Consider a particular hole H in a piece of swiss cheese. H is not nothing. It has properties. It has, for example, a shape: it is circular. The circular hole has a definite radius, diameter, and circumference. It has a definite area equal to pi times the radius squared. If the piece of cheese is 1/16th of an inch thick, then the hole is a disk having a definite volume. H has a definite location relative to the edges of the piece of cheese and relative to the other holes. H has causal properties: it affects the texture and flexibility of the cheese and its resistance to the tooth. H is perceivable by the senses: you can see it and touch it. You touch a hole by putting a finger or other appendage into it and experiencing no resistance.
Now if anything has properties, then it exists. H has properties; so H exists.
H exists and the piece of cheese exists. Do they exist in the same way? Not by my lights. The hole depends for its existence on the piece of cheese; the latter does not depend for its existence on the former. H is a particular, well-defined, indeed wholly determninate, absence of cheese. It is a particular, existing absence. As an absence of cheese it depends for its existence on the cheese of which it is the hole.
So I say the hole exists in a different way than the piece of cheese. It has a dependent mode of existence whereas the piece of cheese has a relatively independent mode of existence.
On the basis of this and other examples I maintain that there are modes of being. To be precise, I maintain that it is intelligible that there be modes of being. This puts me at odds with those, like van Inwagen, who consider the idea unintelligible and rooted in an elementary mistake:
. . . the thick conception of being is founded on the mistake of transferring what properly belongs to the nature of a chair -- or of a human being or of a universal or of God -- to the being of the chair. (Ontology, Identity, and Modality, Cambridge 2001, p. 4)
Did I make a mistake above, the mistake van Inwagen imputes to thick theorists? Did I mistakenly transfer what properly belongs to the nature of the hole -- its dependence on the piece of cheese -- to the being (existence) of the hole?
I plead innocent. Perhaps it is true that it is the nature of holes in general that they depend for their existence on the things in which they are holes. But H is a particular, spatiotemporally localizable, hole in a particular piece of cheese. Since H is a particular existing hole, it cannot be part of H's multiply exemplifiable nature that it depend for its existence on the particular piece of cheese it is a hole in. The dependence of H on its host is due to H's mode of existence, not to its nature.
Suppose there are ten quidditatively indiscernible holes in the piece of cheese: H1, H2, . . . H10. Each exists. Each has its own existence. But each has the very same nature. How then can this common nature be the factor responsible for making H1 or H2 or H3, etc., dependent on the particular piece of cheese? The dependence of each hole on its host is assignable not to the nature common to all ten holes but to each hole's existence as a mode of its existence.
Now of course this will not convince any thin theorist. But then that is not my goal. My goal is to show that the thick theory is rationally defensible and not sired by any obvious 'mistake.' If any 'mistakes' are assignable then I 'd say they are assignable with greater justice to the partisans of the thin theory.
Talk of 'mistakes,' though, is out of place in serious philosophy. For apart from clear-cut logical blunders such as affirming the consequent, quantifier shift fallacies, etc. any alleged 'mistakes' will rest on debatable substantive commitments.
Squelching them is good in two ways. It is good to be rid of them since their presence keeps the positive from streaming in. And the very act of squelching them is a form of self-denial, something without which there can be no moral or spiritual progress. Resistance strengthens; indulgence weakens.
We begin by provisionally distinguishing among thoughts, words, and deeds. I will assume that most deeds and some words are justifiably morally evaluable, justifiably evaluable as either morally right or morally wrong. The question I want to raise is whether merethoughts (thoughts that do not actually spill over into words or actions, though they possess the potential to do so) are justifiably morally evaluable. In a comment, I wrote:
With respect to MT 5.27-28, a married man who has a sexual outlet, but who yet entertains (with hospitality) the thought of having sex with another woman is lustful in a morally objectionable way even though he does not act on his desire and is no lecher.
One of the elements in my personal liturgy is a reading of the following passage every January 1st. I must have begun the practice in the mid-70s. My copy of The Gay Science was purchased in Boston and is dated 15 September 1974. (You mean to tell me that when you buy books, you do not note where you bought them, and when, and in whose presence?)
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book Four, #276, tr. Kaufmann:
For the new year. -- I still live, I still think: I still have to live, for I still have to think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. Today everybody permits himself the expression of his wish and his dearest thought: hence I, too, shall say what it is that I wish from myself today, and what was the first thought to run across my heart this year -- what thought shall be for me the reason, warranty, and sweetness of my life henceforth. I want to learn to see more and more as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all and all and on the whole: someday I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.
My attempts to lessen his negativity are not meeting with much success. It's as if he cannot see that it would be desirable should he learn to control his mind. Part of the problem is that people feel so justified in their hatreds. Their feeling of justification makes it impossible for them to appreciate the folly of allowing negative thoughts rent-free lodging in their heads.