Welcome to the latest incarnation of Maverick Philosopher. This post will remain at the top of the queue to give new and some old readers an idea of what this site is and isn't, what goes on here, and what is not permitted to go on here. Like the site itself, this introductory page is under permanent construction and reconstruction. It will take shape bit by bit over the coming weeks and months.
1. Why 'Maverick Philosopher'? Since I am a philosopher and what is done here is mainly philosophy, it is appropriate that 'philosopher' be in the title. As for 'maverick,' this word derives from the name of the Texas lawyer Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870) who for a time was a rancher who ran cattle that bore no brand. These unbranded animals of his came to be known as mavericks. The term was then extended to cover any unbranded stock and later any person who holds himself aloof from the herd, bears no 'brand,' resists classification, strives to be independent in his thinking or mode of living, is religiously or politically unaffiliated, and the like. (Cf. Robert Hendrickson, QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, p. 473.)
Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People," in A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Harcourt, 1955, p. 185:
One day Mrs. Hopewell had picked up one of the books the girl had just put down and opening it at random, she read, "Science, on the other hand, has to assert its soberness and seriousness afresh and declare that it is concerned solely with what-is. Nothing -- how can that be anything but a horror and a phantasm? If science is right, then one thing stands firm: science wishes to know nothing of nothing. Such is after all the strictly scientific approach to Nothing. We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing." These words had been underlined with a blue pencil and they worked on Mrs. Hopewell like some evil incantation in gibberish. She shut the book quickly and went out of the room as if she were having a chill.
It is for me to know and you to guess: from which famous/notorious essay of Heidegger is Miss O'Connor quoting?
Lincoln and Obama share the Illinois connection. There the similiarity ends. And the Maureen Dowd parody begins:
FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago, our forecaddies brought forth on this continent a new playground, conceived by Robert Trent Jones, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal when it comes to spending as much time on the links as possible — even when it seems totally inappropriate, like moments after making a solemn statement condemning the grisly murder of a 40-year-old American journalist beheaded by ISIL.
London Ed finds Meinong's characteristic thesis contradictory. "The claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist is an existential claim, of course, so how can 'they' have no being?"
I say that Ed begs the question against Meinong, but Ed denies that he does. Let us see if we can sort this out.
To simplify the discussion and to avoid being sidetracked by the question about modes of being and whether existence and subsistence are distinct modes of being, let us focus on what is characteristically Meinongian, namely, the claim that some objects have no being at all. Earlier philosophers had held that there are modes of being, but what is characteristically Meinongian is that claim that some objects, or better, items, have no being whatsoever.
We can therefore simplify Ed's rhetorical question as follows, "The claim that some objects have no being is an existential claim, so how can 'they' have no being?" This question suggest the following argument:
1. The claim that some objects have no being is an existential claim.
2. An existential claim is one that affirms the being or existence of one or more items.
3. The claim that some objects have no being is self-contradictory since it is equivalent to 'There exist objects that do not exist' or 'There are objects that are not' or 'Some existing objects do not exist.'
It is this argument that I claim begs the question against the Meinongian. It begs the question at premise (1). For (1) is precisely what the Meinongian denies when he affirms that some objects have no being.
There is no need for the phrase 'beg the question' lest that be a further stumbling block for Ed and bone of contention between us. The point is simply that Ed assumes what the Meinongian denies. If you merely oppose me, or contradict me, then you haven't refuted me.
The Meinongian runs the above argument in reverse: he grants (2), but then argues from the negation of (3) to the negation of (1). Or we can put the matter in terms of an antilogism or inconsistent triad:
1. The claim that some objects have no being is an existential claim.
2. An existential claim is one that affirms the being or existence of one or more items.
~3. The claim that some objects have no being is not self-contradictory.
The limbs cannot all be true. (2) cannot be reasonably disputed. The Meinongian solves the problem by rejecting (1), Ed by rejecting (~3).
I say there is a stand-off. I would like Ed to concede this. The concession would be minimal since it does not prevent him from providing independent reasons for rejecting Meinong's Theory of Objects. But I know Ed and I am not sanguine about him conceding anything, even the most self-evident of points.
I fear that he will say that 'some' by its very meaning is ontologically loaded, that 'Some Fs are Gs' MEANS 'There exists an x such that x is F and x is G.'
But I will not respond to this until and unless Ed verifies my fear.
In Terrorism and Other Religions, Cole argues that "Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions." Although we conservatives don't think all that highly of Bill Maher, we cheered when he pointed out the obvious, namely, that Islam, and Islam alone at the present time, is the faith whose doctrines drive most of the world's terrorism, and that the Left's moral equivalency 'argument' is "bullshit" to employ Maher's terminus technicus. Why should pointing out what is plainly true get Maher labeled a bigot by Cole?
So I thought I must be missing something and that I needed to be set straight by Professor Cole. So I read his piece carefully numerous times. Cole's main argument is that, while people of "European Christian heritage" killed over 100 million people in the 20th century, Muslims have killed only about two million during that same period. But what does this show? Does it show that Islamic doctrine does not drive most of the world's terrorism at the present time? Of course not.
That is precisely the issue given that Cole is contesting what "the bigot" Maher claimed. What Cole has given us is a text-book example of ignoratio elenchi. This is an informal fallacy of reasoning committed by a person who launches into the refutation of some thesis that is other than the one being forwarded by the dialectical opponent. If the thesis is that Muslims who take Islam seriously are the cause of most of the world's terrorism at the present time, this thesis cannot be refuted by pointing out that people of "European Christian heritage" have killed more people than Muslims. For this is simply irrelevant to the issue in dispute. (I note en passant that this is why ignoratio elenchi is classifed as a fallacy of relevance.)
Someone born and raised in a Christian land can be called a Christian. But it doesn't follow that such a person is a Christian in anything more than a sociological sense. In this loose and external sense the author of The Anti-Christ was a Christian. Nietzsche was raised in a Christian home in a Christian land by a father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche, who was a Lutheran pastor. Similarly, Hitler was a Christian. And Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, was a Muslim. But were Ataturk's actions guided and inspired by Islamic doctrine? As little as Hitler's actions were guided and inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. Here is a list of some of Ataturk's anti-Islamic actions.
Having exposed the fundamental fallacy in Cole's article, there is no need to go through the rest of his distortions such as the one about the Zionist terrorists during the time of the British Mandate.
Why do leftists deny reality? A good part of the answer is that they deny it because reality does not fit their scheme. Leftists confuse the world with their view of the world. In their view of the world, people are all equal and religions are all equal -- equally good or equally bad depending on the stripe of the leftist. They want it to be that way and so they fool themselves into thinking that it is that way. Moral equivalency reigns. If you point out that Muhammad Atta was an Islamic terrorist, they shoot back that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist -- willfully ignoring the crucial difference that the murderous actions of the former derive from Islamic/Islamist doctrine whereas the actions of the latter do not derive from Christian doctrine.
And then these leftists like Cole compound their willful ignorance of reality by denouncing those who speak the truth as 'Islamophobes.'
That would have been like hurling the epithet 'Nazi-phobe' at a person who, in 1938, warned of the National Socialist threat to civilized values.
I don't much like law enforcement agents (qua law enforcement agents) and I try to avoid contact with them, not because I violate laws or have something to hide, but because I understand human nature, and I understand how power corrupts people, not inevitably, but predictably. Cops and sheriffs are too often arrogant, disrespectful, and willing to overstep their lawful authority. I know that from my own experience with them, and I am a middle-class, law-abiding, white male who avoids trouble.
But there is a species of varmint that I like even less than law enforcement agents: criminals and scofflaws. They are the scum of the earth. To clean up scum you need people who are willing to get dirty and who share some of the attributes of those they must apprehend and incarcerate. I mean such attributes as courage, cunning, some recklessness, with a dash of ruthlessness thrown in for good measure. Government and its law enforcement agencies are a necessary evil. Necessary evils are those things we need, given the actual state of things, but that we would not need and would be bad to have if we lived in an ideal world. Paradoxically, necessary evils are instrumentally good.
That government and its law enforcement agencies are necessary evils is not pessimism, but realism. There are anarchists and others who dream of a world in which good order arises spontaneously and coercive structures are unnecessary. I want these anarchists and others to be able to dream on in peace. For that very reason, I reject their dangerous utopianism.
The backstory of Ferguson was that out of the millions of arrests each year only about 100 African-American suspects are shot fatally by white police. And yet we were falsely and ad nauseam told that Michael Brown was proof of an epidemic. There may well be an epidemic of blacks killing blacks, of African-Americans engaging in the knock-out game against non-blacks or flash-mobbing stores. But as far as rare interracial gun violence goes, in 2014 it is more commonly black on white. Ferguson is an anomaly that did not warrant hundreds of reporters who gladly skipped the real dramas of a world on the verge of blowing apart as it had in 1939.
Right. Ferguson is almost entirely a media invention.
[. . .] We are back to an O.J./Duke Lacrosse/Trayvon landscape, in which larger and mostly unsolvable issues loom — and yet cannot be discussed: the one side silently seethes: “Please, do not commit 50% of the violent crime in America at rates four times your demographic, and, please, stop shooting nearly 7,000 fellow African-Americans a year, to ensure that there is less likelihood to encounter the police — in other words, restore the family, cease the violent and misogynist hero worship, and be wary of government dependence.” And the other side simmers: “Create for us the economic and social conditions in which we have equal opportunity without prejudice and stop the police from inordinately harassing us.” Amid that growing divide, which is now some 60 years old, all the trillions of dollars of the Great Society, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and an array of “activists,” all the latest criminological and sociopolitical theories, and trillions of man-hours of social work have come apparently to naught.
[. . .]
Yet if our power brokers chose to live in the inner city, to enroll their children in public schools, and to visit local neighborhood establishments, perhaps they could marry their often loud abstract anguish with quiet concrete experience. Instead, we get the impressions that the Michael Browns and Trayvon Martins of America are the sort of fodder that the race industry elite and the white liberal grandees devour for their own respective careerist and psychological purposes. Because of inner-city pathologies and disparities, affirmative action is now perpetual and yet largely benefits those elites who have little in common with those who commit 50% of the nation’s homicides, while privileged liberals understand that if they don’t transmogrify Ferguson, Missouri, into Bull Connor and Lester Maddox, then their own apartheid existence and abstract anguish are called into question.
Peter Lupu has called me a recluse. I have referred to myself as reposing in Bradleyan reclusivity. But I am a hermit only in an analogous sense. For my hermithood is but partial and participated in comparison to the plenary hermithood of this dude. He approximates unto the Platonic Form thereof. Compared to him, Seldom Seen Slim is a man about town, a veritable social animal. Take a gander at Slim:
A musician needs a muse. George Harrison and Eric Clapton found her in Pattie Boyd. Here are five of the best known songs that she is said to have inspired. If you don't love at least four of these five, you need a major soul adjustment.
Until he hung hanged himself, that is. Williams, that is.
I knew who Williams was, though I have seen only two of his films, The Dead Poets' Society and Mrs. Doubtfire. From what I know of the others I have no desire to see them. The gushing over celebrities at their passing is as tolerable as it is predictable. One only wishes that people had better judgment about who is really worthy of the highest accolades and encomia.
Here is the memorable carpe diem scene from The Dead Poets' Society. I think Dalrymple would appreciate it.
For Meinong, some objects neither exist nor subsist: they have no being at all. The stock examples are the golden mountain and the round square.
London Ed finds this contradictory. "The claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist is an existential claim, of course, so how can 'they' have no being?"
But of course it is not an existential claim from a Meinongian point of view. Obviously, if it is true that some objects are beingless, then 'Some objects are beingless' is not an existential claim. On the other hand, if it is true that sentences featuring the particular quantifier 'some' all make existential claims, then 'Some objects are beingless' is self-contradictory.
So the Grazer can say to the Londoner: "You are begging the question against me!" And the Londoner can return the 'compliment.' The Phoenician stands above the fray, merely observing it, as from Mt. Olympus.
So far, then, a stand-off. Ed has not refuted the Meinongian; he has merely opposed him.
Ed needs to admit this and give us a better argument against the thesis of Aussersein.
I just deleted a suspicious looking e-mail that claimed that I had to appear in court in Costa Mesa re: illegal use of software. I of course did not open the zip file that would have invited a trojan horse or some other piece of malware into my motherboard. One dead giveaway was that while Mesa is not far from here, Costa Mesa is in California. I am a native Californian. (Which fact implies, by the way, that I am a native American!)
It is hard to fool a philosopher. We are trained skeptics. It is especially hard to fool a philosopher who knows his Schopenhauer. Homo homini lupus, et cetera.
Never click on any link thoughtlessly. To be on the safe side, delete suspicious looking e-mail from the subject line. Don't even open them.
Another rule of mine is: Never allow your body or soul to be polluted. So if I get an e-mail with a nasty subject line, I delete it straightaway. If the subject line is OK but the first line is hostile or nasty, same thing. Go ahead, punk. Make my day.
In "Vacuous Names and Fictional Entities" (in Philosophical Troubles, Oxford UP, 2011, pp. 52-74) Saul Kripke distances himself from the following view that he ascribes to Alexius Meinong:
Many people have gotten confused about these matters because they have said, 'Surely there are fictional characters who fictionally do such-and-such things; but fictional characters don't exist; therefore some view like Meinong's with a first-class existence and a second-class existence, or a broad existence and a narrow existence, must be the case'.23 This is not what I am saying here. (p. 64)
Footnote 23 reads as follows:
At any rate, this is how Meinong is characterized by Russell in 'On Denoting'. I confess that I have never read Meinong and I don't know whether the characterization is accurate. It should be remembered that Meinong is a philosopher whom Russell (at least originally) respected; the characterization is unlikely to be a caricature.
But it is a caricature and at this late date it is well known to be a caricature. What is astonishing about all this is that Kripke had 38 years to learn a few basic facts about Meinong's views from the time he read (or talked) his paper in March of 1973 to its publication in 2011 in Philosophical Troubles. But instead he chose to repeat Russell's caricature of Meinong in his 2011 publication. Here is what Kripke could have quickly learned about Meinong's views from a conversation with a well-informed colleague or by reading a competent article:
Some objects exist and some do not. Thus horses exist while unicorns do not. Among the objects that do not exist, some subsist and some do not. Subsistents include properties, mathematical objects and states of affairs. Thus there are two modes of being, existence and subsistence. Spatiotemporal items exist while ideal/abstract objects subsist.
Now what is distinctive about Meinong is his surprising claim that some objects neither exist nor subsist. The objects that neither exist nor subsist are those that have no being at all. Examples of such objects are the round square, the golden mountain, and purely fictional objects. These items have properties -- actually not possibly -- but they have no being. They are ausserseiend. Aussersein, however, is not a third mode of being.
Meinong's fundamental idea, whether right or wrong, coherent or incoherent, is that there are subjects of true predications that have no being whatsoever. Thus an item can have a nature, a Sosein, without having being, wihout Sein. This is the characteristic Meinongian principle of the independence of Sosein from Sein.
Kripke's mistake is to ascribe to Meinong the view that purely fictional items are subsistents when for Meinong they have no being whatsoever. He repeats Russell's mistake of conflating the ausserseiend with the subsistent.
The cavalier attitude displayed by Kripke in the above footnote is not uncommon among analytic philosophers. They think one can philosophize responsibly without bothering to attend carefully to what great thinkers of the tradition have actually maintained while at the same time dropping their names: Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, Brentano, Meinong. For each of these I could given an example of a thesis attributed to them that has little or nothing to do with what they actually maintained.
Does the cavalier attitude of most analytic philosophers to the history of philosophy matter? In particular, does it matter that Kripke and plenty of others continue to ignore and misrepresent Meinong? And are not embarrassed to confess their ignorance? This depends on how one views philosophy in relation to its history.
When you pull in a half-million dollars a speech, why not celebrate with the "Rolls Royce" of cigars?
Former President Bill Clinton reportedly indulges in some of the world's most expensive cigars, from a Dominican Republic company whose smokes fetch up to $1,000 -- that's per cigar, not per box.
You will recall that the late Michael Brown of Ferguson fame displayed bad taste in cigars along with bad moral judgment when he shoplifted a package of Swisher Sweets in the penultimate adventure of his short life.
Treading the Middle Path, and avoiding the extremes of our first black president and of the latest poster boy of the hate-America race baiters, I recommend to you the Arturo Fuente 'Curly Head,' under $3 per stick. Cheap but good and proportional to the speaking fees a philosopher is likely to pull down.
I would like to believe that James V. Schall, S. J. has a better understanding of Catholicism than I do, but I just now read the following from his otherwise very good On Revelation:
Catholicism is a revelation, not a religion. The word “religion” refers to a virtue by which we know what we can about God by our own human rational powers, “unaided,” as they say. Revelation means that, in addition to all we know by our own powers, another source of knowledge and life exists that can address itself to us, can make itself known to us.
The first sentence in this paragraph is the conjunction of two claims. The first is that Catholicism is a revelation. The second is that Catholicism is not a religion. The second claim is plainly false. If Catholicism is not a religion, what is it? It is not a branch of mathematics or a natural science. It is not one of the Geisteswissenschaften. It is not philosophy or a branch of philosophy such as natural theology.
Schall is of course right to tie religion to human beings: God has no religion. But it doesn't follow that Catholicism is not a religion. It is a religion based on divine revelation. God reveals himself to man, and man appropriates that revelation as best he can using the limited postlapsarian resources of intellect and will and emotion at his disposal.
Schall may be confusing the genus with one of its species, religion with natural religion the Merriam-Webster definition of which is accurate:
a religion validated on the basis of human reason and experience apart from miraculous or supernatural revelation; specifically: a religion that is universally discernible by all men through the use of human reason apart from any special revelation — compare revealed religion.
Catholicism is a revealed religion and therefore a religion. Or will you argue that 'revealed' in 'revealed religion' functions as an alienans adjective? I hope not.
Now what about the first claim, namely, that Catholicism is a revelation? That's a lame way of putting it in my humble opinion. If Catholicism is a religion based on revelation, then, since religion is a human enterprise as Schall rightly notes, it involves an interaction between God and man. So it cannot be a pure revelation which is what Catholicism would have to be if it is not a religion.
Compare the Bible. It is the word of God. But that is only half of the story. The Bible is the word of God written down by men. Similarly, Catholicism is divine revelation appropriated by men. It is therefore neither purely divine nor purely human.
I could be wrong, but I don't think what I have just written is too far from Catholicism's own self-understanding.
I have been asked my opinion. But before opining it would be better to wait until we know or at least have a clearer idea of what exactly transpired between Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black male, and the white police officer Darren Wilson. We know that Brown is dead and that the officer hit him with five or so rounds. (And we know that it was the shooting that caused the death.)
And we know that prior to the shooting, Brown stole some tobacco products (cigarillos in one account, Swisher Sweet cigars in another) from a convenience store, roughing up the proprietor on the way out.
The theft is not something that Wilson could have known about prior to the shooting, and even if he did know about it, that would not justify his use of deadly force against the shoplifter. Obviously.
So those are the main facts as I understand the case. I need to know more to say more, except for two comments:
1. Al Sharpton's claim that the release of the store video was a 'smear' of Brown is absurd on the face of it. One cannot smear someone with facts. To smear is to slander. It is to damage, or attempt to damage, a person's reputation by making false accusations. Sharpton is employing the often effective leftist tactic of linguistic hijacking. A semantic vehicle with a clear meaning is 'hijacked' and piloted to some leftist destination. The truth about a person can be damaging to his reputation. But if you cannot distinguish between damaging truths and damaging falsehoods, then you are as willfully stupid as the race hustler Sharpton.
2. The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, called for "a vigorous prosecution" in the case and to "do everything we can to achieve justice for [Brown's] family." These statements sink to a Sharptonian level of (willful?) stupidity. For one thing, Wilson cannot be prosecuted for the killing of Brown until it has been determined that Wilson should be charged in the killing of Brown.
That Wilson killed Brown is a fact. But that he should be charged with a crime in the killing is a separate question. Only after a charge has been lodged can the judicial process begin with prosecution and defense.
Second, talk of achieving justice for Brown's family not only presupposes that Wilson has been indicted, it begs the question of his guilt: it assumes he is guilty of a crime. More fundamentally, talk of achieving justice for one party alone makes no sense. The aim of criminal proceeding is to arrive at a just outcome for both parties.
Suppose Wilson is indicted and tried. Either he is found guilty or found not guilty of the charge or charges brought against him. If he is found guilty, and is in fact guilty, then there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family If he is found not guilty, and he is in fact not guilty, then the same: there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family. Therefore, to speak of achieving justice for one of the parties alone makes no sense.
People don't understand this because they think that the victim or his family must be somehow compensated for his or their loss. But that is not the purpose of a criminal trial. It is too bad that the young black man died, but the purpose of a criminal trial is not to assuage the pain of such a loss. The purpose is simply to determine whether a person charged with a crime is guilty of it.
The high school I attended required each student to take two years of Latin. Years later the requirement was dropped. When a fundraiser contacted me for a donation, I said, "You eliminated Latin, why should I give you a donation?" He replied that the removal of Latin made room for Chinese.
What I should have said at that point was something like the following. "While the study of Asian languages and cultures and worldviews is wonderfully enriching, it must not come at the expense of the appropriation and transmission of our own culture which is Judeo-Christian and Graeco-Roman."
And then I could have clinched my point by quoting a couple of famous lines from Goethe's Faust, Part I, Night, lines 684-685:
Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen!
What from your fathers you received as heir,
Acquire if you would possess it. (tr. W. Kaufmann)
The idea is that what one has been lucky enough to inherit, one must actively appropriate, i.e., make one's own by hard work, if one is really to possess it. The German infinitive erwerben has not merely the meaning of 'earn' or 'acquire' but also the meaning of aneignen, appropriate, make one's own.
Unfortunately the schools and universities of today have become leftist seminaries more devoted to the eradication of the high culture of the West than its transmission and dissemination. These leftist seed beds have become hot houses of political correctness.
What can you do? You might think of pulling your children out of the public schools and home-schooling them or else sending them to places like Great Hearts Academies.
A recent Richard Fernandez column ends brilliantly:
We often forget that the sacred texts of mankind began as practical documents. They were checklists. And we may well rediscover this fact before the end. One can imagine the last two postmoderns crawling towards each other in the ruins of a once great city to die, and while waiting to expire engage in conversation to pass the time.
“Waldo,” the first said, “do you remember that tablet displayed in front of the Texas Statehouse. You know, back when there was a Texas?”
“Yeah, didn’t it have a whole bunch of stuff scrawled on it? Tell me again what it said,” replied the other.
“Waldo, it said, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ And ‘thou shalt not lie’.”
“Yes it also said, ‘thou shalt not steal’. Plus somewhere in the middle said, ‘thou shalt not have sex with people you weren’t married to.’”
“Yeah, I remember it now,” the second post-modern said. “What a bunch of hooey. It’s a right wing, nutjob, racist document called the Ten Commandments. It’s a religious document.”
“No Waldo,” the first replied. “That’s where you’re wrong. It ain’t no religious document. I just figured out it was a survival manual.”
Andrew McCarthy comments on the Rick Perry indictment. Alan Dershowitz: Perry indictment is "What Happens in Totalitarian Societies."
The scumbags of the Left will dismiss the folks over at NRO as right-wing nutjobs, but that won't work with Dershowitz. Or how about Jonathan Turley, who has spoken out against the lawlessness of the Obama administration? Is he a right-wing crazy?
Haven't I told you time and again that the Left is totalitarian from the bottom up, the top down, and side to side? Some say that Communism is dead. Well no, it has simply transmogrified into Obaminism.
Barack Obama is once again lamenting the charge that he is responsible for pulling all U.S. peacekeepers out of Iraq, claiming that the prior administration is culpable. But Obama negotiated the withdrawal himself. We know that not because of right-wing talking points, but because of the proud serial claims of reelection candidate Obama in 2011 and 2012 that he deserved credit for leaving Iraq. That complete pullout prompted Joe Biden to claim the Iraq policy was the administration’s likely “greatest achievement” and buoyed Obama to brag that he was leaving a stable and secure Iraq. Think of the logic: pulling all soldiers out of Iraq was such a great thing that I now can brag that I am not responsible for it.
In regards to Syria, does Obama remember that he issued red lines should the Assad regime use chemical or biological weapons? Why then would he assert that the international community had done so, not Barack Obama? Think of the logic: I issued tough threats, and when my bluff was called, someone else issued them.
If Obama were to readdress Benghazi, would anyone believe him? What would he say? That he was in the Situation Room that evening? That he was correct in telling the UN that a (suddenly jailed) video maker prompted the violence? That the consulate and annex were secure and known to be so? That Susan Rice was merely parroting CIA talking points? Think of the logic: a video maker was so clearly responsible for the Benghazi killings that we will never have to mention his culpability again.
Does anyone believe the president that ISIS are “jayvees,” or that al Qaeda is on the run, or that there is no connection between the ascendance of ISIS and the loud but empty boasting of red lines in Syria and complete withdrawal from Iraq? (If we had taken all troops out of South Korea in 1953 — claiming that we had spent too much blood and treasure and that the Seoul government was too inept — would there be a Kia or Hyundai today, or a North Korea in control of the entire Korean peninsula?) Think of the logic: the ISIS threat is so minimal that we need not be alarmed and therefore Obama is sending planes and advisors back into Iraq to contain it. If Obama truly believes that pulling all troops out made Iraq more secure, what will putting some back in do?
Was there any Obama boast about his Affordable Care Act that proved true: Keep your doctor? Keep your health plan? Save $2,500 in annual premiums? Lower the deficit? Lower the annual costs of health care? Win the support of doctors? Simplify sign-ups with a one-stop website? Enjoy lower deductibles? Think of the logic: you will all benefit from a new take-over of health care by a government whose assertions of what it was going to accomplish were proved false in the first days of its implementation.
There are many possible explanations about why the president of the United States simply says things that are not true or contradicts his earlier assertions or both. Is Obama just inattentive, inured to simply saying things in sloppy fashion without much worry whether they conform to the truth? Or is he a classical sophist who believes how one speaks rather than what he actually says alone matters: if he soars with teleprompted rhetoric, what does it matter whether it is true? If Obama can sonorously assert that he got America completely out of Iraq, what does it matter whether that policy proved disastrous or that he now denies that he was responsible for such a mistake?
Is Obama so ill-informed that he embraces the first idea that he encounters, without much worry whether these notions are antithetical to his own prior views or will prove impossible to sustain?
On a deeper level, Obama habitually says untrue things because he has never been called on them before. He has been able throughout his career to appear iconic to his auditors. In the crudity of liberals like Harry Reid and Joe Biden, Obama ancestry and diction gave reassurance that he was not representative of the black lower classes and thus was the receptacle of all sorts of liberal dreams and investments. According to certain liberals, he was like a god, our smartest president, and of such exquisite sartorial taste that he must become a successful president. In other words, on the superficial basis of looks, dress, and patois, Obama was reassuring to a particular class of white guilt-ridden grandees and to such a degree that what he actually had done in the past or promised to do in the future was of no particular importance.
May I offer the following resolution of the paradox? I say that 'purely fictional' does not function as a concept term. Instead, it is ambiguous between two interpretations. On the one hand, it behaves like the pseudo-concept 'inexistent'. To say that Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic is to deny that Bone exists. [BV: Biconditionality seems too strong. If N is a purely fictional F, then N doesn't exist; but if N doesn't exist, it does not follow that N is purely fictional.] The same goes whatever name and concept term we substitute for 'Bone' and 'alcoholic'. This leads us to assert
1. There are no purely fictional items.
On the other hand, I say that 'fictional and 'purely fictional' appear to be concept terms because sentences like
Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic
arise via a surface transformation of
Purely fictionally, Bone is an alcoholic
and inherit their meaning and truth value. We can understand the latter as asserting that
Some work of fiction says that Bone is an alcoholic.
We take this as true, as evidenced by the work of Hamilton, and running the transformation in reverse gets us to
Bone is a purely fictional alcoholic.
Taking 'purely fictional alcoholic' as a predicate, which it superficially resembles, by Existential Generalisation we arrive at
There is some purely fictional alcoholic,
and hence to
2. There are some purely fictional items.
and apparent contradiction with (1).
The idea of a surface transformation may well appear controversial and ad hoc. But the phenomenon occurs with other pseudo-concept terms, notably 'possible'. We have
Bone is a possible alcoholic <---> Possibly, Bone is an alcoholic Bone is a fictional alcoholic <---> Fictionally, Bone is an alcoholic.
On the left we have 'possible' and 'fictional' which look like concept terms but cannot be consistently interpreted as such. On the right we have sentential operators which introduce an element of semantic ascent which is not apparent on the left. It's precisely because 'possible' and 'fictional' involve hidden semantic ascent that they do not work as concept terms.
I am afraid I don't quite understand what David is saying here despite having read it many times. This could be stupidity on my part. But I think we do need to explore his suggestion that there is an equivocation on 'purely fictional items.' Let me begin by listing what we know, or at least reasonably believe, about purely fictional characters.
First of all, we know that George Bone never existed: that follows from his being purely fictional.
Second, we know or at least reasonably believe that Bone is a character created by its author Patrick Hamilton, a character who figures in Hamilton's 1941 novel, Hangover Square. Just as the novel was created by Hamilton, so were the characters in it. Admittedly, this is not self-evident. One might maintain that there are all the fictional characters (and novels, stories, plays, legends, myths, etc.) there might have been and that the novelist or story teller or playwright just picks some of them out of Plato's topos ouranos or Meinong's realm of Aussersein. I find this 'telescope' conception rather less reasonable than the artifact conception according to which Bone and Co. are cultural artifacts of the creative activities of Hamilton and Co. Purely fictional characters are made up, not found or discovered. It is interesting to note that fingere in Latin means to mold, shape, form, while in Italian it means to feign, pretend, dissemble. That comports well with what fiction appears to be. Of course I am not arguing from the etymology of 'fiction.' But if you have etymology on your side, then so much the better.
Now there is a certain tension between the two points I have just made. On the one hand, Bone does not exist. On the other hand, Bone is not nothing. He is an artifact of Hamilton's creativity just as much as the novel itself is in which he figures. How can he not exist but also not be nothing? If he is not nothing, then he exists.
If Bone were to exist, he would be a human person, a concrete item. But there is no such concretum. On the other hand, Bone is not nothing: he is an artifact created by Hamilton over a period of time in the late '30s to early '40s. Since Bone cannot be a concrete artifact -- else Hamilton would be God -- Bone is an abstract artifact. Thus we avoid contradiction. Bone the concretum does not exist while Bone the abstract artifact does. This is one theory one might propose. (Cf. Kripke, van Inwagen, Thomasson, Reicher, et al.)
Note that this solution does not require the postulation of different modes of existence/being. But it does require that one 'countenance' (as Quine would say) abstract objects (in Quine's sense of 'abstract') in addition to concrete objects. It also requires the admission that some abstract objects are contingent and have a beginning in time. The theory avoids Meinongianism but is quasi-Platonic. London Ed needs a stiff drink long about now.
Now let's bring in a third datum. We know that there is a sense in which it is true that Bone is an alcoholic and false that he is a teetotaler. How do we reconcile the truth of 'Bone is an alcoholic' with the truth of 'Bone does not exist'? There is a problem here if we assume the plausible anti-Meinongian principle that, for any x, if x is F, then x exists. (Existence is a necessary condition of property-possession.) To solve the problem we might reach for a story operator. The following dyad is consistent:
3. According to the novel, Bone is an alcoholic
4. Bone does not exist.
From (3) one cannot validily move via the anti-Meinongian principle to 'Bone exists.' But if 'Bone is an alcoholic' is elliptical for (3), then 'Bone is a purely fictional character' is elliptical for
5. According to the novel, Bone is a purely fictional character.
But (5) is false. For according to the novel, Bone is a real man.
The point I am making is that 'Bone is a purely fictional character' is an external sentence, a sentence true in reality outside of any fictional context. By contrast, 'Bone is an alcoholic' is an internal sentence: it is true in the novel but not true in reality outside the novel. If it were true outside the novel, then given the anti-Meinongian principle that nothing can have properties without existing, Bone would exist -- which is false.
I think Brightly and I can agree that a purely fictional man is not a man, and that a purely fictional alcoholic is not an alcoholic. And yet Bone is at least as real as the novel of which he is the main character. After all, there is the character Bone but no character, Son of Bone. In keeping with Brightly's notion that there is an equivocation on 'purely fictional item,' we could say the following. 'Bone' in the internal sentence 'Bone is an alcoholic' doesn't refer to anything, while 'Bone' in the external sentence 'Bone is a purely fictional character' refers to an abstract object.
We can then reconcile (1) and (2) by replacing the original dyad with
1* There are no purely fictional concreta
2* There are some purely fictional abstracta.
The abstract artifact theory allows us to accommodate our three datanic or near-datanic points. The first was that Bone does not exist. We accommodate it by saying that there is no concretum, Bone. The second was that Bone is a creature of a novelist's creativity. We accommodate that by saying that what Hamilton created was the abstract artifact, Bone*, which exists. Bone does not exist, but the abstract surrogate Bone* does. The third point was that there are truths about Bone that nevertheless do not entail his existence. We can accommodate this by saying that while Bone does not exemplify such properties as being human and being an alcoholic, he encodes them. (To employ terminology from Ed Zalta.) This requires a distinction between two different ways for an item to have a property.
I do not endorse the above solution. But I would like to hear why Brightly rejects it, if he does.
Alex L. writes, "I was interested in the post where you mentioned voting rationality. I've heard this argument as well -- that the chance your vote will influence elections is minuscule, so it's not rational to vote."
But that is not the argument. The argument is not to the conclusion that it is not rational to vote, but that it is rational for many people to remain ignorant of past and present political events and other relevant facts and principles that they would have to be well-apprised of if they were to vote in a thoughtful and responsible manner.
What is at issue is not the rationality of voting but the rationality of political ignorance.
The reason it is rational for many people to remain politically ignorant is that one's vote will have little or no effect on the outcome. To become and remain politically knowledgeable as one must be if one is to make wise decisions in the voting booth takes a considerable amount of initial and ongoing work. I think Ilya Somin has it right:
. . . political ignorance is actually rational for most of the public, including most smart people. If your only reason to follow politics is to be a better voter, that turns out not be much of a reason at all. That is because there is very little chance that your vote will actually make a difference to the outcome of an election (about 1 in 60 million in a presidential race, for example). For most of us, it is rational to devote very little time to learning about politics, and instead focus on other activities that are more interesting or more likely to be useful.
And please note that if it is rational for many to remain politically ignorant, that is consistent with the rationality of others to become and remain politically knowledgeable. I gave three reasons for someone like me to be politically savvy.
First. My goal is to understand the world as best I can. The world contains political actors, political institutions, and the like. Therefore, in pursuit of my goal it is rational to study politics.
Second. Politics is interesting the way spectator sports are. Now I don't give a flying enchilada about the latter. Politics are my sports. In brief, staying apprised of political crapola is amusing and diverting and also has the salutary effect of reminding me that man is a fallen being incapable of dragging his sorry ass out of the dreck by his own power, or, in Kantian terms, that he is a piece of crooked timber out of which no straight thing ever has been or ever will be made.
Third. Knowledge of current events in the political sphere can prove useful when it comes to protecting oneself and one's family. Knowledge of the Obaminations of the current administration, for example, allows one to to plan and prepare.
It is also worth pointing out that while political ignorance is for many if not most citizens rational, that it not to say that it is good.
Note finally that if it is not rational for most of us to acquire and maintain the political knowledge necessary to vote wisely, election after election, that is not to say that it is not rational for most of us to vote. For one can vote the way most people do, foolishly. Consider those voters who vote a straight Democrat ticket, election after election. That takes little time and no thought and may well be more rational than not voting at all. Let's say you are a welfare recipient or a member of a teacher's union or an ambulance chaser. And let's assume you are voting in a local election. Then it might be in your interest, though it would not be for the common good, to vote a straight Dem ticket. It might well be rational given that no effort is involved.