Welcome to the latest incarnation of Maverick Philosopher. I began this weblog in May of 2004 and have kept it up continuously on different servers, missing only a few days. I'm in this game 'for the duration,' as long as health and eyesight hold out. It has proven to be deeply satisfying, not the least reason for which being that my scribbling has attracted a large number of like-minded individuals, some of whom I have met in the flesh, and have come to value highly as friends.
And for that I am grateful.
What you need to know is that this weblog is just one philosopher's online journal, notebook, common place book, workshop, soapbox, sandbox, and literary litter box. A lot of what I write is unpolished and tentative. I explore the cartography of ideas along many paths. Here below we are in statu viae, and it is fitting that our thinking should be exploratory, meandering, and undogmatic. Nothing human, and thus nothing philosophical, is foreign to me.
The graphic well illustrates my approach. A lonesome traveller meanders along a desert path toward a distant prominence which points up and away to the goal of his Quest, a goal fitfully glimpsed, never grasped. Leastways, not while he is on trail and on trial. The quester quests until his thought rests, but the Rest is far off. Meanwhile there is the Quest, an integral part of which is philosophy, reason's search for the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. But reason is not reason unless it strives mightily beyond itself to sources of truth that transcend it.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. I oppose hyper-professionalization and excessive specialization. After all, this is only a weblog. Every once in a while I post something that is mistaken, someone corrects me, and I learn something. I admit mistakes if mistakes they be. See how modest I am? On the other hand, this rarely happens. My PhilPapers page currently lists 64 entries and will give you some idea of what I am more or less expert in.
I allow comments on only some posts, usually the more technical ones. And to keep the cyberpunks at bay, Comment Moderation is always on. Comments must address what I say in my posts. If you go off on a tangent, I will most likely not allow your comment to appear. Comments must meet a certain standard, and I do not suffer fools gladly. But on some days I go soft, being only human.
I suppose that in these decadent days of the Decline of the West I should issue a TRIGGER WARNING: this is no place for the politically correct. It is not a 'safe space.' Here you will find free speech, trenchancy of expression, and open inquiry.
Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin -- a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.
What Chesterton is saying is that sin is a fact, an indisputable fact, whether or not there is any cure for it. Not only is sin a fact, original sin is a fact, an observable fact one can "see in the street." Chesterton also appears to be equating sin with positive moral evil.
Is the concept of moral evil the same as the concept of sin? If yes, then the factuality of moral evil entails the factuality of sin. But the concept of moral evil is not the same as the concept of sin. It is no doubt true -- analytically true as we say in the trade -- that sins are morally evil; but the converse is by no means self-evident. It is by no means self-evident that every moral evil is a sin. It is certainly not an analytic or conceptual truth. Let me explain.
Moral evil is evil that comes into the world from a misuse of free will. As such, it could exist whether or not God exists as long as there are free agents. All that would be required for the existence of moral evil, in addition to free agents, would be moral values and/or moral laws. Sin, however, implies God by its very concept. Sin is an offense against God. A sinful act is not just a morally wrongful act, but an act of disobedience, a contravention of a divine command. From the Catholic Encyclopedia article on sin:
In the Old Testament sin is set forth as an act of disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:11; Isaiah 1:2-4; Jeremiah 2:32); as an insult to God (Numbers 27:14); as something detested and punished by God (Genesis 3:14-19; Genesis 4:9-16); as injurious to the sinner (Tob., xii, 10); to be expiated by penance (Ps. 1, 19). In the New Testament it is clearly taught in St. Paul that sin is a transgression of the law (Romans 2:23; 5:12-20); a servitude from which we are liberated by grace (Romans 6:16-18); a disobedience (Hebrews 2:2) punished by God (Hebrews 10:26-31). St. John describes sin as an offence to God, a disorder of the will (John 12:43), an iniquity (1 John 3:4-10).
My first conclusion, then, is that moral evil is not the same as sin. The concept of sin includes the concept of moral evil, but not conversely. This is because sin is an offence against God. If so, then it is difficult to see how sin could be a fact, as Chesterton claims. It is more like an interpretation of certain facts. We need an example.
One man brutally assaults another to get his wallet. He beats him to death with a baseball bat while the victim's little girl looks on in horror. The act is evil, and let's assume that the act's being evil is a fact not only in the sense that it is the case, but also in the sense that it is evidently the case, observably the case, indisputably the case. But is the act of assault sinful? Only if God exists. For only if God exists can there be an offence against God, which is what sin is. But that God exists is not a fact in the sense I just defined. For even if it is the case that God exists -- even if the proposition God exists is true -- it is not evidently, observably, indisputably the case that God exists. Chesterton says one can "see sin in the street." This is just false. For surely one cannot see God in the street, or in the sky, or in nature as a whole. The theist interprets what he literally sees in terms of, within the horizon of, his belief in God, and so he interprets the evil act as a sinful act. But the sinfulness of the act of assault is not a perceptible quality of it: it cannot be 'read off' the act.
My second conclusion, therefore, is that sin is not a fact in the sense defined. This is because calling an act sinful involves an interpretation of the act in terms of an entity, God, whose existence is not a fact in the sense defined. It is interesting to note that if sin were an observable fact, then, given that concept of sin includes the concept of God, we would be able to mount a quick argument for God from the existence of sin. That is, we could argue as follows:
There are sinful acts; If there are sinful acts, then God exists; ergo, God exists. This argument is valid in point of logical form, but is not probative because it begs the question in the first premise: anyone who classifies some acts as sinful in so doing presupposes the existence of God.
So, contrary to what Chesterton says above, sin is not a fact one can "see in the street." It is no more an observable fact than the createdness or divine designedness of the universe are observable facts. They may be facts, but they are not observable facts. I seem to recall Kierkegaard saying something similar to what Chesterton says above. Kierkegaard, if memory serves, says in effect that Original Sin is the one dogma that is empirically verifiable. But this is the same mistake. The most one can say is that the fact of moral evil is plausibly explained by the doctrine of Original Sin. If the doctrine is true, then we have a plausible explanation of the ubiquity and horrendous depth of moral evil; but other explanations are possible which operate without theistic assumptions.
Supposing we are able to disqualify these other explanations, we could argue that Original Sin is the best explanation of the pervasive fact of moral evil. Even if such an argument were sound, it would not show that Original in is an empirical fact; it would remain at best an explanatory hypothesis.
Indeed, in the debate Monday night, Clinton framed her discussion of “implicit bias” as a malady we all suffer from, telling Lester Holt:
“I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think, unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other.”
Well, yes, too many people do jump to conclusions. So, what’s the solution, Hillary? When it comes to policing, since it can have literally fatal consequences, I have said, in my first budget, we would put money into that budget to help us deal with implicit bias by retraining a lot of our police officers. Wait. What? If we’re all biased, who’s training whom? Let’s be very clear: When it moves from abstract to concrete, all this talk about “implicit bias” gets very sinister, very quickly. It allows radicals to indict entire communities as bigoted, it relieves them of the obligation of actually proving their case, and it allows them to use virtually any negative event as a pretext for enforcing their ideological agenda.
What bothers me about David French is that, while he writes outstanding columns in support of the conservative cause, he is, last time I checked, a NeverTrumper.
Would it be fair to label him a yap-and-scribble milquetoast 'conservative'? He talks and talks, writes and writes, but refuses to support the one man who has any chance of impeding Hillary and the Left's destructive 'long march' (Mao) through the institutions of our society. That is so strange and so absurd that one may be justified in a bit of psychologizing. Perhaps the explanation of his behavior and that of others in his elite club is revealed in this column by F. H. Buckley:
I gave a talk to a conservative group not so long ago, when the NeverTrumper still lived in his fantasy wor[l]d. They believed that the voters and delegates would finally come to their senses and nominate the amiable Ted Cruz, or that somehow they’d jigger the Convention rules, or that the absurd Great White Hope, David French, would do the trick.
It was four months ago, and I gave my usual anti-Pollyanna talk of gloom and doom. When I finished people lined up to ask questions, and one of them was a senior executive at a prominent DC think tank. “It’s true we’re going to Hell in a hand-basket,” he said, “but this time we’ve got a lot of great think tanks on our side.” Right you are, I thought. Bad as it might be, you can say “I’ve got mine.”
I thought of that when I talked to a friend yesterday. He spoke of dinner parties ruined when NeverTrumpers start abusing Trump supporters. Then he told me of one dinner party at which two of the most prominent NeverTrumpers confessed why they want Hillary to win. They know they’ll have no access to the Trump White House if he wins. Nor would they have any access to a Hillary White House. The difference, however, is that their donor base would desert them in the event of a Trump victory, whereas they can raise money from donors in the event of a Hillary win.
We had figured this out. We’re just surprised to hear them admit it.
Jacques, in a debate in an earlier thread with Bob the Ape (sic!) writes:
[. . .] The mere fact that conservatism, or western civilization more generally, is the product of a specific group does not _imply_ that "it must remain the exclusive property of that group, or that that group is essential for its existence". On the other hand, there is no particular reason to believe that these things are _not_ the exclusive property of western peoples or that white Europeans are _not_ essential to the conservation and functioning of our western civilization. What evidence could anyone have for thinking that western civilization encodes principles or ways of being that are "true for everyone" or, more to the point, feasible for everyone? Obviously a healthy western society can do just fine with small numbers of foreigners, including even Australian Aborigines. But the question is whether our societies can thrive (or even exist) when non-whites, non-westerners, non-Christians are introduced in numbers so huge as to reduce white western Christians to minorities. I can't think of any reason for optimism about this scenario. And there's lots of evidence for the view that western civilization could only have been created and sustained by the specific racial-cultural groups that in fact created and sustained it. Certainly it seems far-fetched to imagine that groups such as the Aborigines have the capacity to produce anything like the civilization of Italy or England or France or Holland. These are groups who have never left the stone age. [. . .]
One claim Jacques seems to be making is that
C1. There is no reason to believe that Western civilization includes principles true for everyone.
Now (C1) strikes me as plainly false. Suppose we mean by a principle a true proposition fundamental to some body of knowledge. Accordingly, the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC) is a principle of logic. It is true and it is foundational. This principle, along with all the rest of the principles of logic, is not just true, but necessarily true. So they are true not only for every actual person but for every possible person. Is Jacques a relativist who thinks that the truths of logic vary from tribe to tribe, that LNC is true for whites but not for blacks, for Europeans but not for Australian aborigines? I hope not.
Obviously the same holds for the principles of mathematics and all the propositions derivable from these principles. They are necessarily true for all actual and possible persons.
All of these truths of logical and mathematics are true for everyone, not in the sense that they are accepted or believed by everyone, but in the sense that they are binding on everyone.
The principles of natural science, though presumably not necessarily true, being contingently true, are nonetheless true for all if true for any. Consider the principle of the additivity of velocities at pre-relativistic speeds. If a Zulu on a train fires a gun in the direction of train travel, the velocity of the projectile will be governed by this principle just as it will be if it were an Englshman doing the firing.
Further examples could be given, but the foregoing suffices to refute (C1). Another claim Jacques seems to be making is
C2. There is no reason to believe that the principles included in Western civilization are not the exclusive property of Western peoples.
Jacques is suggesting that the these principles are the exclusive property of Western peoples. The suggestion is absurd. No one has proprietary rights in truth. Truths cannot be owned. Pythagoras discovered the theorem of Pythagoras, but he did not thereby come to own it. If a German or an African uses the theorem to calculate the length of the hypotenuse on a right triangle is he violating Pythagoras' property rights, or those of his descendants?
Had Pythagoras invented the theorem bearing his name, then perhaps one could say that he owned it. But he didn't invent it; he discovered it. To latch onto a truth is to latch onto something absolute: the truth of a proposition is not subject to the whim of arbitrary creativity. A truth of mathematics is not like an advertising logo or a song. A song can be copyrighted, but not a truth.
Suppose I write a post in which I state some well-known truths in my own classy way. Impressed by my inimitable style, you decide to plagiarize my post. All you succeed in doing is plagiarizing my classy, or perhaps quirky, formulations: you cannot plagiarize the truths the formulations express. Plagiarism is literary theft. You can steal my formulations by copying without quoting and attributing the sentences I have constructed, but you cannot steal the truths, if any, that I have expressed via those formulations. I own the formulations, but not the truths they express. Truth is too noble a thing to be owned by the likes of me -- or you. And what one cannot steal, one cannot own. Or to put the point with precision: if x cannot be stolen, then there cannot be any y such that y owns x. (Please run that proposition through your counterexample detector.)
The Egyptians measured land and so were involved in geo-metry, but it was the ancient Greeks, Euclid and the boys, who made of geometry an axiomatic deductive science. Those Greek geniuses discovered axiomatics. Did they own it? Is an Italian or a German who axiomatizes set theory guilty of theft, or 'cultural appropriation'?
And now we notice something very interesting. These alt-rightists are the mirror image of crazy leftists. This is no surprise inasmuch as they are reactionaries. He who reacts is defined by that against which he reacts. He has decided to dance with the pig and get dirty instead of eschewing the dance altogether. Thus to the identity politics of the Left, they oppose an identity politics of the Right, when what they ought to be doing is getting beyond identity politics altogether.
And if they maintain that the cultural goods we have in the West (logic, philosophy, science, law, engineering, architecture, music, art, Judeo-Christian ethics) are owned by Western peoples, then they will have to endorse some notion of illicit 'cultural appropriation' when non-Western peoples make use of them. But notice: if it is wrong for the Koreans, say, to appropriate the engineering know-how of Germans and Americans in their auto manufacturing and elsewhere, then why wasn't it wrong for the French and Italian mathematicians to 'culturally appropriate' the fruits of Greek mathematics?
The point here is that there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as Greek mathematics; there is mathematics and the Greeks were uncommonly gifted at getting at its truths. Do you alt-rightists think that there is Jewish physics and Aryan physics? Physics is physics. Race, ethnicity, class, and 'gender' are irrelevant when it comes to the contents of physics.
Are men as a group better than women as a group when it comes to contributing to math and phsyics? Yes. But it doesn't follow that there is male math and female math.
One of the alt-right fallacies, then, is to think that Western culture is somehow tied necessarily to Western peoples either by being true or normatively binding only for Western peoples, or by being owned by Western peoples. The fact that Western peoples originated this culture is irrelevant. What is Western in origin, and thus in this sense particular, is yet universal in validity.
More defensible than (C1) and (C2) is
C3. There is little or no reason to think that Western civilization includes ways of comportment that are feasible for everyone.
This is a large topic. I agree that our recent foreign policy has been irresponsibly interventionist.
But consider that the barbarian bastards from the North, the Goths and Visigoths and others who sacked Rome more than once and laid waste to the civilization of the Mediteranean -- didn't those Teutonic and other bad asses end up getting civilized by the great Graeco-Roman, Judeo-Christian culture to the extent that, in the fullness of time, they could produce a Goethe and a Kant and a Beethoven?
I am not opposed to everything Jacques says above. I agree with, or at least find very plausible, these further claims:
C4. There is good reason to think that white Europeans are essential to the preservation of our Western civilization.
C5. Our civilization is at risk if Western Christians become a minority.
C6. "Western civilization could only have been created and sustained by the specific racial-cultural groups that in fact created and sustained it."
Why do people exaggerate in serious contexts? The logically prior question is: What is exaggeration, and how does it differ from joking, lying, bullshitting, and metaphorical uses of language?
Donald Trump in the first of his presidential debates with Hillary Clinton made the astonishing claim that she has been fighting ISIS all her adult life.
Note first that Trump was not joking but making a serious point. But he couched the serious point in a sentence which is plainly false and known by all to be false. So he cannot be taxed with an intention to deceive. Since he had no intention of deceiving his audience, and since the point he was making (not merely trying to make) about Clinton's fecklessness is true, he was not lying. He was not bullshitting either since he was not trying to misrepresent himself as knowing something he does not know or more than he knows.
Our man was exaggerating. That is different from joking, lying, and bullshitting.
Exaggeration bears some resemblance to metaphor. If I say, 'Sally is a block of ice,' I speak metaphorically or figuratively. What I say is literally false. But by saying it, I manage to convey to the listener some such proposition as that Sally is unemotional and (perhaps) sexually unresponsive. And when Trump exaggerated, though he said something literally false, he managed to convey to his audience the true proposition that the Obama-Clinton response to ISIS was and is a failure.
But I wouldn't want to say that the Orange Man was speaking metaphorically. I am merely pointing to a similarity between metaphor and exaggeration.
The similarity may consist in the coming apart of sentence meaning and speaker's meaning. In our example, the sentence meaning is that of a falsehood. The speaker, however, using a literally false sentence means something different from what the words 'by themselves' mean, and manages to convey a truth to his hearers.
So I suggest that to understand exaggeration we need to understand metaphor so that we can delimit the former from the latter. But what exactly is metaphor? That's a tough one.
But the main thing in politics and life is that exaggeration erodes credibility. He who exaggerates betrays an inability or unwillingness to adjust his discourse to the world as it is.
Trump could easily win the election if he could get a grip on his rhetoric. But he can't and he won't.
HereI catalog three specimens of exaggeration by well-known philosophers.
I spent the whole day yesterday at an auto dealership buying my wife a new car. But last night I didn't dream about the car, but about Hillary who appeared young and stunning and topless, but with very small breasts. What does this dream mean?
My subconscious was telling me that Hillary came across in the first debate much better than Trump (young and stunning) and that therefore she 'won' the debate despite her indefensible position (toplessness) and weak arguments (small breasts).
And 'win' she did. She threw the Orange Man onto the defensive and made him look bad. Despite his allegations of her lack of stamina, she stood there strong as a bull. She threw a lot of bull too, but it doesn't matter in these so-called debates. It's all about appearances. That's what the world runs on. That's what impresses people. Remember Ronald Reagan's contentless 'zingers'? "There you go again!" "Where's the beef?" (An allusion to a Wendy's restaurant commercial of the time.)
Some of us recall Nixon-Kennedy, 1960. You could see Nixon sweat. Sweat and scowl. An introvert in an extrovert's profession, he was no match for the charming and charismatic and lovable Jack Kennedy. He lost on appearances. But Nixon was the better man with the better arguments despite playing Captain Ahab to Kennedy's Prince Charming.
Trump missed opportunities to nail Hillary. She spouted standard liberal nonsense about 'gun violence' as if guns are violent, but nary a peep escaped her lying lips about the thug culture in black ghettos which is the real root of the problem. Similarly on the 'stop and frisk' matter. But Trump was stymied by his need to appeal to black voters.
You can't say to black people that, as a group, they, and in particular young black males, are more criminally inclined than whites, and that this is what justifies 'stop and 'frisk' profiling, for they will take it as racist insult, not as the plain truth, which is what it is.
I predict a win by Hillary in the general, by a small margin. I hope I am wrong.
A Hillary win will concern me as a citizen. But as a philosopher it will be of no concern. For the owl of Minerva spreads its wings at dusk.
Addendum 1. 'Gun epidemic' is another obfuscatory phrase Hillary used last night. A characteristic conflation of the moral and the epidemiological that could arise only in the febrile brain of a liberal. The problem in the black ghettos is not too many guns, but too few fathers.
Addendum 2. I said above that a Hillary win would concern me as a citizen but not as a philosopher. But this was an uncharacteristic undialectical lapse on my part. For one cannot flourish as a philosopher in prison or in a totalitarian regime. The embodied philosopher must concern himself to some extent with politics as with the material conditions of his philosophizing.
Corrigendum 1. Dennis M. writes,
A correction: “Where’s the beef?” was from a Reagan debate, but it was a line Mondale used against him. That one didn’t do much, but Reagan’s quip about not using Mondale’s youth and inexperience against him did a lot to kill the worries people had after his somewhat listless performance in their first debate.
Apparently, Richard Swinburne, perhaps the most distinguished of contemporary philosophers of religion, had the chutzpah to defend a traditional Christian view of homosexuality at a meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers. This provoked the outrage of certain cultural Marxists.
If only a 'trigger warning' had been issued prior to Swinburne's address! Then the whole controversy might have been avoided. The girly girls and pajama boys could have padded off to their sandbox to play with their dolls until the start of the next session.
Required reading for a sense of the depth of the rot in contemporary academe. Here is the conclusion of Dreher's article:
The fact that a Yale philosophy professor not only holds such vicious opinions towards another professor who apparently only stated a historically standard Christian philosophical view of homosexuality, but who also did not hesitate to publicly denounce that professor in the most vulgar possible terms, is a striking sign of the revolutionary times. To give you a sense of the ideas that are considered so vile as to be unutterable, even in a Christian philosophers’ conference, I searched in Swinburne’s 2007 book Revelation to see what his view on homosexuality is. To my knowledge, there has been no transcript provided of his SCP talk, but numerous online comments by philosophers who were there said that there was nothing in it that Swinburne had not already said in Revelation (which was published by Oxford University Press, not known for being a purveyor of National Socialist tracts) It’s possible to search on Amazon and find the relevant pages in the Swinburne book. It starts on p. 304. As best I can tell, here is his argument:
Children need two parents. The inability to beget children is a “disability.”
Homosexuality, by this definition, is a disability.
Disabilities need to be prevented and cured.
What causes homosexuality? We don’t know, but it’s likely some combination of genetics and environment.
We can change the environmental conditions by discouraging people from homosexual acts, and embracing a homosexual identity.
There is always a possibility that the disability called homosexuality might be cured, so therapy should be considered. But as of now, we have no reason to think that it will be successful, except in a slight number of cases.
In any case, homosexuals should be encouraged to be chaste, just as heterosexuals should be encouraged to be chaste in the face of their own disordered sexual impulses.
We must show love and compassion to homosexuals (and others with disordered impulses), but real love and compassion implies wanting not what they want, but what is best for them.
Therefore, to love gays (and everybody else) is to desire that all who live outside the bounds of normative heterosexual marriage live in chastity.
This is a very common Christian argument from Scripture and the natural law. For a more detailed version of this argument, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the meaning of sex and sexuality. The Catholic Church teaches that all sexual acts and all sexual desire outside of heterosexual marriage (including masturbation, and use of pornography) are disordered, because they disrupt the purpose of sex (= the unity of the couple, open to the possibility of the conception of new life). This is why the Church condemns contraception as a deformation of the right use of sex. The Catechism calls homosexuality “intrinsically disordered” because it is a state of sexual desire that can in no way be rightly ordered.
One can easily see why contemporary philosophers would object to this, and theyshould object to it, philosophically, if it violates their principles. But the idea that what Swinburne said is some sort of crazy right-wing blast from the bowels of Hitleriana, not fit to be stated in philosophical company, is insane.
But I don’t think Stanley and his academic confreres are insane, not in the least. I think they are radical progressive ideologues. I think they deliberately want to demonize any philosophers who hold to the traditional Christian teaching on the meaning of sexuality, particularly homosexuality. One of the most prominent contemporary philosophers is Princeton’s Peter Singer, who has advocated bestiality (under certain conditions) and the extermination of handicapped newborns. Singer is welcome within contemporary philosophical circles … but Richard Swinburne is now to be anathematized?
Anybody with eyes can see what’s going on here. There is a cleansing underway. The fact that the Society of Christian Philosophers is allowing itself to be bullied by these people is deeply depressing. Christian philosophers ought to be defending Swinburne’s right to state his opinion, even if they disagree with that opinion.
(I should add here that one of the handful of reasons I would even consider voting for Trump is the certain knowledge that a Hillary Clinton administration would only further the cultural hegemony of cutthroat revolutionaries like Stanley and his fellow travelers.)
Many liberals are 'threatening' to leave the country should Trump become president. They have their 'escape countries' all lined up: Canada, Australia, France and others. But to where can a conservative American escape if and when his country becomes a culturally Marxist craphole? Chances are good that the destructive Hillary will weasel her way into the White House. Is there some country we can flee to?
You see, we conservatives have nowhere to go. The USA is the last bastion of liberty, limited government, and free speech, not to mention freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Shouldn't there be at least one country on the face of the earth that champions and promotes traditional American values?
Liberals are big on diversity, but only so long as it is politically correct diversity. They have no interest in a diversity of ideas or of types of government.
As usual, I want to ask you about something (something you're free to blog about).
Since December 2015, I've practised mindfulness meditation, with low intensity. Just 20 minutes or so each or every other day, paying calm (if possible) attention to things as they were happening in my mind or in my body. It's been great, mainly as an antidote against anxiety.
These days I have asked myself, could I gain something more, or something deeper, from my practice? If so, how? By practising more intensively, even painfully? Or by praying during, or after, my practise? The first path is carved with admirable precision in some Buddhist, step-by-step manuals . . . . But it might eventually lead me into a land of -- what seems like -- mental disorder and metaphysical madness (sensory overload, intensive fear or disgust, the impression of no self and of the nullity of classical logic). On the other hand, no comparably detailed manuals for following the latter path seem to be available . . . .
So I wonder, what would be your suggestion to someone who considers meditating more seriously and in line with really good sources yet who wants to turn neither insane nor Buddhist?
First of all, I am glad to hear that you have taken up this practice. Philosophers especially need it since we tend to be afflicted with 'hypertrophy of the critical faculty' to give it a name. We are very good at disciplined thinking, but it is important to develop skill at disciplined nonthinking as well. Disciplined nonthinking is one way to characterize meditation. One attempts to achieve an alert state of mental quiet in which all discursive operations come to a halt.
It is very difficult, however, and 20 minutes every other day is not enough. You need to work up to 40-60 minute sessions every day. Early morning is best, the same time each morning. Same place, a corner of your study, say. Posture? Seated cross-legged on cushions, with the knees lower than the buttocks. Kneeling has spiritual value, but not for long periods of prayer or meditation. Breath? Slow, even, deep, from the belly.
There needn't be any physical pain; indeed, there shouldn't be. If the full lotus is painful, there is the half-lotus, and the Burmese posture. Depending on the state of my legs and joints, I adjust my body as needed for comfort and stability. A lttle hatha yoga is a useful preliminary. Or just plain stretching, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
A certain mild ascesis, though, is sine qua non for successful meditation/contemplation. You have to live a regular life, follow the moral precepts, abstain from spiritual and physical intoxicants, and so on. A little reading the night before of Evagrios Pontikos, say, is indicated; filling your head with mass media dreck & drivel contraindicated.
Meditation is an inner listening. The receptivity involved, however, opens one to demonic influence. So there is a certain danger in going deep. It is therefore a good idea for a Christian meditator to begin his session with the Sign of the Cross, a confession of weakness in which one admits that one is no match for demonic agents, and a supplication for protection from their influence. I recommend you buy a copy of the spiritual classic, Unseen Warfare by Lorenzo Scupoli. (Available from Amazon.com) Anyone who attempts to make spiritual progress ought to expect demonic opposition. (Cf. St. Paul, Epistle to the Ephesians, 6:12: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.")
Could deep meditation drive one mad? I would say no if you avoid psychedelic drugs and lead an otherwise balanced life. You could meditate two hours per day with no ill effects.
But if you go deep, you will have unusual experiences some of which will be disturbing. There are the makyo phenomena described by Zen Buddhists. (Whether these phenomena should be described as the Zennists describe them is of course a further question.) For example, extremely powerful and distracting sexual images. I once 'heard' the inner locution, "I want to tear you apart." Inner locutions have a phenomenological quality which suggests, though of course it does not prove, that these locutions are not excogitated by the subject in question but come from without. Demonic interference?
But on another occasion I felt myself to be the object of a very powerful unearthly love. An unforgettable experience. A Christian will be inclined to say that what I experienced was the love of Christ, whereas a skeptic will dismiss the experience as a 'brain fart.' The phenomenology, however, cannot be gainsaid.
Will deep meditation and the experiences that result drive you to accepting Buddhist teaching according to which all is impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and devoid of self-nature (anatta)? I don't think so. Many Buddhists claim that these doctrine are verified in meditation. I would argue, however, that they bring their doctrines to their experiences and then illictly take the experiences as supporting the doctrines.
For example, if you fail to find the self in deep meditation does it follow that there is no self? Hardly. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Now that was quick and dirty, but I have expatiated on this at length elsewhere.
Does the path of meditation lead to the relativization of classical logic, or perhaps to its utter overthrow? This is a tough question about which I will say something in a subsequent post that examines Plantinga's critique of John Hick in the former's Warranted Christian Belief.
Finally, I want to recommend the two-volumed The Three Ages of the Interior Life (not the one-volumed edition) by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. (Available from Amazon.com) This is the summit of hard-core Catholic mystical theology. This is the real thing by the hardest of the hard-core paleo-Thomists. You must read it. No Francine namby-pamby-ism here.
One way to circumvent 'One man, one vote' is by cheating. That's the liberal way. Vote early and vote often. Vote even if you are dead. Vote by mail and then in person. That liberals intend to make the polling places safe for voter fraud is clear from their breath-takingly sham arguments against photo ID.
The conservative way is to persuade others to vote as one does. Suppose my posts have convinced 100 fence sitters to vote for Trump. Then I will have generated 101 votes for the Orange Man.
Suppose these 100 repeat my arguments to their friends. And these friends . . . . You can see how this could have a serious effect.
George Harrison and friends, Absolutely Sweet Marie. By the way, this self-certified Dylanologist can attest that in the first line it is 'railroad GAUGE,' not 'railroad gate.' 'Gauge' is a measure of the width of the track; that's what our boy can't jump. This one goes out to Marie Benson, from the summer of '65. Where are you tonight, sweet Marie?
Gilbert Ryle once predicted with absurd confidence, "Gegenstandstheorie . . . is dead, buried, and not going to be resurrected." (Quoted in G. Priest, Towards Non-Being, Oxford, 2005, p. vi, n. 1.) Ryle was wrong, dead wrong, and shown to be wrong just a few years after his cocky prediction. Variations on Meinong's Theory of Objects flourish like never before due to the efforts of such brilliant philosophers as Butchvarov, Castaneda, Lambert, Parsons, Priest, Routley/Sylvan, and Zalta, just to mention those that come first to mind. And the Rylean cockiness has had an ironic upshot: his logical behaviorism is temporarily dead while Meinongianism thrives.
What accounts for Meinong's comeback according to Priest?
Why has this change taken place? A hard question. Undoubtedly many factors are involved. Certainly, one important one is that the arguments against noneism are, indeed, bad. Another is that Russell’s theory of descriptions, as applied to names, is now itself history, despatched by Saul Kripke’s onslaught in the 1970s.
The arguments are uncompelling, but not bad. Let's look at a couple.
One of Russell's objections to Meinong was that the denizens of Aussersein, i.e., beingless objects, are apt to infringe the Law of Non-Contradiction. Suppose a Meinongian subscribes to the following principle:
Unrestricted Satisfaction (US): Every definite description is such that some object satisfies it.
For any definite description we can concoct, there is a corresponding object or item, in many cases a beingless object or item. From (US) we infer that some object satisfies the definite description, 'the existent round square.' This object is existent, round, and square. So the existent round square exists, which is a contradiction. This is one Russell-type argument.
A similar argument can be made re: the golden mountain. By (US), not only is some object the golden mountain, some object is the existent golden mountain. This object is existent, golden, and a mountain. So the existent golden mountain exists, which is false, though not contradictory. This is a second Russell-type argument.
Are these arguments compelling refutations of Meinong's signature thesis? No, but they are certainly not bad arguments. Here is one way one might try to evade the Russellian objections, a way similar to one Meinong himself treads. Make a distinction between nuclear properties and extranuclear properties. (See Terence Parsons, Nonexistent Objects, Yale UP, 1980, p. 42) Nuclear properties are those that are included in an object's Sosein (so-being, what-being, quiddity). Extranuclear properties are those that are not so included. The distinction can be made with respect to existence. There is nuclear existence and extranuclear existence. 'Existent' picks out nuclear existence while 'exists' picks out extranuclear existence.
This distinction blocks the inference from 'The existent round square is existent, round, and square' to the 'The existent round square exists.' Similarly in the golden mountain case. You will be forgiven for finding this distinction between nuclear and extranuclear existence bogus. It looks to be nothing more than an ad hoc theory-saving move.
But there may be a better Meinongian response. The Russellian arguments assume an Unrestricted Characterization Principle:
UCP: An object exemplifies each of the properties referenced in the definite description it satisfies.
From (US) we get the object, the existent golden mountain, and the object, the existent round square. But without (UCP) one cannot move to the claim that the existent golden mountain exists or to the claim that the existent round square exists.
A Meinongian can therefore defeat the Russellian arguments by substituting a restricted characterization principle for (UCP). And he can do this without distinguishing between nuclear and extranuclear existence.
Did Kripke "despatch" Russell's theory of descriptions. More chutzpah on Priest's part. You are nothing but a blind partisan if you fail to acknowledge the problems with Kripke's views.
You have heard me say it before. There is a deep link between the Left and Islam in respect of the assault on reason and the substitution of narrative for truth. This linkage helps explain the otherwise puzzling Islamophilia of leftists. Leftists hate religion except for 'the religion of peace.'
The most consequential organization in radical Islam is the Muslim Brotherhood. Laying the groundwork for its American network, the Brotherhood gave pride of place to an intellectual enterprise, the International Institute of Islamic Thought. The IIIT’s explicit, unapologetic mission is the “Islamization of knowledge.”
It is not a slogan or an idle phrase. The mission traces back to the ninth century. Its purpose was to defeat human reason. In this fundamentalist interpretation, Islam is a revealed, non-negotiable truth. Reason, rather than hailed as mankind’s path to knowledge and salvation, is condemned for diverting us from dogma. Knowledge therefore has to be Islamized — reality must be bent and history revised to accord with the Muslim narrative.
But with the demise of reason comes the demise of progress, of the wisdom that enables us to solve problems. That is why Islamic societies stagnated, and why the resurgence of fundamentalism has made them even more backward and dysfunctional.
It is this way with every totalitarian ideology. We’d be foolish to assume it can’t happen to us. Slaves to narrative are fugitives from reason. Their societies die.
We humans naturally philosophize. But we don't naturally philosophize well. So when science journalists and scientists try their hands at it they often make a mess of it. (See my Scientism category for plenty of examples.) This is why there is need of the discipline of philosophy one of whose chief offices is the exposure and debunking of bad philosophy and pseudo-philosophy of the sort exhibited in so many 'scientific' articles. Although it would be a grave mistake to think that the value of philosophy resides in its social utility, philosophy does earn its social keep in its critical and debunking function.
Religion can appear under the guise of a childish refusal to face the supposed truth that we are but a species of clever land mammal with no higher origin or destiny. It can also appear under the guise of transcendence and maturity: the religious seek to transcend the childish and the merely human whereas worldlings wallow in it.
Religion must remain a riddle here below, as much of a riddle as the predicament it is supposed to cure. If religion wants a symbol, let it be:
And if anyone should say that only the sick need medicine, then let the reply be: We are all sick.
If you practice the custody of the heart, it may save you from unnecessary folly -- as delightful as romantic follies can be. Do you feel yourself falling in love with your neighbor's wife? Don't tell yourself you can't help it. Don't hijack Pascal's "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." Get a grip on yourself.
Don't follow the musical example of 'The King.' "Wise men say/ Only fools rush in/ But I can't help/ Falling in love with you."
A liberal will accuse me of 'preaching.' Damned straight I'm preaching. Perhaps I should have saved this for Sunday morning.
I am not worried about American fascism. We Americans are not a bunch of Germans about to start goose-stepping behind some dictator. Our traditions of liberty and self-reliance are long-standing and deep-running. A sizeable contingent of Trump supporters are gun rights activists who would be open to an extra-political remedy should anyone seek to instantiate the role of Der Fuehrer or Il Duce. True, Trump appeals to those having an authoritarian personality structure. But his supporters are also cussedly individualistic and liberty-loving. I expect the latter characteristic to mitigate the former.
There is also the following interesting question wanting our attention: why is it better to have the personality structure of the typical leftist? Why is it better to be a rebellious, adolescent, alienated, destructive, irreverent, tradition-despising, anti-authoritarian, ungrateful, utopian, dweller in Cloud Cuckoo Land?
Someone told me today that Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals is dedicated to Lucifer. Lucifer, not Lucifer Schwarz of Poughkeepsie, New York. Makes perfect sense.
Addendum (9/24): While the dominant press, the liberal press, is 'in the tank' for Hillary and her ilk, this won't be the case should the Orange Man make it to the White House. The lamestream media will be at his throat from Day One. This will serve as a brake on any incipient fascismo.
The most arresting sentence of the week came from a sophisticated Manhattan man friendly with all sides. I asked if he knows what he’ll do in November. “I know exactly,” he said with some spirit. “I will be one of the 40 million who will deny, the day after the election, that they voted for him. But I will.”
A high elected official, a Republican, got a faraway took when I asked what he thought was going to happen. “This is the unpollable election,” he said. People don’t want to tell you who they’re for. A lot aren’t sure. A lot don’t want to be pressed.
That’s exactly what I’ve seen the past few weeks in North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee and Minnesota.
[. . .]
Mr. Trump’s advantage? “Americans love to say they think outside the box. Trump lives outside the box. Hillary is the box.” [Noonan quoting Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager.]
The Left is dangerous for a number of reasons with its disregard for truth being high on the list. For the Left it is the 'narrative' that counts, the 'script,' the 'story,' whether true of false, that supports their agenda. An agenda is a list of things to do, and for an activist, Lenin's question, What is to be done? trumps the question, What is the case? Paraphrasing Karl Marx's 11th Thesis on Feuerbach, the point for a leftist is to change the world, not understand it. See here: "Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert, es kömmt drauf an, sie zu verändern." "The philosophers have only variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it." (my trans.)
The leftist's aim is the realization of 'progressive' ideals, and if the truth stands in the way, then so much the worse for it. Inconvenient truths are not confronted and subjected to examination; their messengers are attacked and denounced.
So when Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard University, speculated in 2005 that women might be naturally less gifted in math and science, the intense backlash contributed to his ouster.
Two years later, when famed scientist James Watson noted the low average IQ scores of sub-Saharan Africans, he was forced to resign from his lab, taking his Nobel Prize with him.
When a Harvard law student was discovered in 2010 to have suggestedin a private email that the black-white IQ gap might have a genetic component, the dean publicly condemned her amid a campus-wide outcry. Only profuse apologies seem to have saved her career.
When a leftist looks at the world, he does not see it as it is, but as he wants it to be. He sees it through the distorting lenses of his ideals. A central ideal for leftists is equality. And not in any such merely formal sense as equality under the law or equality of opportunity. The leftist aims at material equality: equality of outcome both socially and economically, equality in point of power and pelf. But the leftist goes beyond even this. He thinks that no inequalities are natural, and therefore that any inequalities that manifest themselves must be due to some form of oppression or 'racism.' But because this is demonstrably false, the leftist must demonize the messengers of such politically incorrect messages or even suggestions as that the black-white IQ gap might have a genetic component.
This truth-indifferent and reality-denying attitude of the leftist leaves the conservative dumbfounded. For he stands on the terra firma of a reality logically and ontologically and epistemologically antecedent to anyone's wishes and hopes and dreams. For the conservative, it is self-evident that first we have to get the world right, understand it, before any truly ameliorative praxis can commence. It is not that the conservative lacks ideals; it is rather that he believes, rightly, that they must be grounded in what is possible, where the really possible, in turn, is grounded in what is actual. (See Can What is Impossible for Us to Achieve be an Ideal for Us?) And so the conservative might reply to the activist, parodying Marx, as follows:
You lefties have only variously screwed up the world; the point, however, is to understand it so that you don't screw it up any further.
There is a paradox at the heart of the radically egalitarian position of the leftist. He wants equality, and will do anything to enforce it, including denying the truth (and in consequence reality) and violating the liberties of individuals. But to enforce equality he must possess and retain power vastly unequal to the power of those he would 'equalize.' He must go totalitarian. But then the quest for liberation ends in enslavement. This paradox is explained in Money, Power, and Equality.
On classical Christology, as defined at the Council of Chalcedon in anno domini 451, Christ is one person with two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. But isn't this just logically impossible inasmuch as it entails a contradiction? If Christ is divine, then he is immaterial; but if he is human, then he is material. So one and the same person is both material and not material. Again, if Christ is divine, then he is a necessary being; but if he is human, then he is a contingent being. So one and the same person is both necessary and not necessary.
There are several ways to remove contradictions like these. One way is by using reduplicative constructions, another invokes relative identity theory, and a third is mereological. This entry will examine Michael Gorman's version of a fourth approach, the restriction strategy. (See Michael Gorman, "Classical Theism, Classical Anthropology, and the Christological Coherence Problem" in Faith and Philosophy, vol. 33, no. 3, July 2016, pp. 278-292.) Glance back at the first example of putative contradiction. The argument requires for its validity two unstated premises:
Necessarily, every divine being is immaterial
Necessarily, every human being is material.
If so, and if Christ is both divine and human as orthodoxy maintains, then Christ is both immaterial and material. We can defuse the contradiction if we follow Gorman and replace the first of these with a restricted version:
R. Necessarily, every solely divine being is immaterial.
From this restricted premise, a contradiction cannot be derived. Christ, though divine, is not solely divine because he is also human. "Saying that every solely divine being is immaterial does not imply that Christ is immaterial, because Christ is not solely divine; therefore, it leaves open the door to saying that Christ is material." (283) In this way, 'Christ is divine' and 'Christ is human' can be shown to be a non-contradictory pair of propositions.
Now there is more to Gorman's article than this, but the above restriction is the central move he makes. Unfortunately, I cannot see how this is satisfactory as a defense of the Chalcedonian definition.
For even if Christ is unproblematically both divine and human, how is he unproblematically both immaterial and material? Clearly he must be both. Gorman removes contradiction at one level only to have it re-appear at a lower level. He shows how something can be coherently conceived to be both divine and human, but not how it can be coherently conceived to be both immaterial and material.
Can Gorman's move be iterated? Can we say that an immaterial entity need not be solely immaterial? Can we say, coherently, that while Christ is immaterial he is also material? I don't see how. It is a contradiction to say that one and the same x is both F and not F at the same time, in the same respect, and in the same sense of 'F.' If you say that Christ is immaterial qua God but material qua man, then you have abandoned the restriction strategy and are back with reduplication.
Consider three types of case. (a) A Muslim terrorist who was born in the USA and whose terrorism derives from his Islamic faith. (b) A Muslim terrorist who was not born in the USA but is a citizen of the USA or legally resides in the USA and whose terrorism derives from his Islamic faith. (c) A terrorist such as Timothy McVeigh who was born in the USA but whose terrorism does not derive from Islamic doctrine.
As a foe of obfuscatory terminology, I object to booking the (a) and (b) cases under the 'homegrown terrorist' rubric. In the (a)-case, the terrorist doctrine, which inspires the terrorist deeds, is of foreign origin. There is nothing 'homegrown' about it. Compare the foreign terrorist doctrine to a terrorist doctrine that takes its inspiration, rightly or wrongly, from American sources such as certain quotations from Thomas Jefferson or from the life and views of the abolitionist John Brown.
The same holds a fortiori for the (b)-cases. Here neither the doctrine nor the perpetrator are 'homegrown.'
There is no justification for referring to an act of Islamic terrorism that occurs in the homeland as an act of 'homegrown' terrorism.
The (c)-type cases are the only ones that legitimately fall under the 'homegrown terrorist' rubric.
So please don't refer to Ahmad Khan Rahami as a 'homegrown terrorist.' He is a (b)-type terrorist. There is nothing 'homegrown' about the Islamic doctrine that drove his evil deeds, nor is there anything 'homegrown' about the 'gentleman' himself. Call him what he is: a Muslim terrorist whose terrorism is fueled by Islamic doctrine.
The obfuscatory appellation is in use, of course, because it is politically correct.
Language matters. And political correctness be damned.
Hillary is a supine defeatist in the face of Islamic terror and ought to be held in contempt for that and other reasons, as witness her recent remark that Trump is a recruiter for ISIS.
It's a good thing Hillary wasn't around when the Axis Powers were the main threat to civilization. She would have argued that we cannot name and condemn the ideology driving the Wehrmacht lest we antagonize Germans and cause more Nazis to rise up against us.
A tip of the hat to London Karl for bringing the following to my attention. Karl writes, "I love your country, but it gets more absurd by the day."
It does indeed. Contemporary liberals are engaged in a project of "willful enstupidation," to borrow a fine phrase from John Derbyshire. Every day there are multiple new examples, a tsunami of folderol most deserving of a Critique of POOR Reason.
Here is a little consideration that would of course escape the shallow pate of your typical emotion-driven liberal: If Kant's great works can be denigrated as products of their time, and as expressive of values different from present-day values, then of course the same can be said a fortiori of the drivel and dreck that oozes from the mephitic orifices of contemporary liberals.
Ed Buckner raises this question, and he wants my help with it. How can I refuse? I'll say a little now, and perhaps more later.
Kant was brought up a rationalist within the Wolffian school, but then along came David Hume who awoke him from his dogmatic slumber. This awakening begins his Critical period in which he struggles mightily to find a via media between rationalism and empiricism. The result of his struggle, the Critical philosophy, is of great historical significance but is also an unstable tissue of irresolvable tensions. As a result there are competing interpretations of his doctrines.
I will propose two readings relevant to Ed's question. But first a reformulation and exfoliation of the question.
Can one think about God and meaningfully predicate properties of him? For example, can one meaningfully say of God that he exists, is omnipotent, and is the cause of the existence of the natural world? Or is it rather the case that such assertions are meaningless and that the category of causality, for example, has a meaningful application only within the realm of phenomena but not between the phenomenal realm as a whole and a putative transcendent causa prima? Are the bounds of sensibility (Sinnlichkeit) also the bounds of sense (Sinn), or are there senseful, meaningful assertions that transgress the bounds of sensibility?
Weak or Moderate Reading. On this reading, we can think about God and meaningfully make predications of him, but we cannot have any knowledge of God and his attributes. We cannot have knowledge of God because knowledge necessarily involves the interplay of two very different factors, conceptual interpretation via the categories of the understanding, and sensory givenness. God, however, is not given to the senses, outer or inner. In Kantian jargon, there is no intuition, keine Anschauung, of God. All intuition is sensible intuition. The Sage of Koenigsberg will not countenance any mystical intuition, any Platonic or Plotinian visio intellectualis, at least not in this life. That sort of thing he dismisses in the Enlightenment manner as Schwaermerei, 'enthusiasm' in an obsolete 18th century sense of the English term.
But while Kant denies that there is knowledge of God here below whether by pure reason or by mystical intuition, he aims to secure a 'safe space' for faith: "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith." (Preface to 2nd ed. of Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1787, B xxx.) Now if God and the soul are objects of faith, this would imply that we can think of them and thus refer to them even if we cannot have knowledge of them.
The soul is the object of the branch of metaphysica specialis called rational psychology. Since all our intuition is sensible, there is no sensible intuition of the soul. As is well-known, Kant denies that special metaphysics in all three branches (psychology, cosmology, and theology) is possible as science, als Wissenschaft. To be science it would have to include synthetic a priori judgments, but these are possible only with respect to phenomena.
Kant's key question is: How are synthetic a priori judgments possible? He believes they are actual in mathematics and physics, and would have to be actual in metaphysics if the latter were a science. To put it quick and dirty: synthetic a priori judgments are possible in math and physics because the phenomenal world is our construction. The dignity and necessity of the synthetic causal principle -- every event has a cause -- is rescued from the jaws of Humean skepticism, but the price is high: the only world we can know is the world of phenomena. Things in themselves (noumena in the negative sense) are beyond our ken. And yet we must posit them since the appearances are appearances of something (obj. gen.). This restriction of human knowledge to the physical rules out any knowledge of the metaphysical.
On the moderate reading, then, Kant restricts the cognitive employment of the categories of the understanding to phenomena but not their thinking employment. We can think about and refer to the positive noumena, God, the soul, and the world as a whole, but we cannot have any knowledge of them. (And the same goes for the negative noumena that correspond to sensible appearances.) We can talk sense about God and the soul, and predicate properties of these entities, but we cannot come to have knowledge of them. Thus we can meaningfully speak of the soul as a simple substance which remains numerically self-same over time and through its changing states, but we cannot know that it has these properties.
The arguments against the traditional soul substance of the rationalists are in the Paralogisms section of KdrV, and they are extremely interesting.
Strong or Extreme Reading. On this reading, we cannot talk sense about positive or negative noumena: such categories as substance and causality cannot be meaningfully applied beyond the bounds of sensibility. Riffing on P. F. Strawson one could say that on the strong reading the bounds of sensibility are the bounds of sense. This reading wins the day in post-Kantian philosophy. Fichte liquidates the Ding an sich, the neo-Kantians reduce the transcendental ego to a mere concept (Rickert, e.g.), the categories which for Kant were ahistorical and fixed become historicized and relativized, and we end up with a conceptual relativism which fuels a lot of the nonsense of the present day, e.g., race and sex are social constructs, etc.
How's that for bloggity-blog quick and dirty?
So my answer to Ed Buckner's title question is: It depends. It depends on whether we read Kant in the weak way or in the strong way.