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.
So what else is new? The trouble with Trump is that he doesn't know enough about the issues to punch back effectively when Mrs. Clinton lets loose with one her whoppers. He let her escape several times during their third and final debate. Sean Davis:
In her answer to a question about her views on gun rights, Clinton said she opposed the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which recognized the constitutional right for individuals to own and carry firearms, because it was about whether toddlers should have guns.
[. . .]
So what was the Heller case really about? It was about whether Dick Anthony Heller, a 66-year-old police officer, should be legally allowed to own and bear a personal firearm to defend himself and his family at home.
[. . .]
If Clinton opposes an individual’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms to protect his or her family, she should just come out and say so instead of blatantly lying about the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter. But it gets better: after claiming that the Heller decision was all about toddlers, Hillary then claimed that the Constitution guarantees a right to partial-birth abortion, a practice that requires an abortionist to rip an unborn baby from the womb, stab or crush her skull, and then vacuum out her brains. Because Hillary Clinton’s top priority is protecting innocent children from violence.
Hillary is a stealth ideologue who operates by deception. This is what makes her so despicable. If she were honest about her positions, her support would erode. So not only are her policies destructive; she refuses to own them. She is an Obamination both at the level of ideas and at the level of character.
“You shall not do injustice in judgment; you shall not show partiality to the powerless; you shall not give preference to the powerful; you shall judge your fellow citizen with justice." Alternate translations here.
In the third and final presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said the following about Supreme Court nominations. "And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing on behalf of our rights as Americans."
This is the sort of leftist claptrap according to which the judiciary assumes legislative functions and the Constitution is a tabula rasa on which anything can be written. The purpose of the court is not to stand up to the powerful or take the side of the powerless, but to apply the law and administer justice.
There must be no "partiality to the powerless." Might does not make right. But neither does lack of might.
(Credit where credit is due: I am riffing on a comment I heard Dennis Prager make yesterday.)
Why the surge? I have no idea despite scrutiny of my referral list. I have been averaging 1600-1800 page views per day. But yesterday's spike was nothing like the one this site received in late February of this year: 10,695. I figure that that was due to my post about the Norwegian anti-natalist, Peter Wessel Zappfe.
Perhaps we philosophers need to pay more attention to anti-natalism as a cultural phenomenon and as a component in der Untergang des Abendlandes.
We are losing the will to perpetuate our civilization and its values. Christians in the Middle East are being slaughtered and their churches pulverized by Muslim savages. So what did Pope Francis say in response to Donald Trump's call for a wall along the southern U.S. border? We don't need to build walls, but bridges. Francis the fool is one dope of a pope.
Evangelical Protestants understand this, though they are too polite and politic to put it the way I just did. This is why, mirabile dictu, so many of them support Trump, the nasty sybarite of Gotham who builds casinos to the greater glory of Lust, Greed, Gluttony, and Lady Luck.
They understand that his character flaws are no worse than Hillary's and that ideas and policies trump persons and their peccadilloes. His are mainly sound; hers are all of them destructive.
(I used 'peccadillo' above because I am overly fond of alliteration; but it is not quite the right word, referring as it does to little sins. The sins and crimes of Hillary are by no means little. She belongs in jail.)
I hit upon 'uniquely unique' the other day as an apt predicate of God. But it is only the formulation that is original; the thought is ancient.
To be unique is to be one of a kind. It will be allowed that nothing counts as God unless it is unique. So at a bare minimum, God must be the one and only instance of the divine kind. (This kind could be thought of as the conjunction of the divine attributes.) Beyond that, it will be allowed that whatever counts as God must be essentially unique: nothing that just happens to be uniquely of the divine kind could count as God. What's more, it will be allowed that nothing counts as God that is not a necessary being. Putting these three allowances together, I say that God is not just essentially, but necessarily unique. (In the patois of 'possible worlds,' God is unique in every possible world in which he exists, and he exists in every possible world.)
But some of us want to go further still. We want to say that God is uniquely unique. His uniqueness extends to his mode of being unique. He is unique in a way that no other thing is unique. Suppose there is more than one necessarily unique being. The necessarily unique God would then be just one of many necessarily unique beings. In that case he would not be uniquely unique. He would share the property of being necessarily unique with other items. (Fregean propositions and other platonica are epistemically possible candidates.)
But then something greater could be conceived, namely, a being that transcends the distinction between kind and instance in terms of which uniqueness is ordinarily defined. If I asked someone such as Plantinga wherein resides the divine uniqueness, he would presumably say that it resides in the fact that the there is one and only one possible instance of the divine nature: this nature exists in every world and God instantiates it in every world. But then God is just another necessarily unique necessary being.
A truly transcendent God, however, must transcend the ontological framework applicable to everything other than God. So it must transcend the distinction between kind and instance. In a truly transcendent God there cannot be real distinctions of any kind and thus no real distinction between kind and instance, nature and individual having the nature.
Now if God transcends the distinction between instance and kind/nature, and is uniquely unique, unique in a way that no other being is or could be unique, then that is equivalent to maintaining that God is ontologically simple.
But why think that God is ontologically simple and uniquely unique? Here is where the paths diverge.
Some of us feel impelled to say that a God worth his salt cannot be anything other than the absolute reality, the Absolute. So God cannot be relative to anything or dependent on anything or immanent to anything as he would be if he were just one more being among beings. For then he would be immanent to what I earlier called the Discursive Framework. It is rather the case that God transcends this framework. If God is the absolute, then he must be simple; otherwise he would depend on properties distinct from himself to be what he is.
Again, if God is the absolute, then he cannot be one of many; he must be the ONE that makes possible the one and the many. As such he transcends the Discursive Framework in which the one opposes the many. The ONE, however, is the ONE of both the one and many. It cannot be brought into opposition to anything.
"But such a God as you are describing is ineffable! I want a God that that can be addressed in petitionary prayer, a God that is a Thou to my I."
What you want is to stop short at a highest finite object, when the religious-metaphysical quest is animated by dissatisfaction with every finite thing. The truly religious quester is a nihilist with respect to every finite object. A God worthy of our highest quest must be absolute, simple, transcendent, and ineffable.
Here. Radosh addresses Andrew Klavan's objections. I wonder if Radosh is aware of Dylan's 1983 song in defense of the Rosenbergs. See below.
Did you see Radosh on 60 Minutes Sunday night during the segment on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg? Radosh and co-author Joyce Milton definitively showed that the Rosenbergs were guilty as charged, or at least Julius was.
This seems to be becoming an Internet meme. It comes with the implication that certain death will be the result. (See graphic below.) Let's think about this, just for fun.
Strictly speaking, one can play Russian Roulette only with a revolver. But surely something analogous to Russian Roulette can be played with a semi-automatic pistol with a non-zero probability of surviving.
Here is one way. Have 'a friend' load the magazine randomly with live and dummy rounds. Insert the magazine and rack the slide, thereby chambering a round. Point the gun at your head and press the trigger. If you hear a click, then the hammer fell on a dummy round. Congratulations! You are not dead. Care to press your luck? Then press the trigger a second time.
Here is a second way. Pick up a semi-auto pistol and remove the magazine. Point at head, pull trigger. If there is a live round in the chamber, you're a goner. A dummy round or nothing in the chamber and you survive to be a fool another day. Unlike Terry Kath.
Remember him? He was the blazingly fast guitarist for the band Chicago. In 1978, while drunk, he shot himself in the head with an 'unloaded' gun. At first he had been fooling with a .38 revolver. Then he picked up a semi-automatic 9 mm pistol, removed the magazine, pointed it at his head, spoke his last words, "Don't worry, it isn't loaded," and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately for his head, there was a round in the chamber. Or that is one way the story goes.
Such inadvertent exits are easily avoided by exceptionless observation of three rules: Never point a gun at something you do not want to destroy. Treat every gun as if loaded, whether loaded or not. Never mix alcohol and gunpowder.
Perhaps I should add a fourth: Never mix dummy rounds with live rounds. Variant: Dummies should stay clear of guns, loaded or unloaded, and ammo, live or dummy.
Uncle Bill has a fifth rule for you: Never try to cure someone's hiccups by pointing a gun at him or her. A Fort Hood soldier availed himself of this method to cure a fellow soldier's hiccups, but ended up 'curing' him of life itself. (A cock to Asclepius!) The soldier, who was drunk at the time, said he thought the gun was loaded with dummy rounds. And now for the graphic, from Diana West via Bill Keezer.
We are concupiscent from the ground up, and matters are only made worse by our living in sex-saturated societies. As a result our erotic 'ears' are continually being pricked up by salacious tales and rumors.
These distractions are exploited by the Clinton machine which knows that digging up ancient dirt on the opponent will trump any serious discussion of his ideas and policies.
And that is what we are seeing. Any intelligent and intellectually honest person should be able to grasp that what matters are the issues and the policies proposed to deal with them. The national debt, immigration legal and illegal, national sovereignty, free speech, religious liberty, gun rights, abortion, the composition of the Supreme Court, globalism, trade policy, radical Islam, and so forth.
This is what we should be discussing primarily, not the character defects of the candidates.
Policies first, persons second. Every man has his 'wobble,' and every woman too. Look hard enough and you will find it. But men and women come and go. Ideologies and institutional structures last a lot longer to either contribute to the flourishing of you, your children, and grand children -- or the opposite.
But as I said, we are concupiscent from the ground up. We will stay distracted, and Hillary will win.
Plenty of other factors are in play, no doubt, such as the large group of 'tribal' women who will vote for Hillary because she is one of them.
Do you value religious liberty? Then you must work to defeat Hillary Clinton, which is to say: you must vote for Donald Trump.
The Left, being totalitarian, brooks no opposition and is brutal in its suppression of religion. Consider the example of Fr. Ernest Simoni:
Persecution in Albania was exceptionally harsh, even for Communist Eastern Europe. Among the living martyrs who were present and greeted Francis was Fr. Ernest Simoni. He gave a moving account of his almost three decades spent in Albanian labor camps; Francis was visibly moved.
The history behind this personal story is worth recalling. The conflict between the Catholic Church and Communist state in Albania can be divided into three stages:
1) 1944-1948 when the government terrorized and persecuted believers and clergy;
2) 1949-1967 when the government tried to “nationalize” or Albanize the country’s religions, and to establish a National Albanian Catholic Church similar to the Patriotic Church created by Albania’s then-ally, Communist China. This stage reached its culmination with Albania proclaiming itself the world’s first atheist state;
3) 1990 to the present, during which the Albanian Church awoke after decades of martyrdom and persecution.
Fr. Simoni was arrested on December 24, 1963, just after he had finished celebrating the Christmas Vigil Mass in the village of Barbullush, Shkodër. Four officers from the Albanian Secret Police (Sigurimi) showed up at his church and presented him with arrest and execution orders. “They tied my hands behind my back and began beating me, while we were walking to the car,” he recalled.
He was brought to the interrogation facility and kept in complete isolation, suffering unbearable tortures for three consecutive months. The accusation was that he had been teaching his “philosophy.” He taught his people “to die for Christ.” During three months of confinement and interrogation, the persecutors tried to force him provide evidence against the Catholic hierarchy and his brother priests, which he refused.
There is an interesting American connection to his persecution. One of the accusations against Fr. Simoni was that he had celebrated a requiem Mass for the repose of President Kennedy’s soul, exactly a month after the Catholic president’s death. A journal found in Fr. Simoni’s room featured a picture of President Kennedy and was presented to the court as material proof – of something or other.
“By God’s grace, the execution was not carried out,” Fr. Simoni recalled. After the trial, he was sentenced to twenty-eight years of forced labor, working first in the mines and then as a sanitary and sewage worker, until the fall of Communism in 1991.
It was 46 years ago yesterday that I first began keeping a regular journal under the motto, nulla dies sine linea. Before that, as a teenager, I kept some irregular journals.
Why maintain a journal?
When I was 16 years old, my thought was that I didn't want time to pass with nothing to show for it. That is still my thought. The unrecorded life is not worth living. For we have it on good authority that the unexamined life is not worth living, and how examined could an undocumented life be?
The maintenance of a journal aids mightily in the project of self-individuation. Like that prodigious journal writer Søren Kierkegaard, I believe we are here to become actually the individuals we are potentially. Our individuation is not ready-made or given, but a task to be accomplished. The world is a vale of soul-making; we are not here to improve it, but to be improved by it.
Henry David Thoreau, another of the world's great journal writers, said in Walden that "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." I would only add that without a journal, one's life is one of quiet dissipation. One's life dribbles away, day by day, unreflected on, unexamined, unrecorded, and thus fundamentally unlived. Living, for us humans, is not just a biological process; it is fundamentally a spiritual unfolding. To mean anything it has to add up to something, and that something cannot be expressed with a dollar sign.
I have always had a horror of an unfocused existence. In my early twenties, I spoke of the supreme desideratum of a focused existence. What bothered me about the people around me, fellow students in particular, was the mere aestheticism of their existence: their aimless drifting hither and yon, their lack of commitment, their unseriousness, their refusal to engage the arduous task of self-definition and self-individuation, their willingness to be guided and mis-guided by social suggestions. In one's journal one collects and re-collects oneself; one makes war against the lower self and the forces of dispersion.
Another advantage to a journal and its regular maintenance is that one thereby learns how to write, and how to think. An unwritten thought is still a half-baked thought: proper concretion is achieved only by expressing thoughts in writing and developing them. Always write as well as you can, in complete sentences free of grammatical and spelling errors. Develop the sentences into paragraphs, and if the Muse is with you those paragraphs may one day issue in essays, articles, and chapters of books.
Finally, there is the pleasure of re-reading from a substantial temporal distance. Six years ago I began re-reading my journal in order, month by month, at a 40 year distance. So of course now I am up to October 1976. 40 Years from now I will be at the present, or dead. One.
Trump’s defeat would translate into continued political subversion of once disinterested federal agencies, from the FBI and Justice Department to the IRS and the EPA. It would ensure a liberal Supreme Court for the next 20 years — or more. Republicans would be lucky to hold the Senate. Obama’s unconstitutional executive overreach would be the model for Hillary’s second wave of pen-and-phone executive orders. If, in Obama fashion, the debt doubled again in eight years, we would be in hock $40 trillion after paying for Hillary’s even more grandiose entitlements of free college tuition, student-loan debt relief, and open borders. She has already talked of upping income and estate taxes on those far less wealthy than the Clintons and of putting coal miners out of work (“We are going to put a whole lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”) while promising more Solyndra-like ventures in failed crony capitalism.
We worry about what Citizen Trump did in the past in the private sector and fret more over what he might do as commander-in-chief. But these legitimate anxieties remain in the subjunctive mood; they are not facts in the indicative gleaned from Clinton’s long public record. As voters, we can only compare the respective Clinton and Trump published agendas on illegal immigration, taxes, regulation, defense spending, the Affordable Care Act, abortion, and other social issues to conclude that Trump’s platform is the far more conservative — and a rebuke of the last eight years.
[. . .]
Something has gone terribly wrong with the Republican party, and it has nothing to do with the flaws of Donald Trump.
[. . .]
The Beltway establishment grew more concerned about their sinecures in government and the media than about showing urgency in stopping Obamaism. When the Voz de Aztlan and the Wall Street Journal often share the same position on illegal immigration, or when Republicans of the Gang of Eight are as likely as their left-wing associates to disparage those who want federal immigration law enforced, the proverbial conservative masses feel they have lost their representation. How, under a supposedly obstructive, conservative-controlled House and Senate, did we reach $20 trillion in debt, institutionalize sanctuary cities, and put ourselves on track to a Navy of World War I size? Compared with all that, “making Mexico pay” for the wall does not seem all that radical. Under a Trump presidency the owner of Univision would not be stealthily writing, as he did to Team Clinton, to press harder for open borders — and thus the continuance of a permanent and profitable viewership of non-English speakers.
One does not need lectures about conservatism from Edmund Burke when, at the neighborhood school, English becomes a second language, or when one is rammed by a hit-and-run driver illegally in the United States who flees the scene of the accident. Do our elites ever enter their offices to find their opinion-journalism jobs outsourced at half the cost to writers in India? Are congressional staffers told to move to Alabama, where it is cheaper to telecommunicate their business? Trump’s outrageousness was not really new; it was more a 360-degree mirror of an already outrageous politics as usual.
Our tendency is to drift through life. If life is a sea, too many of us are rudderless vessels, at the mercy of the prevailing winds of social suggestion. Death in its impending brings us up short: it forces us to confront the whole of one's life and the question of its meaning. Death is thus instrumentally good: it demands that we get serious. To face it is to puncture the illusion that one has all the time in the world.
You might be dead before nightfall. In what state would you like death to find you?
East and West, death has served as the muse of philosophy and of existential seriousness.
Gotama the Buddha: "Decay is inherent in all component things! Work out your salvation with diligence!" (said to be the Tathagata’s last words.)
Plato: "nothing which is subject to change...has any truth" (Phaedo St 83).
April Stevens' and Nino Tempo's version of Deep Purple became a number one hit in 1963. I liked it when it first came out, and I've enjoyed it ever since. A while back I happened to hear it via Sirius satellite radio and was drawn into it like never before. But its lyrics, penned by Mitchell Parish, are pure sweet kitsch:
When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls And the stars begin to twinkle in the night Through the mist of a memory you wander back to me Breathing my name with a sigh.
In the still of the night once again I hold you tight Though you're gone, your love lives on when moonlight beams And as long as my heart will beat, sweet lover we'll always meet Here in my deep purple dreams.
Kitsch is bad art, but what is the essence of kitsch, and why is it bad? Presumably it is sentimentality that makes kitsch kitsch, and it is this sentimentality that makes kitsch aesthetically and perhaps even morally dubious. One self-indulgently 'wallows' in a song like this, giving into its 'cheap' emotions. The emotions are 'false' and 'faked.' The melody and lyrics are formulaic and predictable, 'catchy.' The listener allows himself to be manipulated by the songwriter who is out to 'push the listener's buttons.' The aesthetic experience is not authentic but vicarious. And so on. Adorno would not approve.
There is great art and there is kitsch. I partake of both, enjoy both, and know the difference. What is wrong with a little kitsch in moderation? No, I don't collect Hummel figurines and my stoa is not carpeted with astroturf. What is sentimentality and what is wrong with it? There is a literature on this, but I've read almost none of it. Who has time?
This brings me to Bob Dylan who was recently awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. Now I've been a Dylan fan from the early '60s. In the '60s I was more than a fan; I was a fanatic who would brook no criticism of his hero. And I still maintain that in the annals of American popular music no one surpasses him as a songwriter.
But the Nobel Prize for Literature? That's a bit much, and an ominous foreshadowing of the death of the book and of quiet reading in this hyperkinetic age of tweets and soundbites. A large theme. Get to it conservative bloggers. Why do I have to do all the work?
Friedrich Nietzsche was born on this date in 1844. He died on 25 August 1900. His great aphorism, "Some men are born posthumously" applies to him, and I am sure that when he penned it he was thinking of himself.
Mark Anderson writes to tell me that his book, Zarathustra Stone, has been published.
By Edward Buckner, here, at Dale Tuggy's place. Ed's text is indented; my comments are not. I thank Ed for the stimulating discussion. He begins:
I have been telling the Maverick Philosopher here about Benjamin Sommer’s theory of divine fluidity, which is one solution to the problem of anthropomorphic language in the Hebrew Bible. The problem is not just Genesis 1:26 (‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness’) but also Genesis 3:8 ‘They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze’. Can God be a man with feet who walks around the garden leaving footprints? As opposed to being a pure spirit? The anthropomorphic conception is, in Maverick’s opinion ‘a hopeless reading of Genesis’, and makes it out to be garbage. ‘You can’t possibly believe that God has feet’.
Yet Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, proposes such a literal and anthropomorphic interpretation. As he argues (The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel), if the authors of the Hebrew Bible had intended their anthropomorphic language to be understood figuratively, why did they not say so? The Bible contains a wide variety of texts in different genres, but there is no hint of this, the closest being the statement ofDeuteronomy 4.15 that the people did not see any form when the Ten Commandments were revealed at Sinai.
I should first of all say that I haven't read Sommer's book; so none of this is directed against Sommer except in modo obliquo. My target is Buckner's take on the matters discussed by Sommer. I should also point out that Ed quotes from my Combox where I am known to make remarks even less guarded than in my main entries. I was a little irritated that he had hijacked my thread by using 'anthropomorphic' in a way other than the way I had defined it. My post has nothing to do with the Bible or divine revelation. You could say that my concern there is the absolute and therefore ontologically simple 'God of the philosophers' not 'the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,' to acquiesce for a moment in that dubious but provocative distinction.
My aim there was to show that (i) univocity of predicate sense across such predications as 'God is wise' and 'Socrates is wise' is incompatible with the divine simplicity, and that the friends of univocity support a conception of God that is anthropomorphic in the narrow sense of being a conception according to which the great-making properties of God are really just great-making properties of creatures even if they are the maxima of those of the great-making properties that admit of degrees. This narrow and refined sense of 'anthropomorphic' has to be distinguished from the more ordinary, crude sense according to which 'anthropomorphic' means having the form of a human animal, including its physical form and composition. So if you imagine God stomping around in a physical garden leaving footprints, then your conception is crudely anthropomorphic. But if you think of God as a pure spirit having many of the same properties as Socrates possesses, but none of his physical properties, and having all of his properties in the same way that Socrates has his -- two different but connected issues here, nota bene -- then you have an anthropomorphic conception of God, albeit a refined one.
But now onto the topic dear to Ed's heart. He asks: " if the authors of the Hebrew Bible had intended their anthropomorphic language to be understood figuratively, why did they not say so?" This rhetorical question is grammatically interrogative but logically declarative: it amounts to the declaration that the authors did intend their crudely anthropomorphic language to be taken literally because they didn't say otherwise. This declaration, in turn, is a telescoped argument:
The authors did not say that their language was to be taken figuratively;
Their language is to be taken literally.
The argument, however, is plainly a non sequitur. It therefore gives me no reason to change my view.
Besides, it is preposterous to suppose that the creator of the the physical universe, "the heavens and the earth," is a proper part of the physical universe. Since that is impossible, no intelligent reading of Genesis can take the creator of the universe to be a bit of its fauna. Presumably, God gave us the intelligence to read what is obviously figurative as figurative.
And if one takes the Bible to be divine revelation, then it is natural to assume that God is using the authors to get his message across. For that to occur, the authors needn't be terribly bright or apprised of the variety of literary tropes. What does it matter what the authors intended? Suppose they intended talk of man being made in the divine image and likeness to be construed in some crassly materialistic way. Then they failed to grasp the profound spiritual truth that they, willy nilly (nolens volens), were conveying.
‘Until Saadiah [the 10th century father of Jewish philosophy], all Jewish thinkers, biblical and post-biblical, agreed that God, like anything real in the universe, has a body’. A proper understanding of the Hebrew Bible requires not only that God has a body, but that God has many bodies ‘located in sundry places in the world that God created’. These bodies are not angels or messengers. He says in this this interview that an angel in one sense is not sent by God but actually is God, just not all of God.
>>[It] is a smaller, more approachable, more user-friendly aspect of the cosmic deity who is Hashem. That idea is very similar to what the term avatara conveys in Sanskrit. So in this respect, we can see a significant overlap between Hindu theology and one biblical theology.<<
Do hard-assed logicians such as ourselves balk at such partial identity? Not necessarily. I point to a shadow at the bottom of the door, saying ‘that is the Fuller Brush man’. Am I saying that the Fuller Brush man is a shadow? Certainly not! Nor, when I point to a beach on the island, saying ‘that island is uninhabited’, am I implying that the whole island is a beach. By the same token, when I point to the avatar, and truly say ‘that is God’, am I implying that God is identical with the avatar? Not at all. Nor am I saying that God has feet, even though the avatar has feet. The point is that the reference of ‘that’ is not the physical manifestation before me, but God himself. Scholastic objections that we cannot think of God as ‘this essence’ (ut haec essentia) notwithstanding.
I grant that if an avatar of God has feet, it doesn't follow that God has feet. My wife's avatar on Second Life has a tail, but you will be relieved to hear that my wife does not, literally, have a tail. And yet there is a sense of 'is' according to which the avatar is my wife. But how does this deal with my objection? My point was not that God cannot have feet, but that God cannot be a physical being. The creator of the physical universe cannot be a proper part thereof.
Now suppose God himself is a pure spirit who has the power to manifest himself at will in and through various physical avatars. This is an interesting and quite different notion, but apparently not the one that Sommer is floating.
The Jewish philosopher/theologian who turns my crank is the great Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) as he is known in the West. He goes to the opposite extreme rejecting both crude and refined anthropomorphism. His path is that of the via negativa, a path beset by its own perils. I hope to say something about it in a later entry.
Since when did we decide that men and women are interchangeable in hand-to-hand combat on the front lines? Why do we insist on women in combat but not in the NFL? Because we take football seriously. That’s no joke; it’s the sad truth.
We take panem et circenses seriously, but not the defense of the Republic.
I asked a reader whether the graphic to the left was too tasteless to post to my blog, adding, "But then these are times in which considerations of good taste and civility are easily 'trumped.'" My reader responded with a fine statement:
Of course it’s tasteless, but it’s funny. We should go to battle with a song in our heart. Never had patience for the hand-wringing by the beskirted Republicans and professional “conservatives”. How could anyone be surprised by the locker room braggadocio of a man who appeared on the Howard Stern show 600 times? Trump is a deeply flawed messenger of the right message, but politics is a practical affair. He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard in this go-around. After all it’s only the very foundation of the republic at stake. So let’s have some fun while beating the drum for him.
My reader is right. Trump is all we've got. He has a rotten character, but then so does Hillary. This may not be obvious because, while Trump broadcasts his faults, she hides hers. This is part of her being a slimy, mendacious stealth ideologue.
Given that both are sorry specimens on the character front, it comes down to policy.
Another thing you must bear in mind is that a vote for Hillary is a vote for her entire ilk and entourage. Do you want Huma Abedin in the White House?
It may not be possible except for some of us some of the time: to be in the world, but not of it. Engaged, yet detached. To battle our enemies without becoming embittered or like them. To retain the equanimity of the monk in the midst of the world. To float like a lotus blossom without getting wet.
Or to paraphrase the Bhagavad Gita: to enter and partake of the fray but with detachment from the fruits of action.
There is no end to the number of meditation themes; one must choose one that is appealing to oneself. One might start discursively, by running through a mantram, but the idea is to achieve a nondiscursive one-pointedness of attention. Here are some suggestions.
1. A Christian of a bhaktic disposition might start with the Jesus Prayer which is used by the mystics of Eastern Orthodoxy: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." One tethers one's mind to the mantram to the exclusion of all other thoughts, repeating it (in thought) over and over. One then gradually whittles it down to one word, 'Lord,' for example, by progressively dropping 'a sinner,' 'on me a sinner,' 'have mercy on me a sinner,' and so on. One then repeats 'Lord,' 'Lord, 'Lord,' . . . in an attempt to sink into mental quiet.
Mental quiet is the first phase of meditation proper. Achieving it is difficult and rare, and what one does to achieve it is merely preliminary to meditation proper. A resolute, daily meditator may reasonably hope touch upon mental quiet once a month.
If one feels oneself slipping into mental quiet, then one must let go of the mantram and simply abide passively in the state of quietude, without reflecting on it, analyzing it, or recalling how one got to it. Philosopher types who 'suffer' from hypertrophy of the discursive faculty may find this well-nigh impossible. The approach to mental quiet is a phase of active working; this is difficult enough. Even more difficult is the phase in which one lets go of this work and simply rests in it. There will be a very strong temptation to analyze it. If at all possible, resist this temptation.
2. A more metaphysically inclined Christian who is fond of St. Augustine might experiment with his phrase, 'Lord, eternal Truth, unchanging Light,' reducing it to one word, whether 'Lord' or 'Truth' or 'Light.'
3. I have had good results with a line from Plotinus' Enneads, "It is by the One that all beings are beings." This is a very rich saying that can be mulled over from several directions. Everything that is, IS. What is it for a thing TO BE? And what is the source of the being of that-which-is? It is by the One that all beings are. What does 'by' mean? And what is the One? Although one starts discursively, the idea is to penetrate this ONE, to become at-one with it, to achive at-one-ment. As Plotinus would say, it is a flight of the alone to the all-One. Of course, it cannot be grasped: any grasping is discursive.
One is digging for the nondiscursive root of the discursive mind, a root that is itself rooted in the ONE which is the source of all phenomenal entities and unities.
4. A classical theme of meditation is the Self, or, if you insist, the absence of a Self. Here is one of the ways I approach this theme. I start by closely attending to my breath. I think of it objectively as air entering though my nostrils and travelling to my lungs. And then I think about my body and its parts. Here on this mat is this animated body; but am I this animated body? How could I be identical to this animated body? I have properties it doesn't have, and vice versa. Am I this breath, these lungs, this cardiovascular system, this animated body? Or am I the awareness of all of this? How could I be any object? Am I not rather the subject for whom all objects are objects? Am I not other than every object? But what is this subject if it is not itself an object? How could there be a subject that was not an object or a potential object? Is it nothing at all? But there is awareness, and awareness is not any object. There is patently a difference between the awareness of O and O, for any O. To be for a human being is to be in this transcendental difference. Is this difference nothing? If it is not nothing, what differs in this difference?
One can pursue this meditation in two ways. One can reduce it to a koan: I am awareness and I am not nothing, but I am not something either. Not nothing and not something. How? I am something, I am nothing, I can't be both, I can't be neither. What then is this I that is nothing and something and not nothing and something? One can take this as a koan, an intellectual knot that has no discursive solution but is not a mere nugatory puzzle of linguistic origin, to be relieved by some Wittgensteinian pseudo-therapy, but a pointer to a dimension beyong the discursive mind. The active phase of the meditation then consists in energetically trying to penetrate this riddle.
Note that one needn't dogmatically assume or affirm that there is a dimension beyond the discursive mind. This is open inquiry, exploration without anticipation of result. One 'senses' that there is a transdiscursive dimension. This is connected to the famous sensus divinitatis. If there were no intimation of the Transdiscursive, one would have no motive to take up the arduous task of meditation. I am referring to the genuine article, not some New Age relaxation technique.
Or, instead of bashing one's head against this brick wall of a koan, one can just repeat 'I,' 'I', 'I' in an attempt at peacefully bringing the discursive intellect to subsidence. But in a genuine spirit of inquiry and wonder. No 'vain repetitions.'
When is one a hypocrite? Let's consider some cases.
C1. A man sincerely advocates a high standard of moral behavior, and in the main he practices what he preaches. But on occasion he succumbs to temptation, repents, and resolves to do better next time. Is such a person a hypocrite? Clearly not. If he were, then we would all be hypocrites, and the term 'hypocrite,' failing of contrast, would become useless. A hypocrite cannot be defined as one who fails to practice what he preaches since we all, at some time or other, fail to practice what we preach. An adequate definition must allow for moral failure.
C2. A man sincerely advocates a high standard of behavior, but, for whatever reason, he makes no attempt to live in accordance with his advocacy. Here we have a clear case of a hypocrite.
C3. Let the high standard be sexual purity in thought, word, and deed. Consider now the case of a person, call him Lenny, who does not accept this standard. He has no objection to impure thoughts or pornography or to the sort of locker-room braggadocio in which men like Donald Trump boast of their sexual escapades. But Lenny knows that his neighbor, a Trump supporter, does advocate the high standard that he, Lenny, does not acknowledge.
In an attempt to persuade his neighbor to withdraw his support from Trump, Lenny says to the neighbor, "Look, man, you are appalled by Trump's sexual morality, or lack thereof; how then can you vote for him?" This is an example of a non-fallacious ad hominem argument. The argument is 'to the man,' in this case the neighbor. It starts with a premise that the neighbor accepts but Lenny does not; the argumentative aim is to expose an inconsistency among the neighbor's beliefs.
Is Lenny a hypocrite? No. He does not accept the neighbor's stringent sexual morality. He thinks it is 'puritanical.' He may even think that it sets the bar so high that no one can attain it, the end result being that people who try to live by the standard are driven to hypocrisy. But Lenny himself is not a hypocrite. For it is not the case that he makes no attempt to live by a moral standard that he sincerely advocates. He does not accept the standard.
C4. Now we come to the most interesting case, that of 'Saul.' Lenny made it clear that he does not accept as objectively morally binding the demand to be pure in thought, word, and deed. Like Lenny, Saul does not accept the moral standard in question. Unlike Lenny, Saul feigns a commitment to it in his interactions with conservatives. Suppose Saul tries to convince Lenny's neighbor to withdraw his support from Trump. Saul uses the same argument that Lenny used.
Is Saul a hypocrite or not? Not by one definition that suggests itself. On this definition there are two conditions one must satisfy to be a hypocrite: (i) one sincerely advocates a moral standard he believes to be morally obligatory; (ii) one makes little or no attempt to live by the standard. In other words, a hypocrite is a person who makes no attempt to practice what he sincerely preaches and believes to be morally obligatory. Saul does not satisfy condition (i); so, on this definition, Saul is not a hypocrite.
Or is he?
It depends on whether (i) is a necessary condition of being a hypocrite. Suppose we say that a hypocrite is one who makes little or no attempt at practicing what he preaches, whether what he preaches is sincerely or insincerely advocated as morally obligatory. Then Saul would count as a hypocrite along with all the other Alinskyite leftists who condemn Trump for his sexual excesses.
Whether or not we call these leftist scum hypocrites, they use our morality against us when they themselves have nothing but contempt for it.
You say your conscience won't allow you to vote for a vulgarian who thinks, or used to think, that his celebrity entitles him to grab at the female anatomy? But your conscience is not troubled by Hllary's support for abortion? Then I humbly suggest that you are morally obtuse.
You tell me you won't vote for either Trump or Hillary? Then you support Hillary by your inaction. Is your conscience 'down' with that?
The readers of this site have heard often of that bill passed by the House over a year ago to punish surgeons killing those babies who survive abortions. The vote was 248-177, and all votes in opposition came from the Democrats.That, not merely partial-birth abortion, is the issue on the table right now.
For the official position now of the Democrats is that the right to abortion is not confined to pregnancy. It entails nothing less than the right to kill a child born alive, who survives the abortion. That is the position that Hillary should be made to defend.
And yet even more so Tim Kaine. He professes to be an earnest Catholic, that he had reservations about “partial-birth” abortion. And so: will he vote now in the Senate to bring to the floor for a vote that bill that passed the House a year ago? Will he break now from the pro-choice orthodoxy of his party, his president, and his presidential candidate? [emphasis added]
I want to ask, which meditation techniques do you practice? Or rather, do they include some specifically Buddhist ones? Even vipassana/insight practice?
Some Buddhists told me that doing vipassana seriously always tends one towards Buddhist beliefs. I wonder if you agree. Or if you think that vipassana practice as such is not exerting that tendency and that the tendency is rather exerted by the combination of the practice with certain doctrines brought into the practice.
E.g., yesterday I read (in a Buddhist manual by Daniel Ingram) that when practising vipassana -- in a way that increases the speed, precision, consistency and inclusiveness of our experience of all the quick little sensations that make up our sensory experience -- "it just happens to be much more useful to assume that things are only there when you experience them and not there when you don’t. Thus, the gold standard for reality when doing insight practices is the sensations that make up your reality in that instant. ... Knowing this directly leads to freedom."
Will the vipassana practice tend me to believe that "useful" assumption, so useful for becoming to believe the Buddhist doctrines? Also, can I make any serious progress in that practice without making that assumption?
A. One Way to Meditate
Let me tell you about a fairly typical recent morning's meditation. It lasted from about 3:10 to 4 AM.
After settling onto the meditation cushions, I turned my attention to my deep, relaxed, and rhythmic breathing, focusing on the sensation of air passing in and out through the nostrils. If distracting thoughts or images arose I would expel them on the 'out' breath so that the expulsion of air coincided with the 'expulsion' of extraneous thoughts. If you have already learned how to control your mind, this is not that difficult and can be very pleasant and worth doing for its own sake even if you don't go any deeper.
(If you find this elementary thought control difficult or impossible, then you ought to be alarmed, just as you ought to be alarmed if you find your arms and legs flying off in different directions on their own. It means that you have no control over your own mind. Then who or what is controlling it?)
I then visualized my lungs' filling and emptying. I visualized my body as from outside perched on the cushions. And then I posed a question about the awareness of breathing.
There is this present breathing, and there is this present awareness of breathing. Even if the breathing could be identified with, or reduced to, an objective, merely physical process in nature, this won't work for the awareness of breathing.
What then is this awareness? It is not nothing. If it were nothing, then nothing would appear, contrary to fact. Fact is, the breathing appears; it is an object of awareness. So the awareness is not nothing. But the awareness is not something either: it it not some item that can be singled out. There is at least an apparent contradiction here: the awareness-of is both something and nothing. A Zen meditator could take this as a koan and work on it as such.
Or, in an attempt at avoiding logical contradiction, one might propose that the awareness-of is something that cannot be objectified. It is, but it cannot be objectified.
I am aware of my breathing, but also of my breathing's being an object of awareness, which implies that in some way I am aware of my awareness, though not as a separable object.
Who is aware of these things? I am aware of them. But who am I? And who is asking this question? I am asking it. But who am I who is asking this question and asking who is asking it?
At this point I am beyond simple mind control to what could be self-inquiry. (Cf. Ramana Maharshi) The idea is to penetrate into the source of this awareness. One circles around it discursively with the idea of collapsing the circle into a non-discursive point, as it were. (I just now came up with this comparison.)
B. Does doing vipassana seriously always tends one towards Buddhist beliefs?
I don't think so. The Vipassana meditator's experiences are interpreted in the light of the characteristic Buddhist beliefs (anicca, anatta, dukkha). They are read in to the experiences rather than read off from them. A Christian meditator could easily do the same thing. I reported an unforgettable experience deep in meditation in which I felt myself to be the object of a powerful, unearthly love. If I take myself to have experienced the love of Christ, then clearly I go beyond the phenomenology of the experience. Still, the experience fits with Christian beliefs and could be taken in some loose sense to corroborate it. The same goes for the Vipassana meditator.
For example, does one learn from meditation that all is impermanent?
First of all, that
T. All is impermanent
Can be argued to be self-refuting.
Here goes. (T) applies to itself: if all is impermanent, then (T), or rather the propositional content thereof, is impermanent. That could mean one of two things. Either the truth-value of the proposition expressed by (T) is subject to change, or the proposition itself is subject to change, perhaps by becoming a different proposition with a different sense, or by passing out of existence altogether. (There is also a stronger reading of 'impermanent' according to which the impermanent is not merely subject to change, but changing, and indeed continuously changing.)
Note also that if (T) is true, then every part of (T)'s propositional content is impermanent. Thus the property (concept) of impermanence is impermanent, and so is the copulative tie and the universal quantifier. If the property of impermanence is impermanent, then so is the property of permanence along with the distinction between permanence and impermanence.
In short, (T), if true, undermines the very contrast that gives it a determinate sense. If true, (T) undermines the permanence/impermanence contrast. For if all is impermanent, then so is this contrast and this distinction. This leaves us wondering what sense (T) might have and whether in the end it is not nonsense.
What I am arguing is not just that (2) refutes itself in the sense that it proves itself false, but refutes itself in the much stronger sense of proving itself meaningless or else proving itself on the brink of collapsing into meaninglessness.
No doubt (2) is meaningful 'at first blush.' But all it takes is a few preliminary pokes and its starts collapsing in upon itself.
Now perhaps the Vippassana meditator gets himself into a state in which he is aware of only momentary, impermanent dharmas. How can he take that to show that ALL is impermanent?
There is also a question about what a belief would be for a Buddhist. On my understanding, beliefs are "necessary makeshifts" (a phrase from F. H. Bradley) useful in the samsaric realm, but not of ultimate validity. They are like the raft that gets one across the river but is then abandoned on the far shore. The Dharma (teaching) is the raft that transports us across the river of Samsara to the land of Nirvana where there is no need for any rafts -- or for the distinction between Samsara and Nirvana.
D. How Much Metaphysics Does One Need to Meditate?
Assuming that meditation is pursued as a spiritual practice and not merely as a relaxation technique, I would say that the serious meditator must assume that there is a 'depth dimension' of spiritual/religious significance at the base of ordinary awareness and that our ultimate felicity demands that we get in touch with this depth dimension.
"Man is a stream whose source is hidden." (Emerson) I would add that meditation is the difficult task of swimming upstream to the Source of one's out-bound consciousness where one will draw close to the Divine Principle.
As St. Augustine says, Noli foras ire, in te ipsum reddi; in interiore homine habitat veritas. The truth dwells in the inner man; don't go outside yourself: return within.
Pussy Bow is elliptical for 'Pussy Cat Bow,' the latter a well-established term in the world of women's fashion. Melania Trump sported one at the second debate. Was she out to implant some sly suggestion? I have no idea. But it occurred to me this morning that boy tie boys such as George Will also sport pussy cat bows. (As you know, pussy cats are both male and female.) And given the currency of 'pussy' in the politics of the day, it seems entirely appropriate to refer to the signature sartorial affectation of effete yap-and-scribble do-nothing quislings like Will as a pussy bow.
George Will is a good example of how Trump Derangement Syndrome can lead to cognitive meltdown.
We are regularly forced to endure a new left-wing manufactured, media-supercharged hysteria.
The latest is the tsunami of horror in reaction to Donald Trump's gross and juvenile comments made in private 11 years ago.
The tsunami of condemnation of his remarks is quintessential left-wing hysteria. That more than a few Republicans and conservatives have joined in is a testament to the power of mass media and hysteria to influence normally sensible people.
This is hysteria first and foremost because the comments were made in private. I would say the same thing if crass comments made by Hillary Clinton in private conversation had been recorded. In fact, I did. In 2000, in a Wall Street Journal column, I defended Hillary Clinton against charges that she was an anti-Semite. That year it was reported that Clinton had called Paul Fray, the manager of her husband's failed 1974 congressional campaign, a "f---ing Jew bastard."
Even the left-wing newspaper, the Guardian, reported that three people -- two witnesses and Fray -- confirmed the report.
Nevertheless, I wrote in the Journal, "I wish to defend Mrs. Clinton. I do so as a practicing Jew and a Republican. ... We must cease this moral idiocy of judging people by stray private comments."
What we really need is an Association of Conservative Philosophers. (The resonance of the initials ACP will not be lost on my astute readers.) The contributors to Rightly Considered may want to take this ball and run with it.
We've known all along that Trump is crude and Clintonian in his sexual appetite, although not as bad as Bill in terms of deeds; but the Wikileaks data dump brought something new and objectively far more important to our attention. It is another revelation of Hillary's greed, mendacity, secretiveness, and lust for power. We get a whiff of her doctrine of 'two truths' one for the insiders, the other for public consumption. There is her assault on national sovereignty with her call for a borderless world. This supercilious stealth ideologue who has enriched herself in government 'service' absolutely must be stopped, and there is only one man who can do it. Jeb! never was up to the job.
What's worse, a P-grabber or a gun grabber? The former operates on occasion and in private in the 'noble' tradition of Jack Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Bill Clinton. The latter would violate sacred American rights for all and forever. Don't believe Hillary's lies about supporting the Second Amendment. She lies whenever it is useful for advancing herself and her destructive agenda. In that order.
And then there is the utter hypocrisy of liberals who, having presided over when not promoting the injection of moral toxins into our culture, moralize about Trump's admittedly disgusting and puerile locker-room talk. Heather MacDonald gets it right in Trumped-Up Outrage. As does Margot Anderson who points out that Dems have no problem with the objectification of females if they are small enough. Rebecca Tetti offers this important insight:
These people who celebrate porn and abortion and make heroic figures out of small-souled, sex-deluded creatures such as Bill Maher and Lena Dunham and Sandra Fluke and lionize sick predator men like the Kennedys and Bill Clinton are not merely being hypocrites or playing politics when they denounce Trump. They are deliberately engaging in The Lie: the corruption of meaning itself. They aren’t outraged because they’re decent. They’re using our decency as a pawn in their quest for political power.
The insight is that the Left uses our decency, which they don't believe in, against us, mendaciously feigning moral outrage at what doesn't outrage them at all. (Cf. Saul Alinsky's RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”)
And then there are the milquetoast pseudo-conservatives who have withdrawn their support from Trump out of fear of losing their position, power, perquisites, and pelf. That other 'P-word,' to use Megyn Kelly's demure expression, seems rightly applicable to them. The motivations of Senator McCain and the boys are transparent enough.
. . . must be getting some 'Mean Tweets' along about now over his attack on Donald Trump.
I've admired De Niro as an actor ever since Martin Scorsese's 1973 Mean Streets.
Now actors and actresses have a right to their political opinions, but I can't see that most of them have a right to their high opinion of their political opinions. I wrote the following in June of 2013:
The encomia continue to pour in on the occasion of the passing of James Gandolfini. 'Tony Soprano' died young at 51, apparently of a heart attack, while vacationing in Italy. Given the subtlety of The Sopranos it would be unfair to say that Gandolfini wasted his talent portraying a scumbag and glorifying criminality, and leave it at that. But I wonder if people like him and De Niro and so many others give any thought to the proper use of their brief time on earth.
It's at least a question: if you have the talents of an actor or a novelist or a screen writer or a musician, should you have any moral scruples about playing to the basest sides of human nature? Are we so corrupted now that this is the only way to turn a buck in the arts?
This is not an election fought over competing policies but a struggle for legitimacy. A very large portion of the electorate (how large a portion we will discover next month) believes that its government is no longer legitimate, and that it has become the instrument of an entrenched rent-seeking oligarchy.
By and large, I agree with this reading. "America's economy is corrupt, cartelized and anti-competitive," I wrote in August. It is typical of rent-seeking that Lockheed Martin's stock price has tripled during the past three years, and payment to its top management team has risen from $12 million a year to over $60 million a year, while Lockheed Martin's F-35 languishes in cost overruns and deployment delays. Produce a lemon and get rich: that's Washington. It is not a trivial matter, or unrepresentative of our national condition, that the FBI director who declined to prosecute Mrs. Clinton for mishandling of classified material just returned to government from a stint at Lockheed Martin, where he was paid $6 million for a single year's service. I don't know whether FBI Director Comey is corrupt. But it looks and smells terrible.
That's why it was so important for Trump to talk about jail time for his opponent. If things had not gotten to the point where former top officials well might belong in jail, Trump wouldn't be there in the first place. The Republican voters chose a reckless, independently wealthy, vulgar, rough-edged outsider precisely because they believe that the system is corrupt. They are right to so believe; if the voters knew a tenth of what I know about it, they would march on Washington with pitchforks.
"Rent seeking” is one of the most important insights in the last fifty years of economics and, unfortunately, one of the most inappropriately labeled. Gordon Tullock originated the idea in 1967, and Anne Krueger introduced the label in 1974. The idea is simple but powerful. People are said to seek rents when they try to obtain benefits for themselves through the political arena. They typically do so by getting a subsidy for a good they produce or for being in a particular class of people, by getting a tariff on a good they produce, or by getting a special regulation that hampers their competitors. Elderly people, for example, often seek higher Social Security payments; steel producers often seek restrictions on imports of steel; and licensed electricians and doctors often lobby to keep regulations in place that restrict competition from unlicensed electricians or doctors.
Hillary got clobbered in last night's debate, but Trump missed an opportunity to refute her nonsensical claim that vetting Muslim immigrants involves the application of a "religious test."
In Article VI of the U. S. Constitution we read:
. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Two questions. One concerns Muslim citizens of the U.S. The other concerns Muslims who are attempting to immigrate. The first question first.
Does it follow from the passage quoted that the U. S. Constitution allows a Muslim citizen who supports Sharia (Islamic law) to run for public office? No! For the same Constitution, in its First Amendment, enjoins a salutary separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, though not in those words. Sharia and the values and principles enshrined in the founding documents are incompatible. On no sane interpretation is our great Constitution a suicide pact.
It is important to realize that Islam is as much an anti-Enlightenment political ideology as it is a religion. It is an unholy hybrid of the political and the religious. Our Enlightenment founders must be rolling around in their graves at the very suggestion that Sharia-subscribing Muslims are eligible for the presidency and other public offices.
A religion that requires the subverting of the U. S. Constitution is not an admissible religion when it comes to applying the "no religious Test" provision. On a sane interpretation of the Constitution, Islam, though a religion, is not an admissible religion where an admissible religion is one that does not contain core doctrines which, if implemented, would subvert the Constitution.
Or one might argue that Islam is not a religion at all. Damn near anything can and will be called a religion by somebody. Some say with a straight face that leftism is a religion, others that Communism is a religion. Neither is a religion on any adequate definition of 'religion.' I have heard it said that atheism is a religion. Surely it isn't. Is a heresy of a genuine religion itself a religion? Arguably not. Hillaire Belloc and others have maintained that Islam is a Christian heresy. Or one could argue that Islam, or perhaps radical Islam, is not a religion but a totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion. How to define religion is a hotly contested issue in the philosophy of religion.
The point here is that "religious" in ". . . no religious Test shall ever be required" is subject to interpretation. We are under no obligation to give it a latitudinarian reading that allows in a destructive ideology incompatible with our values and principles.
As for immigration, would-be immigrants have no rights under our Constitution. So Article VI doesn't apply to them at all.
As for gaseous talk of blocking Sharia-supporting Muslims as being "not who we are," it suffices to say that 'liberals' who gas off like this ought simply to be ignored.
There is no right to immigrate, and a nation is under no obligation to allow in subversive elements. But it does have every right to protect its culture and values. Here alone is a decisive reason to vote for Trump and block Hillary. Trump punched hard last night, but not hard enough. He should have pointed out that Hillary is a destructive leftist globalist who aims at the same "fundamental transformation" that Obama called for. He should have pointed out that no patriot calls for the fundamental transformation of his country. For what that implies in our case is the destruction of the U.S. as it was founded to be.
One approach to God and his attributes is Anselmian: God is "that that which no greater can be conceived." God is the greatest conceivable being, the most perfect of all beings, the being possessing all perfections. But what is a perfection? A perfection is not just any old (positive, non-Cambridge) property, but a great-making property. Some of these properties admit of degrees while some do not. To say of God that he is the ens perfectissimum, the most perfect of all beings, is to say that he possesses all great- making properties, and of those that admit of degrees, he possesses them to the highest degree.
For example, power admits of degrees; so while Socrates and God are both powerful, only God is maximally powerful. Wisdom too admits of degrees; so while both Socrates and God are both wise, only God is maximally wise. And the same holds for love and mercy and moral goodness. Many of the divine attributes, then, are maxima of attributes possessed by humans.
Are Socrates and God wise in the same sense of 'wise'? This follows if wisdom in God is just the highest degree of the same attribute that is found in some humans. Accordingly, the predicate 'wise' is being used univocally in 'Socrates is wise' and 'God is wise' despite the fact that God but not Socrates is all-wise.
Thus a commitment to univocity appears to be entailed by the Anselmian or perfect-being approach.
The polar opposite of univocity is equivocity. The phenomenon of equivocity is illustrated by this pair of sentences: 'Socrates is wise,' 'Hillary is in no wise fit to be president.' The meaning of 'wise' is totally different across the two sentences. Midway between univocity and equivocity there is analogicity. Perhaps an example of an analogical use of 'wise' would be in application to Guido the mafioso. He's a wise guy; he knows the score; but he is not a wise man like Socrates, though he is like the latter in being knowledgeable about some things. But I mention analogy only to set it aside.
My thesis: an Anselmian approach to God and his attributes such as we find in Alvin Plantinga and T. V. Morris is anthropomorphic. One takes God to have the very same great-making properties that (some) humans have, but to the maximal degree. Socrates is benevolent and merciful; God is omnibenevolent and all-merciful. And so on. In so doing, one approaches God from the side of man, assimilating God to man. God is 'made' in the image and likeness of man, as a sort of superman, but with defects removed and attributes maximized.
Well, what is wrong with anthropomorphism? The problem with it is that it fails to do justice to God's absolute transcendence and ineffability. If the difference between creatures and God is only a matter of degree, then God would not be worthy of worship. He would be "the greatest thing around" and no doubt an object of wonder and admiration, but not an appropriate object of worship. (See Barry Miller, A Most Unlikely God, U. of Notre Dame Press, 1996, p. 3)
God is the Absolute. As such, he is radically other than creatures. His attributes cannot be 'in series' with human degreed attributes even if at the limits of these series. God in not just another thing that exists and possesses properties in the way creatures possess properties.
A subsequent entry will examine the view opposite to that of perfect-being theology, that of negative theology.