Robert Paul Wollf here replies with wit and lefty snark to a charming request by one Pamela N., a personal assistant, who wants to know who Immanuel Kant is referring to when he writes, "Caius is a man; man is mortal; therefore, Caius is mortal." Pamela confesses,
I will admit, I have not read Kant's works. I have, however, spent the last couple of hours combing through post after post after post about this particular quote from the book and cannot find a single soul who would say who they think Caius is.
In reading these many posts, I have come to the conclusion that Kant is probably referring to Pope Caius as he has been venerated by the Catholic Church as a Saint. Given that title, and the fact that Saint's [sic] are given to [sic] a quasi-immortal status [sic], I have ascertained that this is who Kant is most likely referring to. My question for you is, do you think that my assumption is correct? or do you have a deeper insight into who he is referring to?
Last night on The O'Reilly Factor, the sharpest comedian out there uncorked the following:
He makes Narcissus look like he invented self-effacement.
In battling the Left, it is not enough to have facts, logic, and moral decency on one's side; one must turn their own Alinsky tactics against them by the use of mockery, derision, contumely, and all the weapons of invective to make them look stupid, contemptible, and uncool. For the young especially, the cool counts for far more than the cogent. This is why the quintessentially cool Miller is so effective. People of sense could see from the outset that the adjunct law professor and community organizer, associate of former terrorist Bill Ayers and the 'reverend' Jeremiah Wright, raised on leftist claptrap and bereft of experience and knowledge of the world, would prove to be a disaster as president -- as he has so proven, and as even Leon Panetta the other night all but admitted. But Obama came across as a cool dude and that endeared him to foolish voters.
Civility is a prized conservative virtue, and one wishes that such tactics would not be necessary. But for leftists politics is war, and it is the foolish conservative who fails to see this and persists in imagining it to be a gentlemanly debate on common ground over shared interests. Civility is for the civil, not for its enemies.
Some time ago I heard Miller quip, in reference to Melissa Harris-Perry, that
She is a waste of a good hyphen.
A nasty thing to say, no doubt, but not as nasty as the slanderous and delusional things she had to say about the supposedly racist overtones of the word 'Obamacare.'
Conservatives should not allow themselves to be hobbled by their own civility and high standards. As one of my aphorisms has it:
I was one of those who saw "Last Tango in Paris" when it was first released, in 1972. I haven't seen it since and I don't remember anything specific about it except one scene, the scene you remember too, the 'butter scene,' in which the Marlon Brando character sodomizes the Maria Schneider character. In a post from February, 2011 written on the occasion of her death, I had this to say:
Islamic culture is in many ways benighted and backward, fanatical and anti-Enlightenment, but our trash culture is not much better. Suppose you are a Muslim and you look to the West. What do you see? Decadence. And an opportunity to bury the West.
If Muslims think that our decadent culture is what Western values are all about, and something we are trying to impose on them, then we are in trouble. They do and we are.
This brings me to the Jewish comedienne Joan Rivers who died recently at the the age of 81. No conservative can celebrate her life and influence without qualification. For she played a role in making our culture cruder and trashier. By how much? I'll leave that for you to ponder. And of course the comediennes among her admirers will take it, and have taken it, further still, and without the curbs on excess deriving from her education and upbringing.
That being said, conservatives of my stripe defend her right to free speech as against both the Islamists and their leftist enablers who have shown time and again that they have no interest in free speech except insofar as it politically correct free speech.
One of the ironies of the present day is that we conservatives are the 'new liberals,' 'liberal' being used in the good, old-fashioned sense to mean a person who champions toleration.
But of course you must never forget that toleration has limits. Ought one tolerate those who do not respect the principle of toleration? Of course not. If toleration is truly a value, then one ought to demand it not only of oneself but of others. My toleration meets its limit in your intolerance. I cannot tolerate your intolerance, for if I do, I jeopardize the very principle of toleration, and with it the search for truth.
Radical Islam, in its fanaticism and murderous intolerance, has no claim on the West's tolerance. It is no breach of tolerance on our part to demand that they behave themselves. We must also demand of them that if they want to be tolerated, they must tolerate others, Jews for example. They must not be allowed to benefit from the West's tolerance in order to preach intolerance and hate. Just as they have a right to their beliefs, we have a right to ours, and a right to enforce our beliefs about toleration on them if they would live in our midst.
Toleration is a value because truth is a value. A toleration worth wanting and having is therefore not to be confused with indifference towards truth, or relativism about truth. The great Leszek Kolakowski makes this point very well:
It is important to notice, however, that when tolerance is enjoined upon us nowadays, it is often in the sense of indifference: we are asked, in effect, to refrain from expressing -- or indeed holding -- any opinion, and sometimes even to condone every conceivable type of behaviour or opinion in others. This kind of tolerance is something entirely different, and demanding it is part of our hedonistic culture, in which nothing really matters to us; it is a philosophy of life without responsibility and without beliefs. It is encouraged by a variety of philosophies in fashion today, which teach us there is no such thing as truth in the traditional sense, and therefore that when we persist in our beliefs, even if we do so without aggression, we are ipso facto sinning against tolerance.
This is nonsense, and harmful nonsense. Contempt for truth harms our civilization no less than fanatical insistence on [what one takes to be] the truth. In addition, an indifferent majority clears the way for fanatics, of whom there will always be plenty around. Our civilization encourages the belief that everything should be just fun and games -- as indeed it is in the infantile philosophies of the so-called 'New Age.' Their content is impossible to describe, for they mean anything one wants them to; that is what they are for. ("On Toleration" in Freedom, Fame, Lying, and Betrayal, Penguin 1999, pp. 36-37.)
Lincoln and Obama share the Illinois connection. There the similiarity ends. And the Maureen Dowd parody begins:
FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago, our forecaddies brought forth on this continent a new playground, conceived by Robert Trent Jones, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal when it comes to spending as much time on the links as possible — even when it seems totally inappropriate, like moments after making a solemn statement condemning the grisly murder of a 40-year-old American journalist beheaded by ISIL.
I am critical of giving feminism and race the extra attention and insulation from criticism that comes from designating these topics as “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy.” Given that it’s considered impolitic to criticize “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy,” we should vigorously debate what deserves to be considered as such. Knowledge, ethics, and being-qua-being deserve that distinction. It’s not obvious that feminism and race do.
As many suspected, I am an expert in neither philosophy of race nor feminist philosophy. I need not be. One could have principled reservations about a discipline called “conservative studies” without being an Edmund Burke scholar. If you know that conservatism is a position in political philosophy, you might reasonably think it shouldn’t also be a discipline unto itself.
That is essentially the point I’m pressing against feminism as a sub-discipline of philosophy. Let feminism be discussed alongside conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, fascism, and socialism in political-philosophy classes. Why must feminism, alone among these “isms,” also have its own brand of epistemology, ethics, literary theory, and biology? I doubt feminists would tolerate libertarian counterparts to any of these.
I think Case is making two logically distinct points here, points that ought to be explicitly distinguished.
The first is that, just as conservatism is not a philosophical subdiscipline unto itself, neither should feminism be. The second is that, whether or not feminism is its own subdiscipline, it is dubious to suppose that it entails its own epistemology, ethics, and ontology.
The second point invites parody. If Jewish philosophy implied its own epistemology, etc., what would that look like?
Jewish epistemology: Your mother has privileged access. Jewish ethics: ‘can’ implies ‘don't.' Jewish logic: if not p, what? q maybe? Jewish decision theory: maximize regret.
What principles would a feminist ontology include? That male entities are entia non grata? That they are unnecessary posits? I am tempted to make further jokes about razors and nomological danglers, but I'll leave that to the reader.
Surprisingly, Brian Leiter adopts a civil tone in his discussion of Case. Perhaps the taste of his own medicine administered by me and others has had a salutary effect on him.
Philosophers should be sure to avail themselves of the Transcendental Deduction this year as it has been substantially increased, the truculent opposition of the NRA (National Realist Association) notwithstanding. But to take the deduction philosophers will need the Platonic Form. Be advised that attempts to copy the Platonic Form have been known to cause the dreaded glitch commonly referred to as the Third (Tax) Man.
George Bush, Queen Elizabeth, and Putin all die and go to hell.
While there, they spy a red phone and ask what the phone is for. The devil tells them it is for calling back to Earth. Putin asks to call Russia and talks for 5 minutes. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is a million dollars, so Putin writes him a check.
Next Queen Elizabeth calls England and talks for 30 minutes. When she is finished the devil informs her that the cost is 6 million dollars, so she writes him a check.
Finally George Bush gets his turn and talks for 4 hours. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is $5.00. When Putin hears this he goes ballistic and asks the devil why Bush got to call the USA so cheaply. The devil smiles and replies, "Since Obama took over, the country has gone to hell, so it's a local call."
Here is part of a sentence I encountered in an article on mid-life suicide: "When Liz Strand’s 53-year-old friend killed herself two years ago in California, her house was underwater and needed repairs, she had a painful ankle that was exacerbated by being overweight . . ."
But if one's house were underwater, one could just swim from room to room. How then could being overweight exacerbate ankle pain?
A house fit for normal human habitation cannot be literally underwater. But it can be 'underwater,' i.e., such that the mortgagee owes more to the mortgager than the house is worth.
The marks signify a semantic stretch unto a sneer. This is not a case of mentioning the word 'city,' but of using it, but in a extended sense. Had old Koch said that, he would have been suggesting that Boston is a city in a merely analogical or even equivocal sense of the term as compared to the city, New York City.
3. So the third use of single 'quotation' marks is the semantically stretching use. The sentence I just wrote illustrates it inasmuch as this use of 'quotation' marks does not involve quotation, nor does it involve mentioning a word as opposed to using it.
This is a much trickier topic than you might think, and I can go on. You hope I won't, and in any case I don't feel like it. But I can't resist a bit of commentary on this example from the blog cited above:
This might just be an example of a misuse of 'quotation' marks. But it could be a legitimate use, an example of #3 above. They want your excrement.
If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, italicize, or bold, or underline it. Don't surround it with 'quotation' marks. Or, like Achmed the Dead Terrorist, I kill you!
You've heard of Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, and the 'white-Hispanic' George Zimmerman whose nomen has proven to be one bad omen indeed. (Would we have heard about him at all had his name been Jorge Ramirez?)
Permit me to introduce you to Jára Cimrman whose Czech surname, if I am not badly mistaken, is pronounced like 'Zimmerman' when the latter is pronounced as it is in German.
Cimrman is quite a character with many noteworthy accomplishments to his credit. One of them is authorship of the philosophy of non-existentialism. As one reputable source has it:
Long before anyone had heard about Camus or Sartre, in 1886, Cimrman wrote pieces like 'The Essence of the Existence', which became the basis for his "Cimrmanism" philosophy, also referred to as "non-existentialism" (the main premise of this philosophy is that: "Existence cannot not exist").
But if truth be told, this Cimrman is a plagiarist. He stole the idea from me! In Does Existence Itself Exist? I defend the thesis that existence does indeed exist, and necessarily. The despicable Cimrman passed off my idea as his own and tried to hide his crime by packaging my thesis under the verbally different but logically equivalent 'Existence cannot not exist' He then falsely claimed to have developed his theory in 1886 long before my birth.
Apparently, the online magazine Slate will no longer be referring to the Washington Redskins under that name lest some Indians take offense. By the way, I take offense at 'native American.' I am a native Californian, which fact makes me a native American, and I'm not now and never have been an Indian.
But what about 'guinea pig'? Surely this phrase too is a racial/ethnic slur inasmuch as it suggests that all people of Italian extraction are pigs, either literally or in their eating habits. Bill Loney takes this (meat) ball and runs with it.
And then there is 'coonskin cap.' 'Coon' is in the semantic vicinity of such words as: spade, blood, spearchucker, spook, and nigger. These are derogatory words used to refer to Eric Holder's people. In the '60s, southern racists expressed their contempt for Martin Luther King, Jr. by referring to him as Martin Luther Coon. Since a coonskin cap is a cap made of the skin of a coon, 'coonskin cap' is a code phrase used by creepy-assed crackers to signal that black folk ought to be, all of them, on the wrong end of a coon hunt.
'Coonskin cap' must therefore be struck from our vocabulary lest some black person take offense.
But then consistency demands that we get rid of 'southern racist.' The phrase suggests that all southerners are racists. And we must not cause offense to the half-dozen southerners who are not racists.
But why stop here? 'Doo wop' is so-called because many of its major exponents were wops such as Dion Dimucci who was apparently quite proud to be a wop inasmuch as he uses the term five times in succession starting at :58 of this version of 'I Wonder Why' (1958). The old greaseball still looks very good in this 2004 performance. Must be all that pasta he consumes.
I could go on -- this is fun -- but you get the drift, unless you are a stupid liberal.
There is an old joke that goes "the Anglo-Saxon philosopher will accuse the continental of being insufficiently clear, while the continental philosopher accuses the Anglo-Saxon of being insufficiently."
The members of the philosophy department were so convinced by the lecturer's case against personal identity that they refused to pay him his honorarium on the ground that the potential recipient could not be the same person as the lecturer. This from a piece by Stanley Hauerwas:
It is by no means clear to me that I am the same person who wrote Hannah's Child. Although philosophically I have a stronger sense of personal identity than Daniel Dennett, who after having given a lecture to a department of philosophy on personal identity, was not given his honorarium. The department refused to give him his honorarium because, given Dennett's arguments about personal identity, or lack thereof, the department was not confident that the person who had delivered the lecture would be the same person who would receive the honorarium.
That has to be a joke, right? It sounds like the sort of tall tale that Dennett would tell.
My understanding of character, which at least promises more continuity in our lives than Dennett thinks he can claim, does not let me assume that I am the same person who wrote Hannah's Child. I cannot be confident I am the same person because the person who wrote Hannah's Child no doubt was changed by having done so. While I'm unable to state what I learned by writing the book, I can at least acknowledge that I must have been changed by having done so.
Hauerwas is confusing numerical and qualitative identity. Yes, you have been changed by writing your book. No doubt about it. Does it follow that you are a numerically different person than the one who wrote the book? Of course not. What follows is merely that you are qualitatively different, different in respect of some properties or qualities.
Perhaps there is no strict diachronic personal identity. This cannot be demonstrated, however, from the trivial observation that people change property-wise over time. For that is consistent with strict diachronic identity.
In the off-chance that you haven't had an occasion to bust your gut over Jeff Dunham's ventriloquy, check this out.
Mockery and derision are important weapons in the culture war. It is not enough to argue rigorously and patiently against the liberal-left enablers and apologists of radical Islam. Also needed is to make them and their clients look stupid. The young are more impressed by the cool than the cogent.
What the hell's going on in Florida? The other day an oven shot a woman, and now a dog has shot a man, with an 'unloaded' gun no less.
Tragedies like these show the need for Dog Control. Members of the Dog Lobby such as Duane LaRufus of the National Hound Association will scream in protest, but moral cretins like him and Leroy Pooch of Dog Owners of America are nothing but greedy shills for the Canine Industrial Complex. They routinely oppose all sensible Dog Control measures. Follow the money!
Reason dictates that all dogs must be kept muzzled at all times, and when transported in a vehicle containing a gun, must be kept securely locked in the trunk. Assault dogs, whose only purpose is to kill and maim, such as Doberman Ass Biters and Pit Bulls, must be banned. Such breeds are inherently evil and no one ouside of law enforcement and the military has any business owning them. Food magazines for all breeds must be kept strictly limited lest any dog become too rambunctious. Dog owners should be 'outed' and their names published in the paper. Special taxes must be levied on all things canine to offset the expenses incurred by society at large in the wake of the rising tide of dog violence.
Such reasonable measures will strike extremists as draconian, but if even one life can be saved, then they are justified. We must do something and we must do it now so that tragedies like the one in Florida never happen again.
Here: "POLICE chiefs have banned IT staff from using the word blacklist over fears it is RACIST." (Via VFR)
This sort of thing is insane, of course. And so I suspect that to argue against it is foolish: it only lends credibility to a view that ought to be mocked and derided.
But I do argue it out here. One late-night comic lampooned the 'crispy critter' tanning lady (who brought her child into the tanning booth with her) by saying that the she is so dark it's racist! That's the way to go. You PeeCee liberals are so stupid it's racist! What is the antecedent of the last two occurrences of 'it'? Don't worry, we be in PeeCee land now. We don't need to talk no sense.
Cosmologists are going to have to be careful what with their talk of black holes. Someone might take that as 'code' for 'black ho' a phrase that in PeeCee logic (and no, I'm not talking about the propositional calculus) implies that all black females are whores.
Modernist to medievalist: Medieval philosophy is substance abuse!
Medievalist to modernist: Modern philosophy is self abuse!
(And that reminds me of a marginalium Schopenhauer inscribed into his copy of Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre: Onanie! (onanism) Wissenschaftslehre translates as Theory of Science. Schopenhauer, however, referred in print to Fichte's book as Wissenschaftsleere, which sounds the same but translates as Empty of Science.
If Schopenhauer had a blog, what might he call it? The Scowl of Minerva.)
Man attempts to enter swanky restaurant. Maitre d' informs him that coat and tie are required. Man returns to car, dons coat, and tries once more to enter. Maitre d' says that a tie is also necessary. Man returns to car, opens trunk, takes out jumper cables, and arranges them around his neck. Heated discussion ensues, but maitre d' finally relents: "OK, you can go in, but just don't start anything!"
I remember exactly when and where I heard this joke. It was June of 1995. I was headed from Phoenix to Charlottesville to take part in an NEH Summer Seminar on the Philosophy of Science at the University of Virginia. As I was 'motorvatin'* in my '88 Jeep Cherokee past Knoxville, Tennessee on Interstate 40, old Paul Harvey (1918-2009) came on the air and told the above joke.
Now you know the rest of the story.
*'Motorvatin' borrowed from Chuck Berry's Maybelline.
"Study everything, join nothing." I am sometimes asked for examples. Here are some from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary under the entry Regalia. (Borrowed from Gilleland the Erudite):
. . . Knights of Adam; Visionaries of Detectable Bosh; the Ancient Order of Modern Troglodytes; the League of Holy Humbug; the Golden Phalanx of Phalangers; the Genteel Society of Expurgated Hoodlums; the Mystic Alliances of Gorgeous Regalians; Knights and Ladies of the Yellow Dog; the Oriental Order of Sons of the West; the Blatherhood of Insufferable Stuff; Warriors of the Long Bow; Guardians of the Great Horn Spoon; the Band of Brutes; the Impenitent Order of Wife-Beaters; the Sublime Legion of Flamboyant Conspicuants; Worshipers at the Electroplated Shrine; Shining Inaccessibles; Fee-Faw-Fummers of the Inimitable Grip; Jannissaries of the Broad-Blown Peacock; Plumed Increscencies of the Magic Temple; the Grand Cabal of Able-Bodied Sedentarians; Associated Deities of the Butter Trade; the Garden of Galoots; the Affectionate Fraternity of Men Similarly Warted; the Flashing Astonishers; Ladies of Horror; Cooperative Association for Breaking into the Spotlight; Dukes of Eden; Disciples Militant of the Hidden Faith; Knights-Champions of the Domestic Dog; the Holy Gregarians; the Resolute Optimists; the Ancient Sodality of Inhospitable Hogs; Associated Sovereigns of Mendacity; Dukes-Guardian of the Mystic Cess-Pool; the Society for Prevention of Prevalence; Kings of Drink; Polite Federation of Gents-Consequential; the Mysterious Order of the Undecipherable Scroll; Uniformed Rank of Lousy Cats; Monarchs of Worth and Hunger; Sons of the South Star; Prelates of the Tub-and-Sword.
Jean-Paul Sartre put the following into the mouth of a character in the play, No Exit: "Hell is other people." What then would hell be for philosophers? To be locked in a room forever with a philosopher with whom one has little or no common ground. David Stove and Theodor Adorno, for example. Or Sartre and Etienne Gilson.
Here are my two favorite examples of telephonic foolishness.
1. Leaving a message on the wrong answering machine. This has happened more than once. One time, a guy calls and hears our message: "This is Bill and Mary. We are either unable or unwilling to come to the phone at this time. Please leave a message after the beep."
So he proceeds, "Hi Jack, this is Clyde. I'm down at the Glass Crutch bar and grill and plan to stay until closing time. Why not come down and join me? We'll hoist a few."
2. Failure to grasp the concept of a wrong number. A guy calls asking for Dave. "No Dave here," I reply, "you must have the wrong number." Guy calls again an hour or two later, asking for Dave, and I give the same response. The pattern repeats itself several times over a few days. Concluding that the caller's contact with reality is minimal and drug-mediated, I finally say, "Hey man, haven't you heard? Dave OD'd on smack about a month ago." Caller: "Wow, far out!"
I spied a composite of the above two images on the rear window of a beat-to-hell pickup truck. The decal depicted the character Grumpy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves brandishing guns in the manner of that Yosemite Sam character one sometimes sees on mud flaps with the logo, "Back off." Can I squeeze any logico-philosophical mileage out of this? But of course.
The multiple ambiguity of 'is' has been well-known to philosophers for some time, although it is only recently that an American president has put the ambiguity to work in a successful bid at saving his political hide. Said president pointed out that much rides on what the meaning of 'is' is. A key distinction is between the 'is' of identity and the 'is' of predication. The decal exploits this ambiguity to achieve its humorous effect. 'I am Grumpy' asserts the identity of the speaker with Grumpy, whereas 'I am grumpy' predicates a property of the speaker, the property of being grumpy. A key difference between identity and predication is that the former is symmetrical whereas the latter is aysmmetrical.
(Please do not confuse asymmetry with nonsymmetry. Loves is a nonsymmetrical relation: if I love you it does not follow that you love me; but it also does not follow that you do not love me.)
In previous posts I have explored the idea that many cases of humor derive from logico-conceptual incoherence, as above. The equivocation on 'is,' as between its predicative and identitarian senses, is at the root of the decal's funniness. That is why it is funny. Or so I claim. In fact, I toy with the notion that most humor stems from logico-conceptual incoherence. Another example is Yogi Berra's "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." Or: "Who was that lady I saw you with last night? That was no lady, that was my wife!" Or: "I see you got a haircut. I got 'em all cut."
The decal also alludes to a Platonic theme, that of the self-predication of Forms. Forms are not properties but paradigms. Thus the Form Wisdom is the paradigm case of wisdom. As such, Wisdom is wise, The Good is good, Virtue is virtuous -- and The Grumpy is grumpy! (Assuming, as Plato would almost certainly not assume, that there is a Form corresponding to 'grumpy.') Thus grumpy things are grumpy in virtue of participating in The Grumpy which is grumpy in virtue of participating in itself.
A self-participating Form is (identically) what it has. Here the 'is' of identity and the 'is' of predication coalesce. Wisdom is wise in virtue of being identical with itself. God is not a good thing, but Goodness Itself; thus God is not good by having goodness but by being Goodness. Here we glimpse the connection between the self-participation of Forms and the doctrine of the divine simplicity.
And all of this squeezed out of one lousy decal on the rear window of a beat-to-hell pickup truck probably owned by some illegal alien.
I'm sensitive, you're touchy. I'm firm, you are pigheaded. Frugality in me is cheapness in you. I am open-minded, you are empty-headed. I am careful, you are obsessive. I am courageous while you are as reckless as a Kennedy. I am polite while you are obsequious. My speech is soothing, yours is unctuous. I am earthy and brimming with vitality while you are crude and bestial. I'm alive to necessary distinctions; you are a bloody hairsplitter. I'm conservative, you're reactionary. I know the human heart, but you are a misanthrope. I love and honor my wife while you are uxorious. I am focused; you are monomaniacal.
In me there is commitment, in you fanaticism. I'm a peacemaker, you're an appeaser. I'm spontaneous, you're just undisciplined. I'm neat and clean; you are fastidious. In me there is wit and style, in you mere preciosity. I know the value of a dollar while you are just a miser. I cross the Rubicons of life with resoluteness while you are a fool who burns his bridges behind him. I do not hide my masculinity, but you flaunt yours. I save, you hoard. I am reserved, you are shy.
I have a hearty appetite; you are a glutton. A civilized man, I enjoy an occasional drink; you, however, must teetotal to avoid becoming a drunkard. I'm witty and urbane, you are precious. I am bucolic, you are rustic. I'm original, you are idiosyncratic.
And those are just some of the differences between me and you.