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.)
I'd like to get my hands on a copy of Maria Reicher, ed., States of Affairs (Ontos Verlag, 2009). I didn't find it in the ASU catalog and so I headed over to Amazon.com where I found a used copy for the entirely reasonable price of $9,999.99 plus $3.99 shipping and handling. I kid you not. You might think they'd throw in free S & H on orders over $5,000.00.
Maybe it is like this. The whole world is Amazon's oyster, and in that wide world there are quite a few ontology freaks, your humble correspondent one of them, and probably a couple crazy enough to fork over $10 K for this collection of essays. So why not ask a ridiculous price? You just might get it.
Does anyone in Ontology Land have a copy of this collection that they are willing to part with?
I will put it to good use. I have been invited to contribute an essay to a volume commemorating the late David M. Armstrong. My essay is tentatively entitled "Facts: Realism, Anti-Realism, Semi-Realism." So I need to be en rapport with all the latest literature.
Christina Hoff Sommers exposes five leftist-feminist falsehoods. My favorite example is the following one which provides yet another example of the idiocy of Jimmy Carter, the Obama of the 1970s:
MYTH 2: Between 100,000 and 300,000 girls are pressed into sexual slavery each year in the United States.
FACTS: This sensational claim is a favorite of politicians, celebrities and journalists. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore turned it into a cause célèbre. Both conservatives and liberal reformers deploy it. Former President Jimmy Carter recently said that the sexual enslavement of girls in the U.S. today is worse than American slavery in the 19th century.
The source for the figure is a 2001 report on child sexual exploitation by University of Pennsylvania sociologists Richard Estes and Neil Alan Weiner. But their 100,000–300,000 estimate referred to children at risk for exploitation—not actual victims. When three reporters from the Village Voicequestioned Estes on the number of children who are abducted and pressed into sexual slavery each year, he replied, “We’re talking about a few hundred people.” And this number is likely to include a lot of boys: According to a 2008 census of underage prostitutes in New York City, nearly half turned out to be male. A few hundred children is still a few hundred too many, but they will not be helped by thousand-fold inflation of their numbers.
Here's a tip for you. When some activist or advocate makes a claim, be skeptical and run the numbers, especially when the advocate has a vested interest in promoting his cause.
Do you remember Mitch Snyder the advocate for the homeless who hanged himself in 1990? I heard him make a wild claim sometime in the '80s to the effect that the number of homeless in the U. S. was three million. At the time the population of the U.S. was around 220 million. So I rounded that up to 300 million and divided by three million. And then I knew that Snyder's claim was bogus, and probably fabricated by Snyder, as was later shown to be the case. It is simply not credible that one in 100 in the U. S. is a homeless person.
It is similarly incredible that one in 1000 girls in the U. S. is pressed into sexual slavery each year.
When Snyder admitted to Ted Koppel that he made up his number, advocates for the homeless defended his tactic as "lying for justice." See here. A nice illustration of the leftist principle that the end justifies the means. Obama implemented the principle when he lied some 30 times about the Affordable Care Act . But let's not go over that again.
There is a lot of talk these days about white privilege. I don't believe I have discussed this topic before.
1. White privilege is presumably a type of privilege. What is a privilege? This is the logically prior question. To know what white privilege is we must first know what privilege is. Let's consider some definitions.
D1. A privilege is a special entitlement or immunity granted to a particular person or group of persons by the government or some other corporate entity such as a university or a church on a conditional basis.
Driving on public roads is a privilege by this definition. It is not a right one has just in virtue of being a human being or a citizen. It is a privilege the state grants on condition that one satisfy and continue to satisfy certain requirements pertaining to age, eyesight, driving skill, etc. Being a privilege, the license to drive can be revoked. By contrast, the right to life and the right to free speech are neither conditional nor granted by the government. They can't be revoked. Please don't confuse a constitutionally protected right such as the right to free speech with a right granted by the government.
Faculty members have various privileges, a franking privilege, a library privilege, along with such perquisites as an office, a carrel, secretarial help, access to an an exclusive dining facility, etc. Immunities are also privileges, e.g., the immunity to prosecution granted to a miscreant who agrees to inform on his cohorts.
Now if (D1) captures what we mean by 'privilege,' then it it is hard to see how there could be white privilege. Are there certain special entitlements and immunities that all and only whites have in virtue of being white, entitlements and immunities granted on a conditional basis by the government and revocable by said government? No. But there is black privilege by (D1). It is called affirmative action.
So if we adopt (D1) we get the curious result that there is no white privilege, but there is black privilege! Those who speak of white privilege as of something real and something to be aware of and opposed must therefore have a different definition of privilege in mind, perhaps the following:
D2. A privilege is any unearned benefit or advantage that only some people have in virtue of their identity. It needn't be granted by any corporate entity, nor need it be conditional. Aspects of identity that can afford privilege in this sense include race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, wealth, ability, or citizenship status.
People who speak of white privilege probably have something like (D2) in mind. The idea is that there are certain unearned advantages that accrue to whites just in virtue of their race, advantages that do not accrue to members of other races.
One question arises right here. What justifies the broadening of the term 'privilege' to cover any unearned benefit? If the term is used strictly, there is no white privilege. To speak of white privlege one has to engage in a semantic stretch. What justifies this stretch? Is it a legitimate stretch or a example of linguistic distortion? And what is the agenda behind it?
One thing to note about (D2) is that it leads to a proliferation of privileges. There will be as many privileges as there are unearned benefits possessed by some but not all. For example, there will be the 'privilege' of being right-handed since this is a minor advantage -- better to be right-handed than either left-handed or ambisinistrous -- and it is unearned and not possessed by everyone. And the same goes for being ambidexterous. I lack the 'privilege' of ambidexterity, being right-handed only, and so I am disadvantaged relative to the ambidexterous. But I am not as disadvantaged relative to the ambidexterous as the ambisinistrous. They are the worst off when it comes to handedness. Should they receive something like reparations for nature's niggardliness?
Now clearly all of us enjoy all sorts of unearned benefits. Tall men, of whatever race, have an unearned advantage over short men, as long as they are not too tall. In the USA at least it is better to be 6'1" rather than 4'11". (D2) therefore implies that there is a tallness privilege in some cultures. Is this a problem? Does justice demand that heights be equalized? And who will appoint and equalize the Procrustean equalizers? Or are the equalizers exempt from equalization? If so, this would be an immunity, hence a 'privilege,' a leftist privilege.
Blacks born in the post-war USA have an unearned advantage over both whites and blacks born in some other parts of the world. Blacks born into two-parent homes in the USA have an unearned advantage over blacks born into single-parent homes in the USA. Blacks born without birth defects have an unearned advantage over blacks born with birth defects. Many blacks born without birth defects have an unearned advantage over some whites born with birth defects. And so on.
If there is an advantage to being white, is this an advantage enjoyed by all whites? And if it is not shared by all whites, why should this advantage be called white privilege? Do 'poor white trash' share in white privilege? Wouldn't it be better to be born into a solid, middle-class two-parent black or Hispanic family than to be born into a 'poor white trash' family? Do rednecks and Southerners generally share in white privilege? It didn't seem to help Paula Deen very much.
What is the relation between white privilege and majority privilege? I grant that, ceteris paribus, it is better to be white than black in the USA at the present time. But how much of this advantage is due to whites' being a majority? When Hispanics become a majority in California, say, will there be talk of Hispanic privilege? Should Hispanics then start feeling guilty about their unearned advantage?
Here is an important question. Am I not entitled to my unearned benefits despite the fact that I have done nothing to earn them? My being tall is not my own doing, and I don't do much of anything besides staying alive to keep myself tall. I don't work at it in the way I work at improving my mind and work at maintaining my physical and fiscal fitness.
Suppose you are a black male born in the post-war USA into a middle-class, two-parent, loving home. You have all sorts of unearned benefits. Do you feel guilty because you have unearned benefits that a lot of 'poor white trash' lack? Should you feel guilty? Change the example slightly: you were born in London and have the unearned benefit of a British accent. You come to the States and are hired by CNN or FOX News, beating out white competitors, in large part because of that beautiful and charming accent. Do you 'check' your privilege or feel guilty about it? Does it bother you that a Southern accent is a definite disadvantage?
So those are some questions that come to mind when I think about white privilege. I'll end with a bit of analysis of an interesting quotation (from second article below):
Those of us who are white and male in the U.S. were born with significantly more chips to play the poker game of life than were people of color or women. Although our white, male status is a biological reality, the unearned benefits that our race and gender identity provides us are a social construction, that is—they are special perks granted by a white patriarchal society.
The second sentence is gibberish. Males are on average taller than females. Being tall is an unearned benefit, but surely it is no social construction. The very notion of social construction is dubious by itself. What does the phrase mean? Care to define it? It smacks of the fallacy of hypostatization. There is this entity called 'society' that constructs things? I am not saying the phrase 'social construction' cannot be given a coherent meaning; I'm just saying that I would like to know what that meaning is. Define it or drop it.
Perk? Isn't that what the coffee does -- or used to do back in the day? The word our 'professor' wants is 'perquisite.' As I suggested above, perquisites are privileges. So what the 'professor' is doing is conflating privileges with unearned benefits. That conflation needs to be either justified or dropped. We are told that these 'perks' are granted by a white patriarchal society? Smells like the fallacy of hypostatization again. Where can I find the group of people who collectvely decide to grant these special 'perks' to white people?
I could go on, but this is enough 'shovelling' for one day.
Summer once again subsides into the sweetness of September. This calls for a song, September in the Rain, not that there is much that could be called rain in these parts. But the Arizona monsoon looks to be over, the lambent light and delicious dryness have returned, and autumn's in the air. Life is good, for some of us leastways, and pro tempore.
Let's begin by reviewing some grammar. 'Walking' is the present participle of the infinitive 'to walk.' Present participles are formed by adding -ing to the verb stem, in our example, walk. Participles can be used either nominally or adjectivally. A participle used nominally is called a gerund. A gerund is a verbal noun that shares some of the features of a verb and some of the features of a noun. Examples:
Walking is good exercise. Sally enjoys walking. Tom prefers running over walking. Rennie loves to talk about running.
As the examples show, gerunds can occur both in subject and in object position.
Participles can also be used adjectivally as in the following examples:
The boy waving the flag is Jack's brother. Sally is walking. The man walking is my neighbor. The man standing is my neighbor Bob; the man sitting is his son Billy Bob. The Muslim terrorist cut the throat of the praying journalist.
Now what about the dreaded fused participles against which H. W. Fowler fulminates? In the following example-pairs the second item features a fused participle:
She likes my singing. She likes me singing.
John's whistling awoke her. John whistling awoke her.
Sally hates Tom's cursing. Sally hates Tom cursing.
If you have a good ear for English, you will intuitively reject the second item in these pairs. They really should grate against your linguistic sensibility even if you don't know what it means to say that gerunds take the possessive. That is, a word immediately preceding a gerund must be in the possessive case. A fused participle, then, is a participle used as a noun preceded by a modifier, whether a noun or a pronoun, that is not in the possessive.
Fused participles, most of them anyway, are examples of bad grammar. But why exactly? Is it just a matter of non-standard, 'uneducated,' usage? 'I ain't hungry' is bad English but it is not illogical. Fused participles are not just bad usage, but logically bad inasmuch as they elide a distinction, confusing what is different.
This emerges when we note that the members of each of the above pairs are not interchangeable salva significatione. It could be that she likes my singing, but she doesn't like me. And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.
In the second example, it could be that the first sentence is false but the second true. It could be that John, who was whistling, awoke her, but it was not his whistling that awoke her, but his thrashing around in bed.
The third example is like the first. It could be that Sally hates the sin, not the sinner. She hates Tom's cursing but she loves Tom, who is cursing.
Is every use of a fused particular avoidable? This sentence sports a fused participle:
The probability of that happening is near zero.
The fused participle is avoided by rewriting the sentence as
The probability of that event's happening is near zero.
But is the original sentence ungrammatical without the rewriting? Technically, yes. One should write
The probability of that's happening is near zero
although that is perhaps not as idiomatic as the original. In any case, one would have to be quite the grammar nazi to spill red ink over this one.
According to Panayot Butchvarov, "Fused participles are bad logic, not just bad usage." ("Facts" in Cumpa, ed., Studies in the Ontology of Reinhardt Grossmann, Ontos Verlag, 2010, p. 87.) In Skepticism in Ethics, Butch claims that a fused participle such as 'John flipping the switch' is as "grammatically corrupt" as 'I flipping the switch.' (Indiana UP, 1989, p. 14.)
I think Butch goes too far here. Consider the sentence I wrote above:
And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.
I don't agree that this sentence is grammatically corrupt. It strikes me as grammatically acceptable, fused participle and all. It expresses a clear thought, one that is different from the thought expressed by
And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like my singing or my doing anything else.
The first is true, the second false. If she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me when I am singing, shaving, showering, or doing the third of the three 's's.
So we ought not say that every use of a fused participle is grammatically corrupt. We ought to say that fused participles are to be avoided because they elide the distinctions illustrated by the above three contrasts. The trouble with 'I hate my daughter flunking the exam' is not that it is ungrammatical but that it fails to express the thought that the speaker (in the vast majority of contexts) has in mind, namely, that the object of hatred is the flunking not the daughter.
What does this have to do with ontology?
Some of us maintain that a contingent sentence such as 'John is whistling' cannot just be true: it has need of an ontological ground of its being true. In other words, it has need of a truth-maker. Facts are popular candidates for the office of truth-maker. Thus some of us want to say that the truth-maker of 'John is whistling' is the fact of John's whistling. Butchvarov, however, rejects realism about facts. One of his arguments is that we have no way of referring to them. Sentence are not names, and so cannot be used to refer to facts.
But 'John's whistling' fares no better. It stands for a whistling which is an action or doing. It does not stand for a fact. For this reason, some use fused participles to refer to facts. Thus, the fact of John whistling. Butch scotches this idea on the ground that fused participles are "bad logic" and "grammatically corrupt."
I don't find Butchvarov's argument compelling. As I argued above, there are sentences featuring fused participles that are perfectly grammatical and express definite thoughts. My example, again, is 'If she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.' So I don't see why 'John whistling' cannot be used as a name of the fact that is the truth-maker of 'John is whistling.'
A lonely soldier cleans his gun and dreams of Galveston.
A slacker standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona spies a girl in a flatbed Ford.
Johnny Rivers heads East via Phoenix and Albuquerque.
From Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah, this sojourner of the American night has driven every kind of rig that's ever been made.
Update (9/1). Ed Farrell writes, "The Little Feat version of I'm Willin is a good one. But my favorite version will probably remain the one done by Seatraincirca 1970--which was the standard road song for Sierra climbing trips in late high school/college. Seatrain never really took off as a band but their musicianship was quite good though their style was difficult to pigeonhole."
That is a good version, indeed better than Little Feat's. There were a lot of great bands back in the day that never really made it. Another is Fever Tree. I remember hearing them circa '68 live at a club called The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood or West L. A. Give a careful listen to The Sun Also Rises.
Ed also recommends Seatrain's version of the Carole King composition, Creepin Midnight. Produced by George Martin.
Finally, please take a look at Ed's spectacular photography.
Leftists freely label poor whites as "redneck," "white trash," "trailer trash," and "hillbilly." At the same time that leftists toss around these racist and classist slurs, they are so sanctimonious they forbid anyone to pronounce the N word when reading Mark Twain aloud. President Bill Clinton's advisor James Carville succinctly summed up leftist contempt for poor whites in his memorable quote, "Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find."
[BV adds: Carville's remark was in reference to Paula Jones who had sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. Carville's innuendo was to the effect that Jones was a piece of 'trailer trash.']
The left's visceral hatred of poor whites overflowed like a broken sewer when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate in 2008. It would be impossible, and disturbing, to attempt to identify the single most offensive comment that leftists lobbed at Palin. One can report that attacks on Palin were so egregious that leftists themselves publicly begged that they cease; after all, they gave the left a bad name. The Reclusive Leftist blogged in 2009 that it was a "major shock" to discover "the extent to which so many self-described liberals actually despise working people." The Reclusive Leftist focuses on Vanity Fair journalist Henry Rollins. Rollins recommends that leftists "hate-fuck conservative women" and denounces Palin as a "small town hickoid" who can be bought off with a coupon to a meal at a chain restaurant.
[. . .]
6) I believe in God.
Read Marx and discover a mythology that is irreconcilable with any other narrative, including the Bible. Hang out in leftist internet environments, and you will discover a toxic bath of irrational hatred for the Judeo-Christian tradition. You will discover an alternate vocabulary in which Jesus is a "dead Jew on a stick" or a "zombie" and any belief is an arbitrary sham, the equivalent of a recently invented "flying spaghetti monster." You will discover historical revisionism that posits Nazism as a Christian denomination. You will discover a rejection of the Judeo-Christian foundation of Western Civilization and American concepts of individual rights and law. You will discover a nihilist void, the kind of vacuum of meaning that nature abhors and that, all too often, history fills with the worst totalitarian nightmares, the rough beast that slouches toward Bethlehem.
[Memo to BV: Write a series of posts exploring the common abyss of nihilism at the bottom of both militant Islam, the recent actions of Hamas being a prime instance of this, and at the bottom of leftism.]
When I first saw this article, I thought to myself, "Oh boy, another load of stinking, steaming, scientistic bullshit by some know-nothing science writer or physicist for me to sink my logic shovel into!"
You have heard it said, 'Take the bull by the horns.' But I say unto you, 'Take the bull by the shovel!'
But then I started reading and realized that the author knows what he is talking about. Philosophers won't find anything new here, but it is an adequate piece of popular writing that may be of use to the educated layman.
I just heard Dennis Prager say that he never mocks his ideological opponents. If I had his ear, I would put to him the question, "Do think there are no conceivable circumstances in which mockery of an ideological opponent is morally justified?"
If he answered in the affirmative, then I would press him on how this comports with his conviction that there are circumstances in which the use of physical violence against human beings is morally justified.
I would urge that if the latter is morally justified, and it is, then the former, a sort of verbal violence, is morally justified. In battling evil people and their pernicious views, all means at our disposal should be employed, it being understood that the appeal to reason and fact is the tactic of first resort.
The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 28.1 percent. A statistic that one never hears about is that the poverty rate among intact married black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8.4 percent. Weak family structures not only spell poverty and dependency but also contribute to the social pathology seen in many black communities -- for example, violence and predatory sex. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation's population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it's 22 times that of whites. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Coupled with being most of the nation's homicide victims, blacks are also major victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault, rape and robbery.
I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it is 'racism' and 'white privilege' and 'a war on blacks' that explain the deep problems of the black 'community,' or rather the sorts of facts that Professor Williams adduces. Before you dismiss him as an 'Uncle Tom' or an oreo, black on the outside, white on the inside, please think through what he has to say.
(If Williams is an oreo, what is Obama? A mulatto oreo? White on the inside -- as witness his obsession with golf and other ways in which he 'acts white' -- but black and white on the outside?)
Richard Dawkins reviews Richard Swinburne, Is There a God? (Oxford, 1996) here. What follows are the meatiest excerpts from Dawkins' review together with my critical comments. I have bolded the passages to which I object.
Swinburne is ambitious. He will not shrink into those few remaining backwaters which scientific explanation has so far failed to reach. He offers a theistic explanation for those very aspects of the world where science claims to have succeeded, and he insists that his explanation is better. Better, moreover, by a criterion likely to appeal to a scientist: simplicity. He shows that his heart is in the right place by convincingly demonstrating why we should always prefer the simplest hypothesis that fits the facts. But then comes the great banana skin experience. By an amazing exploit of doublethink, Swinburne manages to convince himself that theistic explanations are simple explanations.
It is not true that Swinburne offers an explanation for those very aspects of the world where science claims to have succeeded. Part of what Swinburne is saying is that there are aspects of the world that theism can explain but that materialism cannot explain. But let's back up a bit.
Swinburne rightly points out that "intellectual enquiry demands that we postulate the smallest number of brute facts." (49) But on a materialist explanation there are more brute facts than on a theistic explanation, and Swinburne takes this as a point in favor of theism. One thing that science cannot explain but that theism can explain is the fact that every electron has the same causal powers and liabilities as every other one in the universe. Indeed, the same goes for every kind of particle and every kind of macro-object as well: tigers here behave like tigers elsewhere, bread nourishes an Eskimo no less than it nourishes a Mexican, etc.
A rational enquirer, however, cannot just accept that it is a brute fact that every electron has the powers and liabilities of every other one. Reason demands an explanation of that fact. Swinburne offers the following analogy. "If all the coins found on an archaeological site have the same markings, or all the documents in a room are written with the same characteristic handwriting, we look for an explanation in terms of a common source. The apparently coincidental cries out for explanation." (50) Now back to Dawkins:
Science explains complex things in terms of the interactions of simpler things, ultimately the interactions of fundamental particles. I (and I dare say you) think it a beautifully simple idea that all things are made of different combinations of fundamental particles which, although exceedingly numerous, are drawn from a small, finite set. If we are sceptical, it is likely to be because we think the idea too simple. But for Swinburne it is not simple at all, quite the reverse.
His reasoning is very odd indeed. Given that the number of particles of any one type, say electrons, is large, Swinburne thinks it too much of a coincidence for so many to have the same properties. One electron, he could stomach. But billions and billions of electrons, all with the same properties, that is what really excites his incredulity. For him it would be simpler, more natural, less demanding of explanation, if all electrons were different from each other. Worse, no one electron should naturally retain its properties for more than an instant at a time, but would be expected to change capriciously, haphazardly and fleetingly from moment to moment. That is Swinburne’s view of the simple, native state of affairs. Anything more uniform (what you or I would call more simple) requires a special explanation.
[I]t is only because electrons and bits of copper and all other material objects have the same powers in the twentieth century as they did in the nineteenth century that things are as they are now. (Is There a God? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. p. 2. [Dawkins gets the pagination wrong. This passage is on p. 42.])
Now where does Swinburne say what Dawkins attributes to him in the bolded passage? What Swinburne is saying is that science must take it to be a brute fact that electrons (e.g.) have the same powers and liabilities everywhere and everywhen. He is not saying that their natural tendency is not to have the same powers and liabilities. In other words, Swinburne does not invoke God to explain why electrons don't follow a natural tendency to collapse into irregularity; he invokes God to explain why they are regular. Returning to Dawkins:
Enter God. God comes to the rescue by deliberately and continuously sustaining the properties of all those billions of electrons and bits of copper, and neutralising their otherwise ingrained inclination to wild and erratic fluctuation. That is why when you’ve seen one electron you’ve seen them all, that is why bits of copper all behave like bits of copper, and that is why each electron and each bit of copper stays the same as itself from microsecond to microsecond. It is because God is constantly hanging on to each and every particle, curbing its reckless excesses and whipping it into line with its colleagues to keep them all the same.
It seems to me that Dawkins, whose tone betrays an unwillingness to grapple seriously with what Swinburne is saying, simply does not understand Swinburne's point. It is not that the fundamental particles are inclined to erratic fluctuation and that God must be brought in to keep them in line. It is rather that the fact of their regular behavior cannot be explained by science but must be taken to be a brute fact -- in violation of the principle that animates all science and inquiry, namely, to push explanations as far as one can and to admit as few brute facts as possible.
Swinburne, impressed by the regularity of nature, asks why it is regular. Dawkins, however, takes the regularity for granted and considers it to be a brute given. Thus at any time the regularity of nature has no explanation. But it is worse than this since over time there can be no explanation of why things having certain powers exist at all. As Swinburne puts it, "The present powers of objects may have been brought about by a past cause, but their present continuing in existence is -- on the materialist hypothesis -- an ultimate brute fact." (42)
In other words, the materialist must take to it to be a brute fact that the universe continues to exist.
Theism is arguably superior to materialism because it explains more with less. Its explanation is relatively simple whereas that of materialism must postulate innumerable separate objects that just happen to have the same powers as each other.
The materialist, one could say, tolerates an unacceptable amount of brute-factuality. Consider all the samples of boiling water that have ever existed. Not only is it a brute fact that all of these samples exhibit the propensity to boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea-level, but is is also a brute fact that each of these samples exists. But it is worse than this since each sample is composed of H2O molecules which are composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which are composed of electrons, protons, and so on down the line, where at each level there are inexplicable regularities and inexplicable existences.
I don't say that Swinburne's case for theism is absolutely compelling, but it is quite reasonable, and indeed more reasonable that Dawkin's case for materialism. But even if you disagree with me on the last point, I hope I have convinced you that Dawkin's critical remarks contra Swinburne are quite worthless.
It occurred to me this morning that there is a connection between the two.
Suppose a person asserts that abortion is morally wrong. Insofar forth, a bare assertion which is likely to elicit the bare counter-assertion, 'Abortion is not morally wrong.' What can be gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied without breach of logical propriety, a maxim long enshrined in the Latin tag Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. So one reasonably demands arguments from those who make assertions. Arguments are supposed to move us beyond mere assertions and counter-assertions. Here is one:
Infanticide is morally wrong There is no morally relevant difference between abortion and infanticide Ergo Abortion is morally wrong.
Someone who forwards this argument in a concrete dialectical situation in which he is attempting to persuade himself or another asserts the premises and in so doing provides reasons for accepting the conclusion. This goes some distance toward removing the gratuitousness of the conclusion. THe conclusion is supported by reasons that are independent of the conclusion. But suppose he gave this argument:
Abortion is the deliberate and immoral termination of an innocent pre-natal human life Ergo Abortion is morally wrong.
The second argument is a clear example of petitio principii, begging the question. While the premise entails the conclusion, it does not support it with a reason independent of the conclusion. The argument 'moves in a circle' presupposing the very thing it needs to prove.
So the second 'argument' merely appears to be an argument: it us really just an assertion in the guise of an argument, and a gratuitous assertion at that. But what is gratuitously asserted can be gratuitously denied.
So there we have the connection between Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur and Petitio principii.
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: