It's not hard to understand why many secular people in the West were fascinated by a figure like Fidel Castro. Where religion retreats, political faiths tend to advance to fill the absence of meaning, purpose, authority (yes, people crave that, too). Add a bold, charismatic leader willing to fight – even die – for something? It was the Iliad, Robin Hood, Star Wars, in hip scraggly beards, jungle fatigues, defiantly smoking Cuban cigars.
But why many religious people over decades were taken with the now departed máximo lider is harder to grasp. Vaticanist Sandro Magister has wittily observed: Pope Francis cried at his passing, Patriarch Kirill wept, but among those close to the situation – the Cuban bishops – it’s dry eyes all around.
Over the weekend, Donald Trump bragged in signature style that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Lefties are calling the statement a lie. But it is no such thing. In the typical case, a lie is a false statement made with the intention to deceive. In the typical case, one who lies knows the truth, but misrepresents it to his audience out of a desire to deceive them. But no one knows the truth-value of Trump's braggadocious conditional. It could be true, but neither Trump nor anyone else has any evidence of its truth. Although verifiable in principle, it is not practically verifiable.
When lefties call a statement a lie which is not a lie should we say that they are lying about what it is?
Was Trump exaggerating when he made his remark? That's not right either.
I think what we have here is a species of bullshit in the sense pinned down by a noted philosopher. According to Harry Frankfurt, a statement is bullshit if it is
. . . grounded neither in a belief that it is true nor, as a lie must be, in a belief that it is not true. It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth — this indifference to how things really are — that I regard as of the essence of bullshit." (emphasis added)
Professor Frankfurt has a fine nose for the essence of bullshit. The bullshitter is one who 'doesn't give a shit' about the truth value of what he is saying. He doesn't care how things stand with reality. The liar, by contrast, must care: he must know (or at least attempt to know) how things are if he is to have any chance of deceiving his audience. Think of it this way: the bullshitter doesn't care whether he gets things right or gets them wrong; the liar cares to get them right so he can deceive you about them.
Now if the bullshitter does not care about truth, what does he care about? He cares about himself, about making a certain impression. His aim is to (mis)represent himself as knowing what he does not know or more than he actually knows. Frankfurt again:
. . . bullshitting involves a kind of bluff. It is closer to bluffing, surely than to telling a lie. But what is implied concerning its nature by the fact that it is more like the former than it is like the latter? Just what is the relevant difference here between a bluff and a lie? Lying and bluffing are both modes of misrepresentation or deception. Now the concept most central to the distinctive nature of a lie is that of falsity: the liar is essentially someone who deliberately promulgates a falsehood. Bluffing too is typically devoted to conveying something false. Unlike plain lying, however, it is more especially a matter not of falsity but of fakery. This is what accounts for its nearness to bullshit. For the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony. In order to appreciate this distinction, one must recognize that a fake or a phony need not be in any respect (apart from authenticity itself) inferior to the real thing. What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. It may be, after all, an exact copy. What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made. This points to a similar and fundamental aspect of the essential nature of bullshit: although it is produced without concern with the truth, it need not be false. The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong. (emphasis added)
When did the Age of Bullshit begin in American politics? Perhaps with the inauguration of Bill Clinton. But it really gets underway with Barack Obama. Obama is the shuck-and-jive precursor of Trump. So let's recall some of his antics.
As Frankfurt points out, the essence of bullshit is a lack of concern for truth. But truth and consistency are closely related notions. Two statements are consistent (inconsistent) just in case they can (cannot) both be true. Now I do not know if there are any cases of Obama contradicting himself synchronically (at a time), but there are plenty of examples of him contradicting himself diachronically. He said things as a senator the opposite of which he says now. Victor Davis Hanson supplies numerous examples in Obama as Chaos:
. . . when the president takes up a line of argument against his opponents, it cannot really be taken seriously — not just because it is usually not factual, but also because it always contradicts positions that Obama himself has taken earlier or things he has previously asserted. Whom to believe — Obama 1.0, Obama 2.0, or Obama 3.0?
When the president derides the idea of shutting down the government over the debt ceiling, we almost automatically assume that he himself tried to do just that when as a senator he voted against the Bush administration request in 2006, when the debt was about $6 trillion less than it is now.
The problem here is not merely logical; it is also ethical: the man is not truthful. Truth, falsity, consistency, inconsistency pertain to propositions, not persons. Truthfulness, deceitfulness, lack of concern for truth and consistency -- these are ethical attributes, properties of persons. Obama the bullshitter is an ethically defective president. When Nixon lied, he could be shamed by calling him on it. That is because he was brought up properly, to value truth and truthfulness. But the POMO Obama, like that "first black president" Bill Clinton, apparently can't be shamed. It's all bullshit and fakery and shuckin' and jivin'. There is no gravitas in these two 'black' presidents, the one wholly white, the other half-white. Everything's a 'narrative' -- good POMO word, that -- and the only question is whether the narrative works in the moment for political advantage. A narrative needn't be true to be a narrative, which is why the POMO types like it. Hanson has Obama's number:
But a third explanation is more likely. Obama simply couldn’t care less about what he says at any given moment, whether it is weighing in on the football name “Redskins” or the Travyon Martin trial. He is detached and unconcerned about the history of an issue, about which he is usually poorly informed. Raising the debt ceiling is an abstraction; all that matters is that when he is president it is a good thing and when he is opposing a president it is a bad one. Let aides sort out the chaos. Obamacare will lower premiums, not affect existing medical plans, and not require increased taxes; that all of the above are untrue matters nothing. Who could sort out the chaos?
[. . .]
The media, of course, accepts that what Obama says on any given day will contradict what he has said or done earlier, or will be an exaggeration or caricature of his opponents’ position, or simply be detached from reality. But in their daily calculus, that resulting chaos is minor in comparison to the symbolic meaning of Obama. He is, after all, both the nation’s first African-American president and our first left-wing progressive since Franklin Roosevelt.
In comparison with those two facts, no others really matter.
Here are some notes on Chapter Two, "Natural Norms," of Philippa Foot's Natural Goodness, Oxford UP, 2001.
As I mentioned previously, Foot essays "a naturalistic theory of ethics: to break really radically both with G. E. Moore's anti-naturalism and with the subjectivist theories such as emotivism and prescriptivism that have been seen as clarifications and developments of Moore's original thought." (p. 5)
"The main thesis of this book is that propositions about goodness and defect in a human being -- even those that have to do with goodness of character and action -- are not to be understood in such psychological terms." (37) Her point is that when we evaluate living things, whether plants, animals, or humans, our uses of 'good' do not need to be explained in terms of commendation or any other speech act, or in terms of any psychological attitude. Goodness and defect in living things are intrinsic to them and not parasitic upon attitudes or stances we take up with respect to them.
On to the details.
Earlier we were discussing the peculiarities of generic statements. A generic statement is one that is neither singular nor logically quantifiable. 'The cat is four-legged,' unlike 'The cat is sleeping,' is typically used to express a general not a singular proposition. But 'The cat is four-legged,' typically used, is not equivalent to 'All cats are four-legged' or to any quantified statement. One three-legged cat suffices to falsify the universal quantification, but it does not falsify the generic generalization. The fact that many adult humans lack the full complement of 32 teeth does not falsify the generic 'Adult humans have 32 teeth.' 'Rabbits are herbivorous' is a further example. It would seem to entail 'Some rabbits are herbivorous.' Even so, one is saying much more with an utterance of the former than with the latter.
The following wrinkles now occur to me. If 'some' imports present existence, then the generic 'Velociraptors are carnivorous' does not entail 'Some velociraptors are carnivorous.' But let's not get hung up on this, or on the entailments of the presumably generic 'Unicorns are four-legged.' But we should note, en passant, the presumably different phenomenon of plural predication. 'Velociraptors are extinct' is not about individual velociraptors; it is not equivalent to 'Each velociraptor is extinct.' Presumably, it is the species that is extinct, whatever exactly species are. A species goes extinct when its last specimen expires; but one cannot say that the specimen goes extinct. Assuming that Obama is not a species unto himself, his death will not be his extinction. Compare 'Horses fill the field' with 'Horses are four-legged.' The first is a plural predication; the second is not. It is false that each horse fills the field, but true that each normal horse is four-legged. But both sentences have in common that they are not about each horse.
But I digress. Back to Foot.
Foot, following Michael Thompson, speaks of Aristotelian categoricals. "The deer is an animal whose form of defence is flight" is an example. (34) The sentence is "about a species at a given historical time . . . ." (29) Foot is not assuming the immutability of species. But species must have a "relative stability" if true Aristotelian categoricals are to be possible at all. (29) "They tell us how a kind of plant or animal , considered at a particular time, and in its natural habitat, develops, sustains itself, defends itself, and reproduces." (29)
Foot, stepping beyond Thompson, stresses the teleological aspect of Aristotelian categoricals. "There is an Aristotelian categorical about the species peacock to the effect that the male peacock displays his brilliant tail in order to attract a female during the mating season." (31) Not that the male strutting his stuff has any such telos in mind. The thought here is that there is a teleology in nature that works itself out below the level of conscious mind. The heliotropism in plants is a kind of teleology in nature below the level of conscious mind. Plants 'strive' to get into the light, but not consciously. Migrating birds are not trying to get somewhere warmer with better eats; they do not have this end in view. And yet the migratory operation is teleologically directed. Why do the birds head south? In order to survive the winter, find food, and reproduce.
Can we say of an individual plant or animal that it is intrinsically good or bad independently of our interests or desires? This is the crucial question that Foot answers in the affirmative. Norms are ingredient in nature herself; they are not projected by us or expressive of our psychological attitudes. Ingredient not in all of nature, but in all of living nature. Living things bear within them norms that ground the correctness of our evaluations. Evaluation occurs at "the intersection of two types of propositions: on the one hand, Aristotelian categoricals (life form descriptions relating to the species), and on the other, propositions about particular individuals that are the subject of evaluation." (33)
Foot is bravely resisting the fact-value dichotomy. Values and norms are neither ideal objects in a Platonic realm apart, nor are they psychological projections. They are intrinsically ingredient in natural facts. How does the resistance go? We start with an Aristotelian categorical such as 'The deer is an animal whose form of defence is flight.' The sentence is "about a species at a given historical time . . . ." (29) The individual as a member of its species is intrinsically or naturally good if it is able to serve its species by maintaining itself in existence and reproducing. Note that an individual organism does not reproduce itself; it reproduces (usually in conjunction with an opposite sexed partner) an organism distinct from itself, the offspring Thus an individual's reproduction is quite unlike an individual's self-maintenance. An individual needs ancestors but it doesn't need descendants. The species needs descendants. Now suppose a deer is born with deformed limbs that prevent its engaging in swift flight from predators. This fact about it makes it an intrinsically or naturally bad deer. For such a deer will not be able to serve its species by preserving itself in existence until it can reproduce. That's my gloss, anyway.
The idea, then, is that the species to which the individual organism belongs encapsulates norms of goodness/badness for its members which the individual either meets or fails to meet.
Interim Critical Remarks
A. This naturalistic scheme strikes me as obscure because the status of species has not been sufficiently clarified. Aristotelian categoricals are about species, but what exactly are species or the "life forms of species"? The species peacock presumably exists only in individual peacocks, but is not identical to any such individual or to the whole lot of them. (The species is not an extensional entity such as a mereological sum, or a set.) It looks to be an immanent universal, a one-in-many. But then it is not natural in the very same sense in which an individual peacock is natural, i.e., in space and time at a definite spatiotemporal location, and only there. (Universals are multiply located.) So Foot's natural norms are not natural in the same sense in which the organisms of which they are the norms are natural.
So there still is a fact-norm distinction in the form of the distinction between a member of a species and the species. This whole scheme will remain murky until it is explained what a species is and how it is present in its members. We are in the vicinity of the ancient problem of universals. Foot's norms are not outside of things in a realm apart, not in the mind; they are 'in' things. But what does this 'in' mean exactly?
B. My second remark concerns an individual organism that cannot serve its species such as an infertile human male, or a human female who cannot have children and is therefore biologically defective in this respect. Does her biological defect make her a bad human being? Foot would seem to have to say yes: the defective woman does not come up to the norm for her species. She is abnormal in a normative sense and not merely in a statistical sense. She is not a good woman! How is this any different from the case of the lame deer? A lame deer is a defective deer, hence not a good deer. It is not a good deer because it cannot flee from predators thereby maintaining its life so that it can go on to procreate and serve its species by so doing.
Foot wants to bring normativity down to earth from Plato's heaven; at the same time she wants to extrude it from the mind and install it in natural things outside the mind. This makes plenty of sense with respect to plants and non-human animals. But of course she want to extend her scheme to humans as well. This is where trouble starts.
Foot sees the individual organism in the light of the species: as a specimen of the species and not as an individual in its own right. This is not a problem for plants and non-human animals, with the possible exception of our pets. But Foot wants to extend her natural normativity scheme to humans as well. But how can what I ought to do, and what I ought not to do, and what I should be and how I should be be dictated by my species membership? Am I just an animal, a bit of the world's fauna? I am an animal, but I am also a person: not just a material object in a material world, but a conscious and self-conscious subject for whom there is a world.
Examine a coastal Democratic establishmentarian, and there is little discernable difference in his lifestyle, income, or material tastes from those conservatives (usually poorer) whom he accuses of all sorts of politically incorrect behaviors.
I should think a conservative would want to resist all pointless innovations. The correct spelling points back to the Latin. Leibniz spoke of the identitas indiscernibilium not the identitas indiscernabilium.
I want the link to the Latin maintained out of a sort of salutary piety for our tradition.
This is why I write 'tranquillity' rather than 'tranquility.'
Pedantic punctilios? No doubt, which is why I will not draw my weapon if you disagree.
Now go read Hanson's excellent column which is more important than my picayune points supra.
Finally, Castro’s death and the outpouring of praise from his fans should remind us about the essence of the Cold War: it will never really be over, because it was always more than a geopolitical struggle between two nation-states. It was and is a struggle between those who value the liberty of the individual above all else versus those who embrace utopian dreams of a state than can solve all problems and make everyone happy, as long as the “right people” are in charge.
I pity people who celebrate the life of Fidel Castro in a knee-jerk reaction to salve their consciences for years of having committed themselves to failed and morally bankrupt ideas. They are not ignorant or stupid: they know Castro was a murderous tyrant who built a slave-state and ruined his country and has handed on that legacy to his brother who is even now planning to leave it to their heirs, helped along by the foolish policies of the American president and others in the West who always think their goodwill gestures and magnanimity will bring everyone around to a better way. Pity them or not, however, we cannot absolve them of accommodating the Castro brothers’ crimes.
Imagine having seven pints of your blood forcibly extracted prior to being executed for your political dissent. You are not allowed to face the firing squad with dignity, but murdered while dazed and confused from blood loss. And yet the Left sings the dictator's praises. Here:
Castro’s body count varies depending on who you ask. The Cuba Archive Project has one of the most reliable data sets. The group’s records cover a period from May 1952 to the present. In order to be counted, the stories of each victim must be verified by two independent sources. To date, the Archive attributes some 10,723 deaths to the regime. Including nearly 1,000 deaths linked to “disappearances,” more than 2,000 extrajudicial killings, and over 3,100 people killed by firing squad. Some 100 minor children have been murdered by the regime via beating, the withholding of medical attention, and other methods. In addition to these killings, some 78,000 people are estimated to have died while trying to flee the country.
To those unconvinced by mass murder that Castro was a lamentable dictator, consider his government’s practice of forced blood donation. This can range from taking a person’s blood forcibly without their consent to coercing individuals to offer their blood.
The Cuba Archive has credible information on at least 11 cases of forced blood extraction prior to execution. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of States (OAS) 1967 report regarding the practice at Havana’s La Cabaña prison, an average of seven pints of blood were forcibly taken from prisoners on their way to be executed, causing “cerebral anemia and a state of unconscious paralysis.” (For perspective, the average adult has around 10 pints of blood in their body.) Victims would then be taken to the firing squad on a stretcher.
The Cuban government would then sell the blood to the North Vietnamese for around $50 a pint.
Today, Cubans are required to “donate” blood before even minor medical procedures. Year-round media campaigns encourage citizens to donate in an effort to “save lives.” In reality, the Cuban government has kept up with its history of exporting blood products. According to Cuba’s Oficina Nacionel de Estadísticas (National Office of Statistics), the country exported some $622.5 million—an average of $31 million per year—of blood products between 1995 and 2014. (It’s worth noting that these numbers may very well be understated. Other products made from blood derivatives may not be classified as blood products when exported.)
President Obama welcomed Black Lives Matter activists several times to the White House. He racialized the entire criminal-justice system, repeatedly accusing it of discriminating, often lethally, against blacks. At the memorial service for five Dallas police officers gunned down in July 2016, Obama declared that black parents were right to fear that “something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door”—that the child will be shot by a cop simply for being “stupid.”
Obama put Brittany Packnett, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, on his President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Packnett’s postelection essay on Vox, “White People: what is your plan for the Trump presidency?” is emblematic of the racial demonology that is now core Democratic thinking. Packnett announces that she is “tired of continuously being assaulted” by her country with its pervasive “white supremacy.” She calls on “white people” to “deal with what white people cause,” because “people of color have enough work to do for ourselves—to protect, free, and find joy for our people.”
Packnett’s plaint about crushing racial oppression echoes media darling Ta-Nehesi Coates, whose locus classicus of maudlin racial victimology, Between the World and Me, won a prominent place on Obama’s 2015 summer reading list. Coates has received almost every prize that the elite establishment can bestow; Between the World and Me is now a staple of college summer reading lists.
According to Coates, police officers who kill black men are not “uniquely evil”; rather, their evil is the essence of America itself. These “destroyers” (i.e., police officers) are “merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. This legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies.” In America, Mr. Coates claims, “it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Coates’s melodramatic rhetoric comes right out of the academy, the inexhaustible source of Democratic identity politics. The Democratic Party is now merely an extension of left-wing campus culture; few institutions exist wherein the skew toward Democratic allegiance is more pronounced. The claims of life-destroying trauma that have convulsed academia since the election are simply a continuation of last year’s campus Black Lives Matter protests, which also claimed that “white privilege” and white oppression were making existence impossible for black students and other favored victim groups. Black students at Bard College, for example, an elite school in New York’s Hudson Valley, called for an end to “systemic and structural racism on campus . . . so that Black students can go to class without fear.” If any black Bard student had ever been assaulted by a white faculty member, administrator, or student, the record does not reflect it.
These claims of “structural racism and institutional oppression,” in the words of Brown University’s allegedly threatened black students, overlook the fact that every selective college in the country employs massive racial preferences in admissions favoring less academically qualified black and Hispanic students over more academically qualified white and Asian ones. Every faculty hiring search is a desperate exercise in finding black and Hispanic candidates whom rival colleges have not already scooped up at inflated prices. Far from being “post-racial,” campuses spend millions on racially and ethnically separate programming, separate dorms, separate administrators, and separate student centers. They have created entire fields devoted to specializing in one’s own “identity,” so long as that identity is non-white, non-male, or non-heterosexual. The central theme of those identity-based fields is that heterosexual, white (one could also add Christian) males are the source of all injustice in the world. Speaking on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show in the wake of Trump’s election, Emory philosophy professor George Yancy, author of Look, A White!, called for a nationwide “critique of whiteness,” which, per Yancy, is at the “core side of hegemony” in the U.S.
You shouldn't be. The election result is in part a massive repudiation of the insanity of the Left of which there is new evidence almost every day. A couple of recent examples: The flag incident at Hampshire College; FDNY's hiring of ex-cons for diversity.
Ah yes, Diversity! The goddess before whom the loons of the Left genuflect when they are not genuflecting before that god of diversity, Barack Hussein Obama, the self-diverse apotheosis of diversity, both black and white, he who brought the races together. What a legacy!
This post floats the suggestion that deflationism about truth is inconsistent with relativism about truth. Not that one should be a deflationist. But it would be interesting if deflationism entailed the nonrelativity of truth.
There is a sense in which deflationary theories of truth deny the very existence of truth. For what these theories deny is that anything of a unitary and substantial nature corresponds to the predicate 'true' or 'is true.' To get a feel for the issue, start with the platitude that some of the things people say are true and some of the things people say are not true. People who say that Hitler died by his own hand in the Spring of 1945 say something true, while those who say that no Jews were gassed at Auschwitz say something that is not true. Given the platitude that there are truths and untruths, classically-inclined philosophers will inquire: What is it that all and only the truths have in common in virtue of which they are truths? What is truth? What is the property of being-true?
A deflationist is one who denies that there is any property of truth, or at least, any property of truth robust enough to support a substantive traditional-type inquiry into its nature. Truth is either not a property, or it is a rather 'thin' property about which nothing very interesting can be said. An example of an interesting theory would be one that identifies truth with some epistemic/doxastic property such as warranted assertibility, or rational acceptability, or rational acceptability at the ideal limit of inquiry, or with a relation of coherence among beliefs, or with a relation of correspondence to facts, or with what is conducive to our flourishing (the Jamesian good by way of belief), or with that which enhances the feeling of power, or with what God decides, etc. For the classically-inclined, truth is a deep topic; for the deflationist it is very thin beer.
The deflationist, then, is denying that truth has a unitary and substantial nature into which it would make sense to inquire. There is no Truth with a capital 'T.' Does it follow that the deflationist is committed to relativism about truth? Must he say that there is no such thing as objective correctness?
It seems not. For although the deflationist denies Truth, he need not deny truths. There are truths galore on the views of prominent deflationists; it is just that they have nothing non-linguistic in common in virtue of which they are true. The deflationist tendency is to say that there is no more to Truth than is captured in such equivalences as:
Sentence 'S' (in language L) is true iff S
The proposition that p is true iff p.
One version of deflationism is Quine's disquotationalism according to which the function of the truth-predicate is to remove the quotation marks from a quoted sentence. Thus "'Snow is white' is true" says exactly what 'Snow is white' says, namely, that snow is white. And "'Grass is green' is true" says exactly what 'Grass is green' says, namely, that grass is green. And so on. There is nothing common to these sentences in virtue of which they are true. 'True' is just a device of disquotation; it does not pick out a genuine property.
It is easy to see that there is nothing here that is inconsistent with the absolutness of snow's being white or of grass's being green, etc. What's more interesting is that deflationary theories of truth would seem to rule out alethic relativism. Suppose a Nietzschean maintains that truth is the property of being power-enhancing, a property of those beliefs that enhance the power of the one who holds them. Deflationism rules out this substantive theory of truth along with every other substantive theory of truth. For if deflationism is true, then Truth has no nature; it is in a sense nothing at all. As such, it cannot be identified with the property of being power-enhancing.
This looks to be a general result. For truth to be relative, it would have to be identified with some relative property such as acceptability or rational acceptability, or rational acceptability by some ideally situated cognizers, or whatever. But such an identification could be made only if truth has an analyzable nature. On deflationism, however, truth lacks a nature. So truth on deflationism is non-relative. Indeed, this seems to be a consequence of the above equivalence schemata. For the schemata imply that every proposition, if true, is true simpliciter, which rules out any proposition's being true-for-X, for some relativizing factor X.
To sum up.
No deflationary theory of truth is a substantive theory of truth. All relativistic theories are substantive theories. Ergo, no deflationary theory of truth is a relativistic theory of truth.
I suppose he means something else than that people disagree, also something else than that truth is seldom certain.
b) ... what's the most clear way to criticize R?
BV: (R) is a substantive and highly controversial thesis about the nature of truth. So it is not to be confused with the Moorean fact or datum that different people often have different beliefs about one and the same topic. Nor is it to be confused with any epistemological thesis about the knowledge of truth such as the thesis that nothing is known with certainty. For this latter thesis is consistent with truth being absolute. Fallibilism and absolutism are consistent. And of course, to hold as I do that truth is absolute (nonrelative) is not to hold that every truth is necessary. If a proposition is true, then it is absolutely true whether it is contingent or necessary. No matter how paltry the proposition -- I had gyro meat with my eggs this morning -- if true, then absolutely true.
Note that I would not speak, redundantly, of absolute truth were it not for the mischief caused by those who speak, incoherently, of relative truth. I would simply speak of truth. Truth is truth. There is no such animal as relative truth.
VV: Suppose the alethic relativist is fine acknowledging that, given R,(R1) R itself is a relative truth -- as well as R1 (or any further meta-claim R2, R3, etc.). Once you provided an interesting retort: the alethic relativist "cannot say that ... nonrelativism is only relatively true. If he said that, he would be assuming that relativism is nonrelatively true ..." I don't follow this implication, so I would appreciate your further elaboration.
BV: If (R) is true, then it is either absolutely true or relatively true. If the former, then self-refererential inconsistency and self-refutation. So the relativist is forced to retreat, on pain of inconsistency, to (RR): It is relatively true that every truth is relative. But then I object that this cannot have any general or global application or relevance. "Fine, truth is relative for you and your pals, but this has nothing to do with me, and so I may reasonably ignore your quirky local view."
The point here is that the relative relativist cannot exclude the nonrelativist view: he must admit that it is possible that nonrelativism (NR) be nonrelatively true. But then the relative relativist seems to fall into contradiction inasmuch as he must embrace both limbs of the following inconsistent dyad:
It is possible that (NR) be true in every locality It is impossible that (NR) be true in every locality.
Our relative relativist must embrace the first limb since he cannot logically exclude the possibility of the truth of (NR). And he must embrace the second limb because (NR) and (RR) cannot both be true in the relative relativist's locality.
The relative relativist confuses truth with local understanding. The relative relativist is a slippery fellow. It is not clear what he is up to, though one senses that he is up to no good. Is he simply changing the subject by speaking of local understanding rather than truth? Is he making an eliminativist move by denying that there is truth? Is he trying to reduce truth to local understanding? These are all dead ends.
VV: Also, once you wrote: "The aletheic relativist either asserts his thesis (R) as absolutely true or as relatively true. If the former, his thesis is self-refuting. If the latter, then his thesis avoids self-contradiction only to face a dilemma: either relative-truth is the same as the property of being-believed, or it is not. If the former, then the relativity of truth boils down to an uninteresting triviality. If the latter, then it remains wholly unclear what could be meant by the property of relative-truth, and the thesis (R) perishes of semantic indeterminacy."
What I'm wondering here about is whether the alethic relativist really cannot specify R non-trivially yet consistently.
BV: The following is an uninteresting triviality: one and the same proposition can be believed by one person but not believed by another. Let the proposition be: Hillary lied about Benghazi. Speaking loosely, once could say that theproposition istrue-for Tom but not true-for Chelsea. This sloppy way of talking suggests that to be true = to be believed by someone. Now if the property of being true = the property of being believed by someone, then alethic relativism becomes trivially true.
But the thesis of althetic relativism is not trivially true. So what is truth for the alethic relativist if it is not the property of being believed by someone?
My challenge to the relativist: Tell us what you mean by 'truth' such that truth can be coherently conceived to be relative. If you cannot do this then you have no thesis.
●He turned Cuba into a colony of the Soviet Union and nearly caused a nuclear holocaust.
●He sponsored terrorism wherever he could and allied himself with many of the worst dictators on earth.
●He was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon.
●He brooked no dissent and built concentration camps and prisons at an unprecedented rate, filling them to capacity, incarcerating a higher percentage of his own people than most other modern dictators, including Stalin.
●He condoned and encouraged torture and extrajudicial killings.
●He forced nearly 20 percent of his people into exile, and prompted thousands to meet their deaths at sea, unseen and uncounted, while fleeing from him in crude vessels.
●He claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people.
●He outlawed private enterprise and labor unions, wiped out Cuba’s large middle class and turned Cubans into slaves of the state.
●He persecuted gay people and tried to eradicate religion.
●He censored all means of expression and communication.
●He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.
●He turned Cuba into a labyrinth of ruins and established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people.
●He never apologized for any of his crimes and never stood trial for them.
Paul Manata reminded me of the source of the story about Thales and the servant girl from Thrace.
"Thales was studying the stars and gazing into the sky, when he fell into a well, and a jolly and witty Thracian servant girl made fun of him, saying that he was crazy to know about what was up in the heavens while he could not see what was in front of him beneath his feet." (Theaetetus 174a)
I checked the reference and Paul got it right. He was inspired to provide the quotation upon reading my 'bad drivers' post below.
The whole context surrounding 174a is just marvellous, but then so is all of Plato. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Philosophy is Plato, and Plato philosophy." (I'd better check the quotation!)
Sed Contra sends this from Aristotle's Politics:
The story goes that some people reproached Thales for being poor, on the grounds that it showed his philosophy was useless. But because of his knowledge of the stars, he realized there would be a bumper crop of olives in the following year. So, while it was still winter, he raised a little money and used it to secure all the olive presses in Miletus and Chios for future lease. He got them at a low rate because no one bid against him. When the olive season came, and the demand for olive presses was suddenly very heavy, he was able to sub-lease them at whatever rate he chose. He made a lot of money, thereby showing that philosophers could easily become wealthy if they wished, but that this is not something they care much about. (I.11 1259a)
There is dying, there is being dead, and there is the momentary transition from the one to the other.
While we rightly fear the suffering and indignity of dying, especially if the process is drawn out over weeks or months, it is the anticipation of the moment of death that some of us find horrifying. This horror is something like Heideggerian Angst which, unlike fear (Furcht), has no definite object. Fear has a definite object; in this case the dying process. Anxiety is directed -- but at the unknown, at nothing in particular.
For what horrifies some of us is the prospect of sliding into the state of nonbeing, both the sliding and the state. Can Epicurus help?
If the Epicurean reasoning works for the state of being dead, it cannot work for the transition from dying to being dead. Epicurus reasoned: When I am, death is not; when death is; I am not. So what is there to fear? If death is the utter annihilation of the subject of experience, then, after death, there will be nothing left of me to experience anything and indeed nothing to be in a state whether I experience it or not. Clearly, a state is a state of a thing in that state. No thing, no state.
This reasoning strikes me as cogent. On the assumption that physical death is the annihilation of the person or self, then surely it is irrational to fear the state one will be in when one no longer exists. Again, no thing, no state; hence no state of fear or horror or bliss or anything. Of course, coming to see rationally that one's fear is irrational may do little or nothing to alleviate the fear. But it may help if one is committed to living rationally. I'm a believer in the limited value of 'logotherapy' or self-help via the application of reason to one's life.
I suffer from acrophobia, but it hasn't kept me away from high places and precipitous drop-offs on backpacking trips. On one trip into the Grand Canyon I had to take myself in hand to get up the courage to cross the Colorado River on a high, narrow, and swaying suspension bridge. I simply reasoned the thing out and marched briskly across staring straight ahead and not looking down. But then I am a philosopher, one who works at incorporating rationality into his daily life.
Why then do so many find the Epicurean reasoning sophistical? To Philip Larkin in "Aubade" it is "specious stuff":
This is a special way of being afraid No trick dispels. Religion used to try, That vast moth-eaten musical brocade Created to pretend we never die, And specious stuff that says No rational being Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing That this is what we fear — no sight, no sound, No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with, Nothing to love or link with, The anaesthetic from which none come round.
It seems clear that our boozy poet has failed to grasp the Epicurean reasoning.
Still, there is the moment of death, the moment in which the self helplessly dissolves, knowing that it is dissolving. My claim is that it is this loss of control, this ego loss, that horrifies us. Ever since the sense of 'I' developed in us we have been keeping it together, maintaining our self-identity in and through the crap storm of experience. But at the moment of dying, we can no longer hold on, keep it together. We will want to cling to the familiar, and not let go. This I suggest is what horrifies us about dying. And for this horror the reasoning of Epicurus is no anodyne.
So I grant that there is something quick and specious about the Epicurean cure. If one is rational, it has the power to assuage the fear of being dead, but not the fear of dying, the fear of ego loss.
I consider it salutary to cultivate this fear of dying. It is the sovereign cure to the illusions and idolatries of worldliness. But the cultivation is hard to accomplish, and I confess to rarely feeling the horror of dying. It is hard to feel because our natural tendency is to view everything without exception objectively, as an object. The flow of intentionality is ever outward toward objects, so much so that thinkers such as John-Paul Sartre have denied that there is any subject of experience, any source of the stream of intentionality. (See his The Transcendence of the Ego.)
Everyone knows that one will die; the trick, however is not just to think, but to appreciate, the thought that I will die, this unique subjective unity of consciousness and self-consciousness. This is a thought that is not at home in the Discursive Framework, but straddles the boundary between the Sayable and the Unsayable. My irreducible ipseity and haecceity of which I am somehow aware resists conceptualization. Metaphysics, just as much as physics, misses the true source of the horror of death. For if metaphysics transforms the I or ego into a soul substance, then it transforms it into an object. (Cf. the Boethian objectifying view of the person as an individual substance of a rational nature.) An immaterial object is still an object. As long as I think of myself from the outside, objectively, from a third-person point of view, it is difficult to appreciate that it is I, the first person, this subjective center and source of acts who will slide into nonbeing.
Now we come to "that vast moth-eaten musical brocade," religion, "created to pretend we never die." Although this is poetic exuberance and drunken braggadocio, there is a bit of truth that can be squeezed out of Larkin's effusion. The religious belief in immortality can hide from us the horror and the reality of death. It depends on how 'platonizing' the religion is.
Christianity, however, despite its undeniable affinities with Platonism (as well appreciated by Joseph Ratzinger, the pope 'emeritus,' in Introduction to Christianity), resolutely denies our natural immortality as against what is standardly taken to be the Platonic view. On Christianity we die utterly, and if there is any hope for our continuance, that hope is hope in the grace of God.
Is there then any cure for the horror of death? In my healthy present, my horror is that of anticipation of the horror to come. The real horror, the horror mortis, will be upon us at the hora mortis, the hour of death, when we feel ourselves sliding into the abyss.
In extremis, there is only one cure left, that of the trust of the little child mentioned at Matthew 18:3. One must let oneself go hoping and trusting that one will get oneself back. Absent that, you are stuck with the horror.
Nothing would be more foolish and futile than to take the advice of a different drunken poet, and "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." The dim light of the ego must die to rise again as spirit. In fact, it is the ego in us that 'proves' in a back-handed sort of way that we are spiritual beings. Only a spiritual being can say 'I' and saying it and thinking it isolate himself, distancing himself from his Source and from other finite selves even unto the ultimate Luciferian conceit that one is self-sufficient.
Not everything in the NYT is leftist crap. The new Scorsese effort is based on the novel “Silence,” by Shusaku Endo.
My copy should be arriving today. A tip of the hat to Karl White for informing me of it.
“The novel poses a very profound theological question,” Peter C. Phan, a Jesuit theologian at Georgetown who was born in Vietnam, told me. “The question is this: Are we allowed to do an essentially evil act to obtain a good result?
The attitude of gratitude conduces to beatitude. Can it be said in plain Anglo-Saxon? Grateful thoughts lead one to happiness. However you say it, it is true. The miserable make themselves miserable by their bad thinking; the happy happy by their correct mental hygiene.
Broad generalizations, these. They admit of exceptions, as goes without saying. He who is afflicted with Weilian malheur or clinical depression cannot think his way out of his misery. Don't get hung up on the exceptions. Meditate on the broad practical truth. On Thanksgiving, and every day.
Liberals will complain that I am 'preaching.' But that only reinforces my point: they complain and they think, strangely, that any form of exhortation just has to be hypocritical.Besides not knowing what hypocrisy is, they don't know how to appreciate what actually exists and provably works. Appreciation is conservative. Scratch a liberal and likely as not you'll find a nihilist, a denier of the value of what is, a hankerer after what is not, and in too many cases, what is impossible.
Even the existence of liberals is something to be grateful for. They mark out paths not to be trodden. And their foibles provide plenty of blog fodder. For example, there is the curious phenomenon of hypocrisy-in-reverse.
We need spiritual exercises just as we need physical, mental, and moral exercises. A good spiritual exercise, and easy to boot, is daily recollection of just how good one has it, just how rich and full one's life is, just how much is going right despite annoyances and setbacks which for the most part are so petty as not to merit consideration.
Start with the physical side of your life. You slept well, and a beautiful new day is dawning. Your breath comes easy, your intestines are in order. Your mind is clear, and so are your eyes. Move every moving part of your body and note how wonderfully it works, without any pain to speak of.
Brew up some java and enjoy its rich taste, all the while rejoicing over the regularity of nature that allows the water to boil one more time, at the same temperature, and the caffeine to be absorbed once more by those greedy intercranial receptors that activate the adrenalin that makes you eager to grab a notebook and jot down all the new ideas that are beginning to percolate up from who knows where.
Finished with your body, move to your mind and its wonderful workings. Then to the house and its appliances including your trusty old computer that reliably, day after day, connects you to the sphere of Nous, the noosphere, to hijack a term of Teilhard de Chardin. And don't forget the country that allows you to live your own kind of life in your own kind of way and say and write whatever you think in peace and safety.
A quotidian enactment of something like the foregoing meditation should do wonders for you.
It is called the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Issue date: 15 December 1791. Expiration date: Never.
Motto: Fear the government that fears your guns.
On this Thanksgiving we have much to be thankful for, including the defeat of the mendacious Hillary Clinton who, while paying lip service to the Second Amendment, had every intention of undermining it.
The book arrived yesterday via Amazon and I began reading it this morning. Looks good!
Oxford University Press, 2001. Foot essays "a naturalistic theory of ethics: to break really radically both with G. E. Moore's anti-naturalism and with the subjectivist theories such as emotivism and prescriptivism that have been seen as clarifications and developments of Moore's original thought." (p. 5)
A 36-year-old biological male dominated the women’s division of the El Tour de Tucson last weekend, an annual cycling competition in Arizona that attracts thousands of amateur and professional cyclists.
Jillian Bearden — who identifies as a transgender woman — won the 106-mile race in 4 hours and 36 minutes, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
[. . .]
The International Olympics Committee recently changed its ruled to allow biological men to compete as women without first undergoing a sex-change operation. [emphasis added]
Let me see if I understand this. A biological male, who identifies himself as a woman, is allowed to compete against biological females in an athletic event. Am I missing something? Bear in mind that the competitor in question, at the time of the event, has the standard male 'equipment': he hasn't had a sex change operation. And with that equipment come the sorts of muscles useful for powering a bicycle.
When we conservatives refer to liberals as loons, examples like this are what we have in mind. Don't you have to be unhinged from reality to suppose that a biological male who merely fancies himself a biological female can thereby transform himself into one?
The paradox here is that while biological reality is being denied, it is at the same time being used to gain an unfair advantage over women.
There is a denial of biological reality if you imagine that your being male or female is simply a matter of a free self-construal or self-construction via thoughts and feelings. But it is that very same biological reality which gives the biologically male cyclist who fancies himself a woman the edge over biological females.
How would it be any different if a 25-year-old male runner were to enter a footrace in the 60-70-year-old male division on the ground that he 'identifies' as an old man?
Another paradox is that feminists are typically constructivists; but in a case like this it comes back to bite them. Shouldn't they be howling over the unfairness of a biological male's domination of women in a women's event? But their political correctness has them hamstrung.
What is ultimately at the bottom of all this nonsense? The denial of reality and the substitution for it of various types of constructions, both social-collective and individual. It is a long story.
Catholicism is true enough to provide moral guidance and spiritual sustenance for many, many people. So if you are a lapsed Catholic, you could do far worse than to return to the arms of Holy Mother the Church. And this despite the deep post-Vatican II corruption. Better such a reversion than to persist in one's worldly ways like St. Augustine who, at age 30, confessed that he was "still caught fast in the same mire by a greed for enjoying present things that both fled me and debased me." (Confessions, Bk. 6, Ch. 11, Ryan tr., p. 149)
But if you are a Protestant like Tim McGrew or James Anderson, should you 'swim the Tiber'? Some branches of Protestantism are also good enough and true enough to provide moral guidance and spiritual sustenance. And this despite the problems of Protestantism.
I should think that practice is more important than doctrine. Better to remove the lust from your heart than to write an erudite blog entry about it. The doctrines will always be debated and contested. Does the Incarnation make logical sense? Is it perhaps true whether or not it makes sense to the discursive intellect? We will never know here below.
Would it not be folly to postpone the reform of one's life until one had solved intellectual difficulties that we have good reason to believe cannot be solved in our present state? Orthopraxy trumps orthodoxy. Three elements of Christian orthopraxy: follow the Ten Commandments; avoid the Seven Deadly Sins; try to live by the Two Greatest Commandments.You won't get very far without grace, but the trying may precipitate the grace.
Blacks need to learn from Jews, Italians, the Irish, and others who have faced abuse. Don't whine, don't complain, don't seek a government program. Don't try to cash in on your 'victim' status, when the truth is that you are a 'victim' of liberal victimology. Get the needle out of your arm, and that soul-killing rap noise out of your ears. Listen to the late Beethoven piano sonatas. May I recommend Opus #s 109, 110, and 111? We honkies want you to be successful. And we don't care what color you are. It's not about color anyway. It's about behavior. Work hard, practice the ancient virtues, and be successful. If you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere. Don't let Brother Jesse tell you otherwise. Don't get mad, be like Rudy Giuliani. Can you imagine him making a big deal about being called a greaseball, dago, goombah, wop, guinea . . . ? Do you see him protesting Soprano-style depictions of Italian-Americans as mafiosi?
Lefties like to point out that the college-educated favored Hillary over Trump. But so what? Apart from the STEM disciplines, the colleges and universities of the land have become leftist seminaries, hotbeds of political correctness, and centers of Higher Infantilization. They have strayed far from their original charter.
So of course the college-indoctrinated will favor Hillary the leftist nanny-stater.
Leftists also crow over the fact that Hillary won the popular vote. But again, so what? Lefties congegate in certain densely populated enclaves wherein 'correct' views are enforced and 'incorrect' ones excluded. Most people, being highly suggestible, simply imbibe the circumambient suggestions. Few people form their political and social beliefs by any process of deep study and hard thinking. The more impressionable people crammed into places like San Francisco and New York City, the more leftist group-think. People naturally want to be liked, accepted, and get ahead. They go along to get along.
So how significant is it that Hillary won the popular vote?
But the finally trumping consideration is that our great system of government bequeathed to us by the greatest generation, that of the founders, prescribes that it is the members of the Electoral College, not the populace at large who decide presidential elections.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated 53 years ago today. Here is The Byrds' tribute to the slain leader. They took a traditional song and redid the lyrics. Here Willie Nelson does a great job with the traditional song. You Dylan aficionados will want to give a listen to young Bob's rendition of the old song.
I was in the eighth grade when Kennedy was gunned down. We were assembled in an auditorium for some reason when the principal came in and announced that the president had been shot. The date was November 22, 1963. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was seated behind my quondam inamorata, Christine W. My love for her was from afar, like that of Don Quixote for the fair Dulcinea, but at the moment I was in close physical proximity to her, studying the back of her blouse through which I could make out the strap of her training bra . . . .
Since those far-off and fabulous days of 'Camelot,' we have learned a lot about Kennedy's dark side. But every man has his 'wobble,' and who among us would want to be exposed to the full light of day? He was a boyhood hero of mine, "the intrepid skipper of the PT 109," as I described him in a school essay. My assessment of him has been dialed downward over the years, but there were traces of greatness about him. He was a resolute commie fighter and a lifetime member of the NRA and Second Amendment defender. In those days, a decent, patriotic American could be a Democrat.
And if it weren't for his inspiration we wouldn't have beaten the Evil Empire in the space race.
It was a tale of two nonentities, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. Both were little men who wanted to be big men. Oswald, acting alone, shot Kennedy. Ruby, acting alone, shot Oswald. That is the long and the short of it. For details, I refer you to Bugliosi.
And let's not forget that it was a commie who murdered Kennedy.
. . . the fact that all men feel at ease in philosophy, wishing to dedicate their whole lives to the pursuit of it by leaving behind all other concerns, is in itself weighty evidence that it is a painless pleasure to dedicate oneself wholeheartedly to philosophy. For no one is willing to engage in exhausting work for a long time. (#53, p. 24)
To set the Stagirite straight, I should like to shunt his shade into some Philosophy 101 classroom for a spell.
The National Science Foundation has spent more than $400,000 on a study that published scientific results on the “relationship between gender and glaciers.”
The paper “Glaciers, gender, and science,” published in January 2016, concluded that “ice is not just ice,” urging scientists to take a “feminist political ecology and feminist postcolonial” approach when they study melting ice caps and climate change.
Yet another reason to rejoice and be thankful this Thanksgiving over the defeat of the hilarious Hillary and her Pee Cee ilk. Leftists politicize everything they touch, and they touch everything.
"The object of Parliament," observed Winston Churchill at election time in 1951, "is to substitute argument for fisticuffs."
How's that holding up after November 8th? The object of at least a proportion of those on the streets is to substitute fisticuffs for argument, and indeed for Parliament: The less self-aware even chant "This is what democracy looks like!" - by which they mean not the election but the post-election riots and looting and assaults. Some among these self-proclaimed champions of women and immigrants wish to substitute rape for argument, a cause of such broad appeal that the ideological enforcers at the monopoly social-media cartels breezily permitted the hashtag "Rape Melania" to "trend" on Twitter.
Excellent background to current developments. I may be missing something, but the subtitle seems poorly chosen. 'Toward X,' like the German Zur X,' signals that the author is for X, that he advocates it. But I take it that Gottfried is against secular theocracy. Call me a quibbler and a pedant if you like. A couple of quotations to whet your appetite:
European nation-states have become "feminized" bureaucracies, heavily staffed by women engaged in feminist politics. States no longer talk about heroic pasts nor evoke the kind of national loyalties that had marked them well into the last century. (128)
No doubt, which is why the defeat of Hillary the Feminizer, she who is so concerned for 'the children,' except for the not yet born ones, is such a theme for rejoicing and thanksgiving this Thanksgiving.
The following passage strikes me as prescient by 14 years:
The by now feared populist movements also feature leaders who claim to speak both to and for historical nations or besieged regionalists, against media-administrative elites. A cult of the leader seems inevitably attached to all such movements, partly related to the emphasis they place on circumventing ordinary party politics and enacting plebiscitary democracy. [. . .] Depicting the opponents of populism as "liberal' and the populists as unreconstructed Nazis or fascists is dishonest and misleading. [. . .] the confrontation that has erupted is not between liberals and antiliberals bur between two postliberal concepts of democracy, one, managerial-multicultueal, and the other, plebiscitary national or regional. (122)
It is as if Gottfried saw the face of Donald J. Trump in his crystal ball back in 2002.
Beef is the flesh of a formerly sentient being, a dead cow. And of course beef is edible. For present purposes, to be edible is to be ingestible by mastication, swallowing, etc., non-poisonous, and sufficiently nutritious to sustain human life.
But is everything that is edible food? Obviously not: your pets and your children are edible but they are not food. People don't feed their pets and children to fatten them up for slaughter. So while all food is edible, not everything edible is food.
What then is the missing 'ingredient'? What must be added to the edible to make it food? We must move from merely biological concern with human animals and the nutrients necessary to keep them alive to the cultural and normative. Sally Haslanger: "Food, I submit, is a cultural and normative category." ("Ideology, Generics, and Common Ground," Chapter 11 of Feminist Metaphysics, 192)
This is surely on the right track, though I would add that food is not merely cultural and normative. Food, we can agree, is what it is socially acceptable to eat and/or morally permissible to eat. But food, to be food, must be material stuff ingestible by material beings, and so cannot be in toto a social or cultural construct. Or do you want to say that potatoes in the ground are social constructs? I hope not. Haslanger seems to accept my obvious point, as witness her remark to the effect that one cannot chow down on aluminum soda cans. As she puts it, "not just anything could count as food."(192) No construing of aluminum cans, social or otherwise, could make them edible to humans.
Could it be that certain food stuffs are by nature food, and not by convention? Could it be that the flesh of certain non-human animals such as cows is by nature food for humans? If beef is by nature food for humans, then it is normal in the normative sense for humans to eat beef, and thus morally acceptable that they eat it. Of course, what it is morally acceptable to eat need not be morally obligatory to eat.
Haslanger rejects the moral acceptability of eating beef but I don't quite find an argument against it, at least not in the article under examination. What she does is suggest how someone could come to accept the (to her) mistaken view that it is morally acceptable to eat meat. Given that 'Beef is food' is a generic statement, one will be tempted to accept the pragmatic or conversational implicature that "there is something about the nature of beef (or cows) that makes it food." (192)
For Haslanger, 'Beef is food' is in the close conceptual vicinity of 'Sagging pants are cool' and 'Women wear lipstick.'
Surely there is nothing intrinsic to sagging pants that makes them 'cool': 'coolness' is a relational property had by sagging pants in virtue of their being regarded as 'cool' by certain individuals. It is not in the nature of pants to sag such that non-sagging pants would count as sartorially defective. We can also easily agree that it is it not in the nature of women to wear lipstick such that non-lipstick-wearing women such as Haslanger are defective women in the way that a cat born with only three legs is a defective cat, an abnormal cat in both the normative and statistical senses of 'abnormal.' One can be a real woman, a good woman, a non-defective woman without wearing lipstick.
These fashion examples, which could be multiplied ad libitum (caps worn backward or sideways, high heels, etc.), are clear. What is not clear is why 'Beef is food' and 'Cows are food' are like the fashion examples rather than like such examples as 'Cats are four-legged' and 'Humans are rational.'
Cats are four-legged by nature, not by social construction. Accordingly, a three-legged cat is a defective cat. As such, it is no counterexample to the truth that cats are four-legged. 'Cats are four-legged' is presumably about a generic essence, one that has normative 'bite': a good cat, a normal cat has four legs. 'Cats are four-legged' is not replaceable salva veritate by 'All cats are four-legged.'
Why isn't 'Cows are food' assimilable to 'Cats are four-legged' rather than to 'Sagging pants are cool'? I am not finding an argument. Haslanger denies that "cows are for eating, that beef just is food":
Given that I believe this to be a pernicious and morally damaging assumption, it is reasonable for me to block the implicature by denying the claim: cows are not food. I would even be willing to say that beef is not food. (192)
Beef is not food for Haslanger because raising and slaughtering cows to eat their flesh is an "immoral human practice." But what exactly is the argument here? Where's the beef? Joking aside, what is the argument to the conclusion that eating beef is immoral?
There isn't one. She just assumes that eating beef is immoral. In lieu of an argument she provides a psycholinguistic explanation of how one might come to think that beef is food.
The explanation is that people believe that beef is food because they accept a certain pragmatic implicature, namely the one from 'Beef is food' to 'Beef has a nature that makes it food.' The inferential slide is structurally the same as the one from 'Sagging pants are cool' to 'There is something in the nature of sagging pants that grounds their intrinsic coolness.'
Now it is obvious that the pragmatic implicature is bogus is the fashion examples. To assume that it is also bogus in the beef example is to beg the question.
We noted that not everything edible is food. To be food, a stuff must not only be edible; it must also be socially acceptable to eat it. Food is "a cultural and normative category." (192) But Haslanger admits that "cows are food, given existing social practices." (193) So beef is, as a matter of fact, food. To have a reason to overturn the existing social practices, Haslanger need to give us a reason why eating beef is immoral -- which she hasn't done.
Here is an invited essay of mine at Rightly Considered. I am told that RC is snagging around 2,000 page views per day, which is very good for such a young weblog. It is infuriating all the usual suspects.
My contribution is the first in a series of reflections on the presidential election.
Feeling chagrined at being on the wrong side of history, you Never Trump conservatives could conceivably argue that by 'Never Trump' you just meant that you would never support him in his presidential bid, not that if he became president you would not support or even embrace him.
C.J. F. Williams told me a [Richard] Swinburne story. Swinburne offered to give him a lift to some philosophy conference, but warned him ‘I only drive at 30 miles an hour’. Christopher thought he meant that he strictly abided by the urban 30 mph speed limit, and accepted the lift.
It turned out that Swinburne never ever drove more than 30 mph, even on the freeway, where in the UK the limit is 70 mph. It took a while to get to there.
Slow is not safe on freeways. Swinburne is lucky to have lived long enough to be insulted by the Society of Christian Philosophers.
I have heard rumors to the effect that David Lewis was 'automotively challenged.'
My old friend Quentin Smith didn't drive at all.
One of the reasons that philosophers from Thales on have been the laughingstock of Thracian maids and other members of hoi polloi is that many of them are incompetent in practical matters.
Quentin was just hopeless in mundane matters. The tales I could tell, the telling of which loyalty forbids.
Me? I'm an excellent driver, a good cook, a pretty good shot, competent in elementary plumbing, electrical, and automotive change-outs and repairs, and well-versed in personal finance.
A life well-lived is a balanced life. You should strive to develop all sides of your personality: intellectual, spiritual, artistic, emotional, and physical.
Here is an obituary of C. J. F. Williams by Richard Swinburne.
It came as news to me that Williams spent most of his life in a wheelchair. It testifies to the possibilities of the human spirit that great adversity for some is no impediment to achievement. I think also of Stephen Hawking, Charles Krauthammer, and FDR.
So stop whining and be grateful for what you have. You could be in a bloody wheelchair!
Your blog post "Philosophers as Bad Drivers" brought back to memory a philosophy professor that I had as an undergrad and a story he told us about himself.
Dr. Ken Ferguson (https://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/ugcat/philFaculty.cfm) told us a story one day about his time in one of the branches of the military. While serving, an officer instructed him to move a jeep. Ferguson says he objected and explained to the officer that he simply could not drive. The officer wasn't sympathetic to his excuse and doubled down on his request. Ferguson said that he attempted to follow the orders and ended up wrecking the jeep and some other equipment. He was not asked to drive again.
Ferguson said that he simply does not drive. Multiple times I remember seeing him walking down one of the main streets leading to campus in what I suspect was a distance of at least over two miles in the morning, and while always wearing a full suit at that!
Thanks for the story! Ferguson is a counterexample to the famous Stirling Moss quotation: “There are two things no man will admit he cannot do well: drive and make love.”
One of the reasons philosophy and philosophers get such bad press among the general public is because of the high number of oddballs and incompetents in philosophy. Your former professor mught have had a number of good reasons for never learning how to drive. But I would argue that there are certain things every man ought to know how to do and they include knowing how to drive cars and trucks of various sizes and operate a stick shift. Like it or not, we are material beings in a material world and knowing how to negotiate this world is important for us and those with whom we come into contact.
We should develop ourselves as fully and many-sidedly as possible so as to be worthy acolytes of our noble mistress, fair Philosophia. We represent her to the public.
True, Hillary won the popular vote. But the popular vote is irrelevant. One reason you already know: the President is elected by the members of the Electoral College. The other reason is explained by Jonathan Adler:
In the election concluded Tuesday, Hillary Clinton received more popular votes than Trump. This does not mean, however, that Clinton would necessarily have prevailed in an election that was determined solely by the popular vote. This is because the popular vote total is itself a product of the electoral college system. As a consequence, we do not know what the result would have been under a popular vote system, let alone whether Clinton would have prevailed.
The reason for this is because the electoral college system encourages the campaigns (and their surrogates and allies) to concentrate their efforts on swing states — those states in which the electoral votes are up for grabs — at the expense of those states in which one party or the other has no meaningful chance to prevail. [. . .]
So dry your tears you wimps and wussies of the Hillary brigade. Put away your cuddly toys and accept the defeat you so richly deserved. There is always next time.
Too many labor under the misapprehension that the purpose of the freeway on ramp is merely to get one to the freeway. Not so. It is also a 'safe space' for acceleration so that one can safely merge with freeway traffic.
'One' above refers to the driver-vehicle composite.
Suppose you are behind some old lady tooling along at 35 mph when she should be doing 50-60 in preparation for a smooth merge. You may be tempted to pass her to the left thereby violating the gore lane.
Don't do it. Or else a hefty fine may be in your future.
The old are too cautious. The young are too reckless. These sentences are examples of generic generalizations.
As I often tell you, we all live in our own movies inside our heads. Humans did not evolve with the capability to understand their reality because it was not important to survival. Any illusion that keeps us alive long enough to procreate is good enough.
Adams is telling us either directly or by implication that
a. The ability to understand reality is not important to survival.
b. We don't have this ability because we cannot transcend the "movies inside our heads."
c. Knowledge of truth (understanding of reality) is not necessary for procreation; illusions are good enough for procreation.
d. The foregoing propositions are all true.
I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to show that this is an inconsistent tetrad.
Minervic flights and the consolations of philosophy cannot be enjoyed when the barbarians are at the gates of one's stoa.
Conservatives, especially those of them given to contemplative pursuits, need to make their peace with activism in order to secure and defend the spaces of their quietism. And this with blood and iron if need be.
The owl of Minerva is a tough old bird, but no phoenix capable of rising from its ashes.
And the Left continues to melt down over the election result.
A curious exercise in hyperventilation from the pen of Andrew Sullivan. Here are a couple of gasps:
In the U.S., the [populist] movement — built on anti-political politics, economic disruption, and anti-immigration fears — had something else, far more lethal, in its bag of tricks: a supremely talented demagogue who created an authoritarian cult with unapologetically neo-fascist rhetoric.
Anti-political politics? That's like saying that proponents of limited government are anti-government. To oppose the politics of the Left is not to oppose politics unless the only politics is the politics of the Left -- which is not the case.
Anti-immigration fears? Andy is as mendacious as Hillary. Few conservatives, populist or not, oppose immigration. Conservatives oppose illegal immigration and an immigration policy that does not discriminate between those who share our values and are willing to assimilate, and those who do not and are not. Conservatives hold that immigration must have a net positive benefit for our nation.
That Sullivan elides the distinction between illegal and legal immigration shows that he is intellectually dishonest.
And then there is the endlessly deployed leftist tactic of reducing the political opponent's view to a mere product of emotion, in this case fear. Probably the only effective response to this shabby tactic is to reply in kind. "Look, Sullivan, you are just a hate-America leftist scumbag who wants to undermine the rule of law."
By the way, Trump understands that it does no good to respond to a leftist with a learned disquisition (not that Trump could produce one); he understands with his gut that punching back is far more effective. He understands that the leftist thug will ignore your careful and polite arguments and go right back to name-calling: racist, sexist, homophobe, Islamophobe, bigot, deplorable . . . .
This is now Trump’s America. He controls everything from here on forward. He has won this campaign in such a decisive fashion that he owes no one anything. He has destroyed the GOP and remade it in his image.
This is delusional. How delusional? An army of proctologists in a month of Sundays could not bring Sully's head into the unsullied light of day.
Trump controls everything? False: the Left controls almost all mainstream media outlets, the courts, public education K-12, the universities, and many of the churches. (Think of all the leftist termites in the Catholic Church.)
He won in a decisive fashion? False: he lost the popular vote, a fact the liberal-left crybullies trumpet repeatedly.
He has destroyed the GOP? False: The GOP retained both houses of Congress. The truth is that he destroyed the Dems and the legacy of Obama.
Sully's rant does not get better as it proceeds, as you may verify for yourself.
M.B. of Alexandria, VA writes:
You said: "Trump controls everything? False: the Left controls almost all mainstream media outlets, the courts, public education K-12, the universities, and many of the churches. (Think of all the leftist termites in the Catholic Church.) "
You could add: the federal bureaucracy, most charitable foundations (Rockefeller, Ford, Soros etc), and, not least, the human resources (HR) departments of most corporations, which are now heavily staffed with ideological diversicrats.
Excellent points which I shouldn't have omitted, especially the one about the HR departments of most corporations. Why can't leftists see the extent of leftist control of the culture? Well, why is the fish unaware of the medium that sustains it?
Now half-priced! The perfect complement to the race card. No true liberal leaves home without both. Gives new meaning to 'card-carrying Democrat.' And it secures access to ladies' rooms throughout the land, regardless of the bearer's sex!
Statements divide into the singular and the general. General statements divide into the universal, the particular, and the generic. Generic statements are interesting not only to the logician and linguist and philosopher but also to critics of ideology and conservative critics of leftist ideology critique. For example, leftists will find something 'ideological' about the generic 'Women are nurturing' whereas conservatives will hold that the sentence expresses the plain truth and that some sort of obfuscation and chicanery is involved when leftists deny this plain biologically-based truth and try to tie its very meaning to the legitimation and preservation of existing power relations in society.
In this entry, perhaps the first in a series, I confine myself to presenting examples of generic statements and to giving a preliminary exegesis of the linguistic data, noting some features of generic generalizations, and some philosophical questions that arise.
Examples of Generic Statements
Some of the examples are my own, some are culled from the literature. Some of the following are true, some false, and some politically incorrect. Trigger Warning! All girly girls and pajama boys out of the seminar room and into their safe spaces! Uncle Bill will visit you later with milk and cookies and cuddly animals.
Dutchmen are good sailors. (Arnauld)
Germans are industrious.
Jews are very intelligent.
Chickens lay eggs.
Germans make better soldiers than Italians.
Cigars are what Bill smokes these days.
Men are taller than women.
Blacks are more criminally prone than whites.
Priests don't ride motorcycles.
Reducing taxes leads to increased economic growth.
Turks are hospitable.
Turks are very bad drivers.
Analytic philosophers do not know the history of philosophy very well.
Humanities departments are lousy with leftists.
The dodo is extinct.
Schockley invented the transistor.
The lion has a mane.
Blacks are not good at deferring gratification.
Conservatives are racists.
Women are nurturing and better with children.
Fred drinks wine with dinner.
The potato is highly digestible.
Some Features of Generic Statements
One obvious feature of generic statements is that they are not replaceable either salva veritate or salva significatione by either universal or particular quantified statements. It is true that Germans are industrious, but false that all are. That some are is true, but 'Some Germans are industrious' does not convey the sense of 'Germans are industrious.' The generic and the particular generalization agree in truth value but differ in sense.
In a vast number of cases, if I assert that the Fs are Gs I do not mean to endorse the corresponding universal generalization. No doubt birds fly, but it is false that all birds fly: the penguin is a bird, but it doesn't fly. And I know that. So if I say that birds fly, you can't refute me by bringing up the penguin. And if I say that Italians and those of Italian extraction are frugal and masters of personal finance, which is manifestly true, you cannot refute me by bringing up your cousin Vinny, the spendthrift of Hoboken. The same goes for 'Humanities departments are lousy with leftists.' 'Chickens lay eggs' has the interesting property that all the roosters strutting around in the world's barnyards cannot counterexample it into falsehood.
It is interesting to note that one can make a generic statement (express a generic proposition) using a sentence with 'all' or 'every.' My example: Omnis homo mendax. 'Every man is a liar.' An assertive utterance of this sentence in normal contexts expresses the proposition that people lie, not the proposition that all people lie. Or if someone says, unguardedly, or Trumpianly, 'All politicians are crooks,' he won't be fazed if you point out that the late Patrick Daniel Moynihan was no crook. The speaker may have engaged in a hasty generalization, but then again he may have intended a generic statement.
On the other hand, we sometimes omit the universal quantifier even though the proposition we intend to express is a universal quantification. An assertive utterance of 'Arguments have premises' intends Every argument has premises. The possibility of counterexamples is not countenanced. Contrast this with the generic 'Chickens lay eggs' which is plainly true even though only hens lay eggs.
'Arguments have premises' is non-generic and elliptical for 'All arguments have premises.' But what about 'Men are mortal'? Is it replaceable salva significatione with 'All men are mortal'? Perhaps not, perhaps it is a generic statement that admits of exceptions, as generics typically do. After all, Christ was a man but he was not mortal inasmuch as he was also God.
A clearer example is 'Man is bipedal.' This cannot be replaced salva veritate by 'All men are bipedal' since the latter is false. Nor can it be replaced salva significatione by 'Some man is bipedal, which, though plainly true, is not what 'Man is bipedal' means. And the same holds for translations using the quantifiers 'many' and 'most' and 'almost all.'
We are tempted to say that 'Man is bipedal' by its very sense cannot be about individual humans, whether all of them, most of them, many of them, or some of them, but must be about a common generic essence that normal, non-defective humans instantiate. But how could this be? No generic essence has two feet. It is always only an individual man that has or lacks two feet. Here, then, is one of the philosophical puzzles that arise when we think about generic statements. It is the problem of what generic statements are about, which is not to be confused with the question whether they have truth makers.
And then there is 'Man is a rational animal.' Let us agree that to be rational is either to possess the capacity to reason or to possess the second-order capacity to develop this first-order capacity. Aristotle's dictum is true, while 'All humans are rational animals' is false. So Aristotle's dictum is a generic sentence that cannot be replaced by a quantified sentence. It is false that all humans are rational animals because an anencephalic human fetus, while obviously human (not bovine, canine, etc.), having as it does human parents, is not rational in the sense defined.
And of course we cannot replace 'Man is a rational animal' with 'Most men are rational animals.' For the dictum plainly intends something like: it the nature or essence of man to be rational. What then is the dictum about? If you tell me that it is about the generic essence man, then I will point out the obvious: no abstract object reasons, is capable of reasoning, or has the potentiality to acquire the power to reason.
Some philosophers hold that every truth has a truth-maker. What then are the truth-makers for the vast class of true generics? Do they have any?
Panayot Butchvarov, Anthropocentrism in Philosophy: Realism, Antirealism, Semirealism, de Gruyter, 2015, Chapter 8, "Generic Statements," pp. 151-168.