. . . is like a mafioso's denying that there is a mafia. "Mafia? What mafia? There's no mafia. We're just businessmen trying to do right by out families." Our mafioso might go on to explain that 'mafia' is really just an ethnic slur used to denigrate businessmen of Italian extraction.
This an instance of a rhetorical pattern. Can we tease out the pattern and present it in abstracto? Roughly the pattern is this: A person who is something denies that there is that something. A proponent of a view denies that there is any such view as the one he proposes. A representative of an attitude denies that there is any such attitude as the one he represents. An employer of a tactic denies that there is any such tactic as the one he employs. A performer in a musical genre denies that there is any such genre as the one in which he performs. (I'll have to check, but I seem to recall that Dylan in his folk phase in an interview denied the existence of folk music.)
For instance, a person who is politically correct denies that there is political correctness. Note that only the politically correct deny that there is political correctness, just as only mafiosi deny that there is a mafia. Note also that the denial is not that there are politically correct people, but that the very concept of political correctness is misbegotten, or incoherent, or introduced only as a semantic bludgeon. The idea is not that a person who is something denies that he is that something, but that there is that something.
But we need more examples. Some of the people who are proponents of scientism deny that there is scientism. They may go on to reject the word as meaningless or impossible of application or merely emotive. But of course there is such a thing as scientism. Scientism, roughly, is the philosophical thesis that the only genuine knowledge is natural-scientific knowledge. Not only is there that view; it has representatives.
Suppose that some conservative denies that there is Islamophobia. Then I would have to object. There are a few people who have an irrational fear of Islam and/or of Muslims. They are accurately labelled "Islamophobes.' "Islamophobia' does pick out something real, a 'syndrome' of sorts.
But of course the vast majority of those who sound the alarm against radical Islam are not Islamophobes. For their fear of radical Islam and its works is rational.
Other examples that need discussing: white privilege, institutionalized racism, racial profiling. Could one reasonably believe in these three while denying that there is political correctness?
I'd like to go on; maybe later. But now I have to get ready for an 8 K trail run.
I suggested earlier that we think of abbreviations as a genus that splits into three coordinate species: acronyms, initialisms, and truncations with the specific differences as follows:
An acronym is a pronounceable word formed from either the initial letters of two or more words, or from contiguous letters of two or more words. For example, 'laser' is a pronounceable word formed from the initial letters of the following words: light, amplification, stimulated, emission, radiation. And Gestapo is a pronounceable word formed from contiguous letters of the following words: geheime, Staats, Polizei.
An initialism is a string of contiguous letters, unpronounceable as a word or else not in use as a word, but pronounceable as a list of letters, formed from the initial letters of two or more words. For example, 'PBS' is an initialism that abbreviates 'Public Broadcasting System.' 'PBS' cannot be pronounced as a word, but it can be pronounced as a series of letters: Pee, Bee, Ess. 'IT' is an initialism that abbreviates "information technology.' In this case 'IT' is pronounceable as a word, but is not in use as a word. You can say, 'Mary works in Eye-Tee,' but not, 'Mary works in IT.' The same goes for 'ASU' which abbreviates 'Arizona State University.'
A truncation is a term formed from a single word by shortening it. 'App,' for example is a truncation of 'application,' and 'ho' is presumably a truncation of 'whore' (in black idiom). 'Auto' is a truncation of 'automobile,' and 'blog' (noun) of 'weblog.'
Malcolm Chisholm in an e-mail comment objects to my taxonomy, claiming that the classification looks like this:
While my scheme probably has defects of which I am not aware, Dr. Chisholm's scheme is open to objection. He tells us that a truncation is "formed by taking the first part of each word." But then 'laser' and Gestapo are truncations, which can't be right. There is no word of which 'laser' is the truncation as there is a word of which 'hood' is the truncation ('neighborhood'). Chisholm also tells us that an acronym is "formed by taking the first letter of each word." But Gestapo and Stasi are not formed by taking the first letter of each word. Stasi is formed from the first three letters of Staat and the first two letters of Sicherheit. (By the way, the Stasi was much worse than the Gestapo, according to Simon Wiesenthal.) And what about 'sonar'? It takes two letters from 'sound' and one each from 'navigation' and 'ranging.'
What's more, I see no point in making acronym superordinate to pronounceable acronym. That strikes me as a distinction without a difference, i.e., a merely verbal distinction. As I see it, 'pronounceable acronym' is a pleonastic expression. But I will irenically grant that there may be no fact of the matter here and that we can slice this bird in equally acceptable ways. Those who classify the initialism 'SBNR' ('spiritual but not religious') -- the initialism that got me on this jag in the first place -- as an acronym are free to do so. But I prefer not to since every example of an acronym I can think of is pronounceable.
Perhaps I can appeal to parsimony. My scheme is simpler than Chisholm's. His Porphyric tree sports three branchings; mine only two.
But perhaps I am making some mistake here. What is wrong with my taxonomy if anything is wrong with it? But I'm no linguist; I'm merely a philosopher who thinks it wise to attend carefully to ordinary language while avoiding the aberration known as Ordinary Language philosophy.
I have nothing against slang as such, but there are contexts in which it does not belong. Here is a book by one Fr. Andrew Younan entitled Metaphysics and Natural Theology. One chapter is entitled "Aristotle and the Other Guys." Another "Thomas Aquinas -- A Bunch of Stuff." A third "God Stuff."
Disgusting. Either you see why or you don't. I can't argue you out of your low-rent sensibility. In matters of sensibility, argument comes too late.
Over at NRO, I found this in an otherwise very good column by Charles C. W. Cooke:
I daresay that if I had been in any of the situations that DeBoer describes, I would have walked happily out of the class. Why? Well, because there is simply nothing to be gained from arguing with people who believe that it is reasonable to treat those who use the word “disabled” as we treat those who use the word “n***er” . . . .
Isn't this precious? Cooke shows that he owns a pair of cojones throughout the column but then he gets queasy when it comes to 'nigger.' Why? Would he similarly tip-toe around 'kike' or 'dago'? I doubt it. It is clear that he is aware of the difference between using a word to refer to something and talking about the word. Philosophers call this the use-mention distinction. Call it whatever you like, but observe it.
True: 'Boston' is disyllabic. False: Boston is disyllabic. True: Boston is populous. False: 'Boston' is populous.
Consider the following sentence
Some blacks refer to other blacks using the word 'nigger.'
The sentence is true. Now of course I do not maintain that a sentence's being true justifies its assertive utterance in every situation. The above sentence, although appropriately asserted in the present context where a serious and important point is being made, would not be appropriately asserted in any number of other easily imagined contexts.
But suppose that you take offense at the above sentence. Well, then, you have taken inappropriate and unjustified offense, and your foolishness offends me! Why is my being objectively offended of less significance than your being merely subjectively offended? Your willful stupidity justifies my mockery and derision. One should not give offense without a good reason. But your taking inappropriate offense is not my problem but yours.
In this regard there is no substitute for sound common sense, a commodity which unfortunately is in short supply on the Left. You can test whether you have sound common sense by whether or not you agree with the boring points I make in such entries as the following:
Every acronym is an abbreviation, but is every abbreviation an acronym? I just read something in which 'SNBR' was referred to as an acronym. 'SNBR' abbreviates the trendy phrase 'spiritual but not religious.' The phrase is foolish despite its currency, but that is not my present topic.
Call me pedantic, but 'SNBR' is so unlike 'laser,' 'sonar, 'radar,' 'Gestapo,' 'Stasi,' NASA,' and 'NATO,' that it ought not be referred to as an acronym. Call it an initialism. Think of it as a species of the genus, abbreviation, alongside acronyms and truncations.
What is the difference between an acronym and an initialism? Perhaps this: An acronym can be pronounced as a a word, whereas an initialism cannot be pronounced as a word, but only as a list of letters. Consider 'BBC' which abbreviates 'British Broadcasting Company.' One can pronounce, sequentially, the individual letters as Bee-Bee-Cee and thereby communicate something, but the sound you get from pronouncing 'BBC' as a word won't communicate anything except to yourself and your cat. Same goes for 'HTML,' the standard abbreviation for 'hyper text markup language.'
'App' is a truncation, most commonly of 'application' in the sense of 'computer program.' But just last night I saw a TV commercial in which 'app' was used as a truncation of 'appetizer.' I was led to believe that Appleby's serves up great 'apps.'
Acronyms and truncations are both pronounceable as words. What then is the difference between the two especially since acronyms involve truncations of words? For example, the acronym Gestapo derives from the phrase Geheime Staatspolizei which is composed of two words which are then treated as three words each of which is truncated down to its initial two or three letters. Thus: Ge-sta-po.
Perhaps we can say that a truncation involves the shortening of a single word whereas an acronym involves the shortening of two or more words.
'Arizona State University' is abbreviated as 'ASU.' Initialism or acronym? I said above that an initialism cannot be pronounced as a word. But 'ASU' can be so pronounced, and I do sometimes so pronounce it when I am talking to people associated with the university, e.g. 'I'll meet you at Ah-Soo by the fons philosophorum." (As I have said or written to Kid Nemesis.)
I had a new thought this morning, new for me anyway. It occurred to me that the familiar use-mention distinction can and should be applied to images, including cartoons. I recently posted a pornographic Charlie Hebdo cartoon that mocks in the most vile manner imaginable the Christian Trinity. A reader suggested that I merely link to it. But I wanted people to see how vile these nihilistic Charlie Hebdo porno-punks are and why it is a mistake to stand up for free speech by lying down with them, and with other perpetual adolescents of their ilk. Those who march under the banner Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie) are not so much defending free speech as advertising their sad lack of understanding as to why it is accorded the status of a right.
So it occurred to me that the use-mention distinction familiar to philosophers could be applied to a situation like this. To illustrate the distinction, consider the sentences
'Nigger' is disyllabic. The use of 'nigger,' like the use of 'kike' is highly offensive. Niggers and kikes are often at one another's throats.
In the first two sentences, 'nigger' and 'kike' are mentioned, not used; in the third sentence, 'nigger' and 'kike' are used, not mentioned.
Please note that nowhere in this post do I use 'nigger' or 'kike.'
I chose these examples to explain the use-mention distinction in order to maintain the parallel between offensive words and offensive pictures.
Suppose someone asserts the first two sentences but not the third. No reasonable person could take offense at what the person says. For what he would be saying is true. But someone who asserts the third sentence could be reasonably taken to have said something offensive.
Jerry Coyne concludes a know-nothing response to a review by Alvin Plantinga of a book by Philip Kitcher with this graphic:
Coyne added a caption: AL-vinnn! Those of a certain age will understand the caption from the old Christmas song by the fictitious group, Alvin and the Chipmunks, from 1958. ( A real period piece complete with a reference to a hula hoop.)
Here's my point. Coyne uses the image to the left to mock Plantinga whereas I merely display it, or if you will, mention it (in an extended sense of 'mention') in order to say something about the image itself, namely, that it is used by the benighted Coyne to mock Plantinga and his views.
No one could reasonably take offense at my reproduction of the image in the context of the serious points I am making.
Likewise, no one could reasonably take offense at my reproduction of the following graphic which I display here, not to mock the man Muslims consider to be a messenger of the god they call Allah, but simply to display the sort of image they find offensive, and that I too find offensive, inasmuch as it mocks religion, a thing not to be mocked, even if the religion in question is what Schopenhauer calls "the saddest and poorest form of theism."
By the way, journalists should know better than to refer to Muhammad as 'The Prophet.' Or do they also refer to Jesus as 'The Savior' or 'Our Lord' or 'Son of God'?
Ready now? This is what CNN wouldn't show you. Hardly one of the more offensive of the cartoons. They wouldn't show it lest Muslims take offense.
My point, again, is that merely showing what some benighted people take offense at is not to engage in mockery or derision or any other objectively offensive behavior.
When I pound on liberals, it is contemporary liberals who I have on my chopping block, not classical liberals or liberals from circa 1960. Call the latter paleo-liberals or old-time liberals. My brand of conservatism incorporates the best of their views. My conservatism is distinctively American; it is not of the 'throne and altar' variety.
But 'contemporary liberal' is ambiguous. It could refer to an old-time liberal with respect to some or all of the issues who just happens to flourish in the present, or it could refer to one who espouses contemporary liberalism, that species of aberrant political ideology increasingly indistinguishable from, and ever on the slouch toward, hard leftism.
I mean 'contemporary liberal' in the second sense. Accordingly, 'contemporary' in 'contemporary liberal' as I use the phrase modifies the liberalism of the liberal and not the liberal. The cynosure of my disapprobation is contemporary liberalism or progressivism or leftism. Finer distinctions can be made as needed. And no one outdoes the philosopher when it comes to drawing distinctions. For one of his mottoes is:
My argument against the use of these terms is simple and straighforward. A phobia, by definition, is an irrational fear. (Every phobia is a fear, but not every fear is a phobia, because not every fear is irrational.) Therefore, one who calls a critic of the doctrines of Islam or of the practices of its adherents an Islamophobe is implying that the critic is in the grip of an irrational fear, and therefore irrational. This amounts to a refusal to confront and engage the content of his assertions and arguments.
This is not to say that there are no people with an irrational fear of Muslims or of Islam. But by the same token there are people with an irrational fear of firearms.
Suppose a defender of gun rights were to label anyone and everyone a hoplophobe who in any way argues for more gun control. Would you, dear liberal, object? I am sure you would. You would point out that a phobia is an irrational fear, and that your fear is quite rational. You would say that you fear the consequences of more and more guns in the hands of more and more people, some of them mentally unstable, some of them criminally inclined, some of them just careless.
You, dear liberal, would insist that your claims and arguments deserve to be confronted and engaged and not dismissed. You would be offended if a conservative or a libertarian were to dismiss you as a hoplophobe thereby implying that you are beneath the level of rational discourse.
So now, dear liberal, you perhaps understand why you ought to avoid 'Islamophobia' and its variants except in those few instances where they are legitimately applied.
I think the two distinctions you make are the right ones to make. I doubt that the four necessary conditions in your definition of 'terrorism' are jointly sufficient, but I'm not too concerned about that. [And I didn't claim that they are jointly sufficient, only that they are individually necessary.] I was hoping for a good practical definition and this is as good as I've seen (and better than the ones I offered). If the State Department were to adopt this definition, they would have a good, functional definition that got nearly every case right. It's too bad that you and I both know the State Department as currently staffed and run would never do anything so sane!
BV: Here is the State Department definition:
Title 22, Chapter 38 of the United States Code (regarding the Department of State) contains a definition of terrorism in its requirement that annual country reports on terrorism be submitted by the Secretary of State to Congress every year. It reads:
"[T]he term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents".
That is fairly close to what I said, though I wasn't aware of this definition until just now. I didn't mention premeditation, but that pretty much goes without saying. There are plenty of spur-of-the-moment crimes of passion, but how many spur-of-the-moment terrorist acts of passion are there? But three of my points are covered.
Here's my attempt at a counterexample. Suppose we are in Nazi Germany and suppose further that the Nazi state was not a legitimate one. Thus, in Germany during Nazi rule, there was no legitimate state. I am part of a German underground agency working to overthrow Hitler's regime because I and my agency recognize the Nazis as illegitimate and murderous. My agency is clearly not a state, so I think it meets condition three. My agency and I have a political goal: the overthrowing of the Nazi regime and the establishment of a legitimate government. So, condition one is met.
The other two conditions might be a little harder to meet. Suppose I know that Hitler is to give a speech at a rally, flanked by many high ranking Nazis. My agency has found a way to get myself and a few others into the crowd, but we know the Nazis thoroughly check a crowd for guns. Luckily, agent X is an ace explosive maker, and can make explosives out of things that not even the Nazis would suspect. Agent X equips us all with highly explosive cigarette lighters. We want to kill as many of the Nazi brass as we can and this may be the best shot we have. Given the circumstances, we do not have the option of discriminating between the "combatant" Nazis and the civilians who may have just come out of curiosity. We decide it is better to risk killing a civilians who are too close than not take the opportunity. Thus, we seem to meet condition two.
The question is whether this counts as an act of sabotage against the Nazis. It certainly involves the killing or maiming of other human beings. And, you might think that sabotage involves acts against legitimate entities, and the Nazis are not legitimate. It seems to me to be more than mere sabotage. But I think someone could reasonably disagree with me about that. If I'm right, then it appears that I'm a terrorist unless we come up with more conditions.
BV: Let us suppose that you count as a terrorist by my definition. Would that be a problem? My definition says nothing about whether terrorism is good or bad, morally permissible or impermissible. It merely states what it is. The original question was whether it is true that most terrorists, at the present time, are Muslims. To answer that question we need a definition of 'terrorist.' On the basis of my definition I would say that, yes, most terrorists today are Muslims. My concern was merely to define the phenomenon. I leave open whether some terrorist acts are morally permissible.
Of course, I consider Muslim terrorism unspeakably evil, from the beheading of Christians, including Christian children, to the attack on Charlie Hebdo, even though I consider the Hebdo crew to be moral scum who misuse, egregiously, the right to free speech, thereby confusing liberty with license. This is why it is is so wrong and indeed moronic for people to stand up for free speech by saying Je suis Charlie. Do they really mean to identify with those people? The way to stand up for free speech is by courageously but responsibly exercising one's right to free speech by speaking the truth, not by behaving in the manner of the adolescent punk who makes an idol of his own vacuous subjectivity and thinks he is entitled to inflict on the world every manifestation of his punkish vacuity.
If someone brings up all the violent drug cartel members in Mexico and Central and South America who 'terrorize' people, assassinate judges, bribe politicians and law enforcement agents, and so on, the answer is that they don't satisfy my first condition inasmuch as they are members of organized crime, not terrorists: they are not in pursuit of a political objective. It is not as if they aim to set up something like a narco-caliphate. They do not, like Muslim terrorists, seek to assume the burdens of governance in an attempt to bring about what they would consider to be a well-regulated social and political order in which human beings will flourish by their definition of flourishing. They attack existing states, but only because those states impede their criminal activities. See Mexican Drug Cartels are not Terrorists.
As for sabotage, I was suggesting that sabotage is not terrorism because terrorist acts are directed against persons primarily, while acts of sabotage are not directed against persons except indirectly. If Ed Abbey urinates into the gas tank of a Caterpillar tractor and manages to disable it, that will affect people but only indirectly. (But what about tree-spiking?) So I would not call you and your cohorts saboteurs.
You are not a terrorist by my definition because you are not indiscriminate in your attack on people: you are not trying to kill noncombatants. What you are doing comes under collateral damage.
Jeff Hodges just now apprised me of a post of his featuring the following bumpersticker:
My take is as follows.
Just as tautological sentences can be used to express non-tautological propositions, contradictory sentences can be used to express non-contradictory propositions.
Consider 'It is what it is.' What the words mean is not what the speaker means in uttering the words. Sentence meaning and speaker's meaning come apart. The speaker does not literally mean that things are what they are -- for what the hell else could they be? Not what they are? What the speaker means is that (certain) things can't be changed and so must be accepted with resignation. Your dead-end job for example. 'It is what it is.'
There are many examples of the use of tautological sentences to express non-tautological propositions. 'What will be, will be' is an example, as is 'Beer is beer.' When Ayn Rand proclaimed that Existence exists! she did not mean to assert the tautological proposition that each existing thing exists; she was ineptly employing a tautological sentence to express a non-tautological and not uncontroversial thesis of metaphysical realism according to which what exists exists independently of any mind, finite or infinite.
Similarly here except that a contradictory form of words is being employed to convey a non-contradictory thought. But what is the thought, the Fregean Gedanke, the proposition? Perhaps this: Islam is not the religion of peace. Since Islam is supposed to be the religion of peace, to say that Islam has nothing to do with Islam is to say that Islam has nothing to do with peace, i.e., that Islam is not the religion of peace, or not a religion of peace. Since one meaning of 'Islam' is peace, the saying equivocates on 'Islam.' Thus the proposition expressed is: Islam has nothing to do with peace. This proposition, whether true or false, is non-contradictory unlike the form of words used to express it.
Here is another possible reading. Given that many believe that Islam is terroristic, someone who says that Islam has nothing to do with Islam is attempting to convey the non-contradictory thought that real Islam is not terroristic.
Such a person, far from expressing a contradiction, would be equivocating on 'Islam,' and in effect distinguishing between real Islam and hijacked Islam, or between Islam and Islamism.
I have argued that that which exists at no location or at no point in time, by definition exists never and nowhere, which is by definition not existing.
'Nowhere' means 'at no place' and 'never' means 'at no time.' By definition. So far, so good. Now suppose it is true that whatever exists exists in space and time. Could this be true by definition? Of course not! One cannot settle substantive metaphysical questions by framing definitions.
I stumbled upon this word yesterday on p. 140 of John Williams' 1965 novel, Stoner. (Don't let the title of this underappreciated masterpiece put you off: it is not about a stoner but about a professor of English, surname 'Stoner.') Williams puts the following words in the mouth of Charles Walker, "Confronted as we are by the mystery of literature, and by its inenarrable power, we are behooved to discover the source of the power and mystery."
As you might have guessed, 'inenarrable' means: incapable of being narrated, untellable, indescribable, ineffable, unutterable, unspeakable, incommunicable. One would apply this high-falutin' word to something of a lofty nature, the hypostatic union, say, and not to some miserable sensory quale such as the smell of sewer gas.
Serendipitously, given recent Christological inquiries, I just now came across the word in this passage from Cyril of Alexandria:
We affirm that different are the natures united in real unity, but from both comes only one Christ and Son, not that because of the unity the difference of the natures is eliminated, but rather because divinity and humanity, united in unspeakable and inennarrable unity, produced for us One Lord and Christ and Son.
One of the tactics of leftists is to manipulate and misuse language for their own purposes. Thus they make up words and phrases and hijack existing ones. 'Islamophobe' is an example of the former, 'disenfranchise' an example of the latter. 'Racial profiling' is a second example of the former. It is a meaningless phrase apart from its use as a semantic bludgeon. Race is an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense racially to profile you. Apparel is an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. I can profile you, but it makes no sense sartorially to profile you.
Let's think about this.
I profile you if I subsume you under a profile. A profile is a list of several descriptors. You fit the profile if you satisfy all or most of the descriptors. Here is an example of a profile:
1. Race: black 2. Age: 16-21 years 3. Sex: male 4. Apparel: wearing a hoodie, with the hood pulled up over the head 5. Demeanor: sullen, alienated 6. Behavior: walking aimlessly, trespassing, cutting across yards, looking into windows and garages, hostile and disrespectful when questioned; uses racial epithets such as 'creepy-assed cracker.' 7. Physical condition: robust, muscular 8. Location: place where numerous burglaries and home invasions had occurred, the perpetrators being black 9. Resident status: not a resident.
Now suppose I spot someone who fits the above profile. Would I have reason to be suspicious of him? Of course. As suspicious as if the fellow were of Italian extraction but fit the profile mutatis mutandis. But that's not my point. My point is that I have not racially profiled the individual; I have profiled him, with race being one element in the profile.
Blacks are more criminally prone than whites.* But that fact means little by itself. It becomes important only in conjunction with the other characteristics. An 80-year-old black female is no threat to anyone. But someone who fits all or most of the above descriptors is someone I am justified in being suspicious of.
There is no such thing as racial profiling. The phrase is pure obfuscation manufactured by liberals to forward their destructive agenda. The leftist script requires that race be injected into everything. Hence 'profiling' becomes 'racial profiling.' If you are a conservative and you use the phrase, you are foolish, as foolish as if you were to use the phrase 'social justice.' Social justice is not justice. But that's a separate post.
I wrote and posted the above in July of last year. This morning I find in The New Yorker a piece entitled No Such Thing as Racial Profiling. It is just awful and shows the level to which our elite publications are sinking. It is not worth my time to rebut, but I will direct my readers to the author's comments on the R. Giuliani quotation. Get out your logical scalpels.
Addendum. There is also the liberal-left tendency to drop qualifiers. Thus 'male' in 'male chauvinism' is dropped, and 'chauvinism' comes to mean male chauvinism, which is precisely what it doesn't mean. So one can expect the following to happen. 'Racial' in 'racial profiling' will be dropped, and 'profiling' will come to mean racial profiling, which, in reality, means nothing.
Any candid debate on race and criminality in this country would have to start with the fact that blacks commit an astoundingly disproportionate number of crimes. African-Americans constitute about 13% of the population, yet between 1976 and 2005 blacks committed more than half of all murders in the U.S. The black arrest rate for most offenses—including robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes—is typically two to three times their representation in the population. [. . .]
"High rates of black violence in the late twentieth century are a matter of historical fact, not bigoted imagination," wrote the late Harvard Law professor William Stuntz in "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice." "The trends reached their peak not in the land of Jim Crow but in the more civilized North, and not in the age of segregation but in the decades that saw the rise of civil rights for African Americans—and of African American control of city governments."
Regular readers of this blog know that I respect and admire Dennis Prager: he is a font of wisdom and a source of insight. But I just heard him say, "Egalitarians by definition lack wisdom." That is another clear example of the illicit use of 'by definition,' a mistake I pointed out in an earlier entry. Here are some examples of correct uses of 'by definition':
Bachelors are by definition male
Triangles are by definition three-sided
In logic, sound arguments are by definition valid. (A sound argument is defined as one whose form is valid and all of whose premises are true.)
In physics, work is defined as the product of force and distance moved: W= Fx.
In set theory, a power set is defined to be the set of all subsets of a given set.
By definition, no rifle is a shotgun.
Semi-automatic firearms are by definition capable of firing exactly one round per trigger pull until the magazine (and the chamber!) is empty.
In metaphysics, an accident by definition is logically incapable of existing without a substance of which it is the accident.
In astrophysics, a light-year is by definition a measure of distance, not of time: it is the distance light travels in one year.
By definition, the luminiferous either is a medium for the propagation of electromagnetic signals.
By definition, what is true by definition is true.
Incorrect uses of 'by definition':
Joe Nocera: "anyone who goes into a school with a semiautomatic and kills 20 children and six adults is, by definition, mentally ill."
Donald Berwick: "Excellent health care is by definition redistributional."
Illegal aliens are by definition Hispanic.
Bill Maher, et al.: "Taxation is by definition redistributive."
Dennis Prager: "Environmentalists are by definition extremists."
Dennis Prager: "Egalitarians by definition lack wisdom."
Capitalists are by definition greedy.
Socialists are by definition envious.
Alpha Centauri is by definition 4.3 light-years from earth.
The luminiferous ether exists by definition.
By definition, the luminiferous ether cannot exist.
I hope it is clear why the incorrect uses are incorrect. As for the first Prager example, it is certainly true that some environmentalists are extremists. But others are not. So Prager's assertion is not even true. Even if every environmentalist were an extremist, however, it would still not be true by definition that that is so. By definition, what is true by definition is true; but what is true need not be true by definition.
As for the second Prager example, it may or may not be true that egalitarians lack wisdom depending on the definition of 'egalitarian.' But even if true, certainly not by definition.
So what game is Prager playing? Is he using 'by definition' as an intensifier? Is he purporting to make a factual claim to the effect that all environmentalists are extremists and then underlining (as it were) the claim by the use of 'by definition'? Or is he assigning by stipulation his own idiosyncratic meaning to 'environmentalist'? Is he serving notice that 'extremist' is part of the very meaning of 'environmentalist' in his idiolect?
Similar questions ought to be asked of other misusers of the phrase.
I am interested in your logical or linguistic intuitions here. Consider
(*) There is someone called ‘Peter’, and Peter is a musician. There is another person called ‘Peter’, and Peter is not a musician.
Is this a contradiction? Bear in mind that the whole conjunction contains the sentences “Peter is a musician” and “Peter is not a musician”. I am corresponding with a fairly eminent philosopher who insists it is contradictory.
Whether or not (*) is a contradiction depends on its logical form. I say the logical form is as follows, where 'Fx' abbreviates 'x is called 'Peter'' and 'Mx' abbreviates 'x is a musician':
LF1. (∃x)(∃y)[Fx & Mx & Fy & ~My & ~(x =y)]
In 'canonical English':
CE. There is something x and something y such that x is called 'Peter' and x is a musician and y is called 'Peter' and y is not a musician and it is not the case that x is identical to y.
There is no contradiction. It is obviously logically possible -- and not just logically possible -- that there be two men, both named 'Peter,' one of whom is a musician and the other of whom is not.
I would guess that your correspondent takes the logical form to be
LF2. (∃x)(∃y)(Fx & Fy & ~(x = y)) & Mp & ~Mp
where 'p' is an individual constant abbreviating 'Peter.'
(LF2) is plainly a contradiction.
My analysis assumes that in the original sentence(s) the first USE (not mention) of 'Peter' is replaceable salva significatione by 'he,' and that the antecedent of 'he' is the immediately preceding expression 'Peter.' And the same for the second USE (not mention) of 'Peter.'
If I thought burden-of-proof considerations were relevant in philosophy, I'd say the burden of proving otherwise rests on your eminent interlocutor.
But I concede one could go outlandish and construe the original sentences -- which I am also assuming can be conjoined into one sentence -- as having (LF2).
So it all depends on what you take to be the logical form of the original sentence(s). And that depends on what proposition you take the original sentence(s) to be expressing. The original sentences(s) are patient of both readings.
Now Ed, why are you vexing yourself over this bagatelle when the barbarians are at the gates of London? And not just at them?
You have already guessed that it has something to do with flowers. By its etymology, a gathering of flowers, literary flowers. A florilegium, then, is an anthology, compendium, collection, miscellany, album of excerpts and extracts from writings of (usually) high quality by (usually) ancient authors. The Philokalia is a florilegium.
An album of pictures of flowers would also count as a florilegium, and, I suppose a book of actual dried flowers would as well.
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:
Let's begin by reviewing some grammar. 'Walking' is the present participle of the infinitive 'to walk.' Present participles are formed by adding -ing to the verb stem, in our example, walk. Participles can be used either nominally or adjectivally. A participle used nominally is called a gerund. A gerund is a verbal noun that shares some of the features of a verb and some of the features of a noun. Examples:
Walking is good exercise. Sally enjoys walking. Tom prefers running over walking. Rennie loves to talk about running.
As the examples show, gerunds can occur both in subject and in object position.
Participles can also be used adjectivally as in the following examples:
The boy waving the flag is Jack's brother. Sally is walking. The man walking is my neighbor. The man standing is my neighbor Bob; the man sitting is his son Billy Bob. The Muslim terrorist cut the throat of the praying journalist.
Now what about the dreaded fused participles against which H. W. Fowler fulminates? In the following example-pairs the second item features a fused participle:
She likes my singing. She likes me singing.
John's whistling awoke her. John whistling awoke her.
Sally hates Tom's cursing. Sally hates Tom cursing.
If you have a good ear for English, you will intuitively reject the second item in these pairs. They really should grate against your linguistic sensibility even if you don't know what it means to say that gerunds take the possessive. That is, a word immediately preceding a gerund must be in the possessive case. A fused participle, then, is a participle used as a noun preceded by a modifier, whether a noun or a pronoun, that is not in the possessive.
Fused participles, most of them anyway, are examples of bad grammar. But why exactly? Is it just a matter of non-standard, 'uneducated,' usage? 'I ain't hungry' is bad English but it is not illogical. Fused participles are not just bad usage, but logically bad inasmuch as they elide a distinction, confusing what is different.
This emerges when we note that the members of each of the above pairs are not interchangeable salva significatione. It could be that she likes my singing, but she doesn't like me. And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.
In the second example, it could be that the first sentence is false but the second true. It could be that John, who was whistling, awoke her, but it was not his whistling that awoke her, but his thrashing around in bed.
The third example is like the first. It could be that Sally hates the sin, not the sinner. She hates Tom's cursing but she loves Tom, who is cursing.
Is every use of a fused particular avoidable? This sentence sports a fused participle:
The probability of that happening is near zero.
The fused participle is avoided by rewriting the sentence as
The probability of that event's happening is near zero.
But is the original sentence ungrammatical without the rewriting? Technically, yes. One should write
The probability of that's happening is near zero
although that is perhaps not as idiomatic as the original. In any case, one would have to be quite the grammar nazi to spill red ink over this one.
According to Panayot Butchvarov, "Fused participles are bad logic, not just bad usage." ("Facts" in Cumpa, ed., Studies in the Ontology of Reinhardt Grossmann, Ontos Verlag, 2010, p. 87.) In Skepticism in Ethics, Butch claims that a fused participle such as 'John flipping the switch' is as "grammatically corrupt" as 'I flipping the switch.' (Indiana UP, 1989, p. 14.)
I think Butch goes too far here. Consider the sentence I wrote above:
And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.
I don't agree that this sentence is grammatically corrupt. It strikes me as grammatically acceptable, fused participle and all. It expresses a clear thought, one that is different from the thought expressed by
And if she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like my singing or my doing anything else.
The first is true, the second false. If she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me when I am singing, shaving, showering, or doing the third of the three 's's.
So we ought not say that every use of a fused participle is grammatically corrupt. We ought to say that fused participles are to be avoided because they elide the distinctions illustrated by the above three contrasts. The trouble with 'I hate my daughter flunking the exam' is not that it is ungrammatical but that it fails to express the thought that the speaker (in the vast majority of contexts) has in mind, namely, that the object of hatred is the flunking not the daughter.
What does this have to do with ontology?
Some of us maintain that a contingent sentence such as 'John is whistling' cannot just be true: it has need of an ontological ground of its being true. In other words, it has need of a truth-maker. Facts are popular candidates for the office of truth-maker. Thus some of us want to say that the truth-maker of 'John is whistling' is the fact of John's whistling. Butchvarov, however, rejects realism about facts. One of his arguments is that we have no way of referring to them. Sentence are not names, and so cannot be used to refer to facts.
But 'John's whistling' fares no better. It stands for a whistling which is an action or doing. It does not stand for a fact. For this reason, some use fused participles to refer to facts. Thus, the fact of John whistling. Butch scotches this idea on the ground that fused participles are "bad logic" and "grammatically corrupt."
I don't find Butchvarov's argument compelling. As I argued above, there are sentences featuring fused participles that are perfectly grammatical and express definite thoughts. My example, again, is 'If she doesn't like me, then she doesn't like me singing or doing anything else.' So I don't see why 'John whistling' cannot be used as a name of the fact that is the truth-maker of 'John is whistling.'
I just heard Dennis Prager say that he never mocks his ideological opponents. If I had his ear, I would put to him the question, "Do think there are no conceivable circumstances in which mockery of an ideological opponent is morally justified?"
If he answered in the affirmative, then I would press him on how this comports with his conviction that there are circumstances in which the use of physical violence against human beings is morally justified.
I would urge that if the latter is morally justified, and it is, then the former, a sort of verbal violence, is morally justified. In battling evil people and their pernicious views, all means at our disposal should be employed, it being understood that the appeal to reason and fact is the tactic of first resort.
I just now noticed that the following two sentences are interchangeable salva significatione:
Gluttony is to be avoided
Gluttony ought to be avoided.
A curious linguistic tidbit, possibly of philosophical use later, possibly of no such use at all. But interesting either way. So I note it en passant.
Addendum (literally, something to be added or that ought to be added)
Seldom Seen Slim e-mails:
I see that you've just discovered the obsolescent gerundive or future passive construction in English.
"Gluttony is to be avoided" = "Gluttony is a thing to be avoided" = Gluttony is something we should/ought to avoid" (pretty much equivalent statements).
But now are any of these statements at all? How do they differ from the directive "Avoid gluttony!", which is plainly no statement at all.
Well, I was careful to call them sentences, not statements.
There look to be two puzzles here. The one that struck me was: how can a future passive construction be used to make a normative point? Compare the gluttony example with this one: 'The execution is to occur tomorrow at sunrise.' This does not mean that the execution ought to occur tomorrow at sunrise, if 'ought' has a normative sense. Or perhaps a clearer example would be this: 'The sunrise is to occur tomorrow at 5:30 A.M.' The latter cannot be replaced salva significatione by 'The sunrise ought to occur tomorrow at 5:30 A.M.' if 'ought' has normative bite. It is just a prediction. It means that the sunrise will occur tomorrow at 5:30 A. M. It is strictly speaking a future passive construction with no modal component.
Slim's concern is different. His question, I take it, is this. When I utter 'Guttony is to be avoided' am I making a statement or issuing a command? I am making a statement. I am stating that the action-type inordinate eating has a certain deontic property, the property of being such that it ought not be tokened. I am using a sentence in the indicative mood to make that statement. If I utter 'Avoid inordinate eating' I utter a sentence in the imperative mood and issue a command.
The Roman senate or the emperor could say to the army, Cartago delenda est, meaning that Carthage is to be/ought to be/should be/must be destroyed. But the senate or the emperor could say this without issuing a command.
Here, with a response by McGinn. Merits the coveted MavPhilimprimatur and nihil obstat.
In fairness to Churchland, it is her letter, not her, that Cavell calls "hysterical." A politically incorrect word these days, I should think. Isn't 'hysterical' etymologically related to the Latin and Greek words for womb? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary:
1610s, from Latin hystericus "of the womb," from Greek hysterikos "of the womb, suffering in the womb," from hystera "womb" (see uterus). Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus. Meaning "very funny" (by 1939) is from the notion of uncontrollable fits of laughter. Related: Hysterically.
One of the purposes of this site is to combat the stupidity of Political Correctness, a stupidity that in many contemporary liberals, i.e., leftists, is willful and therefore morally censurable. The euphemism 'undocumented worker' is a good example of a PC expression. It does not require great logical acumen to see that 'undocumented worker' and 'illegal alien' are not coextensive expressions. The extension of a term is the class of things to which it applies. In the diagram below, let A be the class of illegal aliens, B the class of undocumented workers, and A^B the intersection of these two classes. All three regions in the diagram are non-empty, which shows that A and B are not coextensive, and so are not the same class. Since A and B are not the same class, 'undocumented worker' and 'illegal alien' do not have the same intension or meaning. Differing in both extension and intension, these expressions are not intersubstitutable.
To see why, note first that there are illegal aliens who are not workers since they are either petty criminals, or members of organizedcriminal gangs e.g., MS-13, some of whose members are illegal aliens, or terrorists, or too young to work, or unable to work. Note second that there are illegal aliens who have documents all right -- forged documents. Note third that there are undocumented workers who are not aliens: there are American citizens who work but without the legally requisite licenses and permits.
So the correct term is 'illegal alien.' It is descriptive and accurate and there is no reason why it should not be used.
Now will this little logical exercise convince a leftist to use language responsibly and stop obfuscating the issue? Of course not. Leftism in some of its forms is willfully embraced reality denial, and in other of its forms is a cognitive aberration, something like a mental illness, in need of therapy rather than refutation. In a longer post I would finesse the point by discussing the cognitive therapy of Stoic and neo-Stoic schools, which does include some logical refutation of unhealthy views and attitudes, but my rough-and-ready point stands: one cannot refute the sick. They need treatment and quarantine and those who go near them should employ appropriate prophylactics.
So why did I bother writing the above? Because there are people who have not yet succumbed to the PC malady and might benefit from a bit of logical prophylaxis. One can hope.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory, developed by Leon Festinger (1957), is concerned with the relationships among cognitions. A cognition, for the purpose of this theory, may be thought of as a ³piece of knowledge.² The knowledge may be about an attitude, an emotion, a behavior, a value, and so on. For example, the knowledge that you like the color red is a cognition; the knowledge that you caught a touchdown pass is a cognition; the knowledge that the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation is a cognition. People hold a multitude of cognitions simultaneously, and these cognitions form irrelevant, consonant or dissonant relationships with one another.
[. . .]
Two cognitions are said to be dissonant if one cognition follows from the opposite of another. What happens to people when they discover dissonant cognitions? The answer to this question forms the basic postulate of Festinger¹s theory. A person who has dissonant or discrepant cognitions is said to be in a state of psychological dissonance, which is experienced as unpleasant psychological tension. This tension state has drivelike properties that are much like those of hunger and thirst. When a person has been deprived of food for several hours, he/she experiences unpleasant tension and is driven to reduce the unpleasant tension state that results. Reducing the psychological sate of dissonance is not as simple as eating or drinking however.
The above, taken strictly and literally, is incoherent. We are first told that a cognition is a bit of knowledge, and then in the second quoted paragraph that (in effect) some cognitions are dissonant, and that if one cognition follows from the opposite of another, then the two are dissonant. But surely it is logically impossible that any two bits of knowledge, K1 and K2, be such that K1 entails the negation of K2, or vice versa. Why? Because every cognition is true -- there cannot be false knowledge -- and no two truths are such that one follows from the opposite of the other.
The author is embracing an inconsistent pentad:
1. Every cognition is a bit of knowledge.
2. Every bit of knowledge is true.
3. Some, at least two, cognitions are dissonant.
4. If one cognition follows from the opposite (the negation) of another, then the two are dissonant.
5. It is logically impossible that two truths be such that one follows from the negation of the other: if a cognition is true, then its negation is false, and no falsehood follows from a truth.
The point, obviously, is that while beliefs can be dissonant, cognitions cannot be. There simply is no such thing as cognitive dissonance. What there is is doxastic dissonance.
"What a pedant you are! Surely what the psychologists mean is what you call doxastic dissonance."
Then they should say what they mean. Language matters. Confusing belief and knowledge and truth and related notions can lead to serious and indeed pernicious errors. A good deal of contemporary relativism is sired by a failure to make such distinctions.
'Racism' and 'racist' are words used by liberals as all-purpose semantic bludgeons. Proof of this is that the terms are never defined, and so can be used in wider or narrower senses depending on the polemical and ideological purposes at hand. In common parlance 'racism' and 'racist' are pejoratives, indeed, terms of abuse. This is why it is foolish for conservatives such as John Derbyshire to describe themselves as racists while attempting to attach some non-pejorative connotation to the term. It can't be done. It would be a bit like describing oneself as as an asshole, 'but in the very best sense of the term.' 'Yeah, I'm an asshole and proud of it; we need more assholes; it's a good thing to be.' The word has no good senses, at least when applied to an entire human as opposed to an orifice thereof. For words like 'asshole,' 'child molester,' and 'racist' semantic rehabilitation is simply not in the cards. A conservative must never call himself a racist. (And I don't see how calling himself a racialist is any better.) What he must do is attack ridiculous definitions of the term, defend reasonable ones, and show how he is not a racist when the term is reasonably defined.
Let's run through some candidate definientia of 'racism':
1. The view that there are genetic or cultural differences between racial groups and that these differences have behavioral consequences.
Since this is indeed the case, (1) cannot be used to define 'racism.' The term, as I said, is pejorative: it is morally bad to be a racist. But it is not morally bad to be a truth-teller. The underlying principle here is that it can't racism if it is true. Is that not obvious?
Suppose I state that blacks are 11-13% of the U.S. population. That cannot be a racist statement for the simple reason that it is true. Nor can someone who makes such a statement be called a racist for making it. A statement whose subject matter is racial is not a racist statement. Or I inform you that blacks are more likely than whites to contract sickle-cell anemia. That too is true. But in this second example there is reference to an unpleasant truth. Even more unpleasant are those truths about the differential rates of crime as between blacks and whites. But pleasant or not, truth is truth, and there are no racist truths. (I apologize for hammering away at these platitudes, but in a Pee Cee world in which people have lost their minds, repetition of the obvious is necessary.)
2. The feeling of affinity for those of one's own racial and ethnic background.
It is entirely natural to feel more comfortable around people of one's own kind than around strangers. And of course there is nothing morally objectionable in this. No racism here.
3. The view that it is morally justifiable to put the interests of one's own race or ethnic group above those of another in situations of conflict or limited resources. This is to be understood as the analog of the view that it it morally justifiable to put the interests of oneself and one's own family, friends, and neighbors above the interests of strangers in a situation of conflict or limited resources.
There is nothing morally objectionable in his, and nothing that could be legitimately called racism.
4. The view that the genetic and cultural differences between races or ethnic groups justify genocide or slavery or the denial of political rights.
Now we arrive at an appropriate definiens of 'racism.' This is one among several legitimate ways of defining 'racism.' Racism thus defined is morally offensive in the extreme. I condemn it and you should to. I condemn all who hold this.
May a linguistic conservative such as your humble correspondent coin new expressions? Of course. A conservative is not one opposed to change as such, or linguistic change as such. A conservative is one who is opposed to unnecessary, or idiotic, or deleterious changes –- the kind our dear liberal friends love to introduce. An example of a change that was unnecessary was the renaming of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association to ‘Central Division’ some years back. I couldn't care less about the useless and politically correct A. P. A. nowadays, but at the time the change rankled this curmudgeon for two reasons. First, the change is wholly unnecessary: given that there is a Pacific Division and a Western Division, one would have to be consummately stupid indeed not to realize that the former is to the west of the latter.
Second, this wholly unnecessary change obliterates an interesting piece of history, namely, that the A.P. A. once had only two divisions. Should Case Western Reserve University change its name because the Western Reserve region of Ohio is practically in the East nowadays?
By the way, that strange name is an amalgam of 'Case Institute of Technology' and 'Western Reserve University.' Case Institute of Technology was where Michelson and Morley in 1881 conducted the famous experiment that put the ether hypothesis out of commission. When I was a Visiting Assoc Prof of Phil there in 1989-1991, I got a thrill out of conducting some of my classes in Morley Hall.
True, ‘Western Division,’ was a misnomer – but only if one takes it as a description in disguise as opposed to a logically proper name the meaning of which is exhausted by its reference. Recall Saul Kripke’s old example of ‘Holy Roman Empire’ from Naming and Necessity. The entity denoted was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. But that did not prevent the phrase in question from functioning as a proper name. Similarly with ‘Western Division.’
The first footnote to Patrick Toner's "Hylemorphic Animalism" (Phil. Studies, 2011, 155: 65-81) reads:
The more common spelling is "hylomorphic," but David Oderberg has convinced me to substitute this spelling. After all, the Greek term in question is hyle, not hylo.
By this reasoning we should write 'cruxade,' 'cruxiform,' and 'cruxial' instead of the standard 'crusade,' 'cruciform,' and 'crucial.' After all, the Latin term in question is crux, not crus or cruc.
Furthermore, why not write 'hylemorphec' rather than 'hylemorphic'? After all, the Greek term in question is morphe, not morphi.
Why don't we write 'polisology' and 'polisics' rather than 'politology' and 'politics'? After all, the Greek term in question is polis, not polit.
And why don't we write 'morphelogy,' and 'gelogy' and 'gemetry' rather than 'morphology,' 'geology,' and 'geometry'? After all, etc.
What am I missing?
For a conservative there is a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional ways of doing things. Note 'defeasible.' Conservatives are not opposed to change; they are opposed to unnecessary and foolish and deleterious and change-for-the-sake-of-change change. You could say that they are opposed to Obaminable change.
Addendum (18 May)
Ed Feser writes,
I had this debate with David years ago and initially defended "hylomorphism" precisely on the conservative grounds that that is the standard usage. (You'll notice that in my book Philosophy of Mind I use "hylomorphism.") However, "hylemorphism" is not David's invention, and when I was writing the Aquinas book I found that some (though of course not all) of the old manuals did indeed use "hylemorphism." So there hasn't in fact been uniformity on the spelling. Hence I decided "Fine, what the heck." I'm not committed to it the way David is, though.
I am aware that 'hylemorphism' is not Oderberg's invention and that this spelling has also been used. But unless I am badly mistaken, the 'hylo' forms occur more frequently that the 'hyle' forms. So while Oderberg's usage is not an innovation, it does go against standard usage. That's one consideration. Another is euphony. The 'hylo' compounds roll right off the tongue; the 'hyle' forms are slightly 'stickier.' But your tongue may vary. And then there are the considerations adduced above.
It just now occurs to me that there is one instance where the 'o' would be out of place. Edmund Husserl speaks of hyletische Daten, the translation being 'hyletic data.' Here the 'e' satisfies the exigencies of euphony quite nicely.
This is surely no earth-shaking matter. But on one way of looking at things it is wonderful that civilization has advanced to such a point that large numbers of people can spend time discussing such a scholarly punctilio.
Years ago an acquaintance wrote me about a book he had published which, he said, had "made quite a splash." The metaphor is unfortunately double-edged. When an object hits the water it makes a splash. But only moments later the water returns to its quiescent state as if nothing had happened. So it is an apt metaphor. It captures both the immediate significance of an event and its long-term insignificance.
Here is a question for those of you who champion the linguistic innovation, 'hylemorphic.' Will you also write 'morphelogical' and 'morphelogy'? If not, why not?
'Morphology' is superior to 'morphelogy' in point of euphony. For the same reason, 'hylomorphic' is superior to 'hylemorphic.'
But even if you disagree with my last point, you still have to explain why you don't apply your principle consistently.
Why don't you write and say 'morphelogy,' 'epistemelogy,' 'gelogy' (instead of 'geology'), etc.?
We linguistic conservatives are not opposed to change, but we are opposed to unnecessary changes. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Addendum (8 April 2014)
Patrick Toner writes:
Loved your post on the spelling of hylemorphism. I must disagree on the charge that the 'e' spelling is a novelty. I say this without any firsthand evidence. But Gideon Manning has a paper that covers the appearance of the term. According to him it showed up in English in 1888. By 1907, at least, there is an 'e' spelling of the term, in the translation of some scholastic volume into English. (DeWulf, maybe?) So both spellings go back almost all the way to the origin of the term in English. Manning himself uses the o spelling, but claims both are legitimate.
I make or imply essentially three claims in my post. The first is that the use of 'hylemorphism' is an innovation. I now see thanks to Toner that this claim is mistaken. So I withdraw it. The second claim is that 'hylomorphism' is superior to 'hylemorphism' in point of eupohony. I stick by this claim, though I admit it is somewhat subjective: one man's euphony is, if not another man's cacophany, then at least the other's non-euphony. The third claim is that the fans of 'hylemorphism' and cognates do not apply their principle consistently. For as far as I know they do not go on to say and write 'epistemelogy,' etc.
Here is a fourth point. Although the use of 'hylemorphism' and cognates is not wrong, and is not an absolute innovation (as Manning documents), it does diverge from the more common use at the present time. So what is the point of this relative innovation?
Sid Vicious was a yob...but, you know, people change...they get older, wiser...they mature...Sid's no longer a yob; he's dead.
'Yob' is British slang, whether it is exclusively British I don't know. I first encountered the word today. Some confidently assert that it is an example of 'back slang,' it being 'boy' spelled backwards. Plausible. Spelled backwards but presumably not pronounced backwards. I'd guess it is pronounced like 'job.'
Maxim: Look up and memorize every unfamiliar word and phrase. I am regularly appalled at the miserably impoverished vocabularies of most people.
Laying about are all these free tools of thought and expression, and people are too lazy to pick them up.
Blind review is a standard practice employed by editors of professional journals and organizers of academic conferences. The editor/organizer removes the name of the author from the manuscript before sending it to the referee or referees for evaluation. My present concern is not whether this is a good practice. I am concerned with the phrase that describes it and whether or not this phrase can be reasonably found offensive by anyone. There are those who think that the phrase is offensive and ought to be banned. Shelley Tremain writes,
For the last few years, I have tried to get the APA [American Philosophical Association] to remove the phrase “blind review” from its publications and website. The phrase is demeaning to disabled people because it associates blindness with lack of knowledge and implies that blind people cannot be knowers. Because the phrase is standardly used in philosophy and other academic CFPs [Calls for Papers], it should become recognized as a cause for great concern. In short, use of the phrase amounts to the circulation of language that discriminates. Philosophers should want to avoid inflicting harm in this way.
Let's consider these claims seriatim.
1. "The phrase is demeaning to disabled people . . . " Well, I am a disabled person and the phrase is not demeaning to me. As a result of a birth defect I hear in only one ear. And of course there are innumerable people who are disabled in different ways who will not find the phrase demeaning.
2. " . . . because it associates blindness with lack of knowledge and implies that blind people cannot be knowers." This is not just false but silly. No one thinks that blind people cannot be knowers or that knowers cannot be blind.
Besides, it makes no sense to say that a phrase associates anything with anything. A foolish person who is precisely not thinking, but associating, might associate blindness with ignorance, but so what? People associate the damndest things.
To point out the obvious: if the name has been removed from the mansucript, then the referee literally cannot see it. This is not to say that the referee is blind, or blind with respect to the author's name: he could see it if it were there to see. 'Blind review' means that the reviewer is kept in the dark as to the identity of the author. That's all!
3. ". . . it should become recognized as a cause for great concern." Great concern? This is a wild exaggeration even if this issue is of some minor concern. I say, however, that it is of no concern. No one is demeaned or slighted or insulted or mocked or ridiculed by the use of the phrase in question.
4. ". . . use of the phrase amounts to the circulation of language that discriminates." One could argue that the practice of blind review discriminates against those who have made a name for themselves. But that is the only discrimination in the vicinity. I said at the top that this post is no joke. What is risible, however, is that anyone would find 'blind review' to be discriminatory against blind people.
5. "Philosophers should want to avoid inflicting harm in this way." This presupposes that the use of the phrase 'blind review' inflicts harm. This is just silly. It would be like arguing that the use of 'black hole' inflicts harm on black people because its use associates blacks with holes or with hos (whores).
In the early-to-mid '80s I attended an APA session organized by a group that called itself PANDORA: Philosophers Against the Nuclear Destruction of Rational Animals. One of the weighty topics that came up at this particular meeting was the very name 'Pandora.' Some argued that the name is sexist on the ground that it might remind someone of Pandora's Box, which of course has nothing to do with the characteristic female orifice, but in so reminding them might be taken as a slighting of that orifice. ('Box' is crude slang for the orifice in question.) I pointed out in the meeting that the name is just an acronym, and has nothing to do either with Pandora's Box or the characteristic female orifice. My comment made no impression on the politically correct there assembled. Later the outfit renamed itself Concerned Philosophers for Peace ". . . because of sexist and exclusionary aspects of the acronym." (See here)
Glenn Reynolds reports on successful pushback against such outrages as the FCC's "plan to 'monitor' news coverage at not only broadcast stations, but also at print publications that the FCC has no authority to regulate."
I hereby introduce 'obamination' to refer to those abominations perpetrated against the populace by big government, whether perpetrated by the POMO prez himself or by any liberal fascist. Every obamination is an abomination, but not conversely.
The Obaminator himself claims not to be for big government. We already know, however, that he is the most brazen liar ever to occupy the presidency. Here's more evidence. And here is documentation of Obama's mendacity in refusing to own up to his own call for a fundamental transformation of America.
How can we explain intelligent, articulate, intellectually vigorous people stuck in time, repeating themselves endlessly like robots? Even if the diversity crusade hadn’t become an embarrassment and a sham, the sheer mindless obsession of it suggests a seriously neurotic institution. Yale doesn’t lack diversity, just rationality. Of course it lacks intellectual diversity, but that problem has been solved by shipping “diversity” off to redefinition camp. American English is feeling a lot better, thank you, now that it’s been lobotomized by political hacks. (Covered by Obamacare!)
[. . .]
The good thing about the “diversity” problem is that you can obsess over it forever with no risk of solving it, because it is insoluble—based as it is on a wholly implausible lie. The diversity kingpins aim for group representation in all academic fields based on a group’s numbers in the student population, and in America (eventually the world) at large. But why would anyone suspect that both sexes and all races and nationalities have approximately the same skills at everything? And the same interests in everything? And the same physical qualifications for everything? Doesn’t diversity imply (for lack of a better term) diversity?
No!—and that’s the best thing about the diversity crusade. It is actually an anti-diversity crusade, waged by people who detest diversity. Its goal is to suppress diversity of every sort. Yale women must behave just like Yale men: must major in the same things at the same rates, go out for sports in the same numbers, get the same jobs, make the same money, care to the same extent in the same way about children, family, money, power, sex, and everything else. So why are there “Women’s Studies” departments? Because (dammit!) women and men are totally different! So why is there a diversity campaign? Because women and men are exactly the same!
The United States accomplished the amazing feat of virtually extinguishing race prejudice in a single generation, between the late 1950s and the early ’80s. It was a superb accomplishment, on the order of the Moon landings. But young Americans get no chance to take pride in it: We don’t just suppress the facts, we lie about them. We teach our children from kindergarten up that America still struggles with prejudice against approved minorities and women, when they can see with their own eyes that prejudice in favor of approved minorities and women is everywhere—in education, industry, and government. How are they supposed to learn that it is important to tell the truth? How will they learn what the truth means?
This problem is not keeping the Obama regime up nights. A Hillary administration would be equally indifferent.
War on Truth is the Obama administration’s middle name, and sometimes seems to be its actual goal. Releasing the toxic phrase “War on Women” into the political atmosphere was a risky move for the left—they have got away with it only because Republicans are so timid and lazy. That Republicans are antiwoman is an absurd lie, and what does it say about Republican women? Are they dupes or traitors? Or just dumb broads? (You know how women are about politics. Hopeless.) There was a time when honest Americans of every political type would have exploded at the sheer, filthy dishonesty of the phrase. No more. American culture is changing.
BV: It is indeed. Clear proof is that Obama gets away with his repeated outright lies, his Orwellianisms and his nine-to-five shuck and jive. Something is wrong when even conservative commentators refer to his brazen lies by saying that the POMO prez "misspoke."
While the Obamacrats rave on about the War on Women (believing that abortion poses an ethical question being tantamount, after all, to mowing down young girls in the street as they emerge from the shelters in which they have gathered, cowering, in fear of Republicans)—while they denounce the War on Women, Obamacrats have been merrily waging a war on jobs, a war on small business, a war on the best-by-far health care system in human history, a war on America’s international influence and prestige, a war on economic recovery, a war on energy independence, a war on the Constitution, and many other battles around the edges. But the War on Truth matters most, hurts most, and will be remembered longest.
Do Republicans care about the cultural mainstream’s real prejudice against white boys? Not in the least. Will Republicans challenge the diversity racket, the “affirmative action” con game that still dominates so many important institutional decisions? Americans dislike affirmative action and always have, but Republicans are too scared to speak up. Elections are approaching. Let us at least hear about this war on truth, from every last Republican candidate, for every office, at every level, every day. American culture, society, civilization are at stake. Please.
The chickenshit RINOs are too much enamoured of their perquisites, power, and pelf to take a principled stand on anything. They are go-along-to-get-along, kick-the-can-down-the-road types out for themselves first and foremost, and the Republic be damned. They are as republican as the Dems are democratic.
I can't believe that this old 16 September 2004 post from my first weblog languished there so long before being brought over, today, to my newer digs.
My cat Caissa – named after the goddess of Chess – was feeling under the weather recently, so I took her to the vet for some blood work. The twenty-something receptionist at Caring Critters was nice enough but she stumbled over my name. But I was in a good mood, so I didn’t mind it too much. She didn’t even try to pronounce it which I suppose is better than mangling it. I don’t cotton to being called Valenzuela, Valencia, Vermicelli, Varicella, Valparaiso or Vladivostok. Don’t make me into an Hispanic. In these parts, if your are not Hispanic you are an ‘Anglo.’ That doesn’t sit well with me either.
Perhaps I should be happy that I do not rejoice under the name of Znosko-Borovsky or Bonch-Osmolovsky. Nor do I stagger under such burdens as Witkiewicz, Brzozowski, or Rynasiewicz. The latter is the name of a philosopher I knew when he taught at Case Western Reserve University. Alvin Plantinga once mentioned to me, sometime in the late '80s, that he had been interviewed at Notre Dame, except that ‘rhinoceros’ was all Plantinga could remember of his name.
Actually, none of these names is all that difficult if you sound them out. But apparently no one is taught phonics anymore. Damn those liberals! They’ve never met a standard they didn’t want to erode. I am grateful to my long-dead mother for sending me to Catholic schools where I actually learned something. I learned things that no one seems to know any more, for example, grammar, Latin, geography, mathematics. The next time you are in a bar, ask the twenty-something ‘tender whether that Sam Adams you just ordered is a 12 oz or a pint. Now observe the blank expression on her face: she has no idea what a pint is, or that a pint is 16 oz, or that there are four quarts in a gallon, or 5,280 feet in a mile, or 39.37 inches in a meter, or that light travels at 186, 282 miles/sec, or that a light-year is a measure of distance, not of time.
Even Joan Baez got this last one wrong in her otherwise excellent song, Diamonds and Rust, a tribute to her quondam lover, Bob Dylan. The irony is that Joanie’s pappy was a somewhat distinguished professor of physics! In a high school physics class we watched a movie in which he gives a physics lecture.
I was up in 'Flag' (Flagstaff) a few years back to climb Mt. Humphreys, the highest point in Arizona at 12,643 ft. elevation, (an easy class 1 walk-up except for the thin air) and to take a gander at the moon through the Lowell Observatory telescope. While standing in line for my peek, I overheard a woman say something to her husband that betrayed her misconception that the moon glows by its own light. She was astonished to learn from her husband that moonlight is reflected sunlight. I was astonished at her astonishment. One wonders how she would account for the phases of the moon. What ‘epicycles’ she would have to add to her ‘theory’!
Why do some journalists use 'lede' instead of 'lead'? I don't know. A lede is "the introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story." (Merriam-Webster) The same source claims that the first known use was in 1976. Why the innovation? Just to be cute or 'different'?
Here we read that 'lede' is an invention of linotype romanticists and does not come from the linotype era.
Why do I blog about such a bagatelle? To fix in my memory this word I learned just this morning.
Dennis Prager was complaining one day about how the Left ridicules the Right. He sounded a bit indignant. He went on to say that he does not employ ridicule. But why doesn't he? He didn't say why, but I will for him: Because he is a gentleman who exemplifies the good old conservative virtue of civility. And because he is a bit naive.
Prager's behavior, in one way laudable, in another way is not, resting as it does on an assumption that I doubt is true at the present time. Prager assumes that political differences are more like intellectual differences among gentlemanly interlocutors than they are like the differences among warring parties. He assumes that there is a large measure of common ground and the real possibility of mutually beneficial compromise, the sort of compromise that serves the common good by mitigating the extremism of the differing factions, as opposed to that form of compromise, entered into merely to survive, whereby one side knuckles under to the extremism of the other.
But if we are now in the age of post-consensus politics, if politics is war by another name, then it is just foolish not to use the Left's tactics against them.
It is not enough to be right, or have the facts on your side, or to have the better arguments. That won't cut it in a war. Did the Allies prevail over the Axis Powers in virtue of having truth and right on their side? It was might that won the day, and, to be honest, the employing of morally dubious means (e.g., the firebombing of Dresden, the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the same sort of means that the Axis would have employed had they been able to. One hopes that the current civil war doesn't turn bloody. But no good purpose is served by failing to understand that what we have here is a war and not minor disagreements about means within the common horizon of agreed-upon assumptions, values, and goals.
Have we entered the age of post-consensus politics? I think so. I should write a post about our irreconcilable differences. For now a quick incomplete list. We disagree radically about: the purpose of government; crime and punishment; race; marriage; abortion; drugs; pornography; the interpretation of the Consitution; religion; economics.
Take religion. I have no common ground with you if you think every vestige of the Judeo-Christian heritage should be removed from the public square, or take the sort of extremist line represented by people like Dawkins and A. C. Grayling. If, however, you are an atheist who gives the Establishment Clause a reasonable interpretation, then we have some common ground.
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!
My rule on contractions: though permissible in informal writing such as blogging, they ought to be avoided or used sparingly in formal writing. I came across the following sentence in a well-written piece in a serious publication.
"Heroic" would have pleased Ranke, who'd died nine years earlier.
The contraction distracted me, so much so that I am now writing about it. And note that in the very same sentence we find the uncontracted "would have." This is better:
"Heroic" would have pleased Ranke, who had died nine years earlier.
I am reading Ted Honderich, On Consciousness (Edinburgh UP, 2004) and trying to get a handle on just what his theory of consciousness as existence amounts to. An awkward and quirky writer, he doesn't make things easy on the reader, and doesn't seem to realize that in this very fast brave new world of ours the writer must get to the point without unnecessary circumlocution if he wants to keep his reader glued to the page. Here is an example of Honderich's style, from p. 206:
The other option from spiritualism now deserves the name of being devout physicalism. You can say and write, in a career that keeps an eye on some of science, maybe two, and is forgetful of reflective experience, that being conscious or aware of something is only having certain physical properties in the head. Usually this cranialism is a matter of only neural properties as we know them -- thought of computationally or with microtubules to the fore or in any other way you like.
[Note the awkward placement of "Maybe two." It belongs right after "eye."]
Nobody not on the philosophical job of trying to approximate more to some of science or horse sense believes this either. We all know, to make use of a pefectly proper and enlightening parody, that consciousness, isn't just cells, however fancily or fancifully conceived. Everybody on the job tries to give a place to or register what they know when they're not on the job. But they can't do it if they have it that consciousness has only neural properties or conceivably silicon or otherwise physical properties, no matter how they are conceived additionally.
Honderich's thought is not so much expressed as buried in the above mess of verbiage. Here is the thought which is correct as far as it goes expressed in three sentences.
Devout physicalism is the main alternative to spiritualism, or substance dualism. But only someone who fails to reflect on his actual experience could suppose that being conscious of something is a matter of the instantiation of neural properties in the brain. Both philosopher and layman know that consciousness is not brain cells, but the philosopher trying to be scientific is apt to forget it.
Here is Colin McGinn's savage review of Honderich's book. Be aware that there is personal animus between the two men.
One morning recently I was talking with a thirtysomething woman about Obamacare. "If you like your period, you can keep your period" came out of my mouth. I was intending, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period."
Thanks to Obama, the period is one punctuation mark that will never be the same. From now on, no one will be able to say 'period' without conjuring up the great man, just as words like 'inhale' and 'is' conjure up the first black president, Bill Clinton, along with images of chubby star-struck interns. "But I didn't inhale." I suppose it all depends on the meaning of 'inhale.'
Presidents need to realize that there is such a thing as videotape and that lies are easily exposed. In this clip, Bubba say that he tried marijuana a time or two, didn't like it, didn't inhale, and never tried it again. But obviously, there is no way to tell if you like it without inhaling it, and quite a bit of it, over several sessions. The man was obviously lying, and he must have known that we knew he was lying.
I tried it, and from '68-'72 smoked my fair share of it, inhaling deeply as one must to get any effect, but I did not like it. I'm an intense guy whose life is already plenty intense. My reaction was similar to Lenny Bruce's: "I've got enough shit flying through my head without smoking weed." (Quoted from memory from How to Talk Dirty and Influence People which I read around '66. My copy is long gone, my mother having confiscated it and thrown it away.)
Having just checked the quotation, I was pretty close. What Bruce actually said was this:
"I don't smoke pot, and I'm glad because then I can champion it without any special pleading. The reason I don't smoke pot is because it facilitates ideas and heightens sensations. And I got enough shit flying through my head without smoking pot."
Here is an old Powerblogs post. It is reposted in my conviction that we must catalog and never forget the absurdities of the race-baiting Left.
A while back, some fool from the Left coast — a Democrat party hack if memory serves — suggested that the name ‘Schwarzenegger’ was racist because of the ‘negger’ part. There was also the sly implication that the ‘racism of the name’ transferred onto its bearer. This slovenly pseudo-thinking is aided and abetted by the fact that schwarz is German for black. Hence, ‘black-nigger.’ Arnold Black-nigger.
To dispel this nonsense, note first that the German for ‘negro’ is not Negger, but Neger. Second, when ‘Schwarzenegger’ is compared with such similar names as ‘Heidegger,’ it becomes clear that ‘Schwarzenegger’ is to be parsed as Schwarzen-egger and not as Schwarze-negger.’ When I pointed this out to Horace Jeffery Hodges, he remarked that Egger is an early form of Acker, field. I suggested in turn that this is probably the origin of the English ‘acre.’ So if we must assign a meaning to Arnold’s name, it would be that of ‘black acre,’ or perhaps, ‘swarthy field.’
Now what about Heidegger? If we must assign a meaning to his name, I suggest that it is that of ‘heather field,’ or ‘heath acre,’ or perhaps, ‘pagan soil.’ Die Heide (feminine) means heather, heath, moor. . . while der Heide (masculine) means pagan. Given Heidegger’s association with the Blut und Boden ideology of the National Socialists — an association he never properly renounced — and the dark trends of his later thinking, ‘pagan soil’ may well be fitting.
Some object to the popular 'Obamacare' label given that the official title of the law is 'Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act' or, as commonly truncated, 'Affordable Care Act.' But there is a good reason to favor the popular moniker: it is descriptive where the other two labels are evaluative, expressing as they do a pro attitude toward the bill.
Will the law really protect patients? That is an evaluative judgment based on projections many regard as flimsy. Will the law really make health care affordable? And for whom? Will care mandated for all be readily available and of high quality?
Everybody wants affordable and readily available health care of high quality for the greatest number possible. Note the three qualifiers: affordable, readily available, high quality. The question is how best to attain this end. The 'Affordable Care Act' label begs the question as to whether or not Obama's bill will achieve the desired end. 'Obamacare' does not. It is, if not all that descriptive, at least evaluatively neutral.
If Obama's proposal were referred to as "Socialized Medicine Health Care Act' or 'Another Step Toward the Nanny State Act,' people would protest the negative evaluations embedded in the titles. Titles of bills ought to be neutral.
So, if you are rational, you will not find anything derogatory about 'Obamacare.' But liberals are not known for being particularly rational. But they are known for playing the the race card in spades. (See my Race category for plenty of examples.) And if the liberal in questions hosts for that toxic leftist outlet, MSNBC, then 'morally obnoxious' can be added to the description. So the following comes as no particular surprise:
MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry went off on a tangent in a recent broadcast, ranting about the racist overtones of a word that’s been used for years by both sides of the political aisle — Obamacare.
“I want to talk today about a controversial word,” she said, as FrontPageMag.com reported. “It’s a word that’s been with us for years. And like it or not, it’s indelibly printed in the pages of America history. A word that was originally intended as a derogatory term, meant to shame and divide and demean. The word was conceived by a group of wealthy white men who needed a way to put themselves above and apart from a black man — to render him inferior and unequal and diminish his accomplishments.”
Slanderous and delusional.
So the question arises once again: Can one be both a liberal and a decent and sane human being? Or is scumbaggery as it were inscribed into the very marrow of the contemporary liberal? Or perhaps it is more like this: once liberalism infects a person's mind, the decency that was there is flushed out. Need an example? Try Martin Bashir on for size. Or Keith Olbermann. (At the end of the hyperlink I defend Dennis Prager against Olbermann's vicious and stupid attack.)
I suppose I should say at least one good thing about MSNBC: both of the these leftist scumbags got the axe.
By the way, 'scumbag' is a derogatory word and is intended as such. But you knew that already. It is important to give leftists a taste of their own medicine in the perhaps forlorn hope that someday, just maybe, they will see the error of their ways and learn how to be civil. Civility is for the civil, not for assholes. 'Assholicity' for assholes.
John Hawkins argues that it is in a recent Townhall piece. I agree with everything he says, except the title. It suffices to argue that liberalism is wrong. It is irrelevant whether it is on the right or wrong side of history. Allow me to explain.
The phrase "on the wrong side of history" is one that no self-aware and self-consistent conservative should use. The phrase suggests that history is moving in a certain direction, toward various outcomes, and that this direction and these outcomes are somehow justified by the actual tendency of events. But how can the mere fact of a certain drift justify that drift? For example, we are moving in the United States, and not just here, towards more and more intrusive government, more and more socialism, less and less individual liberty and personal choice, Obamacare being the latest and worst example. This has certainly been the trend from FDR on regardless of which party has been in power. Would a self-aware conservative want to say that the fact of this drift justifies it? I think not.
But if not, then one cannot argue against liberalism by trying to show that it is on the wrong side of history. For which way history goes is irrelevant to which way it ought to go.
'Everyone today believes that such-and-such.' It doesn't follow that such-and-such is true. 'Everyone now does such-and-such.' It doesn't follow that such-and-such ought to be done. 'The direction of events is towards such-and-such.' It doesn't follow that such-and-such is a good or valuable outcome. In each of these cases there is a logical mistake. One cannot validly infer truth from belief, ought from is, or values from facts.
One who opposes the drift toward socialism, a drift that is accelerating under President Obama, is arguably, pace Hawkins, on the wrong side of history. But that is no objection unless one assumes that history's direction is the right direction. Now an Hegelian might believe that, one for whom all the real is rational and all the rational real. Marxists and 'progressives' might believe it. But no conservative who understands conservatism can believe it.
One night a conservative talk show host told a guest that she was on the wrong side of history in her support for same-sex marriage. My guess is that in a generation the same-sex marriage issue will be moot, the liberals having won. The liberals will have been on the right side of history. The right side of history, but wrong nonetheless.
It's why Congress has an approval rating of 6%. It's why Obamacare is wildly unpopular. It's why D.C. and our court system have devolved into partisan warfare. It's because liberalism is a non-functional, imperious philosophy that is out of step with the modern world and on the wrong side of history.
Hawkins thinks it is a point against liberalism that it is on the wrong side of history. But whether it is or not is irrelevant -- unless one assumes what no conservative ought to assume, namely, that success justifies, or that might makes right, or that consensus proves truth, or that the way things are going is the way things ought to be going.
As I have said more than once, if you are a conservative don't talk like a [insert favorite expletive] liberal. Don't validate, by adopting, their question-begging epithets and phrases.
For example, if you are a conservative and speak of 'homophobia' or 'Islamophobia' or 'social justice,' then you are an idiot who doesn't realize that the whole purpose of those polemical leftist neologisms is to beg questions, shut down rational discussion, and obfuscate.
Language matters in general, but especially in the culture wars.
I stumbled across this word on p. 539 of the heaviest, fattest, stompingest tome in my library, Richard Routley's Exploring Meinong's Jungle and Beyond (Ridgeview, 1980). The thing is 1,035 pages long. I could kill a cat with it, and you hope I won't. A mere $500 for an Amazon used copy. One copy available at the moment. No, I won't sell my copy unless you give me $500,000.00 for it. Cash on the barrel head.
In this way depauperate objects such as the present king of France can be seen as limiting cases of fictional items . . .
As you use them, the terms 'fictional', 'intentional', 'possible', 'incomplete', and others like 'past' have a distinctive effect on the concept terms they qualify. Ordinary adjectives have the effect of narrowing the extension of the concept term they qualify: the red balls are a subset of the balls, the female prime ministers are a subset of the prime ministers, and so on. The terms in question have the opposite effect. They appear to widen, or indeed offset altogether, the extension of the qualified concept. They are thus potent alienating terms. So the question arises, What is the relation (if any) between the concepts 'fictional person' and 'person', between 'intentional object' and 'object', and 'possible X' and 'X'? Ordinary qualification can be uniformly understood in terms of set intersection. Is there a uniform explanation underlying these alienating qualifications?
1. First of all, contrary to what David says, there are plenty of ordinary adjectives that do not narrow the extension of the terms they qualify. There are redundant adjectives, alienans adjectives, and there is the construction known as the contradictio in adiecto. For example, 'decoy' in 'decoy duck' is an ordinary adjective despite its being an alienans adjective; it is just as ordinary as 'female' in 'female duck,' which I call a specifying adjective and which does narrow the extension of the noun 'duck.' I see no reason to say that specifying adjectives are the only ordinary ones.
2. We can agree on this: red balls are a proper subset of balls, and female prime ministers are a proper subset of prime ministers. We will also agree that round balls are a subset of balls, though not a proper subset, and that female girls are an improper subset of girls. We could say that the last two examples illustrate the null case of specification. We could make a distinction between properly specifying and improperly specifying adjectives corresponding to the distinction between proper and improper subsets.
3. We can also agree that specificatory qualification (but not all qualification) can be uniformly understood in terms of set intersection if the intersection is non-null. The set of cats and the set of dogs has an intersection, but it is the null set. Intersection is defined over all sets, disjoint or not, hence one cannot say that the set of dogs and the set of cats do not intersect. They intersect all right; it is just that their intersection is empty. 'Canine cat' is an example of a contradictio in adiecto which reflects the fact that the corresponding sets are disjoint. 'Canine' does not specify 'cat.' It does not divide the genus into two species, the canine cats and the non-canine cats.
4. I can't, pace David, think of an example in which an adjective widens the extension of the term it qualifies. Can you? For example, 'former' in 'former wife' does not widen the extension of 'wife.' It is not as if there are two kinds or species of wives, former and present. Tom's former wife is not his wife. 'Former' does not narrow the extension either. It is an alienans adjective. It is the same with 'artificial leather.' Alligator leather and cowshide are two kinds of leather, but artificial and real are not two kinds of leather.
5. We will agree that all or most the following constructions from ordinary, i.e., non-philosophical English feature alienans adjectives, adjectives that shift or 'alienate' or 'other' the sense of the term they qualify:
male chauvinist (on one disambiguation of its syntactic ambiguity; see article below)
generational chauvinist (I am a generational chauvinist when it comes to popular music: that of my generation is superior to that of the immediately preceding and succeding American generations.)
6. Note that the adjective in 'alienans adjective' is not alienans! Note also that 'putative' and 'artificial' function a little differently. Exercise for the reader: explain the difference and formulate a general test for alienans adjectives.
7. Observe that 'artificial' in 'artificial insemination' is not an alienans adjective in that artificial insemination is indeed insemination, albeit by artificial means. Whatever the means, you are just as pregnant. So whether an adjective is alienans or not depends on the context. A false friend is not a friend, but false teeth are teeth.
8. We now come to more or less controversial examples:
same-sex marriage (Conservative position: same-sex marriage is not marriage)
merely possible animal ('The chimera is a merely possible animal.')
Is a (purely) fictional man a man? You might be tempted to say yes: Hamlet is fictional and Hamlet is a man, so Hamlet is a fictional man. But the drift of what I have been arguing over the last few days is that a fictional man is not a man, and that therefore 'fictional' functions as an alienans adjective. But I am comfortable with the idea that a merely possible man is a man. What is the difference?
There might have been a man distinct from every man that exists. (Think of the actual world with all the human beings in it, n human beings. There could have been n + 1.) God is contemplating this extra man, and indeed the possible world or maximal consistent state of affairs in which he figures, but hasn't and will not ever actualize him or it. What God has before his mind is a completely determinate merely possible individual man. There is only one 'thing' this man lacks: actual existence. Property-wise, he is fully determinate in respect of essential properties, accidental properties, and relational properties. Property-wise the merely possible extra man and the actual extra man are exactly the same. Their quidditative content is identical. There is no difference in Sosein; the only difference is Sein, and Sosein is indifferent to Sein as Aquinas, Kant, and Meinong would all agree despite their differences. As Kant famously maintained, Sein is not a quidditative determination, or in his jargon 'reales Praedikat.'
For this reason a merely possible (complete) man is a man. They are identical in terms of essence or nature or quiddity or Sosein, these terms taken broadly. If God actualizes the extra man, his so doing does not alter the extra man in any quidditative respect. Otherwise, he ould not be the same man God had been contemplating.
9. Brightly hits upon a happy phrase, "alienating qualifications." In my first bullet list we have examples of alienating qualifications from ordinary English. I expect Brightly will agree with all or most of these examples. His questioin to me is:
Ordinary qualification can be uniformly understood in terms of set intersection. Is there a uniform explanation underlying these alienating qualifications?
If Brightly is looking for a test or criterion I suggest the following:
Let 'FG' be a phrase in which 'F' is an adjective and 'G' a noun. 'F' is alienans if and only if either an FG is not a G, or it does not follow from x's being an FG that x is a G. For example, your former wife is not your wife, a decoy duck is not a duck, artificial leather is not leather, and a relative truth is not a truth. Is an apparent heart attack a heart attack? It may or may not be. One cannot validly move from 'Jones had an apparent heart attack' to 'Jones had a heart attack.' So 'apparent' in 'apparent heart attack' is alienans.
Now it is obvious that a decoy duck is not a duck, and that a roasted turkey is not a turkey, but the cooked carcass of a turkey; but it is not so obvious that a fictional man is not a man, while a merely possible man is a man. To establish these controversial theses -- if 'establish' is not too strong a word -- requires philosophical inquiry which is of course very difficult and typically inconclusive. But once we have decided that a certain philosophical phrase is an alienating qualification, then my test above can be applied.
This from Nancy Pelosi's website (emphasis added):
The Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010, ensures that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and significantly reduces long-term health care costs. This historic legislation, in the league of Social Security and Medicare, will lead to healthier lives, while providing the American people with more liberty to pursue their hopes and dreams.
This is another good example of an Orwellian use of language. Americans love liberty and so Pelosi, in an attempt to deceive, works 'liberty' into her statement, advancing a claim of Orwellian absurdity, namely, that limitations on the liberty of individuals and private entities are in reality enhancements of liberty.
War is peace. Slavery is freedom. Less liberty is more liberty. The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
Obviously, Obamacare entails a reduction in liberty via its various mandates and penalties for not obeying the mandates. There is first of all the individual mandate that requires that citizens buy health insurance or else pay a fine or tax or fee. Obviously, if the government forces you to buy something when you were not forced to buy that thing before, that is a lessening of one's liberty, not an increase of it. There are also employer mandates and HHS mandates. Overview here. I should think that if a man is forced to buy a policy that necessarily includes maternity care, then that is a reduction in cjoice not an enhancement thereof. But maybe I'm wrong and Big Bro is right. Maybe less choice = more choice.
What would Pelosi have to say to be intellectually honest? She would have to admit that on a progressive scheme such as the one she favors, while liberty is a value, liberty is trumped by the value of (material) equality or 'fairness.' Conservatives see it the other way around. This is part of the "conflict of visions," to borrow a very useful phrase from Thomas Sowell.
But instead of being honest, Pelosi and many of the rest of her ilk try to have it both ways at once: more government control of one's life and more liberty.
This is what could be called a STFU moment, Nancy, you either speak the truth, or STFU. Nancy has a right to her vision of an ideal society. But she has no right to her stealth tactics and her Orwellianisms.
I would say the same to Obama. Come clean, my man! Man up! Make the case for your progressive vision and all that it entails: robust, 'energetic' government; increased wealth redistribution via government-controlled health care; a retreat from American exceptionalism; a "fundamental transformation of America." Make the case as best you can and try to respond to the libertarian/conservative objections as best you can. Let's have a 'conversation.' Aren't you guys big on 'conversations'?
But if you try t0 win by cheating and lying and prevaricating and bullshitting, then: STFU. Man up or STFU.
Obama and Pelosi and the Dems want us to trust them. "Just trust us; when the ACA is implemented you will then know what is it and and you will experience its manifold benefits." If Obama would be our collective mama, then we have to be able to trust him or her.
Unfortunately, Obama has lied brazenly about the content of the ACA some 30 times, and then lied about his lying. His supporters have lied and prevaricated and obfuscated as well.
So why should we trust anything Obama or any Dem says from this moment on?
. . . the terms "calculated lie," "purposeful lie," "intentional lie," and "knowing
lie" (while referring to Barack Obama's claim that Americans could, if they so
chose, keep their insurance policy and their doctor). Calculation, purpose,
intention, and knowledge are built into the concept of a lie, so qualifying the
term "lie" in these ways is redundant and has the unfortunate effect of draining
the word "lie" of its meaning. Limbaugh uses "lie" as though it meant
"falsehood." It means far more than "falsehood." A lie is a very special
Right. I will now take the ball and run with it.
Every lie is a false statement, but not every false statement is a lie. A lie is a false statement made with the intention to deceive. Since intention to deceive is included within the concept lie, 'intentional lie' and its cousins are pleonastic. Someone who speaks of an intentional lie is treating the species as if it were a genus. 'Intentional lie' is like 'true fact.' Use of these pleonasms marks one as uneducated or worse.
There are two related mistakes one must avoid. The first is the redundancy mistake just mentioned. The other is the use of 'lie' to mean a false statement. The temptation to do so is strong indeed. Many of us are inclined to think our opponents not just wrong, but culpably wrong: you lied! Michael Medved speaks irresponsibly of ten big lies about America. But none of his ten falsehoods -- and I agree with him that they are all of them falsehoods -- is properly describable as a lie.
Here is one: "The two-party system is broken, and we urgently need a viable third party."
Like Medved, I consider that to be false. But is it a lie? Do the people who believe the quoted sentence know the truth but are out to deceive us? Of course not. I met a woman once who claimed that the moon was its own source of light. Was she lying? She uttered a falsehood, which is not the same as lying. Once I jokingly said to my wife that she was lying when she said that the room was cold. "You lie!" First of all, there is no fact of the matter as to whether or not the room is cold. Her cold is my hot. So what's to lie about? The only fact of the matter in the vicinity is wifey's feeling cold.
Jethro claims that the bottle is half-empty while Earl maintains that it is half-full. Is one of these yahoos lying? Here there is a fact of the matter but one describable in two equivalent ways.
If a person affirms (denies) the existence of God is the person lying? Here there is a fact of the matter but one hard to make out. It is rational to be a theist, but also rational to be an atheist. So perhaps my definition needs augmenting:
A lie is a false statement made with the intention to deceive about a definite matter of fact about which knowledge is possible.
To lie is to misrepresent willfully the way things are when the way things are is ascertainable with a fairly high degree of certainty. For example, the way things are with respect to the content of PPACA is easily ascertained: you just read the law. There is a matter of fact as to what is stated in the law and that fact is easily established.
Suppose you and I are discussing some very difficult question in mathematics or metaphysics or cosmology. I assert that p while you assert that not-p. It follows that one of us is wrong. But it does not follow that one of us is lying.
Suppose that A and B each have the intention to deceive the other. A asserts that p, while B asserts its negation. It is a very interesting question whether both are lying. One of them is lying, for at least one of them is saying something false with the intention to deceive. But are both lying? Is the intention to deceive sufficient for lying, or must the content asserted also be false?
Here is a further nuance that will bore some of you. The type-token distinction comes into play. "The two-party system is broken, and we urgently need a viable third party" is not a statement but a statement type. You don't get a statement until some definite person utters or otherwise tokens the type. (To token a type is to produce a token of the type.) But no statement-type can be a lie. For statement-types float free of language users, and to have a statement, an occurrent stating, a particular speaker must use the statement-type -- must token the type -- on a particular occasion. This is another reason to deny that Medved's ten big falsehoods are lies. Note that a falsehood is false whether or not anyone utters or otherwise tokens a sentence that expresses it. But a lie is not a lie whether or not anyone utters or otherwise tokens the sentence that expresses it.
It is also worth observing that the concept lie as I have defined it is not a normative concept. The definition merely tells us what a lie is. A lie is a statement made with the intention to deceive. But it is a further question whether deception is morally impermissible. And if it is, is it so in all cases or only in some?
Is a liar one who lies? No. One can lie without being a liar just as one can get drunk without being a drunkard. A liar is one who habitually lies. Does it suffice for a person to be a liar that he lie habitually about just one topic, or must he lie habitually about more than one topic? Interesting question.
Obama lied repeatedly when he said that under his collectivist scheme every one would get to keep his health plan if he so desired. May we infer that Obama is a liar? Or to judge him to be a liar must we also adduce his other (repeated) lies?
And then there is the epistemology of the situation. How do I know that Obama lied when he made his now-famous asseveration? I didn't peer into his soul. I know, or at least I have good reasons for believing that he lied, because he knows the subject-matter of his false statement and he had a very powerful motive for misrepresenting said subject-matter. Had he spoken the truth, it is a very good bet that the PPACA would not have passed and become law.
So plenty of evidence points in the direction of his being a damned liar.
Addendum 3 November
Dennis Monokroussos comments:
Apropos your post “On Misusing the Word ‘Lie’”, it would be better to say that a lie is (among other things) a statement its utterer believes to be false. Also, similarly, your augmented definition seems to require the same qualification; to wit, that it’s about something believed to be “a definite matter of fact about which knowledge is possible”.
My initial definition was this
1. A lie is a false statement made with the intention to deceive. (That is to be understood as a biconditional: for any x, x is a lie iff x is a statement made with the intention to deceive.)
2. A lie is a statement believed by its utterer to be false that is made with the intention to deceive.
(2), however, allows for the possibility of a true lie. For suppose a statement is made with the intention to deceive but is falsely believed by the utterer to be false. In such a situation the utterer says something true with the intention to deceive. Has he lied?
Well, what are we trying to do here? If we are trying to capture the ordinary language meaning of 'lie' and cognates, then I am inclined to say that (2) fails. For in ordinary English, a lie is a falsehood, though not every falsehood is a lie. I am making an empirical claim about English as she is spoken by people like me and Monokroussos (educated white male Americans not too far apart in age). People like us do not use 'lie' in such a way that it is sufficient for x to be a lie that x be made with the intention to deceive.
Having made an empirical claim, I am open to empirical refutation by a linguist.
If, on the other hand, we are trying to elaborate a systematic theory of lying, bullshitting and related truth-sensitive phenomena, a project that involves replacing the ordinary language concept with a supposedly better one, then perhaps (2) is acceptable.
But now we are headed for the metaphilosophical stratosphere. What is the role of ordinary language analysis in philosophical theorizing? Ought philosophy be theoretical and explanatory at all? Should it perhaps content itself with description? What is analysis anyway? And what about the paradox of analysis? And so on and so forth.
Not content to say what is true, people exaggerate thereby turning the true into the false. This post analyzes a particular type of exaggeration which is illustrated by something Dennis Prager said on his radio show one morning: "Happiness is a moral obligation, not a psychological state." Since I agree that we have a moral obligation to try to be happy, I won't say anything more about the first half of Prager's assertion. What I object to is the second half. Why does he say something that is plainly false? What we have here is a form of exaggeration. Prager wants to convey to us something that he, rightly, believes is important, namely, that we ought to strive to be happy, both for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. In order to emphasize the point, to throw it into relief as it were, he follows it up with another assertion whch is false, namely, that happiness is not a psychological state. Obviously, if I am happy, I am in a psychological state. What interests me is the pattern or form of this type of exaggeration which is this:
To emphasize that a is F, say 'a is F but not G' even though a is G.
Three examples from sober philosophers.
Martin Buber, who is certainly no Frenchman, writes that "a melody is not composed of tones, nor a verse of words. . ." (I and Thou, p. 59) His point is that a melody cannot be reduced to its individual notes, nor a verse to its constituent words. But he expresses this truth in a way that makes it absurdly false. A melody without tones would be no melody at all. The litterateur exaggerates for literary effect, but Buber is no mere litterateur. So what is going on?
For a second example, consider Martin Heidegger. Somewhere in Sein und Zeit he writes that Das Dasein ist nie vorhanden. The human being is never present-at-hand. This is obviously false in that the human being has a body which is present-at-hand in nature as surely as any animal or stone. What he is driving at is the truth -- or at least the plausibility -- that the human being enjoys a special mode of Being, Existenz, that is radically unlike the Vorhandenheit of the mere thing in nature and the Zuhandenheit of the tool. So why doesn't he speak the truth, and nothing but the truth, without exaggerating?
And then there is Ludwig Wittgenstein, who, according to J. N. Findlay, "took every wrong turn a philosopher can take." (Personal communication) Wittgenstein's fideism involves such absurd exaggerations as that religions imply no theoretical views. But when a Christian, reciting the Apostle's Creed, says "I believe in God the Father, almighty creator of heaven and earth . . ." he commits himself thereby to the metaphysical view that heaven and earth have a certain ontological status, namely, that of being creatures.
Of course, the Christian is doing more than this: his 'I believe' expresses trust in God as a person and not mere belief that certain propositions are true. But to deny that there is any propositional content to his belief would be ludicrous. And yet that appears to be what Wittgenstein is doing.