I am now on p. 118 of Andrew Klavan's memoir, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. Thomas Nelson, 2016, 269 pp. As I reported a few days ago when I was on p. 18,
If you are a tough-minded American Boomer like me on a religious/spiritual quest you will probably be able to 'relate' very well to this book. A fortiori, if you are Jewish.
The book gets better and better especially for those of us who are (i) 'true' Boomers and (ii) were influenced by the Zeitgeist of the '60s. I divide the Boomer cohort (1946-1964) into the 'true' Boomers and the 'shadow' Boomers. You are one of the former if and only if you remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. Otherwise you are a 'shadow' boomer. Klavan, born in 1954, is a 'true' Boomer.
Mike Gilleland, who is my age and few years older than Klavan, told me some years back that the '60s passed him by. I would put it this way: many of those who came of age in the '60s were not of the '60s. It is like a Christian's being in the world but not of it. My point is that if you a 'true' Boomer of and not merely in the '60s, then Klavan's book is one you will want to read.
We were experience-hungry. We were in quest of the Real and thought that it could be found by a close grappling with the seedier and seamier sides of life. We took drugs, consorted with dead-end women, got drunk in flophouses with bums, worked dirty and dangerous jobs, left on 1200 mile trips with five dollars in the pocket returning with ten. This is what got a lot of us into a lot of trouble. Klavan:
Experience! That's what made a writer great, I thought. Harsh, brutal, savage Experience -- I would have done anything to get my hands on some. But where? There were nothing but lawns and homes and normal families around me as far as the eye could see.
I didn't want to go to war. Those in the know had declared the Vietnam conflict corrupt and evil. [. . .]
Instead I took jobs whenever I could -- not jobs that would teach me something or contribute to my future or career. No, I took jobs that I hoped would get me nearer to the grit of things: Experience. I was a gas jockey, a warehouseman, a truck driver, a construction worker, a delivery boy to some of the dodgier areas of New York City. After seventeen years in grassy peace and comfort, I was hungry for anything that looked like cruel reality.
What I wanted most, though, was to wander. Not to travel -- to drift. [. . .] My romantic fantasies often involved a girl in some other town, not this town. A brief affair. A tearful goodbye. Then, babe, I've got to travel down that lonesome, dusty road. (116-117)
At this point Klavan might have referenced Dylan's Don't Think Twice with its talk of long, lonesome roads and the lines:
So long honey babe Where I'm bound, I cain't [sic] tell But goodbye is too good a word, babe So I'll just say fare thee well.
Robert Zimmerman, too, the middle-class Jewish son of a Hibbing, Minnesota appliance salesman. recoiled from the unreality of suburbia and hit the road, more or less.
Summing this up: reading Klavan's book I am reading about myself.
Because of a Typepad outage. Not my fault! Typepad, though, has served me well over the years. I have been with them since Halloween, 2008. Been blogging, though, since 2004. Total Typepad pageviews are now over four million. I thank you for your patronage. I'll write all the same, readers or no. I'm a natural-born scribbler. But it is nice to be read and receive fan mail. I'm only human.
If you are a person of good will, I wish you the best for the New Year. If you are not, I wish you a belated bag of Christmas coal.
This is a good time to repeat MY PLEDGE:
You will never see advertising on this site. You will never see anything that jumps around in your visual field. You will not be assaulted by unwanted sounds. You will never have to read anything against a black background. I will not beg for money with a 'tip jar.' This is a labor of love and I prize my independence.
I also pledge to continue the fight, day by day, month by month, year by year, against the hate-America, race-baiting, religion-bashing, liberty-destroying, gun-grabbing, university-trashing, truth-intolerant, terror-appeasing fascists of the Left. As long as health and eyesight hold out.
I will not pander to anyone, least of all the politically correct.
Some European newspapers have reported lately – very quietly – that, according to police in Germany’s North Rhineland/ Westphalia region, from 2011 to 2016 there were 3500 cases of vandalism/desecration of Christian churches. About two per day in only one region of Germany, every day for the past five years.
That's the bad news. The good news is that Trump defeated Hillary who would have continued Obama's ostrichism.
Change and hope for 2017!
We, of course, can coexist with Muslims who want to coexist with us. But the presence of jihadists – essentially an amorphous armed force within our society – is going to drive us quite close to religious tests for entry into the country and perhaps more.
Royal is assuming that Islam is a religion like any other. Not so. It is a hybid religious-political ideology that promotes values inimical to the West and its flourishing. Sharia and the West do not mix. Muslim immigration ought to be curtailed because of Muslims' destructive Sharia-based political values. They have no right to come here, and we have no obligation to let them in. There is no net benefit to their immigration when you factor in the destruction, which is not merely physical, wrought by jihadis. The Europeans are learning this the hard way. May they learn their lesson well.
No one should be allowed to immigrate who is not prepared to assimilate.
No comity without commonality.
While diversity is good, it is good only up to a point. A diversity worth wanting presupposes a unity of shared principles.
A good part of the problem here is the silly liberal conceit that 'deep down' we are all the same and want the same things. False! There really are crazies ought there who want to disembarrass you of your head because you differ with them on some abstruse point of theology. Leftists, who cannot take religion seriously, think that no one else really takes it seriously either so that what motivates terrorists are things like "lack of jobs" as the foolish Obama once said. A very stupid form of projection!
But we will soon be rid of the feckless fool.
That being said and rejoiced in, Happy New Year! By OUR calendar.
"Because of recent events at the school where I teach, Providence College, I have come to see that the winning side of the so-called culture wars has no interest in rational or equable conversation about the neuralgic issues of our time." Here.
Defund the bastards, I say. It does no good to speak truth to power when those in power believe only in it and not in truth.
A good distinction. The Dems used to be pragmatic, but now are ideological. David Carlin makes the distinction and then sketches the ideology of the contemporary Democrat Party:
(1) They [the intellectual leaders of the party] preach a metaphysics: There is no God, at least no God like the God of the Bible; no Supreme Being who created the universe and governs it. And if they sometimes say that they are agnostics, not atheists, their agnosticism is virtually identical with atheism; the two differ in name only.
(2) They preach a theory of knowledge: There is no knowledge other than sense-based knowledge, the kind of empirical knowledge upon which natural science is based. (They pride themselves on their respect for science even though very few of them are actual scientists or philosophers or historians of science.) Thus there is no such thing as Divine Revelation. And there is no such thing as trans-empirical intuitive knowledge – for example, intuitive knowledge of the existence of God, of the immortality of the soul, of the fundamental laws of morality.
Comment: The Dems promote scientism, the epistemology of metaphysical naturalism. The latter, roughly, is the thesis that reality is exhausted by the space-time system and its contents. Scientism is the philosophical (not scientific!) doctrine that all genuine knowledge is natural-scientific knowledge. It is a philosophical doctrine that entails the noncognitive status of all philosophy including itself!
Typically, the proponents of scientism don't see the problems with it; their ideological commitment is dogmatic and uncritical. A particularly offensive example is provided by Senator Barbara Boxer in this brief YouTube video in which she derides philosophy and a philosopher who dares to dissent from the party line on fossil fuels.
(3) They preach a theory of morality, a morality of maximum personal liberty. We should be free to do as we like, and we should tolerate a like freedom in others. Of course certain practical limits must be placed on this freedom if we are to avoid a war of all against all: we should not be free to inflict direct and tangible harm on non-consenting others.
(4) Sexual freedom: While there are many other kinds of freedom, sexual freedom is, so to speak, the keystone of the arch. If sexual intolerance is permitted, many other kinds of intolerance will follow.
Comment: The tendency is to give free rein to concupiscence in all of its forms, without of course admitting that this is what one is doing. Concupiscence? What's that? Do you think that our deep natural concupiscence, excited and maintained by the blandishments of a sex-saturated society, might help explain why the many strong arguments against abortion are simply dismissed unexamined by the 'pro choice' crowd? The existence of a moral issue is not admitted. It is just assumed that the right to an abortion is a woman's reproductive right.
(5) Anti-Christianity: The most influential opponent of the above beliefs and values is Christianity, more especially old-fashioned Catholic and Protestant Christianity. Therefore old-fashioned Christianity must be marginalized, must be driven into a social corner where it can do little or no harm.
Comment: But at the same time, Islam is touted as the religion of peace, and its dangers denied.
(6) Omnicompetent government. There is no problem, not even the problem of controlling the terrestrial climate for the next 10,000 years, that cannot be solved, at least in the long run, by the action of the U.S. federal government. Do we have problems of poverty or crime or education or health or drug addiction or global warming? There must be solution that Washington can find for it – a law, an agency, a spending program, a global treaty, etc.
One of the most effective things a right-thinking individual can do to help bring down the destructive Left is by withholding funds. So let's say you are an alumnus or alumna of the Jesuit Gonzaga University. You get wind of the fact that Melissa Click of Mizzou fame notoriety has been hired there. To express your disapprobation of this egregious abdication of authority on the part of the administration, reply to the next funding appeal with a curt refusal.
The Opponent sends the following puzzle to vex us:
Story: there was someone called 'a', and there was someone called 'b'.
This is all we have of the story. Let the predicate F be 'The story is consistent with a not being identical with ___'. Then clearly Fa is false, and Fb is true.
This is the case even if a, in fact, is identical with b.
Is there a puzzle here? It may be only a malformed attempt at a puzzle. We are presented with a very short story consisting of exactly two claims. We are given no information as to whether the person called 'a' is the same as or different from the person called 'b.' So the story allows for the possibility that the person called 'a' is not the same as the person called 'b.' This is the case even if, in fact, outside the story, it is not the case that a = b.
It is not clear that there is a puzzle here since the following propositions are logically consistent:
A. Within the story, it is possible that the person called 'a' is not the same as the person called 'b.' B. It is the case that a = b. C. For any x, y, if x = y, then necessarily, x = y. (Kripke's Necessity of Identity thesis)
It is the presence of the story operator in (A) that saves the triad from inconsistency.
Suppose 'Axwell' and 'Buswell' are the two names in the story and that both refer to an existing man, the same man. That a = b is no part of the story. Given only what we know from the story it is possible that a not be identical to b. But this possibility is something like an epistemic possibility which, as such, cannot be used to show the real (non-epistemic) possibility that a not be identical to b in reality.
So on this New Year's Day I tax the Noble Opponent with a metabasis eis allo genos (μετάβασις εἰς ἄλλο γένος), which is something like a Rylean category mistake: he shifts illicitly from a story-immanent perspective to a story-transcendent perspective. Within the story there is a story-immanent contingency as to both the identity and the difference of the referents of the names. But this is a sort of epistemic contingency consequent upon the fact that literary fiction leaves much indeterminate: the literary characters have all and only the properties assigned to them in the story.
So it looks as if the Opponent may be conflating a sort of epistemic contingency with real contingency. He does not have the makings of a sound argument for the claim that real-world identities are contingent, contra Kripke.
By contrast, the following triad is plainly inconsistent. This is the case whether we take names to be Kripkean rigid designators or Russellian definite descriptions in disguise.
A*. Possibly, it is not the case that a = b. B. It is the case that a = b. C. For any x, y, if x = y, then necessarily, x = y.
Is there a better way to begin a new year than by a session upon the black mat? No, so I sat this morning from 2:50 to 3:45. There is a certain minimal metaphysics one needs to assume if one is to pursue meditation as a spiritual practice, as opposed to, say, a relaxation technique. You have to assume that mind is not exhausted by 'surface mind,' that there are depths below the surface and that they are accessible here and now. You have to assume something like what St Augustine assumes when he writes,
Noli foras ire,in te redi, in interiore homine habitat veritas. Do not wish to go outside, return into yourself. Truth dwells in the inner man.
The problem, of course, is that few if any will assume that truth dwells in the inner man unless they have already experienced or sensed the self's interiority. For the intentionality of mind, its outer directedness, conspires against the experience. Ordinary mind is centri-fugal: in flight towards objects and away from its source and center. This is so much so that it led Jean-Paul Sartre to the view that there is no self as source, that conscious mind just is this "wind blowing towards objects," a wind from nowhere. Seeking itself as an object among objects, centrifugal mind comes up with nothing. The failure of David Hume's quest should come as no surprise. A contemporary re-play of this problematic is found in the work of Panayot Butchvarov. The Bulgarian philosopher takes the side of Hume and Sartre. See my Butchvarov category.
Ordinary mind is fallen mind: it falls against its objects, losing itself in their multiplicity and scattering itself in the process. The unity of mind is lost in the diaspora of sense objects. To recuperate from this self alienation one needs to re-collect and re-member. Anamnesis! The need for remembrance, however, cannot be self-generated: the call to at-one-ment has to come from beyond the horizon of centrifugal mind.
My conclusion is that no one is likely to take up, and stick with, serious meditation, meditation as part of a spiritual quest, unless he is the recipient of a certain grace, a certain free granting ab extra. He must be granted a glimpse of the inner depth of the self. But not only this. He must also be granted a willingness to honor and not dismiss this fleeting intimation, but instead center his life around the quest for that which it reveals.
I would say that this also holds for the Buddhist whose official doctrine disallows grace and 'other-power.' Supposedly, the Tathagata's last injunction as he lay dying was that we should be lamps unto ourselves. Unfortunately, we are not the source of our own light.
I conjecture that what Buddha was driving toward in a negative way with his denials of self, permanence, and the satisfaction of desire (anatta, anicca, dukkha) is the same as what Augustine was driving at in a positive way with his affirmations of God and the soul. Doctrinally, there is of course difference: doctrines display on the discursive plane where difference and diremption rule. But doctrines are "necessary makeshifts" (F. H. Bradley) that point toward the transdiscursive. Buddhists are famously open to the provisional and makeshift nature of doctrines, likening them to rafts useful for crossing the river of Samsara but useless on the far side. Christians not so much. But even Christians grant that the Word in its ineffable unity is not a verbal formulation. The unity of a sentence without which it would be a mere list of words points us back to the ineffable unity of the Word which, I am suggesting, is somehow mystically one with what the Buddha was striving for.
The depth of Buddha is toto caelo different from the superficiality of Hume and Sartre.
Last Call, Dave van Ronk. "If I'd been drunk when I was born, I'd be ignorant of sorrow."
(Last night I had) A Wonderful Dream, The Majors. The trick is to find in the flesh one of those dream girls. Some of us got lucky.
This night in 1985 was Rick Nelson's last: the Travelin' Man died in a plane crash. Wikipedia:
Nelson dreaded flying but refused to travel by bus. In May 1985, he decided he needed a private plane and leased a luxurious, fourteen-seat, 1944 Douglas DC-3 that had once belonged to the DuPont family and later to Jerry Lee Lewis. The plane had been plagued by a history of mechanical problems. In one incident, the band was forced to push the plane off the runway after an engine blew, and in another incident, a malfunctioning magneto prevented Nelson from participating in the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois.
On December 26, 1985, Nelson and the band left for a three-stop tour of the Southern United States. Following shows in Orlando, Florida, and Guntersville, Alabama, Nelson and band members took off from Guntersville for a New Year's Eve extravaganza in Dallas, Texas. The plane crash-landed northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas, less than two miles from a landing strip, at approximately 5:14 p.m. CST on December 31, 1985, hitting trees as it came to earth. Seven of the nine occupants were killed: Nelson and his companion, Helen Blair; bass guitarist Patrick Woodward, drummer Rick Intveld, keyboardist Andy Chapin, guitarist Bobby Neal, and road manager/soundman Donald Clark Russell. Pilots Ken Ferguson and Brad Rank escaped via cockpit windows, though Ferguson was severely burned.
Could there be a better way to end such a surreal year?
It starts tomorrow, New Year's Eve, at 6 AM and runs for three and one half days on the SyFy channel. Here is the schedule. Two I won't miss tomorrow morning:
9 am: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine 9:30am: Escape Clause
Here is your chance to view some of the episodes you may have missed. Me, I've seen 'em all, multiple times each. The best of them are phenomenally good and bristling with philosophical content. Back in aught-nine I offered my analysis of "The Lonely" which aired in November, 1959.
The original series ran from 1959 to 1964. In those days it was not uncommon to hear TV condemned as a vast wasteland. Rod Serling's work was a sterling counterexample.
The hard-driving Serling lived a short but intense life. Born in 1924, he was dead at age 50 in 1975. His four-pack-a-day cigarette habit destroyed his heart. Imagine smoking 80 Lucky Strikes a day! Assuming 16 hours of smoking time per day, that averages to one cigarette every twelve minutes. He died on the operating table during an attempted bypass procedure.
But who is to say that a long, healthy life is better than a short, intense one fueled by the stimulants one enjoys? That is a question for the individual, not Hillary or Obama Yomama or any latter-day leftard to decide.
Your body is your vehicle on the highways and byways of the mundus sensibilis. Does it not make sense to keep it ever roadworthy? Is it not morally incumbent upon you to do so? Either maintain it or get it off the road.
This is a revised entry from over five years ago. I re-post it to solicit the comments of the Opponent and anyone else who can provide some enlightenment. I am not a theologian, but theology is far too important to be left to professional theologians.
An archeologist who claimed to have uncovered the site of Plato's Cave would be dismissed as either a prankster or a lunatic. There never was any such cave as is described in the magnificent Book VII of Plato's Republic. And there never were any such cave-dwellers or goings-on as the ones described in Plato's story. And yet this, the most famous allegory in the history of philosophy, gives us the truth about the human condition. It lays bare the human predicament in which shadow is taken for substance, and substance for shadow, the truth-teller for a deceiver, and the deceiver for a truth-teller.
The reader may have guessed where I am going with this. If the allegory of the Cave delivers the truth about the human predicament despite its falsity when taken literally as an historical narrative, the same could be true for the stories in the Bible. No reasonable person nowadays could take Genesis as reporting historical facts. To take but one example, at Genesis 3, 8 we read that Adam and Eve, after having tasted of the forbidden fruit, "heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the Garden . . . ." Taken literally, this implies that God has feet. But if he has feet was he shod on that day or not? If shod, what was his shoe size? 10 1/2? Obviously, nothing can have feet without having feet of a determinate size! And given that the original parents heard God stomping around, then he had to be fairly large: if God were the size of a flea, he wouldn't have made any noise. If God were a physical being, why couldn't he be the size of a flea or a microbe? The answer to these absurdities is the double-barreled denial that God is a physical being and that Genesis is an historical account. I could give further examples. (And you hope I won't.)
This is why the deliverances of evolutionary biology do not refute the Fall. (I grant that said deliverances refute some doctrines of the Fall, those doctrines that posit an original pair of humans, without animal progenitors, from whom the whole human race is descended.) Indeed, it is quite unintelligent to think that the Fall can be refuted from biology. It would as stupid as to think that the truths about the human condition that are expressed in Plato's famous allegory can be negated or disconfirmed by the failure of archeologists to locate the site of Plato's Cave, or by any physical proof that a structure like that of Plato's Cave is nomologically impossible.
And yet wasn't that what Jerry Coyne, the University of Chicago biologist, was quoted as maintaining?
I’ve always maintained that this piece of the Old Testament, which is easily falsified by modern genetics (modern humans descended from a group of no fewer than 10,000 individuals), shows more than anything else the incompatibility between science and faith. For if you reject the Adam and Eve tale as literal truth, you reject two central tenets of Christianity: the Fall of Man and human specialness.
I suppose this shows that the wages of scientism are (topical) stupidity.
1. I said that the Allegory of the Cave "gives us the truth about the human condition." Suppose you disagree. Suppose you think the story provides no insight into the human condition. My point goes through nonetheless. The point is that the truth or falsity of the story is unaffected by empirical discoveries and nondiscoveries. Anthropological and archeological investigations are simply irrelevant to the assessment of the claims being made in the allegory. That, I hope, is perfectly obvious.
2. There is another point that I thought of making but did not because it struck me as too obvious, namely, that the Allegory of the Cave is clearly an allegory, and is indeed explicitly presented as such in Chapter VII of the Republic (cf. 514a et passim), whereas the Genesis account is neither clearly an allegory, nor explicitly presented in the text as one. But that too is irrelevant to my main point. The point is that biological, anthropological, and geological investigations are simply irrelevant for the evaluation of what Genesis discloses or purports to disclose about the human condition. For example, at Gen 1, 26 we are told that God made man in his image and likeness. That means: Man is a spiritual being. (See my post Imago Dei) Obviously, that proposition can neither be established nor refuted by any empirical investigation. The sciences of matter cannot be expected to disclose any truths about spirit. And if, standing firm on the natural sciences, you deny that there is anything other than matter, then you fall into the easily-refuted mistake of scientism. Furthermore, Genesis is simply incoherent if taken as presenting facts about history or facts about cosmology and physical cosmogenesis. Not only is it incoherent; it is contradicted by what we know from the physical sciences. Clearly, in any conflict between the Bible and natural science, the Bible will lose.
The upshot is that the point I am making about Genesis cannot be refuted by adducing the obvious difference between a piece of writing that presents itself as an allegory and a piece of writing that does not. Plato's intention was to write an allegory. The authors of Genesis presumably did not have the intention of writing an allegory. But that is irrelevant to the question whether the stories can be taken as reporting historical and physical facts. It is obvious that Plato's story cannot be so taken. It is less obvious, but nonetheless true, that the Genesis story cannot be so taken. For if you take it as historical reportage, then it is mostly false or incoherent, and you miss what is important: the spiritual, not the physical, meaning.
The Opponent writes:
I have been telling the Maverick Philosopher here about Benjamin Sommer’s theory of divine fluidity, which is one solution to the problem of anthropomorphic language in the Hebrew Bible. The problem is not just Genesis 1:26 (‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness’) but also Genesis 3:8 ‘They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze’. Can God be a man with feet who walks around the garden leaving footprints? As opposed to being a pure spirit? The anthropomorphic conception is, in Maverick’s opinion ‘a hopeless reading of Genesis’, and makes it out to be garbage. ‘You can’t possibly believe that God has feet’.
Yet Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, proposes such a literal and anthropomorphic interpretation. As he argues (The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel), if the authors of the Hebrew Bible had intended their anthropomorphic language to be understood figuratively, why did they not say so? The Bible contains a wide variety of texts in different genres, but there is no hint of this, the closest being the statement ofDeuteronomy 4.15 that the people did not see any form when the Ten Commandments were revealed at Sinai.
My response is as follows.
The Opponent, following Sommer, asks: " if the authors of the Hebrew Bible had intended their anthropomorphic language to be understood figuratively, why did they not say so?" This rhetorical question is grammatically interrogative but logically declarative: it amounts to the declaration that the authors did intend their crudely anthropomorphic language to be taken literally because they didn't say otherwise. This declaration, in turn, is a telescoped argument:
The authors did not say that their language was to be taken figuratively;
Their language is to be taken literally.
The argument, however, is plainly a non sequitur. It therefore gives me no reason to change my view.
Besides, it is preposterous to suppose that the creator of the the physical universe, "the heavens and the earth," is a proper part of the physical universe. Since that is impossible, no intelligent reading of Genesis can take the creator of the universe to be a bit of its fauna. Presumably, God gave us the intelligence to read what is obviously figurative as figurative.
And if one takes the Bible to be divine revelation, then it is natural to assume that God is using the authors to get his message across. For that to occur, the authors needn't be terribly bright or apprised of the variety of literary tropes. What does it matter what the authors intended? Suppose they intended talk of man being made in the divine image and likeness to be construed in some crassly materialistic way. Then they failed to grasp the profound spiritual truth that they, willy nilly (nolens volens), were conveying.
3. The mistake of those who think that biology refutes the Fall is the mirror-image of those benighted fundamentalists and literalists who think that the Fall 'stands or falls' with the historical accuracy of tales about original parents, trees, serpents, etc. The opposing groups are made for each other. The scientistic atheist biologist attacks a fundamentalist straw man while the benighted fundamentalist knocks himself out propping up his straw man. Go at it, boys! The spectacle is entertaining but not edifying.
Subtitle: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. Thomas Nelson, 2016, 269 pp. I was aware of Klavan only as a hard-punching conservative PJ Media columnist before reading a review that 'turned me on' to this book. It arrived last night thanks to the synergy of Amazon.com and the U.S. Mail. I'm on p. 18, nearing the end of Chapter 1, "Great Neck Jew." Klavan is an uncommonly good writer and I will undoubtedly read the whole thing. If you are a tough-minded American Boomer like me on a religious/spiritual quest you will probably be able to 'relate' very well to this book. A fortiori, if you are Jewish.
. . . there is no substantive philosophical position for which there is *better* philosophical support than theism. I'm open to the possibility that at least one other philosophical position--namely, dualism--is at least as well supported by philosophical argument as theism. But nothing's got better support.
[. . .]
That said, I find St. Thomas's second way indubitable. I also find the modal ontological argument compelling. The kalam cosmological argument seems pretty much irrefutable.
But we still do (or can) know God and the soul with certainty through the use of natural human reason. (emphasis added)
What interests me in this entry is Toner's explicit claim that the modal ontological argument is (rationally) compelling, and his implicit claim that this argument delivers (objectively) certain knowledge of the existence of God. While I consider the argument in question to be a good argument, I don't find it to be compelling. Nor do I think that it renders its conclusion certain. My view is that no argument for or against theism is rationally compelling. No such argument resolves the issue. I think it would be wonderful if there were a compelling argument for the existence of God. The metaphysical knowledge generated by such an argument would be the most precious knowledge that one could possess. So I would be much beholden to Toner if he could show me the error of my ways.
Perhaps there is a theistic argument that is rationally compelling. If there is I should like to know what it is. I am quite sure, however, that the following argument does not fill the bill.
A Modal Ontological Argument
'GCB' will abbreviate 'greatest conceivable being,' which is a rendering of Anselm of Canterbury's "that than which no greater can be conceived." 'World' abbreviates 'broadly logically possible world.' 'OA' abbreviate 'ontological argument.'
1. Either the concept of the GCB is instantiated in every world or it is instantiated in no world.
2. The concept of the GCB is instantiated in some world. Therefore:
3. The concept of the GCB is instantiated in every world. (1, 2 by Disjunctive Syllogism)
4. The actual world is one of the worlds. Therefore:
5. The concept of the GCB is instantiated in the actual world. (3, 4 ) Therefore:
6. The GCB exists. (5)
This is a valid argument: it is correct in point of logical form. Nor does it commit any informal fallacy such as petitio principii, as I argue in Religious Studies 29 (1993), pp. 97-110. Note also that this version of the OA does not require the controversial assumption that existence is a first-level property, an assumption that Frege famously rejects and that many read back (with some justification) into Kant. (Frege held that the OA falls with that assumption, cf. Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik, sec. 53; he was wrong: the above version is immune to the Kant-Frege objection.)
(1) expresses what I call Anselm's Insight. He appreciated, presumably for the first time in the history of thought, that a divine being, one worthy of worship, must be noncontingent, i.e., either necessary or impossible. I consider (1) nonnegotiable. If your god is contingent, then your god is not God. There is no god but God. God is an absolute, and no absolute worth its salt is contingent. End of discussion. (If, however, (1) is reasonably disputable, then this only strengthens my case against compellingness.)
It is premise (2) -- the key premise -- that ought to raise eyebrows. What it says -- translating out of the patois of possible worlds -- is that it it possible that the GCB exists.
Whereas conceptual analysis of 'greatest conceivable being' suffices in support of (1), how do we support (2)? Why should we accept it? How do we know that (2) is true? Some will say that the conceivability of the GCB entails its possibility. But I deny that conceivability entails possibility.
Conceivability Does not Entail Possibility
The question is whether conceivability by finite minds like ours entails real possibility. A real possibility is one that has a mind-independent status. Real possibilities are not parasitic upon ignorance or on our (measly) powers of conception. Thus they contrast with epistemic/doxastic possibilities. Since what is epistemically possible for a person might be really impossible (whether broadly-logically or nomologically), we should note that 'epistemic' in 'epistemically possible' is an alienans adjective: it functions like 'decoy' in 'decoy duck.' Ducks don't come in two kinds, real and decoy. Similarly, there are not two kinds of possibility, epistemic and real. To say that a state of affairs is epistemically/doxastically possible for a subject S is to say that the obtaining of the state of affairs is logically compatible with what S knows/believes. For example, is it possible that my State Farm insurance agent Tim be working his office during normal business hours today ? Yes, epistemically: it is not ruled out by anything I know. But if Tim unbeknownst to me 'bought the farm' last night, then it is not really possible that Tim be working in his office today.
By 'conceivability' I mean thinkability by us without apparent logical contradiction.
Why should the fact that a human being can conceive something without apparent logical contradiction show that the thing in question can exist in reality? Consider the FBI: the floating bar of iron. If my thought about the FBI is sufficiently abstract and indeterminate, then it will seem that there is no 'bar' to its possibility in reality. (Pun intended.) If I think the FBI as an object that has the phenomenal properties of iron but also floats, then those properties are combinable in my thought without contradiction. But if I know more about iron, including its specific gravity, and I import this information into my concept of iron, then the concept of the FBI will harbor a contradiction. The specific gravity of iron is 7850 kg/cu.m, which implies that it is 7.85 times more dense than water, which in turn means that it will sink in water.
The upshot is that conceivability without contradiction is no sure guide to (real) possibility. Conceivability does not entail possibility.
Both the existence and the nonexistence of God are conceivable, i.e., thinkable by us without apparent logical contradiction. So if conceivability entails possibility, then both the existence and the nonexistence of God are possible. If so, God is a contingent being. But this contradicts the Anselmian Insight according to which God is noncontingent. So if the Anselmian Insight is true, then conceivability-entails-possibility is false and cannot be used to support premise (2) of the modal OA. The argument can be put in the form of a reductio:
a. Conceivability entails possibility. (assumption for reductio)
b. It is conceivable that God not exist. (factual premise)
c. It is conceivable that God exist. (factual premise)
d. God is a noncontingent being. (true by Anselmian definition)
e. It is possible that God not exist and it is possible that God exist. (a, b, c)
f. God is a contingent being. (e, by definition of 'contingent being')
g. God is a noncontingent being and God is a contingent being. (d, f, contradiction)
~a. It is not the case that conceivability entails possibility. (a-g, by reductio ad absurdum)
Or, if you insist that conceivability entails possibility, then you must give up the Anselmian Insight. But the modal OA stands and falls with Anselmian insight.
Is Conceivability Nondemonstrative Evidence of Possibility?
We don't need to discuss this in any depth. Suppose it is. This won't help Toner's case. For if it is not certain, but only probable that (2) is true, then this lack of certainty will be transmitted to the conclusion, which will be, at most, probable but not certain. In that case, the argument will not be compelling. I take it that an argument is compelling if and only if it renders its conclusion objectively certain.
Are There Other Ways to Support the Possibility Premise?
I can think of one other way. It has been suggested that the possibility premise can be supported deontically:
A. A maximally perfect being ought to exist. B. Whatever ought to exist, is possible. Therefore C. A maximally perfect being is possible.
I discuss this intriguing suggestion in a separate post wherein I come to the conclusion that the deontically supercharged modal OA is also not compelling.
What is it for an Argument to be Compelling?
My claim on the present occasion is that the modal OA provides no demonstrative knowledge of the truth of theism. Demonstrative knowledge is knowledge produced by a demonstration. A demonstration in this context is an argument that satisfies all of the following conditions:
1. It is deductive 2. It is valid in point of logical form 3. It is free of such informal fallacies as petitio principii 4. It is such that all its premises are true 5. It is such that all its premises are known to be true 6. It is such that its conclusion is relevant to its premises.
To illustrate (6). The following argument satisfies all of the conditions except the last and is therefore probatively worthless:
Snow is white ergo Either Obama is president or he is not.
On my use of terms, a demonstrative argument = a probative argument = a proof = a rationally compelling argument. Now clearly there are good arguments (of different sorts) that are not demonstrative, probative, rationally compelling. One type is the strong inductive argument. By definition, no such argument satisfies (1) or (2). A second type is the argument that satisfies all the conditions except (5).
And that is the problem with the modal OA. Condition (5) remains unsatisfied. While the possibility premise may be true for all we know, we do not know it to be true. So while the modal OA is a good argument in that it helps render theism rational, it is not a compelling argument.
As the book reaches its climax, Rodrigues feels the sand giving way beneath him:
From the deepest core of my being yet another voice made itself heard in a whisper. Supposing God does not exist. . . .
This was a frightening fancy. . . .What an absurd drama become the lives of [the martyrs] Mokichi and Ichizo, bound to the stake and washed by the waves. And the missionaries who spent three years crossing the sea to arrive at this country – what an illusion was theirs. Myself, too, wandering here over the desolate mountains – what an absurd situation!
Scorsese’s Silence is not a Christian film by a Catholic filmmaker, but a justification of faithlessness: apostasy becomes an act of Christian charity when it saves lives, just as martyrdom becomes almost satanic when it increases persecution. “Christ would have apostatized for the sake of love,” Ferreira tells Rodrigues, and, obviously, Scorsese agrees.
The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful [sic] untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.
Tully Borland points us to The Sinister Theology of Endo's SILENCE. A good article, but a bit smug and pat for my taste. The author seems not to appreciate the moral bind Rodrigues is in. A topic to be explored in a separate entry.
. . .it would start by recognizing that Trump is a remarkable leader and that this is a new phenomenon. Then it would try to explore and understand the differences between the old order and the world Trump is trying to create. Then it could describe the context of the President-elect and educate its readers accurately in an informed, coherent manner.
Unfortunately, The New York Times is trapped within the obsolete establishment mindset which was wrong about Trump throughout the primaries, then was wrong about Trump throughout the general election, then was wrong about who would win. This elite mindset has learned nothing. It is now enthusiastically being wrong about the transition. All of this is great practice for the paper to be wrong about the new administration. (Newt Gingrich)
If you are tired of 'conscious' and desire a stylistic variant, you may use 'conscient,' though it is a term that has fallen into desuetude. "They will make way for the unrepentant barbaric hordes of those who were conditioned throughout their conscient lives to believe that their time would never come." (Conrad Black)
An enjoyable way to resist change-for-the-sake-of-change 'progressive' knuckleheads is to resurrect and use obsolete words.
I will begin by repeating part of something I wrote back in 2010. It bears repeating. Refer back to the 2010 entry for context.
I should begin by saying that I haven't yet read Emmanuel Faye's Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. But if the earlier NYT article is to be trusted -- a big 'if' -- Faye's book
. . . calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.
If this is what Faye is saying, then his book is rubbish and ought to be ignored. Hate speech? That's a term leftists use for speech they don't like. No one in his right mind could see Heidegger's magnum opus, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), published in 1927, as anything close to hate speech. The claim that it is is beneath refutation. Nor can his lectures and publications after 1933, when Hitler came to power, be dismissed in this way.
Heidegger undoubtedly inspires violent passions: he was a National Socialist, and what's worse, he never admitted he was wrong about his political alignment. But according to Michael Dummett, the great logician Gottlob Frege was an anti-Semite. (Dummett says this in either the preface or the introduction to Frege: The Philosophy of Language. ) Now will you ignore Frege's seminal teachings because of his alleged anti-Semitism? That would be senseless. And let's not forget that the later Jean-Paul Sartre was not just a Commie, but a Stalinist. Should Critique of Dialectical Reason be dismissed as hate speech? Should we deny Sartre the title 'philosopher' and re-classify him as a Commie ideologue? Of course not. And please no double standard. Why is being a Nazi worse than being a Stalinist? Why is murdering people because of their ethnic affiliation worse than murdering people because of their class affiliation?
You have two highly influential philosophers. One aligns himself politically with the mass murderer Hitler, the other with the mass murderer Stalin. That is extremely interesting, and no doubt troubling, but in the end it is truth that we philosophers are after, and in pursuit of it we should leave no stone unturned: we should examine all ideas in order to arrive as closely as we can to the truth. All ideas, no matter what they are, whether they come from a Black Forest ski hut or a Parisian coffee house, or the syphilitic brain of a lonely German philologist. Haul them one and all before the tribunal of Reason and question them in the full light of day. To understand the content of the ideas it may be necessary to examine the men and women behind them. But once a philosopher's propositions have been clearly set forth, the question of their truth or falsity is logically independent of their psychological, or sociological, or other, origin. To think otherwise is to commit the Genetic Fallacy.
Sartre claimed that man has no nature, that "existence precedes essence." He got the idea from Heidegger's Sein und Zeit, p. 42: Das 'Wesen' des Daseins liegt in seiner Existenz. It is an interesting and influential idea. What exactly does it mean? What does it entail? What does it exclude? What considerations can be adduced in support of it? Questions like these are what a real philosopher pursues. He doesn't waste all his time poking into the all-too-human philosopher's dirty laundry in the manner of Faye and Romano. Are people in this Age of Celebrity incapable of focusing on ideas?
And then there is Nietzsche. If the Gesamtausgabe of Heidegger ought to be marked with a skull-and-crossbones, then a fortiori for the Gesammelte Schriften of Nietzsche. There are dangerous ideas in Nietzsche. See my post Nietzsche and National Socialism. Indeed, Nietzsche's ideas are far more dangerous than Heidegger's. Should we burn Nietzsche's books and brand The Antichrist as hate speech? Stupid!
The Nazis burned books and the Roman Catholic Church had an index librorum prohibitorum. Now I don't deny that certain impressionable people need to be protected from certain odious influences. But Heidegger writings are no more 'hate speech' (whatever that is) than Nietzsche's writings are, and they don't belong on any latter-day leftist's index librorum prohibitorum. Are they both philosophers? Of course. Are they on a par with Plato and Kant? Not by a long shot! Are their ideas worth discussing? I should think so: they go wrong in interesting ways. Just like Wittgenstein and many others.
Faye's leitmotif throughout is that Heidegger, from his earliest writings, drew on reactionary ideas in early-20th-century Germany to absolutely exalt the state and the Volk over the individual, making Nazism and its Blut und Boden ("Blood and Soil") rhetoric a perfect fit. Heidegger's Nazism, he writes, "is much worse than has so far been known." (Exactly how bad remains unclear because the Heidegger family still restricts access to his private papers.)
From his earliest writings? Absurdly false. Heidegger's dissertation was on psychologism in logic, and his Habilitationschrift was on Duns Scotus. No exaltation of the State or Blut und Boden rhetoric in those works. Trust me, I've read them. Have Faye and Romano?
One more quotation from Romano: "The "reality of Nazism," asserts Faye, inspired Heidegger's works "in their entirety and nourished them at the root level." That is an absurd claim. The ideas in Being and Time were worked out in the 1920s, long before Hitler came to power in '33, and are a highly original blend of themes from Kierkegaard's existentialism, Dilthey's Lebensphilosophie, Husserl's Phenomenology, Kantian and ne0-Kantian transcendental philosophy, and Aristotelian-scholastic ontological concerns about the manifold senses of 'being.' There is no Nazism there. The rumblings of Nazi ideology came later in such works as Introduction to Metaphysics (1935). But even in these works from the '30s on, what is really going on is a working out of Heidegger's philosophical problematic concerning Being. The notion that Heidegger's work is primarily an expression of Nazism is delusional and not worth discussing.
So why did I discuss it?
For the latest developments in the controversy, see the following (HT: Sed Contra):
A colleague once reported an out-of-body experience. He had been resting on his back on a couch when he came suddenly to view himself from the perspective of the ceiling. He dismissed the experience. He had too much class to use the phrase 'brain fart,' but that is what I suspect he thought it was: a weird occurrence of no significance. Vouchsafed a hint of what might have been a reality beyond the ordinary, he chose to ignore it as if it were not worth the trouble of investigating. That sort of dismissive attitude is one I have trouble understanding. Especially in a philosopher!
It would be as if the prisoner in Plato's Cave who was freed of his shackles and was able to turn his head and see an opening and a light suggestive of a route out of the enclosure wherein he found himself were simply to have dismissed the sight as an insignificant illusion and then went back to 'reality,' the shadows on the wall.
I have no trouble understanding someone who, never having had any religious or mystical experiences, cannot bring himself to take religion seriously. And I have no trouble understanding someone who, having had such experiences, and having seriously examined their epistemic credentials, comes to the conclusion that they are none of them veridical. But to have the experiences, and not think them worth investigating -- that puzzles me.
Ross Douthat assembles some examples similar to the case of my quondam colleague in his Christmas Eve column, Varieties of Religious Experience, a title he borrows from the eponymous masterpiece of William James. Here is one:
As a young man in the 1960s, the filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, of “RoboCop” and “Showgirls” fame, wandered into a Pentecostal church and suddenly felt “the Holy Ghost descending … as if a laser beam was cutting through my head and my heart was on fire.” He was in the midst of dealing with his then-girlfriend’s unexpected pregnancy; after they procured an abortion, he had a terrifying, avenging-angel vision during a screening of “King Kong.” The combined experience actively propelled him away from anything metaphysical; the raw carnality of his most famous films, he suggested later, was an attempt to keep the numinous and destabilizing at bay.
That makes about as much sense to me as blinding oneself lest one see too radiant a light.
Let us meditate this Christmas morning on the sheer audacity of the idea that God would not only enter this world of time and misery, but come into it in the most humble manner possible, inter faeces et urinam nascimur, born between feces and urine, entering between the legs of a poor girl in a stable. Just like one of us, a slob like one of us. The notion is so mind-boggling that one is tempted to credit it for this very reason, for its affront to Reason, and to the natural man, accepting it because it is absurd, or else dismissing it as the height of absurdity. A third possibility is to accept it despite its being absurd, and a fourth is to argue that rational sense can be made of it. The conflict of these approaches, and of the positions within each, only serves to underscore the mind-boggling quality of the notion, a notion that to the eye and mind of faith is FACT.
The Most High freely lowers himself, accepting the indigence and misery of material existence, including a short temporal career that ends with the ultimate worldly failure: execution by the political authorities. And not a civilized Athenian execution by hemlock as was the fate of that other great teacher of humanity, but execution by the worst method the brutal Romans could devise, crucifixion.
1. The essence of Christianity is contained in the distinct but related doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Josef Pieper (Belief and Faith, p. 103) cites the following passages from the doctor angelicus: Duo nobis credenda proponuntur: scil. occultum Divinitatis . . . et mysterium humanitatis Christi. II, II, 1, 8. Fides nostra in duobus principaliter consistit: primo quidem in vera Dei cognitione . . . ; secundo in mysterio incarnationis Christi. II, II, 174, 6.
2. The doctrine of the Trinity spelled out in the Athanasian Creed, is that there is one God in three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each person is God, and yet there is exactly one God, despite the fact that the Persons are numerically distinct from one another. According to the doctrine of the Incarnation, the second person of the Trinity, the Son or Logos, became man in Jesus of Nazareth. There is a strong temptation to think of the doctrinal statements as recording (putative) objective facts and then to wonder how they are possible. I have touched upon some of the logical problems the objective approach encounters in previous posts. The logical problems are thorny indeed and seem to require for their solution questionable logical innovations such as the notion (championed by Peter Geach) that identity is sortal-relative, or an equally dubious mysterianism which leaves us incapable of saying just what we would be accepting were we to accept the theological propositions in question. The reader should review those problems in order to understand the motivation of what follows.
3. But it may be that the objective approach is radically mistaken. Is it an objective fact that God (or rather the second person of the Trinity) is identical to a particular man in the way it is an objective fact that the morning star is identical to the planet Venus?
Perhaps we need to explore a subjective approach. One such is the mystical approach illustrated in a surprising and presumably 'heretical' passage from St. John of the Cross' The Ascent of Mount Carmel (Collected Works, p. 149, tr. Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, emphasis added):
. . . when a person has finished purifying and voiding himself of all forms and apprehensible images, he will abide in this pure and simple light, and be perfectly transformed into it. This light is never lacking to the soul, but because of creature forms and veils weighing upon and covering it, the light is never infused. If a person will eliminate these impediments and veils, and live in pure nakedness and poverty of spirit . . . his soul in its simplicity and purity will then be immediately transformed into simple and pure Wisdom, the Son of God.
The Son of God, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, is 'born,' 'enters the world,' is 'incarnated,' in the soul of any man who attains the mystic vision of the divine light. This is the plain meaning of the passage. The problem, of course, is to reconcile this mystical subjectivism with the doctrinal objectivism according to which the Logos literally became man, uniquely, in Jesus of Nazareth when a certain baby was born in a manger in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.
In an experiment published in 2000, the psychologist Thomas Gilovich and his colleagues asked undergraduates to wear a piece of clothing that they found embarrassing—a t-shirt with a picture of singer-songwriter Barry Manilow on it. After putting on the shirt, the undergraduates had to spend some time in a room with other students and were later asked to guess how many of the other students noticed what they were wearing. The undergraduates tended to overestimate the proportion by a large margin, and did the same when asked to wear a t-shirt with a positive image on it, like Bob Marley or Martin Luther King Jr. In study after study, experimental subjects thought that other people would notice them much more than they actually did.
Another study that confirms what we already knew. Were any tax dollars used to fund it? In a scientistic culture ignorant of its own rich traditions it is thought that only what is 'scientifically' validated can be taken seriously. I am not denying that a study such as this one might have some slight value.
More interesting, I should think, would be a study of why Marley and King have a positive image and Manilow a negative one, not that I would be caught dead listening to Manilow's schmaltz, except for analytic and culture-critical purposes. Or a study why there is a preponderance among the young of Che Guevara T-shirts over, say, Maggie Thatcher T-shirts.
Merry Christmas everybody. Pour yourself a drink, and enjoy. Me, I'm nursing a Boulevardier. It's a Negroni with cojones: swap out the gin for bourbon. One ounce bourbon, one ounce sweet vermouth, one ounce Campari, straight up or on the rocks, with a twist of orange. A serious libation. It'll melt a snowflake for sure. The vermouth rosso contests the harshness of the bourbon, but then the Campari joins the fight on the side of the bourbon. Or you can think of it as a Manhattan wherein the Campari substitutes for the angostura bitters. That there are people who don't like Campari shows that there is no hope for humanity. An irrational prejudice against artichokes?
"Death is not an end to existence, but the process of becoming non-concrete. Birth is the making concrete of something that has existed since the beginning of time and will exist until the end of time." (Reina Hayaki)
This is one way of interpreting the Barcan formula (possibly for some x Fx implies for some x possibly Fx). If the formula is true, there are no ‘contingent objects’, i.e. no objects that exist in some worlds but not others.
My position is that there are contingent entities (as well as contingent identities). I imagine you will be less sympathetic to this, however. Interested in your thoughts.
The Opponent is misrepresenting Professor Hayaki's view. On a careful reading of her article, the quotation above is not her view but expresses a temporal analog of the modal view of Linsky and Zalta that she is opposing.
Be that as it may. Let's consider the Barcan formula by itself.
The formula is that Possibly, something is F implies Something is possibly F. The modality in question is 'broadly logical' in Plantinga's sense. Some call it 'metaphysical.'
By my modal intuitions, the formula is false. A trio of 'possible' counterexamples.
A. Sally wants a baby. But there is no actual baby such that Sally wants it. Sally wants to have a baby, i.e, give birth to a baby, her own baby, one that does not yet exist. What Sally wants is possible. So, possibly, some baby is such that Sally wants it. But it doesn't follow that some actual baby is possibly such that Sally wants it. For every actual baby is such that Sally does not want it.
B. It is possible that there be a sinless man. But it does not follow that one of the men who exist is possibly sinless.
C. Possibly, some sloop satisfies Ortcutt's exacting specifications. (It is possible that there be such a sloop.) But it doesn't follow that some existing sloop (without modifications) is possibly such as to satisfy Ortcutt's exacting specifications. For it could be that every sloop that exists fails to satisfy our man.
I am assuming actualism: there are no merely possible objects. The truth of Possibly, something is F does not commit us to the existence of a merely possible individual that is F. 'Possibly, something is a matter transmitter,' for example, does not commit us to the existence of a merely possible matter transmitter. I should think it commits us only to the existence of a conjunctive property that is possibly instantiated.
The Barcan formula may hold for necessary beings such as the number 7. But it fails for contingent beings.
Of course I hold that there are contingent beings. Whether there are contingent identities is another topic entirely. One topic at a time.
David French continues to write good columns for NRO. His latest is about one of Hillary's darlings, Black Lives Matter. But when it came time to act and actually do something in opposition to this movement he calls "poisonous," he refused to support Trump, thereby aiding and abetting Hillary and her destructive leftist race-baiting agenda.
One finds the phrase cognitio fidei in Thomas Aquinas and in such Thomist writers as Josef Pieper. It translates as 'knowledge of faith.' The genitive is to be interpreted subjectively, not objectively: faith is not the object of knowledge; faith is a form or type of knowledge. But how can faith be a type of knowledge? One ought to find this puzzling.
On a standard analysis of 'knows,' where propositional knowledge is at issue, subject S knows that p just in case (i) S believes that p; (ii) S is justified in believing that p; and (iii) p is true. This piece of epistemological boilerplate is the starting point for much of the arcana (Gettier counterexamples, etc.) of contemporary epistemology. But its pedigree is ancient, to be found in Plato's Theaetetus.
It is obvious that on the standard analysis mere belief is inferior to knowledge since if I believe what is false I don't have knowledge, and if I believe what is true without justification I don't have knowledge either. How then can mere belief be a form or type of knowledge? It is rather a necessary but not sufficient condition of knowledge. Or so it seems to the modern mind.
Another puzzle has to do with certainty. Whether or not knowledge entails certainty, it seems to the modern mind that belief definitely does not entail certainty: what I believe but do not know I cannot be certain about since if I believe but do not know, then either truth is lacking or justification is lacking or both. How then can mere belief be said to be certain? And yet we read in Aquinas that "It is part of the concept of belief itself that man is certain of that in which he believes." (Quoted from Pieper, Belief and Faith, p. 15).
It is easy to understand how one who believes but does not know that p can be subjectively certain that p; but it is difficult to understand how such a person can be objectively certain that p. Objective certainty, however, alone has epistemic value.
We now turn to the remarkable Edith Stein (1891-1942), brilliant Jewish student of and assistant to Edmund Husserl, philosopher, Roman Catholic convert, Carmelite nun, victim of the Holocaust at Auschwitz, and saint of the Roman Catholic church. In the 1920s Stein composed an imaginary dialogue between her two philosophical masters, Husserl and Aquinas. Part of what she has them discussing is the nature of faith.
One issue is whether faith gives us access to truth. Stein has Thomas say:
. . . faith is a way to truth. Indeed, in the first place it is a way to truths — plural — which would otherwise be closed to us, and in the second place it is the surest way to truth. For there is no greater certainty than that of faith . . . . (Edith Stein, Knowledge and Faith, tr. Redmond, ICS Publications 2000, pp. 16-17)
Now comes an important question. What is it that we as philosophers want? We want the ultimate truths about the ultimate matters. If so, it is arguable that we should take these truths from whatever source offers them to us even if the source is not narrowly philosophical. We should not say: I will accept only those truths that can be certified by (natural) reason, but rather all truths whether certified by reason or 'certified' by faith. Thus Stein has Aquinas say:
If faith makes accessible truths unattainable by any other means, philosophy, for one thing, cannot forego them without renouncing its universal claim to truth. [. . .] One consequence, then, is a material dependence of philosophy on faith.
Then too, if faith affords the highest certainty attainable by the human mind, and if philosophy claims to bestow the highest certainty, then philosophy must make the certainty of faith its own. It does so first by absorbing the truths of faith, and further by using them as the final criterion by which to gauge all other truths. Hence, a second consequence is a formal dependence of philosophy on faith. (17-18)
But of course this cannot go unchallenged by Husserl. So Stein has him say:
. . . if faith is the final criterion of all other truth, what is the criterion of faith itself? What guarantees that the certainty of my faith is genuine? (20)
Or in terms of of the distinction made above between subjective and objective certainty: what guarantees that the certainty of faith is objective and not merely subjective? The faiths of Jew, Christian, and Muslim are all different. How can the Christian be sure that the revelation he takes on faith has not been superseded by the revelation the Muslim takes on faith? And what about contradictory faith-contents? God cannot be both triune (as the normative Christian believes) and not triune (as the normative Muslim believes). So Christian and Muslim cannot both be objectively certain about their characteristic beliefs; at most they can be subjectively certain. Subjective certainty, however, has no epistemic value.
Stein's Thomas replies to Husserl as follows:
Probably my best answer is that faith is its own guarantee. I could also say that God, who has given us the revelation, vouches for its truth. But this would only be the other side of the same coin. For if we took the two as separate facts, we would fall into a circulus vitiosus [vicious circle], since God is after all what we become certain about in faith. [. . .]
All we can do is point out that for the believer such is the certainty of faith that it relativizes all other certainty, and that he can but give up any supposed knowledge which contradicts his faith. The unique certitude of faith is a gift of grace. It is up to the understanding and will to draw the practical consequences therefrom. Constructing a philosophy on faith belongs to the theoretical consequences. (20-22)
For Thomas and Stein, the certainty of faith is a gift of God. As such, it cannot be merely subjective. It is at once both subjective and objective, subjective as an inner certitude, objective as an effect of divine grace. Husserl, however, will ask how the claim that the certainty of faith is a divine gift can be validated. It is after all, a contestable and contested claim. How does one know that it is true? For Husserl, the claims that God exists and that the Christian revelation is his revelation are but dogmatic presuppositions. They need validation because of the existence of competing claims such as those made by Jews and Muslims and atheists.
If, as Stein says, "faith is its own guarantee," then, since the faith of the Christian and the faith of the Muslim are contradictory with respect to certain key propositions, it follows that one of these faiths offers a false guarantee. You can see from this that the Thomas-Stein stance leaves something to be desired. But Husserl's approach has problems of its own. Closed up within the sphere of his subjectivity, man cannot reach the truly Transcendent, which must irrupt into this sphere and cannot be constituted (Husserl's term) within it. The truly Transcendent is not a transcendence-in-immanence. It cannot be a constituted transcendence.
If man is indeed a creature, there is something absurd about measly man hauling the Creator before the bench of finite reason there to be rudely interrogated about his credentials. On the other hand, the claim that man is a creature is a claim like any other, and man must satisfy his intellectual conscience with respect to this claim. It is precisely his freedom, responsibility and love of truth that drive him to ask: But is it true? And how do we know? And isn't it morally shabby to fool oneself and seek consolation in a fairy tale?
Paradoxically, God creates man in his image and likeness, and thus as free, responsible, and truth-loving; characteristics that then motivate man to put God in the dock.
So there you have it. There are two opposing conceptions of philosophy, one based on the autonomy of reason, the other willing to sacrifice the autonomy of reason for the sake of truths which cannot be certified by reason but which are provided by faith in revelation, a revelation that must simply be accepted in humility and obedience. It looks as if one must simply decide which of these two conceptions to adopt, and that the decision cannot be justified by (natural) reason.
My task, in this and in related posts, is first and foremost to set forth the problems as clearly as I can. Anyone who thinks this problem has an easy solution does not understand it. It is part of the tension between Athens and Jerusalem.
Europe is very, very, ill, a victim of a weak but highly opportunistic pathogen, and if it cannot soon mount a robust immune response it will die. Even if it can manage such a response, at this late hour it will be a close-run thing — and we have already passed the point, I think, where it can recover without some very serious “unpleasantness”. But the choice is now very plain: awaken or die.
Most likely it will die, I think. (Already there are calls to close down the traditional Christmas-markets for the sake of security. This is what late-stage cultural immunodeficiency looks like.)
When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in.
– John Howard
I wonder: when the last native Europeans have dwindled to a final few, and they are forced to watch one another put to the sword, will they worry, most of all, about an anti-Muslim “backlash”? Will they wonder, in that moment, how things might have been if they had stood for themselves — and then say, just as they are annihilated, “But that’s not who we are”?
“Not ‘who you are’?” says Gnon, with majestic indifference. “Right, perhaps not. Very well, then. Goodbye.”
It may be too late for decadent Europe, but we still have time, and with Trump in the saddle, a fighting chance. The defeat of Hillary the hopeless is a change that brings hope.
You don't really want to go to that Christmas party where you will eat what you don't need to eat, drink what you don't need to drink, and dissipate your inwardness in pointless chit-chat. But you were invited and your non-attendance may be taken amiss. So you remind yourself that self-denial is good and that it is useful from time to time to practice the art of donning and wearing the mask of a 'regular guy.'
For the step into the social is by dissimulation. Necessary to the art of life is knowing how to negotiate the social world and pass yourself off under various guises and disguises.
That the deliberate targeting of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and cannot be justified under any circumstances is one of the entailments of Catholic just war doctrine. I am sensitive to its moral force. I am strongly inclined to say that certain actions are intrinsically wrong, wrong by their very nature as the types of actions they are, wrong regardless of consequences and circumstances. But what would have been the likely upshot had the Allies not used unspeakably brutal methods against the Germans and the Japanese in World War II? Leery as one ought to be of counterfactual history, I think the Axis Powers would have acquired nukes first and used them against us. But we don't have to speculate about might-have-beens.
If I understand the Catholic doctrine, it implies that if Harry Truman had a crystal ball and knew the future with certainty and saw that the Allies would have lost had they not used the methods they used, and that the whole world would have been been plunged into a Dark Age for two centuries -- he still would not have been justified in ordering the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, if the deliberate targeting of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and unjustifiable under any circumstances and regardless of any consequences, then it is better that the earth be blown to pieces than that evil be done. This, I suppose, is one reading of fiat iustitia pereat mundus, "Let justice be done though the world perish." Although I invoked an historical example, nothing hinges on it since a matter of principle is at stake.
This extreme anti-consequentialism troubles me if it is thought to be relevant to how states ought to conduct themselves. Suppose that there is no God and no soul and no post-mortem existence, and thus that this life is all there is. Suppose the political authorities let the entire world be destroyed out of a refusal to target and kill innocent civilians of a rogue state. This would amount to the sacrificing of humanity to an abstract absolutist moral principle. This would be moral insanity.
On the other hand, extreme anti-consequentialism would make sense if the metaphysics of the Catholic Church or even the metaphysics of Kant were true. If God is real then this world is relatively unreal and relatively unimportant. If the soul is real, then its salvation is our paramount concern, and every worldly concern is relatively insignificant. For the soul to be saved, it must be kept free from, or absolved of, every moral stain in which case it can never be right to do evil in pursuit of good. Now the deliberate killing of innocent human beings is evil and so must never be done -- regardless of consequences. On a Christian moral scheme, morality is not in the service of our animal life here below; we stand under an absolute moral demand that calls us from beyond this earthly life and speaks to our immortal souls, not to our mortal bodies. Christianity is here consonant with the great Socratic thought that it is better to suffer evil, wrong, injustice than to to do them. (Plato, Gorgias, 469a)
But then a moral doctrine that is supposed to govern our behavior in this world rests on an other-worldly metaphysics. No problem with that -- if the metaphysics is true. For then one's flourishing in this world cannot amount to much as compared to one's flourishing in the next. But how do we know that the metaphysics is true? Classical theistic metaphysics is reasonably believed, but then so are certain versions of naturalism.
I am not claiming that classical theism false. I myself believe it to be true. My point is that we know that this world is no illusion and is at least relatively real, together with its goods, but we merely believe that God and the soul are real.
If the buck stops with you and the fate of civilization itself depends on your decision, will you act according to a moral doctrine that rests on a questionable metaphysics or will you act in accordance with worldly wisdom, a wisdom that dictates that in certain circumstances the deliberate targeting of the innocent is justified?
An isolated individual, responsible for no one but himself, is free to allow himself to be slaughtered. But a leader of a nation is in a much different position. Even if the leader qua private citizen holds to an absolutist position according to which some actions are intrinsically wrong, wrong regardless of consequences, he would not be justified in acting in his official capacity as head of state from this absolutist position. The reason is that he cannot reasonably claim that the metaphysics on which his moral absolutism rests is correct. God may or may not exist -- we don't know. But that this world exists we do know. And in this world no action is such that consequences are irrelevant to its moral evaluation. By 'in this world' I mean: according to the prudential wisdom of this world. Is adultery, for example, intrinsically wrong such that no conceivable circumstances or consequences could justify it? A worldly wise person who is in general opposed to adultery will say that there are conceivable situations in which a married woman seduces a man to discover military secrets that could save thousands of lives, and is justified in so doing.
Anscombe's case against Truman does not convince me. Let the philosophy professor change places with the head of state and then see if her moral rigorism remains tenable.
We confront a moral dilemma. On the one hand, a head of state may sometimes justifiably act in the interests of the citizens of the state of which he is the head by commanding actions which are intrinsically wrong. On the other hand, no one may ever justifiably do or command anything that is intrinsically wrong.
Of course the dilemma or aporetic dyad can be 'solved' by denying one of the limbs; but there is no solution which is a good solution. Or so say I. On my metaphilosophy, the problems of philosophy are almost all of them genuine, some of them humanly important, but none of them soluble. The above dilemma is an example of a problem that is genuine, important, and insoluble.
Patrick Toner holds that waterboarding is torture. I incline to say that it isn't. But let's assume I am wrong. Presumably, most who hold that waterboarding is torture will also hold that torture is intrinsically wrong. But how could it be wrong for the political authorities to torture a jihadi who knows the locations and detonation times of suitcase nukes planted in Manhattan? Here again is our moral dilemma. I suspect Toner would not 'solve' it by adopting consequentialism. I suspect he holds that torture is wrong always and everywhere and under any conceivable circumstances. But then he is prepared to sacrifice thousands of human lives to an abstract moral principle, or else is invoking a theological metaphysics that is far less grounded than the prudence of worldly wisdom. I would like to hear Toner's response to this.
Some have tried to solve the dilemma by invoking the Doctrine of Double Effect. But I am pretty sure Patrick will not go that route.
You could be asking whether the man who happens to be the current pope, Francis, is Catholic. You would then be asking about the occupant of an office at the apex of the Catholic organizational hierarchy. Or you could be asking about the office itself: Is the office of the papacy occupiable only by a Catholic?
The answer to the second question is easy: of course.
The answer to the first question is not so easy. Is Francis a loyal Catholic who upholds authentic Catholic teaching? Many in the know are skeptical. See here and here. I agree with them. Those links are to First Things articles. The Remnant takes a harsher line.
So there is a clear sense in which the pope is not Catholic.
This is a MUST-SEE video. White liberal Berkeley students express an extremely condescending attitude toward black folks, and some blacks reply. (HT and Merry Christmas to J.I.O.) The kids actually think that significant numbers of blacks don't possess ID, don't know how to secure it, and lack access to the Internet.
Malcolm Pollack goes Dennis Prager one better. BRIXISH is indeed superior to SIXHIRB for Malcolm's reasons below, but also because it is in the vicinity of BREXIT. After all, the BRIXISH would tend to support BREXIT. Here's Malcolm:
Saw an unfamiliar acronym over at Maverick Philosopher the the other day: “SIXHIRB”. I had to look it up. It’s a coinage of Dennis Prager’s, and it stands for Sexist, Intolerant, Xenophobic, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Racist, Bigoted: the “basket” of cudgels routinely applied to anyone to the right of the Vox editorial staff.
I’d have preferred “BRIXISH”: it sounds more like an adjective, and carries a faint echo of America’s founding people and culture (i.e., the usual target). But it’s still handy to have a linguistic shortcut for these reflexive and ubiquitous slurs, so here’s a nod to Mr. Prager.
I am slightly surprised that Malcolm did not instantly recognize the Pragerian provenience of SIXHIRB inasmuch as every other time I have used it I have credited Prager. I didn't this time to save keystrokes, figuring that everyone knew by now that it is Prager's coinage.
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.
But what about BREXIT? It is not an initialism or a truncation as I define these terms:
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.'
So I book BREXIT under acronym despite its difference from the other two. BREXIT fits my definition of 'acronym' inasmuch as it is a pronounceable word formed from contiguous letters of two or more words, in this case, 'Britain' and 'exit.' The fact that all of the letters of 'exit' are packed into BREXIT does not stop the latter from being an acronym.