« Schadenfreude | Main | Friday the 13th Cat Blogging! »

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thanks for the link. The questions you raise require detailed treatment beyond the scope of a comments box. I agree "The issues here are much trickier than one might suspect."

In the novel War and Peace, Tolstoy claims that Prince Andrey Nikolayevich (a fictional character) is adjutant to someone called ‘Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov’. Wikipedia says that Kutuzov was a ‘real-life Russian general’. Is that correct? Should it not have said that Kutuzov was just another character in the book? In which case, why do we say it is a ‘historical novel’, as opposed to The Lord of the Rings, which contains no element of history whatsoever? I agree of course that Kutuzov had no such person as adjutant. Tolstoy clearly invented that element of Kutuzov’s career.

Sherlock Holmes famously shoots the initials of Queen Victoria in the wall in his room, presumably after injecting too much cocaine. Did he shoot the initials of a another fictional character? Is it true to say he lived in the same city as me, or is London a fictional city too? There are apparently many problems with your position here.

The Victoria example is a parallel to the Deus problem. Is Conan Doyle making a false assertion about Queen Victoria (in that one of her subjects, a detective called ‘Holmes’ shot her initials on the wall of his apartment, or an assertion about someone else, who he falsely suggests was the British monarch of that time? Clearly only one of them could have been monarch at that time, just as the monotheistic God can be the only god for any time.

Apologies if this example has come up before but it does seem apropos.

Suppose Harry worships Hesperus conceived as the heavenly body that's visible only at dusk, and Phil worships Phosphorus conceived as the heavenly body visible only at dawn. Do Harry and Phil worship the same thing? Yes, because they both worship Venus. No, because their conceptions of their object of worship are mutually exclusive.

Ed,

I can't see that you have made any attempt to understand what I said above. This fact absolves me of the duty to puzzle over your comments beyond the puzzling I have already engaged in.

Quite honestly I didn't understand what you wrote, although I repeatedly read it. I think you agree that when Tolstoy uses the name 'Napoleon', he is referring to Napoleon, yes? The alternative view is that, as used by Tolstoy, it refers to a character in a work of fiction. I.e. there is no such person as Napoleon, qua character in the book War and Peace.

I am not sure which of these you mean.

I read this a fourth time and can still make no sense of it.

You say that Aquinas and Spinoza are referring to the same Biblical character (i.e. the character that Aquinas calls ‘God’ and the character that Spinoza calls by the same name, are numerically identical). But you say immediately afterwards that they are not referring to the same ‘really existent persons’. This suggests, indeed logically implies that the Biblical character of God is not the same as the really existent God. For if they were one and the same, and if they are referring to the same biblical character, they must also be referring to the same ‘divine reality’.

Can you not see why I am struggling?

Ed,

A character in a narrative may or may not exist in reality. Three cases. Sherlock, a character in the Conan Doyle stories, does not exist in reality. He is purely fictional. Paul Morphy exists in reality but is also a character in an historical novel. Noah is a character in the OT who may or may not exist in reality.

I hope you won't deny that there is an OT character named 'Yahweh.' Does Spinoza think that Yahweh exists in reality? No. Does Aquinas? Yes. Clearly they are talking about the same Biblical character, but only one of them thinks that this character exists in reality.

>>Does Spinoza think that Yahweh exists in reality? No. Does Aquinas? Yes. Clearly they are talking about the same Biblical character, but only one of them thinks that this character exists in reality.<<

Totally agree with this. What I don’t follow is the claim in the post that ‘their conceptions of God are so different that they cannot be said to be referring to the same being in external reality’.

You seem to be contradicting yourself. You say (1) that they are referring to the same biblical character but (2) they are not referring to the same being in external reality. Let the biblical character be A. Then from (1) it follows Aquinas is referring to A and Spinoza is referring to A. Now suppose that Yahweh exists in reality. Then A exists in reality, and Spinoza, whether he believes it or not, is referring to A. So they are referring to the same being in external reality.

I plead innocent to the charge of contradiction.

I am suggesting that one can talk about a Biblical character qua Biblical character while bracketing the question whether anything in reality corresponds to the character. The character Yahweh in the OT has all and only the properties assigned to him in that narrative; but what corresponds to this character in reality has many more properties and perhaps not all the properties he has in the narrative. So two philosophers can talk about the same character without referring to the same item in external reality.


So there is a sense in which Jew, Christian and Muslim all refer to the same God: they are referring to the same Biblical character even though in reality there is no one deity answering to the three different conceptions of God that we find in the three religions.

>>I am suggesting that one can talk about a Biblical character qua Biblical character while bracketing the question whether anything in reality corresponds to the character.<<
I agree. However, if

1. You are talking about A
2. I am also talking about A
3. A exists in external reality

then it follows that you and I are talking about the same character in external reality. I agree that if A doesn’t exist in external reality then we are not referring to the same item in external reality, but that is because there is no such item in external reality.

>>So there is a sense in which Jew, Christian and Muslim all refer to the same God: they are referring to the same Biblical character even though in reality there is no one deity answering to the three different conceptions of God that we find in the three religions.<<

When you write ‘different conceptions of God’, do you mean different conceptions of the biblical character, or different conceptions of something else? I suspect the latter.

>>The character Yahweh in the OT has all and only the properties assigned to him in that narrative; but what corresponds to this character in reality has many more properties and perhaps not all the properties he has in the narrative.<<

This is also problematic. Is the entity that ‘corresponds to this character [Yahweh] in reality’ numerically identical with Yahweh? In that case, Yahweh = Yahweh-in-reality, and how can one have more (or different) properties than the other?

I think my original response to your post was correct. Tolstoy says things about the Napoleon character in War and Peace. Who is it that corresponds to the Napoleon character in reality? Napoleon of course. Are you saying that Napoleon in War and Peace has all and only the properties assigned to him in that narrative? Are you saying that Napoleon in reality has many more properties and perhaps not all the properties he has in the narrative? I reply: Tolstoy was writing about Napoleon, the guy who ruled the French and invaded Russia and occupied Moscow etc. Otherwise it is not a historical novel.

>> Is the entity that ‘corresponds to this character [Yahweh] in reality’ numerically identical with Yahweh?<<

No.

Don't you distinguish between an historical NOVEL and a factual historical account?

We'll have to come back to this later.

>>Don't you distinguish between an historical NOVEL and a factual historical account? We'll have to come back to this later.<<

1. Historical novels include characters who are wholly fictional (Bezuhov), but also characters who really did exist (Napoleon). A ‘factual historical account’ will purport to include only the ones who really did exist.

2. The notion of ‘factual historical account’ is of course problematic, given much of early history is embroidered and embellished. The Old Testament kings going back to the Babylonian exile seem to have actually existed, but once we go further back past about the 8th century BC, scholars have expressed increasing doubts. E.g. did King David ever exist? Did Moses ever exist? How do you distinguish between the factual bits of the history and the more ‘imaginative’ bits?

3. It also seems you are assuming that Yahweh is a fictional character, no? Much of the bible was intended as a pure historical account, as a history of the people of Israel, of their leaders, prophets and kings, and of course their God. Why shouldn’t a supernatural figure feature in the history of a people? Or are you assuming that only ‘naturalist’ accounts are appropriate to history? I put ‘naturalist’ in scare quotes because Spinoza is a naturalist, and thinks that the natural unfolding of history includes the involvement of God. Of course he has a very special understanding of ‘God’, but you know what I mean.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Google Search Engine

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 10/2008

Categories

Categories

March 2017

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  
Blog powered by Typepad