Welcome to the latest incarnation of Maverick Philosopher. I began this weblog in May of 2004 and have kept it up continuously on different servers, missing only a few days. I'm in this game 'for the duration,' as long as health and eyesight hold out. It has proven to be deeply satisfying, not the least reason for which being that my scribbling has attracted a large number of like-minded individuals, some of whom I have met in the flesh, and have come to value highly as friends.
And for that I am grateful.
What you need to know is that this weblog is just one philosopher's online journal, notebook, common place book, workshop, soapbox, sandbox, and literary litter box. A lot of what I write is unpolished and tentative. I explore the cartography of ideas along many paths. Here below we are in statu viae, and it is fitting that our thinking should be exploratory, meandering, and undogmatic. Nothing human, and thus nothing philosophical, is foreign to me.
The graphic well illustrates my approach. A lonesome traveller meanders along a desert path toward a distant prominence which points up and away to the goal of his Quest, a goal fitfully glimpsed, never grasped. Leastways, not while he is on trail and on trial. The quester quests until his thought rests, but the Rest is far off. Meanwhile there is the Quest, an integral part of which is philosophy, reason's search for the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. But reason is not reason unless it strives mightily beyond itself to sources of truth that transcend it.
I write about what interests me whether I am expert in it or not. Some find this unseemly; I do not. I oppose hyper-professionalization and excessive specialization. After all, this is only a weblog. Every once in a while I post something that is mistaken, someone corrects me, and I learn something. I admit mistakes if mistakes they be. See how modest I am? On the other hand, this rarely happens. My PhilPapers page currently lists 64 entries and will give you some idea of what I am more or less expert in.
I allow comments on only some posts, usually the more technical ones. And to keep the cyberpunks at bay, Comment Moderation is always on. Comments must address what I say in my posts. If you go off on a tangent, I will most likely not allow your comment to appear. Comments must meet a certain standard, and I do not suffer fools gladly. But on some days I go soft, being only human.
I suppose that in these decadent days of the Decline of the West I should issue a TRIGGER WARNING: this is no place for the politically correct. It is not a 'safe space.' Here you will find free speech, trenchancy of expression, and open inquiry.
It is. Illegal immigrants are subject to criminal penalties. While improper entry is a crime, unlawful presence is not a crime. One can be unlawfully present in the U. S. without having entered improperly, and thus without having committed a crime.
If a foreign national enters the country on a valid travel or work via, but overstays his visa, failing to exit before the expiration date, then he is in violation of federal immigration law. But this comes under the civil code, not the criminal code. Such a person is subject to civil penalties such as deportation.
So there are two main ways for an alien to be illegal. He can be illegal in virtue of violating the criminal code or illegal in virtue of violating the civil code.
Those who oppose strict enforcement of national borders show their contempt for the rule of law and their willingness to tolerate criminal behavior, not just illegal behavior.
Being a nice guy covers a multitude of sins. I find it impossible not to feel sad over the passing of the gentlemanly and mild-mannered Alan Colmes who died at age 66. But he really was a foolish and benighted leftist. Better Right than nice. From a 2010 post of mine:
This [the racism charge] is now the party line of the Dems and toe it they will as witness the otherwise somewhat reasonable and mild-mannered Alan Colmes in this segment, Political Hatred in America, from The O'Reilly Factor. Colmes begins his rant around 6:07 with the claim that "what is driving this [the Tea Party protests] is racism." It looks as if Colmes is under party discipline; otherwise, how could so intelligent and apparently decent a man say something so blatantly false and scurrilous? That something so silly and vicious should emerge from the mouth of a twit like Janeane Garofalo is of course nothing to wonder at. What idiocies won't HollyWeird liberals spout? But Alan Colmes? If we remember that for the Left the end justifies the means, however, things begin to fall in place. The Left will do anything to win. Slanders, smears, shout-downs . . . all's fair in love and war. Leftists understand and apply what I call the Converse Clausewitz Principle: Politics is war conducted by other means.
The pointlessness of much contemporary political discourse was brought home to me once again last night. One Giselle Fernández was a guest on the O'Reilly Factor. In a blatant display of typical liberal-left mendacity she referred twice to a southern border wall as a "Berlin-style wall."
Perhaps the best evidence of the greatness of America and the failure of communism is that communist regimes need walls to keep people in whereas we need walls to keep them out. Hence the rank absurdity of the comparison of a wall on our southern border to the Berlin Wall. Now the leftists who make this comparison cannot be so obtuse as not to see its rank absurdity. But they make it anyway because they will say and do anything to win.
There is no point in further 'conversations.' Action by us, defeat for them.
For a good laugh, see the Telegraph piece below. Germany was once the land of poets and thinkers (Dichter und Denker). Then it became the land of judges and hangmen (Richter und Henker) And now? Untergang des Abendlandes.
To show honor and respect is a conservative practice. There is therefore something paradoxical about leftists erecting icons to iconoclasts. Or is there? Once in power, revolutionaries become conservative.
February brings to the Sonoran desert days so beautiful that one feels guilty even sitting on the back porch, half-outside, taking it all in, eyes playing over the spring green, lungs deeply enfolding blossom-laden warmish breezes. One feels that one ought to be walking around in this earthly heaven. And this despite my having done just that early this morning. Vita brevis, and February too with its 28 days. The fugacity of February to break the heart. It's all fleeting, one can't get enough of it. All joy wants eternity, deep, deep eternity.
And now I head back outside, away from this too-complicated machine, to read simply and slowly some more from Stages on Life's Way and to drink a cup of java to stave off the halcyon sleepiness wrought by lambent light and long vistas on this afternoon in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains.
Former Weekly Standard editor in chief Bill Kristol suggested in a tweet that if he faced a choice (and under what surreal circumstances would that happen?) between the constitutionally, democratically elected president and career government officials’ efforts to thwart or remove him, he would come down on the side of the revolutionary, anti-democratic “deep state”: “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it [emphasis added], prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” No doubt some readers interpreted that as a call to side with anti-constitutional forces against an elected U.S. president.
[. . .]
Fake news proliferates. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Elijah Cummings recently attacked departing national-security advisor Michael Flynn by reading a supposed Flynn tweet that was a pure invention. Nor did Trump, as reported, have a serious plan to mobilize “100,000” National Guard troops to enforce deportations.
Other false stories claimed that Trump had pondered invading Mexico, that his lawyer had gone to Prague to meet with the Russians, and that he had removed from the Oval Office a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. — sure proof of Trump’s racism. Journalists — including even “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post — reposted fake news reports that Trump’s father had run a campaign for the New York mayorship during which he’d aired racist TV ads.
We adjust our stride to the steepness of the terrain: the steeper the trail, the shorter the steps. A good writer watches his literary stride: the more difficult the subject matter, the shorter the sentences. Back on the flat he leaps and lopes and stretches his legs.
The following from a German sociologist (my comments are in blue):
Perhaps you know the old joke: Analytic philosophers think that continental philosophy is not sufficiently clear; continental philosophers think that analytic philosophy is not sufficient.
Having just reread the Kritik der reinen Vernunft, I don't see Kant as an analytic philosopher. Hegel and Nietzsche certainly belong to the continental tradition. And none of the philosophers of the 20th century, who really matter to me, can be called an analytic philosopher. Doesn't "analytic" simply mean after Wittgenstein and in his tradition?
BV: As I see it, there was no analytic-Continental split before the 20th century. So classifying Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche in terms of that split is only marginally meaningful. But it is safe to say that Kant is more congenial to analytic philosophers than Hegel and Nietzsche are.
When did the split come about and what is it about?
If I were were to select two writings that best epitomize the depth of the Continental-analytic clash near the time of its outbreak, they would be Heidegger's 1929 What is Metaphysics? and Carnap's 1932 response, "On the Overcoming of Metaphysics Through the Logical Analysis of Language." In fairness to Carnap, let us note that his Erkenntnis piece is more than a response to Heidegger inasmuch as it calls into question the meaningfulness of all metaphysics. And in fairness to Heidegger, we should note that he thinks he is doing something more radical than metaphysics. Metaphysics for Heidegger is onto-theology. Metaphysics thinks Being (das Sein) but always in reference to beings (das Seiende); it does not think Being in its difference from beings. The latter is Heidegger's project.
The following are widely regarded as Continental philosophers: Franz Brentano, Alexius von Meinong, Kasimir Twardowski, Edmund Husserl, Adolf Reinach, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Edith Stein, Roman Ingarden, Max Scheler, Martin Heidegger, Nicolai Hartmann, Gabriel Marcel, Ortega y Gasset, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus.
Note that the above are all Europeans. But being European is not what makes them 'Continental.' Otherwise Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Rudolf Carnap would have to be lumped in with them. And of course there are Continental philosophers who do not hail from Europe. So what makes the above authors 'Continental' as opposed to 'analytic'?
It is not easy to say, which fact supplies a reason to not take too seriously talk of 'Continental' versus 'analytic.'
Note that all of the Continentals I mentioned engage in analysis, some in very close, very careful analysis. (Ever read Husserl's Logical Investigations?) And please don't say that they don't analyze language. Ever read Brentano? Gustav Bergmann accurately describes Brentano as "the first linguistic philosopher." (Realism, 234) Roderick Chisholm's paraphrastic approach was influenced significantly by Brentano. No one would lump Chisholm in with the Continentals.
Will you say that the Continentals mentioned didn't pay close attention to logic? That's spectacularly false. Even for Heidegger! Ever read his dissertation on psychologism in logic?
Perhaps you could say that the Continentals mentioned did not engage significantly with the ground-breaking work of Frege, widely regarded as the greatest logician since Aristotle. I think that would be true. But does this diffeence suffice to distinguish between Continental and analytic? I don't think so: there are plenty of philosophers who write in a decidedly analytic style who do not engage with Frege, and some of them oppose Frege. Take Fred Sommers. You wouldn't call him a Continental philosopher. And while he engages the ideas of Frege, he vigorously opposes them in his very impressive attempt at resurrecting traditional formal logic. And yet he would be classified as analytic.
A Matter of Style or of Substance?
According to Michael Dummett,
What distinguishes analytical philosophy, in its diverse manifestations, from other schools is the belief, first, that a philosophical account of thought can be attained through a philosophical account of language, and, secondly, that a comprehensive account can only be so attained.
[. . .]
On my characterisation, therefore [Gareth] Evans was no longer an analytical philosopher. He was, indeed, squarely in the analytical tradition: the three pillars on which his book [The Varieties of Reference, Oxford, 1982] rests are Russell, Moore and Frege. Yet it is only as belonging to the tradition -- as adopting a certain philosophical style and as appealing to certain writers rather than to others -- that he remains a member of the analytical school. (Origins of Analytical Philosophy, Harvard UP, 1993)
For Dummett, then, what make a philosopher analytic is not the style in which he writes: clear, precise, careful, explicitly logical with premises and inferences clearly specified, free of literary pretentiousness, name-dropping, rhetorical questions, and generally the sort of bullshitting that one finds in writers like Caputo and Badiou. Nor is it the topics he writes about or the authorities he cites. What makes the analytic philosopher are the twin axioms above mentioned.
The trouble with Dummett's criterion is that it is intolerably stipulative if what we are after is a more or less lexical definition of how 'analytic' and 'Continental' are actually used. An approach that rules out Gareth Evans and Roderick Chisholm and Gustav Bergmann and Reinhardt Grossmann and so many others cuts no ice in my book. (How's that for a mixed metaphor?)
A Matter of Politics?
I don't think so. Look again at my list. Sartre was a decided leftist, a Stalinist in his later phase. And Camus was on the Left. But everyone else on my list was either apolitical or on the Right. Heidegger was a National Socialist. Latter-day Continentals, though, definitely slouch Leftward.
A Matter of Academic Politics?
This may be what the Continental versus analytic split comes down to more than anything else. As Blaise Pacal says, with some exaggeration, "All men naturally hate one another." To which I add, with some exaggeration: and are always looking for ways to maintain and increase the enmity. If you are entranced with Heidegger you are going to hate the Carnapian analytic bigot who refuses to read Heidegger but mocks him anyway. Especially when the bigot stands in the way of career success. Although so many Continentals are slopheads, there is no asshole like an analytic asshole.
A Matter of Religion?
No, there are both theists and atheists on my list. And of course there are plenty of analytic philosophers who are theists.
A Matter of Attitude toward Science?
This has something to do with the split. You can be a Continental philosopher and a traditional theist (von Hildebrand, Edith Stein, et al.) and you can be a Continental philosopher and a conservative (Ortega y Gasset), but is there any case of a Continental philosopher who is a logical positivist or who genuflects before the natural sciences in the scientistic manner? I don't think so.
Talk of 'analytic' and 'Continental' philosophy is not particularly useful. It would be better to speak of good and bad philosophy. But what are the marks of good philosophy? That's a post for another occasion.
Back to my correspondent:
I see philosophy more in terms of art than in terms of science. This is not saying that some arguments are not better than others or that one cannot distinguish different degrees of plausibility. But the overall conception (what Heidegger calls "Seinsverständnis) is more - and something essentially different - than the sum of of plausibilities or the logic consistency of the argumentation. There is, or so it appears to me, a 'chanelling' of truth that resembles more the mystical experience than the scientific recognition. Of course I've read Wittgenstein, but why should I spend precious life time reading, say, Gilbert Ryle or Saul Kripke, when I can read Hegel's Wissenschaft der Logik?
BV: As I am sure my reader knows, Hegel's Wissenschaft der Logik (Science of Logic) has been dismissed as Begriffsdichtung, conceptual poetry. So I am not surprised that he sees philosophy more in terms of art than in terms of science. His attitude is defensible: why read Kripke who is of interest only to specialists in logic and the philosophy of language and who has no influence on anything beyond those narrow precincts when you can read Hegel and come thereby to understand the dialectical thinking which, via Marx and Lenin, transformed the world?
There is also the problem that attempts to bring philosophy onto the "sure path of science" (Kant) have all failed miserably despite the Herculean efforts of thinkers such as Edmund Husserl. He attempted to make of philosophy strenge Wissenschaft, but he could not get even one of his brilliant students to follow him into his transcendental phenomenology. (I don't consider Eugen Fink to be a counterexample.) There is no reason to think that philosophy will ever enter upon the sure path of science. This is a reason to content oneself with the broader, looser, fuzzier approach of the Continentals.
Only if philosophy could be transformed into strenge Wissenschaft would we perhaps be justified in putting all our efforts into this project and eschewing the satisfaction of our needs for an overarching and spiritually satisfying Weltanschauung; we have no good reason to think philosophy will ever be so transformed; ergo, etc.
When Adorno was in Oxford, he wrote in a letter home: "Here it's always just about arguments." Most of his colleagues there did not even understand what he was missing. And that's the divide!
BV: That is indeed a good part of what the divide is all about.
Well, of course this ignorance of the analytic tradition has in my case also to do with cultural nationalism. The philosophical departments here are more and more forgetting about the great German tradition. Thinkers like Hegel or Schelling, let alone Heidegger, are hardly taught anymore. I'm against this, I'm Deutsch and proud of it. Actually I want - and for me that's another reason to be against illegal immigration - Germany to become again a hotspot of art and philosophy!
BV: I agree! When as a young man I spent a year in Freiburg im Breisgau, I was there to study Kant and Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. To my romantic young self Germany was, in the words of Heinrich Heine, das Land von Dichter und Denker, the land of poets and thinkers. You Germans can be justifiably proud of your tradition. Without a doubt, Kant belongs in the philosophical pantheon along with Plato and Aristotle. It is indeed a shame that the analysts are suppressing your great tradition.
As for illegal immigration, if looks from here as if Angela Merkel is a disaster for Germany. Language, borders, and culture are three things every nation has a right to protect and preserve. There is nothing xenophobic or racist about it.
We like him because he understands that politics is not a gentlemanly debate but war, and because he is uniquely positioned to punch back hard against vicious leftists who obviously see politics as war. I can't say it any better than the great David Horowitz:
The movement galvanized by Trump can stop the progressive juggernaut and change the American future, but only if it emulates the strategy of his campaign: Be on offense; take no prisoners; stay on the attack. To stop the Democrats and their societal transformation, Republicans must adhere to a strategy that begins with a punch in the mouth. That punch must pack an emotional wallop large enough to throw them off balance and neutralize their assaults. It must be framed as a moral indictment that stigmatizes them in the way their attacks stigmatize Republicans. It must expose them for their hypocrisy. It must hold them accountable for the divisions they sow and the suffering they cause.
Laws against the destruction of public and private property have a disproportionate impact on leftist thugs. Such laws are obviously discriminatory, discriminating as they do between leftist thugs and decent folk, and are therefore unfair. They should be repealed. We need to work together to build a society in which all are treated equally regardless of color, creed, national origin, or behavior. Leftist thugs are who they are, and you must never criticize a person for who she is.
1. First of all, we must insist on a distinction that many on the Left willfully ignore, that between legal and illegal immigration. (Libertarians also typically elide the distinction.) Legal and illegal immigration are separate, logically independent, issues. To oppose illegal immigration, as any right-thinking person must, is not to oppose legal immigration. So no one should be allowed to enter illegally. But why exactly? What's wrong with illegal immigration? Aren't those who oppose it racists and xenophobes and nativists whose opinions are nothing but expressions of bigotry and hate? Aren't they deplorable people who cling to religion and guns? Doesn't everyone have a right to migrate wherever he wants?
2. The most general reason for not allowing illegal immigration is precisely because it is illegal. If the rule of law is to be upheld, then reasonable laws cannot be allowed to be violated with impunity simply because they are difficult to enforce or are being violated by huge numbers of people. Someone who questions the value of the rule of law is not someone it is wise to waste time debating.
But of course a practice's being illegal does not entail its being unjust or wrong or reasonably opposed. So we need to consider reasons why immigration controls are reasonable.
Reasons for opposing illegal immigration
3. There are several sound specific reasons for demanding that the Federal government exercise its legitimate, constitutionally grounded (see Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution) function of securing the national borders, and none of these reasons has anything to do with racism or xenophobia or nativism or any other derogatory epithet that slanderous leftists and libertarians want to attach to those of us who can think clearly about this issue.
There are reasons having to do with national security in an age of terrorism. There are reasons having to do with assimilation, national identity, and comity. How likely is it that illegals will assimilate if allowed to come in in great numbers, and how likely is social harmony among citizens and unassimilated illegals? There are considerations of fairness in respect of those who have entered the country legally by satisfying the requirements of so doing. Is it fair that they should be put through a lengthy process when others are allowed in illegally?
There are reasons having to do with the importation of contraband substances into the country. There are reasons having to to do with the sex trade and human trafficking generally. There are reasons having to do with increased crime. Last but not least, there are reasons pertaining to public health. With the concern over avian influenza, tuberculosis, ebola, and all sorts of tropical diseases, we have all the more reason to demand border control.
Borders are a body politic's immune system. Unregulated borders are deficient immune systems. Diseases that were once thought to have been eradicated have made a comeback north of the Rio Grande due to the unregulated influx of population. These diseases include tuberculosis, Chagas disease, leprosy, Dengue fever, polio, and malaria.
You will have noticed how liberals want to transform into public health issues problems that are manifestly not public but matters of private concern, obesity for example. But here we have an issue that is clearly a public health issue, one concerning which Federal involvement is justified, and what do our dear liberals do? They ignore it. Of course, the problem cannot be blamed solely on the Democrat Party. Republicans like G. W. Bush and John McCain are just as guilty. On immigration, Bush was clearly no conservative; he was a libertarian on this issue. A libertarian on some issues, a liberal on others, and a conservative on far too few.
Illegal aliens do not constitute a race or ethnic group
4. Many liberals think that opposition to illegal immigration is anti-Hispanic. Not so. It is true that most of those who violate the nation's borders are Hispanic. But the opposition is not to Hispanics but to illegal entrants whether Hispanic or not. It is a contingent fact that Mexico is to the south of the U.S. If Turkey or Iran or Italy were to the south, the issue would be the same. And if Iran were to the south, and there were an influx of illegals, then then leftists would speak of anti-Persian bias.
A salient feature of liberals and leftists -- there isn't much difference nowadays -- is their willingness to 'play the race card,' to inject race into every issue. The issue of illegal immigration has nothing to do with race since illegal immigrants do not constitute a race. There is no such race as the race of 'llegal aliens.' Opposition to them, therefore, cannot be racist. Suppose England were to the south of the U. S. and Englishmen were streaming north. Would they be opposed because they are white? No, because they are illegal aliens.
"But aren't some of those who oppose illegal immigration racists?" That may be so, but it is irrelevant. That one takes the right stance for the wrong reason does not negate the fact that one has taken the right stance. One only wishes they would take the right stance for the right reasons. Even if everyone who opposed illegal immigration were a foaming-at-the-mouth redneck of a racist, that would not detract one iota of cogency from the cogent arguments against allowing illegal immigration. To think otherwise is to embrace the Genetic Fallacy. Not good.
5. The rule of law is a precious thing. It is one of the supports of a civilized life. The toleration of mass breaking of reasonable and just laws undermines the rule of law.
6. Part of the problem is that we let liberals get away with obfuscatory rhetoric, such as 'undocumented worker.' The term does not have the same extension as 'illegal alien.' I discuss this in a separate post. But having written thousands of posts, I don't quite know where it is.
7. How long can a welfare state survive with open borders? Think about it. The trend in the USA for a long time now has been towards bigger and bigger government, more and more 'entitlements.' It is obviously impossible for purely fiscal reasons to provide cradle-to-grave security for everyone who wants to come here. So something has to give. Either you strip the government down to its essential functions or you control the borders. The first has no real chance of happening. Quixotic is the quest of strict constructionists and libertarians who call for it. Rather than tilting at windmills, they should work with reasonable conservatives to limit and eventually stop the expansion of government. Think of what a roll-back to a government in accordance with a strictly construed constitution would look like. For one thing, the social security system would have to be eliminated. That won't happen. Libertarians are 'losertarian' dreamers. They should wake up and realize that politics is a practical business and should aim at the possible. By the way, the pursuit of impossible dreams is common to both libertarians and leftists.
'Liberal' arguments for border control
8. Even though contemporary liberals show little or no understanding for the above arguments, there are actually what might be called 'liberal' arguments for controlling the borders:
A. The Labor Argument. To give credit where credit is due, it was not the conservatives of old who championed the working man, agitated for the 40 hour work week, demanded safe working conditions, etc., but the liberals of those days. They can be proud of this. But it is not only consistent with their concern for workers that they oppose illegal immigration, but demanded by their concern. For when the labor market is flooded with people who will work for low wages, the bargaining power of the U.S. worker is diminished. Liberals should therefore oppose the unregulated influx of cheap labor, and they should oppose it precisely because of their concern for U. S. workers.
By the way, it is simply false to say, as Bush, McCain and other pandering politicians have said, that U.S. workers will not pick lettuce, clean hotel rooms, and the like. Of course they will if they are paid a decent wage. People who won't work for $5 an hour will work for $20. But they won't be able to command $20 if there is a limitless supply of indigentes who will accept $5-10.
B. The Environmental Argument. Although there are 'green' conservatives, concern for the natural environment, and its preservation and protection from industrial exploitation, is more a liberal than a conservative issue. (By the way, I'm a 'green' conservative.) So liberals ought to be concerned about the environmental degradation caused by hordes of illegals crossing the border. It is not just that they degrade the lands they physically cross, it is that people whose main concern is economic survival are not likely to be concerned about environmental protection. They are unlikely to become Sierra Club members or to make contributions to the Nature Conservancy. Love of nature comes more easily to middle class white collar workers for whom nature is a scene of recreation than for those who must wrest a livelihood from it by hard toil.
C. The Population Argument. This is closely related to, but distinct from, the Environmental Argument. To the extent that liberals are concerned about the negative effects of explosive population increase, they should worry about an unchecked influx of people whose women have a high birth-rate.
D. The Social Services Argument. Liberals believe in a vast panoply of social services provided by government and thus funded by taxation. But the quality of these services must degrade as the number of people who demand them rises. To take but one example, laws requiring hospitals to treat those in dire need whether or not they have a means of paying are reasonable and humane -- or at least that can be argued with some show of plausibility. But such laws are reasonably enacted and reasonably enforced only in a context of social order. Without border control, not only will the burden placed on hospitals become unbearable, but the justification for the federal government's imposition of these laws on hospitals will evaporate. According to one source, California hospitals are closing their doors. "Anchor babies" born to illegal aliens instantly qualify as citizens for welfare benefits and have caused enormous rises in Medicaid costs and stipends under Supplemental Security Income and Disability Income.
The point is that you can be a good liberal and oppose illegal immigration. You can oppose it even if you don't care about increased crime, terrorism, drug smuggling, human trafficking, disease, national identity, national sovereignty, assimilation, the rule of law, or fairness to those who have immigrated legally. But a 'good liberal' who is not concerned with these things is a sorry human being.
I am afraid much of it fits the following 'definition':
What is continental philosophy? Continental philosophy is thinking, it is questioning, elaborating questions, making them more comprehensive, deeper, making them worse, proliferating these same questions and adding more and other associated questions. It includes reflection, musing, quandaries, provocations, sometimes it includes comparisons, say, but this was a joke after all, connecting M&E — analytic metaphysics and epistemology — to M&M’s. And this range of different things has been true for quite some time going back to the beginnings of analytic philosophy with the Vienna Circle and logical ‘analysis,’ whereby any time one mentions Vienna it makes a difference to note that one should not forget Freud but one does.
From an interview with Daniel Dennett in the pages of The Guardian (HT: Dave Lull):
I was thinking that perhaps philosophers are exactly what’s needed right now. Some deep thinking about what is happening at this moment?
Yes. From everybody. The real danger that’s facing us is we’ve lost respect for truth and facts. People have discovered that it’s much easier to destroy reputations for credibility than it is to maintain them. It doesn’t matter how good your facts are, somebody else can spread the rumour that you’re fake news. We’re entering a period of epistemological murk and uncertainty that we’ve not experienced since the middle ages.
Dennett is currently much exercised over Donald Trump's alleged lies, exaggerations, unverifiable speculations, and whatnot. But I don't recall Dennett taking umbrage at the unprecedentedly brazen presidential lying of Barack Obama or the seemingly congenital lying of Hillary Clinton. He is a typical uncritical Left-leaning academic. Still, he is right to take aim at postmodernism. Read on:
There’s a perception that philosophy is a dusty discipline that belongs in academe, but actually, questions such as what is a fact and what is the truth are the fundamental questions of today, aren’t they?
Philosophy has not covered itself in glory in the way it has handled this. Maybe people will now begin to realise that philosophers aren’t quite so innocuous after all. Sometimes, views can have terrifying consequences that might actually come true. I think what the postmodernists did was truly evil. They are responsible for the intellectual fad that made it respectable to be cynical about truth and facts. You’d have people going around saying: “Well, you’re part of that crowd who still believe in facts.”
So far, so good.
Yes and one’s true and the others are false. One of those narratives is the truth and the others aren’t; it’s as simple as that.
Is it really so simple? Dennett is suggesting that his naturalist narrative is not a mere narrative, but the true narrative. If so, then there is truth; there is a way things are in themselves apart from our stories and beliefs and hopes and desires. I agree that there is truth. But I wonder how consistent it is for Dennett to hold that there is truth given the rest of his views. This is a man who holds that consciousness is an illusion. He explains consciousness by explaining it away. Now I would say that the urge to explain and understand is the central animating nerve of the philosophical project. As Dennett says,
I put comprehension as one of my highest ideals. I want to understand everything. I want people to understand things. I love understanding things. I love explaining things to myself and to others.
My question, however, is how consciousness could be an illusion but not truth. I say neither is an illusion. Consciousness cannot be an illusion for the simple reason that we presuppose it when we distinguish between reality and illusion. An illusion is an illusion to consciousness, so that if there were no consciousness there would be no illusions either.
This is because illusions have a sort of parasitic status. They are ontological parasites, if you will, whose being is fed by a host organism. But let's not push the parasitological comparison too far. The point is that, while there are illusions, they do not exist on their own. The coyote I wrongly take to be a domestic dog exists in reality, but the domestic dog does not. But while the latter does not exist in reality, it is not nothing either. The dog is not something in reality, but it is something for consciousness. If in the twilight I jump back from a twisted root on the trail, mis-taking it for a rattlesnake, the visual datum cannot possibly be regarded as nothing since it is involved in the explanation of why I jumped. I jumped because I saw (in the phenomenological sense of 'see') a rattlesnake. Outright hallucinations such as the proverbial pink rat of the drunkard are even clearer examples. In dreams I see and touch beautiful women. Do old men have nocturnal emissions over nothing?
Not existing in reality, illusions of all sorts, not just perceptual illusions, exist for consciousness. But then consciousness cannot be an illusion. Consciousness is a presupposition of the distinction between reality and illusion. As such, it cannot be an illusion. It must be real.
But here comes Danny the Sophist who asserts that consciousness is an illusion. Well, that is just nonsense sired by his otherwise laudable desire to explain things coupled with an uncritical and not-so-laudable conceit that everything can be explained. If consciousness is an illusion, then it is an illusion for consciousness. But then our sophist has moved in a circle, reinstating the very thing he was trying to get rid of. Or else he is embarked upon a vicious infinite regress.
Calling Dennett a sophist is not very nice, even though I have very good reason to impugn his intellectual integrity, as you will discover if you read my entries in the Dennett category. So let me try to be charitable. Our man is a naturalist and an explanatory rationalist: he is out to explain everything. But not everything can be explained. Consciousness is not only presupposed by the distinction between reality and illusion, it is also presupposed by the quest for explanation. For where would explanations reside if not in the minds of conscious beings?
But if consciousness, per impossibile, were an illusion, why wouldn't truth also be an illusion? Consciousness is an illusion because naturalism has no place for it. Whatever is real is reducible to the physical; consciousness is not reducible to the physical; ergo, consciousness does not exist in reality: it is an illusion.
By the same reasoning, truth ought also to be an illusion since there is no place for it in the natural world. Note also that Dennett obviously thinks that truth is objectively valuable and pursuit-worthy. Where locate values in a naturalist scheme?
Wouldn't it be more consistent for Dennett to go whole hog and explain away both consciousness and truth? Perhaps he ought to go POMO. There is no truth; there are only interpretations and perspectives of organisms grubbing for survival. What justifies him in privileging his naturalist narrative? It is one among many.
I say consciousness and truth are on a par: neither can be explained away. Neither is eliminable. Neither is an illusion. Both are part of what we must presuppose to explain anything.
Nietzsche had a great insight: No God, no truth. For the POMOs there is neither. For me there is both. For the inconsistent Dennett there is the second but not the first. Again, there is simply no place for truth in a wholly material world.
The graphic infra may help clear things up for those of you lefties who are not permanently lost to TDS. I will add that if Trump is not your president, then you are not my fellow citizen. You are a subversive element, and due no respect, if you do not accept our system of government and the procedurally correct outcome of an election.
Many of us believed that President Obama was doing great damage to America. Now we are convinced that he did more damage to America domestically, to America’s position the world and to the world at large than any other two-term president. He left office with racial tensions — many of which he exacerbated — greater than at any time since the civil rights era half a century ago. He left the world’s worst regimes — Iran, China, Russia, North Korea and radical Islamist terror groups — stronger and more aggressive than before he became president. Economic growth never rose above 3 percent, a first for a two-term president. He nearly doubled the national debt and had little to nothing to show for it. Obamacare hurt more people financially than it helped medically, including physicians. More people than ever are on government aid. The list is far longer than this.
This is a re-run from 24 April 2010. The quotation from James Kalb is worth studying.
But the times they are a'changin' and with Trump in the saddle, a man with the cojones to punch back hard against destructive leftards and quisling wimp-cons, we are likely to see some improvement. Trump's dressing-down yesterday of the lamestream media was a delight to watch.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed into law Arizona Senate Bill 1070. Illegal aliens are of course up in arms over it. But why do the ruling elites tend to tolerate mass illegal immigration? Why are they not upholding the rule of law? James Kalb (The Tyranny of Liberalism, ISI Books, 2008, pp. 49-50) writes,
As to immigration, the people value the ties that make them a people and believe that the country should be run for their own benefit. Ruling elites, by contrast, are concerned with the power and efficiency of governing institutions, the status and security of those who run them, and maintenance of the liberal principles that support and justify their rule. It is in their interest to expand the human resources available to them, even at the expense of those who are already citizens, and to weaken the mutual ties that make it possible for the people to resist rational management and to act somewhat independently. In addition, any moderately self-seeking ruling class prefers cooperating with members of the ruling class in other countries to representing the interests of their constituents. The practical result of such influences has the suppression of immigration as an issue in the interest of an emerging borderless world order. Restrictionist arguments are scantily presented in the mainstream media, and concern with cultural coherence, national identity, or even the well-being of one's country's workers is routinely denigrated as ignorant and racist nativism.
Kalb's book is proving to be an insightful and stimulating read.
You are well-advised to view your life as a self-improvement project, but beware of viewing the lives of others likewise. I mean: as your improvement project. If you are drawn to a member of the opposite sex, be sure you are drawn to her for what she is, not for what you fancy you can make of her. The few exceptions prove the rule: people do not change.
There are 'fixer-upper' houses but no 'fixer-upper' wives.
He who seeks a "fundamental transformation" does not love that which he seeks fundamentally to transform. Wherein lies a proof that Obama and his ilk are not patriots.
A reader inquires, "I'm curious, if someone asked you what you were more certain of, your hands or belief in the existence of God, how would you respond?"
The first thing a philosopher does when asked a question is examine the question. (Would that ordinary folk, including TV pundits, would do likewise before launching into gaseous answers to ill-formed questions.) Now what exactly am I being asked? The question is ambiguous as between:
Q1. Are you more certain of the existence of your hand or of the existence of God?
Q2. Are you more certain of the existence of your hand or of your belief in the existence of God?
My reader probably intends (Q1). If (Q1) is the question, then the answer is that I am more certain of the existence of my hands than of the existence of God. My hands are given in sense perception throughout the day, every day. Here is one, and here is the other (he said with a sidelong glance in the direction of G. E. Moore). It is not perfectly certain that I have hands, or even that I have a body -- can I prove that I am not a brain in a vat? -- but it is practically certain, certain for all practical purposes.
By the way, it borders on a bad joke to think that one can prove the external world by waving one's hands around as Moore famously did. Still, if I don't know basic facts such as these 'handy' facts, then I know very little, things of the order of 'I now seem to see a hand' but not 'I now see a hand.' (I am using 'see' as a verb of success: If S sees an F, there there exists an x such that x is F and S sees x.)
So, for practical purposes, I am certain that my hands exist. But I am not certain in the same sense and to the same degree that God exists. The evidence is a lot slimmer. This is not to say that there is no evidence. There is plenty of evidence, it is just that it is not compelling. There is the evidence of conscience, of mystical and religious experience, the consensus gentium; there is the 'evidence' of the dozens and dozens of arguments for the existence of God, there is the testimony of prophets. But none of this evidence, even taking the whole lot of it together, gets the length of the evidence of my hands that I get from seeing them, touching them, clapping them, manipulating things with them.
When I fall down and feel my hands slam into the hard hot rock of a desert canyon, then I know beyond any practical doubt that hands exist and rock exists. Then I say with 'Cactus Ed' Abbey, "I believe in rock and sun." In that vulnerable moment, alone in a desolate desert canyon, it is very easy to doubt that there is any providential order, that there is any ultimate intelligibility, that there is any Sense beyond the flimsy and fragmented sense we make of things. But it is practically impossible to doubt hands and rock and sun.
The difference could be put like this. The existence and the nonexistence of God are both of them epistemic possibilities: for all I can claim to know, there is no God; but also: there is a God. Both states of affairs are consistent with what I can claim to know. But it is not an epistemic possibility that these hands of mine do not exist unless one takes knowledge to require an objective certainty impervious to hyperbolic doubt.
In the case of my hands there is really no counter evidence to their existence apart from Cartesian hyperbolic doubt. But in the case of God, not only is the evidence spotty and inconclusive, but there is also counter evidence, the main piece of which is the existence of evil. It is worth noting, however, that if one would be skeptical, one ought to doubt also the existence of evil, and with it, arguments to the nonexistence of God from the putative fact of evil. How do you know there is evil? No doubt there is pain, excruciating pain. But is pain evil? Maybe pain is just a sensation that an organism feeling it doesn't like, and the organism's not liking it is just an attitude of that organism, so that in reality there is no good or evil. Pain is given. But is evil given? Pain is undeniable. But one can easily deny the existence of evil. Perhaps the all is just a totality of value-indifferent facts.
As for (Q2), it makes reference to my belief in God. Whether you take the belief as a disposition or as an occurrent state, the belief as a feature of my mental life must be distinguished from its truth-value. I am not certain of the truth of my belief that God exists, but I am certain of the existence of my belief (my believing) that God exists. As certain as I am that I have hands? More certain. I can doubt that I have hands in the usual Cartesian way. But how can I doubt that fact that I have a belief if in fact I have it?
On Aristotle's hylomorphic ontology, form and matter are 'principles' or ontological factors involved in the analysis of sublunary primary substances. These factors are not substances in their own right. Now Thomas is an Aristotelian in ontology. But when it comes to God and the soul he goes Platonist. God is forma formarum, the form of all forms, and yet self-subsistent. The soul after death is capable of existing in separation from matter while it awaits the resurrection of the body. Anima forma corporis: the soul is the form of the body. But in the human case the soulic form is more than a principle invoked in hylomorphic analysis. It is capable of existence independent of matter.
The sublunary Aristotelianism and the superlunary Platonism exist together in a certain tension. Whether this tension gets the length of a contradiction is a further question.
"Get the length of" is a classy phrase which has long languished in desuetude. I resurrect it from the writings of F. H. Bradley.
Concerned as he rightly is with the pollution of the physical environment, the liberal yet cannot seem to muster much moral enthusiasm over the pollution of the cultural environment, if he's even aware of it. Hillary, you will recall, cozied up to Jay Z. If you don't know who he is, good.
A man hereabouts with a passion for chess got my number. We've become friends.
He told me he took a course in the philosophy of religion way back when. I pressed him on details. All he remembers is the old professor walking into the room, flipping a switch, and intoning "Let there be light!"
The chess player's forgetfulness reminds me of a story.
An eager young nun and a wise old nun were discussing teaching. The young nun was waxing enthusiastic over the privilege, but also the responsibility, of forming young minds. The old nun took a glass of water, inserted her forefinger, and agitated the water. Suddenly she removed her finger and the water immediately returned to its quiescent state.
"So much for the forming of young minds," said the older and wiser one.
The spark that ignites populist movements is not so much disparities in wealth and status (they are not always French Revolution or Bolshevik-like class-driven attempts to grab power) as rank hypocrisies: Elites condescendingly prescribe nostrums to hoi polloi, but always on the dual premise that those who are dictating will be immune from the ramifications of their own sometimes burdensome edicts, and those who are dictated to are supposedly too dense to know what is good for them. (Think Steven Chu, the former energy secretary, who either did not commute by car or had a short drive to work, while he hoped that gas prices for the nation’s clueless drivers might climb to European levels of $9–$10 a gallon.)
We’ve already seen Trump’s anti-doctrinaire approach to jobs, trade, and the economy: his notion that the free-market in reality can often became a rhetorical construct, not a two-way street when it comes to trading blocs. Free-market purists might see the outsourcing of jobs and unbridled importation of foreign subsidized products as a way to toughen up the competitiveness of American companies and trim off their fat; but people who take this view are usually the ones who benefit from globalism and who are in little danger of having their own job downsized, eliminated, or shipped overseas. Few of us often ask whether full professors are very productive, whether op-ed writers are industrious and cogent, whether Hollywood actors are worth millions per picture, whether politicians are improving the nation’s lot, or whether journalists are disinterested and competent. Instead, we assume that because they all have well-compensated jobs, they are qualified, essential, and invaluable to the economy.
The Christian is a Platonist about one man, Christ: he pre-exists both his conception and his birth. But there is no Platonism about any other human. The rest of us enjoy no Platonic pre-existence. We are literally nothing until we are conceived. One could say that orthodox Christians are anthropological exceptionalists with respect to one man. And he is indeed a man. If he is fully God and fully man, then he is fully man.
Leftists complain that President Trump is 'authoritarian.' But given the abdication of authority on the part of university administrators who refuse to stand up to leftist thugs and refuse to defend such ideals of the university as free speech and free inquiry, a little 'authoritarianism' looks to be exactly what is needed. It is the surrender of the university admins to the know-nothing and 'transgressive' rabble that would justify Trump's withholding of federal funds from institutions such as Cal Berkeley and NYU. In fact, that is exactly what he should do.
'Progressives' have an Orwellian understanding of tolerance. There is nothing (classically) liberal about them.
The locus classicus of the Euthyphro Dilemma (if you want to call it that) is Stephanus 9-10 in the early Platonic dialog, Euthyphro. This aporetic dialog is about the nature of piety, and Socrates, as usual, is in quest of a definition. Euthyphro proposes three definitions, with each of which Socrates has no trouble finding fault. According to the second, "piety is what all the gods love, and impiety is what all the gods hate." To this Socrates famously responds, "Do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?" In clearer terms, do the gods love pious acts because they are pious, or are pious acts pious because the gods love them?
What interests me at the moment is the notion of metaphysical grounding which I want to defend against the Noble Ostrich and other anti-metaphysical types. (For it is his failure to understand metaphysical grounding that accounts for the Ostrich's failure to understand my animadversions against ostrich nominalism as well as his failure to appreciate the force of my circularity objection to the thin theory of existence.) In all fairness, though, we must be open to the possibility that there is nothing to understand or appreciate here.
In any case, I will not try to answer a question beyond my pay grade, namely:
Q. Does God command X because it is morally obligatory, or is X morally obligatory because God commands it?
My concern is with the preliminary question whether (Q) is so much as intelligible. It is intelligible only if we can make sense of the 'because' in it. Let' s start with something that we should all be able to agree on (if we assume the existence of God and the existence of objective moral obligations), namely:
1. Necessarily, God commands X iff X is morally obligatory.
(1) expresses a broadly logical equivalence and equivalence is symmetrical: if p is equivalent to q, then q is equivalent to p. But metaphysical grounding is asymmetrical: if M metaphysically grounds N, then it is not the case that N metaphysically grounds M. For example, if fact F is the truth-maker of sentence s, then it is not the case that s is the truth-maker of F. Truth-making is a type of metaphysical grounding: it is not a causal relation and its is not a logical relation (where a logical relation is one that relates propositions, examples of logical relations being consistency, inconsistency, entailment, and logical independence.)
(1) leaves wide open whether God is the source of the obligatoriness of moral obligations, or whether such obligations are obligatory independently of divine commands. Thus the truth of (1) does not entail an answer to (Q).
The 'because' in (Q) cannot be taken in a causal sense if causation is understood as a relation that connects physical or mental events, states, or changes with other physical or mental events, states, or changes. Nor can the 'because' be taken in a logical sense. Logical relations connect propositions, and a divine command is not a proposition. Nor is the obligatoriness of the content of a command a proposition.
So I say this: if the content of a command is morally obligatory because God issued the command, then the issuing of the command is the metaphysical ground of the the moral obligatoriness of the content of the command. If, on the other hand, the content of the command is morally obligatory independently of the issuing of the divine command, then the moral obligatoriness of the command is the metaphysical ground of the correctness of the divine command.
Either way, there is a relation of metaphysical grounding.
My argument in summary:
1. (Q) is an intelligible question.
2. (Q) is not a question about a causal relation.
3. (Q) is not a question about a logical relation.
4. There is no other ordinary (nonmetaphysical) candidate relation such as a temporal relation or an epistemic relation for (Q) to be about.
5. (Q) is an intelligible question if and only if 'because' in (Q) expresses metaphysical grounding.
6. 'Because' in (Q) expresses metaphysical grounding.
7. There is a relation of metaphysical grounding.
OK, Noble Ostrich, which premise will you reject and why?