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 deeply grateful.
What you need to know is that this weblog is just one philosopher's online journal, notebook, workshop, and on occasion sandbox. 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.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. I oppose hyperprofessionalization and excessive specialization. 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 61 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.
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.
Stephen Moore lays into Michael Gerson here as I did here.
In other 'enabling' news, French concert organizers ban Eagles of Death Metal.
If you want to know how lost Europe is, how thoroughly it has abandoned freedom of speech, get this: two French music festivals have banned Eagles of Death Metal, the American rock band whose gig at the Bataclan was turned into a bloodbath by Isis last November, after the lead singer said some dodgy things about Muslims.
Dodgy? What the Spectator piece reports the lead singer as saying looks to be simply true.
Political correctness is amazingly insidious. It infects even those who are supposedly conservative and freedom-loving.
In graduate school I was friends for a time with a New York Jew who for the purposes of this memoir I will refer to as 'Saul Peckstein.' A red diaper baby, he was brought up on Communism the way I was brought up on Roman Catholicism. Invited up to his room one day, I was taken aback by three huge posters on his wall, of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.
There is a distinctive quality of personal warmth that many Jews display, the quality conveyed when we say of so-and-so that he or she is a mensch. It is a sort of humanity, hard to describe, in my experience not as prevalent among goyim. Peckstein had it. But he was nonetheless able to live comfortably under the gaze of a mass murderer and their philosophical progenitors.
One day we were walking across campus when he said to me, "Don't you think we could run this place?" He was venting the utopian dream of a classless society, a locus classicus of which is a famous passage from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (ed. C. J. Arthur, New York: International Publishers, 1970, p. 53):
. . . as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.
The silly utopianism seeps out of "each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes." Could Saul Kripke have become a diplomat or a chauffeur or an auto mechanic if he wished? Pee Wee Herman a furniture mover or Pope? Woody Allen a bronco buster? Evel Knievel a neurosurgeon? And if Marx has actually done any 'cattle rearing,' he would have soon discovered that he couldn't be successful at it if he did it once in a while when he wasn't in the mood for hunting, fishing, or writing Das Kapital.
On another occasion Peckstein asked, "After the Revolution, what will we do with all the churches?" Like so many other commies he cherished the naive expectation that 'the revolution is right around the corner' in a phrase much bandied-about in CPUSA circles. And in tandem with that naivete, the foolish notion that religion would just wither away when material wants were satisfied and social oppression eliminated, a notion that betrays the deep superficiality of the materialist vision of man and his world.
One night we ate at an expensive restaurant, Anthony's Pier Four at the Boston harbor. Peckstein paid with a bad check. After all, it was an 'exploitative' capitalist enterprise and the owners deserved to be stiffed. But he left a substantial tip in cash for the servers. As I said, he was a mensch.
A few of us graduate students had been meeting to discuss Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. One day I announced that the topic for the next meeting would be the Table of Categories. Peckstein quipped, "Is that table you can eat on?" The materialist crudity of the remark annoyed me.
And then there was the time he wondered why people thank God before a meal rather than the farmers.
We were friends for a time, but friendship is fragile among those for whom ideas matter. Unlike the ordinary non-intellectual person, the intellectual lives for and sometimes from ideas. They are his oxygen and sometimes his bread and butter. He takes them very seriously indeed and with them differences in ideas. So the tendency is for one intellectual to view an ideologically divergent other intellectual as not merely holding incorrect views but as being morally defective in so doing.
Why? Because ideas matter to the intellectual. They matter in the way doctrines and dogmas mattered to old-time religionists. If one's eternal happiness is at stake, it matters infinitely whether one 'gets it right' doctrinally. If there is no salvation outside the church, you'd better belong to the right church. It matters so much that one may feel entirely justified in forcing the heterodox to recant 'for their own good.'
The typical intellectual nowadays is a secularist who believes in nothing that transcends the human horizon. But he takes into his secularism that old-time fervor, that old-time zeal to suppress dissent and punish apostates. It is called political correctness.
And as you have heard me say more than once: P.C. comes from the C. P.
Bought by corporate American for 21 million semolians. Here:
Mandatory financial disclosures released this month show that, in just the two years from April 2013 to March 2015, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state collected $21,667,000 in “speaking fees,” not to mention the cool $5 mil she corralled as an advance for her 2014 flop book, “Hard Choices.”
Throw in the additional $26,630,000 her ex-president husband hoovered up in personal-appearance “honoraria,” and the nation can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the former first couple — who, according to Hillary, were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001 with some of the furniture in tow — can finally make ends meet.
Given the vacuous pablum that Hillary serves up in her speeches, you know that the emolument stands in no rational relation to their content.
In a recent article, Libet writes: "it is only the final ‘act now’ process that produces the voluntary act. That ‘act now’ process begins in the brain about 550 msec before the act, and it begins unconsciously" (2001, p. 61).10 "There is," he says, "an unconscious gap of about 400 msec between the onset of the cerebral process and when the person becomes consciously aware of his/her decision or wish or intention to act." (Incidentally, a page later, he identifies what the agent becomes aware of as "the intention/wish/urge to act" [p. 62].) Libet adds: "If the ‘act now’ process is initiated unconsciously, then conscious free will is not doing it."
I have already explained that Libet has not shown that a decision to flex is made or an intention to flex acquired at -550 ms. But even if the intention emerges much later, that is compatible with an "act now" process having begun at -550 ms. One might say that "the ‘act now’ process" in Libet’s spontaneous subjects begins with the formation or acquisition of a proximal intention to flex, much closer to the onset of muscle motion than -550 ms, or that it begins earlier, with the beginning of a process that issues in the intention.11 We can be flexible about that (just as we can be flexible about whether the process of my baking my frozen pizza began when I turned my oven on to pre-heat it, when I opened the oven door five minutes later to put the pizza in, when I placed the pizza on the center rack, or at some other time). Suppose we say that "the ‘act now’ process" begins with the unconscious emergence of an urge to flex – or with a pretty reliable relatively proximal causal contributor to urges to flex – at about -550 ms and that the urge plays a significant role in producing a proximal intention to flex many milliseconds later. We can then agree with Libet that, given that the "process is initiated unconsciously, . . . conscious free will is not doing it" – that is, is not initiating "the ‘act now’ process." But who would have thought that conscious free will has the job of producing urges? In the philosophical literature, free will’s primary locus of operation is typically identified as deciding (or choosing); and for all Libet has shown, if his subjects decide (or choose) to flex "now," they do so consciously.
What Libet et al. want to show is that the notion that conscious willing plays a genuine role in the etiology of a behavior such as flexing a finger is illusory. Their evidence for this is that the process in the brain that initiates the action begins some 550 milliseconds before the action and is unconscious. Only 400 msecs later does the subject become aware of his wish or urge or intention or decision to act. This is supposed to show that the conscious intention is not causally efficacious and that conscious will is an illusion.
Mele rebuts this argument by showing that it trades on a confusion of decisions/intentions on the one hand and wishes and urges on the other. To want to do X is not the same as to decide to do X. Phil may want another Fat Tire Ale but decide not to drink another because he has already decimated Bill's supply and doesn't want to presume on his host. So even if the wanting to do action A begins in the brain a half a second before the doing of A, and is unconscious, it doesn't follow that the decision to do A begins in the brain a half second before the doing of A and is unconscious. Free will is displayed in decisions and choosings, not in wants and urges.
Basically, what Mele does quite skillfully in this article is show the indispensability of accurate conceptual analysis and phenomenology for the proper interpretation of empirical findings. The real illusion here is the supposition that the empirical findings of neuroscience can by themselves shed any light.
Explanatory rationalism is the view that there is a satisfactory answer to every explanation-seeking why question. Equivalently, it is the view that there are no propositions that are just true, i.e., true, contingently true, but without explanation of their being true. Are there some contingent truths that lack explanation? Consider the conjunction of all contingent truths. The conjunction of all contingent truths is itself a contingent truth. Could this contingent conjunctive truth have an explanation? Jonathan Bennett thinks not:
Let P be the great proposition stating the whole contingent truth about the actual world, down to its finest detail, in respect of all times. Then the question 'Why is it the case that P?' cannot be answered in a satisfying way. Any purported answer must have the form 'P is the case because Q is the case'; but if Q is only contingently the case then it is a conjunct in P, and the offered explanation doesn't explain; and if Q is necessarily the case then the explanation, if it is cogent, implies that P is necessary also. But if P is necessary then the universe had to be exactly as it is, down to the tiniest detail -- i.e., this is the only possible world. (Jonathan Bennett, A Study of Spinoza's Ethics, Hackett 1984, p. 115)
Bennett's point is that explanatory rationalism entails the collapse of modal distinctions. To put it another way, the principle of sufficient reason, call it PSR, according to which every truth has a sufficient reason for its being true, entails the extensional equivalence of the possible, the actual, and the necessary. These modal words would then differ at most in their sense but not in their reference. If we assume, as most of us will, the non-equivalence of the possible, the actual, and the necessary, then, by modus tollens, we will infer the falsity of explanatory rationalism/PSR.
This is relevant to the God question. If PSR is false, then cosmological arguments for the existence of God which rest on PSR will be all of them unsound.
Now let's look at Bennett's argument in detail.
The world-proposition P is a conjunction of truths all of which are contingent. So P is contingent. Now if explanatory rationalism is true, then P has an explanation of its being true. Bennett assumes that this explanation must be in terms of a proposition Q distinct from P such that Q entails P, and is thus a sufficient reason for P. Now Q is either necessary or contingent. If Q is necessary, and a proposition is explained by citing a distinct proposition that entails it, and Q explains P, then P is necessary, contrary to what we have assumed. On the other hand, if Q is contingent, then Q is a conjunct of P, and again no successful explanation has been arrived at. Therefore, either explanatory rationalism is false, or it is true only on pain of a collapse of modal distinctions. We take it for granted that said collapse would be a Bad Thing.
Bennett's is a cute little argument, a variant of which impresses the illustrious Peter van Inwagen as well, but I must report that I do not find the argument in either version compelling. Why is P true? We can say that P is true because each conjunct of P is true. We are not forced to say that P is true because of a distinct proposition Q which entails P.
I am not saying that P is true because P is true; I am saying that P is true because each conjunct of P is true, and that this adequately and non-circularly explains why P is true. Some wholes are adequately and noncircularly explained when their parts are explained. In a broad sense of 'whole' and 'part,' a conjunction of propositions is a whole the parts of which are its conjuncts. Suppose I want to explain why the conjunction Tom is broke & Tom is fat is true. It suffices to say that Tom is broke is true and that Tom is fat is true. Their being conjoined does not require a separate explanation since for any propositions their conjunction automatically exists.
Suppose three bums are hanging around the corner of Fifth and Vermouth. Why is this threesome there? The explanations of why each is there add up (automatically) to an explanation of why the three of them are there. Someone who understands why A is there, why B is there, and why C is there, does not need to understand some further fact in order to understand why the three of them are there. Similarly, it suffices to explain the truth of a conjunction to adduce the truth of its conjuncts. The conjunction is true because each conjunct is true. There is no need for an explanation of why a conjunctive proposition is true which is above and beyond the explanations of why its conjuncts are true.
Bennett falsely assumes that "Any purported answer must have the form 'P is the case because Q is the case'. . ." This ignores my suggestion that P is the case because each of its conjuncts is the case. So P does have an explanation; it is just that the explanation is not in terms of a proposition Q distinct from P which entails P.
But we can and should go deeper. P is true because each of its conjuncts is true. But why are they true? Each is true because its truth-maker makes it true. A strong case can be made that there are truth-makers and that truth-makers are concrete facts or states of affairs. (See D. M. Armstrong, et al.) A fact is not a proposition, but that which makes a contingently true proposition true. My being seated, for example, makes-true 'BV is seated.' The sentence (as well as the proposition it is used to express) cannot just be true: there must be something external to the sentence that makes it true, and this something cannot be another sentence or anyone's say-so. As for Bennett's "great proposition P," we can say that its truth-maker is the concrete universe. Why is P true? Because the concrete universe makes it true. 'Makes true' as used in truth-maker theory does not mean entails even though there is a loose sense of 'makes true' according to which a true proposition makes true any proposition it entails. Entailment is a relation defined over propositions: it connects propositions to propositions. It thus remains within the sphere of propositions. Truth-making, however, connects non-propositions to propositions. Therefore, truth-making is not entailment.
We are now outside the sphere of propositions and can easily evade Bennett's clever argument. It is simply not the case that any purported answer to the question why P is the case must invoke a proposition that entails it. A genuine explanation of why a contingent proposition is true cannot ultimately remain within the sphere of propositions. In the case of P it is the existence and character of the concrete universe that explains why P is true.
Going Deeper Still
But we can and should go deeper still. Proposition P is true because the actual concrete universe U -- which is not a proposition -- makes it true. But what makes U exist and have the truth-making power? If propositional truth is grounded in ontic truth, the truth of things, what grounds ontic truth? Onto-theological truth?
Theists have a ready answer: the contingent concrete universe U exists because God freely created it ex nihilo. It exists because God created it; it exists contingently because God might not have created it or any concrete universe. The ultimate explanation of why P is true is that God created its truth-maker, U.
Now consider the proposition, God creates U. Call it G. Does a re-run of Bennett's argument cause trouble? G entails P. G is either necessary or contingent. If G is necessary, then so is P, and modal distinctions collapse. If G is contingent, however, it is included as a conjunct within P. Does the explanation in terms of divine free creation therefore fail?
Not at all. For it is not a proposition that explains P's being true but God's extra-propositional activity, which is not a proposition. God's extra-propositional activity makes true P including G and including the proposition, God's extra-propositional activity makes true P.
I conclude that Professor Bennett has given us an insufficient reason to reject the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
I apply a similar critique to Peter van Inwagen's version of the argument in my "On An Insufficient Argument Against Sufficient Reason," Ratio, vol. 10, no. 1 (April 1997), pp. 76-81.
Arguments to God a contingentia mundi that rely on PSR are not refuted by the Bennett argument.
Apparently, nine out of ten American Indians are not offended by the Redskins name, thereby demonstrating that they have more sense than the typical liberal. This calls for a reposting of an entry from August 2013. Enjoy!
'Redskin' Offensive? What About 'Guinea Pig'?
Apparently, the online magazine Slate will no longer be referring to the Washington Redskins under that name lest some Indians take offense. By the way, I take offense at 'native American.' I am a native Californian, which fact makes me a native American, and I'm not now and never have been an Indian.
But what about 'guinea pig'? Surely this phrase too is a racial/ethnic slur inasmuch as it suggests that all people of Italian extraction are pigs, either literally or in their eating habits. Bill Loney takes this (meat) ball and runs with it.
And then there is 'coonskin cap.' 'Coon' is in the semantic vicinity of such words as: spade, blood, spear chucker, spook, and nigger. These are derogatory words used to refer to Eric Holder's people. In the '60s, southern racists expressed their contempt for Martin Luther King, Jr. by referring to him as Martin Luther Coon. Since a coonskin cap is a cap made of the skin of a coon, 'coonskin cap' is a code phrase used by creepy-assed crackers to signal that black folk ought to be, all of them, on the wrong end of a coon hunt.
'Coonskin cap' must therefore be struck from our vocabulary lest some black person take offense.
But then consistency demands that we get rid of 'southern racist.' The phrase suggests that all southerners are racists. And we must not cause offense to the half-dozen southerners who are not racists.
But why stop here? 'Doo wop' is so-called because many of its major exponents were wops such as Dion DiMucci who was apparently quite proud to be a wop inasmuch as he uses the term five times in succession starting at :58 of this version of 'I Wonder Why' (1958). The old greaseball still looks very good in this 2004 performance. Must be all that pasta he consumes.
'Wop' is from the sound pasta makes when thrown against a wall, something excitable greaseballs often do when tanked up on dago red. Either that, or it means With Out Papers.
I could go on -- this is fun -- but you get the drift, and the serious politically incorrect point of this exercise -- unless you are a stupid liberal.
William E. Mann, God, Modality, and Morality (Oxford University Press, 2015), ix + 369 pp.
This is a book philosophers of religion will want on their shelves. It collects sixteen of William E. Mann's previously published papers and includes “Omnipresence, Hiddenness, and Mysticism” written for this volume. These influential papers combine analytic precision with historical erudition: in many places Mann works directly from the classical texts and supplies his own translations. Mann ranges masterfully over a wealth of topics from the highly abstract (divine simplicity, aseity, sovereignty, immutability, omnipresence) to the deeply existential (mysticism, divine love, human love and lust, guilt, lying, piety, hope). As the title suggests, the essays are grouped under three heads, God, Modality, and Morality.
A somewhat off-putting feature of some of these essays is their rambling and diffuse character. In this hyperkinetic age it is a good writerly maxim to state one's thesis succinctly at the outset and sketch one's overall argument before plunging into the dialectic. Mann typically just plunges in. “The Guilty Mind,” for example, begins by juxtaposing the Matthew 5:28 commandment against adultery in the heart with the principle of mens rea from the criminal law. From there we move to a certain view of intentional action ascribed to a character Mann has invented. This is then followed with a rich and penetrating discussions of lying, strict criminal liability, the doctrine of Double Effect (307-9) and other topics illustrated with a half-dozen or so further made-up characters. One realizes one is in the presence of a fertile mind grappling seriously with difficult material, but after a couple of dense pages, one asks oneself: where is this going? What is the thesis? Why is the author making me work so hard? Some of us need to evaluate what we study to see if we should take it on board; this is made difficult if the thesis or theses are not clear.
I had a similar difficulty with the discussion of love in “Theism and the Foundations of Ethics.”
Central to Christian moral teaching are the two greatest commandments. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:35-40) Mann raises the question whether love can be reasonably commanded. Love is an emotion or feeling. As such it is not under the control of the will. And yet we are commanded to love God and neighbor. How is this possible? An action can be commanded, but love is not an action. If love can be commanded, then love is an action, something I can will myself to do; love is not an action, not something I can will myself to do, but an emotional response; ergo, love cannot be commanded.
One way around the difficulty is by reinterpreting what is meant by 'love.' While I cannot will to love you, I can will to act benevolently toward you. And while it makes no sense to command love, it does make sense to command benevolent behavior. "You ought to love her" makes no sense; but "You ought to act as if you love her" does make sense. There cannot be a duty to love, but there might be a duty to do the sorts of things to and for a person that one would do without a sense of duty if one were to love her. One idea, then, is to construe "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" as "Thou shalt act towards everyone as one acts toward those few whom one loves" or perhaps "Thou shalt act toward one's neighbor as if one loved him." The above is essentially Kant's view as Mann reports it (236 ff.) .
As for love of God, to love God with one's whole heart, mind, and soul is to act as if one loves God with one's whole heart, mind, and soul. But how does one do that? One way is by acting as if one loves one's neighbor as oneself. So far, so good. Mann, however, rejects this minimalist account as he calls it. And then the discussion becomes murky for this reviewer despite his having read it four or five times carefully. The murkiness is not alleviated by a segue into a rich and detailed discussion of eros, philia, and agape.
“Modality, Morality, and God” is written in the same meandering style but is much easier to follow. It also has the virtue of epitomizing the entire collection of essays. Its topic is the familiar Euthyphro dilemma: Does God love right actions because they are right, or are they right because God loves them? On the first horn, God is reduced to a mere spokesman for the moral order rather than its source, with negative consequences for the divine sovereignty. On the second horn, the autonomy of the moral order is compromised and made hostage to divine arbitrarity. If the morally obligatory is such because God commands it, then, were God to command injustice, it would be morally obligatory. And if God were to love injustice that would surely not give us a moral reason for loving it. Having set up the problem, Mann should have stated his solution and then explained it. Instead, he makes us slog through his dialectic. Mann's solution is built on the notion that with respect to necessary truths and absolute values God is not free to will otherwise than he wills. In this way the second horn is avoided. But how can God be sovereign over the conceptual and moral orders if he cannot will otherwise than he wills? If I understand the solution, it is that sovereignty is maintained and the first horn is avoided if the constraint on divine freedom is internal to God as it would be if “absolute values are the expression of that [God's] rational autonomy.” (168) Thus God is not free as possessing the liberty of indifference with respect to necessary truths and absolute values, but he is free as the rationally autonomous creative source of necessary truths and absolute values. Thus God is the source of necessary truths and absolute values, not their admirer. Does Mann's solution require the doctrine of divine simplicity? I dont think so. But it is consistent with it. If knowing and willing are identical in God, then the truth value and modal status of necessary truths cannot be otherise in which case God cannot will them to be otherwise.
At the center of Mann's approach to God is the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS). But as Mann wryly observes, “The DDS is not the sort of doctrine that commands everyone's immediate assent.” (260) It is no surprise then that the articulation, defense, and application of the doctrine is a recurrent theme of most of the first thirteen essays. Since DDS is the organizing theme of the collection, a critical look at Mann's defense of it is in order.
One of the entailments of the classical doctrine of divine simplicity is that God is what he has. (Augustine, The City of God, XI, 10.) Thus God has omniscience by being (identical to) omniscience. And similarly for the other divine attributes. The Platonic flavor of this is unmistakable. God is not an all-knowing being, but all-knowing-ness itself; not a good being, or even a maximally good being, but Goodness itself; not a wise being or the wisest of beings, but Wisdom itself. Neither is God a being among beings, an ens among entia, but ipsum esse subsistens, self-subsistent Being. To our ordinary way of thinking this sounds like so much nonsense: how could anything be identical to its attributes? It seems obvious that something that has properties is eo ipso distinct from them. But on another way of thinking, DDS makes a good deal of sense. How could God, the absolute, self-sufficient reality, be just one more wise individual even if the wisest? God is better thought of as the source of all wisdom, as Wisdom itself in its prime instance. Otherwise, God would be dependent on something other than himself for his wisdom, namely, the property of being wise. As Mann points out, the Platonic approach as we find it is the Augustinian and Anselmian accounts of DDS leads to difficulties a couple of which are as follows:
D1. If God = wisdom, and God = life, then wisdom = life. But wisdom and life are not even extensionally equivalent, let alone identical. If Tom is alive, it doesn't follow that Tom is wise. (23)
D2. If God is wisdom, and Socrates is wise by participating in wisdom, then Socrates is wise by participating in God. But this smacks of heresy. No creature participates in God. (23)
Enter property instances. It is one thing to say that God is wisdom, quite another to say that God is God's wisdom. God's wisdom is an example of a property instance. And similarly for the other divine attributes. God is not identical to life; God is identical to his life. Suppose we say that God = God's wisdom, and God = God's life. It would then follow that God's wisdom = God's life, but not that God = wisdom or that wisdom = life.
So if we construe identity with properties as identity with property instances, then we can evade both of (D1) and (D2). Mann's idea, then, is that the identity claims made within DDS should be taken as Deity-instance identities (e.g., God is his omniscience) and as instance-instance identities (e.g., God's omniscience is God's omnipotence), but not as Deity-property identities (e.g., God is omniscience) or as property-property identities (e.g., omniscience is omnipotence). Support for Mann's approach is readily available in the texts of the doctor angelicus. (24) Aquinas says things like, Deus est sua bonitas, "God is his goodness."
But what exactly is a property instance? If the concrete individual Socrates instantiates the abstract property wisdom, then two further putative items come into consideration. One is the (Chisholmian-Plantingian as opposed to Bergmannian-Armstrongian) state of affairs, Socrates' being wise. Such items are abstract, i.e., not in space or time. The other is the property instance, the wisdom of Socrates. Mann rightly holds that they are distinct. All abstract states of affairs exist, but only some of them obtain or are actual. By contrast, all property instances are actual: they cannot exist without being actual. The wisdom of Socrates is a particular, an unrepeatable item, just as Socrates is, and the wisdom of Socrates is concrete (in space and/or time) just as Socrates is. If we admit property instances into our ontology, then the above two difficulties can be circumvented. Or so Mann maintains.
Could a Person be a Property Instance?
But then other problems loom. One is this. If the F-ness of God = God, if, for example, the wisdom of God = God, then God is a property instance. But God is a person. From the frying pan into the fire? How could a person be a property instance? The problem displayed as an inconsistent triad:
a. God is a property instance.
b. God is a person.
c. No person is a property instance.
Mann solves the triad by denying (c). (37) Some persons are property instances. Indeed, Mann argues that every person is a property instance because everything is a property instance. (38) God is a person and therefore a property instance. If you object that persons are concrete while property instances are abstract, Mann's response is that both are concrete. (37) To be concrete is to be in space and/or time. Socrates is concrete in this sense, but so is his being sunburned.
If you object that persons are substances and thus independent items while property instances are not substances but dependent on substances, Mann's response will be that the point holds for accidental property instances but not for essential property instances. Socrates may lose his wisdom but he cannot lose his humanity. Now all of God's properties are essential: God is essentially omniscient, omnipotent, etc. So it seems to Mann that "the omniscience of God is not any more dependent on God than God is on the omniscience of God: should either cease to be, the other would also." (37) This is scarcely compelling: x can depend on y even if both are necessary beings. Both the set whose sole member is the number 7 and the number 7 itself are necessary beings, but the set depends on its member both for its existence and its necessity, and not vice versa. Closer to home, Aquinas held that some necessary beings have their necessity from another while one has its necessity in itself. I should think that the omniscience of God is dependent on God, and not vice versa. Mann's view, however, is not unreasonable. Intuitions vary.
Mann's argument for the thesis that everything is a property instance involves the notion of a rich property. The rich property of an individual x is a conjunctive property the conjuncts of which are all and only the essential and accidental properties, some of them temporally indexed, instantiated by x throughout x's career. (38) Mann tells us that for anything whatsoever there is a corresponding rich property. From this he concludes that "everything is a property instance of some rich property or other." (38) It follows that every person is a property instance. The argument seems to be this:
A. For every concrete individual x, there is a corresponding rich property R. Therefore,
B. For every concrete individual x, x is a property instance of some rich property or other. Therefore,
C. For every concrete individual x, if x is a person, then x is a property instance.
I am having difficulty understanding this argument. The move from (A) to (B) smacks of a non sequitur absent some auxiliary premise. I grant arguendo that for each concrete individual x there is a corresponding rich property R. And I grant that there are property instances. Thus I grant that, in addition to Socrates and wisdom, there is the wisdom of Socrates. Recall that this property instance is not to be confused with the abstract state of affairs, Socrates' being wise. From what I have granted it follows that for each x there is the rich property instance, the R-ness of x. But how is it supposed to follow that everything is a property instance? Everything instantiates properties, and in this sense everything is an instance of properties; but this is not to say that everything is a property instance. Socrates instantiates a rich property, and so is an instance of a property, but it doesn't follow that Socrates is a property instance. Something is missing in Mann's argument. Either that, or I am missing something.
There is of course no chance that Professor Mann is confusing being an instance of a property with being a property instance. If a instantiates F-ness, then a is an instance of the property F-ness; but a is not a property instance as philosophers use this phrase: the F-ness of a is a property instance. So what do we have to add to Mann's argument for it to generate the conclusion that every concrete individual is a property instance? How do we validate the inferential move from (A) to (B)? Let 'Rs' stand for Socrates' rich property. We have to add the claim that there is nothing one could point to that could distinguish Socrates from the property instance generated when Socrates instantiates Rs. Rich property instances are a special case of property instances. Socrates cannot be identical to his wisdom because he can exist even if his wisdom does not exist. And he cannot be identical to his humanity because there is more to Socrates that his humanity, even though he cannot exist wthout it. But since Socrates' rich property instance includes all his property instances, why can't Socrates be identical to this rich property instance? And so Mann's thought seems to be that there is nothing that could distinguish Socrates from his rich property instance. So they are identical. And likewise for every other individual. But I think this is mistaken. Consequently, I think it is a mistake to hold that every person is a property instance. I give three arguments.
Rich Properties and Haecceity Properties
Socrates can exist without his rich property; ergo, he can exist without his rich property instance; ergo, Socrates cannot be a rich property instance or any property instance. The truth of the initial premise is fallout from the definition of 'rich property.' The R of x is a conjunctive property each conjunct of which is a property of x. Thus Socrates' rich property includes (has as a conjunct) the property of being married to Xanthippe. But Socrates might not have had that property, whence it follows that he might not have had R. (If R has C as a conjunct, then necessarily R has C as a conjunct, which implies that R cannot be what it is without having exactly the conjuncts it in fact has. An analog of mereological essentialism holds for conjunctive properties.) And because Socrates might not have had R, he might not have had the property instance of R. So Socrates cannot be identical to this property instance.
What Mann needs is not a rich property, but an haecceity property: one that individuates Socrates across every possible world in which he exists. His rich property, by contrast, individuates him in only the actual world. In different worlds, Socrates has different rich properties. And in different worlds, Socrates has different rich property instances. It follows that Socrates cannot be identical to, or even necessarily equivalent to, any rich property instance. An haecceity property, however, is a property Socrates has in every world in which he exists, and which he alone has in every world in which he exists. Now if there are such haecceity properties as identity-with-Socrates, then perhaps we can say that Socrates is identical to a property instance, namely, the identity-with-Socrates of Socrates. Unfortunately, there are no haecceity properties as I and others have argued.1 So I conclude that concrete individuals cannot be identified with property instances, whence follows the perhaps obvious proposition that no person is a property instance, not God, not me, not Socrates.
The Revenge of Max Black
Suppose we revisit Max Black's indiscernible iron spheres. There are exactly two of them, and nothing else, and they share all monadic and relational properties. (Thus both are made of iron and each is ten meters from an iron sphere.) There are no properties to distinguish them, and of course there are no haecceity properties. So the rich property of the one is the same as the rich property of the other. It follows that the rich property instance of the one is identical to the rich property instance of the other. But there are two spheres, not one. It follows that neither sphere is identical to its rich property instance. So again I conclude that individuals are not rich property instances.
If you tell me that the property instances are numerically distinct because the spheres are numerically distinct, then you presuppose that individuals are not rich property instances. You presuppose a distinction between an individual and its rich property instance. This second argument assumes that Black's world is metaphysically possible and thus that the Identity of Indiscernibles is not metaphysically necessary. A reasonable assumption!
The Revenge of Josiah Royce
Suppose Phil is my indiscernible twin. Now it is a fact that I love myself. But if I love myself in virtue of my instantiation of a set of properties, then I should love Phil equally. For he instantiates exactly the same properties as I do. But if one of us has to be annihilated, then I prefer that it be Phil. Suppose God decides that one of us is more than enough, and that one of us has to go. I say, 'Let it be Phil!' and Phil says, 'Let it be Bill!' So I don't love Phil equally even though he has all the same properties that I have. I prefer myself and love myself just because I am myself. My Being exceeds my being a rich property instance.
This little thought-experiment suggests that there is more to self-love than love of the being-instantiated of an ensemble of properties. For Phil and I have the same properties, and yet each is willing to sacrifice the other. This would make no sense if the Being of each of us were exhausted by our being instances of sets of properties. In other words, I do not love myself solely as an instance of properties but also as a unique existent individual who cannot be reduced to a mere instance of properties. I love myself as a unique individual. And the same goes for Phil: he loves himself as a unique individual. Each of us loves himself as a unique individual numerically distinct from his indiscernible twin.
Classical theism is a personalism: God is a person and we, as made in the image and likeness of God, are also persons. God keeps us in existence by knowing us and loving us. God is absolutely unique and each of us is unique as, and only as, the object of divine love. The divine love penetrates to the very ipseity and haecceity of me and my indiscernible twin, Phil. God loves us as individuals, as essentially unique (Josiah Royce). But this is not possible if we are reducible to rich property instances. I detect a tension between the personalism of classical theism and the view that persons are property instances.
The Dialectic in Review
One of the entailments of DDS is that God is identical to his attributes, such defining properties as omniscience, omnipotence, etc. This view has its difficulties, so Mann takes a different tack: God is identical to his property instances. This implies that God is a property instance. But God is a person and it is not clear how a person could be a property instance. Mann takes the bull by the horns by boldly arguing that every concrete individual is a property instance -- a rich property instance -- and that therefore every person is a property instance, including God. The argument was found to be uncompelling for the three reasons given. Mann's problems stem from an attempt to adhere to a non-constituent ontology in explication of a doctrine that was developed within, and presumably only makes sense within, a constituent ontology. Too much indebted to A. Plantinga's important but wrong-headed critique of DDS in Does God Have a Nature?, Mann thinks that a shift to property instances will save the day while remaining within Plantinga's nonconstituent ontological framework.2 But God can no more be identical to a concrete property instance than he can to an abstract property.
1 William F. Vallicella, A Paradigm Theory of Existence, Kluwer Philosophical Studies Series #89, 2002, pp. 99-104. See also Hugh J. McCann, Creation and the Sovereignty of God, Indiana UP, 2012, pp. 86-87. See my review article, "Hugh McCann on the Implications of Divine Sovereignty," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 88, no. 1 (Winter 2014), pp. 149-161.
2 See my Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry, “Divine Simplicity,” section 3.
Every morning I find a new batch of anti-Trump articles by so-called conservatives. These anti-Trumpsters clearly see the man's many negatives, but most of them refuse to come clean on the question: "Do you advocate not voting for Trump thereby aiding and abetting a Clinton victory? Yes or no?"
Conservatives latched on to the GOP as an instrument to express their ideals. Now loyalty to party is causing many to abandon their ideals. Conservatism is not misogyny. Conservatism is not nativism and protectionism. Conservatism is not religious bigotry and conspiracy theories. Conservatism is not anti-intellectual and anti-science. For the sake of partisanship -- for a mess of pottage -- some conservatives are surrendering their identity.
Here is a little fair and balanced commentary on Gerson's outburst.
True, conservatism is not misogyny. And it is true that Trump has stupidly made misogynistic statements. By alienating the distaff half of the electorate, it is is a good bet that the foolish man has sealed his fate. We shall see. But whether he is fairly described as a misogynist is not clear given his appointment of women to high positions in his organization.
'Nativism' and 'protectionism,' like 'isolationism' are not neutral words. They are pejoratives. Suppose someone sees the failures and false assumptions of U. S. foreign policy and appreciates that some U. S. interventions make things worse instead of better. If you wanted to describe such a person fairly and neutrally you would call him a non-interventionist, not an isolationist. There are paleo-cons and neo-cons. A paleo-conservative non-interventionism, which need not exclude judicious and well-thought-out interventions, has arguably a better claim on the honorific 'conservative' than neo-conservative interventionism.
The same goes for 'protectionist' and 'nativist.' They are pejoratives. People interested in a serious discussion ought to use neutral terminology.
Suppose you are neither a libertarian nor a leftist. You appreciate that the U. S. is neither a shopping mall nor a job market. It is a nation with a culture, a long tradition, and a commitment to a set of values including liberty, self-reliance, self-determination, and constitutionally-based limited government. You appreciate that a nation has a right to preserve and protect its culture and resist its dilution let alone its "fundamental transformation." Having this right, a nation has the right to protect itself from illegal immigration and a right to select those groups which it will allow to immigrate. A nation has no obligation to allow immigration at all, let alone immigration of groups of people whose values are antithetical to the nation's values. True, immigration can enrich a nation if the immigrants are willing to assimilate and embrace the values and traditions of the host country. Ask yourself: are sharia-supporting Muslims immigrants of this kind? The answer is obviously in the negative.
There is no net benefit to Muslim immigation. Of course there are are wonderful individual Muslims. See my high praise for Zuhdi Jasser. But policies cannot cater to individuals.
'Nativism,' like 'racism,' is a term used by leftists and other destructive types to slander their opponents and pre-empt rational debate.
When people like Gerson employ the 'nativism' epithet they play the same filthy game as leftists. So how conservative are people like him? A conservative is not a leftist. Nor is a conservative a libertarian.
Is it "religious bigotry" to insist that subversive, sharia-supporting Muslims with no intention of assimilating and every intention of "fundamentally transforming America" not be allowed to immigrate? Of course not. It is just common sense.
Money, power, sex, and recognition form what I call the Mighty Tetrad of human motivators, the chief goads to action here below. Hillary specializes in the inordinate love of the first two, Bill in the inordinate love of the second.
Fr. Aidan Kimel asked me to comment on a couple of divine simplicity entries of his. When I began reading the first, however, I soon got bogged down in a preliminary matter concerning wonder at the existence of the world, its contingency, and whether its contingency leads us straightaway to a causa prima. So I will offer some comments on these topics and perhaps get around to divine simplicity later.
Fr. Kimel writes,
Why is it obvious to [David Bentley] Hart, when it is not obvious to so many modern theologians and philosophers, that a proper understanding of divinity entails divine simplicity? Earlier in his book Hart invites us to consider with wonder the very fact of existence. “How odd it is, and how unfathomable,” he muses, “that anything at all exists; how disconcerting that the world and one’s consciousness of it are simply there, joined in a single ineffable event. … Every encounter with the world has always been an encounter with an enigma that no merely physical explanation can resolve” (pp. 88-89). The universe poses the question “why?” and in so posing this question, it reveals to us its absolute contingency. The universe need not have been. [Emphasis added.]“Nothing within the cosmos contains the ground of its existence” (p. 92):
All things that do not possess the cause of their existence in themselves must be brought into existence by something outside themselves. Or, more tersely, the contingent is always contingent on something else. This is not a difficult or rationally problematic proposition. The complications lie in its application. Before all else, however, one must define what real contingency is. It is, first, simply the condition of being conditional: that is, the condition of depending upon anything external or prior or circumambient in order to exist and to persist in being. It is also mutability, the capacity to change over time, to move constantly from potential to actual states, and to abandon one actual state in favor of another. It is also the condition of being extended in both space and time, and thus of being incapable of perfect “self-possession” in some absolute here and now. It is the capacity and the tendency both to come into and pass out of being. It is the condition of being composite, made up of and dependent upon logically prior parts, and therefore capable of division and dissolution. It is also, in consequence, the state of possessing limits and boundaries, external and internal, and so of achieving identity through excluding—and thus inevitably, depending upon—other realities; it is, in short, finitude. (pp. 99-100)
And now some comments of mine.
Strictly speaking, the universe does not pose any questions; we pose, formulate, and try to answer questions. I share with Hart, Wittgenstein, et al. the sense of wonder that anything at all exists. But this sense of wonder is ours, not the universe's. We sometimes express this sense of wonder in a grammatically interrogative sentence, 'Why does/should anything at all exist?'
But please note that this expression of wonder, although grammatically interrogative, is not the same as the explanation-seeking why-question, Why does anything at all exist? And again, this is a question we ask; it is not one that the universe asks.
Nor does the universe reveal to us its absolute contingency by asking this question: it does not ask the question. We ask the explanation-seeking why-question, and in asking it we presuppose that the universe is contingent, that it "need not have been," that it is not necessary. For if the universe were necessary, it would make little or no sense to ask why it exists.
But is the universe contingent? Its contingency does not follow from the fact that we presuppose it to be contingent. But for the sake of this discussion I will just assume that the universe is contingent. It is, after all, a reasonable assumption.
But what is it to be contingent? There seems to be two nonequivalent definitions of 'contingency' at work above. I will call them the modal definition and the dependency definition.
X is modally contingent =df x exists in some but not all metaphysically (broadly logically) possible worlds. But since possible worlds jargon is very confusing to many, I will also put the definition like this: X is modally contingent =df x is possibly nonexistent if existent and possibly existent if nonexistent. For example, I am modally contingent because I might not have existed: my nonexistence is metaphysically possible. Unicorns, on the other hand, are also modally contingent items because they are possibly existent despite their actual nonexistence. This is what Aquinas meant when he said that the contingent is what is possible to be and possible not to be. Note that the contingent and the actual are not coextensive. Unicorns are contingent but not actual, and God and the number 9 are actual but not contingent. If you balk at the idea that unicorns are contingent, then I will ask you: Are they then necessary beings? Or impossible beings? Since they can't be either, then they must be contingent.
Now for the dependency definition. X is dependently contingent =df there is some y such that (i) x is not identical to y; (ii) necessarily, if x exists, then y exists; (iii) y is in some sense the ground or source of x's existence. We need something like the third clause in the definiens for the following reason. Any two distinct necessary beings will satisfy the first two clauses. Let x be the property of being prime and y the number 9. The two items are distinct and it is necessarily the case that if being prime exists, then 9 exists. But we don't want to say that the the property is contingently dependent upon the number.
The two definitions of 'contingency' are not equivalent. What is modally contingent may or may not be dependently contingent. Bertrand Russell and others have held that the universe exists as a matter of brute fact. (Cf. his famous BBC debate with Fr. Copleston.) Thus it exists and is modally contingent, but does not depend on anything for its existence, and so is not dependently contingent, contingent on something. It is not a contradiction, or at least not an obvious contradiction, to maintain that the universe is modally contingent but not depend on anything distinct from itself. 'Contingent' and 'contingent upon' must not be confused. On the other hand, Aquinas held that there are two sorts of necessary beings, those that have their necessity from another and those that have their necessity in themselves. God, and God alone, has his necessity in himself, whereas Platonica have their necessity from God. That is to say that they derive their esse from God; they depend for their existence of God despite their metaphysical necessity. If, per impossibile, God were not to exist, then the denizens of the Platonic menagerie would not exist either. It follows that Platonica are dependently contingent.
So I would urge that it is not the case that, as Hart says, "the contingent is always contingent on something else." Or at least that is not obviously the case: it needs arguing. Hart appears to be confusing the two senses of 'contingency' and making things far too easy on himself. The following is a bad argument: The universe is contingent; the contingent, by definition, is contingent on something else; ergo the universe is contingent on something else, and this all men call God. It is a bad argument because it either equivocates on 'contingency,' or else the second premise is false. I am not sure that Hart endorses this argument. I am sure, however, that it is a bad argument.
The lion said to the turtle, "Come out of your shell, and join the party!" The turtle said to the lion, "OK, Leo, after you have had yourself declawed and defanged."
Defense mechanisms, both physical and psychological, serve a good purpose even as they limit relations with others. But too much armor, psychic and otherwise, will stunt your life. Too little may end it.
Among a body politic's defense mechanisms are secure borders and a wise immigration policy.
The USA at present has neither. You know what to do.
Let me give just one example of political correctness run amok in campus women’s studies in the U.S. In 1991, a veteran instructor in English and women’s studies at the Schuylkill campus of Pennsylvania State University raised objections to the presence in her classroom of a print of Francisco Goya’s famous late-18th-century painting, Naked Maja. The traditional association of this work with the Duchess of Alba, played by Ava Gardner in a 1958 movie called The Naked Maja, has been questioned, but there is no doubt that the painting, now owned by the Prado in Madrid, is a landmark in the history of the nude in art and that it anticipated major 19th-century works like Manet’s Olympia.
The instructor brought her case to a committee called the University Women’s Commission, which supported her, and she was offered further assistance from a committee member, the campus Affirmative Action officer, who conveyed her belief that there were grounds for a complaint of sexual harassment, based on the “hostile workplace” clause in federal regulations. The university, responding to the complaint, offered to change the teacher’s classroom, which she refused. She also refused an offer to move the painting to a less visible place in the classroom or to cover it while she was teaching. No, she was insistent that images of nude women must never be displayed in a classroom — which would of course gut quite a bit of major Western art since ancient Greece.
To make good use of your time in this world, think of your life above all as a quest, a seeking, a searching, a striving. For what? For the ultimate in reality, truth, value, and for their existential appropriation.
One appropriates reality by being authentic, truth by being truthful, values and norms by living them.
It may all be absurd in the end, a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." But one cannot live well on the assumption that it is.
So assume that it is not and explore the question along all avenues of advance.
When macro-aggression is no more, when wrongs have been righted and justice has been promoted and protected to the extent that it can be by government, it is then that leftists invent micro-aggressions to keep themselves in business and assure themselves of an ever-expanding clientele of victims and losers.
Leftists have lost their minds. To the extent that they have willfully destroyed their own thinking capacity, they deserve our contempt and condemnation. To the extent that they have succumbed to suggestions and forces beyond their control, they deserve our pity and help. Thomas Sowell on micro-aggression. Two examples from Sowell:
If you just sit in a room where all the people are white, you are considered to be guilty of "micro-aggression" against people who are not white, who will supposedly feel uncomfortable when they enter such a room.
At UCLA, a professor who changed the capitalization of the word "indigenous" to lower case in a student's dissertation was accused of "micro-aggression," apparently because he preferred to follow the University of Chicago Manual of Style, rather than the student's attempt to enhance the importance of being indigenous.
Next stop: The Twilight Zone. Sowell's analysis:
The concept of "micro-aggression" is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be "hate speech," instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them.
This tactic reaches far beyond academia and far beyond the United States. France's Jean-Paul Sartre has been credited -- if that is the word -- with calling social conditions he didn't like "violence," as a prelude to justifying real violence as a response to those conditions. Sartre's American imitators have used the same verbal tactic to justify ghetto riots.
Word games are just one of the ways of silencing politically incorrect ideas, instead of debating them. Demands that various conservative organizations be forced to reveal the names of their donors are another way of silencing ideas by intimidating people who facilitate the spread of those ideas. Whatever the rationale for wanting those names, the implicit threat is retaliation.
This same tactic was used, decades ago, by Southern segregationists who tried to force black civil rights organizations to reveal the names of their donors, in a situation where retaliation might have included violence as well as economic losses.
In a sense, the political left's attempts to silence ideas they cannot, or will not, debate are a confession of intellectual bankruptcy. But this is just one of the left's ever-increasing restrictions on other people's freedom to live their lives as they see fit, rather than as their betters tell them.
Current attempts by the Obama administration to force low-income housing to be built in middle class and upscale communities are on a par with forcing people to buy the kind of health insurance the government wants them to buy -- ObamaCare -- rather than leaving them free to buy whatever suits their own situation and preferences.
The left is not necessarily aiming at totalitarianism. But their know-it-all mindset leads repeatedly and pervasively in that direction, even if by small steps, each of which might be called "micro-totalitarianism."
The argument of people like Prager is that we know how Mrs. Clinton would govern if she were president: as a person of the left. In addition, she’s an ethical mess. The Trump-over-Clinton crowd also argue that Mrs. Clinton is sure to nominate Supreme Court justices that will lock in a liberal court for a generation. Trump may do that, too, but he may not. He might put an actual conservative on the Supreme Court. At least the chances of getting some good things done are better under a President Trump than a President Clinton.
I disagree with this bottom line judgment for several reasons. The first is that in considering those who run for the presidency, one needs to look beyond which candidate correctly checks the preferred policy boxes. That matters, but it’s not all that matters. And it may not even be what matters most.
Judgment, wisdom, temperament, and prudence are the most important qualities by which to evaluate a potential president. It’s obvious to me that Mr. Trump is not only temperamentally unsuited for the Oval Office; I think he’s quite dangerous—emotionally unstable, erratic, narcissistic, impulsive, cruel and vindictive. He is appealing to our darker impulses. He’s also stunningly uninformed and shallow, at least on matters of policy and philosophy. Even when running for president, he has shown no interest in even acquainting himself with the issues, let alone mastering them.
But there’s something else as well: Mr. Trump, if he were to win the presidency, would redefine the Republican Party and conservatism in ways that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders never could. As president, he and the Republican Party would essentially become one. Trump and Trumpism would be definitional, and therefore discrediting. As Bret Stephens puts it:
Trumpism isn’t just a triumph of marketing or the excrescence of a personality cult. It is a regression to the conservatism of blood and soil, of ethnic polarization and bullying nationalism. Modern conservatives sought to bury this rubbish with a politics that strikes a balance between respect for tradition and faith in the dynamic and culture-shifting possibilities of open markets. When that balance collapses—under a Republican president, no less—it may never again be restored, at least in our lifetimes.
“The conservative movement can wait out a Clinton presidency intact,” added Jonah Goldberg. “A Trump presidency is a ride straight to perdition, with a capital H.”
That is where I have been and where I remain. Like other conservative commentators, I will continue to speak out against Trump during this campaign, despite the fact—and in some respects because of the fact—that he’s running as a Republican. It matters to me that he’s soiling the party of Lincoln and Reagan. I have higher expectations for my side than the other side.
I count three arguments here.
First, the argument from bad character. It is true: Trump does have a bad character, but then so does Hillary, who is an "ethical mess" as Wehner admits. Is there some algorithm by which we can compute who is worse? No. What criteria would you use? How would you weight them? Is it worse to store state secrets on a home server or to be a vulgarian who gratuitously insults women and references in public the efficacy of his primary male characteristic?
It looks to be a wash. Both are liars. And both are opportunists who quite plainly place their own personal ambitions above all else. Proof of that is that both readily change their positions when it is expedient to do so. Hillary is famous for her 'flip flops' or policy reversals. Here is a list of 20. Perhaps some of these reversals are justified. But an objective observer would have to conclude that Mrs. Clinton is not 'principled,' not rooted in carefully thought-through principles that guide her decisions. Personal ambition and the needs of the moment guide her decisions. In this respect she is surely not better than Trump. And let's not forget that she is staring at a federal indictment, which is not something that could be said of Mr. Trump. Furthermore, what has Hillary accomplished on her own? What qualifies her for the presidency? Being a woman? Trump inherited a pile, true, but he did something with it and lot of people get a paycheck because of him.
So I reject the first argument. I see no good reason to think that Trump is ethically worse than Hillary. Both are bad people. Neither is really presidential. But who else is there who is electable? Given that Trump and Hillary are equally bad character-wise, policy considerations ought to push a conservative over to the Trump camp.
Wehner's second argument is hard to make out, but it has something do with altering the Republican Party beyond recognition. But unless one's livelihood is tied to the preservation of this feckless, joke of a political party, why should anyone care about its continuance? Clearly, we don't need two left-wing parties, the liberal Republicans and the hard-left Dems. If you are headed for a cliff it is better to be riding an elephant than a jackass, but you are going over the cliff all the same.
The third argument is the Goldberg argument I refuted the other day. As I said,
Hillarious appointments to SCOTUS will damage the country irrepararably. I am told there might be as many as three.
Suppose I am becoming weaker by the day and you are becoming stronger by the day. You are my sworn enemy and I must defeat you. Does it make sense for me to wait four years to fight you?
Think about it. Can conservatism remain "intact" during four to eight more years of a hard-left administration? Yes it can -- as a debating society, which is essentially what the boys in the bow ties have going. But meanwhile in the real world we will still have sanctuary cities, a flood of illegal immigrants, a.k.a. 'undocumented Democrats,' the destruction of the universities, the state assault on religious liberties . . . . While the bow tie boys talk, the country moves ever Left-ward.
I see no reason to abandon the Prager argument. Trump is bad, but Hillary is worse. Hold your nose and vote for Trump. Because Hillary is worse, abstention is not the right course.
There is more to be said. In particular, we need to discuss whether there can be a conservatism that avoids both the impotence of the go-along-to-get-along Republican establishmentarians but also does not descend into a Blut und Boden nativism that certain neo-reactionaries seems to be slouching towards.
By the way, there is something very strange about fearing a merely potential Trumpian fascism when actual left-wing fascism is being imposed upon the country by Barack Hussein Obama. Latest outrage: Obama's Transgender Edict.
I Ain't Superstitious, leastways no more than Howlin' Wolf, but two twin black tuxedo cats just crossed my path. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Nine lives and dressed to the nines. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Superstition. Guitar solo starts at 3:03. And of course you've heard the story about Niels Bohr and the horseshoe over the door:
A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous atomic scientist.
As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he demanded:
“Niels, it can’t possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe that foolish horseshoe superstition! ? !”
“Of course not,” replied the scientist. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”
When Thomas Aquinas and Baruch Spinoza write about the God of the Old Testament, they write about numerically the same Biblical character using the same Latin word, Deus. They write about this character, refer to it, and indeed succeed in referring to it. But Aquinas and Spinoza do not believe in the same divine reality. Of course they both believe in a divine reality; but their conceptions of a divine reality are so different that it cannot be maintained -- or so I argue here contra F. Beckwith -- that it is one and the same reality that they believe in. Nor do they succeed in referring to the same reality. Since it cannot be the case that both divine realities exist, one of the two philosophers fails to refer to anything at all. It follows that they cannot be said to worship the same God: one of them worships an idol.
God, Adam, Moses, "and all them prophets good and gone" (Bob Dylan, Gospel Plow) actually exist qua characters in the Biblical narrative. But of course it does not follow that they exist 'outside' the narrative in reality.
A few months ago in the wake of the Wheaton contretemps we were much exercised over the question whether the God of the Christians is the same as the God of the Muslims. I wonder if the distinction between God as Biblical character and God as divine reality can help in that dispute. Perhaps some variants of the dispute arise from a failure to draw this distinction. Perhaps the following irenic proposal will be acceptable:
Christians and Muslims write about, talk about, and refer to one and the same Biblical character when they use 'God' and 'Allah.' In this sense, the God of the Christians and that of the Muslims is the same God. It is one and the same Biblical character, God. But Christians and Muslims do not refer to one and the same divine reality by their uses of 'God' and 'Allah.' This is because extralinguistic reference is conceptually mediated, not direct, and no one item can instantiate both the Christian and the Muslim conceptions of God. Nothing can be both triune and non-triune, to mention just one important different in the two conceptions.
So either the Christian is failing to refer to anything such that his worship is of an idol, or the Muslim is failing to refer to anything such that his worship is of an idol. The situation is strictly parallel to the Aquinas-Spinoza case. The two philosophers are clearly referring to the same Biblical character when they write Deus. But their conceptions of God are so different that they cannot be said to be referring to the same being in external reality.
My suggestion, then, is that some may have got their knickers in a knot for no good reason by failing to make the above-captioned distinction.
. . . there is at least one sort of case where it is clear they [Aquinas and Spinoza] are using the name ‘God’ in exactly the same way, namely when they discuss the interpretation of the scriptures. Aquinas does this many times in Summa Theologiae, using the words of the Bible and the Church Fathers to support complex theological and philosophical arguments. Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise is an extensive commentary on the text of the Bible and its meaning, also supported throughout by biblical quotation. So when Thomas writes
According to Chrysostom (Hom. iii in Genes.), Moses prefaces his record by speaking of the works of God (Deus) collectively. (Summa TheologiaeIª q. 68 a. 1 ad 1)
and Spinoza writes
As for the fact that God [Deus] was angry with him [Balak] while he was on his journey, that happened also to Moses when he was setting out for Egypt at the command of God [Dei]. (Tractatus ch. 3, alluding to Exodus 4:24-26)
it is clear that they are talking about the same persons, i.e. they are both talking about God, and they are both talking about Moses. It is somewhat more complicated than that, because Spinoza has a special theory about what the word ‘God’ means in the scriptures, but more of that later. In the present case, it seems clear that whenever we indirectly quote the scriptures, e.g. ‘Exodus 3:1 says that Moses was setting out for Egypt at the command of God’, we are specifying what the Bible says by using the names ‘Moses’ and ‘God’ exactly as the Bible uses them. Bill might disagree here, but we shall see.
I agree that they are both talking about the same persons qua characters in the Old Testament. The fact that Ed puts 'God' and 'Moses' in italics suggests, however, that he thinks that there is more here than reference to Biblical characters: there is also reference to really existent persons, and that our two philosophers are referring to the same really existent persons. But here I suspect that Ed is attempting a reduction of bona fide extralinguistic reference to what I will call text- and discourse-immanent reference, whether intertextual (as in the present case) or intratextual (as in the case of back references within one and the same narrative). If Ed is proposing a reduction -- or God forbid an elimination -- of real extralinguistic reference in favor of some form of discourse-immanent reference, then I have a bone to pick with him.
The issues here are much trickier than one might suspect. They involve questions Ed and I have been wrangling over for years, questions about fiction and intentionality and existence and quantification and logical form and what all else.
For conservatives, party unity is another way of saying “suicide pact.” I will never vote for Hillary Clinton because she believes things I can never support. I will never vote for Donald Trump because he’s a bullying fool who believes in nothing but himself. The conservative movement can wait out a Clinton presidency intact. But Perry was right. A Trump presidency is a ride straight to perdition, with a capital H.
The problem is wrapped in the sentence, "The conservative movement can wait out a Clinton presidency intact." How does Mr. Goldberg know this? George Will and other members of the 'bow-tie brigade' have said similar things recently. It seems rather unlikely to me. Hillarious appointments to SCOTUS will damage the country irrepararably. I am told there might be as many as three.
Suppose I am becoming weaker by the day and you are becoming stronger by the day. You are my sworn enemy and I must defeat you. Does it make sense for me to wait four years to fight you?
Goldberg seems to be making two assumptions predicated on wishful thinking. One is that in four years someone will arise in the conservative ranks who can prevail against the Dems and win the presidency. The other is that it won't be too late by then given four more years of leftist consolidation and government takeover.
By leftist consolidation I means things like four more years of the illegal immigration of 'undocumented Democrats.'
Goldberg, Will, and the rest of the bow-tie boys need to argue for the truth of those two assumptions.
I think the assumptions are worse than unargued; they are false. While Trump is admittedly awful, Hillary is worse. Conservatives must unite behind Trump. He is all we got. He alone has a chance of beating Hillary.
My position strikes me as the only reasonable one for a conservative to occupy. I am assuming that one is not prepared for the Benedict Option or other forms of withdrawal. See my Activism and Quietism category.
Can you budge me from my position? You will need arguments, something that Goldberg, Boot, Kristol, Will and the boys haven't provided as far as I know. What are those arguments?
Unfortunately, I find myself in agreement with Josef Pieper as to the 'unreadibility' of the book: "The unfinished, and hardly readable book, Analogia Entis (1932), which he himself declares is the quintessence of his view, in fact gives no idea of the wealth of concrete material he spread out before us in those days."
Of course, the book is not strictly unreadable: I am reading it and getting something out of it. But it has many of the faults of Continental writing and old-time scholastic writing.
To make a really good philosopher you need to start with someone possessing a love of truth, spiritual depth, metaphysical aptitude, and historical erudition. Then some nuts-and-bolts analyst needs to beat on him with the logic stick until he can express himself clearly and precisely. Such a thrashing would have done gentlemen such as E. Gilson and J. Maritain a world of good. Gallic writing in philosophy tends toward the flabby and the florid.
It is admirable to speak the truth courageously in your own name, but the exercise of civil courage might cost you and yours dearly. So I feel duty-bound to warn my younger readers. This is a time to be very careful. The following from Journal of American Greatness:
Who Are We?
Who are you?
You mean in the Samuel Huntington sense? We are American patriots aghast at the stupidity and corruption of American politics, particularly in the Republican Party, and above all in what passes for the “conservative” intellectual movement.
No, literally—who are you guys?
None of your damned business.
Why won’t you tell us?
Because the times are so corrupt that simply stating certain truths is enough to make one unemployable for life.
Article here. I reproduce it in toto so that you can read it in peace without being assaulted by advertising. Bolding added.
The problem with Johnson's article is that he does not define 'political correctness' and seems dangerously close to conflating politically incorrect speech with "vigorous, outspoken, raw and raucous speech" and politically incorrect behavior with "vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish and outrageous" behavior. See below. But this would be to ignore the important point I made the other day, namely, that to be politically incorrect is not to engage in offensive speech or behavior but to oppose the Left.
THE MENTAL INFECTION known as “political correctness” is one of the most dangerous intellectual afflictions ever to attack mankind. The fact that we began by laughing at it–and to some extent, still do–doesn’t diminish its venom one bit.
PC has an enormous appeal to the semieducated, one reason that it’s struck roots among overseas students at minor colleges. But it also appeals to pseudo-intellectuals everywhere, since it evokes the strong streak of cowardice notable among those wielding academic authority nowadays. Any empty-headed student with a powerful voice can claim someone (never specified) will be “hurt” by a hitherto harmless term, object or activity and be reasonably assured that the dons and professors in charge will show a white feather and do as the student demands. Thus, there isn’t a university campus on either side of the Atlantic that’s not in danger of censorship. The brutal young don’t even need to impose it themselves; their trembling elders will do it for them.
The insidious thing about PC is that it wasn’t–and isn’t–the creation of anyone in particular. It’s usually the anonymous work of such Kafkaesque figures as civil servants, municipal librarians, post office sorters and employees at similar levels. It penetrates the interstices of society, especially those where the hierarchies of privilege and property are growing. To a great extent PC is the revenge of the resentful underdog.
Nowhere has PC been more triumphant than in the U.S. This is remarkable, because America has traditionally been the home of vigorous, outspoken, raw and raucous speech. From the early 17th century, when the clerical discipline the Pilgrim Fathers sought to impose broke down and those who had things to say struck out westward or southward for the freedom to say them, America has been a land of unrestricted comment on anything–until recently. Now the U.S. has been inundated with PC inquisitors, and PC poison is spreading worldwide in the Anglo zone.
For these reasons it’s good news that Donald Trump is doing so well in the American political primaries. He is vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish and outrageous. He is also saying what he thinks and, more important, teaching Americans how to think for themselves again.
No one could be a bigger contrast to the spineless, pusillanimous and underdeserving Barack Obama, who has never done a thing for himself and is entirely the creation of reverse discrimination. The fact that he was elected President–not once, but twice–shows how deep-set the rot is and how far along the road to national impotence the country has traveled.
Under Obama the U.S.–by far the richest and most productive nation on earth–has been outsmarted, outmaneuvered and made to appear a second-class power by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. America has presented itself as a victim of political and economic Alzheimer’s disease, a case of national debility and geopolitical collapse.
TIME FOR A SCARE
None of the Republican candidates trailing Trump has the character to reverse this deplorable declension. The Democratic nomination seems likely to go to the relic of the Clinton era, herself a patiently assembled model of political correctness, who is carefully instructing America’s most powerful pressure groups in what they want to hear and whose strongest card is the simplistic notion that the U.S. has never had a woman President and ought to have one now, merit being a secondary consideration.
The world is disorderly and needs its leading nation to take charge and scare it back into decency. Donald Trump fits the bill. Other formidable figures, including Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, have performed a similar service in the past. But each President is unique and cast in his own mold. Trump is a man of excess–and today a man of excess is what’s needed.
A few ideas about your recent post on defining political correctness. First, there's a questionable suppressed premise in the argument below:
"To be politically correct, then, is to support the leftist worldview and the leftist agenda. It follows that a conservative cannot be politically correct. P.C. comes from the C.P. The P. C. mentality is a successor form of the Communist mentality. To be politically correct is to toe the party line. It is to support leftist positions and tactics, including the suppression of the free speech rights of opponents."
That PC involves supporting leftism implies that conservatives cannot be politically correct only if conservatives cannot support leftism. But if conservatives are those people who are nowadays usually called 'conservatives', the suppressed premise is probably false. Conservatives (in that sense) often support at least some of the same general principles and policies and institutions as leftists. Mainstream conservatives today support general principles of non-discrimination and equality, for example, which naturally lead to key elements of 'the leftist worldview and the leftist agenda'. I will bet you anything that in just a few years mainstream Republicans will tend to agree that it's wrong for men and women to have separate bathrooms. Just as many of them now think that gay marriage is fine, or that, at any rate, it would be pointless to argue against it. Just as they now accept views on sex and race and immigration that were considered far left just a few decades ago. So as a matter of fact these people just do seem to support the leftist worldview and agenda up to a point and in some respects, and they seem generally to move ever more to the left and never more to the right. They do toe the party line, much of the time, and they tend to police those who reject leftism at a more fundamental level; consider what happened to John Derbyshire at NR, for example. Alternatively we might say that no true conservative can be politically correct, and also say that most of those called 'conservatives' are not true conservatives. Or we might say that PC involves toeing the leftist party line to some very high *degree* at a given time, such that conservatives toe the line and support leftism to some degree but not to that very high degree.
BV: We need to distinguish among true conservatives, conservatives-in-name-only (CINOs, my coinage, to be pronounced chee-nos), and members of the Republican Party. Most Republicans are CINOs. Lindsey Graham, for example, attacked Donald Trump as a 'xenophobe' for proposing a moratorium on Muslim immigration. Of course, Trump's reasonable proposal and his call for a wall on the southern border do not make him a xenophobe. Graham's attack was no different in content from what a leftist like Elizabeth Warren would say. As you rightly guessed, when I said that conservatives cannot be politically correct, I was referring to true conservatives. We agree on this.
What exactly a true conservative is and whether such an animal can take on board any idea of the classical liberals is a further question, and one on which I fear we will disagree. You will recall that we clashed over the role of toleration in our political life.
For my four or so John Derbyshire entries, see here.As for the NR boys, I refer to them as the 'bow-tie brigade.' High-level talk, erudite discussion, but no action. They are establishment types, urbane, gentlemanly, who want to be liked and respected, which is why they distance themselves from the likes of Derbyshire, Buchanan, and Trump. They desperately fear being called racists, xenophobes, nativists, sexists, isolationists, bigots, etc. though they of course will be called some of those names by leftists.
Second quibble: Do leftists really practice a double standard when they insist on their own free speech while denying the free speech rights of others? I'm not sure that the real hardcore leftists believe in free speech rights in the first place. Some of them are even pretty open about it. They think the 'oppressed' and 'marginal' should be free to speak, but they don't think that everyone has that right. (Or they think that everyone will have it only when some impossible scenario of total equality and non-oppression has been achieved.) I suspect the double standard is present only in the slightly less extreme liberal-leftism of institutions and ordinary people who do have some semi-conscious belief in the right to free speech.
BV: Are you saying that hard-core leftists do not insist on free speech rights for themselves? That's news to me. Any references? Most leftists are not 'oppressed' and 'marginal' -- I approve of your sneer quotes by the way -- they are in fact highly privileged and yet they surely will insist on their right to speak what they think is true, while working to suppress the free speech of their opponents. So there is a double standard at work here.
We'll stop appropriating your food when you stop appropriating our mathematics, science, technology, and high culture generally including our superior political arrangements, not to mention our superior methods of cooking food.
I'm sensitive, you're touchy. I'm firm, you are pigheaded. Frugality in me is cheapness in you. I am open-minded, you are empty-headed. I am careful, you are obsessive. I am courageous while you are as reckless as a Kennedy. I am polite but you are obsequious. My speech is soothing, yours is unctuous. I am earthy and brimming with vitality while you are crude and bestial. I'm alive to necessary distinctions; you are a bloody hairsplitter. I'm conservative, you're reactionary. I know the human heart, but you are a misanthrope. I love and honor my wife while you are uxorious. I am focused; you are monomaniacal.
In me there is commitment, in you fanaticism. I'm a peacemaker, you're an appeaser. I'm spontaneous, you're just undisciplined. I'm neat and clean; you are fastidious. In me there is wit and style, in you mere preciosity. I know the value of a dollar while you are just a miser. I cross the Rubicons of life with resoluteness while you are a fool who burns his bridges behind him. I do not hide my masculinity, but you flaunt yours. I save, you hoard. I am reserved, you are shy. I invest, you gamble. I am a lover of solitude, you are a recluse.
I have a hearty appetite; you are a glutton. A civilized man, I enjoy an occasional drink; you, however, must teetotal to avoid becoming a drunkard. I'm witty and urbane, you are precious. I am bucolic, you are rustic. I'm original, you are idiosyncratic. I am principled, you are doctrinaire. I am precise, you are pedantic.
And those are just some of the differences between me and you.
One often reads the following definition of political correctness. "Someone who is politically correct believes that language and actions that could be offensive to others, especially those relating to sex and race, should be avoided." Here. Merriam-Webster, Wikipedia, and other sources offer similar definitions.
This is not at all what 'political correctness' means when used by people in the know. The above definition conflates being politically correct with being polite, civil, and respectful of others and it conflates being politically incorrect with being rude, offensive, and disrespectful of others. For example, Donald Trump was not being politically incorrect when he made his vile comments about Megan Kelly and Carly Fiorina. He was being rude and offensive in a politically foolish display of misogyny.
It is worth noting that in some cases rude and offensive speech is justified as a response to same. Justified or not, the politically incorrect and the rude/offensive/disrespectful are separate categories. A Venn diagram may help where the A region below contains politically incorrect statements and behaviors, the B region contains rude/offensive/disrespectful statements and behaviors, and the intersection of the two classes contains statements and behaviors that are both. For example, suppose someone says, 'Broads do not belong in the Navy SEALs or the Army Rangers.' This statement is both rude/offensive/disrespectful and politically incorrect while 'Women do not belong in Navy SEALs or the Army Rangers' is politically incorrect but not (objectively) offensive. Of course, one might take inappropriate offense at the second statement, but that is his or her problem. People, cry bullies and liberals especially, take offense at the damndest things!
One way to define a term is extensionally by giving a list of the items to which it applies. These are the items that fall within the extension of the term. I will now provide a list of some politically incorrect statements and then ask what they have in common. This will allow us to pin down the intension of the term 'politically incorrect,' and from there the intension of 'politically correct.' Here then are some politically incorrect statements:
Blacks are incarcerated in proportionally greater numbers than whites because they commit proportionally more crimes.
Not only do black lives matter; all lives matter including the lives of law enforcement agents and the lives of the unborn.
While Muslims qua Muslims ought not be barred from political office, Sharia-supporting Muslims ought to be.
The killing of innocent human beings is a grave moral evil, and this includes the killing of pre-natal human beings.
At the present time, the majority of terrorists in the world derive their ideological support from one religion, Islam.
The Crusades were defensive wars.
The purpose of taxation is to raise monies to cover the costs of governance, not to redistribute wealth.
Free market economies under the rule of law are more likely to lead to human flourishing than socialist economies.
There was no moral equivalence between the USA and the USSR.
Women are 'underrepresented' in philosophy, not because of 'sexism' or a male conspiracy to exclude them, but because of the following factors: women as a group are not as interested in philosophy as men are; the feminine nature is averse to the argumentative and occasionally 'blood sport' aspect of philosophy; women as a group are just not as good at philosophy as men, where exceptions such as Elizabeth Anscombe prove the rule.
Apart from the STEM disciplines, the universities of the land have become leftist seminaries, hotbeds of leftist indoctrination. They have lost touch with their noble ideals and traditions.
Equality of opportunity is no guarantee of equality of outcome, and it is fallacious to argue from inequality of outcome to sexism or racism as the cause.
Political correctness is a major threat to the values of the West including the West's commitment to open debate, toleration, and free inquiry.
So there you have a baker's dozen of politically incorrect statements. There are plenty more where those came from. I would say that each is true, though I will grant that some are rationally debatable. But whether true or false, rationally defensible or indefensible, they are all clear examples of politically incorrect statements.
Now what do they have in common in virtue of which they are all instances of political incorrectness? The most important common feature is that each opposes the contemporary liberal or leftist or 'progressive' worldview. To be politically correct, then, is to support the leftist worldview and the leftist agenda. It follows that a conservative cannot be politically correct. P.C. comes from the C.P. The P. C. mentality is a successor form of the Communist mentality. To be politically correct is to toe the party line. It is to support leftist positions and tactics, including the suppression of the free speech rights of opponents. Essential to leftism is the double standard. So while the politically correct insist on their own free speech rights, they deny them to their opponents, which is why they routinely shout them down.
Patrick Grim gives something like the following argument. What I know when I know that
1. I am making a mess
is an indexical fact that no one else can know. At most, what someone else can know is that
2. BV is making a mess
or perhaps, pointing to BV, that
3. He is making a mess.
Just as no one except BV can refer to BV by tokening the first-person singular pronoun, no one except BV has access to the indexical fact that, as BV would put it to himself, I am BV. Only BV is privy to this fact; only BV knows himself in the first-person way. Now an omniscient being knows everything that can be known. But although I am not omniscient, there is at least one proposition that I know -- namely (1) -- that is not known by any other knower, including an omniscient knower. So an omnisicent being is impossible: by its very definition it must know every fact that can be known, but there are indexical facts that it cannot know. God can know that BV is making a mess but he cannot know what I know when I know that I am making a mess. For any subject S distinct from God, the first-person facts appertinent to S are inaccessible to every mind distinct from S, including God's mind. That is what I take to be Grim's argument.
I suppose one could counter the argument by denying that there are indexical facts. But since I hold that there are both indexical propositions and indexical facts, that response route is not available to me. Let me see if I can respond by making a distinction between two senses of 'omniscience.'
A. X is omniscient1=df X knows every fact knowable by some subject or other.
B. X is omniscient =df X knows every fact knowable by some one subject.
What indexical facts show is that no being is or can be omniscient in the first sense. No being knows every indexical and non-indexical fact. But a failure to know what cannot be known does not count against a being's being omniscient in a defensible sense of this term any more than a failure to do what cannot be done counts against a being's being omnipotent. A defensible sense of 'omniscience' is supplied by (B). In this second sense, God is omniscient: he knows every fact that one subject can know, namely, every non-indexical fact, plus all facts pertaining to the divine subjectivity. What more could one want?
Since no being could possibly satisfy (A), (A) is not the appropriate sense of 'omniscience.' Compare omnipotence. An omnipotent being cannot be one who can do just anything, since there are both logical and non-logical limits on what any agent can do. So from the fact that it is impossible for God to know what is impossible for any one being to know, it does not follow that God is not omniscient.
To sum up. There are irreducible first-personal facts that show that no being can be omniscient in the (A)-sense: Patrick Grim's argument is sound. But the existence of irreducible first-personal facts is consistent with the truth of standard theism since the latter is committed only to a being omniscient in the (B)-sense of 'omniscience.'