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.)
The following is an excerpt of an e-mail from the Barcelona lawyer, Daniel Vincente Carillo. As I mentioned to him in a private e-mail, I admire him for tackling these great questions, and doing so in a foreign language. The pursuit of these questions ennobles us while humbling us at the same time. Carillo writes,
In the contest between theism and metaphysical naturalism we have only four possible scenarios:
1st.An uncaused and necessary universe: It doesn't exist by another being and it cannot cease to exist (absolute and eternal universe).
BV: This is indeed a doxastic possibility. (By calling the possibility doxastic, I leave it open whether it is a real possibility.) But one ought to distinguish between omnitemporality and eternality. The omnitemporal exists at every time, and is therefore 'in time.' The eternal does not exist 'in time.' A universe that cannot cease to exist is in time and therefore not eternal. This could be a merely terminological matter.
2nd. A caused and necessary universe: It exists by another being but it cannot cease to exist (infinite series of universes).
BV: It is true that what is caused to exist is caused by another, since nothing can cause itself to exist, not even God. To say that God is causa sui, then, does not mean that he causes himself; it means that he is not caused by another. 'Causa sui,' shall we say, is a privative expression. So far, so good.
But Carillo may be conflating the necessary with the omnitemporal. To say that a universe is necessary is to make a modal claim, one that is much stronger than the merely temporal claim that the universe in question exists at every time. Suppose time is actually infinite in both past and future directions and that the universe (or a universe) exists at every time. Then the universe is omnitemporal: it exists at every time. But it doesn't follow that the universe is necessary. Metaphysical necessity is a modal, not temporal notion. The necessary is that which cannot not exist. An omnitemporal universe could well be contingent, i.e., possibly nonexistent.
In the jargon of 'possible worlds,' a necessary being is one that exists in all possible worlds. An omnitemporal being is one that exists at every time in a world in which there is time. Clearly, if x is omnitemporal, it does not follow that x is necessary.
3rd. An uncaused and contingent universe: It doesn't exist by another being but it can cease to exist (universe from nothing).
BV: But even if an uncaused universe could NOT cease to exist, it might still be contingent. Suppose that there is an uncaused universe U which is such that: if it exists, then it cannot cease to exist. U's being contingent is not ruled out. If it is necessary that U continue to exist if it does exist,it does not follow that U necessarily exists. For there might not have been that universe at all.
4th. A caused and contingent universe: It exists by another being and it can cease to exist (created universe).
BV: But again, if U exists ab alio, this is logically consistent with U's never ceasing to exist. Suppose God creates a universe which has the essential property of being omnitemporal. He creates a universe out of nothing that exists at every time. Since it exists at every time, there is no time at which it does not exist. And because there is no time at which U does not exist, it never ceases to exist. (If x ceases to exist, then there are two times, t and t*, t < t*, such that x exists at t but does not exist at t*.) So a universe can depend for its existence on God even if it cannot cease to exist.
The first three options characterize atheism/naturalism, while the last one is peculiar to theism. But are they equally rational? Definitely not.
BV: A minor point is that atheism and naturalism are not the same. The latter entails the former, but the former does not entail the latter. (The case of McTaggart, atheist but non-naturalist).
Despite my criticism above, the three naturalist options Carillo lists do seem to exhaust the possibilities if we assume that a metaphysical naturalist is also a metaphysical realist, an assumption which is quite 'natural.' But if one were a naturalist and some sort of anti-realist or idealist, that would be a further option.
Now how does Carillo exclude the third option? He writes:
It looks like the 3rd possibility is the weakest, since nothingness cannot create anything at all. The act of creation, like any other act of producing something, presupposes that the creator and the creature exist simultaneously at least in some moment. However, by its very notion, nothingness cannot exist simultaneously with the universe at any moment. Therefore, a universe from nothing is impossible . . . .
This is entirely too quick. True, nothingness cannot create anything. But someone who holds that the universe just exists as a matter of brute fact, i.e., contingently without cause or reason, is not committed to maintaining that nothingness has creative power. As I recall from Russell's debate with Copleston, Russell ends up saying that the universe just exists and that is all! That is not a good answer, in my opinion, but one cannot refute it by pointing out that nothingness cannot create anything. The whole point of naturalism is that there are neither creatures nor creator.
The question was put to atheist A. C. Grayling. His response:
No, my views will not change; I am confident in the rationalist tradition which has evaluated the metaphysical and ethical claims of non-naturalistic theories, and definitively shown them to be vacuous in all respects other than the psychological effect they have on those credulous enough to accept them.
In 1963. Or at least so we hear from Philip Larkin in his Annus Mirabilis. It was indeed a wonderful/remarkable year. I was but a boy in grade school, but old enough to remember all those wonderful songs and not so wonderful events such as the Profumo scandal in Britain. What ever happened to sex kitten Christine Keeler, by the way? Brace yourself.
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
Up to then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.
Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,A quite unlosable game.
So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
I have long enjoyed the writings of Camille Paglia. But while C. P. is a partial antidote to P. C., the arresting Miss Paglia does not quite merit a plenary MavPhilindulgence endorsement. One reason is because of what she says in the following excerpt from The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia (via Mike Valle):
You grew up as an Italian-American Catholic, but seemed to identify more strongly with the pagan elements of Catholic art and culture than with the church’s doctrines. What caused you to fall away from the Catholic Church?
Italian Catholicism remains my deepest identity—in the same way that many secular Jews feel a strong cultural bond with Judaism. Over time I realized—and this became a main premise of my first book, Sexual Personae (based on my doctoral dissertation at Yale)—that what had always fascinated me in Italian Catholicism was its pagan residue. I loved the cult of saints, the bejeweled ceremonialism, the eerie litanies of Mary—all the things, in other words, that Martin Luther and the other Protestant reformers rightly condemned as medieval Romanist intrusions into primitive Christianity. It's no coincidence that my Halloween costume in first grade was a Roman soldier, modeled on the legionnaires' uniforms I admired in the Stations of the Cross on the church walls. Christ's story had very little interest for me—except for the Magi, whose opulent Babylonian costumes I adored! My baptismal church, St. Anthony of Padua in Endicott, New York, was a dazzling yellow-brick, Italian-style building with gorgeous stained-glass windows and life-size polychrome statues, which were the first works of art I ever saw.
After my parents moved to Syracuse, however, I was progressively stuck with far blander churches and less ethnic congregations. Irish Catholicism began to dominate—a completely different brand, with its lesser visual sense and its tendency toward brooding guilt and ranting fanaticism. I suspect that the nun who finally alienated me from the church must have been Irish! It was in religious education class (for which Catholic students were released from public school on Thursday afternoons), held on that occasion in the back pews of the church. I asked the nun what still seems to me a perfectly reasonable and intriguing question: if God is all-forgiving, will he ever forgive Satan? The nun's reaction was stunning: she turned beet red and began screaming at me in front of everyone. That was when I concluded there was no room in the Catholic Church of that time for an inquiring mind.
Serendipitous that I should stumble this morning upon Mike V.'s Facebook linkage to the America interview, what with my recent thinking about Luther and Kierkegaard's Lutheranism and both of their opposition to what they take to be musty Medieval monkishness and mysticism and monasticism with its asceticism and emphasis on works in general, when justification is by faith alone, as they see it. This led to such abuses as the sale of indulgences. (Later, perhaps, I will quote the relevant S. K. passage.)
But for now a quick poke or two at Paglia. You know about Kierkegaard's three stages or existence-spheres. Paglia seems stuck in the first of them, the aesthetic. The second poke is that she quit Catholicism for a very bad reason, because "there was no room in the Catholic Church of that time for an inquiring mind." And how did Paglia get to that conclusion? From a possibly overtaxed nun's impatience with what might have been a smart-assed question from a very bright but also very rebellious and willful girl, who might have given the overworked nun trouble in the past. (I speculate, of course, but not unreasonably.) I should think that SEX and the desire to indulge in it had a lot more to do with the quittage than any process of reasoning, however non-sequiturious. Here is an excellent account of the three spheres of (personal, subjective) existence in Kierkegaard by the late D. Anthony Storm:
Kierkegaard posited three stages of life, or spheres of existence: the esthetic, the ethical, and the religious. While he favored the term "stages" earlier in his writings, we are not to conceive of them necessarily as periods of life that one proceeds through in sequence, but rather as paradigms of existence. Moreover, many individuals might not traverse a certain stage, for example, the religious. The esthetic sphere is primarily that of self-gratification. The esthete enjoys art, literature, and music. Even the Bible can be appreciated esthetically and Christ portrayed as a tragic hero. The ethical sphere of existence applies to those who sense the claims of duty to God, country, or mankind in general. The religious sphere is divided into Religiousness A and B. Religiousness A apples to the individual who feels a sense of guilt before God. It is a religiousness of immanence. Religiousness B is transcendental in nature. It may be summed up by St. Paul's phrase: "In Christ". It consists of a radical conversion to Christ in the qualitative leap of faith. Kierkegaard also mentions intermediate stages, each of which he calls a confinium, or boundary. Irony lies between the esthetic and the ethical, and humor lies between the ethical and the religious.
There are three existence spheres: the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The metaphysical is abstraction, and there is no human who exists metaphysically. The metaphysical, the ontological, is, but it does not exist, for when it exists it does so in the esthetic, in the ethical, in the religious, and when it is, it is the abstraction from a prius [prior thing] to the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The ethical sphere is only a transition sphere, and therefore its highest expression is repentance as a negative action. The esthetic sphere is the sphere of immediacy, the ethical the sphere of requirement (and this requirement is so infinite that the individual always goes bankrupt), the religious the sphere of fulfillment, but, please note, not a fulfillment such as when one fills an alms box or a sack of gold, for repentance has specifically created a boundless space, and as a consequence the religious contradiction: simultaneously to be out on 70,000 fathoms of water and yet be joyful. Just as the ethical sphere is a passageway—which one nevertheless does not pass through once and for all—just as repentance is its expression, so repentance is the most dialectical (Stages On Life's Way, p. 476f.).
D. F. Swenson, as quoted by W. Lowrie, defines Religiousness A and B.
Religion A is characterized by a passive relation to the divine, with the accompanying suffering and sense of guilt. But it is distinguished from religion B, or transcendent religion, in that the tie which binds the individual to the divine is still, in spite of all tension, essentially intact.... The distinctive feature of transcendent religion can be briefly stated. It consists in a transformation or modification of the sense of guilt into the sense of sin, in which all continuity is broken off between the actual self and the ideal self, the temporal self and the eternal. The personality is invalidated, and thus made free from the law of God, because unable to comply with its demands. There is no fundamental point of contact left between the individual and the divine; man has become absolutely different from God (A Short Life of Kierkegaard, p. 173f.).
I plan to spend a few days next month at a Benedictine monastery in the desert outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The suggestion was made that I give some of the monks a little talk. I think "A Philosopher Defends Monasticism" would be an appropriate title. So I have been reading up on the subject.
This morning I looked to see what Kierkegaard has to say on the topic of monks and monasteries in his late works For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself! They are bound together in an attractive English translation by Howard and Edna Hong (Princeton University Press, 1990).
Of course I did not expect old Kierkegaard to have anything good to say about the monastic ideal, but I was slightly surprised by the harshness of his tone.
I myself am highly sympathetic to the ideal. Had I been born in the Middle Ages I would have been a monk for sure. I fantasize my having been Thomas Aquinas' amanuensis and intellectual sparring partner. And although I love to read Kierkegaard and about him and have been doing so all of my philosophical life, there are two things about him that put me off. One is his anti-mysticism, which is of course connected with his anti-monasticism. The other is his anti-rationalism. But these two add up to a third, his fideism, which I also find off-putting. Well, more on all of this later. Now let's look at some quotations.
One of S.K.'s objections, perhaps his main objection, to monks and monasteries and 'popery' is straight from Luther: it is to the idea of earning merit before God by good works:
To want to build upon good works -- the more you practice them, the stricter you are with yourself, the more you merely develop the anxiety in you, and new anxiety. On this road, if a person is not completely devoid of spirit, on this road he comes to the very opposite of peace and rest for his soul, to discord and unrest. No, a person is justified solely by faith. Therefore, in God's name, to hell with the pope and all his helpers' helpers, and away with the monastery, together with all your fasting, scourging, and all the monkey antics that came into use under the name of imitation. (Judge for Yourself! 193, emphasis added)
You cannot justify yourself before God by your own efforts: "a person is justified solely and only by faith." (193) In these later works of direct communication, S. K. speaks in his own voice and is here clearly endorsing the thought of Luther on justification.
A few pages earlier S. K. speaks of the highest life:
No, it is certainly not the highest to seek a solitary hiding place in order if possible to seek God alone there. It is not the highest -- this we indeed see in the prototype [Christ]. But although it is not the highest it is nevertheless possible . . . that not a single one of us is this coddled and secularized generation would be able to do it. But it is not the highest. The highest is: unconditionally heterogeneous with the world by serving God alone, to remain in the world and in the middle of actuality before the eyes of all, to direct all attention to oneself -- for then persecution is unavoidable. This is Christian piety: renouncing everything to serve God alone, to deny oneself in order to serve God alone -- and then to have to suffer for it -- to do good and then to have to suffer for it. It is this that the prototype expresses; it is also this, to mention a mere man, that Luther, the superb teacher of our Church, continually points our as belonging to true Christianity: to suffer for the doctrine, to do good and suffer for it, and that suffering in this world is inseparable from being a Christian in this world. (169)
S. K. here sounds his recurrent theme of Christianity as heterogeneity to the world. The heterogeneity to the world of the monastic life, however, does not go far enough. A more radical heterogeneity is lived by one who remains in the world, not only living the doctrine, but suffering for it. No doubt that is how the Prototype lived, but he was and is God. How is such a thing possible for any mere mortal?
If true Christianity requires suffering for the doctrine, if it requires persecution and martyrdom, then true Christianity is out of reach except for those who, like present-day Christians in the Middle East, are even as we speak having their throats cut for the doctrine by radical Muslim savages as the rest of the world looks on and does nothing. In the Denmark of Kierkegaard's day (1813-1855), when Christianity was the state religion and the object of universal lip-service, true Christianity was out of reach for S. K. himself by his own teaching. The true Christian must be prepared for persecution and martyrdom, but it is difficult to see how they can be "inseparable from being a Christian in this world."
So add this persecution extremism to the off-putting factors already listed: the anti-mysticism, the anti-rationalism, and the extreme fideism.
But what a prodigiously prolific writer he was! What a genius, and what a fascinating specimen of humanity.
Thank you for continuing to examine the important topic of "daily bread." I don't know of any other philosophy blog writer who combines depth, significance, and clarity like you do!
I agree that spiritual needs are primary, that our world is a vale of soul-making, and that there need not be a disjunction between the spiritual and physical aspects of human nature. Passages such as Mt. 4:4, Jn. 4:10-14, Jn. 6:35, Prov. 4:7 and 16:16, and 2 Peter 1:4-15 seem to emphasize spiritual needs over material needs. Jn. 4:10-14 is particularly interesting.
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn. 4:10-14)
Notice that Jesus states a counterfactual. The woman interprets the statement in material terms. Jesus responds by contrasting the transience of material water with the permanence of spiritual water.
Jesus goes on to say:
"A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." (verses 23 and 24) Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." (verses 31 and 32)
These passages seem to prioritize spiritual development, and to support your spiritual interpretation of "daily bread."
 The word generally translated “daily” is indeed an unusual one – epiousios, which is apparently found nowhere else in scripture or anywhere in Greek literature.  Even so, the idea that this is spiritual and not physical bread is very much a minority theory, one that’s generally not accepted by contemporary translators.  Maybe it isn’t impossible, but feeling compelled to accept such an interpretation to “purify” prayer seems mistaken to me. We are embodied beings, not angels, and God’s creation of the physical world was a good thing and not a Manichean mess to be overcome. Asking God to supply not only our spiritual needs but our physical needs as well seems appropriate. (If God cares about sparrows and the lilies of the field, it isn’t too much trouble for him to be concerned for our general physical well-being as well.) Moreover, the act of praying for our daily “bread” is a way of acknowledging that even in that respect we are dependent on God. The God of the Bible is not the hands-off god of Plato, Aristotle, and the deists. God is not like the petty deities of the Greek pantheon, but to divest the biblical God of the sort of personal care and love expressed in books like Hosea and in passages like Luke 13:34 and good old John 3:16 misses something important – something literally crucial. Of course, my objections here don’t mean that we should view God as a cosmic ATM. That would be idolatrous. Even so, the possibility of going too far in one direction doesn’t mean that one can’t also go too far in the opposite direction as well.
Ad . Agreed. As I wrote a few years back:
The Greek word translated as quotidianum in the Luke passage and as supersubstantialem in the Matthew passage is epiousios. I am not competent to discuss the philology of this Greek word, which may be a hapax legomenon. (Nor am I competent to assess the correctness of the two Wikipedia entries to which I have just linked; so caveat lector!)
Ad . Dennis may be right about this. I don't know. But if I'm right, then my being in the minority, the default position for a maverick, is no problem at all.
Ad . Agreed, we are embodied beings, not angels. (It may even be that we are essentially embodied, or if not essentially embodied, then incapable of a complete existence without a body.) But while we are not angels, we are not mere animals either. The main point for present purposes, however, is simply that, as physically embodied beings, we need food and water and other material things for our maintenance if we wish to continue as physically embodied beings.
We are further agreed that matter is not evil, and Manicheanism is out. A physical universe created by a good God is itself (derivatively) good. (Of course, there are deep and vexing questions that lurk below the surface. For example, if ens et bonum convertuntur, then evil is privatio boni, and that raises some serious questions.)
So Dennis and I agree on two key points: that (i) we are embodied (and thus in need of ongoing material sustenance) and that (ii) being embodied is not an evil condition as such. How is it supposed to follow from these two premises that it is appropriate to ask God to supply our physical needs, needs that we have the power to supply for ourselves?
It doesn't follow. We can and must supply our physical needs as best we can by our own efforts. That is our job, not God's. God has a role to play, but it concerns our spiritual development.
Here is my take on the Christian message. We are here below to achieve spiritual individuation. Spiritual individuation, unlike physical individuation, is a task, not a given. It is a task we freely undertake or fail to undertake. We are here to spiritualize ourselves, to actualize ourselves as spiritual individuals. This is a process of theosis, of becoming god-like. God is the Absolute Individual. Our task is to become genuine spiritual individuals by participating in the divine Individuality. This material world is a vale of soul-making (John Keats), a place where we either work at this spiritual individuation or fail to do so. In this life we are always only 'on the road,' in statu viae. We are not here to enjoy material goods as ends in themselves as if this world were our final destination.
In this transient life we must work at supplying our material needs as best we can by our own individual and collective human efforts, not by praying for miracles. I am not saying that miracles are impossible. And I am not saying that anyone who, in extremis, a theist in a foxhole, for example, cries out to God for material assistance is doing something morally wrong. In my original entry I conceded that not all petitionary prayer for mundane benefits is objectionable, and that some of it simply reflects, excusably, our misery and indigence. My point is that, insofar as we can (individually and collectively) do for ourselves we must do for ourselves, relying on God not for our material needs (except insofar as he created the physical universe within which alone material needs can be felt and met) but for our spiritual needs.
And so I do not see that Monokroussos has given me good reason to alter my interpretation:
"Give us this day our daily bread" is thus a request that we be supplied on a daily basis with spiritual bread that we need every day. And since we need it every day, we must ask for it every day. But who needs it? Not the bodily man, but the "inner man" says Cassian. The inner man is the true man. 'Inner man' is a metaphor but it indicates a literal truth: that man is more than an animal. Being more than an animal, he needs more than material sustenance.
It is also worth noting that the materialist interpretation of the daily bread petition plays right into the hands of religion's detractors who see religion as a childish and superstitious thing. There is also this to consider: are there any well-documented cases of people who were miraculously supplied with physical food after they prayed for it? But there are countless cases, some in my own direct experience, in which spiritual assistance was provided as a result of prayer.
If you love something, would you want fundamentally to transform it?
A man meets a woman, gets to know her, and they decide to get married. On the eve of the nuptials, he announces to her that she is on the brink of a fundamental transformation. Would you say that he loved her or rather some idea of what he could make her into?
Now take a gander at this minute-and-a-half video clip.
Man is a metaphysical animal. We philosophers ought to encourage this tendency in our fellow mortals. This morning's mail brings me a long disquisition by a Spanish lawyer (abogado), Daniel Vincente Carillo, entitled "A New Argument on the Existence of God." It consists of numerous definitions, axioms, and theorems. I don't have time to comment on the whole thing, which can be found here, but I will remark critically, and I hope helpfully, on his modal axioms.
An opposite of what is impossible is either possible and not necessary, impossible or necessary (what is impossible is opposed to everything).
Better: What is not impossible is either possible but not necessary, or possible and necessary.
Example: I am not impossible because I am possible but not necessary. God and the number 7 are possible and necessary.
An opposite of what is possible and not necessary is either possible and not necessary or impossible (what is possible is opposed to everything, except to what is necessary).
Incoherent as it stands.
The possible is the opposite of the impossible. That is, x is possible iff x is not impossible. The possible divides into the necessary and the contingent. The contingent divides into the actual but possibly nonexistent and the nonactual but possibly existent.
For example, I am contingent and so is a talking donkey. The difference is that I am actual but possibly nonexistent while the talking donkey is not actual but possibly existent.
Of course, the modality in play here is broadly logical or metaphysical.
An opposite of what is necessary is impossible (what is necessary is concomitant with what is possible and what is necessary, and only is opposed to what is impossible).
Incorrect. What is not necessary is either impossible or contingent. Possibility and impossibility are opposites. Necessity and impossibility are not opposites. Why not? Because the contingent is neither necessary nor impossible.
In the patois of 'possible worlds': the contingent is that which exists (or is true in the case of propositions) in some but not all possible worlds, whereas the necessary exists or else is true in all worlds and the impossible in none.
This patois is a very useful façon de parler for rendering modal relationships graphic.
What is not necessary is contingent.
Incorrect. What is not necessary is either contingent or impossible. For example, I am not necessary because I am contingent. A round square is not necessary because it is impossible.
What is contingent is either possible or impossible.
Incorrect. What is contingent is possible but not necessary. The impossible exists or else is true in no possible world whereas the contingent exists or else is true in some but not all possible worlds.
Or think of it this way. The contingent is either actual or unactual, and if actual, then possibly nonexistent, and if unactual, then possibly existent. For example, your humble correspondent is contingent and actual, hence possibly nonexistent, while a flying armadillo is contingent and unactual, hence possibly existent.
What is not impossible is possible.
Everything that exists does so by itself or by another being.
God, the universe, and nothingness, if possible, are the only possible beings.
Incorrect or at least highly controversial. Many philosophers maintain, with good reason, that there are so-called 'abstract objects,' all or most of which are necessary beings. (Candidates: properties, propositions, numbers, sets.) Now everything necessary is possible. So these abstract objects are possible beings. Therefore, there are possible beings that are distinct from God and the universe.
Second, nothing is in no sense a being. Hence it cannot be a possible being. It is, however, at least a question whether there could have been nothing at all. I examine this question in the entry referenced below.
UPDATE 2/26: David Gordon writes,
You are of course right that nothing is both contingent and impossible; but this does not show that Axiom 5 is incorrect. "What is contingent is possible" is true; and from this "What is contingent is either possible or impossible" follows. If, as I gather from your account, Carillo denies that the class of impossible contingent things is empty, he is mistaken, but his axiom isn't. One can object to it that it isn't an axiom, as its truth depends on the truth of "What is contingent is possible." This is probably too trivial a point to have written to you about, but I pass it along anyway.
The problem is the ambiguity of Carillo's formulation. I took him to be saying that some contingent beings are possible while other are impossible -- which is surely false.
I can't do better than Victor Davis Hanson, but I can quote him. Why won't the current administration accurately label and expose the Islamic roots of global terrorism? Hanson proposes the following possible explanations:
The Obama administration knows full well that the Taliban, ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the rest of the pack draw their zeal from the Koran. But to say such might turn off two or three useful constituencies — the hard Left at home that hates any judgmentalism, “moderate” Muslims in the Middle East who are essential to nullifying the “radicals” in their midst, and the global community that is always suspicious when America goes to war against a particular group or ideology. The Obama administration with a wink-and-nod, then, accepts radical Islam as the problem, but for strategic reasons, and in the manner occasionally of the Bush administration, prefers euphemisms. Nonetheless, the administration goes on Predatoring thousands of suspected Islamic terrorists even as it won’t say what its targeted victims all have in common. Given that Americans know that the enemy is radical Islam, why turn off potential allies by reiterating that fact?
As a matter of fact, things exist. But suppose I try to think the counterfactual state of affairs of there being nothing, nothing at all. Can I succeed in thinking pure nothingness? Is this thought thinkable? Is it thinkable that there be nothing at all? And if it is, does it show that it is possible that there be nothing at all? Could there have been nothing at all? If yes, then (i) it is contingent that anything exists, and (ii) everything that exists exists contingently, which respectively imply that both of the following are false:
(1) and (2) are not the same proposition: (2) entails (1) but not conversely. If you confuse them you will be justly taxed with an operator shift fallacy.
Phylogenetically, this topic goes back to Parmenides of Elea. Ontogenetically, it goes back to what was probably my first philosophical thought when I was about eight or so years old. (Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny!) I had been taught that God created everything distinct from himself. One day, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, I thought: "Well, suppose God never created anything. Then only God would exist. And if God didn't exist, then there would be nothing at all." At this my head began to swim and I felt a strange wonder that I cannot quite recapture, although the memory remains strong 50 years later. The unutterably strange thought that there might never have been anything at all -- is this thought truly thinkable or does it cancel itself in the very attempt to think it?
I am torn between two positions. On the one it is provable that necessarily something exists. On the other, it is not provable.
Here is one sort of argument for the thesis that necessarily something exists and that it is therefore impossible that there be nothing at all. The argument has the form of a reductio ad absurdum.
1. There are no propositions. (Assumption for reductio)
2. (1) is either true or false.
3. Whatever is either true or false is a proposition. (This is by definition. Propositions are truth-bearers or vehicles of the truth-values. They are whatever it is that is appropriately characterizable as either true or false.)
4. If (1) is true, then there is at least one proposition. (2, 3)
5. If (1) is false, then there is at least one proposition. (2, 3)
6. Necessarily, there is at least one proposition.
7. (1) is necessarily false.
8. It is not possible that nothing exists.
I don't buy it. Had there been nothing at all, there would not have been any propositions, any states of affairs, any way things are, any properties, any truth, any Law of Non-Contradiction or Law of Excluded Middle or Principle of Bivalence, any distinction between true and false, any distinctions at all. There would have been just nothing at all. Your proof that this is impossible begs the question by assuming or presupposing the whole interconnected framework of propositions, truth and falsehood, etc., including your modal principles and other logical principles.
You can't prove that there must be something if you presuppose that there must be something. Circular arguments are of course valid, but no circular argument is a proof.
At the very most, what you demonstrate is that WE cannot operate without presupposing the Logical Framework -- to give it a name. At the very most, you demonstrate that the Logical Framework (LF) is a transcendental presupposition of OUR discursive activities, in roughly the Kantian sense of 'transcendental.' You do not succeed in demonstrating that Being itself or any being exists independently of us. Your proof may have transcendental import, but it fails to secure ontological import. Why do you think that Being itself, independently of us, is such that necessarily something exists?
For example, you think that there must be a total way things are such that, if there were nothing at all, then that would be the way things are, in which case there would, in the end, be a way things are. But how do you know that? How do you know that your presupposition of a way things are is more than a merely transcendental presupposition as opposed to a structure grounded in the very Being of things independently of us?
I grant you that the LF is necessary, but its necessity is conditional: it depends on us, and we might not have existed. For all you have shown, there could have been nothing at all.
Why does it matter? What's at stake?
Now this is a highly abstract and abstruse debate. Does it matter practically or 'existentially'?
If there could have been nothing at all, then all is contingent and no Absolute exists. An Absolute such as God must be a necessary being. An Absolute functions as the real-ground of the existence, intelligibility, and value of everything distinct from it. If there is no Absolute, then existence is absurd, i.e., without ultimate ground (source and reason), without sense and intelligibility. Now if existence is absurd, then human existence is absurd. So if there could have been nothing at all, then human existence is absurd. This is why our question matters. It matters because it matters whether our existence is absurd.
Mike Valle on Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit
Could everything have come into being without a cause? Mike Valle tells me about an annoying interlocutor who thinks it certain that this is impossible because it is certain that ex nihilo nihil fit: from nothing nothing comes. Mike, if I understand him, doubts the certainty of the principle. He reasons: had there been nothing at all, then there would have been nothing to prevent something from arising. In particular, had there been nothing at all, there would have been no such truth as ex nihilo nihil fit.
Mike's reasoning presupposes that it is possible that there be nothing at all. So his suggestion comports well with the Skeptical Rejoinder above.
As for myself, I am left with the thought that is reasonable to hold that there must be something -- after all I argued the matter out rigorously -- but also reasonable to hold the opposite. This seems to suggest that here we have a question that reason cannot decide. So how do we decide it? By personal decision? By mystical intuition? By acceptance of divine revelation? In some other way? In no way?
Why the furiously intemperate ranting over Rudy's remarks? After all, the distinguished former mayor of New York City merely articulated what vast numbers of us have suspected or believed for years. Giuliani had the temerity to speak truth to power and this enraged the Left. (Lefties think they alone own dissent and the right to speak truth to power.) Fred Siegel:
The ranting has obscured the reasons why so many Americans take Giuliani’s remarks to heart. Starting with his June 2009 speech in Cairo, when he apologized for American actions in the Middle East, Obama has consistently given credence to Islamic grievances against America while showing reluctance to confront Islamic terrorism. In 2009, after Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 American soldiers and wounded 40 others at Fort Hood while shouting “Allahu Akhbar,” the administration labeled the killings workplace violence. In recent months, the pace of evasions has quickened. Obama was the only major Western leader absent from the massive Paris march held in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings. Worse yet, Obama referred to the killings in a Jewish supermarket in Paris as “random” acts of violence.
But this was only the beginning of a string of curious comments and loopy locutions made by the president or his spokespeople in the weeks that followed. While ISIS rampaged across the Middle East, the president told a Washington prayer breakfast that Christians shouldn’t get on their “high horse,” because they were guilty of the Crusades, among other crimes. Not only were the Crusades many centuries past, but they were also a complicated matter in which both sides behaved barbarically.
But that is to understate the matter. Both Siegel and Giuliani failed to mention a crucial fact, namely, the Crusades were defensive wars, wars in response to Muslim aggression and conquest.
Imagine a history teacher who tells his students that in the American South, as late as the 1960s, certain citizens lynched certain other citizens. Would you say that the teacher had omitted something of great importance for understanding why these lynchings occurred? Yes you would. You would point out that the lynchings were of blacks by whites, and that a good part of the motivation for their unspeakable crimes was sheer racial animus. In the case of these crimes, the races of the perpetrators and of their victims are facts relevant to understanding the crimes. Just to describe the lynchings accurately one has to mention race, let alone to explain them.
I hope no one will disagree with me on this.
Or consider the case of a history teacher who reports that in Germany, 1933-1945, certain German citizens harassed, tortured, enslaved, and executed other German citizens. That is true, of course, but it leaves out the fact that the perpetrators were Nazis and (most of) the victims Jews. Those additional facts must be reported for the situation to be properly described, let alone explained. Not only that, the Nazis were acting from Nazi ideology and the Jew were killed for being Jews.
According to recent reports, some Muslim jihadis beheaded some Egyptian Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach. Now beheading is not lynching. And religion is not the same as race. But just as race is relevant in the lynching case, religion is relevant in the beheading case. That the perpetrators of the beheadings were Muslims and the victims Christians enters into both an adequate description and an adequate explanation of the evil deeds of the former.
This is especially so since the Muslims were acting from Islamic beliefs and the Christians were killed for their Christian beliefs. It was not as if some merely nominal Muslims killed some merely nominal Christians in a dispute over the ownership of some donkeys.
Bear in mind my distinction between a 'sociological' X and a 'doctrinal' X.
What did Barack Obama say about this? He said: “No religion is responsible for terrorism — people are responsible for violence and terrorism."
Now that is a mendacious thing to say. Obama knows that the behavior of people is influenced by their beliefs. For example, he knows that part of the explanation of the lynchings of blacks by whites is that the white perpetrators held racists beliefs that justified (in their own minds) their horrendous behavior. And of course he knows, mutatis mutandis, the same about the beheading case.
He knows that he is engaging in a vicious abstraction when he sunders people and their beliefs in such a way as to imply that those beliefs have no influence on their actions.
Why then is Obama so dishonest? Part of the explanation is that he just does not care about truth. (That is a mark of the bullshitter as Harry Frankfurt has pointed out.) Truth, after all, is not a leftist value, except insofar as it can be invoked to forward the leftist agenda. It is the 'progressive' agenda that counts, first, and the narrative that justifies the agenda, second. (Karl Marx, 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it." Truth doesn't come into it since a narrative is just a story and a story needn't be true to mobilize people to implement an agenda.
There's more to it than that, but that's enough for now. This is a blog and brevity is the soul of blog as some wit once observed.
What is to be done? Well, every decent person must do what he or she can to combat the lying scumbags of the Left. It is a noble fight, and may also be, shall we say, conducive unto your further existence in the style to which you have become accustomed.
Beach Boys, 409. With a four-speed manual tranny, dual quad carburetors (before fuel injection), positraction (limited slip differential), and 409 cubic inches of engine displacement. Gas was cheap in those days.
ZZ Top and Jeff Beck, 16 Tons. Tennessee Ernie Ford's 1955 #1 version.
Justin Timberlake, et al., 500 Miles. (From Inside Llewyn Davis)
For Dave Bagwill, who posed some questions in the near vicinity of the ones I will be addressing. This is a heavily revised version of a 2011 post. The MavPhil doctrine of abrogation is in effect. This is a hairy topic; expect a hard slog. If you prefer a 'leiter' read, a certain gossip site suggests itself.
One morning an irate C-Span viewer called in to say that he prayed to the living God, not to the mythical being, Allah, to whom Muslims pray. The C-Span guest made a standard response, which is correct as far as it goes, namely, that Allah is Arabic for God, just as Gott is German for God. He suggested that adherents of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) worship the same God under different names. No doubt this is a politically correct thing to say, but is it true?
Our question, then, is precisely this: Does the normative Christian and the normative Muslim worship numerically the same God, or numerically different Gods? (By 'normative Christian/Muslim' I mean an orthodox adherent of his faith who understands its content, without subtraction of essential tenets, and without addition of private opinions.) Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic. So if Christian and Muslim worship different Gods, and a monotheistic God exists, then one is worshipping a nonexistent God, or, if you prefer, is failing to worship the true God.
1. Let's start with the obvious: 'Allah' is Arabic for God. So if an Arabic-speaking Coptic Christian refers to God, he uses 'Allah.' And if an Arabic-speaking Muslim refers to God, he too uses 'Allah.' From the fact that both Copt and Muslim use 'Allah' it does not follow that they are referring to the same God, but it also does not follow that they are referring to numerically different Gods. So we will not make any progress with our question if we remain at the level of words. We must advance to concepts.
2. We need to distinguish between our word for God, the concept (conception) of God, and God. God is not a concept, but there are concepts of God and, apart from mystical intuition and religious feelings such as the Kreatur-Gefuehl that Rudolf Otto speaks of, we have no access to God except via our concepts of God. Now it is undeniable that the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God partially overlap. The following is a partial list of what is common to both conceptions:
a. There is exactly one God. b. God is the creator of everything distinct from himself. c. God is transcendent: he is radically different from everything distinct from himself. d. God is good.
Now if the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God were identical, then we would have no reason to think that Christian and Muslim worship different Gods. But of course the conceptions, despite partial overlap, are not identical. Christians believe in a triune God who became man in Jesus of Nazareth. Or to put it precisely, they believe in a triune God the second person of which became man in Jesus of Nazareth. This is the central and indeed crucial (from the Latin, crux, crucis, meaning cross) difference between the two faiths. The crux of the matter is the cross.
So while the God-concepts overlap, they are different concepts. (The overlap is partial, not complete.) And let's not forget that God is not, and cannot be, a concept (as I am using 'concept'). No concept is worship-worthy or anyone's highest good. No concept created the world. Whether or not God exists, it is a conceptual truth that God cannot be a concept. For the concept of God contains the subconcept, being that exists apart from any finite mind. It is built into the very concept of God that God cannot be a concept.
It is clear then, that what the Christian and the Muslim worship or purport to worship cannot be that which is common to their respective God-conceptions, for what is common its itself a concept.
We could say that if God exists, then God is the object of our God-concept or the referent of our God-concept, but also the referent of the word 'God.'
3. Now comes the hard part, which is to choose between two competing views:
V1: Christian and Muslim can worship the same God, even though one of them must have a false belief about God, whether it be the belief that God is unitarian or the belief that God is trinitarian.
V2: Christian and Muslim must worship different Gods precisely because they have different conceptions of God. So it is not that one of them has a false belief about the one God they both worship; it is rather that one of them does not worship the true God at all.
There is no easy way to decide rationally between these two views. We have to delve into the philosophy of language and ask how reference is achieved. How do linguistic expressions attach or apply to extralinguistic entities? How do words grab onto the (extralinguistic) world? In particular, how do nominal expressions work? What makes my utterance of 'Socrates' denote Socrates rather than someone or something else? What makes my use of 'God' (i) have a referent at all and (ii) have the precise referent it has?
4. It is reasonable to hold, with Frege, Russell, and many others, that reference is routed through, and determined by, sense: an expression picks out its object in virtue of the latter's unique satisfaction of a description associated with the referring expression, a description that unpacks the expression's sense. If we think of reference in this way, then 'God' refers to whatever entity, if any, that satisfies the definite description encapsulated in 'God' as this term is used in a given linguistic community.
Given that God is not an actual or possible object of (sense) experience, this seems like a reasonable approach to take. The idea is that 'God' is a definite description in disguise so that 'God' refers to whichever entity satisfies the description associated with 'God.' The reference relation is one of satisfaction. A grammatically singular term t refers to x if and only if x exists and x satisfies the description associated with t. Now consider two candidate definite descriptions, the first corresponding to the Muslim conception, the second corresponding to the Christian.
D1: 'the unique x such that x is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, created the world ex nihilo and is unitarian' D2: 'the unique x such that x is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, created the world ex nihilo, and is triune.'
Suppose that reference is not direct, but routed through sense, or mediated by a description, in the manner explained above. It is easy to see that no one entity can satisfy both (D1) and (D2). For while the descriptions overlap, nothing can be both unitarian and triune. So if reference is routed through sense, then Christian and Muslim cannot be referring to the same being. Indeed, one of them is not succeeding in referring at all. For if God is triune, nothing in reality answers to the Muslim's conception of God. And if God is unitarian, then nothing in reality answers to the Christian conception.
And so, contrary to what Miroslav Volf maintains, the four points of commonality in the Christian and Muslim conceptions listed above do NOT "establish the claim that in their worship of God, Muslims and Christians refer to the same object." (Allah: A Christian Response, HarperCollins 2011, p. 110.) For if reference to God is mediated by a conception which includes the subconcept triune or else the subconcept unitarian, then the reference cannot be to the same entity.
A mundane example (adapted from Kripke) will make this more clear. Sally sees a handsome man at a party standing in the corner drinking a clear bubbly liquid from a cocktail glass. She turns to her companion Nancy and says, "The man standing in the corner drinking champagne is handsome!" Suppose the man is not drinking champagne, but mineral water instead. Has Sally succeeded in referring to the man or not?
Argumentative Nancy, who knows that no alcohol is being served at the party, and who also finds the man handsome, says, "You are not referring to anything: there is no man in the corner drinking champagne. The man is drinking mineral water or some other bubbly clear beverage. Nothing satisfies your definite description. There is no one man we both admire. Your handsome man does not exist, but mine does."
Now in this example what we would intuitively say is that Sally did succeed in referring to someone using a definite description even though the object she succeeded in referring to does not satisfy the description. Intuitively, we would say that Sally simply has a false belief about the object to which she is successfully referring, and that Sally and Nancy are referring to and admiring the very same man.
But note how this case differs from the God case. Both women see the man in the corner. But God is not an object of possible (sense) experience. We don't see God in this life. Hence the reference of 'God' cannot be nailed down perceptually. A burning bush is an object of possible sense experience, and God may manifest himself in a burning bush; but God is not a burning bush, and the referent of 'God' cannot be a burning bush. The man in the corner that the women see and admire is not a manifestation of a man, but a man himself.
Given that God is not literally seen or otherwise sense-perceived in this life, then, apart from mystical experience, the only way to get at God is via concepts and descriptions. And so it seems that in the God case what we succeed in referring to is whatever satisfies the definite description that unpacks our conception of God.
5. My tentative conclusion, then, is that (i) if we accept a description theory of names, the Christian and Muslim do not refer to the same being when they use 'God' or 'Allah' and (ii) that a description theory of names is what we must invoke given the nonperceivability of God. Christian and Muslim do not refer to the same being because no one being can satisfy both (D1) and (D2) above: nothing can be both triune and not triune any more than one man can both be drinking champage and not drinking champagne at the same time.
If, on the other hand, 'God' is a logically proper name whose reference is direct and not routed through sense or mediated by a definite description, then what would make 'God' or a particular use of 'God' refer to God?
One might propose a causal theory of names.
The causal theory of names of Saul Kripke et al. requires that there be an initial baptism of the target of reference, a baptism at which the name is first introduced. This can come about by ostension: Pointing to a newly acquired kitten, I bestow upon it the moniker, 'Mungojerrie.' Or it can come about by the use of a reference-fixing definite description: Let 'Neptune' denote the celestial object responsible for the perturbation of the orbit of Uranus. In the second case, it may be that the object whose name is being introduced is not itself present at the baptismal ceremony. What is present, or observable, are certain effects of the object hypothesized. (See Saul Kripke Naming and Necessity, Harvard 1980 p. 79, n. 33 and p. 96, n. 42.)
As I understand it, a necessary condition for successful reference on the causal theory is that a speaker's use of a name be causally connected (either directly or indirectly via a causal chain)) with the object referred to. We can refer to objects only if we stand in some causal relation to them (direct or indirect). So my use of 'God' refers to God not because there is something that satisfies the definite description or disjunction of definite descriptions that unpack the sense of 'God' as I use the term, but because my use of 'God' can be traced back though a long causal chain to an initial baptism, as it were, of God by, say, Moses on Mt. Sinai.
A particular use of a name is presumably caused by an earlier use. But eventually there must be an initial use. Imagine Moses on Mt. Sinai. He has a profound mystical experience of a being who conveys to his mind such locutions as "I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have false gods before me." Moses applies 'God' or 'YHWH' to the being he believes is addressing him in the experience. But what makes the name the name of the being? One may say: the being or an effect of the being is simply labelled or tagged with the name in an initial 'baptism.'
But a certain indeterminacy seems to creep in if we think of the semantic relation of referring as explicable in terms of tagging and causation (as opposed to in terms of the non-causal relation of satisfaction of a definite description encapsulated in a grammatically proper name). For is it the (mystical) experience of God that causes the use of 'God'? Or is it God himself who causes the use of 'God'? If the former, then 'God' refers to an experience had by Moses and not to God. Surely God is not an experience. But if God is the cause of Moses' use of 'God,' then the mystical experience must be veridical. (Cf. Richard M. Gale, On the Nature and Existence of God, Cambridge UP, 1991, p. 11.)
So if we set aside mystical experience and the question of its veridicality, it seems we ought to adopt a description theory of the divinenames with the consequences mentioned in (i) above. If, on the other hand, a causal theory of divine names names is tenable, and if the causal chain extends from Moses down to Christians and (later) to Muslims, then a case could be made that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all referring to the same God when they use 'God' and such equivalents as 'Yahweh' and 'Allah.'
So it looks like there is no easy answer to the opening question. It depends on the resolution of intricate questions in the philosophy of language.
Time was when one actually learned grammar in grammar school. How many today can distinguish an adverb from an adjective, let alone a gerund from a participle? Grammar is propadeutic to logic. It is logical pre-school, a sovereign prophylactic against the nonsense of . . .
Broplimenting. This is when a guy says something nice to you without asking for your consent first. Men should always ask. “Do you consent to me complimenting you?” before saying anything nice or else it’s assault. No, nonverbal cues don’t count – he still has to ask for explicit consent before offering that kind of affection.
I'll have to work on that. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
"Remember, man, thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." Memento, homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris. This warning, from the Catholic liturgy for Ash Wednesday, is based on Genesis 3, 19: In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane, donec revertaris in terram de qua sumptus es: quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris.
How real can we and this world be if in a little while we all will be nothing but dust and ashes?
The typical secularist is a reality denier who hides from the unalterable facts of death and impermanence. This is shown by his self-deceptive behavior: he lives as if he will live forever and as if his projects are meaningful even though he knows that he won't and that they aren't. If he were to face reality he would have to be a nihilist. That he isn't shows that he is fooling himself.
Yesterday I quoted Christopher Hitchens. He's dead. In Platonic perspective, what no longer exists never truly existed. So here we have a man who never truly existed but who denied the existence of the Source of his own ephemeral quasi-existence. Curious.
Fat Tuesday, coming as it does the day before Ash Wednesday, derives its very meaning from the beginning of Lent. The idea is to get some serious partying under one's belt just before the forty-day ascetic run-up to Easter. So one might think the ACLU would wish to lodge a protest against a celebration so religious in inspiration. Good (contemptible?) lefties that they are, they are ever crusading against religion. Perhaps 'crusade' (L. crux, crucis) is not the right word suggestive as it is of the cross and Christianity; perhaps 'jihad' would be better especially since many loons of the Left are curiously and conveniently ignorant of the threat of militant Islam and much prefer going after truly dangerous outfits like the Boy Scouts.
The schizoid Left: anti-religious in general, but not when it comes to religion's most virulent subspecies, the fanatic fundamentalism of the Islamo-head-chopper-offers.
If you are going to take umbrage at the creation of a Catholic town, why tolerate Mardi Gras? Why tolerate a celebration which originated in a Catholic town for a purpose that is obviously tied to religion? Inconsistency, or is it the pagan excess that the ACLU types want to celebrate? We can't have prayer or a moment of silence in schools, but drunkenness and debauchery in the streets is de rigueur. Interestingly enough, in 2002, The ACLU sued when a Mardi Gras celebration in San Luis Obispo was denied a parade permit.
That the NYT's alarmist predictions of no snow are risible given how much of the stuff is visible.
By the way, I loved my years in Boston-Cambridge. Boston was my Mecca, the hub of the universe. But I was a young guy, liberal as the young are wont to be, who hadn't yet thought hard and long and in an experience-informed way about political and social questions. I owned nothing and I paid no taxes. Quite the contrary: I received food stamps. I was scraping by on a very low stipend in a very expensive city. So I applied for, and received, public assistance. I had no qualms about doing so at the time. The food stamps allowed me to quit my awful and dangerous job as a taxi driver. (The only thing worse than a Boston driver is a Turkish driver.) I used my time well and kept my nose to the philosophy grindstone. But the point is that I was able-bodied and should not have been allowed on welfare. Welfare programs breed dependency and lack of self-reliance, among other ills -- which is not to say that there should be no such programs.