical conversation. The person I am addressing and responding to is not my adversary but a co-inquirer. In the ideal case there is between us a bond of friendship, a philiatic bond. But this philia subserves the eros of inquiry. The philosopher's love of truth is erotic, the love of one who lacks for that which he lacks. It is not the agapic love of one who knows and bestows his pearls of wisdom.
There is nothing like this in a debate. The aim in a debate is not to work with the other towards a truth that neither claims to possess. On the contrary, each already 'knows' what the truth is and is merely trying to attack the other's counter-position while defending his own. Thus the whole transation is ideological, the two sides of which are polemics and apologetics. Debate is verbal warfare. This is why debaters never hesitate or show doubt or admit they are wrong. To show doubt is to show weakness. To prevail against an enemy you must not appear weak but intimidating.
There is no place for polemics in philosophy. To the extent that polemics creeps in, philosophy becomes ideology. This is not to say that there is no place for polemics or apologetics. It is to say that that place is not philosophy.
Discussions with ideologues, whether religious or anti-religious, tend to be unpleasant and unproductive. Ideologues see everything in terms of attack and defense. If you merely question their views they are liable to become angry or flustered. I once questioned a Buddhist on his 'no self' doctrine. He became hostile. His hostility at my questioning of one of the beliefs with which he identifies proved that his 'self' was alive and kicking despite doctrinal asseverations to the contrary.
The anarcho-tyranny fork has two tines, Pollack tells us. One is "the total collapse of the rule of law as applied to illegal immigrants and the crimes, petty and otherwise, that they commit." The other is "the increasing (and increasingly capricious) burdens and indignities that are heaped upon those citizens (perhaps ‘chumps’ is a better word) who still attempt to play by the rules."
My referral list this fine morning alerts me to the fact that Patrick Toner has a blog. He is a very sharp young analytic philosopher, and politically incorrect to boot, one indication of which is an interest in Norman Rockwell. You read that right, boys and girls. Toner's political incorrectness and independence of mind more than make up for his misspelling of 'hylomorphism' as 'hylemorphism.' [grin]
If matter could think, then matter would not be matter as currently understood.
Can abstracta think? Sets count as abstracta. Can a set think? Could the set of primes contemplate itself and think the thought, I am a set, and each of my members is a prime number? Given what we know sets to be from set theory, sets cannot think. It is the same with matter. Given what we know or believe matter to be from current physics, matter cannot think. To think is to think about something, and it is this aboutness or intentionality that proves embarrassing for materialism. I have expatiated on this over many, many posts and I won't repeat myself here. (Here is a characteristic post.) Please remind yourself of the obvious: physics is not materialism. Physics is science; materialism is philosophy.
But couldn't matter have occult powers, powers presently hidden from our best physics, including the power to think? Well, could sets have occult powers that a more penetrating set theory would lay bare? Should we pin our hopes on future set theory? Obviously not. Why not? Because it makes no sense to think of sets as subjects of intentional states. We know a priori that the set of primes cannot lust after the set of evens. It is impossible in a very strong sense: it is broadly logically impossible.
Of course, there is a big difference between sets and brains. We know enough about sets to know a priori that sets cannot think. But perhaps we don't yet know enough about the human brain. So I don't dogmatically claim that matter could not have occult or hidden powers. Maybe the meat between my ears does have the power to think. But then that meat is not matter in any sense we currently understand. And that is my point. You can posit occult powers if you like, and pin your hopes on a future science that will lay them bare; but then you are going well beyond the empirical evidence and engaging in high-flying speculations that ought to seem unseemly to hard-headed empiricistic and scientistic types.
Such types are known to complain about spook stuff and ghosts-in-machines. But to impute occult powers, powers beyond our ken, to brain matter does not seem to be much of an improvement. For that is a sort of dualism too. There are the properties and powers we know about, and the properties and powers we know nothing about but posit to avoid the absurdities of identity materialism and eliminativism. There is also the dualism of imagining that matter when organized into human brains is toto caelo different from ordinary hunks of matter. There is also a dualism within the brain as between those parts of it that are presumably thinking and feeling and those other parts that perform more mundane functions. Why are some brain states mental and others not? Think about it. (I have a detailed post on this but I don't have time to find it.)
The materialist operates with a conception of matter tied to current physics. On that conception of matter, it is simply unintelligible to to say that brains feel or think. If he nonetheless ascribes mental powers to matter, then he abandons materialism for something closer to panpsychism.
It is worth noting that the reverent gushing of the neuro-scientistic types over the incredible complexity (pound the lectern!) of the brain does absolutely nothing to reduce the unintelligibility of the notion that it is brains or parts of brains that are the subjects of intentional and qualitative mental states. For it is unintelligible how ramping up complexity can trigger a metabasis eis allo genos, a shift into another genus. Are you telling me that meat that means is just meat that is more complex than ordinary meat? You might as well say that the leap from unmeaning meat to meaning meat is a miracle. Some speak of 'emergence.' But that word merely papers over the difficulty, labeling the problem without solving it. Do you materialists believe in miracle meat or mystery meat? Do you believe in magic? In a young girl's brain?
When people commit violence in the name of religion, we must consider the possibility that they mean what they say. As I argue in my new book, which calls for a reformation of Islam, jihad in the 21st century is not a problem of poverty, insufficient education or any other social precondition. It is embedded in some of the key teachings of Islam itself.
Why shouldn't the state have and exercise the power to override the conscience of the individual? Suppose I am in the bumper sticker and T-shirt business. You come to my shop and order a thousand Fuck Obama! bumper stickers and a thousand Hillary Sucks! T-shirts. I explain to you that to do as you request would be to violate my longstanding commitment to civility and that you should take your business elsewhere.
Question: Should the power of the state be used to force me to serve this particular customer? If not, why not? Am I not discriminating against him on the basis of his creed, which includes a commitment to the absolute right of free speech? Am I not interfering with his exercise of this absolute right?
I appreciate e-mail and I try to answer it. Unfortunately, I do not have time to sort through diffuse and rambling missives. Ars longa, vita brevis. So if you want to get a rise out of me, keep it brief and to the point.
By a philosophical foil I mean a view or position that contrasts with other positions in such a way as to highlight the often superior qualities of the other positions. Foils are useful for mapping the spaces of theories and as termini of theoretical spectra. Consider the spectrum of positions stretching from extreme nominalism to Plato's Theory of Forms. The end points are reasonably viewed as foils. It seems to me that some philosophical positions are valuable and worthy of study only as foils and not as serious candidates for the office of 'true theory.' Here are two of several examples. Since everything in philosophy is controverted, I expect these will be too. The foil of one is the truth of another. Ain't philosophy grand? But I like the following examples, and I am the man whose intellectual and spiritual exigencies I am most interested in satisfying.
Extreme Nominalism. This is the view that there are no properties. If you tell me that there are no properties, I will be inclined to 'show you the door.' Of course there are properties. The only reasonable questions pertain to their nature. Are they universals or particulars? Can they exist unexemplified or not? Are they constituents of the things that have them or not? Is there a property for every meaningful predicate? Are there disjunctive properties? And so on. The reasonable question is not whether there are properties, but what they are.
Eliminative Materialism. This is surely a lunatic philosophy of mind. An eliminative materialist is a bit like a person who blows her brains out to be rid of a headache. No head, no headache, no problem! Too quick you say? Perhaps. So let me expatiate further.
The most obvious objection to eliminative materialism (EM) is that it denies obvious data, the very data without which there would be no philosophy of mind in the first place. Introspection directly reveals the existence of pains, anxieties, pleasures, and the like. Suppose I have a headache. The pain, qua felt, cannot be doubted or denied. Its esse is its percipi. To identify the pain with a brain state makes a modicum of sense, at least initially; but it makes no sense at all to deny the existence of the very datum that gets us discussing this topic in the first place. But Paul M. Churchland (Matter and Consciousness, rev. ed. MIT Press, 1988, pp. 47-48) has a response to this sort of objection:
The eliminative materialist will reply that that argument makes the same mistake that an ancient or medieval person would be making if he insisted that he could just see with his own eyes that the heavens form a turning sphere, or that witches exist. The fact is, all observation occurs within some system of concepts, and our observation judgments are only as good as the conceptual framework in which they are expressed. In all three cases — the starry sphere, witches, and the familiar mental states — precisely what is challenged is the integrity of the background conceptual frameworks in which the observation judgments are expressed. To insist on the validity of one's experiences, traditionally interpreted, is therefore to beg the very question at issue. For in all three cases, the question is whether we should reconceive the nature of some familiar observational domain.
Even if we grant that "all observation occurs within some system of concepts," is the experiencing of a pain a case of observation? If you know your Brentano, you know that early on in Psychology From an Empirical Standpoint he makes a distinction between inner observation (innere Beobachtung) and inner perception (innere Warhnehmung). Suppose one suddenly becomes angry. The experiencing of anger is an inner perception, but not an inner observation. The difference is between living in and through one's anger and objectifying it in an act of reflection. The act of inner observation causes the anger to subside, unlike the inner perception which does not.
Reflecting on this phenomenological difference, one sees how crude Churchland's scheme is. He thinks that mental data such as pains and pleasures are on a par with outer objects like stars and planets. It is readily granted with respect to the latter that seeing is seeing-as. A medieval man who sees the heavens as a turning sphere is interpreting the visual data in the light of a false theory; he is applying an outmoded conceptual framework. But there is no comparable sense in which my feeling of pain involves the application of a conceptual framework to an inner datum.
Suppose I feel a pain. I might conceptualize it as tooth-ache pain in which case I assign it some such cause as a process of decay in a tooth. But I can 'bracket' or suspend that conceptualization and consider the pain in its purely qualitative, felt, character. It is then nothing more than a sensory quale. I might even go so far as to abstract from its painfulness. This quale, precisely as I experience it, is nothing like a distant object that I conceptualize as this or that.
Now the existence of this rock-bottom sensory datum is indubitable and refutes the eliminativist claim. For this datum is not a product of conceptualization, but is something that is the 'raw material' of conceptualization. The felt pain qua felt is not an object of observation, something external to the observer, but an Erlebnis, something I live-through (er-leben). It is not something outside of me that I subsume under a concept, but a content (Husserl: ein reeller Inhalt) of my consciousness. I live my pain, I don't observe it. It is not a product of conceptualization -- in the way a distant light in the sky can be variously conceptualized as a planet, natural satellite, artificial satellite, star, double-star, UFO, etc. -- but a matter for conceptualization.
So the answer to Churchland is as follows. There can be no question of re-conceptualizing fundamental sensory data since there was no conceptualization to start with. So I am not begging the question against Churchland when I insist that pains exist: I am not assuming that the "traditional conceptualization" is the correct one. I am denying his presupposition, namely, that there is conceptualization in a case like this.
Most fundamentally, I am questioning the Kantian-Sellarsian presupposition that the data of inner sense are in as much need of categorial interpretation as the data of outer sense. If there is no categorization at this level, then there is no possibility of a re-categorization in neuroscientific terms.
What is astonishing about eliminative materialists is that they refuse to take the blatant falsity of their conclusions as showing that they went wrong somewhere in their reasoning. In the grip of their scientistic assumptions, they deny the very data that any reasonable person would take as a plain refutation of their claims.
Here. Why do leftists lie? Because lying works, and because the end justifies the means in their moral calculus. They see politics as war, and "All's fair in love and war." Therein lies yet another reason for the defense and exercise of Second Amendment rights.
One associates loud, domineering, and aggressive behavior with a 'big ego.' But a long memory for wrongs done one, a fine sensitivity to slights and slurs real and imagined are also signs of a 'big ego.'
Another indication thereof being the increasing number of well-placed and influential individuals, some of them well-meaning, who now believe that it is morally justifiable to use state power to violate the consciences of individuals by forcing them to do that to which they are morally opposed on grounds that are well-articulated, thoroughly reasoned, and supported by distinguished traditions and authorities.
To live beyond society, beyond the need for recognition and status. To live in truth, alone with nature and nature's God and the great problems and questions. There are the ancient dead ones for companionship. They speak across the centuries. With them we form a community of the like-minded in nomine scientiae.